The 36-year-old Denorfia hasn’t appeared in the Majors since 2015 but has shown fairly well in Triple-A in each of the past two seasons, hitting .269/.329/.408 in 42 minor league games with the Giants last season and .275/.383/.353 through 61 plate appearances with Colorado’s affiliate this year. Though he’s never been an especially powerful bat, the right-handed-hitting Denorfia has experience at all three outfield spots and has hit left-handed pitchers at a .285/.353/.419 clip in 1004 plate appearances spread across parts of 10 Major League seasons.
The 36-year-old Denorfia, a client of Pro Star Management, spent the 2016 season with the Giants organization and batted .269/.329/.408 in 42 minor league games. That marked the first season that he hasn’t appeared in a Major League contest since 2007, as Denorfia has been a fixture on big league rosters for the better part of a decade. A 19th-round pick by the Reds back in 2002, Denorfia broke into the Majors in 2005 and solidified himself as a big league role player with the Padres in 2010, when he hit .271/.335/.433 in 99 games with San Diego.
From 2010-15, Denorfia enjoyed a part-time role with the Padres, Mariners and Cubs, averaging 118 games and 358 plate appearances per season while hitting a combined .271/.327/.393. He’s at his best when facing left-handed pitching, as evidenced by the .285/.353/.424 batting line he compiled against them in that time (compared to a .261/.308/.371 slash against righties). Denorfia has more than 1000 Major League innings at all three outfield positions, although he’s worked much more in the corners than in center field. He’s drawn consistently above-average marks in right and left field from both Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating.
Obviously, the Rockies have a crowded outfield mix as it is, though Denorfia will bring a right-handed bat to what currently lines up as an all-lefty mix. David Dahl, Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez currently seem like the favorites to serve as regulars in new manager Bud Black’s outfield. (Black, it should be pointed out, knows Denorfia quite well from his Padres days.) Gerardo Parra is on-hand as yet another southpaw-swinging fourth option. Colorado did sign Ian Desmond, who showed fairly well in his first season of outfield work with the 2016 Rangers, but Desmond is set to serve as their everyday first baseman barring the seemingly unlikely trade of an outfielder.
Rockies GM Jeff Bridich has recently voiced a desire to add some complementary pieces to his bench mix, and Denorfia could give the Rox a right-handed bat off the bench that can fill in at all three outfield spots as needed and match up nicely against lefties, should he ultimately crack the big league roster.
Here are the day’s minor moves from around the league…
- Veteran outfielder Chris Denorfia has been released from his minor league contract with the Giants, according to Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link). Denorfia, 36, signed with San Francisco back in early June and batted .269/.329/.408 in 143 plate appearances across two levels (most of the time spent in Triple-A) before his release. He’s a veteran of 10 big league seasons and is a career .272/.330/.392 hitter at the Major League level.
- The Dodgers released infielder/outfielder Zach Walters following his DFA on Sunday, reports J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles News Group (Twitter link). Walters received just five big league plate appearances with the Dodgers this season but slashed a respectable .276/.326/.444 in 366 plate appearances at the Triple-A level. Walters has plenty of pop, as evidenced by his 10 big league homers in just 181 plate appearances, but he’s also struck out in 36 percent of his trips to the plate as a Major Leaguer. Still, as a player with power and experience at shortstop, second base, third base and in the outfield, the 26-year-old switch-hitter figures to draw interest elsewhere.
- Right-hander Jeff Ferrell, who was designated for assignment by the Tigers last week, was released by Detroit yesterday, tweets Evan Woodbery of MLive.com. The 25-year-old entered the season as Detroit’s No. 21 prospect, per Baseball America, but he hasn’t pitched since May due to injury. Last season, Ferrell notched a 2.58 ERA with 10.6 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 in 38 1/3 innings at the Double-A level.
- Outfielder Darin Mastroianni has signed a minor league contract with the Rangers, reports Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (via Twitter). Mastroianni, 30, had a nice season as a fourth outfielder for the Twins back in 2012 but battled an ankle injury the following season and ultimately was designated for assignment in 2014. He’s bounced around the league on a number of waiver claims minor league deals since that time, making brief MLB appearances with the Blue Jays and with the Twins (in a second stint). The fleet-footed Mastroianni is a career .271/.341/.349 with 87 steals in 108 tries across 369 games.
- The Marlins released infielder Pedro Ciriaco, per Baseball America’s Matt Eddy. Miami acquired Ciriaco from the Rangers back on July 8 in exchange for lefty Eric Jokisch (who had been designated for assignment), but he hit just .221/.239/.250 in 68 plate appearances with Triple-A New Orleans. The versatile 30-year-old has plenty of big league experience under his belt, having compiled a .268/.294/.368 slash in 649 plate appearances across 272 Major League games from 2010-15.
The Giants and veteran outfielder Chris Denorfia are in agreement on a minor league contract, pending a physical, according to Baseball Essential’s Robert Murray (Twitter link). Denorfia is a client of Pro Star Management, Inc.
The 35-year-old Denorfia hasn’t suited up at the Major League or Minor League level this season, although he was in big league camp with the Yankees back in Spring Training before opting out of said deal on March 27.. Denorfia also appeared in 103 games with the Cubs last season, posting a .269/.319/.373 batting line with three homers in 231 trips to the plate. He has long graded out as a plus defender on the outfield corners and has plenty of experience in center field if he’s needed there in a pinch. He somewhat curiously struggled against left-handed pitching with the Cubs in 2015 — an oddity considering the fact that he’s a lifetime .285/.353/.419 hitter when holding the platoon advantage over a lefty.
The Giants currently have both Angel Pagan and Hunter Pence on the disabled list, and while Pagan may be nearing a return, Pence required surgery to repair a torn hamstring and is expected to be out for at least two months. As such, adding some veteran outfield depth to the mix is a logical course of action for San Francisco, who also agreed to a minor league pact with former Giant Travis Ishikawa yesterday.
The Yankees announced that outfielder Chris Denorfia has exercised his opt-out clause. Denorfia signed a minor league pact with the Yankees in early March that allowed him to exit the contract by the end of the month.
Denorfia, 36 in July, inked a one-year deal worth $2.6MM with the Cubs prior to the 2015 season. The veteran turned in a .269/.319/.373 slash line with three homers across 231 plate appearances, numbers that weren’t in line with the best work of his career. Still, he offers solid hitting against lefty pitching with a career .285/.353/.419 line in those situations.
Prior to his slide in 2014, Denorfia had a run of four solid seasons at the plate, and he was hoping to return to that form for the Bombers. Instead, he’ll presumably seek employment elsewhere with an eye on turning things around.
TODAY: Denorfia would earn $1MM in the majors and can also reach up to $1MM in incentives, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network (Twitter link).
Commenting on the deal, GM Brian Cashman suggested that New York was interested in adding right-handed-hitting depth to the outfield mix. The 35-year-old certainly makes good sense in that role, as he’s compiled a lifetime .285/.353/.419 slash against opposing southpaws.
That being said, Denorfia was available on a minors pact because he hasn’t played up to his prior standards over the past two seasons. Since the start of 2014, he has a .245/.297/.339 slash over 589 plate appearances. But he put up four straight seasons of above-average offensive production before that, and rates as a quality fielder in the corner outfield, so it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see him return to productivity if he can earn his way back onto a MLB roster.
JANUARY 6: Denorfia will be guaranteed $2.6MM this year, with an additional $400K in achievable incentives, Heyman tweets.
DECEMBER 31: The Cubs have agreed to terms with outfielder Chris Denorfia, former teammate John Baker tweets. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal confirms the deal (via Twitter), adding that it’s for one year. He will receive about $2.5MM, tweets CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman. Denorfia is a client of Pro Star Management, Inc.
Denorfia, 34, hit .230/.284/.318 in 330 plate appearances with the Padres and Mariners in 2014. Before that, though, he had four straight productive years in San Diego, always posting OPS figures in the .700s despite the difficulties hitting there. He’s also hit well against lefties throughout his career, batting .292/.358/.430 against them, and he can play all three outfield spots (although he didn’t play much center in 2014).
The Cubs traded another righty outfielder, Justin Ruggiano, to the Mariners two weeks ago for relief prospect Matt Brazis, and Denorfia should be a reasonable substitute. (And not just with his play — MLBTR projects Ruggiano will make $2.5MM this season, approximately the same amount Denorfia will now make.) The Cubs can platoon Denorfia with lefty Chris Coghlan in left field while also having him fill in as needed at the other outfield spots.
The Orioles are looking hard for an outfielder, as they’ve been linked to Justin Upton and Marlon Byrd in trade rumors today, though they’re apparently no longer pursuing Matt Kemp. Here’s some more from Charm City…
- While the Orioles aren’t shopping Brian Matusz, the lefty reliever is apparently available for the right offer, according to the buzz MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko is hearing around the Winter Meetings. Matusz, the fourth overall pick of the 2008 draft, struggled as a starter before being converted to relief pitching in 2012 and he’s since posted solid numbers out of the bullpen. Matusz has two more years of team control and, as Kubatko notes, his value is tied to whether other clubs see him as a starter or a reliever going forward.
- A rival scout considered the O’s to be the “overwhelming favorite” to sign Delmon Young, Kubatko reports. Young was reportedly looking for a multiyear deal while the Orioles were looking to re-sign him to a one-year pact, though it has been rumored that the team could compromise by offering a one-year deal with an option. Dan Duquette met with Young’s agent today.
- The Orioles have asked about Chris Denorfia and Jonny Gomes, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun reports via an article and a tweet, respectively. Denorfia and Gomes check many of the same boxes as Young, as all three are veteran right-handed hitters who can play corner outfield spots, though Gomes is best suited for LF and Young will likely see more time in a DH role.
Earlier this month, the Reds made their front office addition of Kevin Towers official, but that’s far from the only change they made. As MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reports, the Reds have also promoted VP of baseball operations Dick Williams to VP/assistant general manager, giving him a larger role in the club’s decision-making process. Presumably, he’ll assume some of the responsibilities of well-regarded veteran AGM Bob Miller, who is now with the Nationals. Promoted to senior director positions were Nick Krall (baseball operations) and Sam Grossman (analytics). As for Towers’ official title, he will be a special assistant to GM Walt Jocketty, as will fellow new hire Jeff Schugel, who worked with Atlanta in a similar capacity last year.
Here are some more Reds notes…
- In a second column, Sheldon examines some free agent outfield options that are on the Reds’ radar or at least should be, in his eyes. Sheldon lists Nori Aoki, Mike Morse, Torii Hunter, Colby Rasmus, Alex Rios and Chris Denorfia as potential fits, though he notes that sources have indicated to him there’s been no contact with Hunter or Denorfia to this point. Interest in Aoki and Morse has been confirmed by Jocketty, but it’s unclear whether the Reds have touched base with Rasmus or Rios.
- John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer looks at how the Mariners’ reported extension of Kyle Seager has increased the price of a potential extension for Todd Frazier. Both third basemen are arbitration-eligible for the first time (or Seager was, prior to his extension, at least). Frazier is a year older than Seager but the two posted very similar batting lines in 2014, have good defensive marks and are comparable in terms of WAR. I’d think Frazier’s case is a bit weaker due to a less consistent offensive track record and the age difference, but the two are certainly comparable. Seager’s extension is said to be worth $100MM over seven seasons.
- In this week’s edition of the MLBTR Podcast, site owner Tim Dierkes chatted with host Jeff Todd about speculation surrounding the Reds and Red Sox as trade partners. The Reds could theoretically benefit from Cespedes’ bat and have comparably priced pitchers to trade, leading some to wonder about a potential deal with Cespedes and Mat Latos. However, Tim posits that Mike Leake could be a safer option for the Red Sox as a centerpiece in a Cespedes trade, given his clean injury history. Leake’s taken a step forward over the past two seasons, pitching to a combined 3.54 ERA in 406 2/3 innings in Cincinnati’s very hitter-friendly stadium. Latos made just 16 starts and lost nearly two mph off his fastball. Tim and I have discussed this scenario as well. We both agree that Leake, who would hit the market at the young age of 28 next offseason, could net his 2015 club a draft pick assuming he isn’t traded midseason and is capable of turning in something in the vicinity of the 104 ERA+ he’s notched over the past two seasons.
Although the Indians were connected to free agent third baseman Chase Headley as recently as last night, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Headley won’t be coming to Cleveland, as he’s considered too expensive. The Indians did indeed reach out to Headley’s camp a few times before making that assertion, Hoynes adds.
Cleveland might not be a significant player on the free agent market at all, Hoynes writes, though they have contacted the agents for Kendrys Morales and Chris Denorfia. Cleveland’s interest in Morales dates back to 2006 when he was a free agent defector from Cuba. The switch-hitting Scott Boras client struggled in 2014, hitting a combined .218/.274/.338 in 401 plate appearances between the Twins and Mariners. However, Morales may have struggled due to sitting out through June 8, and he did enter the 2014 season as a lifetime .280/.333/.480 hitter in eight seasons. As Hoynes notes, Morales would become a more plausible target for the Indians if they’re able to unload Nick Swisher’s contract, which they’ve reportedly been trying to do.
Denorfia, 34, also struggled in 2014, batting .230/.284/.318 between the Padres and Mariners. While he’s never had Morales’ upside at the plate, Denorfia has a long track record of hitting left-handed pitching and has excellent defensive marks in both outfield corners (plus the ability to play center in a pinch). A career .292/.358/.430 hitter against left-handed pitching, Denorfia could provide the Indians with a solid glove to pair with David Murphy in an outfield platoon, as Murphy hit just .238/.279/.325 against lefties last year and has a history of struggles against same-handed pitching.