Minor League Free Agents Could Fill Major Holes
While a lot of focus has been given to the major league free agents (and rightfully so), there is another sad, sad list of the guys who fill up the organizations around baseball, the minor league free agents. While most of these guys will never sniff a major league roster, outside of being a 25th man, there are several intriguing names that could have some value on the list this season. Below, you’ll see a list of 14 men who could earn next to nothing and still assist the Cleveland Indians in some way in 2014 or beyond.
- Brandon Allen: 1B – 27 years old
Allen is a masher…in the minors. He has a career .838 OPS in the lower ranks with 165 career home runs. Unfortunately, it hasn’t translated to his 389 major league plate appearances, as Allen holds a .665 OPS in limited action over parts of four seasons. While he isn’t someone to truly count on for 162 games, he does have a lot of power and his minor league numbers show solid plate discipline skills. If given a full-time job in Columbus or two games per week at the major league level, Allen would provide solid depth within the system.
- Yangervis Solarte: UTIL – 26 years old
Who? Solarte has spent the last two seasons at Triple-A for the Texas Rangers, posting a .282/.332/.404 triple slash with a 113:80 K:BB over 1,145 plate appearances while second, third, short, and, occasionally, the outfield. At 5’11″, 195 pounds, he isn’t going to set the world on fire offensively, but he does have 59 doubles and 23 home runs over the last two seasons in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. He is more of a second baseman/third baseman utility-type than a long-term shortstop fill-in, but he could be valuable due to the ability to make consistent contact that he has shown at the upper levels.
- Alex Liddi: 3B – 25 years old *editor’s note: Liddi has signed with the Chicago White Sox*
Liddi is two years removed from mashing 32 doubles, 30 home runs, and driving in over 100 runs in his age-22 season in Triple-A in 2011; however, things haven’t gone quite so well since then, as Liddi has a 219:55 K:BB over his last 783 plate appearances, while hitting .255/.309/.435 as a right-handed hitting third baseman. The Orioles purchased him from the Mariners last season after being designated for assignment. He would make for an interesting platoon-partner with Lonnie Chisenhall, and he is still young enough to have a career.
- Andy Marte: 3B – 30 years old
It’s hard to believe that someone who seemed to be acquired by the Indians when Manny Ramirez was a rookie for Cleveland would still be just 30 years old, but here is Andy Marte again, and this isn’t an addition just to mock all of the Marte-loving writers (I’m talking to YOU, Ed Carroll) on the staff. Marte wasn’t playing baseball anywhere on the planet in 2012, then he came back in 2013 and played some independent ball before being picked up by the Angels late in the year and hitting .362/.398/.574 over 103 Triple-A plate appearances. But…once again…that was Triple-A, and we have all seen Marte pull this trick before; however, if it’s different this time, should the Indians be the team that passes on him? Triple-A depth or a right-handed corner bat off the bench on a minor league deal isn’t a bad idea here.
- Fernando Martinez: OF – 25 years old
He may not have any tissue whatsoever left in his knees, but Martinez is too young and still possesses enough talent to be overlooked. After missing out on an opportunity in Houston due to being linked to the Biogenesis mess, Martinez latched on with the Yankees and hit .325/.394/.554 in 94 late season plate appearances for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He was ruined by the Mets several years ago when he was rushed, but people thought the same about Carlos Gomez, who floundered in Minnesota before breaking out like a caged bear for Milwaukee. While it would be hard to find an ideal spot for him in an already crowded outfield, he could be worth a long look over Drew Stubbs in right.
- Nick Blackburn: RHP – 31 years old
It hasn’t always been pretty for Nick Blackburn, but he has managed to pitch over 800 innings in the majors. He rarely strikes out an opposing batter and doesn’t walk too many, but he also allows a ton of base runners due to pitching to contact and allowing so many hits. He would be a poor option as a fifth starter for most teams in baseball, especially after he was one of the worst starters in a rotation filled with awful in Minnesota last season, but depth is important and he has managed to get 2,456 major league hitters out in his career, so why not?!?
- Simon Castro: RHP – 25 years old
Once a solid prospect in the San Diego system before being dealt to the White Sox for Carlos Quentin, Castro’s career derailed a bit after the trade, as he seemed to start being awful like every other White Sox farmhand over the last ten years. But there could be something here despite the atrocious numbers since reaching Triple-A in 2010. Maybe he is over-matched or maybe he just needs a change of scenery, but this once highly-regarded arm could be useful in Triple-A or the bullpen if he doesn’t show useful in the rotation in Cleveland.
- Jose Ceda: RHP – 26 years old
Don’t let his hideous 2013 minor league numbers fool you…Ceda was coming back from 2012 Tommy John surgery. In 2011, at the age of 24, Ceda posted a 1.36 ERA and 1.08 WHIP before striking out a batter per inning over 20.1 innings. He is a monster at 6’5″, 280 pounds, but at this price, he is certainly worth a look.
- Charlie Haeger: RHP – 30 years old
For all of those people who are still crying over Steven Wright, I give you the man that the Red Sox tried to replace Tim Wakefield with…obviously, it didn’t work. Haeger could provide a rubber arm as a long-man or swing starter, or a horrific change of pace option when relieving Danny Salazar, but trick pitches and pitchers are hard to count on, which is why Haeger is a minor league free agent and not a major league free agent.
- Evan Meek: RHP – 30 years old
Fantastic first name. After 147.2 innings and a 2.74 ERA and 1.26 WHIP from 2009 through June of 2011, Meek finally had some issues with his shoulder and he hasn’t really regained his form as an elite reliever. He started 15 games at Triple-A for the Rangers in 2013 and he held up, despite a 4.50 ERA and 1.49 WHIP, but maybe he could get another look in the bullpen, where his greatest success has come before? If he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, keeping his stretched out in Columbus as a starter could also be an option.
- Mark Rogers: RHP – 27 years old
Rogers has always been a starting pitcher and he has always had issues with his shoulder. As the fifth overall pick in the 2004 MLB Draft, you know that Rogers once had the goods, but five disabled list or fatigue issues have limited his ability to have long-term success. With that being said, shorter outings could keep him healthy, and an ol’ switcheroo to the bullpen could prove to be gold for whoever signs the right-hander.
- Mauricio Robles: LHP – 24 years old
This is another reach to the depths, but Robles had success in a very small sample size in the majors last season after posting a 1.97 ERA and 1.23 WHIP over 64 minor league innings. At 24, he was on his fourth organization, having been used every way imaginable, but people still find Paris Hilton attractive. There is something useful here in Robles being left-handed with an 80 percent contact rate on his pitches. He can miss bats…given a small sample size.
- Jonathan Sanchez: LHP – 30 years old
Sanchez won 13 games and struck out over 200 batters in 2010. He also led the league in walks that season, which shows the fine line that he was walking on between being dynamite and a disaster. Since the start of the 2011 season, Sanchez has been a disaster. A 6.21 ERA, 1.75 WHIP, and a 162:127 K:BB in 179.2 innings speaks for itself. With that being said, the stuff could still be in there somewhere, and Oliver Perez had a similar implosion and found success in the bullpen. He’s worth a shot, especially after what Mickey Callaway did for Scott Kazmir‘s career.
- Nick Schmidt: LHP – 28 years old
Schmidt was a first round pick in the 2007 MLB Draft out of the University of Arkansas. He was considered a pretty safe pick, but then Tommy John surgery and a frayed labrum ruined his progression through the minor league ranks. The Rockies tinkered with him in 2013 and used him in a relief role in Triple-A, but his season wasn’t very good as his demise came from a 7.21 ERA at Colorado Springs. An opportunity outside of the mountains could be helpful and his left arm could be useful in a variety of roles in Cleveland.