Friday, December 1st is the deadline for MLB teams to tender 2018 contracts to players under team control. The Blue Jays have 11 arbitration-eligible players, four of whom I identified at the beginning of the offseason as less than complete locks to be tendered. Each will be examined this week, with Ezequiel Carrera yesterday and Ryan Goins today.
Background: Drafted by the Jays in 2009 (4th round), debuted in 2013. Has alternated between starting and coming off the bench, career 0 fWAR and 3.5 bWAR.
2017 production: -0.3 fWAR / -0.2 bWAR in 459 plate appearances, 69 wRC+ though a hero with RISP. Poor defensive metrics at SS but fine previously and fine at 2B.
Status: 3.106 years of service, $548,200 platform year salary, no options remaining.
MLBTR 2018 Salary Projection: $1.8-million
Estimated likelihood of tender: 95%
At this point in his career, Goins is what he is: a very light hitting middle infielder whose career 63 wRC+ has bled over 60 runs below average at the plate in just under 1,400 PA. That's about -30 runs for a full season equivalent, and while Goins may have delusions of being a starter, that's just not going to get it done. He hit enough to rate as a second division regular in 2015, but that was his highwater mark and there's a couple seasons of completely miserable output on the flip side.
Defensively, the question would be whether Goins rates more as the above average middle infielder that UZR has rated him as, or the excellent defender DRS sees him as. That drives the difference between FanGraphs rating him as literally a replacement level player and Baseball-Reference as a player worth roughly 1.5 WAR in a full season. There's little point in paying above the minimum for the former, while the latter is well worth it.
All that said, at the end of the day the question is likely academic. As long as both Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis slot in the starters, depth is a huge priority. Last winter, I didn't see the Blue Jays keeping both Goins and Darwin Barney. Instead, they kept Goins as the last guy on the bench rather than Melvin Upton Jr, and both Barney and Goins got 400+ PA.
The Jays desperately need to upgrade their primary middle infield backup this winter, but even if they did find their unicorn who plays on the middle infield, hits left-handed and provides outfield depth as well, that doesn't preclude Goins as the last guy on bench again.
As with Carrera, non-tendering Goins could open up a little money that could be used elsewhere, but not likely an amount that really moves the dial. But the free agent market for middle infielders is very underwhelming, and compounding that is a lack of viable depth in the system beyond Goins. Richard Urena or Lourdes Gurriel may one day be good MLB players, but neither is a feasible option to start 2018.
The other thing working in Goins' favour is that he hits left-handed, with better platoon splits against RHP, which is uncommon. That potentially presents some platoon possibility, especially since the Jays are unlikely to find their ideal backup and if they settle for a righty hitter, Goins could be a complement.
One final note is that in 580 career plate appearances at SS, Goins has actually posted a respectable batting line, .254/.306/.384 for a 85 wRC+. This compares with 50 wRC+ elsewhere, with the difference basically all BABIP (.302vs. .262). I don't see how this could be anything but statistical noise, but on the off-chance that it did reflect something real (comfort at the position?), those are very viable numbers for a SS backup.