The December non-tender deadline is an often-overlooked part of MLB’s offseason schedule, but it’s a significant day. The free agent market is flooded with a couple dozen reinforcements following the annual deadline for teams to extend offers of arbitration to their eligible players. Some of those non-tenders rebound with strong seasons, often in new environments.
Teams non-tender players for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the clubs would rather risk losing the players to rival teams than go through the potentially expensive arbitration process. In other cases, teams don't have 40-man roster spots to spare or they view players as injury risks.
In total 29 players were non-tendered last offseason and a handful of them have added value for their current organizations. Here’s a look at some 2011 non-tenders who are contributing so far in 2012:
- Jose Mijares, Giants (non-tendered by Twins) – The left-hander has a 2.86 ERA with 8.6 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 in 50 1/3 total innings with the Royals and Giants. He's arbitration eligible again this offseason so he’ll be back in San Francisco — unless the Giants non-tender him again.
- Aaron Laffey, Blue Jays (non-tendered by Royals) – Laffey has made 11 starts and six relief appearances with the Blue Jays, posting a 4.46 ERA in 78 2/3 innings with Toronto.
- Joe Saunders, Orioles (non-tendered by Diamondbacks) – The Diamondbacks re-signed Saunders for $6MM — less than he would have obtained going through the arbitration process — and obtained 130 solid innings from him before sending him to Baltimore last month. In 141 2/3 total innings, Saunders has a 4.26 ERA with 6.0 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9.
- Mike Baxter, Mets (non-tendered by Mets) – The outfielder has a .285/.390/.444 batting line in 172 plate appearances with the Mets. Terry Collins has limited Baxter's exposure to left-handers this year.
- Jeff Keppinger, Rays (non-tendered by Giants) – As I explained yesterday, Keppinger is adding lots of value with his versatility and bat. The lefty-masher is hitting .328/.375/.443 in 2012.
- Pedro Ciriaco, Red Sox (non-tendered by Pirates) – Ciriaco has played second base, third base, shortstop and all three outfield positions for the Red Sox this year while posting a .312/.324/.422 batting line and stealing ten bases in as many attempts. An unexpectedly valuable pickup by GM Ben Cherington.
- Ryan Theriot, Giants (non-tendered by Cardinals) – Theriot has picked up lots of playing time in San Francisco, posting a .265/.314/.313 batting line in 364 plate appearances.
- Luke Scott, Rays (non-tendered by Orioles) – Scott has 13 home runs but he's hitting just .223/.274/.439 in Tampa Bay and missed time with a strained oblique and back spasms.