FILE – In this May 29, 2019, file photo, Chicago Cubs shortstop Addison Russell throws to first during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Houston Astro in Houston. The Cubs failed to offer a 2020 contract to Russell on Monday, Dec. 2, 2019, making the 2016 All-Star a free agent one year after he was suspended for violating Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)
Former All-Stars Blake Treinen, Aaron Sanchez and Addison Russell were among 56 players who became free agents along with current Gold Glove second baseman Yolmer Sánchez when their teams declined to offer 2020 contracts Monday rather than make them eligible for salary arbitration.
One big-name free agent found a home: All-Star infielder Mike Moustakas and the Cincinnati Reds agreed to a $64 million, four-year contract, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the agreement had not been announced.
For the second straight offseason, the Reds are making a splash as they try to shake themselves out of a rut of six straight losing seasons. Their first move involves getting a player from NL Central rival Milwaukee. The 31-year-old Moustakas could fill a hole at second base that opened when Scooter Gennett got hurt and then was traded last season.
Cincinnati scored the fourth-fewest runs in the NL despite one of the league’s most hitter-friendly ballparks. Bulking up on offense, stabilizing the outfield and overhauling the bullpen are the Reds’ priorities in the offseason.
Ahead of the deadline to offer 2020 contracts to unsigned players on 40-man rosters, San Diego obtained second baseman Jurickson Profar from Oakland for catching prospect Austin Allen, then agreed to a $5.7 million, one-year contract. Cleveland acquired catcher Sandy León from Boston for minor league right-hander Adenys Bautista and agreed to a $2 million deal.
About two dozen players agreed to contracts, and the total of players eligible for arbitration dropped from about 230 at the start of the day to approximately 165.
Seattle chose not to offer a contract to infielder Tim Beckham, who has 32 games remaining on a drug suspension, and San Francisco let go outfielder Kevin Pillar.
Milwaukee was the most active team in cutting its budget for arbitration-eligible players, allowing a quintet to go free: left-hander Álex Claudio, right-handers Junior Guerra and Jimmy Nelson, infielder Tyler Saladino and third baseman Travis Shaw. The Brewers also agreed to a $2.2 million, one-year deal with shortstop Orlando Arcia and a $1.4 million, one-year contract with outfielder Ben Gamel, whose deal includes a $2.55 million team option for 2021.
After starting the day with 10 arbitration-eligible players, the Brewers finished with three: right-hander Corey Knebel and lefties Josh Hader and Brent Suter.
“I’d say that payroll flexibility helps and isn’t a bad thing as we evaluate potential acquisitions throughout the offseason,” Brewers general manager David Stearns said. “The way the arbitration system is set up, sometimes you’re forced to make difficult decisions if it doesn’t appear that allocating the payroll to specific players in the way the arbitration would dictate would be the most effective use of those dollars.”
Baltimore jettisoned its top player in Villar in exchange for minor league pitcher Easton Lucas. Villar played in all 162 games this year and led the 108-loss Orioles with 176 hits, five triples and 40 stolen bases. He likely will command a salary of about $10 million in arbitration.
“He was a tremendously exciting player for us, a joy to have,” Orioles general manager Mike Elias said. “It was hard to let him go, but we’ve got to keep an eye on our strategic objectives, which is prioritize the future right now.”
Russell, a 2016 All-Star, was banned for 40 games last offseason under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy after a series of allegations made by ex-wife Melisa Reidy. The 25-year-old returned to the Chicago Cubs in May and batted a career-low .237 with nine homers, 23 RBIs and a .699 OPS.
Russell earned $4 million in 2019 and was likely to gain a raise in arbitration, probably to around $5 million.
“We decided to non-tender Addison Russell today simply because the role we expected him to play for the 2020 Cubs was inconsistent with how he would have been treated in the salary arbitration process,” Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said in a statement.
Treinen, a 31-year-old right-hander, had a 4.91 ERA for Oakland this year, up from 0.78 ERA in his All-Star season of 2018. Treinen was expected to command roughly $7.5 million in arbitration.
Sanchez, a 27-year-old right-hander, was an All-Star for Toronto in 2016 and was dealt to Houston on July 31. He went 2-0 in four starts and 18 2/3 innings, including the first six innings of a combined no-hitter against Seattle in his Astros debut. But the team said on Sept. 5 that he needed shoulder surgery.
Among others cut loose were Philadelphia third baseman Maikel Franco and second baseman César Hernández, Arizona outfielder Steven Souza Jr., and Minnesota first baseman C.J. Cron.