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Chicken Non-Tenders

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Yesterday’s list of non-tendered players contains the usual mix of non-entities, injury cases, and some players of possible interest to a contender. I’m not going to review the left-handers like Hong-Chih Kuo, Jose Mijares, and Doug Slaten, because my evolving religion denies the existence of left-handed spot-relievers—they are an abomination in the eyes of the Almighty, particularly when they take jobs from more worthy all-purpose hurlers. However, I find a few of the others interesting, such as Brooks Conrad, a utility infielder with some pop who unfortunately can’t play shortstop of field second base particularly well, and Micah Owings, a swing man who also has career batting rates of .286/.313/.507 (he would have more use to a National League team than the Yankees, although with every-day interleague play coming…).

No doubt some teams, perhaps even the Yankees, will be interested in Diamondbacks left-hander Joe Saunders as a back-of-the-rotation starter. Saunders put up a 3.69 ERA in 212 innings this year, which given his home park is a very nice thing—his ERA was 4.42 at home, 3.14 on the road. He also has a .570 career winning percentage despite going 21-30 over the last two seasons.

All this is fairly meaningless. Saunders isn’t a very good pitcher. He struck out 4.6 batters per nine innings this year while walking 2.8. He gets some grounders, but not enough that you could call him a true ground-ball pitcher. In fact, ballpark or not, he allows more than his share of home runs. The main thing he had going for him in 2011 was a .275 batting average on balls in play, which just isn’t going to last. I know that BABIP as an explanation for everything can wear a little thin, but in this case we have what is the textbook definition of a lucky season in front of a good defense, not a dominating pitcher inducing weak contact.

The Yankees seem to be bargain-hunting these days as they cope with unwise contracts to aging players and some unsold Legends seats—Great Depression II affects everyone, even ballclubs with consistently good products—so perhaps they will kick the tires on Saunders as a way of splitting the difference between signing a Yu Darvish (you Darvish, we Darvish, but the Yankees don’t Darvish) and being in the position to turn over a rotation spot when the inevitable injury or A.J.-letdown comes along. They would almost certainly be better off with the kid than trusting a pitch-to-contact 31-year-old in the AL East, even if he is left-handed and has won a few games.