Billy Hamilton could draw interest from the Diamondbacks, Indians or Rockies, all of whom could use his defense in center field.
Friday was non-tender day across the majors. Teams have to offer players on their 40-man rosters a contract for the 2019 season, with those not offered one becoming free agents. As always, the list of non-tenders is interesting, especially as teams become more and more reluctant to give marginal arbitration-eligible players a significant raise. Why pay millions for a player when his rookie replacement making the league minimum may be just good — or if those millions can be spent in better ways to upgrade the roster?
Some of the intriguing players who were non-tendered, based on various reports (with their projected arbitration salary from MLB Trade Rumors):
Billy Hamilton, CF, Reds ($5.9 million). Hamilton has never developed as a hitter — .242/.299/.331 the past two seasons — so even with his plus defense and top-of-the-line speed, the Reds decided to part ways with him. This one hurts because Hamilton had trade value at one point, particularly after his 2.8-WAR season in 2016. His career OBP versus lefties is just .269, so maybe he should consider just batting left-handed full-time.
While he’s probably a fourth outfielder and pinch-running specialist, there could be interest in him as a potential starter, especially since A.J. Pollock is the only legit center fielder in free agency. The Diamondbacks may need a replacement for Pollock and have placed an emphasis on defense in recent seasons, the Indians might like Hamilton’s D and surely would want to end their revolving door in center, and the Rockies could be interested as they slide Charlie Blackmon to a corner.
Jonathan Schoop, 2B, Brewers ($10.1 million). This was going to be the most interesting case, as two seasons ago Schoop was an All-Star after hitting 32 home runs, knocking in 105 runs and finishing 12th in the MVP vote with a 5.2-WAR season. He regressed badly, however, and hit .233/.266/.416 with the Orioles and Brewers in 2018. That’s not a $10.1 million ballplayer and the Brewers decided not to gamble on a bounce-back.
I think it’s the right decision, especially with a flood of second basemen available in free agency (DJ LeMahieu, Daniel Murphy, Jed Lowrie, Brian Dozier) or maybe in trade (Scooter Gennett). Schoop will have to rebuild his value, most likely with a second-division team.
C.J. Cron, 1B, Rays ($5.2 million). Cron was designated for assignment last week coming off a 30-homer and 123 OPS+ season. The Rays were unable to trade him, which tells you how much this type of player is valued in the industry, and the Twins claimed him on waivers. Cron has been worth 4.8 WAR over the past three seasons and teams can live with that when a player is making the league minimum or just above, but $5 million still isn’t all that sexy of a price for a player who has limited defensive value and may have just had his best season. The Rays also have other — cheaper and probably better — options at first base in Jake Bauers and prospect Nate Lowe, who could be ready at midseason.
Avisail Garcia, RF, White Sox ($8.0 million). Garcia was an All-Star in 2017 when he hit .330 thanks to a ridiculously unsustainable .392 BABIP. He fell to .271 in that department and hit just .236/.281/.438 this year, although he did crack 19 home runs in 356 at-bats. He’s never hit the ball in the air enough to take advantage of his raw power, doesn’t hit many doubles (his career high is 27), doesn’t walk and isn’t a good right fielder. Other than the fluke 2017, he’s been a replacement-level player in his career.
Matt Davidson, DH/1B/3B/P, White Sox ($2.4 million). This is more of a surprise than Garcia, given Davidson’s lower projected salary. Davidson hit .228/.319/.419 — improving from 33 to 52 walks in a similar amount of playing time — and he’s even working out as a pitcher this offseason in the hopes of adding value as a mop-up reliever of sorts (he threw three scoreless innings last season). Still, he has too much swing-and-miss in his game to be of much value and the White Sox obviously didn’t like his defense at third base, with most of his action coming at DH and first base in 2018.
Wilmer Flores, IF, Mets ($4.7 million). Flores has been a nice bench bat and semi-regular the past three seasons with a 109 OPS+. He’s slugged .509 the past three seasons against lefties. His value is limited, however, because he can’t play shortstop — the Mets haven’t used him there since two starts in 2016 — and his career WAR is just 0.9 thanks in part to lousy defensive metrics. If the Robinson Cano trade goes through, the Mets would have a better — and cheaper! — version of Flores in Jeff McNeil, plus Todd Frazier is still hanging around.
Robbie Grossman, DH/OF, Twins ($4.0 million). In essence, he’s losing his job to Cron, with Miguel Sano also in the first base/DH mix. Grossman’s defense consistently rates below average, although the Twins gave him 71 starts in the outfield last season, which is why he was dumped even though he’s a solid on-base guy (.371 the past three seasons). He’d be a nice pinch hitter and occasional platoon DH, but that role has been squashed out of existence by 13-man pitching staffs.
Yangervis Solarte, IF, Blue Jays ($5.9 million). He had a couple of solid 2-WAR seasons with the Padres in 2015 and 2016, but was terrible in 2018 with a .277 OBP and minus-11 defensive runs saved across the infield. The Jays have plenty of infield options in Lourdes Gurriel, Richard Urena and Brandon Drury, plus Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will soon be ripping covers of baseballs, and Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio aren’t that far away.
Shelby Miller, P, Diamondbacks ($4.9 million). He made four starts in 2018 as he returned from Tommy John surgery, but gave up 21 runs and five home runs in 16 innings. He’s been a good pitcher in the past, but it’s been a long time — 2015 — since we’ve seen an effective Miller on the mound.
Bubba Starling, OF, Royals (minimum). I admit I didn’t even realize Starling was still around, but that’s because he was injured most of the season and had just 66 plate appearances. Starling was the much-publicized fifth overall pick in the loaded 2011 draft, a two-way star from a Kansas high school. He was one of the top quarterback recruits in the nation, but the Royals rolled the dice and bet on his superior athleticism.
It was a risky pick from the get-go: Starling hadn’t played much baseball and was already an old high school senior (he turned 19 the summer of his draft year). Still, the hype was so high that before he even played a professional game, Baseball America and MLB.com rated him as a top-25 overall prospect. It just hasn’t worked out as Starling has a career minor league line of .236/.312/.386, including .225 in Triple-A.
How bad was the pick? The next selection was Anthony Rendon.