Yankees acquire Shawn Kelley for Abe Almonte

Gonna need a new number, kid. (Presswire)
Gonna need a new number, kid. (Presswire)

The Yankees had a surplus of Double-A and Triple-A outfielders, so they turned one of them into a serviceable big league reliever. New York traded Abe Almonte to the Mariners for right-hander Shawn Kelley, the team announced. Alex Rodriguez was placed on the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot.

Kelley, 29 in April, was designated for assignment by the Mariners when they signed Joe Saunders six days ago. Buster Olney confirmed Kelley has a minor league option remaining, meaning he’s likely ticketed for the Triple-A bullpen to start the season. He and Cody Eppley figure to ride the Scranton-Bronx express this summer. Kelley will earn $935k in 2013 following his second trip through arbitration as a Super Two. He can’t become a free agent until the 2015-2016 offseason at the earliest.

A two-time Tommy John surgery survivor, Kelley owns a 3.52 ERA (4.12 FIP) in 128 big league innings spread across the last four seasons. He misses bats (career 8.58 K/9 and 22.6 K%) with a low-to-mid-90s fastball and a power mid-80s slider, and his walk rate (2.74 BB/9 and 7.4 BB%) is strong as well. Ten of his 39 walks as a big leaguer were intentional, so that walk rate is inflated a little bit. Kelley is a fly ball pitcher (29.5% grounders) and homer prone (1.34 HR/9 and 9.7% HR/FB), which is not ideal. As long as he’s working low-to-mid-leverage innings, it won’t be the end of the world.

Almonte, 23, did not make my annual Top 30 Prospects List. He hit .276/.350/.392 (106 wRC+) with 30 steals in 359 plate appearances for Double-A Trenton last summer. Once an infielder, Almonte moved to the outfield full-time in 2008 and has experience in all three spots. He re-signed with the team after becoming a minor league free agent in October, then went unclaimed in December’s Rule 5 Draft. With Slade Heathcott, Tyler Austin, and Ramon Flores ticketed for Double-A and Zoilo Almonte, Melky Mesa, and Ronnie Mustelier in line for Triple-A — don’t forget about Adonis Garcia and Thomas Neal either — Almonte was completely expendable.

The big league bullpen is pretty much set at this point, but extra arms are always going to be needed. The Yankees used 17 different relievers just last season, for example. Kelley adds some depth and they traded a player they won’t even notice is gone thanks to all the outfielders at the upper levels. I wouldn’t say it’s something-for-nothing, but they definitely used their minor league surplus to help the big league club.

Yankees re-sign four to minor league contracts

Via Matt Eddy: The Yankees have re-signed LHP Juan Cedeno, LHP Francisco Rondon, OF Abe Almonte, and OF/DH Cody Johnson to minor league contracts. All four players became six-year minor league free agents at the end of the season.

Cedeno (29-year-old lefty reliever) and Almonte (speedy 23-year-old outfielder) could actually help the big league team as soon as 2013. Both players will be exposed to the Rule 5 Draft this December unless added to 40-man roster by the November 20th deadline — I doubt they will be, otherwise the Yankees would have done it to avoid letting them hit free agency — but the risk that they stick with a club next year is worth the reward of not clogging up the 40-man with more fringy prospect types. Both guys are nice depth pieces to have in the high minors.

Austin, Sanchez highlight Baseball America’s Best Minor League Tools

Yesterday it was the big leaguers, today it’s the minor leaguers. Baseball America published their best tools survey today (subs. req’d), polling managers and other personnel about the game’s best aspiring Major Leaguers. OF Tyler Austin and C Gary Sanchez headline the crop of Yankees farmhands by being named the Best Hitting Prospect and Best Power Prospect in the Low-A South Atlantic League, respectively. The survey was conducted prior to their promotions to High-A Tampa.

Other Yankees prospects getting love include the Double-A Eastern League trio of OF/DH Cody Johnson (Best Power Prospect), OF Abe Almonte (Fastest Baserunner), and RHP Brett Marshall (Best Changeup). OF Mason Williams was dubbed the Best Defensive Outfielder in the Sally League as well. RHP Mark Montgomery got beat out for the High-A Florida State League Best Reliever crown by Futures Gamer RHP Bruce Rondon. For shame.