Yesterday, December 2nd, marked one of the most consequential deadlines in MLB: the non-tender deadline. This year was equally important, if not more, as we saw a flurry of non-tender moves that wasn’t quite like any year we’ve seen before. As such, we’re doing a series of articles to cover every move made by each team leading up to the non-tender deadline. In this article, Matt O’Halloran covers the AL East.
For those who are new to this process, here is a short explanation of the significance of the non-tender deadline. Players who have not yet exceeded six years of Major League service time (time spent on a Major League roster) remain under team control with the team for whom they played in 2020. In a player’s first three years of service time, he is owed the league minimum salary by his team. In the three years after that, he is eligible for arbitration, meaning that he and his team must either agree to a salary for the next season or, if they cannot come to an agreement, each submit their desired salary figure to an arbitrator who settles the player’s contract for the upcoming season. Regardless of whether a player is in his arbitration or pre-arbitration years, his team must first decide to tender him a contract for the coming season. If a player’s team does not tender him a contract, he becomes an unrestricted free agent. The deadline to tender contracts for this process was yesterday. The majority of players here who were tendered do not yet have a salary decided for 2021, but those who have a salary figure have already signed a contract. The players listed as non-tenders are now unrestricted free agents.
One of the first and most widespread reports about this offseason was that it will be slow, in no small part due to the loss of revenue owners experienced this year. The full weight of how severe this was became apparent when Brad Hand, with a $10 million club option for 2021, successfully cleared waivers in November. Now, with the non-tender deadline having passed, that reality is more clear than ever, but we also now know, in full, this year’s free agent class. And with that information, it seems reasonable to expect an increase in activity, as teams now have a clearer picture of what they have, and who’s available. Here is how that landscape has changed in the AL East in the last ~24 hours.
Blue Jays non-tender INF Travis Shaw and RHP AJ Cole
Travis Shaw, the Mayor of Ding Dong City, has struggled in each of the last two seasons (45, 95 wRC+ in 2019, 2020 respectively). The 30-year-old split time between third and first base in 2020, after experimenting with second base during his tenure in Milwaukee. With Vlad Jr., Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette, Rowdy Tellez, Joe Panik, and Jonathan Villar, in addition to reports that the Blue Jays have expressed interest in trading for Philadelphia’s Jean Segura, Shaw was simply the odd man out.
AJ Cole, on the other hand, has been rather impressive the last two years pitching out of Cleveland’s (2019) and Toronto’s (2020) bullpen. The 28 year old is coming off of a 144 ERA+ across 23.1 innings. His peripherals are something of a cause for concern, though. His 7.7 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 2020 are both poor numbers, especially for a reliever.
Orioles trade INF Jose Iglesias to LAA for RHP Jean Pinto and Garrett Stallings
Iglesias is coming off of the best season of his career, posting a 160 OPS+ in 2020, despite hitting just three home runs and walking just three times. While nobody expects Iglesias to perform to this level in 2021, it is a quality pickup for the Angels. Iglesias can provide a quality glove at shortstop with upside potential offensively. Jean Pinto is a 19 year old pitcher from Venezuela. He has thrown just 12 professional innings, and was not ranked in the Angels’ top 30 prospects. Stallings was ranked 21st in the Angels system. The 2019 fifth rounder doesn’t have any pitches that jump out at you as frontline stuff, but his command and movement, as well as having four pitches with big league upside give him back-end rotation potential.
Orioles non-tender INF Hanser Alberto
Despite being in the league since 2015, Alberto has yet to put together a quality season. He has never been even league average offensively, and his defense leaves something to be desired. Alberto spent most of his time in 2020 at second base, but he has also spent time at third base. While far from a star, a utility infielder with a 96 OPS+ over the last two seasons should be able to find a job on somebody’s bench.
Rays tender contracts to all arbitration eligible players
The Rays have decided to retain all of the players eligible for non-tendering today, including RHP Yonny Chirinos, Tyler Glasnow, and Ryan Yarbrough, LHP Jose Alvarado, INF Ji-Man Choi and Joey Wendle, and OF Manuel Margot.
Red Sox RHP Robert Stock was claimed off of waivers by the Cubs
Far from a blockbuster, but still notable. Stock spent last season pitching out of Boston’s bullpen, delivering 13.1 innings of remarkably average pitching (101 ERA+). Prior to that, Stock spent two seasons in San Diego. Stock will join a Cubs’ bullpen that was middle of the pack by ERA (4.38, 13th in MLB) and FIP (4.45, 15th), but finished 3rd in the league in xFIP (4.06), behind just the Dodgers (3.88) and Brewers (3.72).
Red Sox to tender contract with 3B Rafael Devers, no announcement
Much of the news cycle today consisted of player x and team y reaching a one year deal for z amount. Devers was an exception. While it was never a question if he would be tendered, it was surprising that the team chose to simply tender him a contract without yet coming to an agreement on his 2021 salary. This seems to indicate that the two sides are engaged in extension talks, and an announcement may come out anytime in the coming weeks, or months.
Yankees non-tender RHP Jonathan Holder
Holder has been a longtime mediocre staple of an elite New York bullpen over the past five seasons. Holder has produced quality seasons (career best 134 ERA+ in 2018 in a career high 66 innings), but has been well below league average in each of the two seasons since then. Given the quality of the Yankees’ bullpen, this move was not unexpected, although Holder would not have likely cost much, as it would have been just his first year of arbitration.