March 13, 2013
Notable AL Minor-League Free Agent Signees
In this second, American League installment of the two-part notable minor-league free agent signee series (the National League is here), the discoveries were less player-specific: for numerous teams, it was hard to make a strong case for a single candidate. Instead, two other revelations: First, you have to act fast on these marginal players, because they can be gone for good before the season even starts. One candidate from the National League article two weeks ago, injury comeback returnee Kelvim Escobar, has already been released by the Brewers, due to yet another injury. Many other players, especially former major-leaguers, have opt-out clauses that activate on March 26. As a result, some of the considerations below are more theoretical than actually predictive.
Secondly, this exercise has manufactured an opposition of sorts to a position I’ve been espousing for a while about replacement-level talent. Scanning the fringe ranks for overlooked gems, or comparing projected major-league rosters to projected Triple-A rosters, you discover that there really are very few players in the lower level who seem like they’d actually be better than the guys ahead of them on the depth chart (would you really rather have Brian Bixler than Justin Turner?). And the difference is often significant.
The Orioles are an unusual case, of course, given Dan Duquette’s gin-rummy tendencies. Any of Russ Canzler, Chris Dickerson, Lew Ford, Travis Ishikawa, Conor Jackson and Steve Pearce could break through the Triple-A wall, especially if, along with injuries to McLouth or Reimold, projected DH Wilson Betemit makes the letters stand for Doesn’t Hit. Note how many 1B/OF/DH types the Orioles brought into Triple-A. That could be a clue to what they think is likely to happen in the majors for them in 2013.
Boston Red Sox: I’m going with Terry Doyle simply because he grew up in Massachusetts and went to Boston College. In fact, the Red Sox signed few minor-league free agents, and to my mind they shouldn’t need them: They’ve relatively quietly put together a pretty good-looking team for 2013. The Jays and Rays (and, for lamentable reasons, the Yankees) grabbed more press with splashier deals or worse problems, but I like the unassuming way in which Ben Cherington & Co. went about reconstructing the team. The David Ortiz injury is worrisome, but the starting pitching should improve and the bullpen looks sound. A lot would seem to be riding on Clay Buchholz.
New York Yankees: For obvious historical and sentimental reasons I wanted to select Dan Johnson, but I’m not as bullish on the Great Pumpkin as I once was, and the Yankees have grasped at so many platoon-type power-