5 Players the San Francisco Giants Could Add on Minor-League Deals
5 Possible Non-Roster Invitees for the San Francisco Giants
One crucial aspect of every MLB team’s preseason planning is creating a proper amount of depth that can get them through the long season. In most cases, teams elect to take low-risk gambles on some players who have previous major-league experience but have hit rough times, signing them to minor-league deals with invitations to big-league spring training.
This is an element of the San Francisco Giants’ strategy that has paid off big time for them in the recent past. Multiple veterans who played key roles on the Giants’ 2010 and 2012 World Series teams, including Juan Uribe, Gregor Blanco, Guillermo Mota, and Ryan Vogelsong, just to name a few, made their way onto the Giants’ roster after joining the team on minor-league deals. Righthanded pitcher Chad Gaudin was another one of these success stories in 2013. If the Giants could hit the jackpot in this fashion once again, it would certainly be an added boost to their already active offseason.
Now that we are approaching the first of the year, we should see free agency slow down substantially. As some players begin to recognize that there are not a surplus of teams willing to give them guaranteed major-league contracts, they’ll begin to take what they can get and settle for a spring training invitation with a serious chance to battle their way onto a roster. Some are willing to wait until they get the respect they think they deserve. However, others like Gaudin last year, will take any offer that gives them a chance to play baseball at the highest level.
Here are five major league veterans who could command interest from the Giants as non-roster invitees this year.
5. Zach Duke, LHRP
After appearing to be a star in the making as a 22-year-old Pittsburgh Pirates starter in 2005, Zach Duke has generally had a tough go of it during his big-league career. However, after being converted to relief in 2012, Duke has seen more success, and while it’s doubtful that he’ll get a big-league deal going into spring training, he has the potential to be a serviceable lefty specialist. Though he got off to a rough start with the Washington Nationals in 2013, Duke pitched down the stretch with the Cincinnati Reds and compiled an 0.84 ERA while holding lefthanded hitters to a .150 average over 14 appearances. Duke would enter into the competition for one of the Giants’ back of the bullpen spots, while also providing insurance for primary lefties Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt.
4. David Aardsma, RHRP
A return to the Giants would be fitting for Aardsma, who was San Francisco’s first round pick in 2003. The righthander has really only had two good big-league seasons, marked by a stint as the Seattle Mariners’ closer in 2009 and 2010, but he’s a guy who continues to stick around the majors as a bullpen depth guy. Last year he put up a 4.31 ERA with 36 strikeouts and 19 walks over 39.2 innings for the New York Mets. While he’s probably not a pitcher who would be a serious candidate to open the season on the Giants’ roster, he would be an experienced option to have waiting in Triple-A should the team need righthanded relief depth during the season.
3. Reed Johnson, OF
The 37-year-old Johnson has been a reliable righthanded pinch hitter for almost the entirety of his 11-year major-league career. After his underwhelming 2013 season which saw him hit .244 with a career-low one home run, Johnson had his option declined by the Atlanta Braves, and as teams continue to fill up their 40-man rosters with fourth outfielders like Rajai Davis and Franklin Gutierrez, it becomes less likely that Johnson will get a big-league contract. He probably wouldn’t have a great chance of making the Giants’ roster off the bat, but he could provide insurance should Juan Perez falter, as well as restore some of the righthanded-hitting depth that has been lost this offseason with the departures of Francisco Peguero and Brett Pill.
2. Clayton Richard, LHSP
Though he’ll likely have to settle for a minor-league deal, Richard could be one of the biggest bargains left on the free agent market this offseason. At least in part due to an issue with the AC joint in his pitching shoulder, Richard had a terrible 2013 season, with a 7.01 ERA and 13 home runs allowed over 12 appearances. However, in his three previous seasons with the San Diego Padres, Richard went 33-32 with a 3.88 ERA while striking out 313 and walking 158 over 84 starts. If he can return to that form while healthy in 2014, he would be a solid rotation piece. The Giants already have Yusmeiro Petit and Edwin Escobar waiting in the wings as rotation depth. That said, while each of them were fantastic during the second half of 2013, Petit doesn’t have a great big-league track record, and the 21-year-old Escobar has just half a season above Class A. If the Giants can get a starter as steady as Richard, they should jump at the chance, especially after losing lefty Eric Surkamp on waivers earlier this month.
1. Alexi Casilla, IF
While the Giants have plenty of players who are capable of being backup middle infielders at the major league level, none of them are guys who any team would be comfortable with as a regular starter. Starting second baseman Marco Scutaro proved in 2013 that with his age and health concerns, he can no longer be trusted to stay consistent for a full season. With this in mind, the Giants would be wise to bring in a player who could be a more reliable alternative to Scutaro.
Alexi Casilla would be a nearly-perfect option, as he’s coming off a season in which he hit .214 and therefore could be acquired on a minor league deal. The switch hitter can play both second base and shortstop, and he would be a good candidate to spell Scutaro against righthanded pitchers, or at the very least push Tony Abreu and Ehire Adrianza for the final bench spot.