The Diamondbacks recently signed outfielder Braden Bishop and reliever Keynan Middleton to minor league contracts, according to Chris Hilburn-Trenkle of Baseball America. Both players had qualified for minor league free agency at the end of last season after clearing outright waivers during the year.
Bishop has spent the entirety of his big league tenure with the Mariners. A 3rd-round pick in the 2015 draft, the speedy center fielder reached the majors in 2019. He’s tallied 99 cumulative plate appearances over the past three seasons, hitting .133/.188/.156. Seattle designated Bishop for assignment in May, and he landed with the Giants on waivers. Within days of claiming him, San Francisco DFA’d the right-handed hitter themselves, and on that occasion he passed through unclaimed.
Despite putting up an impressive .326/.388/.549 line across 320 trips to the plate with the Giants’ top affiliate from that point forth, Bishop didn’t make it back to the majors. The 28-year-old will try to play his way back into the big leagues with their division rivals in Arizona. The D-Backs have a glut of young outfielders on the 40-man roster, but none of Daulton Varsho, Stuart Fairchild, Pavin Smith, Cooper Hummel or Jake McCarthy has yet gotten settled at the major league level.
Middleton has pitched in the majors in each of the past five seasons. He’d spent his entire career in the AL West, beginning as a third-round pick of the Angels in 2013. He pitched for four years in Anaheim, including a 3.43 ERA in 80 appearances over his first two seasons. Middleton underwent Tommy John surgery midway through the 2018 campaign, however, and he wasn’t as effective upon his return from that procedure.
Cut loose by the Angels last offseason, the right-hander latched on with the Mariners (where he and Bishop briefly overlapped). Middleton worked 31 innings across 32 appearances with Seattle but didn’t find a ton of success, posting a 4.94 ERA with worse than average strikeout and walk numbers (17.1% and 13.6%, respectively).
Recent struggles aside, it’s easy to see why the D-Backs would take a no-risk shot on Middleton in hopes he can rediscover some of his early form. The 28-year-old still averaged 95.6 MPH on his fastball last year. Perhaps of more interest, Middleton generated swinging strikes on a very strong 14.2% of his offerings — a surprisingly high number given his low strikeout rate. Arizona relievers had a 5.08 ERA and ranked dead last in strikeout/walk rate differential (9.7 percentage points), so Middleton should have a good chance at cracking the roster with a strong showing in Spring Training.