Trash to Treasure – How The Rangers Can Benefit
Cast off from their former owners for one reason or another and thrust into the uncertainty of searching for a contract and team to latch on to, the recently published list of players who were not tendered a contract signifies the start of Free Agency 2.0.
Whether because of lack of meaningful contribution, costing too much money, or being cast aside for a shiny, new acquisition, this list of non-tendered players is Baseball’s own Island of Misfit Toys.
Can the Rangers make someone else’s trash their treasure? After booting pitcher Nick Tepesch and recently acquired outfielder James Jones off of their 40-man roster (with intent of bringing them back on non-roster, minor-league contracts), Texas has three spots open going into the Winter Meetings. One would assume that one of those spots goes towards the next Rule-5 Draft pick, so there are two spots that can be filled from Free Agencies 1.0 and 2.0, barring, of course, any trades. But let’s have some fun and look at names from the American League and National League non-tendered players lists and try to fill three Ranger needs – back-end starting pitching, right-handed-hitting outfielder, and an offense-first catcher.
Juan Nicasio – RHP – Los Angeles Dodgers
- 2015 Stats: 1-3, 3.86 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 53 games, 58.1 IP
- Career Stats: 22-25, 4.88 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 141 games, 439.1 IP
Nicasio is coming off of a season in LA where he was used solely as a reliever (okay, he made one start…), but prior to the trade that took him from Colorado, he started off and on. Averaging around three walks and ten hits per nine doesn’t look terribly pretty, but being able to only give up one to two homers per nine during his time in Coors is a feat. During his only full load as a starter (that is, at least 30 starts in a season) came when he made 31 starts in 2013. He only logged 157.2 innings, but remember, that was during that odd time in Colorado when they only allowed their pitchers to go right around 70 pitches per start before using the bullpen. As a hard thrower with previous starting experience, Nicasio would merit a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training as depth for the rotation and as a swing-man candidate.
Yusmeiro Petit – RHP – San Francisco Giants
- 2015 Stats: 1-1, 3.67 ERA, 1.184 WHIP, 42 games, 76.0 IP
- Career Stats: 20-27, 4.59 ERA, 1.269 WHIP, 161 games, 475.0 IP
The 31-year old Venezuelan hurler’s biggest moment came in 2013 when he was one strike away (Editors Note: The author will no longer be allowed to use this phrase from here on out) from a perfect game in September after being a late-season call-up. After earning $2.1 million last season, however, and the Giants wanting to try to allocate all of their financial resources to a Zack Greinke pursuit, the eight-year veteran was deemed expendable. Again, to foster competition, Petit could be brought in for an audition for the rotation in Spring Training.
Mike Minor – LHP – Atlanta Braves
- 2015 Stats: Did Not Pitch
- Career Stats: 38-36, 4.10 ERA, 1.266 WHIP, 111 games, 652.2 IP
Minor did not pitch in 2015 due to a shoulder injury, which comes a long way from being a playoff starter for the 2013 Atlanta Braves organization. While the 27-year old lefty would merit only a non-roster invite, keeping a fairly successful, young pitcher with post-season experience in the organization could not be considered a negative.
Lisalverto Bonilla – RHP – Los Angeles Dodgers
- 2015 Stats: Did Not Pitch
- Career Stats: 3-0, 3.05 ERA, 1.210 WHIP, 5 games, 20.2 IP
Bonilla underwent Tommy John surgery before the season began. As one of the bright spots for the Rangers down the stretch of an otherwise miserable 2014, the righty had entered Spring Training as a candidate to make the rotation. He was claimed off of waivers by the Dodgers on October 21st, but with his re-entry into the free agent market, Jon Daniels might want to go ahead an reclaim Bonilla on a non-roster contract and continue his rehab, hoping that he might still get some value from one of the pieces of the Michael Young trade.
Henderson Alvarez – RHP – Miami Marlins
- 2015 Stats: 0-4, 6.45 ERA, 1.567 WHIP, 4 games, 22.1 IP
- Career Stats: 27-34, 3.80 ERA, 1.288 WHIP, 92 games, 563.0 IP
Here’s the Wild Card in all of the non-tender players. Controversially (although, not surprisingly for the Marlins), the 25-year old, right-handed, middle-to-top-of-the-rotation starter was not given a contract from Miami and instead gets to find a home somewhere else. After undergoing shoulder surgery in July, Alvarez was slated to be ready for Spring Training, but recent reports indicated that recovery would keep him out through April. Obviously, the Marlins didn’t feel like waiting for the young pitcher was the right move. Alvarez is a pitcher that should get several GMs salivating, as despite the uncertainty of the shoulder issue, the young pitcher comes with two more years of control and, during his most dominating stretch in Miami, a lovely 53.6% ground ball rate – which sounds like it would fit in quite nicely with the infield that Texas has. Alvarez isn’t one of those pitchers that would be on a look-see in Spring Training. Once healthy, Alvarez could slot right between Derek Holland and Martin Perez in the Texas rotation.
Tyler Flowers – C/1B – Chicago White Sox
- 2015 Stats: .239/.295/.356, 9 HR, 39 RBI, 4.93 K/BB, 112 games
- Career Stats: .223/.289/.376, 46 HR, 142 RBI, 4.99 K/BB, 431 games
It might be odd to think of Flowers as a veteran, but after four years of late call-ups, the 29-year old catcher got to spend all of each of the last three seasons on the big league roster, even catching over a hundred games the last two years. While Texas would like to have an offense-first catcher, Flowers is highly regarded in game-calling and pitch-framing – to that end, as streaky as Flowers can be with a bat, he did slug 15 homers over a full season in 2014. Perhaps a change of scenery can ignite that potential power. With a thin catching market and current backup Chris Gimenez not on a guaranteed Major League contract, bringing Flowers could be a good idea, but he could get a Major League contract elsewhere.
Elian Herrera – UTIL – Milwaukee Brewers
- 2015 Stats: .242/.290/.395, 7 HR, 33 RBI, 4.0 K/BB, 83 games
- Career Stats: .253/.306/.360, 8 HR, 55 RBI, 3.64 K/BB, 223 games
There are likely more appealing outfielder options through traditional free agent or trade methods, but Herrera presents the case of being a utility guy who can play all three outfield positions and is a switch-hitter. For a guy with only three-plus years of service time, he’s a little on the older side at thirty, but he could warrant a non-roster invitation to provide some internal competition for the favored incumbent outfielders.
The rest of the non-tendered market doesn’t present much for opportunity for the Rangers, but it’s noted that there are several more potential Major League contract possibilities in this year’s crop of non-tendered players. As the Winter Meetings get underway next week in Nashville, Jon Daniels has a few other players to look at that, as he stated the other day, he’s already started doing his homework on. Which of the cast out toys from other team’s playgrounds should Texas look to polish up and turn into something useful?