Rays make room for Jeff Keppinger by dropping Triple-A MVP Russ Canzler

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This hasn’t been a good couple weeks for Russ Canzler.

Last season he won the International League MVP award after hitting .314 with 18 homers, 40 doubles, and a .930 OPS for Durham, made his big-league debut in September with a handful of at-bats, and for a while at least it looked like the 25-year-old first baseman might get a chance as the Rays’ starter.

Then last week Tampa Bay signed Carlos Pena, ruling out that possibility, and now they dropped Canzler from the 40-man roster altogether to make room for Jeff Keppinger. From atop the depth chart to on the waiver wire in less than a week.

Keppinger, who was non-tendered by the Giants last month, finalized a one-year, $1.525 million deal with the Rays and they designated Canzler for assignment. It’ll be interesting to see if Canzler is claimed off waivers, because while certainly not a top prospect he’s had back-to-back big seasons in the minors and would seemingly be a nice bench bat at worst.

Diamondbacks return Rule 5 pick Tyler Jones to Yankees

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Diamondbacks’ right-hander Tyler Jones is headed back to the Yankees, the teams announced on Friday. The Diamondbacks had previously selected Jones in the Rule 5 draft last December, but elected to leave the 27-year-old off of their 40-man roster heading into the 2017 season. Rule 5 draft rules stipulate that when a player is not kept on the receiving team’s roster, the player must be offered back to his original team.

Jones signed a minor league contract with the Yankees prior to the 2016 season. He pitched to an impressive 2.17 ERA, 2.2 BB/9 and 13.2 SO/9 over 45 2/3 innings with Double-A Trenton, but was unable to make the leap to Triple-A or beyond during his stay with the organization.

Jones’ outlook with the Diamondbacks appeared slightly more promising. GM Mike Hazen described the righty as a power arm with a “good fastball and power curveball” after selecting him in the Rule 5 draft, and early reports indicated that Jones would be in the mix for a bullpen spot. A rough spring performance — underscored by his lack of experience at the Triple-A and major league levels — undid most of that confidence, however, and the Diamondbacks weren’t willing to keep him on the active roster throughout the entire 2017 season in order to acquire his control rights.

Jones is set to open the season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, per a report from the Yankees.

Derek Norris signing with the Rays

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Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown reports that Derek Norris is signing with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Norris was released by the Nationals nine days ago, made redundant by the Nats’ signing of Matt Wieters and by everyone sliding down a notch on the depth chart below him. Norris hit only .186/.255/.328 with 14 home runs and a .528 OPS for the Padres in 2016.

Still, there always seems to be a place for a backup catcher. For Norris that place is Tampa Bay.