* Scott Copeland fared well at class-A Dunedin in 2013 and this season at double-A New Hampshire and triple-A Buffalo when he was a combined 11-9 in 31 games (26 starts) with a 3.44 ERA. He walked 55 and struck out 105 in 164 2/3 innings and now he’s a free agent.
Blue Jays Minor League Free Agents: Buffalo Bisons
By Jay Blue
Matt Eddy at Baseball America does a fantastic job compiling all kinds of information about the minor leagues and he just released his list of 2014 minor league free agents sorted by team and the Blue Jays have 22 players whose minor league contracts are up.
Here are those free agents whose last team listed was the Buffalo Bisons …
Right-handed pitcher Scott Copeland is a really interesting player now that he’s a free agent. Copeland has only been with the Blue Jays’ organization since 2012 (after he was picked up when the Orioles let him) but he’s been outstanding at every level since then, rising through Dunedin, New Hampshire and reaching Buffalo last year. Copeland will be 27 next year but he’s a guy who can log a lot of innings in the high minors despite low strikeout numbers. He gets a lot of ground balls (2.52 ground-outs per air-out over his minor league career) and can work really efficiently, posting WHIPs in the 1.3s since coming to the Jays.
Probability of re-signing: 50%
Radhames Liz was signed to a minor league deal and was injured for most of the year and was shuttled between Double-A and Triple-A when he wasn’t hurt. Making 12 starts, Liz was outstanding in his eight outings in New Hampshire, posting a 1.93 ERA but struggled a lot in his 19 innings in Buffalo, walking 13 in 19 innings pitched.
Probability of re-signing: 15%
Mike Nickeas is a career minor-league backup catcher who has a cult following in Buffalo. At 31, Nickeas has 191 plate appearances in the major leagues with a .180 average and his numbers over the past few years in Triple-A aren’t that much better (hitting .166 in 2013 and .207 in 2014). The Canadian-born catcher doesn’t make his living with his bat, however, and the fact that he was traded from the Mets to Toronto (in the R.A. Dickey deal) means that he’s actually spent parts of the last five seasons with the Buffalo Bisons. Nickeas is a great character guy and, unless he retires from playing to become a coach, I think he’ll come back for another season.
Probability of re-signing: 75%
First baseman Brett Wallace came over to the Blue Jays in July when he was purchased from the Baltimore Orioles. Wallace did what he’s done at the Triple-A level for the past several years and that’s mash: he hit .323/.404/.519 with seven home runs in 38 games after having much more mediocre numbers (.265/.329/.389) with Baltimore’s Triple-A affiliate in Norfolk. Wallace could be an interesting guy to re-sign, particularly considering that the Blue Jays now have only Justin Smoak to fill the gap that Adam Lind has left. A left-handed hitter, Wallace is a significantly better hitter against righties than lefties in his major league career and could slot into that role in 2015.
Probability of re-signing: 50%
Jared Goedert had a quiet season, despite being one of the most consistent Buffalo Bisons with the bat. A 29 year old, Goedert hit .250/.340/.384 with 10 home runs for the Herd and could easily return to Buffalo but my thoughts are that he’s headed elsewhere.
Probability of re-signing: 10%
Another third baseman who is unlikely to return to Buffalo is 31-year-old Andy LaRoche. LaRoche saw a downturn from his solid 2013 season with the Bisons and hit only .248/.309/.396 in 60 games, playing only 34 games at third base. My gut feeling is that LaRoche looks for another team, particularly since the Blue Jays are probably ready to take a look at some younger guys at the hot corner.
Probability of re-signing: 5%
Coming over from Houston mid-season was Adron Chambers, a 28-year-old outfielder who played in only 25 games. Chambers hit very well, hitting .286/.347/.407 with three home runs. He could be back or he could take his services somewhere else. It’s hard to tell since I don’t have a good read on his situation.
Probability of re-signing: 50%(?)
Finally, Ricardo Nanita is, again, a free agent and while he was under contract with the Blue Jays in 2014, he spent most of the season in the Mexican League, playing for Quintana Roo where he hit .344/.398/.502 with six home runs in 55 games. Obviously Nanita has some skill but it seems like the window on his major league possibilities are all but closed. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back in a Jays’ uniform come spring training.
Probability of re-signing: 40%