Minor headed to free agency
Braves non-tender former first-round pick
ATLANTA -- Two years ago, Mike Minor was in the midst of earning his place among baseball's top left-handed starting pitchers. But the shoulder problems he has battled since have put him in a position where he now must prove himself again as a free agent.
The Braves non-tendered Minor and infielder Pedro Ciriaco before Wednesday night's deadline. Atlanta tendered contracts to each of its other three arbitration-eligible players - Shelby Miller, Chris Withrow and Arodys Vizcaino.
Outfielder Eury Perez was not arbitration-eligible, but he, too, was not tendered a contract. Though the Braves are looking for a right-handed hitter to share center field with Michael Bourn, they did not view Perez as a suitable option.
If the Braves would have tendered a contract to Minor, they would have been required to pay him at least $4.48 million, which is 80 percent of the $5.6 million salary he was awarded when he won his arbitration case in February -- a couple of weeks before shoulder discomfort ended his season.
Minor underwent surgery in May to repair a slightly torn left labrum. But the 27-year-old has not been able to throw off a mound on a regular basis. This uncertainty caused the Braves to be hesitant about a significant financial commitment.
Still, the Braves spent the past couple of days trying to reach an agreement that would have kept Minor in the organization with a lower guaranteed salary for the 2016 season. The two parties did not halt their negotiations until early Wednesday evening, just a few hours before the deadline.
Minor's left shoulder became an issue during the early days of Spring Training in 2014. An emergency urinary-tract procedure left him sedentary throughout most of January. Unfortunately, that led him to accelerate his preseason preparations, which might have placed undue stress on his shoulder.
Minor battled shoulder discomfort as he produced a 4.77 ERA over the 25 starts he made in 2014. This frustrating stretch erased much of the optimism the young pitcher had created the previous year. He capped a strong 2013 season by winning his matchup against Zack Greinke and the Dodgers in Game 2 of the National League Division Series.
Cliff Lee and Clayton Kershaw were the only qualified left-handed starting pitchers to post a better ERA than Minor (2.90) from July 1, 2012, through the end of the 2013 season.
Now, Minor, who has been a member of the Braves organization since being selected with the seventh overall pick in the 2009 Draft, must prove himself yet again.
Miller, Withrow and Vizcaino will gain their 2016 salary either through arbitration hearings or by agreements that could be reached at any point before their hearings.
Ciriaco became a non-tender candidate on Wednesday, when the Braves reached agreement on a one-year deal with veteran infielder Gordon Beckham.