The Detroit Tigers shed one reliever from their roster by not tendering a contract to Aquilino Lopez by Friday's deadline for arbitration-eligible players. But they might be able to procure a new one from the list of non-tendered players who are now available as free agents.
The big name that stands out for any team in need of bullpen help, especially one looking for a closer, is Takashi Saito. He's just one year removed from a 39-save season for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Of course, the obvious question is that if Saito was still any good, why would the Dodgers have let him go? Judging from their interest in Trevor Hoffman, they don't appear ready to hand ninth-inning duties over to Jonathan Broxton.
But Saito missed two months this season due to a partially torn ligament in his elbow. Though rather than shut himself down with Tommy John surgery, he opted for an experimental stem cell injection and came back in September to pitch in six games, allowing three runs in 5.3 innings. He was eventually taken off the postseason roster after failing to record an out during his one appearance in the NLDS.
The Dodgers must not think Saito is completely done, however, as they were willing to offer him a contract worth $2.5 million. Saito refusing the offer, however, makes you wonder what he's seeking on the open market. (He made $2 million this season.) But even if he's looking for a raise (up to $3.5 million?), a healthy Saito (and he says he is) might still come cheaper than some of the other available free agent relievers.
Someone else worth pursuing might be Joe Nelson, who the Marlins non-tendered over a difference of $150,000 in negotiations. This season with Florida, Nelson pitched 54 innings, compiling a 3-1 record, 2.00 ERA, and 60 strikeouts. (22 walks raises an eyebrow, though.) And since the Tigers seem so intent on signing a left-handed reliever (Joe Beimel), consider that lefties hit just .227/.292/.320 against Nelson.
Here is the complete list of non-tenders. Is there a name that catches your eye?