A record 59 players became free agents at the 2020 non-tender deadline, which was 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
What does that mean? It means that teams didn’t agree to contracts for 2021 with their arbitration-eligible players and cut them loose rather than heading to an arbitration hearing. In some cases, that’s technically true. Though more to the point, the team just wanted to part ways with the player no matter what.
That number of non-tendered players wasn’t as high as some expected, as many have noted, during this offseason of unprecedented uncertainty. And while setting a record, it wasn’t by much; 56 players were non-tendered last year. And three of this year’s group of 59 immediately re-signed with their momentarily former club, so only 56 are actually free agents as of Thursday afternoon.
These players will find new teams, though some (many?) will have to wait a long time to find that opportunity. Some will have a chance to make a big impact on the 2021 season. Here are the seven most intriguing players from this crop of non-tenders.
1. David Dahl
Dahl’s history with injuries is concerning, yes. He’s yet to play anything close to a full, healthy season since he made his big league debut in 2016, and that includes 2020, when he played just 24 of Colorado’s 60 games. But heading into 2020, Dahl had been a productive offensive force capable of playing all three outfielder spots — he was an All-Star in 2019 and carried a career .867 OPS into the season. 2020 was a full-out debacle for Dahl; he hit just .183 with four extra-base hits (zero homers) in 99 PAs, but that’s a small sample size. Like, really small. He’ll be 27 on April 1 and figures to have several teams interested in him now that he’s a free agent.
2. Archie Bradley
The Reds traded for Bradley to help their 2020 playoff push, and in 7 2/3 innings, Bradley struck out six, allowed four hits, one run and zero walks. In his four years as a full-time reliever, he has a 3.19 ERA and a 9.9 K/9 ratio. But the Reds, a team that expects to contend in 2021 and beyond, decided the $4.6 million Bradley was projected to make in arbitration was too much, so they cut ties. He should have many, many suitors.
3. Kyle Schwarber
Once upon a time, the Cubs could have packaged Schwarber — a slugger who has always projected as a DH — as the key piece in a trade for pretty much any superstar in the American League. They opted not to deal him, though, falling in love with his bat and being willing to overlook defensive shortcomings. And maybe who could blame them, after that heroic effort in the 2016 World Series? But the fact that they just cut him loose, getting nothing but salary relief in return — he was projected to earn $8 million in his final year of arbitration — shows how wrong they were in their assessment. Don’t expect Schwarber to sign soon; more than anyone on this list, the decision of whether the NL will have a DH in 2021 and beyond will impact Schwarber’s market.
4. Eddie Rosario
Rosario has been a good source of power for the Twins; he averaged 28 homers from 2017 to 2019 and popped 13 in 57 games in 2020. But he’s a so-so defensive outfielder and was projected to make around $9.5 million in his final season of arbitration, which is no small number. The biggest thing is this, though: The Twins have uber-prospect Alex Kirillof ready to take over a full-time outfield spot next year, so the choice to part ways with Rosario wasn’t terribly difficult. The teams that will be interested will almost certainly have at least some PAs available at DH.
5. Adam Duvall
He’s one of the streakiest hitters in baseball, but when he’s on he can carry an offense. Last year, Duvall had a streak in which he hit 11 homers and had a .370 on-base percentage in 17 games for the Braves; problem was, he hit just five in the other 40 and finished the year with a .301 OBP. Yikes. And, folks, it’s not a good thing that his .301 OBP helped boost his career OBP to .293. He’s a lottery ticket; every once in a while, he’ll pay out with a home run, but more often than not you’re just left scratching at nothing.
6. Hanser Alberto
His bat profiles more like a second baseman — he’s batted .299 in 193 games over the past two seasons, with 15 homers and seven stolen bases — but Alberto can play third and a bit of shortstop, too. He’s the kind of guy who brings value to a contender because of his versatility and ability to play different positions for long stretches when needed. And that’s exactly why the Orioles, who will not contend for anything in 2021, cut ties with Alberto.
7. Carlos Rodon
Unlike some of the players on this list, Rodon probably would have been non-tendered even in a normal year. He was the No. 3 pick in the 2014 MLB Draft — a fact that has been attached to his name every time he’s appeared in any article for the past four or five years — but the past few seasons have been lost to injury and/or ineffectiveness. He’s not made more than 20 starts since 2016, and he has a 5.74 ERA in 11 games (nine starts) over the past two seasons. Still, he’s relatively young (turns 28 on Dec. 10) and was still working his way back from Tommy John surgery in 2019, so he’s probably worth a shot for a team looking to buy low.
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