Last Friday was the deadline for MLB teams to decide whether or not to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players, with the players not tendered contracts immediately becoming free agents. With that deadline having come and gone some exciting players have entered the free-agent market and could help teams win in 2024 and beyond. Here are the most exciting players non-tendered at the deadline.
Notable Players Who Were Non-Tendered
Brandon Woodruff: RHP, 30, Milwaukee Brewers
Over the last several seasons Brandon Woodruff has been one of the best pitchers in the MLB and would be a valuable asset for any team. The drawback is that he is having shoulder surgery that will force him to miss most of the 2024 season, his age-30 season. That being said any team willing to sign him could get an elite arm in their rotation for 2025 at a very discounted rate. Injuries have been a problem for the first seven seasons of his career having only thrown more than 150 innings twice in his career but when healthy he has been one of the best pitchers in baseball, finishing fifth in Cy Young voting in 2021.
Austin Meadows: OF/DH, 28, Detroit Tigers
Austin Meadows was once one of the top prospects in baseball and many thought he would become one of the game’s best hitters when he put up a 4.5 WAR all-star season in 2019. Since then he has struggled to stay on the field, only playing one full season in 2021 and amassing just 168 plate appearances over the last two seasons. While it seems like he’s been around for a while he is still just 28 years old and still has lots of time to turn it around. The team that decides to take a flyer on Meadows will at the very least get a very solid left-handed bat off the bench and could end up with an excellent left-handed slugger that can help balance any lineup.
Rowdy Tellez: 1B/DH, 28, Milwaukee Brewers
Rowdy Tellez is an interesting case of a player who possesses more raw power than almost every player in the majors but hasn’t quite put it all together. While he remained in the top 6% of the league in max exit velocity his averages fell off dramatically in 2023. His hard-hit rate dropped nearly six points and his xwOBA dropped a staggering 46 points. In 2022 his expected slugging was close to the top of the league but just one season later it fell closer to the bottom of the leaderboard. That major decline is likely caused by injuries he sustained throughout the season and he still possesses some of the best raw power in the MLB. If he can bring his quality of contact back to 2022 levels he has the potential to be a 40 home run player.
Dakota Hudson: RHP, 29, St Louis Cardinals
It has been an up-and-down first six big league seasons for Dakota Hudson. The former first-round pick who finished fifth in Rookie of the Year voting in 2019 missed half of 2020 and almost all of 2021 after undergoing Tommy John surgery and struggled over 139.2 innings in 2022. Last year was not a step forward for Hudson, who started the season posting a 6.00 ERA over 48 Triple-A innings before finally returning to the big leagues where he put up a 4.98 ERA over 81.1 innings. The potential is still there though, what made him a first-round pick and Rookie of the Year candidate is still there and if he can stay healthy he can still be a very solid middle-of-the-rotation starter.
Daniel Vogelbach: 1B/DH, 30, New York Mets
Daniel Vogelbach has been hovering around replacement level for most of his career, topping out at 1.4 WAR but he can still serve as a decent left-handed bat off the bench. He has posted at least average offensive numbers every season since 2018 as a journeyman pinch hitter. He posted a very solid .780 OPS against righties in 2023 hitting 13 home runs over 303 plate appearances. While he was an all-star in his one full season in 2019, it is unlikely he will recapture that level of production but he can still be a solid bench option to pinch-hit against right-handed relievers.
Luis Guillorme: 2B/3B, 29, New York Mets
From one New York Mets depth piece to another, Luis Guillorme has been very valuable in creating roster flexibility for the Mets over the last few seasons. His plus defense at multiple infield positions makes him a valuable utility player for any team looking for infield depth. He was only able to play in 54 games last season due to injuries and offensive struggles. Guillorme’s offensive production had usually been around average over the last couple of seasons but he fell off in 2023, posting a wRC+ of just 70. At 29 years old his best years in the infield are likely behind him but if he can pick up a little offense and maintain even average defense, teams will still find value in signing him.
Spencer Turnbull: RHP, 31, Detroit Tigers
Spencer Turnbull is probably a very solid back-of-the-rotation arm who gets ground balls and gives his team a chance to win. Probably because it’s tough to know what you’re going to get from a guy who has only thrown 137.2 innings over the last four seasons, never throwing more than 56.2 in any single season including missing all of 2022 while undergoing Tommy John surgery. He’s been solid when he has pitched though, posting a 4.31 ERA over those four seasons but it’s still tough to say what teams will get from him next year. The two biggest hurdles for teams signing him are his age and his health, at 31 years old he is likely past his prime and his chances of staying healthy are smaller, but he can still sign a one-year deal to prove himself.
Nick Senzel: OF, 28, Cincinnati Reds
Once one of the top prospects in all of baseball, Nick Senzel was touted as the future of the Cincinnati Reds and was to eventually take the mantle of face of the franchise from Joey Votto. Five years later it hasn’t quite turned out that way, with injuries holding him back for the majority of his 20s he has failed to produce at anywhere near the level that was expected of him. He has only amassed 400 plate appearances in a season twice in his career and has never come close to average offensive production, finishing below replacement level every year since his rookie season. To make matters worse, his defensive metrics have taken a big hit in recent years due to injuries piling up on him. Overall, he is at the lowest value he will ever be at this offseason so teams may be willing to take a flyer on him hoping that whatever made him such a great prospect is still in there somewhere.
Kyle Lewis: OF, 28, Arizona Diamondbacks
It has been a long, steep fall from grace for Kyle Lewis, the 2020 AL Rookie of the Year has struggled mightily over the last few seasons. He regressed in 2021 before a right meniscus tear set him back. Since the injury he has not been the same, posting a dismal .150 average and .496 OPS over the last two seasons and playing below-average defense. Lewis is certainly the definition of a reclamation project but if a team thinks they can get the power back in his bat, he may be a worthwhile investment as a depth option. It’s a long way back to where he was but he is only 28 years old, and he can still get there.
Juan Yepez: DH/OF, 25, St Louis Cardinals
At just 25 years old Juan Yepez is one of the youngest free agents on the market and also has the least major league experience of any of these players. After playing 76 games as a rookie in 2022, displaying good power with a solid 107 wRC+, he struggled mightily in 2023 and was given just 65 plate appearances in the majors. it’s certainly not ideal to be listed as a DH when you’re just 25 but he still has a lot of upside as a young player who has hit well everywhere he has played before this season. Yepez is still just entering his prime in the next few years so it is reasonable to expect him to become a very solid power bat for years to come.
Mike Ford: 1B/DH, 31, Seattle Mariners
Mike Ford burst onto the scene in 2019 when he came up for a New York Yankees team that had tons of injuries and hit for immense power, slugging .559. In the years after that, he struggled to hit the ball out of the ballpark as he bounced from team to team. In 2023 though he came back in a big way, slugging .475 as a righty-mashing lefty with plenty of power. While he is already 31 and has had problems being consistent, he will still serve as a valuable platoon piece for a team looking for extra depth.
While those are not all of the players who were non-tendered on Friday, they represent a group that has enough upside to get teams interested. They are all risks for whoever decides to sign them, with many of them having injury problems or consistency problems, but they are still young enough to turn things around and make an impact on a competitive team in the big leagues. Who knows, maybe one of them will be the next Cody Bellinger or Jeimer Candelario.
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