One less obvious avenue to improve a team is to pick up what other clubs don’t want.
Well, to be a bit clearer, players which teams aren’t willing to pay at market rate.
In other words, teams non-tender players as a way of washing their hands of future contractual obligations via years of control. If a player is under six years of club control — and thus not eligible for free agency yet — a player can be non-tendered, making them an immediate free agent and available to sign with another team.
The acquiring team is able to sign that player and retain the years of control given up by the previous team, and in doing so can oftentimes improve a weakness with a player who was deemed expendable by their original team.
If Passan’s source is correct, the free-agent market may be even further clouded with players who may not be stars, but could definitely help a Minnesota Twins team in transition that will largely sink or swim based on what its young players do.
Here are the players who can help the Twins if they’re non-tendered (with salary figures from MLB Trade Rumors via Matt Swartz):
- Angels RHP JC Ramirez ($1.9 million) – The 30-year-old righty will probably miss half the season after Tommy John surgery, but he throws darts (95.6 mph average) and is a big groundball guy (50-plus percent in 2016-17). Money might not be prohibitive for Angels, but they have tons of guys with elbow issues.
- Astros OF Jake Marisnick ($2.4 million) – This feels like it’d probably have to be a trade scenario, but there’s a chance they could have a 40-man crunch with all the talent in the organization. Marisnick can handle center capably, and is coming off a down year (85 wRC+) after hitting .243/.319/.496 (118 wRC+) in 2017. As a right-handed hitter and former top prospect heading into his age-28 season, he’d make a reasonable one-year flyer and a guy who can spell Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario as lefties as well as Byron Buxton defensively.
- A’s RHP Liam Hendriks ($2.1 million) – Hendriks has turned into a solid reliever since leaving the Twins, but an up-and-down 2018 on the heels of a bad-luck 2017 left him being outrighted off the roster and going unclaimed during the season last year. This isn’t a high salary, but it’s clear the A’s don’t value him super highly. He’s worked as an opener — it remains to be seen how much or even if the Twins will use this next year — but he throws hard and has soaked up some really big innings over the last four years in the bullpens of the Blue Jays and A’s.
- A’s RHP Kendall Graveman ($2.5 million) – If this pitching thing doesn’t work out, his last name makes for an easy transition into the Monster Truck circuit. Or working as an undertaker. Anyway, he’s turning 28 next month and likely to miss next season with Tommy John surgery. He’d be a good stash a la Michael Pineda, though his game is more command and inducing grounders while Pineda’s is strikeouts and allowing homers. With only Jose Berrios under club control past 2019, it wouldn’t be a bad gamble. According to Baseball Reference, any acquiring team would have his rights through 2021.
- Blue Jays IF Yangervis Solarte ($5.9 million) – This feels like a formality, as the Blue Jays already declined his $5.5 million option for next year. They aren’t going to pay him more through the arbitration process. Solarte is coming off a brutal season — 77 wRC+, iffy defense — but at his best, he’s a pretty good hitter who can handle second or third base rather capably. The Twins need help in both spots.
- Brewers IF Jonathan Schoop ($10.1 million) – The long-time Orioles infielder picked the worst possible time to struggle, as he went from hitting just .244/.273/.447 with the Orioles down to .202/.246/.331 in 46 games with the Brewers. That’s a lot like Brian Dozier, who is going to be looking for a new home this offseason. Schoop can help a lot of teams — especially at his 2015-17 numbers — but probably not anywhere near $10 million. Maybe the Brewers bring him back after non-tendering him, but he’d probably at least explore the marketplace first?
- Brewers OF Domingo Santana ($2.0 million) – This isn’t a prohibitive price for Santana, but the Brewers just don’t need him. They shouldn’t have much trouble trading him — and he could pretty easily DH for the Twins if they don’t sign Nelson Cruz — but with their starting outfield locked in and Keon Broxton a better fit as a fourth outfielder, don’t be surprised if not only Santana, but Eric Thames is also seeking a new home this offseason.
- Diamondbacks SP Shelby Miller ($4.9 million) – This is entirely an upside play on a guy who is already 28, so that has to be considered with any move. Miller hasn’t thrown a decent number of innings since going for 205.1 in his only season with the Braves back in 2015. That was the year he was traded for Jason Heyward, which says a lot about how both were perceived at the time. Miller has battled myriad arm injuries since and probably will be looking for a fresh start.
- Rockies SP Chad Bettis ($3.2 million) – Bettis is by no means a star, but he’s had small runs of success that leads one to wonder what he might do outside of Denver. He’s a good fit there because of his propensity for inducing grounders, but so far all it has resulted in is a 5.01 career ERA (4.52 FIP) in 537 MLB innings. He has a good changeup but all of his other stuff has been shaky so far; still, getting him out of Denver would be a worthwhile gamble at the right price.
- Rockies SP Tyler Anderson ($2.9 million) – The Rockies aren’t non-tendering Anderson and maybe won’t even entertain trading him, but he’s a definite buy-low candidate. Keeping the ball in the yard has been a problem as he’s allowed fewer grounders — a reasonable correlation/causation — but there’s definitely more than a little something here with the soon-to-be 29-year-old lefty. He has decent velo, a good cutter and a nice curveball.
- Reds CF Billy Hamilton ($5.9 million) – He’s never going to hit but he can really pick it in center and is an obvious weapon on the basepaths. Some team would love to have him as a fourth outfielder, but it’s unlikely the Reds would let him go without a fight. But Ben Revere didn’t have much of an MLB career into his late 20s — and unlike Hamilton, he could hit a little bit. Just something to consider.
- Red Sox RP Tyler Thornburg ($2.3 million) – How long do the Red Sox hold onto Thornburg in hopes of recouping some value from the trade that cost them Travis Shaw and Mauricio Dubon? At least Thornburg finally pitched this year — his first innings in a Red Sox uniform since the December 2016 trade — but even then, the results weren’t great: 5.63 ERA, 1.58 WHIP in 24 IP. He turned 30 late in the season, and with the current state of the bullpen it’s not unreasonable to expect the Red Sox will give him one more go-round, but they already moved on from Carson Smith this offseason. Could Thornburg be far behind?
- Rays 1B CJ Cron ($5.2 million) – Cron salvaged a slow start to post a solid .253/.323/.493 line in 140 games with the Rays last year, and may have priced himself out of the team’s budget in the process. Cron would make a terrific DH/1B option, with his current value/production what the Twins hope Tyler Austin will someday be. Those two guys could provide a lot of power in the same lineup.
- Phillies 1B Justin Bour ($5.2 million) – If the Twins want a platoon partner for Austin, this is it. Bour is already on outright waivers, and if he clears he’ll reject the assignment. Bour is coming off a down season, but is a career .242/.356/.463 hitter against righties. Even if the Twins make a claim, that’s a stellar first-base platoon for less than $6 million. And that’s on the high end for what it would cost.
- Phillies 3B Maikel Franco ($5.1 million) – The prospect once going head-to-head with Miguel Sano on lists is at a similar crossroads in his MLB career. He’s hit just .252/.303/.435 in 533 MLB games — Sano has hit .244/.336/.477 by comparison — and could be on the outs if the Phillies make any moves on the infield, like signing Manny Machado. Either way, it could get crowded with Scott Kingery, Cesar Hernandez and J.P. Crawford in the mix. Franco is almost certainly not going to be non-tendered, but it would be shocking if he wasn’t more available than he’s ever been in his MLB career. Franco and Sano on the corners could be an intriguing gamble. It could also be a disaster.
- Orioles IF Jonathan Villar ($4.4 million) – The Orioles may well want to get a longer look at Villar, one of the pieces acquired in the Schoop deal with Milwaukee, but he’s turning 28 in May and has bounced from awesome to awful and back to pretty dang good. He can really run, puts the ball in play with relative frequency and can play second base probably better than short or third base. The Twins could do worse for a No. 9 hitter while waiting on Nick Gordon and/or Royce Lewis.
- Mets IF Wilmer Flores ($4.7 million) – Flores can handle the corners and hit a little bit. This wouldn’t make or break the club, but another competent bat on the dirt never hurts.
- Marlins UTIL Derek Dietrich ($4.8 million) – If the Twins want to add a utility player this winter, Dietrich is the better play over Marwin Gonzalez. Gonzalez is going to get $50 million-plus — just my opinion — while I really don’t see any compelling evidence that he’ll outperform the long-time Marlin. Dietrich has a career line of .254/.335/.422 (109 wRC+) compared to Gonzalez’s .264/.318/.419 (103), and won’t limit the team’s ability to make a big addition at other positions. There’s no way the Marlins will pay him nearly $5 million.
Who do you like on the list? Is there anyone you’d add from the link (here) instead?