While the first-round of spring cuts is usually reserved for guys with no major league experience, the Rays demoted some bigger names Monday, sending down pitchers Alex Cobb, Alex Torres and Chris Archer, as well as first baseman Juan Miranda.
The 24-year-old Cobb went 3-2 with a 3.42 ERA in nine starts for the Rays last season and would have broken camp as a fourth or fifth starter for a bunch of major league teams this spring. Unfortunately for him, though, the Rays traded none of their six starters over the winter, leaving him seventh on the depth chart, and with either Wade Davis or Jeff Niemann going to the pen, there was no role for him in relief either. He’s getting sent down now so he can continue to stretch out as a starter at minor league camp.
Torres and Archer also rank among the Rays’ top prospects. Torres was 9-7 with a 3.08 ERA in Triple-A last season and had a 3.38 ERA in eight innings for the big-league club. Archer, who came over from the Cubs in the Matt Garza deal, was 8-7 with a 4.42 ERA in Double-A. All three pitchers will be in the rotation at Durham to begin the year.
Miranda briefly topped the Rays’ depth chart at first base before Carlos Pena was brought back over the winter. He began last season as Arizona’s first baseman and hit .213/.315/.402 in 174 at-bats. He was 0-for-9 this spring.
Arizona has been relatively quiet on the first baseman front despite letting 2010 starter Adam LaRoche walk as a free agent, and Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes that the Diamondbacks seem likely to give minor-league veteran Juan Miranda a chance to claim the everyday job.
Acquired from the Yankees for a mid-level prospect last month, Miranda has consistently posted solid numbers in the minors and is a career .287 hitter with a .374 on-base percentage and .481 slugging percentage in 301 games at Triple-A.
He was never going to get a chance stuck behind Mark Teixeira in New York, but if platooned and given starts primarily versus right-handed pitching the 27-year-old is capable of being very useful for the league minimum.
According to Piecoro “new general manager Kevin Towers is rolling the dice on a few buy-low candidates” like Miranda and “seems keen on giving him an opportunity.”
Buster Olney of ESPN.com reports that Jorge Cantu is “seriously being considered by the Diamondbacks” as an option at first base.
Cantu was horrendous for the Rangers after they acquired him a midseason deal with the Marlins and barely played in the postseason as rookie Mitch Moreland emerged as the primary first baseman.
He’s always had 25-homer power, but poor plate discipline kept Cantu from emerging as more than a decent regular and now even that may be a stretch. He hit just .256 with a .304 on-base percentage and .392 slugging percentage in 127 games this year and would likely be best in a platoon role facing mostly left-handers even if he bounces back in 2011.
That could make him a fit in Arizona, as the Diamondbacks acquired minor-league veteran and left-handed hitter Juan Miranda from the Yankees last month. It won’t excite fans, but a Miranda-Cantu platoon could produce something resembling league-average production very cheaply.