The Reds announced a pair of minor league deals today, one of them going to left-hander Alex Young and the other to infielder Richie Martin. Both players have received invitations to major league Spring Training.
Young, 29, was a second round pick of the Diamondbacks in the 2015 draft. He had a solid debut in the majors in 2019, throwing 83 1/3 innings with a 3.56 ERA. His 20.3% strikeout rate was below average but he limited walks to a 7.7% rate and got grounders at a 44.4% clip.
The next couple of seasons were a struggle, however, with the southpaw posting ERAs of 5.44 in 2020 and 6.58 the year after. The Diamondbacks put him on waivers in that latter campaign, with Young getting claimed by Cleveland. The Guardians then passed him through waivers in the offseason but he pitched well in the minors and got selected back to the roster in July. He only made one appearance for Cleveland before getting designated for assignment but the Giants liked him enough to send cash considerations to the Guards and put Young into 24 games.
Young got some good results with the Giants and finished the year with a 2.36 ERA over 26 2/3 innings. His 18.1% strikeout rate and 9.5% walk rate were both subpar but he got grounders at a strong 54.2% rate. Despite that performance, he was non-tendered by the Giants after the season.
Right now, the Reds have Reiver Sanmartin as their only lefty on the 40-man that’s projected to be in the bullpen. If Young can make his way onto the roster, he can provide them with some roster flexibility since he still has one option year remaining. He can also be retained for future seasons via arbitration since he has just under three years of MLB service time.
As for Martin, 28, he was a first round selection of the A’s in 2015. Prospect evaluators have long praised his defense, speed and athleticism but raised concerns about his work with the bat. The A’s weren’t satisfied enough with his progress to give him a roster spot after 2018, allowing the Orioles to nab him with the first pick in that year’s Rule 5 draft.
Martin stuck on the rebuilding O’s roster that year, allowing them to obtain full control over his rights. However, the concerns about his bat have come to fruition. Through 447 plate appearances in the majors thus far, he’s hit just .212/.261/.311 for a wRC+ of 50. He’s been better in the minors but still not very exciting. In 80 Triple-A games last year, he hit .250/.341/.380 for a wRC+ of 96, though he did steal 29 bases in that time. The O’s outrighted him off the roster in September and he elected free agency at season’s end.
For the Reds, there’s little harm in taking a flier and seeing if Martin can find another gear this year. They are currently set to send another glove-first option to their shortstop position in Kevin Newman. It’s expected that prospect Elly De La Cruz will eventually take over as the club’s shortstop of the future, though he’s only 21 and has yet to reach Triple-A. If Martin can take a step forward at the plate, there would be little preventing the Reds from giving him a shot in the big leagues. If he earns his way onto the roster, he still has one option year remaining and can be retained for a while via arbitration since he has between two and three years of major league service time.