The Padres released right-hander Michel Baez and outfielder Jorge Ona earlier this week according to the transaction section of each player’s MLB.com player page. Neither of the two former big leaguers were still on the club’s 40-man roster and had been in the organization on minor league contracts.
Baez, 28 next month, signed with the Padres out of Cuba prior to the 2017 season and quickly impressed prospect evaluators. Prior to the 2018 season, Baez was a consensus top-50 prospect in the sport with some publications even ranking him in the top 30. While Baez was moved to the bullpen in 2019, when he made his big league debut later that year the right-hander appeared to be on track to live up to his potential with an impressive 3.03 ERA in 29 2/3 innings of work. Unfortunately, that’s not how things worked out as Baez has made just five appearances in the majors since, most recently in 2022.
While injuries, including Tommy John surgery during the 2021 season, have played a role in Baez’s fall from promising prospect to released from the Padres organization entirely, the right-hander has largely struggled at the upper levels of the minors even when he’s been healthy enough to take the mound. He’s pitched just 35 innings at the Triple-A level in his career with a brutal 8.23 ERA and more walks than strikeouts, while he owns a career 4.47 ERA in 86 2/3 innings of work at the Double-A level.
Ona, 27 next week, signed out of Cuba as part of the same class as Baez, though he didn’t receive the same fanfare as a prospect. Ona has been dogged by injuries all throughout his career, last reaching even 70 games played in a single season back in 2018. When on the field, however, Ona occasionally showed flashes of potentially including a 25-game stint at the Double-A level back in 2019 where he slashed an impressive .348/.418/.539 in 103 plate appearances.
That strong performance earned Ona a brief cup of coffee at the big league level during the shortened 2020 season, where he managed to hit .250/.400/.583 in 15 trips to the plate. Unfortunately, Ona has scarcely taken the field since then with just 422 plate appearances across all levels in the past three seasons, almost all of which have come at the Double-A level. In 2023, Ona managed to get into just 35 games and when on the field slashed a lackluster .218/.301/.391 in 123 trips to the plate.
Now on the open market for the first time in their careers, both Ona and Baez will have the opportunity to either attempt to catch on with another organization at the minor league level or else depart affiliated ball for an independent league or potential overseas opportunities. Baez’s brief flashes of success at the big league level and prospect pedigree could give him better odds of securing another role in affiliated ball than Ona, though its possible the outfielder could be of interest to a team as well if he can prove himself to be healthy enough to handle a full professional season.