• Not Such Minor Signings

    Every year, every MLB team fills out their 40 man roster. As that is happening, they are also adding minor league free agents and offering them nothing more than an invitation to big league spring training. That is enough to be seen, to get an opportunity.

    Generally speaking, news of these minor league signings is treated fairly ho-hum. However, the last few years, the Minnesota Twins have done a great job of adding veteran minor league talent. Usually, those players are guys who help the AA and AAA rosters by providing experience and to fill gaps in the minor league system.

    However, the Twins have had much success in recent years in the free agency realm. Consider in 2011, the Twins signed Caleb Thielbar as a minor league free agent in August. The story has become famous, but right before spring training that year, the Twins signed Andrew Albers.

    The Twins had a tremendous year of minor league signings prior to the 2012 season. Sure, there were a couple that didn't make it, but the Twins front office deserves credit for targeting some very good players. Here's a look at the Twins minor league signings for 2012:

    No Time With Twins

    Steve Pearce - The 1B/OF signed with the Twins, but he spent most of that spring training hurt and was let go before the end of spring training. He went on to spend time in the big leagues with the Orioles, Astros and Yankees.

    Brendan Wise - The right-handed pitcher from Australia had been terrific in AAA for the Tigers the two previous seasons, but he struggled with Rochester.

    JR Towles - The catcher who was a former top prospect caused some excitement when the Twins signed him. However, he did very little in AAA and was hurt for a large part of the season.

    Luke French - The former big league southpaw signed with the Twins and was tremendous early in New Britain. However, he was pretty poor in AAA and went back to the Rock Cats.

    Cups of Coffee

    Matt Carson - The 30+ outfielder had spent time in the big leagues with the A's. He was a very solid performer for the Red Wings, and when he was called up to the Twins late in the season, he got 66 at bats.

    Luis Perdomo - He had spent time with the Padres in 2009 and 2010. He was terrific for New Britain and Rochester in 2012 and earned his promotion to the Twins. However, with the Twins he had no control. He resigned with the Twins this spring but has been inconsistent in the Red Wings bullpen.

    Sean Burroughs - The former Little League World Series hero signed a minor league deal with the Twins and made the Opening Day roster. He got just 18 plate appearances before being DFAd and sent to Rochester where he spent he rest of the season.

    Wilkin Ramirez - The Twins actually signed Ramirez before the 2012 season. The former top prospect of the Tigers had spent big league time with Detroit and Atlanta. An injury in spring training meant his season started late, but he showed good power when healthy. This spring, he made the Twins roster out of spring training as an extra outfielder. He missed about two months due to a concussion and has just returned to the Twins.

    Chris Colabello - The story is well known. The Twins signed Colabello out of the Can-Am League before the 2012 season, and he hit well in New Britain. This spring, he played in the WBC and went to big league camp. He put up incredible numbers in Rochester this season and has been recalled to the Twins several times this season. Can he be part of the future? That will be determined, likely, over the next two months.

    Majors Contributors

    PJ Walters - He was signed by the Twins before the 2012 season. The former prospect pitched well enough in the spring and then in Rochester to get a call up. He pitched well until he was injured and then struggled in his return. The same thing happened this year. He went to Rochester and was summoned back to the Twins. In total, he has made 20 starts and pitched 101 innings for the Twins in the past two seasons.

    Sam Deduno - The enigmatic right-hander had spent time with the Rockies and the Padres in 2010 and 2011, respectively, before the Twins signed him before the 2012 season. Control had plagued him, but he pitched well enough, and the Twins' need was big enough that he got an opportunity. The Twins DFAd him after the season, but then resigned him to a minor league deal. This spring, he was a WBC hero for the Dominican Republic. Unfortunately, he was injured and started the season late. Once he started pitching, it didn't take long for him to get moved up to the Twins. He has gone from walking 6.0 per nine to just 3.4 per nine. He has reduced his HR rate from 1.1 to 0.5. He is looking like a long-term middle of the rotation type. He's now made 29 starts for the Twins and worked 167 innings.

    Jared Burton - Burton was a very good reliever for the Reds when he was healthy. After missing the majority of two seasons, the Twins signed him to a minor league season. Last year, he was so good in a set up role that the Twins signed him to a two year extension. Although he struggled for a few weeks this season, he has again been very good. He has now pitched in 113 innings in 118 games for the Twins.

    Casey Fien - Fien had spent time with the Tigers before signing as a minor league free agent before the 2012 season. Though he started off slow at Rochester, he came on very strong for the Red Wings. He was promoted to the Twins and ever since he has been one of the best relievers in the league. In 90 games and 84.1 innings, he has posted a 2.56 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP.



    I'd say that was a pretty strong minor league free agent class. The 2012 class includes Twins infielder Doug Bernier. At Rochester, Jeff Clement has hit in the middle of the order and Antoan Richardson has been a terrific leadoff hitter. Also consider that Josmil Pinto, Deibinson Romero and Edgar Ibarra all had the opportunity to become free agents last winter but chose to stay with the Twins.

    Obviously it is not an ideal situation to get so much big league playing time from free minor league free agents. Having three players with ties to independent league, along with a 33-year-old journeyman, and several DFA claims that have played a lot. However, these often are the best stories in baseball as we have seen with Albers, Colabello, Thielbar and others.

    However, minor league free agency can be an important part of roster building for major league teams. It is one area where the Twins have been quite successful.
    This article was originally published in blog: Not Such Minor Signings started by Seth Stohs
    Comments 27 Comments
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      It can also prevent advancement. Players like Rosario, Pinto and Ibarra have all been working slowly up the minors way. Look for the other two to be added to the 40-man roster this year. Yes, it is good to have minor league free agents if you don't have ready players for the upper levels of the minors, and also to be those bench replacement players if the major league utility guy is suddenly put into play.
    1. clutterheart's Avatar
      clutterheart -
      I was unaware that Josmil Pinto had a chance to be a FA. Didn't he get added to the 40 man?
    1. troyhobbs's Avatar
      troyhobbs -
      Some of the "success" of these signings are relative, in that, on a better roster perhaps they don't make as big of an impact. Serviceable players on the cheap is one area where Twins FO excels though.
    1. Thegrin's Avatar
      Thegrin -
      Were these signings on Terry Ryan's watch ? I always thought they were.
    1. Badsmerf's Avatar
      Badsmerf -
      This is an area of talent acquisition that Terry Ryan does pretty well. I'm not really sure if that is a good thing... or a bad thing...
    1. ericchri's Avatar
      ericchri -
      It feels a little underwhelming right now, the ability to sign "fill-in" players that end up contributing. But in 5 or 6 years if it really is a skill that Terry Ryan can repeat we'll appreciate it a lot more as all our hot young prospects start getting expensive together.

      Regardless, the story of these guys getting their chance and making the most of it is an awful lot of fun. Thanks for the constant reminders, Seth.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      Every GM has to do this from time to time, and as others have pointed out, TR does well in this area. Granted the Twins need to do this a bit more than most right now, but if you can pick up a decent role player (Fein/Burton/Deduno), then it's a win.
    1. John Bonnes's Avatar
      John Bonnes -
      It's absolutely helped the bullpen and the outlook is great for the Twins in that area. And it seems to be helping find a serviceable rotation arm or two, too.

      Thinking back to the early 2000s, it seems like Ryan has some success in this area then, too. Not necessarily minor league free agents, but overlooked minor league assets that played a role. Dustin Mohr and Santana come to mind, but was Romero lifted from someone else? Seems like I wrote a lot about these types of players back then.

      But interestingly it was not a strength once the Twins got competitive. "Fill in" pieces in the late 00s often struggled. They were different - often veteran major leaguers instead of hungry minor leaguers. And there was much less room for error - we didn't have four months for them to find a role and establish themselves
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Right, John. Great at filling in when they had no talent, but when Rich Becker and Jason Tyner are your DH on a great team.....well.....I'm 100% with John on this one.
    1. Siehbiscuit's Avatar
      Siehbiscuit -
      Finding "diamonds in the rough" isn't Terry Ran's issue, IMO. I have said all along that he is a good scout and has the eye to find talent. His issues are in assembling a Major League roster.
    1. birdwatcher's Avatar
      birdwatcher -
      Finding diamonds in the rough is not just a Ryan strength, but an organizational strength of the field staff and scouts paying attention and being consulted, I believe. You don't uncover the Burtons and Fiens from a cubicle with Fangraphs up and running.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      Quote Originally Posted by John Bonnes View Post
      It's absolutely helped the bullpen and the outlook is great for the Twins in that area. And it seems to be helping find a serviceable rotation arm or two, too.

      Thinking back to the early 2000s, it seems like Ryan has some success in this area then, too. Not necessarily minor league free agents, but overlooked minor league assets that played a role. Dustin Mohr and Santana come to mind, but was Romero lifted from someone else? Seems like I wrote a lot about these types of players back then.

      But interestingly it was not a strength once the Twins got competitive. "Fill in" pieces in the late 00s often struggled. They were different - often veteran major leaguers instead of hungry minor leaguers. And there was much less room for error - we didn't have four months for them to find a role and establish themselves
      It's a bit of a crap shoot. Those 2000s teams didn't exactly have tons of positions to be doing this with... and for every Fein, Burton, or Deduno there's a Jeff Gray, Walters, or DeVries.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by Rosterman View Post
      It can also prevent advancement. Players like Rosario, Pinto and Ibarra have all been working slowly up the minors way. Look for the other two to be added to the 40-man roster this year. Yes, it is good to have minor league free agents if you don't have ready players for the upper levels of the minors, and also to be those bench replacement players if the major league utility guy is suddenly put into play.
      Rosario doesn't have to be added until after the 2014 season, so he likely won't be added this offseason (could be added for September, though unlikely, and could be added by June of next year, pretty likely).

      I think Ibarra will be in the same situation as Pinto a year ago. They become minor league free agents right after the World Series. They both signed back with the Twins that day. Then when the 40 man roster decisions have to be made in November, they added Pinto. They could do the same with Ibarra, or just add him right away at that time. My guess is he's one we will see in September.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by clutterheart View Post
      I was unaware that Josmil Pinto had a chance to be a FA. Didn't he get added to the 40 man?
      Yes, he was a free agent right after the World Series, but he signed a minor league contract with the Twins that day... then he was added to the 40 man roster in November.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by diehardtwinsfan View Post
      Every GM has to do this from time to time, and as others have pointed out, TR does well in this area. Granted the Twins need to do this a bit more than most right now, but if you can pick up a decent role player (Fein/Burton/Deduno), then it's a win.
      Correct! Good, top teams typically have less holes to fill, less opportunity, and it's just depth. Looking back, these moves typically happen on the fringes. It's relievers, like Tony Fiore. Generally, the minor league free agents are signed for depth and to help the AAA roster.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by Siehbiscuit View Post
      Finding "diamonds in the rough" isn't Terry Ran's issue, IMO. I have said all along that he is a good scout and has the eye to find talent. His issues are in assembling a Major League roster.
      I'd say Ryan did a pretty good job of assembling those early to mid '00s rosters. It didn't happen overnight either... took much of the mid-to-late 90s.

      I'd agree with the talent coming from different places. Consider Pedro Florimon was a waiver claim from the Orioles. The Twins claimed him, and soon after, they DFAd him and were able to pass him through waivers and keep him on a minor league deal.

      I know Clete Thomas is not a starting outfielder, but he can be a solid 4th or 5th outfielder, and he was a waiver claim. Lots of ways to add talent.

      However, for a team to be good, it's going to take those top talent prospects leading the way... the first round picks, the stars will lead the way. The others will contribute nicely.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by diehardtwinsfan View Post
      It's a bit of a crap shoot. Those 2000s teams didn't exactly have tons of positions to be doing this with... and for every Fein, Burton, or Deduno there's a Jeff Gray, Walters, or DeVries.
      Gray wasn't a minor league free agent.
      Walters has made 20 starts for the Twins... Very few minor league free agents do that.
      De Vries is a long-time guy in the organization who got a chance, but he was not a free agent. ... he will likely be after the season.
    1. jun's Avatar
      jun -
      I think Colabello is one of the major contributors not PJ Walters.
    1. Badsmerf's Avatar
      Badsmerf -
      I would disagree with him doing a good job in the 00's. Actually, I think he did a pretty poor job of finding talent like he has lately. Those teams really only needed a few pieces to play at an acceptable level, and he failed to find those pieces miserably. From RonDL White, to Tony Batista to Sidney Ponson, these guys were not good investments or even attempts at an investment. His forte seems to be finding guys to succeed in the bullpen.

      Lately he has found more talent in guys like Thomas and Colabello so perhaps he is getting better at this. When the big time talent starts trickling into the MLB roster I hope he can continue to find useful pieces, because those are the guys that can make the difference in winning championships.
    1. tjsyam921's Avatar
      tjsyam921 -
      I'm sure the Twins losing and lack of upper talent situation has played into some of these players signing with the Twins over better MLB teams. Knowing they will have a better chance of making the majors.
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