Monday was the Major League non-tender deadline, at which time teams have to decide which of their arbitration eligible and pre-arb players they will offer a contract to. The Rays non-tendered Guillermo Heredia, making him a free agent, and leaving them with 39 spots filled on their 40-man roster.
They probably need to sign an outfielder, so it’s not quite right to say that they have room to pick up a new player, but, in the procedural sense they do have room. Jim already went over some of the more well-known names, pointing out Blake Trenien as the best get of the bunch.
I’ve got a few other, more under the radar relievers to add to the list of potential adds, most of whom should be available at a low cost both in money and years. Think of this as the search for the next Oliver Drake — a pitcher who hadn’t been able to stick anywhere, until he came to Tampa Bay, improved his game, and ended up working high leverage in the playoffs.
My favorite of the bunch is Wei-Cheih Huang, a right-handed reliever non-tendered by the Rangers, who has only pitched 5.2 innings in the majors, and who struggled with walks last season in Triple-A.
The good news for Huang is that he still has two MiLB options, and a history of better control in years previous. The other good news is that his stuff jumps off the page. You can check out the details on Texas Leaguers or on Brooks Baseball.
Huang pairs a 93 mph high-rise four-seam fastball with an 83 mph changeup that has slightly above average drop. The pitch that makes this repertoire though is his big 76 mph curve, which is half a standard deviation slower than the average, but with with two and a half standard deviations more drop.
That’s a plus pitch if he can command it, and one that should theoretically play well with the shape of his fastball.
Staying with interesting curves for a second, Jason Adam was non-tendered by the Blue Jays. Adam has thrown 54 major league innings with a 4.83 ERA, and with peripherals a tad worse. But he too has a big breaking ball worth checking on (Texas Leaguers & Brooks Baseball).
Adam’s fastball has less rise than Huang’s, but comes in harder, at 94 mph. His curve has average velocity at 78 mph, but a standard deviation more horizontal movement than the average, 7.8 inches. Think of it as kind of a hard sweeper.
If Adam were available on a minor league deal, I’d love to work him out in the organization, and think he could potentially be decent middle reliever who’s very hard on righties, much like Andrew Kittredge is.
The third pitcher on my interesting non-tender list is Trevor Hildenberger, who was pretty good in 2017, got worse in 2018, and was really quite bad in 2019.
With Hildenberger, everything is moving down. Basically he’s a right-handed Adam Kolarek, and y’all know how much I like my Adam Kolareks.
Strangely, in his very bad 2019 season, Hildenberger didn’t actually produce that many ground balls. That’s not what a pitcher with his stuff and arm angle is supposed to do, and in trying to “fix” him, it’s where I’d first look. Hildenberger also has two MiLB options.
The last pitcher here isn’t under the radar, and is also out of options. Danny Hultzen was once the number two overall pick in the draft, but a series of injuries kept him off the field and away from his well-recognized potential.
It’s really hard to see a place for Hultzen with the Rays, as they aren’t a team with the roster space to give a guaranteed starting job to a question mark. But it’s worth noting that the stuff is there. Or at least it’s interesting.
According to Brooks, every single one of Hultzen’s pitches has over a standard deviation more horizontal run than the average. The slider has nearly two. There may or may not also be a curve in there that really sweeps. Basically he’s a circus act of fastballs and changeups swinging in on the hands of lefties and breaking balls sweeping away from them off the plate.
Someone with the ability to give Hultzen time to work and develop at the major league level is going to get a major league pitcher. If Hultzen wants to start, the Rays won’t be that team, but if he’s open to a swing relief role similar to what Jalen Beeks did to start the season last year, the Rays should make their pitch.
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Any other names that intrigue you out there?