Yesterday, the Rays announced the signings of six minor league free agents, but really it is only five, because we already knew the other one. The minor league free agents included RP Steve Andrade, IF Jorge Velandia, OF Dustan Mohr, C Yamid Haad, and returning SP Tony Peguero. Here is a bit more on the recent signings, and what to expect from them.
Before we get to that however, it is worth noting that the midnight deadline to offer arbitration to Brian Meadows has passed, and the team declined to do so. This pretty much is a death knell in the casket of Meadows' tenure as a member of the Devil Rays, thankfully. That said, for as much as Meadows' performance left much to be desired, I have nothing against him personally and wish him the best in his future exploits. Thankfully, however, they probably will not be here.
Lastly, the Rays extended the contracts of TV broadcasters Dewayne Staats and Joe Magrane through the 2008 season, deservedly. The deal keeps intact the only TV crew the Rays have ever had, and accompanies a similar extension granted to the radio team of Dave Wills and Andy Freed earlier this year. We may not have a lot as Devil Rays fans, but we do have excellent broadcasters, and I am glad that the DRO realizes this and is making every effort to keeping these great teams together. Congratulations to Dewayne and Joe on a very well-deserved raise.
With that, onto the signings:
RP Steve Andrade:
Andrade is perhaps the most intriguing signing of them all. He was actually a Rule 5 selection of the Rays last year in the draft, but was then dealt to San Diego for cash (not Kevin) considerations. Kansas City then claimed Andrade off waivers in Spring Training, and after a short stint with the Royals and their Triple A Omaha affiliate, he was returned to the San Diego organization late in the year, rounding out the season with the Padres' AAA team in Portland. He is a player whom many Rays fans thought the team should have acquired off of waivers early this season in April, before he went to Kansas City. Instead, the team went after Scott Dunn (see how well that turned out). Andrade is certainly, in my opinion, a good signing. He has got excellent minor league numbers, posting a 2.76 ERA in six minor league seasons. Andrade, 29 in February, has produced such excellent minor league numbers that a minor league contract is warranted. In his six seasons he has a strikeout rate of close to 12, and a walk rate of close to three, to go with a low walk and hit rate. He struggled in his only major league stint, but since that was all of 4.2 innings, I wouldn't put too much stock in it. I like this move very much.
C Yamid Haad:
This signing is much less worth getting excited about. For those of you who have followed the Rays' farm system for some time, you may remember Haad from his 2002 stint in the Rays organization, in which he split time between Double A Orlando and Triple A Durham. He has some major league experience, all of 25 (mostly over matched) at bats, the most recent ones coming last season with San Francisco, but is a minor league roster-filler by every letter of the definition. Haad has 2,754 at bats in 12 minor league seasons, hitting to an overall line of .250/.305/.375. He is not in line for a shot at the major leagues, so to develop a strong opinion on him would not really be prudent. Expect the veteran of the Pirates, Giants, and Padres organization to serve as a backup in Montgomery, or Durham over the course of the season, but he will probably get a limited number of at bats and won't see the light of day in the bigs.
OF Dustan Mohr:
This is perhaps the most-likely of the five "new" signings to reach the majors first, quite possibly as the 4th outfielder and a replacement for Damon Hollins. In my opinion, he would be a better use of the backup OF spot than Hollins, and it will be interesting to see whether he is able to perform accordingly in spring training to gain a roster spot. Mohr, 30, has 1351 career at bats, most of which came in his stint with the Minnesota Twins, although he has other, limited experiences with the San Francisco Giants, Colorado Rockies, and Boston Red Sox since leaving the Minnesota organization. Mohr is not an on base machine, but he will provide you with some pop in the middle of the order. Splitting last year between the Toledo Mud Hens and Pawtucket Red Sox, both of the International League, and the major league Red Sox at one point, Mohr had only limited at bat totals due to injury. His largest cluster came in Toledo, where he hit to a line of .262/.338/.460 in 187 at bats. Even if Mohr doesn't make the final roster, should he accept an assignment to Durham he would make a good bat for the Bulls, playing in a hitter's park with a .272/.336/.449 career minor league line. Either way, he represents the most intriguing signing of the bunch, and it will be interesting to see how much he pushes Hollins in camp. But the message is clear, however, Hollins is on notice.
SP Tony Peguero:
Peguero isn't actually a new signing, as he has been in the organization since being a product of the DSL Rays in 2000, but he was a six year minor league free agent, and this move ensures his return. Peguero won't make the team out of spring training next year, but after a good season for Double A Montgomery, he is up for a promotion to Durham and could be someone to watch for late in the season. In his second season with the Biscuits last year, Peguero posted a 2.97 ERA. He was not dominant, but did not shoot himself in the foot with his own mistakes, posting a 2.31 BB/9. This echoes his career trend, as his strikeout rate is a little over six, while his walk rate is in the mid-2s. He was adept at keeping the ball down last year, again continuing his career trend of a home run rate near 0.6. Overall, Peguero won't make any top prospect lists, as he doesn't have overpowering stuff and will be 26 on February 17th. But he should be a quality member of the organization next year, and should be a candidate for a possible bullpen spot at some point late next year.
IF Jorge Velandia:
Velandia, much like Haad, cannot really be expected to sniff the major leagues next season, but likely fill a roster spot should he accept a minor league assignment. He has been in the minor leagues for the past 15 seasons, compiling over 5000 at bats and a .246/.308/.355 career line. A veteran of the International and Pacific Coast Leagues, you can bet that Velandia will fill the Fernando Cortez/Nick Green backup infielder position at Durham next year, unless someone like Matt Maniscalco beats him out for the job. The veteran has spent time with the Tigers, Padres, Athletics, Mets, Braves, Pirates, and most recently, the White Sox, organizations. He has collected a total of 179 major league at bats, the most recent coming in 2003 with New York. So like Haad, expect to see him in minor league box scores, but don't expect him to touch the majors.