MLB non-tender deadline: 10 most interesting players added to baseball’s free-agent pool


There will be bigger stories this offseason than a five-player trade for Aaron Bummer, but at least the wheels were turning Friday. Baseball’s non-tender deadline — when teams had to decide which players to offer contracts for next season — spurred a flurry of activity. There was a handful of relatively minor trades, but a bunch of players were added to the free-agent pool, most of them because their projected arbitration salaries were deemed too high for their previous teams to keep them around.
Among last year’s non-tenders were Cody Bellinger and Jeimer Candelario, players who made good on one-year reclamation contracts and are now among the best free-agent position players on the market. Some of this year’s unwanted players surely are going to be similarly impactful next season.
So, which of the new free agents might move the needle this offseason? Here are 10 of Friday’s most interesting non-tenders. As usual, the listed arbitration projections — which their previous teams decided were too expensive — come from MLB Trade Rumors.
1. Potential ace in waiting
Brandon Woodruff
Opening Day age: 31
Arbitration projection: $11.6 million
This is a weird one because, in theory, every team would jump at a one-year, $11.6 million deal with a pitcher as good as Woodruff. But that’s not really what this is about. Woodruff had shoulder surgery in October and could miss all of next season. He’ll certainly miss a lot of it, and he’ll be a free agent after next season. So, the Milwaukee Brewers basically passed on paying him eight figures for (at best) a handful of starts and maybe a qualifying offer next winter. It might make sense for a team to give Woodruff a two-year deal, cross its fingers for 2024 and bank on All-Star upside in 2025.
2. Versatile role player
Nick Senzel
Opening Day age: 28
Arbitration projection: $3 million
Versatility. Solid speed. He hit lefties really well this year. Senzel was the No. 2 pick of the 2016 draft, and while he hasn’t lived up to that billing, there should be a big-league role for him as a part-time player who can play third base, second base and the outfield. Teams value versatility, and Senzel can provide that, but he’s never been much of a hitter at the big-league level. Last season’s .696 OPS (1.008 against lefties) was his best since his rookie year in 2019. Among other non-tender candidates in the infield, the Minnesota Twins ultimately offered a contract to utilityman Kyle Farmer, the Baltimore Orioles decided to keep Jorge Mateo and the Boston Red Sox wound up trading Luis Urías to the Seattle Mariners for a relief pitcher.
3-4. Left-handed power bats
Rowdy Tellez, Daniel Vogelbach
Opening Day ages: 29, 31
Arbitration projections: $5.9 million, $2.6 million
Tellez hit 35 homers for the Brewers in 2022 (but only 13 last season). Vogelbach had an .825 OPS for the New York Mets in the second half last season (but only a .690 OPS in the first half). Both are first-base-only on defense (at best), but they can provide some left-handed pop. We could lump non-tendered Washington Nationals first baseman Dominic Smith into a similar boat. The free-agent market already had quite a few left-handed power bats — Brandon Belt, Jesse Winker, Joey Gallo, some guy named Shohei Ohtani — and now there are two more.
5. Former Rookie of the Year
Kyle Lewis
Opening Day age: 28
Arbitration projection: $1.61 million
Yes, this is the same guy who won American League Rookie of the Year with the Seattle Mariners in 2020, but there’s a reason you’ve rarely heard his name since. In the past three years, he’s played only 70 big-league games due to injury and underperformance. The Arizona Diamondbacks had him stashed in Triple A most of last season. Lewis raked in the minors last year (1.098 OPS) but was mostly a DH and hasn’t played center field at any level since 2021. He’s a notable name, and the upside might still be in there somewhere, but Lewis hasn’t been a productive big leaguer in a while. (Worth noting, the Atlanta Braves might have made a similar decision with once-touted starter Michael Soroka but instead traded the 26-year-old former All-Star in the Bummer deal.)
6. Another catcher in a thin market
Jacob Stallings
Opening Day age: 34
Arbitration projection: $3.6 million
Stallings didn’t get much of a big-league opportunity until he was in his 30s, but he quickly built a reputation as a strong defender (Gold Glove in 2021) who could hit enough to justify regular playing time. With the Miami Marlins the past two years, though, his defensive metrics and offensive production dipped to the point of being non-tendered. Despite a couple of bad seasons, Stallings is notable because The Athletic’s big board of the top 40 free agents includes only one catcher, Mitch Garver, who was mostly a DH the past two years and has never started more than 75 games behind the plate in a season. In a free-agent market that’s thin behind the plate, every recognizable addition is notable. The San Diego Padres also non-tendered catcher Austin Nola and the St. Louis Cardinals non-tendered Andrew Knizner.
7. One-time closer
Lou Trivino has 37 career saves. (Brad Penner / USA Today)
Lou Trivino
Opening Day age: 32
Arbitration projection: $4.1 million
Tommy John surgery cost him all of 2023 and will cost him a good chunk of 2024, but Trevino was an interesting trade chip back in 2022 when the New York Yankees got him from the Oakland A’s, with whom he’d been a 22-save closer with a 3.18 ERA in 2021. Among other notable recognizable relievers: the Toronto Blue Jays non-tendered Adam Cimber, the Texas Rangers non-tendered Matt Bush, the Mets non-tendered Trevor Gott, the Padres non-tendered Tim Hill and the Philadelphia Phillies non-tendered Josh Fleming.
8. Young bat for hire
Juan Yepez
Opening Day age: 26
Arbitration projection: N/A
Most non-tender decisions hinge on arbitration eligibility and the inevitable raises that come with it. But Yepez is different. He’s not yet arbitration-eligible, and he still has an option remaining. He’s not much of a defender, he didn’t have a great 2023 season and the Cardinals are deep in the outfield and at first base, but still, it’s unusual to see a player like Yepez cut loose. In 2022, he had a .921 OPS in Triple A and a 109 OPS+ in the big leagues. He was considered a promising young slugger in the minors. Yepez is still relatively young and could be optioned to the minors again next season, which is appealing to a team that might sign him as offensive depth. He’s a different kind of non-tender, for sure.
9. Back-end rotation depth
Dakota Hudson
Opening Day age: 29
Arbitration projection: $3.7 million
A first-round pick who had quite a bit of success his first few years in the majors, Hudson had Tommy John surgery in 2020 and has had a hard time regaining his traction. The past two years he’s pitched to a 4.64 ERA and 1.47 WHIP for the Cardinals, working mostly as a starter. He’s basically rotation depth at this point unless a team believes it can help him harness his sinker to bring back some of his lost luster. In a similar boat, the Detroit Tigers non-tendered 31-year-old Spencer Turnbull, who was considered a pretty good young starter not so long ago.
10. An uncertain All-Star
Austin Meadows
Opening Day age: 28
Arbitration projection: $4.3 million
The arbitration projection puts Meadows at roughly $4 million for the third year in a row. Why three in a row? Because the one-time All-Star has played only 42 games over the past two years because of anxiety issues that have left him on the injured list. His two full, healthy seasons in the big leagues — 2019 and 2021 — Meadows was an above-average hitter who got some bottom-of-the-ballot MVP consideration. Does he want to play again? Can he play again? If the answer is yes, what kind of player would he be? There’s a lot of unknown with Meadows, but he’s still fairly young, and he’s shown plenty of big-league talent in the past.
(Top photo of Brandon Woodruff: Rich Storry / USA Today)


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