The Reds announced the signing of Austin Wynns to a major league contract. The Ball Players Agency client reportedly inked a split deal that pays $950K for time spent on the MLB roster and a $300K rate in the minors. To clear space on the 40-man roster, Cincinnati designated outfielder TJ Hopkins for assignment.
As was the case a season ago, the Reds are likely to carry three catchers on the MLB roster. Wynns joins Luke Maile as glove-first veterans to work alongside Tyler Stephenson, who seems set to log the majority of his time at designated hitter.
Wynns, 33, has appeared in the majors in five straight seasons. He spent his first few seasons with the Orioles before bouncing around over the last two years. Wynns played for a trio of NL West clubs in 2023, following brief stints in San Francisco and Los Angeles with a more extended run in Colorado.
The Rockies carried Wynns on the MLB roster from early May onwards. Originally claimed off waivers from the Dodgers, he operated as the backup to Elias Díaz. Wynns didn’t offer anything at the plate despite the hitter-friendly home park, turning in a .214/.273/.282 slash. He owns a .226/.273/.324 line across 653 big league plate appearances overall.
Wynns posted stronger results on the other side of the ball. Statcast graded him slightly positively as a pitch framer for the first time in his career. He cut down nearly 31% of opposing basestealers, well above last year’s 19.8% league average in a much more favorable environment for baserunners.
The Rockies nevertheless cut him loose at the end of the season as a result of his lack of offensive production. Wynns secures a 40-man roster spot in the short term, although the split contract suggests there’s a chance the Reds waive him at some point. Wynns is out of options, meaning Cincinnati can’t send him to Triple-A unless he first clears waivers.
As a player with between three and five years of MLB service, Wynns would have the ability to decline a minor league assignment but would forfeit any guaranteed money to do so. By guaranteeing a $300K salary for whatever time he spends on a minor league roster, the deal could incentivize Wynns to accept a stint in Triple-A if the Reds do run him through waivers at any point. If he remains in the majors all year, he’d be eligible for arbitration again next offseason.
For now, Wynns is on the roster. That necessitated a move which makes Hopkins available to other clubs. A ninth-round pick in 2019, Hopkins reached the big leagues in June. The South Carolina product didn’t see much action in his first MLB stint, tallying 44 plate appearances through 25 games. He hit .171/.227/.171 with 17 strikeouts and two walks.
The 26-year-old (27 next month) had a much better performance in Triple-A. Hopkins posted an excellent .308/.411/.514 slash with 16 homers over 393 trips to the plate in the International League. He walked a massive 14% clip against a slightly elevated 23.9% strikeout rate. Hopkins spent the majority of his time in the corner outfield after seeing scattered center field work early in his professional career.
Cincinnati has a week to trade him or place him on waivers. Between the strong upper minors production and pair of remaining option seasons, there’s a decent chance he changes organizations for the first time in his career.
Mark Sheldon of MLB.com first reported the contract terms.
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