A Guide To Some Relevant Minor League Free Agents

In 2009, the Mets were bereft of minor league depth. It was painfully obvious looking at Buffalo's performance and it became a major issue when injuries struck. Despite what some claim, however, developing prospects is not the only way to build good farm systems. Often those fringe players that never quite breakthrough to the show are the most integral parts of a successful minor league team. So going off this list, here's some MiFA of interest:

RHP Phil Humber: I actually think Humber is a pretty bad pitcher, but need to mention him before everyone gets nostalgic.  Humber was, of course, the former Mets top prospect out of Rice that was supposed to join Mike Pelfrey at the top of the Mets rotation eventually--that was, before he had Tommy John Surgery. Somehow included in the Johan Santana deal, Humber pitched really poorly for the Twins in AAA. The only real reason to bring him back would be a show of goodwill and sympathy from the Mets. Don't hold out hope for that lost potential. 

IF/OF Wilson Betemit: The top-prospect-turned-super-sub Betemit probably has his best days behind him, even at age 28. He comes from the Mark DeRosa mold in that he has experience at virtually every position, but is good at none of them. And while he hasn't hit very well of late, his interesting blend of power and plate discipline and major-league track record could make him worth a flier at AAA. Personally, I might opt for better infield defense behind the Mets young developing pitchers, but few others on that list can claim being an average major league hitter over their career. 

RHP Bryan Bullington: One of many infamous first round busts in the Pirate's recent draft history, this first-overall pick has some upside as a reliever. In 38 relief innings for Las Vegas last season, Bullington had a 43:7 K:BB ratio in 38.1 innings pitched. He also can be as a serviceable AAA starter, but any chance of him making the bigs is as a part of the bullpen. A good guy to have around.

LHP Brian Burres: A long-time Baltimore farm hand, Burres has the stuff to be a mid-rotation AAA guy and a #7 or 8 on an organizational depth chart. Sub-par control and a horrible 2008 with the Orioles will likely prevent him from ever earning another extended stay in the majors. 

RHP R.A. Dickey:

Pros:

  • Went to my high school
  • throws the knuckleball
  • the only article I ever wrote for my high school newspaper was about him

Cons:

Dickey  is the rare pitcher who is seemingly improving with age. He started using the knuckleball full-time in 2007, a season in which he was the Pacific Coast League MVP. Last year he had modest success as a reliever with the Twins. Knuckleball pitchers are great because they can pitch a million innings without getting tired and because they throw the knuckleball.

3B/OF Joe Dillon: At age 33, Joe's showing some signs of decline, but with the way he's been jerked around between the majors and minors recently, I wonder whether it's genuine slowing down or just not getting settled in one place.  He is one of those AAAA sluggers that makes minor league baseball fun to watch--three times in his minor league career he's had a 1000+ OPS. He's a pretty decent fielding thirdbaseman to boot. This year he was the "last man" on the Rays bench, and he could easily reprise that role with the Mets, or be big boost to the Bisons.

RHP Geoff Geary: Geary is a control-specialist reliever who has had some major league PT recently with the Astros and Phillies. He's not someone I want in the Mets bullpen, but Buffalo could use him.

OF Mitch Jones: .354, .320. Those two numbers are Mitch Jones' Isolated Power in the past two seasons. Sure, he played in a friendly home ballpark in Albuquerque, but a .651 SLG% travels. You could make an argument that Jones is better suited for a starting job on the Mets than Daniel Murphy or Jeff Francoeur.

LHP Royce Ring: Ya'll know Royce. Lefty with the funky motion. I'd take him back on a minor league deal, considering the state of the Mets' bullpen.

LHP Jon Switzer: He pitched pretty well for Buffalo out of the bullpen this year (3.85 tRA). He would be a solid re-sign.

1B Chris Shelton: Like a right-handed Chris Carter, Chris Shelton is another AAAA slugger the Bison's stagnant offense could certainly use. Last year with Tacoma, he OPSed .905 at age 29. With Chris Carter already here, however, he may be "blocked." And as you've probably suspected, I'd gladly platoon him with Murphy, Carter, or Ike Davis, if given the chance. 

LHP R.J. Swindle: Of all the pitchers I've talked about so far, Swindle is easily the most desirable. He'll be just 26 next season and has fantastic minor league peripherals 9.0 K/9, 1.8 BB/9. He's got forgettable stuff: a low 80s fastball and curveball that is basically an eephus, but he's always put up great numbers and killed lefties. Chad Bradford II?

RHP Joe Nelson: The Rays signed Joe for $1MM after a fantastic '08 with the Marlins. He proved a bad investment with horrible command, but might be served well by a return to the NL East. The Mets were reportedly interested in him as a Major League piece last year, and at the very least would be a great AAA option. 

C Guillermo Quiroz: A former top-50 prospect, Quiroz has evolved into a minor league catcher with a sterling defensive reputation, good pop, and poor on-base skills. Basically, he's Omir Santos. I am not even sure Omir Santos is even better than him. In fact, Omir Santos was the Orioles' AAA catcher when Quiroz was their Major League backup. That says more about how poor and ill-equipped for a starting gig Santos is, than how good Quiroz is. But if you're going to entrust Omir Santos with a roster spot, might as well keep his clone as a backup in AAA.

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