CHICAGO -- Pardon Zach Putnam if his contractual status doesn't stand first and foremost in his mind over the next few days, with the White Sox reliever and his fiancée, Natasha, getting married Saturday in Hawaii.
But with a 7 p.m. CT deadline Friday for teams to offer a contract to players on their 40-man roster, including arbitration-eligible players such as Putnam, the situation has to cross his mind. The right-hander with the devastating split-finger fastball has averaged 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings and has a 2.71 ERA over 131 games with the White Sox, but he became a non-tender candidate after having Tommy John surgery June 22 and being unavailable until at least the second half of the 2018 season.
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Putnam, 30, understands the dynamics of the decision.
"I'm no stranger to this," said Putnam by phone from Hawaii. "I've been traded. I've been non-tendered. I've been released. I know how it works.
"Nothing is guaranteed in this game until it's guaranteed. Right now I'm in a position with being in the middle of arbitration [earning $1,117,500 in 2017], where the club knowing that I'm not going to be healthy enough to pitch for the first three months of the year, I'm sure it's going to be a huge deciding factor."
The White Sox have nine arbitration-eligible players. Jose Abreu, Avisail Garcia, Danny Farquhar, Yolmer Sanchez, Carlos Rodon and Leury Garcia all figure to be tendered contracts, while relievers Al Alburquerque and Jake Petricka are potential non-tender candidates, along with with Putnam.
Alburquerque, 31, impressed during his brief September stint with a White Sox bullpen depleted via trade and injury. Petricka, 29, has a 3.84 ERA over five seasons with the White Sox, but has been limited by injury to 36 games over the past two years. The right-hander underwent a nerve transposition in his right elbow Oct. 20, along with debridement of the flexor tendon, and will resume throwing in three to four months from the day of the procedure.
Even if a non-tender is involved, the White Sox could bring back players via a Minor League deal. Of course, the Majors remain the goal for experienced relievers such as Putnam, Petricka or Alburquerque, especially with Putnam feeling so good that he has to remember he's coming off of a major surgery.
"I would like to believe that we have a mutual respect," said Putnam of the White Sox, whose 40-man roster sits at 39. "I have the utmost respect for the club and they have been nothing but fair with me over the last four years. I don't have a bad word to say about anybody there.
"They are going to make their decision based on the needs of the roster and the needs of the team. It's a dynamic movement right now, with kind of the youth influx of young guys coming in, and they are full speed ahead and I love it. If they decide they want to go in a different direction, there will be no hard feelings. I'm going to hope for the best.
"Getting healthy is priority No. 1," Putnam added. "Whether I do it through the White Sox or on my own or through another club, it's like everything is hinging on me being healthy."