This Wednesday is the non-tender date for Major League Baseball teams. Essentially, players who have not yet reached free agency, but are on the 40-man roster must be either tendered a contract for the next season, or non-tendered. If a player is tendered a contract, then they will either be paid the minimum based on their service time, or they will head to arbitration (or be offered a deal by the team which they can agree to or choose to head to arbitration) to determine their salary for the upcoming year. Non-tendered players become free agents.
For the Cincinnati Reds there are a lot of players that are eligible to be non-tendered. However, there aren’t many players that are likely to be non-tendered. MLB Trade Rumors wrote about the potential non-tender options around baseball over the weekend. That list only included two Cincinnati Reds players: Catcher Curt Casali and outfielder Brian Goodwin.
According to MLB Trade Rumors the Reds would owe Curt Casali $1.8M in arbitration and Brian Goodwin $2.7M in arbitration if they tendered them contracts for 2020. That’s not really all that much money, for either player. But it’s expected that teams will be looking to save money anywhere and everywhere that they can.
Both Casali and Goodwin play positions with some depth. The Reds have stated that catching prospect Tyler Stephenson is going to be a part of the 2021 team. Now, whether that’s from day one or not is another question, but it seems quite clear that the organization views him as the future at that spot on the field most days. Two’s company and three’s a crowd, even at the catcher position. If a team is indeed looking to save any sort of money, the difference between Casali’s projected salary in 2021 and Stephenson’s league minimum salary is about $1.2M.
The flip side of non-tendering Casali is that you almost always need more than two catchers, and he’s proven to be a quality big league option. The pitchers tend to speak well of his ability with the staff from a defensive perspective and over the last three seasons he’s hit .260/.345/.440. And you get that production, even as the guy who has been the backup to Tucker Barnhart, at a bargain price.
For Brian Goodwin, it’s a similar issue in that he plays a position that the Reds have plenty of options for. On a normal day he’s probably the 5th outfielder behind Nick Senzel, Shogo Akiyama, Jesse Winker, and Nick Castellanos. Goodwin can play center field – something that Winker and Castellanos can’t really do – but he’s still likely behind Akiyama on the depth chart for backup center fielder to Senzel. In a scenario where the National League retains the designated hitter, the outfield depth chart could change some, but unless that decision is agreed upon by Wednesday evening, the Reds have to make their decision before knowing how that one will play out.
So the team could non-tender Goodwin, who is likely their 5th outfielder and set to get a raise to $2.7M according to MLB Trade Rumors. Or they could choose to keep him around and have one of the best 5th outfield options in all of baseball. Prior to 2020, Goodwin had hit .255/.320/.461 in his career with the Nationals, Royals, and Angels. Toss in that he can play center and that’s a quality player, even if a bit limited (he’s never been given the opportunity to play full time other than in 2019 with the Angels where he played in 136 games and had his best offensive season, posting a 108 OPS+).
Those were the only two players mentioned by MLB Trade Rumors. But over at Fangraphs, there was a different thought process. Both Curt Casali and Brian Goodwin went unmentioned, seeming to be safe according to Eric Longenhagen. But he did have an unlikely candidate that he felt was worth mentioning: Archie Bradley.
As noted, it seems unlikely, but the Reds do seem to have some bullpen depth to work with. In a situation where a team is trying to save money, Archie Bradley could make some sense if money savings were the only thing one were to look at. He’s due somewhere between $4.7 and $5.7M for the 2021 season according to MLB Trade Rumors projections of arbitration.
After a tough two seasons as a starter with Arizona in 2015 and 2016 Bradley moved into the bullpen, and he’s been quite good ever since. In the four seasons since the transition to reliever the right-hander has posted a 2.95 ERA in 234.2 innings pitched while striking out 259 batters. Acquired on August 31st by the Reds this past season, he allowed just one run in 7.2 innings with Cincinnati before the season came to a close.
Given what the Reds gave up – top 10 prospect Stuart Fairchild, as well as big league utility man Josh VanMeter – it would seem like a tough pill to swallow for Cincinnati to non-tender him. He’s a proven, quality reliever. But as it’s been said – if the only thing a team is looking to do is save money, you can save a bit here.