Non-tender night has become an increasingly interesting spot on the baseball calendar as teams increasingly decline to offer contracts to viable and sometimes quite productive major league players -- but not so productive that their current team is willing to pay them what they might earn via the arbitration process.
The Baltimore Orioles put second baseman Jonathan Villar on waivers last week, even though he was coming off a season in which he hit .274/.339/.453 with 40 stolen bases. The Orioles finally found a trade partner Monday night, as the Miami Marlins sent them a minor league pitcher, but mostly the Marlins will absorb Villar's projected $9.75 million salary. The Marlins also acquired first baseman Jesus Aguilar from the Tampa Bay Rays, who was available for the same salary-driven reasons. The Marlins ranked 25th in wOBA at first base in 2019 and dead last at second base, so they just became a better team simply by existing, adding a 4.0 WAR second baseman and a 2018 All-Star first baseman.
In fact, maybe they should scroll through the list of Monday's non-tenders to build an entire new lineup. Thanks to revenue sharing and TV money, the Marlins can actually afford these guys and roll the dice. Heck, being terrible enough to snap up some intriguing talent is perhaps a good way of exploiting the sabermetric mindset of the "smart" teams.
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Addison Russell was the biggest name cut loose, with the Chicago Cubs issuing a statement that Russell's projected role for 2020 was "inconsistent with how he would have been treated in the salary arbitration process." With Javier Baez entrenched at shortstop, David Bote a capable reserve in the infield and prospect Nico Hoerner impressing in September, the Cubs didn't need Russell and will save an estimated $4.5 million in salary.
Russell is now a free agent. He is actually more attractive than some non-tenders, since he actually has two years of team control remaining, and since Marlins non-tendered shortstop JT Riddle, that makes Miami a possible landing spot for Russell. Of course, Russell comes with baggage that some teams will wish to avoid after drawing a suspension in 2018 for violating the league's domestic abuse policy. His bat also has regressed after a promising 2016 season when he hit 21 home runs and knocked in 95 runs as the shortstop for the World Series champion Cubs. His defensive metrics, however, remain above average.
Besides the Marlins, the Orioles are a possibility. Or maybe the Cincinnati Reds, who have Freddy Galvis hanging around but could use an elite shortstop sandwiched between Eugenio Suarez and Mike Moustakas in their infield -- and Russell's warning track power could work well in the Great American Ball Park.
Here are some of the other compelling non-tenders, with projected salaries via Cot's Baseball Contracts