The Padres announced tonight that they’ve non-tendered third baseman Will Middlebrooks, making him a free agent. San Diego also elected not to tender contracts to catcher Rocky Gale and left-handed reliever Frank Garces, dropping the club’s 40-man roster to a total of 36 players.
Middlebrooks, 27, was acquired in a trade with the Red Sox that sent catcher Ryan Hanigan to Boston last year. The former top prospect was San Diego’s Opening Day third baseman, but he faded after a hot start and ultimately endured similar struggles to the ones that led the Boston front office to deem him expendable. Middlebrooks hit just .212/.241/.361 with nine homers and eventually lost his grip on the starting job at third base. He saw eight innings at first base and, surprisingly, also logged 39 innings as the Padres’ shortstop in 2015.
Middlebrooks was also demoted to Triple-A midway through the season but struggled even in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League where he batted a meek .255/.287/379. He’s young enough that his pedigree and early success will earn him some looks this offseason, but he’s now three full seasons removed from an impressive rookie campaign in 2012 that saw him bat .288/.325/.509 with 15 homers in 286 plate appearances. Still, it’s conceivable that clubs such as the Braves, White Sox and Indians (among others) which lack a concrete option at third base will consider Middlebrooks something of an upside play and hope he can recapture some of the promise he showed earlier in his career.