The biggest surprise of the day was the Marlins’ decision not to tender a contract to excellent young starter Henderson Alvarez, who was projected by MLBTR to make only about $4.0 million in arbitration in 2016. The reason for non-tendering the 25-year-old righty, presumably, is the shoulder surgery that ended his 2015 season in July, and the attendant recovery that will keep him out for a portion of 2016. To be quite clear, shoulder injuries – especially ones that require surgery – can end pitcher careers. They are not nearly as predictable as elbow injuries. So I don’t think it’s quite fair to call the Marlins cheap or foolish for their decision, despite Alvarez’s breakout in 2013 and 2014.
That said, there will be a number of suitors for Alvarez’s services, which come complete with at least two years of control left. Even with the injury, he’s going to be able to command a big league deal (in large part because he’s going to want to be sure to accumulate service time from the get-go in 2016 so that he can reach free agency after 2017), so some team is going to have to take a financial and roster spot risk on an unknown outcome.
The Cubs do seem to be an ideal candidate to take that chance on Alvarez given their lack of depth at the upper levels of the minors in the starting pitching department. Not only could the Cubs look attractive to Alvarez, but they could allow him to continue to rehab for the first half of 2016 without the need to rush him – on the 60-day DL, Alvarez would still accumulate service time, and the Cubs could then open up a spot on the 40-man roster – and then hope to have him available in the second half when he might be needed most (as well as in 2017).
Again, though: there will be tons of suitors, and tons of teams that look like a fit. Don’t get too ahead of yourself.
Some other non-tenders of note:
- The Pirates clearly couldn’t find a taker for Pedro Alvarez, and decided to let him go rather than risk being on the hook for $8+ million in 2016. Although Alvarez can still hit for serious power, he showed last year that he’s a defensive liability even at first base, and I’m not really surprised to see the Pirates moving on. The money can better be used elsewhere, and the Pirates can let Michael Morse and/or another fill-in handle starts at first base until it’s time to give big-time prospect Josh Bell a shot.
- The White Sox non-tendered catcher Tyler Flowers, who is a good defensive catcher and an excellent framer. He doesn’t really kill you at the plate, either. His arbitration projection was just $3.5 million, and I’m surprised there wasn’t a team out there willing to give up a little something to take him off the Sox’s hands. He’ll find a deal out there.
- The Padres non-tendered infielder Will Middlebrooks, who never quite hit in San Diego (much like he fell off in Boston). There’s some front office familiarity there with the Cubs, so, hey, who knows – maybe they give him a look on a minor league deal.
- The Dodgers are letting reliever Juan Nicasio hit free agency despite a really strong performance last year. He had a huge walk rate, yes, but also a huge strikeout rate, and overall had an ERA/FIP/xFIP all well under four. He was projected to make $3.1 million, and will draw plenty of interest out there.
- As expected, the Cardinals non-tendered Steve Cishek, who’ll be an interesting free agent. One of the best relievers in baseball as recently as 2014, Cishek fell totally off the map last year for the Marlins, and didn’t really bounce back after a midseason trade to the Cardinals. He’ll almost certainly get a big league deal, as some team will bet on his considerable upside.
- The Giants non-tendered swing man Yusmeiro Petit, whose peripherals cratered last year after a shockingly good 2014 season. Given how good he was in the rotation in 2014, and then given how much the Giants could have used him in the rotation in 2015 (but didn’t), and given the disappearing strikeout rate, I’m thinking there was something sneaky he did in 2014 that worked, and then got figured out in 2015.
- Other interesting relievers who were non-tendered: Cesar Ramos, Al Albuquerque, Greg Holland (though he just underwent Tommy John surgery, so a signing team won’t get anything out of him in 2016).
- Mike Minor, like Henderson Alvarez, is recovering from shoulder surgery, and was non-tendered by the Braves. He could be another interesting flyer type.