In my last article, I talked about which out of options players could be made available to the Blue Jays either though waivers or low leverage trades. Today I’m going to have a look at who could be made available via a lesser known source. These are the article XX(b) free agents. Flashy title. I’ll also talk about who this applies to on the Blue Jays and what that means for them. XX(b) status is applied to minor league deals for qualifying players and provides them with retention bonuses and opt out clauses. Generally speaking, qualifying players are those who have 6 years of major league service time but were unable to find a major league contract. These are the guys looking to bounce back and get a second chance. For a full explanation of who qualifies and a full list of 2015’s XX(b)s look here.
Teams have four choices with XX(b)s: 1. Add them to the 25-man major league roster 2. Pay them a (at least) 100K retention bonus to keep them in the minors 3. Put them on the DL or 4. Release them (I’ll be looking at who this option might apply to below). All these decisions must be made before the XX(b) deadline which is 5 days before the first game of the season.
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Often teams bite the bullet and pay the player the bonus if they don’t add them to the 25 man. If a player receives the bonus, they also get an opt out clause for June 1. This is a baseline for XX(b) free agents. They can negotiate bigger retention bonuses and different opt outs.
Let’s have a look at our own boys first. Munenori Kawasaki, Johan Santana and Ramon Santiago all qualify as XX(b)s. Kawasaki only has 2.073 years of service time but there is a provision for service time in the NPB. It looks like Kawasaki will be the only one that Jays must make a decision on prior to the deadline since Santiago and (likely) Santana will both begin the season on the DL.
Kawasaki stands a fairly good chance of making the 25-man with injuries to Izturis and the aforementioned Santiago. Kawasaki will be competing with Steve Tolleson and Ryan Goins for the backup middle infielder role. Tolleson’s had an underwhelming spring but is out of options which helps his case. Goins has been hitting lately, is in competition for the starting 2B job now and has options. In Kawasaki’s favour are his even splits, his better offensive track record than Goins or Tolleson, his hot start to the spring, the fact that the team would have to pay him a retention bonus and Devon Travis’ inexperience (which could lead them to go with Goins and that reduces Kawasaki’s competition). The Jays aren’t going to release Kawasaki since he provides much needed middle infield depth and so he’ll either be paid the bonus or will make the 25 man. Kawasaki seems fine with playing in Buffalo and is getting decent money even if he’s in the minors and so would likely not use his opt out privileges.
Here are the XX(b) free agents from around the league who could be released (to qualify as an XX(b), the player has to sign 10 days before opening day. So after an XX(b) is released, a team will likely just wait until there’s less than 10 days so the player doesn’t become an XX(b) again) (Info via MLBTR):
Jose Veras ATL – Actually already has been released. Would be worth a call. Put up good numbers after he was traded to the Astros last year.
Kelly Johnson ATL – Isn’t likely to beat out Alberto Callaspo for a job. Atlanta could opt to take a similar route with Johnson as they did with Veras. Teams would certainly come calling for Johnson. Probably not the Jays though…
Chris Perez MIL – Unlikely to be released but doesn’t seem to have a role in the Brewers ‘pen
Mike Adams LAD – Lot’s of competition for the Dodgers’ bullpen and Adams may end up on the outside looking in. He’s pitched well but so have other contenders.
Scott Downs CLE – Not much chance of making the Indians 25 man. Will the Tribe pay 100k (at least) to keep him around?
Endy Chavez SEA – Chavez is probably the 6th outfield option. Won’t make the active roster.
Kevin Correia SEA – No room in the ‘pen or the rotation. Release is definitely possible
Joe Saunders SEA – Same story as above
Reed Johnson MIA – Competing for a 5th outfielder role. Might be the end of the line if he doesn’t make it
Nick Masset MIA – RH pitcher
Rich Hill WSN – LH pitcher
Nate Schierholtz TEX – Outfielder
Jamey Wright TEX – RH pitcher
Felipe Paulino BOS – RH reliever
Humberto Quintero BOS – Catcher
Kevin Gregg CIN – RH reliever
Brad Penny CWS – RH starter/reliever
Scott Baker NYY – RH Starter/reliever. Likely no room in either the pen or the rotation
It’s not an inspiring list, but that makes sense—otherwise they’d have major league deals. No one here really jumps out as an improvement over anything the Jays currently possess for the major league roster. Several would make sense as minor league depth. Scott Baker, Mike Adams, and Jose Veras would be the few who could represent 25 man roster upgrades for the Jays. Leave no stone unturned.