Heading into next week’s Winter Meetings in San Diego, the Rays have a good understanding of the free agents they’ll choose to meet with and potentially discuss a contract offer. But that free-agent pool got even bigger on Monday, as 56 players were non-tendered.
The Rays are no strangers to taking a chance on a player that was non-tendered by their former team. Last offseason, they signed outfielder Avisaíl García, who had been non-tendered by the White Sox after an injury-riddled season.
With new talent now on the market, MLB.com takes a look at five non-tendered players who could be good fits for the Rays.
Blake Treinen, RHP
Treinen was one of the best relief pitchers in the Majors in 2018, posting a 0.78 ERA in 68 appearances for the A’s, but he struggled in '19, finishing with a 4.91 ERA in 57 outings and losing his closer job.
But because of recent success, Treinen figures to gain a lot of interest, especially considering the reliever market is relatively thin this winter. Tampa Bay could ease Treinen into action and could spend some time working on the right-hander's mechanics. There aren’t many organizations that can fix a pitcher like the Rays.
Domingo Santana, DH
The Rays had interest in trading for Santana last offseason, and now they’ll have an opportunity to sign him as a free agent after the Mariners decided to non-tender the talented designated hitter.
Santana continued to hit the ball hard in 2019, finishing with an average exit velocity of 89 mph, per Statcast, which is in the 69th percentile. The 27-year-old hit 21 home runs in 121 games and had an .820 OPS against left-handers, which is an area the Rays will look to improve on during the offseason.
C.J. Cron, 1B/DH
Old friend alert. Just a year after designating Cron for assignment, the Rays will have a chance to reunite with the slugger. Cron hit 30 home runs with the Rays in 2018, and followed that campaign by hitting 25 homers in ‘19 with the Twins. Cron underwent surgery on his right thumb in October, which could’ve played a role in Minnesota deciding not to tender him. The Rays are looking for right-handed-hitting power, and Cron could definitely supply that.
Steven Souza Jr., OF
Another old friend alert. Souza has played only 72 games over the last two seasons and is coming off a torn ACL and LCL, which he sustained last Spring Training. There’s the obvious concern of how Souza will return after major knee surgery, but the Rays are plenty familiar with the outfielder’s talent. Souza spent three seasons with Tampa Bay and hit 30 home runs in 2017 before being traded to Arizona.
Guillermo Heredia, OF
Heredia was non-tendered by the Rays on Monday, but the two sides aren’t ruling out the option of coming to an agreement later this winter. Sources told MLB.com that the outfielder will explore the market, and the expectation is that he’ll receive some Major League interest as his center-field defense provides a unique skill set at a very affordable price.
If the Rays don't improve in the outfield over the next few weeks, the two sides could come to an agreement to bring back the clubhouse favorite.