The Joplin Blasters can starting signing players to their inaugural 2015 roster.
“We’re hoping to have some announcements in the next couple of days,” Joplin Blasters co-owner and general manager Shawn Suarez said. “It could be in the next couple of hours. That’s the exciting part. This is the time to look at who’s going to be on the field for us and who are going to be our main contributors.”
The American Association, which is unaffiliated minor league baseball, had its league meetings on Monday and Tuesday in Sioux City, Iowa.
At the meetings, the Blasters were placed in the American Association’s South Division with the Amarillo Sox, Grand Prairie Airhogs, Laredo Lemurs and the 2014 American Association champion Wichita Wingnuts. The Blasters also will be playing teams from the North and Central divisions, including the Kansas City T-Bones.
After the league meetings, American Association teams can officially begin making roster transactions.
Suarez said he expects five or six players to be signed in the near future. The rest of the Blasters’ 22-man roster will likely be completed after major league teams finish spring training.
“With the American Association comes a high level of baseball,” Suarez said. “What that means is that you’re going to get guys who have played in affiliated baseball. You’re going to get guys who have played in the major leagues. Our rosters have very experienced and talented baseball players. So to be here in October and have a completed roster is not feasible. Players who will be on your team next year might be signed to an affiliated team right now. You might have to wait until after spring training when they’re released.”
American Association teams are bound to a $115,000 salary cap.
Suarez said he could sign a former major league player, but he will not use gimmicks to build the Joplin roster.
“There’s a balance to it,” Suarez said. “Yes, you can bring in an old player who is past his prime but has name recognition. I think that’s something you do as long as he can contribute to the team. I don’t think you bring in a guy just because of his name. At the end of the day, we’d rather win than have a player with name recognition. But if he can contribute and he has that name recognition, then that’s all the better.”
The American Association also has helped players get to the major leagues. League alumni currently in the majors include Detroit Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer, Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher John Holdzkom, Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder David Peralta and Kansas City Royals pitcher Aaron Crow.
The American Association’s 100-game season will begin in May 2015. The Blasters will play at a renovated Joe Becker Stadium with an expected capacity of 4,200. Full schedules are expected to be announced in about a month.
Suarez said he believes he can build a team to contend in 2015.
“We have definitely kept tabs on certain players, and we will really start to be aggressive in free agency and trades,” he said.