Philadelphia released John Bowker so that he could sign a deal to play in Japan, putting an end to (or at least putting on hold) a big-league career that just never really got going.
Bowker was the Giants’ third-round pick in 2004 and always put up strong numbers in the minors, hitting .307 with an .886 OPS in 139 games at Double-A and .314 with a .922 OPS in 311 games at Triple-A.
His only real extended chance in the majors came in 2008 and he fared decently for a 24-year-old rookie, hitting .255 with a .708 OPS in 111 games, but since then Bowker has totaled just 272 plate appearances in the majors while hitting .202. He probably deserved more of an opportunity at some point, but Bowker will likely make more money in Japan than he would have as a role player in America anyway.
Remember Manny Banuelos? He was once a top pitching prospect for the Yankees and then, apparently disappeared from the face of the earth. Or at least it felt like it. Now he’s in the news, however, as the Dodgers have signed him to a minor league contract.
OK, Banuelos didn’t disappear. He was traded to the Braves in 2015, had a cup of coffee with them, pitching pretty ineffectively in seven big league games, was released by Atlanta in the middle of 2016 and then latched on with the Angels. This past season he posted a 4.93 ERA over 95 innings while being used mostly as a reliever at Triple-A Salt Lake.
Banuelos pitched in the Future’s Game in 2009 and was a star in the Arizona Fall League in 2010. He was a top-50 prospect heading into 2011 before falling to Tommy John surgery in 2012. With Atlanta he suffered some bone spur problems and then some elbow issues that never resulted in surgery but which never subsided enough for him to fulfill his potential either. He suffered injuries. A lot of pitchers do.
It’s unrealistic to think that Banuelos will fulfill the promise he had six years ago, but he’s worth a minor league deal to see if the 26-year-old can at least be a serviceable reliever.