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The Cardinals’ Non-Tenders and The Essential Chicken Tenders Tier List

I don’t have anything to add to the title.

St. Louis Cardinals v San Diego Padres Photo by Orlando Ramirez/Getty Images


Well. That happened.

The deadline for MLB teams to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible and pre-arbitration players came and went on Friday evening and brought us some pretty significant news.

We’ll get to the details. First, a little explanation. What does “non-tender” mean? I’m glad you asked! explains: “Players on the 40-man roster with fewer than six years of Major League service time must be tendered contracts each offseason by a set deadline”. That deadline was at 8 PM ET Friday. (Just late enough to make my Friday night as annoying as possible.)

The Cardinals had 9 players eligible for arbitration and more pre-arbitration eligible players than I care to count. They cut ties with four players. All are names that you’ll know.

Dakota Hudson. Andrew Knizner. Jake Woodford. Juan Yepez. None of them will be Cardinals next season.

I can’t say that these moves were shocking when I suggested (fairly strongly) that the Cardinals make them just three weeks ago. Still, even I can’t pretend that I thought that John Mozeliak would actually follow this path.

The Cardinals are desperate for starting pitching depth. Dakota Hudson, with huge flags in his core metrics and significant velocity concerns, represented replacement-level innings from a known quantity for less than $4M.

Andrew Knizner was named the team’s captain. He had a career year at the plate and earned praise from the pitching staff in a year when veteran starter Willson Contreras got temporarily displaced. He was still just under replacement level, but that’s not unusual for a backup catcher. Neither is his price tag of $2M.

These are players that the Cardinals likely would have kept in any normal year. They don’t just cut ties with cheaper veterans who have proven themselves useful in the present or past.

This is not a normal year.

The Cardinals face unusual circumstances. They have to acquire at least two quality starters and really need a third. Some K-oriented bullpen arms would be welcome, too.

If you are wondering why the Cards cut Hudson and Knizner, I can answer that question for you in one character: $.

The market for starters is expected to be highly competitive. Every team in baseball is looking for pitching. The Cardinals need “quantity” – the buzzword from the GM Meetings. They also need at least some of their pitching to be quality.

That means every dollar counts. Even the dollars that the Cardinals would normally devote to a well-respected, clubhouse leader, backup catcher.

Back in October, MLB Trade Rumors estimated the following salaries for Hudson, Knizner, and Woodford:

Hudson: $3.65M
Knizner: $1.85M
Woodford: $1M

Total Budget Saved: $6.5M

Yepez was not arbitration-eligible, so the Cardinals didn’t save any money by non-tendering him. They do gain his spot on the 40-man roster, though.

What can John Mozeliak and his crew do with an extra $6.5M and four open roster spots (with more they can create)? We’ll find out in the weeks to come.

I’ll have more on this, the roster ramifications, and the overall budget picture on Wednesday. Stay tuned!

And now for something totally different…

The Essential Chicken Tenders Tier List

You can’t talk about tenders without talking about tenders.

While I was very much in favor of the Cardinals non-tendering several of the players above, I am very much pro-tendering when it comes to chickens.

Since it’s a Friday (Saturday for you) and I’m still (frustratingly) waiting for the Cardinals’ non-tender news to break – I wrote this before I wrote what’s above – let’s get to more interesting things.

Like a chicken tender tier list!

Let me say this first before we break out the baseball bats and go to war with each other over batter-fried chicken: there is no such thing as a bad chicken tender.

Oh, sure. We’ve all had bad chicken tenders. But it’s a still a chicken tender. Even when it’s bad, it’s not bad. You can find something to dip that over-battered, over-fried, dried-out chunk of cluck into and still have a pretty good day. I’ve eaten day-old, heat-lamped chicken tenders in the Indianapolis Convention Center dipped in Food Service BBQ sauce packets and I was quite happy about it. You have, too. Even if you’ve never been to Indy.

In this fallen state of humanity, chicken tenders are inherently good.

Now, let’s argue about them. Here’s my tier list. Then I’ll explain.

S-Teir – Raising Cane’s

The top of my list is Raising Cane’s. They’re excellent. The fries are good. The sauce is amazing. They give you toast. It probably helps that they don’t have Raising Cane’s where I live, so I can’t just drown myself in them. If I did, they would probably become a little overrated to me because they’re just a very consistently perfect but pretty plainly seasoned tender. Knowing I have to drive at least an hour and a half to get them makes them my family’s go-to travel tender. For now, we love them unequivocally.

A-Tier – Local Specialties

Everyone has their own favorite local tender joints. You’ve probably never had Broussards – a local Cajun place with the best tenders anywhere – but you’ve had something like it in your hometown. These spots are the actual best and deserve your love and attention, even if they aren’t national/regional. So, replace mine with yours and win.

Most of you also know that one gas station that has shockingly incredible gas station food. For us, that’s Acee’s. One mile up the street from my house. Awesome gas station tendies. They know it, too, because they charge not-gas-station prices for them. It’s ok. Shut up, and take my money for your delicious strips of gas station fried goodness!

B-Tier – The Quality Chains

Chick-fil-a. KFC. Popeyes. I have no complaints with any of these tenders. I’ll smash them anytime I can. Popeyes are a personal favorite of mine. Spicy. 5-tender combo. Blackened ranch. Coke. Every time. They probably belong ahead of the other two. But there are also times when Popeyes’ thinner-cut tenders can get a bit dried out. Still, they’re awesome. And come with a freaking butter-brushed biscuit!

C-Tier – Sauces/Batters

My C-tier list is really all about the sauces. Chili’s tenders used to come in a fish-like batter which was awesome with their slightly runny honey mustard (read: corn syrup) sauce. It was my first true chicken tender love affair from the late ‘90s. They might have changed their recipe now; I haven’t had them in a while. So, drop Chili’s down if that’s true. B-Dubs are just boneless buffalo wings in tender form. I love the Caribbean Jerk sauce but am not picky here. Give me a sauce and a bucket of ranch, and I’m good. Very good. Long John Silver’s tenders are underrated. Another fried fish batter for chicken. Nice. Dairy Queen’s tenders come with gravy. Gravy. GRAVY. Their tenders actually aren’t that good. But GRAVY! And toast! In a box! Sometimes with onion rings! And soft serve!

D-Tier – Also Good

Zaxby’s and Hardees are fine. Zaxby’s sauce is good. I’m a fan of both these places, but they don’t necessarily jump off the page to me. Maybe Zaxby’s belongs up with the sauces… I didn’t really think this through. I get a little fuzzy-headed when I think about chicken tenders for too long.

E-Tier – They’re Still Tenders, So…

The controversy here is probably Culvers. But I’m just not impressed. They have a different texture than the others and it’s not particularly appealing. I don’t think I’ve had tenders from Applebee’s in years, but it’s Applebee’s, so by default they get ranked at the bottom. Anyone remember Applebee’s tenders and riblets basket? Ok… that was pretty awesome! Do they still have that? Because it’s dinner time and someone gave me an Applebee’s gift card like 5 years ago.

There you go. Have at me! But have fun.

We should get a collection together and send Andrew Knizner and Dakota Hudson a big ‘ol bucket of Raising Cane’s.

Let’s also raise a big ‘ol ranch-dipped strip of deep-fried perfection in honor of Jake Woodford and Juan Yepez! (And Yepez’s awesome dad, Omar!)

And, yes, I spent 20 minutes in Photoshop making all the logos the same size so the tier list looked right. Tenders are worth it.

Happy Saturday, Viva El Birdos!