On the surface, the amount of non-tenders around baseball yesterday wasn’t that much different from the number of non-tenders in baseball a year ago. There were 59 of them yesterday, and 53 of them a year ago. The big difference was that there were 29 more non-tender day deals agreed to yesterday than a year ago – signaling that players were worried about testing free agency if they could get a guarantee, even if it came at a lower price than they normally would have gotten.
But despite things playing out differently, the additions to the free agent pool is about the same as it was last year. There are some bigger names out there – Kyle Schwarber and Adam Duvall may be the most familiar to most Reds fans given their histories – but the name doesn’t always reflect the value. Schwarber, for example, hit .188/.308/.393 in 2020 for the Cubs and brings negative value with his glove, too. The Reds aren’t likely too interested in either of those players, though, as both are outfielders and the Cincinnati outfield is already crowded as things stand.
Where the Reds could be interested in looking is in areas where they’ve reportedly been the most active in free agent talks up to this point: Shortstop and starting pitching. At the shortstop position the pickings are slim. Only two true shortstops were non-tendered: Jeison Guzman and Daniel Robertson. Guzman has never played above A-ball, so he’s not really even an option. Robertson has played in the big leagues over the last four seasons, although he’s never been a full time player, either. He hit .231/.340/.352 for Tampa Bay in 236 games from 2017-2019 before heading to San Francisco for 2020. He only played in 13 games with the Giants and only had 21 total at-bats during the season. Perhaps he could be viewed as depth, but with the organization bringing Kyle Farmer back, he would seem to be a bit redundant on the roster.
The starting pitcher market looks a little better, though that isn’t saying much. Two starters who were non-tendered stick out among the group. Tyler Anderson posted a 4.37 ERA in 2020 for the Giants. In his career he’s posted a 4.65 ERA, but until 2020 he had pitched for Colorado and that has led to his 4.65 career ERA actually being slightly better than league average when we adjust for the ballparks he’s pitched in (103 ERA+). The left-hander’s velocity was down some in 2020, as was his strikeout rate (a career low 6.2 K/9), but his home run rate also dropped to career low (despite having far and away the lowest ground ball rate of his career).
Another lefty, Carlos Rodon, was non-tendered by the Chicago White Sox. The #3 overall pick in the 2014 draft, Rodon was solid from 2015-2018 for the White Sox. He posted a 4.01 ERA over 494.1 innings with 473 strikeouts. He struggled at times to stay healthy, pitching in just 32 games between 2017 and 2018. Over the last two seasons it’s been both a struggle to stay on the mound as well as perform while on the mound. He made seven starts in 2019 and posted a 5.19 ERA before needing Tommy John surgery. He returned in 2020, but missed nearly all of the season, making four appearances – two in the first week of the season, as a starter, and then two in the final week of the season, as a reliever.
Rodon is interesting because when he’s been healthy, he’s been solid and provides some upside. Coming out of the bullpen over his final two outings in the regular season, and his one game in the playoffs, his velocity jumped up nearly 3 MPH from where it was in his two starts, and more than 2 MPH from where he had been in both 2017 and 2018. Adding him could be something similar to what the team already seems to have in guys like Tejay Antone and Michael Lorenzen – potential starters who could, if needed, provide multiple innings out of the bullpen.