MLB non-tender candidates: Jackie Bradley Jr., Maikel Franco and others who could still enter free agency
We have eight candidates who could be cut loose before Monday's deadline
Major League Baseball's free-agent class is about to get bigger. This year's deadline for offering arbitration to eligible players is set for Monday. Teams have a couple choices, barring a trade involving the player in question: they can offer arbitration -- thus opening themselves to the possibility of a hearing -- or they can pass, relinquishing their rights to the player and setting them free. Those who shake loose tend to then sign one-year pacts, making them attractive targets for other clubs.
In preparation for the tender deadline, we've compiled a list of eight players worth watching. That doesn't mean every player will be non-tendered -- indeed, some might be traded; or simply tendered -- but it does mean there's sufficient reason to believe the players in question could be elsewhere come 2020 Opening Day.
Do note that the players are presented in alphabetical order, and that arbitration prize projections are courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors.
Jackie Bradley Jr. (and his projected $11 million arbitration prize) has been an obvious non-tender candidate ever since the Red Sox set their eyes on avoiding the luxury tax. Whomever lands Bradley Jr. will be getting a useful player with one year of team control remaining. He remains an above-average center fielder thanks more to his feel for the position than his athleticism. Meanwhile, at the dish, he's best used in a platoon role, as he can threaten a league-average on-base percentage and run into 40-plus extra-base hits versus right-handed pitching. The overall package adds up to an average player, albeit one who should serve as someone's most-days starter.
You have to feel a little bad for C.J. Cron, who could well end up on his fourth team in four years due to a projected arbitration prize of nearly $8 million. He's the same player he's ever been: strong enough to run into 25-plus homers with enough playing time, yet otherwise limited. He doesn't walk, he hits a lot of pop-ups, and he's not exactly blessed defensively. Cron will probably end up making it five in five, and perhaps even six in six barring an unexpected turn of events.
It's fair to conclude that Maikel Franco's career has not gone according to plan. Once a top prospect, he's likely headed for the open market due to a slew of underwhelming performances a projected prize nearing $7 million. He's been a below-average hitter in three of his four full seasons, and he does himself no favors with subpar glovework. Franco did walk more in 2019, but he's all but helpless against any pitch with a wrinkle. He'll get another look because that's the way the game goes; just don't be surprised if, based on his larger body of work, it ends up being his last substantive big-league run. (Keep an eye on Franco's teammate, Cesar Hernandez, as well.)
Kevin Gausman would probably be safe on the Reds roster were it not for a projected prize of nearly $11 million. He showed promise late last season as a reliever, posting a 5.80 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 22 innings in Cincinnati (most of which came out of the bullpen). Gausman leaned on his fastball and splitter throughout the year, but could retrieve his mothballed slider if some team wants to give him a look-see in the rotation. He's not too far removed from being a decent starter, so don't discount the possibility.
Were these decisions made with only performance in mind, then Corey Knebel (projected prize of more than $5 million) would have nothing to worry about. Over his last two seasons, he's struck out nearly 15 batters per nine innings while accumulating a 169 ERA+. Yet "his last two seasons" do not include 2019, as he missed the duration of the year due to Tommy John surgery. Our guess is that Knebel will be tendered, but it's at least possible the Brewers, who have to add multiple starters this winter, could look to save some coin here or elsewhere -- especially if they have any concerns about how his rehab is coming.
Jurickson Profar looked like a savvy acquisition by the Athletics last winter. He then had a miserable first half, hitting .212/.276/.370 while battling the yips. He was better down the stretch (.228/.342/.479 in the second half), but the Athletics always have to be mindful of their expenses -- especially now that they're no longer receiving revenue-sharing money. Profar is projected to make $5.8 million through arbitration. The A's could look to move Profar and fill their second-base void with someone else. (Blake Treinen is another arbitration-eligible Athletic who could be on the move.)
Aaron Sanchez (and his $5.6 million projection) probably would have been safe were it not for September shoulder surgery. There's at least some chance he doesn't pitch next season, which was slated to be his final under team control. He'll presumably end up signing a one-year pact with a club option -- with Houston, at a reduced rate, or elsewhere.
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