Texas signs Pedro Strop.
According to Jack Etkin of the Rocky Mountain News, the Rangers have signed righthander a 23-year-old shortstop-turned-reliever Pedro Strop — maybe as much as a month and a half ago — after Colorado snuck him off the 40-man roster to make room for Todd Helton to return to the active roster for what ended up being two pinch-hit at-bats, before the 35-year-old was shut down again and then operated on for a bulging disk in his lower back.
The Rockies designated Strop — who had June surgery for a stress fracture in his right elbow — for assignment on September 12. The rules say that, during the season (other than with 10 or fewer days left on the schedule), a team has only two choices when designating an injured player for assignment: if he’s not claimed on waivers, the team must trade or release him. An injured player can’t be outrighted during the season.
Not a smart move by Colorado, who released Strop on September 19, presumably thinking of it as nothing but a paperwork move, with the intention of turning around and re-signing the reliever to a minor league contract. On September 23, he became a free agent, and Etkin reports that Strop was “immediately” signed by the Rangers, who were “relentless,” according to the Dominican’s former agent.
Led by assistant general manager Thad Levine, who was with the Rockies when they signed Strop as a 17-year-old and who left for the Rangers right at the time that Colorado had decided to transition Strop to the mound, Texas swarmed right in — reminiscent of the club’s opportunistic signing of outfielder-turned-reliever Warner Madrigal last November — and signed Strop to a minor league contract (so no impact on the 40-man roster, unlike Madrigal) for a reported $90,000.
Strop (pronounced “strope”) is expected to be sidelined until sometime after the beginning of spring training.
In his first four pro seasons (2002 through 2005), Strop hit .212 with no power or speed and more than a strikeout per game, and never got out of Low Class A. Colorado moved him to the mound, and the results were instantly eye-opening. In 13 innings for Casper of the rookie-level Pioneer League in 2006, Strop brandished a mid-90s fastball with late life, a plus slider, and a nasty splitter, giving him (as Baseball America described it) “three swing-and-miss pitches.” In those 13 innings, he scattered nine hits (.188 opponents’ average) and two walks, striking out 22 and giving up only three runs (2.08 ERA). In a final-month promotion to Low A Asheville, he posted a 4.73 ERA but held opponents to 10 hits (.213 average) and five walks in 13.1 innings, fanning 13.
The Rockies left him off the 40-man roster that fall but not without holding their breath, according to some accounts. He ended up undrafted via Rule 5, however.
In 2007, assigned to High A Modesto, Strop went 5-2, 4.28 as the Nuts’ closer, saving seven games in nine attempts. Over 54.2 innings, he allowed 43 hits (.215 opponents’ average) and walked 28 unintentionally, setting an astonishing 75 hitters down on strikes and maintaining a positive 1.25 groundout-to-flyout rate. His splits were relatively even, as he held right-handed hitters to a .224/.316/.362 line and lefties to a .202/.323/.321 line.
The Rockies took no chances last winter, adding him to the 40-man roster this time to shield him from Rule 5 exposure. In the spring he was assigned to AA Tulsa, having been ranked over the winter by BA (“along with Manny Corpas and Casey Weathers, he gives the Rockies three strong closer options for the future”) as Colorado’s number nine prospect and a candidate to reach the big leagues during the season. But two weeks into April, after seven appearances (three saves in four tries, two runs [2.57 ERA] on six hits [.231 opponents’ average] and four walks in seven innings, with seven strikeouts), he was diagnosed with the stress fracture in his elbow and didn’t return.
While it won’t happen early in 2009, Strop has a chance to eventually factor in here.
More good work by your baseball operations department.