The Rays have signed right-hander Elvin Rodríguez to a minor league deal, reports Evan Petzold of The Detroit Free Press. Fellow righty Trevor Kelley also has a minor league deal with the club, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Both players will receive invitations to major league Spring Training.
Rodríguez, 25 in March, began his professional career with the Angels but went to the Tigers as the player to be named later in the 2017 trade that sent Justin Upton to Anaheim. He worked his way up the minor league ladder and spent 2021 primarily in Double-A but with a brief move to Triple-A. Between the two stops, he made 18 starts and one relief appearance, tossing 77 2/3 innings with a 5.68 ERA, but he struck out 24.6% of batters faced and walked 8.6% of them.
Despite that high ERA, the Tigers added him to the roster in November of 2021 to prevent him from reaching minor league free agency. That allowed him to serve as optionable depth for the club in 2022, though his first taste of the majors didn’t go well, to put it mildly. Over five starts and two relief appearances, he tossed 29 2/3 innings with a 10.62 ERA. His 17.5% strikeout rate and 10.5% walk rate were both subpar and he allowed an incredible 12 home runs in that brief time. Things didn’t go much better on the farm, as tossed 99 1/3 innings in Triple-A with a 4.98 ERA.
Rodríguez was outrighted off the club’s roster in November but will now try to get a fresh start with the Rays. His new club will surely try to get better results out of a fastball that was in the 89th percentile in terms of spin last year. If they can succeed and Rodríguez earns his way onto their roster, he still has a couple of option years and just a small amount of service time, allowing them to retain him for the foreseeable future.
Kelley, 30, had some brief and unsuccessful time in the majors with the Red Sox in 2019 and the Phillies in 2020. He signed a minor league deal with the Brewers for 2022 and cracked the club’s roster in May. From that point on, he was optioned to Triple-A and recalled five times, moving on and off the roster as the club needed. He didn’t find much success in the majors, posting a 6.08 ERA in 23 2/3 innings. In 34 1/3 frames for Nashville, however, he registered a 2.36 ERA while striking out 30% of batters faced and walking just 7.1% of them.
The Brewers designated him for assignment when they acquired Bryse Wilson and Kelley cleared waivers. He was eligible to elect free agency by virtue of having a previous career outright and has used that opportunity to join the Rays. If he can crack their roster, he still has one option year and less than a full season of MLB service time.