Tampa Bay did some roster shuffling, designating first baseman Dan Johnson for assignment and optioning reliever Rob Delaney back to Triple-A while calling up outfielder Justin Ruggiano and activating reliever J.P. Howell from the disabled list.
Howell’s return is the most interesting development, as he had back-to-back impressive seasons as a reliever before blowing out his shoulder, posting a 2.48 ERA and 171 strikeouts in 156 innings between 2008 and 2009.
If healthy Howell could further boost a bullpen that ranks fourth among AL teams with a 3.20 ERA despite losing Rafael Soriano, Joaquin Benoit, Grant Balfour, and Dan Wheeler to free agency.
Johnson showed good plate discipline and power for the Rays, but hit just .168 in 75 games dating back to last season and gave way to Casey Kotchman as the primary first baseman. Ruggiano returns to the majors for the first time since 2008 and at 29 years old is no longer a prospect, but he could be a solid contributor in a platoon role if spotted mostly versus left-handed pitching.
The Reds picked up outfielders Mason Williams and Rosell Herrera on minor league deals, MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reports. Both Williams and Herrera will receive invites to spring training and could compete for backup outfield roles behind Adam Duvall, Billy Hamilton and Scott Schebler.
Williams, 26, completed a three-year track with the Yankees in 2017. He has yet to see a full season of playing time, however, and went 4-for-17 with two stolen bases during a five-game span with the club in 2017. While not a power hitter, his speed and steady contact rate produced a .263/.309/.318 batting line over 437 plate appearances in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, including two home runs, three triples and 19 stolen bases.
Herrera, 25, has yet to make his big league debut. After seven years in the Rockies’ system, he finally reached Triple-A Albuquerque in 2017 and slashed .278/.351/.394 with three home runs and 20 stolen bases in 363 PA. He looks most comfortable in the left field corner, but has some experience at shortstop and third base and should give the Reds a nice utility option come spring.