Rosenthal On Angels, Black, Parra, Samardzija

FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal shares several hot stove items in his weekly “Full Count” video

  • Ex-Padres skipper Bud Black is well-liked by Angels owner Arte Moreno, manager Mike Scioscia and interim GM Bill Stoneman, and there has been “rampant” industry speculation that the Halos want Black as their next full-time general manager.  Several of Black’s friends, however, think he wants to manage again rather than run a front office.
  • Prior to Jerry Dipoto’s resignation, the Angels and Brewers were discussing Gerardo Parra and Adam Lind in trade talks.  No deal was ever close for Parra, however, and “ideally” the Angels want to add a bigger bat to the lineup.  Parra entered the day with a strong .303/.337/.466 line over 271 PA with Milwaukee, though he is known more for his defense than his bat (a .274/.326/.395 career slash line prior to this season).
  • Rosenthal describes Jeff Samardzija as “a perfect fit” for the Yankees.  Samardzija’s wife is from the New York area, Jim Hendry (the former Cubs GM who signed Samardzija) is in the Yankees front office, and Rosenthal feels the righty’s personality would thrive in the Bronx.  Acquiring Samardzija now would also presumably give the Yankees an edge in pursuing him as a free agent this winter.  This being said, Rosenthal notes that the White Sox haven’t decided to start selling yet and there haven’t been any talks between the two sides.
  • The Dodgers are looking for starting pitching depth and “don’t be surprised if they add multiple starters.”  Brett Anderson‘s long injury history makes him a question mark to last the entire season, while Mike Bolsinger and Carlos Frias are better fits as depth options rather than regular members of the rotation (though Bolsinger has pitched well).  Even getting a mid-rotation starter would help L.A., though “in a perfect world” the Dodgers would land an ace like Johnny Cueto.

Braves Still Shopping Chris Johnson

The Braves have continued to look for a trade partner for third baseman Chris Johnson, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports in a series of tweets.  In addition to deals for Johnson himself, Atlanta has also made proposals that would include Johnson along with another (more desirable) player, akin to how the Braves managed to get Melvin Upton Jr.‘s contract off their books by dealing him to the Padres with Craig Kimbrel in April.  The Braves tried a similar “packaging” tactic with Johnson himself in offseason trade talks.

Johnson is hitting .229/.272/.313 with one homer over 103 plate appearances this season, and he also missed about a month of action recovering from a hand fracture.  If struggling at the plate in 2014 and 2015 wasn’t enough to lower his trade value, Johnson is owed roughly $3MM more in salary this season and $17.5MM through the 2017 campaign.

The Giants were one of the clubs who at least discussed Johnson with the Braves last winter but Rosenthal reports that San Francisco doesn’t have any interest now.  Rookie Matt Duffy has quite capably stepped in at third base in the wake of Casey McGehee‘s struggles, and since both Duffy and Johnson are right-handed bats, there would be little avenue for Johnson to find playing time in the Bay Area even if he was being acquired largely as a throw-in.

Rosenthal speculates that a deal of Johnson and Cameron Maybin for Jake Peavy and Angel Pagan would balance out the salaries, though that exact package was never discussed between the two teams.  It’s also hard to imagine Peavy waiving his no-trade clause to go to a rebuilding team, though the Braves are just a few games back of the Giants in the standings.

Though Atlanta is still in the wild card hunt, the team has made such a push to acquire young talent under president of baseball operations John Hart that it’s hard to see the Braves being notable buyers at the trade deadline.  The Braves could perhaps tie Johnson to one of those newly-acquired prospects in order to get him off the roster — the “buy a prospect” strategy that Hart himself used to recently acquire Touki Toussaint and Bronson Arroyo‘s expiring contract from Arizona.  Maybin or closer Jason Grilli stand out as veterans who could be shopped and possibly linked along with Johnson in a trade.


Mets Notes: Trades, Conforto, Wright

The Mets’ inaction this season has been “inexplicable,” ESPN’s Buster Olney writes. The Mets have failed to address an injury-ravaged lineup, thus leaving Lucas Duda and an excellent rotation hanging out to dry. As a result, the Mets have scored only 25 runs total since June 16. As Olney points out, of course, there isn’t much happening on the trade market right now, with several weeks to go before the deadline and not many teams yet willing to pull the plugs on their seasons. But Olney suggests the Mets could at least find a depth-type player who might help, much as the Blue Jays did with Chris Colabello. They could also find help by being willing to take on a chunk of a bad contract. The team’s problem isn’t manager Terry Collins, Olney writes — it’s complacency. Here’s more from the Mets.

  • The Mets have decided not to promote top prospect Michael Conforto despite their need for offense, MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo writes. “At this point, he’s still in Binghamton and I would expect him to be over the near-term,” says GM Sandy Alderson. The Mets might be right not to see Conforto as a short-term fix for their sagging offense — he’s hitting .333/.414/.521 with Double-A Binghamton, but in only 133 plate appearances, and those represent his only experience in the high minors.
  • Injured star David Wright (spinal stenosis) is hopeful he’ll be able to return to action this season, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York writes. “We’re getting down to the second half of the season now, and I feel like I’ve got one shot to get this thing right,” Wright says. Standing upright no longer causes him discomfort, although he has not yet begun running, and he will probably need several weeks to get back into baseball activities before he can return.


Cubs Designate Gonzalez Germen For Assignment

The Cubs have designated righty Gonzalez Germen for assignment and moved infielder Tommy La Stella (oblique) to the 60-day disabled list, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat tweets. The moves clear space on the Cubs’ roster for two new additions, pitcher Clayton Richard (who will start for the Cubs today) and catcher Taylor Teagarden (who will fill in as a backup while David Ross recovers from a concussion).

The 27-year-old Germen pitched six innings of relief for the Cubs this season, allowing five runs while striking out eight and walking five. He’s also pitched 33 1/3 relief innings for Triple-A Iowa this season, posting a 3.78 ERA, 7.3 K/9 and 4.6 BB/9.

Gonzalez’s DFA marks the fourth time since December that he’s been designated for assignment. Following a strong season in the Mets farm system in 2014, he went from the Mets to the Yankees to the Rangers and then to the Cubs within a period of six weeks last offseason.


NL Central Notes: Cards, Taillon, Stephenson

The Cardinals‘ recent firing of scouting director Chris Correa in the wake of the organization’s hacking scandal is part of a broader problem of “brain-drain,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Bernie Miklasz writes. A number of top front-office minds left the Cardinals joined Jeff Luhnow in heading to Houston several years ago, and Correa himself replaced Dan Kantrovitz, who left the Cardinals following the 2014 to rejoin the Athletics organization. The investigation into the hacking scandal continues, so the Cardinals might have to withstand other front office departures. Team chairman Bill DeWitt is in a tough position — he’ll surely want to keep what’s left of his front office mostly intact, but if he doesn’t continue punishing any other hacking offenders, he’ll be seen as “soft on baseball crime,” as Miklasz puts it. Here’s more from the NL Central.

  • Pirates starting pitching prospect Jameson Taillon will have surgery next week to fix an inguinal hernia, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Travis Sawchik tweets. Taillon will miss two months, so the injury is likely to end his season. He had already missed the entire 2014 season after having Tommy John surgery and had not pitched in 2015, so he will effectively miss two years of development. Taillon was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 draft, and his talent remains significant, but his injury problems appear to be denting his prospect status.
  • The Reds promoted top prospect Robert Stephenson to Triple-A Louisville, where he debuted Friday night, as MiLB.com’s Daren Smith notes. Stephenson pitched well for Double-A Pensacola, with a 3.68 ERA and 10.2 K/9 in 78 2/3 innings, although he walked 4.9 batters per nine. MLB.com currently rates Stephenson the Reds’ best prospect and the 18th-best prospect in baseball, praising his fastball (which can reach into the upper 90s) and excellent curveball. (Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America largely agreed on Stephenson’s place in baseball’s prospect hierarchy, ranking him 16th and 23rd, respectively, heading into the season.) At Louisville, he’ll likely need to continue working on his control. “There have been a couple things we’ve been working on, but the big problem was that I was nitpicking too much and being too fine with my pitches,” says Stephenson. “The other thing was that I was rushing it a little bit, and when I sped up my tempo, I wasn’t able to repeat my motion and throw strikes. When I slow it down, I’m able to repeat my arm slot every time.”

Minor MLB Transactions: 7/4/15

Here are today’s minor moves from around the game.

  • Reliever Ronald Belisario, who was recently outrighted by the Rays, has cleared waivers and elected to become a free agent, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. The Rays recently designated Belisario for assignment after he allowed seven runs in eight innings in a brief stint with the team covering two weeks in late June.
  • The Mariners have outrighted outfielder Julio Morban, MLB.com’s Greg Johns tweets. The move clears a spot on the Mariners’ 40-man roster, which now stands at 39. Morban, 23, had a pair of strong seasons in 2012 at Class A+ High Desert and in 2013 at Double-A Jackson. He has struggled with injury throughout his career, however, and his performance has tailed off significantly in the past two seasons. He only recently returned from a two-month stay on the restricted list due to personal reasons.
  • The Mariners have released righty Justin Germano and lefty Rafael Perez, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports. Both of them had out clauses. Germano confirms (via Twitter) that he will head to Korea to pitch with the KT Wiz. The 32-year-old was in the midst of a good season for Triple-A Tacoma, with a 2.83 ERA, 6.6 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 in 89 innings. The 33-year-old Perez had been on loan to Quintana Roo in the Mexican League and had not actually pitched in the Mariners system.
  • The Rangers have traded outfielder Jake Skole to the Yankees for cash, FOX Sports Southwest’s Anthony Andro tweets. Skole, the 15th overall pick in the 2010 draft, was hitting .218/.313/.335 for Double-A Frisco, consistent with his walk-heavy but generally unimpressive offensive performances throughout the minor league career.
  • Andy Oliver has opted out of his minor league deal with the Rays, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. The 27-year-old Oliver has good stuff, particularly for a lefty, but has struggled with control problems throughout his career. He had a 3.86 ERA and 10.3 K/9 but with 7.7 BB/9 in 28 innings for Triple-A Durham. The Phillies took him in the Rule 5 Draft last winter, but he elected free agency after they outrighted him in April.
  • The Giants have signed outfielder Xavier Avery to a minor league deal, Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News tweets. The 25-year-old Avery opted out of his deal with the Tigers this week after hitting .305/.371/.393 for Triple-A Toledo. The Giants have assigned him to Triple-A Sacramento.
  • The Orioles have signed Cuban first baseman Yaisel Mederos, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko tweets. The 25-year-old Mederos hit .268/.343/.402 in parts of four seasons in Cuba’s Serie Nacional. He only hit 12 home runs in 531 plate appearances, although Kubatko notes that Mederos has power potential.

Mets’ Alderson Expresses Support For Terry Collins

Mets GM Sandy Alderson says manager Terry Collins and is not to blame for the team’s current troubles and that the Mets have no plans to fire him, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York writes. Alderson is traveling with the Mets on the team’s current West Coast road trip, but he says that’s unrelated to Collins’ status.

We’re a .500 team. We haven’t been moving in the right direction,” Alderson says. However, he adds, “[w]e’ve had a lot of people hurt for long periods of time. … We’ve got some young guys in particular that are not hitting. We’ve got some older players that have had to try to carry the load. I think to put all of this on Terry would be grossly unfair.”

The Mets’ front office also had a meeting Thursday, although FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal indicates that the meeting was routine and that the organization did not discuss Collins’ status. Rosenthal notes,  however, that the next several weeks will be important ones for the team.

The Mets were 15-5 in late April, but since then they’ve gone 26-35 and are currently just one game above .500. Veteran hitters like Michael Cuddyer and Lucas Duda have struggled lately, along with relievers like Carlos Torres and Alex Torres. Cuddyer, David Wright and catcher Travis d’Arnaud are among a number of Mets players currently dealing with injuries.


Twins Outright Doug Bernier

The Twins have outrighted utility infielder Doug Bernier, according to the MLB.com transactions page. He was back in the lineup for Triple-A Rochester late last week, so he evidently accepted the assignment.

The 35-year-old signed a minor league deal with the Twins after they outrighted him following last season. Bernier then played several weeks for Rochester before being promoted in early May. He collected just six plate appearances with the Twins before being optioned back to the minors.

Bernier has a .254/.326/.308 line in 188 plate appearances with Rochester this season. The Triple-A veteran has 83 career plate appearances in the big leagues, spread across four seasons with the Twins and Rockies.


Week In Review: 6/27/15 – 7/3/15

Here’s a look back at this week at MLBTR.

Key Moves

  • Jerry Dipoto resigned as GM of the Angels.
  • The Dodgerssigning of Yadier Alvarez, the Blue Jaysdeal with Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the Giantssigning of Lucius Fox, the Philliessigning of Jhailyn Ortiz and a series of high-profile signings by the Cubs highlighted the opening of the July 2 international signing season. You can track international signings here.
  • This week’s high-profile draft signings included Carson Fulmer (White Sox link), Andrew Benintendi (Red Sox link), Daz Cameron (Astros link), Garrett Whitley (Rays link), DJ Stewart (Orioleslink) and Richie Martin (Athletics link). You can track top draft signings here.

Trades

Top Prospect Promotions

Designated For Assignment

Outrighted

Released

Key Minor League Signings


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Miguel Cabrera To Miss Six Weeks

The Tigers have placed first baseman Miguel Cabrera on the 15-day disabled list with a Grade 3 calf strain, and he will miss six weeks, according to Jason Beck of MLB.com (Twitter links). They’ve selected the contract of infielder Jefry Marte from Triple-A Toledo to take his place on the active roster.

Obviously, the injury represents a significant blow to the Tigers, who are trying to hold on against the Royals and Twins in the AL Central. Cabrera currently leads the American League in batting average (.350), on-base percentage (.456) and OPS (1.034).

The 32-year-old Cabrera has been one of baseball’s most durable players throughout his career, appearing in 148 or more games in every season since 2004. Remarkably, this will be his first career stint on the disabled list.

When Miggy says he can’t play, you know it’s serious,” says Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, via MLive.com’s James Schmehl. “Miggy plays through anything.”

It’s unclear how the Tigers will replace Cabrera in their lineup. Marte, formerly a prospect in the Mets organization, hit a solid .271/.337/.497 for Toledo while playing third base and shortstop, although he’s also played first base on occasion in the past. Alex Avila and Andrew Romine are also currently on the Tigers’ active roster and have played first base this season. Avila, who recently returned from the disabled list himself, will start at first base today, Schmehl tweets.


Rays Designate Marc Krauss For Assignment

The Rays have designated first baseman Marc Krauss for assignment, Bill Chastain of MLB.com tweets. The move clears space on the Rays’ 40-man roster for lefty Everett Teaford. They also optioned lefty C.J. Riefenhauser to the minors. Teaford, a starter in the minors, could provide the Rays with innings today after a 12-inning game against the Yankees on Friday.

The 27-year-old Krauss has collected 48 plate appearances with the Rays and Angels this season, and the bulk of his big-league experience came with the Astros in 2013 and 2014. He’s a career .192/.264/.332 hitter in 402 plate appearances in the Majors. He’s been a significantly better hitter in the minors, batting .289/.415/.453 in 195 plate appearances with the Angels’ Triple-A Salt Lake affiliate this season. The Rays acquired him for righty Kyle Winkler last week.


Pirates Outright Chris Volstad

JULY 4: The Bucs have outrighted Volstad to Triple-A Indianapolis, according to Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (on Twitter).

JUNE 28: The Pirates announced that they have designated Chris Volstad for assignment.  As reported earlier, outfielder Jose Tabata has also been bumped to make room on the 40-man roster.

Volstad, 28, was called up to the big league roster just last week and pitched two innings for the Bucs against the Reds on June 24th.  The right-hander seen substantial big league time since 2012, but he was solid in 76 Triple-A frames, putting up a 3.43 ERA with 5.9 K/9 against 2.7 BB/9.  For his career, the 6’8″ hurler owns a 4.92 ERA with 5.6 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9.

As the MLBTR DFA Tracker shows, there are now five players in DFA limbo: Volstad, Tabata, Rafael Lopez, Erik Kratz, and Scott Atchison.


Yankees, A-Rod Settle Home Run Milestone Dispute

The Yankees have reached agreement with Alex Rodriguez on a settlement regarding the payment of a home run milestone bonus clause in his contract, as the Associated Press reports (via ESPN.com). New York will pay out $3.5MM to charitable organizations under the settlement.

Rodriguez and the MLBPA had reportedly planned to contest the team’s refusal to pay a $6MM bonus for his 660th home run, the first of several that trigger such bonuses under his deal. The club cited the fact that the bonus was termed a discretionary marketing opportunity under the contract in asserting that it was not obligated to make payment. (Click here for the contract’s details.)

The settlement avoids a potentially ugly grievance proceeding, which all involved were surely motivated not to undertake. It is unclear whether the parties have reached any agreement or understanding regarding future milestones. The next one up is Babe Ruth’s 714 mark, though that seems a long shot for this season with Rodriguez sitting at 669 long balls. Of course, his contract does promise him another $40MM after this season, covering the 2016 and 2017 campaigns.

Notably, the deal means that the Yankees will avoid paying any luxury tax on the $6MM bonus, which would have cost the club $3MM. That adds to the savings achieved on the actual payout.


Rangers Designate Neftali Feliz, Activate Matt Harrison

The Rangers have designated righty Neftali Feliz for assignment, Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest reports on Twitter. His roster spot will go to starter Matt Harrison, who will return to the big leagues after a long layoff for serious back surgery.

May 12, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers relief pitcher Neftali Feliz (30) throws a pitch in the ninth inning against the Kansas City Royals at Globe Life Park in Arlington. The Royals won 7-6 in 10 innings. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Feliz, 27, was once an ace reliever for Texas and owns a 2.71 career ERA over 259 1/3 big league innings. He has struck out 8.4 and walked 3.5 batters per nine over that span, with a 35.4% groundball rate.

Those career marks include a particularly rough start to the current season. Feliz has allowed 5.09 earned runs per regulation game, with 7.6 K/9 against 4.6 BB/9. He still works in the 93 to 94 mph range with his fastball, down a few ticks from his early season peak but still in line with recent campaigns.

Truth be told, the results have not been supported by ERA estimators in recent seasons. Feliz has not posted a sub-4.00 SIERA since way back in 2011, and has not dipped below the 3.00 mark by that measure since his first two seasons. Much the same holds when one looks at his FIP and xFIP numbers.

Things seemingly took a turn for the worse when the team attempted to utilize him as a starter in 2012. Feliz had a rocky go of it, throwing 42 2/3 innings of 3.16 ERA ball while benefiting greatly from a high strand rate and miniscule .213 BABIP. ERA estimators all had him pegged as a replacement level rotation piece. Feliz ultimately succumbed to Tommy John surgery in May of 2012, and has never quite recovered his arm speed.

While all the signs were there, it nevertheless remains stunning to see the move. Feliz was one of the game’s more promising arms in his heyday. He is owed $4.13MM this year, and comes with one more season of arbitration eligibility. Given his salary and recent performance, it would not be surprising to see him pass through waivers, but with over five years of service (he entered the season with 4.151 on his tab), he’d be eligible to elect free agency and keep the money.

The other major news here, of course, is the return of Harrison. It once seemed unclear whether he’d ever throw again, yet alone return to the majors. The 29-year-old was a steady contributor over 2011-12, racing up 399 frames with a 3.34 ERA and leading the team to lock him up to a five-year, $55MM pact. He is still under control through 2018, with the last year coming through a $13.25MM club option ($2MM buyout), and at this point Texas will be glad to receive any contribution from the southpaw.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Draft Signings: Thomas Eshelman, Bryan Hudson

Let’s catch up on some recent draft signings, with slot values via Baseball America:

  • The Astros have locked up second-rounder Thomas Eshelman for a $1.1MM bonus that falls shy of the $1,325,700 slot value, Jim Callis of MLB.com reports on Twitter. Callis calls the righty the “best strike-thrower in NCAA history” — he averaged an unthinkable 0.42 BB/9 over this entire college career, per Baseball America — and indeed much of his value lies in his impeccable control. Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs had the highest grade on Eshelman, raning him 54th among draft-eligible players. Other evaluators placed him at or just out of the top 100. MLB.com explained that Eshelman’s fastball hovers in the 90 to 91 mph range, while his offspeed pitches are nothing particularly special.
  • Cubs third-rounder Bryan Hudson receives a well-over-slot $1.1MM bonus, per Callis (via Twitter). The slot value at 82nd overall was just $731K. He’s a tall, projectable righty who rated as high as 71st coming into the draft, with MLB.com giving that grade. Baseball America put him in the 101st slot, noting that Hudson features a good curve and has smooth mechanics for a hurler of his size.