Last week, Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association agreed to move the tender deadline from Thursday (Dec. 2) to Tuesday (Nov. 30) in response to the looming lockout. Under the new agreement, impacted individuals will have some time to find new homes before the owners lock out the players, as they are expected to do after the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires on Wednesday night. (Players who have not signed prior to that point will have to wait until after both sides ratify a new CBA, whenever that may prove to be.)
The tender deadline, for those who need a reminder, is when teams cull their 40-player rosters of players they deem to be fungible for some reason or another -- oftentimes money, sometimes health, and, on occasion, fit. Players who do not receive a tender then become free agents and could join the current frenzy and sign before Wednesday. However, non-tendered players often have to settle for one-year agreements worth around what they were projected to net in arbitration. (Their new club does inherit whatever team control they had remaining.)
With that out of the way, let's get to the reason you clicked the headline: to see which nine players we think could be non-tendered. As always, this is for entertainment purposes only, and should not be taken as the gospel. (Do note that the projected arbitration figures come from Matt Swartz's work at MLB Trade Rumors and players are listed in alphabetical order.)
1. Jesùs Aguilar, Marlins
Jesús Aguilar is arguably the funniest player in the majors. Unfortunately, it's unclear if his antics at first base and his two seasons of decent production in Miami (113 OPS+) will be enough to keep him around. Aguilar is projected to take home more than $7 million in his final year of arbitration eligibility, making him the highest-paid Marlin. GM Kim Ng might believe she can find similar production for less dough. Such is life for 30-something right-right (bats right-handed and throws right-handed) first basemen who are closer to average than exceptional.
2. Daniel Bard, Rockies
Daniel Bard, one of the 2020 Comeback Player of the Year Award winners, was unable to capture that same magic last season. Instead, he gave up more home runs and walks on a rate basis despite tweaking his pitch mix to prioritize his trademark slider. Bard's arbitration number is close to $5 million. The Rockies exist in their own realm, as far as decision-making processes go, so we'll concede that this call could go either way.
3. Matthew Boyd, Tigers
The Tigers' willingness to tender Matthew Boyd comes down to whether or not they feel he can contribute next season. He underwent surgery in September to repair his flexor tendon, putting his availability in question. Boyd will accrue enough service time to qualify for free agency next winter, leaving the Tigers in a position where they're making a call on a single season for around $7 million. Perhaps the ideal outcome here is for the Tigers and Boyd to reach an agreement on a two-year deal that would allow him to recover fully in 2022 before embarking on his walk year.
4. Adam Duvall, Braves
You might remember that the Braves non-tendered Adam Duvall last winter. He signed with the Marlins, and he performed at a league-average level before being traded back to Atlanta at the deadline. Duvall is a fine player -- a slugger with a Gold Glove Award -- but we have to ask: are the Braves going to pay him $9 million this winter when they wouldn't pay him $4 million last offseason? Even after a World Series title, we're not so sure.
5. Manuel Margot, Rays
Manuel Margot is a capable hitter against left-handed pitchers, as well as a good defender and a skilled base stealer. Every dollar counts for the Rays, though, making it doubtful they would pay $5 million to the short side of a platoon. Margot would seem to be an obvious candidate to be traded before it comes to a non-tender.
6. Richard Rodríguez, Braves
The Braves acquired Richard Rodríguez at the deadline to shore up their bullpen. He managed a 3.12 ERA over 26 innings, but he didn't appear in the playoffs (and likely won't remain with them much longer) because of a matching strikeout rate (3.1 per nine). Rodríguez saw his fastball's movement profile and results deteriorated following the sticky-substance ban. Maybe that's just a coincidence; it's certain to be a consideration for teams this winter, however, and that, plus his unsustainable performance, will likely see the Braves pass on paying him $3 million in 2022.
7. Luke Voit, Yankees
Including Luke Voit might prove to be a bad call, but it's not an unreasonable one based on his circumstances. He's a 30-year-old right-right first baseman who appeared in just 68 games last season because of knee woes. Voit does have a history of being an above-average hitter, and that might be enough to convince the Yankees (or some other team) to pay him his projected $5 million arbitration prize. It's just not the slam-dunk situation that it would have appeared to be prior to last season.
8. Christian Walker, Diamondbacks
Christian Walker is, in a sense, a downmarket version of Voit. He's a 30-year-old right-right first baseman coming off a disappointing season in which he made repeated trips to the injured list because of his oblique. Walker followed up a pair of above-average campaigns with a substandard effort in 2021. The Diamondbacks could conceivably turn first base over to Pavin Smith if they'd like to save around $3 million.
9. Luke Weaver, Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks also need to make a call on the $3 million (or so) earmarked for Luke Weaver, who joined the organization as part of the Paul Goldschmidt trade. After an impressive 12-start introduction to Arizona, over which he accrued a 152 ERA+, he's followed up with a pair of dismal, homer-ravaged seasons that have seen him post an 83 ERA+ in 117 innings. Weaver is essentially a two-pitch starter, having thrown his fastball and changeup more than 90 percent of the time in 2021. That simplicity might work for some; it didn't work for him: he allowed more home runs off his changeup (five) than he had in the previous two years combined (four).