Minor Moves: McGrady, Gonzalez, Robertson, Wade

Former NBA star Tracy McGrady has made the independent Sugar Land Skeeters roster, Chris Cotillo tweeted earlier today. The club confirmed that the swingman-turned-hurler has been inked, as Mark Berman of FOX 26 Sports Houston reports. “He showed enough progress,” said manager (and 20-year MLB veteran) Gary Gaetti. He showed enough ability and we’re going to see where this goes.”

Here are today’s minor moves from around the league…

  • Infielder Alberto Gonzalez was released by the Padres, according to MLB.com’s Corey Brock (via Twitter). The 31-year-old had been working in Triple-A, but presumably was supplanted by the just-acquired Tyler Greene at Tucson. Gonzalez, who has seen action in seven MLB seasons, was off to a tough .208/.218/.264 start in 56 plate appearances.
  • The Rangers announced that they have acquired outfielder Dan Robertson from the Padres in exchange for cash considerations. Texas has purchased Robertson’s contract and will bring the 28-year-old to Oakland, where he will be available to play today. The move likely comes as an unexpected thrill for Robertson, who was a 33rd-round pick in 2008 and has spent the past two-plus seasons in Triple-A, where he has compiled a triple-slash line of .295/.371/.394 with six homers and 41 steals in 270 games. Texas had an open spot on its 40-man roster and placed Pedro Figueroa on the 15-day disabled list in order to clear a 25-man roster spot for Robertson.
  • The Royals have released right-hander Cory Wade from Triple-A Omaha, reports Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star (on Twitter). The 31-year-old Wade posted a 6.57 ERA in 12 1/3 innings for Omaha this year, with just four strikeouts against four walks in that short time. Wade was a solid relief option for the Dodgers in his 2008 rookie campaign (2.27 ERA in 71 1/3 innings) and again for the Yankees in 2011 (2.04 ERA in 39 2/3 innings). He last appeared in the Majors with the Yanks in 2012, posting a 6.46 ERA in 39 innings of work. Wade inked a minor league deal with Kansas City back in November.

Josh Johnson To Undergo Tommy John Surgery

Padres right-hander Josh Johnson will undergo Tommy John surgery tomorrow and miss the entire 2014 season, tweets MLB.com’s Corey Brock.

It’s a blow to a Padres pitching staff that was hoping for big things in a rebound campaign for Johnson, though the injury does trigger a $4MM club option that the Padres will now be able to exercise. Due to his extensive injury history, Johnson’s contract — a one-year, $8MM pact — contained language that gave the Padres a $4MM club option were he to make fewer than seven starts in 2014.

Johnson didn’t take the mound for the Padres after signing the deal, as he opened the year on the disabled list with a strained flexor muscle in his right arm, which, upon further examination by Dr. James Andrews, led to the recommendation to undergo the Tommy John operation. Johnson becomes the latest in a long line of injured hurlers to undergo the procedure this year, as he is now incredibly the 16th Major League starter to need the operation in 2014 alone.

Despite the loss of Johnson (and fellow Tommy John victim Cory Luebke), San Diego’s rotation has been excellent this season. The quintet of Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, Ian Kennedy, Eric Stults and Robbie Erlin have combined for a 3.12 ERA (ninth in the Majors) and a 3.26 FIP (fifth in the Majors).


Travis Ishikawa Elects Free Agency

3:50pm: Ishikawa has elected free agency, reports MLBTR’s Zach Links (on Twitter).

10:38am: First baseman Travis Ishikawa has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Indianapolis by the Pirates, reports MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo (Twitter link). Because Ishikawa has been previously outrighted, he has the option of rejecting the assignment in favor of free agency, which he is likely to do.

Ishikawa, 30, hit .206/.263/.382 with a homer, a triple and a double in 38 plate appearances for the Bucs this season. He was initially part of a platoon with lefty masher Gaby Sanchez until the Pirates, in search of an upgrade, swung a deal for Ike Davis (Pittsburgh sent Zack Thornton and a PTBNL to the Mets).

Ishikawa is a lifetime .257/.321/.397 hitter, and his splits are indicative that he is best suited to be part of a first-base platoon (as he was in Pittsburgh). Both Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating feel that Ishikawa’s glove at first base is above average — an attribute that he and agent Jim McDowell can use as a selling point should he ultimately elect to become a free agent.



Latest On Kevin Towers, Kirk Gibson

Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports looks at the Diamondbacks’ remarkably poor 5-18 start to the season and wonders just how long the organization will go before making leadership changes — referring specifically to general manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson. Morosi writes that changes could be on the horizon, opining that a change could come as soon as this weekend if the D’Backs can’t salvage a series split against the Cubs after being swept by the Mets.

Morosi spoke with several veteran Diamondbacks players, including Eric Chavez and Brandon McCarthy, the latter of whom said he had been on bad teams before but had never seen anything like Arizona’s current situation. “This is different,” McCarthy told Morosi. Said Chavez: I’ve never seen anything like it, to be honest with you. I’ve been on teams that weren’t very good, but at least I felt like we were competitive. So, it’s a bitter pill to swallow.” Chavez went on to say that calling more team meetings won’t do any good, because they’ve had enough of them and “talk is cheap at this point.”

As Morosi’s colleague Ken Rosenthal writes, however, rival executives feel that midseason personnel changes will be more difficult for this Diamondbacks club than they typically would be for other clubs. The team has few internal replacement options, says Rosenthal, as bench coach Alan Trammell is “virtually indistinguishable” from Gibson, executives tell Rosenthal. Beyond that, the clubs’ Triple-A manager, Phil Nevin, joined the organization just this year (after three year’s managing Detroit’s Triple-A affiliate).

On the GM side of things, Rosenthal points back to a piece from the Arizona Republic’s Dan Bickley over the weekend in which managing partner Ken Kendrick said the team needed more balance in terms of traditional scouting versus the newer trend of advanced statistics and data analysis. Towers, nicknamed “the Gunslinger,” is as old school as GMs come, and a more data-oriented GM would have to come from outside the organization due to a lack of that skill set in the front office. However, teams are currently preparing for the June draft and will then shift their focus to the trade deadline, making external GM candidates hard to pry away.

For their parts, Towers and Gibson are fully aware of the questions surrounding their job security, writes the Republic’s Nick Piecoro. He was one of multiple reporters on hand when the duo discussed the issue prior to today’s game. Said Towers:

“You’ve got a payroll that exceeds $100 million and we’re off to one of the worst starts in franchise history. That’s tough to swallow when you’re an owner and you care and you’ve invested in a product and the product isn’t performing.”

Towers said he thinks ownership likes both him and Gibson as well, but that each realizes they’re paid to help the team win games, and that isn’t happening. He said that everyone from himself to the field staff to the players should be accountable, as no one has performed up to expectations.

Asked about his job security, Gibson replied by saying he doesn’t worry about that but instead focuses on making whatever improvements he can: We try to analyze what we can do (better) and we just prepare and try to get the guys to prepare and have a positive day and a good game.”

Arizona has been bitten by some key injuries, namely the loss of nominal ace Patrick Corbin to Tommy John surgery, however, Towers was quick to say that the struggles can’t be blamed on the injuries to Corbin and David Hernandez. He adds that ultimately, the players have to be the ones to fix it, as they’re the ones taking the at-bats and throwing the pitches.

Both Towers and Gibson were given extensions this offseason, though the terms of both deals were kept private. Arizona simply announced that each extension lasted beyond the 2014 season.


A’s Reject 10-Year Lease Offer From Coliseum Authority

The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority announced yesterday that it had extended an offer for a new 10-year lease to the A’s (hat tip: John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle on Twitter). However, as MLB.com’s Alex Espinoza writes that the Athletics promptly declined the lease offer to remain in O.co Coliseum. Via Espionza, the A’s issued the following statement:

“The A’s received the Oakland-Alameda County Authority’s proposal earlier this afternoon. While the proposal was for 10 years, it did not address all of our issues. Consequently, we cannot accept the terms of the offer. We have tried to negotiate in good faith for the past several months. As the Authority knows, it is still our preference not to negotiate this agreement through the media.”

Oakland’s current lease runs through the 2015 season, and there has been no shortage of media coverage surrounding the unsatisfactory conditions of O.co Coliseum. For one, it’s baseball’s only remaining shared facility, but that’s hardly the biggest problem. The A’s have also had to deal with flooding on the field and sewage leaks in the clubhouses, among a host of other issues. Still, A’s owner Lew Wolff recently said that he would like to extend his lease in the Coliseum.

The Athletics’ stadium situation has long been a cause for debate in the game, as the team has made its desire for a new park very clear, citing the dilapidated nature of the Coliseum. There’s been talk of a move to San Jose, but the Giants claim that such a move would further infringe on their territorial rights.

The city of San Jose, unsurprisingly, would welcome the move and the economic boost it would provide, as evidenced by the lawsuit it filed against Major League Baseball last June. However, a report this past December revealed that the commissioner’s office declined Oakland’s most recent relocation proposal the day before that lawsuit was filed. At the time, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the move itself wasn’t outright rejected, but rather that specific proposal (MLB cited a need for more information). More than two years have passed since commissioner Bud Selig said that he was prioritizing the stadium resolution, and it’s been more than five years since Selig formed a special committee to investigate the situation.


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Daily Fantasy Baseball Contest: Win Share Of $100K Payout

One-day leagues are one of the most exciting ways to play fantasy baseball.  For any given day of the MLB schedule, you can create a fantasy team and win huge cash prizes.  If you have $22 and love Major League Baseball, draft a one-day fantasy baseball team at DraftStreet.com for the games this Friday.  You could win a share of $100,000 with a massive first place prize of $20,000.

750 players will win cash on Friday and you can be one of them.  Simply pick one player from each of eight tiers.  Score the most fantasy points and find out if you win after the end of Friday’s final game.

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  1. Sign up at DraftStreet.com.
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  3. Save your MLB team by 6:55pm eastern time, Friday, April 25th.

Finish in the top 750 and you’ll double your money.  First place wins $20,000!  If this is your first time depositing at DraftStreet you will receive a 100% deposit bonus, up to $200 free.  Here are my picks:

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Friday April 25th MLB Eligible Schedule:

Royals @ Orioles – 7:05pm ET
Angels @ Yankees – 7:05pm ET
Padres @ Nationals – 7:05pm ET
Red Sox @ Blue Jays – 7:07pm ET
Marlins @ Mets – 7:10pm ET
Reds @ Braves – 7:35pm ET
Rays @ White Sox – 8:10pm ET
Cubs @ Brewers – 8:10pm ET
Tigers @ Twins – 8:10pm ET
Athletics @ Astros – 8:10pm ET
Pirates @ Cardinals – 8:15pm ET
Phillies @ Diamondbacks – 9:40pm ET
Rangers @ Mariners – 10:10pm ET
Rockies @ Dodgers – 10:10pm ET
Indians @ Giants – 10:15pm ET

Draft your team now!


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NL Notes: Hellweg, Cuddyer, Cubs, Espinosa

Fireballing Brewers prospect Johnny Hellweg, 25, has been diagnosed with a torn UCL and is headed to visit Dr. James Andrews, reports MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. Hellweg, the club’s 7th overall prospect in the eyes of MLB.com, has been working at Triple-A after briefly reaching the bigs last year with Milwaukee. He put up a 6.75 ERA in 30 2/3 big league frames in 2013, but had a 3.14 mark in 131 2/3 minor league innings (albeit with 6.4 K/9 against 5.7 BB/9).

Here’s more from the National League:

  • Michael Cuddyer and the Rockies are in no rush to consider a new deal, writes Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. Cuddyer, 35, is set to complete his three-year, $31.5MM deal this season, and says he hopes to play two or three more seasons. But he is planning to finish out his contract and consider his options down the line.
  • The Cubs plan to take the best player available with the fourth overall pick in the upcoming amateur draft, reports Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. Though the team is stocked with well-regarded field prospects, and somewhat less flush with young arms, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein says they will “take the best player, regardless of position,” explaining that he will look to make “the best investment, the best bet on that player’s career.” The team is hopeful of building pitching depth from this year’s amateur pool, even if that does not come through the first choice. “There’s tremendous depth in this class,” said Epstein. “It’s more depth than elite, per se. But we should be coming out with a good pitching haul when it’s said and done.”
  • Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa is in the midst of a bounce-back campaign, writes Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. After struggling mightily last year, and reportedly drawing significant trade interest from teams looking to take a chance on a turnaround for the 26-year-old switch-hitter, Espinosa is off to a .273/.333/.455 start through his first 59 plate appearances. He has taken over as the regular at second, with Anthony Rendon shifting to third while Ryan Zimmerman is on the DL. Espinosa’s rough 2013 was not without its benefits for the Nats, as his demotion allowed the team to pause his service clock: with just 2.113 years entering this season, Espinosa will not be eligible for free agency until 2018.

Padres In Active Trade Talks Involving Nick Hundley

The Padres are engaged in active trade discussions regarding catcher Nick Hundley, reports Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Hundley, 30, has seen only limited action this year.

Hundley is in the final year of his three-year, $9MM extension, which comes with a $5MM club option for 2015 (no buyout). He has lost playing time to both 25-year-old Yasmani Grandal and journeyman Rene Rivera. With the club facing a looming active roster crunch, it appears that it is testing the market for a player who once was the team’s primary backstop.

Hundley’s best year came in 2011, when he posted a .288/.347/.477 line with 9 home runs in 308 plate appearances. He signed his extension before the following season, but has compiled only a .211/.267/.348 line since. He is, however, off to a solid start in just 21 plate appearances in 2014, with a .333/.333/.619 line.

Several teams could conceivably be interested in adding Hundley, who makes a relatively modest $4MM this year. The fact that he has a risk-free option for next year is also attractive, as it conveys upside if he turns things around. Of course, his recent track record is such that San Diego could need to contribute cash in a trade, if they hope to receive much value in return, as Lin notes.


Rangers Designate Hector Noesi For Assignment

The Rangers have designated pitcher Hector Noesi for assignment, the club announced via press release. The righty made only three appearances with the club after being acquired ten days ago from the Mariners.

Noesi, 27, has had a forgettable start to the 2014 season. His ERA stands at 14.21 through 6 1/3 frames. Over parts of four seasons in the bigs, Noesi has allowed 5.81 earned runs per nine in just under 200 total frames. He has struggled roughly equally against batters from both sides of the plate: over his career, lefties have touched him for a .866 OPS while righties have managed a .832 mark.


AL Notes: Amador, Lester, Gonzalez

The Astros have loaned massive first baseman Japhet Amador to the Diablos Rojos of the Mexican League, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Amador was signed away from his new club this past August, and appeared at both Triple-A (where he has struggled mightily) and the Arizona Fall League (where he slashed .284/.286/.507). As Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle explains (Twitter links), Amador’s contract had a clause that required the team to decide by May 3 whether to purchase his contract, and the team was not going to do so. Nevertheless, Amador’s agent, Oscar Suarez, says that there is some hope that the 27-year-old could return to the Houston organization (possibly with another AFL stint). Here’s more from the American League:

  • While talks have been put on hold with the season well underway, the Red Sox seemingly remain quite interested in keeping Jon Lester in the fold, as Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe reports on Twitter“Every effort is going to be made to make sure that Jon remains in a Red Sox uniform,” said manager John Farrell“We’re hopeful that takes place.”
  • The Tigers‘ trade for Alex Gonzalez raised some questions at the time it was made, and that only increased as he struggled and was ultimately released. MLB.com’s Jason Beck writes that the deal was unquestionably a miss, but says that GM Dave Dombrowski took a calculated risk based on the assessments of the same scouts that have supported other risks that worked out for the club. Another stop-gap acquisition at short is unlikely at this point, Beck adds.

Astros Outright Lucas Harrell

Righty Lucas Harrell has been outrighted by the Astros after clearing waivers, reports MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart (via Twitter). Harrell had been designated for assignment a week ago.

Once viewed as a useful piece with valuable control, Harrell has seen his stock plummet since the start of the 2013 season. He notched a solid in 2012 — 193 2/3 innings of 3.76 ERA ball with a 57.2% ground ball rate and 6.5 K/9 against 3.6 BB/9 — but has been ineffective since. Last year, Harrell’s control faded (5.2 BB/9) even as he missed less bats (5.2 K/9, career-low 5.1% swinging strike rate).

Houston finally moved him off of the club’s 40-man roster after Harrell stumbled out of the gates in 2014. The good news for the Astros is that the out-of-options hurler managed to pass through waivers, meaning that the club will have the chance to let him try to rediscover his form in the upper minors. Depending upon whether and when he makes it back to the bigs this year, Harrell will come with three or four years of team control still in place.


Padres Acquire Tyler Greene From Braves

The Padres have acquired infielder Tyler Greene from the Braves in exchange for a player to be named later, reports David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (via Twitter).

Greene, 30, was playing at Triple-A for the Atlanta organization. He has seen action at the MLB level in each of the last five seasons, though never more than the 116 games he appeared in over the 2012 campaign. For his career, Greene has a .224.289/.356 triple-slash in 746 plate appearances. He has appeared mostly at short and second, but has seen time at every other position on the diamond except the battery.


Tommy John Surgery Likely For Ivan Nova

TODAY: The Yankees announced that Nova’s second exam confirmed that he has a partially torn UCL, and that Ahmad has recommended surgery.

YESTERDAY: The Tommy John epidemic that is sweeping Major League Baseball looks to have another victim, as Yankees right-hander Ivan Nova learned after an MRI this weekend that he has a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, writes Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News. Feinsand says that Nova will be re-examined today by team physician Chris Ahmad, but the very likely outcome is that Nova will be the 15th pitcher to undergo Tommy John surgery this season.

Nova was roughed up by the Rays in his start on Saturday, but he didn’t feel any discomfort in his elbow until the final pitch he threw, writes Feinsand. Nova said he felt a pop on that pitch and was in denial as he was being removed from the game, not believing himself to be seriously injured and wanting to continue pitching to spare his bullpen.

With Nova likely on the shelf through next spring, the Yankees will test their internal depth. Vidal Nuno could be the favorite to take over in the team’s rotation, though other options such as David Phelps and Adam Warren are present. New York could also look to the waiver wire and continue to get by with a patchwork solution until clubs begin making more reliable arms available on the trade market this summer.

Needless to say, the resurgence of Michael Pineda is now even more impactful for the Yankees. Were it not for Pineda’s health, the club would be fielding a rotation of Masahiro Tanaka, Hiroki Kuroda, a declining CC Sabathia and a pair of the aforementioned internal options. Now, manager Joe Girardi tells Feinsand that he will meet with GM Brian Cashman, presumably on today’s off-day, to determine which of Nuno, Phelps or Warren will step into Nova’s spot.


Orioles To Designate Steve Pearce For Assignment

The Orioles will designate outfielder Steve Pearce for assignment, reports Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (via Twitter). Pearce agreed with Baltimore on a $700K deal to avoid arbitration this winter.

Pearce, 31, had only seven plate appearances in the early portion of the 2014 season. Last year, in 138 trips to the dish at the MLB level, he put up a .261/.362/.420 line. The club has previously outrighted Pearce, so he would have the right to decline a minor league assignment (assuming he is ultimately exposed to outright waivers).


Blue Jays Claim Darin Mastroianni, Designate Kenny Wilson

The Blue Jays have claimed outfielder Darin Mastroianni off waivers from the Twins, the club announced via press release. To make room on the 40-man roster, Toronto designated fellow outfielder Kenny Wilson for assignment.

Mastroianni originally came to Minnesota from the Jays via waiver claim in February of 2012, as Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press notes on Twitter. The 28-year-old has not produced much in limited MLB time since,: he possesses a .220/.228/.295 career line, virtually all of which has come with the Twins. Mastroianni is known for his ability to get on base: he has a lifetime .372 OBP at both the Double-A and Triple-A level, having spent parts of four seasons at each.

Wilson, 24, has yet to see time in the bigs or the highest level of the minors. He is off to a slow start at Double-A (.210/.239/.306 in 68 plate appearances) after putting up a .259/.333/.375 line with 16 stolen bases in 242 plate appearances in his first stint at that level last year. Wilson opened the year at the 22nd spot on Baseball America’s list of the team’s prospects. The speedy center fielder is said to have starter upside if he can translate his tools into production.