It is getting to the time in the offseason where a few teams are making surprising decisions when it comes to tendering their given players a contract. Every year, teams make the mistake of letting someone go too early or hanging onto a guy for a year too long.
It's a touchy situation, and the only way to come out on top is to trust in your team's talent evaluators.
When you go to the scrap heap of free agency, what you're going to see won't usually be all that attractive. The situation is all about spinning some dirty, dirty straw into gold. Well—maybe not gold, but potentially bronze or some other hard precious metal.
Even with professional scouts and analysts, mistakes are made. Some of these players recently non-tendered by their previous teams could always be savvy transactions to add depth to the 2012 Chicago Cubs team and potentially a player to build around.
And then there are a few players whom the Cubs should avoid at all costs.
One looks at the pleasantly above-average season Saunders put up in 2011 and wonders what he's doing floating around this group of players who, in essence, were cut by their team.
Apparently, the Diamondbacks thought that Joe might get $7 million or more and didn't risk negotiations.
This is the situation where the Cubs need to jump in immediately and reap benefit from Arizona's clear mistake.
Saunders, a 30-year-old lefty starting pitcher, produced to the tune of a 3.69 ERA this past season with a 1.31 WHIP. His production is far from Ace-like, but it is that middle-of-the-rotation left-hander that the Cubs could desperately use to build upon.
He is a candidate for something along the lines of a two-year contract worth around 12 million in total, and that is a move with all upside.
As recently as 2008 saw this guy ripping up the American League to the tune of 17 wins, a 3.41 ERA and an impressive 1.21 WHIP.
Sure, Saunders may not have been able to show consistency in the AL, but coming to the NL has been a nice change of pace for him. Coming to the NL Central, after it's loss of Fielder and Pujols could be the perfect landing spot.
This seems like the perfect move that Epstein would endorse. Buying low, pairing minimal risk with reasonable upside.
To give Luke Scott some credit, I won't be giving beyond this point—he was simply a fantastic offensive player in 2010. This season, he hit .284 with a .368 on-base percentage, 27 home runs and 29 doubles. If he could do something like this again, not many fans would complain if he was starting at first base for the Cubs in 2012.
Yet that is not the typical Luke Scott. While he does give consistent 25-home-run power, he is basically Carlos Pena at the plate, albeit with a trade-off in the form of more contact skills and less power. While he can play the corner spots in the outfield paired with first base, he brings down this versatility by being a sub-par athlete with minimal defensive skill.
He could be a useful designated hitter for a team hoping he rebounds, but that is not where the Cubs mind and wallet should be at.
At 33 years old, coming off a terrible 2011 season that involved a torn labrum, he doesn't seem to be a full-time kind of player anymore.
Let another team buy on this high-risk, moderate-reward player. The Cubs need to steer clear of first basemen like Carlos Pena or Luke Scott. Virtually any in-house option at the position, for league minimum, would be better in the short-term and long-term scenario for the Cubs. There's no reason to bring in veterans who don't help you dream of contending and hurt the future.
However, if it comes down to a one-year, cheap deal for Scott or a three-year deal for Pena, even Luke gets the edge in that regard.
Cuddyer might be shocked at how little interest there has been for other teams to sign him. He shouldn't be, as even the most cursory glance at his production and skill-level would give pause to any intelligent general manager.
At 33, Cuddyer's potential upside is, well, upside-down. He was pretty useful in 2011, which saw him hit .284 with 20 home runs and an .804 OPS. It's above average, pretty good, and all those other fluffy statements that simply mean "a notch above acceptable."
The downside is that Cuddyer mixes every other season with a letdown. His year-to-year consistency is lacking in a veteran at his age, and doesn't speak well to his future.
When you pair this type of offensive production with ugly-as-sin defense, you don't get the whole package of a player. His supporters yell about his "versatility" to play multiple positions, all of which he not-so-surprisingly plays terribly at.
Sure, he physically can play second and third base, but when he does he's doing it at the lowest possible level. Intolerable defense at all positions outside of first base, which happens to be the one spot where his bat just ain't that impressive.
The lifetime Twin should really stay in Minnesota, where the fans will appreciate him and his soon-to-be dwindling production. Going to a new team at this juncture is going to set him up to fail.
I think some contending team could use him in spot-start duty, but anyone who wants him in a full-time role should stay miles away.
I won't even give this a moments' thought. Very few starters in the MLB were anywhere near as bad as Theriot was in 2011. He was baseball's worst defensive shortstop while posting a staggeringly awful .662 OPS.
Both one of the league's worst offensive and defensive players. The guy is also one of the very worst base-runners in quite some time. He doesn't even make sense in a bench-role.
He's been non-tendered by the Cardinals, and some poor team will probably trot him out at in the infield in 2012. May fate be kind to them.