While the primary focus during any team’s off-season is on the Major Leaguers coming and going (Yonder Alonso, Carlos Santana…), but at the same time there are similar happenings in the minors albeit on a much smaller scale. To keep you up to date, here are the players that will no longer be featured on the Cleveland Indians farm clubs.
The 2017 Clipshow
A couple big parts of the Columbus roster made some news when they were designated for assignment last fall to make room on the 40 man roster, so most know that Dylan Baker was exposed to waivers and signed by the Dodgers while Kyle Crockett was signed by Cincinnati.
The vast majority of minor leaguers lost following the 2017 season fell into the category of minor league free agents. Once a player has spent seven years within a system, they need to either be added to the team’s 40 man roster or they have the right to become a minor league free agent. While team’s can resign these players (as the Indians did with Carlos Frias this year), most are allowed to test the market in an effort to break through with another franchise. In the end, if a player isn’t on the 40 man after seven years, chances are they never will be.
Of these players, six from the 2017 Clippers have since signed elsewhere while the rest remain free agents (for a full list see the bottom of this article). Relievers Perci Garner and Joe Colon signed with the Orioles as did AA starter Luis Lugo and Lynchburg catcher Martin Cervenka. In addition, long time utility man Ronny Rodriguez has signed with the Tigers, while catchers Erik Kratz (NYY) and Adam Moore (TB) have also signed with teams. Finally, former MLB reliever Steve Delabar is currently with the Rangers.
Of those players who remain free agents, the most interesting are the relievers is Enosil Tejeda and Jeff Johnson. Tejeda had a fantastic season in Columbus in 2015 and is completely healed now, but has not seen much interest from teams at 28 years old and two years removed from actual games. Johnson is also 28, but had a solid campaign in 2017 with a K/9 above ten. If he was going to get a shot in Cleveland, however, it likely would have happened last September and the Indians look ready to move on to the next class.
In all, the 17 exiting Clippers should do a lot to change that team from a AAAA holding area to a real farm team with actual prospects. Instead of Moore and Kratz, they will have Eric Haase and Francisco Mejia. Instead of Chris Narveson and Travis Banwart, Shane Bieber, Matt Esparza and Shao-Ching Chiang should all be knocking on the door along with mainstays Julian Merryweather and Shawn Morimando.
Rubber Duck Free Agents
In addition to those players lost from Columbus, six players from AA hit the free agent market as well and didn’t return. Lugo was likely the strongest of these as a right handed starting pitcher with Luigi Rodriguez another interesting player. Rodriguez failed a PED test and was suspended for half of a season in 2016 after coming out of a breakout season in Lynchburg in 2015. At the time, he seemed a multi-level threat, with speed, power while playing center field. After his suspension, however, he struggled and his speed completely disappeared, dropping his value on the bases and in the field. He has since signed with San Francisco.
Lower Level Cuts
In addition to Cervenka leaving through free agency, Yonathan Mendoza and Claudio Bautista are both exiting players from the 2017 Hillcats. Mendoza has signed with Seattle while Bautista is still a free agent. Also, Brock Hartson has decided to retire from the game despite putting together a fine 2017 season in just his third year with the franchise.
Silento Sayles, an outfielder who has bounced from AZL through Lynchburg since 2013, has finally been let go and remains a free agent, as does Lake County’s Kevin Bradley. Finally, Junior Soto has been released as well and signed with the Yankees. Soto has great power potential, but struggles greatly with plate discipline and refuses to change his approach after falling behind. With quite a few similar outfielders at a similar level with more potential (Will Benson, Oscar Gonzalez, etc.) Soto was dispensable.
Down the line, these losses could go a long way to strengthening the Indians minor league system as players with brighter futures are able to advance and get more playing time. This will particularly effect the Clippers, but a general culling will trickle down throughout the whole system allowing the more promising players to get more at bats and innings than they would otherwise. The simple fact that so many of these players remain unsigned months after becoming free agents shows that as a whole have made the right moves. It’s unfortunate that we won’t get to see Hartson pitch anymore, but it was his choice to leave the game. Of the others, Lugo and Luigi have the biggest chance of coming back to bite the Tribe, but with plenty of internal options, the loss shouldn’t actually hurt even if they find success elsewhere.
|Juan De La Cruz||FA||AA|