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.


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NL Central Links: Maldonado, Volquez, Walker, Cubs

The Pirates and the Brewers found themselves in the midst of controversy over the weekend as the result of a benches-clearing brawl started by a verbal exchange between Gerrit Cole and Carlos Gomez. However, Martin Maldonado was also involved in the scuffle, landing a punch on Travis Snider, and ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that Maldonado will be suspended for five games and fined $2,500 (Twitter links). Maldonado, who is earning $502K this season, will end up losing a little more than $16K as a result of the suspension and fine, which translates to roughly three percent of his salary. The official announcement of all suspensions resulting from the brawl is expected today, tweets Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Here’s more from the NL Central…

  • MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince examines Edinson Volquez‘s strong start with the Pirates and wonders if he is the next successful reclamation project for pitching coach Ray Searage and special assistant to the GM Jim Benedict. Castrovince runs down many of the techniques that Searage and the Pirates have gone through with Volquez to improve his command and mechanics. He also writes that Francisco Liriano played a large role in Volquez signing with Pittsburgh, as Liriano heavily recruited his fellow Dominican to join the Bucs, telling him it was a perfect place to rebuild his career. (In addition to Liriano, both A.J. Burnett and Mark Melancon have experienced tremendous turnarounds upon arrival in Pittsburgh.)
  • Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review breaks down Neil Walker‘s continually improving approach at the plate, noting his increased contact rates and decreased chase rates over the past few years. Sawchik wonders if Walker’s approach has him on the cusp of emerging as a star-caliber second baseman.
  • Former Cubs coach Dave McKay spoke with Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times and said that both he and former manager Dale Sveum were surprised by their dismissals after two years, as president Theo Epstein had said from the beginning that the coaching staff wouldn’t be evaluated based on performance. Still, McKay praised the organization and Epstein’s rebuild, stating that he had no hard feelings toward the club and praising them for retaining pitching coach Chris Bosio and catching coach Mike Borzello. McKay, a Phoenix-area resident, caught on as a coach with the Diamondbacks this offseason.

Free Agent Notes: Hanrahan, Carbonell, Penny, Braddock

Free agent reliever Joel Hanrahan has fielded “a few” offers from clubs, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. He is not close to signing, however, adds Cotillo. Hanrahan reportedly drew a large showing to his recent showcase, and looked good as he works to return from Tommy John surgery. Since then we’ve heard that multiple teams are already discussing a contract with him, but the Mets have yet to decide whether they’ll make an offer.

Here are a few more notes on some free agents from around the league…

  • Cuban outfielder Daniel Carbonell has been declared a free agent, reports FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal (Twitter links). There is very little public information floating around on the 23-year-old outfielder, though ObstructedView.net rounds up some information suggesting that speed is his calling card. Last October, El Diario De Cuba reported that Carbonell and fellow Serie Nacional  player Orlando Perez had defected from the island. Carbonell has enough experience to be considered a professional and therefore wouldn’t count against a team’s international bonus pool as long as he signs by July 2 of this year.
  • Brad Penny‘s agents at Millennium tell Cotillo that Penny will throw for multiple clubs in Kansas City this week (Twitter link). Penny requested his release from the Royals early in Spring Training after the club told him that he wasn’t likely to make the team. Penny, 35, last appeared in the Majors in 2012 with the Giants and has a 4.26 ERA in 1899 career innings at the big league level.
  • Cotillo also reports (via Twitter) that former Brewers left-hander Zach Braddock worked out for the Dodgers yesterday. Baseball America ranked the control-challenged strikeout artist 13th or higher on Milwaukee’s list of Top 30 prospects each year from 2007-09. Braddock has a career 3.80 ERA in the minors and has averaged a whopping 12 strikeouts per nine innings, but he’s also averaged nearly five walks per nine frames. That same profile has held true in the Majors, where he has a 4.41 ERA with 10.4 K/9 and 5.3 BB/9 in 51 innings. Braddock underwent shoulder surgery to repair his left labrum midway through the 2012 season.

Jeff Todd contributed to this post.


Yankees Outright Cesar Cabral

Left-hander Cesar Cabral has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A by the Yankees, according to the team’s official transactions page. Cabral, who has been outrighted before, will have the option to refuse the assignment and elect free agency if he wishes.

The 25-year-old Cabral, who was designated for assignment on April 18, originally came to the Yankees back in 2011. The Royals selected him fifth in that year’s Rule 5 Draft and promptly traded him to New York for cash considerations. A stress fracture in his elbow caused him to miss most of the 2012 campaign and a good deal of 2013 as well, which is the reason that he has just 4 2/3 innings at the big league level. Within that small sample of Major League experience, Cabral has allowed four runs on seven hits and three walks with eight strikeouts. Most of the damage against him came in his final outing this year, in which he hit three batters without recording an out and was charged with three runs.

Cabral has a pretty solid minor league track record, having turned in a 3.77 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 384 career innings. However, just 10 1/3 of those innings have come at the Triple-A level, and the results (eight earned runs) haven’t matched up with his success at lower levels just yet.


Ryan Roberts Accepts Outright Assignment

Infielder Ryan Roberts has cleared waivers after being designated for assignment and accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Pawtucket, the Red Sox announced yesterday.

The 33-year-old Roberts collected just two hits and three walks in 22 plate appearances for the Sox after signing a Major League deal with them when Will Middlebrooks went down with an injury. Though he didn’t perform particularly well in that very small sample, Roberts has demonstrated in the past that he has enough pop and speed to post double-digit totals in homers and stolen bases, particularly in his 2011 campaign with the D’Backs when he slashed .249/.321/.427 with 19 homers and 18 steals.

For his career, Roberts owns a .243/.320/.388 batting line with 46 homers and 35 stolen bases. He’s been particularly useful against left-handed pitching, hitting at a .261/.337/.435 clip. Defensive Runs Saved feels that he’s an average defender at third base and has been worth +5 runs in about a season’s worth of innings at second base (1357), while UZR/150 feels he’s a plus defender at each position.


Ryan Rowland-Smith Elects Free Agency

The Diamondbacks announced yesterday that left-hander Ryan Rowland-Smith has cleared waivers after being designated for assignment and elected free agency rather than accept an outright assignment to Triple-A.

The 31-year-old Australian made a return to the Major Leagues this season after a three-year absence, and though he posted a 4.91 ERA in a small 7 1/3 inning sample size, he also struck out nine batters in that time and limited left-handed batters to three singles in 12 plate appearances.

For his career, Rowland-Smith has a 4.57 ERA with 5.6 K/9, 3.4 BB/9 and a 37.5 percent ground-ball rate. He’s worked 47 games as a starter and posted a 4.87 ERA in that time, but in 100 1/3 innings of relief, he’s posted a much better 3.77 ERA with an even better 3.59 FIP, suggesting that he could be a useful arm out of the bullpen.