Every year, players with six or more seasons of minor-league experience whose contracts have expired become free agents.
Teams occasionally find hidden gems among these players. Here are the 17 Cubs who recently were granted minor-league free agency:
Pitchers: Alberto Baldonado, Corey Black, Casey Coleman, Cory Mazzoni, Jose Paulino, Jose Rosario, Kyle Ryan, Daury Torrez
Infielders: Stephen Bruno, Ryan Court, Mike Freeman
Outfielders: Jeffrey Baez, Wynton Bernard, Chris Coghlan, Terrance Gore, Trey Martin, Bijan Rademacher
One of these players has already re-signed with the Cubs:
Officially signed back with the cubs. I’d been really stressed about free agency the last few months since I knew I needed another surgery. Grateful that this organization is staying behind me and giving me the chance I’ve truly worked for.— Corey Black (@CblackCHC) November 6, 2018
It would seem likely that the Cubs will re-sign Freeman, Gore, Ryan and Mazzoni. Three of those four played in the major leagues this season. Rademacher was once thought of as a pretty decent prospect, and has played in major-league spring training games.
Baseball America recently posted this complete list of all 520 minor-league free agents, which includes these former Cubs and Cubs prospects: Bryant Flete (who was one of the four sent to the White Sox for Jose Quintana), Anthony Recker, Mike Olt, Cael Brockmeyer, Elliot Soto, Alex Liddi, Wes Darvill, Andres Blanco, Emilio Bonifacio and Pierce Johnson as well as former major leaguers Allen Craig, Michael Blazek, Neftali Feliz, Lane Adams, Ivan De Jesus Jr., Trayce Thompson, Ryan Merritt, Billy Burns, Dustin Ackley, Jumbo Diaz, Christian Bethancourt, Will Middlebrooks, Daniel Nava, Rob Refsnyder, Cliff Pennington and Jake Petricka.
Personally, I’d like to see the Cubs take a flyer on Bethancourt. He was a Top 100 prospect while in the Braves organization and hit .297/.328/.506 with 20 home runs in Triple-A in 2018 (granted, at the launching pad that is Colorado Springs). But he was pretty good at throwing out baserunners as a Braves backup catcher and is only 27.
Merritt is lefthanded and only 27 and had success in brief stints with the Indians in 2016 and 2017. He had some shoulder issues in 2018, causing him to miss half the season and spend the rest in Triple-A, but if healthy again, could be a useful Iowa Shuttle guy.
And then there is... Damien Magnifico. He pitched in the Pirates organization in 2018 and also in a handful of MLB games with the Brewers and Angels in 2016 and 2017 (including making his major-league debut at Wrigley Field in 2016). I grant you the walk rate is too high and his overall numbers are middling.
But that name... man, even in spring training that’d be fun.
Any free agents on that list you think the Cubs should take a flyer on? They did sign a few from last year’s list, and at least two players off that list — Willians Astudillo and Jonny Venters — had success with new teams after being minor-league free agents last winter.