A winter evening littered with MLB transactions represented another important date to mark off baseball’s offseason calendar.
Monday’s non-tender deadline allowed clubs to cut ties with players that are still under team control. Typically, the players that are non-tendered are arbitration-eligible and figure to make more than the team is willing to pay during the process. This season, 14 of the 52 players that were non-tendered hadn’t yet reached arbitration.
This means that the teams could pay these players almost whatever they want in 2020. And that figure is usually very close to the league minimum. Even though these players won’t cost much, they take up a spot on the roster.
Most clubs created or extended the space on their 40-man rosters Monday. Those gaps can be filled with free-agent signings or even during next week’s Rule 5 draft.
The most interesting names to hit the free-agent market were all arbitration-eligible. Former All-Stars, Gold Glovers, top prospects and even one No. 1 overall pick are now free to sign with other teams this offseason. Here is a list of the 10 best players that were non-tendered Monday.
Addison Russell, INF
Russell was Chicago’s everyday shortstop for nearly five years and was named an All-Star during their World Series-winning season in 2016. But things took a turn for the worse due to 25-year-old’s off-field behavior. He played 82 games last year after he was suspended for violating MLB's Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy. He’s a slick fielder with a high on-base percentage and little power. Russell also enters a market weak on shortstops. But there could be potential moral concerns for teams bringing him on board.
Blake Treinen, RHP
The now-31-year-old was arguably the best reliever in baseball two years ago, posting an 0.78 ERA in 80 1/3 innings. But a shoulder strain forced him to miss significant time in 2019 and his ERA inflated to 4.91 in 58 2/3 innings. Perhaps due to the injury, Treinen used his four-seamer more in 2019 and scaled back slightly on his sinker, one of the best individual pitches in baseball. Treinen is now one of the best relievers available on the market.
Tim Beckham, INF
Beckham has been reduced to a bench role in a brief career that began with much promise. He was the No. 1 overall pick by Tampa Bay out of high school in 2008. Beckham exhibited his full potential after being dealt to Baltimore at the 2017 trade deadline. The metrics have him as an average shortstop, and he’s capable of playing all four infield positions. He made $1.75 million in Year 2 of arbitration with the Mariners last year and could provide low-cost versatility for a club with an already strong infield.
Travis Shaw, INF
The Brewers didn’t have a lot of motivation to move on from Shaw, especially on the day Mike Moustakas signed with the division-rival Reds. But Shaw reportedly expected a higher 2020 salary than Milwaukee was willing to pay, so he hits the market a year early. Shaw recorded consecutive 30-homer seasons after being traded from the Red Sox in 2017. He was bothered by a wrist strain that limited him to 86 MLB games, and he was twice optioned to Triple-A last year. He played some second base in Milwaukee but is a better option at the corners, particularly third base.
Alex Claudio, LHP
Claudio had a pair of excellent seasons in Texas, then struggled to post decent numbers the last two years. But that didn’t stop the Brewers, who gave up a competitive balance pick to get him last December, from leaning on him heavily. Claudio led MLB with 83 appearances in 2019, where he posted 4.06 ERA. He’s certainly not a LOOGY — he faced less than three batters on 29 occasions — which should help his cause on the open market.
Kevin Gausman, RHP
Gausman was a staple in the Orioles rotation not long ago when the team was plenty competitive. Once Baltimore began to purge, he helped the Braves win the 2018 division title with 10 excellent starts down the stretch. But he really got knocked around at the start of the season in Atlanta and bounced to Cincinnati off waivers in August. Gausman hadn’t made a relief outing since 2015, but performed well in 15 appearances out of Cincinnati’s bullpen. A reliever role may be the future for the soon-to-be-29-year-old that led MLB with 34 starts in 2017.
Aaron Sanchez, RHP
Sanchez flashed ace potential after leading the AL with a 3.00 ERA in 2016. But his next three seasons were decimated by injuries. He threw a total of 141 innings from 2017-18 and seemed to get back on track last year. But a season-ending shoulder injury limited him to 18 2/3 innings after a deadline deal to the Astros. His short stint in Houston wasn’t without excitement, however, he pitched the first six innings of a combined no-hitter in his first start with Houston against the Mariners on Aug. 3.
Cesar Hernandez, INF
A pair of the Phillies’ longest relationships were understandably severed Monday. Hernandez signed with the Phillies as a 16-year-old in 2006, and was a mainstay in the infield next to Maikel Franco, who was also cut loose, for the past four seasons. Hernandez played 161 games in arguably the best 2019 season of anyone on this list, batting .279/.333/.408 with 14 homers and nine steals. The switch-hitting, 29-year-old played exclusively at second base last season but has limited experience at third base and shortstop. Hernandez is reportedly a favorite of former manager Gabe Kapler, who landed a new job in San Francisco.
Kevin Pillar, OF
Pillar was one of the best defensive center fielders in the game for the past few seasons, but couldn’t get out of the shadows of Kevin Keirmaier and Byron Buxton. He was a three-time gold glove finalist (2015-17) at a position with a rather weak market. Beyond the defense, Pillar is a career .250-.260 hitter, and he produced his first 20-homer season last year with the Giants in a much less hitter-friendly environment than the one he played in six prior seasons.
Yolmer Sanchez, 2B
Sanchez more or less saved his season with his defensive prowess. He earned AL Gold Glove honors at second base and kept himself on the field for more than 140 games for the third consecutive year. But his bat took a step backward in 2019. Sanchez’s average jumped 10 points to .252, but his OPS+ dropped to 73 and he had 64 fewer total bases than in 2018, where he led the AL with 10 triples.
Here is a full list of players that were non-tendered Monday along with the current number of players on each team’s 40-man rosters. Players marked with an asterisk were not yet arbitration-eligible.
Arizona (37): RHP Taijuan Walker, OF Steven Souza Jr., C Caleb Joseph
Atlanta (37): INF/OF Charlie Culberson, C John Ryan Murphy, OF Rafael Ortega*
Baltimore (38): None
Boston (34): INF Marco Hernández, LHP Josh Osich
Chicago Cubs (36): INF Addison Russell, LHP Danny Hultzen*
Chicago White Sox (36): RHP Ryan Burr*, LHP Caleb Frare*, INF Yolmer Sánchez
Cincinnati (38): RHP Kevin Gausman, IF/OF José Peraza
Cleveland (39): RHP James Hoyt*, C Kevin Plawecki
Colorado (40): None
Detroit (39): None
Houston (38): RHP Aaron Sanchez
Kansas City (36): INF Humberto Arteaga*, INF Cheslor Cuthbert, INF Erick Mejia*, RHP Jesse Hahn
Los Angeles Angels (39): C Kevan Smith
Los Angeles Dodgers (40): None
Miami (40): INF JT Riddle
Milwaukee (31): INF Tyler Saladino, INF Travis Shaw, LHP Alex Claudio, RHP Junior Guerra, RHP Jimmy Nelson
Minnesota (35): 1B CJ Cron, RHP Trevor Hildenberger*
New York Mets (40): None
New York Yankees (40): None
Oakland (37): LHP Ryan Buchter, RHP Blake Treinen, C Josh Phegley
Philadelphia (38): INF Maikel Franco, INF Cesar Hernandez
Pittsburgh (39): C Elias Diaz
San Diego (39): RHP Pedro Avila*, RHP Miguel Diaz*
San Francisco (36): LHP Tyler Anderson, RHP Rico Garcia*, OF Kevin Pillar, OF Joey Rickard
Seattle (38): INF Tim Beckham, OF Domingo Santana
St. Louis (40): None
Tampa Bay (39): OF Guillermo Heredia
Texas (38): RHP Ian Gibaut*, RHP Wei-Chieh Huang*
Toronto (37): RHP Jason Adam*, RHP Derek Law, C Luke Maile
Washington (31): RHP Javy Guerra
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