News about established major league baseball
players is not easy to find these days because of the lockout, but when one
digs, especially in the ranks of former Independent players, stories are
plentiful. Transactions at the Indy
level are not taboo, as IndyBaseballChatter
will prove with this writing.
Promotions to major league rosters, spring
training invitations, free agent signings and departures for such destinations
as Japan and Korea all have transpired in recent times.
Nothing can be much more exciting for a
onetime Independent player than being notified his contract has been added to
the parent club's 40-man roster. It
sends a clear signal the player is considered a legitimate future major league
talent, as well as guaranteeing a spot in a major league spring training
This action took place for two former Indy
stars recently. All they need now is for
the labor issues between ownership and Players Association to be settled,
thereby certifying there will be spring training in both Arizona and Florida.
The fortunate duo is second baseman Kody
Clemens, yes, the son of former major league standout Roger, and right-handed
pitcher Adam Oller. Clemens's
non-affiliated time was in the Constellation Energy League which was created
two summers ago after COVID-19 first reared its ugly head and shut down all of
the regular professional leagues.
Clemens is with the Detroit Tigers while Oller, who came out of Windy
City in the Frontier League, will get his shot with another newly-energized
franchise, the New York Mets.
Precious Non-Roster Invitations
While we probably won't see a great many
non-roster invitations identified until the lockout ends, we can pass along a
few of these cherished opportunities to be a part of major league spring
training and prove a player is on his organization's radar for a possible major
league job at some point during the season.
Andrew Balletti (Sugar Land, Atlantic League), who got some time with Miami
last season, was signed off the free agent list and invited to spring training
with Philadelphia. The Phils also have
issued an invitation to another right-hander, Michael Kelly, who played in the
Atlantic for Southern Maryland.
Outfielder Dillon Thomas (Texas, American Association), who got some
playing time with Seattle, has a new opportunity with the Los Angeles Angels
including a spring training invitation.
logical first baseman John Nogowski (Sioux City, American Association) will get
an invitation after signing with the World Champion Braves. The same for infielder Ildemaro Vargas
(Bridgeport, Atlantic) who is back with the Chicago Cubs.
Back in the Bigs
onetime Independent players, including several with extensive major league
time, remain unsigned during the work stoppage, but Boston hopes to get value
out of free agent starters Rich Hill (Long Island, Atlantic) and James Paxton
(Grand Prairie, American Association).
Veteran reliever Luis Garcia (Newark, Can-Am League) signed as a free
agent with San Diego.
New Minor League Pacts
minor league free agents who have signed new agreements are RHP Zack Weiss
(Kansas City, American Association, and Long Island and Sugar Land) who is now
with the Angels as is lefty Brian Moran (Bridgeport) while first baseman Ryan
Casteel (Lancaster, Atlantic) is in the Atlanta system.
Making Money Abroad
of right-handers with some major league experience have landed jobs overseas,
where the pay is better for them than the uncertainty of opportunities at home. Drew Rucinski is wonderful example.
his first professional pitch in the Frontier League, and spent the equivalent
of two full seasons with the Rockford (IL) RiverHawks before landing a regular
opportunity with a major league organization.
That led to 54 innings and one start in the majors spread among three
teams. He will be starting his fourth
season in Korea (NC Dinos) where he has won 43 games (43-24), and now has a
$1.9 million deal plus incentives for 2022.
Yoo of South Korea's Yonhap News Agency
says the guaranteed deal ties Rucinski for the second largest salary of any
foreign player in the KBO and brings his four-year take in the league to $5.7
million, not including any incentive payouts.
Robert Stock (Normal, Frontier, and New Jersey,
Can-Am) is headed to Korea (Doosan Bears) where he is said to be receiving
$500,000 plus incentives. Aaron
Wilkerson (Grand Prairie plus Florence of the Frontier and Fort Worth of the
United League) will get his first experience abroad in Japan (Hanshin).
onetime chief spokesman for Baseball Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter
Ueberroth, has been writing about Independent Baseball since 2003. This post is from his blog,
www.IndyBaseballChatter.com. He has published
a book ("The Passion of Baseball") about his life. It is available at www.Amazon.com or with an autographed from www.WirzandAssociates.com.