The Reds have signed outfielder Conner Capel to a minor league deal with an invitation to big league Spring Training, per a club announcement.
Capel, 26, was a fifth-round pick by Cleveland in the 2016 draft before being swapped to the Cardinals in 2018 as part of the return in the Oscar Mercado trade. Capel spent the next several seasons in the minor leagues before making his big league debut with the Cardinals in 2022. In nine games with the big league club in St. Louis, Capel struggled to a slash line of just .176/.211/.353 before the club designated him for assignment in late September. Once the Cardinals placed Capel on waivers, the A’s swooped in and claimed him before adding him to the big league roster for the stretch run. Capel caught fire with Oakland during his 13-game stint with the club to end the year, slashing an incredible .371/.425/.600 in his final 40 plate appearances.
That strong performance to end the 2022 season earned Capel a spot on the Opening Day roster in Oakland. Though Capel received regular starts in the outfield corners for the first month of the season, Capel failed to make the most of the opportunity and slashed just .258/.347/.318 across 75 trips to the plate before he was optioned to Triple-A. Capel ultimately finished the 2023 season with a .260/.372/.329 slash line in the big leagues, good for a respectable wRC+ of 109. That success came over the course of just 86 plate appearances, however, and Capel’s mediocre .252/.346/.402 slash line at the club’s Triple-A affiliate, which plays in the offense-inflating Pacific Coast League, wasn’t enough to convince the A’s to keep Capel on the roster. The outfielder was outrighted off the 40-man roster back in August and subsequently hit minor league free agency, allowing him to sign on with the Reds on this non-roster pact.
Capel doesn’t exactly have a clear path to joining Cincinnati’s roster, as the lefty outfielder would be competing with the likes of TJ Friedl, Will Benson, and Jake Fraley for a spot on the club’s roster to say nothing of right-handed outfield options like Stuart Fairchild and Spencer Steer. While the Reds’ deep positional group seems likely to block Capel at least entering Spring Training, an injury or two at the big league level combined with a strong performance from Capel during Spring Training and in the minors could provide him the opportunity to break onto the club’s roster. Until then, Capel figures to serve as a depth option at the Triple-A level for the Reds, who have the likes of Nick Martini and Bubba Thompson also available at Triple-A.