The Winnipeg Goldeyes saw some key pieces of last season’s North Division title team depart in the early off-season, but March has seen the club shore up their roster, looking to make a run for the American Association title. The Goldeyes are great at evaluating talent, and the club’s moves in March only help to solidify that perception of the team.
On March 6, INF Brock Bond was re-signed by the Winnipeg Goldeyes, while INF Ryan Pineda was dealt to Sussex County of the Can-Am League. Bond is entering his ninth season of professional baseball, his second with the Winnipeg Goldeyes. In 64 games last season Bond hit .326 with 53 runs scored and 20 RBI. He was an on-base machine, walking 50 times, giving him an outstanding .448 on-base percentage.
On March 11, former Major Leaguer Jalien Peguero was signed by Winnipeg. The right-hander made 25 appearances for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2007-2008. In 2014, Peguero split time between two Mexican League clubs, Laguana and Campeche. Combined he went 2-3 with a 6.85 ERA in 23 appearances. He also saved two games.
Manager Rick Forney sees the big righty as a key piece to his bullpen. “We were looking for an experienced ninth inning guy,” Forney explained. “If you look at his track record over his career, he’s been very healthy, never had a surgery on his arm. He’s pitched at the highest level and is very comfortable pitching late in ball games. He’s had a few seasons along the way where he’s saved a lot of ball games. He’ll certainly shorten up the games for our starters and he’s a big addition to our bullpen.”
On March 16, the Goldeyes signed RHPs Benji Waite and Jon Fitzsimmons. Waite had a solid season for Rio Grande Valley of the United League last season. In 30 appearances he went 6-2 with a 3.35 ERA. The righty allowed 37 hits and 16 walks in 43 innings pitched while striking out 42.
“He can sink the ball and his velocity is pretty good, right around 90,” Forney said of the acquisition of Waite. “I hear he has good stuff and I am anxious to see how his arm can translate into our league.”
Fitzsimmons was a Kansas City Royals prospect in his first two professional seasons, pitching for Idaho Falls last season. He was 0-1 in 13 appearances with 3 saves and 5.40 ERA. He has a very live fastball, striking out 19 in 18.1 innings pitched, but he also walked 16.
One week later the Goldeyes acquired OF Brandon Boggs from Bridgeport of the Atlantic League in exchange for RHP Patrick Mincey. Boggs played three years with the Texas Rangers (2008-2010) and a year with the Milwaukee Brewers (2011). Last season he played for Gwinnett, the Atlanta Braves AAA team and for Bridgeport. In 92 games at Gwinnett Boggs hit .256 with 7 homers and 33 RBI. In 18 games at Bridgeport he hit .324 with a homer and 7 RBI. Boggs stay in Winnipeg was short-lived as he was dealt to York in the Atlantic League the next day.
Also on March 24, Winnipeg signed RHP Mark Pope and INF Aaron Baker. Pope has four years of professional experience. Last season he was at Great Lakes, the Mid-A team of the Dodgers. There, Pope was 4-3 with an outstanding 2.26 ERA in 49 appearances. He also saved nine games, and showed incredible command of his pitches, walking just 15 in 63.2 innings pitched while striking out 52.
Manager Rick Forney sees Pope playing a big role with his pitching staff this season. “He’s a good competitor and a strike thrower,” Forney said. “We’re going to use him in the back end of the bullpen. We feel he’s going to be a nice addition to our team. He’s going to pitch in some important ballgames for us in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.”
Baker is returning to the diamond after sitting out last season. In 2013 he played for High-A Frederick and AA-Bowie, both Baltimore Orioles affiliates. In 74 games he combined to hit .224 with 6 home runs and 26 RBI.
Manager Rick Forney is excited about the addition of Baker’s bat to his lineup. “He’s a big, strong left-handed hitting first baseman. He’s the kind of guy that we think if we can get him back up to speed in a hurry that he has 15-20 home run power in our league. He’s a middle-of-the-order type guy and comfortable driving in runs. We’re looking for more balance this year in our order when it comes to the right-handed and left-handed mix. Being able to have a power bat from the left side of the plate is pretty important to us.”
Two days later, INF Brad Boyer was signed by the Winnipeg Goldeyes. Boyer has played nine seasons of professional baseball, most recently with the Minnesota Twins AA-New Britain team. Last season he played in 79 games, hitting .246 with 19 runs scored and 26 RBI. He also stole 14 bases. He is a career .282 hitter in the minor leagues and should be an outstanding addition to the team.
“He has a lot of experience and versatility, both offensively and defensively,” the Goldeyes manager added. “He had two huge seasons in our league in the past. We envision him hitting third in the lineup, getting on base, stealing bags, scoring runs, and driving runs in.”
On March 27, OF Mike Wilson was signed by Winnipeg. Wilson played for the Seattle Mariners in 2011, and in 2014 split time between AAA-Louisville and Monclova of the Mexican League. Combined he hit .267 with 15 home runs and 40 RBI.
Wilson has the kind of bat that fits in the heart of the team’s batting order. “We were looking for another middle of the lineup presence and we feel pretty confident we found that guy in Mike Wilson,” Forney explained. “He’s going to help provide a lot of protection for the other power hitters in the middle of our lineup. Adding someone of his experience and stature certainly helps the ball club.”
On March 30 the club signed two right-handers, Raul Rivera and Rob Nixon. Rivera has been with Houston Astros organization since turning pro in 2009. He pitched for Mid-A Quad Cities and Low-A Tri-City last season, combining to go 3-0 in 22 appearances with a 3.00 ERA. Rivera can bring the heat, striking out 38 in 36 innings.
Nixon turned pro in 2011 and has been with the Cleveland Indians organization since. He pitched for High-A Carolina and AA-Akron last season, going 1-6 in 32 combined appearances with a save and a 4.86 ERA. The right-hander will get a shot to make the Goldeyes’ rotation.
April Fool’s day proved to be no joke as 1B Casey Haerther re-signed with the club. Haerther’s contract had been purchased by the Baltimore Orioles, but he was released. His bat is a welcome addition to Winnipeg after finishing second in the American Association in 2014 with a .360 average. He also clubbed 13 home runs and drove in 72 runs.
With the moves the Winnipeg Goldeyes now have 26 players signed for the 2015 American Association season.
By Robert Pannier