Major League transactions remain frozen while the lockout drags on, but minor league transactions are still allowed — and the many independent leagues throughout the country are still up and running. It’s common for former minor league and major league players alike to suit up for teams on the indie circuit, regularly using them as a catapult back into affiliated ball. Here’s a quick look at a couple former big leaguers who’ve signed on with independent teams over the past week…
- Former White Sox outfielder Charlie Tilson has signed on with the Chicago Dogs of the American Association, per a team announcement. The 29-year-old’s last big league action came with the ChiSox in 2019, when he appeared in 54 games and batted .229/.293/.285 through 157 trips to the plate. Tilson, a 2011 second-round pick of the Cardinals, originally landed in Chicago in a trade that sent lefty reliever Zach Duke to St. Louis. It was a dream scenario for the Illinois native and childhood White Sox fan, who debuted with his hometown club just two days after the trade. Unfortunately, Tilson tore his hamstring during his MLB debut and required season-ending surgery. That’s a particularly problematic injury for a player whose speed was his top tool. Tilson, who swiped 46 bags in 134 Double-A games back in 2015, has stolen just 36 bases over his past 298 professional games since that surgery. He spent the bulk of his 2021 season with the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate, where he hit .296/.361/.404 in 232 plate appearances. Overall, he’s a .246/.311/.290 hitter in 279 Major League plate appearances.
- Right-hander Rob Whalen signed with the Washington Wild Things of the Frontier League, per the team. The former Braves and Mariners right-hander briefly retired a couple of years ago but returned to professional ball in 2020 when he signed a minor league pact with the Mets. That deal effectively went up in smoke when the Covid-19 shutdown prompted teams throughout the league to release the majority of its minor league signees due to the lack of a minor league season. Whalen pitched with the Wild Things last season as well, parlaying a strong 15 1/3-inning showing into a minor league deal with the Twins. He struggled with Minnesota’s Double-A and Triple-A affiliates, however, yielding 23 runs in 24 innings during his first stint in affiliated ball since 2018. Whalen has just a 5.75 ERA in 36 big league innings, but he sports a 3.73 ERA as a minor leaguer. Back in 2018, Whalen spoke with FanGraphs’ David Laurila about his battles with anxiety and depression, which prompted his brief retirement, and the importance of prioritizing mental health and seeking help when needed.
surprised Tilson couldn’t get a AAA gig after the year he had with Lehigh last year.
Manfred is the worst
Charlie Tilson famously played a single game for the Nerds Herd in 2020
I know I’ll be taking in a Chicago Dogs game this year (seriously). 100-game schedule in Rosemont. I’ll take live baseball anyway I can get it. Nothing beats a day at the park!
What was Charlie Tilson’s WAR?