Major League Baseball's offseason will reach a notable occasion on Friday, as it marks the deadline for teams to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players (usually those with at least three years of major league service time). The players who are not tendered contracts, meanwhile, will become free agents who can sign with any club. On occasion, those players can prove to be as good of additions as any traditional free-agent signing -- last winter, for example, saw both Cody Bellinger and Jeimer Candelario hit the market before turning in productive 2023 campaigns.
Generally, non-tendered players fall into one of three camps: 1) those who are often hurt; 2) those who have disappointed with their recent performance; or 3) those who fill holes on rosters but are not viewed as long-term solutions. Below, CBS Sports has previewed the tender deadline by highlighting 10 players from the first two of those categorizations. We've included a writeup on each player, as well as their salary projection (courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors) and our guess as to whether they'll be tendered, non-tendered, or traded before the weekend comes to pass. Do note the players are presented in no particular order.
(Note: Michael Soroka was originally on this list, but has since been removed afterfrom the White Sox to the Braves on Thursday night.)
1. Brandon Woodruff, RHP, Brewers
- Projected prize: $11.6 million
Is it lame to non-tender one of the best pitchers in franchise history after he underwent surgery? Yup, it's not great. Will the Brewers do it anyway? We're leaning toward yes. Woodruff's availability for next year is unclear after having the anterior capsule in his throwing shoulder repaired. The Brewers would probably like to spend the $12 million on players who are certain to contribute next season -- which, by the way, would double as Woodruff's walk year. That combination might compel the Brewers to cut bait. Should that happen, Woodruff should find suitors willing to give him a two-year deal -- not out of the kindness of their hearts, but with an eye on getting a bargain in 2025. Prediction: Non-tendered.
2. Rowdy Tellez, 1B/DH, Brewers
- Projected prize: $5.9 million
Tellez's raison d'être is clobbering right-handed pitching. He didn't do much of it last season: his .691 OPS with the platoon advantage was the worst of his career. To make matters worse, his ball-tracking metrics saw reductions in his average and maximum exit velocities. All this despite the Brewers using him almost exclusively against righties. Maybe if Tellez offered something on defense or had stronger under-the-hood metrics the Brewers would grin, bear it, and give him another look. We suspect they'd rather move on and try to find the next Tellez. Prediction: Non-tendered.
3. Kyle Farmer, UTL, Twins
- Projected prize: $6.6 million
Farmer has turned himself into an interesting player as a line-drive-hitting utility infielder with so-so power and below-average speed and arm strength. He had his best offensive season in 2023, flirting with a league-average OPS and delivering his third consecutive double-digit home-run campaign. We don't think the Twins, or other teams, will rush to give him nearly $7 million. We do think there'll be a spot on someone's bench for him at a lower cost, however. Prediction: Non-tendered.
4. Ramón Urías, INF, Orioles
- Projected prize: $4.7 million
The Orioles have an impressive amount of infield depth in the upper levels of their organization. In turn, Urías and Jorge Mateo could both find themselves on the move this winter to accommodate the arrival of younger players. Urías has put together a three-year stretch where he's been a slightly above-average hitter with experience at the various skilled infield positions. There's nothing here that you'd write home about -- that he swings and misses as much as he does despite below-average power output might scare some clubs off -- but the infield market is weak and his results have been solid. That'll likely be enough for some teams to show interest in a pre-deadline trade. Prediction: Traded.
5. Dakota Hudson, RHP, Cardinals
- Projected prize: $3.7 million
We thought Hudson was going to get non-tendered last winter. The Cardinals ended up using him more than expected (he appeared 18 times including 12 starts) and he posted statistics that were almost identical to those he offered in 2022. He is what he is at this point: a below-average starter who doesn't miss bats or manage contact well enough to ascend beyond the back of a rotation. It's past time to sever this connection so that the sinkerballing Hudson can fulfill his destiny by becoming a tenured member of the Colorado Rockies. Prediction: Non-tendered.
6. James Karinchak, RHP, Guardians
- Projected prize: $1.9 million
While we believe Karinchak will get tendered, we think there's room for a conversation about the merits of that decision. He's always been walk-happy and prone to allowing harder contact than you'd anticipate given his bat-missing ability. What catches our eye is that Karinchak's whiff rate plummeted to a career-low 29.8% in 2023. Mind you, that's still above-average and good enough for him to punch out 12 batters per nine -- it's just a wee bit worrisome that he's allowing nearly a league-average amount of in-zone contact when his profile hinges on him being a strikeout machine. Prediction: Tendered.
7. Austin Meadows, OF, Tigers
- Projected prize: $4.3 million
Meadows, a onetime All-Star outfielder, has missed most of the last two seasons while prioritizing his mental health. It's unclear at this point if he intends to return to baseball in 2024. We wish him the best either way. Prediction: Non-tendered.
8. Kyle Lewis, OF/DH, Diamondbacks
- Projected prize: $1.6 million
Lewis has dealt with serious injury woes throughout his career. They didn't prevent him from winning the 2020 AL Rookie of the Year Award, but they have kept him from appearing in 162 career big-league games -- and from clearing triple-digit games in any season since 2019. Lewis opened the year as Arizona's starting DH. He started just seven times after May 1 and instead spent most of the summer stationed in Triple-A. In theory, he can provide a lineup with right-handed thump; in practice, he's absent too frequently for serious teams to rely upon him as a Plan A. Prediction: Non-tendered.
9. Nick Senzel, UTL, Reds
- Projected prize: $3 million
The No. 2 pick in the 2016 draft, Senzel just never took to the big-league level. He was supposed to be an outstanding pure hitter who would compete for batting titles. Instead, he's sporting a 77 OPS+ after nearly 1,400 career plate appearances. That's the way it goes sometimes. Senzel does have ample defensive versatility: last season, he saw action at five different positions (including all three spots in the outfield). He also had a strong year against left-handed pitching. His next club will probably try him out as a weak-side platoon option who can ping-pong between the grass and dirt. Prediction: Non-tendered.