In a flurry of moves late last week, the Sox signed seven players to minor league deals. For some, the moves will result in mid-season call-ups or a cup of coffee in September. For others, the moves are very curious from a career-advancement standpoint as many are blocked by what is already substantial organizational depth.
Even so, injuries and circumstance will assuredly open the door for a few of these singees and spring training invites. For others, it will be a long season at Pawtucket.
RP Brian Shouse: Another move that doesn’t make much sense for the player at hand, Shouse would have a much better shot at breaking camp in the bigs with some other team. Still, the signing is a great move for the Red Sox, as Shouse can be an excellent situational lefty when the time calls for it. In 2009, lefties batted a combined .224/.243/.373 against Shouse, with 14 Ks and just 1 BB in 67 at-bats.
Shouse could also challenge Tim Wakefield as the most unique pitcher on the Red Sox or even the MLB. With a side-arming fastball that barely tops 80 mph, his extreme groundballing tendencies could quickly make him a fan-favorite at Fenway.
Armed with a minor league contract and invite to spring training, Shouse isn’t a bad bet to break camp with the big club. Spare lefties are a valuable commodity and prized by managers, so don’t bet against him. Just don’t ask him to throw against right-handers, who torched him to the tune of .356/.442/.622 in 45 at-bats with 3 Ks and 6 BBs in 45 at-bats.
A specialist in every sense of the word, his troubles against righties may be what keeps him from a full-season gig or high-leverage situations – it is just too easy for opposing managers to trot out a pinch-hitting right-hander against him. Still, he could have his uses, especially for the league minimum.
SS Angel Sanchez: Spent last season with the Blue Jays’ AAA club, batting .305/.363/.428 in 449 at-bats. With good contact skills and strike zone judgment, the shortstop represents some nice minor league depth and could be a fine utility infielder or injury replacement during the season. The 26 year-old last appeared in the majors during the 2006 season, registering 27 at-bats.
Though not an exciting acquisition, this is the kind of move that can stabilize a team wrought by injuries at mid-season. Still, with the number of viable middle infielders in the Sox organization, it isn’t likely that Sanchez will see the field in ’10.
RP Edwin Moreno: Turning 30 next season, Moreno comes over from the Padres’ organization, having thrown 22.1 innings last season. Having spent 10 years in the minor leagues, Moreno does not seem to have much upside. However, since switching to relief full-time in 2008, he has posted an 8.2 K/9 in 116.1 innings, with 52 walks.
With a four-pitch repertoire including a 90 mph fastball, slider, cutter, and change, Moreno could be a surprise asset in the early innings. Though he registered just 15 strikeouts against 15 walks last season, he was able to post a 74.9 contact percentage – indicative of a much higher strikeout rate than he posted in ’09.
With the bullpen set to include any of Papelbon, Bard, Okajima, Delcarmen, Ramirez, Wakefield, and possibly Bowden, Moreno has an uphill battle for relevance in the organization. Perhaps a stint with a second-tier club would have resulted in more playing time and a bigger payday. Still, you can’t argue with playing for a winner.
RP Jorge Sosa: Certainly not the sexiest of Sox’ winter deals, Sosa, too, will struggle with achieving relevance in the Boston organization. His signing with the Red Sox could be considered an upset, as, like Moreno, Sosa doesn’t figure to see more than garbage time should he be called up at all. It is especially surprising as Sosa has put himself in good position to reach the big-leagues in the last couple years – especially since having signed with Washington in ’09.
What Sosa does bring to the table is a live 92-93 mph fastball and a great minor league track record, including a 9.0 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 222.0 innings. That success never translated to the majors, however, as Sosa has posted just a 5.8 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 in 736.0 big league innings.
Not the best career move for the pitcher, it’s also hard to see where Boston benefits other than using him out there in blowout games. The major league equivalent of a 20-20 college basketball bench-warmer, maybe he’ll see some time on Senior Day. Don’t expect much from Sosa and, if you see him on the mound in a meaningful game this season, then Jorge’s performance is probably the least of the Sox’ problems.
RP Fernando Cabrera: You may remember him from last season, appearing six times between August and September. As he has been throughout his career, Cabrera was as brilliant as he was frustrating, posting an 8.44 ERA with 8 strikeouts and 4 walks in 5.1 innings.
Through 174.0 innings spanning 6 major league seasons, Cabrera has posted a 9.98 K/9 rate and 4.93 FIP. Since 2006, however, he has been plagued by rampant walk and home run issues – with a career 4.97 BB/9 and 14.8 HR/FB rate.
At 28 years old, the verdict is in as to his stuff and control. However, his awful home run rates should normalize somewhat – meaning that he will have some more useful seasons in his arm.
In short, Cabrera is the kind of minor league signing a team can get excited about. With great stuff and nowhere to go but up, Cabrera could find a spot in the big league bullpen – and keep it.
SS Gil Velazquez: If this name sounds eerily familiar, it should. Velazquez has been with the team since ’08, having come over from the Twins organization. At first, it seemed as if the Sox may have had something, as he slugged 10 home runs in 350 at-bats.
Organizational depth and nothing more, he’ll fill out the roster at AAA. He’s played in 9 games in the past two seasons, so someone in the front office must like him. Still, this one shouldn’t matter much in the long run.
OF Darnell McDonald: An athletic outfielder visiting his seventh organization in seven seasons (Baltimore, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Minnesota, Washington, Cincinnati, Boston), McDonald won’t be anything more than your run-of-the-mill AAA outfielder.
Though he has shown some promise at times, including two nice stints in Durham during 2005-06, he’ll have to solve the gaping holes in his swing if he ever wants to see the field in Boston. Another guy who could have seen some time in a lesser organization, McDonald is a longshot to see Fenway next year. However, if he can find a way to improve his ability to make contact (career 69.7 contact percentage), maybe he could get a call-up when rosters expand in September.