The non-tender deadline for 2017 is fast approaching. This year, the deadline falls on December 1st at 11:59pm EDT. By that point, teams must decide whether or not they will tender contracts to each of their arbitration-eligible players.
Those players who aren't tendered contracts will be eligible to negotiate with all 30 MLB teams. So leading up to that time, we'll see flurry of players join the free agent market.
Why Would A Team Non-Tender A Player?
A team will non-tender a player if they don't think he'll provide enough value on his 2018 contract. See, after a player earns a certain amount of major league service time, he becomes eligible for merit-based salary bumps. However, the arbitration system is a bit basic compared to the way teams themselves evaluate players. The arbitration panel rewards statistics like RBI and Saves, yet many teams don't consider those result-based statistics to be surefire indicators of a player's skills anymore.
A player's salary can be cut through the arbitration process by up to 20%, but this almost never happens. Even players who perform poorly usually get some sort of salary bump. Sometimes a player has earned a large salary in the past, but has declined significantly since then.
Here's an example: Hector Rondon of the Cubs is seen as a potential non-tender candidate this offseason. He earned a salary of $5.8MM in 2017, a figure built largely on his past performance and the saves he accrued as Chicago's closer for over two seasons. However, this past year Rondon posted a 4.24 ERA and showed signs of permanent decline. He's unlikely to provide value on whatever salary he earns through the arbitration process, so the Cubs might opt to cut him loose and look to acquire a cheaper reliever.
If you're curious about who else might be non-tendered this year, check out this link. MLB Trade Rumors provides a comprehensive list of potential non-tender candidates every year. This year's list includes 39 players.