Monday evening was the deadline for teams to offer contracts to players eligible for arbitration and renewable contracts this off-season. A number of intriguing players were non-tendered around the league, adding a handful of new talent to the free agent pool.
The Toronto Blue Jays released three players into free agency, choosing not to tender new contracts to relievers Derek Law, and Jason Adam, as well as catcher Luke Maile.
In Maile, the Blue Jays sever ties with their longest tenured player. He was dreadful last season, to the tune of a .151/.205/.235 line over 44 games. He had a surprisingly strong 2018, leading the team in offensive WAR while playing 68 games. That strong spell inflates his career numbers to a .198/.252/.304 hitter, culminating in his 2019 season, where his 14 wRC+ was fourth worst among all players with more than 120 plate appearances. The strong play of rookie catching duo Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire made him expendable as a third catcher, and he was slated to make an estimated (per Spotrac) $800,000 in arbitration next year. The Jays likely feel they can find somebody else on the waiver heap to handle third catcher duties, should the need arise next year.
Law was part of the ill-fated return for Kevin Pillar (more on him in a second) in last season’s opening-week trade with the San Francisco Giants. He posted a 4.90 ERA for the Blue Jays in 58 games last season, providing exactly replacement level performance out of the bullpen. His ERA spiked to 7.14 in mid-July, but he posted a 2.84 mark the rest of the way in his last 31 appearances, including a stint as the interim closer when Ken Giles was injured. On the whole, his walk rate was 6th worst among qualified major league relievers, and the 29-year-old was slated to make an estimated $1.3 million as an arbitration number. The front office likely believes they can scrounge up similar production for a fraction of the price.
Finally, Jason Adam is simply a victim of the life cycle of being a 28-year-old reliever. His numbers were perfectly fine in 23 appearances with the team after being signed in March. His strikeout rate was pretty low, but he posted a 2.91 ERA, somewhat corroborated with a 3.95 FIP, but with a dangerous 6.20 xFIP lingering in the background. His release is likely a case of the team having seen enough to know what his perceived ceiling is, and valuing the possibilities in his roster spot more than the production.
The Blue Jays announced that all other candidates were tendered deals, meaning Brandon Drury, Matt Shoemaker, Ken Giles, and Anthony Bass are still on the roster. With the three subtractions, the Blue Jays free up roughly $3-million in projected salary and the 40-man roster now stands at 37 players, leaving room for free-agent additions or Rule 5 selections.
A few other familiar faces to Blue Jays fans were non-tendered on Monday, with the San Francisco Giants parting ways with Kevin Pillar, while the Houston Astros moved on from Aaron Sanchez. Additionally, the Astros agreed to a one-year deal with former Jays reliever Joe Biagini, avoiding the need for arbitration.
The next big series of dates for baseball transactions are the MLB Winter Meetings, December 8-12 in San Diego California. The Rule 5 draft is the final event of the meetings, occurring the morning of December 12.
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