The Texas Rangers signed three players earlier today, one of which should be familiar to fans. Catcher Chris Gimenez and Pitcher Davis Martinez were both given minor-league contracts and additionally invitations to spring training. Pitcher Efrain Nieves was also signed to a minor league deal, though he will report to minor league spring training this spring.
Martinez and Nieves are 27 and 25, respectively, meaning they are not exactly young. Regardless, their age (and Martinez’s invitation to big league spring training) suggests that they may be of more immediate help than we might expect. Remember, few people looked twice when the Texas Rangers claimed Shawn Tolleson off waivers last season; considering the Rangers budget constraints, these deals are of real importance early on this winter.
So it is worth taking a deeper look at each of these players. Starting with the pitchers makes sense considering we are already familiar, in part, with Chris Gimenez anyway.
David Martinez is a right-handed pitcher and native of Venezuela. He was most recently a member of the Astros organization pitching at Oklahoma City, so its is probably safe to say the Rangers personnel have had a chance to check him out given his relatively close proximity.
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It is not fair to Martinez to exclusively cite his poor 2014 numbers: his 5.64 ERA and 1.49 WHIP do not suggest he was tearing it up for his Houston Affiliate. Upon closer inspection though, Martinez has had some success and had it pretty recently too. 91 of his 205 career minor league appearances have been as a starter, and more of those starts have come with higher level affiliates, which is a good sign considering he has experience going through a lineup multiple times at higher levels. Additionally, as recent as 2013, David sported a 14-2 record with a 2.57 ERA for double-A Corpus Christi; those numbers do not seem too lucky either, he had a 0.99 WHIP there and a 4.30 K:BB ratio to go along with his sparkling record. His durability seems good too with three complete games that season (two of which were shutouts).
Given his solid 2012-2013 campaigns, it seems relatively safe to assume David’s rough 2014 could be simply a bump in the road while adjusting to AAA hitters. My guess is Martinez will produce closer to his minor league career average ERA (3.80) than his rough 2014’s output. At the very least, the Rangers appear to have added depth in the upper minors pitching department, something that could prove very valuable and shouldn’t be overlooked.
Efrain Nieves turned 25 years old five days ago and has yet to pitch above A+ ball. He is a native of Puerto Rico and was initially drafted by the Brewers in the 7th round of the 2007 June Amateur Draft. Still, Efrain was just .8 years older than his league-mates average age. His value lies in the fact that he is both left handed and appears to be on a good trajectory.
Last year, Efrain owned a 2.29 ERA and pitching 86.1 innings in just 44 appearances (4 starts mixed in). Regardless of the starts skewing his innings data, it seems like Efrain is capable (and proficient) as a multiple innings guy who throws from the left side. His 1.17 WHIP and 8.3 hits per nine innings last year suggests he does a decent job keeping runners off the bases too.
If Efrain can continue to build on his strong 2014 he should be closer than we might expect to the big leagues. I would imagine Efrain would begin his tenure as a Ranger either at high-A or AA, from there, he must put in work and prove he could be of use to the Rangers. After all, left-handed pitchers seem to have the quickest route to the majors.
Chris Gimenez was claimed off waivers on March 28th 2014, by the Rangers and granted free agency a week later on April 5th. On April 9th, he signed as a free Agent with the Rangers and made 118 plate appearances in 2014 as a Ranger, slashing .241/.313/.328/.640. As the Rangers season fell into a tailspin, Chris was sent to Cleveland in exchange for future considerations on August 23rd. Chris made just 10 plate appearances with the Indians and was granted free agency on November 4th. Now, a little over seven months later, Chris signed with the Rangers as a free agent for the second time.
I like this deal. Chris Gimenez seemed like a quality guy and player. He got on base at a decent clip despite sporadic playing time and seemed like a quality backup catcher given he committed just one error as a catcher (though he only caught 2 of 11 would-be base stealers). Given his experience, I would give Chris Gimenez the upper hand to back up Robinson Chirinos next year over Tomas Telis, who should get more reps in the minors given his age and some of the defensive aspects of his game that he needs polish.
These players have never made national headlines and these transactions certainly don’t either. Regardless, deals like these are often where a large part of the offseason is won. The higher-ups working for the Texas Rangers are smart people, you can bet that none of these signing were made on a whim without a sufficient amount of research and scouting. With any luck, the Texas Rangers with benefit from all of these players in one way or another.