The blog has been quiet the last few weeks - I hope everyone had a great holiday season - but we've continued to pursue players who may help us in 2009 in a variety of roles. In past years the acquisition of guys like Heath Bell, Jody Gerut, and Luis Rodriguez didn't send shockwaves through the industry, but sometimes those are the deals that can have the biggest impact on the team.
Because our minor league system continues to mature, we have less of a need for the veteran AAA player who provides insurance at the Major League level - we are quite comfortable with the idea of many of our young kids filling those roles. Therefore, we have been able to focus on players we believe have a chance to compete for a job on the Major League team. So far this winter we have signed five players to non-roster contracts with invitations to Major League spring training. In alphabetical order:
Eliezer Alfonzo, C: Having played the last four seasons in the Giants' organization, and parts of the last three in the big leagues, Eliezer provides some Major League experience as well as a little power. In addition to slugging .435 in nearly 400 Major League plate appearances, Eliezer has also thrown out 38% of baserunners over the past four seasons combined.
Chris Britton, RHP: A 26-year old right-hander, Chris was drafted by the Orioles in the 8th round of 2001. After two seasons in rookie ball and a missed season in 2003, Chris moved to the pen in low A ball in 2004. Nevertheless, by the end of 2006 he had pitched more than 50 innings out of the pen for the Major League team, posting a 3.35 ERA. At the end of the '06 season, the Orioles traded Chris to the Yankees for Jaret Wright and over the next two seasons Chris pitched 85 innings in AAA (2.44 ERA) and 35 2/3 innings in the big leagues (4.54 ERA). Always a solid strike thrower, we believe Chris can compete for a bullpen job this spring.
Pete Ciofrone, 3B: Pete has played the last four and a half seasons in the Padres organization, but was due to become a minor league free agent after the 2008 season. After a .314/.389/.519 season in Portland, we wanted to keep the versatile left-handed hitter. Pete has always done a good job of putting the ball in play, and his power has emerged over the past two seasons. His ability to play all four corner positions also provides options for any manager.
Kevin Correia, RHP: A 28-year old from San Diego, Kevin has spent his entire career with the San Francisco Giants, including over four years in the big leagues as both a starter and a reliever. All told, he has pitched nearly 400 innings at the ML level with a 4.59 ERA. Kevin pitched primarily in the rotation in 2008, but in 2007 and 2006 while pitching mostly out of the bullpen Kevin posted a 3.47 ERA in more than 170 innings. He is a versatile pitcher who could fill a number of roles on the staff.
Oneli Perez, RHP: An original Padre signed in 2001 as a 1B in the Dominican Republic, Oneli made the transition to the mound in 2003. In 2004 Oneli signed with the White Sox and became a solid pitching prospect, eventually reaching their 40-man roster for two years despite not logging any big league time. Showing an above average fastball, the 25-year old has had excellent seasons in A, High A, and AA posting a combined 2.38 ERA with 284 strikeouts in 265 innings. 2008 was a bit of a lost season for Oneli as he bounced between three organizations (waivers can be tough), but we still view him as a prospect and believe he has a chance to help.
I know these aren't the names you read about on the front page of ESPN.com, but I wouldn't be surprised if we get some valuable contributions from this group, and others with whom we're still having conversations, in 2009 and beyond.