A total of 29 players were non-tendered by their former teams prior to Monday night’s deadline. While there weren’t any real surprises among the group, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a handful of players now on the free agent market that will land some important roles for 2012.
Let’s take a look at some of the more interesting names.
Luke Scott, OF/DH (Former team- Orioles)
Scott has been a nice player for the Orioles over the past few seasons, but with him recovering from shoulder surgery and set to earn around $6 million through arbitration, it’s no surprise the O’s decided to cut him loose. Scott averaged 25 homers per season from 2008-10 before hitting just nine during an injury-plagued 2011. He’s expecting to be fine for spring training, though, and could wind up as a nice bargain if he can stay healthy. Around 10 teams have reportedly already expressed interest in the 33-year-old.
Joe Saunders, LHP (Former team- Diamondbacks)
The Diamondbacks offered Saunders a two-year deal to stick around, but he balked at the proposal and instead will test the free agent market. The owner of a 3.69 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in 33 starts this past year for the Snakes, Saunders has already drawn interest from several teams on the market, notably the Red Sox and Reds. He’s not a bad guy to have at the back-end of a rotation, but it would be foolhardy to expect another sub-4.00 ERA season.
Ryan Theriot, INF (Former team- Cardinals)
Theriot batted just .271/.321/.342 with one home run for the World Series champs this past season and was moved to a backup role down the stretch and in the playoffs with the addition of Rafael Furcal. He’s no longer a legitimate answer at shortstop, but he can play there in a pinch and can handle second base. Someone will likely give him a guaranteed deal, but he’ll probably have to settle for a utility role.
Jeff Keppinger, INF (Former team- Giants)
The Giants had to make a decision on whether to keep Keppinger or Mike Fontenot, and they ultimately went with the latter, most likely because he hits left-handed and offers a better glove. Keppinger sports a respectable .281/.332/.388 career batting line and is a .324/.371/.481 career hitter against left-handed pitching. Though he’s not a good defender, he at least offers defensive versatility and wouldn’t be a bad platoon player at shortstop or second base.
Jo-Jo Reyes, LHP (Former team- Orioles)
Reyes managed to make 25 starts in 2011 despite holding a 5.57 ERA, which is actually an improvement over his career 6.05 mark across five seasons. That’s the bad. The good is that he just turned 27 years old, can touch the mid-90s with his fastball and has held left-handed batters to a fairly stingy .255/.328/.408 batting line in his career. It’s probably time to move him to the bullpen full-time, but Reyes shouldn’t be totally disregarded yet.
Hong-Chih Kuo, LHP (Former team- Dodgers)
The Dodgers let Kuo hit the market despite the fact that he was an All-Star just a year ago. One of the better left-handed relievers in the game when he’s healthy, Kuo dealt with an anxiety disorder for a good chunk of 2011 and underwent his fifth elbow operation in October. He was also highly ineffective when he was healthy enough to take the mound, posting a 9.00 ERA over 40 appearances. But, he’ll be throwing again before long, and with a career 3.73 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 10.6 K/9 rate, someone will give him a shot if he shows his elbow is sound.
Clay Hensley, RHP (Former team- Marlins)
Hensley was an integral part of the Marlins bullpen in 2010, posting a 2.16 ERA while striking out over a batter per inning. But, he dealt with shoulder issues for a good part of 2011 and fell back to a less than inspiring 5.19 ERA and 46/30 K/BB ratio over 67 2/3 innings. As long as his shoulder checks out, someone will be willing to give him a minor league deal, at the very least.
Peter Moylan, RHP (Former team- Braves)
Nickelback’s biggest fan, Moylan missed most of the 2011 season while recovering from back surgery. While effective in 13 late-season appearances, he was then diagnosed with a torn labrum and rotator cuff, which he had surgery on in late September. The submarining right-hander boasts a 2.60 ERA over 287 career relief appearances, so some team will give him an incentive-laden deal and hope he can contribute for the bulk of the 2012 season.
Jose Mijares, LHP (Former team- Twins)
Mijares was highly effective for the Twins in 2009, posting a 2.34 ERA over 71 appearances while holding left-handed batters to a measly .155/.228/.252 batting line. He’s regressed each of the last two seasons, though, finishing the 2011 campaign with a 4.59 ERA, 1.69 WHIP and 5.5 K/9 rate. However, he’s just 27 and a couple years removed from being one of the better southpaw relievers in baseball, so he would be a worthwhile gamble for someone.