Eye on the Prize: Why the Twins Need to Avoid Non-Tendered Free Agents
Image courtesy of Kim Klement-USA TODAY SportsWe said goodbye to Eddie Rosario and Matt Wisler this week. Fans outside of the Midwest were surprised about Rosario’s departure, but real Minnesotans knew that this day was coming. After another year of questionable plays and free swings, the coffin was far sealed for this fan favorite. This year’s free agency class is strong across the board, but in the non-tendered class, Rosario sits near the top of the board according to many sources, including MLB’s Mark Feinsand. Given this reason, among others, the Minnesota Twins should stay away from signing any of the non-tendered players, regardless of how enticing these targets may appear on paper.
The non-tendered, free agent class is littered with some of the bigger names in baseball, such as Kyle Schwarber, Adam Duvall, and Archie Bradley. Overall, these players were non-tendered for a combination of these four factors: price, health, production, and replaceability. Generally, these factors are all quantifiable. Take Schwarber for example. He was a 2014 first round draft pick who was known for his power. Although there were concerns about his speed and defense, his incredible slash lines guided him all the way to the majors, where he failed to meet production expectations from season to season. Rosario also falls in this quantifiable category, where his high price tag exceeded his expected return, and his replacement is waiting in the wings.
However, a team’s decision to non-tender a player is often blurry and difficult to justify on paper. Take the aforementioned Matt Wisler for starters. Twins Daily’s Nick Nelson highlighted every reason to keep Wisler, from his stats to his low price tag, but the Twins still chose to move forward, despite losing bullpen pieces Trevor May, Sergio Romo, and Tyler Clippard to free agency. If it has to be boiled down on quantifiable facts that you can write on paper, the Twins non-tendered Matt Wisler, reliever with above average stats last season, despite losing three members of the bullpen. However, Twins Daily’s Matthew Trueblood dissected the red flags and lingering questions surrounding Wisler, such as small sample size and various other anomalies, that outweighed his pros. At the end of the day, whether you are Team Nelson or Trueblood, it’s impossible to ignore that Wisler carries attributes that make him more of a toss up than other free agent relievers on the market, despite how attractive his statistics indicate on paper.
It’s painfully obvious that teams should sign the least risky players with all four factors mentioned above in mind. The gamble of signing any player is what I like to call “the tomato-tomato dilemma”. Only players in the caliper of Francisco Lindor and Mike Trout are excluded from the dilemma, where their guaranteed return outweighs their associated price. With the top free agents on the market, such as Trevor Bauer and JT Realmuto near one end of the spectrum and players who will likely remain unsigned at the end of the offseason on the other, many of these enticing non-tendered free agents fall closer towards the middle, where, like in Wisler’s case, you can make the argument that his statistics justify his price tag, tomato, or a gamble on his red flags can’t justify his price tag, tomato.
In the case of a team with a seemingly unlimited budget, a bad gamble or rotten tomato hardly makes a difference. However, we are not in the Bronx, and The Twins typically keep their payroll below or around the league minimum. If this pattern continues, they seem to have two options:
- Option A: Save for a top free agent
- Option B: Sign numerous contracts to good free agents
We all know what happens when you take your eye off the prize.
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