The free agent pool just got larger as 56 additional players became free agents after they were not tendered a contract by Monday evening’s deadline for arbitration-eligible players. You can see a complete list of players non-tendered this week here, but I thought I would highlight some free agents that might help the Royals improve their 103-loss club.
Guillermo Heredia defected from Cuba in 2015, signing with the Mariners, but his bat has never really developed. He was traded to the Rays last season and served as a fourth outfielder. In four seasons, he has hit .240/.317/.342 with 17 home runs in 1,101 plate appearances, but has fared better against left-handers, batting .274/.335/.401. The 28-year old can play centerfield, although he hasn’t played it well, according to the metrics. But he’s a fine fielder on the corners, and could fit as a right-handed platoon bat in right field with Brett Phillips. If he is a late bloomer, a team could control his rights through 2022.
Kevin Pillar fits the Royals’ profile for a centerfielder as a guy that can cover a ton of ground. Since he became a regular in 2015, he has been one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball. He also brings a higher contact approach, with a below-average strikeout rate of 15.8 percent in his career. The 30-year old hit .259/.287/.432 with 21 home runs this year and even received an MVP vote, so he will likely be in demand. However the Royals already went with an older defensive whiz with a low on-base percentage last year in Billy Hamilton and it didn’t go over so well, so the Royals may well pass this time around.
Steven Souza, Jr. smacked 30 home runs in 2017, but struggled badly in 2018 and missed the entire 2019 season with a knee injury. The 30-year old right-handed hitter has a patient eye with a 10.6 percent walk rate in his career. Souza strikes out a ton and his defense slumped in 2018 before his knee injury, so he may not fit what the Royals are looking for. But if he can get his career back on track, he could be a cheap reclamation project that the Royals can flip before he become eligible for free agency at the end of next season.
Others: Tim Beckham could fill in at third and allow Hunter Dozier to move to the outfield or first base, but he would have to miss the first 32 games with a suspension. C.J. Cron has slugged 55 home runs over the last two seasons combined and could be a nice bat at first to platoon with Ryan O’Hearn, but he is only under club control for one more year. Domingo Santana has been an average-ish outfield bat who slugged 30 home runs in 2018, but he’s a butcher in the field.
Jason Adam should be familiar to the Royals, as a minor leaguer in the system and returning to pitch for them in 2018. The 28-year old right-hander put together some decent innings with the Blue Jays last year with a 2.91 ERA in 21 2⁄3 innings although his strikeout-to-walk ratio was poor. Adam did suppress home runs last year, which was his Achilles’ heel in Kansas City, and with a fastball in the mid-90s perhaps the Royals could bring him back for a third stint.
Tyler Anderson is a former first-round pick with the Rockies who was a 3 WAR pitcher in both 2016 and 2018. He missed most of this season with a knee injury, and will likely miss the beginning of spring training next year. Anderson throws in the low-90s and had some problems with the home run ball, not unexpected in Colorado. He actually pitched a bit better at home, so Coors Field wasn’t that big of an issue for him. The Rockies let him go midseason and the Giants picked him up, but it was a bit surprising the Giants went ahead and non-tendered the 29-year old lefty, so perhaps they already have a minor league deal worked out with him, or perhaps the knee issues - a chronic problem in his career - are worse than we thought.
Kevin Gausman was worth 9 WAR combined from 2016 to 2018 but fell off a table in 2019 with a 5.72 ERA, leading to his release from the Braves. Gausman has lost a few ticks off his fastball, but he could regain that with a move to the pen. The 28-year old right-hander had a 3.10 ERA in 20 1⁄3 innings after moving to the bullpen with the Reds this year, so perhaps he could revive his career as a reliever. Gausman is still rather young for a free agent and has had some recent success so expect quite a bit of interest for his services, but any club would only have him for one year.
Yimi Garcia put up a solid 3.61 ERA with 66 strikeouts in 62 1/3 innings for the Dodgers at age 28. The right-hander has an outstanding strikeout-to-walk ratio in his career, with 5.5 whiffs for every free pass. Garcia is simply a fastball/slider reliever, but with a mid-90s heater and solid results in his career, he should generate a lot of interest.
Ian Gibault was ranked as the #30 prospect in a deep Rays farm system last winter by Fangraphs. A reliever throughout his career, the 25-year old right-hander has succeded at each level, but struggled with his command in his MLB debut season, with 10 walks in 14 1⁄3 innings, but with 16 strikeouts. Gibault throws in the mid-90s and could be a cheap relief options with several controllable years for a rebuilding team if he can harness that fastball.
Jimmy Nelson was a solid starting pitcher for the Brewers, worth 3.2 WAR in 2017, but has battled shoulder and elbow injuries ever since. He is a groundball pitcher with solid velocity in the mid-90s and a career 4.22 ERA. The right-hander lost some velocity this year and pitched just 22 innings. But he is still just 30-years old and could make for a nice one-year reclamation project as a fifth starter with the potential to move to the pen when pitching prospects are ready.
Blake Treinen was a surprise non-tender after an All-Star season with 38 saves and a 0.78 ERA in 2018. He did regress to a 4.96 ERA this year with a huge spike in his walk rate. A native of Osage City, Kansas, Treinen features a fastball in the high 90s and has the potential to be a dominant late inning reliever. The Yankees had shown interest in trading for Treinen, so expect the 31-year old right-hander to be one of the most coveted non-tendered free agents.
Taijuan Walker is a former first-round pick who has shown glimpses of brilliance but has had his career sidetracked by injury. He has missed most of 2018 and 2019 with Tommy John surgery, but before that he was a 2.6 WAR pitcher for the Diamondbacks in 2017. Walker can miss bats with nearly a strikeout per inning as a starter and a career 3.95 ERA. Still just 27, the right-hander would be eligible for free agency after the season.
Others: Trevor Hildenberger had a nice debut for the Twins in 2017 but has struggled since then with an 10.47 ERA this year at age 28. Derek Law had a very high walk rate, but struck out 9.9 per nine innings at age 28 with the Blue Jays. Aaron Sanchez should be one of the more coveted pitchers to hit the market this week, but he will miss the start of next season with a shoulder injury.