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7 interesting non-tendered players the White Sox could consider

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 non-tendered three players of their own: Danny Mendick, Adam Engel, and Mark Payton, to bring their 40-man roster down to 35 players.

Yesterday, a total of 26 players were non-tendered, which is significantly down from the total of 40 non-tenders from last season. With the White Sox looking to add to several areas of their team in 2023 and apparently not having much of a budget to do it with, non-tendered players are a great place to begin to search for low-cost, high-reward players to fill needs.

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 the deadline come and gone, here are seven intriguing non-tendered players the White Sox could at least consider for a role on their 2023 team.

Alex Reyes

Former Team: St. Louis Cardinals
2021 Statistics: 72.1 IP, 30.0 K%, 16.4 BB%, 3.24 ERA, 4.40 FIP, 0.2 fWAR

Reyes was once touted as one of the best prospects in all of baseball, regularly being featured on top-100 lists. He was ranked as high as fourth on Baseball America’s 2017 rankings on the foundation of his elite, triple-digit fastball and curveball.

Since then, however, it’s been far from expectations for Reyes. The only thing that’s been consistent in his career has been injuries, throwing just 26.2 innings from 2018-2020 combined and being converted from a starter to a reliever as a result. His 2021 season was the most successful of his career, as he compiled 72.1 innings and posted a 3.24 ERA as a Cardinals’ closer. However, injury problems returned again in 2022, and Reyes underwent season-ending shoulder surgery in May, wiping out his season and leading the Cardinals to move on from him.

When he is on the field, however, Reyes’ stuff has been as good as advertised. With an average fastball in the upper-90s and a high-spin curveball, he makes a very attractive reclamation project for a lot of teams. Given that he’s only 28 years old, plenty of teams should be willing to take a chance on him, including the White Sox. With the team already having some high-leverage release arms, the White Sox could slowly bring him along in a mid-relief role and add him to high-leverage situations as they see fit. Like many names on this list, he is a low-risk, high-reward player.

Cody Bellinger

Former Team: Los Angeles Dodgers
2022 Statistics: .210/.265/.389, 19 HR, .284 wOBA, 83 wRC+, 1.7 fWAR

There are going to be close to 20 teams likely lined up and prepared to take a chance at Cody Bellinger this offseason. The former MVP has dropped off in recent seasons, to put it kindly:

  • 2017-2019: .278/.368/.559, .380 wOBA, 140 wRC+
  • 2021-2022: .203/.272/.376, .281 wOBA, 78 wRC+

You don’t see this happen all too often, and it’s not entirely clear what has happened to Bellinger. There has been a lot written about the shoulder injury he suffered during the 2020 playoffs and how that may have affected him long-term. Nagging injuries played a part in his 2021 season as well, but again, the drop-off here is truly incredible.

Regardless, Bellinger has still been a pretty solid defender, despite his offensive shortcomings. He posted +7 Outs Above Average (OAA) in CF in 2022, and in the past, has been a solid defender at first base as well. So, at the very least, Bellinger brings a solid defensive resume to the table.

While it’s a fair case to make that any team should be willing to take a chance on a former MVP, it’s also a fair case to make that if the Dodgers can’t fix a player, who can? Regardless, Bellinger is a clear “change of scenery” candidate that, while he may not be a great primary option, he definitely should be an option that the White Sox consider. Given that the team only has one true outfielder on their 40-man roster, they’re going to have to add outfielders one way or another.

Luke Weaver

Former Team: Seattle Mariners/Kansas City Royals
2022 Statistics: 35.2 IP, 21.8 K%, 7.5 BB%, 6.56 ERA, 2.69 FIP, 0.5 fWAR

Once one of the top names as part of the deal that sent Paul Goldschmidt to St. Louis, Weaver really hasn’t panned out the way the Diamondbacks had originally hoped. After the team moved on from him in Arizona, he spent the 2022 season in Kansas City in the bullpen, posting an interesting 6.56 ERA/5.45 xERA/2.69 FIP slash that pairs poor results against some semblance of potential for improvement.

His arsenal is primarily a three-pitch mix of a fastball, changeup, and slider while mixing in the occasional curveball, cutter, and sinker. He features a high-spin fastball with a changeup that had a 29% whiff rate on it in 2022, giving him a true out-pitch that teams can work off of.

Weaver may be beyond his starting days after the Royals moved him into the bullpen this season, but he can serve as a Davis Martin-like swingman with some upside. If the White Sox are looking for some sort of Vince Velasquez-esque $3M project this offseason, the 29-year-old Weaver wouldn’t be a bad place to turn in hopes that he can experience some of his past success in short stints.

Jorge Alfaro

Former Team: San Diego Padres
2022 Statistics: .246/.285/.383, 7 HR, .291 wOBA, 90 wRC+, 0.5 fWAR

If the White Sox want to add to their catching tandem heading into 2023, Alfaro would be an interesting place to turn. Beloved in San Diego, Alfaro spent time in Philadelphia and Miami before spending the 2022 season with the Padres.

Alfaro comes with plenty of boom-or-bust power potential, hitting seven home runs in 274 plate appearances last season but also striking out 35.8% of the time. Like many right-handed hitters, he is better against LHP than RHP, but he has become a sort of defense-first catcher.

The soon-to-be 30-year-old brings a strong defensive resume behind the plate. Listed in the 96th percentile in Pop Time but just the 32nd percentile in Framing, Alfaro presents himself as the perfect pair to Yasmani Grandal behind the plate in terms of complementing each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

Should the White Sox feel they can improve more with Jorge Alfaro behind the plate than staying with the incumbent backup in Seby Zavala, Alfaro could be worth a flier in an organization that could use some catching depth regardless.

Brian Anderson

Former Team: Miami Marlins
2022 Statistics: .222/.311/.346, 8 HR, .293 wOBA, 90 wRC+, 0.5 fWAR

Alfaro’s previous teammate in Miami, Anderson’s tenure in Florida appears to be coming to an end. After posting back-to-back seasons in 2019 and 2020 with an .810 OPS, Anderson has slowly seen his numbers dip in the opposite direction over the past two seasons. After posting respectable numbers (.715 OPS) in 2021, his OPS dipped below .700 for the first time in his career in 2022. He’s been bit by the injury bug over the past few seasons, playing just 67 games in 2021 and 98 games in 2022 due to a variety of injuries that include lower back spasms, left shoulder subluxation, a left oblique strain, and a fractured finger.

When Anderson was at his best, however, he was actually hitting RHP better than he was LHP:

  • 2019-2020: .829 OPS vs. RHP / .755 OPS vs. LHP
  • 2022: .633 OPS vs. RHP / .746 OPS vs. LHP

2021 was a bit of an odd year for Anderson, where he had an .803 OPS vs. RHP but only a .428 OPS vs. LHP. So, I didn’t really know what to make of that one when I wrote up those stats above.

After being part of an organization that’s undergone a lot of overhaul in the past few seasons, perhaps a change of scenery along with some improved health could benefit Anderson. He does have the ability to play both 3B and LF/RF, though with Yoan Moncada pretty set at 3B, Anderson would likely serve as a utility option at both positions. He’s been passable in the OF when he’s been out there, usually putting up -3 OAA on average over 100+ outfield attempts. Though, to be fair, playing the outfield in Miami is a bit harder than playing the outfield in Chicago.

He may not feel like the most natural fit on this team, but given that the White Sox have question marks both at the backup 3B position and in the corner outfield spots, perhaps Anderson fits better than it may seem at first. He has one of the highest ceilings on this list because his past successes really aren’t that far in the past.

Reyes Moronta

Former Team: Arizona Diamondbacks
2022 Statistics: 37.2 IP, 23.6 K%, 11.2 BB%, 4.30 ERA, 4.41 FIP, 0.1 fWAR

We conclude our list with a couple more low-risk, high-rewards relievers who aren’t too far removed from their most recent successes. From 2017-2021 in San Francisco, the 30-year-old Moronta threw 132.1 innings, posting a 2.65 ERA, 3.44 FIP, and 29.5% strikeout rate before heading to Los Angeles before the 2022 season. After unsuccessful stints in both Los Angeles and Arizona last season, he finds himself a free agent with a lot of potential without a ton of wear on his arm in previous seasons.

That being said, he did lose both the 2020 and 2021 seasons to a shoulder injury, and upon coming back, battled with generally diminished stuff. His fastball did get some of its life back last season, averaging 95.3 mph, but it’s still a far cry from the 97.2 mph he averaged on his fastball in 2019 – his last full season before the injury. The rest of his arsenal features two high-whiff rate pitchers in his slider (46.5% whiff rate) and changeup (33.3% whiff rate), though his changeup was used in an incredibly limited sample this year.

The White Sox are a team in an advantageous position, at current, in their bullpen because of how back-heavy it is in terms of roles and responsibilities. The White Sox don’t necessarily *need* to bring in players who HAVE to be high-leverage relievers right now: Kendall Graveman, Aaron Bummer, Reynaldo Lopez, Liam Hendriks, Joe Kelly, and even Garrett Crochet do the job, at least on paper. However, if the team would like to take risks on former high-leverage relievers (Moronta has a career .270 wOBA against him in 38.1 high-leverage innings) that can sit in middle relief roles, both Moronta and the next name on this list fit that role well.

Josh James

Former Team: Houston Astros
2021 Statistics: 5.0 IP, 38.1 K%, 9.5 BB%, 5.40 ERA, 3.77 FIP, 0.0 fWAR

In 2019, Josh James looked like he was heading on a route toward being a pretty effective mid-inning reliever for the Astros. However, a few seasons of injury and inconsistency led the team to non-tender James this season. The organization announced on Oct. 1 that James underwent season-ending surgery on his flexor tendon after spending most of this season rehabbing a previous hip surgery and lat strain.

When healthy, James features a three-pitch mix of a fastball, slider, and changeup, and at his best in 2019, he had 50% whiff rates or higher on both his slider (54.9%) and changeup (50.7%). His fastball is also an above-average-spin, high-whiff rate pitch, sitting anywhere from 29%-45% throughout his career. In short: he has really good stuff when healthy.

The White Sox – like most teams – are no strangers to reclamation projects who have great stuff. Much like Alex Reyes, Reyes Moronta, and, to an extent, Luke Weaver, James fits right into this category. On a team that just won the World Series, the Astros probably didn’t feel they were in a position to need James any longer – they are the Houston Astros at the end of the day.

The risk is minimal, given that his projected arbitration salary would’ve been $800K, so he’s not going to make much elsewhere anyway. When you’re working on a budget, as the White Sox appear to be, you need to take risks like this in the hopes that at least one of them pans out. James is as good a candidate as anyone for it to find a way to work out.

Final Thoughts

Other Players Considered: Jeimer Candelario, Dominic Smith, Luke Voit, Erick Fedde

I’ve written an article like this over the past four years now, and honestly, this was the season with the most intriguing options on the market after the non-tender deadline. It makes sense why there were so few non-tenders comparatively this season – based on a combination of player quality and just the current contract structure, there were going to be a few players that slipped through due to injury/poor seasons. There is potential here that I feel is worth exploring.

An extra-credit name for this list would be Brailyn Marquez, who was non-tendered by the Cubs today on the minor-league side of things. Once considered one of the top pitching prospects in the Cubs’ organization, Marquez has just not been able to stay healthy in recent seasons. He’s recently undergone shoulder surgery that leaves him as a total question mark, but one that some team is likely to add on a minor league deal. Perhaps some work in the White Sox organization could bring some health and stability back to this arm that has plenty of potential.

The reality of all of this non-tender talk remains the same this year as any other: if Rick Hahn and Co. want to make additions, their best choices were already on the market before Friday. However, teams always try to win on the margins, and there are some potential impact additions among this bunch, given the right coaching, the right health, and a little bit of luck.

Follow us @SoxOn35th for more throughout the offseason!

Featured Image: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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Joe Bell

Any of these fit right into the Sox plans and their budget … sub .250 average offensive players and 4.00 or higher ERA pitchers. And some couldn’t stay healthy which fits right in with what we had last year. Let’s buy our World Series tickets now before they are sold out!

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