Thirty seven players joined the free agent ranks over the course of the day Friday, after failing to receive contracts from their respective organizations. The reasons behind such decisions often vary – some of these players are battling injury concerns or have seen their performance slip in recent months, while others were never more than fringe roster guys at best to begin with – but each is now free to explore the open market and sign anywhere they choose.
Each year there are numerous players who are surprise members of this group and there are even more who surprisingly aren’t included in such a list (i.e. Kansas City’s Luke Hochevar is the best example this year of a player who should have been non-tendered but wasn’t). Many of these players will end up receiving Major League deals by another organization, but a good amount will ultimately settle for minor league contracts, with the hopes of proving themselves and winning a roster spot during Spring Training. Someone from this group is bound to go on and surprise during the 2013 season, as it seems to happen each year. Last winter, for instance, infielder Jeff Keppinger was non-tendered by the San Francisco Giants. He’d end up signing with the Tampa Bay Rays and would hit .325/.367/.439 over 418 plate appearances on the 2012 season, serving as a significant part of the Rays lineup and setting himself up for a nice payday this winter via free agency.
Let’s take a quick look at a few of the more notable additions to the free agent market:
Robert Andino, Seattle Mariners – Andino batted just .211/.283/.305 over 431 plate appearances for the Orioles this past season, but was largely reliable defensively when the team was in dire need of someone to fill in at second base after yet another injury to veteran Brian Roberts. His non-tender here is notable only because the Mariners had just acquired him barely a week ago from the Orioles, giving up outfield prospect Trayvon Robinson in exchange. While Robinson may not have had a place in the Mariners’ future plans, it is still surprising to see such a price paid only to turn around and let Andino walk for nothing so shortly thereafter. (Update: Andino has already re-signed with Seattle, according to MLBTR)
Jesus Flores, Washington Nationals – The likelihood of Flores returning to Washington was all but eliminated when the team acquired Kurt Suzuki at this past July’s trade deadline, as there were just simply too many options available for the Nationals as they looked ahead to next season (between Suzuki, an expected healthy return of Wilson Ramos from injury, and the emergence of Jhonatan Solano as a potential future option). Flores hit .213/.248/.329 in 296 plate appearances but should catch on somewhere, likely in a backup role, given the poor free agent catching market.
Rich Hill, Boston Red Sox – Injuries have hampered Hill over the bulk of his career, but when healthy, the results have been rather impressive ever since the Red Sox converted him full time from a starter to a reliever. Expect Hill to receive a fair amount of interest on the open market, presuming teams are confident in his ability to remain healthy moving forward. Over 19.2 innings during the 2012 season, Hill went 1-0 with a 1.83 ERA and 9.6 K/9.
Jair Jurrjens, Atlanta Braves – Just a year removed from an All Star caliber season, Jurrjens is a unique case where things seemingly fell apart without much reason, resulting in his demotion to Triple-A for an extended period during the 2012 season. Still only 26 years of age (he’ll be 27 before Spring Training begins), there’s reason to hope that Jurrjens can still turn things around and return to being a quality starting option so it’d be a surprise to not see him receive a fair amount of interest on the open market. He went 3-4 with a 6.89 ERA over 48.1 innings this past season for the Braves.
John Lannan, Washington Nationals – Lannan is not much of a surprise inclusion here, considering how rocky his 2012 season ended up being. He’d lose out on a spot in the Nationals rotation late in Spring Training, received a surprising demotion to Triple-A, publicly expressed his displeasure with the move and requested a trade before spending nearly the entire season with Washington’s Triple-A affiliate. He’d make a handful of late season starts for the team, however, posting a 4-1 record and 4.13 ERA over 32.2 innings of work. While the Nationals appear to have an opening in their starting rotation this winter (pending whether the team looks to re-sign Edwin Jackson), Lannan was projected to earn $5 Million in his final time through arbitration, leading many to believe this non-tender was coming.
Mike Pelfrey, New York Mets – Pelfrey’s 2012 season lasted a mere 19.2 innings over three starts before the right-hander underwent Tommy John Surgery, causing him to miss the remainder of the year. He’s long exhibited more potential than success, however, and could prove appealing to a number of teams (he’s originally from Ohio and went to school in the Kansas City area) assuming he appears to be recovering as expected from surgery.
Mark Reynolds, Baltimore Orioles – Reynolds is hands down the top power option to join the free agent ranks, having hit 23+ home runs each of the past five seasons. This past season he batted .221/.335/.429 over 538 plate appearances for the Orioles, seeing time at both third and first base. The limited free agent options at both positions and his track record of power production will likely appeal to multiple teams, despite his tendency for high strikeout totals.
Daniel Schlereth, Detroit Tigers – Injury limited Schlereth to just 7.0 unimpressive innings this past season, but the left-hander could still appeal to some teams on a low-risk signing, assuming his medical records check out ok. The 26 year old was part of the three team trade that sent Curtis Granderson from the Tigers to the New York Yankees three years ago and is arguably best known as being the son of former NFL star and current ESPN analyst Mark Schlereth.
Geovany Soto, Texas Rangers – Soto’s offensive performance tailed off this past season, batting just .198/.270/.343 over 361 plate appearances with the Cubs and Rangers. With some strong power potential and having been generally reliable behind the plate, the former 2008 NL Rookie of the Year could benefit from a weak free agent catching market (likely moreso than Flores, as we mentioned above).
Brian Wilson, San Francisco Giants – “Fear the Beard” has not been the mantra behind the Giants’ success for nearly two years and the team’s success this past season seemingly helped in their decision to move on, a decision that reportedly is not sitting well with Wilson. Coming off his second Tommy John Surgery, Wilson has already been rumored to be a possible fit for a handful of teams (Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox) and could be an intriguing addition depending on where he lands.
Other non-tendered players include:
Manny Acosta, New York Mets; Scott Atchison, Boston Red Sox; Jacob Brigham, Texas Rangers; Anthony Carter, Chicago White Sox; Jaye Chapman, Chicago Cubs; Ben Francisco, Tampa Bay Rays; Tom Gorzelanny, Washington Nationals; Jack Hannahan, Cleveland Indians; Dan Johnson, Chicago White Sox; Jeff Karstens, Pittsburgh Pirates; Jermaine Mitchell, Oakland Athletics; Peter Moylan, Atlanta Braves; Wil Nieves, Arizona Diamondbacks; Juan Oramas, San Diego Padres; Manny Parra, Milwaukee Brewers; Rafael Perez, Cleveland Indians; Stuart Pomeranz, Baltimore Orioles; Zach Putnam, Chicago Cubs; Omar Quintanilla, Baltimore Orioles; Derrick Robinson, Kansas City Royals; Nate Schierholtz, Philadelphia Phillies; Chris Seddon, Cleveland Indians; Brandon Snyder, Texas Rangers; Ian Stewart, Chicago Cubs; Ryan Sweeney, Boston Red Sox; Andres Torres, New York Mets; Bobby Wilson, Toronto Blue Jays