American Association Players Signing with Rival Clubs
American Association Daily provides insights, features, and recaps of the action from around the American Association of Professional Baseball League, as well as player and coaching profiles and transactions. In today’s edition, Robert Pannier looks at the movement of players from one team to another within the American Association.
All’s Fair in Love and Baseball
There is an old adage that says that all’s fair in love and war. This year that cliché could easily apply to the American Association, as managers and personnel directors have not been shy about signing players who had played with other clubs in the league.
While players have moved in previous seasons, this year it has been an all-out free-for-all. More than two dozen players who played for a different club in recent history will be in a different uniform this season. This is something that is commonly seen in Major League Baseball, but the competitive nature of the league, the increase in partner league teams, and the lack of minor league player releases has made this a cutthroat offseason, and we have not even reached the point for releases following the end of spring training in the American Association.
Let’s Look at Some of the Moves
While this is not intended to be a comprehensive list, a look at some of the key moves should give an idea about how interesting this season is going to be.
It should be mentioned that this trend began near the end of last season when Sioux City Explorers legend Nate Samson was released by the club and signed with the Lincoln Saltdogs. Samson helped Lincoln pass Sioux City in the standings, reaching the playoffs while the Explorers were kept out, and it seems that the floodgates were ready to be opened.
One of the biggest moves this offseason was when former American Association MVP José Sermo returned from the Atlantic League and opted not to re-sign with the Explorers, choosing the Cleburne Railroaders instead. Now, he joins a group that will likely be the best everyday lineup in the East Division.
The Sioux Falls Canaries pulled off two big acquisitions on Tuesday when they signed infielder Darnell Sweeney and RHP Akeem Bostick, both formerly of the Kansas City Monarchs. Sweeney has been one of the best all around players in the league over the last two seasons and Bostick had two stints with the Monarchs (2019, 2022), signed by the New York Mets in 2020 and he made his Major League debut last season. Sioux Falls also added outfielder Hunter Clanin, who spent three seasons with Cleburne before joining Lincoln last season.
Catcher Roy Morales is another former Monarch and Sioux Falls Canary. He was outstanding in the league and was signed by the Minnesota Twins in 2021, reaching AAA-St. Paul last season. He will be taking over the catching duties for the Milwaukee Milkmen this season. The Milkmen also added RHP Gregori Vasquez, who pitched for the Gary SouthShore RailCats and Kansas City in 2021.
Milwaukee also added two well-known outfielders, acquiring Reggie Pruitt and Michael Crouse. Pruitt was acquired in a trade with Winnipeg, and Crouse was claimed off waivers from the Goldeyes. Both have great speed and will cover lots of ground in Franklin Field.
The Explorers signed catcher Wilfredo Gimenez, who played for the Lake Country DockHounds last season and spent three seasons with RailCats. He will likely be the everyday catcher. They also signed right-hander Kent Hasler, who pitched for Winnipeg in 2020, then signed with the Milwaukee Brewers organization.
The Winnipeg Goldeyes added a couple of former RailCats players when they signed right-handed pitcher Josh Vincent and acquired infielder Tommy McCarthy. McCarthy was acquired from Grand Junction (Pioneer League) yesterday, but had spent two of his first three professional seasons with the RailCats. Vincent was with the RailCats in 2021 and 2022.
The Kane County Cougars signed shortstop Pete Kozma, who played for Kansas City last season. On Tuesday, the team announced the signings of right-hander Tyler Beardsley and left-hander Luke Westphal. Beardsley had pitched for the Sioux City Explorers the last two seasons while Westphal had been a star for the Chicago Dogs in 2019-20. He signed with the San Diego Padres in 2021 and played last season at AAA-El Paso.
Familiarity Breed Contempt?
All of these acquisitions does not even include trades that were made during the off-season. For example, Chicago acquired infielder Josh Altmann and right-hander Jonathan Cheshire from Chicago and Lake Country DockHounds traded left-hander Bryan Warzek for infielder Harrison Smith. This is going to mean that a lot of players are going to be facing former teammates this season.
The question will be whether this creates a more passive, friendly season in the American Association, or if it adds a little bit of edge to some of these games. It’s just another angle that is going to make the 2023 season a very enjoyable one.
By Robert Pannier