Mets reach minor league deals with Kemp, Santana
NEW YORK (AP) — Looking to replenish their depth, the banged-up New York Mets agreed to minor league contracts Friday with veteran outfielder Matt Kemp and pitcher Ervin Santana.
Each move is pending a successful physical, and both players are expected to report to the club’s spring training complex in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
The 34-year-old Kemp, who made his third All-Star team last season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, was released May 4 by Cincinnati. He batted .200 with a home run and five RBIs for the Reds and had been sidelined since April 23 with a broken left rib.
“Obviously, still pretty high ceiling,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said following a 9-8 loss to Detroit. “He’s been playing well the last couple years. He had a good year very recently. So we’re going to send him down to Florida, very similar to Santana, and get him in playing shape and see what we’ve got. Just another piece that at some point may be able to help us.”
The 36-year-old Santana, a two-time All-Star, became a free agent on April 29, three days after he was designated for assignment by the White Sox, who signed him for a $4.3 million salary this year. He was 0-2 with a 9.45 ERA in three starts for Chicago this season.
“It’s just another depth piece for us and one that has some upside to it, because when he gets rolling, he can be a pretty good pitcher,” Callaway said. “I’ve been around him a lot, and he can pitch. When he has that slider going, it’s pretty tough.”
New York has 11 players on the injured list, including four outfielders and five pitchers.
Missing from the outfield are regulars Michael Conforto (concussion), Brandon Nimmo (stiff neck) and Jeff McNeil (left hamstring tightness). Longtime big leaguers Carlos Gómez and Rajai Davis were called up from Triple-A Syracuse within the past week to help fill those holes.
New York also claimed outfielder Aaron Altherr off waivers from San Francisco on Thursday. He arrived in New York about 7 a.m. Friday after a red-eye flight from Arizona and was added to the active roster.
Left-handed reliever Ryan O’Rourke was optioned to Syracuse.
Altherr snapped an 0-for-26 slide in his first plate appearance with the Mets when he launched a pinch-hit homer off the facing of the second deck in left field.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” he said.
Conforto was eligible to come off the seven-day concussion list Friday but was not reinstated. He took batting practice on the field and has been feeling good after going through baseball activities.
The Mets are waiting for Conforto to be cleared by Major League Baseball and they hope that will happen this weekend. Conforto said it appears Sunday is most likely, and he’s ready to get right back in the lineup.
Conforto took a concussion test early in the game, administered by Mets doctors, and the results will be passed along to MLB.
“It’s pretty difficult,” he said. “It’s really thorough.”
Another injured outfielder is Yoenis Céspedes, expected to miss the entire season after having ankle surgery Thursday. The team said Céspedes sustained multiple fractures to his right ankle in an accident on his Florida ranch. Céspedes hadn’t played this season while recovering from surgery on both heels.
Kemp is a .285 career hitter with 281 homers, 1,010 RBIs and an .822 OPS in 14 major league seasons with the Dodgers, Padres, Braves and Reds. He batted .290 with 21 homers and 85 RBIs in 146 games for Los Angeles last season.
Santana is 149-127 with a 4.09 ERA in 15 major league seasons with the Angels, Royals, Braves, Twins and White Sox. The right-hander went 16-8 with a 3.28 ERA in 211 1/3 innings for Minnesota in 2017, when he made the AL All-Star squad and led the league with five complete games and three shutouts. He had an 8.03 ERA in five starts with the Twins last year.
“We all know what Ervin Santana’s done in his career,” Callaway said. “Great clubhouse guy. I know him pretty well. He’s had a ton of success at the major league level. Having said that, we’ve got to evaluate where he’s at. So to say he’d be just a starter or a bullpen guy, we really can’t predict that at this moment.”