ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals already whittled their list of arbitration-eligible players to five by releasing Kyle McClellan last Tuesday. Now, the organization has until 10:59 p.m. CT on Nov. 30 to tender contracts to those other five -- reliever Mitchell Boggs, closer Jason Motte, reliever Edward Mujica, third baseman David Freese and reliever Marc Rzepczynski.
General manager John Mozeliak took away any suspense regarding those decisions on Friday, when he said that he does not anticipate the club non-tendering anyone in that group.
By offering contracts to all five, the Cardinals will ensure their willingness to go as far as an arbitration hearing in order to settle on a one-year deal with each player involved. Most arbitration-eligible players will reach an agreement with the team prior to an arbitration hearing, and the Cardinals have a couple of candidates (see: Freese, Motte) for multiyear extensions. Mozeliak, sticking with club protocol, would not discuss the possibility of the organization making anyone a multiyear offer.
If the two sides are still negotiating on Jan. 18, the club and player will exchange desired salary figures. Arbitration hearings for those players who still haven't settled would then take place in February.
Here is a more in-depth look at the arbitration history (if any) and likely salary expectations for the Cardinals players poised to go through this process:
Service time: 5.115 years
2012 salary: $1.625 million
Outlook: Mujica is arbitration-eligible for the final time and set himself up for a nice pay boost following a strong season. He'll likely settle for a one-year deal within the $3-4 million range. Relievers are the riskiest long-term signs, so it's unlikely the Cards will explore a contract offer of more than one year with the right-handed setup man.
Service time: 4.027 years
2012 salary: $2 million (includes $50,000 in achieved performances bonuses)
Outlook: Motte will be due a significant pay increase after coming off his first full season as a closer and capping it by finishing with a National League-best 42 saves. In his first year of arbitration-eligibility, Motte saw his base salary jump from $435,000 to $1.95 million on the heels of a nine-save season. His salary should more than double this offseason and could approach upwards of $5 million. The Cardinals also know that the save statistic carries a lot of weight during an arbitration hearing, so it's in the organization's best interest to come to a mutual agreement before going in front of an arbiter.
Service time: 3.125 years
2012 salary: $506,000
Outlook: Having thrived as the Cardinals' eighth-inning setup man this season, Boggs positioned himself for a million-dollar payday. He'll eclipse that mark for the first time in his career this winter. This is Boggs' first taste of arbitration-eligibility, and if he goes to an arbitration hearing, he will play up the 34 holds he recorded out of the 'pen. For the role that he'll hold in the bullpen next season, the cost of retaining Boggs is entirely reasonable.
Service time: 3.036 years
2012 salary: $504,000
Outlook: Rzepczynski had a tough time sustaining consistent success in 2012, and that will likely keep him from following Boggs and earning a $1 million offer. In some years, Rzepczynski might have been a strong non-tender candidate given his 2012 results. However, the Cardinals are lacking in other left-handed relief options, and the free-agent market is not saturated in that area either. As a result, the Cardinals will hope for a bounce-back season from a left-handed pitcher who could be a key piece in the 'pen.
Service time: 3.028 years
2012 salary: $508,000
Outlook: Aside from some minor injuries, Freese met his goal of staying healthy for a full season. In doing so, he posted career-best numbers in several categories, and all that will result in the first-year arbitration-eligible player receiving a substantial raise. Depending on how risky the Cardinals see Freese from a health standpoint, the organization could consider a multiyear offer in order to buy out some of Freese's years of arbitration-eligibility.