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Non-tendered free agents that could interest the Yankees

Cast aside to the Isle of Baseball Misfits, can any of the recently non-tendered players make a comeback with the Yankees?

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Midnight was the deadline for MLB teams to decide if they were going to let certain players go, and the results led to some surprising news. A few familiar names were non-tendered by their organizations, and they are now free to sign anywhere they so desire. There are almost always good reasons why they decided to release these players for nothing, so very few of them will end up amounting to much. However, every now and then, a small pick-up turns out to be a master stroke. Case-in point: Russell Martin.

In December 2010, the cash-strapped Dodgers owned by noted sleazeball Frank McCourt decided to let their former All-Star catcher go rather than pay the $5.5 million or so to keep him. Shortly thereafter, Yankees GM Brian Cashman swooped in to pick him up since he sought to replace the sharply declining Jorge Posada behind the plate and he didn't feel top catching prospect Jesus Montero was ready. Martin promptly rewarded the team with a return to the All-Star team, 39 homers, and top-notch defense behind the plate. He wasn't perfect, but considering that the Yankees got him for almost nothing, it was a brilliant move. Martin has, of course, resurrected his career and is now under an $82 million contract with the Blue Jays. Not too shabby.

Given the unusual circumstances of Martin's departure, it's unlikely that any of the recently-cut players goes on to have a renaissance quite like him. A few, like first base mashers Chris Carter and Pedro Alvarez, would simply not be fits at all for the Yankees. Nonetheless, some of these non-tendered players could turn out to be shrewd pick-ups.

Neftali Feliz

2015 (TEX/DET): 48 G, 48 IP, 6.38 ERA, 4.05 FIP, 1.563 WHIP, 7.3 K/9, 3.4 BB/9

It's hard to believe that Feliz has not even turned 28 yet. The 2010 AL Rookie of the Year for his remarkable 40-save, 2.73 ERA season on the pennant-winning Rangers, Feliz was once among baseball's elite closers. However, he had only been placed in the closer's role out of desperation in 2010, and the Rangers wanted to see if he could realize the starting potential that he flashed in the minor leagues. It was a reasonable decision; Feliz was only 24, and it's simply more valuable to have a potential 180-200 inning mid-rotation arm than a closer, especially since the Rangers had just signed the still-capable Joe Nathan to finish ballgames.

Unfortunately for Texas, it was a disastrous move. Feliz wasn't the same in his brief stint in the 2012 rotation, and he soon needed Tommy John surgery. His starting days were over, and his career was suddenly in jeopardy. Since his return, Feliz has been maddeningly inconsistent. Feliz's most recent ERA might look ugly, but in 2014, he had a 1.99 ERA in 30 games. Comparatively though, his peripherals were better in almost every capacity during the 2015 campaign split between the Rangers and Tigers.

Adam Morris, the head honcho over at Lone Star Ball (the Rangers' SB Nation blog), noted that Feliz always had extremely low BABIP marks in the past, running counter to his 2015 BABIP of .349. That might have contributed to his high ERA, but Morris was also quick to point out that he didn't feel like that was necessarily the cause of any bad luck. Feliz had a 10.7 H/9 last year, and was just "completely hittable" at times. It's hard to completely ignore Feliz's All-Star past though. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild done well in the past bringing relievers back from the brink of complete obscurity to become useful additions to the Yankees bullpen. Perhaps Feliz could be his latest project. After all, he was still throwing in the mid-90s in 2015. It certainly wouldn't be a shock.

Henderson Alvarez

2015 (MIA): 4 GS, 22 1/3 IP, 6.45 ERA, 3.85 FIP, 7 BB, 9 K

The Venezuelan righty was one of the key pieces going to Miami in the monster Marlins/Blue Jays firesale that sent Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and more up to the Great White North. Alvarez became quite the find, as between 2013 and 2014, he broke out with a 2.89 ERA and 3.44 FIP in 289 2/3 innings (47 starts). During that time, he featured remarkable control, unintentionally walking just 56 batters, a 1.7 BB/9, while providing skipper Mike Redmond with some length by tossing four shutouts. On the last day of the 2013 season, Alvarez twirled the fifth no-hitter in franchise history, dominating the Tigers and winning it 1-0 in dramatic fashion, as the Marlins walked off on a wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth with him in the on-deck circle:

All the promise that Alvarez's All-Star season in 2014 offered though quickly ground to a halt in 2015. He only made it through four starts before going down with a shoulder injury. Ultimately, he had to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery in July. Alvarez seemed to make some progress and was due to begin a throwing program on December 1st with the goal of returning to the team by Opening Day 2016.

In a somewhat surprising move however, the Marlins non-tendered the 25-year-old, and he is free to sign anywhere. The move could just be cheap Jeffrey Loria doing cheap Jeffrey Loria things, but it is still worth noting that the Marlins were more familiar with Alvarez and his medical records than anyone else. They very well might have seen some impediment to his return that encouraged them to cut the cord. Either way, Alvarez is talented enough that someone will give him a pretty nice pillow contract to return to form. They Yankees could certainly use a 2014 Alvarez in their rotation, so he is definitely worth at least a look.

Steve Cishek

2015 (MIA/STL): 59 G, 55 1/3 IP, 3.58 ERA, 3.86 FIP, 1.482 WHIP, 7.8 K/9, 4.4 BB/9

Working in near-anonymity in Florida, Cishek quietly became a solid closer for the Fish in 2013 and 2014, saving 73 games between the two seasons. Bullpen success was hardly new though. Overall, Cishek has pretty impressive career marks. The righty has a 2.82 career ERA, a 2.81 FIP, and 332 strikeouts in 313 innings, a 9.5 K/9. Those would appear to be some nice numbers, but Cishek is currently out of work.

Cishek was non-tendered because his 2015 was a step down from his previous performance. The year got off to a disastrous start, as he had a 6.98 ERA over the season's first two months, blowing saves left and right while opposing batters slugged .519 against him with a .910 OPS. It was so bad that the Marlins briefly demoted him to Triple-A Jacksonville. Upon his mid-June return though, he bounced back enough for the Cardinals to acquire him on July 24th. He had a 2.31 ERA with almost a strikeout per inning in 27 games with the NL Central-winning Cards, but they elected not to carry him on their playoff roster, perhaps due to his control problems (5.0 BB/9 in St. Louis).

Like Feliz, Cishek would carry some question marks to his new team, but the market should not completely ignore his recent success prior to 2015. It was not long ago at all, and adding Cishek would be a nice little maneuver for a bullpen mix that is quite uncertain beyond Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, and Justin Wilson. Both Cishek and Feliz represent slightly more intriguing options than the more middling Al Alburquerque, Cesar Ramos, and Juan Nicasio anyway. A one-year deal would not be hard for the Yankees to offer.


Greg Holland - The former Royals closer was absolutely tremendous from 2011-14, making two All-Star teams while saving 113 games and striking out an almost ludicrous 12.6 batters per nine with a 1.86 ERA. Unfortunately, a torn UCL ruined his 2015, and his September Tommy John surgery will likely keep him out of action until 2017. Signing him would be an investment in a future Yankees squad, but one that has a man who once fanned 103 batters in 67 innings certainly can't be that bad. With proper rehab, Holland could be a force in the bullpen again, much like how Joakim Soria successfully recovered from the procedure.

Mike Minor - Like Alvarez, Minor was previously a very interesting young pitcher in the NL East who eventually went down with shoulder surgery. He pitched to a 117 ERA+ with 181 strikeouts in 204 2/3 innings for the NL East-winning Braves in 2013, and then won their only playoff game by holding the powerful Dodgers to just one run over 6 1/3 innings in NLDS Game 2. Minor fell apart the next season and he tried desperately to rehab the shoulder injury. His fate was sealed though, he had surgery in May of 2015. The story is pretty much the same as Alvarez--he's just a couple years older and if he can recapture his 2013 form, he would be a useful rotation addition at some point in 2016. Will the Yankees bite?

Yusmeiro Petit - The righty was the 2014 champion Giants' unsung hero, dominating in the postseason with a 1.42 ERA in 12 2/3 innings, including six frames of one-hit shutout ball in their 18-inning victory over the Nationals in the NLDS. He had a 3.67 ERA and a 1.8 BB/9 last year, but it wasn't enough for the Giants to feel he merited a raise beyond the $2.1 million he made in 2015. Although Petit is far from flashy, he could be a useful swingman in the Yankees bullpen, capable of short relief, long relief, and even spot starts.

Tyler Flowers - The only non-tendered position player who makes some sense for the Yankees, Flowers was the starting catcher for the White Sox over the past two years, batting .240/.296/.378 with 28 doubles, 24 homers, and a 90 OPS+ since the start of 2014. Chicago let him go since his performance dipped to an 82 OPS+, and they felt that free agent Dioner Navarro would be a superior starter. If the Yankees feel that slugging catching prospect Gary Sanchez could use a little more time honing his defense in Triple-A Scranton, where he would actually be playing, Flowers would be a much better backup than incumbent Austin Romine. He made strides in his defensive games last year, becoming an excellent pitch framer. His offense is certainly enough for a backup, anyway.