The Indians announced over the weekend that they’ve signed veteran catcher Rob Brantly to a minor league contract and assigned him to Triple-A Columbus. Left-hander Ryan Merritt, meanwhile, cleared waivers after being designated for assignment and was assigned outright to Columbus.
Merritt, 26, was designated for assignment after spending the entirety of the season on the disabled list due to a knee sprain. He’d been working through a rehab assignment, and Indians manager Terry Francona told reporters at the time of Merrit’s DFA that the lefty was healthy but showing diminished velocity. That’s particularly troubling for a pitcher who only averaged 87.3 mph on his heater when healthy in the Majors from 2016-17.
Indians fans will forever remember Merritt’s performance against the Blue Jays in the 2016 American League Championship Series, and he owns terrific overall results in limited big league experience. Merritt has a 1.71 ERA in 31 2/3 MLB innings, but he’s managed just 13 strikeouts in that time (3.7 K/9) and has been rather fortunate in that he’s never surrendered a home run in the big leagues. Merritt has a career 3.68 ERA in 315 1/3 Triple-A frames, but he struggled to a 5.88 mark in 20 2/3 innings this season. He’s out of minor league options, so any club that claimed him would’ve had to carry him on the MLB roster. Now, he’ll look to round back into form with Columbus in hopes of getting another shot in the big leagues later this season.
The 29-year-old Brantly, meanwhile, was recently released from the Braves organization after a disastrous run with their Triple-A affiliate. In 201 plate appearances, Brantley slashed just .218/.254/.293. However, he had an excellent year between the Triple-A affiliates for the Reds and White Sox in 2017 and even hit .290/.389/.516 in 36 big league plate appearances with the White Sox.
Cleveland understandably needed some catching depth at the Triple-A level after dealing prized catching prospect Francisco Mejia to the Padres in last Thursday’s Brad Hand/Adam Cimber trade, and Brantly will give them an experienced option behind the plate. He’s a career .230/.294/.333 hitter in 428 MLB plate appearances and a .257/.295/.379 hitter in parts of seven Triple-A seasons.