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Cleveland signs Ben Gamel to minor-league deal

The 28-year-old will also receive an invite to spring training

Milwaukee Brewers v Chicago White Sox Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images

Cleveland has signed outfielder Ben Gamel to a minor-league deal with a non-roster invite to spring training, according to multiple sources.

Gamel played in 40 of the Brewers’ 60 games last season, slashing .237/.315/.404 with three home runs and playing a mix of center and right field. He has a double-digit walk rate in all but one of his five seasons in MLB, but he has seen his strikeout slowly climb from 22.2% in 2017 to 30.7% in 2020.

The Brewers declined Gamel’s $2.55 million option for 2021 and opted not to tender him a contract at December’s arbitration deadline, setting the 28-year-old loose as a free agent.

Despite some signs of a good approach at the plate (he had a .358 on-base percentage with the Mariners in 2018) Gamel is, to put it nicely, not a Statcast darling. In 2019, he featured a sprint speed and walk rate in the 79th percentile, but he struggled to make solid contact and struck out too much to be effective. Even all the shot-gunned Red Bull in the world couldn’t help him.

Gamel has also seen a steady decline in his contact rate from its peak of 80.8% in 2017 down to 78.7% in 2019 and finally rock bottom 73.3% in 2020. His swinging strike was its worse ever last year, too, at 11.3%.

If there is a silver lining to Gamel’s struggles last year, it’s that it was just a 60-game season. Maybe there is hope he can get his approach back, strike out less, and continue to get on base. ZiPS projects that Gamel, given 430 plate appearances, would slash .247/.323/.388 and slug eight home runs in 2021.

Most likely, he’s a warm body for Cleveland to use in spring training with at least a little bit of upside.