Tribe makes flurry of moves to fill 40-man roster
Indians protect three Rule 5 prospects, acquire Lockett, sign Freeman to Minors deal
CLEVELAND -- With some 40-man roster wiggle room to work with in advance of the Rule 5 Draft deadline, the Indians had a busy day Tuesday. They protected three of their Rule 5-eligible prospects, made a minor trade with the Padres and even inked a non-roster invitee to Spring Training camp, just for good measure.
First baseman Bobby Bradley (No. 7 on the Indians' Top 30 prospects list per MLB Pipeline), left-hander Sam Hentges (No. 8) and right-hander Jean Carlos Mejia (unranked) were added to the 40-man and are therefore ineligible for selection by other clubs in the Dec. 13 Rule 5 Draft at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas.
The Indians filled their final roster spot with the swap with San Diego that netted right-hander Walker Lockett in exchange for right-hander Ignacio Feliz. The Tribe also signed utilityman Mike Freeman to a Minor League deal that includes an invite to big league Spring Training camp.
Bradley, 22, has the raw power to perhaps become a part of the Indians' 2019 plans, but high strikeout totals could limit his ceiling. In '18, he slashed a combined .224/.308/.466 with 27 homers and 26 doubles between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus. He was the Indians' third-round pick in the '14 Draft.
Hentges, 22, is rising up prospect rankings after a 2018 season during which he came back from Tommy John surgery to post the second-lowest ERA (3.27) and third-most strikeouts (122) in the Class A Advanced Carolina League. The 6-foot-6 lefty is a former fourth-round Draft pick ('14).
Mejia, 22, was signed out of the Dominican Republic in late 2013 and is seeing his stock rise. He spent most of the year at Class A Lake County, where he posted a 3.13 ERA in 17 games (15 starts). Notably, Mejia had a 4.76 strikeout-to-walk ratio for the season.
While those three are protected from the Rule 5 Draft, outfielder Oscar Gonzalez, who ranks 22nd on the club's top prospects list, was among those left unprotected. Gonzalez has not played above A-ball. Players selected in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft must stay on the big league roster or disabled list the entirety of the following season or be offered back to the original team.
As for the trade, the Indians added Lockett and the Padres freed up a 40-man spot. Lockett, 24, spent most of 2018 with Triple-A El Paso. He had a 4.73 ERA with 118 strikeouts against 33 walks in 133 1/3 innings. He made three spot starts in San Diego, posting a 9.60 ERA. He was the Padres' Minor League Pitcher of the Year in '16 and a fourth-round Draft pick in 2012. The Indians gave up Feliz, a 19-year-old native of the Dominican Republic who posted a 3.00 ERA in 10 starts in the Rookie-level Arizona League this year.
Freeman, who can play all over the infield, rounded out Tuesday's Tribe activity. The 31-year-old spent 2018 in the Cubs' system, batting .274 with 15 doubles, six homers and 38 RBIs in 78 games for Triple-A Iowa. He appeared in one game for the Cubs in September and has 57 total games of Major League experience, including stops with the D-backs, Mariners and Dodgers. He has a career Minor League on-base percentage of .360.