Mariners Sign Erik Kratz To Minor League Deal

The Mariners announced that they’ve signed catcher Erik Kratz to a minor league deal. The 35-year-old Kratz, a client of Metis Sports Management, will head to Triple-A Tacoma for the time being. Earlier today, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweeted that Kratz had agreed to a deal with a new team, with Seattle a likely landing spot.

A career .217/.270/.400 hitter, the 35-year-old Kratz has proven himself capable of hitting for power but at the cost of questionable batting average and OBP marks. Defensively, Kratz’s 31 percent caught-stealing rate is above average, and he’s received plus ratings in terms of pitch framing. He began the season with Royals, who ultimately opted to go with Drew Butera as their backup catcher over Kratz. Boston picked him up off waivers when he was designated for assignment by Kansas City, but they, too designated Kratz once it was determined that an injury to promising young backstop Blake Swihart was minor. FOX’s Jon Morosi noted at the time Kratz elected free agency that the Mariners were a possible landing spot.


Mets Acquire International Bonus Slot From Angels

The Mets have acquired an international bonus slot from the Angels in exchange for minor league right-hander Gaither Bumgardner, the teams announced. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez tweets that the Mets will add $239,400 to their pool with this move.

Bumgardner was the Mets’ 23rd-round pick back in 2013. Though he’s 24 years of age, Bumgardner has progressed to just the Class-A level. The South Carolina native has tossed 65 2/3 innings as a pro, working to a 3.84 ERA with 7.7 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9. He did not find himself ranked among the Mets’ top prospects entering the year.

The Mets entered this signing period with a bonus pool of $2,531,300, per Baseball America, and they reportedly have agreements in place totaling $2.7MM. Adding this bonus slot from the Angels will allow the Mets to stay within the confines of their now-$2.77MM bonus pool. As for the Angels, the team went well over its 2014-15 bonus pool to give Cuban infielder Roberto Baldoquin an $8MM signing bonus, so they’re restricted from spending more than $300K on an international amateur anyhow.


Dodgers Acquire Minor Leaguers Paroubeck, Dirks From Braves

The Dodgers announced that they have acquired minor league outfielder Jordan Paroubeck and minor league right-hander Caleb Dirks from the Braves in exchange for an international bonus slot that is worth $249K. This is the second international bonus slot that the Braves have acquired today, as the team earlier sent righty Cody Martin to the A’s in exchange for an additional slot. Combined, Atlanta has acquired $637,400 to allocate to international signings.

Paroubeck is probably the more notable of the two names going back to Los Angeles. The Braves acquired Paroubeck, Matt Wisler, Cameron Maybin, Carlos Quentin and a Competitive Balance draft pick (No. 41 overall) from the Padres in the blockbuster deal that sent Melvin Upton Jr. and Craig Kimbrel to San Diego. Paroubeck drew praise for his athleticism at the time, but he’s yet to debut for the Braves in the minors this season. A second-round pick in 2013, Paroubeck slashed .286/.346/.457 in 157 plate appearances with the Padres’ Rookie-league affiliate in his pro debut last year.

Dirks was selected in the 15th round last season and has massed a 1.53 ERA in 59 pro innings, averaging 10.1 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 in that small sample. A closer late in his college career, Dirks has worked exclusively as a reliever in the Braves’ system. Baseball America noted at the time he was drafted that he features a 91-94 mph fastball with a below-average slider but an aggressive temperament that makes him well-suited for late-inning action.

The roughly $638K the Braves have picked up in this pair of trades boosts their bonus pool to $3,095,800. That leaves the Braves about $300K shy of the combined $3.4MM the Braves will reportedly spend on international prospects Derian Cruz and Christian Pache. The team likely will not announce the signings until acquiring additional bonus money, as money cannot be acquired once a team’s spending limitation has been officially reached.

Some may find the Dodgers’ willingness to trade away their international bonus money curious, considering the team is already spending far and away more money than any club in baseball on international prospects. However, there’s little reason for the Dodgers to hang onto their slots. They’re already going to incur the maximum penalties and be unable to sign players for more than $300K in the coming two signing periods, so by trading the slots away, there’s merely increasing the amount of overage taxes they have to pay while also accumulating some minor league talent. The only incentive for a team exceeding its bonus pool to hang onto the slots is to save a bit of money, and that’s not something with which the deep-pocketed Dodgers are overly concerned, so it makes sense to see them using these assets to add some depth.



Aaron Harang Lands On DL With Plantar Fasciitis

The Phillies announced today that Aaron Harang has been placed on the 15-day DL due to plantar fasciitis in his left foot. Chad Billingsley was activated in a corresponding move.

Harang, of course, has been viewed as a possible trade chip for a rebuilding Phillies club that enjoyed surprisingly strong results from the veteran right-hander through the first two months of the season. Signed to an affordable one-year, $5MM contract, Harang posted a 2.02 ERA through the and of May. While that output was never sustainable, and pitching-hungry teams wouldn’t have valued him as someone who could be reasonably counted on for such results, one has to imagine that he’s still damaged his trade value with his recent play. Over his past six starts, Harang has worked to an 8.31 ERA and allowed 48 hits (eight homers) in 34 1/3 innings with a 20-to-12 K/BB ratio.

Jake Kaplan of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes that Harang could miss only two starts due to the upcoming All-Star break, which would create a small window to display improved health. If he can display better control than he’s been able to with an ailing plant foot, perhaps he’d still hold some appeal to a club looking for veteran innings at the back end of its rotation. If the Phillies can’t trade him before July 31, either due to health or lack of interest, an August swap would also be a possibility.


Red Sox Prioritizing Young Arms Controlled Beyond 2015 In Trades

Rumors connecting the Red Sox and Cole Hamels have been circulating for months, with the lack of an ace atop their rotation being a common refrain. However, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports that Hamels and fellow established ace are unlikely candidates for the Sox, as their top priority heading into the trade deadline is to target younger arms that are under control beyond the 2015 season. Neither Cueto nor Hamels fits that mold, as Cueto is a free agent at season’s end and Hamels is 31 years of age.

The Red Sox are looking at both starters and relievers in their search for pitching, according to Bradford, which widens the array of possible trade targets even further. There’s little sense in speculating which arms will land on Boston’s wish list, though recent reports have indicated that one pitcher who meets this criteria, Athletics right-hander Sonny Gray, is off limits as the deadline nears. Said assistant GM David Forst said point blank in a recent radio appearance (h/t: CSN Bay Area’s Joe Stiglich): “Sonny Gray’s not going anywhere.”

Boston has employed this approach recently, acquiring young starters Joe Kelly and Wade Miley in separate trades over the past calendar year, though the results have been mixed, at best. Miley got off to a rough start in his tenure as a member of the Red Sox, but he’s been very good since May 1, working to a 3.41 ERA in 68 2/3 innings. The results for Kelly haven’t been as promising; the former Cardinal has a 4.96 ERA in 24 starts with the Cards due to shaky control and a hittable fastball, all of which contributed to the decision to option the hard-throwing righty to Triple-A Pawtucket last month.

GM Ben Cherington and his staff will have multiple avenues to explore in an attempt to achieve this goal. As we saw last July, the Sox moved veteran righty John Lackey in order to acquire Kelly along with first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig. In the offseason, Miley was acquired for young righties Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa. Boston’s been willing to deal from its farm system and its Major League roster in order to pull in this type of pitcher, and the front office should again be able to go either route. The Sox have a rich, if somewhat depleted farm system that includes the likes of Manuel Margot, Henry Owens, Garin Cecchini, Brian Johnson and Rafael Devers, among others. Similarly, however, there are veteran pieces on the team that would figure to fetch a nice return. Clay Buchholz has been outstanding of late, and late-inning righties Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa have both performed well in 2015. Perhaps none of those names could fetch a premier young arm on their own, but any could be paired with young talent to facilitate a deal.

Boston also has the type of Major League ready talent that many clubs covet around the diamond. We’ve heard multiple times that Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Blake Swihart are each likely untouchable, but perhaps the Sox would reconsider if a tantalizing enough pitcher were to be dangled from a trade partner. Other MLB-ready pieces that may be easier to acquire could include Jackie Bradley Jr. and Deven Marrero, both of whom are appealing but likely have lower ceilings than the aforementioned young talent.

Boston is currently 36-44, placing them last in the AL East and seven behind the Orioles for the division lead. Of course, the entire AL East is essentially up for grabs, with the Orioles, Yankees, Blue Jays and Rays all separated by only a game and a half in the standings.


Rays Acquire International Slot From Marlins

The Marlins have traded an international bonus slot that is valued at about $500K to the Rays in exchange for minor league right-hander Enderson Franco, reports Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald (on Twitter). The decision is somewhat curious on Tampa’s part, as the Rays exceeded their international spending pool by quite a wide margin in 2014-15, which prevents them from signing an international amateur for more than $300K in the current signing period.

Franco, 22, is a Venezuelan right-hander that was originally signed by the Astros. The Rays selected him in the minor league portion of the 2013 Rule 5 Draft, and he’s pitched reasonably well for Tampa since being acquired. Franco has shown impeccable control throughout his minor league tenure, averaging just 1.8 walks per nine innings in part of six seasons — including a stellar 1.0 BB/9 rate in both 2014 and 2015. Thus far, in 71 2/3 innings as a starter in the Class-A Midwest League, he’s posted a 3.89 ERA with 5.9 K/9 against that 1.0 BB/9 mark.


Cardinals Fire Scouting Director For Role In Astros Breach

4:55pm: Correa’s lawyer, Nicholas Williams, offered the following statement to Goold when reached for comment:

“Mr. Correa denies any illegal conduct. The relevant inquiry should be what information did former St. Louis Cardinals employees steal from the St. Louis Cardinals organization prior to joining the Houston Astros, and who in the Houston Astros organization authorized, consented to, or benefited from that roguish behavior.”

3:44pm: The Cardinals have fired scouting director Chris Correa for his role in the Cardinals’ breach of the Astros’ proprietary Ground Control computer network, reports Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Lawyers for the Cardinals tell Goold that Correa had already been on an “imposed leave of absence.”

Cardinals GM John Mozeliak, Correa, and Correa’s lawyers all declined to comment, but a source close to the investigation tells Goold that Correa has admitted to illegally accessing Ground Control. Correa, however, has said that his reason for accessing the network was only to attempt to verify that Astros GM Jeff Luhnow had taken proprietary information from the Cardinals with him to his new post in Houston. According to Goold’s source, Correa did not leak any data to the public and was not responsible for additional entries to the Astros’ network. The FBI is continuing its investigation into other members of the organization, and it seems likely that others are involved, if Correa has been determined to have accessed Ground Control only one time without leaking any of the data.

The firing of Correa reveals that the breach into the Astros’ computer network goes far higher up the chain of command in the Cardinals’ front office than many had originally believed. Correa was only recently promoted to scouting director back in December after previously serving as a qualitative analyst and director of baseball operations, as Baseball America’s John Manuel wrote at the time.


Rangers Acquire International Slot Money From Angels

4:34pm: Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com reports that the Rangers are receiving two international bonus slots from the Angels, which are worth a combined total of $879,500 (Twitter link).

3:15pm: The Rangers have acquired an international bonus slot from the Angels in exchange for minor league right-hander Jason Hoppe, executive VP of communications John Blake announced (on Twitter).

Toppe, 23, was the Rangers’ 27th-round pick in last year’s draft out of Minnesota State University. He debuted with the club’s short-season Class-A affiliate in 2014 and has returned to that level to begin the 2015 season. The Minnesota native has a 4.97 ERA with a 38-to-10 K/BB ratio in 38 professional innings to this point. He didn’t rank among Texas’ top prospects.

The Rangers have a $4,586,600 bonus pool this year, per Baseball America, and have already agreed to $2.6MM worth of bonuses with Leodys Taveras and Miguel Aparicio earlier today. The Halos blew past last year’s international spending cap in order to sign Cuban infielder Roberto Baldoquin, so the team won’t be able to sign an international free agent for more than $300K anyhow. As such, it’s logical that they’re exploring trades with their international slots.


A’s Acquire Cody Martin From Braves For International Slot, Designate Freiman

The Athletics have announced that the team has acquired righty Cody Martin from the Braves. In return, Atlanta will receive the 53rd overall international signing slot, which carries a bonus allocation of $388,400. To create roster space for Martin, Oakland has designated first baseman Nate Freiman for assignment.

Martin, 25, gives the A’s a Major League ready bullpen option that has logged 21 2/3 innings in the Braves’ bullpen this season. He’s struggled to a 5.40 ERA in the Majors, but Martin has excelled in the minors, working to a 2.10 ERA with 8.7 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 34 1/3 innings — six starts and one relief appearance.

Freiman, 28, was a Rule 5 pick of the Athletics out of the Astros’ organization in 2013. He batted .256/.309/.408 between 2013-14 with the A’s, playing primarily against left-handed pitching, but he’s struggled to this point of the season at Triple-A. In 35 games with Nashville this year, Freiman has batted just .171/.225/.188 in 129 plate appearances.


Dodgers To Sign Trevor Cahill

The Dodgers have agreed to a contract with right-hander Trevor Cahill, reports Baseball America’s Matt Eddy (via Twitter). Presumably, it is of the minor league variety. The John Boggs client began the season with the Braves after coming over from the D-Backs in a late Spring Training trade but was designated for assignment and released after struggling in Atlanta.

Given the length of time that Cahill has been a relatively prominent name in baseball, it seems surprising that he’s still just 27 years of age, but the former Athletics/D-Backs hurler won’t turn 28 until next March. He’s earning a guaranteed $12MM this season in the final year of a four-year, $30MM contract signed with the A’s, but Arizona is on the hook for about $6.5MM of that sum, while Atlanta is responsible for $5.5MM of that sum plus the $300K buyout on his 2016 option. The Dodgers, then, would be responsible only for the pro-rated portion of the league minimum for any time he spends on their active roster. (The Braves, in turn, would be spared that minor portion of the obligation.)

Cahill was a highly effective mid-rotation starter with Oakland and Arizona from 2010-13, averaging 188 innings of 3.72 ERA ball per season to go along with 6.3 K/9, 3.4 BB/9 and the league’s fifth-best ground-ball rate (57.3 percent). A line-drive to the hip shortened his 2013 campaign, though, and in 2014 he saw his control and ground-ball rates both trend in the wrong direction. The wheels quickly came off for Cahill, who has worked to a 5.98 ERA over his past 139 big league innings — a shockingly poor mark considering how recently he was viewed as a cost-controlled rotation asset.

The Dodgers’ interest isn’t entirely surprising, as the team is on the lookout for rotation reinforcements following season-ending injuries to both Hyun-jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy. L.A. will hope that Cahill can sharpen his control and again find the sinker that routinely racked up more grounders than almost any pitcher in the league, though the D-Backs and Braves have both had similar hopes in the past calendar year and ended up paying significant money to part ways with the right-hander.


Orioles To Sign Chris Perez

The Orioles have agreed to sign righty Chris Perez, presumably to a minor league deal, Matt Eddy of Baseball America reports on Twitter. Of course, Perez was just hit with a 50-game suspension for recreational drug use, so he’ll have to serve out that ban before donning a uniform in the Baltimore system.

Perez, the former Indians closer, started the year with the Brewers organization on a minor league deal after struggling in 2014 with the Dodgers. He opted out earlier in the year and received his suspension while a free agent. Before that, Perez had allowed eight earned runs over 7 2/3 Triple-A frames, with just three strikeouts against four walks.

Still just 29 years of age, Perez has had his moments in the big leagues. Indeed, despite his more recent difficulties keeping runs of the board, he’s pitched to a lifetime 3.51 ERA in 379 1/3 innings (with 8.6 K/9 against 3.9 BB/9). And Perez averaged around 94 mph on his fastball last year, indicating that he could still have some gas in the tank.

 


Blue Jays Acquire Slot Money From Dodgers

The Blue Jays have acquired additional slot money from the Dodgers in a deal that will send Chase De Jong and Tim Locastro back to Los Angeles. Ben Badler of Baseball America first reported that Toronto was acquiring slot money, while ESPN.com’s Keith Law reported the remainder of the swap (via Twitter).

The Jays struck the deal in order to offset some of the $3.9MM that the team just promised to international signee Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The club entered the July 2 period with just $2,324,100 of total pool space, leaving a $1,575,900 gap.

According to Badler, the move will limit the extent to which the Blue Jays have exceeded their pool space, but won’t eliminate it entirely. By spending only 15% or less above the cap, the club can limit its signing limitations to just a single signing period. That, in turn, would require the the team end up with nearly $3.4MM in capacity.

Looking at the individual slots available to each team, the Dodgers’ largest single bonus value was $545,900. The team also possesses $368,700 and $249,000 spending allocations. It seems likely that all three of those are headed to Toronto, as Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets that over $1MM will change hands.

It is worth remembering that the move will also cost the Dodgers money since L.A. has already blown well past its original allocation. Every dollar the team sends away will require it to pay an equivalent amount in overage fees.

In some regards, then, this looks to be another cash for prospects deal. In this case, however, Toronto was not looking just to avoid spending (though it did that as well), but also to avoid a lengthier international timeout.

As for the players involved, De Jong is a long, strike throwing righty. The 2012 second-round pick is repeating the Class A level after a rough year last year, but he’s still only 21 and has produced better results this year (3.13 ERA with 8.0 K/9 against 1.9 BB/9). After being rated by Baseball America as the 11th-best Jays prospect in 2014, he dropped to 17th entering this season, but seems to be on the ascent at present and could still have some projection left, per BA.

Locastro, 22, is primarily a second baseman, though he’s also seen a bit of action at short and the corner outfield. He reached the Class A level this year, and has performed quite well. Over 289 turns at bat, Locastro owns a .310/.409/.421 slash with five home runs and a rather impressive thirty stolen bags (being caught eleven times along the way). He’s struck out just 25 times while picking up 21 walks.


MLBTR Podcast: Fantasy Edition

MLBTR’s owner Tim Dierkes joins Jeff to talk fantasy strategy as the trade deadline approaches, with a particular focus on relief pitching (including how you can use @closernews to boost your saves). Jeff then discusses some strategies for maximizing DL slots to add production the rest of the way.

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The MLB Trade Rumors Podcast runs weekly on Thursday afternoons.


Mariners Designate Willie Bloomquist

The Mariners have designated Willie Bloomquist for assignment, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports on Twitter. The utilityman will seemingly be replaced on the active roster by Chris Taylor.

Bloomquist, 37, has slashed just .159/.194/.174 over his 72 plate appearances on the year. He was playing out the second season of a two-year, $5.8MM deal signed before the 2014 campaign. Never a significant offensive contributor, Bloomquist at least managed to hit at near his career levels last year (.643 OPS on the season; .658 career).

His value, instead, lies in his defensive versatility. This year alone, Bloomquist has played at first, second, short, third, and both corner outfield spots. But with his production at the plate dropping so precipitously, Seattle obviously felt it was time for a move.


Blue Jays To Sign Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

1:04pm: Guerrero will receive a $3.9MM bonus, Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com tweets.

10:18am: The Blue Jays have reached agreement with Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Ben Badler of Baseball America reports on Twitter. Guerrero, son of the famed big leaguer of the same name, was the first overall international prospect on BA’s pre-July 2 board. He is represented by Beverly Hills Sports Council and Rick Thurman, Rafael Nieves and Nelson Montes.

Toronto had been widely expected to land the highly-touted Guerrero, who bears a striking resemblance to his father. While he doesn’t quite reach Vlad Sr.’s “all-around tools,” in Badler’s estimation, that’s hardly a knock. The younger Guerrero is said to have a very promising bat with contact ability to go with good power potential.

On the other hand, Guerrero is not a strong runner and does not appear to possess his father’s cannon of an arm. Those current limitations, including at least some question of whether he’ll ultimately be a serviceable corner outfielder, led both Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs and MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez to rate Guerrero fourth among eligible July 2 prospects.

The Blue Jays entered the day with $2,324,100 to spend without incurring any penalties, per Baseball America, and it appears likely that the club will go well beyond that to get Guerrero. While his bonus has yet to be reported, McDaniel predicted that Guerrero would sign for $3.45MM.