Quick Hits: AFL, Sanchez, Breakouts, Prado

Earlier today, the league announced the Arizona Fall League contributions of every MLB team. Ben Badler of Baseball America has broken the players out by roster and made note of some of the most interesting ones to track.

Here’s more from around the league …

  • Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez said today that he is worried he may not be able to return to the rotation during the regular season, as Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. The club’s rotation already looked in need of depth, with Justin Verlander still a question mark, but it remains to be seen whether Detroit will have the means and motivation to make yet another significant addition.
  • Often times, the most interesting free agency, arbitration, and extension cases involve players who have just posted breakout years. But it is difficult to know which ones are the product of luck and opportunity, and which are a result of real skill development or adjustments. ESPN.com’s Keith Law provides a list (Insider link) of the ten players whose breakthroughs are, in his view, likely to be sustainable.
  • Martin Prado has been vital to the Yankees, but the deadline deal to bring him in came together in hectic fashion, GM Brian Cashman tells John Harper of the New York Daily News. The Yanks and Diamondbacks had talked over a deal heading into July 31, but seemed to be at a standstill over the prospect return. Arizona GM Kevin Towers ultimately called to say that he would lower his asking price, but Cashman had just agreed to take Stephen Drew (and, more importantly, $3MM in salary) from the Red Sox. “It was a crazy, pressure-filled time frame,” said Cashman. “I had my entire scouting crew and my analytics staff in the office all day, trying a lot of different ideas.”

Latest On Angels’ Search For Starter

With injuries piling up, and just a week before the deadline to acquire players with post-season eligibility, the Angels are expected to look hard at adding another starter. Here’s the latest:

  • The Halos are pursuing a wide variety of possible approaches to making a deal, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. But GM Jerry Dipoto indicated that the club may end up cobbling together internal options to fill the void. “I’m not particularly hopeful,” he said. “It’s possible the best we can do is piece it together. … Teams that are willing to pay down a contract usually want some kind of talent in return, and that’s where we may have a problem.”
  • Conflicting reports have emerged as to the viability of talks for Trevor Cahill of the Diamondbacks, who Heyman says has now cleared waivers. The Angels could be targeting Cahill, according to a report from Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times (behind a paywall). Meanwhile, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that the sides have not discussed the hurler in weeks, and that no deal is expected.
  • As we just covered, a report indicates that a deal for Bartolo Colon of the Mets appears rather unlikely at this point.

NL East Notes: Duda, Colon, Gonzalez, Stanton, Venters

Mets first baseman Lucas Duda may or may not fully blossom into a star, but his breakout year has at least forestalled any need for the club to go out and find a new first baseman, writes Mike Petriello of Fangraphs. Here’s more from the NL East:

  • Both the Angels and Royals have considered attempting to deal for Mets righty Bartolo Colon, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports (Twitter links). At present, however, neither possible suitor is in strong pursuit, with dollars being a major deterrent and the sides not necessarily seeing eye to eye on a return.
  • The Phillies will likely give Miguel Gonzalez a September call-up, writes Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Gonzalez has thrived recently in the upper minors in a relief role, but that transition away from the rotation means that Philadelphia will need to act quickly to reap any value from the 28-year-old’s three-year, $12MM pact.
  • Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton says that he is still not certain that he wants to commit to a long-term deal with Miami, Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reports. While the club now features a fairly interesting, younger roster with some future promise, Stanton noted that “five months doesn’t change five years.”
  • The Braves have shut down reliever Jonny Venters after he came up with a sore elbow when he tried to increase his velocity, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports on Twitter. The southpaw, who had been attempting to return from his second Tommy John procedure, earned $1.625MM in his second year of arbitration eligibility (the same figure as his first) after missing all of 2013. A non-tender certainly appears to be a reasonably likely scenario after the year.


Angels Designate Wade LeBlanc For Assignment

The Angels have designated lefty Wade LeBlanc for assignment, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports on Twitter. Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times first tweeted that the move seemed likely.

LeBlanc had been expected to fill a rotation slot, at least temporarily, for a club that is still figuring out how to deal with the losses of Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs. Having now removed LeBlanc from the big league roster, it is fair to wonder whether GM Jerry Dipoto has his eyes on acquiring a more permanent replacement. (Though, it should be noted, internal replacements such as Randy Wolf could instead be utilized.)

The 30-year-old LeBlanc has now been designated three times this year, twice by the Halos and once by the Yankees. Over 10 2/3 innings at the MLB level, he has allowed 12 runs on 15 hits and seven strikeouts against six walks.


Mariners Extend GM Jack Zduriencik

The Mariners have agreed to a multi-year contract extension with general manager Jack Zduriencik, the club announced via press release. Precise contract terms were not made available.

Zduriencik has been in charge of Seattle’s baseball ops since 2009, and now seems likely to continue in that capacity for the foreseeable future. Last August, we learned that a seemingly vulnerable (and oft-criticized) Zduriencik had previously been given a one-year extension, covering the present season.

Perhaps down to his last chance to build a winner, the GM made the league’s boldest free agent signing last offseason when he landed Robinson Cano for ten years and $240MM. The risky, win-now move will take years to evaluate fully, but it certainly has played a big role in turning Seattle into a legitimate post-season contender this year.

While several of Zduriencik’s other recent MLB-level acquisitions (Corey Hart and Logan Morrison, for example) have proved less impactful, others (e.g., Fernando Rodney and Chris Young) have made important contributions this year. Most recently, of course, Zduriencik managed to turn a valuable, but blocked, prospect (Nick Franklin) into quality center fielder Austin Jackson, addressing one of the club’s major holes heading into the fall.

Even with his new deal, and in spite of the team’s recent performance, “Jack Z” figures to continue to enjoy his fair share of detractors. Ultimately, his legacy seems destined to depend on whether he is able to maintain and enhance the quality of the supporting cast surrounding Cano and ace Felix Hernandez during the earlier years of their sizeable contracts.


Braves To Revisit B.J. Upton Trade Talks, Could Move Gattis In Offseason

Talks of a rumored deal that would have sent B.J. Upton to the Cubs (perhaps along with a pitcher or cash) in exchange for Edwin Jackson have been circulating over the past couple weeks, and David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that it could be because the Braves would like to rekindle those talks in the offseason.

It won’t be easy to trade Upton and the remaining $47MM on his contract, of course, but the Braves could be willing to sweeten the deal by including three years of Mike Minor or by including a significant amount of cash to help offset Upton’s salary. The Braves are not, however, interested in including both Minor and cash in order to facilitate a trade. Regardless of how the ties are severed, O’Brien feels that it is a fait accompli that the elder Upton is dealt by next Spring Training. (Of course, many people felt the same about Dan Uggla, who lingered on Atlanta’s roster well into the summer.)

Minor has struggled for much of the season after opening the year on the disabled list, pitching to a 4.90 ERA with 8.0 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and a 39.3 percent ground-ball rate. Minor’s main problem has been an increased home run rate which, paired with an uptick in his walks, has led to a HR/9 rate of 1.51 — fifth-worst among pitchers with at least 110 innings thrown in 2014. Nonetheless, three years of a pitcher who posted a 3.72 ERA in 466 2/3 innings from 2011-13 (including a stellar 3.21 mark in 204 2/3 innings last year) would have value to pitching-hungry teams.

Perhaps more interesting is the fact that O’Brien also feels there’s “at least a pretty good chance” that Gattis could be traded in the coming offseason. While Atlanta loves Gattis’ bat, it is less enamored with his defensive prowess and isn’t certain how long his 250-pound frame can hold up at the position. Meanwhile, waiting in the wings is top prospect Christian Bethancourt, who is known for his strong arm and receiving skills.

As O’Brien points out, Gattis would make for a nice trade target for an American League club, given the fact that he could split time between DH and catcher (and perhaps the outfield on occasion). The 28-year-old is hitting a hefty .276/.331/.520 with 20 homers in 353 plate appearances this season, quieting some skeptics (myself included) who felt that his hot start in 2013 may not have been sustainable.

Gattis will finish the season with exactly two years of Major League service, meaning that a club could potentially gain four years of team control over a 20-30 homer bat, and that would certainly have value on the trade market, especially given the dearth of starting-caliber catchers on the free agent market. Beyond Russell Martin, teams looking for catching help will be left looking at A.J. Pierzynski and Geovany Soto in the second tier of free agent backstops.


MLBTR Chat Transcript

Click here to read a transcript of this week’s live chat, hosted by MLBTR’s Steve Adams.


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Cuban Prospects Cuesta, Siverio To Showcase On Friday

Cuban first baseman Jozzen Cuesta and Cuban left-hander Misael Siverio will host a showcase for interested clubs on Friday in Jupiter, Fla., agent Eric Izen of the Legacy Agency tells MLBTR.

The last we heard on the 25-year-old Siverio came back in May when he was declared eligible for free agency. The 25-year-old Cuesta was, at the time, said to be awaiting clearance from Major League Baseball and the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control, but he has since been cleared by both entities and is now eligible to sign with any club. The 6’2″, 220-pound first baseman is said to possess some power and will present a younger alternative to the first basemen on the free agent market.

Reports on Siverio peg the lefty at 5’9″ tall, and while he’s not said to possess an overpowering fastball, he had drawn interest from 10 teams back in May. Siverio pitched in front of several clubs at a showcase in June, and the Yankees, Cubs and Astros were among the teams in attendance, MLBTR has learned.

Siverio posted a 3.24 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 over his career in Cuba’s Serie Nacional – a span of 153 games (75 starts). More recently, he pitched in Mexico this past winter, posting a 2.45 ERA and a 36-to-10 K/BB ratio. His full statistics and some video footage can be seen at ObstructedView.net.


Phillies Notes: Burnett, Adams, Castillo, Papelbon

Phillies right-hander A.J. Burnett dominated the Nationals last night, and on the heels of his 12-strikeout gem, he softened his stance on retirement, writes CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury“My decision will come down to how I feel and what my family and I decide,” said Burnett. “It’s just one start, but to be able to go out and do that tonight makes you wonder.” Burnett spent the majority of the previous offseason debating retirement before ultimately deciding that he would pitch again. However, he kept his choices limited, preferring only to pitch near his Maryland home, and eventually agreed to a one-year deal with the Phillies. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says that starting pitching will be a priority for him this offseason — a statement that presumably will hold true regardless of the decision Burnett reaches on his player option.

Here are some more Phillies links…

  • Right-hander Mike Adams told reporters Monday (including Salisbury) that he feels as though he has stolen money from the Phillies after spending the majority of his two-year, $12MM contract on the disabled list. “There probably isn’t anyone by the situation than myself,” Adams said. Adams’ injury troubles have become severe enough that he’s not sure whether or not he will try to pitch somewhere next season.
  • The Phillies did indeed place a bid on Rusney Castillo, writes Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer, but it was not close to Boston’s winning offer of seven years and $72.5MM. Amaro would not characterize whether or not he considered the Phillies to be a finalist — Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that they had been, after Castillo signed — but the GM did say that the Phillies are aggressively scouting international free agents.
  • Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wouldn’t be surprised if the Phils are getting some calls on Burnett following last night’s performance, and he also spoke with an AL scout regarding Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon (Twitter links). “He gets people out and does the job, but not much life in that arm like there used to be,” said the scout.

Blue Jays Designate Nolan Reimold For Assignment

10:28am: The Blue Jays have officially announced the moves, via press release.

10:00am: The Blue Jays have designated Nolan Reimold for assignment, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweeted this morning. Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi writes that outfielder Kevin Pillar will be recalled from Triple-A to take his roster spot.

Toronto claimed the 30-year-old Reimold off waivers from the division-rival Orioles earlier this summer, hoping that the injury-prone slugger could provide an upgrade to their offense. Reimold struggled in 22 games with the Jays, however, posting a .212/.283/.404 batting line in 60 plate appearances.

The Orioles long thought Reimold to be capable of providing some production either in left field or from the DH spot, but his growing list of injuries eventually led to a DFA earlier this season. Reimold has undergone two neck surgeries and an ankle operation in his career, and he’s also spent time on the disabled list for calf and hamstring injuries in the past two seasons.

Still, the former second-round pick owns a lifetime batting line of .250/.324/.437 and an isolated power mark (slugging minus batting average) of .187, suggesting that he can indeed provide some offensive benefit when healthy. As Davidi notes, Reimold would have been a non-tender candidate following the season, though I’d imagine that the raise on his $1.03MM salary wouldn’t have been too substantial. Davidi also points out that by clearing a 40-man roster space without immediately filling it (Pillar is on the 40-man roster), the team creates room to add either Brandon Morrow or Daniel Norris in September. Morrow is said to be nearing a return from the 60-day disabled list and could work as a reliever, while Norris, Toronto’s top pitching prospect, could make his big league debut next month when rosters expand.


Bartolo Colon Drawing Trade Interest

Right-hander Bartolo Colon cleared waivers yesterday due to his 2015 salary, and the Mets are receiving “definite interest” in the 41-year-old, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News tweeted last night. By clearing waivers, Colon became eligible to be traded to any team, but interested parties do have some “trepidation” regarding his $11MM salary for 2015. This morning, Martino has a full column published with further details on the interest in Colon.

Martino spoke with one AL executive who expects the Angels, Dodgers and Royals to be the most active teams in the Colon market, though as Martino notes, Kansas City might not be able to afford the aging righty. The Mets were said to be willing to eat about $2MM of the remaining salary on Colon’s contract in late July, and nothing has changed on that front at this time, Martino reports. Were the Mets to absorb that much money and then wait until Aug. 31 to move Colon (thereby minimizing the financial commitment for a rival club), Colon would be owed $10.52MM for September 2014 (plus the playoffs) and the entirety of the 2015 campaign.

The Mets are interested in not only clearing the bulk of Colon’s salary but also in receiving a decent return in terms of prospects, which further complicates the situation. A second executive from a team that is interested in Colon tells Martino, “Everyone is scared of next year,” suggesting that it might be difficult for GM Sandy Alderson to receive a solid prospect or two while simultaneously clearing significant payroll.


Paco Rodriguez, Antonio Bastardo Change Agencies

Left-handed relievers Paco Rodriguez and Antonio Bastardo have changed agencies, according to Liz Mullen of Sports Business Journal. Rodriguez, formerly represented by BKK Sports, will be joining the MVP Sports Group and is now represented by agency president Dan Lozano. Bastardo, who had been represented by ACES, is now a client of Greg Genske of the Legacy Agency.

The 23-year-old Rodriguez blitzed through the minor leagues and was the first 2012 draftee to appear in the Major Leagues, as he made his debut on Sept. 9, 2012, just months after being selected in the second round. He was a lights-out setup man for the Dodgers in 2013, but he has somewhat curiously spent much of the 2014 campaign at Triple-A (perhaps due to some September/postseason struggles last year).

Rodriguez turned in a 2.35 ERA with a 63-to-19 K/BB ratio in 53 2/3 innings for the Dodgers in 2013 and has posted a 4.35 ERA in 10 1/3 innings this season. Overall, he’s notched a 2.52 ERA with 80 strikeouts against 26 walks in 71 1/3 innings out of the Dodgers’ bullpen. He has struggled against right-handers in 2014, yielding a .250/.395/.469 batting line between the Majors and Minors. He’s currently on the DL with a strained teres major muscle in his left shoulder but is expected to return in September.

Bastardo, who will turn 29 next month, is heading into his final offseason of arbitration eligibility before hitting the free agent market. He’s earning $2MM this season and has produced a 4.47 ERA with 11.3 K/9 and 5.0 BB/9 in 54 1/3 innings. Since cementing himself as a member of the Phillies’ bullpen back in 2011, Bastardo has pitched to a 3.48 ERA with 11.6 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 in 207 big league innings. He’s held opposing lefties to a .188/.286/.345 batting line in his career, though right-handed hitters have a similarly feeble .655 OPS against Bastardo.

The representation changes for Rodriguez and Bastardo are both reflected in the MLBTR Agency Database, which contains agent information on more than 2,000 Major League and Minor League players. If you see any errors or omissions within the database, please let us know via email: mlbtrdatabase@gmail.com.


Tigers Claim Chad Qualls On Revocable Waivers

TUESDAY, 7:30am: Hall of Fame journalist Peter Gammons reports that the Tigers were awarded the claim on Qualls (Twitter link). As he notes, it’s hardly surprising that Detroit placed a claim, though it’s at least mildly surprising that the Yankees, who had waiver priority and have been aggressively claiming players, neglected to go after Qualls.

The Tigers have had bullpen issues all season, with Joe Nathan struggling at the back of the bullpen and deadline acquisition Joakim Soria hitting the disabled list with an injury earlier this month. Qualls would provide a solid late-inning option for the Tigers and could serve as a low-cost 2015 replacement for Joba Chamberlain, should the setup man find a new home as a free agent after a strong season in Detroit.

MONDAY, 9:00pm: MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart writes that it’s more likely that Qualls will be pulled off waivers than traded.

5:50pm: Astros right-hander Chad Qualls has been claimed on revocable waivers by an unnamed club, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). It’s not clear if the Astros are willing to move Qualls, but the Astros will have until Wednesday to work out a deal with the claiming club, Rosenthal adds.

Qualls, 36, signed a two-year, $5.95MM contract with the Astros in the offseason. He’s owed about $531K of his $2.7MM salary through the end of the year, plus a $3MM salary in 2015. His contract contains a $3.5MM salary for the 2016 season which comes with a $250K buyout, bringing his remaining guarantee to about $3.781MM through the end of next season.

The veteran ground-ball specialist has been excellent in 2014, posting a 3.07 ERA (and an identical 3.07 FIP) with 7.8 K/9, 1.0 BB/9 and a 56.7 percent ground-ball rate in 44 innings. He’s spent a good deal of time in the closer’s role this season as well, picking up 14 saves for manager Bo Porter.

Houston isn’t averse to trading its closer midseason, as the team pulled the trigger on a trade to send Jose Veras to the Tigers last summer. Somewhat coincidentally, the Tigers are a very likely candidate to have placed a claim on Qualls this season, given their need for bullpen help in a tight AL Central race. However, as Peter Gammons reported over the weekend (Twitter links), the Yankees are “claiming everyone” on waivers, so it’s possible that the Bombers placed a claim with the hope of working out a deal or at the very least blocking their Wild Card competitors from strengthening their bullpens. The Yankees would have waiver priority over the Tigers.


Cubs To Promote Jorge Soler

Cubs top prospect Jorge Soler will be promoted to the Major Leagues and join the team for tomorrow’s game against Cincinnati, according to David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com (Twitter link).

Jorge  Soler

The 22-year-old Soler entered the season ranked as a consensus Top 50 prospect in all of baseball, and while a pair of hamstring injuries has limited him to 61 games, he still ranked 28th on the midseason edition of Keith Law’s Top 50 prospects list over at ESPN.com. Soler has obliterated Rookie-level, Double-A and Triple-A pitching to the tune of a .338/.432/.687 batting line, belting 14 homers, 23 doubles and two triples in just 234 plate appearances.

Law called Soler a “monster if he can just stay on the field,” praising his “electric” bat speed and plus-plus raw power in his midseason scouting report. He also noted that Soler had the offensive ability to profile as a top-10 prospect, but his troubles staying on the field prevented him from being ranked any higher than 28th overall. Additionally, he points out that Soler has the arm and athleticism to profile as an average or better defensive right fielder.

Soler becomes the next elite Cubs prospect to make the jump to the Major Leagues, joining shortstop/second baseman Javier Baez and second baseman/center fielder Arismendy Alcantara. Baez has played second base since his recall (a spot vacated by the trade of Darwin Barney), while Alcantara has shifted to center field. Presumably, Soler will be playing right field at the Major League level, as he has throughout his minor league career.

Soler has already made plenty of headlines in his career, as the Cuban phenom inked a nine-year, $30MM contract with the Cubs back in 2012 just days before the collective bargaining agreement’s new rules on international signings kicked in. Had Soler signed after those rules, as a 20-year-old from Cuba, he would have been limited to a $2.9MM signing bonus.

Soler is guaranteed $2MM in 2014 after earning $1MM in 2012 and 2013. He will earn $2MM in 2015 before his salary rises to $3MM in 2016 and 2017. Soler is technically slated to earn $4MM annually from 2018-20, but his contract allows him to opt into arbitration once he is eligible. The contract, of course, seems light when compared to the contracts signed by Jose Abreu and Rusney Castillo, but keep in mind that Cespedes was 26 when he signed his deal and Abreu was 27.

Because of Soler’s guaranteed contract, the Cubs needn’t worry about service time considerations or Super Two status like they would need to with top prospects such as Kris Bryant and Addison Russell. Additionally, his Major League deal meant that he was already on the 40-man roster, so the Cubs don’t need to concern themselves with clearing a 40-man spot.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


AL West Links: Choo, Darvish, Colon, Astros

The Rangers announced tonight that outfielder Shin-Soo Choo will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left elbow to remove a bone spur and will miss the remainder of the 2014 season. The loss of a player to season-ending surgery has become a familiar refrain for Rangers fans, who have seen Prince Fielder, Martin Perez, Mitch Moreland, Jurickson Profar, Matt Harrison and Alexi Ogando all go down for the season, while Derek Holland has yet to step on a big league mound as of Aug. 25. Clearly, the Rangers were hoping for more than the .242/.340/.374 batting line turned in by Choo in his inaugural season with the club, though he’s been bothered by ankle injuries all season in addition to the aforementioned elbow problem. Michael Choice will take Choo’s roster spot for the rest of the season.

Here’s more on the Rangers and their division…

  • As if the loss of Choo wasn’t enough, Jon Daniels said in an interview on 105.3 The Fan that he is doubtful Yu Darvish will pitch again in 2014 (via Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News). While the Rangers GM said the team has stopped short of definitively ruling out its ace, it seems safe to assume that Darvish can have his name added to the list of Rangers whose seasons ended prematurely due to injury.
  • Geovany Soto tells Jane Lee of MLB.com that he was “very surprised” to learn of his trade from the Rangers to the division-rival Athletics, but he’s happy to have the opportunity to play on a contending team and work with the Oakland pitching staff.
  • The Angels don’t appear to be a fit for Bartolo Colon at this time, writes Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times. Colon, who cleared waivers today, is owed $1.77MM for the remainder of the season and $11MM in 2015, and the Angels would likely have interest only if the Mets were to assume some of the remaining salary, DiGiovanna says.
  • Astros GM Jeff Luhnow told Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle that the team will not comment on the federal investigation that is looking into the team’s data leak earlier this year. He did, however, reassure Drellich that the team’s systems are now secure.