Minor League Free Agents: Pitchers

As mentioned earlier, there are over 600 minor league free-agents available. That sounds like a whopping number, but in reality there are few players of quality. The list is made up mostly of has-beens, never-wases, and career minor leaguers such as Gookie Dawkins, Sandy Martinez, and our beloved Joe Hietpas. Finding a gem among the heap of trash is akin to locating a needle in a haystack — next to impossible. However, there are a few interesting names that may be worth inviting to spring training, and/or signing to a minor-league deal.

Re-read that last sentence, lest you think this post is about guys who can step in and take a spot on the Mets’ 25-man roster. The following suggestions are players I think would be long, long, longshots to make the club, but might be nice to have as depth in AAA.

Today we look at the free-agent pitchers, and since the Mets’ biggest issue is in the bullpen, I’d consider nearly all of these men as relievers (except R.A. Dickey, as knuckleballers don’t make sense out of the ‘pen IMHO).

Chad Harville
The Astros nearly chose this guy as their number one draft pick back in 1997, but took Lance Berkman instead. As it turned out, Harville was once the “closer of the future” for the Oakland A’s, throwing a fastball with good control in the mid-90s. However, his career has been wrought with nagging shoulder and elbow injuries — nothing serious, mostly tendinitis — and he has a career ERA of over 5 in MLB. However, he had a decent, healthy year in AAA last year, striking out almost 8 batters per 9 innings, and still throws a nice sinking fastball in the low 90s. He’s 30 years old and only 5’9″, so you have to like a guy who has gone this far as a pro pitcher at that height — he must have some serious tenacity.

Trey Hodges
Hodges is one of the few Atlanta Braves pitching prospects who never panned out. Not an overpowering guy, he has always relied on guile and control — once walking only 18 batters in over 170 innings. He spent one full year in the Braves’ bullpen — 2003 — and appeared in over 50 games, striking out one batter per inning for the first time in his pro career. He never did it again, and never pitched in MLB again. He spent most of last season at AAA Richmond as a starter, and went 6-6 with a 4.72 ERA. Like Harville, he’s 30 and running out of time. However, a return to the ‘pen could be just what he needs.

Bobby Brownlie
A local boy, from Edison, NJ and a Rutgers alum, Brownlie was the #1 pick of the Cubs in 2002 and signed to a $2.5M contract. He was a complete disappointment, and was released in 2006 — one year after Baseball America rated him as having the “best control” in the Cubs’ organization. After pitching for the Newark Bears for most of last year, he was picked up by the Indians and pitched in nine games (8 starts) for their AA club and posted a 3.17 ERA, striking out 37 and walking 14 in 48 innings. His velocity, which was once around 95, is now down in the 88-91 range but has good sink, and he mixes in an excellent curve and decent changeup. It would be a nice story to see him hook on with the Mets, and at age 27 he might still have a shot.

Cliff Politte
From 2002-2005, Politte was an above-average middle reliever for the Blue Jays and White Sox, highlighted by a fantastic 7-1 record and 2.00 ERA in 68 games in 2005. However, he had shoulder issues in 2006 and was released by the ChiSox, and spent all of 2007 in the minors. At 34, he’s not getting any younger, but if he’s healthy he could be valuable as AAA depth.

Mike Koplove

This guy was the Diamondbacks’ version of Heath Bell, riding the shuttle between AAA Tuscon and the big club for much of his career — pitching adequately but never quite good enough to stick. His career minor league ERA is 3.01 and in MLB it is 3.82. He can’t be any worse than Jon Adkins.

Dennis Tankersley
At one time, Tankersley was on the fast track to the Padres’ starting rotation — often mentioned in the same breath as … gasp … Jake Peavy (in fact, Baseball America rated him the #16 prospect in all of MLB in 2002, ahead of Peavy, Brett Myers, Eric Bedard, Carl Crawford, and Jose Reyes, among others). Something happened, though — he leveled off and never consistently retired MLB hitters. He’s presumably healthy, having started 24 AAA games last year. Maybe someone needs to tell him to focus on his two best pitches and become a middle reliever.

Adam Pettyjohn
This is one of those lefthanded late bloomers. Pettyjohn has been a career minor leaguer, but finally broke out last season, going a combined 16-6 last season between AA and AAA in the Brewers organization. He’s always had a great K:BB ratio, and it was 137:34 last season. Maybe he’s finally figured it out.

Dewon Brazelton
What happened to this guy? He was drafted ahead of Mark Teixeira, and was supposed to be the next Dwight Gooden. He’s been a complete bust. But, no one’s ever tried him out of the bullpen. Hmmm ….

Matt Peterson

Once a gem in the Mets’ organization, he was part of the deal that brought Kris and Anna Benson to New York. He still throws around 90-91 and has a hard curveball.

Jesse Foppert
An athletic 6’6″ stringbean, Foppert was once THE TOP pitching prospect in baseball. Then he blew out his elbow, had Tommy John surgery (in 2003) and has never been the same. He does, however, still get the ball in the 92-93 range and throws a good split. He’s only 27, so why not take a flyer?

Franklyn German
This guy throws gas — a few years ago fellow Detroit farmhand Joel Zumaya was being compared to him, not the other way around. However, control has always been an issue for German, and didn’t get better last year. In AAA, he struck out 72 in 59 innings — but walked 46. He did give up only 28 hits. Calling Rick Peterson: remember what you did with Jorge Julio? Do it again.

Casey Fossum
Another one of the “best pitching prospects in all of baseball” gone bad. And to think, the Red Sox felt uneasy about giving him up for Curt Schilling.

Brandon Claussen
Once a bright young lefty, now a quickly aging journeyman. Injuries have hurt Claussen’s career, but he did post a 4.21 ERA in 29 starts in 2005 for the Reds. He throws in the low 90s, and might rejuvenate his career in the bullpen.

Ricardo Rincon

Billy Beane once coveted him highly, however he spent all of last year in the minors. He’ll be 38 next year, but might be a good LOOGY to have hanging around in AAA.

Michael Tejera
Was once thought to be a future starter for the Rangers, has since been earmarked as a AAAA pitcher — good in the minors, not quite good enough to pitch in the majors. Like Harville, he’s 5’9″, but unlike Harville, he’s a lefty. Do we need another Willie Collazo?

Pat Mahomes
He’s still in baseball, believe it or not. If he can pitch for the Mets like he did in 1999, I say sign him on!

Frank Brooks
This one is an emotional choice. He’s another local boy, from my alma mater St. Peter’s College. A tough lefthander who throws hard, he’s been a career AAA pitcher. But then, so was Joe Borowski, a.k.a., the Bayonne Bullet.

R.A. Dickey
Gotta love the knuckleballers. Every team should have one.

Lance Niekro

He’s actually a first baseman, but it looks like his career is over. His dad and uncle taught him how to throw the knuckler a long time ago, and he supposedly still dickers around with it during pregame warmups. Might be time to consider throwing it full time, off the mound.

Mike Venafro
I think you know my stance on submariners by now. Bring in da funk!

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Walnutz15 November 4, 2007 at 3:32 pm
    I’d rather the Mets stay away from any guys I have multiple-hit games against — i.e. Bobby Brownlie.

    Thanks. j/k

  2. joe November 4, 2007 at 5:19 pm
    Fair enough. Ron Villone has to stay away too, then, since I owned him in high school.
  3. Micalpalyn November 5, 2007 at 11:13 am
    First: I apologise to Isu. This will REALLY get him stirred up. BUT its the best talk fodder for this morning. Especially since I dont view arod as a worthy discussion topic.


    I will add to this once Joe and Isu fire their first salvo’s. BUT this is not the first discussion on this topic.

  4. isuzudude November 5, 2007 at 11:34 am
    Yeah, I’ve already seen this “rumor.” Although it’s possible the Rays could deal Kazmir this offseason because he’s up for arbitration and is assured to be making well over the $424K he earned in 2007, I don’t think it will happen. First off, even if the Rays accept arbitration on Kazmir, they’re still likely under-paying for him considering what he gives them and what he could potentially make on the open market. Secondly, I could only imagine what the Rays would be seeking in return for him. I mean, would it take the Giants to part with Lincecum AND sanchez to land Kazmir?… considering Scott is the most refined and accomplished pitcher of the bunch. Would Boston have to give up Buchholz, Ellsbury, and Delcarmen? Would the Yankees have to trade Kennedy and Chamberlain?

    And just forget about Kazmir to the Mets. It won’t happen for too many reasons. At least not this offseason.

  5. Micalpalyn November 5, 2007 at 11:41 am
    One tidbit I’ll throw in is that the Tampa papers/bloggers are not as high on Scott because they feel he cant consistently get past the 6th inning and is burning out their pen too quickly. I’ll try to get that link.
  6. isuzudude November 5, 2007 at 12:23 pm
    That’s good for the Tampa papers & bloggers, but they’re not the Tampa management, who probably realize Kazmir is the best pitcher the organization has ever possessed. And if they want to blame Kazmir solely for burning out their bullpen, then they need to throw more arms of the Edwin Jackson/JP Howell/Seth McClung/Doug Waechter mold into the rotation and see what it does to the bullpen. Since when is pitching 206 2/3 innings “burning out the bullpen,” anyway?
  7. Micalpalyn November 5, 2007 at 12:34 pm
    Understood. But before we dismiss this ‘rumor’, note they did trade joey gaithright, Danys Baez, Aubrey Huff…in fact WHO have they held onto?

    BTW I like Edwin Jackson.

  8. joe November 5, 2007 at 12:56 pm
    I’ve written a post in response. Hope you enjoy.

    Joey Gathright is a fourth outfielder for the Royals … in fact Chip Ambres received more starting playing time while in KC. Huff and Baez were both expensive and free agents to be.