[Editor's Note: We'd like to welcome Nathan McCurley to our staff. It's great to get a good writer and west coast fan on the Grading on the Curve team! He's been writing about the San Francisco Giants for the most part so far and now he'll diversify his portfolio!]
The San Francisco Giants have gotten a lot of value out of minor league free agents over the last four years. Andres Torres, Ryan Vogelsong, Gregor Blanco, Joaquin Arias, and Tony Abreu were all signed as minor league free agents before contributing to the 2010-2013 squads. Giants GM Brian Sabean might be the best general manager in the league at identifying and acquiring talent via minor league free agency that can contribute to the major league team.
Who will be that contributor on the 2014 team? All of the infield and outfield roster spots appear to be taken and the starting rotation is full as well. The one part of the roster on the team with open spots is the bullpen. With Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez and Santiago Casilla all coming back, there are three spots up for grabs in the ‘pen. With so much of the bullpen in flux, the MiLB free agent signing most likely to contribute to the 2014 Giants team is RHP Erik Cordier.
Cordier, a former Kansas City Royals and Atlanta Braves prospect, spent last season with the Pittsburgh Pirates‘ Triple-A affiliate Indianapolis where he struck out 11 batters per nine innings while walking 4.8 per nine. A starter for the first eight years of his minor league career, Cordier moved to the bullpen in 2012 and has seen an attendant spike in his K and BB rates. However, Cordier took a step forward last year with his control, cutting his walk rate almost in half compared to his 2012 season from 8.9 walks per nine down to 4.8.
Cordier has had some injury problems in the past. He missed the 2005 season with a knee injury and the 2007 season with Tommy John surgery. He had elbow surgery in January 2012 to remove bone spurs but hasn’t had a significant injury since then.
Cordier has an explosive, upper-90s fastball and a plus slider, which should be enough to be successful in a major league bullpen if he can harness his control. That is a big if, however. He’ll be competing against George Kontos, Heath Hembree, Jake Dunning, Jean Machi, Yusmeiro Petit, Mike Kickham and waiver claim Jose De Paula for the final three bullpen spots. The Giants organization signaled their confidence that Cordier would be a contributor by signing him to a major-league contract and putting him on the 40-man roster despite the fact that Cordier has never appeared in a major league game before. With a successful camp Cordier could settle in as a righty specialist and middle reliever and be an important addition to a bullpen that let the Giants down at times in 2013.