The Cleveland front office created some additional space at camp on Friday, as the club announced the trade of non-roster invitee Mike Freeman to the Cincinnati Reds for cash considerations while shifting several other players around at the team’s Goodyear, Arizona, training facility.
Freeman was in camp with the Indians again looking to claim innings as a utility man, but with several younger options with more potential upside vying for that time, finding a spot for him with the big league club may have been difficult. The 33-year-old will not go onto the 40-man roster for the Reds, as he was designated off of the Cleveland roster before he re-signed with the club on a minor league pact, but he will attempt to win a utility role now with Cincinnati on the other side of the two teams’ shared Goodyear camp.
A late arrival to the big league scene back in 2016, Freeman had spent each of the last two seasons as a utility man on the Indians roster. A journeyman by experience and trade, he had logged MLB time with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Seattle Mariners, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Chicago Cubs over his first three years in The Show before signing with the Indians on a minor league deal on November 20, 2018. He opened the 2019 season in the minors playing with the Triple-A Columbus Clippers and got into a career-high 75 games with Cleveland later in the season, posting a .277/.362/.390 slash with eight doubles, four homers, and 24 RBI while taking the field at five different positions. He made 24 more appearances in 2020, stepping to the plate 43 times while providing a .237/.302/.316 line in limited at bats. He played all four infield positions and left field over the course of the abbreviated campaign.
“They seem to have what they think is a better opportunity for him to maybe not only make their club, but actually play a little bit more,” said Cleveland manager Terry Francona on Friday of the trade. “Chris [Antonetti], to his credit, told Free, ‘Hey, if we think there’s a better scenario for you, we will look out for you.’ A lot of that is because of the respect we have for Mike.”
Freeman’s chances of making the Opening Day roster in Cleveland were being impacted by Yu Chang, Andres Gimenez, and Amed Rosario. Gimenez may have a leg up on Rosario for a regular role at the shortstop position vacated by Francisco Lindor, leaving Chang and Rosario looking for playing time off of the bench.
The 25-year-old Chang has made brief appearances in the Cleveland lineup over the last two seasons, working at second base, third base, and shortstop, but has yet to put up numbers comparable to his results on the farm. Rosario, also 25 and a shortstop by trade, has played just three big league innings at another position (left field in 2019) and has not played another position since 2017, when he worked in six games at third base. He has been getting work in the outfield with the Indians over the course of this week to expand his options with the team. The 22-year-old Gimenez spent time at three infield positions during his rookie season with the New York Mets last year. Given his age, his lack of experience, and service time considerations, there is a chance that Gimenez could start the season in the minors, but a strong start to his spring work both offensively and defensively may make the decision for the Cleveland brass easier.
Freeman is the second veteran ball player to be trimmed from the Tribe’s activities in Goodyear in as many days. On Thursday, the team announced that free agent addition Billy Hamilton would not be making the roster. Hamilton was 1-for-10 in four Cactus League games this spring with a walk and five strikeouts. He was formally reassigned to the team’s depth camp on Friday.
Along with the trade of Freeman, Cleveland also announced its first official roster cuts of the year. Top prospect Nolan Jones and pitchers Jean Carlos Mejia, Eli Morgan, Scott Moss, and Carlos Vargas were optioned to Triple-A, while pitcher Kyle Dowdy joined Hamilton in reassignment to the depth camp.
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