The non-tender deadline has passed with 56 more players joining the list of free agents. Non-tendered free agents are typically younger, with more upside than traditional free agents, since they don’t have six years of service time yet, plus a team that signs them could get more than one year of club control. On the flip side, non-tendered free agents are players that a team decided was not worth hanging onto, and no team was willing to trade for.
Based on our modeling, the average non-tendered player had a trade value of $-0.6M. In other words, on paper, most were not worth their estimated arbitration prices (with a few exceptions).— Baseball Trade Values (@BaseballValues) December 3, 2020
Still, you can occasionally find a gem among the list of non-tendered free agents. Most famously, the Boston Red Sox took a flyer on a young slugging first baseman the Twins gave up on named David Ortiz, and he went on to become one of the game’s most feared sluggers. A team with a good eye can find a real bargain among the non-tender market, or perhaps a useful player at a reasonable price, as the Royals found with Maikel Franco last year.
In terms of that big bat that Dayton Moore covets for the middle of the order, hearing that the Royals will be scouring the nontenders for a bargain, especially a player hoping to resurrect his career (like Kendrys Morales back in '15). It has worked before.— Jeffrey Flanagan (@FlannyMLB) December 2, 2020
Who are the non-tendered free agents that may be of interest to the Royals? Let’s take a look.
The beefy 27-year old outfielder was a bit of a surprise non-tender, although there had been some whispers the Cubs may move on from him. The former first-round pick smacked 38 home runs in 2019, the second 30+ home run season of his career, but last year he hit just .188/.308/.393 with 11 home runs in 59 games. If Dayton Moore is looking for “on-base guys”, Schwarber fits that bill with a career .336 on-base percentage and a 13 percent walk rate. The former catcher has looked shaky defensively, although the metrics don’t show him being too terrible. He would also need to be protected against left-handed pitchers, as he has a pretty big split, so he may not be a good fit for the Royals.
Dahl was perhaps the most surprising non-tender since he was an All-Star in 2019 and is just 26 years old. He hit .302/.353/.524 with 15 home runs for Colorado in his All-Star season, but regressed to just .183/.222/.247 with no home runs in 24 games this year. As with any hitter who spent significant time at Coors Field, there may be some concerns about his ability to hit away from the high altitude - he is a career .248/.302/.420 hitter on the road. The left-handed hitter doesn’t walk much - just a 6.5 percent walk rate, and his career .334 on-base percentage is buoyed by a .358 BABIP that may be a product of spacious Coors Field. He has also had trouble staying on the field due to injuries, having never played more than 100 games in a seaosn. Still, if the Royals were to sign him, he would be under club control through 2023, perfect for a rebuilding team. He also has a connection with the Royals - his wife Jacquelyn is a marketing agent whose top client is none other than Chiefs quarterback and Royals minority owner Patrick Mahomes.
Duvall has had an up-and-down career, but he smacked 16 home runs in 57 games with the Braves this year, and has two 30+ home run seasons under his belt. The 32-year old right-handed hitter has a career line of .233/.293/.468, so he is not exactly the on-base guy Moore may be looking for. But he provides good power from the right side and has been a solid fielder, named as a finalist for a Gold Glove in both 2017 and 2018.
The veteran outfielder was a bit of a surprise to be let go, but with top prospect Alex Kiriloff coming up, the Twins decided to go in a different direction. Rosario’s bat seems well-tailored for Kauffman Stadium. He brings a high contact approach (a 19 percent career strikeout rate) with good gap power (he led the league with 15 triples his rookie year). Rosario has been a very steady performer, putting up an above-average wRC+ in each of the last four years, hitting .257/.316/.476 last year. His defense is a bit of a question mark, and unless the Royals committed to him with a long-term deal, he would be a free agent after just one season.
If the Royals are going to go for toolsy guys who swing at everything, why not double down on it by getting Danny Santana? Santana has a 30 percent strikeout rate and 5.6 percent walk over the last three seasons, but he also brings a good power/speed combo that allowed him to hit 28 home runs and steal 21 bases in 2019. He hit just .145 this year and is 30 years old, which led to his release. He could be valuable as a reserve player, with an ability to play every single position on the field except pitcher and catcher.
With Josh Staumont, Kyle Zimmer, and Scott Barlow already in tow, the Royals may not be in the market to add another reliever, or if they do, their efforts may be focused on bringing back Greg Holland. But Archie Bradley has been one of the game’s better late inning relievers the last few years, which is why it was a surprise he was non-tendered by the Reds. His average fastball velocity was down a tick last year down to 94 mph, but the results were still there with a 2.95 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 18 1⁄3 innings.
With Franco now a free agent, the Royals may be in the market for a third baseman. Shaw was non-tendered by the Blue Jays after one unremarkable season in Toronto where he hit .239/.306/.411 with six home runs in 50 games. The left-handed hitter has mashed in the past though with 30+ home run seasons in 2017 and 2018 with the Brewers, when he was a 3.5+ WAR player each season. Shaw is still just 30 years old and at least he brings one of the best nicknames in baseball - “Mayor of Ding Dong City.”
Stanek was a former first-round pick by the Rays and a graduate of Blue Valley High School in the Kansas City area. He found a role with the Rays as an “opener”, and put up a 2.98 ERA and 3.55 FIP in 66 1⁄3 innings with them in 2018. He has regressed a bit since then, and pitched just ten innings this year with the Marlins. He has put up solid strikeout numbers with a career strikeout rate of 10.38 per-nine-innings, but has struggled with walks. The right-hander is a hard thrower with a fastball in the upper-90s who gets a lot of flyballs. He could fill a lot of different roles if he were to return home to the Royals.
Others: Delino DeShields brings speed and defense and a better on-base skillset than the Royals currently have, but he seems a bit redundant with Taylor already in the fold, and the same could be said for Albert Almora. Brian Goodwin played for the Royals in 2018, but a reunion seems unlikely after they abruptly released him at the end of spring training in 2019. Hanser Alberto has the second-lowest strikeout rate in baseball over the past two seasons and is capable of playing third base. Matt Wisler was another surprise non-tender after a surprisingly good season with the Twins where he posted a 1.07 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 25 1⁄3 relief innings. The Royals don’t have many left-handed relievers, so Chasen Shreve or Hoby Milner could be options.