There's been some scattered news about two of these guys before, but the Mariners waited until after the holidays to make it official, so let's check in with them now. The M's signed outfielder Cole Gillespie, RHP Matt Palmer, and RHP Ramon Ramirez to minor league deals, including a ticket to Peoria. They're all solid moves, and one of them could be great. Here's what you need to know.
Gillespie is a right-handed outfielder, age 29, who has bounced around three organizations during his minor league career. He's been a good, not great hitter at AAA, where he's played almost exclusively since 2009. He hasn't gotten many cracks at the big league level, but did get in 25 games here and there for the Cubs in 2013. He's not a big base stealer, but he's regarded as an excellent baserunner.
Gillespie's main and most enticing tool is his plate patience. He's averaged between an 11% to 14% walk rate over the past few years, even putting up a .405 OBP in 2011 and .390 in 2012. He doesn't have great power, but his speed has helped him carry a high BABIP throughout his minor league career. Steamer has him down for a 95 wRC+ in 2013, and Oliver sticks him at 82. Gillespie has weird splits, hitting RHP better in 2013, LHP better in 2012, and crushing both in 2011.
He can play all three outfield positions, though center is shaky. This is the exact kind of player the Mariners needed to sign to help their organizational outfield depth, which is terrible. There's actually a fairly decent shot Gillespie could see some time with the Mariners this year, given how thin their options are combined with the fact that they now re-employ Franklin Gutierrez.
You may remember Palmer from back in the day, where lucked his way into an 11-2 record with the Angels as a swingman who barely struck out more batters than he walked. He was 30 then, and now he's trying to latch on again after spending 2011-2013 with three different organizations. He was absolutely horrific in the two years prior to last, but he somehow started managing to strike batters out last year in Albuquerque, missing more bats than he has in any year since 2008. His 8.8 K/9 was a huge leap up from 5.8 the year before.
Who knows. He's free, and free is always good.
I just discussed the bullpen earlier today, and this is what many of us are hoping the Mariners continue to do - score high upside guys at a discount price. Ramirez is the reliever who famously hurt himself sprinting from the dugout to celebrate Johan Santana's 2012 no-hitter. He was an effective reliever who often outperformed his peripherals from 2008-2011 with Boston and San Francisco, and then struggled with ineffectiveness in 2012 before disintegrating in 2013, though he was respectable in AAA. Ramirez has never relied on getting tons of guys to swing and miss, and he doesn't have particularly great control either. He brings the standard fastball/slider/change combination to the table, all while losing a couple ticks of velocity over the year, but he still sits in the low 90s.
Ramirez probably won't be the same guy he was from 2008-2011, but there's no harm in finding out. I'd much rather sign somebody like him to a minor league contract than Mark Mulder, who hasn't pitched since 2008 and hasn't been anything but shitty since 2005. The Mariners should acquire as many of these types of pitchers as possible and see what they're working with in Spring Training. Ramirez is a dark horse to break camp with the team. Bravo.