Kyle Schwarber, David Dahl, Archie Bradley and Eddie Rosario headline a group of 59 players who are now free agents after being non-tendered prior to Wednesday night’s deadline.
MLB teams had until 8 p.m. ET on Dec. 2 to tender contracts to all players with less than six years of big league service time. Those who did not receive a contract tender immediately became free agents at that point.
There was fear among many in the industry that revenue losses as a result of the shortened 2020 season and COVID-19 uncertainties would lead to a steep increase in non-tenders and flood of free agents onto the market as teams looked to cut costs. That 59 number, up slightly from 56 last offseason, would suggest no major differences this year, but that’s also a bit deceiving on its own.
The number of agreements on contracts between players and teams before the deadline was also 59, up significantly from 30 last year. In many of those deals, players agreed to salaries well below projections, some taking significant pay cuts, in order to avoid being non-tendered. More high-level players were also non-tendered in 2020 than in recent offseasons as well.
As far as the new free agents, one thing is especially clear: the market for corner outfielders just got a lot more crowded. Let’s take a quick look at the eight biggest names non-tendered and what they might bring to the table in 2021:
David Dahl, OF, Colorado Rockies — The Rockies have decided to give up on the oft-injured outfielder, who’s shown flashes of high level play in his career, being named an All Star in 2019, but struggled to remain on the field. Dahl owns a career .828 OPS in the majors, though, and is expected to be healthy in time for spring training after undergoing shoulder surgery. He’s an intriguing bounceback candidate and would make sense for a team in need of outfield production like the Cardinals, Indians, Astros and Nationals.
Archie Bradley, RP, Cincinnati Reds — This was a bit of a head-scratcher, as the Reds gave up two players to acquire the veteran reliever from Arizona prior to the 2020 trade deadline. It appears to be Cincinnati not wanting to pay the roughly $5 million Bradley was projected to make in arbitration, as the right-hander posted a strong 2.95 ERA while tallying six saves in the shortened season. Bradley immediately becomes one of the top late-inning relievers available on the market and would be a good fit for several clubs in need of bullpen help.
Eddie Rosario, OF, Minnesota Twins — This move was looking increasingly likely in recent days but still may come as a surprise to those looking at Rosario’s baseball card stats. The 29-year-old has been a fixture in the Twins lineup for several years now, averaging roughly 30 homers and 90 RBI per season from 2017-19 and smacking 13 longballs in 57 games this past season. But his free-swinging tendencies, low OBP skills and declining defense puts a ceiling on his overall value, and the Twins didn’t want to pay the roughly $10 million Rosario was projected to make in arbitration with their No. 2 prospect, Alex Kirilloff, waiting in the wings. Rosario still becomes one of the top outfielders now available on the market and could land a multi-year deal at a reduced rate, with the teams mentioned above with Dahl among the logical suitors.
Kyle Schwarber, OF, Chicago Cubs — The 2016 World Series hero has spent parts of six seasons as a staple of the Cubs lineup. He was projected to earn roughly $8 million in arbitration, posted a disappointing .188/.307/.393 batting line in 2020 and is certainly not a plus defender in the corner outfield, so this move wasn’t a surprise. But with his plus power — he averaged roughly 30 homers per season from 2017-19 — Schwarber shouldn’t have any problem attracting interest this winter. Given his defensive limitations, I’d expect Schwarber’s market to take some time to develop given the ongoing uncertainty about the future of the DH in the NL.
Adam Duvall, OF, Atlanta Braves — This certainly seemed harsh given that just six players hit more home runs than Duvall (16) during the 2020 season, but the slugging outfielder was projected to make roughly $5 million in arbitration and the Braves reportedly wanted to keep flexibility in left field given that DH uncertainty. It’s an understandable move to some degree when you consider that aspect and that Duvall doesn’t do much other than homer. It may take some time, but the 32-year-old shouldn’t have any problem finding a guaranteed deal this winter. Atlanta hasn’t ruled out bringing him back at a cheaper cost.
Carlos Rodon, SP, Chicago White Sox — The 27-year-old was drafted by the White Sox with the third overall pick in the 2014 draft and broke into the majors the following season, looking like a key rotation piece for years to come. But while he’s shown flashes of brilliance, Rodon has been hampered by a series of injuries and threw just 7 ⅔ innings in 2020 after returning from Tommy John surgery. Given his pedigree, Rodon will surely garner interest from several clubs as a low-risk, high-reward reclamation project.
Nomar Mazara, OF, Chicago White Sox — The former Texas Ranger has never delivered on his high prospect pedigree, but was incredibly consistent in his first four seasons in the majors, hitting 19 or 20 homers every year from 2016-19 before a disastrous first season in Chicago in which he slashed just .228/.295/.589. While the White Sox non-tendering Mazara was expected given his roughly $6 million salary projection, he still should be able to latch on elsewhere at age 25.
Maikel Franco, 3B, Kansas City Royals — “He’s provided some much-needed stability in a young lineup and there’s reason to believe that can continue into 2021.” That’s what I wrote about Franco, who led the Royals in doubles and RBI while hitting .278 in 2020, in my AL Central offseason preview. Welp, so much for that. The former highly regarded Phillies prospect was a plus addition for Kansas City, but apparently the team decided he wasn’t worth the $4.5-5 million he was likely to earn in arbitration. Still, Franco will surely get a shot with some club after an encouraging, if not thrilling, bounceback this past season. I could see a fit with the Blue Jays, Rangers or Brewers.
Other notable non-tendered players:
- Hanser Alberto, 2B, Baltimore Orioles
- Travis Shaw, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays
- Tyler Naquin, OF, Cleveland Indians
- José Martínez, 1B/OF, Chicago Cubs
- Brian Goodwin, OF, Cincinnati Reds
- Albert Almora Jr., OF, Chicago Cubs
- Danny Santana, INF/OF, Texas Rangers