Cardinals Fire Scouting Director For Role In Astros Breach

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

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.


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.


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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.


George Springer To DL With Fractured Wrist

The Astros have placed young outfielder George Springer on the 15-day DL with a fractured wrist, the club announced. Springer left last night’s ballgame after being hit by a pitch.

GM Jeff Luhnow indicated that it will be a minimum of six weeks before Springer can return “to playing baseball,” seemingly implying that was the best case scenario, as Jose De Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle reports on Twitter. Of course, even then, a rehab stint would seem to be likely. There was good news, however: the fracture will not require surgery and can be allowed to heal on its own, Luhnow tells MLB.com’s Chandler Rome (via Twitter).

All said, Springer appears to be down for a significant stretch. Houston will be anxious to get him back in action as soon as possible, but will surely take care with its burgeoning star to be sure that the freak injury does not turn into a more serious, longer-term problem.

Springer, 25, has emerged as one of the game’s most exciting young players for a resurgent Astros club. He has put up an excellent .264/.365/.457 slash with 13 home runs and 14 stolen bases over 324 plate appearances this season, showing that his rookie campaign was no fluke.

Houston will turn to its internal depth for the time being, at least, by bringing up Alex Presley from Triple-A. And there are other options for filling in the outfield void, including Jake Marisnick and Evan Gattis. (While he is a lumbering defender, putting Gattis in left and Marisnick or Colby Rasmus in center would free the team to put both Jon Singleton and Chris Carter into a lineup.)

Luhnow indicated that the team will consider all options for dealing with the loss of Springer (also via Rome, on Twitter). “We’re going to have to rely on the depth internally,” said Luhnow. If not, we’ll have to look externally.” Whether or not the club considers an outside addition could well depend upon Springer’s prognosis, of course, though it stands to reason that pitching will remain Houston’s primary objective.


NL International Signings: Rockies, Mets, Braves, Nats, Reds

Here are the day’s notable international signings from the National League. Rankings courtesy of Ben Badler of Baseball AmericaKiley McDaniel of Fangraphs, and MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez.

  • The Rockies have a $2MM deal in place with outfielder Daniel Montano after he signed today, per a tweet from MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez. Montano rated 12th on the MLB.com board, based upon his good instincts in center, smooth left-handed stroke, and decent power potential. There are some questions, including inconsistent performances at times, which led BA to slot him 16th and Fangraphs to rank him just outside the top twenty.

Earlier Updates

  • The Mets have landed two top international shortstops, according to Badler. Venezuelan product Andres Gimenez, the second overall prospect on Badler’s list, is headed to New York. The bonus will be for $1.2MM, per Sanchez (via Twitter), for a player that Badler called the second-best available prospect based upon his excellent batting skills from the left side of the plate, decent power potential, and strong overall defensive profile. And Dominican shortstop Gregory Guerrero will also join the club after agreeing to a $1.5MM bonus, per Badler. Guerrero, cousin of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and nephew of Vlad Sr., rated 9th among July 2 prospects in McDaniel’s estimation. Per McDaniel, the Mets signee has a more advanced hit than power tool, but could increase his pop over time. He is ultimately expected to move off of short to the hot corner. Having entered the day with $2,531,300 in spending capacity, these two deals put New York at just over 6.6% above their pool. That would line the team up to face a one-year ban on signings of over $500K, making a deal for another bonus slot appear likely.
  • The Braves have a deal in place with shortstop Derian Cruz for $2MM, Badler reports. McDaniel was high on Cruz, rating him the 8th-best player available, citing his outstanding speed, good hitting tools, and potential ability to stay at the shortstop position or otherwise play up the middle defensively. Atlanta also agreed to a $1.4MM bonus with outfielder Christian Pache, per Sanchez (via Twitter), the tenth-rated player on MLB.com’s top-thirty list. While these signings will put pressure on the team’s total spending allotment of $2,458,400, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman tweets that the club will attempt to trade for about $1MM in extra capacity to steer clear of future signing restrictions.
  • Dominican outfielder Juan Soto will join the Nationals after agreeing to a $1.5MM deal, Sanchez tweets. That’s the team’s largest-ever bonus for a young international signing, James Wagner of the Washington Post notes on Twitter. Soto’s appeal lies more in his feel and approach at the plate than in pure bat speed, Baseball America writes in rating him 13th in the class. Though he does not offer much on defense and looks to be a corner outfielder in the future, Soto is said to have the potential to be an above-average offensive producer both in terms of pure hitting and power.
  • The Reds have agreed to a $1MM bonus with outfielder Christian Olivo, according to Sanchez (via Twitter). MLB.com was highest on Olivo, rating him 23rd on the international market and noting that he has a fairly high power ceiling that he has yet to fully tap into. The left-handed hitter has drawn mixed reviews in the baserunning and defensive departments.

AL International Signings: Royals, Astros, Mariners, White Sox

Here are the day’s notable international signings from the American League. Rankings courtesy of Ben Badler of Baseball AmericaKiley McDaniel of Fangraphs, and MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez.

  • The Royals have agreed to terms with Dominican outfielder Seuly Matias, Badler reports. He’ll get a $2.25MM bonus, per a Sanchez tweet. Matias ranked as high as seventh on international prospect lists, with Baseball America giving him that slot and citing his big upside. Matias is said to possess a legitimate gun from the outfield, and could have the athleticism to stick in center field. There are some questions about how advanced his bat is, but Matias reportedly has good bat speed and real promise if he can develop. Kansas City also added infielder Jeison Guzman for a $1.5MM price tag, Sanchez reports on Twitter. Badler was also the most optimistic evaluator on Guzman, writing that he still has plenty of growing to do but has good overall athleticism and a good feel for the shortstop position despite sub-par speed. With just $2,074,700 to play with this year, Kansas City could be on its way to a signing ban unless it can trade for additional bonus slots.
  • Outfielder Gilberto Celestino, a native of the Dominican Republic, has agreed to a $2.5MM bonus with the Astros, per Sanchez (via Twitter). MLB.com had him in the seventh position coming into today, explaining that he could be a long-term center fielder. Though some have questioned whether he has good enough raw tools to be an impactful player down the line, MLB.com says that Celestino has a good track record of production and solid makeup.
  • The Mariners have a $1.7MM deal in place with Dominican infielder Carlos Vargas, Sanchez reports on Twitter. Seattle lands a player that McDaniel placed tenth on his international prospect board. Vargas is both projectable and comes with a good track record, though he’s likely to move from short to third in the long run.
  • Outfielder Franklin Reyes is headed to the White Sox for $1.5MM, Sanchez tweets. Reyes rated near the back of the top thirty on the above-linked rankings. He’s already 6’4 and is adding weight, contributing to his big power potential and strong arm. He’ll have to improve his overall hitting ability and show enough mobility in the corner outfield to pan out, according to Badler. Chicago also added Fernando Tatis Jr., son of the former big leaguer, for a $700K bonus.

Brewers GM Doug Melvin Considering New Role With Club

Brewers GM Doug Melvin is actively discussing a move into a new role within the organization, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (Twitter links).

Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported earlier (on Twitter) that he expects Melvin to move into a role similar to that of recently-signed Phillies president Andy MacPhail. Per Haudricourt, that move could come at the end of this year, in time for Melvin to take up his new post for the 2016 campaign — presumably with a new GM serving underneath him.

All said, it appears that noting is imminent, with the organization apparently plotting a measured transition. Melvin has been in discussions with club owner Mark Attanasio for several weeks, says Heyman, about what a new front office structure might look like. Change “could happen” after the end of the current season, per the CBS Sports report.

Milwaukee has had rather a disappointing season and currently carries the league’s second-worst record. The team already dismissed manager Ron Roenicke earlier in the season. But Melvin has been in his post since way back in 2002, and it seems that he’s more likely to shift into a senior capacity than follow Roenicke out of the organization.


Giants To Sign Lucius Fox

10:10am: When the deal is official, it will be for $6MM, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports on Twitter.

8:34am: The Giants have agreed to sign shortstop Lucius Fox to an approximately $6.5MM bonus, Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com reports on Twitter. Fox, who’ll officially sign out of the Bahamas, entered the July 2 period as a consensus top-five prospect.

Fox had been said to be a Dodgers target, but news emerged yesterday that he was likely heading to their NL West rivals. He was a consensus top-five available player, with Sanchez and Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel placing him third and Ben Badler of Baseball America slotting Fox in the fourth spot.

This signings demonstrates some of the interesting interplay between the draft and international market. Fox is a native of the Bahamas, but had been playing high school ball in Florida. But he was successfully able to sign as an international free agent after returning to the Bahamas and winning a petition with Major League Baseball. That gave the MVP Sports Group client a chance to cash in on a much bigger bonus than he likely would have achieved through the draft.

Fox is said to be an excellent athlete, and he offers a high-contact bat — though he lacks power. He could be a quality up-the-middle defender, per Badler (subscription link), who says there’s a possibility that Fox will end up in center. McDaniel notes that Fox could also play second, but may also have a chance at sticking at his natural shortstop and will likely begin his professional career there.

San Francisco had just $2,130,900 in available pool capacity coming into the day, per Baseball America, meaning that it will owe a significant penalty fee on top of the dollars owed to Fox. And the Giants will be among those teams that is heavily restricted from major spending (bonuses of $300K or more) over the next two signing periods.


Cubs Sign Slate Of International Prospects To Large Bonuses

The Cubs have made a splash early in the international market by locking up a lengthy list of players to significant bonuses. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez first reported the bulk of the signings.

Among the players inked, the biggest bonus goes to Yonathan Sierra Estiwal, an outfielder from the Dominican Republic, who’ll get $2.5MM. He earned the 16th slot on the MLB.com board, which noted that there could be some power in his long frame, while Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs and Baseball America’s Ben Badler ranked him outside the top thirty available players.

Another $2MM will go to countryman Aramis Ademan, a shortstop, whose signing was first reported by Ben Badler of Baseball America with Sanchez adding the cash value. Badler placed him within his top dozen players, explaining that he offers more in the way of solid promise than huge upside. A contact hitter with minimal power and uninspiring speed, Ademan shows promise as an on-base threat and is a smooth, competent fielder at short with solid arm strength.

Also checking in with seven-figure bonuses were Venezuelan shortstop Yonathan Perlaza ($1.3MM), Panamanian catcher Miguel Amaya ($1.25MM), and Dominican corner infielder Christopher Martinez ($1MM). All of those players earned top-thirty billing in at least one of the above-linked rankings. Sanchez adds that righty Yunior Perez is also going to Chicago for $600K.

Tally up those deals, and the total outlay stands at $7.65MM. That’s more than double the club’s $3,230,700 total pool allocation (via Baseball America), meaning that the Cubs will sacrifice the ability to hand out any $300K+ bonuses for the next two years and incur a 100% tax on its overage. The club could still trade for some additional spending slots to offset some of those penalty fees.