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Flowers In December: Any Interesting Names on the Non-Tender List?

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The midnight deadline by which teams had to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players has come and gone, and non-tendered players become free agents.  As I reported before sitting down to a lovely evening of watching Iron Man and eating homemade pizza with Mrs. Hugo, the Jays kept all their arbitration-eligibles in the fold, makin offers to Brandon League, Brian Tallet, Jose Bautista, and Jason Frasor.  Here is the list of non-tendered players, and it's got a few names worth some further look. 

Ty Wigginton, IF/OF: Wigginton, who we've discussed earlier here, was cut loose by the Houston Astros despite having a fine season last year, batting .285/.350/.526 in 429 plate appearances and seeing time in the infield and outfield corners.  He's been a solid hitter throughout his career and especially has crushed lefties.  Beyond the Box Score also had good things to say about his defense at third base, though his reputation is less favorable.  Wigginton made $4.35 last year and was due a raise - the Astros ultimately decided they couldn't afford him.  As Rince mentioned earlier this week, we know the Jays have some interest in Wigginton.  I think that interest makes sense:  Wigginton will be a tad pricey, but no more than the Jays paid for David Eckstein last year, and much more useful.  He provides power the team could really use, could spell Overbay against lefties (against whom he was awful last year) or else DH against them, and backup Rolen at third base.  The only problem is that a few teams, like the Twins for example, will probably offer Wigginton an everyday job at third base, which the Jays can't do. 

Joe Nelson, RHRP:  Nelson will be 34 this season but had a very nice season last year with the Florida Marlins, striking out 60 over 54 innings and walking just 22, yielding just 1.19 walks and hits per inning pitched all told.  He also had a good year in 2006 with the Royals and his minor league numbers are solid so it's not as if 2008 was a total aberration.  Nelson was equally solid against righties and lefties.  Sure, our bullpen is stacked, but with some relievers returning from injury and others possibly moving to the rotation, you can never have enough quality arms, particularly if the Jays decide to move bullpen help to fill needs in other areas. Nelson is arbitration-eligible for the first time so isn't in for any kind of big payday.  He did a fine job last year and is a decent move for any team. 

Daniel Cabrera, RHSP: Every year it seems like this guy has been primed for a breakout year, but it hasn't happened.  He made $4 million last season and had his worst season ever, continuing to walk about a batter every two innings and seeing his K rate completely fall apart.  He also battled elbow problems, which could either mean he will rebound if he's healthy now or that he's a bad risk if he's not.  Sure, there's a school of thought that says he has killer stuff and just needs to put it together, and it could be suggested that Arnsberg could fix him.  I suppose I wouldn't mind taking a pure flier on him with a really cheap deal, but my guess is that there won't be any shortage of teams in on him, and I don't think he's worth $4 million as he's never had a good season (never had a Whip under 1.4 or an ERA+ over 96).  Last year was truly terrible and it's hard to justify $4 million on top of that.  I say pass. 

Jonny Gomes, DH/OF/1B: Gomes can't field worth a lick, but for a team like the Jays and their almost historically bad DH production in 2008, that's not a fatal strike against him.   Gomes has been used as a part-time player against lefties, against whom he has historically fared quite well (.266/.369/.510 career).  Gomes has basically had two below average years, one very good year, and one terrible year (2008).  He is a bit of a worse version of Wigginton with some significant weaknesses compared to Ty: he can't play the field, he's not a good hitter against righties, and he is coming off a terrible season.  Of course, he will be much cheaper, and DHs don't have to field.  For a team as offense-starved as the Jays, he's probably worth a look, but I'm not expecting big things - he's only had one season that approaches what you want from a DH and that was back in 2005. 

Chris Capuano, LHP Capuano made $3.75 million last season and didn't throw a pitch while undergoing his second ligament replacement surgery on his left elbow.  He is still on the way back and likely will not be ready for the beginning of the season.  The Brewers didn't offer him a contract but might still bring him back on a lower-cost deal.  The Springfield, Massachusetts native will turn 30 in August.  He was a very useful mid-rotation starter in 2005 and 2006, averaging a 110 ERA+ over the two seasons and pitching to an excellent 174/47 K/BB ratio over 221 innings in 2006.  Capuano is still young and is probably worth a look for the Jays, as he has a solid track record as a starter when healthy, he's still young, and it's not at all unforseeable that he will have a nice bounceback year.  The two TJ surgeries are a caution though, as is the price tag.  Add in the fact that he likely won't be ready for the start of the season (the TJ surgery was in May) and it's not clear that the Jays should spend more money on another injury project.  Personally, though, I would much rather the Jays bite on Capuano than Cabrera.  I'd take a look at the medicals and offer a short-term deal with some nice incentives and a quality option for next season - I could see Capuano rebuilding his career over the next two seasons.  If there's someone I hope the Jays look at on this list, it's Capuano.

Takashi Saito, RHRP:  Saito will be 39 at the beginning of last season and made $2 million last season, his third after coming over to MLB from Japan.  Saito's major-league numbers are fantastic - if he was healthy, he'd be looking at tons of money as he has three very good seasons of closing under his belt, with a lifetime 229 ERA+ (compare Mariano Rivera at 199) and a career Whip of 0.91 (compare Rivera again at 1.02).  But Takashi's health is a huge question mark after serious elbow problems, namely, a torn ulnar collateral ligament.  In an attempt to avoid TJ surgery, the normal treatment (and a likely career-ender for a 39-year old pitcher), Saito underwent an experimental procedure by which plasma rich in platelets (an order of magnitude more than the normal concentration of platelets) drawn from his body was injected directly into the ligament at the tear site.  It's not clear how successful the treatment will be long-term, but it will be interesting to see - particularly, if it is successful, whether other pitchers in their 30s will opt for the procedure in lieu of TJ surgery or retirement.  Anyway, back from my medical-nerd digression.  Saito returned from the procedure to pitch in the playoffs (not very well, but that's understandable).  A 39-year old reliever doesn't necessarily make sense for a team like the Jays, who already have a rich bullpen, but if they plan to trade away some depth, it's never a bad idea to get all the quality arms you can.  Saito probably makes more sense for another team, though I'd love to see him pitching for the Jays.  If Ryan were traded away, Saito becomes a good (though not necessary) move in my opinion as you can use him in the closer role and give the Jays' younger pitchers high-leverage innings while easing them into closing duties. 

Chuck James, LHSP:  James is only 27 and was considered a pretty good pitching prospect but only made 7 starts last season and underwent shoulder surgery in August.  He will likely miss all of 2009 but he posted pretty good numbers as a young lefty starter for the Braves in 2006 and 2007.  He could be worth looking at, but I don't he really profiles well in the American League - he doesn't have overwhelming stuff and gives up too many fly balls and home runs while also walking too many.  He could still have a decent career, but the Jays have plenty of guys like this and better who aren't recovering from shoulder surgery. 

Jamie Burke, C:  He'll be 37 for the 2009 season and isn't coming off a good year, but a backup catcher with a 94 career OPS+?  You could do worse.

Kevin Cash, C:  Just kidding.

Today's title from the lovely song by Mazzy Star, one of the more underrated bands around.