MLB·FREE AGENCY ROUNDUP

Ex-Blue Jay Aaron Sanchez among 56 players on open market

Former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Aaron Sanchez was among 56 players who became free agents Monday when their teams declined to offer 2020 contracts rather than make them eligible for salary arbitration. Sanchez was traded to Houston on July 31.

2016 all-star pitcher had shoulder surgery after July 31 trade to Astros

Former Blue Jays starter Aaron Sanchez is a free agent. He posted a 2-0 record in four starts and 18 2/3 innings for Houston this past season before having season-ending shoulder surgery in September. (Bob Levey/Getty Images)

All-stars Aaron Sanchez, Blake Treinen and Addison Russell were among 56 players who became free agents along with current Gold Glove second baseman Yolmer Sanchez when their teams declined to offer 2020 contracts Monday rather than make them eligible for salary arbitration.

Sanchez, 27, was an all-star for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2016 and was dealt to Houston on July 31.

He posted a 2-0 record 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 season-ending shoulder surgery.

Sanchez, a homegrown Blue Jay, had been with the team since 2014 and was once considered one of the team's building blocks for the future.

Injuries, though, took their toll on the right-hander who struggled for much of the 2019 season with Toronto, going 3-14 with a 6.07 earned-run average while losing 10 in a row at one point.

Sanchez was an emotional tether to the Jays' better days. He was a key part of their 2015 and 2016 playoff teams when he went 15-2 with an American League-leading 3.00 ERA.

Giants non-tender Pillar

San Francisco let go of another one-time Blue Jay, outfielder Kevin Pillar.

Acquired from Toronto on April 2, Pillar hit .264 for San Francisco with 21 homers and 87 runs batted in. He made $5.8 million US and likely would have received a salary of around $10 million had the Giants offered a contract, which would have made him eligible for arbitration.

Former Blue Jays outfielder Kevin Pillar was cut loose by the Giants on Monday and is a free agent. He is a three-time Gold Glove Award finalist (2015-17). (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Pillar, 30, had spent all six years of his major-league career with the Blue Jays before the trade.

He is a three-time Gold Glove Award finalist (2015, 2016, 2017) and earned the 2015 Wilson defensive player of the year for centre-field.

Orioles jettison top player

Baltimore, faced with a similar decision, traded second baseman Jonathan Villar to Miami, which claimed first baseman Jesus Aguilar off waivers from Tampa Bay.

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."

One big-name free agent found a home: All-star infielder Mike Moustakas and the Cincinnati Reds reportedly agreed to a four-year, $64 million US contract.

For the second straight off-season, 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 National League 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.

Former Brewers infielder Mike Moustakas is expected to play second base for the Reds after reportedly agreeing to a four-year deal worth $64 million US. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Cincinnati scored the fourth-fewest runs in the NL despite one of the league's most hitter-friendly ballparks. Bulking up on offence, stabilizing the outfield and overhauling the bullpen are the Reds' priorities in the off-season.

Big drop in arbitration-eligible players

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 one-year contract worth $5.7 million. Cleveland acquired catcher Sandy Leon 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.

Milwaukee was the most active team in cutting its budget for arbitration-eligible players, allowing a quintet to go free: left-hander Alex 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.

40-game ban

"I'd say that payroll flexibility helps and isn't a bad thing as we evaluate potential acquisitions throughout the off-season," Brewers GM 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."

Russell, a 2016 all-star, was banned for 40 games last off-season 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 runs batted in and a .699 on-base-plus slugging percentage.

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.

Among others cut loose were Philadelphia third baseman Maikel Franco and second baseman Cesar Hernandez, Arizona outfielder Steven Souza Jr., and Minnesota first baseman C.J. Cron.

With files from CBC Sports

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