While the big names hitting baseball's free agency market are major league free agents, minor leaguers with at least six years of service time are also free to sign with any team. Twenty of the Texas Rangers' minor league players are currently on the open market. We take a look at those players below:
Brandon Boggs, OF (UPDATE: Signed with Milwaukee): The club’s fourth-round pick in the 2004 draft, Boggs appeared in 101 games for the Rangers in 2008 and posted a .226/.333/.399 slash line with 17 doubles and eight home runs. Boggs appeared in only 13 games for the big club over the last two seasons, going 1-for-24 at the plate with 12 strikeouts.
Despite battling shoulder injuries for much of the season, he hit .290/.406/.470 at Triple-A Oklahoma City this year. Though the 27-year-old has a questionable hit tool, he still can provide some pop and plate discipline to go along with strong defense at three outfield positions. Boggs could be a valuable chip to any Triple-A club and can play in the big leagues in a pinch, though he’ll almost certainly move on to a new organization after more than six years with Texas.
Matt Brown, 3B: The former Angels prospect came into Spring Training looking to compete for a backup spot on the 25-man roster. Despite a solid performance––and Brown’s reputation as a lefty masher––he didn’t make the cut. As it turned out, the 28-year-old was limited to only 79 games due to an oblique injury, and he was incredibly streaky. Brown batted .339 in 27 July contests but hit .179 in 25 August games.
The end result for Brown was a disappointing .249/.311/.442 line. Curiously, Brown came into the Rangers organization largely due to his past success against left-handed pitching, but he was just 17-for-81 (.210) against southpaws this summer. He did not see any big league action in 2010.
Endy Chavez, OF: The big league veteran, who suffered a torn ACL in ’09, was brought in on a minor league deal. The expectation was that Chavez would finish his rehab and provide outfield depth––with his plus defense and speed––to the big league club around mid-season.
Chavez never got fully healthy and was shut down for the remainder of the season on July 8, after just one game at Triple-A Oklahoma City. But in the end, the Rangers’ outfield had a fine collective season and Chavez was never needed regardless.
Travis Chick, RHP: The Rangers acquired Chick from the Pirates for cash after much of the Double-A Frisco rotation was traded around the deadline. The 26-year-old Irving native made five starts between mid-August and September, going 2-2 with a 6.53 earned-run average. He logged 20.2 innings, giving up 27 hits, walking 11, and striking out 18.
Jesus Colome, RHP: Another late-season acquisition, the 32-year-old made the Rangers his third different organization of 2010. Colome, who has 10 years of big league experience, began the season in the Mariners bullpen and posted a 5.29 ERA over 12 appearances. He then joined the Dodgers and Triple-A Albuquerque before coming to Oklahoma City. Colome worked only 3.1 innings with the RedHawks, allowing five runs, before the regular season concluded.
Willie Eyre, RHP (UPDATE: Signed with Oakland): Though not originally drafted by Texas, the 32-year-old Eyre spent four full seasons in the Rangers organization. He had 33 appearances––and 68 innings––with the Rangers in 2007 before undergoing Tommy John surgery and missing the entire ’08 campaign.
|Eyre was the Rangers' long man in 2007.
Eyre pitched 18 innings for the Rangers in ’09 but didn’t reach the majors this season. The right-hander had a 3.50 ERA in 72 innings with Triple-A Oklahoma City this year. Eyre still has decent stuff and could be useful to a big league pitching staff as a long man or middle guy, as he has been with Texas and Minnesota in the past.
Emerson Frostad, C: Frostad was selected by Texas in the 13th round of the 2003 MLB Draft. He worked his way up the ladder before spending the last three seasons on the Double-A Frisco/Triple-A Oklahoma City shuttle. The 27-year-old was a valuable player due to his ability to catch and play both corner infield positions. Frostad posted a .267/.334/.384 line in 97 contests between Frisco and OKC in 2010.
Ryan Garko, 1B: The Rangers’ late-spring signing of Garko is ultimately what spelled doom for fellow free agent Matt Brown. The former Cleveland Indians slugger scuffled down the stretch with the Giants in ’09 and was cut by the Mariners during Spring Training, but he carried a reputation as a DH/1B that could hit left-handed pitching.
Needless to say, the Garko experiment didn’t work out, as he went just 3-for-33 in the majors despite seeing the bulk of his action against southpaws. After being outrighted to Triple-A, Garko accepted the assignment and hit an unspectacular .235/.326/.379 in 93 contests with the RedHawks.
Hernan Iribarren, 2B: Iribarren was brought in late this spring, as the Rangers were in a desperate search for a utility infielder. Though the Venezuela native didn’t make the club and spent the entire season in Triple-A, he played a large role in helping OKC reach the Pacific Coast League playoffs. For the season, the second baseman/left fielder batted .275/.333/.385 with 70 runs batted in. He carried the club with an incredible August, in which he was 41-for-111 (.369) with six doubles, five home runs, and 23 RBI.
Warner Madrigal, RHP: Once considered the organization’s top late-inning relief prospect, the former outfielder reached the big leagues after less than two full seasons as a pitcher. Madrigal showed promise when he logged a 4.75 ERA in 36 innings with the big club in ’08, though he fell apart the following season and seemed to fall out of the organization’s plans.
As Madrigal was passed up by fellow Dominican fireballers Alexi Ogando and Neftali Feliz, he didn’t log any major league action during the 2010 season. The 26-year-old lost weight and got into better pitching shape this year but was pulled off the 40-man roster and had a decent––though unspectacular––season in Triple-A.
Madrigal possesses a 92-96 mph fastball to go along with a good slider-splitter mix. Despite the above-average stuff, he nibbled far too often during his major league time two seasons ago. If the righty stays in shape and trusts his stuff, he could still put together a respectable big league career out of the bullpen.
Doug Mathis, RHP: One of five players on this list that has played his entire career with Texas, Mathis was originally drafted in the 13th round of the 2005 MLB Draft. After working his way up the ladder, he has spent the past three seasons on the Oklahoma City-to-Texas shuttle, logging 87 total innings over 45 big league appearances. Mathis made his biggest splash in ’09, when he posted a 3.16 ERA in 24 appearances, spanning 42 frames. He made the opening day roster this season but was sent back to the minors after yielding 15 runs over his first 18.1 innings.
|Mathis relies on a sinker-cutter mix.
The 27-year-old University of Missouri alum relies on an 88-91 mph sinker, an upper-80s cutter, an upper-70s curveball, and a low-80s changeup. He mixes all four of his pitches but struggled with command both at the major and minor league levels this season.
Mathis, who is currently pitching winterball in the Dominican Republic, opted to become a free agent after being outrighted off the Rangers’ 40-man roster and clearing waivers. A slight chance remains that he could return with the Rangers in 2011, but it all depends on where his best opportunity lies.
Brandon McCarthy, RHP: Rangers fans are all too familiar with McCarthy’s story. While the tall right-hander was never a complete disaster when healthy with the Rangers (4.70 ERA in 220 innings), injuries limited him drastically in each of his four seasons with the organization. McCarthy spent the last couple years attempting to reinvent himself mechanically to avoid injury, though he still missed significant time and logged only 56 innings at Triple-A this season.
The former White Sox prospect didn’t see any big league action in 2010 and was recently outrighted off the club’s 40-man roster. McCarthy cleared waivers and elected for free agency. When healthy, he was solid at Triple-A, posting a 3.36 ERA with 11 walks and 44 strikeouts in those 56 frames. The 27-year-old flashed an 87-91 mph fastball that he can cut or sink to go along with a big curve and a changeup.
McCarthy is off to a strong start in the Dominican Winter League, where he is pitching as sort of an audition for the 2011 campaign. He has a 1.96 ERA through four starts and 23 innings. The hurler should have little problem finding a professional job next season, but he’ll likely have to sign a minor league deal and it will almost certainly be with another organization.
Gregorio Petit, SS: Like Iribarren, the former A’s prospect was acquired late in Spring Training, as the Rangers were in a desperate search for a utility infielder. The club got him for reliever Edwar Ramirez, who spent the majority of the season in Triple-A with Oakland.
In the end, Andres Blanco performed admirably as the club’s utilityman and Petit spent the entire season in the minors. The 25-year-old batted .251/.316/.342 in 130 games at OKC but made headlines by hitting an incredible two grand slams in one game at New Orleans. Petit is a defense-first player with exceptional range and above-average arm strength.
Mark Prior, RHP: A late-season indy ball signing, Prior flashed an 89-92 mph fastball with a decent breaking ball––though he lacked command––in two appearances at Triple-A Oklahoma City. The right-hander needed 49 pitches––throwing just 24 strikes––in his two scoreless innings. He allowed three hits, walked two, and struck out three.
Prior’s minor league deal only stretched through the 2010 campaign. His short stint in OKC was designed as sort of a litmus test to see whether he could still compete at a high level. The former NL All-Star may no longer have dominant stuff, but he could potentially hold some sort of value to a big league bullpen. Now 30-years-old, Prior will presumably get a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite with some team next year, though it’s not yet clear if the Rangers will be that club.
Elizardo Ramirez, RHP: With an 86-89 mph fastball and a fringy breaking ball, the 27-year-old Ramirez isn’t a big league caliber arm. In fact, he surrendered nine runs in two innings during his lone appearance with the Rangers in 2008. But the Dominican Republic native has provided plenty of depth and versatility to Texas’ Triple-A staff for each of the last three years, logging a combined 354 innings at Oklahoma City.
Kevin Richardson, C: The former undrafted free agent made news when he reached the major leagues for four games in ’09 after parts of eight seasons in the minor leagues. Richardson, 30, may be done with the Texas system after nine years.
|Richardson has been with the Rangers since 2002.
While the Gonzaga product doesn’t have the best natural tools behind the plate, he is regarded as an excellent defender due to his clean mechanics and ability to call games and work with a pitching staff. He batted .247 with 12 home runs in 63 contests between the Double- and Triple-A levels in 2010.
Elio Sarmiento, C: Sarmiento came to the Rangers via the minor league portion of the Rule 5 Draft prior to the 2009 season. The Venezuela native played three seasons in the San Francisco organization before splitting his time at High-A Bakersfield and Double-A Frisco for the last two seasons.
A switch-hitting catcher, Sarmiento posted career highs across the board when he hit .344/.415/.475 in 58 games with Bakersfield in ’09. He played as Frisco’s backup catcher this past season and batted just .191/.265/.289. The 24-year-old’s value largely came in his ability to speak both English and Spanish fluently––an often overlooked asset in dealing with minor league pitching staffs.
Michael Schlact, RHP: As a third-round pick in the 2004 MLB Draft, Schlact is the highest-drafted Ranger in this year’s free agent crop. The 6-foot-7 hurler played out six full seasons in the Texas system and is entering his first year of minor league free agency.
As Schlact recently wrote on his Twitter account, the Rangers don’t plan on re-signing Schlact, and he will likely join a new organization in 2011.
The Georgia native relies on his upper-80s, low-90s sinker, though he also mixes in the occasional slider and changeup. Schlact’s career with the Rangers ultimately stalled at Double-A Frisco, where he spent parts of four seasons and posted a cumulative 5.88 ERA over 248 innings. He underwent shoulder surgery just four starts into the ’09 campaign and made his return mid-way through this past season.
Willy Taveras, OF: The speedster was another late-season signee brought in to help fill out the minor league rosters. Taveras was rumored to be in the mix for the Rangers’ postseason roster as a pinch runner, though that job eventually went to utility infielder Esteban German during the ALDS.
Texas was Taveras’ fourth organization of the 2010 season. He appeared in 27 games with the Washington Nationals in addition to playing Triple-A ball at Lehigh Valley (Phillies) and Gwinnett (Braves). The 28-year-old helped contribute to Oklahoma City’s playoff run by batting .275/.323/.396 with a pair of home runs in 23 contests.
Once considered a promising young centerfielder, Taveras batted .320 in 2007 and stole 68 bases the following year, but his overall inability to produce with the bat has caused him to jump between six organizations in the last three years. Taveras is currently playing winterball in his native Dominican Republic as he looks for a job in 2011.
James Tomlin, OF: The 28-year-old played his 11th minor league season––and his first with the Texas organization––in 2010. Tomlin got out to a slow start at Double-A Frisco, as his average hovered in the .220s until late July. But the outfielder got hot in a hurry and went 22-for-48 (.458) with Frisco in August, helping earn his first-ever promotion to Triple-A.
Tomlin, who provided above-average range at all three outfield spots, appeared in 15 regular season games at Triple-A Oklahoma City and went 6-for-42 (.143) at the plate. While he may not return with the Rangers, Tomlin’s career .281 average and strong defensive skills should land him a job elsewhere.