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Josh Kinney Buys Boots, Summits Pile

I was just writing something else, something more interesting, and in the beginning I said something to the effect of "at least I'm not writing about another reliever in which the Mariners have shown interest." Then I looked at Twitter, and, bam! New potential reliever! Now I'm writing about another reliever in which the Mariners have shown interest!

According to, the Mariners have signed Josh Kinney to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Kinney is therefore the latest addition to the growing pile. At first I thought "interesting," because I confused Josh Kinney with Matt Kinney, and I recall Matt Kinney being interesting. Then I looked up Matt Kinney, and then I looked up Josh Kinney, and I thought "interesting," because Josh Kinney is the more interesting of the two.

Josh Kinney is 32 years old. He will be 33 next April. He throws with his right hand, which is notable, because he is a thrower, or a pitcher, as they are more conventionally called. He has 65 innings of scattered Major League experience, and those innings have been okay. He has way more innings of triple-A experience, and those innings have been much better.

He's a reliever with a sinking fastball, a slider and a curve. In the bigs, he's kept 58 percent of balls in play on the ground, while doing an acceptable job of missing bats. In triple-A, he's also generated groundballs, and he's posted better strikeout and walk numbers, as you'd expect. Just last year in triple-A, Kinney threw 66 percent strikes with an excellent contact rate. He was one of the better reliever in the International League.

Because he was pretty old, that's less impressive. There's a reason why Kinney was a minor league free agent. But the Cardinals trusted Kinney during the 2006 playoffs, and he's still more or less that same pitcher. He looks like he has a shot to be effective enough, and you're kidding yourself if you think the Mariners' 2012 bullpen is all figured out already. There are open spots, and Kinney could get one. He could also kind of serve as a veteran, since he's not young, and young guys won't know better.

I know it's silly to get excited about guys like this, and Kinney could bomb in March. Or he could be fine and still report to Tacoma, or become a free agent again. Probably the realistic best-case scenario is that Kinney is a good middle reliever, and, okay, so? That's not much. But I love minor league free agents. You know that I love minor league free agents. I love that they can contribute something for basically nothing. The reward is small, but the reward-to-investment ratio is huge!

Josh Kinney fun fact the first: Kinney went undrafted. His high school didn't have baseball, so he played for somebody else, and in college he pitched for the Division 2 Quincy University Whatevertheyares. He is one of two players from Quincy University to make it to the bigs.

Josh Kinney fun fact the second: I present to you Josh Kinney's Major League debut, from 2006.

Josh Kinney replaces John Rodriguez (PH), pitching and batting 9th
(0-0) R Langerhans Home Run (Fly Ball)

As far as I can tell, 11 pitchers in history have allowed home runs with their first-ever pitches. Others include Damaso Marte, Al Reyes and Hideki Okajima.

By the way, it's worth noting in this post that the Mariners have also extended a spring training invite to Philippe Valiquette. We haven't said much about Valiquette, if we've said anything about Valiquette, but he joined the organization last August and survived the Rule 5 Draft. He's a 24-year-old lefty reliever with a fastball that touches 100 miles per hour. He's also been not very good over the course of his career in the minors, with a surprisingly pedestrian strikeout rate, and he didn't pitch at all last year due to a back injury, but, 100 miles per hour. Nothing a batter in camp looks forward to more than facing a rusty flamethrower who has pretty bad command at the best of times.