Non-tendered players hit market

Non-tendered players hit market

Major League Baseball's deadline to tender contracts for the coming season to non-free agents has come and gone, placing some attractive players into a still crowded market.

As anticipated, the Dodgers non-tendered closer Takashi Saito along with four other players: shortstop Angel Berroa and pitchers Scott Proctor, Yhency Brazoban and Minor Leaguer Mario Alvarez.

Saito, 39, was injured the last two months of the season and goes out into the market once flooded with relievers.

"Takashi Saito's story of reaching the Major Leagues has been inspiring, and he's accomplished a tremendous amount in his time as a Dodger," general manager Ned Colletti said in a statement. "The door remains open to bring him back in 2009, but right now there's just a difference of opinion on his contract."

Around the Major Leagues, the defending American League-champion Rays parted ways with outfielder Jonny Gomes. The Nationals said goodbye to pitcher Tim Redding, and the Red Sox handed catcher Kevin Cash his walking papers. The Rockies made center fielder Willy Taveras a free agent.

The Brewers, as expected, shed pitcher Chris Capuano, who is recovering from Tommy John ligament replacement surgery on his left elbow. Likewise, the Braves didn't offer a contract to left-hander Chuck James, who's expected to miss next season while recovering from shoulder surgery.

The Padres let go pitchers Clay Hensley, who gave up Barry Bonds' Hank Aaron record-tying 755th home run in 2007, and Charlie Haeger. The Astros non-tendered third baseman Ty Wigginton and outfielder Reggie Abercrombie. The Cardinals decided not to offer contracts to three players -- utility infielder Aaron Miles and left-handed relievers Randy Flores and Tyler Johnson.

The Royals did not tender contracts to four players: pitcher John Bale and Jairo Cuevas, outfielder Joey Gathright and infielder Jason Smith, who was designated for assignment earlier in the day.

The Yankees decided not to bring back a pair: right-hander Chris Britton and outfielder Justin Christian. And the Diamondbacks shed four: infielder Chris Burke, catcher Robby Hammock, left-handed pitcher Wilfredo Ledezma and outfielder Jeff Salazar.

Most often, younger players under club control are non-tenders because they're eligible for arbitration and the host club might not want to subject itself to a salary it isn't willing to pay.

A player who isn't offered a contract goes into the free-agent pool. If he is tendered, he's locked into the 2009 season at a figure to be determined later, either in arbitration or negotiations.

According to the Basic Agreement, when teams tender contracts they can't attempt to cut any more than 20 percent of what a player made last season in salary and performance bonuses or 30 percent of those figures during the past two seasons. This is true of renewing contracts under any circumstances.

"Sometimes people will think, 'We like a guy with a club, but he might be non-tendered, so we'll just wait and see what happens [before trying to make a trade or sign another free agent],'" said Dave Dombrowski, the Tigers' president and general manager. "And I think it will sort of push forward some things next week with clubs talking with one another."

This week, free-agent pitchers CC Sabathia, Francisco Rodriguez and A.J. Burnett got their money. Sabathia is on the brink of signing a seven-year, $161 million contract, and Burnett has agreed to five years at $82.5 million -- both with the Yankees. K-Rod joined the Mets for three years at $37 million.

Among the closers still out there, Kerry Wood is having the results of a physical studied by the Indians, while the Cardinals are pursuing Brian Fuentes.

Enter Saito, whom the Dodgers now have added to the free-agent mix.

The Japanese right-hander, a 36-year-old rookie in 2006 and a National League All-Star in 2007, saved 81 games in three seasons for the Dodgers, including 18 last year before he hurt his elbow and missed the final two months.

Hot Stove

"We have a great deal of respect for him as a player and a person, and we know how difficult the last two or three months of the season were for him from a health perspective," Colletti said. "Hopefully we'll be able to come to an agreement with him down the road."

Through arbitration, Saito could have earned around $3.5 million, after receiving $2 million in 2008. The Dodgers wanted to avoid arbitration by getting him signed for around $2.5 million, but the two sides were unable to reach an agreement before the deadline.

The Tigers, still in the market for a closer, could move on Saito. Otherwise, Trevor Hoffman, MLB's all-time leader with 554 saves, already is a free agent.

"We're expecting quite a few teams to be calling in regards to Takashi Saito," said Nez Balelo, Saito's agent. "We respect the Dodgers' stance, and we're moving on and looking forward to free agency."

Saito wasn't Colletti's only decision. He also cut ties with the light-hitting Berroa, who filled in admirably when Rafael Furcal and Nomar Garciaparra were injured this past season.

Berroa is coming off a multiyear deal in which the Royals paid him $4.75 million last season. Because of the 20 percent cut rule, which applies to all contract renewals, the Dodgers would be bound to offer at least $3.8 million in arbitration, evidently more than they were willing to pay.

"Just because you don't tender doesn't mean you can't sign him later," said Colletti, whose free-agent total reached 18 Dodgers this offseason, including the four Major League non-tenders. "[Berroa will] probably shop and see [what's available]."

As far as Capuano is concerned, he earned $3.75 million last season but did not pitch because of the injury. Now that the Brewers have non-tendered him, they still seem willing to talk to his agent, Michael Moye, about a likely Minor League make-good deal.

"There is a strong desire to have him back," said Gord Ash, the Brewers' assistant GM. "And as Michael Moye told me, [Capuano] would like to stay. It's just a matter of finding some common ground to make that work."

Wigginton hit .285 with 23 homers and 58 RBIs in 111 games last season with the Astros, prompting general manager Ed Wade to say he still would like to find a way for Wigginton to return.

"It was a very difficult call to make on Ty. He did a tremendous job for us last season, but economics forced us to make this decision," Wade said. "I spoke with Ty and let him know that if there is an opportunity for us to adjust our payroll later in the offseason, we'd like to see if there's an opportunity to bring him back."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.