The Winter meetings are fast approaching and that means that the big free agents such as Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford, and Jayson Werth are getting ready to all become super-rich with big contracts from new teams. Obvious to say, the Rays will not be dining at that table. While everyone wishes to be able to shop at the exclusive stores, when you're on a budget, you're better off going to CostCo where you get the best deal for your dollar - which is how the Rays roll.
With so many players non-tendered this past week, there is a large pool of cheap, freely available talent for Andrew Friedman to go shopping. Obviously, you don't need us to explain why the Rays should sign some of the bigger names that were non-tendered (like Bobby Jenks), so instead, let's review some smaller names:
The former first round pick from Detroit is best known for being traded with Cameron Maybin to the Florida Marlins for Miguel Cabrera. After struggling with the Marlins for a couple of seasons, he was traded to the Red Sox, who non-tendered him recently. The 6'7" lefty has struggled through parts of four seasons from 2007-2010, going 15-26 with a 5.84 ERA in 54 starts. He's not one to generate high strikeout totals, only posting a career 7.28 K/9, and has been extremely wild (career 5.32 BB/9). How much Miller may be able to contribute is questionable given his career 4.70 FIP and 4.78 xFIP, which shows that he isn't likely to get better.
However, Miller was a highly thought of prospect at one time, and at 26 years old, it's possible that he still has potential that can be tapped. The Rays have had lots of success with pitching prospects, and it's likely the Rays could sign him to a minor-league deal. If nothing else, he'd provide the Rays with extra pitching depth in the minors, with an off-chance that things might come together.
Ahh, Oakland's favorite non-tender candidate. He's only gone been threatened with non-tendering what, 37 times already? While not a defensive wizard, Cust does bring a lot of potential at the plate. Yes, he does strikeout a lot (38.9% career), but that's an overrated concern. Carlos Pena did the same thing for the Rays and outside of 2010, he was a solid contributor to the offense. What comes with the strikeouts, though, is an extremely high walk rate. Even in at a down year in 2010, his walk rate was still 16.0% (career rate: 17.3%). Also, in a market where cheap power is scarce, Cust can provide plenty. While he posted a .160 ISO in 2010, he carries a .207 ISO for his career and is only going to be 32, so age concerns aren't big yet. He carries a .245/.378/.452 career line (wOBA of .365), and could easily help upgrade our DH position. It wouldn't take much.
The Rays could use some extra flexibility and depth, so getting Cust into the mix would be a major coup in light of limited options.
He is coming off his worst season in 2010 where he had a near career worsts in K/9 (6.19) and BB/9 (5.94), resulting in an ERA of 6.69, FIP of 5.20, and xFIP of 5.61. His career ERA, FIP and xFIP are much different: 3.76, 3.79, 4.47. We can also expect some regression, as his left on base percentage (LOB%) was 65.8% last season, and he posted a career high .352 BABIP despite a decent 39% groundball rate. Outside of 2005, his homerun rate (HR/FB%) has been about 8% or lower with a career average of 6.5%. He's also very good against lefties, holding a career 2.40 FIP against lefties as opposed to a 5.08 FIP against righties.
With the mass exodus from the 2010 Rays bullpen, George Sherrill could be a good buy-low candidate to help fill the void.
Other Non-tendered players
The Process Report covers the value of: