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A’s sign Chad Pinder, avoid arbitration

The 2020 postseason hero gets a nice raise

Division Series - Oakland Athletics v Houston Astros - Game Three Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s agreed to a one-year contract with super-sub Chad Pinder on Tuesday, the team announced. Pinder, who was eligible for salary arbitration this winter and now avoids that process, will receive $2.275 million in 2021, reports Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle.

We’ll begin with a look at Pinder, followed by details about how the arbitration system works and what this news means.

Chad Pinder

Pinder isn’t a star producer on the level of the A’s biggest names, but he’s firmly a part of this contending core. He’s a homegrown hitter who’s been in the majors since 2016, and although he’s not an everyday starter he’s considered a clubhouse leader.

The infielder-turned-outfielder-turned-super-sub struggled to find his place in the A’s lineup in 2020, registering only 61 plate appearances, but he made up for it in the postseason. Helping cover for an injured Matt Chapman, he delivered the series-winning hit in the Wild Card Round against the White Sox, and then came up clutch multiple times in the ALDS against the Astros.

  • Pinder, 2020 reg: .232/.295/.393, 91 wRC+, 2 HR, 8.2% BB, 21.3% Ks
  • Pinder, 2020 post: .318/.385/.636 (7-for-22), 2 HR, 5 RBI, 2 BB, sac fly

Even without those October heroics, Pinder still has plenty to offer. He hits the ball as hard as anyone on the team in terms of exit velocity, he doesn’t strike out too much, he’s versatile enough to play almost any position, and he’s a particularly excellent defender in the outfield corners. For a little over $2 million, it’s an easy call to keep him in the fold for his age-29 season as the A’s begin the delicate task of reconstructing a roster ravaged by free agency.

The outfield does remain crowded, though, especially with righties. Mark Canha, Ramon Laureano, and Stephen Piscotty are still on board, as is Khris Davis in the quest for DH at-bats, and there could be a desire to work a lefty batter or switch-hitter into the mix to replace free agent Robbie Grossman. But Pinder usually finds playing time somewhere eventually, and when he does, he often contributes something useful.

What is Arbitration?

This section reproduced from a previous post.

The A’s have 10 players eligible for salary arbitration this winter. That means those players are still under team control and they aren’t free agents, but their salaries aren’t yet determined, leaving the two sides to either negotiate a number or let the court decide for them.

The deadline for teams to tender contracts to eligible players is Dec. 2, which is Wednesday (tomorrow). The parties don’t have to agree to exact numbers by then, but the club must at least commit to keeping the player and paying whatever it ends up costing*. Players who don’t receive such an assurance by Dec. 2 are called “non-tendered” and they become free agents.

* Note: The payout isn’t fully guaranteed until midway through next spring, so the team does still have one more chance to cut bait even if they tender a contract now.

Here are Oakland’s eligible players, along with their salary projections courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors. The projections are complicated this year, depending what method the market ends up using to evaluate the unusually short season, so there are three figures for each player instead of one (actual figures in italics for players who have signed):

  • OF Mark Canha – $5.4m / $8.2m / $6.1m
  • LHP Sean Manaea – $4.2m / $6.4m / $4.7m
  • 1B Matt Olson – $3.5m / $6.4m / $3.5m
  • RHP Chris Bassitt – $3.1m / $5.6m / $5.5m*
  • 3B Matt Chapman – $2.9m / $4.3m / $2.9m
  • UT Chad Pinder ($2.275m) – $2.2m / $2.4m / $2.2m
  • RHP Frankie Montas – $1.6m / $2.4m / $1.6m
  • UT Tony Kemp – $900k / $1.2m / $900k
  • RHP Lou Trivino – $900k / $1.1m / $900k
  • RHP Burch Smith ($705K) – $600k / $800k / $600k

Like with Smith’s $705k, Pinder clocked in around midway between his expected range. There are still eight more eligible players to address (actually seven, as Kemp has also signed, per Slusser).