Winnipeg Goldeyes Gazette: Off-Season Report
The Winnipeg Goldeyes were last year’s North Division winner in the American Association and looked like they were going to roll to the championship series, but the Lincoln Saltdogs had other plans. Winnipeg won the first two games at home, then were swept in Lincoln, ending their season. A disappointing end to the season has only inspired them to work that much harder to get back to the championship, and to aid that goal several key acquisitions have been made.
The Goldeyes had an outstanding bullpen last season, but wanted to add some additional depth. On November 26 the team acquired RHP Patrick Mincey from the Kansas City T-Bones in exchange for infielder Jake Blackwood. This was a tough trade to make because of the phenomenal 2014 season that Blackwood had, however, Goldeyes manager Rick Forney sees Mincey as a big boost to the team’s pitching staff.
“His batteries are recharged and he’s looking to get back to where he was a couple years ago,” Forney said. “He’s one of those guys that has the ability to pitch the seventh, eighth, or ninth inning. We’re going to give him a chance to close some ballgames for us.”
Mincey split time between the two Kansas teams last season, going 4-3 with a save and a 4.65 ERA in 46 appearances for Wichita and Kansas City. In 2013 he had a monster year for Grand Prairie, going 5-1 with a 1.01 ERA and 24 saves in 50 appearances.
On the same day that Mincey was acquired, Winnipeg added outfielder Brady Wilson as a free agent signing. Wilson played for Rio Grande Valley of the United League, where he put up some impressive numbers in limited action. The 23-year-old hit .317 in 19 games, with 12 runs scored and 4 RBI. He had an impressive .354 on-base percentage.
A little less than a month later the team made a couple of important re-signings within three days of each other. First came the signing of left-handed reliever Brendan Lafferty, who had been a beast out of the pen for the Goldeyes in 2014. He had a career-low ERA of 2.66 and recorded 6 saves in 55 appearances. He also had a win in the first round of the playoffs, pitching shutout ball in each of his four appearances.
Three days later Winnipeg re-signed Nick Hernandez, the Minor League Sports Report’s Pitcher of the Year in the American Association last season. The lefty, pitching in his first season in the AA, was completely lights out, posting a 12-2 record and a 3.05 ERA, second in the league. At one point he had an eight-game winning streak that was snapped just before the end of the season. Hernandez will slide back in as the team’s ace.
The New Year has brought a host of signings and moves by the team. First came the signings of LHP Kyle Anderson and IF Ben Bostick on January 6. Anderson is returning to Winnipeg after his contract was purchased by the Arizona Diamondbacks last year. Before heading south of the border, Anderson was 3-2 in seven starts with a miniscule 1.64 ERA. He will rejoin the rotation.
Forney is saddened that the lefty did not stick with the Diamondbacks, but he is thrilled to have another potential ace on his staff. “Kyle was really good for us last year in the small sample size we got from him,” explained Forney. “We were certainly pleased that he got a chance to return to affiliated baseball with the Diamondbacks, but things didn’t work out for him. Obviously, we’re excited to have a quality left-handed pitcher back in our starting rotation and thrilled that Kyle is eager to get back to us.”
Bostick played for the Brantford Red Sox of the Intercounty Baseball League in Ontario, Canada last year where he hit .307 with 17 RBI in 26 games. He also showed some great speed, stealing 12 bases, and can play all over the infield.
“He has some skills and has some versatility on the defensive side,” his new manager explains. “He’s also a plus-runner, so he can get on base and make some things happen with his legs.”
Eight days later came the addition of outfielder Adam Heisler. Heisler had been a Chicago White Sox prospect the last four years, but last season he was suffering from a back injury that limited him to just 42 games. Despite the injury, he still hit .275 with 9 RBI and 2 home runs. In 2013 he was considered a big-time prospect for the White Sox, moving from A-Kannapolis all the way to AAA-Charlotte. In three stops he hit a combined .273 with 5 home runs and 57 RBI in 101 games. He also had a 48-game on-base streak.
He has committed just four errors in 191 career games, and should add a strong defensive presence to the Goldeyes outfield. “He’s a very good versatile outfielder and a solid defender that doesn’t make a lot of mistakes with the baseball,” Forney says of his new outfielder.
One day later the team took a big hit, as 1B Casey Haerther, who was second in the league in batting with a .360 average, had his contract purchased by the Baltimore Orioles. With his impressive swing and improved power it was only a matter of time before he got a shot, and the Orioles chose to give the first baseman a chance.
Not letting the signing of Haerther discourage them, the team re-signed two more from last season’s bullpen. LHPs Gabe Aguilar and Taylor Bratton opted to stay with the team another year, with both signing deals on January 20. Bratton was a late season addition last year, pitching in just 12 games, but he posted an outstanding 3.06 ERA, and was scored upon in just three of his appearances.
Aguilar made 41 appearances, two starts, going 7-2 with a 3.37 ERA. He allowed just 56 base runners in 48 innings, while striking out 39.
The loss of Haerther was a big one, but the Goldeyes had an answer in C.J. Zeigler. The infielder was signed on January 28 and has the bat that should keep this lineup as potent as last year. Zeigler hit .276 at independent league team Southern Maryland last season, clubbing 17 home runs and driving in 79 in 132 games. He also walked 60 times and posted an impressive .357 on-base percentage. Zeigler will likely start at first.
Monday brought another big re-signing by Winnipeg as LHP Chris Salamida opted to stay with the Goldeyes for a sixth season. The lefty started 19 games last season, posting a 7-4 record with a 3.29 ERA, and a team-leading 126 innings pitched. He is the team’s career leader in strikeouts.
“He’s a great, veteran, top-of-the-rotation arm,” Forney said. “He really seems to get better with each passing year with us. He does a tremendous job competing on the mound and does a fantastic job leading our pitching staff.”
Salamida is closing in on several team records, including most wins (he has 40 and needs 7 more to tie) and games started (15 behind the club record).
By Robert Pannier