With all the hoopla around the Dodgers and Russell Martin, it’s easy to forget that other teams had to make some tough decisions as well. In a lot of cases, players were non-tendered not because they don’t have any baseball value, but just because they weren’t going to be worth what they’d make in arbitration.
There’s not a lot of star power on the list – Martin is probably the biggest name alongside Bobby Jenks - but there’s definitely some players who could be useful in the right situation. Just remember, even though it sounds bad that a player was non-tendered, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to come for the minimum salary. It just means the team didn’t want to go to arbitration, and in some cases the player may actually end up making more because he can now negotiate with all 30 teams, not just his own.
Let’s take a look at a few of these new free agents who could fit in on a Dodger club which is likely close to its payroll limit, yet still has a few holes.
Players we should be into:
Matt Diaz, OF, and Lastings Milledge, OF. Back when I laid out my 2011 plan, one of my top priorities was getting at least one (if not two) righty outfielders who could mash lefties, since Andre Ethier and Jay Gibbons are both poor against southpaws. At the time, I settled upon Ryan Raburn and Jeff Francoeur. Frenchy’s still an option – Raburn’s likely not – but let’s toss Diaz and Milledge into the same conversation.
Diaz is older than you think – 33 in March – but he’s shown excellent on-base skills with Atlanta. His career mark is .350, and in the three seasons in which he’s received at least 290 PA, he’s put up OBPs of .364, .368, and .390. The Braves let him go because he slumped to .302 OBP this year, he’s regarded as a poor outfielder, and they didn’t want to pay him the $3-$4m he might make in arbitration. He’s also all-but-unplayable against RH pitching, with a .633 OPS this year and .710 career. But good lord, can he hit LH pitching, because he was at .830 this year and .907 in his career. It may not be sexy, but you could do far worse than a Diaz/Gibbons LF platoon – and you could probably do it for about $3m total.
Milledge is a bit different, because he’s still young (26 in April) and still has time to reach the potential so many saw in him. Like Diaz, Milledge has a pronounced platoon split, though never bigger than in 2010 – .926 vs LHP, .602 vs RHP. He also spent 2008 as Washington’s center fielder, so while he may not be a plus glove there, he’s at least an acceptable backup for Matt Kemp – something which this team doesn’t have right now.
Honestly, they could sign both Diaz and Milledge to play the corners against lefties, and I’d be okay with that.
Players who I’d like on the team, but don’t want to see a lot of money poured into:
Bobby Jenks, RP. I think Jenks is actually pretty underrated, because of his lousy ERA. He also dealt with some injuries, and had to fight off an excellent Chicago bullpen full of vultures like Matt Thornton, Chris Sale, and J.J. Putz. But his fastball velocity was higher than it’d been in years, and his K rate was the highest since his rookie season of 2005. His ERA is inflated by a few bad outings (I won’t go through again why ERA for relievers is silly), and he was victimized by a career-high .368 BABIP, which is why his FIP was only 2.59. I’d actually quite like Jenks in the bullpen, but he’s not going to come cheaply and the pen is the last place the Dodgers ought to be spending money in right now.
Players who may be interesting if the Dodgers didn’t already have nine starting pitchers:
John Maine, SP, and Chien-Ming Wang, SP. Each have been injured for most of the last two years, and Wang never did make it back last year. They’ve had past success, so I’d be willing to toss them a minor-league deal with a spring invite, but they’ll likely prefer a team where they have a better chance of making the cut.
Players who people are asking me about, except, hell no:
Edwin Encarnacion, 3B, Hideki Okajima, RP, Dioner Navarro, C, Lance Cormier, RP, Jack Cust, OF. Encarnacion has power (five double-digit HR seasons) but that’s about it. He’s a poor third baseman who doesn’t really play anywhere else, and while he’s got a strong platoon split, it’s exactly the same as Casey Blake‘s so it makes no sense on this team.
Okajima had some nice moments on the Red Sox, and the Dodgers do still need another lefty in the pen. But he’s old (35 on Xmas Day), his velocity is failing, he’s declined in each of his seasons in the bigs… well, just read Mike Axisa at River Ave Blues about him. I’d rather just bring back George Sherrill, or hope Scott Elbert is ready. PASS.
Navarro gets mentioned because he’s a former Dodger and the team has zero catching depth, but I’m not seeing it. His OPS+ the last two years came in at 54 and 48, and he left the team after being left off the playoff roster this year. PASS.
Cormier comes up because he had a 3.92 ERA this year. He also had a 1.648 WHIP and walked four more guys than he struck out. Uh, no thanks. PASS.
Believe it or not, someone really did ask me about Cust. He’s basically only a DH, and even if you did want to stick him in the field, he’s a LH outfielder, which the Dodgers don’t need. PASS.
And two bonus names…
Andy LaRoche, 3B, and Delwyn Young, IF/OF. These don’t technically count as non-tenders, as they were DFA’d last month, but they’re free agents all the same. I’ll freely admit that half the reason they’re even mentioned here is my affinity for ex-Dodger farmhands, and let me be clear that I’m not advocating signing either to a guaranteed major league deal. Neither one did all that much in Pittsburgh, particularly LaRoche, whose career has spiraled at an alarming rate. I’m just saying, ABQ needs players too, and LaRoche has only just turned 27. His 2010 was horrendous, but he was almost league-average in 2009, and the Dodgers have no one coming up in the minors to play 3B, other than Russ Mitchell, who I consider a bench guy. Why not stick Andy in ABQ and see if he can get back on track?