Braves Sign Minor League Free Agents

The Braves continued their offseason shopping with several additions for AAA Richmond. Bill Shanks looks at the new Braves players.

Sam McConnell was brought back for the 2005 season. The left-handed McConnell spent most of the 2004 season in Richmond. He went 7-7 with a 3.91 ERA in 18 starts in AAA. McConnell allowed 102 hits in 103.2 innings pitched, 45 earned runs, 28 walks, and 56 strikeouts. The Braves called McConnell up to the big leagues on June 25th and he spent just over a month in Atlanta. McConnell was 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA, 11 hits in 9.1 innings, 4 earned runs, 4 walks, and 4 strikeouts.

The Braves signed McConnell as a minor league free agent in November of 2002. He was originally drafted by the Pirates in the 11th round of the 1997 draft. After five years McConnell then moved on to the Phillies organization for one season in 2002.

Right-hander Chris Mears has been signed to a contract. Mears spent the 2004 season split between Detroit's AAA and AA affiliates. He went 1-1 for Toledo in 30 games (1 start) with a 3.83 ERA, 37 hits in 40 innings, 20 walks, and 29 strikeouts. Then in AA Erie Mears was 4-1 in 13 relief appearances, a 3.54 ERA, 21 hits in 20.1 innings, 8 earned runs, 5 walks, and 12 strikeouts.

Mears was a 5th round pick of the Mariners in the 1996 draft. The Tigers then signed him before the 2003 season as a minor league free agent. He made it to the big leagues with Detroit in 2003 pitching 29 games (3 starts) and went 1-3 with a 5.44 ERA. The 6'4" righty allowed 50 hits in 41.1 innings, 25 earned runs, 11 walks, and 21 strikeouts. Mears will be 27 years old next month.

Left-hander Alex Herrera will also battle for a spot on Richmond's pitching staff next season. Herrera spent the 2004 season in AAA Colorado Springs, going 6-3 in 37 games (7 starts) with a 5.24 ERA, 77 hits in 77.1 innings, 45 earned runs, 57 walks, and 72 strikeouts.

The Rockies claimed Herrera off waivers from the Indians last winter. He spent six seasons in the Cleveland organization, getting two quick looks in the big leagues. Herrera pitched in 5 games (5.1 scoreless innings) in 2002 and 10 games (7 earned runs in 7 innings) in 2003. The native of Venezuela just turned 28 years old last month.

Finally, the Braves have added Esix Snead as a minor league free agent. The speedy outfielder spent the last three years in the Mets organization. Snead hit .264 with 40 stolen bases in 269 at bats in 2004 at AAA Norfolk. He also appeared in one game as a pinch-runner for New York.

Snead got into 17 games with the Mets in 2002, hitting .308 and swiping 4 bases. The 28-year old switch-hitter is best known for stealing 109 bases for Potomac in 2000. He was originally drafted by the Cardinals in 18th round of the 1998 draft out of Central Florida. The Braves could have several youngsters in AAA next season, so Snead will provide some veteran leadership.

The Braves should sign a few more minor league free agents as the winter progresses.

Bill Shanks can be reached at

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