4:03pm: Payton has indeed been added to the Athletics’ player pool, the team announced.
3:02pm: The Reds have returned Rule 5 pick Mark Payton to the Athletics, per a club announcement. The 28-year-old outfielder was not claimed by another club on waivers. It’s not yet clear if he’ll be part of Oakland’s 60-man player pool.
Last season was Payton’s first in the Oakland organization, and he made an impression with a gaudy .334/.400/.653 batting line in 447 plate appearances at the Triple-A level. Payton bashed a career-best 30 home runs last year, albeit in an extremely hitter-friendly setting amid a leaguewide home run surge. (The Triple-A ball was the same as the MLB ball last year.) That said, Payton also altered his swing and hit fly-balls at a career-high rate in 2019, so the uptick in power wasn’t solely attributable to the league context.
Unfortunately for Payton, the Reds added multiple high-profile outfielders to a group that already included Nick Senzel, Jesse Winker, Aristides Aquino and Phil Ervin. Cincinnati signed both Nick Castellanos and Shogo Akiyama this winter, leaving Payton as a long-shot to make the club — even with an expanded roster. That crammed outfield already led to a DFA for Scott Schebler and Payton’s return to the A’s, but outfielder Travis Jankowski has been told he’ll make the Reds’ Opening Day roster, Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets.