The Indians announced this afternoon that they signed left-handed reliever Scott Downs to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. According to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Downs will receive a base salary of $800,000 if he makes the team out of spring training.
Downs landed a one-year, $4.25 million contract with the White Sox last offseason, but he posted an ugly 6.08 ERA over 38 appearances with the club before being released in early July. He latched on with the Royals from there, but was limited to just 17 appearances due to a neck injury and put up a 3.14 ERA and 3/5 K/BB ratio over 14 1/3 innings. Kansas City did not include him on their postseason roster.
Downs turns 39 in March and saw a sharp drop in velocity last season, so he might be done as an effective late-inning pitcher in the majors, but it’s worth a shot for the Indians to still see if he has something left in the tank.
The Cincinnati Reds have signed outfielder Nicholas Castellanos to a four-year deal worth $64 million. The contract includes opt-outs after both 2020 and 2021, which is certainly good for Castellanos, allowing him to go back out on the market if he has a big year. Odd that the Reds would agree to that, but on an annual basis it’s kind of a bargain for them so you figure that has something to do with it.
With Castellanos in the fold the Reds are going to have a lot of outfielders when they hit Goodyear, Arizona in a couple of weeks, with newcomer Shogo Akiyama, Jesse Winkler, Nick Senzel, Aristides Aquino, Travis Jankowski, Scott Schebler, and Rule 5 draftee Mark Payton already on the roster. Senzel was an infielder before last year, of course, so he could move back to the dirt, perhaps taking over short from Freddy Galvis, who could be dealt. Alternatively, the Reds could trade from their newfound outfield surplus.
Castellanos, however, will have left field to himself. While he’s shaky at best with the glove, he had a breakout year at the plate in 2019, hitting .289/.337/.525 overall (OPS+ 121), but slugging at a blistering .321/.356/.646 pace (OPS+ 151) after being traded from the Tigers to the Cubs. In Chicago — rescued from cavernous Comerica Park — his big doubles power turned into big homer power.
Now that he’ll be playing in hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark one can only imagine the damage he’d do.