The Red Sox announced they had signed 12 players to minor league contracts yesterday--news that's sure to make the whole of the fanbase tingle with excitement! And even better, there are starters in the mix, so problem solved, yes?
Alright, so minor league signings are never exciting, and rarely provide any real value. Every once in a while, though, some can surprise you. For proof, you don't need to look any further than last year's Yankees team, which picked up 310 insufferable innings from minor league signings Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia last year.
So, do we have any reason to hope for a miracle like those two? The short answer is "no," because both are exceptions of the highest order. The longer answer is "Not really, but Rich Hill was pretty good last year, right?" This is inevitably followed by a Google search for news on Kuroda, and a dejected sigh.
But hey, we've got these guys now, and they don't really cost a thing, so let's examine our scrap heap finds.
Jesse Carlson: Having missed last season following rotator cuff surgery, Carlson is looking to make a return to action in the Red Sox' bullpen. Unfortunately, the lefty reliever wasn't exactly top-of-the-line before surgery. There are a few examples of relievers making quick, successful returns from the procedure (Joaquin Benoit, Trevor Hoffman), but it's a good thing the Sox aren't really in need of added help in the bullpen.
Pedro Ciriaco: While Ciriaco brings an Iglesias-level bat without Iglesias-level defense, he's the sort of player you wouldn't mind having on the roster in September as a pinch runner.
Brandon Duckworth: Duckworth had a decent season with Pawtucket last year, but the fact that he never got a look despite how desperate the Sox were for starting pitching as the season wound down should tell you all you need to know about his chances in 2012.
Charlie Haeger: Haeger fulfills the requirement of having at least one knuckleballer in the organization, and actually had a decent stint in Portland last year. Time for a thousand rumors to fly about "Tim Wakefield, coach."
Rich Hill: Arguably the cream of the crop, plenty of us were hoping Hill would be back on a minor league contract when the Sox non-tendered him. Before being felled by season-ending Tommy John Surgery in June, Hill had thrown eight pretty amazing innings (twelve going back to 2010). If he can show the same curveball he did last year after his recovery, then he could be a big contributor out of the pen.
Will Inman: At one time a top prospect with the Brewers, Inman's style of pitching never translated to higher levels, and he's more-or-less fallen apart over the last couple of years. He's a reclamation project without the hype of Andrew Miller, which means we shouldn't be unnecessarily subjected to him after he's been proven not to work.
Doug Mathis: Making a return to the U.S. after a successful stint in Korea, Mathis has bounced from organization to organization ever since leaving Texas. Boston doesn't seem likely to be any more long-term, as Mathis seems likely to fall behind even Duckworth on the depth charts.
Tony Pena Jr.: Tony Pena will enter his fourth year as a pitcher and second with the Sox having shown he can hang at Triple-A with 116 innings of 3.56 ERA ball. With another season of experience, and his decent ground ball rates, Pena could be one of the best chances the Sox have for a replacement-level spot starter in the bunch.
Carlos Silva: How does he feel about stem cells? Silva is only one year removed from a good year with the Cubs, but after heart surgery towards season's end, couldn't even cut it in the Yankees' minor league system last year despite some decent numbers. Consider him this year's Kevin Millwood, but with the added bonus of having been good recently.
Nate Spears: Spears hasn't proven to be much of a major league player so far, but he's had success these last two years in the Sox' farm system, and isn't bad for a depth signing. Having played just about every position with the Paw Sox last year, he at least brings some versatility to the organization.
Chorye Spoone: Not much to see here. Spoone hasn't done anything above High-A ball.
Justin Thomas: An effective lefty reliever in the minors, Thomas hasn't really had much of a shot in the majors. He's the type of player you hope never to see in the majors, but wouldn't mind having in the wings should events conspire to take down half the bullpen.