This year’s MLB non-tender deadline was a little more action-packed than usual, with several surprise moves made throughout the league.
The players non-tendered before Friday’s 8 p.m. ET deadline are free agents and not subject to waivers.
Brandon Woodruff, Milwaukee Brewers pitcher: A two-time All-Star, Woodruff was easily the most surprising name on the non-tender list. A shoulder injury prevented the 30-year-old from pitching in the National League wild-card series against the Arizona Diamondbacks and surgery in October will likely keep him out of action until 2025. Due roughly $11 million in 2023 – his final season under Brewers control – the move by Milwaukee was purely financial, making it all the more bittersweet.
Woodruff has spent his entire seven-year Major League career in a Brewers uniform, going 46-26 over 115 starts while topping the franchise leaderboard in ERA (3.10) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.4). Pitchers returning from surgery are never a sure thing and it’s still unclear how Woodruff will perform when he ultimately climbs the mound again. However, if he’s half the pitcher he was in Milwaukee, some fortunate team will reap the benefits.
Nick Senzel, Cincinnati Reds infielder/outfielder: Through five seasons with the Reds, Senzel failed to meet expectations after being selected second overall in the 2016 MLB Draft out of Tennessee. Categorized by many as a bust, injuries often plagued Senzel, who played in only 377 games from 2019 to 2023. He eventually emerged as a heart-and-soul type of player for Cincinnati and was on pace to have his best season in 2023 before slumping in June. After a demotion to Triple-A Louisville in August, Senzel returned to the Reds to close the year, finishing with 13 HR and 42 RBI, his best output since his rookie year in 2019 (12 HR, 42 RBI).
Senzel might not have trouble finding a team willing to take a shot on him, especially one looking for production against left-handed pitching. The 28-year-old feasted on southpaws in 2023, batting .348/.389/.619 with nine home runs and 20 RBI in 118 at-bats. The talent that scouts saw in Senzel is still there to an extent and his ability to play multiple positions (CF, 3B, 2B) could make him a valuable piece on the open market.
Andrew Knizner, St. Louis Cardinals catcher: With a career slash line of .216/.290/.331, Knizner wasn’t known for his offensive prowess. In his fifth season with the Cardinals, though, the backstop posted arguably his best year at the plate, batting .241/.288/.424 with career highs in home runs (10) and RBI (31) through 70 games. Also, he was solid behind the plate, well-liked by the pitching staff and one of the team’s leaders, playing a position that required it.
In short, the Cardinals move shows what they think of 23-year-old catcher Ivan Herrera, who recorded 10 HR and 60 RBI, batting .297/.451/.500 in 83 games with the St. Louis’ Triple-A affiliate, the Memphis Redbirds. However, with starter Willson Contreras signed through at least 2027, Herrera may be relegated to a backup role at best for the foreseeable future. Now, if an injury should strike an aging catcher, without Knizer, the Cardinals lack a steady backup.