Non-roster free agents part of the game as well

While most of the focus this time of year is on big-name free agents like Josh Hamilton, B.J. Upton and the like, this is also the time of year when teams sign players to Minor League contracts with invites to Major League camps.

The Mariners haven’t made any announcements yet on such signings, but at least two players — catcher Jesus Sucre and right-handed reliever Jonathan Arias — have been inked to such deals with Seattle so far, according to Baseball America.

Both players were in the Mariners farm system last year and Sucre received a similar camp invite in 2012.

Like most MLB teams, the Mariners typically sign 15-20 players to such deals, which don’t count against the 40-man roster. It’s a great way to both flesh out the camp with extra bodies while also taking a look at guys.

Last year, Kevin Millwood and Munenori Kawasaki both made the club out of Spring Training as non-roster invitees who originally signed Minor League deals, while Oliver Perez and Josh Kinney were brought up in midseason.

Sucre, 24, provides a little backstop depth. He hit .271 in 90 games with Double-A Jackson last season and didn’t commit an error while throwing out 43.7 percent of attempted base stealers (32-for-72).

He originally signed with the Braves as a non-drafted free agent out of Venezuela in 2005, then joined the Mariners as a Minor League free agent on July 19, 2011.

Arias, 24, is a converted catcher and outfielder who didn’t start pitching until 2009. He split last season between Class-A High Desert and Jackson, going 5-7 with seven saves and a 4.21 ERA in 68 1/3 innings.

Arias had a 2.97 ERA and .165 batting average against in 22 outings for Jackson. He originally signed with the Mariners as a non-drafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2006.

I’m sure the Mariners will have more Minor League signees with spring invites once the dust settles at the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn. Typically, veteran free agents who aren’t getting big contract offers will look for teams that give them the best chance at landing playing time and a 25-man roster shot.

It’s a lower-level version of the free agency game, but a valuable one when it comes to filling out a roster. Teams can sometimes find diamonds in the rough, like Millwood last year or Adam Kennedy the year before in Seattle. So while all the talk focuses on the Hamilton’s and Zack Greinke’s of the MLB world next week, there’ll be lots of other players and their agents working the halls in Nashville as well.

1 Comment

Kennedy and Millwood, diamonds in the rough? That’s a generous description of two, declining, end of career veterans who mattered little regarding the long-term future of the team. I’d essentially forgotten about Kennedy and I’m certain most will be hardpressed to recall Millwood in the near future. Let’s reserve the term “diamonds in the rough” for those with talent missed by others.

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