Gillaspie among Rays minor leaguers invited to camp, also 8 sign minor league deals with camp invites
First baseman Casey Gillaspie, the Rays minor league player of the year in 2016 and who has a chance to play in the big leagues in 2017, is one of 10 minor leaguers invited to Rays spring training camp.
The Rays also announced today they signed eight players to minor league deals with invites to major league spring training.
The free agents are: LHPs Dana Eveland and Justin Marks, RHPs Diego Moreno and Neil Wagner, C Michael McKenry, INF/OF Ryan Brett and OF Shane Peterson.
The minor leaguers are: Gillaspie, RHPs Jeff Ames and Andrew Kittredge, C Nick Ciuffo, C Jonah Heim, 1B/OF Jake Bauers, INF Jake HagerINF/OF Patrick Leonard, OF Johnny Field, OF Dayron Varona and 1B/RF Dalton Kelly.
Gillaspie, 23, hit 284 with a .388 on-base percentage and a .479 slugging percentage in 2016 while splitting time between Double A Montgomery and Triple A Durham. He combined for 18 home runs and 64 RBI between the two spots.
The switch-hitter, taken 20th overall in the 2014 draft, could join the Rays in mid-season and find himself part of a first base platoon with Brad Miller if Miller remains at first base.
Here is a breakdown on the other free agent as provided by the Rays:
Eveland, 33, spent the 2016 season in the Rays organization, including three stints in the majors. He went 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA (23-IP, 23-ER) in 33 appearances and was outrighted off the 40-man roster following the season. He was re-signed to a minor league contract on October 31. In 2016, he became the second left-handed pitcher in franchise history to make the Rays Opening Day roster as a non-roster invite to spring training, following Jim Parque in 2003. The 11-year veteran is 20-28 with a 5.46 ERA (446.1-IP, 271-ER) in 187 appearances (61 starts) for 10 major league clubs.
Marks, 28, went 7-11 with a 3.86 ERA (140-IP, 60-ER) in 25 appearances (23 starts) in 2016 with Triple-A Durham, including a 9-inning no-hitter on July 16 at Syracuse. He was selected to the active roster on September 6 and made four relief appearances for the Rays to end the season. His Rays debut was his first major league appearance since April 20, 2014 vs. Minnesota (with Kansas City), going 872 days in between. He was outrighted off the 40-man roster following the season and was re-signed to a minor league contract on December 1. Over eight minor league seasons, he is 40-65 with a 4.56 ERA (799.2-IP, 405-ER) in 176 appearances (133 starts).
Moreno, 29, signed a minor league contract with the Rays on December 8. He accumulated 72 days’ of service time for the New York Yankees in 2015, appearing in four games before a right elbow injury ended his season. He split the 2016 season between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the Yankees system, combining to go 7-1 with a 4.82 ERA (56-IP, 30-ER) in 32 appearances (two starts). Over nine minor league seasons, he is 27-17 with a 3.10 ERA (398.1-IP, 137-ER) in 236 appearances (13 starts).
Wagner, 32, returned from Tommy John surgery to appear in 42 games between Class-A Charlotte and Triple-A Durham in 2016, going 1-2 with a 4.44 ERA (48.2-IP, 24-ER). He enters his third season with the Rays organization after signing a minor league contract in September 2014. Wagner last pitched in the majors in 2014 and is 2-4 with a 4.92 ERA (53-IP, 29-ER) over parts of three major league seasons with the Oakland Athletics (2011) and Toronto Blue Jays (2013-14).
McKenry, 31, has appeared in the majors in each of the last seven seasons and is a career .238/.318/.406 (200-for-839) hitter with 29 home runs and 103 RBI in 311 games. He spent the 2016 season with the St. Louis Cardinals, Atlanta Braves, Texas Rangers and Milwaukee Brewers organizations, batting a combined .285/.426/.500 (57-for-200) with seven home runs and 38 RBI at their Triple-A affiliates. He has major league experience with the Cardinals (one season), Colorado Rockies (three seasons) and Pittsburgh Pirates (three seasons).
Brett, 25, was non-tendered by the Rays after missing the entire 2016 season due to Tommy John surgery, and re-signed to a minor league contract on December 6. He is a career .289/.343/.421 (522-for-1,807) hitter across six minor league seasons, and appeared in three games with the Rays in the 2015 season. He entered last season ranked by Baseball America as the No. 12 prospect in the Rays organization.
Kelly, 22, acquired earlier this offseason from Seattle in the trade for INF Richie Shaffer and UTL Taylor Motter, spent two seasons in the Mariners system. The left-handed hitter batted .293/.384/.416 with seven home runs and 58 RBI last season at Class A.