WTM has a nice article up at Pirates Prospects about minor league free agents. His point is that the Pirates have signed a lot fewer this year than in years past. I had never thought about it, but he's exactly right. His comparison between the 2007 minor league free agents and this year's is pretty staggering. There are a lot fewer at the Class AAA level, as Indianapolis will now be filled with real prospects (like Rudy Owens, Bryan Morris, Andrew Lambo and so on) and also a lot of more marginal ones (Kris Watts, Pedro Ciriaco, Josh Harrison, Mike Crotta and so on).
The really revealing stuff is in WTM's list of minor league free agents below the Class AAA level, though. In 2007 there were 14, as the Pirates used players like Peter Bergeron, Dewon Brazelton, and Randy Ruiz to compensate for a pitiful lack of depth. This year there are two, Gerardo Alvarez and Kawika Emsley-Pai. It isn't yet clear whether Alvarez is going to be a player or a coach, and I'd be on him being a coach. And while Emsley-Pai isn't a great prospect, WTM points out that he isn't a minor-league veteran either - he was a 10th-round pick in 2010.
Minor-league depth doesn't necessarily correlate with future major-league wins, obviously, but it's clear that the current administration, unlike the previous one, is at least trying to use the minor leagues for their intended purpose, which is to develop players.