Josh Hamilton‘s ongoing knee problems sent the Rangers searching for outfield depth and they didn’t have to go far, re-signing Drew Stubbs to a minor-league contract.
Stubbs began last season in Colorado and ended it in Texas, hitting .195 in 78 games overall. Once a top prospect for the Reds, his inability to control the strike zone and make consistent contact have led to a .244 career batting average and sub par all-around production.
Despite swinging and missing too much to be a regular Stubbs does have good power, excellent speed, and solid numbers versus left-handed pitching along with experience in all three outfield spots. If the Rangers are looking for a veteran to fill their backup outfielder role, the 31-year-old makes sense.
Right-hander Rafael Betancourt, who made it back from Tommy John elbow surgery at age 40 last season, has announced his retirement after a dozen years in the big leagues.
Betancourt got a very late start, debuting for the Indians in 2003 as a 28-year-old, but he was immediately one of the league’s top setup men and later transitioned to being an effective closer for the Rockies. In all he made 371 appearances for the Indians and 309 appearances for the Rockies, posting a combined 3.36 ERA with an incredible 724/164 K/BB ratio in 686 innings.
His ratio of 4.41 strikeouts per walk is the second-best in MLB history among all pitchers to make at least 600 career appearances:
Jonathan Papelbon 4.54
RAFAEL BETANCOURT 4.41
Mariano Rivera 4.10
Billy Wagner 3.99
Huston Street 3.81
Helluva career for a pitcher who had to grind his way to the majors just to get a chance at age 28.
Veteran outfielder Will Venable has agreed to a minor-league deal with the Indians that includes an invitation to spring training, giving Cleveland some much-needed outfield depth with Michael Brantley likely to begin the season on the disabled list.
Venable was a semi-regular for the Padres from 2009 through the middle of last season, hitting .252 with a solid .727 OPS in 918 games despite calling pitcher-friendly Petco Park home. He struggled following a midseason trade to the Rangers last year and in general has seen his production decline in recent years, so at age 33 he’s likely best suited for a part-time role.
Once everyone is healthy the Indians are expected to use Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Abraham Almonte as their starting outfield and Rajai Davis was brought in to be the primary reserve outfielder, leaving Venable to battle with guys like Collin Cowgill for a backup gig.
Looking for a second left-handed reliever to pair with re-signed setup man Tony Sipp, the Astros have agreed to a minor-league deal with veteran Neal Cotts.
Cotts split last season between the Brewers and Twins, logging a total of 63 innings with a 3.41 ERA and 58/22 K/BB ratio. He has a 3.03 ERA in 187 innings since resurrecting his career in 2013 and fares well enough versus right-handed hitters to be more than just a southpaw specialist.
Houston has made the bullpen a priority this offseason, trading for stud closer Ken Giles from the Phillies, spending $18 million to retain Sipp, and bringing in Cotts as depth to go along with holdovers like Luke Gregerson, Pat Neshek, Will Harris, and Josh Fields. It’s an extremely good, depth relief corps.
Rob Refsnyder‘s chances of being the Yankees’ starting second baseman ended the moment they traded for Starlin Castro, but the team is now trying to find Refsnyder additional playing time by making him more versatile defensively.
Refsnyder will never be a traditional utility man because he can’t handle shortstop, but general manager Brian Cashman told Brendan Kuty of the Newark Star Ledger that the Yankees will give him more reps at third base along with his usual work at second base. That would make Refsnyder first in line for starts if Castro or Chase Headley get hurt and he also played some corner outfield in the minors.
Refsnyder can hit, batting .282 with a .370 on-base percentage and decent power in 194 games at Triple-A during the past two seasons, but the Yankees never seemed to trust his glove at second base. All of which is why being a part-timer at a bunch of positions could be a decent fit for the 25-year-old while giving the Yankees some pop off the bench.