Ranking Possible Non-Tenders as Fits for the Minnesota Twins

Please Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The deadline for MLB clubs to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players is Monday night at 7 p.m. central time, and once that deadline passes, most players will be added to beef up the free-agency ranks in advance of next week’s Winter Meetings.

MLB Trade Rumors posted a list of the non-tender candidates over the weekend, and here’s a look at which of those players would be the best fits for the Minnesota Twins as they continue to build their 2020 roster:

1. Jonathan Villar – IF

There are questions about his defense and everyone can point to his lackluster 2017 season as proof he’s inconsistent, but it’s inexplicable that a player of Villar’s caliber is being put on the scrap heap. Then again, the Baltimore Orioles seem to have telegraphed that he’d eventually be available for free, thereby nullifying any reason to trade anything of value for him. Especially with the 26th man being added to rosters, Villar is a great fit on pretty much any team. He can hit a bit, stand at a few places defensively and can really, really run.

Sep 25, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Baltimore Orioles shortstop Jonathan Villar (2) in batting practice prior to the game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Please Credit: Gerry Angus-USA TODAY Sports

Would some sort of infield layout of Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco, Luis Arraez and Villar work, enough so that Marwin Gonzalez could mix in and C.J. Cron might be non-tendered? It’s hard to say — but worth pondering.

2. Blake Treinen – RP

With Chris Martin, Will Smith and Drew Pomeranz all having already signed, the market for relief pitching is getting awfully lean. If he hits the open market, Treinen will be a highly sought-after commodity, as the 31-year-old righty is one year removed from one of the best relief seasons we’ve seen in recent history. He fell back to the pack in 2019, but relief pitching can very much be a year-to-year game. He’d look great in the back end of pretty much every bullpen.

3. Jurickson Profar – IF

One could easily be convinced that Profar should be No. 1 on this list. He’s not as fast as Villar but has a little more pop and is a better defender. He also won’t be 27 until February, so time is on his side. It’s been a long, arduous road for Profar since he was a top prospect in the Rangers system nearly a decade ago, but hey…remember who else came from the Rangers? Thad Levine,,,,hello.

4. Kevin Gausman – SP

Gausman has never really matched the billing that saw him go No. 4 overall in the 2012 MLB draft — two picks behind Byron Buxton — but he’s still had a more than respectable career and is still a full baseball season away from turning 30. Plenty of teams should line up to gamble on his raw stuff, though that includes his current club — the Cincinnati Reds. They’ve assembled quite a development factory on the pitching side, and even if they non-tender Gausman they’d have to be considered near the top of his list of landing spots based on what they’re building there and how he performed for them down the stretch, albeit mostly as a reliever.

5. Travis Shaw – IF

Shaw hit 63 homers and was worth more than 7.0 WAR via Fangraphs in 2017-18 before the 2019 season completely bottomed out on him. It’s possible he’s just hit an early-career snag, or maybe he really is done before the age of 30. But few teams are as well-equipped to take a chance on that as the Twins, who have Sano and Gonzalez who can handle third and first if the team were to non-tender Cron and bring in someone like Shaw to play third.

6. Yolmer Sanchez – IF

He’s a terrific defensive infielder and it still feels like there’s more in there offensively — even if I can’t put my finger on why. He’s a great clubhouse guy, and would help any team as their 26th man. Does that include a team that already has Ehire Adrianza, Willians Astudillo and Gonzalez? Maybe not. But it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have another steady defender to come off the bench behind Arraez, Polanco and Sano, each of whom have their issues defensively.

Sep 25, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox second baseman Yolmer Sanchez (5) attempts to make the tag on Cleveland Indians right fielder Yasiel Puig (66) during the sixth inning at Guaranteed Rate Field. Please Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

7. Jose Urena – SP/RP

Urena throws the hell out of the ball, and is just screaming for someone to take a look at him and make him into a strikeout pitcher. There’s really no reason a guy averaging nearly 96 mph with his fastball with interesting secondary pitches — double-digit career whiff rates on his slider and changeup — is striking out just 6.1 batters per nine for his career. His groundball rate of 47.3 percent for his career is a really nice look, too.

8. C.J. Cron – 1B

The elephant in the room is that Cron is a big, strong guy who plays a decent defensive first base but really isn’t a standout. The fact that guys like Eric Thames have hit the market with similar paydays looming — and Jesus Aguilar at half the money as well — seems to signify that Cron could be on the chopping block come Monday night. That doesn’t mean he’s as good as gone, but a return might not be at a number approaching $8 million like MLB Trade Rumors suggests.

9. Steven Souza Jr. – OF

This’d be purely as a lottery ticket as Souza is the most frustrating player this side of A.J. Pollock. It mostly boils down to injuries, as he didn’t play at all in 2019 and missed half of 2018 — a season in which he was struggling badly — due to a significant knee injury. For what it’s worth, the Steamer projection system isn’t crazy high on Souza, who turns 31 early next season: .244/.333/.455 with iffy defense, good for 1.1 fWAR.

10. Jake Lamb – 1B/3B

Lamb is another in a line of injury-prone Diamondbacks, as he hit .248/.357/.487 in 149 games in 2017 (2.5 fWAR), but has combined for just 134 games in the two seasons since with a slash line of .208/.315/.350. Lamb just turned 29 in October, and the hope here would have to be that the further he gets from his Aug. 2017 shoulder surgery, the more likely he is to regain his swing. Like was true for Shaw, this would be another gamble the Twins could afford to take.

Sep 27, 2019; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks infielder Jake Lamb (22) is congratulated by Carson Kelly (18) after hitting a three run home run in the eighth inning against the San Diego Padres at Chase Field. Please Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

11. Chaz Roe – RP

The relief market takes a pretty big hit behind Treinen, but Roe is kind of fun. He’s usually been decent but not much better, but since he’s with the perpetually cost-cutting Rays he’s in limbo. He keeps the ball in the yard and on the ground, and he has one of the craziest sliders ever:

12. Chris Devenski – RP

Devo hasn’t been particularly good since the 2017 season, but he throws plenty hard (94.8 mph average), strikes out a batter per inning, doesn’t walk anybody and even in a down year had pretty healthy swinging-strike rates (12.8 percent). Relievers are like logs on a fire — throw another on and see how long it burns.

13. Adam Conley – RP

There’s definitely more here with Conley, who went from soft-tossing lefty to throwing the hell out of the ball once he moved to the bullpen. He averaged 95.4 mph on his heater last season, and was pretty good out of the bullpen in 2018 (4.09 ERA/3.60 FIP, 14.5 percent SwStr%) before taking a step back in 2019. He’s extremely interesting as a “one tweak away” type and according to Baseball Reference he’d come with three years of control. If he’d pitched even a little better last year (6.53 ERA/5.19 FIP) he’d be the second reliever on this entire list.

Aug 15, 2019; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins relief pitcher Adam Conley (right) greets Marlins catcher Jorge Alfaro (left) after the Marlins defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers at Marlins Park. Please Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

14. Koda Glover – RP

This is entirely based on the industry-wide man-crush fantasy baseball owners had on Glover coming into the 2016 season. In turn, he’s thrown 55.1 innings over the last three seasons with 6.8 K/9, 3.4 BB/9 and an ERA of 4.55, but he’s still only 26 — 27 early next season — and he’s still got pretty good velocity if nothing else. He may not be touching 100 mph with his sinker as he did in 2016, but he’s still sitting in the mid-to-upper 90s with a slider that’s toyed with good swinging-strike rates (14.9 percent career) in the past. He’d make a good reclamation project.

15. Jose Peraza – IF

Peraza won’t be 26 until a month into next season, and he’s just one year removed from hitting .288/.326/.416 with 23 steals and an fWAR of 2.6. He’s young, makes contact, can run and is decent enough defensively at a couple spots. It’s possible I’m too low on him even after he hit .239/.285/.346 last season.

Sep 20, 2019; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds second baseman Jose Peraza (9) hits a single against the New York Mets during the third inning at Great American Ball Park. Please Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

16. Tyler Anderson – SP

I constantly, irrationally go back to his 2016 season where he fanned 7.8 batters per nine, walked just 2.2 and induced a groundball rate of 50.9 percent. The strikeouts have gone up, but so have the walks and ERA. The groundballs are nowhere to be found. He’s given up homers like they’re going out of style in the three years since. But hey, we’ll always have 2016, right?

17. Chad Pinder – IF/OF

He’s the quintessential A’s player who can hit a little bit and plays a billion defensive positions. His value hinges entirely on if he’s taking his walks, as he hit .258/.332/.436 (114 wRC+) in 2018 but just .240/.290/.416 (87) in 2019.

18-20. Luke Maile/Sandy Leon/John Ryan Murphy – C

Here are a bunch of catchers who could maybe back up Mitch Garver, but certainly would not be on anyone’s list of primary candidates. Each of them either is or has been a good defender in recent seasons.

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