Cuban Prospect Luis Yander La O Defects

Cuban infielder Luis Yander La O has defected from Cuba while traveling with the national team to North Carolina, Ben Badler of Baseball America reports. The 23-year-old had been said to be attempting a few months back.

La O (who is also sometimes given the surname “Camacho”) becomes the second player to defect on the national team’s swing through the states, joining Yadiel Hernandez. He intends to seek to achieve free agency and sign with a big league club, per Badler.


Angels Acquire Rafael Lopez From Cubs

3:12pm: Chicago will receive the 120th slot, which carries $149,700 in spending capacity, Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com tweets.

1:56pm: The Angels and Cubs have agreed to a trade that will send minor league catcher Rafael Lopez to Anaheim in exchange for an international bonus slot and left-handed pitching prospect Manuel Rondon, the teams announced. Chicago had designated Lopez for assignment last week.

The 27-year-old Lopez debuted with the Cubs in 2014 and received 14 plate appearances. Lopez picked up a pair of hits in that brief cup of coffee, and he’s had a reasonable amount of success in the upper minors. In 107 games/410 plate appearances at the Triple-A level, Lopez is a .281/.359/.333 hitter and has caught 30 percent of attempted base stealers.  With Miguel Montero projecting as the team’s catcher for the foreseeable future and David Ross signed to a two-year deal, though, there was little hope of Lopez carving out a significant role in the Majors anytime soon. He was on the Cubs’ 40-man roster and has subsequently been added to the Halos’ 40-man roster as well. The Angels announced that Lopez has been optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake.

Rondon, 20, is a left-handed pitcher out of Venezuela that has spent the past two seasons pitching for the Angels’ affiliate in the Dominican Summer League. He worked to a 2.50 ERA with 8.0 K/9 against 3.8 BB/9 in 108 innings at that level over the past two seasons, though he’s not particularly young for the league. This season, Rondon has moved up to he Rookie league in Arizona, where he’s struggled in a small 8 1/3-inning sample, yielding eight runs on 13 hits and four walks with seven strikeouts. He will not turn 21 until next March.

In the past 24 hours, the Angels have added Lopez and right-handers Gaither Bumgardner and Jason Hoppe in exchange for international bonus slots. The Angels are restricted from signing any international amateur for more than $300K after blowing past their budget to sign Roberto Baldoquin last winter, rendering the slots largely inconsequential to them.


White Sox Sign Carson Fulmer

The White Sox announced today that they have signed first-round pick Carson Fulmer to a minor league contract with a $3,470,600 signing bonus. The announced bonus matches the full slot value of Fulmer’s No. 8 overall selection (slot value via Baseball America). A right-handed pitcher out of Vanderbilt, Fulmer was advised by and is now a client of Icon Sports Management.

Carson Fulmer

Fulmer was one of the most interesting available players heading into the draft, with big-time stuff and a track record of excellence in major college ball, but also questions about whether he’ll be a big league starter in the long run. Having dominated the SEC with a 1.83 ERA and 13.1 K/9 against 3.9 BB/9, and featuring a sustainable, mid-90s heater with a very good curve and promising change, Fulmer is about as MLB-ready as drafted players come.

So what’s the downside? To an extent, it comes down to how you value near-term contributions versus long-term expectations, as Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs explained before the draft. Those prospect observers that attributed significant value to his near-big league readiness rated Fulmer as a top-ten prospect (McDaniel had him fifth, MLB.com ranked him 3rd, and Baseball America placed him sixth on its list).

But others, concerned with Fulmer’s high-effort delivery, relatively small stature, and lack of a consistent third pitch, put more weight on the idea that he has too great a chance of being relegated tot he pen in the long run. Keith Law of ESPN.com fell in the latter camp, placing Fulmer way down in the 43rd spot on his board.

Chicago, obviously, decided that Fulmer’s risky (but still high-ceiling) future outlook was worth taking on in order to add such an immediately impactful arm. With Fulmer now set to join an increasingly impressive stable of controllable starters — led by Chris Sale but also including Jose Quintana and last year’s third overall pick, Carlos Rodon — the White Sox rotation has quite a bit o potential. The team has now signed all of its choices from the first ten rounds.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Tigers Designate Joba Chamberlain, Tom Gorzelanny

The Tigers will designate right-hander Joba Chamberlain for assignment, Kurt Mensching of SB Nation and the Detriot News first reported (on Twitter). Anthony Fenech of the Detroit News reports (via Twitter) that lefty Tom Gorzelanny will be designated for assignment as well. The Tigers have since announced the moves, adding that righties Jeff Ferrell and Drew VerHagen have been added to the roster in place of the departed veterans.

Chamberlain and Gorzelanny both came to the Tigers on one-year, $1MM contracts this offseason, and while each looked to be at least a reasonable low-cost roll of the dice at the time, neither has panned out as GM Dave Dombrowski and his staff have hoped.

The 29-year-old Chamberlain has posted a 4.09 ERA with 6.1 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and a 41 percent ground-ball rate in 22 innings with Detroit this season. Those numbers, on the surface, aren’t entirely unsightly, but Chamberlain has been plagued by the long ball in 2015. He’s yielded five homers in those 22 innings, resulting in an FIP mark of 5.49. (xFIP, which normalizes his homer-to-flyball rate, figures the 4.09 mark is more or less represented of Chamberlain’s talent level this year.) Chamberlain’s in the midst of a particularly poor stretch, having allowed nine runs (eight earned) in his past six innings — a span of eight appearances.

Gorzelanny’s struggles have been even more prolonged. The 32-year-old has totaled just 12 1/3 innings over his past 15 appearances, surrendering an alarming 15 runs, which translates to a 10.95 ERA in that stretch. Overall, he has a 6.75 ERA this season with 7.1 K/9, 5.6 BB/9 and a 36.7 percent ground-ball rate. While he’s proven capable of handling lefties in the past, same-handed hitters are batting .273/.380/.419 against Gorzelanny in 2015. Those numbers pale in comparison, though, to the batting line authored by opposing right-handed hitters: .382/.477/.600.

Both are owed $519K through the end of the season, and neither reliever appeared in enough games to see his incentives kick in. Chamberlain, somewhat notably, was five appearances shy of earning an additional $100K.


Giants Designate Travis Ishikawa For Assignment

12:52pm: The Giants have now announced the move, adding that Tim Hudson has been placed on the 15-day disabled list, with Jake Peavy being activated to fill his roster spot.

12:42pm: The Giants will announce today that they have designated first baseman/outfielder Travis Ishikawa for assignment and selected the contract of outfielder Ryan Lollis, a source tells Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News (Twitter link).

The 31-year-old Ishikawa was only recently brought up from Triple-A. He’s 0-for-5 with a walk in six plate appearances this season but has played a much more prominent role with the Giants in previous years. Last year, he batted .274/.333/.397 in 81 plate appearances with the Giants down the stretch and hit quite well for the team in the NLCS.

Originally a 21st-round pick of the Giants in 2002, Ishikawa bounced around the league a bit after parting ways with the team in 2010, only to return to the organization last season. The Giants elected to keep him around via the arbitration process, signing him to a one-year, $1.1MM contract, although he’s spent much of the season at Triple-A Sacramento. In parts of six seasons with the Giants, Ishikawa is a .264/.327/.396 hitter in 752 plate appearances.

The 28-year-old Lollis will be making his big league debut when he comes to the Giants. A 37th-round pick of the team back in 2009, he’s batting a hefty .358/.431/.500 across three minor league levels this season.


NL East Notes: Hamels, Marlins, Prado, Wright

Though he admitted that he’s not privy to the front office’s discussions, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin told Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com that he expects ace Cole Hamels to be traded. “We’re not involved on the field,” said Mackanin. “But the whole point of this year basically is to see young guys, help us get ready for next year and beyond. If we can get good deals for Hamels and good deals for whomever else there might be out there, (Jonathan) Papelbon.” Hamels recently told Salisbury that he’s open to a trade to any club, including the Blue Jays and Astros. Previous reports had indicated that Hamels would block a deal to either club.

Here’s more from the NL East…

  • The Tigers are scouting the Marlins‘ starting pitchers, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter). There could be very little to read into here, as multiple teams are likely scouting the Marlins, and the Tigers of course are scouting other clubs. Nonetheless, a pitching matchup, at least on paper, does seem to exist between the two sides. The Tigers have seen Shane Greene lose his spot in the rotation and received little from Justin Verlander to this point. A solid addition to the rotation would make some sense, and the Marlins have a surplus now that Jose Fernandez is healthy. Fernandez joins Mat Latos, Dan Haren, Tom Koehler and Jarred Cosart in the rotation. Latos and Haren, though, are free agents at season’s end, and the team has internal replacements capable of slotting into the rotation in the event of a trade.
  • Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald hears that the Marlins are indeed willing to listen to offers on Latos and Haren. He adds Steve Cishek to that list as well and unsurprisingly says that the fallen closer likely will be non-tendered this offseason. Jackson, like other reporters, hears that the team isn’t entertaining the idea of moving Martin Prado at this point.
  • Mets captain David Wright is “extremely optimistic” that he can begin baseball activities next week, tweets ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin. Wright won’t begin hitting in that time, however. Previously, the Mets have expressed hope to have the third baseman back by the All-Star break, though that timeline is fast approaching and Wright is still quite a ways from a rehab assignment.

Braves Inquiring On Young Catchers, Willing To Deal Pitching Prospects

The Braves are looking to upgrade their offense and have let other clubs know that they’re willing to trade from their recently bolstered stable of pitching prospects in order to acquire a bat, reports Jayson Stark of ESPN (via Twitter). According to Stark, Atlanta has asked other clubs about the availability of their young catchers.

It’s just one tweet, but there’s a lot to digest there. For one, it doesn’t seem that the Braves will act as strict sellers, as they did for much of the past offseason. Additionally, the Braves’ desire to add a young catcher is perhaps somewhat telling of the confidence they have in rocket-armed but offensively-challenged (to this point, at least) Christian Bethancourt.

Bethancourt has been tabbed as the Braves’ catcher of the future for quite some time, but he’s batted just .223/.248/.279 in 222 big league plate appearances in his young career. Still just 23 years old, Bethancourt’s been optioned back to Triple-A this season in favor of a more veteran combination of A.J. Pierzynski and Ryan Lavarnway. He’s hit well in he minors since his return, but the fact that the Braves are inquiring about young backstops has to at least call into question whether or not the restructured front office feels that Bethancourt’s bat can catch up to his vaunted arm.

As far as pitching prospects are concerned, the Braves are very suddenly in no short supply. The Braves seem likely to use a combination of Shelby Miller, Alex Wood and Julio Teheran at the front of their rotation for the foreseeable future, and they have a handful of MLB-ready arms to choose from for the remaining two spots. Mike Foltynewicz, Matt Wisler and Manny Banuelos have all made starts for Atlanta this season, and any two of the three could be looked at as a rotation piece going forward. Further down the line are Max Fried and Lucas Sims, each of whom is recovering from injury. The Braves also picked up right-hander Touki Toussaint, the No. 16 overall pick from the 2014 draft, in a recent trade with the Diamondbacks. Fellow Class-A hurler Ricardo Sanchez, a high-ceiling arm in his own right, was acquired from the Angels this offseason.

Suffice it to say, the Braves have gone from an underwhelming farm system to one teeming with pitching prospects after an offseason of trades from new president of baseball operations John Hart. What the team lacks, however, is offense at a number of positions. In addition to the struggles of their catchers — a combined .237/.270/.357 batting line — left field has been an egregiously detriment to the club’s offensive output. Atlanta left fielders have combined to bat just .221/.284/.311 this season.

It seems unlikely that the Braves would move one of their talented young pitchers for a pure rental, so the expectation here is that any bat theoretically acquired by Atlanta would be under control beyond the 2015 season — perhaps beyond the 2016 campaign as well. Previous reports have indicated that the Braves inquired with the Brewers on Jonathan Lucroy‘s availability, though most indications remain that the Brewers are unlikely to move him.


Minor MLB Transactions: 7-3-15

Today’s roundup of minor transactions from around the league…

  • Outfielder Xavier Avery exercised a July 1 opt out clause and was granted his release by the Tigers, reports James Schmehl of MLive.com (via Twitter). Formerly one of the Orioles’ top prospects, the fleet-footed Avery has enjoyed a very nice season with Triple-A Toledo to this point, hitting .305/.371/.393, although his typically strong success rate is stolen bases is down this year. The 25-year-old has swiped 14 bases but been caught 10 times. A former second-round pick, Avery has eclipsed the 30-steal mark four times throughout his minor league career.
  • Also via Schmehl, it seems that Avery’s spot will be filled by another once-promising outfield prospect, as he reports that Trayvon Robinson has signed a minor league pact with Detroit and is headed to Toledo. Once a well-regarded prospect in the Dodgers’ system, Robinson’s career has stalled a bit in recent seasons. He’s spent the early portion of the season with the Diamondbacks’ Triple-A affiliate, batting .276/.357/.448. He’s a career .258/.332/.423 hitter in parts of five Triple-A seasons. Robinson reached the Majors in 2011-12 with the Mariners but posted a .602 OPS in 319 total plate appearances.
  • First baseman Daric Barton has been released from the Blue Jays‘ Triple-A affiliate, tweets Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith. Barton, a longtime member of the Athletics, batted just .196/.282/.299 this season at Triple-A Buffalo. Still 29 years of age, Barton served as Oakland’s everyday first baseman in the 2010 season and led the American League with 110 walks that year. He’s slashed .216/.323/.284 in 600 big league plate appearances since that time, however.
  • The Blue Jays announced yesterday that the recently designated Steven Tolleson has cleared outright waivers and been outrighted to Buffalo. The 31-year-old utility man was designated on July 1 after his rehab assignment ended in the minors and Toronto had to make a call on his roster status. He’s been outrighted in the past and will therefore have the option to refuse the assignment in favor of free agency.

Rays Acquire Garrett Fulenchek From Braves

The Braves announced that they have traded minor league right-hander Garrett Fulenchek to the Rays in exchange for a pair of international bonus slots. The value of those slots comes out to roughly $494K.

This marks the third separate trade that the Braves have made today in order to acquire international bonus money. The moves were made necessary by a pair of agreements to sign promising young international prospects Derian Cruz and Christian Pache for a combined total of $3.4MM. The Braves began this year’s international signing period with a bonus pool of $2,458,400, meaning they needed to acquire nearly $900K to accommodate the agreements free of penalty. Thus far, Atlanta has traded right-hander Cody Martin to the A’s and, in a second trade, sent minor leaguers Jordan Paroubeck and Caleb Dirks to the Dodgers. The combined total of those three moves has added $1,131,600 to its bonus pool, which will allow the Cruz and Pache signings to be finalized under the team’s cap, which has swelled to an even $3.59MM.

In parting with Fulenchek, however, the Braves have surrendered perhaps the most promising piece yet in any of these three deals. The 19-year-old was Atlanta’s second-round pick (66th overall) just one year ago. A high school righty out of Texas, Fulenchek debuted with the Braves’ Gulf Coast League affiliate in 2014 and pitched to a 4.78 ERA with 29 strikeouts against 22 walks in 37 2/3 innings. While those numbers aren’t exactly impressive, he still ranked firmly within the team’s Top 20 or so prospects. Baseball America rated him ninth among Atlanta farmhands this offseason, while Fangraphs placed him 17th. (Those rankings occurred prior to some of the team’s trades, however.) MLB.com presently ranks Fulenchek as the Braves’ No. 13 prospect.

Fulenchek received a $1MM signing bonus last year and is described by most as a projectable right-hander. BA praised Fulenchek’s ability to generate ground-balls with his fastball. Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel noted that he sits 91-95 mph with his fastball and touches 96 at times, also flashing an above-average slider. MLB.com notes that he’ll have to work on repeating his delivery point, but could develop into a big league starter over time.

Fulenchek is a far more notable acquisition than most players that are swapped for international pool money, though it should be noted that he was selected by the Braves’ previous front office, which has since undergone some changes. He’s not as highly touted a prospect as Touki Toussaint, whom Atlanta effectively purchased from the D-Backs last month, but it’s nonetheless a bit surprising to see such a high profile draft pick moved just over a year after he was selected.

The Rays, for comparison, acquired a similar pair of slots from the Marlins earlier today in exchange for minor league right-hander Enderson Franco despite being limited to a maximum of $300K per signing this period.


Blue Jays Designate Todd Redmond For Assignment

The Blue Jays have designated right-hander Todd Redmond for assignment and optioned lefty Matt Boyd to the minors, reports Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star (Twitter link). Corresponding moves will be announced by the team tomorrow, he adds.

Redmond, 30, worked a scoreless inning in tonight’s game, though that clean frame dropped his ERA to just 7.31 on the season. Redmond has worked 16 innings this year, surrendering 13 earned runs on 17 hits and seven walks with 13 strikeouts in that time. This DFA marks the third of the year for Redmond. He’s been outrighted and accepted his assignment to Triple-A after each of this previous instances.

Boyd, 24, was called up last week to make his big league debut and looked solid in his first outing. However, he surrendered seven runs on six hits and a walk without recording an out tonight versus the Red Sox.


Dodgers Designate Brandon League For Assignment

The Dodgers have designated right-hander Brandon League for assignment, the team announced. League, who is earning $7.5MM in 2015, has not pitched this season due to inflammation in his throwing shoulder. He had been on the 60-day disabled list.

League, 32, is in the final season of an ill-fated three-year, $22.5MM contract signed prior to the 2013 season. Widely panned from the moment it was signed, the contract looked dismal in year one, as League posted an ERA of 5.30 with a greatly diminished strikeout rate (4.6 K/9). The 2014 season proved to be a nice rebound for League, who worked to a 3.40 ERA with a slight increase in strikeouts (5.4 per nine) and a drastically improved ground-ball rate of 67.5 percent.

League earned that three-year deal (which was issued by the Dodgers’ former front office, headed by then-GM Ned Colletti) by posting a collective 3.38 ERA with 7.1 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, 59 saves and one of the game’s best ground-ball rates in 320 innings between the Blue Jays, Mariners and Dodgers from 2008-12.

By cutting bait on League, the Dodgers are now paying a combined $17MM to a pair of relievers — League and Brian Wilson — that will not throw a single pitch for the team in 2015. The Dodgers will have 10 days to trade, waive or release League, though in the event that he’s placed on waivers, he’ll assuredly go unclaimed due to his salary and health issues this season.


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 amassed 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.