With Tanaka finally off the board and just three weeks or so remaining until pitchers and catchers report, the time has come for teams to send out their final Spring Training invitations. At least six players of some note have agreed to minor league deals in the latter half of this week, so we thought it behooved us to tell you about them.
The common thread among these signees is that their playing time was either severely limited or non-existent last season, so it's probably sensible to keep expectations low for 2014. You can always dream on one of them being the Comeback Player of the Year, I suppose, but I wouldn't recommend it:
Dodgers sign Figgins
The LA Dodgers have brought in utility infielder Chone Figgins on a minors contract with an invitation to Spring Training, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Figgins, 36, is on the comeback trail after sitting out most of the 2013 season (not even the Marlins wanted him around). His struggles during his three years with the Mariners are legend, but he's a no-risk addition for the Dodgers at this point. The switch-hitting veteran could not only end up providing an additional safety net at second for rookie Alexander Guerrero, but he could also help at the hot corner should Juan Uribe turn back into
a pumpkin the 2012 version of himself. There's no guarantee Figgins will win a spot, of course, but he has to like his chances when his fiercest competition is Dee Gordon (career 72 OPS+) and Justin Sellers (63 OPS+).
Indians sign Aardsma
The Cleveland Indians have agreed to a minor league contract with reliever David Aardsma that will net him $1 million if he makes the team's Opening Day roster, per Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer. The 32-year-old right-hander returned from two seasons on the shelf (Tommy John surgery) to be a somewhat serviceable member of the Mets bullpen in 2013. The former Mariners closer posted a 4.31 ERA and 8.2 K/9 in 39⅔ innings, but also allowed nearly two dingers per nine. Progressive Field does a slightly better job at depressing home runs than Citi Field, so Aardsma could see his numbers improve there if given the opportunity. Those chances seem rather slim considering he's competing for a spot against at least a dozen other guys, but you never know what'll happen between now and April.
M's re-up with Chavez
The Seattle Mariners are bringing outfielder Endy Chavez back into the fray on a minor league pact, per Jerry Crasnick of ESPN. Should he (by some miracle) make the club's Opening Day roster, he will earn a base salary of $750K with an additional $450K available in incentives. Chavez appeared in 97 games -- his most since 2008 -- for the Mariners last season, but hit just .267/.290/.327 while splitting time across all three outfield spots. The M's already have five lefty outfielders on their 40-man roster other than Chavez -- all of whom are significantly younger -- so it's not as though he's really filling a need, but who knows how far his veteran pedigree will carry him.
Halos add Stewart
The Angels added third baseman Ian Stewart on a minors deal with a Spring Training invite on Thursday, per Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com. Like fellow infielder Figgins, Stewart did not make an appearance in the bigs last season. The Southern California native was in prime position to man the hot corner for the Cubs when camp opened -- he was making $2 million, after all -- but an injury forced him to start the year at Triple-A and he just never got called up. Stewart aired his frustration at the Cubs on Twitter in early June -- always a good move -- then was released two weeks later. Once a top 10 prospect, Stewart has struggled to do much of anything in the batter's box since undergoing wrist surgery in 2012: he slugged .451 in his first four big-league seasons, but couldn't even muster a SLG over .350 in his 238 Pacific Coast League plate appearances in 2013. Stewart will likely compete for a bench spot this spring with Luis Jimenez and Grant Green.
O's sign Laffey
The Orioles have signed seven-year vet Aaron Laffey to a minor league contract, reports Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com. Unlike the rest of the deals in this group, Laffey's does not include an invite to big league Spring Training, writes MASN's Roch Kubatko -- though in all likelihood he'll get an inning here and there in Sarasota. The 28-year-old left-hander averaged roughly 80 replacement-level innings per year from '07-'12, spending time with the Indians, Mariners, Yankees and Blue Jays, but tossed just 12⅓ between the Mets and a return trip to Toronto in 2013. A spot starter at his best and mop-up reliever at his worst, Laffey will likely provide the O's with some veteran depth at Triple-A should one of their young arms go down and/or struggle out of the gate. Think Freddy Garcia with a worse walk rate.
KC inks Rauch
The Royals signed veteran reliever Jon Rauch to a minors deal, per Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The tall 6'10" right-hander had a solid streak of seven consecutive seasons with more than 50 innings pitched heading into 2013 -- complete with a 3.71 ERA in that span -- but couldn't stick in a bullpen long enough to extend that run. Rauch made it through only 15 appearances (and 16⅔ innings) before the Marlins let him go in May, and he never made it back to the show after latching on with the Orioles. He's never going to amass the high strikeout totals of today's late-inning arms, but Rauch still K about 19 percent of the batters he faces, and has better than average control. Kansas City is rather stacked when it comes to bullpen arms and already has a resident tall right-hander in Luke Hochevar, so just where Rauch fits into the picture this spring is unclear.