Blue Jays Sign Three Minor League Infielders
By Jay Blue
Blue Jays from Away
As if on cue, the Blue Jays signed three minor league free agent infielders to minor league deals with invitations to spring training, shortly after the New York Post published an interview with new Blue Jays president, Mark Shapiro, in which he discussed the lack of depth projected to be playing for the Blue Jays’ Triple-A club in Buffalo.
News of the signings shored up some holes in the Bisons’ infield after a slew of players elected free agency this fall.
The elder statesman of the group, first-baseman Casey Kotchman, is a left-handed hitting 32 year old with 10 years and 939 games of major league experience with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Rays, Cleveland Indians, Seattle Mariners, Florida Marlins and Boston Red Sox.
Playing first base for Team USA last fall in Ajax at the Pan-Am Games, Kotchman was in the midst of Canadian's wild finish to score two runs in extra innings. Team USA tried to work a back-door pick on Canuck runner Peter Orr with a runner on second. The ball saiiled into foul ground, the tying run scored and when the right fielder threw wildy past third past third, Orr belly-flopped home with the winning run ... the gold medal run.
Kotchman most recently played a full season in the big leagues in 2012, getting into 142 games with the Indians, hitting .229/.280/.333 but that came one year after his career season in 2011 with the Tampa Bay Rays in which he hit .306/.378/.422. Kotchman is more of a gap and average hitter but has had intermittent struggles at the big league level, hitting under .240 in 2008, 2010 and 2012. Kotchman didn’t play at all in 2014 but hit .290/.374/.426 with 20 doubles and seven home runs with the Omaha Storm Chasers last year, the Triple-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals.
Jiovanni Mier, a California-born shortstop was a first round pick of the Houston Astros in 2009 and was a top-100 prospect rated by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus before the 2010 season. Meir elected free agency this year after playing in Double-A Corpus Christi in the Astros organization. Mier had some pop early in his career, hitting 20 extra-base hits in 229 plate appearances in Rookie-level Greeneville in his first season but he has only reached a .400 slugging percentage one other time, in the hitter-friendly Advanced-A California League in 2012. Mier hit .258/.350/.372 in 109 games in 2015, hitting 18 doubles, two triples and seven home runs. The 25 year old doesn’t strike out much and could be a useful depth piece in 2016, particularly if there are complications with Devon Travis that keeps him out of the lineup longer than spring training. However, his lack of a track record in the majors will probably keep him well down on the depth chart.
Second baseman David Adams, 28, was drafted by the New York Yankees in 2008 as a third rounder. Adams blossomed in 2009, hitting extremely well in A-ball and Double-A (including a .309/.393/.507 slash line in Double-A Trenton in 2010). Adams made his big league debut with the Yankees in 2013 but only hit .193/.252/.286 in 152 plate appearances over 43 games after hitting much better (.268/.366/.405) with their Triple-A club. He was claimed on waivers by the Orioles in 2014 and had a solid season for their Double-A club but was disappointing in Triple-A. Last year, he played for the Miami Marlins’ Triple-A club and hit .294/.399/.391, with a higher walk rate (14.2%) than strikeout rate (12.0%) in 116 games. Adams add another layer of depth as a utility man for the Jays in Buffalo.
And now a bonus minor league free agent signing. The Blue Jays have been reported to have signed veteran catcher Humberto Quintero to a minor league deal. The 36-year-old backstop has played in 12 major league seasons, getting into 471 games with a lifetime .234/.267/.327 slash line.
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