Given that the deadline to finalize the 40-man roster for each team in baseball was this past Tuesday, November 20 at 11:59 PM, there was a flurry of activity as teams made the moves necessary to protect players they didn’t want made available in the Rule V draft, as well as a great deal of players being released to get under the roster limits.
Every off-season there are several players who are released as part of a roster crunch or money reasons and then get picked up by another team, only to go on and have a decent to solid season the very next year whether it be in the majors or the minors. Recent examples of this are Joe Saunders and Jeff Keppinger who each had a great deal of success this past season.
Here, I present four players that have been released by their respective teams this off-season that would be smart pickups by Dan Duquette, if still available in the coming months.
1. Chris Volstad was recently released by the Kansas City Royals as a result of his arbitration eligibility, which would have seen him salary jump ever so slightly above the $2.65 million he made this past season while with the Chicago Cubs. The Royals claimed him off of waivers from the Cubs at the end of October; they were likely enamored with his potential to possibly rediscover what made him pitch at such a high level during his rookie season with the Miami Marlins in 2008.
Volstad went 6-4 with a 2.88/3.82 ERA/FIP that season over 84.1 innings of work, which spanned 15 games and 14 starts and many thought that he would certainly improve over the subsequent years. That has not been the case as he has struggled with his command, a career BB/9 rate of 3.20, and has never been one to pitch too deep into games. A part of the reason why he’s not been able to work deep into games is due to his poor command, but it also doesn’t help that he has nothing more than a modest strikeout rate of 5.68 K/9 over his career.
Although Volstad’s lowest ERA since his rookie season was 4.58 in 2010 his career FIP sits at 4.61 while his career ERA sits at 4.87, suggesting that he’s been somewhat unlucky over his career at this point. With that said, the difference isn’t so huge so it’s more likely that his inability to command his pitches from one game to the next is the culprit for his lack of success at this point in his career.
It wouldn’t be such a bad idea if Baltimore Orioles general manager Dan Duquette took a flier on him, if nothing more than to see if pitching coach Rick Adair can help correct some of his issues to make him a more serviceable number four or five starting pitcher in the major leagues again. He is just 26 years old so there’s still some time left for him to make an effort to reinvent himself, so-to-speak.
2. Kyle McClellan was a 25th round draft pick out of the 2002 MLB Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals and since making his major league debut in 2008 as a reliever. In three seasons as a key component of the Cardinals bullpen McClellan amassed 217 innings and posted a 3.23 ERA with a 1.27 WHIP.
He was even converted to a starter during the 2011 season after Adam Wainwright went down with an injury and performed very well, at first anyway. He went 6-1 with a 3.11 ERA through his first 10 starts of that season before the dramatically increased workload finally got to him. He went 1-5 with a 5.55 ERA over his last eight starts and that was all she wrote for McClellan in the rotation. He was shifted back to the bullpen but he was unable to readjust to that role. cClellan ended the 2011 season off of the Cardinals playoff roster as the team went on to win the World Series without him.
Even though McClellan seemed to bounce back with a strong showing in April during this past season, he encountered some arm/shoulder issues in May and went on the disabled list. After several failed attempts at rehabbing the injury he elected to have surgery and began a throwing program at the beginning of November.
He will be ready by spring training and whichever general manager decides to take a chance on him could end up looking very smart for doing so. When McClellan is on he is a very dominant arm coming out of the bullpen. He was predominantly a seventh inning arm for the Cardinals but has the stuff to be a quality set-up man, or even closer one day, when healthy.
3. It wasn’t so long ago that David Carpenter, a relief pitcher sent to the Boston Red Sox from the Toronto Blue Jays as compensation for manager John Farrell, was someone to take note of. 2011 was his rookie season for the Houston Astros and he pitched 27.2 innings and posted a 2.93 ERA. He still had some command issues to work out, a 4.23 BB/9 rate that season, but most young pitchers in their rookie seasons do and his future looked somewhat promising.
Fast-forward to the 2012 season and things really began to unravel for him. Over 32.1 innings of work between the Astros and Blue Jays he posted an 8.07 ERA, but his 4.86 FIP suggests he was a bit unlucky – still not very good, but also unlucky.
Carpenter just turned 27 this past July, so he hasn’t quite reached that point yet where he can’t bounce back, and he only has two seasons (one and a half really) under his belt so far. What that means is that last season could’ve just been “one of those things” and he could put it all together and be a reliable option out of the bullpen in the majors, or at least provide some quality depth at Norfolk.
4. The final player on this list is the one I was most surprised to see let go by the organization he was a part of, Blue Jays, because he’s built like Prince Fielder (6’1” and 250 lbs.), has some promising power potential, and is still just 23 years old.
Mike McDade is a switch-hitting first base prospect out of the Blue Jays’ system who they apparently didn’t feel was worth keeping around on their roster, so they cut him loose. Of all the players on this list, McDade is the one guy I feel most strongly about the Orioles going after. Not only because of their lack of promising prospects at first base within their own minor league system, but because McDade – if given the time to develop – could be someone who hits around .260 and could swat 30 homeruns a season for years to come.
He spent the bulk of his time at Double-A this past season (100 games) and batted .275/.354/.437 with 15 homeruns, but was promoted to Triple-A and put together a .338/.392/.493 batting line with two homeruns over 18 games and 79 plate appearances. Part of his incredible batting line with such a small sample size in Triple-A is due to his unsustainable .373 BABIP, but he hits the ball hard and fields his position well enough to make it as a first baseman in the major leagues.
Over his six year career in the minor leagues he has put together a career batting line of .265/.323/.420 and has hit 76 homeruns, although he has really started to come into his own offensively over the last three seasons.