Central Notes: Arrieta, Berrios, Kirby

Jake Arrieta‘s no-hitter stands out as one of the best performances of the season, and the right-hander’s overall dominant campaign has positioned him as one of the front-runners for the NL Cy Young Award. A season this excellent — Arrieta is 17-6 with a 2.11 ERA, 9.3 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 in 183 innings — makes for a lucrative arbitration raise, but his raise could be steeper than most assume. As MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes tweets, our arbitration projection model currently has Arrieta jumping to $9.9MM in 2016 — nearly triple his current $3.625MM salary. The Cubs control Arrieta through the 2017 season.

Here’s more on Arrieta and the game’s Central divisions…

  • The trade that sent Arrieta and Pedro Strop to Chicago in exchange for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger has been brought up a great deal since the no-hitter, but Mark Brown of Camden Chat argues that Arrieta was unlikely to ever succeed with the Orioles. Arrieta was 27 at the time he was traded and had shown great raw talent with poor results for the better part of four seasons. Arrieta gave the Orioles little reason to ever believe he’d turn around, having posted a 5.46 ERA in 358 innings through the age of 27.
  • Though he wasn’t among the Twins‘ first wave of September callups, top prospect Jose Berrios is still under consideration to join the team later this month, writes the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ Mike Berardino“I don’t think we have finalized everything we’re going to do here,” said manager Paul Molitor. “Going forward, his name is definitely still being talked about.” GM Terry Ryan admitted that the upcoming November roster crunch is “a piece” of the consideration, as Berrios doesn’t have to be added to the 40-man roster this offseason as he’s not yet Rule 5 eligible. However, Ryan also notes that the Twins already added Byron Buxton to the 40-man despite the fact that he also didn’t need to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft. Berardino runs down a number of Twins prospects that may need to be protected on the 40-man this winter.
  • The Brewers announced today that left-hander Nathan Kirby, the team’s supplemental round pick from the most recent draft, underwent Tommy John surgery (h/t: Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, on Twitter). The Virginia product slipped from a potential Top 5-10 pick to the Comp Balance round after his stock dropped due to a lat strain. Kirby tossed just 12 2/3 innings with Milwaukee’s Class-A affiliate before being sidelined, and he could very well be lost for the entirety of the 2016 season now.

Nationals’ Aaron Barrett To Undergo Elbow Surgery

Nationals right-hander Aaron Barrett requires surgery on his right elbow, manager Matt Williams told reporters, including MASNsports.com’s Dan Kolko (Twitter link). Kolko adds that it’s “looking like it’ll be Tommy John” surgery. MLB.com’s Bill Ladson tweets that Tommy John is “most likely” to be the outcome for Barrett.

The 27-year-old Barrett has been a solid contributor to the Washington bullpen over the past two seasons, firing 70 innings of 3.47 ERA ball to go along with a 10.8 K/9 rate, a 3.5 BB/9 rate and a 44.9 percent ground-ball rate. He’s averaged a strong 93.8 mph on his fastball in those 70 innings. Sabermetric figures like FIP, xFIP and SIERA all feel that Barrett’s ERA is higher than it should be, projecting marks ranging from 2.43 to 3.09.

If Tommy John surgery is indeed the outcome for Barrett, then he’ll of course miss the remainder of the season and perhaps all of next year as well. He’d have a chance to pitch next September if able to recover in a year’s time, though many recovery processes take longer than that, so it’s possible that he’ll be sidelined until Opening Day 2017. Barrett has been on the disabled list since early August due to a sprained right elbow.

Reds Designate Dylan Axelrod For Assignment

The Reds have designated right-hander Dylan Axelrod for assignment to clear room on the 40-man roster for catcher Ramon Cabrera, tweets MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon.

Axelrod, 30, has been up and down with the Reds over the past two seasons, notching a combined 4.70 ERA with a 32-to-12 K/BB ratio in 30 2/3 innings (with three of those walks being of the intentional variety). Prior to that, he spent much of the 2013 season in the White Sox’ rotation. All told, Axelrod has thrown 228 2/3 innings in the Majors, resulting in a 5.27 ERA. He does have a nice Triple-A track record, having compiled a 3.46 ERA with nearly three times as many walks as strikeouts in 421 1/3 frames.

The 25-year-old Cabrera has a .290/.343/.353 batting line in 351 plate appearances at Triple-A this season — numbers that are very similar to his career rates at that level. He’ll be making his Major League debut the first time he gets into a game for the Reds.

Angels Designate Alfredo Marte, Drew Rucinski

The Angels announced that they’ve designated outfielder Alfredo Marte and right-hander Drew Rucinski for assignment in order to clear space on their 40-man roster for September callups (Twitter link). Among that wave of September moves is left-hander Wesley Wright, whose contract has been selected to the 40-man roster.

Marte, 26, has spent most of the season at the Triple-A level, where he’s posted a strong .313/.377/.465 batting line, albeit in the very hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. He received eight plate appearances with the big league club in 2015 and has spent time in the Majors in each of the past three seasons, totaling a .181/.249/.284 line in 170 plate appearances.

Rucinski, also 26, made four appearances (one start) for the Halos this season and allowed six runs on 10 hits and six walks with four strikeouts in seven innings of work. After an outstanding season in Double-A last year, Rucinski was hit hard at the Triple-A level in 2015, posting a 5.76 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 in 106 1/3 innings.

Wright, 30, began the season with the Orioles after agreeing to a one-year, $1.7MM free agent contract. He spent the 2014 season with the Cubs and enjoyed good success as a member of the Chicago bullpen, making him a somewhat surprising non-tender. Last year, Wright pitched to a 3.17 ERA with 6.9 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 and a 52.1 percent ground-ball rate while holding opposing lefties to a .273/.321/.273 batting line. He battled shoulder woes earlier in the season which limited him to 1 2/3 innings with Baltimore. He signed a minor league deal with the O’s in late July.

Giants Designate Justin Maxwell For Assignment

The Giants announced that they have designated outfielder Justin Maxwell for assignment in order to clear space on the 40-man roster for September callup Nick Noonan.

Maxwell, 31, batted .209/.275/.341 in 274 plate appearances with the Giants this year. He’s soaked up a number innings in the outfield as San Francisco has dealt with injuries to its entire starting outfield — Hunter Pence, Angel Pagan and Nori Aoki. Maxwell is capable of playing all three outfield spots and is a particularly good defender in the corner outfield positions. As Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area tweets, the move is at least somewhat surprising, as the team could’ve transferred Tim Lincecum to the 60-day disabled list. Lincecum has been on the DL since late June.

Rangers Designate Roman Mendez For Assignment

The Rangers have designated right-hander Roman Mendez for assignment, tweets Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Additionally, left-hander Alex Claudio has been recalled from Triple-A Round Rock and placed on the Major League 60-day disabled list to clear another 40-man roster spot. The Rangers have announced that those roster spots will go to Drew Stubbs and Ross Ohlendorf. Additionally, Joey Gallo and Luke Jackson.

The 25-year-old Mendez has totaled 11 2/3 innings with the Rangers in 2015, working to a sub-par 5.40 ERA with nine strikeouts against seven walks (one intentional). He did enjoy success in 2014, posting an excellent 2.18 ERA over the life of 33 innings, although that strong mark came with underwhelming peripherals. Mendez averaged 6.0 K/9 against 4.6 BB/9 last year, benefiting from a minuscule and unsustainable .194 BABIP (to say nothing of a bloated 86 percent strand rate).

Claudio, 23, has a 2.89 ERA with 8.7 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and a 54.3 percent ground-ball rate. He’s been slowed by injuries in 2015, but he could potentially be a lefty specialist for Texas in future seasons. He’s held lefties to a .212/.250/.365 batting line over the course of his career, but he’s been roughed up by righties, who have knocked him around at a .273/.359/.473 clip.

Mets Outright Vic Black

Right-hander Vic Black has been outrighted off the 40-man roster by the Mets, tweets Anthony DiComo of MLB.com.

Black, one of two players acquired in the Marlon Byrd/John Buck trade of August 2013 (the other was Dilson Herrera), was expected to be a big part of the Mets’ bullpen in 2015 and beyond. However, shoulder tendinitis and a groin injury have kept him from the Majors this season and limited him to 22 2/3 innings at the minor league level. Black has appeared at three minor league levels this season, working to a 6.40 ERA with 30 strikeouts against 28 walks in 32 1/3 innings.

The thought of Black clearing waivers would’ve been far-fetched even a few months ago, but he passed through outright waivers and now will qualify as a six-year minor league free agent at season’s end. Black did log 34 2/3 solid innings with the Mets in 2014, compiling a 2.60 ERA with 32 strikeouts and 19 walks, so he has some big league success under his belt, which could increase his appeal to clubs despite his injury-marred 2015 season.

Cubs Designate Russell, Soriano; Select Contracts Of Cahill, Berry; Recall Baez

The Cubs have designated left-hander James Russell for assignment and also activated right-hander Rafael Soriano from the disabled list and designated him for assignment as well, the team announced. These two moves make 40-man roster space for the contracts of Trevor Cahill and Quintin Berry, each of which was selected from Triple-A Iowa. The Cubs also recalled Javier Baez and Tsuyoshi Wada.

Russell, 29, returned to the Cubs on a minor league deal this year after being traded to the Braves last summer and subsequently released in Spring Training. Russell was extremely sharp in Triple-A prior to his promotion to rejoin the Cubs, firing 9 2/3 scoreless innings and allowing just four hits and zero walks against 12 strikeouts. He’s struggled in the Majors, however, totaling a dismal 5.29 ERA with 5.3 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 34 innings. A fluky low 57.7 strand rate has played a large role in his bloated ERA, leading stats such as FIP (3.89), xFIP (4.36) and SIERA (4.32) to project better results. Those numbers, of course, are hardly dominant projections in their own right, and the .338/.368/.606 batting line Russell has yielded to right-handed hitters is its own troublesome issue.

The Cubs signed the veteran Soriano to a minor league deal with a $4.1MM base salary back in June, but the former Nationals/Yankees/Rays closer appeared in just six games with Chicago before landing on the DL due to right shoulder inflammation. Soriano didn’t sign as a free agent over the winter, holding out for a significant deal that never came. He eventually fired agent Scott Boras and signed on with Octagon, taking his deal with the Cubs shortly after. It’s a disappointing followup to a mostly successful two-year stint as the Nationals’ closer, and one would imagine that Soriano is almost certainly looking at another minor league deal this winter following a brief and disappointing stint as a Cub.

Rays Designate Hak-Ju Lee For Assignment

The Rays have designated minor league shortstop and former top prospect Hak-Ju Lee for assignment, tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune tweets that the move creates 40-man roster space for minor league catcher/first baseman Luke Maile.

The now-24-year-old Lee and Chris Archer highlighted the prospect package the Rays received from the Cubs in exchange for Matt Garza back in 2011. Lee was a consensus Top 100 prospect prior to that 2011 campaign and again heading into the 2012 and 2013 campaigns. Lee ranked as high as No. 44 in the game at one point (Baseball America, pre-2012), and he began his 2013 season at the Triple-A level on a torrid stretch, hitting .422/.536/.600 through his first 15 games. Unfortunately, the Korean-born shortstop tore multiple ligaments in his knee in a collision at second base, causing him to miss the remainder of the season. Since returning in 2014, he’s posted a sub-.600 OPS in 189 Triple-A contests.

Maile, 24, is a former eighth-round draft pick (2012) that reached Triple-A for the first time this year. In 337 plate appearances there, he’s slashed a mere .207/.298/.296 at the minors’ top level. However, Maile’s value lies more on the defensive side of the spectrum, as Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs explained in examining Tampa Bay’s prospects prior to the season. Maile profiles as a “nice catch-and-throw backup that’s above average defensively with a bat that’s just OK,” per McDaniel.

Twins Outright Jason Wheeler

The Twins have outrighted lefty Jason Wheeler off of the team’s 40-man roster, according to a club announcement. He was added to the 40-man roster last spring to keep him protected from the Rule 5 draft.

Though he has continued to put up quality numbers as a starter against Double-A competition, Wheeler has yet to master Triple-A, let alone the majors (where he’s yet to see time). In 78 innings at the highest level of the minors thus far in 2015, he’s surrendered 6.58 earned runs per nine with 4.6 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9.

Wheeler loses his spot as part of a number of moves announced today, including the call-up of players such as Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas. Notably absent, so far, is top pitching prospect Jose Berrios. As Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press notes on Twitter, the immediate need for a 40-man spot relates to the club’s decision to purchase the contract of catcher Eric Fryer.

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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Astros Designate Jake Buchanan

The Astros have designated righty Jake Buchanan for assignment, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports on Twitter. He lost his spot to clear space for the team’s call-up of lefty Joe Thatcher.

Buchanan, 25, has thrown 44 1/3 MLB innings over the last two years, with most of that experience coming in 2014. He has a 4.06 ERA in that span with 5.1 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9.

Prior to 2014, Buchanan had worked primarily from the rotation. But he’s thrown mostly in relief since. This season, over 80 1/3 Triple-A innings, he owns a 4.37 ERA while strike out 5.0 and walking 2.4 batters per nine.

Braves Promote Hector Olivera

The Braves have promoted infielder Hector Olivera for his first major league stint, according to a team announcement. The move had been expected, as reporters have indicated over recent days that Olivera was being prepared for a September call-up. (Among them, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweeted yesterday that a move was still expected and Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com added today on Twitter that it was forthcoming.)

Nothing about the 30-year-old’s nascent professional career has been straightforward thus far. While it’s hard to know quite what to expect, it will certainly be interesting to see him in action at the big league level. Olivera is expected to see regular time at third base, as O’Brien tweets.

Hotly pursued as a free agent out of Cuba, Olivera signed with the Dodgers over the winter for six years and $62.5MM after making a last-minute switch of agents. But he was ultimately traded to the Braves over the summer in an inordinately complicated three-team arrangement. With $28MM of that commitment accounted for in a signing bonus, he’ll only cost Atlanta about $30MM from 2016 to 2020.

Olivera was putting up big offensive numbers in the Dodgers’ system before suffering a hamstring injury. He continued to work back from that after being traded to the Braves, but he never came all the way back around at the plate before moving out of the minors. It’s important to bear in mind that we’re still looking at very small samples here. His time in the majors over the next month should say more about his longer-term outlook, though even that will serve as little more than an introduction.

West Notes: Zduriencik, Profar, Morneau, Angels

Over at Fangraphs, Jeff Sullivan takes a look at the just-ended tenure of former Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik. Seattle changed course in the middle of his tenure, says Sullivan, with the organization moving from a focus on finding value and prioritizing defense to a grab for power bats. The club also failed to develop its best-regarded talent to its full potential, Sullivan notes, even if it’s hard ultimately to pin down a cause for that failure. All said, whatever the reason, Zduriencik was never able to turn the club into a regular contender.

Here are a few more notes from out west:

  • Rangers infielder Jurickson Profar could join the big league club in September, GM Jon Daniels acknowledged yesterday, as Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. While the former top prospect still is not ready to play the field — he’s recovering from a series of significant shoulder problems — he could hit and run. Texas is considering an Arizona Fall League placement, if Profar seems ready to begin making full-speed throws.
  • First baseman Justin Morneau could still suit up for the Rockies this year, as Nick Groke of the Denver Post writes. Manager Walt Weiss said that the situation was different than most injuries, given Morneau’s somewhat tricky neck and concussion issues. Morneau has previously indicated that he hopes to play next season, so returning to show his health and some productivity would obviously be quite a boon to his stock. While his deal includes a $9MM mutual option for next year, Colorado seems quite likely instead to pay him a $750K buyout.
  • As the Angels reportedly begin what is expected to be a quick-moving GM search, Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler is one name that has been “heard frequently” by MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez (Twitter link). Eppler featured rather prominently in last year’s round of general manager hirings, though obviously he ended up staying in New York.

Blue Jays Designate Colt Hynes

The Blue Jays have designated lefty Colt Hynes for assignment, the club announced. He loses his 40-man spot to help clear space for the team’s September call-ups, which include the previously non-rostered Jeff Francis.

Hynes, 30, earned a brief call-up with Toronto for his second taste of big league action, but threw only three innings. He has enjoyed a solid season at Triple-A, though, throwing 44 2/3 innings of 3.22 ERA ball with 7.3 K/9 against 3.4 BB/9.