As we slowly come to grips with the fact that the off season could begin as early as tonight, it’s time to start shifting gears from writing about ill advised intentional walks with the game on the line to bargains on the free agent market. If you’re anything like me (congratulations!), your interest in the the inner workings of the front office deepens every off season as part of your evolution as a fan of this great sport.

At this point, it’s not so hard to imagine a scenario in which a Minor League contract being handed out to a player with a high upside elicits the same response as a home run by my favourite team.

With that in mind, it gives me great joy to inform you that Michael Wuertz is available! That’s right, after suffering through a season full of hamstring and thumb injuries, the Oakland A’s have decided not to pick up the right handed reliever’s $3.25 million option for 2012, instead releasing him early with a $250,000 buyout to make room on their 40 man roster for a couple of waiver pick ups from the San Diego Padres.

Wuertz, 32 years old, emerged as a premier set up man with the Chicago Cubs six years ago, but a steady diet of sliders is bound to take it’s toll eventually, and after back to back lackluster seasons with the Athletics, he’s been deemed expendable at his current price tag. Despite these warning signs and a career that was stalled out to a degree from being overused in 2009, it must be remembered that Wuertz has still struck out more than a quarter of the batters he’s seen over the course of his career and boasts an above average ground ball rate.

Not since his rookie season has he faced fewer batters or thrown fewer pitches, and maybe combined with an off season of rest on his slider weary arm, Wuertz can return to the type of pitcher who struck out 33.6% of the batters he faced back in 2009. Then again, maybe not. However, I wouldn’t criticize any ball club that’s willing to take a flier on this guy to potentially round out their bullpen.