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Padres Signings Update

AJ Preller has been a busy man. It’s time to check out the under-the-radar signings he’s made while we wait for the MLB roster to take shape.

San Diego Padres v San Francisco Giants Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

It’s been a while since we’ve discussed the additions to the organization since the end of the season. Some signings have gotten a fair amount of press, others have slipped under the radar, but all may have a chance to make an impact on the 2017 team.

Major League Contracts

Minor League Contracts

The following players’ signings were announced on December 14th:

  • Hector Sanchez, C: The career backup switch-hitting catcher was non-tendered back on December second. As many had hoped, he’s re-signed with the team to a minor league contract, where he figures to provide valuable depth in AAA behind starter Austin Hedges, human Swiss army knife Christian Bethancourt, and Rule 5 draftee Luis Torrens. In a small sample last year, he put up an impressive .286/.348/.524 line over 26 games for the Padres after being claimed from the White Sox.
  • Jose Pirela, 2B/LF: Also non-tendered on 12/2, Pirela will return to El Paso looking for another chance to prove he’s more than a AAAA hitter. He owns a .226/.246/.321 career MLB line while while posting a .780 OPS across parts of four seasons in AAA. The team is currently well-stocked with 2B/3B types, but trades and injuries could open an opportunity for the 27-year-old Pirela.
  • Rafael Ortega, LF/CF: A lefty-hitting 25-year-old outfielder who spent much of 2016 as a part-time leftfielder for the Angels. With good AAA numbers the last couple of years, there’s a chance of a breakout candidate, but his general lack of power or speed on the basepaths will likely relegate him to a backup role in El Paso. Looking at his minor league numbers, he seems like a poor man’s Abraham Almonte.
  • Andre Rienzo, RHP: A former starter, the 28-year-old Rienzo spent 2016 working out of the bullpen in the Marlins organization. A reasonably high K/9 is offset by very high BB/9 and hits/9 numbers. which doesn’t bode well for his chances to turn it around with the Padres. His claim to fame is a 50-game PED suspension back in 2012.

The following players were signed earlier this offseason:

  • Stephen McGee, C: Known as an adept defensive catcher, McGee has served in the Angels organization since being drafted out of Florida State in 2013. His offensive numbers don’t say much, so he’ll likely go to AA or Lake Elsinore to work with the arms that Preller is hoarding.
  • Jamie Romak, 3B/1B/LF/RF: The 31-year-old Canadian has been a journeyman minor leaguer, making brief MLB appearances each of the last two years with the Dodgers and Diamondbacks before heading to Japan last season. Signed back in November, Romak brings a “three true outcome” profile, albeit devoid of the Rob Deer-esque power usually assigned to the type. An .835 OPS across four seasons at AAA suggest that the bat could find hot streaks.
  • Dusty Coleman, SS/2B/3B: Another veteran journeyman, Coleman brings a reputation as an adept defender, a tireless worker, and a class act around the clubhouse. Basically he’s Adam Rosales without the sneaky power and MLB experience. The 29-year-old got a cup of coffee with the Royals in 2015, going hitless in . He was signed on December 2nd.
  • Logan Bawcom, RHP: Selected in the AAA phase of the 2015 Rule 5 Draft, Bawcom posted a sparkling 1.92 era over 31 games last season, splitting time with 12 starts among his 31 appearances. The 6’2” righty may be a rotation consideration next spring after spending most of his career working as a reliever in the Dodgers and Mariners organizations. He was signed on December 9th.
  • Carlos Fisher, RHP: This 6’4” righty saw MLB service in 2010-2012 with the Reds but has spent the last four years bouncing between Tampa Bay, Oakland, Atlanta, and Texas. I’m usually pretty good at digging up scouting reports, but this guy hasn’t gotten much attention this decade. At age 33 he was considered a strong prospect, but apparently he’s fallen off most scouts’ books.

Rule 5 selections

The Padres had a historically active Rule 5 Draft, acquiring the first three picks plus another player in the second round. Their aggressiveness is only overshadowed by the atypical selections in the major league round, reaching for talented youngsters who lack experience at higher minor league levels usually seen in Rule 5 selections. These players need to remain on the active rosters the entire season, or else they have to be offered back to their original teams.

  • Miguel Diaz, RHP, drafted from Brewers, acquired via trade from the Twins. Age 22, spent 2016 in single-A ball, posting a 3.71 ERA and 1.183 WHIP in 94.2 innings over 26 games, 15 of which are starts. He throws a mid- to upper-90’s fastball along with a slider and changeup that draw mixed reviews; some see potential for plus pitches, others say they’re sub-par offerings. Like Luis Perdomo last year, he may be a starter down the road, but the secondary pitches don’t seem strong enough right now to garner rotation consideration. He was listed as the 21st best prospect in the Brewers’ system last year.
  • Luis Torrens, C, drafted from Yankees, acquired via trade from Reds. He spent his age 20 season between two A-level teams, batting a combined .250/.350/.337 line. Known as a talented receiver, he missed much of 2014 and all of the 2015 season due to a shoulder injury. Torrens was listed as the 17th best prospect in the Yankees’ strong system.
  • Allen Cordoba, SS, drafted from Cardinals. He turned 21 on December 6th, and he’s never played higher than rookie level ball, spending the first two years of his pro career in the Dominican Summer League. He was the Gulf Coast League MVP and an All-Star selection for his league the last two years. He’s an advanced contact hitter with a frame that still has room to fill out for power. His defensive skills are projected to keep him at shortstop with a strong arm and adequate range.
  • Trevor Frank, RHRP, selected from Indians during the AAA phase of the draft. This 25-year-old reliever is the most experienced of the Rule 5 selections and appears nearest to “MLB-ready” of the bunch. An El Cajon native, Frank had a stellar 2016, riding his fastball/curveball repertoire to a 2.47 ERA and 0.916 WHIP over 44 appearances in his second season in high-A ball.

International Signings

It’s easy to forget that the signing period runs the entire calendar year. The flood of signings right after the period opened on July 2nd was a historic haul, but the organization still has until next July to sign international amateurs under the current CBA. With a new hard spending cap being imposed, the Padres have even more incentive to spend now to sign international talent before the market becomes much more restrictive.

  • Michel Baez, RHP: As padmadfan wrote recently, the most recent international signee is a bit of a mystery man from Cuba who sports a massive 6’8” 230lb frame and a fastball that rides well into the upper 90’s. He last saw notable action in 2014 with the junior national team and has spent most of the last two years training while working to leave Cuba and pursue a professional baseball career. The deal is reported to be for $3M, with a 100% penalty due to raise his real price to $6M.

None of these signings will move the needle much, but most of them have a chance to contribute to the team this coming season. Whether for depth or for future value, AJ Preller is showing his talent for scouring the depths of the back lots as he fills out the organizational rosters.