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Cincinnati Reds return Rule 5 pick Mark Payton to Oakland as roster takes shape

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The OF showed promise, but was squeezed out of the crowded mix.

Cincinnati Reds Summer Workouts Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The above picture is pretty much a microcosm of Mark Payton’s tenure with the Cincinnati Reds - he was a Red, but as a Rule V pick from the Oakland A’s, there was still a pretty good chance he’d end up wearing green.

Despite showing some promise in Reds camp, Payton was returned to Oakland today, as MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reported.

The glut of good options currently on the Reds roster surely contributed to this move, as there were certainly several recent years where Payton would’ve been a natural fit in the Reds OF. That said, Payton’s acquisition came in the same year as the signing of Nick Castellanos and Shogo Akiyama, so his chances were long from the start.

Adding to the obstacles was one of the key rule changes for this odd, modified 2020 season - that extra innings will start with a runner on 2B in an attempt to keep games shorter. That brings the element of a specialist into roster decisions, as speed merchants become an instant advantage in that scenario, which certainly helped a parallel roster move reportedly made by the Reds today. As The Enquirer’s Bobby Nightengale reported, Travis Jankowski - a lefty hitting OF like Payton - was informed he’ll make the Opening Day roster.

Neither Payton nor Jankowski figured to take PA away from the likes of Jesse Winker, Shogo, Castellanos, Nick Senzel, or Phil Ervin, meaning their secondary skills became much more important. And while Payton packs more pop in his bat than Jankowski, the latter’s impressive OF defense and top-tier speed likely led to his inclusion on the roster.

In other roster updates - updates that are rolling out faster than I can type at the moment - it appears several other ‘fringe’ guys have made the roster, too. The Athletic’s C. Trent Rosecrans had that news, with a group that includes out-of-options LHP Cody Reed.

I’m sure we’ll hear more about the finalized roster soon, at which point we’ll blog a blog about it, too.