San Francisco Giants Should Pursue Thomas Neal
In a move I don’t fully understand, the Indians have released OF Thomas Neal after designating him for assignment to make room on their 40-man roster for Nick Swisher. I certainly understand why you would designate Neal to make room for Swisher, but once Neal cleared waivers, why couldn’t the Indians outright him to one of their minor league teams, particularly if the Indians are interested in re-signing him as they reportedly are?
It almost certainly has to do with the fact that Neal is a seven-year minor league veteran and thus entitled to free agency. At any rate, he’s a free agent now, and the Giants should consider bringing him back to their organization.
For those of you who don’t remember Neal’s days as a Giants’ prospect, he was the Giants’ 36th round pick in 2005, who established himself as a top prospect with three fine seasons at Class A Augusta, A+ San Jose and AA Richmond in 2008 through 2010.
Neal was hurt and had a bad year in 2011 (but still hit .289 with a .343 OBP in 70 games of AAA ball) and was traded during that season to the Indians for SS Orlando Cabrera, as the Giants thought that Cabrera might be the veteran shortstop to get them to the post-season that year (he obviously wasn’t).
For some reason, the Indians played Neal at their AA franchise, the Akron Aeros, in 2012 ,and they kept him there for the season despite the fact that none of their outfielders at AAA Columbus in 2012 were any younger or apparently any better than Neal. All Neal did at Akron was finish the season with a .314 batting average, a .400 OBP and an .867 OPS, respectively 4th, 3rd and 2nd in the Eastern League in those categories.
The Indians did reward Neal with a September call-up but only played him in nine games, which wasn’t much of an opportunity for Neal to show what he could do.
Neal is still only 25 years old (turns 26 next August 17th), and his career minor league .376 OBP and .840 OPS suggest that that he could help a major league team in need of a back-up right-handed hitting outfielder. I’d like to see the Giants bring him back if he’s willing to return.