Denard Span Possibly Out For Season

Nationals center fielder Denard Span is headed back to the disabled list with inflammation in his left hip, and as Mark Zuckerman of CSN Washington writes, this most recent injury may very well bring his season to a close.

This will be Span’s third and seemingly final trip to the disabled list in 2015 — an unfortunate series of events for any player, but particularly for Span, who is eligible for free agency for the first time at season’s end. If his season is indeed done, injuries will have limited the 31-year-old to just 61 games. Of course, his production in those 61 games has been excellent; Span has totaled a .301/.365/.431 batting line with five homers and 11 stolen bases.

Defensive metrics were down on Span in 2015, though injuries may have played a part in his deteriorated rankings, as Span does come with a reputation as a plus defender in center field. After beginning the season on the disabled list due to offseason core muscle surgery, Span again landed on the disabled list in early July due to back spasms. He returned from the DL just three days ago, but his stay on the active roster will be a brief one. As Zuckerman writes, the string of injuries were very likely related to one another.

Manager Matt Williams told Zuckerman and other reporters that while it’s not clear if Span will return in 2015, he would “imagine it’s going to be very tough for him to get back.” The loss of Span, of course, further dampens the playoff hopes of what has been a disappointing Nationals club in 2015. Though Washington emerged victorious tonight, so too did the division-leading Mets. Picked by most (myself included) to win the division, the Nationals instead trail the Mets by 6.5 games and are an even more distant nine games back in the NL Wild Card race.

Compounding matters for the Nationals is the fact that rookie outfielder Michael Taylor — Span’s likely replacement — left tonight’s game with a knee injury suffered when crashing into the outfield wall. It’s not known how long Taylor will be sidelined, but Zuckerman notes that center fielder Matt den Dekker, who would’ve been a September call-up anyhow, will presumably be called up as a corresponding move to replace Span.


AL West Notes: Keuchel, Newcomb, Profar, Stearns

In light of recent reports about preliminary extension talks between the Astros and ace Dallas Keuchel, Fangraphs’ Craig Edwards examines the impact that a potential Cy Young Award would have on Keuchel’s arbitration case. Keuchel already has a very good chance at breaking the outdated record for a first-year arbitration-eligible pitcher (Dontrelle Willis’ $4.35MM record is, as Edwards notes, about a decade old). However, as Edwards explains, the arb process treats award-winners differently, and securing the Cy Young Award could boost his first-year arb price even further. As such, taking home the hardware for being the AL’s best pitcher in 2015, if it happens — and Keuchel indeed has a strong case — could make it difficult for team and player to agree to a fair price to put on Keuchel’s three arbitration seasons, let alone on his free agent years.

A few more items pertaining to the AL West…

  • In his latest Prospect Pipeline Inbox column, MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo kicks off by answering the question of whether or not Angels southpaw Sean Newcomb could pitch in the Majors in 2016. Mayo explains that while he wouldn’t have thought so prior to the 2015 campaign, Newcomb has impressively pitched at three levels this season, showing a consistent propensity for strikeouts and ground-balls and thereby placing himself on the fast track to the Majors. While the former No. 15 overall pick (2014) needs to hone his command and improve upon his 4.8 BB/9 rate, Mayo does feel that Newcomb is capable of reaching the Majors in the second half of the 2016 season.
  • Jurickson Profar played in his first regular-season game since Sept. 27, 2013 today, writes Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News. The former No. 1 overall prospect served as the designated hitter for the Rangers‘ Class-A affiliate today. He’ll continue to rehab there but only in a DH capacity for the remainder of this season. Profar, still just 22 years of age, has missed the past two seasons due to a pair of torn shoulder muscles. He was a consensus Top 10 prospect heading into the 2012 season before emerging as the game’s No. 1 prospect (per Baseball America, MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus) heading into the 2013 campaign. The Rangers will hope to have him healthy again in 2016.
  • As teams trend toward the hiring of younger, analytically savvy general managers, Astros assistant GM David Stearns’ name could become a target, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. While Drellich notes that it’s perhaps a bit early for Stearns to garner serious consideration from other clubs, GM Jeff Luhnow does feel that his lieutenant has the chops to handle a GM role down the line. “There’s several people in our organization that have GM potential, and David’s one of them,” Luhnow said. “I expect over the coming years, as we have success, they’ll get opportunities at least to interview.”

Mets Unlikely To Add Reliever Via Trade

The Mets have struggled for much of the season when it comes to left-handed relief, but Anthony DiComo of MLB.com tweets that a source says the team is “unlikely” to trade for another reliever. Mike Puma of the New York Post, too, tweets that the Mets don’t expect to add a reliever from outside the organization.

Mets GM Sandy Alderson acquired both Alex Torres and Jerry Blevins late in the offseason and selected Sean Gilmartin from the Twins in the Rule 5 Draft in an effort to bolster the team’s left-handed relief corps. Blevins was excellent in a handful of appearances early this year, but he suffered a fractured forearm when he was hit by a comebacker and re-fractured the arm last month, so the Mets will receive just five (perfect) innings from him all season. Torres, on the other hand, struggled immensely against left-handed hitters, yielding a .268/.406/.393 batting line to same-handed batters before being designated for assignment.

Gilmartin has proved to be one of the better selections in the most recent Rule 5 Draft, as he’s posted a 2.34 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 42 1/3 innings, pitching effectively against both right-handed hitters (.605 OPS) and left-handed hitters (.607 OPS). Despite his strong showing, the Mets have just one reliable lefty reliever in the bullpen at the moment. The team acquired Eric O’Flaherty from the A’s earlier this month, but he’s surrendered 10 runs in 5 2/3 innings since the trade.

As DiComo wrote last night at greater length, the Mets do have internal options. Dario Alvarez has a 2.68 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A this season, and he’s averaged 13.4 strikeouts per nine innings against 4.2 walks per nine. Likewise, former first-round pick Josh Smoker (31st by the Nationals, 2007) has had a career resurgence with the Mets and worked his way up to Double-A this season, posting a 2.76 ERA with 11.2 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 45 2/3 innings this season. DiComo notes that Smoker appears to be behind Alvarez on the depth chart at this time, however.


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Cubs Acquire Fernando Rodney, Designate Brian Schlitter

The Mariners announced that they’ve traded right-hander Fernando Rodney to the Cubs in exchange for cash considerations (Twitter link). Lefty Zac Rosscup has been optioned to Triple-A, while righty Brian Schlitter has been designated for assignment, according to an announcement from the Cubs, which states that either a player to be named later or cash will head to Seattle in the deal.

Fernando Rodney

Signed to a two-year, $14MM contract prior to the 2014 season, Rodney served as the Mariners’ closer all last season and for parts of the 2015 campaign as well. However, while he worked to a strong 2.85 ERA with 10.3 K/9, 3.8 BB/9 and a 48.6 percent ground-ball rate in 2014, Rodney imploded in 2015, totaling a 5.68 ERA, 7.6 K/9, 4.4 BB/9 and a career-worst 1.4 HR/9 rate. Those struggles ultimately led to the 38-year-old being designated for assignment over the weekend. Rodney is owed about $1.49MM through season’s end as part of that $14MM pact.

His 2015 struggles notwithstanding, Rodney enjoyed a late career resurgence from 2012-14, posting a 2.21 ERA in 207 2/3 innings. The Cubs will hope they can bring out some of that form to help what has been an up and down season for the team’s relief corps. The team is currently without Jason Motte, Neil Ramirez and Rafael Soriano, each of whom is on the disabled list, so Rodney will provide manager Joe Maddon with another veteran relief arm. Maddon, for that matter, is quite familiar with Rodney, having managed him in 2012-13 when Rodney posted a record-setting 0.60 ERA in 74 2/3 innings. While Rodney’s velocity isn’t as strong as the 96.3 mph he averaged over the course of those two seasons, he’s still averaged a very healthy 94.8 mph on his heater this season. Because he’s been acquired prior to Sept. 1, Rodney will be eligible for the Cubs’ postseason roster.

Schiltter, 29, has been up and down with the Cubs over the past six seasons after debuting as a 24-year-old back in 2010. The former 16th-round pick didn’t appear in the Majors from 2011-13 but resurfaced to deliver 56 1/3 innings of 4.15 ERA ball with 5.0 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9. He’s totaled only 7 1/3 innings with the Chicago ‘pen in 2015, though, allowing six runs on 12 hits and a pair of walks with four strikeouts. Schlitter does have an outstanding 1.09 ERA in 41 1/3 Triple-A innings this season, though that seemingly pristine mark comes with just 7.0 K/9 against a troubling 5.0 BB/9.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


NL East Notes: Phillies, Papelbon, Nats, Storen, Marlins

ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick looks at the future of the Phillies‘ front office, noting that industry insiders mention Royals assistant GM J.J. Picollo and former Red Sox GM Ben Cherington as possible successors to Ruben Amaro Jr. in the event that president-to-be Andy MacPhail makes a change. Interim president Pat Gillick, who’s stepping down after the season, tells Crasnick that he’s not sure if he’ll remain with the club in some capacity. Though the Phillies are one of the worst clubs in baseball this season and have long been on the downswing, there’s hope in the future due to Maikel Franco, Aaron Nola, Odubel Herrera, shortstop prospect J.P. Crawford and others, to say nothing of a favorable payroll and television deal. “That organization is a gold mine,” one rival exec opined to Crasnick. “Look at the ballpark. Look at the spring training facility. Look at the television deal. This is a goose that’s going to lay a golden egg. No wonder Andy MacPhail came out of retirement.”

Elsewhere in the NL East…

  • Jonathan Papelbon has thrown just eight innings since being acquired by the Nationals a month ago, and James Wagner of the Washington Post spoke to the D.C. closer about how he handles long bouts of inactivity. “For me, it’s about mentally staying prepared,” said Papelbon. “Staying mentally focused on the task at hand and not losing sight of that even though you’re not pitching. It’s easy to get out of that mode.” Papelbon says he feels he’s adjusted well to his new team and that his lack of usage is part of the “ebb and flow” of a season, Wagner writes. However, plenty have been critical about manager Matt Williams’ bullpen usage and his reluctance to use his top relievers in anything other than traditional save/hold situations.
  • Nationals GM Mike Rizzo tells the Post’s Thomas Boswell that August has been his “worst month ever.” Rizzo notes to Boswell that the Nats have a group of star players that combined for 28.5 wins above replacement in 2014 but are collectively negative in 2015. “That’s a swing of 29 wins,” said Rizzo, likely in reference to struggles from Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, Doug Fister, Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth (among others). Rizzo referenced that swing as a means of defending Williams, stating: “It’s injuries. It’s coming back without your timing and not hitting for a while. It is bad years [for good players]. It’s everything. Twenty-nine lost wins [in player production] — and that’s on the manager?”
  • Within his piece, Boswell also notes that the Nationals are unlikely to pursue any top starting pitchers this winter and that Drew Storen wants a trade “that he’ll almost certainly get this winter.” Storen, of course, was reportedly unhappy to be displaced from his ninth-inning role by Papelbon in the midst of a strong season.
  • Jose Fernandez‘s most recent bullpen session for the Marlins was described as a “wow” by manager Dan Jennings, writes Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald. Jennings called mid-September a realistic return date for Fernandez, whom the Marlins previously feared might not pitch again in 2015.
  • Mike Morse spoke to the Herald’s Barry Jackson about his disappointing tenure with the Marlins, expressing that he wishes he’d have gotten a longer leash to sort things out at the plate. “I came out really bad [but] I wish they would have given me more at-bats just to prove myself,” said Morse. “…When you sign as a free agent, you expect to play on that team those years and you expect to get at least some time to play. But I got this opportunity to come to an amazing ball club [Pittsburgh]. It’s a gift and a curse.” Morse said he was very appreciative that owner Jeffrey Loria and president David Samson took the time to personally call and inform him of his trade out of Miami, however. Morse is hitting a much-improved .310/.394/.379 with the Pirates, albeit in a minuscule sample of 33 plate appearances.

Braves Release Jason Frasor

The Braves have released righty Jason Frasor, as reflected on the MLB.com transactions page and as David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution confirms (on Twitter). Frasor was signed by Atlanta in mid-July after being released by the Royals.

Though he just turned 38, Frasor had no trouble keeping runs off the board this season. All said, he made it through 28 frames while allowing just four earned runs on 27 hits. But he walked 18 batters to go with his 22 strikeouts, which was likely the reason he was sent packing by a contending Kansas City organization.

Frasor has been on the disabled list with a strained right shoulder since early August. It’s not clear whether he’ll attempt to hook on with another team now or wait until the coming offseason to ramp back up.


Minor MLB Transactions: 8/27/15

Here are the day’s minor moves:

  • The Orioles have outrighted outfielder Nolan Reimold to Triple-A, the club announced. While Reimold could have declined the assignment and elected free agency, he’s chosen to accept it, Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun reports on Twitter. The 31-year-old put up a .227/.306/.340 batting line over 108 plate appearances in his return to Baltimore this year.
  • Infielder Alberto Callaspo has been given his release by the Dodgers, the club announced (per MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick, on Twitter). Callaspo was designated for assignment when the Dodgers recently added Chase Utley. He signed with the Braves over the winter but was dealt to Los Angeles in the Juan Uribe deal. All told, Callaspo, 32, has slashed .235/.315/.278 over 261 turns at bat.

Nate McLouth Unlikely To Return In 2015

It’s been quite some time since we’ve heard any news on Nationals outfielder Nate McLouth, who has yet to return to action since suffering a labrum tear in his right shoulder last July. MLB.com’s Bill Ladson reports that McLouth has undergone a cleanup procedure to address the injury.

Per the report, the 33-year-old McLouth is not expected to return this year, which is not terribly surprising at this point given his lack of recently-reported baseball activity and prior indications of setbacks. He did attempt to return to action this spring, but only made it through two games before shutting things down.

On the bright side, the veteran left-handed hitter is expected to be ready to go for 2016, Ladson adds. That won’t necessarily mean much for the Nationals, however, who signed McLouth to a two-year, $10.75MM free agent contract prior to 2014. That deal includes a $6.5MM club option for next season, but Washington seems all but certain to buy out the option for $750K.

McLouth inked with the Nats after a solid run with the Orioles over 2012-13 over which he put up 829 plate appearances of .261/.333/.409 hitting with 42 steals and 19 home runs. He looked like a nice finishing piece to his new club’s roster, but scuffled to a .173/.280/.237 batting line over 162 trips to the plate before suffering the injury.


Podcast: European Ball With Agent Josh Chetwynd

Host Jeff Todd chats with Josh Chetwynd of Elite Sports Group about his experiences in European baseball as both a player and a player representative. Chetwynd, who has been elected into the British baseball hall of fame and negotiated a European-record $1.3MM bonus for Italian shortstop Marten Gasparini, discusses the key differences between that emerging market and other international arenas.

For listeners with interest in all things international, be sure also to check out prior episodes featuring MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez (with a focus on Cuba) and former big league and KBO hurler Ryan Sadowski (talking Korean ball).

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.


Gio Gonzalez Switches To Boras Corporation

Nationals lefty Gio Gonzalez has moved to the Boras Corporation, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com reports on Twitter. Gonzalez joins a host of other high-profile Nationals players with the organization of agent Scott Boras, as Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post tweets.

While the 29-year-old lefty has now surpassed six years of service, he won’t be hitting free agency any time soon. Gonzalez has one guaranteed season left (for $12MM) on the extension he signed shortly after coming to D.C. The team holds $12MM options for 2017 and 2018. The former comes with a $500K buyout, while the latter would vest if Gonzalez throws 180 innings in the preceding campaign. That contract, negotiated by his former reps, set a new high water mark for first-time arb-eligible pitchers.

While Gonzalez owns an earned run average of more than four per nine for the first time since way back in 2009, he’s been much the same pitcher over his four campaigns with the Nats. Though his ERA has risen in each successive season, he’s worked between a 3.56 and a 3.79 SIERA in every season of that span, averaging 8.9 K/9 against 3.4 BB/9.

While Gonzalez’s strikeouts are very slightly down this year (8.2 per nine), his swinging strike rate remains steady and he has put up a career-best 54.1% groundball rate. He has also largely maintained his average fastball velocity. Gonzalez’s innings tallies are down somewhat — he missed some starts last year and currently sits at 135 2/3 frames, after consistently hitting at or near 200 innings per season between 2010 and 2013 — but all said he still looks like a high-quality rotation piece going forward.

Gonzalez could hit the open market before his age-31 season if the first option is declined, though that seems unlikely barring a particularly rough 2016.


Quick Hits: Kepler, Hanley, Giants Pen

Twins prospect Max Kepler has progressed greatly since signing out of Germany as a teenager, as Parker Hageman of TwinsDaily.com writes in an interesting look at the 22-year-old. “His [development] was limited out of Germany,” said VP of player personnel Mike Radcliff. “Played a lot more soccer games than he did baseball games before he was signed. It takes patience and we have a lot of that in our organization, thankfully.” Kepler, who joined the Minnesota organization for a $800K bonus, is one of an increasingly promising group of European prospects who have come to North American baseball in recent years. He has been outstanding in his first run at the Double-A level, slashing .334/.420/.558 with nine home runs and 16 stolen bases over 431 plate appearances.

If you’re interested in the topic of European baseball, be sure to keep an eye out for today’s MLBTR podcast, which discusses it extensively. In the meantime, here are a few more stray notes from around the league:

  • Whatever the Red Sox do with Hanley Ramirez the rest of the way in 2015, opines John Tomase of WEEI.com, finding him a new home this winter should be at the top of the to-do list of president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski. Ramirez has had a deleterious effect throughout the organization, Tomase argues, suggesting that relying on the veteran at first carries too much risk. Yesterday, we polled MLBTR readers on the matter. The current results: a virtual dead heat between “move him to first” and “deal him away.”
  • Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle takes a look at the Giants‘ upcoming offseason bullpen questions. It could be time for the club to say goodbye to southpaw Jeremy Affeldt, he writes. The 36-year-old has struggled this year, the last of a three-year, $18MM contract he inked to return to San Francisco. Closer Santiago Casilla, meanwhile, can be brought back with a $5.5MM option or cut loose through a $1MM buyout. While it’s an open question whether he should be given the ninth inning, says Schulman, Casilla still seems likely to be retained at that price.

Anthopoulos: Additional Trades “Unlikely” For Blue Jays

Teams have about five days remaining to make trades before acquired players are ineligible for postseason rosters, but the Blue Jays, who hold a two-game lead in the AL East, appear to be finished making moves. As MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm writes, general manager Alex Anthopoulos doesn’t envision another trade in Toronto’s future.

“I’d say unlikely at this point,” Anthopoulos said when asked about the odds of completing another deal. “We have five days left, anything can happen, but right now I wouldn’t expect us to do anything.”

The Blue Jays, of course, have been the most active team in baseball, at least in terms of completing trades. Since July 28, Toronto has acquired Troy Tulowitzki, LaTroy Hawkins, David Price, Mark Lowe, Ben Revere and Cliff Pennington in trades. Chisholm notes in his column that the Pennington trade — the lone August deal swung by Anthopoulos to this point — was made due to doubts about whether or not Devon Travis will return in 2015. Those doubts still exist, he continues, but the Blue Jays feel that even if Travis doesn’t return, a platoon of Ryan Goins and Pennington is acceptable. The rest of the lineup is so potent, Chisholm explains, that the Jays are content to deploy a pair of premium defenders at the position.

The Blue Jays are 18-4 since the non-waiver trade deadline and don’t necessarily have a glaring need on the roster, though one could make the case that left-handed relief help and a reliable fifth starter are at least potential areas of upgrade. Drew Hutchison will return in September, though the talented righty has been wildly inconsistent in 2015. Likewise, Marcus Stroman could return to the team after a quicker-than-expected recovery from a torn ACL.

Suffice it to say, however, the Blue Jays lack a particularly glaring need. Anthopoulos didn’t rule out making any sort of move, so he could of course be characteristically active on the waiver wire in the coming days if he feels there’s one last upgrade for his club out there.

Toronto, like other clubs, will be getting some additional depth in five days when rosters expand, though Anthopoulos also told reporters that the Jays aren’t looking at a particularly large group of September call-ups, per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi (Twitter link). Anthopoulos said the plan was to go with “as small a group as we can,” and Davidi notes that will be about six to eight players.


NL Central Notes: Baez, Tucker, Marshall, Santana

Javier Baez is “definitely on the radar screen” for a September call-up with the Cubs, manager Joe Maddon tells Kevin Van Valkenburg of ESPN. Van Valkenburg chronicles the lengthy and difficult season for Baez, who dealt with the painful loss of his sister, Noely, early in the year and later broke his finger sliding into second base at Triple-A. The injury “might have been the best thing that ever happened” to Baez, Triple-A manager Marty Pevey tells Van Valkenburg, as his approach was much improved after taking some time away from the game, and he looked to have made some “veteran adjustments.” Van Valkenburg’s column provides readers with an excellent, in-depth look at Baez’s journey from childhood in Bayamon, Puerto Rico to his high school days in Jacksonville, Fla., to his 2014 debut and 2015 season, all while giving a look at the personal and family struggles he’s dealt with along the way. It’s well worth a full read.

Here’s more from the NL Central…

  • Pirates top shortstop prospect Cole Tucker will miss the remainder of the season, and possibly most of next season, the Pirates told reporters, including Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Twitter link). Tucker, the 24th overall pick in the 2014 draft, underwent surgery to repair the labrum in his right shoulder and will be sidelined for 10 to 12 months. Tucker batted .293/.322/.377 with a pair of homers and 25 steals in 73 games at Class A.
  • Reds left-hander Sean Marshall has been throwing off a mound every three days throughout the month of August and hopes to pitch again before season’s end, writes MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon. Marshall had his second shoulder surgery on May 20 this year and has not taken a big league mound all season. He has, in fact, only thrown 24 1/3 innings over the entire life of the three-year, $16.5MM extension he signed prior to the 2013 campaign. Marshall tells Sheldon he’s been throwing 35 to 40 pitches per session, including curveballs, in addition to playing long toss. Marshall, a free agent at season’s end, would benefit from getting into games and displaying some form of health in the final month of the season.
  • The Brewers have already gotten a look at Domingo Santana in all three outfield positions, and manager Craig Counsell said for the time being, that’s the best way to get him regular at-bats, per the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Todd Rosiak. Moving forward, the Brewers have three corner outfielders for two spots — an issue I touched on in yesterday’s MLBTR Mailbag — but Counsell isn’t worried about a potential logjam at this time. “I don’t think we need to figure that out right now,” said Counsell of determining Santana’s long-term position. “I think what’s important is that he starts getting experience just facing big-league pitching and being in big-league games.”

Free Agent Stock Watch: Gerardo Parra

As MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth noted in his recent look at Alex Gordon, the Royals outfielder joins Jason Heyward as a top-of-the-market corner outfielder who derives significant value from defense while also delivering sturdy production at the plate. The other top two corner outfielders, Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes, can generally be categorized in the opposite manner — big bats who are serviceable defenders — though Cespedes has shown new life with the glove of late. Heyward and Upton, in particular, are also appealing due to their youth.

All of those players will be seeking massive free agent contracts, of course, and many clubs will be unwilling and/or unable to pay them. But there’s another group of corner options behind them who may be had for more manageable commitments. Among them is a particularly interesting name: the just-traded Gerardo Parra, who went from the Brewers to the Orioles shortly before the non-waiver trade deadline.

Aug 9, 2015; Anaheim, CA, USA; Baltimore Orioles left fielder Gerardo Parra (18) crosses the plate after a solo home run in the sixth inning off of Los Angeles Angels relief pitcher Cory Rasmus (not pictured) at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Like Heyward and Upton, Parra stands out in large part due to his age: he won’t turn 29 until May of next year, making him younger than the typical free agent. Of course, he’s also turned in a premium offensive season thus far, slashing .314/.355/.506 and showing signs that it may not just be the result of a .348 BABIP. For one thing, the speedy Parra has maintained a .326 career mark in that department. For another, he’s also carrying the highest line-drive percentage, home run per fly ball rate, and hard contact rate of his career. On the other hand, Parra has been and remains a far more effective hitter with the platoon advantage.

That mix of age and offense stands out relative to others who’ll be considered alongside Parra on the upcoming free agent market. Nori Aoki of the Giants is already 33 and likely won’t reach the market anyway. His $5.5MM club option looks appealing, and injuries have made it likely that he’ll fall shy of the 550 plate appearances needed for that to become a mutual option. Other left-handed bats — David DeJesus, David Murphy, Will Venable, and Alejandro De Aza come to mind — are older, carry mediocre batting lines, and/or have similar platoon issues to Parra.

There are a host of right-handed-hitting platoon options, too — Rajai Davis, Alex Rios, Chris Young — who are well into their thirties and have historically mediocre marks against right-handed pitching. Ben Zobrist is entering his age-35 season and really occupies a market unto himself given his positional flexibility.

There are several other players, however, who could be considered alongside Parra if they don’t get looks more as center field options. Austin Jackson is similar in age but has struggled enough offensively that he looks more like a second-division player or fourth outfielder at this point. Dexter Fowler and Colby Rasmus are both reasonably young options that could be signed as regular corner outfielders. Fowler is a year older and has the most consistent offensive track record. Rasmus, meanwhile, has nine months on Parra and has somewhat quietly had another above-average campaign at the plate, though he’s done so in less-than-full-time duty.

The switch-hitting Fowler continues to produce wherever he goes, though he performs better against lefties. He hasn’t hit as well as Parra has this year — his 112 OPS+ falls a good bit shy of Parra’s 132 mark — but his BABIP is well below its career norm, and he’s also been a more consistent performer than Parra over the years. Both Fowler and Parra are good bets to deliver double-digit stolen base totals in a given year.

Rasmus is a high-strikeout, low-OBP hitter but has nevertheless rated as a better-than-average offensive threat for the past three seasons. He also has had some seasons of outsized production, as Parra has done this year, and he rates quite well on the bases even though he doesn’t attempt many steals. It’s a different overall skill-set from Parra, who walks less than Rasmus but also strikes out half as often. Parra is a higher-average hitter with better on-base numbers, but until this year had never done as much in the power department. Choosing between these two, offensively, is something of a matter of preference, though it’s easy to imagine many teams preferring to take a gamble on Parra continuing to drive the ball.

The defensive side of the equation is where things get most interesting. Fowler and Rasmus have more experience in center than does Parra and could sign to play up the middle (Fowler, in particular, as he’s played center for all but one inning of his career). All three, however, have experience there and could be added by teams that prefer to have another center field-capable option on their rosters.

Interestingly, though, Parra has been as much of a surprise on defense this year as he has been at the plate — albeit in the opposite direction. Parra made his name, really, when he put up an outstanding defensive campaign with the Diamondbacks back in 2013. Moving into a full-time role, he drew plaudits from both UZR and Defensive Runs Saved as one of the game’s premium outfielders. But last season’s metrics were more of the average variety, and Parra has been decidedly in the red this year: he has a -23.2 UZR/150 rating and is valued at 10 runs below average by DRS.

By comparison, Fowler has generally rated out as a slightly to largely below average performer in center. Rasmus has also played mostly up the middle, with overall average results that have varied somewhat over time.

All told, there’s an argument to be made that Parra rates as the most appealing corner outfield option after the top four players noted at the outset — assuming, at least, that Fowler is locked up to fill a void in center. Notably, unlike Fowler, Parra can’t be saddled with a qualifying offer. If nothing else, he’s separated himself from the pack of other players (many of whom were noted above) who’ll garner consideration as non-premium targets.

Given his age, there’s a reasonable chance that Parra could command a four-year guarantee if there are teams that still value him as an above-average defender. While his recent surge in hitting and decline in defense could lead to some hesitation in terms of average annual value, Parra seems likely to be a useful player over that timeline, and it would be easy for a team to find a right-handed-hitting outfielder to pair with a player who’s put up a .777 OPS over his career against opposing righties.

Looking at recent corner outfield signings, there’s an interesting gulf between players who profiled as solid regulars and those who were seen more as platoon options. (Check this list of outfielders who landed guarantees of between $15MM and $75MM.) Players coming off of good years who were added as regular players have tended to score three- or four-year deals with AAVs in the $10MM to $15MM range. Some potentially useful comps include Melky Cabrera (three years, $42MM), Nick Markakis (four years, $44MM), Shane Victorino (three years, $39MM), and Angel Pagan (four years, $40MM) — each of whom was older than Parra when they signed their deals. (Markakis, in particular, stands out as a player whose glove was valued by scouts despite defensive metrics painting a more negative picture.)

While some others have had to settle for shorter deals — Aoki and Rasmus, last year, for example — there’s good reason to think that Parra can cash in. It’s too early to project specific numbers, especially with the market still yet to develop and more than a month of play remaining, but Parra and his representatives can aim high coming off a career year at the plate.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


White Sox Release John Mayberry Jr.

The White Sox have released outfielder John Mayberry Jr., the team’s Triple-A affiliate announced (Twitter link).

Mayberry had signed a minor league pact with the Sox back on Aug. 7, though his stay with the team’s Triple-A affiliate lasted just 13 games. In those 13 games, the 31-year-old was unable to correct the struggles he displayed earlier this season with the Mets, batting .162/.225/.189 in 40 plate appearances. Typically a potent weapon against left-handed pitching, Mayberry has slashed a combined .175/.246/.381 in 69 plate appearances versus southpaws in the Majors and minors. Throughout his big-league career, Mayberry has hit .260/.315/.517 against lefties.