The non-tender date is still a month away, coming on November 17th. Teams will have to decide by then whether they will tender players on the 40-man roster who are not under guaranteed contracts a contract for the 2024 season. They do not have to decide on how much money by then – that’s what arbitration is for if players have enough service time, or they just get the league minimum if they are not yet arbitration eligible.
The Cincinnati Reds are at 41 players on the 40-man roster as of today. But once the World Series ends the 60-day injured list disappears and the three players on it for Cincinnati have to be accounted for. That would put the Reds are 44 players. The team likely won’t have to make any true “cuts” to get to 40 players, though. Buck Farmer, Luke Maile, and Harrison Bader are all free agents. Joey Votto and Curt Casali both have options for 2024 that the team are almost assuredly not going to pick up and leave them as free agents. That would get the team to 39 players.
Still, there could be some players that the team looks at as possibly replaceable. Whether that’s due to the fact that they believe it’s a performance thing or a monetary thing, several players could be up for conversation within the front office to non-tender to make room for minor league players that the team will need to add to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft, or to potentially open up a spot for some free agent signings or trade acquisitions over the winter.
Today we’re going to look at the position players who could be non-tendered.
It wasn’t all that long ago that Jose Barrero was the clear future shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds. But then he broke his hamate bone in 2021/2022 over the offseason and due to the lockout it wasn’t diagnosed as early as it may have otherwise been and he had surgery that led to him missing the start of the 2022 season. He never really got going at the plate when he returned that season – not in the big leagues and not in the minors. In 2023 he hit a bit better in the big leagues, but still struggled as he put up a .619 OPS in 46 games before he was optioned back to Triple-A.
Things went a lot better in Triple-A. In 80 games with Louisville he hit .258/.333/.540 with 17 doubles, 4 triples, 19 home runs, and he stole 20 bases in 21 attempts. The power and the speed played well. But he also struck out 31% of the time he stepped to the plate.
The Reds used his final option in 2023. And despite his good showing in many ways at the plate with Louisville after he was sent down, the Reds did not call him back up during the season. And in a strange situation from a distance, despite being blocked in the big leagues at shortstop by both Elly De La Cruz and Matt McLain, and perhaps even Noelvi Marte, Barrero didn’t play center more than once a week until September rolled around.
Again, from a distance, it seems that the club doesn’t have a good plan for what they want to do with Jose Barrero. His usage in Triple-A didn’t make much sense given that it appears his future role if he’s going to be in Cincinnati would be as a multi-position utility player, but the club didn’t really give him much time playing anywhere but shortstop for most of the time he was in the minors this season. He’ll be out of options next year, 26-years-old, and is a career .186/.242/.255 hitter in the big leagues.
Working for him is that he’ll be making the league minimum so there’s not a ton of risk to see what he looks like when spring training rolls around. It’ll cost you a roster spot. And maybe it’ll cost you a tiny bit of money. At the same time, it’s tough to see what the club’s plan actually is for him and it could be time to move forward and wish him the best.
In 2023 we saw Nick Senzel have the best offensive season he’s had since his rookie year back in 2019. He set a career high with 13 home runs and he did it in just 330 plate appearances. But he also hit just .236 and had a .297 on-base percentage.
While Senzel has always hit lefties better than righties, in 2023 those things were at the extremes. Against right-handed pitchers Senzel hit just .164 with a .497 OPS. But he also absolutely crushed left-handed pitching. Senzel hit .348 and slugged .619 against lefties in 126 plate appearances.
Having a guy who can play multiple positions who crushes left-handed pitching and can run the bases well does make the bench stronger. Those are the things that work for Senzel here. What could be working against him is simple: Money. MLB Trade Rumors projects that Senzel will be getting a raise to $3,000,000 for the 2024 season in arbitration.
While Cincinnati should have an absolute boatload of money to spend this offseason for the 2024 roster, they’re still likely to be looking for ways to not spend some of it. $3,000,000 for a bench player isn’t much, but the team could talk themselves into believing that they could put someone in the job who makes the league minimum and save a few million bucks.
The 2023 season was the third one that Stuart Fairchild spent time in the big leagues and he was there for more time than any of the previous seasons. Fairchild played in 97 games with Cincinnati, but he was up-and-down between MLB and Triple-A several times during the year. When in the big leagues he hit .228/.321/.388 with 16 doubles, 2 triples, 5 home runs, and he stole 10 bases.
Despite spending parts of several years in the big leagues, Fairchild is not near arbitration yet. That means he’s going to make the league minimum in 2024 if he’s tendered a contract. That’s going to likely work in his favor. He’s got big league experience as a bench player, which also work in his favor.
What’s working against him is that he’s now out of options after the team used his final option in 2023. There could also be a crowd on the 40-man roster in the outfield. Will Benson, Jake Fraley, and TJ Friedl don’t seem to be going anywhere. Spencer Steer is also not going anywhere and he saw a lot of time in the outfield, too. There are also several guys in Double-A and Triple-A who could be added to the 40-man roster this offseason who have the ability to be optioned back and forth if needed.
The 2023 season saw TJ Hopkins make his big league debut in June after a strong start in Triple-A Louisville. He would spend two weeks up with the Reds, mostly coming off of the bench before being optioned back to Louisville. He would return to Cincinnati for much of August and again come off of the bench most days that he saw action on the field. Overall he hit just .171 without an extra-base hit and he had two walks in 44 plate appearances.
Working for him is that he’s got options to work with, isn’t arbitration eligible yet, he’s a right-handed bat that plays outfield on a team with a lot of left-handed hitting outfielders, and he’s coming off of a season that saw him hit .308/.411/.514 in Triple-A. He’s also got good speed that can be used as a pinch runner, but he’s not much of a base stealing threat, either. Working against him is that in his limited big league time with the Reds he struggled as a bench option.
After a solid season in Korea in 2022, Nick Martini returned to the US and signed with the Reds on a minor league deal for 2023. He got out to a slow start in Louisville, but he caught fire in late May and hit .323/.428/.593 from May 23rd until August 20th when the Reds decided to call him up to Cincinnati. Once he joined the Reds he kept on hitting for plenty of power, posting a .264/.329/.583 line in his 79 plate appearances.
What could be working against him is that he’s going to be 34-years-old next June and he’s had 141 big league games in his career. Working for him is that he’ll still be making the league minimum and he crushed the ball in 2023 with the organization.