Last Tuesday, lost in the shuffle of the madness that was transaction flurry in the leadup to the lockout, was the deadline for teams around the league to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players. It’s typically not the most high-profile day on the offseason schedule, but it is a pretty important day and one that front offices are always paying attention to. Most players were tendered deals, as is the case every winter, but those who were not now enter a free agent pool. For a team like the Red Sox who have largely sat out the spending spree around the league over the last few days, that is important as they still need to fill some holes.
Most notably, Boston could use some help on their pitching staff. Below are four pitchers who were non-tendered who could potentially be worth a look from the Red Sox. Keep in mind that none of these players are going to be star-level acquisitions, as they were non-tendered for a reason. But as role players and relatively cheap fliers, they could be intriguing. All projected arbitration salaries are from MLB Trade Rumors.
Matt Boyd, LHP
For any of these lists of the most notable players to be non-tendered, you are going to see Boyd lead the list. The southpaw was non-tendered by the Tigers on Tuesday and was projected to make a bit over $7 million in 2022. He has been an effective starter for the Tigers for a long time, and has always seemed on the cusp of taking the leap to solid back-end arm to something more. He never quite made that leap, though he did appear on the road there in 2021. Boyd pitched to a 3.89 ERA this past season, but the year was cut short by injury.
It was that forearm injury that led to him being non-tendered and hitting the open market, as he is expected to miss some chunk of time in the coming season. That makes his presence in free agency a bit complicated, but as a lefty who has shown an ability to miss bats with solid control in the past he is at least worth consideration. This would not be the kind of move that would end the work that needs to be done in the rotation, and it probably makes a bit less sense after already signing James Paxton in a similar situation. That said, it would add to their depth for the second half in the season and potentially protect them from one of their many Triple-A depth starters either taking a step back or getting hurt. Some sort of creative deal that includes an option for 2023 would be ideal, obviously depending on the price.
José Castillo, LHP
We continue the trend of injured lefties here, but now we move to the bullpen rather than the rotation. We also move into a lower age bracket, because while Boyd will be 31 before next season begins, Castillo will be just 26 by the time the 2021 season gets underway. The bad news is that he has been dealing with a major elbow injury that has limited him to just one appearance since 2018. In that 2018 season, though, he looked good in his only real taste of the majors, pitching to a 3.29 ERA with a 2.64 FIP.
Given that he has pitched all of 2⁄3 of an inning in the last three seasons, I certainly wouldn’t expect the Red Sox to make any real commitment to the former Padre. That being said, there is enough here to at least make a strong push for a minor-league deal with a spring training invite, and perhaps bitting the bullet with a cheap major-league deal. Boston does only have three left-handed relievers on their 40-man roster at this point, and they have plenty of wiggle room on their bullpen depth chart. No deal they make should be the type that would prevent them from cutting bait if it came down to it, but there is real upside here at a position of need for a guy who is just entering his age-26 season. That’s worth a look.
Wander Suero, RHP
We move over to a right-handed pitcher this time around, and while we’re sticking in the bullpen we’re talking about a more established pitcher this time around. Suero has certainly never been a big name in his time with the Nationals, but he’s had some nice seasons where he played a legitimate role in the Washington bullpen. Now entering his age-30 season, the righty was non-tendered before being due for a projected $900,000 in 2022.
It’s not hard to figure out why he wasn’t tendered a contract by the Nationals, as he’s coming off a legitimately bad season in 2021. This past year Suero pitched to an ugly 6.33 ERA, and while his FIP was a bit better it was still approaching 6.00. A lot of his issues came down to the long ball, as he allowed a whopping 11 homers in 45 games. In his previous three seasons in the majors he had allowed 10 homers in 140 games. For as ugly as this past season was, he had kept his FIP in elite ranges in the previous two seasons and for his career has an above-average strikeout rate with an average walk rate. This feels like the kind of cheap move the Red Sox need to make this winter, and while it doesn’t have to be Suero he should be on the list. They need some high-end help in the bullpen, but they also need some solid middle relievers just to fill out the group.
Robert Gsellman, RHP
The Mets have been one of the darlings of this early offseason thanks to their megadeal with Max Scherzer, among a few other moves, and now the Red Sox could potentially look to one of their cast-offs. Robert Gsellman was an intriguing arm that often seemed on the verge of breaking out for the Mets for much of his career, but he never quite made that leap. He was non-tendered on Tuesday with a projected arbitration salary of $1.6 million.
Gsellman was originally given a chance to start, but he was never able to get consistent chances in that role and when he did start he couldn’t find his footing. New York finally converted him to a full-time relief role in 2018 and he started to excel. The results never looked great, but his peripherals often told a more encouraging story. This past season, before an injury shut him down, he pitched to a 3.77 ERA over 28 2⁄3 innings. His strikeout rate has been trending in the wrong direction, though, and it’s hard to trust a reliever who can’t even crack a 15 percent strikeout rate. There’s enough of a track record that he’s worth a look on a camp invite to see if he can regain some of that swing and miss, but I wouldn’t be comfortable guaranteeing a 40-man spot.