The current free-agent class will add some new names following the non-tender deadline on Dec. 2.
Arbitration-eligible players must be tendered a contract before the deadline in order to stay under team control. If they aren’t, the player can sign with another club, and that new team would inherit the remaining arbitration years attached to the player’s deal.
Every season, players are non-tendered because teams believe their expected salaries in arbitration will outweigh their future production.
Here are 10 notable players who could be non-tendered ahead of this year’s deadline.
Jackie Bradley Jr., Red Sox
Projected salary in arbitration: $11 million
Bradley is still a valuable player by WAR, but his 2019 season was far from the level he reached in 2016 when his 118 wRC+ and 11 defensive runs saved made him one of the American League’s top outfielders. Losing him would be a tough pill to swallow, but Chaim Bloom needs to cut salary, and moving on from Bradley is the most logical place to start.
Maikel Franco, Phillies
Projected salary in arbitration: $6.7 million
Franco’s time in Philadelphia could be up. He lost his starting job last season, and the Phillies are now looking at a number of premium players in free agency. It’s doubtful the organization will pay Franco nearly $7 million to come off the bench, so he’ll likely land somewhere else. He still has value, though, after averaging 22 homers and 72 RBIs over the past four seasons.
Kevin Gausman, Reds
Projected salary in arbitration: $10.6 million
To acquire Gausman’s high-upside arm, the Reds took on the remainder of his salary (around $3 million) after claiming him from the Braves last season. But while the right-hander posted an improved 3.17 FIP and a career-best 11.7 K/9 rate out of Cincinnati’s bullpen, it’s unlikely the team will pay him nearly $11 million to serve as a reliever.
Jake Lamb, Diamondbacks
Projected salary in arbitration: $5 million
During 2016 and ’17, Lamb was one of Arizona’s brightest up-and-coming stars. Since then, he’s provided the club with just 0.3 WAR in 134 games due to a variety of injuries. With Eduardo Escobar and Christian Walker entrenched at the corner infield spots, Lamb doesn’t seem to have anywhere to play. Rather than paying $5 million for a platoon player with injury concerns, Arizona will likely decide to non-tender Lamb.
Kevin Pillar, Giants
Projected salary in arbitration: $9.7 million
While Pillar has been one of the Giants’ best run-producers since being acquired from the Blue Jays, it’s hard to overlook his .293 on-base percentage and 2.8% walk rate. The Giants are looking to shed payroll and aging players as they chart a new course under Farhan Zaidi, which could spell the end of Pillar’s short tenure in the Bay Area.
Addison Russell, Cubs
Projected salary in arbitration: $5.1 million
It could finally be time for the Cubs to cut ties with Russell. The former All-Star has produced two straight seasons with an OPS under .700, and Javy Baez and Nico Hoerner both look like better options at shortstop. It’s not like $5 million is a lot of money for the big-market Cubs, but they’re trying to trim payroll and could find more production for less salary in another option.
Aaron Sanchez, Astros
Projected salary in arbitration: $5.6 million
The Astros looked like geniuses when Sanchez contributed to a combined no-hitter in his first start with the team and followed that up with five innings of one-run ball. However, he proceeded to allow nine earned runs and five homers in his next two starts before being shut down for the year. Sanchez is expected to miss at least the beginning of the 2020 campaign while recovering from shoulder surgery, which could make him expendable since he’ll be a free agent entering 2021.
Blake Treinen, Athletics
Projected salary in arbitration: $7.8 million
Treinen was arguably the best reliever in baseball during 2018, but like many other bullpen stars, he couldn’t replicate that success the following year. In 2019, the 31-year-old struggled to find the strike zone (5.7 BB/9) and was a negative-WAR player for Oakland. With the emergence of Liam Hendriks and a deep bullpen, the penny-pinching A’s are unlikely to spend close to $8 million to keep Treinen.
Jonathan Villar, Orioles
Projected salary in arbitration: $10.4 million
Villar was the best player on a very bad Orioles team in 2019, which could wind up costing him a job with the club in 2020. The 28-year-old played in every game for Baltimore during the season, hitting a career-high 24 home runs and once again ranking among the game’s top base-stealers. But the Orioles are rebuilding, so paying Villar north of $10 million just doesn’t add up.
Mike Zunino, Rays
Projected salary in arbitration: $4.9 million
The Rays had high hopes for Zunino when they acquired him before the 2019 season, but things just didn’t work out. He lost the starting job to Travis d’Arnaud and hit just .165/.232/.312 in 90 games while posting a horrendous 15 wRC+. The Rays don’t have a starting catcher heading into 2020, and Zunino still plays good defense and has some pop (104 career homers), but Tampa’s front office is all about finding value, and nearly $5 million isn’t a bargain.