MLB non-tender deadline: Billy Hamilton, Wilmer Flores among those joining the free-agent pool
Hamilton and Flores were among the most notable non-tenders
Every winter, teams have to decide whether or not to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players by a certain day and time. This year's deadline will pass at 8 p.m. ET on Friday night. Predictably, a number of notable players were informed they would not receive offers and instead would become free agents earlier than originally planned.
Here's a look at some of the most interesting non-tenders.
Arguably the biggest name on the list, Billy Hamilton has game-breaking speed and can run down just about anything in center field. Unfortunately, he can't hit. Hamilton finished with an OPS+ below 70 for a second consecutive season in 2018, and hasn't so much as topped 80 since his rookie season in 2014. His wheels and glove are certain to land him another gig. The question is if his next employer will figure out a way to better improve or hide his shortcomings.
Jonathan Schoop's time with the Milwaukee Brewers didn't go so well (he posted a 53 OPS+ in 46 games). He should, however, find himself a starting gig prior to next spring. At the plate, he's a free-swinger with 30-homer potential. Defensively, he boasts a good glove, including one of the strongest second-base arms in the game. Schoop is just entering his age-27 season, so expect a team to buy in on his potential to rebound over a full year.
A fan favorite with the New York Mets, Wilmer Flores is a slightly above-average hitter with limited defensive value. He can play multiple positions the way most people can sing in the shower, which is to say that's true but only in the technical sense. Flores ought to find work as a bench player or short-side platoon option.
Blake Parker represents one of the bigger surprises. He had a 128 ERA+ and 3.68 strikeout-to-walk ratio and has two seasons of team control left. Yet the Angels are moving on, presumably in part because he proved more hittable in 2018 and in part because his velocity slipped more than a mile per hour from 2017. He's likely to find a job as someone's seventh- or eighth-inning man.
An on-base machine, Robbie Grossman has posted an OBP of .371 the past three seasons. Alas, he doesn't hit for much power (he's averaged eight homers over that same time span) or offer defensive value. Despite being a switch-hitter, he's historically fared better against lefties -- to the extent that his ideal role would be the short side of a platoon. There's some value to be gleaned here, but not much.
The rare non-tender who has closing experience, Brad Boxberger spent just one season with the Arizona Diamondbacks before they decided to move on. He's essentially a two-pitch pitcher: low-90s fastball and changeup. He can miss bats -- he's struck out more than 12 per nine in his last 82 innings -- but he's homer-prone to the extent that it's hard to trust him in high-leverage spots. Someone will bet on his gopheritis improving in a more pitcher-friendly environment.
On the surface, Mike Fiers had himself a good season split between the Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics -- he managed a 121 ERA+ and a strikeout-to-walk ratio nearing 3.8. The A's opted against bringing him back, however, presumably due to his poor velocity (he sits around 90 mph) and affinity for giving up home runs. He'll latch on at the back of another rotation, but he probably won't pitch better than he did in 2018.
There was talk earlier this offseason about Matt Davidson embracing his cameos as a pitcher and trying to become a true two-way player. Regardless of what happens on that front, Davidson has done a nice job salvaging his career. He's homered 46 times over the past two seasons and in 2018 he upped his walk rate while reducing his strikeouts (though they remain too plentiful). His best bet is following in Mark Reynolds's footsteps -- albeit, perhaps, with the occasional relief appearance.
Avisail Garcia remains an athletic marvel. Despite being listed at 6-foot-4, 240 pounds -- he used to be compared physically to prime Miguel Cabrera, remember -- he's still a well-above-average runner. Garcia isn't nearly as fun to watch at the plate. He's too willing to expand his zone and too likely to whiff. There's a lot of talent here, but the aforementioned combination leads to too many strikeouts and too few walks to support a low batting average.
Others who were non-tendered: OF Bubba Starling (Royals); RHP Jason Adam (Royals); 1B/OF Samir Duenez (Royals); RHP Andres Machado (Royals); RHP Shelby Miller (Diamondbacks); UTL Chris Owings (Diamondbacks); RHP Kendall Graveman (Athletics); RHP Cory Gearrin (Athletics); 1B Justin Bour (Phillies); LHP Luis Avilan (Phillies); RHP Matt Shoemaker (Angels); INF Tim Beckham (Orioles); C Caleb Joseph (Orioles); RHP Allen Webster (Cubs); UTL Ronald Torreyes (Cubs); RHP Justin Hancock (Cubs); RHP Matt Bush (Rangers); RHP Adrian Sampson (Rangers); LHP Zac Curtis (Rangers); RHP Ricardo Rodriguez (Rangers); OF Gorkys Hernandez (Giants); RHP Hunter Strickland (Giants); UTL Yangervis Solarte (Blue Jays); C Chris Herrmann (Astros); 1B/OF Jordan Patterson (Reds); C Juan Graterol (Reds); OF Aristides Aquino (Reds); RHP James Hoyt (Indians).
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