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Non-tendered players the Yankees should take a look at

Last Wednesday was the final day for teams to tender contract offers to all of their arbitration eligible players.  Most years, you see one or two notable names non-tendered.  The most relevant example of this happening in the context of Yankee’s baseball would be during the 2010 offseason when the Dodgers non-tendered Russel Martin allowing Brian Cashman to swoop in and sign him to a $6 million, one-year deal.  That proved to be a successful venture for the 2011 and 2012 seasons. 

This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, teams were forced to make some tough decisions.  Back in October, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred did an interview where he stated that the all 30 MLB teams posted significant losses financially.  In total, all MLB teams accumulated $8.3 billion in debt and took at least a $2.8 billion loss on operational costs.  This financial environment led to a perfect storm of candidates that would be non-tendered.  By my count, there are at least 14 players that were non-tendered that were non-tendered who probably would have been given another contract in a regular, financially viable offseason.  Some of these players could be good fits for the 2020 Yankees so Brian Cashman should take a hard look at some of the names on this year’s non-tender list.

Nomar Mazara

Signed as an amateur free agent by the Texas Rangers in July of 2011, Nomar Mazara spent five years in the Rangers’ farm system before making his debut in 2016. 

During his rookie campaign he put up mediocre numbers in 145 games producing only 0.6 WAR, a .739 OPS, and a 91 wRC+.  Given that he was only 21 years when he made his debut, he looked poised to become a player the Rangers could build around.  Instead, he never really improved on his rookie numbers and the Rangers decided to pull the plug by trading him to the Chicago White Sox. 

The change of scenery didn’t help much.  Mazara put up a .230/.295/.589 line with just one home run.  Mazara’s base salary in 2020 was $5.56 million so it was understandable that the White Sox were ready to cut him.  All that said, he is still only 25 years old and there could be some potential still yet to be unlocked.  Mazara has experience at both corner outfield positions but has mostly played right field.  The downside being that he has been a negative value player in terms of dWAR every year except the 2020 season and he was still only worth 0.1 dWAR last year. 

All his potential is in the bat.  Prior to 2020, he hit at least 19 home runs each season.  Except for 2020, his strikeout rates have been right around league average as well.  His walk rates are a different story.  His BB% has been trending down since his rookie year and has been below league average since 2018.  His hard hit and barrel percentages are about league average as well but he doesn’t pull the ball enough as a left-handed hitter.  His career pull percentage sits at 36.2% when the league average for 2020 was 41.4%.  If he were to sign a cheap deal with the Yankees, he would need to work with the hitting coaches to improve that pull percentage in order to take advantage of the short porch. 

There is talent there but Mazara would have to spend the offseason working with the coach staff learning how to take his walks, pull the ball more, and lay off a few more bad pitches.  If he can do that, it’s not hard to imagine a player hitting 30+ home runs with a much better triple slash line.  Just look at this bomb.

Eddie Rosario

A fourth round draft pick back in 2010, Eddie Rosario has spent his entire career to this point in the Minnesota Twins organization.  The 29-year-old outfielder made $7.75 million in 2020 and was slated to make substantially more in 2021 after another above average year which is why the already budget-conscious Twins decided to cut him rather than pay him.

Since his breakout year in 2017, Rosario has been nothing but exceptional.  Since 2017, Rosario’s average slash line over 162 games is .281/.317/.493 while also averaging 32 home runs and 102 RBIs.  That’s star production that just became available for nothing but cash. 

Where to play Rosario should he sign with the Yankees is another problem.  He has experience at all three outfield positions but has been the Twins’ everyday left fielder since 2017 with sporadic appearances in right and center field.  His defense overall has fluctuated each year since he became an everyday player going from not good to slightly above average.  In fact, a pattern has emerged where every other year Rosario will have a negative dWAR total and the next year have a barely positive dWAR year. 

The least we can say is that Rosario will be passable in the outfield . Where this idea gets dicey is the emergence of Clint Frazier in 2020.  It’s only a 39 game sample size, but Frazier’s .267/.394/.511 stat line with 8 home runs was amazing, especially given the improvement we saw on defense.  We also have a 69 game sample from 2019 where Frazier hit .267/.317/.489 with 12 home runs.  Those 2019 numbers look a lot like Rosario’s three-year peak from 2017 to 2020. 

Age is what works in Frazier’s favor right now because he’s only 25 years old and under team control for at least four more seasons compared to Rosario being 29 years old and not knowing what his next contract will look like.  Most non-tender candidates enter free agency trying to get a decent one-year deal in order to rebuild their value.  Rosario could opt for something like that but he is in his prime and the numbers he put up are not much different than other productive years he’s had with the Twins. 

It’s possible or maybe even likely that Rosario looks for a multi-year deal with a team.  If you want that team to be the Yankees, you have to debate Rosario vs Frazier.  Do you give Rosario a multi-year contract and bank on production similar to what he did with the Twins?  Or do you see that Frazier showed potential of being much better than Rosario in 2020 and ride with him in left field hoping that the offensive and defensive improvement translates over to a 162 game schedule?  We will see how it plays out either way but I really hope we don’t see much of this anymore.

Kyle Schwarber

Now we have the prize of the non-tendered players.  Kyle Schwarber has been on my watch-list since rumors popped up a few years ago about the Yankees having some interest in acquiring him. 

Drafted fourth overall by the Chicago Cubs in 2014, Schwarber was fast-tracked to the Major Leagues.  He made his debut one year and five days after signing his contract, on June 16, 2015.  He appeared in 69 games that year hitting 16 home runs with a .246/.355/.487 slash line.  Unfortunately, 2016 was not kind to Schwarber.  In the first series of the season, Schwarber would collide with Dexter Fowler in the outfield leading to a torn ACL and LCL.  Amazingly, he would recover in time to be added to the Cubs World Series roster that same year. 

2017 was a good bounce back year and he continued to build on that in 2018, but 2019 was the year he really came into his own.  He appeared in 155 games in 2019 with 140 them where he played left field.  Offensively, Schwarber decided to pop off with 38 home runs while hitting .250/.339/.551.  His defense wasn’t great (he had a -1.0 dWAR in 2019) but he could at least fake it in the outfield and since there was no DH in the NL in 2019, what choice did he have? 

Like many other players, 2020 was a setback for Schwarber.  The power and walks were still there (11 home runs and a 13.4% walk rate) but his batting average plummeted to a meager .188, well below the Mendoza Line.  What caused the drop off?  Well, for one thing, Schwarber was hammered by the baseball gods because despite carrying a career .273 BABIP coming into the 2020 season, he finished the 2020 season with a BABIP of .219.  Combine that with the small sample size of 59 games, and it’s really hard to finish the year with a decent batting average no matter how many walks you take. 

On the plus side, Schwarber showed he was somewhat healthy by only missing one game in the COVID shortened season.  I know I have wanted to see Schwarber in pinstripes for years but the dynamic for 2021 isn’t what it was in 2015.  Currently, the Yankees have Giancarlo Stanton penciled in for the DH slot with Clint Frazier playing left field.  Schwarber is a former catcher so it’s not out of the question he could change positions again by playing first base.  Of course, Luke Voit is going to man first base next season, so Schwarber would most likely end up splitting time between left field, first base, and designated hitter. 

The Yankees could opt to trade Frazier or Voit, move Stanton back to left field, and play Schwarber full time at either first base or DH.  It’s also possible that given the number of injuries the Yankees have had in the outfield the last few years that Schwarber will end up finding enough at-bats due to the injury bug biting the Yankees in the ass again. 

What determines Schwarber’s potential spot of the Yankees roster will be the price tag.  Schwarber will be 28-years-old when the 2021 season begins and despite a down year in 2020, showed that he could sniff 40 bombs in 2019.  Power is what pays and given the fact that he is just now entering his prime, I could easily see him pulling in a multi-year contract worth $12 million to $15 million. 

I’m not saying he won’t end up launching moon shots into the short porch.  I’m just saying given the context of the current offensive environment and the needs of the team, I wouldn’t count on it.  But hey, we can all dream about him doing this and this at Yankee Stadium, right?  Man, the Cardinals must hate this guy.