The end of Spring Training each year brings about a host of DFAs and releases -- some of which are questionable at best. For example, the Yankees released minor league second baseman David Adams last week to clear roster space for Vernon Wells of all people. Adams was once a key piece in trade talks for Cliff Lee, and he hit .306/.385/.450 at Double-A last season. Injury prone or not, that's a pretty startling release when it's to clear room for a guy like Wells. Ultimately, the Yankees re-signed him to a minor league deal (something I'd hoped the Twins would do), so perhaps they had some kind of agreement in place at the time.
Outside of Adams, there have been plenty of cuts of once-promising players that I wouldn't mind seeing the Twins look into, but the top two for me are Zack Cox and Robert Whitenack.
Cox was a first-round pick as recently as 2010. I was hoping he'd fall to the Twins at No. 30 (they took Levi Michael), but the Cardinals plucked him at No. 25. Cox was regarded as a fast-track college infielder -- the best pure college bat in the draft. He reached Double-A as a 22-year-old and hit .306/.363/.434 across two levels in 2011, and he ranked as one of Baseball America's Top 100 prospects prior to 2011 and 2012.
I was surprised to see the Cardinals flip him to the Marlins for Edward Mujica in July and even more surprised to see the Marlins of all teams designate him for assignment at the end of Spring Training.
Cox has obviously fallen out of the favor of two organizations, and I can understand the, "Well if the Marlins don't even want this guy..." mentality. But he ranked 15th among Marlins prospects according to Baseball America and 10th according to MLB.com this offseason. The main knock on him is that he doesn't have great footwork or hands at third base and he may have gotten too bulky to handle the position. Both outlets still praise his strength, throwing arm, compact swing and gap power. Given the lack of infield depth at the upper levels of the Twins' system, I wouldn't mind seeing him on the 40-man roster (Sorry, Drew Butera).
Whitenack's numbers last year are pretty gruesome (5.96 ERA, 5.1 K/9, 4.7 BB/9 in 51.1 innings at High-A). but that's because it was his first action back from Tommy John surgery the previous season. In 2011, Whitenack had reached Double-A as a 22-year-old and had a 1.93 ERA, 7.0 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 across two levels. BA had him 23rd among Cubs prospects this offseason, while MLB.com had him 15th.
Mayo praises his strong command and writes that he has a low-90s fastball with good sink that generates plenty of ground balls. BA noted that he was able to run the pitch up to 96 mph when needed.
The Cubs added Whitenack to their 40-man roster just this past November, so clearly they were concerned about him being taken in the Rule 5 Draft. The only reason that he was ultimately designated for assignment was because they needed to clear a roster spot for Alberto Gonzalez to replace the injured Darwin Barney. I would think there were better choices, but perhaps the Cubs felt like the risk associated with Whitenack gave him a better chance at clearing waivers so they can stash him at Triple-A.
Whitenack's a bit of a reclamation project, obviously, but Twins can afford to take some of those on at this point. Even though he'd start at a lower level, it'd be nice to add more pitching depth to the organization. Were he to regain his velocity and the bite on his slider, I imagine Whitenack could advance quickly having already gotten his feet wet with some time at Double-A.
The Twins do presently have a full 40-man roster, but when some of those slots are occupied by Butera, Tim Wood, etc., odds are they could find a place for a waiver claim or two.
Steve Adams also writes for MLBTradeRumors.com, RotoAuthority.com and MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter: @Adams_Steve