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Monday, December 5, 2022

A Look at Upcoming Minor League Free Agents

It takes until after the World Series ends for the offseason to really kick into high gear.

Major league players become free agents immediately after the final game, but they are not the only group reaching the open market once the season is over.

On the fifth day following the end of the World Series, players will become minor league free agents. Any player that has spent time in the minors for any seven seasons—they need not be consecutive and whole years in the majors don’t count—will be part of the class. Also, seasons start to count when players are assigned, not signed.

Every now and then teams will select a particularly valued player before they leave the organization, just as the Pirates did last offseason with Diego Castillo. More often than not it’s just a group of lesser-known players looking for new opportunity—and since it’s often the first time in their careers they have a chance to test the market, a bigger pay day.

From the best I can tell, this should be the group of players reaching minor league free agency this offseason for the Pirates:

Matt Eckelman

Oliver Garcia

Travis MacGregor

Drew Maggi

Zach Matson

Hunter Owen

Kevin Padlo

Lolo Sanchez

Eckelman had been toying around with a knuckleball towards the end of the season, if that’s something that interests you.

Matson, a Rule 5 pick from last offseason’s minor league portion, ended up in Indianapolis and started ten games there, but strictly in an opener/bullpenning role.

The two biggest names are probably MacGregor and Sanchez.

MacGregor was a former second-round pick who many fans often dreamt about, but he didn’t pitch for two full years after missing 2019 due to Tommy John and 2020 due to the pandemic. He finally found some success in Altoona this season, but struggled after moving up to Triple-A.

As for Sanchez, he has always been seen as a talented player, but he just hasn’t always been able to put it all together. He played well in Low-A in 2019, but struggled upon a promotion that season. He then repeated the level and had a successful season in 2021. We was not able to build off that same success this past season after being promoted to Altoona, missing some time with injury and struggling when he did play.

It should also be mentioned that Cristofer Melendez should be in this group as well; however, it’s my understanding he was signed to a two-year minor deal before hitting minor league free agency last offseason.

Offseason Calendar Update

No updates here as of this week

Pirates Payroll Updates

—The only roster move that happened this week was the outright assignment and subsequent free agency election of José Godoy after his jettison from the roster last week.

It’s likely that the transaction log isn’t a completely correct representation of how this transaction actually happened. It’s more likely that the assignment and election happened simultaneously—if the assignment actually happened at all.

Either way, the result is still the same—Godoy is a free agent.

—For 2023, the payroll estimate stands at $44,479,116 for the Labor Relations Department, while it’s $60,895,783 for CBT purposes.

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A longtime Pirates Prospects reader, Ethan has been covering payroll, transactions, and rules in-depth since 2018 and dabbling in these topics for as long as he can remember. He started writing about the Pirates at The Point of Pittsburgh before moving over to Pirates Prospects at the start of the 2019 season.

Always a lover of numbers and finding an answer, Ethan much prefers diving into these topics over what’s actually happening on the field. These under and often incorrectly covered topics are truly his passion, and he does his best to educate fans on subjects they may not always understand, but are important nonetheless.

When he’s not updating his beloved spreadsheets, Ethan works full-time as an accountant, while being a dad to two young daughters and watching too many movies and TV shows at night.


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Eric Hanhold? I think I saw he was a FA too.

I remember him pitching in college(Florida Gators). I didn’t think he was bad for Indy last season either. If I was picking AAAA RP/up and down RP, from the Pirates, he’d probably be one.


Lolo is gonna have a hard time finding playing time, so I believe his time is up, I actually will like to see Plado get another look. The pitchers…..don’t move the needle for me at all.


Sanchez has always intrigued me, but I agree. It may be hard getting him playing time. He also was not doing well this year before the injury. He is only 23 though, so he still has time to turn things around. I do not find any of the rest of these that interesting. A little curious about Eckelman’s Knuckleball, but he is also 28 now. Would not be against keeping him, and see how he does in Altoona wit h a full year using the knuckleball.


I’ve wanted a good knuckleballer ever since we let Wakefield leave. That may not have been our biggest mistake in the last 30 years, but it’s up there–he earned 26.5 fWAR/32.5 bWAR after we let him go.


He was for sure some one I missed when he left but was glad he had the success that he did. Wonder what would happen if there was a rotation of all knucklers. Not knuckleheads.

Wilbur Miller

I wouldn’t be totally shocked if they brought him back. It’ll probably go nowhere, but there’s more upside than another Jerad Eickhoff.


I for one am TIRED of sifting through the dross hoping for the next Rodriguez.


I can see the potential Altoona catchers slowly shaking their heads . . .

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