The deadline for major league clubs to tender contracts to their arbitration eligible players has come and gone, and we’re finding some interesting names among the players who are suddenly available after being non-tendered by their now-former clubs.
Here is a roster made up entirely of non-tendered players. We won’t compare them to the current Detroit Tigers roster, because, frankly, it will just make us sad to see that the team below is better than Detroit’s 2019 outfit.
Catcher: James McCann was the primary catcher for the Tigers in 2018, and you have read plenty about his situation by now. Is there any irony in the fact that Brian McCann, once a perennial All-Star, signed with the Atlanta Braves for $2 million while James was projected to get $3.5 million in arbitration? Whether the Tigers actually improve at the position remains to be seen. Caleb Joseph has been a backup in Baltimore for the past several seasons, but no more, as the Orioles did not tender him a contract. He was forecast to receive $1.7 million in arbitration.
First Base: Justin Bour is a rare power bat on this list. The left-handed slugger hit .227/.341/.404 for a .746 OPS with 20 home runs, which is a bit shy of his career numbers. The Philadelphia Phillies picked him up last season and now let him go.
Second Base: Jonathan Schoop was an All-Star with the Orioles in 2017 when he hit .293/.338/.503 with 32 homers and 105 RBI. He was dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers in July, where his production fell off sharply. He was projected to receive a $10 million contract in arbitration, so Milwaukee let him go. Schoop may have been the most logical fit in Detroit on this list, but the Minnesota Twins just signed him to a one year, $7 million contract.
Shortstop: Tim Beckham is a former first overall pick of the Tampa Bay Rays who made his way to Baltimore, where he struggled at the plate and in the field last season. He can play second, third, and shortstop, and had two years left before free agency before being non-tendered by the O’s last week. He should be able to find himself a utility role somewhere in the majors, possibly even in Detroit. Yangervis Solarte is another utility player who was let go by the Toronto Blue Jays after his $5.5 million option was declined. He was set to earn $5.9 million in arbitration before the Jays cut him loose. He hit just .226/.277/.378 last season with 17 home runs and -0.7 rWAR. Wilmer Flores has moved around the infield with the New York Mets over the past few seasons after holding down the shortstop position earlier in his career. He is still an above-average hitter, but has been limited to platooning and more time at first base recently.
Third Base: Matt Davidson was non-tendered by the Chicago White Sox after hitting .228/.319/.419 with 20 home runs. That represents an increase over his career numbers, but he strikes out a third of the time and is a below-average defender. He has a career line of .330/.400/.642 against the Tigers.
Outfield: Billy Hamilton posted the highest fWAR of any player to be non-tendered this offseason, but it’s not because of his bat. He posted a wRC+ of just 69, but Hamilton’s game-changing speed and stellar defense netted him 1.3 fWAR in 2018. After four seasons with over 50 stolen bases, the Cincinnati Reds’ center fielder swiped 34 bags in 2018, but the club didn’t feel he was worth a projected $5.9 million salary. Gorkys Hernandez is a former Tigers prospect who was once traded to the Braves with Jair Jurrjens for Edgar Renteria. Hernandez settled in San Francisco and has gotten regular playing time in the outfield, where he is better known for his glove than his bat.
Avisail Garcia is another former Tiger who was non-tendered this winter before what would have been his final season before free agency. “Little Miggy,” as he was nicknamed in Detroit, went to Chicago in the three-way deal that brought Jose Iglesias to Detroit. After an All-star season in 2017, Garcia regressed to a line of .236/.281/.438 for a .719 OPS. The White Sox didn’t want to pay him an estimated $8 million in arbitration for one more season. Robbie Grossman was not offered a contract by the Twins despite a .371 on-base percentage over the past three seasons. He lacks power for a corner outfielder, but should be able to find a major league job in a new location. Chris Owings was let go by the Arizona Diamondbacks after a lackluster season at the plate. The versatile infielder/outfielder joins a parade of players leaving Arizona, and has already landed in Kansas City.
Starting Pitchers: Mike Fiers was non-tendered a year ago by the Houston Astros before he signed a contract with Detroit, where he was arguably the Tigers’ best starter before being traded to Oakland. Unfortunately, he performed too well for the A’s, enough to put him on track to become the team’s second-highest paid player at $9.7 million next season, so they let him go. The fact that Oakland viewed him as a rental helps to explain the minimal trade return that Detroit got for him in August. While he outperformed his peripheral stats in 2018, he could help many teams. Kendall Graveman is another Oakland starter who was dismissed, this time due to Tommy John surgery putting him out for the 2019 season.
Matt Shoemaker went undrafted in 2008 after leading Eastern Michigan to the finals of the College World Series. He was eventually signed by the Los Angeles Angels, where he had a nice career when healthy. He has a career ERA of 3.93 with a 1.20 WHIP. He pitched just 31 innings in 2018, but would make a nice buy low candidate for the Tigers, or a team near you. Shelby Miller is a former first round pick and All-Star, but worked just 16 innings in four starts for Arizona last summer. He was projected to earn less than $5 million this year, but was let go by the Diamondbacks.
Relief pitchers: Blake Parker was the closer for the Angels for much of the 2017 and 2018 seasons, but was non tendered despite a sub 3.00 ERA during that span. He saw an elevated home run rate of 1.63 per nine innings in 2018. His strikeout rate also dropped, from 11.5 per nine innings to 9.5. He is one of the biggest surprises on this list. Hunter Strickland is another recent closer who is out of work after being let go by the San Francisco Giants. In 45 1⁄3 innings, Strickland posted his worst season in the major leagues to date, with a 3.97 ERA, 7.3 strikeouts per nine innings, and 4.2 walks per nine. He throws heat, but injured himself when he got hot-headed during the season.
Brad Boxberger is another former closer who was non-tendered by Arizona. The former first round pick is coming off a poor season and will look to rebuild value in 2019. Luis Avilan is a 29-year-old lefthander who has mainly worked as a lefty specialist in his career. He has a career 3.09 ERA over parts of seven seasons withe the Braves, Dodgers, White Sox, and Phillies. He’s better than Daniel Stumpf. Alex Wilson was let go by the Tigers in a cost-cutting move. Wilson worked 61 2⁄3 innings with a 3.34 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP last season, but his modest projected salary was too much money for the Tigers. Cory Gearrin spent the season between bullpens in San Francisco, Texas, and Oakland in 2018 after spending most of five seasons between Atlanta and the Giants. He has been mainly reliable, if unspectacular, and should be able to land a major league job.