Braves Outright Zoilo Almonte

Outfielder Zoilo Almonte has cleared waivers and been outrighted by the Braves, reports Mark Bowman of MLB.com (via Twitter). Atlanta had signed the 25-year-old to a Major League contract this winter despite a very limited big league track record. By outrighting Almonte, they’ve cleared a spot on their 40-man roster.

The former Yankee hit just .245/.283/.265 in 53 plate appearances in his bid for a spot on the Braves’ 2015 roster. Instead, he’ll head to Triple-A Gwinnett and hope for another opportunity to join the roster at some point this season. Almonte has a solid track record at the Triple-A level, where he owns a .275/.333/.431 batting line in 747 plate appearances. It seems that Jonny Gomes will be ticketed for the bulk of the left field at-bats early in the season while Eric Young Jr. figures to man center field while Melvin Upton Jr. rehabs from injury.


Article XX(B) Free Agent Updates: Tuesday

Per the latest iteration of Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement, players with six years of service time who finished the 2014 season on a 40-man roster or on the 60-day DL but signed Minor League deals over the offseason are entitled to a $100K retention bonus if their new team wishes to assign them to the Minor Leagues. Otherwise, they must be added to the MLB roster or Major League disabled list. Players who do receive the retention bonus are also given June 1 opt-out dates in their Minor League pacts.

MLBTR’s Jeff Todd ran down a list of this year’s Article XX(B) free agents earlier in the month, and we’re now arriving at the juncture of Spring Training where decisions must be made on these players — the deadline will come at 11am CT tomorrow. Many such players have already been released or granted their release today (some will re-sign with the teams that released them, as Chris Perez did in Milwaukee), but here are updates on players who were paid this bonus or learned that they’ve made their respective teams…

  • The D-Backs and catcher Gerald Laird and agreed to a five-day extension that will allow him to remain in big league camp, reports Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona (on Twitter). Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic adds some clarity, noting that Laird still received the $100K retention bonus but will have the opportunity to fight for a roster spot (Twitter link). The five days will give the Snakes a bit more time to determine whether or not they want to take the veteran Laird north with them to open the season.
  • The Blue Jays have paid the $100K retention bonus to both Johan Santana and Munenori Kawasaki, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Both players were on Minor League deals, but Santana didn’t get into a game with the big league club as he continued to rehab from injury. Kawasaki hit .333/.481/.571 in 27 plate appearances but didn’t make the big league roster. He’ll head to Triple-A and wait for a call to the Majors in an organization with which he is quite familiar and where he is quite popular among the coaches and his teammates.
  • Right-handers Brad Penny and Jesse Crain both received retention bonuses from the White Sox, Passan also reports (on Twitter). The duo will remain in the Minors in the hopes of a spot opening with the big league club. Penny struggled to a 6.89 ERA in 15 2/3 innings this spring, though little can be gleaned from such a small sample, and he did issue only four walks along the way. Crain, like his former Twins teammate Santana in Toronto, didn’t pitch in a big league game as he continued to rehab from injuries that cost him the entire 2014 season in Houston.
  • Both Geovany Soto and Matt Albers, on the other hand, have made the White Sox‘ roster and will be added to the 40-man, Passan reports in the aforementioned tweet. Presumably, Soto will be in the mix for everyday at-bats behind the plate following a strong spring performance. Albers will slot into the bullpen and bring an experienced arm to serve as a right-handed setup option. Soto’s base salary is an unknown, wheres Albers stands to reportedly receive a $1.5MM base for making the club.

Evan Gattis Settling In With Astros

Even after watching the Braves ship out key players such as Justin Upton and Jason Heyward, Evan Gattis wasn’t expecting to be the next one to go.  In January, after weeks of rumors and speculation, Atlanta struck a deal with the upstart Astros to continue their massive overhaul.  Gattis was caught off guard, but it didn’t take him long to come to terms with the move and get comfortable with his new club.

I wasn’t really actually bummed about the trade, I was just more surprised than anything. I just didn’t think it would happen,” Gattis told MLBTR prior to Wednesday’s game against the Phillies. “Other than that, its been a good camp and there’s a really good group of guys here.  I’m just excited and looking forward to the season.”

Gattis understood that major change was coming to the Braves, but he figured that he would be immune to it all since he’s still pre-arbitration eligible for one more season and playing near the league minimum.  Eventually, when it became clear that the Braves were listening on offers for him, he still didn’t panic or personally reach out to anyone in the Atlanta front office.  “I’m always the type to focus on my own business and I just worry about what I need to do to play,” Gattis explained.

With the Braves eyeing 2017 as their year to get back to contention, Gattis sounds legitimately enthused to be with a team that has advanced their own timeline considerably.  In fact, he says he’s okay with being flexible with regards to his exact role this season and isn’t fretting the split he might have between left field, the DH spot, or occasional time behind the plate.  Gattis hasn’t gotten a ton of balls hit his way in left during spring training, but he’s confident that he’ll get comfortable there in time, just as he did with his new club.



Royals Release Rafael Furcal

The Royals have released infielder Rafael Furcal, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star reports on Twitter. Furcal was only recently brought into camp on a minor league deal and had been working through a hamstring injury.

The 37-year-old saw only minimal action last year with Miami and has generally been unable to stay healthy since going down with a UCL tear late in 2012. He had been a consistent and reliable presence in the middle infield to that point.

It is unclear whether Furcal will seek another opportunity. Over his productive career, Furcal has slashed .281/.346/.402 in 7,237 plate appearances with 113 home runs and 314 steals. He has been worth more than thirty wins above replacement in total.


MLBTR Chat Transcript

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


Full Story | Comments | Categories: MLBTR Chats

Brewers Re-Sign Chris Perez

The Brewers have re-signed righty Chris Perez to a minor league deal, the club announced. Milwaukee had released Perez on Sunday.

Perez, a former closer with the Indians, seemingly took some time to look around for a big league opportunity before deciding to return. At least one team, the Twins, was approached but declined the chance to add him, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets.

In spite of his solid results this spring, Perez was passed over for an Opening Day roster spot with Milwaukee. Of course, the 29-year-old has struggled to keep runs off the board in each of the last two seasons, with both results and advanced metrics painting a less-than-promising picture.


Dodgers Release Dustin McGowan, Will Pay Mike Adams Roster Bonus

The Dodgers have released righty Dustin McGowan, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Additionally, the Dodgers will pay Mike Adams a $100K roster bonus by starting him off in Triple-A, as MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick reports on Twitter.

McGowan had been in camp on a big league deal that guaranteed him a league minimum salary and came with a $1MM Opening Day roster bonus. The 33-year-old had strong results last year when working from the pen for the Blue Jays. Though he struggled as a starter, he held opposing hitters to a .215/.284/.405 line and posting a 3.35 ERA in 43 relief innings. But McGowan was not sharp this spring, allowing six earned runs in eight frames.

Adams, of course, has an excellent performance record but comes with shoulder questions. The veteran was knocked around somewhat this spring, but proved late last year that he can still miss bats and get outs at the big league level.


Released: Bello, Herndon, Accardo, Rodriguez, Rogers

Here are the latest minor moves, all via the MLB.com transactions page, the PCL transactions page, and/or the International League transactions page:

  • The Braves have released catcher Yenier Bello. Bello, of course, signed out of Cuba for a $400K bonus last year, but the 30-year-old obviously did not show enough to stay in the system. He slashed .308/.315/.404 over just 55 plate appearances last season split between the Rookie and low-A levels.
  • Brewers right-hander David Herndon will also be in search of a new organization after being released. The 29-year-old carries a 3.85 career ERA over 117 big league frames, but has not seen action at the game’s highest level since 2012.
  • The Diamondbacks have released big league veterans Jeremy Accardo and Henry Rodriguez. Both righties, Accardo (eight years) and Rodriguez (six years) each have seen their share of time at the major league level, including action in a closing role. Accardo owns a 4.30 ERA with 6.5 K/9 against 3.5 BB/9 across 284 2/3 big league innings, but last saw action at that level in 2012. Rodriguez, still just 28, has worked to a 4.31 ERA over his 150 1/3 lifetime frames, striking out 9.0 and walking 6.4 per nine.
  • The Rangers also released a couple of right-handers in Mark Rogers and Mitch Atkins. Rogers, once one of the game’s brightes pitchign prospects, has struggled with a variety of injury issues and was not able to gain traction in camp. Atkins, 29, had worked to a 3.76 ERA with 7.0 K/9 against 2.3 BB/9 in 141 1/3 innings last year in the upper minors. Both players have some big league experience to their credit, but none in recent campaigns.
  • Reds right-hander Wilmer Font and oufielder Felix Perez have both been released. Font is just 24 and has reached the bigs briefly in each of the last two seasons with the Rangers. But he ended last season with an elbow injury and never played in major league camp this spring. The 30-year-old Perez, meanwhile, hit .280/.325.450 at the Triple-A level last year but struggled in camp this spring.

Mariners Release Chavez, Release And Re-Sign Gutierrez, Saunders

The Mariners have made a host of moves involving veteran non-roster invitees, per a team announcement. Seattle has released outfielders Endy Chavez and Franklin Gutierrez along with lefty Joe Saunders, with the latter two players re-signing on new minor league deals.

Chavez, 37, exercised an opt-out clause in his deal to reach the open market. He has spent the last two seasons with the Mariners, combining for 537 plate appearances with a .271/.303/.347 slash.

The 32-year-old Gutierrez, meanwhile, sat out all of 2014 and has seen only five plate appearances in Cactus League action this spring. He has been a productive player at times, though certainly will need to prove his health and productivity if he is to re-establish himself in the big leagues.

Meanwhile, Saunders will figure to provide a depth option for the Mariners’ pitching staff. The lefty has had difficult results in each of the last two seasons, but has a long track record of durability.


Offseason In Review: Milwaukee Brewers

Although the Brewers made a few significant moves this offseason, they hold about the same cards they did last year — too strong to fold, too weak to raise.

Major League Signings

Trades And Claims

Extensions

  • None

Notable Minor League Signings

Notable Losses

Needs Addressed

The Brewers entered the offseason in a precarious place. They fell apart down the stretch in 2014 and didn’t necessarily look like they’d contend in 2015. But they were also too talented to dismiss that possibility entirely, and didn’t appear to have enough minor-league talent to be able to get through a quick rebuild. Their offseason seems to reflect their situation — they made one significant trade to exchange a veteran for young talent, but their other key deal actually added a veteran. They seem to be trying to win as many games as possible in 2015 while still aiming for 2016 and beyond. That is, of course, what many teams are doing — going for it and and rebuilding have both become passé, with organizations trying to position themselves for playoff runs both now and in the future. But the thin line the Brewers are walking is one that makes some degree of sense for them, regardless of what’s happening elsewhere.

The biggest move of the Brewers’ offseason was their trade of Yovani Gallardo and $4MM to Texas, which netted them shortstop Luis Sardinas and pitchers Corey Knebel and Marcos Diplan. None of those players will make the Brewers’ Opening Day roster. Sardinas has significant upside if he can develop offensively, given his speed and excellent defense. Even for a 21-year-old with time to improve, however, that might be a tall order, given what he’s shown so far in the minors: good batting averages, but with no power and few walks. Even if he doesn’t improve much, though, he at least has a future as a utility infielder.

The hard-throwing Knebel was a first-round pick in 2013 who zoomed through the minors with the Tigers and then came to the Rangers organization in the Joakim Soria deal. He’s racked up huge strikeout totals everywhere he’s gone and might eventually become a late-inning option in the big leagues, although his upside is somewhat limited since he’s a reliever. Diplan, meanwhile, is a small Dominican righty with a good fastball who the Rangers gave a $1.3MM bonus in 2013. He’s promising, but he’s 18 and so far from the Majors that it’s impossible to guess what he’ll become.

In the end, then, the Brewers got three interesting pieces. None of them are sure bets, but the Brewers likely didn’t expect to get any blue-chip prospects, given that Gallardo was only one year from free agency. And more broadly, Gallardo gave the Brewers more of something they don’t necessarily need right now: adequacy. Gallardo, whose strikeout rate declined for the second straight year in 2014, has become more of an innings-eater than an ace. As we’ll see below, the Brewers have plenty of players who project to be good, but not enough who project to be more than that, and that goes for their rotation as well as the rest of the team.

The Brewers’ other big move of the offseason was to send Marco Estrada to Toronto for Adam Lind. Lind should solve what’s been a persistent problem at first base, where they haven’t had a reliable regular since Corey Hart in 2012. Lind comes relatively cheap, too, at $7.5MM in 2015 and either an $8MM option or a $500K buyout the following year. To get two years of a hitter who produced a .321/.381/.479 line last season, even if he won’t help much defensively and is likely to take a step backward in 2015, was a coup for Milwaukee, particularly given that Estrada isn’t a high-wattage arm and is only one year away from free agency.

The Brewers also added lefty Neal Cotts for $3MM, a deal roughly in line with his talent. The three-run jump in Cotts’ ERA from 2013 to 2014 suggests an extreme decrease in performance that wasn’t exactly there, but his peripherals did take a step backward, and he’s 35. He isn’t a specialist, however — he’s good against lefties and not bad against righties, so the Brewers will have some flexibility with how they use him. He’s not Zach Duke, the pitcher he’s effectively replacing, but he’ll probably be worth about a half a win above replacement, which makes his deal a reasonable one.

The big move the Brewers made to address their bullpen was to re-sign Francisco Rodriguez for two years and $13MM. The Brewers were already set to pay a former closer, Jonathan Broxton, $9MM in 2015, and they easily could have had Broxton take over the closer’s job and spent the money elsewhere. $13MM for Rodriguez wasn’t a massive overpay, however — in fact, K-Rod’s $13MM total fell $1MM below the contract MLBTR’s Jeff Todd projected at the beginning of the offseason. (Whether the Brewers should have traded for Broxton’s contract in the first place is a different question, although that happened before this offseason. Without Broxton on the books, the Brewers might have found more room to do something really creative this offseason, or to sign someone who projected to be a big bullpen upgrade, like Andrew Miller.)

Anyway, increasingly, even veteran relievers without significant closing experience get contracts in the $10MM-$15MM range, like the lefty Duke (who got three years and $15MM from the White Sox) or righty Pat Neshek (who got two years and $12.5MM from the Astros). The Brewers could perhaps have tried to re-sign Duke rather than re-signing Rodriguez and signing Cotts, but Rodriguez has a much longer track record of success than Duke does and is coming off a perfectly good season in which he posted 9.7 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 over 68 innings. If the Brewers paid extra for his ability to get saves, it wasn’t by much. Getting what is effectively a $4MM option for 2017 ($6MM minus a $2MM buyout) was a nice touch, too.

Questions Remaining

The Brewers have options that are at least reasonable at every position throughout their lineup and rotation, but only a few players who are likely to be standouts — Carlos Gomez, Jonathan Lucroy, and Ryan Braun, who’s young and talented enough to rebound after having thumb surgery in the offseason to fix a nerve problem that bothered him in 2014. Gomez and Lucroy especially stand out as stars who are both very good and dramatically underpaid.

Beyond that, though, it’s hard to say where the Brewers’ upside will come from, particularly in their lineup. Lind, Jean Segura, Aramis Ramirez, Khris Davis and Scooter Gennett (who has second base mostly to himself now that the Brewers declined their option on Rickie Weeks) are all capable, but it’s hard to imagine any of them  producing, say, 3 WAR. (Segura might be a possibility, though his performance last season, although it was a year touched by the tragic death of his young son, was probably more in line with the career patterns he established in the minors than his breakout 2013 season was.) This doesn’t mean these players aren’t valuable. Lind, for example, provides a good bat at a position where the Brewers didn’t previously have one. But they’re complementary players on a team that doesn’t have enough stars.

The rotation has similar problems — everyone in it projects to be competent, but no one projects to be a standout. Matt Garza‘s peripherals have declined in the past two seasons, and he isn’t as good as he was with the Cubs. Kyle Lohse has been essentially the same pitcher for the past several seasons, but he’s 36 and isn’t an ace. That leaves Mike Fiers (a 29-year-old soft-tosser who was mysteriously brilliant in 71 2/3 big-league innings last year), Wily Peralta and youngster Jimmy Nelson as the Brewers’ best hopes of providing very high-quality innings. (Fiers had shoulder issues this spring but figures to be fine to start the season.)

The 2015 Brewers figure to have a high floor, then — they have talent, and it’s hard to see them losing, say, 92 games. While predicting how a season will go is a notoriously inexact science, though, it isn’t easy to imagine scenarios where they win 92.

Deal Of Note

USATSI_8011999_154513410_lowresMutual options aren’t often exercised, but Aramis Ramirez and the Brewers each exercised their ends of a mutual option this offseason, and Ramirez is back in Milwaukee for one more year, after which he plans to retire. Personal reasons surely played a role in Ramirez’s decision to stay. “I’m comfortable here,” he told the Journal Sentinel’s Todd Rosiak at the time. Rosiak also quoted Brewers manager Ron Roenicke noting that Ramirez was “set financially.” Ramirez’s decision to accept his end of the option was, therefore, not primarily financially driven.

The structure of the option, however, also made it something close to financially rational for player and team. The $14MM option contained a large buyout of $4MM on the Brewers’ side. So for Ramirez, the option was effectively a decision on a one-year, $14MM contract. The $4MM buyout was a sunk cost for the Brewers, so the decision from their perspective was effectively a one-year, $10MM deal. So even if Ramirez hadn’t been thinking about retiring, it would have made sense for both sides to exercise the option if Ramirez’s market value had been between $10MM and $14MM (and if Ramirez hadn’t expected to get a lucrative multi-year deal if he rejected it). Ramirez produced 1.8 fWAR last year and projects to produce similarly next year. Given the cost of wins on the free-agent market, that puts him near or in that $10MM-$14MM range. Of course, Ramirez probably could have gotten a multi-year deal on the open market, but it’s interesting that, for the price of a single year, the option made good financial sense for both sides.

Overview

The Brewers aren’t particularly old, but they’re still essentially an aging team rather than a dynamic or young one. They’re victims of their own success — they’ve won 80 or more games in seven of the past ten seasons, so they’ve only had one top-ten draft pick since taking Braun fifth overall in 2005. They also haven’t generally been top bidders for international talent. As a result, their farm system, which previously had produced top players like Braun, Lucroy, Gallardo and Prince Fielder, hasn’t been as bountiful lately.

The Brewers did add Dominican infielder Gilbert Lara for $3.2MM last year, though, and also significantly improved their collection of minor-leaguers by drafting Kodi Medeiros, Jacob Gatewood and Monte Harrison and trading for Sardinas, Knebel and Diplan. A minor deal for Kyle Wren (a speedy outfielder who might one day become a useful bench player) also moved the needle a bit too.

In, say, two years, the Brewers could have an exciting group of prospects. For now, though, they’re a bit stuck, the result of a farm system that, following the 2013 season, Baseball America had ranked the least likely of any organization to provide high-quality help in the near term. Most of the Brewers’ best prospects are still far from the Majors. As I noted in my preview of their offseason, that makes rebuilding a difficult proposition, and the their big-league team could still contend if it catches some breaks. So what the Brewers did this offseason made sense — they didn’t rebuild, but they also didn’t do anything that would get in the way of rebuilding in the future. For example, they added Lind without giving up anyone likely to help them beyond 2015.

If they get off to a slow start in 2015, however, the Gallardo trade could be a preview of what’s to come, with pitchers like Lohse and Broxton potentially on the block. Again, though, there’s a case that more radical trades don’t make much sense — the Brewers have few payroll commitments beyond 2015 and could find a way to cobble together an interesting 2016 team even without much in the way of reinforcements from their farm system.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Dodgers Acquire Elliot Johnson From Rangers

The Dodgers have acquired infielder Elliot Johnson from the Rangers, Stefan Stevenson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets. Texas will receive cash considerations in the deal.

Johnson, 31, provides a shortstop-capable utility option to plug into the Los Angeles depth chart, though it is hard to imagine he will crack the active roster to start the season with so many infield options already in place. In parts of five seasons at the major league level, Johnson carries a .215/.269/.316 slash over 826 plate appearances but has contributed 46 stolen bases.


Orioles Acquire Audry Perez From Rockies

The Orioles have acquired catcher Audry Perez from the Rockies in exchange for cash, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports on Twitter. Perez is the third minor league backstop dealt away by Colorado this year.

The 26-year-old has played just three games in the big leagues, but had a solid year at Triple-A last season (.292/.298/.419) with the Cardinals. Perez has not done much with limited plate appearances in big league camp with Colorado, where he signed as a minor league free agent. He will provide some additional depth to a Baltimore organization that is still waiting to see how its major league catching situation sorts itself out over the season.


Rays Release Alexi Casilla

The Rays have released infielder Alexi Casilla, Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune reports on Twitter. Tampa will avoid having to pay the veteran a $100K bonus with the move.

The 30-year-old has previously spent time with the Twins and Orioles, averaging 269 trips to bat over the 2007-13 time frame while slashing .248/.302/.332 and swiping 80 bags in that stretch. Last year, however, Casilla only got one game in the bigs, spending most of the year at Triple-A with Baltimore.


Reid Brignac Opts Out From Marlins

Infielder Reid Brignac has opted out of his deal with the Marlins after learning he would not make the Opening Day roster, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (Twitter link). The 29-year-old is now a free agent.

Brignac, 29, has not cracked 100 plate appearances in a big league season since back in 2011. Over parts of seven seasons, he owns a .222/.266/.314 slash over 905 plate appearances. At this point, defensive flexibility — Brignac has spent most of his time at short — is his primary calling card.


Rangers Release Jamey Wright

The Rangers have released righty Jamey Wright, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports on Twitter. Wright would have been owed a $100K bonus to keep him in the minors.

Wright, 40, has spent 19 years in the big leagues. Last year, he tossed 70 1/3 frames for the Dodgers, putting up a 4.35 ERA with 6.9 K/9 against 3.5 BB/9. He is sure to draw interest given his long track record of durability and solid results.