The Reds announced that outfielder Mark Payton’s contract has been selected to the Major League roster. Payton’s move was one of a few transactions made official by the club, as the Reds also optioned infielder Josh VanMeter to their alternate training site and made a change to their taxi squad — righty Jose De Leon joins the taxi squad, while outfielder Robel Garcia is out.
Payton now seems set to make his MLB debut, which he probably thought was in the cards back in December when the Reds plucked him out of the Athletics’ system via the Rule 5 draft. In July, however, the Reds returned Payton back to Oakland seemingly as part of a roster crunch, yet then re-acquired the outfielder two weeks ago. Since Payton is now officially a member of Cincinnati’s roster, he is free of any Rule 5 restrictions, so the Reds can freely option him between the majors and their alternate training site if they so choose.
A seventh-round pick for the Yankees in the 2014 draft, Payton has hit .286/.363/.455 with 62 home runs over 2248 career minor league plate appearances. Those career numbers are heavily fueled by Payton’s 30 homers and .334/.400/.653 slash line over 447 PA for the Athletics’ Triple-A affiliate in 2019, though that performance carries some caveats. 2019 was the most hitter-friendly year in the history of Triple-A baseball, the Pacific Coast League was a notoriously hitter-friendly league even prior to 2019, and Payton (then in his age-27 season) was older than most Triple-A pitchers.
Still, obviously the Reds saw enough in Payton’s breakout year to make him a priority in the Rule 5 draft. Payton does have some center field experience, though he has mostly played as a corner outfielder in recent years. He will join Travis Jankowski as a left-handed hitting backup outfielder on a roster that also includes Shogo Akiyama and Jesse Winker as more regular lefty-swinging outfielders.