The Padres made two low-cost plays to improve the organization’s outfield depth.
San Diego signed Brian O’Grady to a big league deal on Dec. 8, two weeks after the Rays released him. Two days after that, the Padres selected Ben Ruta from the Yankees in minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft.
Both lefthanded-hitting outfielders are getting a fresh start after beginning their journeys as college seniors who signed for a mere $10,000.
O’Grady turns 29 early in the 2021 season. He appeared in two games for the Rays in 2020 and four for the Reds in 2019, when he mashed a career high 28 home runs at Triple-A Louisville.
Cincinnati drafted O’Grady out of Rutgers in the eighth round in 2014. He earned his first callup in 2019 after hitting .280/.358/.550 in 112 games and ranking seventh in the International League with a .909 OPS.
The Reds traded O’Grady to Tampa Bay after the 2019 season, and he spent most of 2020 at the Rays’ alternate training site.
In addition to playing all three outfield spots, O’Grady also plays first base. The Padres value his blossoming pop and plate patience, which could be an interesting fit in a lineup that prides itself on grinding out at-bats.
“We see (O’Grady) as a real major league outfielder,” Padres general manager A.J. Preller told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “. . . If we feel like there is a player who can help us, at a price point that fits, we’ll obviously consider that. But we see (O’Grady) as a realistic option.”
Ruta turned pro as the Yankees’ 30th-round pick out of Wagner in 2016. He hit .260/.330/.396 with eight homers and 25 stolen bases in 117 games at Double-A Trenton in 2019. Ruta lost the chance for an encore when the pandemic wiped away the minor league season, and he was not invited into the Yankees’ alternate site.
The Padres see Ruta, who turns 27 in June, as a contact hitter with emerging power who can man all three outfield spots. After the Padres traded away Josh Naylor, Taylor Trammell, Franchy Cordero and Edward Olivares last summer, Ruta figures to head to Triple-A.
— While the Padres did not have any clarity following catcher Luis Campusano’s offseason arrest in his native Georgia for being in possession of 79 grams of marijuana, Preller said in December that he’s anticipating Campusano joining the team in spring training.
“He’s handling that will his attorneys and lawyers, and we’re getting updates to . . . make sure he’s in a good place on and off the field. And so far it seems like he is,” Preller said. “I think he’s learned from this experience. We expect him to be ready to go in (spring training in Arizona) when we get to the start of things.”
— Outfielder Tirso Ornelas sustained a broken bone in his forearm while playing in the Mexican Pacific League. He went 12-for-51 (.273) with three doubles, a triple and two RBIs in 18 games.