December 12th is the deadline for teams to decide whether to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players on their 40-man rosters. With that in mind, here is the second part of a series examining some potential non-tender candidates and the possible fallout for 2012. You can read the first part here.
Tom Gorzelanny SP/RP, Nationals
Could the Nationals have a pitching surplus? Don't laugh. Just think about it for a second. They already have Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, John Lannan and Chien-Ming Wang tentatively lined up for the starting rotation while Ross Detwiler, Tom Milone and Brad Peacock figure to compete for the fifth spot. And remember, it's still possible they could land a high-profile starter like C.J. Wilson, Mark Buehrle or Roy Oswalt in free agency. Gorzelanny pitched well after being moved to the bullpen this season, posting a 2.42 ERA and 20/6 K/BB ratio over 22 1/3 innings, but the Nationals may not want to spend the roughly $3 million it will probably take to keep him around as a reliever. There are likely plenty of teams who would be willing to give him another chance as a starter, so my guess is the Nats will attempt to trade him before the December 12 deadline.
Andres Torres OF, Giants
Torres was a valuable contributor on the Giants' World Series team last year, but it was a different story for him in 2011. The 33-year-old regressed in a big way, batting just .221/.312/.330 with four homers, 19 RBI, 19 stolen bases and a .643 OPS over 398 plate appearances. While some of his struggles were likely due to injury, the Giants appear ready to go in a new direction after acquiring Melky Cabrera from the Royals. Torres is due between $2-3 million in his second year of arbitration, hardly a ridiculous sum if the Giants plan to use him as a fourth outfielder, but he could be a good fit for the Atheltics or Nationals if he's given the boot.
Chris Volstad SP, Marlins
When the Marlins unveiled their colorful new logo and uniforms earlier this month, Volstad was not invited for the occasion. While this doesn't necessarily mean that a decision has already been made on his status, the 25-year-old right-hander is clearly on the bubble after posting a disappointing 4.89 ERA over 29 starts this season. On the bright side, his xFIP tells us that he has pitched in some bad luck for the better part of the past three seasons. He only stands to make between $2-3 million in his first year of arbitration, so a team could attempt to trade for him rather than risk letting him hit free agency. He could have some appeal to the Mets or Padres as a low-cost gamble.
Garrett Jones 1B/OF, Pirates
Just because something appears likely to happen doesn't mean it's the smartest idea. Yes, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington has dropped some subtle hints that Jones will be non-tendered this offseason. I'm struggling to understand the logic, as the 30-year-old was one of the team's best weapons against right-handed pitching this season (.808 OPS) and is only due between $2-3 million as a Super Two this winter. Furthermore, if Jones is non-tendered and Derrek Lee declines arbitration, Matt Hague will be the only first baseman on the team's 40-man roster. Yikes. Huntington may come to his senses eventually, but Jones wouldn't have any problem finding a new home if he's cut loose. He would make sense in a part-time role with the Brewers, Orioles, Padres and Rays, among others.
Hong-Chih Kuo RP, Dodgers
After enduring a nightmare 2011 season, Kuo may soon be a free agent for the first time in his career. The 30-year-old left-hander posted an ugly 9.00 ERA over 40 relief appearances this season while dealing with an anxiety condition which affected his ability to throw strikes. If that wasn't bad enough, he underwent a fifth surgery on his problematic left elbow in late-October. He figures to make between $2-3 million in his last year of arbitration, which makes him a prime candidate to be non-tendered. Kuo may ultimately elect to stay with the only organization he's ever known, but there will be no shortage of teams lining up to take a chance on someone who had a 1.96 ERA and 201 over 170 innings from 2008-2010.
Ryan Theriot SS/2B, Cardinals
Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak recently said that Daniel Descalso is likely to open 2012 as the starting second baseman. The World Champions need every dollar possible in order to keep Albert Pujols, so Theriot (and perhaps Skip Schumaker) will almost certainly be looking for employment elsewhere this winter. Theriot, who turns 32 in early December, batted .271/.321/.342 with one home run, 47 RBI and a .662 OPS over 483 plate appearances this season while splitting time between shortstop and second base. He is due roughly $4 million in his final year of arbitration, which would be a tremendous waste of resources for someone who really only has value as a part-time player against left-handed pitching. With that in mind, it will be interesting to see whether teams still see him as a starting player (either at second base or shortstop) or strictly as a backup infielder moving forward. He only stole four bases in 2011, so his fantasy value is quickly approaching nil.