The Indians announced a series of moves this afternoon, including a claim of lefty Jack Leathersich from the Pirates. (The @RedSoxStats Twitter feed was first to report the claim earlier today.) A 40-man spot for Leathersich was opened by shipping infielder/outfielder Rob Refsnyder to the Rays in exchange for cash.
In other news, Cleveland announced that righty Jordan Milbrath — who was taken in the Rule 5 draft in December — was returned by the Pirates after clearing waivers. Finally, veteran infielder Adam Rosales is joining the Indians on a minors deal.
Refsnyder was out of options, and thus the Tribe at least managed to get some money back for him rather than simply losing the utilityman if exposed to waivers. Refsnyder had been battling for a backup infield job in camp, though it appears Erik Gonzalez has won that role. Cleveland looks to be carrying five outfielders, with right-handed hitters Rajai Davis and Brandon Guyer (if healthy) balancing out lefty-swingers Lonnie Chisenhall, Tyler Naquin, and Bradley Zimmer, with Michael Brantley eventually joining the mix once he returns from the disabled list.
Once a well-regarded prospect in the Yankees’ system, Refsnyder has yet to produce much over parts of three MLB seasons, with just a .233/.306/.311 slash line over 320 career plate appearances. He can offer a versatile glove capable of playing second base, first base, and both corner outfield slots, so he gives Tampa Bay another multi-position bench option next to Daniel Robertson. The Rays had been looking for a right-handed outfield bat, so Refsnyder fills that need, even if he has yet to display much hitting stroke as a big leaguer.
Rosales was recently released from a minor league deal with the Phillies and it didn’t take him long to catch on elsewhere, as Cleveland will replace Refsnyder with a more experienced utility infielder. Rosales has extensive work at all four infield spots (plus the odd appearance in left field) over his 10 seasons and 638 big league games. This versatility has helped Rosales stick around in the Show despite a lack of hitting (.227/.292/.365 slash line over 1786 PA), though he did burst out for 13 homers and an .814 OPS over 248 PA with the Padres in 2016.
Pittsburgh placed Leathersich on waivers yesterday, as he may have been an expendable piece in a Pirates bullpen that already includes Steven Brault and Josh Smoker tossing from the left side, plus Kevin Siegrist in camp on a minor league deal. Leathersich joined the Bucs via a waiver claim off the Cubs’ roster last September, appearing in six games wearing the black-and-gold. The 27-year-old southpaw has a 2.70 ERA in 16 2/3 Major League innings, and both his brief MLB stint and his much more expansive sample size of 278 1/3 minor league IP exhibit indicate a penchant for racking up big totals in both the strikeout and walks departments.
Milbrath was also waived along with Leathersich yesterday, and as per the regulations of the Rule 5 Draft, the righty had to first be offered back to his original team (Cleveland) after other teams had passed on claiming the 26-year-old. A 35th-round selection for the Tribe in the 2013 draft, Milbrath has a 4.33 ERA, 7.8 K/9, and 2.02 K/BB rate over 405 1/3 career innings in the minors, cracking the Double-A level in each of the last two seasons.