Minor League Free Agent Options
As mentioned in an earlier post, the list of minor league free agents has been released, and there are more than a few intriguing men to consider.
Following are a few in particular that caught my eye, in no particular order.
Understand, I am not interested in Gathright as a potential starter. Rather, I like him — a lot — as a cheap candidate for the Endy Chavez / Jeremy Reed role of backup outfielder, defensive replacement, and pinch-hitting speedster. Truth is, I don’t know how well Gathright will do as a pinch-hitter. But I LOVE his raw speed (he’ll beat Jose Reyes in a race), which is an obvious asset in the vast expanse of Citi Field. He doesn’t take enough walks (not unlike Endy), but if he did, he wouldn’t be available as a minor-league free agent. Considering that Carlos Beltran is coming off major knee issues, and not getting any younger, a speedy centerfielder like Gathright would be ideal insurance — either on the 25-man roster or stashed in AAA.
Gathright’s teammate in Boston had something of a breakout year in 2009, playing 77 games at shortstop and batting .300 through the first two months of the season. Eventually, his average sunk to .236, but that was expected once he was over-exposed. The 31-year-old is fundamentally sound, a hard worker, and has versatility — he can play all four infield positions and the outfield. He’s no star, but can probably play at about the same level as Alex Cora — except, Green will cost the MLB minimum.
We discussed Gotay in detail the other day.
It wasn’t that long ago that Capuano was an 18-game winner and All-Star, the ace of the Brewers’ staff. But an elbow injury and his second Tommy John surgery prior to the 2008 season derailed his career. He pitched a total of 9 innings in 2009, the first competitive innings he’d thrown in two years. If healthy, the soft-tossing lefty could be a darkhorse at the back of someone’s rotation.
The Venezuelan lefty with the deceptive delivery and alopecia areata won 13 games and posted a 3.72 in the AL East in 2005, but lack of performance and problems with alcohol sent him back to the minors the past two seasons. He’s still only 29 and lefthanded, which means there’s hope. Not the worst idea for AAA depth, and he might grow into a LOOGY.
Holdzkom is one of those big, hard-throwing righties who has yet to “figure it out”. Chances are, he might never. But, he is an imposing, fiery, presence on the mound, and brings a 93-94 MPH heater along with a nasty slider. There was a time when he his velocity reached 97-98 MPH and appeared to be the next Goose Gossage, but Tommy John surgery wiped that out. He’ll be 28 years old when spring training breaks in 2010, and could be an option as a setup man / closer in AAA.
Three years ago, Barfield was a Rookie of the Year candidate, hitting .280 for the Padres as a 23-year-old. He suffered from the sophmore jinx in 2007 and was dealt to the Indians for Kevin Kouzmanoff. Since then, his bat has regressed, including his plate discipline. But, he’s only 27 and so there’s still time for him to turn around. The Mets don’t have anyone better in their system at 2B in terms of raw skills and MLB-readiness. A change in scenery could be all that he needs to get on track.
Only a few years ago, this 6’6″, 250-lb Dodgers shortstop prospect was looking like the next Alex Rodriguez. It didn’t quite turn out that way, and Guzman has moved from organization to organization and position to position since then — in the process going from prospect to suspect. However, he still has the size and raw skills that make scouts’ mouth water, and he hit .281 in AA last year as a 24-year-old. There’s a good chance he’ll be an eternal enigma, but it’s hard to pass on a guy with this kind of size and athletic ability. He’s only 25 years old and can play SS, 3B, 1B, and the OF.
It’s still hard to believe that this man was traded for Rafael Soriano, but he did have a few very good seasons with the Braves from 2003-2006. A shoulder injury impaired his effectiveness, and he’s been awful since — save for a 15-game stint as a LOOGY for the Royals in 2008. He’s a lefty, he turns 30 next week, and he’s had past success at the big league level. For most GMs, that’s enough to add him to a AAA roster and hope he reclaims the magic.
Another Venezuelan lefty in the mold of Gustavo Chacin, Carlos Hernandez was on his way to a stellar MLB career when he tore his rotator cuff sliding back into second base on a pickoff attempt in 2001. His long road back has been slow, and he hasn’t pitched in the bigs since 2004. However, he was impressive in 21 starts in AAA last season, posting a 3.29 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. This is someone who while with the Astros was considered a brighter prospect than fellow countryman Johan Santana. Further, he’s spent a full eight years trying to get back to where he was — there’s something to be said for that kind of dedication and tenacity. I’m liking the fight in this little lefty, and he’ll be 30 years old when Opening Day rolls around — so it’s not too late for a comeback.
Who the heck is this guy? He’s a 27-year-old sinker-slider pitcher who once threw in the upper-90s but now “only” reaches 94-95 after Tommy John surgery. I have to admit I don’t know a thing about him, and was given the tip by Wally Backman, who likes his raw skills, movement on the ball, and makeup. Wally loosely compares him to Bobby Parnell in that he can throw gas, has an occasionally nasty slider, and is best suited for short relief. He appeared in 45 games in the hitter-friendly PCL last year (Cubs organization), posting a 3.48 ERA and striking out 58 and allowing only 2 HR in 75 IP. However, he also walked 50, so he has issues with control.
You know what this guy did before the shoulder surgery. You know that Omar Minaya loves him. He was ineffective in a short stint in the minors in 2009 and had not yet regained his velocity. Unfortunately, most pitchers do not do well after labrum surgery. However, you never know. If he can get his strength back — even if it’s only enough to get the velocity to 91-92 MPH — he could be an effective setup man because of his competitiveness. A low-risk, high-reward gamble.
What went wrong with this NJ boy? There was a moment in time that Eric Duncan was the crown jewel of the Yankees organization, and so highly touted that he was converted from 3B to 1B, since Alex Rodriguez was blocking his entry to the big league club. However, he’s been a major disappointment over the past four years, unable to hit above .240 and showing little power. The Seton Hall Prep grad turns 25 on Pearl Harbor Day, so he still has time to make something of his pro career.
This was the guy the Yankees received in return for Gary Sheffield in a trade with the Tigers a few years back. Sanchez was one of the top pitching prospects in baseball in 2006 but underwent Tommy John surgery in 2007. It’s taken him a while to recover, but the South Bronx native struck out 36 in 35 minor league innings this past season, and appears to be healthy again. He sports a 94-95 MPH fastball, 90+ slider, curveball and changeup. At 6’6″, 275 lbs., he is an intimidating force and could evolve into a solid setup man.
Was it only two years ago that Mets fans were thinking, “hey, we should see if we pry this guy away from the Reds” ? In the meantime, this hard-playing lunatic in spikes has seen his stock drop dramatically, to the point where he played for 4 different organizations in the past year, appearing in only 89 games between 2008-2009. Still, he has great speed, tremendous hustle, and can play 2B, 3B, and the outfield. He is a poor man’s Chone Figgins, and available for the MLB minimum. Stock him in AAA, what is there to lose?
This 6’5″, 240-lb. slugger was going to be a mainstay at 1B for Kansas City and lead the Royals to the promised land. However, Shealy laid an egg in 2007, and has been banished to the minors ever since. He’s 30 years old, still has power, and has continued to display good plate discipline with high OBPs. I know the Mets are hell-bent on force-feeding Ike Davis to AAA, but stocking Shealy in Buffalo and starting Davis in Binghamton wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. They might just unearth a gem in Shealy, and there’s nothing wrong with Davis forcing the issue — rather than the other way around.
I’ve had my eye on this slugger for a while, mentioning him briefly in February 2008. He turns 26 in a few days and continues to show pop in the minors. However, I don’t know that he’s any better than Nick Evans or Chris Carter, so he’s probably not worth considering.
The can’t-miss backstop who missed. House has proved he can hit minor league pitching but not MLB hurlers — the typical “AAAA” ballplayer. His catching skills are underwhelming, but he’s adequate back there. Injuries curtailed what could’ve been a fine career. He just turned 30 last week, and is quickly running out of time. If he hits, he’s worth a look.
Jesse Orosco, Jr.
OK, this one is an emotional choice. Unfortunately, Jr. is a righty, so no chance of him following his dad as a LOOGY legend. However, he has held his own through 47 professional innings at the lower levels of the minors, and is only 22 years old. There is more about him here. Maybe he, Wally Backman, Jr., and Cutter Dykstra can all find spots in the Mets’ minors next season.