Under the Radar: More Interesting Baseball Signings

Hey, did you hear? The Reds signed Orlando Cabrera, the Rockies signed Melvin Mora, and the Mariners signed Ryan Garko. I heard…and so did everyone else. Let’s take a look at the signings that fell under the radar.

The one that I really like is the Nationals’ signing of Kevin Mench. Though he hasn’t played in the big leagues since 2008, this is a guy who has hit as many as 26 home runs in a season (2004, with Texas), and driven in as many as 73 runs in a season (2005, with Texas as well). He struggled in 2008, hitting only .243 in 51 games for the Blue Jays, and he spent 2009 in Japan, where he also struggled.

While he may not put up the numbers he displayed in his first few seasons (he averaged 17 home runs and 54 RBI a year from 2002-2005, despite only playing an average of 106 games each season), he could still be a potent bat off the bench. Despite being a power hitter, he doesn’t strikeout very much—he has never K’d more than 68 times in a big league season, and in the minors his strikeout total never exceeded 76. That is always a plus.

And hey, if he doesn’t pan out offensively for the Nationals, they can still use him and his oversized head as a tourist attraction or sideshow act to try and bolster their poor attendance level.

In an article I wrote previously, I talked about how I was happy to see the Cubs sign Scott McClain, a minor league power hitter extraordinaire. Well, the Mets have signed Scott McClain, Jr., inking Val Pascucci to a minor league contract. The 31-year-old Pascucci—who has only 32 games of big league experience, all of them coming with the Expos way back in 2004—is the proud owner of 193 minor league blasts. He has hit as many as 34 home runs in a season, driven in as many as 98 runs, and scored as many as 93 runs.

Not only is he a good power hitter, he has the potential to hit for a high-ish average, as he hit .351 in his rookie professional season, in 1999 with the Vermont Expos. In 2004 with the Edmonton Trappers, he hit .298. Though I say he has the potential to hit for a high average, it’s likely not going to happen: his career average is .275, and last year he hit .248. That said, a high average is not out of the question for Pascucci. And one more plus for Pascucci: he has pretty good speed, stealing as many as 19 bases in a season.

Considering he hasn’t been to the big leagues in five years, it is highly unlikely that Pascucci will make it back this year—it would be foolish to assume otherwise. Nevertheless, I like this signing. He will be able to add to his incredible minor league career, as well as give something for Triple-A fans to root for.

The Rockies re-signed Damian Moss to a minor league contract, presumably to use him in AAA. He last played in the big leagues in 2004, and has toiled away in the minors since then. Though he was a starter during the majority of his big league and minor league careers, he spent 2009 as a relief pitcher, with solid results. For the Triple-A Colorado Springs Sky Sox, he went 8-3 with a 3.30 ERA in 59 appearances.

That’s impressive, but the thing that plagued him previously still plagued him—wildness. In 76 1/3 innings, he walked 47 batters. Over the course of his big league career, he walked a lot of batters, too—in fact, his K:BB ratio was nearly 1:1, as he had 204 strikeouts and 195 walks. In 2003, a year split between the Giants and Orioles, he walked 92 batters and struck out only 79.

After his impressive 2009—arguably his best minor league season in years—I think he may be given a good look by the Rockies at one point. This is especially true if he starts off 2010 well in the minors. Perhaps relief pitching is his true niche.

And just a couple quick notes…the Giants signed Byung-Hyun Kim. Here’s hoping he doesn’t give the finger to Bruce Bochy if he doesn’t make the big league club. Also, the Angels signed Travis Chick, who walked 10 batters in five innings in 2006, his only big league experience. Speaking of walking a lot of guys…

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