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Photo Credit: Bill Streicher, USA Today Sports

Comparing the 2019 non-tender team to the 2019 Blue Jays

Some Major League Baseball teams had to make some difficult decisions as to who to non-tender this week, causing an inevitable stir and debate as to who should (or should not have) been non-tendered. Beat reporters rushed to get news out and swamis or fans pulled out stat sheets to compare their choices against those of the general managers and executives who actually made the decisions

As is always the case, there are those who aggregate such players and compare them to already existing clubs in a quasi-OOTP fashion. 

One of them, John Metzler, an astute Blue Jays fan who can found on Twitter as @bluejaysbeat, put together a list of the most valuable (and most intriguing) players who were non-tendered before Monday’s 8 PM EST deadline.

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In a semi-sarcastic tone, Metzler posited that the team of “rejects” could finish higher in the standings than the 2020 Baltimore Orioles. While that’s certainly possible, it’s not entirely easy to predict. The offseason is far from over and the Orioles could conceivably still add to their team to increase their chances of putting together a passable team.

But what about the 2019 Blue Jays? 

In a short and potentially useless bit of comparative analysis, here’s how the 2019 Blue Jays (who finished with a record of 67-95) compare to the best position players who were non-tendered by MLB teams on Monday:

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Keep in mind that the players used for comparison on the Blue Jays’ side of things were those who appeared at their position the most throughout the season. For example, though Freddy Galvis didn’t end the season with the Blue Jays, he started the most games at shortstop of anyone on the roster, and is therefore used as the Blue Jays’ shortstop candidate in this comparison.

Also, it is important to note that Metzler’s list, like several other similarly structured lists, doesn’t include pitchers, as many of the potentially valuable pitchers were not yet tendered (or not tendered) a contract.

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Catching

On Metzler’s list, Josh Phegley (.239/.282/.411, 12 HR, 62 RBI, 82 wRC+, 0.3 fWAR) crouches behind the plate, while Caleb Joseph (.211/.250/.263, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 34 wRC+, 0.0 fWAR) serves as the team’s backup. In 2019, the Blue Jays had Danny Jansen (.207/.279/.360, 13 HR, 43 RBI, 68 wRC+, 1.4 fWAR) catch the majority of the games, while Luke Maile (.151/.205/.235, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 14 wRC+, -0.3 fWAR) backed him up.

Though catching shouldn’t exactly be a point of pride for the Blue Jays of 2019, the Jansen-Maile tandem (plus the occasional appearance of Reese McGuire) gives them the edge in this department.

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Advantage: Blue Jays

Corner Infield

The non-tender team impressively boasts C.J. Cron (.253/.311/.469, 25 HR, 78 RBI, 101 wRC+, 0.3 fWAR) at first and Tim Beckham (.237/.293/.461, 15 HR, 47 RBI, 99 wRC+, 0.4 fWAR) at third. Perhaps equally impressively, the Blue Jays trotted Justin Smoak (.208/.342/.406, 22 HR, 61 RBI, 101 wRC+, 0.2 fWAR) out to first base 121 times while Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (.272/.339/.433, 15 HR, 69 RBI, 105 wRC+, 0.4 fWAR).

Despite Beckham’s shortened season due to injury and Guerrero’s solid offensive contributions, the non-tender team appears to have the slight edge here, not only simply based on fWAR numbers (0.7 vs. 0.6), but also based on who they wouldn’t have played alongside the aforementioned duo.

In addition to Guerrero and Smoak, Brandon Drury (.242/.302/.409, 15 HR, 41 RBI, 66 wRC+, -0.6 fWAR) tallied 447 plate appearances for the Blue Jays. The non-tender team would probably give those plate appearances to, say, Maikel Franco (.234/.297/.409, 17 HR, 56 RBI, 70 wRC+, -0.5 fWAR) or Charlie Culberson (.259/.294/.437, 5 HR, 20 RBI, 85 wRC+, 0.3 fWAR). For this reason (and because the numbers are so close otherwise), this one goes to the non-tender team.

Advantage: Non-Tender Team

Middle Infield

The non-tender team would’ve made this category more interesting had Jonathan Villar (.274/.339/.453, 24 HR, 73 RBI, 107 wRC+, 4.0 fWAR) not been traded to the Marlins an hour before the deadline. Still, César Hernàndez (.279/.333/.408, 14 HR, 71 RBI, 92 wRC+, 1.7 fWAR) at second and Addison Russell (.237/.308/.391, 9 HR, 23 RBI, 81 wRC+, 0.5 fWAR) at shortstop aren’t terrible, by any means.

Either way, the 2019 Blue Jays’ pair of Cavan Biggio (.234/.364/.429, 16 HR, 48 RBI, 114 wRC+, 2.4 fWAR) and Freddy Galvis (.267/.299/.444, 18 HR, 54 RBI, 93 wRC+, 1.4 fWAR) outmatches them by a country mile, and that’s without including the contributions of Bo Bichette (.311/.358/.571, 11 HR, 21 RBI, 142 wRC+, 1.7 fWAR) or Eric Sogard (.300/.363/.477, 10 HR, 30 RBI, 122 wRC+, 2.2 fWAR) countering the non-tenders’ Travis Shaw (.157/.281/.270, 7 HR, 16 RBI, 47 wRC+, -0.8 fWAR) and José Peraza (.239/.285/.346, 6 HR, 33 RBI, 62 wRC+, -0.6 fWAR).

Advantage: Blue Jays (by a lot…)

Outfield

The continuously intriguing non-tender team carries Guillermo Heredia (.225/.306/.363, 5 HR, 20 RBI, 82 wRC+, 0.3 fWAR), Kevin Pillar (.264/.293/.442, 21 HR, 87 RBI, 89 wRC+, 1.8 fWAR), and Steven Souza Jr. (IL in 2019; .220/.309/.369, 5 HR, 29 RBI, 85 wRC+, -0.4 fWAR in 2018) as outfielders, while the Blue Jays counter with Randal Grichuk (.232/.280/.457, 31 HR, 80 RBI, 90 wRC+, 0.5 fWAR), Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (.277/.327/.541, 20 HR, 50 RBI, 124 wRC+, 1.8 fWAR), and Teoscar Hernandez (.230/.306/.472, 26 HR, 65 RBI, 102 wRC+, 1.2 fWAR). 

Despite the potential volatility of the Blue Jays’ outfield, it’s clear that they’re the deeper and more competent trio, even with Gurriel’s injuries and Hernandez’s streaky nature.

Advantage: Blue Jays

Designated Hitter

The shockingly non-tendered Domingo Santana (.253/.329/.441, 21 HR, 69 RBI, 107 wRC+, 0.0 fWAR) is the non-tenders’ obvious choice at DH, with Rowdy Tellez (.227/.293/.449, 21 HR, 54 RBI, 91 wRC+, 0.1 fWAR) eating up most of the at-bats at that position for the 2019 Blue Jays. Though Guerrero Jr., Bichette, Biggio, and Smoak all had turns at designated hitter, Santana beats out Tellez ever so slightly

Advantage: Non-Tender Team (microscopically…)

Final Tally

Without pitching (which was arguably the 2019 Blue Jays’ most glaring weakness), the non-tender team finishes with a cumulative 3.3 fWAR, while the 2019 Blue Jays come in with an fWAR of 12.3. Though the non-tender team excelled in certain areas, the Blue Jays were the more complete team overall, which, if that weren’t the case, would be both hilarious and demoralizing. 

And so, thank you for joining me on this futile and incredibly hypothetical journey of obscure baseball analysis. If anything, this demonstrates the depth and promise present within the group of players who were non-tendered by their respective clubs this offseason.

While the Rule 5 Draft, free agency, and trades may rule the rumour mill in a seemingly endless churn, the non-tender bin might the next place to shop for major-league front offices looking for improvised and proven value at low prices.