The Cleveland Indians finalized their 40-man roster ahead of December’s Rule 5 draft on Wednesday night as they announced that three contracts had been purchased from minor league affiliates.
Two of the moves were expected, as top pitching prospect Triston McKenzie and outfielder Daniel Johnson were both added to the 40-man roster. Also joining them as new faces to the Tribe’s 40-man mix was left-handed pitcher Scott Moss, who was acquired at the trade deadline from the Cincinnati Reds as part of the three-team trade that centered around Trevor Bauer, Yasiel Puig, and Franmil Reyes.
To make one additional spot on the 40-man roster, the Indians designated right-handed reliever Nick Goody for assignment.
In a related move, the Indians also announced that middle infield prospect Mark Mathias, who spent last season at Triple-A Columbus, had been dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers for 18-year-old minor league catcher Andres Melendez. Mathias was eligible for the Rule 5 draft in December, but the Indians opted to send him away as opposed to find room for him on the 40-man roster despite the need for a second baseman at the big league level. The 25-year-old third round pick in 2015 spent last season at the Triple-A level for the first time, hitting .269 with a .355 on-base percentage with 31 doubles, two triples, 12 homers and 59 RBI. The Indians acquired Melendez, an 18-year-old backstop out of Barquisimeto, Venezuela (the same hometown as Indians starter Carlos Carrasco), in return. In his second season in the Brewers farm system while working in the Arizona Rookie League, Melendez hit .250 with eight doubles, one triple, one homer, and 13 RBI over 36 games.
The Brewers immediately added Mathias to their respective 40-man roster.
McKenzie and Johnson were the long-rumored additions for the Indians and came as no surprise.
The 22-year-old McKenzie, a right-hander selected in the first collective bargaining phase of the 2015 draft, missed all of the 2019 season after being shut down midway through spring training with an upper back strain. It should have been his fifth season in the Indians’ organization and marked another year of limited work as injuries have hindered his development and progression through the farm system. The previous season, he was delayed out of spring camp for the first two months of the campaign after dealing with a forearm injury.
During his minor league career, McKenzie has appeared in 60 games, with 25 of those coming during the 2017 season with High-A Lynchburg. He was limited to just 16 starts in 2018 while with Double-A Akron, where he posted a 7-4 record with a 2.68 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP in 90 2/3 innings of work.
The path to Cleveland for the club’s number one overall prospect will remain tied to health.
Johnson, 24, may have been the centerpiece of last November’s trade that sent All-Star catcher Yan Gomes to the Washington Nationals. Joined by pitcher Jefry Rodriguez and minor league infielder Andruw Monasterio in the trade, Johnson made his impression quickly and moved from Double-A to Triple-A Columbus in May, got to participate in the Sirius XM All-Star Futures Game in July, and put up numbers on par with his previous best season in four years of work in professional baseball.
Between the two stops, he hit a combined .290/.361/.507 with 34 doubles, seven triples, 19 homers, and 77 RBI.
Johnson, a fifth round pick in 2016 out of New Mexico State, spent 84 games with the Clippers and could factor into the Indians’ undetermined outfield puzzle at some point next year. He is currently listed as the number 12 prospect in the team’s farm system, according to MLB Pipeline.
Moss may have been the unexpected piece of the trio, but given his solid minor league numbers in four years of work, he could play a role in Cleveland’s plans for 2020. A 6’6” left-hander, Moss had spent the first few years of his career in the Cincinnati organization after being picked in the fourth round of the 2016 draft out of the University of Florida. He headed to the Indians’ farm system as one of five players acquired by Cleveland in the Bauer trade. He made two strong appearances for Akron before making four starts for Columbus, finishing between the two stops with a 4-1 record and a 1.26 ERA.
Moss turned 25 after the season and should find himself in the mix in Columbus as a rotation option in the event of injuries with the parent club, joining those who fail to win the fifth starter spot in Cleveland (including Aaron Civale, Adam Plutko, Zach Plesac, and Rodriguez). Being a rare southpaw in the Tribe’s system, he could provide the club with an unique look compared to the rest of the starting staff in Cleveland.
Goody was designated for assignment to make room on the roster for the three new additions. After missing the last five months of the 2018 season after he suffered a painful right elbow strain, he struggled to open the year at Triple-A but ultimately got the call to Cleveland and put up serviceable numbers, posting a 3-2 record with ten holds over 39 appearances with a 3.54 ERA, a 1.28 WHIP, and an 11.1 strikeout per nine rate. His overall numbers make him a curious roster cut, but he was hit hard down the stretch. He will likely land on his feet somewhere, as some good career peripherals and the on-going need for quality relievers will make his services desirable.
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