Nationals Designate Dan Butler For Assignment

The Nationals have designated Triple-A catcher Dan Butler for assignment in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Jonathan Papelbon, tweets Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com.


Angels Designate Vinnie Pestano For Assignment

The Angels announced that they’ve designated right-hander Vinnie Pestano for assignment in order to clear a roster spot for newly acquired outfielder David Murphy.

Pestano, who was acquired from the Indians in a minor swap last August, now finds himself designated for assignment to make room for a former teammate. The 30-year-old Pestano appeared in 19 games for the Halos this season and totaled 11 2/3 innings with a 5.40 ERA.

Pestano at one point looked to be emerging as a key piece of the Indians’ bullpen, totaling 132 innings with a 2.45 ERA, 10.9 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 from 2011-12, but he began to struggle in 2013 and fell out of the team’s plans in 2014. He’s pitched just 30 1/3 innings in the big leagues over the past two seasons.


Nationals Acquire Jonathan Papelbon

The Nationals announced on Tuesday evening that they have acquired closer Jonathan Papelbon from the Phillies in exchange for Double-A right-hander Nick Pivetta. Not only has the team acquired Papelbon, though, they also announced that they have signed him through the 2016 season. Papelbon and the Nationals have reportedly agreed to restructure the pre-existing club/vesting option on his contract, reducing the value from $13MM to $11MM in exchange for having the option immediately exercised. The Phillies also announced the move, adding that they sent cash considerations to Washington along with Papelbon.

Jonathan PapelbonAmong the roadblocks that needed to be resolved prior to finalization of a complicated trade were Papelbon’s no-trade clause, his vesting option for the 2016 season and his adamant desire to remain a closer upon a trade to a new team.

The Nationals, of course, have Drew Storen pitching exceptionally well in the ninth inning this season, but the trade was reportedly contingent upon Papelbon becoming the team’s closer. As such, Storen will slide back to the eighth inning and return to a setup role which he has handled with aplomb in the past. This season, Storen has saved 29 games and worked to a 1.73 ERA, averaging 10.9 strikeouts and just 2.2 walks per nine innings pitched.

A need for a late-inning reliever, then, might not appear to be a strong one for the Nationals, but the rest of the bullpen has been suspect. When subtracting Storen’s 36 1/3 dominant innings, the Nationals’ other relievers have combined to post a considerably less dominant 3.68 ERA.

Papelbon will unquestionably deepen the team’s bullpen, though he may not necessarily be an improvement over Storen in the ninth inning. However, his acquisition will allow Nationals manager Matt Williams more flexibility when using Storen. Williams has deployed Storen, his best reliever, in the eighth inning just once this season, and he’s never used him for more than three outs. Whether or not Storen will be available in multi-inning (or at least four- and five-out situations) remains to be seen, but the Nats will now have a pair of relievers with sub-2.00 ERAs to close out the final two innings of the game.

For all the talk about Papelbon’s diminished velocity, he remains an elite reliever. He’s pitched to a 1.87 ERA dating back to Opening Day 2014, averaging 8.7 K/9 against 2.0 BB/9 in 106 innings of relief. Though he’s now averaging just over 91 mph on his heater, Papelbon has improved his control and become a significantly more ground-ball-oriented pitcher. His 51.9 percent ground-ball rate is the highest of his career and comes in a full 13 percent above his career mark of 38.9 percent. The result of his new approach on the hill has been a 1.59 ERA that would represent the second-best mark of his career and his best since 2006, were the season to end today.

Papelbon is earning $13MM in 2015, and about $4.9MM of that sum remains through season’s end. Papelbon was just 21 games finished shy of seeing his 2016 option vest anyway, but by agreeing to the restructured deal he’s traded a bit of financial upside for financial security and the opportunity to join a winning team. While Papelbon’s option was long viewed as a detriment to his trade value and, in the end, still proved to be that, he would almost certainly have been in position to receive a much more sizable commitment on the free agent market, so there’s some value in the deal for the Nats as well.

Turning to the Phillies’ side of the deal, Baseball America ranked the 22-year-old Pivetta as the Nationals No. 10 prospect on their midseason update. Per BA, the Canadian hurler’s 6’5″ frame allows him to throw a low-90s fastball with downward plane. MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis ranked Pivetta 12th among Nats farmhands, noting that he can reach 96 mph with his heater and giving him a chance to start in the big leagues while noting that he’s somewhat of a project.

In 101 1/3 innings split between Class-A Advanced and Double-A this season, Pivetta has a 3.02 ERA with 6.9 K/9 against 3.4 BB/9. He’ll join Ben Lively, Zach Eflin, Tom Windle and Joely Rodriguez as arms acquired by the Phillies dating back to the offseason’s trades of Jimmy Rollins, Antonio Bastardo and Marlon Byrd.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that there was a deal in the works, but both Jim Bowden and Jayson Stark of ESPN reported that there were hurdles to be cleared before a deal was struck. Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post reported (on Twitter) that a deal was close. Bowden reported that a Double-A pitcher was headed to the Phillies (Twitter links). Rosenthal reported (Twitter links) that the trade was contingent upon Papelbon becoming Washington’s closer and restructuring his option. MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reported Pivetta’s inclusion (via Twitter). Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweeted the new terms of Papelbon’s 2016 salary.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Diamondbacks Discussing Aroldis Chapman With Reds

6:26pm: General manager Dave Stewart candidly acknowledged that he has indeed contacted the Reds regarding Chapman, according to MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert (All Twitter links). Said Stewart: “I’m going to go down that path and see where it takes us.” The GM didn’t characterize a deal as likely or unlikely, saying he didn’t know how things would play out, but he was clear that he didn’t want to do anything to hurt his team in the future, Gilbert adds.

2:32pm: The Diamondbacks have engaged in discussions with the Reds regarding ace closer Aroldis Chapman, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports on Twitter. Cincinnati has a “huge” asking price and the chats could just be “due diligence,” per the report.

Regardless of how serious the interest is between the two sides, it’s notable that Arizona is looking into a deal. We heard yesterday that the team inquired on Cole Hamels of the Phillies, another notably available trade piece who comes with future control.

Arizona has control over current closer Brad Ziegler through a 2016 club option, but it would not be the only team that would love to add Chapman regardless of the team’s present 9th-inning situation. He’s arguably established himself as the best closer in baseball, and with another year of arbitration to go he’s a valuable commodity.

Considering Arizona’s interest in both Hamels and Chapman, it seems that the club is at least entertaining the idea of putting some impact pieces in place that would give it an outside shot at contention this year while also providing future value. We’ve heard of similar approaches being weighed by other clubs, and the D’Backs certainly do appear to have some future salary capacity to make that kind of move work.

That being said, investing in a relief piece is always a risky proposition, and Chapman will certainly not come cheap. Spending big on a closer (in both prospects and dollars) has already arguably cost the D’backs once in recent memory. Addison Reed, who was a major trade acquisition of the prior front office, has been playing at Triple-A as he tries to work out his struggles.


Angels Designate Jeremy McBryde For Assignment

The Angels have designated right-hander Jeremy McBryde for assignment, tweets Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times. Presumably, the move was made to clear space for the David DeJesus, whose acquisition has officially been announced by the Angels. (The Angels are also said to be in agreement on a trade to acquire David Murphy, though there’s been no team announcement regarding that move just yet.)

The 28-year-old McBryde signed a big league deal with the Angels over the winter despite never having pitched an inning in the Major Leagues. Though he entered the season with a strong track record at Triple-A, McBryde has struggled in 2015, posting a 5.63 ERA in 46 1/3 inning. McBryde is averaging a solid 8.5 K/9 against a less-spectacular 3.7 BB/9. His problems at the Triple-A level stem largely from a .362 batting average on balls in play that is significantly higher than his usual levels.


Angels To Acquire David Murphy From Indians

The Angels have reportedly reached an agreement to acquire outfielder David Murphy from the Indians in exchange for infield prospect Eric Stamets. News of the swap came just minutes before the Angels announced the acquisition of fellow lefty-swinging outfielder David DeJesus.

David  Murphy

Murphy, 33, is making $6MM this season and has a $500K buyout on his $7MM 2016 team option. He has slashed .296/.344/.437 with five homers in 229 plate appearances this season for the Indians, serving primarily as a platoon option in the corner outfield.

The Angels already have lefty hitters (Matt Joyce and Kole Calhoun) in the outfield corners, although Joyce has struggled this season. It stands to reason, then, that Murphy and DeJesus will provide the Angels with a pair of lefty bats to deploy in left field and at DH. Either would make a fine platoon partner for the recently acquired Shane Victorino, and they could both find themselves in the lineup versus tough righties, perhaps at the expense of young first baseman/designated hitter C.J. Cron.  Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported on Monday that Murphy was on the Halos’ radar.

When faced with the possibility that he could lose playing time back in January, Murphy said that he would be open to a trade.  Many months later, Murphy has been moved out of Cleveland, though his playing time didn’t dip much in 2015.

Stamets, a 23-year-old shorstop, was a sixth-round pick of the Halos in 2012. In Double-A this year, the defensive-minded Stamets has hit .248/.306/.360 with three homers in 241 plate appearances. The youngster has also swiped five bases.

Baseball America ranked Stamets as the No. 23 prospect in the Angels’ system following the 2014 season. “Stamets would be one of the top prospects in baseball if he could hit as well as he plays defense,” BA writes.

Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times first reported (via Twitter) that the Angels were about to acquire Murphy. Joel Sherman of the New York Post added that an agreement was in place (Twitter link). Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweeted Stamets’ inclusion.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Angels Acquire David DeJesus

The Angels have acquired David DeJesus from the Rays just minutes after finalizing a deal to acquire David Murphy from the Indians, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Sherman had first tweeted that DeJesus was on the verge of being dealt, and Yahoo’s Tim Brown tweeted that the Angels were on the receiving end. The Rays have since announced that DeJesus has been traded to the Halos for right-hander Eduar Lopez.

David DeJesus

In DeJesus, the Angels have acquired a second veteran bat that handles right-handed pitching well but is limited to a platoon role. DeJesus has seen just nine plate appearances against lefties this year, but he’s been solid versus righties, hitting .263/.331/.384. For his career, DeJesus has slashed .285/.362/.441 when holding the platoon advantage.

In Lopez, the Rays have acquired a young right-hander that ranked 22nd among Angels prospects entering the 2015 campaign, per Baseball America. The 20-year-old Dominican hurler has spent the season in the Rookie-level Pioneer League, where he has posted a 4.32 ERA with a 33-to-16 K/BB ratio in eight starts (33 1/3 innings).

DeJesus is earning $5MM in 2015 and has a 2016 club option for the same rate that comes with a $1MM buyout. Of his 2015 salary, approximately $1.91MM remains. Coupled with the buyout, the Rays will save about $2.9MM on this deal. The trade will also create more at-bats in the season’s final months for John Jaso, whose return has limited DeJesus’ role with the club.

While Murphy and DeJesus have somewhat redundant skill sets, the Angels could use either at designated hitter on days when facing a right-handed pitcher. That calls into question Matt Joyce‘s role with the team, as the free-agent-to-be and longtime platoon slugger has failed to produce anything close to his career norms in his lone season with the Angels. Joyce is currently on the 7-day disabled list, so there’s no need to take immediate action with his roster spot, but the presence of Murphy, DeJesus, Shane Victorino, Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun in the outfield plus C.J. Cron and Albert Pujols as first base/DH options seems to leave Joyce without much of a role on the club.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Jenrry Mejia Suspended 162 Games For Second Failed PED Test

Mets right-hander Jenrry Mejia has been suspended for 162 games following a second positive test for performance enhancing drugs, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Mejia tested positive for both stanozolol and boldenone, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

The fairly stunning news comes just weeks after Mejia was activated from an 80-game PED suspension with which he was hit earlier this year. He has, in fact, pitched just 7 1/3 innings for the Mets this season. It’s natural to speculate that the Mets were made aware of the impending suspension prior to acquiring Tyler Clippard from the A’s, and thus, extra-motivated to strike a deal. However, GM Sandy Alderson tells reporters, including Adam Rubin of ESPN New York (Twitter link), that by the time he received a heads up on the Mejia suspension Monday evening, the trade for Clippard was finished.


Dodgers Prioritizing Cole Hamels In Search For Pitching

The Dodgers are prioritizing Cole Hamels in their search for rotation upgrades, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Los Angeles “wants to exhaust” the option of acquiring Hamels before moving onto a “Plan B” like Yovani Gallardo. Per Sherman, the Dodgers continue to insist that they will not part with top prospects Corey Seager and Julio Urias, however.

Refusal to move either Seager or Urias will certainly work against the Dodgers, who face steep competition in the market for Hamels. The Giants are said to be making a “strong push,” and the Astros are also pushing for the Philadelphia ace. The Rangers have been discussing prospects with the Phillies recently, and the Diamondbacks have emerged as somewhat of a surprise candidate in the Hamels sweepstakes as well. The Cubs are said to merely be “on the periphery” of the Hamels market.

The Phillies have asked that teams make their best offers for Hamels by tomorrow, per ESPN’s Jayson Stark, and his previously scheduled Thursday start has been pushed back to Friday — after the trade deadline — so as not to risk an injury and to potentially make him immediately available to start for an acquiring team. Over the weekend, Stark characterized the Dodgers as one of the favorites for Hamels.


Royals GM Dayton Moore Talks Zobrist Trade

Dayton Moore pulled off a major acquisition when he landed ace Johnny Cueto from the Reds on Sunday, but he didn’t rest on his laurels after that trade.  Today, he finalized another major deal when he acquired versatile veteran Ben Zobrist from the A’s.  Earlier today, I asked the Royals GM if he was under a mandate from ownership to go for broke this summer and make major moves.

We always have a mandate to put the best team on the field,” Moore told reporters on the conference call.  “Certainly the play of our team and how our players have responded gives us more motivation to make moves, but we’ve always tried to do whatever could at the deadline to make our team better for the second half, even when we weren’t competing.”

While Cueto came to K.C. before Zobrist, the GM explained that talks with Oakland actually started before the discussions with Cincinnati. There are still a few days to go until the trade deadline but Moore doesn’t expect to make another blockbuster deal between now and Friday.  Like a responsible Christmas shopper, it appears that Moore has avoided the rush to get the top shelf prizes.  Interestingly, however, he says the timing of it all was happenstance.

You’ll have to speak with [Reds GM] Walt [Jocketty] and [A’s GM] Billy [Beane], but for me, they were just satisfied with the package that was offered,” said Moore.  “I don’t think anybody is gonna execute a deal unless they’re as satisfied as they can be.  When we enter into these types of discussions for a player we want we are very aggressive.  We have a good idea of what we want and what we want to provide as far as the package goes and what they desire…No sense in stringing things out and creating unnecessary tension.  If you know at the end of the day that you’re going to get to a certain place, you might as well get there.”

Zobrist is expected to join his new teammates “in a day or two,” and when he gets in the mix, he’ll be slotted in left field rather than second base, where he’ll be filling in for the currently injured Alex Gordon.  There’s plenty of work ahead for Zobrist, Cueto, and the Royals, but it sounds like their GM is done with the heavy lifting for the week.


Phillies Asking Clubs For Best Offers On Hamels By Tomorrow

3:46pm: MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports (via Twitter) that Hamels will not start for the Phillies Thursday, as had been scheduled. Hamels’ start has been pushed back to Friday, though that game comes after the trade deadline. This prevents a disastrous scenario in which Hamels suffers an injury and also makes him available to start immediately for his team either Friday or Saturday if he’s traded on Thursday or Friday.

11:32am: The Phillies are notifying teams with interest in lefty Cole Hamels that they would like to receive their best offers tomorrow, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com reports. It’s unclear what the team’s decisionmaking process or timeline would be from that point, but there is at least some possibility of a deal occurring before Hamels makes his scheduled start on Thursday.

It makes sense, of course, that Philadelphia would look to strike a deal just ahead of Friday’s deadline. He is fresh off of a no-hitter, after two rough starts before it, so there’s only downside in putting him back on the hill in a Phillies uniform. And handing off another outing won’t hurt his trade value, either.

As for the suitors, we’ve heard of late movement from the Giants as well as from the Astros and Diamondbacks. Stark lists those clubs, along with the Dodgers, Rangers, Cubs, Yankees, and Red Sox, as organizations known to have had ongoing discussions with Philadelphia.

As he notes, however, “about half of that group” is participating because the Phillies have sought “to reopen discussion” of names that were previously deemed off limits. And one source says that there’s “nothing happening” with San Francisco, per the report.


Royals Designate Joe Blanton For Assignment

The Royals announced that they’ve designated right-hander Joe Blanton for assignment in order to clear a roster spot for the newly acquired Johnny Cueto.

Blanton made a nice comeback to the Majors this season after spending the 2014 season away from the game. He’s pitched quite well overall for the Royals, working to a 3.89 ERA with 8.6 K/9, 1.5 BB/9 and a 48.4 percent ground-ball rate in 41 2/3 innings split between the rotation and the bullpen. Blanton’s 90.8 mph average fastball is the fastest of his career, though one can imagine that’s partly attributable to the fact that 11 of his 15 appearances have come in a relief role.

Nonetheless, Blanton looks much improved over the form he showed in his first and only season with the Angels. After signing a two-year, $16MM contract with Anaheim, Blanton quickly declined, posting a 6.04 ERA in 132 2/3 innings, due largely to a colossal spike in his homer-to-flyball rate. Prior to that deal, Blanton had been a solid back-end starter with the Athletics and Phillies. From 2005-12, Blanton averaged 178 innings per season with a 4.37 ERA, 6.4 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9.


Rockies Prepared To Deal CarGo, May Wait Til Offseason

2:56pm: Colorado may be more inclined to deal CarGo after the season, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports (Twitter links). With his recent turnaround, the Rockies’ asking price will likely be too high for contenders to meet. The club could, then, hope that continued production and health will lead an interested trade partner to line up over the winter.

12:58pm: Gonzalez hasn’t been a “point of emphasis” for the Angels, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times tweets, though he notes that the market continues to shift. Los Angeles is looking more for “incremental” improvements in left field.

The club’s addition of Shane Victorino yesterday seemingly put one half of a platoon in place. While the left-handed-hitting Matt Joyce theoretically could make up the other side of that equation, he’s struggled badly this year and it seems that the Halos are still interested in another option.

8:36am: After agreeing to deal franchise icon Troy Tulowitzki, the Rockies plan to shop fellow star Carlos Gonzalez, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports“They expect to move him,” a rival GM tells Heyman.

[RELATED: Trade Market For Corner Outfielders]

That isn’t exactly surprising to hear after last night’s Tulo agreement, but it’s nevertheless notable to see CarGo set to hit the block. While he had not looked himself since the start of last season, Gonzalez has steadily improved all year and has been on fire of late.

It remains somewhat unclear what kind of market he’ll have, particularly given his recent injury and performance concerns. Gonzalez is earning a $16MM salary this year and $37MM in total over the next two. That’s a bargain if he’s a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat, and hardly an unworkable sum for most teams, but there’s still plenty of risk. Heyman notes that clubs such as the Mets, Angels, and Orioles all line up as theoretical fits for Gonzalez.


Phillies Expect To Trade Papelbon; Nationals “Making Progress” On Deal

2:44pm: Talks between the Nationals and Phillies are “very complicated” and the sides still have plenty to work out, Jim Bowden of ESPN.com tweets. Papelbon is still likely to be sent to D.C., but there are “hurdles” to be dealt with, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com tweets.

11:53am: A source tells Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com that Papelbon “will be traded” at the deadline.

10:31am: The Nationals are making progress on a deal that would bring closer Jonathan Papelbon to D.C. from the rival Phillies, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. It’s unclear how far off the teams are from reaching agreement, let alone what kind of return is under contemplation.

There had been indications that Papelbon’s market was cooling, but it seems that action has kicked back into gear in recent days. Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com tweets that he’s been left with the impression that the team is confident in getting some kind of deal done involving the controversial closer.

With Philadelphia reportedly amenable to covering some of Papelbon’s costs — which include a $13MM salary this year and a $13MM option for 2016 that will soon vest — he’s a good fit for a Nationals team that is said to be disinclined to absorb salary in the middle of the year. But Philly’s willingness to pay down some obligations also makes Papelbon palatable to other clubs. MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki noted yesterday that the Blue Jays and Cubs have also expressed keen interest in the veteran righty.


Red Sox Claim Jean Machi From Giants

The Red Sox announced that they have claimed right-handed reliever Jean Machi off waivers from the Giants. In order to clear room on the 40-man roster, right-hander Clay Buchholz has been transferred from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL, meaning he can’t be activated until at least Sept. 9 (h/t: Tim Britton of the Providence Journal, on Twitter).

The 33-year-old Machi had a somewhat surprising breakout season in San Francisco’s bullpen in 2013, and over the ’13-’14 seasons he totaled a 2.49 ERA with 7.7 K/9 against 2.3 BB/9 in 119 1/3 innings of relief. However, he’s struggled a good deal in 2015, with an ERA of 5.14 in addition to K/9 and BB/9 rates that have taken significant steps backwards. He’s also missed about three weeks due to a groin strain.

On the plus side for Machi, his velocity (92.6 mph) is still about the same as it was in previous seasons. His ground-ball rate, while down a bit, is still an above-average 49.6 percent. The Red Sox will hope that the strong 119 1/3 innings he displayed from 2013-14 are more indicative of his talent level than the 35 poor innings he’s delivered in 2015. Machi figures to be a Super Two player this winter, as he’ll finish the year with two years, 154 days of big league service if he remains on Boston’s big league roster all year. The Sox will have the ability to control him through the 2019 season if he can rediscover the successful form he showed in recent seasons.