Yesterday marked the deadline for teams to offer contracts to players under team control but not yet signed for 2017. If the players were not offered a contract (non-tendered), then they are officially free agents.
The Cubs tendered all of their arbitration-eligible players last night, but non-tendered four pre-arbitration players (Zac Rosscup, Gerardo Concepcion, Conor Mullee, and Christian Villanueva), who are each now free agents.
Around baseball, there were a handful of interesting non-tenders, who are now free agents. Let’s take a quick peek at a few of note.
The Diamondback non-tendered old friend Welington Castillo, who brings a league average bat and good defense behind the plate, which is the kind of combo that would have kept a guy employed and well-paid about 10 years ago. Nowadays, though, we know much more about catcher receiving skills, including pitch-framing, and Castillo has long been among the worst in baseball. Thus, the Diamondbacks didn’t want to commit upwards of $6 million to Castillo, and he can shop around his services. He’ll find a job, without question, but it’s not clear if he’ll be able to land a full-time starting gig.
The Diamondbacks also non-tendered righty Rubby De La Rosa, whose story will be interesting to follow this offseason, because he’s been dealing with elbow problems, but has unrealized potential at the big league level.
There is also young lefty Jacob Lindren, the Yankees’ top draft pick in 2014, who was non-tendered after having Tommy John surgery in August. He will be a highly-pursued rehab target, I would think, given the talent there and the possibility for team control. He likely will not pitch competitively until the very end of next season, if not 2018 (and, even then, he’s still more like a prospect than a sure thing).
The biggest name folks will be talking about is that of formerly excellent righty Tyson Ross, who was surprisingly non-tendered by the Padres after a lost 2016 that culminated in surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome to alleviate shoulder troubles. That surgery took place in October, and the timeline for recovery could have Ross throwing in Spring Training or shortly after the season begins.
You can bet that the Cubs will check in with Ross, in whom they’d reportedly had trade interest for a very long time, prior to the shoulder troubles in 2016.
The thing about Ross is that there will be 30 teams – yes, including the Padres – who are hoping to now sign him to the kind of reclamation contract you’re hoping to see the Cubs give him. That kind of competition, together with the lack of pitching in the free agent market, is going to yield a contract that will surprise you. So, well, now you may no longer consider yourself surprised.
In recent years, because of the explosion of money in the game and because of the ballooning of prices for surer things, lottery tickets like Ross, recovering from injury, have still netted a healthy guarantee for the upcoming season, often without the benefit of a team option attached thereafter. Many teams feel it’s worth the $5 or $6 million roll of the dice to take a chance, the downside of which is merely a loss of that money. The upside is, for one very recent example, Rich Hill this past season.
In other words, it’s not safe to say that the Cubs will be *THE* team in on Ross, even if there was clear past interest. I’m sure they’ll follow along with his rehab process, and may well be among the suitors at the end. But there will be plenty of teams checking in.