The clock struck midnight, and the deadline for MLB teams to tender contracts passed. Of course, non-tendering doesn't mean you can't or won't return to that club, but often times it's a good sign that the team, player or both wanted to go in a different direction.
Let's take a look at some of the players who were non-tendered and where they might catch on.
LHP Ryan Rowland-Smith, Seattle Mariners
The Skinny: 2010 wasn't a good season for the only player in MLB history with a hyphenated last name. In fact, it was downright miserable. Converted back to a starter midway through 2008, RR-S saw relative success through 2009, thanks in part to Safeco Field being friendly to soft tossing lefties (see: Moyer, Washburn, etc...). 2010 was a disaster that saw an ERA over 6.00, a demotion to AAA Tacoma and a move back to the bullpen.
The Non-Tender: Though Rowland-Smith was unlikely to see much of a raise through arbitration, considering the year he had, he asked for and was granted his release, even though he was offered a major league contract. A fan favorite, a true class act and guy you just want to root for, the Ozzie will be looking for a new team.
The Perfect Fit: Seattle really is the best fit for his skill set and would allow him to stay in a comfort zone. If he does go elsewhere, though, San Diego might be a great fit. It's a big ballpark. It's also the National League, so this could be a good rebound spot.
Which non-tendered player will have the best 2011?
RHP Joel Peralta, Washington Nationals
The Skinny: This is an interesting one. Peralta was one of the Nationals' best relievers, statistically, in 2010. Unless he punched a baby in the face or something, I can't figure out why a guy who put up a similar stat line to Rafael Soriano was cut loose. True, he's 34, and regression is in order—but I just can't see why he'd be cut loose for nothing.
The Non-Tender: The Nats offered Peralta a one-year deal for around $2 million. He wanted two years as reward for his good season. The Nats must have decided that they'd rather non-tender him than risk a potential reward he may have gotten in arbitration.
The Perfect Fit: Teams are always looking for bargain relievers, so there should be a decent market for him. The Mets could be a team wanting to contend who could use a reliever, and Citi Field should play well for Peralta.
OF Lastings Milledge, Pittsburgh Pirates
The Skinny: Milledge is still only 25, isn't a good defender and doesn't hit for much power. About the only thing he may have going for him is some speed and the ability to steal a base. I go back to his age, though. Surely some team will take a chance on him—A minor league deal and maybe a fourth OF/PH/PR bench job.
The Non-Tender: The Pirates likely didn't want to pay the salary he'd get, even though it'd probably only be in the $1.5 million range.
The Perfect Fit: Not the American League. Perhaps the Cubs or Diamondbacks with their friendly parks could use a young bench player.
LHP J.P. Howell, Tampa Bay Rays
The Skinny: Howell missed the entire 2010 season with a shoulder injury. He's just 27, though, and put up solid numbers in 2009 including 17 saves.
The Non-Tender: This is expected to just be a payroll move, and by all accounts Howell wants to come back. You have to wonder, though, what he'd think if the right team with the right cash called, if he'd reconsider.
The Perfect Fit: Considering his desire to stay in Tampa, it would probably take a team like the Mets or Giants calling. Teams that can offer him more cash or the incentive to win. The Rays are shedding players and payroll, so they may not be able to offer him either.
C Russell Martin, Los Angeles Dodgers
The Skinny: In the middle part of the past decade, Martin was a young up-and-coming catcher. Good defense with solid offensive potential. Some regressing in 2007 and 2008, then a steep drop-off in 2009 and 2010. He's had some hip issues, which aren't good for catchers. His agent claims he's fine, but that's his job.
The Non-Tender: The Dodgers appear to be close to re-signing Rod Barajas, so Martin becomes more expendable. The McCourts are still fighting, so budgets will remain tight.
The Perfect Fit: Two places pop into mind. First, rival San Francisco. The Giants obviously have their catcher in Buster Posey, but he'll need days off. Martin is a few years younger than current backup Eli Whiteside. While Whiteside had a "career year," it's a pretty small sample. I'd expect regression for both players but more on the positive side for Martin.
The other would be Seattle. If Adam Moore gets hurt or sent down, the Mariners will want a veteran backup with passable defense and at least some offensive potential. This could be one of Martin's better hopes for potential playing time.