The Boston Red Sox on Wednesday brought back the two players — infielder Marco Hernandez and left-handed pitcher Josh Osich — who they chose to cut ahead of Monday’s deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible/pre-arbitration players.
Hernandez and Osich each signed a one-year contract, bringing Boston’s 40-man roster to 36 players just days before the Major League Baseball winter meetings kick off in San Diego.
Now, should the Red Sox look at external options who were non-tendered by their respective organizations? Boston is aiming to trim payroll this offseason, something worth considering amid the team’s wheeling and dealing, but some notable names just hit the open market.
MLB Trade Rumors has the complete list of players non-tendered Monday. While one might be inclined to gloss over it given the low profile of most of the names included, especially when juxtaposed with the biggest stars available in this year’s free agency class, it’s still worth considering, for the Red Sox theoretically could fish in that pond this winter if new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom makes good on the club’s desire to cut costs while reshaping the roster.
We won’t break down every single player non-tendered — apologies to the Ian Gibaut and Jason Adam superfans of the world — but let’s evaluate a few recognizable names.
Travis Shaw, 1B/2B/3B
Shaw, drafted by the Red Sox in 2011, spent parts of two seasons with Boston before Dave Dombrowski shipped him to the Milwaukee Brewers in the ill-fated trade that netted oft-injured reliever Tyler Thornburg. He immediately became an impact player for the Brewers, slugging 31 home runs with 101 RBIs and an .862 OPS in 2017 and 32 homers with 86 RBIs and an .825 OPS in 2018. The 2019 season was disastrous for Shaw — seven homers, 16 RBIs and a .551 OPS in 270 major league plate appearances — but he can play first base, second base and third base and bats left-handed, all of which could be appealing to Boston with Mitch Moreland and Brock Holt hitting free agency.
Cesar Hernandez, 2B
The Philadelphia Phillies ultimately decided against paying Hernandez, slated to earn $11.8 million in arbitration, according to MLB Trade Rumors’ projections. But the 29-year-old has long been a steady contributor with solid on-base skills, decent enough pop and the ability to swipe an occasional bag.
Addison Russell, 2B/SS
Signing Russell would be a controversial move for any organization given the 40-game suspension he served in 2018-19 for domestic violence. It’s also fair to question how much he’ll contribute given the regression he’s shown since earning an All-Star selection in 2016, a season in which the former top prospect hit 21 home runs with 95 RBIs and a .738 OPS for the Chicago Cubs.
Jose Peraza, 2B/SS/OF
Peraza was brutal at the plate in 2019 after showing promise in 2018. This was enough for the Cincinnati Reds to move on from the 25-year-old, who, despite his offensive flaws, comes with a decent glove and plenty of speed.
Charlie Culberson, IF/OF
Culberson’s 2019 season ended prematurely because of a fractured cheek bone he suffered upon being struck by a pitch. But there’s plenty of evidence to suggest he’s a useful player when healthy given his past clutch heroics and his ability to play both the infield and corner outfield.
C.J. Cron, 1B
Cron would be a familiar face for Bloom, who witnessed the slugger’s 30-homer campaign with the Tampa Bay Rays up close in 2018. He’s by no means an ideal fit for the Red Sox — he’s a right-handed hitter, and the team might prefer a left-handed-hitting complement should it lean on Michael Chavis and/or Bobby Dalbec at first base in 2020 — but his power is no fluke.
Domingo Santana, LF/RF
Santana is a right-handed bopper who won’t wow anybody with his on-base prowess but still can make a difference with his power. He’s basically like Cron, only a corner outfielder rather than a first baseman, further decreasing the likelihood of a deal with Boston.
Kevin Pillar, CF
Long known for his defensive prowess, Pillar — projected to earn $9.7 million in his final year of arbitration, according to MLB Trade Rumors — was considered too rich for the San Francisco Giants’ blood. It’s hard to imagine the Red Sox going after Pillar given their current outfield situation — even with trade rumors surrounding both Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. — but he’s certainly an interesting option in spite of some recent regression in his glove work.
Blake Treinen, RHP
The Oakland Athletics didn’t want to pick up the tab on Treinen — projected to be $7.8 million, according to MLB Trade Rumors — and it’s not too shocking based on his unsteady performance in 2019. But we’re just one season removed from Treinen finishing sixth in American League Cy Young voting after recording 38 saves, a 0.78 ERA, a 0.83 WHIP and 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings across 68 appearances (80 1/3 innings) in 2018.
Yimi Garcia, RHP
Garcia, a Tommy John surgery recipient, posted a 3.61 ERA, a 0.87 WHIP and 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings in 64 appearances (62 1/3 innings) in 2019. The 29-year-old actually was a fairly reliable option in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ otherwise inconsistent bullpen.
Ryan Buchter, LHP
Buchter again defied advanced metrics in 2019, posting a 2.98 ERA in 64 relief appearances (45 1/3 innings) with the A’s despite a 4.96 FIP. The Red Sox could use another southpaw in their bullpen, though, and Buchter has strikeout capability (9.9 K/9 in 257 career appearances).
Junior Guerra, RHP
Guerra was used strictly as a reliever in 2019 and posted a 3.55 ERA, a 1.12 WHIP and 8.3 strikeouts per nine innings across 72 appearances (83 2/3 innings). Prior to that, Guerra worked mostly as a starter and had a few decent stretches for Milwaukee.
Jimmy Nelson, RHP
Nelson, a second-round pick in 2010, has been derailed by injuries, including shoulder surgery that forced him to miss the entire 2018 season. The 30-year-old still has some upside, though, evidenced by his 12-6 record and 3.49 ERA in 29 starts with the Brewers in 2017.
Kevin Gausman, RHP
Gausman, the fourth overall pick in 2012, hasn’t lived up to his immense potential, resulting in a move to the bullpen with the Reds in 2019. He was a serviceable starter with the Atlanta Braves and Baltimore Orioles as recently as 2018, however, and he’s coming off a career-best strikeout rate (10.0 K/9). Perhaps a team in need of pitching depth can help the soon-to-be 29-year-old finally reach the next level.
Taijuan Walker, RHP
Walker is just 27 years old. He’s been beset by injuries, limiting him to just four starts over the last two seasons, but there was a time when Walker was considered one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. Maybe, just maybe, he finally can stay healthy and become a formidable rotation piece. He owns a 31-31 record, a 3.95 ERA, a 4.21 FIP and a 1.26 WHIP in 97 career appearances (94 starts).
Aaron Sanchez, RHP
Sanchez is coming off shoulder surgery, which figures to eat into his 2020 campaign, and three straight seasons of consistency, in large because of injuries. But let’s not forget his 2016 season, when Sanchez went 15-2 with a 3.00 ERA in 30 starts with the Toronto Blue Jays while earning an All-Star selection and a seventh-place finish in AL Cy Young voting.