Wednesday was “tender day” in Major League Baseball, but don’t get too hungry. You can’t dip this column in honey mustard. This was the day where teams decided whether to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players. We saw 59 players non-tendered and become free agents, though three (Kyle Farmer, Kyle Ryan, Dan Winkler) already re-signed with their respective teams.
There was plenty of speculation about a list of high-profile players who might have been on the bubble, but Kris Bryant, Gary Sanchez, Jon Gray, Tommy Pham, Matthew Boyd, Jesus Aguilar, and Steven Matz all stayed put. For now, anyway. Bryant’s future with the Cubs is still very much in question. But there were still plenty of notable names who were left looking for new homes.
Cubs non-tendered outfielder Kyle Schwarber
Schwarber was arguably the biggest name of the bunch coming out of Wednesday’s deadline. It’s a situation which might have been unimaginable a couple of years back, but the 27-year-old batted just .188/.308/.393 with 11 home runs over 59 games this past season and the Cubs are clearly shifting their approach. That being said, it’s a little surprising nobody else tried to acquire a player who had an .849 OPS (120 OPS+) in 292 games between 2018-2019. Perhaps there would have been more of a market for him if we had a clear answer on the universal designated hitter for 2021. It’s a little convenient we don’t know that yet, huh?
Twins non-tendered outfielder Eddie Rosario
This one might have caught some off guard, but it’s not unexpected to anyone who has followed the Twins closely over the past year or so. Still, like Schwarber, it is a bit surprising he didn’t draw trade interest for what would have been a salary in the $10 million range. That’s the state of the game right now, sadly. Rosario is certainly an interesting fantasy outfielder, including 13 home runs and 42 RBI over 57 games this past season. He averaged 28 home runs and 88 RBI with an .813 OPS (114 OPS+) over the previous three seasons. But he’s not known for his patience (outside of the truncated 2020 season) and his outfield defense is poor. The Twins have a ready-made replacement in top prospect Alex Kirilloff, so they decided to move on. We’ll see what they do with the money they would have used to sign Rosario.
Rockies non-tendered outfielder David Dahl
Okay, now this was a surprise. Sure, Dahl has a long injury history (including a shoulder cleanup procedure this offseason) and he’s coming off a year where he batted just .183/.222/.247 in 99 plate appearances, but he had 31 homers and an .870 OPS (111 OPS+) in 177 games between 2018-2019. Should a 24-game sample really change their evaluation of him? It’s even more surprising when you consider that Dahl likely would have received a tiny raise from the $2.475 million salary had had last year. It’s a head-scratcher, even in light of Rockies owner Dick Monfort’s warning to season-ticket holders about some tough business decisions. In a vacuum, Dahl fits the description of the sort of player the Rockies should be seeking, not letting go. But he’s going to have no problem finding a good fit elsewhere.
If only 2015 could see us now. The White Sox were hoping that Mazara would find himself with the change of scenery after acquiring him for minor league outfielder Steele Walker last offseason, but he got a late start on the season due to an undisclosed illness before batting just .228/.295/.294 with one home run over 42 games. It’s important to keep the context in mind, but Mazara has never had even a league-average season (by OPS+) in his entire career. There were plenty of decisions to be critical about on Wednesday, but this wasn’t one of them. As for Rodon, he has a 5.74 ERA over the last two seasons with shoulder surgery and Tommy John surgery in his recent past. He’s still just 27 years old (turns 28 next week), so it’s too soon to give up on this sort of talent, but the White Sox weren’t willing to give him a salary in the range of the $4.45 million he signed for last offseason.
Seeing the Reds cut ties with Bradley is a bit of an eyebrow-raiser, as they gave up utility player Josh VanMeter and prospect outfielder Stuart Fairchild to get him from the Diamondbacks at the August 31 trade deadline. Bradley also pitched well for Cincinnati down the stretch, allowing just one run with a 6/0 K/BB ratio over 7 2/3 innings. However, the club apparently thinks they could make better use of what would have been a raise from his $4.1 million salary from 2019. Casali is another which stands out, as he showed interesting pop and patience (six homers, .366 OBP in 93 PA) this past season while ranking well behind the plate. The Reds have Tucker Barnhart as their starter and they feel Tyler Stephenson is ready for a bigger workload, so this is an area they could trim. Casali will be an interesting pickup wherever he goes, though likely as a part-timer or backup.
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Braves non-tendered outfielder Adam Duvall
Duvall has slugged 26 homers with an .852 OPS (114 OPS+) in 98 games since the start of the 2019 season, but that wasn’t enough for the Braves to retain him. He had a $3.25 million salary this past season and likely would have made north of $4 million in arbitration this winter. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic notes that the Braves haven’t ruled bringing Duvall back at a lower figure. Even with Cristian Pache expected to be a regular next year and Drew Waters not far off, the Braves could use some depth with Marcell Ozuna and Nick Markakis both in free agency. Apparently the club wants to at least keep their options open.
Blue Jays non-tendered third baseman Travis Shaw
After signing a one-year, $4 million deal with the Blue Jays last offseason, Shaw batted .239/.306/.411 with six home runs over 50 games this year. It was an improvement from his brutal 2019 campaign, but still nowhere close to his 2017-2018 production with the Brewers. Third base figures to be an area of need for Toronto this offseason, at least assuming Vladimir Guerrero Jr. doesn’t get another chance at third base.
Royals non-tendered third baseman Maikel Franco
Is this going to make a big difference in the standings? No, it won’t. But Franco was actually pretty good this past season, slashing .278/.321/.457 with eight homers and 38 RBI over 60 games while playing pretty good defense at third base. Going by OPS+ (109), it was his best season since his promising rookie showing in 2015. Franco signed for $2.95 million after being non-tendered by the Phillies last offseason and was due a sizable raise via arbitration. The Royals appear content to move forward with their internal options.
Orioles non-tendered second baseman Hanser Alberto
Alberto got the boot on Wednesday after batting .299/.322/.413 in 193 games over the past two seasons. He did most of his damage against left-handed pitching, putting up a .394 batting average in that time. He’s been a useful stopgap for Baltimore during their rebuild and wasn’t going to break the bank as a first-time arbitration-eligible player, but Orioles general manager Mike Elias said they are “operating within the economic framework of the collective bargaining agreement and the quirks of the arbitration system.” Those are definitely a collection of words.
The Angels Land Andrelton Simmons’ Replacement
Hanser Alberto wasn’t the only Orioles’ infielder on the move on Wednesday, as Jose Iglesias was traded to the Angels for prospect right-handers Garrett Stallings and Jean Pinto. Iglesias will take over the starting shortstop job for the Halos with Andrelton Simmons on the free agent market.
Iglesias turns 31 in January and posting a stellar .373/.400/.556 batting line with three home runs and 24 RBI over 39 games this past season. He made 22 starts at shortstop and 13 out of the DH spot, partially due to a quad issue. He’s a very good defensive shortstop, so there’s not going to be a drop-off from Simmons there. Granted, Simmons was banged up this year, so he wasn’t his normal self at shortstop. But adding Iglesias to the mix with Anthony Rendon and David Fletcher means that the team’s infield defense will remain a strength.
The Orioles already picked up Iglesias’ $3.5 million club option at the start of November, so he’s a nice value even if the bat is going to come back to Earth. The bummer for Orioles fans is that neither Stallings nor Pinto are considered top prospects. Pinto, 19, has only appeared in three pro games in the Dominican Summer League back in 2019. Stallings, 23, was a fifth-round pick in 2019 and has yet to pitch professionally.
Dodgers Acquire Knebel from Brewers
Another notable trade on Wednesday had the Brewers sending reliever Corey Knebel to the Dodgers for future considerations. Knebel had a $5.125 million salary in 2020 and probably wasn’t looking at a significant raise via arbitration, but the Brewers obviously thought they have a more efficient way of allocating those funds.
That approach makes sense for the Brewers, but the Dodgers are happy to take a chance on a pitcher who was one of the best relievers in the game a couple of years ago. Of course, Knebel has undergone Tommy John surgery since then and he posted a 6.08 ERA with eight walks and four homers allowed over 13 1/3 innings in his return to action this year. His velocity and command were off, but it’s reasonable to expect that to bounce back as he gets further removed from surgery. That’s what the Dodgers are hoping for, anyway.
Quick Hits: Jon Morosi of MLB.com reports that the Giants have interest in free agent slugger Marcell Ozuna … The Mets finalized their two-year, $15.5 million contract with reliever Trevor May … Jon Morosi of MLB.com reports that the Red Sox have some interest in free agent Eddie Rosario … According to Robert Murray of FanSided, the Mets are in “active talks” with free agent catcher James McCann and it’s “increasingly likely” he will land a four-year contract … Rays prospect SS Wander Franco has been diagnosed with biceps inflammation after playing winter ball, but he’s expected to be fine for the start of spring training … Buster Olney of ESPN reports that the Yankees have been in contact with free agent outfielder Michael Brantley … Britt Ghiroli of The Athletic reports that the Nationals’ trade interest in Kris Bryant “seems tepid at best” … As expected, the Mets are bringing back pitching coach Jeremy Hefner … Robert Murray of FanSided reports that the Blue Jays are among the teams talking to the Phillies about Jean Segura … The Mariners signed infielder Sam Travis to a minor league contract … The Brewers signed INF Zach Green to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training … Jon Morosi of MLB.com reports that Domingo Santana has signed with the Yakult Swallows of Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan … Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press reports that Dan Straily has re-signed with the Lotte Giants of the Korea Baseball Organization.