The Guardians have informed reporters, including Zack Meisel of The Athletic, that they are selecting the contract of outfielder Alex Call with Oscar Mercado being designated for assignment in a corresponding move.
Call, 27, was a third round draft pick of the White Sox in 2016 and appeared on Baseball America’s list of top farmhands in the system in 2017 and 2018. Their reports on him noted that he didn’t have a standout tool, but had the work ethic and baseball instincts to be a well-rounded player without obvious weaknesses.
In December of 2018, he moved across the division in the 2018 trade that sent Yonder Alonso to Chicago. In 2019, his first year in Cleveland’s system, he had a disappointing campaign in Double-A, hitting .205/.266/.321 for a wRC+ of 72. He also struck out at a 28.6% clip and walk just 6.8% of the time.
After the minor leagues were canceled by the pandemic in 2020, Call came out flying in 2021. Returning to the Akron RubberDucks, he got into 43 games, cutting his strikeout rate almost in half to 14.4%, while walking 11.7% of the time. He slashed .310/.389/.503 for a 142 wRC+ and earned a promotion to Triple-A. His first stint with the Columbus Clippers didn’t go so well, despite keeping his rate stats in good form. In 66 Triple-A games last year, he was struck out in 14.1% of his plate appearances, walked in 12.3% of them, but hit just .229/.335/.394, 99 wRC+. This year, however, he’s got even 16.4% strikeout and walk rates while hitting .283/.418/.504 for a 148 wRC+.
Call has played all three outfield spots in his minor league career, including this year. The Guardians have used Myles Straw and Steven Kwan regularly as two of their outfielders this season. Rookie Oscar Gonzalez seemed to be earning a spot beside them until he landed on the injured list. Another rookie got his promotion a few days ago, when Nolan Jones was bumped up to the big leagues. Call will now join that group and see if he can carry any of his offensive skills up to the majors. With Franmil Reyes struggling mightily as the club’s DH, it’s also possible that these four outfielders nudge him out of some playing time there. Reyes is striking out 40.8% of the time this year and hitting .212/.257/.369 for a wRC+ of 75.
As for Mercado, 27, this is his third DFA in less than a month. He started the year with the Guardians, who cut him loose June 21. He was claimed by the Phillies but then got his second DFA a few days later. The Guardians decided to claim him and bring him back, though his second stint only lasted about a week.
In 2019, Mercado had an excellent rookie season that seemed to establish him as a key building block in the Guardians outfield. That year, he hit 15 dingers, stole 15 bags, hit .269/.318/.443 for a 99 wRC+ and played excellent center field defense, producing 2.2 fWAR in the process. However, it’s been a rough couple of years for Mercado, which started with a disastrous 2020. In the shortened season, he hit just .128/.174/.174, with his strikeout rate shooting up to 29%, after being at 17.4% in his rookie year. He corrected things somewhat in 2021, getting his line to .224/.300/.369 for a wRC+ of 84. He couldn’t build on it in 2022, though, with his numbers slouching downwards again and forcing him into a nomadic life on the waiver wire. Given his past potential and relative youth, he’s likely to garner interest from other clubs again. The Guardians will have a week to trade him, pass him through waivers or release him.