The rebuilding California Tidals have executed yet another trade this off-season, sending 28-year-old catcher Mike Krenz to the Toronto Nomads in exchange for right-handed bullpen arm Juan Avila.
The 26-year-old Avila is seen as a good fit for the rebuilding Tidals, after a great season in the Nomads bullpen in 2017, in which he went 3-1 with a pair of saves, and held an ERA of just 1.21 over 22.1 innings.
Toronto struggled to win games last season, but it wasn’t due to a lack of good pitchers. Avila was part of a stable of bullpen arms that held the best ERA in the Lake League at 2.48. After two seasons at the top level, the Dominican was 3-2, with 2 saves, a 3.04 ERA, and a 1.27 WHIP. Rated as a groundball pitcher by scouts, he has a 96 mph fastball with great placement, along with a solid slider, particularly against right-handed batters, who hit .146 against him last year.
The Nomads in return are getting another catcher for their farm system. Krenz will likely be on the 40-man roster, but start the season in AAA-level Brampton. Catcher/DH Hong-ryul Oh is a costly and inefficient option at $10.5 million, and will become a free agent at the end of the season. He could re-sign for a fraction of that, but the Nomads have been under budget pressure since last year and are unlikely to ink a deal with him, as they have R.J. Ray as their full-time DH under contract until after 2019.
Krenz will thus be a big feature as a backup catcher once Oh is gone. Gula Kareem will likely stay on as primary catcher, with Victor Dozal as the #2. Depending on how the season progresses, Krenz could replace Dozal as the #2, or be the #1 at AAA-level Brampton. If Kareem, who is 30, and has never been injured, were to suddenly hit the DL, both Dozal and Krenz would tussle for the #1 role on the roster.
Krenz will not win any batting titles, and Toronto desperately needs offense. But he has a cannon arm for a catcher, throwing out 40% of baserunners last year at AAA-level. Some scouts put him at slightly above-average power, which means that in a pinch he won’t necessarily hurt the batting order either.
Another factor in this trade is the salary cost. Toronto saves about $220,000 in salary in the trade, and are a small step closer to budget parity for 2019.