Revs bring back reliever, trade for outfielder
Below is the article featured in Friday’s York Dispatch newspaper on the latest players signings from the Revolution. This was really my first chance all year to catch up with skipper Mark Mason about the beginning steps of piecing together the 2014. He said plenty of interesting things Thursday night. So much so not all of it was able to fit into the article. However, that bonus material is at the bottom of this blog post. Among the highlights is the status of some top-name former Revs players who are currently free agents. Also at the bottom of this blog post is a recap of all the signings across the Atlantic League since Tuesday.
The York Revolution announced two more player signings Friday. Neither are big-name guys, though. Nor do they have major league experience. Heck, of the nine guys signed thus far, only starting pitcher Corey Thurman has big league time. It’s a change from last year, when five of the first nine players signed were former major leaguers.
As a result, some fans might look at the construction of the first third of York’s 2014 roster and come away not impressed. Revs’ manager Mark Mason, though, sees plenty to happy about.
“I really like the roster. Right now we have depth. We have versatility. One thing that was a priority for me this year was I wanted to work on defense. I thought last year our defense was ragged at times. I know that was part of guys playing out of position a lot. Six or seven guys playing short-stop and all the different changes didn’t help,” Mason said. “I’m trying to button up the defense as well as I can. When you play good defense, pitchers will be better because they’re not trying to be so perfect. It’s a domino effect.”
Of course, part of Mason’s job is to promote the club as best he can. But the second-year York skipper has a point. In Mason’s debut season as the Revs’ manager a year ago, York led the league in total hits and was third in runs scored, yet missed the playoffs for the first time in four years and finished with a 65-75 overall record. The independent Atlantic League doesn’t keep stats on errors, but York was likely near the top of the league in that category in 2013. The pitchers, meanwhile, led the Freedom Division in strikeouts (935) but posted a 4.32 ERA, the fifth-best in the league.
“Hitting is overrated,” Mason said. “The difference between the top and bottom in the league in average hits is maybe two hits a game. It’s more about when you get your hits. Our ERA was right there. Hitting was (first) in the league even with all the changes we made. It’s just a question of defense.”
Smith: One of the two most recent additions will aid in that effort. Outfielder Sean Smith comes to York in a trade from Southern Maryland, with the Revs sending the rights of pitcher Anthony Slama to the Blue Crabs. Smith, 31, is a former Pittsburgh Pirates’ and Chicago White Sox prospect who reached the Class AA level in 2007. A 5-foot, 10-inch right-handed batter, Smith gathered a .253 average 13 homers, 50 RBIs and 73 runs scored in 122 games last season with Southern Maryland.
“He’s a really good outfielder. He was with Somerset a couple years ago as well. He played a good centerfield for them,” Mason said. “He’s been around. He can run. Brings speed to the team. Last year he hit 13 homers. He has some power.”
Smith doesn’t hit for average, though. York’s other outfielder signed at this point, Ruddy Yan, doesn’t either. But Mason still has up to 18 more roster spots left to fill before Opening Day on April 24. He currently has four contracts out to players he expects to be signed soon. Will one of those be a big-name player? Possibly a power-hitting outfielder? Mason basically answered ‘Yes’ without saying ‘Yes.’
“Stay tuned,” he said.
Vaughan: The other player signed Friday is relief pitcher Beau Vaughan, a former Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics prospect who has compiled a 7-2 record and 3.54 ERA in 95 Atlantic League games the last two seasons, including eight games with York in 2013.
The Revs now have two starting pitchers, three relievers, two outfielders, an infielder and a catcher signed.
Bonus Q&A: Below is the remainder of the conversation Mason and I had on several points in regards to the process of players signings, set up in a Q&A format. Definitely worth a read. He even reflected on how former Revs’ Andy Marte and Johan Limonta were hounded by Mexican League offers the last two years but opted to stay in York in hopes to get picked up. Now, Marte is on the verge of possibly starting this season in the big leagues after earning an invite to big league spring training with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Q: With the Revs’ baseball operations manager currently vacant (Andrew Ball has left to take a nine-month internship in the Tampa Bay Rays’ scouting department) and the recent hiring of a new pitching coach who is new to the Atlantic League, what differences have you experienced this year just as far as the process of signings guys?
A: “The biggest difference this year is, first of all, the administrative part of it. In the past we would make deals with players and Andrew (Ball) would handle paperwork part of it. He would give us guys who he thought were interesting. We’re all looking at the same list. It’s just a question of what the coaching staff thinks is a fit. And a lot of times in the past (when I was the pitching coach) it was me, Etch’ (former Revs’ manager Andy Etchebarren), Andrew and Polo’ (Revs’ third base coach Enohel Polanco) on a conference call once a week discussing who was out there, who are we willing to target, what we’re willing to do financially, what their role would be. And Polo does help me a lot, especially with some of the Latin players as far as helping me get a hold of them. I do send a lot of emails. We do send a lot of emails with guys in the Dominican (Republic).”
Q: I went back and looked at last year’s signings. Your first nine players you signed included former big leaguers in Thurman, Marte, Graham, Fiorentino and Fox. By comparison, these first nine guys announced this year are lacking in star power a bit. When I look at it, I just think it’s still too early yet to make a judgment on anything, but I’m sure there are some fans out there who see a lot of familiar names coming back to a team that didn’t make the playoffs last year. What do you make of it?
A: “Well, I think the first thing is just because a team didn’t make the playoffs doesn’t mean guys aren’t good players. You do have, I don’t want to say a limited pool of talent who can play at this level, but a lot of the better players are tied up in options in other (independent) leagues. You do want to try to sign good, available talent right now. On top of that it’s really like a good high school players. All of the good colleges are on top of that kid. So when a guy is released from spring training, all of the clubs are on them. A lot of the guys who get released at end of spring training will likely get picked up by another organization and they’re not willing to sign (with an independent team) right away. There’s a lot of quality players who didn’t get invited to spring training. The first thing you do is you go through your old roster. You get that done. And then in the mean time you’re still looking at making some trades and doing different things like that.”
Q: I think it was four players last year who ended up retiring during the season. How much does that play a factor into signing guys right now? Is there ever any hesitation to sign a guy who you think might not stick around?
A: “Not really. I think you find each case is case by case. Some guys they start thinking about…they’re not sure if they want to play anymore. There’s a lot of guys you talk to who are free agents who are in a waiting period. Not in spring training with anybody. Have a wife and kid and think maybe I’ll start to think about something else. Last year none of those guys said that. It does make you a little bit leary of if a guy is willing to put in the time or get to be missing the family. Last year the guys were pumped up to play. Everyone is different. We’re kind of navigating the water maybe a little bit different as we did last year.” “Almost all these guys I’ve talked to, how many are there? Nine? There’s probably one, two, three, probably four more contracts out there right now I’m waiting to get contracts back from. And that’s not even 50 percent of the roster because we can carry 27 guys until June 1. We’re still early in the process.”
Q: Brian Burgamy (former Revs’ slugger) getting signed by the Mets. It’s a good thing for Burgamy, but I imagine you guys were expecting him to return to York at the start of this season?
A: “No. Actually I talked to Brian a lot in off-season. If he had not gotten signed by the Mets he would’ve gone back to Mexico. He destroyed it (the Mexican League) in the summer and winter. He already had a job in Mexico. And if he doesn’t stick on with the Mets, he’ll probably go back to Mexico.”
Q: Signing with Bridgeport, we saw infielder Ramon Castro is coming back to the Atlantic League after a year away. Was there ever any consideration on your end to bring him back to York?
A: “Not really. Ramon was great player here in York and he did a lot of great things for us. He’s a year and a half removed from now (having last played for York). I’m glad he got a good job but I think we’re on different paths.”
Q: Do you expect pitchers Chris Cody, Mike Wuertz and Stephen Penney to be back in York?
A: “I talked to all those guys. Wuertz said he would like to pitch. Penney thought if he played this would his last year.”
Q: What about infielders Wilson Batista and Andres Perez?
A: “We’re talking to Perez for sure and Wilson as well. Perez is getting interest from outside the league. Do I think he’ll be back? Probably. He does have a decent offer.”
Q: Is the offer from the Mexican League or another foreign league?
A: “It’s the American Association.”
Q: I think former York outfielder Johan Limonta is still a free agent. Have you had any discussions with him yet?
A: “Limo’ called me, too. I sent him emails in the winter and got him on the phone. He didn’t get invited back with anybody for spring training. He did get invited to Mexico but that hasn’t panned out yet, either. There’s a good possibility (he could come back to York). He’ll know about Mexico in another week or two.” “Guys like him and Andy Marte really epitomize the league. Two weeks into the season and they were getting hounded by Mexico everyday. They came here to try to get signed and said ‘I’m going to stay.’ Marte not even 20 games in and they were calling him everyday and Limo, too.”
Signings: There have been several other signings across the Atlantic League since Monday. Below is a collection of those.
Blue Crabs: Southern Maryland brought back outfielder Jeremy Owens and pitchers Eduardo Morlan and Wade Korpi. Korpi is a former York pitcher. Click here for more info. The Crabs now have four players under contract.
Camden: The Riversharks brought in four players who spent last season in the Atlantic League. Click here for more info. Camden now has nine players under contract.
McGrady: Sugar Land didn’t announce any signings, but here is a good report from Fox 26 sports anchor Mark Berman, who stopped out at Constellation Field on Tuesday to watch former NBA All-Star Tracy McGrady pitch. Click here to check out video of McGrady pitching, along with an interview with McGrady and interviews with two current minor league batters on their thoughts about McGrady after standing in the batter’s box while he pitched. Although he’s not officially signed by the Skeeters just yet, McGrady said his goal is to eventually pitch for Sugar Land.