On December 2, there were a bunch of transactions like this one:
RHP Kris Medlen elected free agency.The thing is, Kris Medlen didn't really have much of a choice in this "election." The Braves paid the 29-year-old pitcher $5.8 million in 2014. He was eligible for arbitration this year. However, he missed the entire season after undergoing his second Tommy John surgery (his first procedure was in August 2010). In financial terms, they could have tendered, or offered, him a contract for 2015, but they chose not to: They non-tendered him. Players who are non-tendered immediately become free agents. There were 32 players non-tendered by the midnight, December 2 deadline; here's a list. Most will sign contracts, others may be done.
The most circuitous case thus far is Justin Smoak. The Mariners waived the first baseman after the season ended and the Blue Jays picked him up on October 28. Smoak had a contract that would pay him $3.65 million in 2015, but it had a $150,000 buyout, which the Jays exercised. To that point, they had claimed Smoak only to pay him $150,000 to make him go away. The day after the non-tender deadline, though, they signed him to a $1 million contract. So netting it all together, Toronto's paying $1.15 million to Smoak in order save $2.5 million. None of this was underhanded or unexpected:
Justin Smoak says he's expects #BlueJays to decline his $3.65m option for 2015 and renegotiate new deal
— Shi Davidi (@ShiDavidi) October 29, 2014
...but it shows the kind of chess game player contracts can become.
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