Minor league deals are low-risk propositions for teams; the player must earn every inning or plate appearance. Here are MLBTR's ten best minor league deals of 2011.
- Bartolo Colon, Yankees. He didn't pitch at all in the Majors in 2010, but this year Colon has a 3.33 SIERA in 152 innings. He's been a major cog in the Yankees' rotation. Some of his success may be owed to offseason stem cell treatments, which Yankees GM Brian Cashman was not aware of at the time of the signing.
- Casey Kotchman, Rays. Kotchman has positioned himself nicely for a Major League deal by hitting .313/.381/.432 in 506 plate appearances and assuming the Rays' regular first base job. His OBP ranks eighth in the American League.
- Ryan Vogelsong, Giants. The least likely All-Star of 2011, Vogelsong ranks fifth in the NL with a 2.66 ERA in 162 1/3 innings.
- Freddy Garcia, Yankees. Colon and Garcia have provided the Yankees 280 innings of 3.63 ball. Baseball's biggest spenders got a ton of bang for their buck on minor league deals this year.
- Jesus Guzman, Padres. Playing mostly first base for San Diego, Guzman has mashed to a .320/.377/.493 line, knocking in 42 runs in 247 plate appearances.
- Endy Chavez, Rangers. Chavez hadn't appeared in the Majors since tearing his ACL in June of '09, but he's given the Rangers almost 500 innings in center field and a .291/.317/.430 line.
- Guillermo Mota, Giants. Mota has provided the Giants 73 1/3 innings with a 3.12 SIERA. He ranks seventh in baseball in relief innings.
- Jose Veras, Pirates. With 67 2/3 innings and a 3.10 SIERA, Veras has been a great find for the Pirates' bullpen. Plus, he's arbitration eligible.
- Reed Johnson, Cubs. Johnson has played all three outfield positions for the Cubs and hasn't shown much of a platoon split in crafting a .325/.361/.496 line in 246 plate appearances.
- Jack Hannahan, Indians. Hannahan's ability to play a capable third base and post a .330 OBP for the Tribe created a lot of value.
Honorable mentions: Dontrelle Willis (extra credit for offense), Jason Giambi, Laynce Nix, Greg Dobbs, Jose Constanza, Shelley Duncan, Aaron Miles, Eric Chavez, Kevin Millwood, Jerome Williams, Cory Wade, Tim Byrdak, Luis Ayala, Mike MacDougal, Jamey Wright, Jason Isringhausen.