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Minor League Deal Tracker: Almora Agrees to Deal with NL Champs; Tony Kemp to Reds

 Conor Liguori  |    Mar 1st, 2024 1:52pm EST

Albert Almora Jr. of the Cincinnati Reds in action during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on August 19, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

OF Albert Almora Signs Minor League Deal With Arizona Diamondbacks – Outfielder Albert Almora has signed a minor league contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks with an invite to MLB spring training. The former 2016 World Series champion with the Chicago Cubs did not play in Major League Baseball in 2023.

However, he appeared in 36 games in Puerto Rico this winter for the Cangrejeros de Santurce of the Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente. Almora hit just .216 with a .569 OPS, but can provide the Diamondbacks veteran leadership and outfield depth.

FanGraphs projects Arizona’s starting outfield as budding superstar Corbin Carroll, Alek Thomas, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., leaving Almora as a possible injury replacement.

Speedster OF Tim Locastro Signs Minor League Deal With San Diego – Outfielder Tim Locastro signed a minor league contract with the San Diego Padres on Wednesday, Jon Morosi of MLB Network reported.

Locastro, 31, remains one of the fastest runners in MLB, stealing 45 bases in 50 career attempts. He ranked in the 93rd percentile for sprint speed in 2023 according Baseball Savant and can play all three outfield positions. Locastro has played with five organizations in his seven-year career, most recently hitting .232 with two home runs and six stolen bases in 43 games in 2023 for the New York Mets.

Chicago Cubs, 1B Garret Cooper, Agree to MiLB Deal – An All-Star in 2022, Cooper heads to Chicago to try to earn an Opening Day roster spot. After spending six years with the Miami Marlins from 2018-23, the first baseman was sent to the San Diego Padres at the trade deadline last season.

Cooper struggled mightily against right-handed pitchers last year, posting a .666 OPS against them, but had a .904 OPS against lefties. He hit 17 home runs in 123 games in 2023 and kept his average exit velocity at 89 mph, 0.7 mph higher than the league average.

Cooper may have a good chance of spending some time at first base with the big league club this season, as Patrick Wisdom is not, particularly a true first baseman, and Cody Bellinger receives more starts in center field than at first.

Reliever Matt Barnes Agrees to Minor League Deal With Nationals – Once a mainstay in the Boston Red Sox bullpen, Barnes agreed to a minor league deal with the Washington Nationals on Tuesday, Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com reported.

Barnes struggled with the Miami Marlins in 2023, posting a 5.48 ERA in 24 games, but the best seasons of his career came with the Boston Red Sox, earning him an All-Star appearance with the club in 2021. He struck out 37.8 percent of the batters he faced in 2021 and kept the ball in the yard, allowing eight home runs in 54.2 innings. Barnes also recorded a career-high 24 saves that same year. His average fastball velocity was 93.4 mph with Miami, but he has the potential to touch the high 90s when fully healthy.

San Francisco Giants Sign SS Nick Ahmed to Minor League Contract – The San Francisco Giants announced Monday they signed shortstop Nick Ahmed to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training. Ahmed, 33, had spent his entire 10-year MLB career with the Arizona Diamondbacks before being designated for assignment by the club last September.

The Giants’ clear plan is to have 22-year-old Marco Luciano be the starting shortstop, but Ahmed essentially replaces Brandon Crawford as the veteran who can teach the rookie a thing or two. He’s never been much of a threat with the bat, as evidenced by his career .664 OPS, but he still holds value defensively. According to Baseball Savant, he prevented four runs from scoring and made difficult plays to his left or right at a 77 percent success rate in 2023.

LF Tony Kemp Signs Minor League Deal with Cincinnati Reds – The Cincinnati Reds signed infielder/outfielder Tony Kemp to a minor league deal on Saturday, reports Jon Heyman of the New York Post. Kemp spent the last four seasons of his eight-year career with the Oakland Athletics.

Coming into the winter, Kemp was one of the better utility options available on the free agent market, but his hitting has not been up to par the last few years. He had an .800 OPS in 131 games in 2021 but recorded a .641 and .607 OPS in the previous two years. The Reds may have more infield depth than any team in MLB, so if Kemp were to make the Opening Day roster, he would likely receive most of his playing time in left field.

MLB Trade Rumors reports Kemp can opt out of his deal with Cincinnati on March 23 if he has yet to be promised an Opening Day roster spot.

Additional Recent Minor League Transactions – 2023 Statistics/Team

● Boston Red Sox Sign RHP Jason Alexander – 71.2 IP, 5.40 ERA, 46 SO/ Milwaukee Brewers

● Philadelphia Phillies Sign C Cam Gallagher – 149 PA, .126 BA, 7 RBI/Cleveland Guardians

● Seattle Mariners Sign 3B Brian Anderson – 361 PA, .226 BA, .678 OPS/Milwaukee Brewers

● Boston Red Sox Sign LHP Joely Rodriguez – 11 IP, 6.55 ERA, 14 SO/Boston Red Sox

● Chicago Cubs Sign 1B/LF Dominic Smith – 586 PA, 12 HR, .692 OPS/Washington Nationals