By Mike Steffanos
Midnight tonight is the deadline for teams to tender contracts to their players that are eligible for arbitration but not yet eligible for free agency. If teams chose not to offer these players contracts for at least 80% of their 2006 salaries, then they become free agents and any team can sign them for whatever price they negotiate. It's rumored that the Braves are considering non-tendering 2B Marcus Giles. As for the Mets, the two players they are considering trying a little non-tenderness with are pitchers Dave Williams and Victor Zambrano.
Williams made $1.4 million last season and pitched rather effectively. He would seem to be the leading candidate to step into the role of the departed Darren Oliver, and the money would seem reasonable by today's standard. I'd be surprised if Williams wasn't a Met next season.
Victor Zambrano could be another story. He wants to come back, and has even offered to pitch out of the bullpen to hasten his return from a second career Tommy John surgery. It would cost the Mets $2.4 million -- 80% of the $3 million he made last season -- to keep the enigmatic Zambrano basking in the love of Mets fans for another season. According to both the New York Post and Mets.com the Mets are indeed considering bringing back Zambrano.
If they do this, there will surely be a sh*tstorm of protest from Mets fans who just want Victor to go away. They will claim this is more evidence that the Mets would do anything to try to justify the infamous Kazmir deal. Of course, they'll have to overlook the fact that Omar Minaya has never shown the smallest sign of worrying about that nonsense. While I'm not sure where the Mets will go on this, I'm really not very worried about Minaya making his choice with Zambrano using any other criteria than what's best for the Mets.
If I were the Mets GM I'm not sure what I would do with Zambrano. On the one hand, you have the escalating market for pitchers that makes $2.4 million somewhat of a bargain for an experienced major league starter. You have a team that has question marks in both the starting rotation and bullpen that could use as much insurance as possible.
But on the other hand, you have a guy coming off his second career TJ surgery last May. You can't expect anything from Zambrano at the start of the season, and you really don't know what he might contribute at all in 2007. If I was GM, I might non-tender him and try to get him to come back on an incentive-laden deal at a base price lower than the 2.4 million -- of course, by doing that you take the risk of not re-signing him at all. Given the crazy market, it's not at all farfetched that someone will take a $2+ million roll of the dice with him. Anyway, I'm comfortable leaving that call in the hands of Omar and his staff.
In the same Post article referenced above, Michael Morrissey asserts that the Mets are reconciled to the fact that Barry Zito will sign with the Rangers, because they will not match the offer in years and dollars. I'm sure I will read another article tomorrow that declares that Zito will unequivocally sign with the Mets. The whole thing is just giving me a headache. I've reconciled that the Mets might indeed sign Zito to a contract that will scare the hell out of me, and I've also accepted that he might not pitch here at all. Qué será será. I'm not willing to let this thing drive me crazy.