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10 non-tendered players the White Sox should consider signing

by Jordan Lazowski

On Friday, the Non-Tender Deadline passed for the upcoming season. In short, non-tendered players are not given a contract for the upcoming season by their team and become unrestricted free agents. The White Sox did not decide to non-tender any of their players, leaving their 40-man roster full at the moment.

Yesterday, a whopping total of 63 players were non-tendered, up from just 26 players in 2022. In previous seasons I’ve written this article, the White Sox were in a position where they might be interested in perhaps a player or two on this list at most, given that most of their positions were settled and the general lack of high-upside talent available on the list. This time, however, with a rebuilding team in need of bodies to play, combined with a bit more talent than usually available, it would make a ton of sense for the White Sox to take flyers on several of the available non-tendered players, 10 of whom I’ve outlined below in a bit more detail.

Usually, this list is full of relievers. However, it’s an interesting list of relievers and position players this offseason, with some formerly high-profile names that you may have never expected to see on this list.

With that, let’s begin.

OF Kyle Lewis

Previous Team: Arizona Diamondbacks
2023 Statistics: 54 PA, .157/.204/.255, 38.9 K%, 5.6 BB%

If you can figure out what’s happened to Kyle Lewis since 2020, you’d be the first. Since beating out Luis Robert for Rookie of the Year in the COVID-shortened season, Lewis has been unable to recapture the magic of that season. He has battled injury and illness, and as a result, has only gotten 263 major league plate appearances since that 2020 season. His walk rate has plummeted from 14.0% in 2020 to 10.9% in 2021, all the way down to 5.6% in 54 plate appearances last season. On top of all of this, his defense has taken a step backward as well.

The Diamondbacks acquired Lewis last season in hopes that he would be able to regain his form, but due to the fact that the team was rather competitive, it was hard to find Lewis the at-bats he really would’ve needed to prove himself and prove that changes were made. With Lewis, the White Sox would be able to stick him in right field while guaranteeing him a pretty steady stream of at-bats on a team that doesn’t have a lot of locks for roster spots.

This list is full of these sorts of low-risk, high-reward type moves. Though on the surface it doesn’t appear Lewis adds much to the team, if he could even get close to his .246/.333/.392 slash line from 2021 – during which he walked 10.9% of the time – and get back to playing +2 OAA defense in CF, the White Sox would take that production.

Best case scenario, though: truly fixing Lewis would likely mean the highest reward on this list.

RP Codi Heuer

Previous Team: Chicago Cubs
2021 Statistics (DNP in 2022-23): 67.1 IP, 4.28 ERA, 3.97 FIP, 19.9 K%, 8.2 BB%

Could a reunion be in the works for the White Sox and Heuer?

The former sixth-rounder has had quite the tough road since being traded to the Cubs. After undergoing Tommy John Surgery and missing the 2022 season, it appeared Heuer was close to a return in June before fracturing his elbow. He had surgery this summer and is expected to begin a throwing program in mid-November with the hope of being ready for Opening Day.

Before his unfortunate battles with injuries, Heuer looked as though he was going to use his mid-90s fastball and wipeout slider to become a long-term high relief arm in the Cubs bullpen. Now, he will look for a new home to continue to prove himself.

With the White Sox in 2020, he saw his strikeout rate rise as high as 29% while using his unique arm slot to generate a lot of ground balls – upwards of a 50% GB rate. Heuer will pretty likely be heading to a rebuilding club as he hopes to do some rebuilding of his own value. With a familiar situation here in Chicago, it might make all the sense in the world to give Heuer a shot in a wide-open bullpen.

OF Nick Senzel

Previous Team: Cincinnati Reds
2023 Statistics: 330 PA, .236/.297/.399, 13 HR, 22.4 K%, 7.9 BB%

Senzel is a former first-round pick (#2 overall in 2016) of the Reds who never really lived up to the pedigree, leading to him being non-tendered on Friday. Senzel started as a CF/2B with the team but has since expanded his roles to include SS, a return to 3B, and both corner OF positions. As a result, his overall quality of defense has suffered, going from an above-average CF to below-average at practically every position he plays – jack of all trades, master of none. His next team should likely have him focus on his strengths.

Senzel, however, certainly does one thing well, and that’s hit LHP. For his career, he is hitting .286/.334/.459 against LHP but just .219/.288/.330 against RHP. He walks a league-average amount – around 8% for his career – and with the White Sox lacking true options in the outfield beyond Luis Robert Jr. and Andrew Benintendi, he could be worth a look in the outfield as part of a platoon – with the additional hope that specializing once again in the outfield improves the defense back to its better days. He also seemed to be well-liked in the Reds’ clubhouse, which certainly never hurts a team.

If you’re looking for a ceiling to shoot for, Senzel hit .256/.315/.327 with 12 home runs in his rookie season in 2019. It’s not overly impressive, but you would likely take that as part of a platoon, in which he hit .316/.371/.526 against LHP that year. The 29-year-old will be looking to prove something next season – why not give him a shot to do it here?

RHP Spencer Turnbull

Previous Team: Detroit Tigers
2023 Statistics: 31.0 IP, 7.26 ERA, 5.55 FIP, 16.6 K%, 10.3 BB%

Turnbull was on a very different trajectory back in 2021 before undergoing Tommy John Surgery, with fans at the time believing Turnbull was cementing a place in the Tigers’ future. In his first nine starts that season, he had a 2.88 ERA/2.95 FIP while walking just 6.0% of batters. This was following a strong 2020 campaign in which he posted a 3.97 ERA/3.49 FIP. When he came back this season, however, he was completely ineffective and looked as though he had missed significant time on the mound.

Those more familiar with the situation in Detroit believe the relationship between Turnbull and the team had soured recently, which may help to explain the team’s decision to non-tender him even as they navigate a rebuild of their own.

The 31-year-old sports a five-pitch mix with above-average movement on all of his pitches except his fastball. His changeup moves the most out of all his pitches, while his fastball will usually sit in the mid-90s – though he also throws a sinker that would serve as a better option, given the lack of life on the fastball. His slider and curveball are both solid offerings as well.

Overall, there’s a lot to like about Turnbull, and the profile is certainly intriguing enough to take a chance on for a team without really any other strong options. Someone is going to have to pitch a lot of innings for the White Sox in 2024 – perhaps Turnbull could go a long way in reviving his own career with a team that will have plenty of chances to give him.

RHP Josh Staumont

Previous Team: Kansas City Royals
2023 Statistics: 20.0 IP, 5.40 ERA, 3.76 FIP, 27.0 K%, 14.6 BB%

Staumont is a great case of why bad teams should usually sell high on relievers before it’s too late. In 91.1 innings from 2020-2021, Staumont was among the best relievers in baseball and appeared to be heading toward a strong career. His ERA sat at 2.76 while striking out 29% of hitters. Though the Royals didn’t have a great path toward contention ahead, they decided to hold onto him. But, in 2022, the injury bug began to bite the right-hander, with a long battle with various injuries culminating in him undergoing Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Surgery after just 29 innings this season.

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome is no joke for pitchers, and they don’t bounce back from it nearly as well as those with Tommy John Surgery do due to the relative uncertainty surrounding the procedure. Knowing this, and knowing that Staumont could miss at least part of the 2024 season due to the surgery, he is certainly a risk that competing teams probably won’t feel comfortable relying on. That is where teams like the White Sox come in, and should all go well, the White Sox would retain some control over him, given his previous contract status with the Royals.

When he was at his best, Staumont was throwing a fastball that averaged 98 mph and just 10″ of Vertical Break – well above average for a pitcher. His curveball was an incredible secondary offering, and in recent seasons, he experimented with both a splitter and slider. Perhaps, once healthy, focusing on regaining his top-shelf velocity and elite-moving curveball would be the best road ahead for Staumont – though regaining the velocity is never a sure thing, and he was only averaging 95.6 mph on his fastball this season.

Again, you get the theme at this point: low-risk to just simply pick him up, but potentially high reward if he returns to health.

C Jacob Stallings

Previous Team: Miami Marlins
2023 Statistics: 276 PA, .191/.278/.286, 3 HR, 24.3 K%, 9.8 BB%

With Yasmani Grandal departing via free agency this offseason, the White Sox are in need of a catcher to tandem with Korey Lee. After being traded to the Marlins prior to the 2022 season, Stallings ended up regressing in some of the most important areas of his game. He had a history of being a strong framing and throwing cather before coming to the Marlins, both of which took tremendous steps back in Miami – though if one trait didn’t regress, it was his well above-average pitch-blocking abilities (84th percentile in 2023).

Stallings appeared to be well-liked among his teammates, though the results both at and behind the plate leave a lot to be desired, especially given that three catchers were non-tendered yesterday. At his best, Stallings posted a .704 OPS in 427 PA with the Pirates in 2021, which would be more than welcomed to most teams behind the plate, especially as a backup catcher.

In an incredibly thin catching market, Stallings would still likely be more of a pick-up if the White Sox strike out on some of their leading catching tandem options – though he does have enough of a pedigree to justify the signing in the first place.

1B/DH Rowdy Tellez

Previous Team: Milwaukee Brewers
2023 Statistics: 351 PA, .215/.291/.376, 13 HR, 24.5 K%, 10.0 BB%

If the White Sox are planning to trade Eloy Jimenez, someone is going to have to join Luis Robert Jr. in hitting home runs for the 2024 White Sox. Enter Rowdy Tellez, who suffered a bit of a down season after launching 35 home runs in 2022. He continued to get on base via walks at a well-above-average rate, though if it’s not already clear, Tellez’s profile is largely built around home runs and walks. When those two are coming to the table, things are awesome. When they aren’t, things are rough.

As a team that has been pushing a defense-first agenda, Tellez obviously doesn’t fit incredibly well on the South Side. In addition, should the White Sox decide against trading Jimenez, there likely is no room on the roster for a player like Tellez. But someone with 30+ homer upside that’s actually proven capable of doing it before would certainly be a fun addition to the lineup, depending on how the chips may fall with how the rest of the roster shakes up.

C Andrew Knizner

Previous Team: St. Louis Cardinals
2023 Statistics: 241 PA, .241/.288/.424, 10 HR, 25.7 K%, 5.0 BB%

Once considered to be the heir apparent to Yadier Molina, Knizner has seen himself get passed by free agent signee Willson Contreras, as well as a smattering of other minor leaguers when it comes to playing time.

Overall, he’s been a pretty average defensive catcher overall, with his biggest struggles coming in the framing department. However, he’s been above-average on blocks, so much like with Stallings on this list, there are some pros and cons. His bat has long been his biggest issue, with it never really standing the test of true MLB starter-quality material. To his credit, his 11 doubles and 10 home runs this season in 241 plate appearances helped push his OPS above .700 despite a batting average and on-base percentage that both started with a “2.”

With a profile that is not very on-base based, Knizner doesn’t add much in terms of unique, tangible talent that the White Sox don’t have. However, Knizner was apparently well-liked in the Cardinals clubhouse, and many pitchers reportedly preferred throwing to him over starting catcher Willson Contreras. In addition, Cardinals fans were a bit surprised by the move to non-tender him as well.

Reading into all of these could raise valid questions about how seriously teams should pursue Knizner. For now, from the White Sox’s perspective: someone who can help catch part of 162 games is an immediate step up from, well, nothing. The catching market is pretty barren at present, so picking someone that pitchers like throwing to as a backup to Korey Lee wouldn’t be a bad option.

LHP Tim Hill

Previous Team: San Diego Padres
2023 Statistics: 44.1 IP, 5.48 ERA, 5.49 FIP, 12.9 K%, 6.9 BB%

A former Royal before heading to San Diego prior to the 2020 season, Hill has certainly seen a drop off in terms of strikeouts – though not necessarily results outside of 2023 – since his best days. However, he is still great at things that should be important to the White Sox: limiting walks (6.9 BB% in 2023) and soft contact (5.1 Barrel% in 2023). He comes from a funky arm slot that helps him be a ground ball machine, as he posted a 63.5% ground ball rate in 2023. If the White Sox are serious about prioritizing infield defense on their 2024 team, someone like Hill would make a ton of sense, given his profile.

Given that Hill will enter his age-34 season, he will likely be looking to be picked up by a true contender. However, with the White Sox losing Aaron Bummer, they don’t have a true lefty option out of the bullpen – especially if the team commits to a starting role for Garrett Crochet. If you squint hard enough, Hill is almost a direct replacement for Aaron Bummer in terms of repertoire – funky lefty with a high ground ball rate. He’s a competitor too, so if you’re a fan of the team’s emphasis on “culture,” Hill may be a player you enjoy.

RHP Dakota Hudson

Previous Team: St. Louis Cardinals
2023 Statistics: 81.1 IP, 4.98 ERA, 5.06 FIP, 12.7 K%, 9.6 BB%

Rounding out the list is another former Cardinal. Dakota Hudson’s 2018-2021 stretch involved 250 innings of 3.14 ERA baseball, though the 4.66 FIP over that same time period likely should’ve signaled things to come. Almost hilariously, Hudson posted a 4.64 ERA from 2022-2023, covering another 220 innings over that span. Part of Hudson’s struggles can be attributed to a pitch-to-contact approach that has seen his average fastball drop from 94.1 mph to 91.3 mph while not offering much in terms of strong secondary pitches. He does get ground balls, however, posting a 51.7% ground ball rate in 2023.

The Cardinals have recently come out and admitted that their approach of developing “pitch-to-contact” pitchers wasn’t viable in the modern game anymore, so the decision to part ways with Hudson makes sense. Perhaps the next team Hudson signs with can work to bring the velocity back to his fastball – though his sinker is likely his best pitch. Could teams try and add some velocity, improve the shape of the sinker, and work with either Hudson’s slider or curveball to develop a true secondary offering? His changeup already serves as a decent enough third pitch. It would be a lot of work for a team without the promise of a reward to follow.

Despite his struggles last season, Hudson has usually been pretty good at avoiding loud contact but has had his fair share of struggles with command. He doesn’t have stuff that would project to make this signing a “steal” by any sense of the word, but with the White Sox prioritizing their defense this offseason, bringing in a pitch-to-contact pitcher or even working to re-shape Hudson may actually be a viable strategy for the team that will just need as many arms as possible to fill spots.

Final Thoughts

Other Players Considered: Austin Nola, Josh Fleming, Daniel Vogelbach, Garrett Hampson, Austin Meadows, Yonny Chirinos

If you were expecting to be blown away by this list, I take it you’ve made it to this point rather disappointed. Believe me when I tell you, though: this list was still more intriguing than those of years past.

Obviously, this isn’t meant to be the world’s most inspiring list of major leaguers: if they were truly elite, low-risk players, they wouldn’t have been non-tendered in the first place. The reality of all of this non-tender talk remains the same this year as any other: if Chis Getz wants to make additions, his best choices were already on the market before Friday. 

However, all of the players mentioned above could reasonably be shipped for prospects at the trade deadline or signed to a longer-term deal if things worked out well over the course of the 2024 season. It’s a smart strategy for a rebuilding team to practice: acquire as many players as you can that you could conceivably flip for more value at the deadline. If done right, it’s a very easy way to build true depth for a winning team in the future.

We will see what Chris Getz and Co. come up with for the offseason.

Follow us @SoxOn35th for more throughout the offseason!

Featured Image: Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

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