Minor Moves Roundup: November 17

The GM meetings aren’t typically a hotbed for rumors or transactions, as they tend to lay the groundwork for trades and signings intended to take place during the more well-known Winter Meetings in December. While there have really have been few major transactions thus far, we have seen a number of minor league signings and waiver claims over the past week or so.  

Many of these contracts were simply players who returned to their former organizations, despite electing free agency a week or so prior. Among them were shortstop Pedro Florimon (Phillies), second baseman Phillip Evans (Mets), right-handed pitchers Rubby De La Rosa (Diamondbacks) and Seth Maness (Royals) and left-handed pitchers Colt Hynes (Dodgers) and Adam Kolarek (Rays). Furthermore, we saw the Mariners swing two very shrewd looking deals in the early going.  

Starting things off in Philadelphia, Pedro Florimon slashed a very strong .348/.388/.478 over 49 plate appearances while seeing time at six different positions. While his peripherals don’t support the idea that he can maintain that kind of offensive production, specifically looking at the fact that he walked just three times and his unsustainable .533 BABIP. Nevertheless, Florimon seems likely to have the inside track on a utility role on the big league bench heading into spring training.

Phillip Evans made his major league debut for the Mets in 2017 after winning the Eastern League batting title in 2016. Overall, his results in the major leagues were encouraging as he posted a .303/.395/.364 line over 38 plate appearances. He will receive an invitation to big league spring training and will compete for a job on the Mets’ bench. As of now, he also seems to have the inside track.

Seth Maness was one of the most intriguing minor league signings last season after undergoing an experimental alternative to Tommy John surgery. While he scuffled a bit in Omaha, Kansas City’s Triple-A affiliate, he still managed to post a 3.72 ERA over 9.2 innings pitched. Perhaps even more encouraging, his walk rate remained superb, as he posted a 1.5 BB/9 in Triple-A and a 1.9 BB/9 in Kansas City.  Those numbers fall in line with his career 1.7 BB/9 rate. He will compete for a job coming out of the Royals’ bullpen this spring, and could have a good chance considering the fact that Mike Minor, Peter Moylan and Trevor Cahill seem likely to depart in free agency and Kelvin Herrera has been named as a potential trade candidate.

The Royals also announced that they have signed third baseman Chris Nelson to a minor league deal. Nelson, now 32, sat last season out, but was once one of the most promising prospects in the game with the Rockies, ranking No. 26 overall by Baseball America before 2005 and No. 80 overall by Baseball Prospectus before 2008. At this point, Nelson seems to be a depth signing, but he lands in an interesting position as the Royals just lost both their third basemen. It is unclear as to whether or not he received an invitation to spring training.

Colt Hynes, now 32, re-signed with the Dodgers after posting a solid, but unspectacular 3.90 ERA between Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City. Considering the Dodgers’ bullpen depth and potential to add more arms this offseason, Hynes seems to be a depth move.

Rubby De La Rosa is an interesting case. After being released at the end of the summer, De La Rosa signed a two-year minor league contract and was assigned to Double-A Jackson. The idea was that De La Rosa would spend 2018 rehabbing from his second Tommy John surgery and will return to compete for a job for the Diamondbacks in spring of 2019. While rare, we have seen the two-year minor league contract before, perhaps most notably before 2016, when the Tampa Bay Rays gave one to Neil Wagner, who was released in August of 2017.  

Adam Kolarek pitched exceptionally well at Triple-A Durham in 2017 posting a 1.95 ERA, but he struggled mightily in his first taste of major league action posting a 6.48 ERA. Kolarek, who is left-handed, will continue to serve as valuable left-handed relief depth for the Rays. He will be in spring training, however seems likely to begin the season back in Durham. Kolarek wasn’t the only lefty the Rays brought in last week.

Vidal Nuno will also be in camp for the Rays this spring after scuffling mightily for the Orioles. Something might have been affecting the left-hander this season, as his numbers were way off in 2017. Nuno, whose career BB/9 prior to 2017 was 2.3 over 329.1 innings pitched, walked an average of 6.1 batters per nine innings over his 14.2 innings in Baltimore. Based on the fact that both of the Rays’ primary lefty relief options, Dan Jennings and Xavier Cedeno, are out of minor league options, Nuno seems likely to begin the 2018 season in Triple-A, but he seems to be a likely call-up candidate early on, as he is a name to keep an eye on in terms of rebound candidates. 

The Reds also bolstered their relief depth by signing right-handed pitcher Kevin Quackenbush and left-handed Pitcher Joe Mantiply to minor league contracts with invitations to major league spring training. 

Quackenbush became a minor league free agent after finding himself pushed off of the Padres’ 40-man roster after posting a 7.86 ERA over 26.1 innings pitched. Quackenbush looks to be like a classic case of a pitcher who was figured out over time. While there is no visible trend in ERA, his FIP and HR/9 numbers have risen at nearly linear rates. Even with his promise, Quackenbush probably won’t be serving in more than an emergency call-up capacity. 

Mantiply missed most of the 2016 season due to injury, and was claimed off of waivers, released and subsequently re-signed by the Yankees for 2017. Overall, Mantiply looked very solid for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, posting a 2.83 ERA over 70 innings pitched with rather strong peripherals.  It would be surprising to see Mantiply earning a job right out of spring training, but if he is able to continue his success at Triple-A Louisville, he will see an opportunity early on, as the Reds’ bullpen remains in flux. He could be a sneaky good pick-up for the Reds.

Leaving the Cincinnati system, however, is right-handed Pitcher Deck McGuire. McGuire signed back on with Toronto, the team that drafted him in the first round back in 2010. McGuire looked like a bust as recently as last season, but he found success in the Reds’ minor league system, and posted a solid 2.43 ERA with a 3.16 FIP over 13.1 innings pitched. He most likely serves as a depth signing, however, it will be interesting to see how McGuire follows up a relatively successful 2017 campaign, and at the very least is worth keeping an eye on.

Remaining in the AL East, the Baltimore Orioles brought in left-handed pitcher Ryan O’Rourke after he elected free agency following his removal from the Twins’ 40-man roster a few weeks ago. O’Rourke missed the 2017 season to Tommy John surgery, however while the report didn’t specify, it seems that he will be ready to go considering he was given an invitation to spring training.

The Detroit Tigers brought in a pair of minor league free agents in right-handed pitcher Kevin Comer and utility man Niko Goodrum. Both received invitations to spring training.

Comer, now 25, is perhaps best known as a part of the massive 2012 Blue Jays-Astros trade involving J.A. Happ and Joe Musgrove. Now 25 years old, he has yet to crack the big leagues, but he looks to be a solid, albeit unspectacular, reliever who has held his own in the Pacific Coast League. While not expecting a major breakthrough, he could very well stick as a middle reliever if given the opportunity.

Goodrum made headlines in 2016 in the Twins’ organization, as he had just come off of a season in which he posted a rather solid .816 OPS between High-A Fort Myers and Double-A Chattanooga and had his contract purchased. He certainly regressed a bit in 2017, posting a .734 OPS for Triple-A Rochester, however he increased his numbers in doubles (by 11), triples (by three), home runs (by four), runs batted in (by 33 or double) and stolen bases (by two). Furthermore, he received his first big league call-up. There is certainly potential for the former second rounder, as he will be 26 years old by Opening Day, and Detroit is an interesting landing spot.

Seattle brought in outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis on a minor league contract. Nieuwenhuis is a very safe signing, as you know what you are going to get.  He has never been anything special offensively, as he will struggle to crack .200, but his speed and glove make him a very solid injury replacement outfielder. At the moment, Nieuwenhuis is the best option to fill the fourth outfielder role coming out of spring training, but the Mariners seem likely to continue to explore additions in the outfield following the possible departure of Jarrod Dyson. Nevertheless, Nieuwenhuis will likely be in Seattle at some point this coming season.

Wednesday night, gun-slinger Jerry Dipoto struck a deal with the A’s for Ryon Healy in exchange for two players. He didn’t stop there. The next day, DiPoto sent lefty flame-thrower Thyago Vieira to the White Sox for about $500,000 in international bonus pool space. The Mariners have long been rumored to be one of the teams pursuing Shohei Ohtani the most seriously, and this trade gives them $1.5575 million in space. For the White Sox, who can’t spend more than $300,000 per player, this makes plenty of sense. Vieira is a left-handed pitcher with a ceiling as high as they come, as he has a fastball that touches 100 mph with ease. The only problem is, however, nobody knows where it is going. Overall, this was a sensible gamble for a team who is looking for diamonds in the rough as they continue their rebuild.

To finish off this minor moves post, here is a speed round of all of the players who will take their talents overseas:

  • Third baseman Jae-Gyun Hwang signed a four-year contract worth $7.9 million with the KT Wiz in Korea, after spending time in the Giants’ organization
  • The Minnesota Twins sold the contract of right-handed pitcher Michael Tonkin to the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan for “over $500,000.” Tonkin will sign a two-year contract worth $2.1 million with $500,000 of reachable incentives.
  • The Hanwha Eagles (Korea) signed left-handed pitcher Jason Wheeler to a one-year contract worth $575,000 and right-handed pitcher Keyvius Sampson to a one-year contract worth $700,000.
  • Both right-handed pitchers Joe Wieland and Spencer Patton will return to the Yokohama Bay Stars (Japan) on unspecified contracts for 2018.
  • The SK Wyverns (Korea) will bring back right-handed pitcher Merrill Kelly on a one-year contract worth $1.4 million and first baseman Jamie Romak on an unspecified deal.

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