The Non-Tender Deadline: What To Do About Howell And Sonny?

The deadline for clubs to offer contracts to their arbitration eligible players is tonight at midnight, so we should be getting news at some point today on which players the Rays have decided tender a contract. Here's the list of arbitration eligible Rays, along with their projected arbitration salary from MLBTR:

David Price - $7.8m
B.J. Upton - $7.6m
Jeff Niemann - $3.1m
Joel Peralta - $2.0m
J.P. Howell - $1.4m
Andy Sonnanstine - $1.1m

Howell and Sonnanstine seem like non-tender candidates (meaning the Rays don't offer them a contract and they become free agents). The Rays non-tendered Howell last season with the understanding that they'd still reach a deal -- which they did -- and it seems likely that they'll do something similar this season. While he won't be terribly expensive through arbitration, the Rays could have more flexibility to offer Howell an incentive-laden deal if they don't go through arbitration.

Should the Rays want to bring Howell back? Definitely. He had a poor 2011 season, but he has too much potential upside to ignore. At the very least, he still showed an ability to mow through lefties last season (2.79 FIP), so he'd still be a useful part even if he never returns to being the pitcher he once was. I wouldn't be surprised if the Rays tender him a contract just to keep him off the market, and then reach an incentive-laden pre-arb deal with him of some kind.

Meanwhile, this might be the end of Sonny as a Ray. He stuck on the roster this past season much longer than he should have based on his results, and he appears to have lost the ability to get major leaguers out (5.55 ERA, 7.09 FIP in 2011). Once he got demoted, he didn't even have great success in Triple-A; he struck out more batters (5.6 K/9) and lowered his walk rate (2.4 BB/9), but those numbers were still worse than he put up in the majors back in 2007 and 2008. He's not the pitcher he once was, and the Rays shouldn't offer him more than a minor league deal. Unless, of course, he does actually have compromising photos of Friedman stashed away...

Here's the full list of non-tender candidates across MLB. Any names jump out at you as potential buy-low targets?

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