New big name free agents were added as teams failed to offer a new contract. Some names of these non-tendered players were Oakland outfielder Jack Cust, Yankees right- hander Chien-Ming Wang, Colorado and third baseman Garrett Atkins. These players had had strong years in the past and could potentially help any team next year in the race to October. In contrast to players like Matt Holliday, Jason Bay, and John Lackey, these players could come relatively cheaply and could help a low payroll club.
Chien-Ming Wang, the former 19-game winner, is the biggest name for starting pitching. He is a ground ball pitcher that can get the job done. Because he doesn't look for the strikeout all the time, he can go 7 innings a start and can get the win. He keeps the ball low and can be very effective when healthy.
He had a rough 2009 for the yanks going 1-6 with a 9.64 ERA. He was sidelined with an injury to his shoulder that put him on the 60 day DL while in the minors and was set to have surgery. Before this year, Wang's career numbers were 54-20 with a 3.79 ERA. The injury definitely did not help his current status, but his numbers show what he is capable of.
He made about 5 million last year, so he could come cheap to another ball club. I could definitely see Wang going to the more pitcher-friendly National league and get out of the pressure-filled New York environment. Potentially interested teams I could see him going to are the Padres, the Giants, and the Astros. Wang is still only 29, and can still have a bright future in the MLB.
Oakland Slugger Jack Cust was also non-tendered and has become a free agent. He has generally been a middle of the line-up hitter for the A's and has given them power. He finished off the year hitting .240 with 25 homers and 70 RBIs. In the previous year, he had a bit more power hitting .231 with 33 homers and 77 RBIs. A concern for Cust is that he will strike out a lot. He struck out 197 times in '08 and 185 times last season. However, he was 5th in the AL with walks with 93 in '09.
He is 30 years-old right now, and has clearly categorized himself as a power hitter who doesn't always get the job done. With 33 homers, I expected the RBIs to be much higher. Either Oakland did not get enough runners on base, or when they were on base, he was not clutch. What does show however is his plate discipline as he walked 111 times in '08 and 93 in '09.
I believe that in the right park on the right team, Cust can turn his numbers around and really help a ball club lacking power. He play DH for the majority of the season, so he might stay in the American League. Teams who currently need power are the Orioles, the Indians, and the Royals. He made 2.8 million last year, so he can still come rather cheaply.
Finally, former Rockies third baseman Garrett Atkins is hitting the market. With only playing in 126 games, the 30 year-old hit .226 with 9 homers and 48 RBIs. It is clear that Atkins' numbers are falling, and will probably only be offered a 1 year contract, however he can still be productive to some team out there. On average, he is a 20-homer, 100-RBI guy with above average fielding.
Don't expect Atkins to make anything close to his 7 million last year. Possibly interested teams could be the Red Sox, or the Mariners, but he could draw more interest than that.
These three players headline the newest additions to the free agent pool. They could come off their slump years and really help a club out, and could be an alternative to a Jason Bay, who had great numbers but rejected a 4 year 60 million dollar contract from the Sox, or John Lackey, who is expected to be asking for much.
Perhaps one of these players could be a good Christmas gift for a ball club. Teams do have these players on their wish list, so we'll just have to wait and see how it plays out.
photo credit: http://i.a.cnn.net/si/2006/writers/tom_verducci/09/27/baseball.mailbag/t1_wang2.jpg