Minor League Free Agency Begins

Baseball America released the entire list of minor league free agents today. These are players who have over six years of minor league experience, and are not protected on a team’s major league 40-man roster. They have earned free agency and are allowed to sign with any interested team.

Six-year free agents generally consider three things when deciding which team to play for: opportunity to crack the big league roster, financial compensation, and location of Triple-A affiliate. Players also try to negotiate contract stipulations such as the ability to become a free agent mid-season if not in the major leagues, or the freedom to jump to Japan or Korea if the opportunity arises.

Excerpted from Baseball America, here is the Mariners list of minor league free agents:

Seattle Mariners
RHP: 
Moises Hernandez (AA), David Pauley (AAA), Brian Sweeney (AAA)
LHP: Steve Garrison (AA), Jose Jimenez (AA)
C: Jesus Sucre (AA)
1B: Luis Jimenez (AAA)
2B: Carlos Ramirez (HiA), Luis Rodriguez (AAA)
3B: Leury Bonilla (AA)
OF: Johermyn Chavez (AA), Chih-Hsien Chiang (AA), Darren Ford (AAA), Kuo Hui Lo (AA)

There are two additional free agents who are longtime Rainiers: outfielder Mike Wilson and reliever Cesar Jimenez. These players qualified for free agency under a different classification (“Article XXD Free Agent” which allowed them to elect free agency early; the other players above were declared free agents by MLB – it’s really no difference as far as we are concerned).

I think the most interesting player on the Mariners list in terms of future potential is outfielder Johermyn Chavez. He was considered a talented prospect when acquired from Toronto in the Brandon Morrow/Brandon League deal, and he hit well in the low minors but couldn’t get it going in Double-A. This year, in an injury plagued season, he hit .232 with eight home runs and 35 walks in a half-season, leading to a .725 OPS because of decent walks and power. Chavez will turn 24 in January. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Mariners try to keep him.

Another player who might be brought back is catcher Jesus Sucre. I’ve received good reports on his defense and as of this moment we need catching depth here in Triple-A.

As for the Rainiers on the list, we’ve talked about Luis Jimenez (scroll down), and it’s hard to picture Luis Rodriguez coming back after he had a fine season last year but did not get called up. I’m unclear on the organization’s opinion of Darren Ford right now. For about a six-week stretch in June and July Ford was the Rainiers best player, but he really tapered off in August.

I’m sure Brian Sweeney will be around if the Mariners need him; he told me at the end of the season he wasn’t planning on retirement yet. What of David Pauley? He pitched very well for Tacoma, but that unexpected “drugs of abuse” suspension throws everything into doubt.

Minor league free agent signings have begun, we’ll start hearing news of possible 2013 Rainiers soon.

Links:

  • Peter Callaghan of The News Tribune has a column on the state of the Tacoma Rainiers as a business and how things are looking right now.
  • Here is the full list of minor league free agents from Baseball America. Interesting names to me, as potential Rainiers, include Justin Christian, Brian Bogusevic, and Aaron Cunningham. You may have noticed that I’d like to see the M’s bring in an MLB-experienced outfielder with a track record showing he can hit in Triple-A.
  • No link, but Matt Eddy of Baseball America reported on twitter that former Rainiers outfielder Jeremy Reed signed a minor league deal with Arizona. His brother Mark played for Reno this past season and beat the Rainiers with a suicide squeeze on June 1.
  • Also, Eddy reported that the A’s signed former Rainiers left-hander Garrett Olson to a Triple-A deal.
  • Larry Stone has a cool piece on Edgar & Holli Martinez and the New York Marathon.
  • Also from Stone, a link to this week’s Mariners Winter League Update. Of note, Nick Franklin seems to be hitting well in the Arizona Fall League. I’ll do a full post on the winter leagues when we get deeper into the season.
  • I was out-of-town having fun over the weekend, but in case you missed it the Mariners signed starting pitcher Hisashi Iwkuma to a two-year contract, and picked up reliever Oliver Perez on a one-year deal. Both pitchers would have been free agents.
  • The Mariners added some roving minor league instructors and one of them is former Rainiers shortstop Chris Woodward, who retired as a player after finishing 2012 with Las Vegas.
  • Many analysts expect the Mariners to be active trying to add a free agent major league outfielder from outside of the organization. For ESPN Insiders, Keith Law ranks the top free agent outfielders.
  • The Oklahoma City RedHawks are getting Tony DeFrancesco back as manager in 2013. Tony D did essentially what Daren Brown did for Seattle in 2010: he took over a sinking ship in the majors after a managerial firing, finished the season up there, and then returned to his previous post in Triple-A.
  • Seconds before I was set to press “publish,” the Mariners claimed outfielder Scott Cousins from the Blue Jays, who claimed him off waivers from the Marlins two weeks ago. He’s right there in the Casper WellsTrayvon Robinson extra outfielder mix. This link has his major-and-minor league career stats. I can only assume he is out of options and must make the big club or clear waivers. Just learned he has one option year left, so Cousins is a potential 2013 Rainiers outfielder.

That’s it for election day. You thought I was going to put up one of those polls for election day, didn’t you? No, I resisted the temptation. I figure you are all polled out right now. This is the blog that cares about the readers.

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