Since the last time we checked in on the market, the always hectic November 20 Rule 5 protection deadline passed, and as always, there were a flurry of minor moves to go along with it.
The Cincinnati Reds remained active on the minor league free agency market bringing in three very solid pieces. The first one is a familiar face in Cincinnati, as outfielder Patrick Kivlehan will be back in 2018 on a minor league deal with a spring training invitation. Kivlehan got his first extended look in the bigs for the Reds in 2017, posting a .208/.304/.399 line with nine home runs over 204 plate appearances while seeing time at five different positions. Even if he doesn’t break camp with the Reds, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for him to receive another call-up at some point in the 2018 season.
Williams has struggled with injuries over his career, but he brings with him solid speed and a decent hit tool, although he doesn’t walk very much nor does he bring much, if any, power to the table. Still just 26 years old, Williams will look to carve himself out a role in the Reds’ outfield this Spring. Williams has a ceiling as a very solid fourth outfielder, with his low walk rate preventing him from carving out a regular role.
Herrera looked like a rookie league release candidate as recently as 2014, however over the past three seasons, he ascended through the Rockies’ system, adjusting and improving with every new level reached. Herrera brings with him blazing speed, and a very nice hit tool, as well as defensive versatility due to his athleticness. My expectation is for Herrera to receive a July call-up and play himself into a semi-regular super utility role due to his ability to adjust.
Mason Williams wasn’t the only former top Yankees prospect to go off of the board over the last few days, as left-handed pitcher Manny Banuelos signed on with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday. Banuelos has struggled mightily over the past few seasons with control being his achilles heel. Now 27, it would make sense to try Banuelos out in a relief capacity to see if his stuff plays up.
The New York Mets brought in left-handed pitcher Matt Purke on a minor league contract, as well. Purke spent the 2017 season in Triple-A Charlotte posting a solid 3.48 ERA with and 11 K/9 and a 3.8 BB/9. Purke has some major league experience in his pocket from 2016 when he pitched 18 innings for the White Sox. He posted a 5.50 ERA while walking 12 compared to his 15 strikeouts. He seems like an organizational depth piece for now, however, it wouldn’t be surprising in the slightest to see him receive some sort of opportunity depending on how the year goes for the Mets.
The Detroit Tigers made a pair of interesting additions over the past few days as they brought in first baseman Edwin Espinal on a minor league contract, while signing left-handed pitcher Ryan Carpenter to a one-year, major-league deal.
Espinal had always shown the ability to be an elite defensive first baseman, while hitting for solid average throughout his time in the minor leagues, however he had never shown the power necessary to be fit as a reliable first baseman. That all changed this past season as Espinal blasted 15 home runs while slashing .283/.322/.474 in Double-A Altoona, which earned him his first assignment in Triple-A. Over 35 games in Triple-A Indianapolis, Espinal hit a reasonable .323/.341/.369. If Espinal is able to replicate that power that he showed last season, he could very well earn a spot on the rebuilding Tigers’ roster at some point throughout the season. Mitch Moreland seems like a reasonable comparison.
Carpenter, the 27-year-old lefty, gets the prestigious distinction of being the first player to get a major league contract this offseason. Carpenter had been in the Rockies’ organization where he primarily worked as a starter. Over 760.1 career innings, he posted a solid, albeit unspectacular 4.37 ERA. Carpenter looks like a LOOGY based on the fact that he lacks great stuff, but he can control the ball very well.
As you would expect, there was a good amount of 40-man roster shuffling with Monday’s roster protection deadline. Starting in the AL East, the Toronto Blue Jays picked up infielder Gift Ngoepe from the Pittsburgh Pirates for cash, while losing utility player Rob Refsnyder to the Cleveland Indians on a waiver claim.
Ngoepe made headlines during the 2017 season as he was the first African-born major leaguer. The 27-year-old shortstop who will provide infield depth for the Jays, and while he may not hit at all, his glove is above average.
Refsnyder, formerly a top prospect for the Yankees, will be 27 years old in 2018. Refsnyder has struggled mightily with the bat over the course of his career posting a .233/.306/.311 line over 320 plate appearances over three seasons in the bigs. Assuming he remains with them, Refsnyder will provide the Indians with a rather solid and versatile glove that will play at first, second, third, left and right. He will need to make the Indians’ 25-man roster out of spring training, as he is out of minor league options.
In other Blue Jays news, outfielder Harold Ramirez and right-hander Chris Rowley both cleared waivers. While the Rowley news was expected, it was mildly surprising to see Ramirez removed from the roster. Harold Ramirez, 23, was acquired in the Drew Hutchison deal from the Pirates at the deadline in 2016. While he struggled a bit in 2017, posting a .266/.320/.358 line in Double-A New Hampshire, Ramirez could still be used as a possible fourth outfielder in the long term. He has long been known to have a solid glove, and brings with him a decent enough hit tool to get by.
Crockett seems likely to draw a claim, as he has been a very solid left-handed reliever over the course of his career, posting a 3.44 ERA over 65.1 career innings pitched. He spent the majority of the 2017 season in AAA-Columbus, which was moreseo a testament to the tribe’s pitching depth. Crockett will be out of options this spring, which means that if he is claimed or traded for, he will need to remain on his new team’s roster through Opening Day.
Meanwhile, Dylan Baker seems like a good bet to clear waivers and remain in the Indians’ system seeing as how he has hardly thrown since 2015, based on injuries including a Tommy John surgery.
Calixte, formerly a top prospect for the Royals, received his first extended look in the major leagues. Unfortunately, while the glove is very solid, Calixte’s bat was never able to adjust as he rose through the minor leagues. Going into his age-26 season, Calixte could very well clear waivers and elect to become a minor league free agent in search of a new opportunity.
Micah Johnson hits the wire for a third time this offseason. To recap, the Reds’ claimed him from the Braves last month, who lost him to San Francisco a week later. He will probably draw another claim, as he lost nearly the entire 2017 season due to an injury, and brings with him solid defensive versatility. Furthermore, he had been a top prospect for the Dodgers and White Sox just a few years ago and has hit very well over the past few seasons in Triple-A.
Engelb Vielma was claimed by the Philadelphia Phillies, who subsequently designated right-handed pitchers Alberto Tirado and Mark Appel for assignment, while successfully sending left-handed pitcher Elniery Garcia through waivers.
Vielma is a defensively gifted shortstop with versatility and minor league options. While he may never hit very much, the 23-year-old shortstop seems likely be a decent enough bench piece in the long-term. Assuming he remains with Philadelphia, he will compete with Pedro Florimon for the super utility/utility infielder job.
Mark Appel was the first-overall selection in the 2013 draft by the Houston Astros and was later traded to Philadelphia as a part of the Ken Giles trade. Appel has never found any success at any level of the minor leagues since being drafted, and seems likely to clear waivers. It seems like it would be wise to move Appel to a bullpen role to see if pitching in shorter bursts would help it all click.
Alberto Tirado, 23, was acquired by the Phillies at the 2015 trade deadline from Toronto in a deal that sent Ben Revere to the other side of the border. Tirado has a very high octane fastball and has found success throughout his minor league career, however has a serious walk problem, walking nearly as many as he strikeouts. Tirado should clear waivers, however seeing as how he has minor league options, it would not shock me to see a team take a shot on the fastball.
Elniery Garcia, 23, cleared waivers and was sent outright to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Garcia served an 80-game suspension for performance-enhancing substances early in the 2017 season, however returned to post a very stellar 1.75 ERA over five games started, but he struggled mightily with control walking 17 batters compared to 10 strikeouts. Garcia is another high-octane arm who is killed by his command, however he will remain in the Phillies’ system for the 2018 season and with any improvements, could work his way into a left-handed relief role.
The Dodgers placed two players on waivers to make room for their roster additions, as lefty Grant Dayton was claimed by the Atlanta Braves and righty Josh Ravin was also traded to the Braves late in the night.
Dayton had been a very solid late inning reliever for the Dodgers in 2016, as he posted a 2.05 ERA over 26.1 innings with supporting peripherals. While he struggled to the tune of a 4.94 ERA over 23.2 innings in 2017, he missed a lot of time on the disabled list and it seems perfectly reasonable to believe that the soon to be 30-year old, can turn it around.
Josh Ravin, 30 in January, has missed significant time over the past two seasons thanks to a suspension and time on the disabled list, struggled in a brief cameo for the Dodgers in 2017. Overall, Ravin has a huge fastball and has the ability to rack up strikeouts at absurd rates, however like many high-octane relievers, struggles mightily with his control.
The Oakland Athletics acquired outfielder Ramon Laureano from the Houston Astros in exchange for right-handed pitcher Brandon Bailey, while designating left-handed pitcher Sam Moll and outfielder Jaycob Brugman for assignment and sending right-handed pitcher Bobby Wahl outright to Triple-A Nashville.
In 2016, Ramon Laureano broke out in a big way posting a .319/.428/.528 line between High-A Lancaster and Double-A Corpus Christi. Unfortunately, he was unable to follow it up as he struggled to a .227/.298/.369 line over 123 games in Double-A. Laureano represents a solid gamble for the A’s, as he possesses solid power and speed and could make a very solid fourth outfielder in the near future.
As for the Astros, Brandon Bailey is a rather solid righty who was drafted in the sixth round of the 2016 draft. While he has mainly been used in a swing man capacity, his future might be in the bullpen, where his combination of control and stuff could allow him to be a mainstay middle reliever. He could reach the majors as early as the 2019 campaign.
Moll, 26 in January, was drafted by the Rockies in the third round of the 2013 draft and was claimed by the A’s back in August. Over 54.1 innings in Triple-A between Nashville and Albuquerque, he posted a decent 3.64 ERA. He exhibits average to above average control and will have two minor league options remaining going into 2018. While the ceiling isn’t very high, Moll could be a very valuable taxi-squad LOOGY.
Brugman, on the other hand, had a very solid rookie campaign in 2017 posting a .266/.346/.343 line while playing all three outfield spots. While Brugman didn’t exhibit much power in 2017, he has posted double digit home run totals twice including a 12 home run campaign in 2016 and 21 in 2014. If the power comes along, Brugman looks like a solid first division starter in left field.
Neither Moll nor Brugman should clear waivers without teams placing claims on the respective players.
Wahl, now 26, was a fifth-round selection in the 2013 draft. Overall, it is a mild surprise that Wahl cleared waivers with his remaining minor league options and his fastball that averages nearly 96 mph. Despite missing the majority of the 2017 season due to injury, he received his first cup of coffee with the big league club posting a 4.70 ERA over 7.1 innings. In Triple-A, Wahl posted a 3.60 ERA over 15 innings, as he managed to strike out an absurd 16.8 batters per nine innings, while walking 4.7 batters per nine innings. If he is able to prove that he is healthy, he could find himself back on the 40-man roster at some point in 2018.
Hannemann is a glove-first center fielder who has solid speed. Unfortunately, the lefty’s bat never came around, which limits his ceiling to an emergency call-up outfielder. He will remain under the control of the Cubs through 2019.
Chris Beck, who had served as a swing for the White Sox, has struggled mightily over three seasons posting a 6.38 ERA over 96 innings pitched. Overall, Beck allowed 1.8 home runs per nine innings, while walking 5.2 batters per nine innings, compared to 6.1 strikeouts per nine frames. He will continue to serve as organizational depth.
Danish, still just 23, was the second round selection in 2013. While he rose rather quickly, he struggled once reaching Double-A in 2015. Over 217.1 innings in Double-A Birmingham, Danish has posted a 4.47 ERA and a 5.53 ERA over 167.2 innings at Triple-A Charlotte. Danish will remain in the White Sox organization and attempt to right the ship. A move to relief may be in order as the righty is still just 23 years old and could still wind up having a solid career.
And as always, here is your foreign signings round-up