East Notes: Castillo, Herrera, Gillick

New Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo will make his minor league debut tomorrow, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal writes. Castillo, who has not played in an official game since 2012, will debut in the Gulf Coast League. The minor league season is, of course, almost at an end — the GCL Red Sox have a three-game series against the Yankees in the GCL finals. Britton notes that Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket are both also headed to their league playoffs, so Castillo could soon head to one of those affiliates, possibly making his way to the Majors later this year. Here’s more from the East divisions.

  • Second baseman Dilson Herrera made his big-league debut with the Mets last night and went 0-for-3 with an error. “To be honest, it was a little bit of nerves going into the first inning, but after that it was fine,” said Herrera, via MetsBlog. “I felt good the rest of the night.” Herrera has made great strides since the Mets acquired him from the Pirates with Vic Black in the Marlon Byrd trade last year, and after a half-season breakout at Double-A Binghamton, he now looks like a top prospect. The Pirates paid heavily for Byrd, but he did hit .318/.357/.486 down the stretch for them, also hitting a homer in the Bucs’ win in the Wild Card game against the Reds.
  • Highly regarded former big-league GM Pat Gillick is now the Phillies‘ interim team president as David Montgomery takes a medical leave of absence, but GM Ruben Amaro says team operations will be “status quo,” Jake Kaplan of the Daily News writes. Gillick was the Phillies’ GM when they won the World Series in 2008, but Amaro says Gillick’s current duties will only be temporary.

Week In Review: 8/23/14 – 8/29/14

Here’s a look back at this week at MLBTR.

Trades

Claimed

Designated For Assignment

Outrighted

Released

Key Minor League Signings


Full Story | Comments | Categories: Week In Review

White Sox To Pursue Victor Martinez In Free Agency

The White Sox are preparing to make a run at Tigers DH Victor Martinez in free agency, Bruce Levine of 670TheScore.com reports on Twitter. Martinez, 35, is playing out the final year of the four-year, $50MM pact he signed to join Detroit before the 2011 season.

Chicago will have an opening for a veteran slugger with both Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko playing on expiring contracts. The pair has split duties at the DH position this year, but the switch-hitting Martinez would presumably occupy the role with just one roster spot. Of course, Dunn also provides something of a cautionary tale. He posted a .731 OPS over four years with the White Sox, which actually fell slightly below league average, making his $56MM deal a devastatingly poor investment given his lack of defensive flexibility.

Martinez, of course, proved a better investment than did Dunn, even though he no longer spends time behind the dish. Over three seasons in Detroit (he missed all of 2012), Martinez has put up a .318/.375/.479 slash with 52 home runs. He’s been even more impressive this year, bumping his line up to .327/.395/.555 and swatting a career-best 26 long balls.

In spite of his age, Martinez’s bat will obviously be enticing to many American League clubs. One major wild card remains whether or not he receives a qualifying offer from the Tigers, which could prove a particularly strong disincentive to teams that are not all-in on the immediate future. In that respect, of course, the White Sox represent an interesting suitor, as a move for Martinez would represent a signal that the team believes its contention window was opened.



NL Notes: Howard, Phillies, Venters, Brewers

Here’s the latest out of the National League …

  • The Phillies reversed course on Ryan Howard‘s playing time because the club believes the only way it can salvage anything in return for him is to keep him in the everyday lineup, Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Philadelphia hopes that an American League team will bite on Howard over the offseason, especially if he can put up the kinds of numbers (25 home runs, 100 RBI) that would shine up his surface appeal.
  • The word around Philadelphia is that no major changes to the decisionmaking structure will occur while club president David Montgomery is on leave, as MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. Both GM Ruben Amaro Jr. and Ryne Sandberg gave short and simple explanations that the status quo would continue. “We’re not really at liberty to really discuss much more about it,” said Amaro.
  • Braves reliever Jonny Venters will undergo and attempt to return from a third Tommy John procedure, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports on Twitter. Venters was one of the game’s better southpaw setup men over 2010-12, but he would be a rare pitcher to make it back from a trio of UCL replacements.
  • The Brewers are unlikely to make any last-minute moves, GM Doug Melvin tells MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy (Twitter link). Though the club made a claim and tried to acquire Rockies’ first baseman Justin Morneau, Melvin indicated that nothing seemed in the works at this point. “You never know, but probably not,” he said.

Minor Moves: Wilking Rodriguez, Tommy Field

Here are the day’s minor moves:

  • Not long after inking him to a minor league deal, the Yankees have released righty Wilking Rodriguez, Baseball America’s Matt Eddy tweets. Rodriguez, 24, had solid minor league numbers with the Royals, but was set loose when the club acquired Josh Willingham and needed a 40-man spot. He did not make an appearance in the New York system.
  • Days after being designated for assignment by the Pirates, infielder Tommy Field has been outrighted to Triple-A, according to the International League transactions page. Field was claimed by Pittsburgh from the Angles on August 10. On the year, he owns a .286/.357/.428 slash over 387 Triple-A plate appearances.

Royals Designate Bruce Chen For Assignment

The Royals have designated veteran lefty Bruce Chen for assignment, according to a tweet from Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Chen, a 37-year-old native of Panama, is playing on a one-year, $4.25MM deal that includes a $5.5MM option for next season ($1MM buyout).

Chen earned that deal with a strong 2013, in which he posted a 3.27 ERA over 121 innings, including 15 starts and 16 relief appearances. But he has not carried that production forward to 2014. Over 48 1/3 frames — again, evenly split between starts (7) and relief appearances (6) — Chen has allowed 7.45 earned runs per nine.

Of course, Chen’s peripherals remain largely in line with his recent marks: he has struck out batters at a 6.7 K/9 rate that matches exactly his career mean, and has walked slightly fewer batters (3.0 per nine) than he has averaged. Chen’s FIP (4.58), xFIP (4.64), and SIERA (4.43) all suggest that he has been as good or better than in years past, and should be in line for some positive regression.


Angels Outright Dane De La Rosa

The Angels have outrighted right-hander Dane De La Rosa to Triple-A after he cleared waivers, the club announced. The move clears a 40-man roster spot, though no corresponding move has been reported.

As Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register notes on Twitter, the move could theoretically be related to a trade. The Halos have not yet announced a starter for Saturday. Among the internal options, only one (Randy Wolf) would need to be given a 40-man spot, and he would not be available if he makes his planned start at Triple-A today.

The Angels added De La Rosa via trade just before the 2013 season, and rode him for 72 1/3 innings of 2.86 ERA ball last year, with 8.1 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9. But 2014 was less successful for the 31-year-old, who gave up three earned runs, three hits, and three walks in just 2 1/3 MLB innings. At Triple-A, he has worked to a 5.52 ERA over 29 1/3 frames, with 7.7 K/9 against 5.2 BB/9.


Diamondbacks Release Xavier Paul

The Diamondbacks announced that they have released outfielder Xavier Paul in order to clear a roster spot for Nolan Reimold, who was claimed off waivers from the Blue Jays yesterday.

Paul inked a minor league deal with the D’Backs earlier this month, as MLBTR’s Zach Links reported, and his contract was promptly selected from Triple-A Reno. The veteran outfielder picked up 21 plate appearances with Arizona, collecting a pair of singles and a walk along the way.

Paul’s best seasons at the plate came with the Reds from 2012-13, when he batted .264/.350/.420 with nine homers in 334 plate appearances in a part-time role. Overall, he’s a lifetime .250/.311/.368 hitter in 767 PA with the Dodgers, Reds, Pirates and D’Backs.


Rangers Release Phil Irwin

The Rangers announced that they have released right-hander Phil Irwin in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for infielder/outfielder Ryan Rua, whose contract has been selected from Triple-A Round Rock. Rua will replace outfielder Jim Adduci, who has been placed on the 7-day concussion list, on the active roster.

Irwin, 27, made one appearance for the Rangers this season, making a spot start back in early July and allowed three earned runs in four innings of work. That performance was similar to the lone spot start he made with the Pirates in 2013. Those two outings combined make up the entirety of Irwin’s Major League experience, but he does have a respectable 4.15 ERA with 9.5 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 in 104 career innings at the Triple-A level. He was on the disabled list with Round Rock prior to this transaction.

The 24-year-old Rua, a 17th-round pick of the Rangers back in the 2011 draft, has posted a combined .306/.378/.488 with 18 homers between Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Round Rock. He ranked 19th among Rangers prospects on the midseason Top 20 list compiled by Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com.


Orioles, Nelson Cruz Mutually Interested In Extension

3:03pm: Cruz himself now tells reporters, including MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli, that the Orioles and Katz have had some extension talks since the All-Star break, but the talks have not been serious in nature. The slugger adds that after his difficult experience last offseason, he would like to get an extension worked out before season’s end, although he knows that scenario may not be realistic, given the casual nature of talks to this point. He also repeated that he would like to remain an Oriole beyond the 2014 season (Twitter links).

11:37am: The Orioles and Nelson Cruz share an interest in keeping the slugger in Baltimore past the 2014 season, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports.  Both Dan Duquette and Adam Katz (Cruz’s agent) declined on comment on whether any extension talks have already taken place or will take place, though both parties have felt Cruz has been a good fit in Baltimore this year.

It’s no secret it’s been a very positive experience for Nelson and the Orioles — though I don’t want to speak for them,” Katz said. “He’s enjoyed every minute of it.”

Cruz is set to hit free agency this winter and his big 2014 numbers will put him in line for a solid multiyear deal.  (MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes ranked Cruz as the sixth-best player on the market in his most recent 2015 Free Agent Power Rankings.)  Cruz’s league-leading 34 homers and .256/.324/.510 slash line have gone a long way in answering the doubts that plagued his stint as a free agent last winter.  With a qualifying offer draft pick attached to him and a 50-game PED suspension clouding his reputation, Cruz was forced to settle for a one-year, $8MM deal from the O’s.

This tough experience last offseason might be a reason why Cruz is considering an extension, as Heyman notes it would be rather unusual for a player in Cruz’s situation (signing a one-year pillow contract type of deal and then delivering big) to not test the open market.  The O’s will certainly offer Cruz a one-year qualifying offer if an extension can’t be worked out, and rather than face such uncertainty again, it could be that Cruz simply prefers to stay in a familiar situation.


Yankees Designate Rich Hill For Assignment

The Yankees have designated left-hander Rich Hill for assignment in order to clear a roster spot for the recently acquired Josh Outman, the team announced via press release.

The 34-year-old Hill appeared in six games for the Yankees but faced just 10 batters. He allowed just two hits and a walk in 2 1/3 scoreless innings for the Bombers, but as Jack Curry of the YES Network explains (on Twitter), the Yankees feel that Outman is a superior option against left-handed pitcher due to his superior breaking ball.

With the exception of a minuscule sample size of nine plate appearances this season, Hill has handled lefties well himself over his career, yielding a .217/.339/.339 batting line. However, Hill has walked 14.8 percent of the lefties he’s faced in his career and whiffed 25.8 percent — numbers that are inferior to Outman’s respective 8.2 percent walk rate and 30.8 percent strikeout rate versus same-handed hitters.


Twenty Teams Attend Showcase For Cuesta, Siverio

FRIDAY: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that 20 teams were in attendance for the showcase.

TUESDAY: Cuban first baseman Jozzen Cuesta and Cuban left-hander Misael Siverio will host a showcase for interested clubs on Friday in Jupiter, Fla., agent Eric Izen of the Legacy Agency tells MLBTR.

The last we heard on the 25-year-old Siverio came back in May when he was declared eligible for free agency. The 25-year-old Cuesta was, at the time, said to be awaiting clearance from Major League Baseball and the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control, but he has since been cleared by both entities and is now eligible to sign with any club. The 6’2″, 220-pound first baseman is said to possess some power and will present a younger alternative to the first basemen on the free agent market.

Reports on Siverio peg the lefty at 5’9″ tall, and while he’s not said to possess an overpowering fastball, he had drawn interest from 10 teams back in May. Siverio pitched in front of several clubs at a showcase in June, and the Yankees, Cubs and Astros were among the teams in attendance, MLBTR has learned.

Siverio posted a 3.24 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 over his career in Cuba’s Serie Nacional – a span of 153 games (75 starts). More recently, he pitched in Mexico this past winter, posting a 2.45 ERA and a 36-to-10 K/BB ratio. His full statistics and some video footage can be seen at ObstructedView.net.


Indians Sign Russell Branyan

The Indians announced (Twitter link) that they have signed veteran corner infielder Russell Branyan to a minor league contract and assigned him to Triple-A Columbus.

The former big league slugger has spent the 2014 season with los Toros de Tijuana of the Mexican League and has slashed a robust .296/.423/.620 with 19 home runs in 272 plate appearances. However, he hasn’t been in affiliated ball since 2012 and last saw the Majors in 2011 when he split the season between the D’Backs and Angels. Branyan hit .197/.295/.370 with just five homers in 146 PA that year.

The Indians drafted Branyan back in the seventh round of the 1994 draft, and since that time they’ve now signed him three times and traded for him once as well. Branyan, now 38 years of age, has seen the Majors in parts of 14 different seasons between the Indians, Brewers, Padres, Mariners, Diamondbacks, Rays, Phillies, Cardinals and Angels. He’s a lifetime .232/.329/.485 hitter with 194 homers, including a career-high 31 back in 2009 with Seattle.


Tigers Designate Jose Ortega For Assignment

The Tigers have designated left-hander Jose Ortega for assignment to create 40-man roster space for right-hander Evan Reed, the Tigers announced (on Twitter).

The 25-year-old Ortega pitched just 1 1/3 innings in the Majors this season, yielding four runs despite not allowing a hit. Ortega walked four batters and hit another in this, his third brief stint with the Tigers. Over the past three seasons, the Venezuelan hurler has totaled 15 2/3 innings with Detroit, posting a 5.74 ERA and a 15-to-11 K/BB ratio.

Ortega’s Triple-A ERA is a slightly more encouraging 4.48 in 217 career innings at that level, though he’s battled control issues in the minors as well. He’s averaged a strong 8.8 K/9 in Triple-A, but he’s also averaged 6.1 walks per nine innings.


Quick Hits: Montero, Astros, Pierzynski

Jesus Montero was at the center of a bizarre situation on Thursday night, as MILB.com’s Tyler Maun reports.  While on a rehab assignment at Seattle’s short-season class A affiliate, Montero reportedly had to be restrained from going after a Mariners crosschecker with a bat after the scout reportedly sent an ice cream sandwich to the dugout.  Butch Baccala, the crosschecker in question, tells Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times that the incident is “not what is being portrayed,” though he didn’t want to comment further until speaking with Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik.

  • There is discord between Astros GM Jeff Luhnow and manager Bo Porter, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports, and things may have gotten bad enough that “it’s difficult to imagine the Astros starting the 2015 season with the same management team.”  Porter feels he doesn’t have enough input in the team’s plans and Luhnow too often second-guesses his in-game decisions, plus there were some hard feelings over Mark Appel‘s bullpen session at Minute Maid Park last month.
  • Yadier Molina‘s return shouldn’t end A.J. Pierzynski‘s stint with the Cardinals, FOX Sports Midwest’s Stan McNeal writes.  Molina will need to be eased into his usual workload behind the plate, and with rosters expanding, the Cards will have room for three catchers (Tony Cruz being the third).  Pierzynski has also been a fit in the Cardinals’ clubhouse following the drama that marked his exit from Boston.
  • The Braves were the other finalist for right-hander Brandon Poulson, Baseball America’s Bob Padecky reports.  Poulson ended up signing a $250K bonus with the Twins, capping off a fairly incredible route to pro baseball for the 6’7″ fireballer.
  • Commissioner-elect Rob Manfred figures to differ from Bud Selig in several areas, and ESPN’s Jayson Stark outlines some of the areas that Manfred will focus on when he officially takes over the job.