Wednesday was a whirlwind day around Major League Baseball, as nearly 60 players were non-tendered ahead of the 8 p.m. ET deadline, sending them into an already crowded free-agent market.
In the aftermath of a pandemic-impacted 2020 season, many industry insiders expected the number of non-tenders to be even greater, but a slew of pre-tender deals -- one-year agreements between a player and club prior to the tender deadline -- kept the number right around last year’s figure.
“I don’t think anyone had a great grasp of what we were going to see around the industry, and what we saw were very constructive conversations between teams and players trying to get to the right answers,” Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns said. “We ended up having a lot of pre-tender deals around the industry. That’s really not a bad thing for the industry, in my opinion.
“We always talk about it: The arbitration system is designed to produce settlements, and I think the earlier in the offseason those settlements occur, it benefits everyone. It allows players to exhale and know where they are going to be, and it allows clubs to maybe more specifically plan the rest of the offseason.”
Most of the big names that had been rumored as potential non-tender candidates -- Kris Bryant, Gary Sánchez and Tommy Pham, for example -- remained with their clubs, having been tendered contracts for 2021.
But just as Kevin Gausman, Taijuan Walker, Cesar Hernandez and Blake Treinen were among the players to make a notable impact after being scooped up following their respective non-tenders in 2019, a number of the players cut loose Wednesday will surely influence the 2021 season once they catch on with new teams.
Here’s a look at eight players who could shake up this winter’s free-agent market:
Kyle Schwarber, OF/DH: The biggest name -- and in many eyes, the biggest surprise -- among the non-tenders, Schwarber was non-tendered by the Cubs. Chicago chose to cut the slugger loose rather than pay him in his final year of arbitration, sending Schwarber -- one of the team’s 2016 World Series heroes -- to the open market entering his age-28 season. Schwarber had a subpar offensive season in 2020 (.701 OPS in 59 games, albeit with 11 home runs), but he had career highs with 38 homers and an .871 OPS in 2019. Plenty of teams will likely try to add Schwarber to their lineup, though American League clubs could be more interested if the DH doesn’t return to the National League for 2021. The Cubs say they’d still be interested in bringing Schwarber back, too.
Adam Duvall, OF: Another surprising non-tender, Duvall put together a nice offensive season (16 homers, .833 OPS in 57 games) during the shortened 2020 season. The Braves opted not to keep Duvall in his third arbitration-eligible year, in which he would have earned a raise from this year’s $3.25 million salary. Whichever team signs Duvall -- and given his power, there should be several interested clubs -- will not only have him in 2021, but also in 2022 if they choose to retain him, as he will have a fourth year of arbitration-eligibility.
Eddie Rosario, OF: The Twins non-tendered Rosario on Wednesday after he was placed on outright waivers and the 29-year-old went unclaimed. Based on his $7.75 million salary in 2020, Rosario might have flirted with the $10 million mark in his third year of arbitration this winter, but his undisciplined, free-swinging approach and poor on-base skills prompted the Twins to let him go rather than pay that price. Rosario should have suitors, but his declining defense could force him to wait until January to find a new home.