International Free Agent Profile: Craig Brazell, First Baseman

In an alternate dimension somewhere, that might've been Craig Brazell making the put out - Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

Former Mets farmhand Craig Brazell is looking to join a MLB club in the hopes of resuscitating his NPB career. Is there any chance that he and the Mets might come to a contractual agreement for 2013?

Some of you might recognize the name. Long before the days of Ike Davis or, hell, even Mike Jacobs, the Mets had in their farm system a promising young slugging first baseman named Craig Walter Brazell. Drafted in the fifth round of the 1998 Amateur Draft out of Jefferson Davis High School in his hometown of Montgomery, Alabama, the young left-hander sure could hit.

As a 21-year-old with the Single-A Capital City Bombers in 2001, he hit .308/.343/.586 with 19 home runs. As a 22-year-old in 2002, he hit .276/.305/.474 with 22 home runs, splitting time between the High-A St. Lucie Mets and Double-A Binghamton Mets. As a 23-year-old in 2003, he hit .289/.328/.458 with 17 home runs, splitting time between Binghamton and the Triple-A Norfolk Tides. As a 24-year-old in 2004, he hit .265/.300/.465 with 23 home runs with Norfolk.

Finally, in 2004, Brazell got his call-up, and in it, he hit .265/.286/.412 with one homer. He was sent back down to Norfolk in 2005, and he had a down season, hitting .249/.301/.439 with 6 home runs in just 52 games. As a result, the Mets released him.

Brazell then signed with the Dodgers in 2006 and was assigned to their Double-A team in Jacksonville, Florida. He had another relative down year, though he did rebound on the power front with 21 home runs. Still, the Dodgers let him go.

In 2007, the Kansas City Royals gave him a shot, and he had his best season, hitting .315/.352/.601 with 39 home runs between the Double-A Wichita Wranglers and the Triple-A Omaha Royals. He got a brief cup of coffee with the Royals, too, but he was released by the team at the end of the year. Having no other suitors, Brazell took the Seibu Lions up on their contractual offer, packed his bags, and went to Japan.

Despite hitting 27 home runs, Brazell had a disappointing 2008 season in Japan, hitting only .234/.294/.446, which led to his release. He returned to the United States and began playing independent baseball, but it wasn’t long before the Hanshin Tigers gave him a call and offered him a contract.

Unlike his time in Seibu, Craig’s time in Hanshin was more or less successful. From 2009 to 2012, he hit .276/.311/.483 with 91 home runs — including a monstrous 2010 season in which he hit 47 home runs. Brazell will turn 33 in May, but the Hanshin Tigers have not contacted him about a new contract. Neither has any other team in Japan.

Brazell has made it known that he is considering a return to the United States: "I am starting to consider other options," he has told Japanese media outlets. "There is only so much I can do by myself in terms of training. I will also lose the feel for playing in games. I want to prepare myself so that I can play at any moment. I want to find a place where I can play in games. That might end up being the minor leagues".

His stats over the last five seasons are as follows:

Year Age G AB AVG OBP SLG HR SB CS
2008 28 130 471 .234 .294 .446 27 0 0
2009 29 82 285 .291 .308 .509 16 0 1
2010 30 143 564 .296 .329 .573 47 1 0
2011 31 120 422 .282 .322 .445 16 0 1
2012 32 98 275 .233 .285 .404 12 0 0

Does He Make Sense For The Mets?

Craig Brazell knows what he is and what he isn’t, and he knows that teams aren’t exactly lining up for his services. He would prefer to continue playing in Japan, and any return to North America would simply be a demonstration that he can still play baseball at a high enough level to be a fit for an NPB team.

The best Brazell is going to get is a minor-league contract, possibly with an invitation to spring training. The Mets, like every MLB team, can offer that deal without a problem. The question is whether or not giving the slugging first baseman a minor-league contract serves any purpose.

Ike Davis is the Mets’ incumbent first baseman, and in the event that he gets injured for any amount of time during the 2013 season, there are ample replacements that are better than Brazell: Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner, Josh Satin, Zach Lutz, and Wilmer Flores all represent legitimate in-house options that would likely be better than the aging slugger. So, really, it serves the Mets no purpose to extend a contract to Craig Brazell.

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A few weeks back, we took a look at the market for international free agents. For previous entries in this series, check out the storystream.

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