The Red Sox have signed free agent first baseman/outfielder Daniel Palka to a minor-league contract, the club announced on Friday. The deal comes with an invite to major-league spring training.
Palka, 31, spent the 2022 season in the Mets organization. The left-handed hitter batted .263/.344/.506 with 18 doubles, 26 home runs, 79 RBIs, 68 runs scored, 48 walks, and 105 strikeouts in 109 games (445 plate appearances) with Triple-A Syracuse.
“Power. Controls the strike zone,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Palka when speaking with reporters (including MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith) on Friday. “For as much power as he has, he doesn’t strike out as much. So he’s here. He says he’s ready to play. … He’s another guy who has big-league experience and is a good bat. And I’m glad that we got him.
A native of South Carolina, Palka was originally selected by the Diamondbacks in the third round of the 2013 amateur draft out of Georgia Tech. He was traded to the Twins in 2015 and was claimed off waivers by the White Sox in November 2017 before debuting for Chicago the following April.
As a 26-year-old rookie, Palka burst onto the scene in 2018 by slashing .240/.294/.484 with 15 doubles, three triples, a team-leading 27 home runs, 67 RBIs, 56 runs scored, two stolen bases, 30 walks, and 153 strikeouts across 124 games (449 plate appearances) for the White Sox. He finished fifth in American League Rookie of the Year voting that fall.
For whatever reason, Palka took a step backward in 2019. He appeared in just 30 games for the South Siders that year and mustered a .107/.194/.179 slash line to go along with two homers, four runs driven in, four runs scored, eight walks, and 35 strikeouts over 93 total trips to the plate. The White Sox designated him for assignment that November and released him in July 2020.
Since being cut loose by the White Sox, Palka has not gotten back to the major-leagues. He played for the Samsung Lions of the Korean Baseball Organization during the latter half of the 2020 season before returning to affiliated ball with the Nationals in 2021.
All told, Palka is a lifetime .218/.277/.433 hitter with 29 home runs and 71 RBIs in 154 career big-league games (all with the White Sox). At the Triple-A level, he owns a career line of .261/.349/.486 with 98 home runs and 293 RBIs in 477 games across four different organizations.
Defensively, Palka has past experience at first base and all three outfield spots. With the Syracuse Mets last year, the 6-foot-2, 230-pounder logged 354 2/3 innings at first, 58 2/3 innings in left, and 160 innings in right.
Palka, who turns 32 in October, has been assigned to Triple-A Worcester. There, he figures to provide Boston with some power-hitting depth who is capable of playing fist base and both corner outfield spots when needed. It does not appear as though the club signed him out of necessity or to address a specific need, but rather to fill in the gaps when other players at camp leave for the World Baseball Classic next month.
“I think this is more about the scouting department just adding to the equation,” said Cora. “It’s not needs or whatever. It’s just getting deeper. And that’s the most important thing. I don’t know how much we’re going to add in the upcoming weeks.
“But I know they’re working hard to see who’s out there, what we can bring to the equation or who wants to come here,” he added. “At the end of the day, all those guys that have some big-league experience but don’t have contracts, it’s up to them sometimes. And I’m glad that he’s here.”
With the addition of Palka, the Red Sox now have 64 players at major-league spring training. They will need to trim that number down to 26 by Opening Day.
(Picture of Daniel Palka: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)