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Brewers Minor League Free Agents

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Several Brewers' farmhands could be looking for new gigs for 2016.

Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout the week, we've addressed important points regarding next year's roster construction. I informed you about the club's arbitration eligible players, Travis talked about the contract options the Brewers (no longer) have to make decisions about, and Derek educated you regarding the club's impending free agents and previewed the 2016 payroll.

An under appreciated, but still important, aspect of roster construction is minor league free agency, which begins this Friday. There are five ways that a player can become eligible for minor league free agency, but the most common is MLB Rule 55:

MLB RULE 55: Sometimes called a "Six-Year Minor League Free-Agent," an unsigned minor league player is automatically declared a free-agent at 5 PM (Eastern) on the 5th day after the final game of the World Series if the player has had his first contract renewed six times and has spent all or any part of at least seven separate seasons on a minor league roster (including all or parts of any season spent on Optional Assignment to the minors), and/or if the player has been previously released or non-tendered in his career and his present contract (known as a "second contract" even if it's his third or fourth minor league contract) has expired. For purposes of determining eligibility to be a free-agent, a player does not accrue a minor league season if the player spends the entire season on an MLB Active List, MLB Disabled List(s), and/or other MLB Inactive List, or if the player spends an entire season on the Restricted List, Disqualified List, Suspended List, Ineligible List, Voluntarily Retired List, and/or Military List. Also, participation in a post-season instructional league or winter league and/or the Arizona Fall League (AFL) does not count toward a minor league season if the player otherwise did not accrue a minor league season that year. Note that a player who ordinarily would have been declared a Rule 55 minor league free-agent is NOT eligible to be a free-agent if the player is either added to an MLB Reserve List (40-man roster) or agrees to a minor league successor contract with his previous club by 5:00 PM (Eastern) on the 5th day after the final game of the World Series. (The deadline is 5:00 PM Eastern on October 15th if the World Series is canceled). The deadline for an MLB club to tender a contract to an unsigned minor league player who had previously agreed to a successor contract is January 15th. If an unsigned minor league player is not tendered a contract by January 15th, the player becomes an unrestricted free-agent.

According to Brewerfan.net, our local nine has 18 players this winter who will be eligible to become minor league free agents under those guidelines. Those players will then be free to sign with any club, including re-signing with Milwaukee. Those players are:

RHP Manny Barreda
RHP Hiram Burgos
RHP Jaye Chapman
RHP Tim Dillard
RHP Preston Guilmet
RHP Jim Henderson
RHP Josh Roenicke
RHP Rob Wooten

LHP Jeremy Horst
LHP Jarret Martin

C Robinzon Diaz
C Sandy Martinez

IF Taylor Green
IF Pete Orr
IF Hainley Statia

OF Josh Fellhauer
OF Ben Guez
OF Matt Long

In addition to these players, all of the five that were outrighted off the Brewers 40 man roster earlier this week are eligible to become free agents: Logan Schafer, Johnny Hellweg, Juan Centeno, Cesar Jimenez, and Matt Clark.

While it's safe to say none of these players will turn into stars, one or two could still turn into something useful and might be worth trying to keep around. The Brewers have gotten nice contributions from minor league signings before, for example Zack Duke in 2014. Of this large group, here are five players who I think may be worthwhile to keep around.

He began his career in the Yankees system in 2007, but the now 26 year old reliever has yet to appear in the major leagues. He signed a minor league deal with Milwaukee last season, and pitched to a solid 3.38 ERA in 45.1 innings in Biloxi this season. He's consistently posted strong strikeout numbers throughout his career, registering 9.7 K/9 in 422.1 innings. If he can iron out his control issues (13.3% walk rate this season), he could help provide some bullpen depth.

Originally drafted by the Brewers in the 6th round in 2009, Burgos briefly appeared in Milwaukee to make six starts in 2013. Shoulder surgery limited him to just four appearances in 2014, but the club still extended him a minor league deal for 2015. In what amounted to a quasi rehab assignment, Burgos worked his way from high-A all the way to AAA. He made 15 starts in Colorado Springs, posting a 3.35 ERA and 44% ground ball rate in 80.2 innings. He struck out 65 batters while walking 28. Now healthy, the 28 year old wouldn't be a bad arm to have around for starting rotation depth.

The Brewers acquired the 26 year old lefty in a minor trade with the Dodgers last season, and he underwent surgery to repair a debridement in his left shoulder before the season began. He didn't return to the mound until June 29th and ended up making only eight appearances between the AZL and Appleton. Martin has long battled control issues, but has hit 96 MPH with his fastball with an above average slider. Given that he was ranked as the Brewers 18th best prospect prior to this season, it'd be nice for the club to try and recoup some value after footing the bill for his surgery and rehab.

Hellweg had to undergo Tommy John surgery in 2014 just a season after being named the club's minor league pitcher of the year. Like Martin, he spent much of this season trying to work back from injury. His control continues to be a significant issue, as evidenced by his 39:61 strikeout-to-walk ratio (yes, you read that right) in 61 innings this season. He's clearly not going to make it as a starter, but perhaps a conversion to relief could help his plus velocity play up while negating some of his wildness. The club would surely like to get something from the former top prospect after investing heavily to fix his medical issues.

Tim Dillard
Of course, because:

And:

And, well, just about everything that you can find on his Youtube channel.

UPDATE:

Outfielder Ben Guez tweeted from his personal account that he has agreed to re-sign with the Brewers.

Adam McCalvy reports that the club has re-signed Jaye Chapman to a minor league deal.