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12/13/09 11:30 AM EST
Big names added to free-agent pool
Cust, Wang, Atkins not tendered contracts before deadline
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
Oakland slugger Jack Cust, Yankees right-hander Chien-Ming Wang, Colorado third baseman Garrett Atkins and Pittsburgh closer Matt Capps were among the prominent players not tendered contracts prior to Saturday's 11:59 p.m. ET deadline, swelling the free-agent ranks. Other veterans granted free agency by virtue of not receiving contract offers are Nationals closer Mike MacDougal, Reds outfielder Jonny Gomes and the Giants' Ryan Garko.
Are you a general manager looking for a 25-homer hitter (Cust), a 27-save closer (Capps) or a right-hander with a 55-26 lifetime record (Wang)? They just fell in your lap. The deadline affects all the unsigned players on clubs' 40-man Major League rosters -- those not receiving contract offers becoming free agents -- but has become known as the "arbitration deadline" since the focus is on arbitration-eligible players with between three and six years of service. If not tendered a contract, they become free agents, able to negotiate with any of the 30 Major League teams, including their 2009 clubs. In many cases, clubs expressed interest in retaining players to whom they did not offer contracts. So where is the logic in that, sending into the free-agent wilds someone over whom you had control and still hope to re-sign? It's a simple case of economics: Players not tendered become exempt from the 20 percent ceiling on salary cuts mandated by the Collective Bargaining Agreement; negotiations start from square one. A real-life example: By tendering Wang, who earned $5 million in 2009, the Yankees wouldn't have been able to come in lower than $4 million for a pitcher who went 1-6 while beset with hip and shoulder injuries. Now they may have to vie with other teams, but at a lower, more realistic level. "There's no doubt that we had to make a tough decision," said Yankees GM Brian Cashman. "We are still hopeful that our relationship can continue, but those decisions are yet to be made." The Rockies' decision came on Atkins' 30th birthday -- and may yet turn out to be a present if a market develops for a third baseman who averaged 20 homers and 105 RBIs for four seasons prior to his 2009 dip. Cust and Gomes (the latter hitting 20 homers last season, 86 over the last five) swing two of the heavier bats now available. Those also include Garko, who had hit 48 homers in 2 1/2 seasons with the Indians prior to his midseason trade to San Francisco. MacDougal and Capps were proficient firemen for two of the Majors' poorer teams. MacDougal converted 20 of 21 save opportunities for the 59-win Nationals, while Capps' 27 saves, in 32 chances, came in the Pirates' 62 wins. However, the 26-year-old Capps did have a high (5.80) ERA.
A total of 39 non-tendered players immediately joined the 139 still unsigned from the original 171 who had declared free agency.However, the anticipated flood of free agents did not occur, as the dam was plugged by the 150-plus arbitration-eligible veterans who did receive offers of 2010 contracts, in addition to the 15 who actually signed new one-year deals as the clock ticked off. The salaries of the players non-tendered, thus releasing their clubs from engaging them in binding salary arbitration, ranged from the Major League minimum of $405,000 to Atkins' $7.05 million 2009 payday with the Rockies. Among the clubs whose decisions had been announced, only three barred this side-door to free agency, offering contracts to every unsigned player: Dodgers, Rangers and Twins.
|Brian Anderson||OF||Red Sox|
|D.J. Carrasco||RP||White Sox|
|Raul Chavez||C||Blue Jays|