Intriguing non-tendered names join open market
Onetime closers Axford, Bailey head new crop of free agents after deadline
The free-agent pool got a boost on Monday, with former closers John Axford and Andrew Bailey among the biggest names cut loose ahead of the 11:59 p.m. ET non-tender deadline.
Teams had until that time to offer -- or tender -- contracts to arbitration-eligible players. A non-tendered player immediately becomes a free agent and can sign with any team, including the one that just made him available.
Though most decisions are relatively easy, some clubs faced tough choices about whether to open a precious 40-man roster spot or hold on to a player who might be coming off a down year, have injury concerns or be due for a significant raise.
While Bailey is one of the most high-profile players to be non-tendered, he also is due for a roughly $4.5 million salary despite coming off right shoulder surgery that could prevent him from being ready for Opening Day. The two-time All-Star posted a 3.77 ERA and eight saves last season for the Red Sox, who also non-tendered outfielder Ryan Kalish.
Boston's World Series opponent also parted ways with an expensive ex-closer. Axford, whom the Cardinals acquired from the Brewers in August, had a 1.74 ERA in limited action for St. Louis but also made $5 million last year.
One of the most intriguing names on the non-tender list is that of D-backs righty Daniel Hudson, who hasn't pitched since early in the 2012 season and now is recovering from a second Tommy John surgery that could keep him out for much of -- if not all -- of '14. MLB.com reported last week that the two sides were talking about a contract that would have avoided arbitration, but they never came to terms.
Hudson, who made $518,000 last season, went 16-12 with a 3.49 ERA over 33 starts for Arizona in 2011 and will be 27 next season. He was scheduled to begin playing catch this week.
"I'm looking forward to doing that and turning a corner," Hudson said last week. "My arm feels great."
The Angels non-tendered four players, including two pitchers with big league track records. Right-hander Tommy Hanson notched a 3.28 ERA over 77 starts for the Braves from 2009-11 but the 27-year-old has dealt with injuries since and struggled to a 5.42 mark in 73 innings for the Angels last season.
Righty Jerome Williams had been a solid swingman for the Angels the past three seasons, making 46 starts out of 79 appearances, but parting with him and Hanson gives the club more financial room this winter.
"We wanted to remain as flexible as we could as we worked through the offseason," Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said, "and we felt like this was the best move for the club in order to do that."
One of the more surprising non-tenders also came from Los Angeles, with the Dodgers letting go of reliever Ronald Belisario. The righty, who made $1.45 million last season, appeared in 145 games for the club over the past two years, with a 3.24 ERA.
Another non-tendered National League West reliever was Mitchell Boggs, who had a 2.21 ERA over 78 appearances for the Cardinals in 2012 but struggled last year and was picked up by Colorado, where he appeared in only nine games, with a 3.12 ERA.
Among the position players who were non-tendered was 2009 National League Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan, who posted an .850 OPS for the Marlins that year but never came close to duplicating that production. Miami also cut ties with right-handed reliever Ryan Webb.
The Rays non-tendered a key member of their bench the past three years in outfielder Sam Fuld, a speedy defensive whiz who hit .199 last season. But Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman did not rule out an eventual deal with either Fuld or his other non-tender decision, lefty reliever Wesley Wright.
"We still think very highly of Sam," Friedman said. "He's an extraordinary player and a great teammate."
The Blue Jays, who signed catcher Dioner Navarro on Monday, non-tendered their previous starter, J.P. Arencibia. The former first-round pick started 331 games behind the plate since debuting for Toronto in August 2010 but has a career .258 on-base percentage and was due to make more than $2.5 million in '14.
The Mets were one of the most active teams in terms of non-tendering, cutting five players from their roster: starter Jeremy Hefner, reliever Scott Atchison, infielders Omar Quintanilla and Justin Turner, and outfielder Jordany Valdespin. Those moves marked the end of Valdespin's tumultuous tenure in the organization, which included some highlight-reel plays but also confrontations with management, a 50-game suspension in the Biogenesis case and a .188 average with New York this season.
Other non-tendered players included Braves infielders Paul Janish and Elliot Johnson, Indians catcher Lou Marson, Royals infielder Chris Getz, White Sox pitcher Dylan Axelrod and Yankees infielder Jayson Nix.
In some cases, teams agreed to one-year deals with arbitration-eligible players rather than non-tendering or extending an offer and continuing negotiations.
The Padres, for example, came to terms with left-hander Eric Stults and right-hander Tim Stauffer. Stults is coming off a career year that saw him post a 3.93 ERA over 33 starts and was set to go through his his first round of arbitration.
The Nationals, who added Doug Fister to their rotation earlier on Monday, further solidified their pitching depth by re-signing Ross Ohlendorf. The righty, who had a 3.28 ERA over 16 games (seven starts) last season for Washington, will make $1.25 million plus incentives, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com and MLB Network.
The Tigers, who already had agreed to a deal with lefty reliever Phil Coke, signed utility man Don Kelly for $1 million. Kelly appeared at six positions, plus designated hitter, in 2013.
While the Cubs non-tendered three players, including reliever Daniel Bard and infielder Mat Gamel, they also tendered contracts to seven others and avoided arbitration with infielder Donnie Murphy and catcher George Kottaras. Acquired last week from the Royals to back up Welington Castillo, Kottaras will make $1,075,000 plus incentives.
The Orioles hung on to outfielder Nolan Reimold for a base salary of $1,025,000, even though he is coming off a second neck surgery and hit .195 in limited action last season. The 30-year-old has a .766 career OPS, and Baltimore is optimistic about his rehab.
Among the other players to avoid arbitration with their clubs were Orioles outfielder Steve Pearce, White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers, Phillies infielder Kevin Frandsen, and Braves infielder Ramiro Pena and reliever Jonny Venters.