Friday was the deadline for teams to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players. Any players that teams decided against tendering a contract to are called “non-tenders”, and are free to sign with any team. Fortunately, the Yankees tendered contracts to all of their arbitration-eligible players.
Not everyone was so lucky. Across the league, potentially useful players were cut loose as teams maneuvered and reshaped their rosters as they saw fit. Now, there’s an interesting cohort of veteran players looking for work. Which of these newly non-tendered players could be most appealing to the Yankees?
One of the biggest names to be non-tendered was former Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton. Hamilton of course made his name as one of the fastest athletes to ever play baseball. He turned in a few decent years, but his struggles at the plate the past couple seasons have proven untenable. Hamilton slashed .242/.299/.331 across 2017 and 2018, good for a 67 OPS+. Unless he wants to come to New York to be a high-profile pinch-runner, he probably doesn’t fit in the Yankees’ crowded outfield picture.
Former Yankees’ front office executive Billy Eppler, now GM of the Angels, also non-tendered a couple of interesting pitchers. The Angels let go of both 32-year-old right-handed starter Matt Shoemaker, as well as 33-year-old righty reliever (and Yankee legend) Blake Parker. The pair profiles as a bit of intriguing pitching depth.
Shoemaker’s problem has always been staying on the field, as forearm issues have limited him to 108 innings the past two seasons. He’s also put up solid strikeout rates when on the field, and posted an excellent 13.0% swinging strike last season. Parker was unimpressive with the Yankees, but maintained a 2.90 ERA, good for a 146 ERA+, across 133.2 innings for the Angels across the past two years. It’s odd that the Angels saw fit to non-tender such an important part of their bullpen.
The Yankees also could use infield depth, and there are now some more backup options on the market. The Orioles non-tendered former first overall pick Tim Beckham, coming off a miserable season in which he recorded an 83 OPS+. Beckham did post a very solid 110 OPS+ in 2017, though, and has hit lefties well in his career. One could do worse at backup shortstop than Beckham.
Jonathan Schoop, who was traded by the Orioles to the Brewers last season, was non-tendered by Milwaukee. Like Beckham, he struggled mightily in 2018 but was productive before. Schoop authored a 124 OPS+ in 2017, and projects as a league-average bat per Steamer. He also rates fairly well at second base by both UZR and DRS.
Across town, the Mets non-tendered fan favorite Wilmer Flores. It was a curious move to let go of a player that’s shown some defensive versatility and has averaged a 109 OPS+ over the past three seasons. Flores profiles as a capable, roughly average player, and would make for a useful utility-man.
This is just the beginning of the list of non-tenders, though these stand out as the most plausibly useful to the Yankees. Also of note are catchers Caleb Joseph and James McCann, pitchers Shelby Miller and Hunter Strickland, and first baseman Justin Bour.
All of these players have had some sort of success as the major-league level. Perhaps the raises they were each due in arbitration made them poor values, but it’s probably bad for baseball that so many veterans that can still play were simply cut loose to save teams a few million dollars.
Teams like the Yankees could stand to benefit. None of the aforementioned players should slot in as starters on the Yankees, but if the team is willing to shell out just a little bit for some of these veterans, they could bolster their depth at multiple positions. They should not settle for someone like Flores or Schoop as a starter in the infield, but such players would fit very well as bench options. Likewise, someone like Parker shouldn’t slot in as a late-inning reliever, but could certainly provide capable pitching depth.
The Yankees’ sights should remain high, on starters like Patrick Corbin and superstar hitters like Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. Those are the priorities. After filling out their starting lineup, however, the non-tender group offers interesting possibilities to flesh out the team’s depth.