The Brewers led all of baseball by non-tendering five players before Monday’s deadline, cutting a bunch of payroll that they may or may not use all of in the coming months.
Those moves also freed up a slew of 40-man roster spots and created some very clear areas of need. Of course, the Brewers weren’t the only team to non-tender quality players -- there were more non-tenders this year than ever before -- meaning there is a group of new free agents on the market that could end up helping the Brewers, even if their old clubs didn’t value them enough to give them a raise.
Here’s a list of other players who were non-tendered on Monday but could be of interest to David Stearns and the Brewers:
Bounceback Candidate Pitchers
Aaron Sanchez: A former top prospect and All-Star for Toronto, Sanchez has struggled mightily over the past few years, ending up with the Jays dumping him to Houston at the trade deadline. There was quite a bit of buzz at the time about Sanchez’s unlocked potential and the possibility of Houston unlocking it (like they did with Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander -- albeit on a smaller scale) but that didn’t end up working out quite as expected. While he pitched better in 4 starts with with the Astros, he still struggled with walks, giving 9 free passes in 18.2 innings. Heading into his age 27 season, there’s still a chance he could provide some bullpen value for someone.
Blake Treinen: An example of the year-to-year volatility of relievers, Treinen went from All-Star and down-ballot Cy Young reliever with an 0.78 ERA with 38 saves in 68 appearances in 2018 to a 4.91 ERA in 57 appearances this past year, leading to Oakland cutting him loose. With relief pitchers in high demand this offseason, there’s already reportedly a hot market for the 31-year-old. If anyone can figure out his problem with walks in 2019 -- he went from 11.2 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 2018 to 9.1 K/9 and 5.7 BB/9 in 2019 -- they could potentially get a very solid 8th or 9th inning reliever.
Taijuan Walker: Another former top prospect, Walker has missed most of the last two years with Tommy John surgery and a shoulder strain. Now 27, Walker was able to get back in time to throw one scoreless inning this year in the Diamondbacks’ final game of the season. In his last healthy season in 2017, Walker made 28 starts with a 3.49 ERA/4.04 FIP with 146 strikeouts and 61 walks in 157.1 innings. He’s likely lost his potential as the future front-end starter many saw him as when he was a Mariners prospect, but could still hold down a backend rotation spot.
Kevin Gausman: The Brewers were reporedly interested in Gausman at the 2018 trade deadline before the Orioles ultimately shipped him to Atlanta, where he put up a 2.87 ERA in 10 starts. He blew up in 2019, though, getting shelled to the tune of a 6.19 ERA in 16 starts before the Braves eventually gave up on him. He landed in Cincinnati, where he made 15 appearances -- mostly in relief -- putting up a 4.03 ERA with 10 earned runs in 22.1 innings. While Gausman likely wasn’t as good as the numbers would indicate in 2018, he was likely better than they showed this past year, as he had a 3.98 FIP despite that 5.72 overall ERA, thanks to averaging 10 strikeouts per 9 innings and just 2.8 walks per 9.
Kevin Plawecki: The 28-year-old Plawecki hasn’t hit much if at all during his career, including a .222/.287/.342 line in Cleveland this year, but he’s decent enough defensively to possibly be a backup option. He’s been worth 17 Defensive Runs Saved behind the plate for his career -- although that’s due to the +17 rating he had there in 2015, as he’s broken even ever since -- and the metrics credit him as a decent pitch framer, coming in at 3.8 framing runs above average this past year.
C.J. Cron: A sign of MLB GMs treating power-hitting first basemen as a fungible asset that can always be had for cheaper (sorry, Eric Thames), Cron has been cut loose in back-to-back years by the Rays and Twins despite hitting a combined 55 home runs the last two seasons. Cron was projected to earn $7.7 million in arbitration before the Twins cut him loose after he had thumb surgery in late October to repair an issue that plagued him for most of the second half and likely caused his dropoff in production after a hot start. Thumb injuries for power hitters are always scary, but it could lead to someone else getting easy right-handed power for cheap.
Yolmer Sanchez: Not technically a non-tender, but we’ll put him here as he was waived ahead of the tender deadline as an arbitration-eligible player. Sanchez has largely played at second base and third base for the White Sox over the years, with some emergency time at shortstop. That kind of versatility -- and good defense at all of those positions, including 11 Defensive Runs Saved at second base and 5 DRS at third this past year -- could make him an attractive target for the Brewers, even after the acquisition of Luis Urias. He’s not a particularily strong hitter -- he hit .252/.318/.321 in 555 plate appearances for the South Siders in 2019 -- but at his best he may be a decent comp to Hernan Perez, hitting just enough to be serviceable (his best year saw him hit .267/.319/.413 in 2017) with good defense making him a solid 1-2 WAR player.
Charlie Culberson: The Braves cut Culberson loose after he hit .259/.294/.437 in 144 plate appearances over 108 games in 2019, but he had a much better season in 2018, when he hit .270/.326/.466 in 322 plate appearances. He spent a little bit of time just about everywhere defensively during his two years with the Braves, logging innings at first base, second base, third base, shorstop and all three outfield positions and playing all of them competently.
Cesar Hernandez: Hernandez has spent a little bit of time at shortstop, third base and the outfield over the years, but he’s largely been a second basemen for the Phillies before they non-tendered him. Despite his dimunitive stature -- he’s listed at 5’10” and 160 pounds -- Hernandez has managed to hit a total of 29 home runs over the past two seasons, hitting .279/.333/.408 in 2019. For his career, he’s hit .277/.352/.381, showing pretty good on-base skills, although his BB% dropped to 6.7% this past year. Also of note -- Hernandez is a switch hitter, with stronger numbers as a left-handed hitter against righties, hitting .286/.342/.438 as a lefty in 2019.
Jose Peraza: Peraza seemed to be breaking out after a 2.6-fWAR season in 2018 that saw him hit .288/.326/.416 with 14 home runs, but he struggled in 2019, posting his second negative-WAR season in three years and seeing his batting line fall down to .239/.285/.346 in 403 plate appearances. Much of that was due to him swinging more this year and making contact less, with his swinging strike rates increasing by almost 2% and his contact rates falling by almost 3%. He was still a net positive defensively on the infield, though, spending most of his innings at second base but also logging 226 innings at shortstop. He also played the outfield for 153.1 innings in 2019, but was not a particularily strong defender there.
Steven Souza, Jr.: Souza appeared to be breaking out after hitting 30 home runs and walking a ton for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2017 while hitting .239/.351/.459 and playing good defense in right field. He was traded to Arizona before the 2018 season, but has only played in 72 games since -- all in 2018 -- due to injuries. He tore his ACL, LCL and PCL in Spring Training this year and missed the entire 2019 season but is said to be back to 100 percent. The 30-year-old Souza would be an injury risk and probably shouldn’t be counted on to help carry an offense, but the lottery ticket potential is definitely there.
Domingo Santana: A reunion here is admittedly unlikely, but the Brewers could certainly use some power potential after losing Eric Thames, Yasmani Grandal, Mike Moustakas and Travis Shaw. His defensive limitations are well-known and he’s out of options, but did post an above-average wRC+ in 2018 while hitting .253/.329/.441 with 21 home runs and is still only 27 years old.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs, Baseball-Reference and Baseball Prospectus