The next batch of players all received between 75-85% of “Yes” opinions, across the 482 respondents, when asked whether or not they should be tendered an offer for next season. That’s a solid vote of support, and it’s likely all five men will indeed see their services retained, by the time of the deadline at the end of the month. But each also has question marks over their candidacy, of varying shapes and sizes, and that’s why they fell short of the neat-unanimous choices we looked at last time.
Taijuan Walker (26), Arb-2 = $4.83M: 84.1%
For Taijuan, the obvious issue is health. Walker underwent Tommy John surgery to repair his elbow on April 25, so will not be back until well into next season. If the timeline followed by fellow TJ-victim Patrick Corbin is matched, we should see Taijuan back in the the majors around the beginning of August. The alternative would be to non-tender him, clearing a spot on the 40-man roster, and then re-sign Walker to a lower-rate contract for this season. But that would lead to a potential risk of another team swooping in, and with Walker also under team control for the 2020 season, that’s probably not a chance the team will be willing to take.
Jake Lamb (28), Arb-2 = $4.7M: 83.2%
Health also plays a part in the Lamb equation as well, a radical change. Having averaged 150 games over 2016-17, Jake appeared in only 56 this season. His left shoulder was the problem, injured in a game against the Dodgers on April 2. Even when he returned in May, Lamb wasn’t “right”. It appears the lingering effects on the shoulder were affecting his mechanics, and his season ended with surgery in early August. A healthy Jake would certainly have a spot on the roster, despite his struggles against left-handed pitching, and it will be interesting to see if the team looks to snag a platoon partner at the hot corner to work with Lamb next season, or just use one of the bevy of infield switch-hitters.
Andrew Chafin (29), Arb-2 = $1.8M: 82.4%
Much like Archie Bradley, Chafin’s year was a season of two halves. Before the break, the left-handed reliever’s ERA was 1.59, and there was no doubt about a tender for the Sheriff. But his ERA more than quadrupled after the break, with Chafin posting a 6.46 ERA over the second half. His main issue was first-batter inefficiency: not getting them out, so much as putting them on. He held them to a .197 average but allowed 16 walks/HBP to 77 such hitters, compared to 9 over 134 subsequent batters. As a result, Chafin had 11 appearances where he failed to retire a batter, most in the majors this season, giving up four hits and eleven walks in those appearances.
T.J. McFarland (30), Arb-2 = $1.4M: 79.1%
Going the other direction was McFarland, who rebounded from a poor 2017 campaign to post an ERA exactly at two this year. Perhaps the nay-sayers here were still feeling burned by the previous seasons, and certainly, McFarland didn’t overpower anyone. His 5.25 K/9-rate ranked dead last among the 148 relievers with 50+ IP in the majors this year. But over the past two seasons, his groundball percentage (67.5%) has been almost indistinguishable from Brad Ziegler (68.2%). This year, those turned into groundball outs, with his BABIP dropping 55 points. Is that sustainable? McFarland’s FIP was less than half a run better in 2018, not the 3.3 drop his ERA showed, perhaps explaining some of the skepticism here.
Steven Souza Jr. (30), Arb-2 = $4M: 77.4%
Much as with Lamn, injury appears to be have been a significant factor in a disappointing season. Much was expected from Souza, after the three-way trade with the Yankees and Rays in February. But he injured his right pectoral during spring training, and after he came back in May, re-aggravated the injury, causing the outfielder to miss a further six weeks. Even when healthy, the results were underwhelming. Souza had a 77 OPS+ and provided only mediocre defense, leaving Steven below replacement level by both bWAR and fWAR. Most respondents gave him the benefit of the doubt, but a significant minority - close to a a quarter - have already seen enough. It suggests fans will no give Souza much of a leash, should he struggle out of the gates next April.