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Intriguing Non-Tendered Options for the White Sox

by Jordan Lazowski
Published: Last Updated on

Last night was the non-tender deadline for arbitration-eligible players in Major League Baseball. In short, non-tendered players are not given a contract for the upcoming season by their team and become unrestricted free agents. For the White Sox, Nomar Mazara and Carlos Rodon were both non-tendered, while the White Sox reached an agreement with Jace Fry. For the rest of the arbitration-eligible White Sox (Lucas Giolito, Evan Marshall, Adam Engel, Reynaldo Lopez), the player and team can either agree on a deal or go to an arbitration hearing in early 2021. The next few weeks will give us more information here.

However, Mazara and Rodon were just two of the 59 players who were non-tendered yesterday. With the White Sox looking to add to several areas of their team in 2021, non-tendered players are a great place to begin to search for low-cost, high-value players to fill needs. Usually, there’s an abundance of relief pitchers here – this year is no exception.

With the deadline come and gone, here are five intriguing non-tendered players that I’d like the White Sox to at least be considering for a role on their 2021 team.

Kyle Schwarber, OF/DH

Upside: I’ve written enough articles to know how well this suggestion is going to be received, so that’s why I led with it to get it out of the way. Let’s talk about why I think Kyle Schwarber is a good fit for the White Sox. This team has a need for a player that hits RHP well, that is no secret. Schwarber has done that in his career on the North Side, hitting .230/.336/.480 (.816 OPS) against them with a .343 wOBA and 113 wRC+. These numbers are solid and speak to a player who can hit the ball out of the ballpark. He also walks at a career 13.0% rate, which would easily put him near the top of the team in this category. His BaseballSavant scorecard is also solid, despite his rough 2020 campaign.

Despite just a 90 wRC+ and .393 SLG in 2020, Schwarber clearly hits the ball hard when he puts it in play. This is valuable. In fact, his xSLG in 2020 was .444, and while his wOBA was .302, his xwOBA was .330. This, combined with Schwarber’s career-low 8.8 degree average launch angle, leads me to believe there were some changes made to his approach that didn’t necessarily benefit him. I don’t think the 2020 Kyle Schwarber is the true version.

Andrew Vaughn is not yet ready for the South Side since he has not played above A-ball. He will likely start the year in AAA. This would necessitate a player to take those at-bats at DH to start the 2021 season, a role that suits Schwarber perfectly. Additionally, once Vaughn is ready to go, Schwarber becomes a power left-handed bat off the bench. This is important, because with a bench that projects to have Danny Mendick, Adam Engel, and Leury Garcia potentially on it, the late-inning power options are few.

Risk: Schwarber obviously adds a lot of swing-and-misses to a lineup that already has a lot of swing-and-miss potential. His career 27% strikeout rate isn’t ideal in a lineup that already strikes out a lot. He’s also a butcher in the outfield, making Eloy Jimenez look like a Gold Glove winner. He would be nothing more than an emergency replacement for an injured OF when it comes to defense. Additionally, he has a career 75 wRC+ against LHP, so he wouldn’t be in the lineup on days the Sox are facing a lefty.

Final Thoughts: Schwarber is an intriguing option – his power potential is undeniable, he gets on base, and he can help with RHP while the White Sox wait on Vaughn. Schwarber will likely get the chance to be a full-time player elsewhere, but it doesn’t mean the Sox shouldn’t kick the tires on him and see if he loves Chicago enough to stay local.

Adam Duvall, OF/DH

Upside: There’s an early pattern here – powerful corner outfield type players. Duvall returned to his old form in 2019 and 2020, posting two consecutive seasons with a wRC+ over 115 and a wOBA over .345. He even hit 16 home runs in just 57 games this season. Duvall’s BaseballSavant scorecard isn’t anything to drool over, but it shows a player who hits the ball hard and hits it out of the park.

Though he is a RHB, Duvall still fits well in the Sox’ lineup. He had a 111 wRC+ and .813 OPS against RHP in 2020 while killing LHP to the tune of a 133 wRC+ and .894 OPS. He’s not going to hurt you in the outfield, but he’s not going to be stellar either. He’s clearly a bat-first option and might be someone the Sox prefer to DH for the first few weeks/months before Andrew Vaughn instead. However, he could easily serve as a defensive replacement in the case of an injury, and the power off the bench is obvious.

Risk: Much of Duvall’s damage in 2020 came over a 10-15 game span around the middle of the season (around the black box below). Now, while there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, it speaks to a player who was far more average over the 2020 season than his numbers might say.

Additionally, his career 27% K% and 7% BB% are pretty similar to what the White Sox already have – the Sox should be looking for a player in RF who can add something different to the lineup. His expected statistics also weren’t great:

2019: .360 wOBA, .320 xwOBA
2020: .342 wOBA, .324 xwOBA

It looks like there might be some luck involved in Duvall’s performance, considering his hard-hit percentage is rather average.

Final Thoughts: I don’t know what Duvall’s market will look like – that will largely be determined by whether or not the NL adopts the DH moving forward. However, as a player who can provide some offense from a corner OF position while also not being a complete butcher, I wouldn’t hate it if the Sox kicked the tires on Duvall if their primary RF options didn’t pan out. I think he gets a full-time job somewhere though.

Matt Wisler, RP

Upside: Hello, intriguing relief pitching options. Matt Wisler threw just two types of pitches in 2020: a slider (83%) and a fastball (17%). These overwhelming numbers didn’t matter to Wisler, as he fooled hitters left and right on his way to posting some of the best reliever numbers in baseball: .146 xBA, .274 xSLG, 1.07 ERA, and 2.74 xERA. While he walked around 13% of batters, his BaseballSavant scorecard is awesome.

Wisler would be a clear back of the bullpen-type arm that the White Sox could add for cheap. I would anticipate that many teams will be calling Wisler and inquiring about his services.

Risk: While this is the second solid season in a row Wisler has put together, in his career, there is a sharp difference between his performance in 2020 and his general career numbers. Anyone who signs Wisler likely understands his 2020 form isn’t necessarily achievable every year – it truly was an incredible year for Wisler. However, the risk teams take is assuming that he has actually taken a step forward in his career. To his credit, his expected metrics back up his solid 2020 season. However, the risk of signing a player based on one good season is obvious.

Final Thoughts: Wisler is one of my favorite non-tender options. I think the White Sox would be doing themselves a huge favor if they signed Wisler as their 2021 version of the Steve Cishek signing – a flexible bullpen arm that you can plug into multiple spots in the game (obviously, the hope is he pitches better than Cishek). Every team will look to upgrade on pitching depth, and a cheap signing like this will continue to allow most of the funds for 2021 to be allocated to the rotation and lineup.

Chasen Shreve, RP

Upside: Shreve is a LHRP who has spent his career pitching for the Mets, Cardinals, Yankees, and Braves. In 2020, Shreve had the best season of his career, posting a 33% K%, 3.96 ERA, 3.46 xERA, .277 xwOBA, and .208 xBA. His BaseballSavant scorecard shows a player that’s great at limiting barreled up baseballs while getting a lot of swing and miss.

Shreve is also phenomenal against LHB, as hitters had just a .500 OPS against Shreve in 2020 (RHB had a .745 OPS against). Part of this has to do with his fantastic slider, which gets almost 16% more movement than the league average. With some uncertainty surrounding Jace Fry’s performance, Shreve could easily fill his role. Additionally, Shreve has the ability to be a dependable veteran in what has become a very young bullpen for the White Sox.

Risk: Shreve’s career has been filled with plenty of up and down moments. He barely pitched through the 2019 season, and when he did, it wasn’t fantastic. Additionally, throughout his career, that trend has held: he’s either been pretty solid, or pretty terrible. He wasn’t phenomenal against right-handed hitters either, and lefty specialists are a dying breed in baseball with the three-batter minimum. Any team that signs Shreve knows there’s some risk involved despite a solid 2020 performance.

Final Thoughts: With Jace Fry and Aaron Bummer the two confirmed LHRPs in the Sox’ 2021 bullpen, the White Sox have some LHP power out of the pen. However, if the White Sox are looking for a MRP, or perhaps another play who could come in and get one big out, Shreve could certainly be worth the low-cost risk.

Ryan Tepera, RP

Upside: He was so good, he received an MVP vote this year. Enough said (kidding). Really though, Tepera had a solid season for the Cubs: 3.90 ERA, 3.72 xERA, 34.8% K%, .212 xBA, .309 xSLG, .286 xWOBA. He’s also got a nice looking BaseballSavant scorecard to go along with his stat line:

Tepera doesn’t have much closing experience, so it’s likely he would find himself in either a MRP role or potentially near the back end of the bullpen if a true closer isn’t signed. Interestingly, he was a little better against LHB (.292 wOBA) than RHB (.321 wOBA). Though he does walk around 13% of batters, Tepera did an excellent job in 2020 at keeping runners from scoring.

Risk: Much like the other relievers on this list, repeating his 2020 performance might be difficult for Tepera. He’s 33 years old and has not seen a season as successful as his 2020 campaign. The story as the other relief pitchers on this list holds true here: if you sign Tepera, you’re assuming risk in the form of hope that he performs like his 2020 self, which doesn’t have a lot of track record of holding true. However, the 2020 season was undeniably a step forward for Tepera.

Final Thoughts: Bullpen depth is easy to accumulate and easy to discard if players aren’t performing. In terms of non-tendered relief pitchers, I’d prefer the Sox to sign more of these guys rather than pass up on some low-cost, high-reward opportunities. Wisler, Shreve, and Tepera all fit this mold.

Others Considered

C: Curt Casali

The Reds simply had too many catchers and one had to go. Casali was the unfortunate casualty despite posting a .866 OPS, .372 wOBA, and 131 wRC+ in 2020. The reason I didn’t select him was exactly because of the stats above: in a weak catcher’s market, Casali will likely get the chance to start somewhere. However, if his market is weaker than anticipated, Casali would be a fantastic backup C option.

OF: David Dahl, Eddie Rosario

These were two incredibly intriguing options for me. I’ll be honest too: Dahl was originally in my top 5. What really soured me on him was his overall outlook as a risky bet to perform in RF, along with some personal concern that the Coors Effect (look at his career home/road splits) and a .368 BABIP might’ve had an impact on his all-star season in 2019. His 26% strikeout rate and 6.5% walk rate in his career line up similarly to the rest of the White Sox lineup and his career 81 wRC+ against LHP likely relegates him to a platoon player. At the end of the day, he didn’t feel like a better option than Mazara, so, naturally, watch him go to a rebuilding team and break out. Rosario has a similar story in his platoon splits, but his defense is among the worst in the league. Though, to his credit, he has posted above a 100 wRC+ in every season since his rookie year.

At the end of the day, their general player makeup wasn’t as appealing to me as the other names I listed ahead of them.

SP: Jose Urena, Carlos Rodon

After being DFA’d by the Marlins, I could see a world in which Urena is signed to a minor league deal for depth with the opportunity to make the team as a fifth starter. Urena doesn’t come without his baggage, as he’s the pitcher who’s known for his personal feud with Ronald Acuna while not pitching particularly well enough to think he should have the respect from a superstar like Acuna to not pimp home runs. This move would leave me lukewarm, as he is a far cry from some of his better seasons.

As for Rodon, I’m not convinced we’ve seen the last of Carlos. I think it’s far more likely that he signs somewhere he is guaranteed a starting spot, but at the same time, I think a reunion with the White Sox and new pitching coach Ethan Katz could potentially help Rodon find the success he was projected to have coming out of the draft. Depth is a good thing, and I’m not sure what Rodon’s market will look like. Would he rather take a guaranteed starting job for a rebuilding team or a shot on a playoff-bound team? I’m not sure.

RP: John Brebbia, Archie Bradley, Ryne Stanek, Jonathan Holder, Hansel Robles

Relief pitching is always hard to choose, because there are always a lot of appealing things about each option. Each of these players had something that stuck out to me: high spin rate, a lot of horizontal/vertical movement, or their expected statistics against, for example. However, results matter too, and for a team that is “World Series or bust” in 2021, I prioritized players who delivered while having those solid metrics at the same time.

The White Sox’ offseason is just beginning, and many will argue that the Non-Tender Deadline is the time when the offseason really starts to get going. Look for the White Sox to, at the very least, pick one or two names out of the 59 non-tendered players to add to the team as a non-roster invite to Spring Training. Hopefully, at the same time, the White Sox consider some of the players listed above as well, seeing as their path to the roster is much clearer because of the value they can bring.

Good to be talking about transactions again. Let’s get this offseason moving.

Thoughts? Did I miss any good names? Let me know below/on Twitter! @jlazowski14

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