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The Yankees decline to offer Derek Jeter arbitration

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Teams have until midnight tonight in order to offer arbitration to free agents.  If they do, and the players accept, the player will stay with the team and there will be a fun arbitration. If they do and the player declines, the team will get draft picks from whatever team eventually signs the free agent. If they don’t offer arbitration, the team gets nothing in return.

There’s always a gamble involved here, with a team often wanting to get the draft pick compensation, but not wanting to get stuck with the free agent in the event he accepts arbitration. The most famous recent example of this was Rafael Soriano accepting the Braves’ offer of arbitration last winter, which freaked the Braves out, as they had already signed Billy Wagner to be their closer and had no desire to pay Soriano what he would have received in arbitration. That led to a panic trade of Soriano to the Rays for a bucket of warm spit.  OK, that’s not fair. You could at least use a bucket of warm spit to melt ice off your driveway. The Braves got nothing useful in return.

So that’s the setup, and the decisions on arbitration offers will be coming in all day. So far we have two: the Tigers and the Yankees.  The Tigers have declined to offer arbitration to any of their free agents (Magglio Ordonez, Johnny Damon, and Gerald Laird).  Makes sense because all of them are certain to see their salaries go way down on the market, so they may be inclined to accept arbitration. The Tigers don’t want to chance it, so no offers for them.

Likewise, the Yankees have declined to offer Derek Jeter arbitration. This also makes some sense, not just for the “he may accept and we’ll have to pay him $18 million again” angle — that may not be the worst thing in the world for New York — but also because an offer might antagonize Jeter a bit. Why? Because a free agent with an arbitration offer is less valuable on the open market because any would-be signing teams know they’ll have to give up a pick for him.  Jeter likely isn’t going anywhere else, but it still makes political sense to avoid that kind of thing.

It’s in the Yankees’ best interest, I believe, to make Jeter feel like as big and valuable a man as they can until the precise moment when he agrees to a contract that is more favorable to the team.  Put differently, it’s better for him to extract psychic value from thinking that he could go elsewhere for the biggest bucks than to have to deal with the arbitration offer during conversations with his agent. And ultimately, the Yankees would not like to have to go through all of this garbage again next year like they would if they went to arbitration with the guy.

Anyway, we’ll keep you updated throughout the day on any significant or unexpected arbitration-offer news.

Mets leaning on Jay Bruce, Neil Walker as Lucas Duda insurance

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Pinch hitter Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets walks back to the dugout after striking out for the first out of the ninth inning against Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”

The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.

Jason Kipnis diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates after scoring a run on a wild pitch thrown by Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs (not pictured) during the fifth inning in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.

There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.

Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.