Name That Minor League Signing
Image courtesy of Jasen Vinlove, USA Today (photo of Preston Guilmet)Every spring, every major-league team announces that they have signed a whole bunch of minor league free agents. By definition, most of them have spent at least six or seven years in professional baseball. Many of them have some big-league service time.
Sure, there are major-league veterans like 35-year-old infielder Adam Rosales who has played in parts of 11 big league seasons who get minor league deals with spring training invitations. He debuts in 2008 with Cincinnati. He has played for Oakland (two stints), Texas, San Diego, Arizona and Cleveland. He signed with the Twins this year hoping to make it seven teams in 12 big league seasons. He’s done everything he could so far in spring training, hitting .385 and tied for the team lead with four home runs. He has an opt-out before the season starts.
Lucas Duda is a 33-year-old first baseman in Twins camp as a non-roster player. He spent a lot of good years with the Mets before spending time with the Rays, Royals and Braves. He’s got nine major-league seasons under his belt and has hit 152 home runs in his career. He has two 30-home runs seasons under his belt, including in 2017. This spring, he is hitting .333 with three doubles for the Twins yet likely finds himself behind CJ Cron and Tyler Austin on the depth chart.
That brings us back to Preston Guilmet. Did you raise your hand when I asked if you had ever heard of him? Will it surprise you as much as it surprised me when I looked and saw that he has played in the big leagues for six (SIX) teams. Don’t get me wrong. For those six teams, he has a combined total of 27 games pitched and 33 total innings. But he has received The Call from Cleveland (4 games), Baltimore (10 games), Tampa Bay (3 games), Milwaukee (2 games), and both St. Louis (2 games) and Toronto (6 games) in 2018. Even die-hard fans of those six teams may have to dig into their memories to remember.
Guilmet is grateful for each opportunity, “I think there’s value in what I do, which is nice because other teams recognize that because it keeps me in this game and keeps me playing. I’m thankful for all the opportunities. I’ve always just kind of been kind of a keep-my-head-down guy, work hard, be a good teammate, go out there and compete. There’s always positives. Just happy to be able to play this long.
Guilmet signed early in the free agent season and hopes to get another big-league opportunity. So far this spring, he has given up one run in six innings (1.50 ERA). He has walked one and struck out eight batters.
So why the Twins? Guilmet had several options for where he could have signed, and may have had even more had he decided to wait a little longer in the offseason.
“Anytime when you’re in that situation (free agency), you’re looking for the right fit. I think this is a great organization from guys that had been here that I know, everybody speaks highly of the Twins so it sounded like a good place to go and get a solid opportunity. Then the fact that they came after me early in the offseason, means they at least have a plan. That always speaks volumes as well.”
His goals for 2019 probably won’t surprise you. “Make it back to the big leagues and find some success there. Getting a shot to get some innings and find some success there.”
Mike Morin has pitched a lot in the big leagues, and he’s just 27 years old. He debuted with the Angels in 2014 and pitched in 60 games. The next season he pitched in 47 games, and in 2016, he pitched in another 60 games. The last two seasons, he has pitched in a combined 19 games between the Angels, Royals and Mariners, in large part due to injury. He comes to spring training, hoping to show that he is healthy and ready to get back to a bullpen role in the big leagues.
For Morin, there were a number of factors, but a “family” dynamic was a big part of that decision.Morin was born in the Twin Cities and moved to Kansas City when he was very young. His dad is one of seven kids, so he still has a lot of family in the Twin Cities and says it “has always been a home away from home for me.”
This is really his first opportunity to be a free agent, and he took the opportunity to heart.
“First time being able to control my destiny, per se. I actually wanted kind of a family dynamic. My fiance is from southern California, so when I was the Angels I was able to spend time with her and her family there. The first time I got Designated, I was claimed by Kansas City, which is where I’m from. That was really good to sign a contract to play with the Royals, which was very cool. Then when I got designated, I got picked up by Seattle. So basically it was the first time I was on a team where I was away from people that I knew. I didn’t realize how important that was. So when I was looking this year, some of the offers that I had were pretty good. But when the Twins came, it was a no doubter for me. First and foremost, it is an opportunity to try to help the team out, but then on a deeper level I was born in the Twin Cities. I have some aunts and uncles and my god parents right there.That actually played a pretty big factor for me.
As the season approaches, Morin looks toward helping the Twins. “Obviously my goal would be to make the Opening Day roster and have an amazing season, but we’ll see how it shakes out. There is a business side to it. But I’m trying to make that decision as hard on them as possible.”
So far, so good. Morin has thrown six shutout innings and given up just two hits. He has walked one and struck out six batters.
Most important, however, for Morin right now is to stay healthy and give himself a chance. “I feel like at points in my career, I can really help a team out, so my biggest goal is to be healthy, and I feel healthy, and I think that good things happen when I’m healthy. When I’m healthy, usually good things happen.”
And then there is Wynston Sawyer. The catcher/first baseman signed with the Twins before the 2018 season and after splitting 2018 between Chattanooga and Rochester, he re-signed with the Twins and received an invitation to big league spring training.
“First off, I like the organization. I’m comfortable here. There are a lot of good people here. Obviously, opportunity. It’s a place where, if you perform, you have a chance to be called up. I knew people here and coming back a second time, and coming into spring, seeing familiar faces was a nice thing.”
While he is primarily a catcher, he has played a lot of first base in the past. He noted that he that he played 80 games at first base in 2015. “I actually feel pretty comfortable there. Honestly, I’ll play anywhere, but yes, playing catcher and being able to play other positions is beneficial.”
His goal for 2019? “Stay healthy. Number one, stay healthy because when you’re healthy, you’re able to be yourself out there.”
For Rosales and Duda, it’s about getting another opportunity in the big leagues. For Preston Guilmet, the goal is to make a Twins uniform his seventh in the big leagues. For Mike Morin, it’s about being healthy and getting back to his old self, as well as getting to play in front of a lot of family. For a guy like Sawyer, who was limited to just 36 games a year ago between Chattanooga and Rochester, it’s about staying on the field and hopefully getting The Call that every minor league player dreams of.
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