The 10 Best Minor League Deals Of The Offseason

Some quality free agents may yet sign minor league deals, but let's take a look at the ten best of the offseason so far.

  1. Jeff Francis, Reds.  I ranked Francis 32nd on my top 50 free agents list, ahead of Chris Capuano, Freddy Garcia, Aaron Harang, Jason Marquis, Bruce Chen, and Chien-Ming Wang.  Three of those pitchers received two-year deals, yet Francis didn't get a roster spot.  He was a bigger health risk a year ago, when he received $2MM guaranteed from the Royals.  Francis and his wife reside in Denver, so it doesn't appear to be a hometown decision.  The Reds' rotation isn't full of openings, either, making Francis' minor league deal a mystery.
  2. Juan Pierre, Phillies.  It's fair to suggest Pierre isn't a big league regular anymore, but he's a valuable bench player.  Nate McLouth and Mark Kotsay received Major League deals, but don't seem to offer much more.
  3. Joel Pineiro, Phillies.  Pineiro ranked 46th on my list, a few spots ahead of Chen.  Wang didn't even make the list.  Pineiro's second year with the Angels was disappointing, but the groundballer was useful as recently as 2010.  Like Francis, he's attempting to join a pretty full rotation.
  4. Dan Wheeler, Indians.  Wheeler seems to have the same skill set the Red Sox valued at $3MM a year ago: good command and a lot of flyballs.  Does Jon Rauch do something better?
  5. Manny Ramirez, Athletics.  Manny marks the point on this list where I am no longer surprised the player did not receive a big league deal.  Ramirez will only provide two-thirds of a season at most, but he's a year removed from an .870 OPS.
  6. Jon Garland, Indians.  He missed most of 2011 with shoulder surgery, but his ability to soak up innings had been worth at least $5MM a year.
  7. Kevin Millwood, Mariners.  The Red Sox and Yankees were content to let Millwood work in Triple-A last year, but he provided nine decent starts for the Rockies.  He might be able to provide the value of a Marquis or Chen.
  8. Vicente Padilla, Red Sox.  Despite off-the-field concerns and an inability to stay healthy, Padilla can still get hitters out as a starter or reliever.
  9. Juan Cruz, Pirates.  Cruz allows too many walks and flyballs, but the same can be said for Jose Veras, who gave the Pirates a nice 2011 season after signing a minor league deal.
  10. Jamey Wright, Dodgers.  The Dodgers gave Mike MacDougal a roster spot to provide the same skill set with a harder fastball.  At any rate, Wright's a good guy to call when a groundball is needed.

Honorable mentions: Scott Linebrink, Juan Gutierrez, Angel Guzman, Koyie Hill, Ronny Paulino

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