During an offseason when top free agents such as David Price, Zack Greinke and Jason Heyward have earned contracts in the neighborhood of $200 million, many smaller deals have gone mostly unnoticed.
For those who must settle for Minor League contracts, there is no 40-man roster spot or big guaranteed salary. There is only an opportunity, in the form of an invitation to big league camp during Spring Training.
From that starting point, breaking through is difficult. But every year, several players turn a Minor League deal into a successful campaign. In 2015, for example, Ryan Madson played a key role in the Royals bullpen, Franklin Gutierrez slugged .620 with 15 home runs in 59 games for the Mariners, and Mark Lowe gave Seattle a 1.00 ERA in 36 innings before he was traded to Toronto. All three overcame significant adversity in their careers, and all three signed Major League deals this winter, with Madson and Lowe getting multiple years.
This offseason's crop of Minor League deals certainly could grow in this last stretch before camps open. But even now, it contains some intriguing names. Here are five such players (listed alphabetically) who stand out as having a chance to make sizable contributions in 2016.
Kyle Blanks, 1B/LF, Giants
A common theme among many of the more interesting recipients of Minor League deals is that they must get past some health issues, and that is most definitely the case with Blanks. His past two seasons essentially ended in June, due to calf and Achilles tendon injuries, and he previously has done stints on the 60-day disabled list for shoulder and elbow surgeries.
But Blanks, listed at 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds, has been effective when able to play. In a small sample of 137 plate appearances over the past two years, he hit .311/.380/.484, and his career .786 OPS against left-handers includes an .889 mark with 10 homers in 181 plate appearances since 2013. Heading into his age-29 season, Blanks reportedly is expected to be ready for Spring Training and has a good chance to make the team, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. It's not hard to see his powerful right-handed bat fitting in left, at first and off the bench for the Giants.
Dillon Gee, SP/RP, Royals
He has never been the most exciting pitcher, but the right-hander owns a respectable 4.00 ERA in 110 career starts for the Mets and posted a 3.77 mark (93 ERA+) in 54 outings from 2013-14. Teams can and do fare a lot worse than that at the back of the rotation, and the Royals' defense could help a pitcher who has struck out only 6.5 batters per nine innings.
Gee had a rough 2015 that included losing his job on a stacked Mets staff, spending time on the DL and getting designated for assignment and outrighted to Triple-A. Still, in his eight MLB games (seven starts), he showed basically the same velocity as in '14 and suffered from a .355 BABIP. And in his final 12 starts at Triple-A Las Vegas -- not an easy place for a pitcher -- he posted a 3.53 ERA. Gee, who turns 30 in April, can opt out of his deal if he isn't on the 40-man roster by March 15, which could push Kansas City to give him a spot if he looks strong early in camp.
Jim Henderson, RP, Mets
It's been a roller-coaster ride for the Canadian right-hander, a 26th-round pick by the Expos in 2003 who finally made the Majors with Milwaukee in '12, at age 29. The next year, Henderson posted a 2.70 ERA, struck out 11.3 per nine innings and saved 28 games. But his right shoulder has been a problem since, and he last pitched in the Majors on May 1, 2014.
Still, Henderson got some positive results at Triple-A late last year after coming off the DL. According to the Calgary Herald, the 33-year-old also is working out with Phoenix-based EVO Ultrafit, which previously helped Madson return from three straight missed seasons. Whether that will do wonders for Henderson is anyone's guess, but if his arm is healthy, Henderson's ability to miss bats could earn him a spot in the Mets bullpen.
Travis Snider, OF, Royals
Kansas City did well to get Madson, Franklin Morales and Joe Blanton on Minor League deals last winter, and the defending champs seem to be collecting some promising options again this year. Snider never has really lived up to the hype that came with being the 14th overall pick in the 2006 Draft, struggling to establish himself in the big leagues over the past eight seasons.
However, Snider was a solid contributor as recently as 2014, when he batted .264/.338/.438 with 13 homers over 359 plate appearances for the Pirates, and he generally has put up solid defensive numbers. He went backward at the plate last year but just turned 28 this month, so there could be more left in the tank. If someone in the Royals outfield gets hurt -- or if a Jarrod Dyson/Paulo Orlando right-field platoon falters -- Snider would be in position for a significant role.
Craig Stammen, RP, Indians
The Tribe just completed this deal on Monday, adding to a stable of recognizable non-roster pitchers that also includes Joba Chamberlain, Ross Detwiler, Tom Gorzelanny and Joe Thatcher. Stammen was available at such a modest commitment after missing most of last season due to a torn flexor tendon in his right arm.
But the righty, who turns 32 next month, filled a valuable role for the Nationals from 2012-14. Over that span, he led the Majors with 242 2/3 relief innings, posting a 2.93 ERA. Stammen also made 44 scoreless relief appearances of two or more innings, six more than any other pitcher. It remains to be seen if Stammen's arm will allow him to regain his previous form, but in a world of short starts and specialist relievers, having someone around with that ability is an enticing prospect.
Five more to watch
Bronson Arroyo, SP/RP, Nationals
Jhoulys Chacin, SP/RP, Braves
Conor Gillaspie, 3B, Giants
David Lough, OF, Phillies
Brandon Morrow, SP/RP, Padres
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Andrew Simon is a Sports on Earth contributor and a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.