West Notes: Kazmir, Crisp, Saltalamacchia, Halos

The Athletics had somewhat of a scare yesterday when Scott Kazmir left his start in the third inning and underwent an MRI due to shoulder soreness, but MLB.com’s Jane Lee tweets that the injury isn’t serious. Kazmir’s MRI revealed no structural damage, and the left-hander is expected to miss only one start before rejoining the Oakland rotation. It’s good news for the A’s on multiple fronts, as a healthy Kazmir will either be a key to a theoretical turnaround of their season or a highly desirable trade chip come July.

Some more news from the game’s Western divisions…

  • News on Coco Crisp, however, isn’t as encouraging for the Athletics, writes Joe Stiglich of CSN Bay Area. Doctors have recommended that Crisp receive an epidural injection to attempt to alleviate the chronic pain in his neck. The center fielder will be shut down from baseball activities for the next month or so, according to manager Bob Melvin. That, as Stiglich notes, would mean that Crisp would likely be out past the All-Star break, as he wouldn’t resume baseball activities until late June or early July.
  • The D-Backs are planning to promote Jarrod Saltalamacchia from Triple-A Reno tomorrow, reports Steve Gilbert of MLB.com (via Twitter). Saltalamacchia signed a minor league pact with Arizona after being surprisingly designated for assignment and subsequently released by the struggling Marlins. Saltlamacchia has struggled some at Triple-A after a notable absence from playing in games — he was on paternity leave prior to his DFA, then waited 10 days before being released and another couple of days before signing — but he does have a pair of homers in nine games with Reno. The Diamondbacks will need to add Saltalamacchia to the 40-man roster before he can join the big league club.
  • The addition of Kirk Nieuwenhuis doesn’t figure to be the only trade the Angels will make in the coming months, as GM Jerry Dipoto told reporters, including Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times, that the search for offense will continue for the next few months. “We’ll be looking for the remainder of the trade season,” said Dipoto, whose team surprisingly ranks 26th in runs scored, 29th in OPS and 26th in wRC+. Dipoto specifically states that he’s not interested in trading the pitching depth he worked long and hard to acquire — presumably referring to Andrew Heaney, Nick Tropeano and Sean Newcomb. He also doesn’t sound like a GM ready to act rashly. “Quite frankly, you try to fix something now, you cost yourself pitching depth, and many different things that could happen along the way would tell you that was the wrong way to go,” he adds.

Brewers Outright Rob Wooten

Brewers right-handed reliever Rob Wooten has been outrighted to Triple-A Colorado Springs, according to the club’s transactions page.

Wooten, 29, appeared in four games for the Brewers this season, yielding eight runs on five hits and six walks. Never a flamethrower in previous seasons, Wooten’s fastball velocity dipped to 87.9 mph in his small sample of work in 2015. This season’s unsightly results aside, Wooten has some encouraging career peripherals, including a 48.1 percent ground-ball rate, a 3.21 FIP and a 3.61 SIERA.

Wooten becomes the second reliever removed from Milwaukee’s 40-man roster in recent weeks, as the team also outrighted former closer Jim Henderson‘s contract to Colorado Springs. Wooten’s outright brings the Brewers’ 40-man roster to 38.

Grant Balfour Leaning Toward Retirement

Right-hander Grant Balfour is leaning toward retiring after opting out of his minor league contract with the Rays, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

The 37-year-old Balfour struggled with the 2014 Rays after having almost latched on with the Orioles on a two-year deal earlier that offseason. Medical concerns caused that deal to fall through, and Balfour eventually returned to the Rays on a different two-year deal later in the winter. However, his velocity was noticeably lower than in recent years, and his BB/9 rate spiked north of 5.0, resulting in a 4.91 ERA over 62 1/3 innings of work. He eventually lost the closer’s role to Jake McGee and appeared poised to pitch in a setup capacity in 2015 as he hoped to rebound.

Instead, Balfour struggled through 4 1/3 innings after missing much of Spring Training to return to his native Australia to be with his ailing father. Upon returning, he surrendered three runs in 4 1/3 innings and was ultimately designated for assignment and released before signing a new minor league deal with Tampa.

Topkin notes that Balfour had relatively encouraging bottom-line results with Triple-A Durham, allowing just three runs in 9 2/3 innings. However, he also allowed nine hits and four walks with velocity that again sat in the 90-91 mph range — a significant departure from the 93.4 mph he averaged as recently as 2013. Rays manager Kevin Cash said that Balfour was “Similar to what he was [in the Majors],” when asked by Topkin. “No regression, but I don’t think he totally felt like he had got back what he was looking for,” Cash continued.

If Balfour’s career is coming to a close, he’ll finish with a 30-23 record, 84 saves and a 3.49 ERA in 539 2/3 innings. The hard-throwing righty averaged 9.5 strikeouts and 4.2 walks per nine innings over a 12-year big league career split between the Twins, Rays, Athletics and Brewers.

Angels Designate Marc Krauss For Assignment

The Angels have designated Marc Krauss for assignment, tweets Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. The first baseman/outfielder had options remaining, Fletcher notes, but the team needed a 40-man roster spot for Alfredo Marte, whose contract was selected today. It was previously expected that Krauss would be optioned to Triple-A following the team’s acquisition of Kirk Nieuwenhuis from the Mets.

Krauss, 27, appeared in 11 games for the Halos this season, batting .143/.211/.286 with a homer and two doubles. A former second-round pick, Krauss has been up and down with the Astros and Angels over the past two seasons, totaling a .603 OPS. Krauss has struck out in 28 percent of his plate appearances, but he’s shown some decent home run pop in that time, belting 11 homers in 392 plate appearances. He also has a strong track record at Triple-A, where he’s batted .267/.376/.434 in parts of four seasons.

Red Sox Designate Jeff Bianchi For Assignment

Amid a flurry of roster moves, the Red Sox announced that infielder Jeff Bianchi has been designated for assignment. That move creates room on the roster to add outfielder Carlos Peguero, who was acquired yesterday in exchange for cash considerations. Additionally, Eduardo Rodriguez has now officially been recalled, with righty Heath Hembree being optioned to Triple-A. The team has also recalled Robbie Ross Jr. and placed outfielder Daniel Nava on the 15-day DL with a sprained thumb.

The 28-year-old Bianchi picked up just a single plate appearance with the Sox before being designated for assignment. He’d signed a minor league contract with Boston this winter and found himself called up after posting a .302/.373/.340 batting line with Triple-A Pawtucket this season.

Prior to the 2015 season, Bianchi played parts of three Major League seasons with the Brewers. In 163 games and 402 big league plate appearances, he’s a .216/.251/.283 hitter with notable experience at second base, shortstop and third base.

NL Notes: Dahl, Adams, Dodgers, Uribe

Rockies outfield prospect David Dahl suffered serious injuries in a collision today and is undergoing surgery on his spleen, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports (Twitter links). Dahl, the club’s top prospect according to Baseball America, likely also has a concussion and broken rib. Needless to say, the immediate concern is with Dahl’s personal well-being, and MLBTR extends its best wishes to him and his family.

  • Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams is set to miss most or all of the rest of the regular season, a topic that MLBTR’s Steve Adams and I discussed on today’s podcast. Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at the topic in depth, as well, in an excellent piece. He notes that there is not as much urgency as one might think: the team is playing well regardless, Adams was not exactly a driving force in the first two months, and Mark Reynolds is worthy of an extended look. That being said, if and when the Cardinals do look for an upgrade, Miklasz says the club should not limit itself either to left-handed hitters or to traditional first basemen. There’s plenty more of interest in the article, and I recommend a full read (and a listen to the podcast, of course).
  • The Dodgers‘ bullpen has been something of a revelation, but it is being taxed even with Kenley Jansen back for duty, Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com writes. Los Angeles starters are in the middle of the pack in terms of total innings, notes Saxon, who says that could be by design — at least in part. The team’s relief corps has shown some cracks, though its incredible start was unsustainable as a general matter. If the Dodgers’ front office is indeed dictating increased bullpen use for strategic purposes, that would also help explain the club’s rather notable hording of relief arms in recent weeks.
  • Now-former Dodgers third baseman Juan Uribe, who was recently traded to the Braves, says that he never personally requested a deal, J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles News Group reports. “When I had the conversation with [Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman] I didn’t demand anything,” said Uribe. “I didn’t ask to play every day. I just wanted to know what my role was.” Friedman had indicated that Uribe’s agent had indicated that a trade to open playing time would be preferred. Of course, it’s important to bear in mind that neither side has expressed bitterness and that there’s room for truth both ways. Friedman indicated that he had been conveyed something of a suggestion of a deal from Uribe’s representatives, rather than a demand of a deal from Uribe himself.

Twenty MLB Clubs Attend Yosvani Garcia Showcase

Cuban infielder/outfielder Yosvani Garcia held a showcase for interested clubs in the Dominican Republic yesterday, and 20 Major League clubs were represented, MLBTR has learned. Four teams from Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball were present to watch the 26-year-old Garcia as well.

Garcia’s best tool is his speed, and he checked in at a 6.3 and 6.22 on his 60-yard dash in Santo Domingo yesterday. Major League Baseball declared Garcia a free agent earlier this month, and his age and experience make him exempt from the league’s international spending limitations.

In parts of five seasons in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, Garcia batted .280/.375/.352, showing little power to accompany his speed but a contact-oriented approach (14.8 K%) and a respectable eye at the plate (9.3 BB%). While his skill set differs from the ones that netted Jose Abreu, Yasmany Tomas, Yasiel Puig and Rusney Castillo their hefty paydays, recent contracts for outfielders with lesser power indicate that Garcia could still take home notable money. Daniel Carbonell received a $3.5MM guarantee when signing with the Giants last year, and this past offseason, Dian Toscano received a four-year, $6MM contract from the Braves. Garcia is being represented by agent Christopher Fanta of Pro Talent Sports Group.

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Jayson Werth Out At Least Two Months Due To Wrist Fractures

Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth will be sidelined through at least August after a CT scan performed at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. today revealed a pair of small fractures in his left wrist, reports MLB.com’s Bill Ladson. Werth “could return as early as August,” if his rehab goes according to plan, writes Ladson, though that suggests that August is somewhat of a best-case scenario. The injury appears to have been sustained when he was hit by a pitch on May 15.

How the Nationals deal with the injury remains to be seen. The team was without center fielder Denard Span for an extended period of time to open the season and elected to patch the hole with top prospect Michael A. Taylor, who performed well in Span’s absence. Certainly, with both Span and Taylor capable of playing a plus center field, it stands to reason that one of the two (likely Taylor) could slide over to left field and more than adequately handle the position from a defensive standpoint.

Taylor was only briefly optioned to Triple-A after Span’s return, and he remains with the club now, though he’s struggled as of late. It’s possible that infrequent playing time has given him trouble, but the 24-year-old has just two hits in his past 26 plate appearances and has struck out in 12 of those trips to the dish. Strikeouts have been an issue for Taylor in the past. Despite a strong .304/.390/.526 batting line in Triple-A last season, he punched out 144 times in 493 PAs (29.2 percent).

The Nationals have some other alternatives in house, including Tyler MooreClint Robinson and the rehabbing Nate McLouth. But, if Taylor struggles for a prolonged period, it’s feasible that the Werth injury could lead them to look outside the organization. Wrist injuries can often lead to offensive struggles even after they’ve healed, so it might make sense for the Nats to safeguard themselves against a temporarily power-sapped Werth as they assess their roster prior to a hopeful postseason run. I don’t expect a significant addition in the near future, though I do wonder if the club might take a look at recently designated Alejandro De Aza, provided the Orioles pay most of the roughly $3.55MM remaining on his 2015 salary.

Yadier Alvarez Not Eligible To Sign Until July 2

Major League Baseball has informed clubs that exciting Cuban righty Yadiel Alvarez will first be eligible to sign in the upcoming July 2 period, Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com reports (Twitter links). That means that Alvarez’s appeal for eligibility to sign in the current period has been denied. Of course, it also indicates that he will be able to sign immediately, unlike some other Cuban players, as Baseball America’s Ben Badler notes on Twitter.

Several clubs will not be eligible to sign players for more than $300K in the signing period beginning next year (and the one that follows): the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Diamondbacks, and Angels incurred that penalty (among others) for exceeding their bonus allocations. Those clubs will be precluded from offering more than a minimal bonus to Alvarez, who is expected to command much more. Arizona, in particular, was said to have significant interest.

Ultimately, there may not be much practical effect: the current period ends on June 15. And Alvarez is said by Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs to be eyeing a $16MM bonus with the Dodgers, who strongly implied they bowed out of the Yoan Moncada sweepstakes in part so that they could take full advantage of the upcoming July 2 market.

By reaching formal eligibility for the coming market, Alvarez will be available to the Cubs and Rangers, both of which sat out the prior two periods. Chicago is reported to have at least some interest in the young righty, in addition to the aforementioned Dodgers and the Nationals, Rockies, Blue Jays, Padres, Athletics, Cardinals, Twins, and Brewers. (All those reports, also, came via Sanchez.)

All said, there figures to be no shortage of interest in Alvarez’s services. As McDaniel explained back in February, the previously unknown Alvarez showed huge tools for his age at a showcase. With Moncada and Hector Olivera off the market, he’s clearly the next major Cuban talent to watch.

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Podcast: Replacing Matt Adams; David O’Brien On Braves

Host Jeff Todd is joined by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s David O’Brien to talk Braves. Among other things, O’Brien discusses Atlanta’s recent addition of Juan Uribe and Chris Withrow and its possible plans over the summer.

MLBTR’s Steve Adams also joins the show to talk about the Cardinals‘ decisionmaking following the loss of Matt Adams. Jeff and Steve canvass the first base options that St. Louis could explore now and over the summer.

Click here to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and please leave a review! The podcast is also available via Stitcher at this link

The MLB Trade Rumors Podcast runs weekly on Thursday afternoons.

Nick Kingham Undergoes Tommy John Surgery

Pirates prospect Nick Kingham underwent Tommy John surgery yesterday, the club announced. He’ll miss all of this year and a significant chunk of 2016.

It’s always disappointing to lose a year of development and take on the risk of a surgery, of course, but the news is all the more difficult for Pittsburgh given that Kingham seemed close to the big leagues. As Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review notes on Twitter, Kingham was probably the Bucs pitching prospect who was best prepared to join the major league club this year.

While both Baseball America and MLB.com rated Kingham only the club’s sixth-best prospect entering the year, it’s a strong overall group of top-end prospects. MLB.com currently rates Kingham the #68 prospect in all of baseball, crediting him with three solid to above-average pitches. Overall, his value lies less in his upside than in the reasonable expectation that he’ll settle in as a mid-to-back-of-the-rotation starter. (Baseball America calls him a “solid No. 4 starter” in the making.)

A fourth-round pick back in 2010, Kingham progressed steadily and reached Triple-A for the first time last year. He opened 2015 back at Indianapolis for his age-23 season. Over 119 1/3 innings at the highest level of the minors to date, Kingham has worked to a 3.77 ERA with 7.3 K/9 against 2.6 BB/9.

Pittsburgh’s rotation has been excellent thus far, producing the second-lowest ERA in the league (just behind the division-rival Cardinals). With Charlie Morton back in action, and the team’s Triple-A rotation (including Casey Sadler, Clayton Richard, Chis Volstad, Adrian Sampson, and Wilfredo Boscan) all putting up good results at Triple-A, the club seems to have adequate depth as things stand.

Looking ahead at 2016, though, the loss of Kingham could sting. While only veteran A.J. Burnett is set to hit the open market among the team’s current array of starters, Kingham would have increased the team’s flexibility in structuring its roster. The news seems to make a Burnett return somewhat more likely, though we’re a long ways off from having any real idea how that situation will play out.

Alfredo Rodriguez Leaves Cuba To Pursue MLB Deal

Shortstop Alfredo Rodriguez has departed Cuba with the intent of seeking MLB free agency, Ben Badler of Baseball America reports. The 21-year-old took home Rookie of the Year honors in the top division Serie Nacional this year, though as Badler notes that was the subject of some disagreement.

As always, you’ll want to read Badler’s piece for a full breakdown, but the takeaway seems to be that Rodriguez is a whiz with the glove with good speed and a suspect bat. Badler labels the youngster as a polished shortstop whose hand and footwork are outstanding, accompanied by good range and a solid arm.

Offensively, though, it appears that Gonzalez has much development ahead of him. He did swipe 12 bags in 16 tries, so there’s a reasonable expectation that he will add value on the bases. But he slashed only .265/.301/.284 in his 304 plate appearances last year, striking out a reasonable 38 times but taking a free pass in only 11 turns at the dish.

Badler goes on to explain how Gonzalez fits within the evolving rules regarding players from Cuba. Teams will have to use their international spending allocation to sign him, though he will not be subject to the league’s registration policy — which can cause a delay, as Badler explained recently — due to his relatively advanced age for an international prospect. All said, Gonzalez should be able to sign as part of this coming summer’s July 2 period, though he will first have to go through the process of establishing residency in a third country.

Duquette On Miranda, De Aza, Bundy

The Orioles officially announced the signing of Cuban lefty Ariel Miranda yesterday, and executive VP of baseball operations Dan Duquette sat down with the media to discuss that and other matters, as Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun was among those to report.

  • Regarding Miranda, Duquette said that the team is “hoping he can help us maybe later this year or sometime next year.” He added that Miranda’s bonus checked in below the $800K that the team previously committed to Dariel Alvarez.
  • Outfielder Alejandro De Aza has already drawn trade interest since being designated for assignment, per Duquette. “We have some depth on our left-handed hitting side of the roster and we’re going to see if his contract has value with some other clubs,” said Duquette. “There’s a couple of clubs that were interested in him.” The contract is the issue with De Aza, of course, along with the fact that he is not off to a fast start at the plate. De Aza, 31, has enough of a track record to be a strong option for some teams, but he is playing on a $5MM salary this year.
  • Dylan Bundy‘s MRI showed nothing more than inflammation in his shoulder, Duquette also said. Needless to say, that’s good news for the O’s and their prized young right, who is still not far removed from Tommy John surgery.

NL East Notes: Revere, Jennings, Wright, Werth

The Phillies may have lost a trade partner — at least, in the immediate future — when the Mets shipped left-handed-hitting outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis to the Angels, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki writes. The Phils and Halos had been discussing a deal involving Philly outfielder Ben Revere deal for some time, per Zolecki, but couldn’t agree upon compensation. While it’s certainly plausible to imagine a swap being revisited between those clubs, Philadelphia appears motivated to deal Revere in the near term, in advance of a coming roster logjam in the outfield. Of course, it is also understandable that Philadelphia would not want to accept a less-than-fair return for the outfielder, who has two years of arbitration control remaining. But it’s not clear that the speedy but power-challenged Revere will command much in trade, particularly since he’s already playing on a $4.1MM arb salary this year.

  • While it’s far too early to judge him, newly-installed Marlins manager Dan Jennings has certainly not been able to effect a quick turnaround from a foundering ballclub. As Bob Nightengale of USA Today writes, that has pleased some around the game. Jennings himself says he is resolute in both respecting the job and doing everything in his power to produce a winning club. Before hiring Jennings, says Nightengale, Miami bounced around the idea of several more established candidates — among them, Ron Washington, Dusty Baker, and even Ozzie Guillen.
  • Though the Mets are giving every indication that they are not overly concerned with David Wright‘s long-term health, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes that the third baseman’s condition — known as spinal stenosis — can be a serious one. A clinician tells Martino that it tends to be degenerative and quite problematic for athletes, though another expert put things in a somewhat more positive light, telling Laura Albanese of Newsday that the condition can be overcome. While New York reportedly has insurance coverage for at least a significant portion of Wright’s contract, in the event of injury, that does not change the fact that his presence is badly needed on the field. And there would seem to be cause for at least some concern that Wright could be limited by the injury moving forward, even when he does return to the active roster.
  • Jayson Werth and the Nationals will hope to learn more about his still-balky wrist when he makes a visit to the specialist who has helped him through prior wrist issues, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports. Though tests have not revealed any structural damage, swelling caused by a recent hit-by-pitch has yet to subside (though it’s improved recently). Already planned to coincide with an off day for the team, a visit to Dr. Richard Berger of the Mayo Clinic is in order. The Nats will, of course, hope for continued improvement — the team has played well of late, but has done so without receiving any production from the club’s two best hitters of 2014.

Matt Adams Out 3-4 Months With Quad Tear

11:04pm: Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweets that Adams will undergo surgery to repair the tear on Friday.

8:01pm: GM John Mozeliak just discussed the injury in an appearance on KMOX radio, stating: “We anticipated this being a DL, but now we have to look at how we look at this club long-term,” (Twitter link via KMOX’s Benjamin Boyd).

7:43pm: The Cardinals announced tonight that Adams will miss an estimated three to four months with the injury. Given that timeline, it’s fair to suggest that there’s a chance he could miss the remainder of the regular season. MLB.com’s Jen Langosch hears that the team is still deciding whether or not Adams will undergo surgery (Twitter link).

A recovery timeline of that significance would seem to increase the chances that the Cardinals will look outside the organization eventually in order to address the need. Reynolds has plenty of power and could serve as a stopgap, but he batted just .209/.297/.394 from 2013-14 with the Indians, Yankees and Brewers in fairly regular duty, making him a questionable long-term solution.

4:05pm: Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams will miss significant time with a torn quadriceps, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports on Twitter. Surgery is a possibility for the 26-year-old.

The injury is said to be worse than that of fellow St. Louis outfielder Tommy Pham, who is on the 60-day DL with his own quad injury. The Cardinals had already decided to rely on Mark Reynolds at first for the immediate future, but the severity of the injury could potentially contribute to additional roster planning over the summer.

Of course, Adams has been off to a rough start, hitting just .243/.281/.375 over his first 153 plate appearances on the year. But the team certainly had good reason to expect better the rest of the way: after all, Adams averaged a .287/.327/.474 line over the prior two seasons.

Reynolds could ultimately be paired with Dan Johnson, who is in the fold at Triple-A, or a similarly available left-handed bat such as Travis Ishikawa. The team could in theory consider sliding an outfielder like Matt Holliday, Randal Grichuk or Stephen Piscotty in at first, but none of them have played the position before (at least professionally).

But if Adams will miss much of the rest of the season, it certainly seems at least plausible that the Cards will dabble in the summer trade market. Adam Lind, Justin Morneau, and Ryan Howard are among the players that could be marketed at the deadline.