The Reds signed left-hander Reiver Sanmartin and infielder Alex Blandino to minor league deals within the last week, according to Cincinnati’s official transactions page. Sanmartin was assigned to Triple-A Louisville, while Blandino was assigned to Double-A Chattanooga.
Sanmartin was cut loose by the Reds just prior to the non-tender deadline, and he’ll now return to the team while no longer part of the 40-man roster. It doesn’t seem like he’ll be available for most or even all of the 2024 season after undergoing UCL surgery back in July, if that surgery was indeed a standard Tommy John procedure. However, Sanmartin’s prognosis improves if he underwent an internal brace procedure, which carries a more fluid but perhaps significantly shorter recovery timeline depending of the nature of the injury. Should Sanmartin fall within that 6-9 month range for a brace surgery, he might be ready to go for the start of Spring Training.
There wasn’t any mention whether or not Sanmartin’s minor league deal was for one or two years, as the longer deal would’ve hinted at a longer recovery. Such two-year pacts at either the minor league or Major League levels aren’t uncommon for pitchers recovering from major arm surgeries, as teams get to lock up a player with the acknowledgement that they’ll miss most or all of that first year. Just earlier today, the Red Sox inked a two-year minor league pact with Wyatt Mills, who had TJ surgery last July.
Sanmartin came to the Reds from the Yankees as part of the Sonny Gray trade in January 2019. Making his MLB debut in 2021 and then appearing for Cincinnati in each of the last three seasons, Sanmartin has a 5.77 ERA over 82 2/3 innings in the Show, working primarily as a reliever. With underwhelming walk and strikeout rates, Sanmartin’s 53.5% groundball rate is a highlight, though batters have been fortunate with a .339 BABIP against Sanmartin’s grounder-heavy approach. The 27-year-old southpaw has had better strikeout and control numbers down on the farm, en route to a 3.39 ERA over 446 career minor league innings.
Blandino is another former Red, as he was selected 29th overall by the team in the 2014 draft and then played all three of his MLB seasons (2018-21) in Cincinnati. However, a torn ACL and other injuries hampered his time in the big leagues, as Blandino had a penchant for drawing walks but not much else over the course of a .226/.339/.291 slash line in 279 plate appearances. After the Reds outrighted Blandino following the 2021 season, he spent some time in the minors with the Giants and Mariners, and his only pro experience in 2023 was playing with Team Nicaragua in the World Baseball Classic.
The 31-year-old Blandino has a lot of experience at both middle infield positions and at third base, plus a handful of appearances as a first baseman, corner outfielder, and even four mop-up pitching appearances in blowouts during the 2021 campaign. This versatility makes him a useful depth option to have on hand in the minors, especially since the Reds’ influx of young star prospects coming to the majors has thinned out the position-player ranks in their farm system.