Matt Eddy at Baseball America has posted a minor league transactions piece that includes the first round of minor league free agents. These would be players who qualified for free agency because they’d been designated for assignment either for a second time or after reaching certain service time requirements. Most of these guys became free agents right after the end of the regular season.
The free agents include one Pirate, which isn’t news any more. That would be Drew Hutchison, whom the Pirates designated for assignment after it turned out that he was actually Drew Hutchison. The list includes some marginally interesting players like Josh Collmenter, Edward Mujica, Kyle Kendrick, Johnny Giavotella, Jean Machi, Cody Asche, Seth Maness, Wily Peralta, Ryan Lavarnway, Pedro Beato, Kevin Segriest and Tanner Scheppers. It also include some familiar faces like Diego Moreno, Chase d’Arnaud, Jeff Locke, Rob Scahill, Jaff Decker, Ernesto Frieri, Jhan Marinez, Phil Gosselin and Joely Rodriguez.
The bulk of minor league free agents will be declared after the World Series. These are the players who’ve been with the organization for seven years without making the major league roster, or who were on one-year, minor league contracts. As is typical of recent seasons, the Pirates don’t have a great many players headed for free agency. They do, however, have a few who might merit some consideration for spots on the 40-man roster before they become free agents.
One would be Edwin Espinal. He’s still only 23 and he’s remarkably similar to Jose Osuna. Espinal has modest power, makes contact and seldom walks. He probably has a slightly better hit tool than Osuna and a little less power. He may be a little better defensively at first than Osuna. He can stand at third, unlike Osuna, who can stand in the outfield. Espinal had something of a breakout at Altoona this year, batting 283/322/474. He hit .323 in 130 late-season ABs in AAA, but with no power.
A second possibility would be Luis Heredia. He recovered from a terrible second half last year at Bradenton to put up a 3.10 ERA and 1.38 WHIP at Altoona. Heredia looks more impressive in person than on the stat sheet. He throws a heavy, mid-90s sinker that’s very hard to hit in the air -- he allowed just a .294 slugging average this year — and he gets very good break on his curve. He’s still being held back, though, by poor command.
A final, very outside possibility would be Johnny Hellweg. The Pirates signed the former Angels and Brewers prospect late in the season after he showed some progress with his control issues in independent ball. He still has the ability to miss bats, but the control problems aren’t gone. I’m guessing the Pirates will at least try to bring Hellweg back on a minor league deal.