The Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks have been one of the busier teams in the American Association this off-season, looking to turnaround the disappointing finish of 2014. The early part of the off-season saw them make some additions to bolster the team’s outlook for this season, but as the season draws near the RedHawks have made some key acquisitions that should have a significant impact on their chances to compete.
In the span of six days the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks made four moves. The first of these was on February 11, when they released infielder Ronnie Bourquin who decided to retire. Two days later RHP Chase Boruff was acquired from Florence of the Frontier League. The 6-2, 200 pound righty returned to baseball following Tommy John Surgery in 2013. He struggled in 20 appearances, posting an 0-2 record and an 8.68 ERA. The right-hander has good stuff, and now that his arm is back at full strength he could be a key to the RedHawks this season.
On February 16, OF Stefan Gartrell was signed by Fargo-Moorhead. “We are looking forward to plugging Stefan into the middle of our lineup,” explains RedHawks Manager Doug Simunic. “He’s going to bring power and experience and should be a big presence on our team in 2015.”
Gartrell sat out the 2014 season, but he has had a lot of success professionally for both the Chicago White Sox and Atlanta Braves organizations. In 2013 he hit .267 with 9 home runs and 34 RBI in 75 games. In eight seasons in the minor leagues he has a career .270 average, with 137 home runs and 502 RBI in 900 games.
On February 20, the team lost one of its best players from the 2014 season when CJ Retherford signed with Tijuana of the Mexican League. The second baseman hit .312 last year with 12 home runs and 72 RBI in 99 games played. He was a major catalyst for their offense and his bat will be sorely missed.
Nearly a week later, the RedHawks brought back fan favorite Zach Penprase for his eighth season in Fargo-Moorhead. In 93 games in 2014, Penprase hit .276 with 4 homeruns and 32 RBI. He also stole 19 bases and posted a .349 on-base percentage.
On February 27, Fargo-Moorhead struck a big deal with the New Jersey Jackals of the Can-Am League, sending RHP Brian Ernst and infielders Frank Salerno and Jared Schlehuber eastward in exchange for OF Joe Dunigan. Ernst being dealt will leave some tough shoes to fill as he led the team in wins last season, but acquiring Dunigan was too much of a temptation to pass on.
The outfielder blasted 27 home runs last season to lead the Can-Am League. He hit .249 in 92 games, with 71 RBI and 58 runs scored. The duo of Gartrell and Dunigan with give the RedHawks a very dangerous heart of the order.
The next day the team retained one of its own when catcher Travis Higgs was signed for the upcoming season Higgs played in 64 games last season, hitting .271 with 6 home runs and 25 RBI. He is a very versatile player, who can fill in at first and the outfield besides being a quality catcher.
Right-hand pitcher Josh Wright was also signed on the same day that Higgs was retained. Wright played his first professional season last year for the Roswell Invaders of the Pecos League. He was very impressive, posting a 4-0 record with three saves and an outstanding 2.08 ERA.
With the March acquisitions, the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks now have 15 players signed to their active roster. With just one catcher and two infielders under contract, there is still quite a bit of work to do in the next two months to prepare for opening day.
By Robert Pannier