It seems that over the past two days, the baseball world has gone completely insane. The Tigers are cutting costs and trading for prospects. The Astros are bringing in talent instead of shipping it away. The Moneyball Athletics, who have previously scoffed at the notion of a Proven Closer, just acquired likely $10 million man Jim Johnson. The Marlins signed Jarrod Saltalamacchia, meaning they were actually able to convince a mid-tier free agent to take his talents to South Beach. It seems the Yankees have decided to pilfer a certain formerRed Sox’ outfielder and keep him for the next 7 years (more on that later). And the Mariners (the Mariners!) have emerged as major players for Robinson Cano. What a world we live in.
In all that offseason craziness, it can be easy to overlook the little decisions made at the non-tender deadline. These players, all of whom have been deemed unworthy of their salary or roster spot and been granted free agency, can seem insignificant when compared to the big-name players. But when teams attempt to fill holes on benches and in bullpens, often the first place they look is the non-tender list. Occasionally, teams will find diamonds in the rough — David Ortiz was famously signed by the Red Sox after being non-tendered by the Twins. But even though finding a superstar is unlikely, there are still many useful pieces to be had in non-tendered players. With that in mind, here are 5 players, non-tendered by their teams, who could fit the Nationals’ needs.
1. Justin Turner – IF
The decision to non-tender Turner was a peculiar one by his former employer, the New York Mets. Turner hit .280/.319/.375 last year in limited playing time (214 PAs), and showed the ability to play adequate defense at all four infield positions. While his production wasn’t earth-shattering (0.9 bWAR), he certainly seemed more than worthy of the $800,000 salary he was projected to receive in his first year of arbitration. But Turner is now on the open market, and his Turner’s versatility and league-average bat seem a perfect fit for the Nats, who have limited infield depth. Of course, that skill set is a good fit for a lot of teams, so there may be a bidding war for Turner’s services.
2. Wesley Wright – LH RP
Non-tendered by the Rays, Wright has been a solid lefty out of the bullpen for the past two years, putting up a 3.48 ERA, a 9.3 K/9, and a strong 3.03 K/BB ratio over 106 innings split between Tampa and Houston. It has been well-documented that the Nationals have a hole on the left side of their bullpen, and Wright would fill that hole nicely; he has a career .231/.313/.342 slash line against left-handed hitters.
3. Garrett Jones – 1B/OF
Just a year ago, Jones was among the best hitting first basemen in baseball; he put up a slugging percentage over .500, and his 27 home runs were 4th-best in the National League. He had an off year last year, and his $5.3 million projected salary made his non-tender decision an easy one for the cost-conscious Pirates. But Jones has a skill set that would make him very valuable on any bench, including the Nationals’; he has a career .826 OPS against righties, and in the age of four-man benches, the fact that he can play multiple positions (though none of them particularly well) is a boon.
4. Ryan Webb – RH RP
The Marlins’ decision to non-tender Webb was another confusing one. Coming off a season in which he posted career highs in innings pitched (80.1) and strikeouts (54), and a strong 2.91 ERA, Webb could have been a good trade piece, especially with his $1.5 million projected salary. Over his career, Webb has performed equally well against both lefties and righties — both have a .244 batting average against him. That alone makes him a valuable addition to any bullpen, including the Nats’.
5. Jayson Nix – IF
Nix fits the mold of the good-glove, no-stick utility man to a tee. He has a career 74 OPS+, but has proven over his career that he can play almost every position well; he has positive defensive numbers at second, and short, and is a league-average defender at third. Nix is the type of player that can be had cheaply, but his value on defense alone makes him an asset.
After the acquisition of Doug Fister, the Nationals became a team that had few glaring holes. But the players mentioned, while by no means superstars, all have certain skill sets that can help the team close the small holes that can sink even the strongest ship.