Presenting a Mock Non-Tenderizingon November 20, 2020 at 8:00 pm

Presenting a Mock Non-Tenderizing

Before I get to the names, if you missed Monday’s post, you’re going to want to read that straight away. Please know that this doesn’t preclude anyone else on staff from offering their own opinions on this matter. I also think readers should know how I put the list together. Similar to the recipe for my mock drafts, I’m using a combination of informed speculation by industry folks and myself, with some concrete dope mixed in. My own speculation is driven by:

  • Weighing each player’s ability and importance to their team against their projected arbitration number (duh).
  • How their team/front office has behaved in the non-tender market before.
  • Whether the team behaves in a cost-conscious way, generally.
  • Whether the team has behaved in a cost-conscious way lately due to the pandemic (ops layoffs, decisions on player options, etc.).
  • If there are major league-ready prospects behind said player.
  • Miscellaneous, subjective stuff, like strongly-perceived player/team discord and whatnot.

Let’s take a quick peek at each club’s number of non-tenders since 2015 so we’re all on the same page for the second category above. The table below is sortable.

I’m not just touching on the players for whom there’s an argument to non-tender; I’m trying to predict these as best as I can. Like my mock drafts, the goal is to try to predict what will happen, not say what I think should happen. I don’t even bother mentioning some arbitration-eligible stars, like Cody Bellinger and Lucas Giolito, for reasons I hope are obvious. These go alphabetical by team name.

Arb-eligible Cam Bedrosian and Ryon Healy have already been outrighted off the roster. Hansel Robles lost two ticks off his fastball during a rough 2020 and is due for a raise up to the $4 million range. Justin Anderson had Tommy John in July. I think both are strong candidates. Closer to the line are relievers Noe Ramirez and Keynan Middleton. Ramirez ran a 3.00 ERA in 2020 but his peripherals were troubling, he’s now out of options, his velocity fell for the second consecutive season, and his meal ticket changeup missed fewer bats than it did in 2019. Middleton was so wild that he was sent to the Alternate Site for much of September, but he was throwing much harder than when he first returned from TJ in ’19. Both Middleton and Ramirez are projected to earn about $1 million in arbitration. If forced to pick one, I’d take Middleton’s upside over what, up until last year, had been Ramirez’s consistency. As such, I’m projecting Ramirez to be non-tendered, but Middleton to be tendered. I think Hector Yan, Chris Rodriguez and Packy Naughton could play bullpen roles next year, though Rodriguez worked as a starter during instructs.

Several of Oakland’s key players, like Matt Chapman, Mark Canha and Matt Olson, are arb-eligible this year and their collective raises project to increase Oakland’s payroll by about $30 million. The unpredictable health of A.J. Puk, Daulton Jefferies, and James Kaprielian underscores the importance of tendering Chris Bassitt, and probably Sean Manaea. I think an org with a similar history of financial constraint but more pitching depth would at least consider parting with a strike-throwing fourth starter sort like Manaea, who is projected to make $5.3 million, but he seems like a clubhouse culture cornerstone, and the team’s tenuous depth is also a factor.

Marcus Semien‘s likely departure combined with the payroll increase makes Oakland’s middle infield picture very foggy. It’s possible one or both of Tony Kemp and Chad Pinder is non-tendered. Both will be 29 next season. Kemp makes contact and plays a good second base but lacks any modicum of power. Pinder has run a sub-.300 OBP the last two years and three of the last four. He’s projected to make $2.3 million. His offensive ceiling is higher than Kemp’s, but Kemp (who bats left and has a good glove, but is second base-only) is a more obvious complement to Vimael Machin (who switch-hits and is a mediocre defender, but plays the whole infield) and Sheldon Neuse (a righty power bat with a big arm, who mostly plays third base). It’s perhaps telling, however, that Neuse was never given an opportunity to seize the second base job last year even as Kemp, Pinder and Machin struggled and Jorge Mateo and Franklin Barreto were shipped off. Their in-house middle infield mix without Pinder/Kemp is longtime upper-level performer Nate Orf, Machin, Neuse, non-roster invitees Pete Kozma and Jacob Wilson ??, and young Nick Allen. Allen could play a great big league shortstop tomorrow but doesn’t have to be added to the 40-man until next offseason. Even after having added two relief prospects to the roster today, Oakland still has five vacant 40-man spots.

Arb-eligible Roberto Osuna has already been outrighted off the roster. Aledmys Diaz’s arb projection is close to $3 million and he is in the “ultra-aggressive hitter” bucket I wrote about earlier this week, but Houston doesn’t have any great in-house options to replace him and free agent departures have cleared a lot of payroll, so I think he’ll be retained.

Especially with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. keen on playing third again next year, Travis Shaw is a likely non-tender. A.J. Cole is out of options but is only projected to make about $1 million. He made some tweaks to his repertoire in his first year with the Jays and perhaps the team wants to explore a full year of this new approach to pitching, but I think the number of potential free agent upgrades will entice Toronto to part with Cole.

At the start of the year I’d have guessed Adam Duvall would be a non-tender candidate but he played well, and with Marcell Ozuna‘s contract expiring, Duvall is too important to non-tender, even at nearly $6 million. Johan Camargo is tough. He’s slated to make just north of $2 million and the Braves didn’t think he was good enough to make the initial playoff roster, but they also don’t have a clear in-house replacement for him. Luke Jackson is out of options and lost two ticks off his fastball last season, so I think he’ll be non-tendered.

Here’s an org where early-offseason financial indicators (lots of declined options) combined with recent approach to this type of transaction probably means Milwaukee will be very active. I think the combination of Orlando Arcia playing pretty well and Luis Urias not makes it likely Arcia is tendered. If the Brewers are listening to offers for Josh Hader then they’re likely non-tendering Corey Knebel at about the same price. I expect one of Manny Pina or Omar Narvaez to be cut loose while the other shares reps with Jacob Nottingham next year. Alex Claudio was non-tendered last year and I expect he will be again.

Brebbia is coming off of Tommy John, but at a projected $800,000 and without a huge wave of pitching prospects maturing behind him, he’s fairly safe.

The Cubs cut employees’ salaries in May and laid off more than 100 people last month, so this seems like a situation where payroll will be reduced pretty significantly. Front office folks I’ve spoken to about Kris Bryant don’t think he’ll be non-tendered but they do think the combination of his poor 2020 performance and 2021 salary (slated to be north of $20 million) have tanked his trade value. I think they’ll ultimately tender Kyle Schwarber at about $8 million, but that they’ll also look to move him between now and July.

Arizona declined to pick up Guerra’s $3.5 million option but they still retain his rights and will go to arbitration, where he’s projected to make an even $3 million. That’s perhaps a bit rich for a team that was rumored to not be interested in picking up Starling Marte‘s option, but Arizona needs bullpen depth, there aren’t many D-backs pitching prospects who need to be put on the 40-man right now, and Guerra has been a pretty consistent middle-inning performer, so this is a tough call.

Alexander’s projected $1.1 million salary is nothing to the Dodgers, and while they have some young arms likely to be added to the 40-man, none of them are left-handed. In that same vein, Caleb Ferguson‘s injury helps Alexander’s cause.

This was the toughest team for me to nail down because the Giants have been cycling through marginal players looking for diamonds in the rough since the new regime has been in place, meaning a lot of their roster is comprised of players who’d ordinarily be candidates but who the Giants, who other teams in baseball expect to spend money this offseason, might want to try to develop. They may look at the open market and decide they can upgrade on some of the players who are already on the roster and non-tender guys like Darin Ruf or Donovan Solano, but I have them non-tendering pretty conservatively here.

I think we’ll see outfield turnover because the roster still has Oscar Mercado, Daniel Johnson, Josh Naylor, Franmil Reyes, Jake Bauers, etc. Wittgren wasn’t an intuitive potential non-tender for me and instead was mentioned as a possibility by some of my sources. Austin Hedges was, too, but I think Cleveland is too thin at catcher to truly consider him.

Mitch Haniger, J.P. Crawford and Tom Murphy are the only arb-eligible players in Seattle and I expect all to be tendered a contract.

I think we’ll see some action here. Jose Urena might be an interesting relief flier for someone, but I think $4 million is too rich for a Marlins team with new, leveraged ownership. With Lewin Diaz ready to step into a full-time role and Garrett Cooper also on the roster, I think Jesus Aguilar, at nearly $5 million, probably gets non-tendered. Richard Bleier and Ryne Stanek are tough calls. Miami’s roster is light on left-handed pitching and Bleier, for whom they recently traded, still has an option year left, so I think he’s a keeper at $1.3 million even though he doesn’t miss bats. Stanek was very wild last year and is, in my opinion, more vulnerable.

Perhaps this paragraph is longer without the team’s recent sale, but folks in baseball think the Mets are about to lay an organizational foundation similar to the Dodgers after parking lot king Frank McCourt sold them in 2012. Guillermo Heredia’s righty-hitting bench outfield profile is tough and he’s getting squeezed out by newly acquired Jose Peraza and Mallex Smith, so he’s the lone Met I consider likely to be non-tendered.

Joe Ross, who opted out of the 2020 season, is the only candidate here. He’d ordinarily not be one at just $1.5 million but Washington’s early moves, including declining Adam Eaton‘s option, point toward cost-cutting here.

Other than Chris Davis, the Orioles don’t have any big multi-year commitments, and some of their early, minor moves (claiming Yolmer Sanchez and picking up Jose Iglesias‘ option) indicate they’re not about to be hyper-frugal. They do have many players who fit into the player categories I mentioned on Monday and who’d be stronger non-tender candidates on different rosters. Hanser Alberto, Renato Nunez, Pat Valaika, and even Anthony Santander and Trey Mancini fit in the “Low OBP corner guy” bucket that’s usually vulnerable. Because Rylan Bannon (who was acquired in Manny Machado deal, and whose 40-man timeline has arrived) overlaps with Alberto (estimated $3.2 million) at 2B/3B, I’m pushing Alberto in as a non-tender candidate.

Baltimore has a wave of viable 40-man pitchers eligible for this year’s Rule 5 Draft so perhaps some of the bottom of the roster gets lopped off (Thomas Eshelman, Jorge Lopez). Shawn Armstrong is out of options and looks like a logical candidate on the surface but he added a slider/cutter and threw really well last year, so I think he’s more likely to be traded than non-tendered.

There are a few internal candidates to replace Altavilla, who is out of options, including Mason Thompson, who looked great in the fall. With Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet ailing, Zach Davies becomes more important to retain at north of $8 million. Tommy Pham didn’t play well this year but he’s an important cog when healthy and brings a certain competitive edge to the team that’s tough to replicate.

I think Vince Velasquez is an interesting change-of-scenery candidate. He’s talented and, to me, is clearly not suited to pitch as a traditional starter. The Phillies need bullpen help but for whatever reason, they’ve never tried Velasquez there. He’s had a tumultuous and frustrating tenure in Philly and the club has already outrighted and declined the options of several other players.

Some of my thinking here is driven by Pittsburgh’s need to give at-bats to players who might be long-term pieces, like Cole Tucker and Ke’Bryan Hayes, which means clearing out some of the players who are similar to others on the roster but are also getting more expensive. With Hayes at third, it’s harder to find consistent at-bats for both Colin Moran and Josh Bell without sacrificing outfield reps for someone else, and the same is true of Pittsburgh’s several contact-oriented middle infielders. I think they’d like to trade as many of those guys as they can, including Bell and Frazier, both of whom they’d be selling low on, further muddying things.

Danny Santana, at an estimated $3.6 million, probably goes. The rest of the Rangers’ arb cases — Joey Gallo, Rafael Montero, Isiah Kiner-Falefa— are obvious keepers.

Chaz Roe has already been outrighted off the roster. I think Hunter Renfroe is a lock to be non-tendered, while Ji-Man Choi is on the line. The Rays have Yandy Diaz and Yoshi Tsutsugo, both of whom can play first base, and Nate Lowe‘s statistical track record in the minors is really strong. But Choi is an important cultural component of the team and Lowe hasn’t looked good early in the Dominican Winter League (it’s only been one week), so it’s a tough call.

I’ve had baseball folks mention Manuel Margot (if the Rays want to unload Kevin Kiermaier‘s deal but he can’t be traded) and Joey Wendle (if the team wants to plug and play Vidal Brujan immediately) as possibilities, but I’m skeptical.

I wondered if Boston might be a team poised to take advantage of a market flush with non-tendered role players as a way of accelerating their rebuild, but I was reminded by a source that this club declined Martin Perez‘s $6 million option earlier this month. The Sox have a couple of pitchers poised to be added to their 40-man (Connor Seabold, Jay Groome, Bryan Mata) but not so many that it’s a lock for the option-less Matt Barnes and Austin Brice to be non-tendered. At an estimated $4.7 million, Barnes is expensive for how wild and inconsistent he is. Tendering him means hoping he bounces back enough to flip during the summer, but I’m not sure half a year of Barnes nets you a prospect meaningful enough to tender him even if he does, so I’m predicting he gets cut loose.

Some of my sources have mentioned Archie Bradley as a possibility, but I think he pitched too well for the Reds to do that, especially with Michael Lorenzen moving into the rotation.

With Dom Nunez on the 40-man and Jose Briceno brought in as an NRI, I think one of the two catchers from last year’s big league roster probably gets let go. Wolters is the pricier of the two at a projected $2 million. Diaz’s stuff was down last year and he’s out of options. I think the club would like to trade Jon Gray as part of what could be an epic tear down that also includes dealing Nolan Arenado.

Another situation where the team is likely taking a couple weeks to evaluate a potential replacement in the Dominican Winter League, I think Kelvin Gutierrez is as good as Maikel Franco, who is projected to make roughly $6 million next year.

This is largely a result of the Tigers have beaucoup young pitching to add to the 40-man. I think Matthew Boyd would be a possibility in a vacuum but in this situation it’d be an admission of how badly the Tigers whiffed on trading him during his peak value.

I think what happens here depends somewhat on whether the Twins think they can bring back Nelson Cruz and also how much they anticipate needing to spend to re-patch the holes in their pitching staff, but ultimately with Alex Kiriloff and Trevor Larnach nearly ready, I’d bet on Minnesota platooning Jake Cave with someone in left field rather than rostering Rosario.

There are just too many lumbering corner OF/DH types on the White Sox roster to keep Mazara around at just shy of $6 million, and you can copy and paste most of the Vince Velasquez paragraph from above as it relates to Rodon. Engel is a tough fit for the same reasons mentioned regarding Guillermo Heredia above, but his skills are a great compliment to those DH types I just mentioned.

People in the industry do think there’s a chance Gary Sanchez gets non-tendered. There are a lot of factors pushing and pulling here. Not that long ago, Sanchez was the best offensive catcher in baseball; more recently, he has struggled offensively, lumbered defensively, tipped pitches from behind the plate, and been benched in favor of Kyle Higashioka.

It’s common for catcher offensive performance to wax and wane because they’re playing through constant bumps and bruises of assorted severity, but it isn’t typically to the degree Sanchez struggled in 2020. If, when he was a prospect, you’d have told me Sanchez would catch for five seasons and then need to move to first base, I’d have called that a great outcome for him and the Yankees. But moving him to first base now is complicated because Luke Voit, himself due for a raise of about $5 million, is better than the fungible 1B/DH types I talked about on Monday, and one of New York’s corner outfielders needs to occupy the DH spot every night. Non-tendering Sanchez would also mean the Yankees would need to bring in at least two catchers from outside the organization to pair with Higashioka and put on the 40-man as they lack viable in-house options behind him, none of whom has Sanchez’s ceiling, barring a pursuit of J.T. Realmuto.

Sanchez’s relationship with the org dates back to his adolescence — nearly half his life to this point — and we can’t begin to fathom how complex that is, nor how it might inform the Yankees’ decision. I think they’ll retain him. Craig Edwards wrote about Sanchez in-depth here.

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