The general expectation about this year’s non-tender deadline is that it would see a significantly greater number of players than normal cut loose by their teams. The COVID-19 season completed led to a sharp reduction in revenue for all teams, something which will turn into smaller payrolls for 2021. With guaranteed contracts not going anywhere, one obvious route to saving money is to decline team options and non-tender players under team control. We already saw the team do the former, saying “Thanks, but no thanks” to pitchers Junior Guerra, Mike Leake and Hector Rondon, with the former ending up being released, despite being potentially arbitration eligible.
This meant the team only had three such players to consider, and all of them were more or less no-brainers. All will be entering their first year of arbitration (Carson Kelly does so as a Super Two, meaning he will have four season of arbitration, rather than the usual three), and so come relatively cheap. Kelly is estimated by MLB Trade Rumors to get a 2021 salary of $1.3 million, with Caleb Smith earning the same. Luke Weaver is slightly more expensive, at $1.5 million. But presuming those numbers are right, locking up all three for only a little more than four million dollars still makes enormous economic sense, and it was no surprise at all that they were tendered.
It’s a considerably quieter deadline for Arizona than 2019, when they had no less than ten players on whom decisions had to be made. Seven of those were tendered contracts, with three being allowed to walk. With a 100% contract rate in 2020, at least we won’t be seeing the same thing as we did this year, where 2019 non-tender, Taijuan Walker, went on to post a 2.70 ERA over 11 starts for Seattle and Toronto. Though their other pair of non-tenders, Steven Souza and Caleb Joseph, did nothing to prove the D-backs were wrong in those decisions. [I also note the Reds non-tendered Archie Bradley, after trading for him at the deadline]
The players who were non-tendered elsewhere now become part of the free-agent pool this winter. It’ll be interesting to see if the D-backs kick the tires on any of them. GM Mike Hazen has said that the main targets include relief pitching and a right-handed bat for the outfield, and there are certainly no shortage of possible candidates for those positions. MLB Trade Rumors has a handy Google sheet for tracking non-tenders: anyone you think the D-backs should be looking at?