The Arizona Diamondbacks optioned switch-hitting shortstop/second baseman Ildemaro Vargas and left-handed relief pitcher Marc Rzepczynski to the Triple-A Reno Aces on Sunday.
The two moves left the Dbacks with 27 active players in Major League camp with three days remaining until opening day.
Vargas, 27, batted .367 with 22 hits and a team-high 11 RBIs in 24 games this spring. He has two Minor League options remaining.
Rzepczynski, 33, was an expected addition to the Aces’ roster. The southpaw signed a Minor League contract with the Dbacks on Feb. 11 with up to $550k in incentives, noted Jon Heyman of the MLB Network. Rzepcynski looks to be an excellent addition to the bullpen, as opponents have hit just .227 against him in his 10-year career.
Arizona’s signing of four-time All-Star outfielder Adam Jones gave the team some flexibility in the infield, and it was a factor in keeping the rangy Vargas from the 25-man roster. Jones can fill the starting center field position held season by A.J. Pollock, who became a free agent and signed a five-year deal with the Dodgers in the off season. Second baseman Ketel Marte has been playing in center field this spring. Marte also can serve as a backup infielder for second baseman Wilmer Flores and shortstop Nick Ahmed.
Vargas will join a crowded Aces infield to start the 2019 season. Third baseman/shortstop and Venezuelan teammate Juniel Querecuto was optioned to the Aces on March 22. Second baseman Domingo Leyba and third/first baseman Kevin Cron were sent back to the Biggest Little City
on March 12. The Dbacks optioned second baseman and former San Francisco Giant Kelby Tomlinson to Reno on March 19.
Animated first baseman Cody Decker also will have an impact. He has 197 Minor League homers in his 10-year career.
Along with Vargas, former Aces outfielder Socrates Brito is not expected to make the big-league team, reported Zach Buchanan of the Athletic. Brito, 26, is batting just .167 in 54 at-bats with the Dbacks in spring training. His left-handed pop can be an asset in Chase Field, but Brito’s inconsistencies at the plate and below-average arm in right field may place him on the Aces’ opening day roster.
The Dbacks face a tough decision with the Dominican Republic native. H is out of Minor League options and will hit free agency if Arizona doesn’t add him to its 25-man roster. Brito remains in the Dbacks’ Major League camp.
With plenty of firepower on the mound and at the dish, the Aces appear to have what it takes to make a run at the Pacific Coast League division title in 2019. They make their season debut on April 4 at the reigning division champion Fresno Grizzlies.
Notes: Arizona optioned left-handed reliever Robby Scott to Reno on March 23. Scott, 29, has a career 3.91 ERA in three seasons with the Boston Red Sox. Scott and fellow lefty Rzepcynski will make it especially tough on opposing left-handed batters. … Catcher Caleb Joesph was also optioned to the Biggest Little City on March 22. Joseph, 32, hit three home runs and drove-in 17 RBIs with the Baltimore Orioles last season. Joseph and catcher Tyler Heineman will play behind the dish with the Aces. … Outfielder Matt Szczur was assigned to Minor League camp and is expected to start the season in Reno. … Right-hander and fellow UNR alum Braden Shipley will join Yasmany Tomas with the Aces. A first-round pick in 2013, Shipley appeared in three games with the Dbacks in 2018. Tomas has two years and $32.5 million left on his six-year, $68.5 million contract he signed with Arizona in 2014.
— Isaiah Burrows