Every offseason general managers rummage through the free agent market in hopes of striking it rich with a minor league contract signing. Last year Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon were integral members of the Yankees rotation. Ryan Vogelsong garnered Cy Young votes and was an All-Star with the Giants. Casey Kotchman manned 1st base, hitting .306 for the AL Wild Card Rays. Listed below are some of the more notable minor league contracts signings so far this offseason. Who do you think will turn out to be the biggest bargain?
Miguel Batista/Mets - he will be 41 years old by the time Spring Training begins, but over the past 3 years he's made 149 appearances with a 3.79 ERA and 1.45 WHIP over 214 innings. That type of durabilty is always useful in a bullpen.
Casey Blake/Rockies - he is now 38 years old and coming off an injury plagued 2011 season (63 games). However, his bat remains above average and his defense adequate. Moving his home games to Colorado should help too. He's likely the Rox starting third basemen in 2012.
Brad Hawpe/Rangers - he was a beast in Colorado (.280/.866 over 7 seasons), but a lamb in San Diego (.231/.645 last year). He's unlikely to post an OPS north of .850 again, but going to a stacked lineup in hitter friendly Arlington Park in Texas should help his bat recover from its slumber.
Rodrigo Lopez/Cubs - over the past two seasons he's amassed 297.2 innings with a 4.81 ERA and 1.44 WHIP (which are in line with his career averages). He's not flashy, but he's a cheap 5th/6th starter.
Kevin Millwood/Mariners - had success in a brief stint with the Rockies last season (4-3 with a 3.98 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 9 starts). He's only had 1 good season out of his last 6 though, but remember Safeco Field is a pitcher's friend.
Peter Moylan/Braves - in 6 seasons with Atlanta he's made 287 appearances with a 2.60 ERA. Impressive. He's coming off a lost cause in 2011 due to injuries (13 G, 8.1 IP), and that's why he only got a minor league deal. If healthy, this guy is an absolute steal.
Vicente Padilla/Red Sox - okay, he's a bit of a headcase and hasn't been healthy since 2009, but reports have his fastball speed in the 95 mph range in winter ball. The BoSox need pitching and taking a flier on Padilla seems like a good idea (3.84 ERA, 1.14 WHIP in 33 games over past 3 seasons with the Dodgers).
Joel Pineiro/Phillies - a durable starting pitcher, who had a miserable 2011 season with the Angels (5.13 ERA, 1.51 WHIP). However, in the previous two seasons, he was a quality arm in the rotation (25-19, 3.64 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 366.1 IP, 5.2 WAR). Pineiro pitches to contact and is unlikely to crack the rotation in Philly, but he's an excellent insurance policy.
Brian Sanches/Phillies - over the past 3 years in the Marlins bullpen he has made 147 appearance with a 2.92 ERA and 1.29 WHIP (although his ERA balooned to 3.94 in 2011). Still, those are quality numbers for a reliever.