Former Red Sox right-hander Raynel Espinal has signed a minor-league contract with the Giants, per the team’s transaction log.
Espinal, 30, was originally selected by the Sox in the minor-league phase of the 2019 Rule 5 Draft after spending the first seven years of his career in the Yankees organization.
A few months prior to getting picked up by Boston, Espinal underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2019, so the 2020 minor-league season being wiped out on account of the COVID-19 pandemic did not affect him too much.
After re-signing a minors pact with the Sox last winter, Espinal came into the 2021 campaign having received an invite to major-league spring training in Fort Myers, Fla. He made five Grapefruit League appearances, then opened the season with Triple-A Worcester.
In 23 outings (21 starts) for the WooSox, the 6-foot-3, 215 pound righty posted a 3.44 ERA and 4.08 FIP to go along with 115 strikeouts to 43 walks over 117 2/3 innings of work.
Towards the end of August, the Red Sox found themselves in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak that required them to call upon reinforcements from Worcester. As a result, Espinal made his big-league debut against the Rays on Aug. 30 and wound up allowing two runs in two innings of mop-up duty at Tropicana Field.
Returned to the WooSox the following day, Espinal closed out his season in Worcester and finished the year by leading the team in starts, innings pitched, and strikeouts. For his efforts, he was recognized by MLB Pipeline as the organization’s top right-handed starter in November.
Around that same time, Espinal became a minor-league free agent once again. The Dominican-born hurler returned to his home island this off-season to pitch for Gigantes del Cibao of the Dominican Winter League. There, he produced a 6.75 ERA in six appearances (five starts) spanning 18 2/3 innings pitched.
While it appears as though Espinal has been assigned to the Giants’ Triple-A affiliate in Sacramento, his departure could leave the Red Sox on the lookout for additional pitching depth.
Because of the ongoing lockout, MLB clubs are not allowed to be in contact with players on the 40-man roster. This does not just pertain to major-leaguers, but to certain minor-leaguers as well.
In the Red Sox’ case, prospects such as Eduard Bazardo, Brayan Bello, Kutter Crawford, Jay Groome, Connor Seabold, Josh Winckowski, Ronaldo Hernandez, Connor Wong, Jeter Downs, Hudson Potts, Jarren Duran, and Jeisson Rosario have been out of the loop since December.
If the lockout continues into April, Boston would not be able to assign these prospects to minor-league affiliates (mainly Worcester and Double-A Portland).
All four of Bazardo, Crawford, Seabold, and Winckowski pitched at the Triple-A level last year, so their collective presence could be missed if this work stoppage persists.
With that being said, the Red Sox could very well address this potential concern by scouring the minor-league free agent market to bolster their depth, particularly on the pitching side of things.
(Picture of Raynel Espinal: Katie Morrison/MassLive)