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December 14, 2011

Transaction Analysis

Love Me Non-Tender

by R.J. Anderson

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Declined to tender OF-L Luke Scott a contract offer. [12/12]

Scott’s questionable politicking may annoy some, but the man can hit a baseball when he is healthy. Even with the inclusion of an injury-anchored 2011 season, Scott has hit .262/.344/.490 since 2009. He fared better versus southpaws in 2011, although he carried a typical left-handed platoon split prior to that. Believe it or not, defensive metrics don’t find Scott’s play repulsive, and if teams feel the same way, he could find himself rotating between first base and the corner outfield spots (perhaps designated hitter, too).

Before signing Scott, teams will have to do their research on his shoulder’s condition. He tore his labrum in July and missed the rest of the season recovering. The Orioles are said to be interested in having Scott return, and presumably they are the most informed about his condition, so that could be the most likely outcome.

MINNESOTA TWINS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Declined to tender P-L Jose Mijares a contract offer. [12/12]

File Mijares away as a player to watch next season. An opportunistic team will sign him and shift his usage patterns to match his platoon splits. Despite better career performances against lefties (.212/.276/.331) than righties (.268/.353/.423), Mijares faced righties 56 percent of the time with the Twins. Granted, Ron Gardenhire used Mijares in plenty of low-leverage situations, but you wonder if Mijares would be getting non-tendered if he had faced 56 percent of southpaws.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Declined to tender P-L Joe Saunders and Ruth-R Micah Owings contract offers. [12/12]

As noted in September:

Saunders is yet another product of the trade tree, and while he is the weakest of the bunch, he has outpitched his component-based metrics by generating more double plays than expected (43 since 2008, the most in the majors, and 13 more than runner-up Ricky Romero).

Saunders’s well-timed double plays appear to be a repeatable skill set rather than baseball’s best deus ex machina. Those double plays appear to be part of the reason Saunders has managed to outperform his component measures. If a team buys into his near-average ERAs and factors in his durability, expect him to land on his feet in a major-league rotation next season. Caveat emptor applies, as Saunders belongs at the back of a good team’s rotation.

Meanwhile, here’s hoping a team gives Owings the opportunity to become the new Brooks Kieschnick. Owings is the owner of a career .286/.313/.507 slash line (217 plate appearances) and a better 2011 season as a pitcher than he’d had in the previous few years.

ATLANTA BRAVES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Declined to tender P-R Peter Moylan and UTL-S Brooks Conrad contract offers. [12/12]

The Braves spotted Moylan during the 2006 World Baseball Classic and signed him. Years later, Moylan could be leaving the organization after undergoing shoulder surgery. Moylan is a card-carrying exterminator of right-handed hitters and deserves a bullpen spot when healthy. Atlanta can let him walk with the knowledge that Cory Gearrin is a mini-Moylan. Right down to the arm slot, groundballs, and right-handed-batter-killing ways.

Conrad lacks a defensive position, but his switch-hitting and versatility could be enough to land him on a bench. Conrad has hit .268/.358/.465 versus lefties in a small sample size (81 PA), although his numbers versus righties make him less appealing.

COLORADO ROCKIES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Declined to tender OF-R Ryan Spilborghs and OF-R Cole Garner contract offers. [12/12]

It wouldn’t be quite right to classify Spilborghs as a platoon player. He is a right-handed outfielder, but he lacks the lefty-masher gene you would expect from a non-starter. Instead, the reason Spilborghs should be fastened to the bench is that he’s a tweener. He does not hit enough for a corner spot nor field well enough for center. Still, a team with solid outfielders already in place could use Spilborghs to give their starters rest without fear.

Don’t be surprised if Garner gets a look in a major-league camp. He turns 27 in a matter of weeks and never could crack the Rockies’ outfield, but he offers a little bit of everything and has hit .312/.371/.532 in Triple-A, albeit in the Pacific Coast League.

FLORIDA MARLINS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Declined to tender P-R Clay Hensley a contract offer. [12/12]

After four so-so seasons with the Padres, Hensley resurfaced in 2010 with the Marlins to the tune of 75 innings and a 193 adjusted-earned run average. Hensley fell back to earth in 2011, posting a 76 ERA+ in 67 2/3 innings, but the raw numbers lie a little. Most of Hensley’s struggles came during his nine starts. During his 28 games as a reliever, Hensley managed a better ERA (3.51 versus 6.21), strikeout rate (seven per nine innings rather than 5.6), and strikeout-to-walk rate (1.67 versus 1.44) than he did as a starter. Here’s a guess: Hensley’s next team will move him to the bullpen permanently.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Declined to tender P-L Hong-Chih Kuo a contract offer. [12/12]

Under normal circumstances, teams would line up around the block to woo Kuo. Unfortunately, he missed most of the 2011 season with back, elbow, and anxiety issues, and even the Dodgers seem not to know whether he will pitch in 2012. When right, Kuo is one of the game’s better left-handed relievers; however, his status is up in the air, and his rap sheet of elbow issues makes him unreliable. Sad as it is, there is a legit chance that Kuo may fade from consciousness before making his next major-league appearance. 

NEW YORK METS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Declined to tender C-R Ronny Paulino and OF-L Mike Baxter contract offers. [12/12]

Hours after Paulino received a non-tender, Kelly Shoppach signed a deal for more than $1 million. Paulino isn’t much different from Shoppach. He hits left-handed pitching, throws out about 30 percent of attempted thieves, and profiles as a good framer. Paulino made $1.35 million in 2011 and could have been in line for a raise. Any team frozen out of the reserve catcher market could do worse than giving Paulino a look-see. The Mets, on the other hand, appear to be content rolling with Mike Nickeas as Josh Thole’s caddy.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Declined to tender 2B-R Jeff Keppinger and C-R Eli Whiteside contract offers. [12/12]

Expect Keppinger to land somewhere as a utility infielder. He can play second and third base, as well as fake shortstop, providing him with enough positions to be labeled versatile. Over the last three seasons, the contact-driven Keppinger has hit .276/.327/.386 while walking (90) almost as often as he’s struck out (93). Add in that Keppinger has hit .324/.371/.481 against lefties, and he makes for a nice piece of bench décor. 


R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here

Related Content:  Depth,  Clay Hensley,  Player Cards,  Depth Chart

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