MLB 2015: Know Your Minor League Deals
(originally written 4/7/15)
This year, more than ever, established veteran players...coming off decent-to-good statistical years...still in or near their prime...with no health issues still settled for make-good minor league deals. Cases in point: 33-year-old Phil Coke (3.88 ERA in 62 games with Detroit) 25-year-old Dayan Viciedo (21 HR, 58 RBI—albeit with a .231 average and .281 OBP—for the White Sox) and 33-year-old Jared Burton (1.1 WHIP, 3.47 ERA in 203 games over past three seasons with Twins).
Headliners from as recently as 2013 such as Eric Young, Jr. (2013 NL steals champ) Jose Veras (21-save closer in 2013) and Chris Perez (2011-12 All-Star with 75 saves over that period) are no longer the stars of their teams—they're just trying to make their teams. So goes the fickle nature of pro sports.
Here is a rundown of the most significant non-roster invitees (in alphabetical order) along with their claims to fame and current roster status.
Mike Adams, 36, Dodgers - Best known for setup work for Padres/Rangers 2008-12. 2.89 in 22 games with Phillies last season,; missed time with shoulder injury. STATUS: Won spot on Dodgers' roster.
Matt Albers, 32, White Sox - Best known for relief work with Orioles/Red Sox/Indians 2008-13. 0.90 in eight games with Astros last season; missed final five months with shoulder tendinitis. STATUS: Won spot on White Sox roster.
Scott Baker, 33, Yankees - 55 wins for Twins 2007-11. 5.47 in 25 games (8 GS) with Rangers last season. Spent most of first seven weeks in AAA. STATUS: Released; signed minor league contract with Dodgers.
Joe Blanton, 34, Royals - 72-game winner for Athletics/Phillies 2005-10. 2-14, 6.04 in 28 games (20 GS) with Angels last season. STATUS: Did not make Royals roster; demoted to minors.
John Buck, 34, Braves - Catcher for several teams, most notably Royals, from 2004-14. 134 career HR in 1,090 games. 2010 All-Star. STATUS: Opted to retire.
Blaine Boyer, 33, Twins - Best known for relief work with Braves/Diamondbacks 2008-10. 3.57 in 32 games with Padres last season. STATUS: Won spot on Twins' roster.
Jared Burton, 33, Yankees - Workhorse reliever for Reds/Twins since 2007; 3.44 ERA in 367 career games. 4.36 in 68 games with Twins last season. STATUS: Did not make Yankees roster; released.
Matt Capps, 31, Braves - 108 saves 2007-10 for Pirates/Nats/Twins; 2010 All-Star. Out of majors since 2012. Underwent shoulder surgery in June 2013; only 10 MiLB appearances 2013-14. STATUS: Released; but re-signed to minor-league deal.
Fausto Carmona (Roberto Hernandez), 34, Astros - 52 wins for Indians 2007-11, including 19 in 2007. 2010 All-Star. 8-11, 4.10 in 32 games (29 starts) with Phillies/Dodgers last season. STATUS: Won spot on Astros roster.
Mike Carp, 28, Nationals - 26 HR, 109 RBI in 670 AB as reserve 1B/OF for Mariners/Red Sox 2011-13. .175, 0 HR, 13 RBI, .230 SLG with Red Sox/Rangers last season. STATUS: Did not make Nationals roster; refused minors assignment and is free agent.
Bruce Chen, 37, Indians - Journeyman pitcher most recently spent most of six seasons with Royals; 44 wins 2010-13 before release last summer. 7.45 in 13 games (7 GS) with Royals last season. STATUS: Did not make Indians roster; demoted to minors.
Pedro Ciriaco, 30, Braves - Utility IF/OF started 70 games for 2012 Red Sox; .213 in 25 games with Royals last season. STATUS: Would have won roster spot, but late spring Braves/Padres trade closed roster opening and led to minors demotion.
Todd Coffey, 34, Braves - Best known for relief work with Reds/Brewers 2005-10, averaging 63 appearances annually with 4.08 ERA. 1.93, 11 saves in 37 games for AAA Tacoma (Mariners) last season. STATUS AND STATS: Did not make Braves roster; released.
Phil Coke, 32, Cubs - Averaged 62 appearances for Yankees/Tigers 2009-14. 3.88, 1.53 WHIP in 62 games with Tigers last season. STATUS AND STATS: Won spot on Cubs roster.
Tyler Colvin, 29, Marlins - Outfielder was 20-homer hitter for 2010 Cubs and 18-homer hitter for 2012 Rockies. .223 in 57 games with Giants last season. STATUS AND STATS: Did not make Marlins roster; released.
Kevin Correia, 34, Mariners - 46 wins 2009-12 with Padres and Pirates, 2011 All-Star. 7-17, 5.44 in 32 games (26 starts) with Twins/Dodgers last season. STATUS AND STATS: Did not make Mariners roster, released; signed minor league contract with Giants.
Andy Dirks, 29, Blue Jays - Outfielder averaged 100 games and 325 at-bats for Tigers 2011-13; played 14 games in Tigers system last season after back surgery and subsequent hamstring injury. STATUS AND STATS: Still recovering from 2014 back surgery and held over in minors.
Scott Downs, 39, Indians - Longtime lefty reliever most notably with Blue Jays and Angels; averaged 62 appearances annually 2006-14. 4.97 in 55 games with White Sox and Royals last season. STATUS AND STATS: Did not make Indians roster; released.
Scott Elbert, 29, Padres - Parts of past seven seasons in Dodgers bullpen; 2.32 ERA, 1.22 WHIP in 90 games 2011-12. Underwent Tommy John surgery in 2013. 2.08 in seven games with Dodgers last season. STATUS AND STATS: Did not make Padres roster; demoted to minors.
Pedro Feliciano, 38, Cubs - Oft-used Mets lefty specialist 2007-11; averaged over 80 games per year in that stretch. Underwent rotator-cuff surgery in early 2012. Out of majors last season. 5.57 in 22 games with AAA Memphis (Cardinals) last season. STATUS AND STATS: Unable to unearth any information regarding his status; he did not pitch in Spring Training for Cubs or anyone else.
Jeff Francis, 34, Blue Jays - LHP best known as Rockies starter 2004-10 and 2012-13; 44 wins from 2005-07 and 71-80 lifetime. 5.85 in 12 games with Reds, Athletics and Yankees last season. STATUS AND STATS: Did not make Blue Jays roster; demoted to minors.
Ben Francisco, 33, Diamondbacks - Situational outfielder for Indians/Phillies 2008-2011; well-traveled since. Averaged 109 games during that period; two 15-homer seasons. Out of majors last season; .242, 6, 27 in 57 games with IND Lancaster last season. STATUS AND STATS: Did not make Diamondbacks roster; released.
Juan Francisco, 27, Rays - Journeyman corner infielder has 34 home runs in 635 AB over past two seasons. 375 K in 996 lifetime official at-bats. .220, 16, 43 in 106 games with Blue Jays last season. STATUS AND STATS: Did not make Rays roster; refused demotion to minors and is free agent.
Jeff Francoeur, 31, Phillies - Best known for stints with Braves (2005-09) and Royals (2011-13); 137 home runs 2005-12 along with two 100+ RBI seasons and a 2007 Gold Glove. 2-for-24 in 10 games with Padres last season. STATUS AND STATS: Won spot on Phillies roster.
Chad Gaudin, 32, Dodgers - RHP for many teams since 2003; 45-44, 4.44 in 344 career games (87 starts). 11-game winner for 2007 Athletics. Did not pitch last season. STATUS AND STATS: On Dodgers disabled list; injured before roster decision was made.
Jeanmar Gomez, 27, Phillies - RHP posted 3.28 ERA in 78 appearances (eight starts) for 2013-14 Pirates. 3.19, 1.5 WHIP in 44 games last season. STATUS AND STATS: Won spot in Phillies bullpen.
Kevin Gregg, 37, Reds - Saved 175 games 2007-13 for four teams; 4.15 ERA in 583 career games. 10.00, 1.78 WHIP in 12 games with Marlins last season. STATUS AND STATS: Won spot in Reds' bullpen.
Tony Gwynn Jr.,32, Nationals - Outfielder averaged 119 games for Padres/Dodgers 2009-12, batting .243 during that period. .152 in 80 games with Phillies last season. STATUS AND STATS: Did not make Nationals roster; demoted to minors.
Jonathan Herrera, 30, Cubs - Best known as Rockies part-time infielder 2010-13; averaged about 90 games and 230 AB over that period, batting .268. .233 in 42 games with Red Sox last season. STATUS AND STATS: Won spot on Cubs roster.
Rich Hill, 35, Nationals - 11-game winner in 32 starts for 2007 Cubs; little since besides 63 apperances for 2013 Indians. Underwent Tommy John surgery in May 2011. 3.38 ERA, 2.44 WHIP (not a misprint) for Angels/Yankees last season. STATUS AND STATS: Did not make Nationals roster, but signed to retention bonus and sent to minors.
Kelly Johnson, 33, Braves - Infielder best known for days with Braves 2005-09, and 2010 season with Diamondbacks (.284, 26, 71). .215, 7, 27 in 106 games with three teams last season. STATUS AND STATS: Won spot on Braves roster.
Gerald Laird, 35, Diamondbacks - Onetime starting catcher for Rangers and Tigers; most recently a solid backup for Braves. STATUS AND STATS: Won spot on Diamondbacks roster.
Ed Lucas, 33, Rangers - Infielder hit .255 in 163 games/530 at-bats with 2013-14 Marlins. STATUS AND STATS: Did not make Rangers roster; demoted to minors.
Ryan Ludwick, 36, Rangers - Outfielder best known with Cardinals 2007-10; 2008 All-Star with 37 HR, 113 RBI. .275, 26, 80 in 2012 with Reds; underwent shoulder surgery in early 2013. .244, 9, 45 in 112 games with Reds last season. STATUS AND STATS:Did not make Rangers roster; released.
Ryan Madson, 34, Royals - RH relief workhorse for Phillies 2004-11; 32 saves in 2011. Has pitched one professional game since following early 2012 Tommy John surgery. STATUS AND STATS: Won spot in Royals bullpen.
Jason Marquis, 36, Reds - RH starter with 80 wins from 2004-09; 2009 All-Star. Best known with Braves/Cardinals/Cubs. Out of majors last season; spent 2014 in Phillies organization going combined 4-1 in nine starts. STATUS AND STATS: Won spot in Reds rotation.
Nick Masset, 33, Marlins - Righty RP appeared 231 times for Reds 2009-11; underwent shoulder capsule surgery in 2012. 5.80 in 51 games with Rockies last season. STATUS AND STATS: Did not make Marlins roster; released.
Vin Mazzaro, Marlins - Washout starter with Athletics/Royals; 2.81 in 57 RA with 2013 Pirates. In AAA most of last season; 3.48 in 10.1 IP with Pirates. STATUS AND STATS: Did not make Marlins roster; demoted to minors.
Ryan Mattheus, 31, Angels - Nationals righty reliever for parts of past four seasons; posted 2.85 ERA in 66 games in 2012. Most of last season in AAA; 1.04 in seven games with Nationals. STATUS AND STATS: Did not make Angels roster; demoted to minors.
Evan Meek, 32, Nationals - Pirates reliever 2008-12; 2010 All-Star. Opted against surgery for torn pitching labrum in 2011, contributing to decline. 5.79 in 23 games with Orioles last season. STATUS AND STATS: Did not make Nationals roster; demoted to minors.
Jose Mijares, 30, Reds - Lefty specialist mostly for Twins/Giants 2008-13; averaged 63 appearances with 3.33 ERA over that period. Did not pitch last season after failing to make Red Sox roster in spring. STATUS AND STATS: Did not make Reds roster; released. Suspended 50 games for violating MiLB drug policy shortly after.
Leo Nunez (aka Juan C. Oviedo), 33, Rangers - Best known as Royals/Marlins closer 2009-11; out of majors for two years following identity issues and Tommy John surgery in 2012. 3.69 in 32 games with Rays last season. STATUS AND STATS: Did not make Rangers roster; released.
Josh Outman, 30, Braves - LHP primarily with Athletics/Rockies since 2008; 4.43 in 161 career games (32 starts). 2.86, 1.41 WHIP in 40 games with Indians and Yankees last season. STATUS AND STATS: Placed on Braves disabled list.
Chris Parmelee, 27, Orioles - First baseman/outfielder with Twins 2011-14; .249, 24, 85 in 812 games over that period. .256, 7, 28 in 87 games last season. STATUS AND STATS: Did not make Orioles roster; demoted to minors.
Brad Penny, 36, White Sox - RHP best known for 2000-08 seasons starting for Marlins and Dodgers; two-time All-Star and 16-game winner. Eight organizations (including Japan) since start of 2009; 121-101 lifetime. 2-1, 6.58 in eight games (4 GS) with Marlins last season. STATUS AND STATS: Did not make White Sox roster, but signed to retention bonus and sent to minors.
Chris Perez, 29, Brewers - Two-time All-Star closer for Indians 2011-12 (75 saves). 4.27, save in 49 games with Dodgers last season. STATUS AND STATS: Did not make Brewers roster; released and re-signed to minors deal to avoid retention bonus.
Rafael Perez, 33, Mariners - Mainstay in Indians bullpen 2007-11; topped 70 appearances thrice. Lost most of '12 with lat injury and relegated to AAA since. Combined 2.87 in 24 games (16 starts) for Mexican League, AAA Indianapolis (Pirates) and AAA Round Rock (Rangers). STATUS AND STATS: Did not make Mariners roster; demoted to minors and later loaned to Mexican League.
Nick Punto, 37, Diamondbacks - Best known for years as Twins utilityman 2004-10; averaged 400 AB annually 2005-09. .207 in 73 games with Athletics last season. STATUS AND STATS: Weeks after signing, decided to sit out the 2015 season (please follow that verification link; the article's close is priceless).
Humberto Quintero, 35, Red Sox - Longtime Astros backup catcher 2005-11; two hitless AB with Mariners last season (.290 in 74 games for AAA Tacoma). STATUS AND STATS: Did not make Red Sox roster; demoted to minors.
Clayton Richard, 31, Pirates - LHP was 14-game winner in both 2010 and 2012 for Padres; underwent separate shoulder surgeries in 2013 and 2014. 1-2, 5.91 ERA in four MiLB starts in Diamondbacks system last season. STATUS AND STATS: Did not make Pirates roster; demoted to minors.
Shane Robinson, 30, Twins - Reserve outfielder for Cardinals 2009-14; .231 average in 268 career games. .150/.227/.200 in 47 games last season. STATUS AND STATS: Won spot on Twins roster.
Wandy Rodriguez, 36, Braves - Five-time double-digit winner for Astros/Pirates 2005-12; 14-game winner in '09. 0-2, 6.75 in six starts last season for Pirates before being released. STATUS AND STATS: Did not make Braves roster, released; signed minor-league deal with Rangers.
Johan Santana, 36, Blue Jays - Two-time Cy Young Award winner for Twins (2004, 2006); 128 career wins for Twins/Mets 2003-12. Injured last season (Achilles) STATUS: Did not pitch in spring due to injury rehab, but signed to retention bonus.
Sergio Santos, 32, Dodgers - Best known as 30-save closer for 2011 White Sox; little before or since. Underwent labrum surgery in 2012. 8.57 in 26 games for Blue Jays last season. STATUS: Did not make Dodgers roster, demoted to minors.
Nate Schierholtz, 31, Rangers - Member of 2010 World Champion Giants; 21 HR, 68 RBI for Cubs in 2013; .195 in 122 games with Cubs and Nationals last season. STATUS: Did not make Rangers roster; released. Signed with Japan league.
Scott Sizemore, 30, Marlins - 11 HR in 2011 with Athletics; dual ACL surgeries in 2012-13. Five hits in 16 AB with Yankees last season. STATUS: Did not make Marlins roster; demoted to minors.
Kevin Slowey, 30, Phillies - 35 wins for Twins 2008-10; only four since. 5.30, 1.67 WHIP in 17 games (2 GS) with Marlins last season. STATUS: Did not make Phillies roster; released.
Justin Smoak, 28, Blue Jays - Primary Mariners first baseman 2011-13; averaged 18 homers but hit .229 during that period. .202, 7 HR in 80 games with Mariners last season. STATUS: Won spot on Blue Jays roster.
Geovany Soto, 32, White Sox - Catcher was 2008 NL Rookie of the Year for Cubs; 79 homers with Cubs 2008-12; now a reserve. .250, HR in 24 games with Rangers and Athletics last season. STATUS: Won spot on White Sox roster.
Ian Stewart, 30, Nationals - Tthird baseman hit 53 HR for Rockies 2008-10; .176 in 24 games with Angels last season. STATUS: Did not make Nationals roster; demoted to minors.
Dan Uggla, 35, Nationals - Three-time All-Star second baseman for Marlins and Braves 2006-14; 233 lifetime homers but career in severe three-year decline. .149, 2 HR in 52 games for Braves/Giants last season. STATUS: Actually won spot on Nationals roster. (Sorry; he was really bad for my Giants)
Joe Thatcher, 33, Astros - Lefty specialist in Padres bullpen 2009-13; 3.86 in 53 games with Diamondbacks and Angels last season. STATUS: Won spot in Astros bullpen.
Jose Valverde, 37, Padres - Three-time league saves leader with Diamondbacks, Astros and Tigers; three-time All-Star with 288 career saves. Lost touch in late 2012 and bounced around since. 5.66 in 21 games with Mets last season. STATUS: Did not make Padres roster; released.
Jose Veras, 34, Braves - Journeyman reliever averaged 60 appearances 2008-14; saved 19 games pre-deadline with 2013 Astros. 4.50, 1.40 WHIP with Cubs/Astros last season. STATUS: Did not make Braves roster; released.
Dayan Viciedo, 25, Blue Jays - Regular outfielder for White Sox 2010-14; 25-homer hitter in 2012. .231, 21, 58, .281 OBP last season. STATUS: Did not make Blue Jays roster; released.
Carlos Villanueva, 31, Cardinals - Swingman has 390 appearances for Brewers, Blue Jays and Cubs since 2006 (4.26 ERA, 1.292 WHIP). 5-7, 4.64 in 42 games (five starts) with Cubs last season. STATUS: Won spot on Cardinals roster.
Chien-Ming Wang, 35, Braves - 54-game winner for Yankees 2005-08 including two 19-win seasons; 39 MLB appearances and eight wins since. Underwent shoulder surgery in 2009 and missed 2010. 13-8, 4.13 for AAA Louisville/Charlotte (Reds/White Sox) last season. STATUS: Did not make Braves roster; demoted to minors.
Dontrelle Willis, 33, Brewers - LHP won 78 games with Marlins 2003-2007; NL Rookie of the Year in 2003. Has battled anxiety and severe command issues; no MLB appearances since 2011. STATUS: Opted to retire for second time.
Randy Wolf, 38, Blue Jays - LHP won 138 games with Phillies, Brewers and others since 1999. 1-3, 5.26 in six games (four starts) with Marlins last season. STATUS: Signed late in spring; currently in AAA.
Blake Wood, 29, Pirates - best known for 106 relief appearances for Royals 2010-11. Underwent Tommy John surgery in May 2012. 7.11 in seven games with Indians last season. STATUS: Did not make Pirates roster; demoted to minors.
Eric Young Jr,, 29, Braves - 2B/OF best known for 2009-13 stint with Rockies including a 2013 NL steals title—and for accidentally breaking Tim Hudson's ankle. .229/.299/.311 in 100 games with Mets last season. STATUS: Won spot on Braves' roster.
Barry Zito, 36, Athletics - LHP won 165 games from 2000-13 with Athletics and Giants. Sat out last season. STATUS: Did not make Athletics' roster; demoted to minors.