The Cincinnati Reds were busy this afternoon, making a full set of moves. They announced via twitter that they have claimed outfielder Nick Martini off of waivers from the San Diego Padres and that they traded for right-handed pitcher Justin Shafer from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for cash. I still don’t understand why we don’t just say that teams bought a contract in that situation, but I don’t make the rules.
To make room on the 40-man roster, the Reds designated two players for assignment. Right-handed reliever Jimmy Herget and outfielder Brian O’Grady are now on waivers. O’Grady is currently playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic for Aguilas Cibaenas where he’s posted a .750 OPS through 13 games played with 10 walks, two doubles, and two home runs.
Let’s start off by looking at outfielder Nick Martini. He’s a 29-year-old left-handed hitting outfielder who has only spent parts of two seasons in the Major Leagues. In 2018 and part of 2019 he played with the Oakland Athletics. During the 2018 season he hit .296/.397/.414 in 179 plate appearances. This season with Oakland he went 1-11 before being placed on waivers and picked up by the San Diego Padres. He played down the stretch for San Diego. In 96 plate appearances he hit .244/.344/.317.
At the plate he shows the ability to walk and get on base. There’s not a lot of power in his bat, though. He’s never reached double digit home runs in his career in a given season. This past season in Triple-A Las Vegas he hit .328/.432/.482 with 49 walks and 51 strikeouts in 329 plate appearances. Originally drafted by St. Louis in the 7th round, he’s added some power as he’s come through the minors, but it’s still not a part of his game.
Over the last two seasons, which is as far back as I chose to go, Nick Martini shows pretty big splits at the plate. Let’s take a closer look.
Against right-handed pitching, Nick Martini has actually been pretty good. He draws a bunch of walks, makes contact at an above-average rate, has hit for average, and shown enough pop to make pitchers respect him a little bit. As a platoon guy, that could certainly be useful.
When it comes to the defensive side of things, he’s played left, center, right, and first base in recent years. In the Major Leagues almost all of his time has come in center, with 496 of his 514 innings coming in left. It’s possible he could be an emergency center fielder, but he’s only played in 40 innings in center since the start of 2017.
For funsies – he has also pitched a few times in his career. And that includes a hitless inning for Oakland in 2019. He also walked two batters and struck out a batter in that inning. His average fastball velocity? 68 MPH. Eat your hearts out. Oh, and Nick Martini has one option remaining – so he can head to the minor leagues in 2020 if necessary.
Justin Shafer is coming over from Toronto. The 27-year-old right handed reliever spent 2019 splitting time between Triple-A and the Major Leagues. In Triple-A he posted a 3.52 ERA in 30.2 innings with eight walks and 35 strikeouts. While with Toronto his ERA was similar – posting a 3.86 mark in 39.2 innings, but his walk rate ballooned as he handed out 25 free passes. That did come with 39 strikeouts, though, as he continued to miss bats.
Shafer brings with him a five pitch mix, though he rarely uses his change up. What he does rely on is a mix of a 4-seam fastball, cutter, slider, and a sinker. That’s not something you often see from a reliever. His fastball averages 95 MPH and topped out at 97.2 during the 2019 season. His change up and slider both work in the mid 80’s, and his cutter come in around 89-91. According to Fangraphs pitch values, his 4-seamer and his sinker are above-average offerings, while the slider was well below-average.
An interesting note on Justin Shafer is that until mid-season of 2018 he was a big time groundball pitcher, with a career rate of 56%. But since the mid-season point of 2018 that rate has shot down to 37%.