Every year, especially in this current free-agent market, there are plenty of players signed to minor-league contracts that end up playing an important part in a team's season.
Wilson Valdez started Game 1 of the NLDS for the Phillies at third after Placido Polanco couldn't go. Marcus Thames is a threat against left-handers as a DH, while Andres Torres was a major cog in the Giants offense after signing a MLC prior to the 2009 season.
The first wave of minor-league free agents has begun, and Baseball America provides us with a list which is below. First, some notable names that are now free agents:
Rich Hill (Red Sox)
Hill was formerly a blooming young starter with the Cubs before contracting Steve Blass disease . Hill has worked his way back to being an intriguing option as a left-handed relief pitcher. In fact, Hill was a popular name being thrown around the Boston media to be part of the 2011 bullpen. Well, unless Hill signs a minor-league deal and agrees to compete for a spot, that won't happen.
Micah Owings (pictured) (Reds)
The pitcher who also carries a large stick doesn't seem to care much for starting but his strikeout numbers look promising out of the bullpen. Given his ability to pinch-hit (and some enterprising managers could use Owings in more creative ways) and still only 28, he should get a long look somewhere next spring training.
Ian Snell (Mariners)
Snell was once a veteran of the Pirates starting rotation before things started to go awry and there was an acrimonious departure from the organization. Despite Snell's personal opinion of his talent, 2010 was a disaster. He's still young and shouldn't have a problem seeing the majors again next season, whether out of the gate or after spending some time in Triple-A.
Ryan Garko (Rangers)
Garko was claimed by Texas from the Mariners just in time for Opening Day to be their much-needed right-handed bat off the bench. That didn't work out so well for Garko, who has demonstrated an ability to hit left-handers in the past. Garko also struggled down on the farm, so the 29-year-old is running out of chances.
The full list
Baltimore Orioles: RHP Cla Meredith, LHP Alberto Castillo, 1B Michael Aubrey, 3B Scott Moore
Boston Red Sox: RHP Fernando Cabrera, LHP Fabio Castro, LHP Rich Hill, C Gustavo Molina, 3B Jack Hannahan
Chicago Cubs: RHP Mike Parisi
Chicago White Sox: C Austin Yount
Cincinnati Reds: RHP Micah Owings
Detroit Tigers: OF Alexis Espinoza, OF Chao-Ting Tang
Florida Marlins: RHP Scott Strickland, LHP Dan Meyer, C Mike Rivera, 3B Brian Barden, 3B Mike Lamb
Houston Astros: RHP Josh Banks, RHP Yorman Bazardo, RHP Casey Daigle, RHP Gary Majewski, RHP Chris Sampson
Kansas City Royals: RHP Matt Herges (released), RHP Anthony Lerew, RHP Josh Rupe
Los Angeles Angels: OF Michael Ryan
Los Angeles Dodgers: RHP Justin Miller, SS Juan Castro
Milwaukee Brewers: RHP Chris Smith
Oakland Athletics: RHP Ross Wolf, LHP Cedrick Bowers
Pittsburgh Pirates: RHP Brian Bass
St. Louis Cardinals: LHP Evan MacLane
San Diego Padres: C Chris Stewart
Seattle Mariners: RHP Ian Snell, C Eliezer Alfonzo
Texas Rangers: 1B Ryan Garko
Toronto Blue Jays: 1B Brian Dopirak, 1B Mike Jacobs
Washington Nationals: RHP Jason Bergmann, C Jamie Burke, C Carlos Maldonado
-- Evan Brunell
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