Indians Add Three on Minor League Deals with Spring Training Invitations
Bob Toth | On 02, Dec 2018
The Cleveland Indians added to their farm depth, as the club announced three minor league deals with free agents on Saturday.
Most notable and experienced of the trio is outfielder Trayce Thompson, who has spent parts of the last four seasons in the Majors. Left-hander Josh Smith signs after spending last season in the Boston Red Sox’s minor league systemb, and right-handed reliever James Hoyt rejoins the Indians organization one day after not being tendered a Major League contract by Cleveland.
All three players received invitations to spring training as part of the terms of their contracts.
Thompson, still just 27, has spent parts of the last four seasons in the Majors while bouncing around with five different clubs, including four last year alone. He started the 2018 calendar with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but he was designated for assignment at the end of spring training and was claimed off of waivers by the New York Yankees a week later. His stay in the Bronx lasted just two days before he was claimed by Oakland, but he was once again designated for assignment on April 17 after appearing in three games for the A’s. He was dealt to the Chicago White Sox two days later.
It marked a return home of sorts for Thompson, who was a member of the White Sox organization from his second round selection in the 2009 draft through the 2015 season before he was traded to the Dodgers. He spent two months on the White Sox roster in 2018, struggling to a .116/.163/.215 line at the plate with three doubles, three homers, and nine RBI in 48 games. He was designated for assignment on June 22 and outrighted to Triple-A Charlotte three days later. There, he slashed .213/.278/.363 with 12 doubles, four homers, and 15 RBI in 46 games.
He is the son of 14-year NBA veteran Mychal Thompson and the younger brother of former Cleveland Cavaliers guard Mychel Thompson and better known current Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson.
He has logged time at all three outfield spots over the course of his career and gives the Indians some needed depth at the top level of the farm system in the outfield, where currently prospects Connor Marabell and Mike Papi reside as the next wave of potential outfielders.
Smith, 29, spent the majority of last season at Triple-A Pawtucket for the Red Sox in his seventh season of pro ball. He made 28 appearances (14 starts) for the Paw Sox, going 9-5 with a 3.01 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP across 98 2/3 innings. He also made a pair of relief appearances at Double-A Portland during the season. He appeared in ten relief outings following his minor league schedule in the Dominican Winter League, where he pitched for Escogido.
While racking up good strikeout numbers overall throughout his career, Smith has had some command issues along the way, which was present again last season. He walked 17 batters and plunked four in 32 innings of relief work while posting a 3-4 record, a 4.22 ERA, and a 1.53 WHIP out of the bullpen. As a starter for the first time in his professional career, he was a solid 6-1 with a 2.43 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP, striking out 56 in 66 2/3 innings but walking 26 and hitting ten batters.
Smith was a 25th round pick by Pittsburgh in the 2012 draft out of Wichita State and was added to the Red Sox organization during the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft in December of 2016. His best chance to contribute to the Indians this coming season would be out of the bullpen, where he has spent the majority of his pro career.
Hoyt came over to the Indians last July in a trade with the Houston Astros for minor league reliever Tommy DeJuneas, but he was limited to just three appearances at Triple-A Columbus over a two week span before landing on the 7-day (and later 60-day) disabled list with a knee injury.
The 32-year-old right-hander has appeared in parts of each of the last three seasons for the Astros, but retired just one out while walking one and giving up one hit in his only MLB appearance in 2018. He came on 22 times in relief in 2016 and 43 more times in 2017 for Houston. When healthy, he can rack up big strikeout totals, as evidenced in his 12.2 K/9 rate in the minors and his 11.8 rate in the Majors over the course of his seven professional seasons of activity. Long balls have haunted him some in the Majors, as he has allowed 12 in 71 2/3 innings, compared to 16 over 290 2/3 minor league frames.
Hoyt, like Thompson and Smith, will report to Goodyear in February with a chance to earn a roster spot with the club.
Photo: Jon Durr/Getty Images