Here are today’s minor moves from around the game.
- Twins utilityman Tyler Grimes has retired, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune tweets. The 24-year-old Grimes played at Class A+ Fort Myers in 2014, hitting .232/.313/.355 in 307 plate appearances while, remarkably, playing catcher, second, third and all three outfield positions. He had been a non-roster invite to Twins big-league camp.
- The Tigers have released righty Luke Putkonen, MLB.com’s Jason Beck tweets. Putkonen, 28, pitched 29 2/3 innings out of the Tigers’ bullpen in 2013 and handled himself well, posting a 3.03 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9. He missed most of the 2014 season due to elbow issues, however. The Tigers designated Putkonen for assignment and outrighted him in January.
After losing out on the Twins’ fifth starter spot, veteran Mike Pelfrey says he is open to a trade, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press writes. Pelfrey is not demanding a trade, Berardino reports, but he says would not mind one.
“Obviously if some team realizes I’m healthy for the first time in years, and this is probably the best I’ve felt and thinks I can help them, let’s do it,” Pelfrey says. “I think I showed them that I could start. If it happens, great. Let’s go.”
Pelfrey says he believed, heading into Spring Training, that he would be in competition for a rotation job. He also thinks he did enough this month to earn one, allowing only four runs, two earned, while striking out seven and walking two in 13 2/3 innings. Berardino also notes that Pelfrey has regularly hit 94MPH this spring. Last year, his average fastball was below 91MPH as he made only five starts in an injury-shortened season. Tommy Milone, who won the last starting spot, posted somewhat worse numbers than Pelfrey this month.
“I know what I was told in December. I don’t know what happened,” says Pelfrey. “I know one thing that didn’t happen is I didn’t get outpitched.”
The Twins have Pelfrey pitch in long relief, a role Pelfrey sounded more open to when he spoke with reporters, including MLBTR’s Zach Links, earlier this week. Pelfrey has one more year and $5.5MM remaining on the deal he signed with the Twins prior to the 2014 season.
The Angels have announced that they’ve released righty reliever Matt Lindstrom. Lindstrom had an out clause, as Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register tweets, so the release frees him to pursue a job elsewhere. Mike DiGiovanna tweets, however, that Lindstrom was surprised by the Angels’ decision.
Lindstrom, 35, pitched 34 innings in the White Sox’ bullpen last season, posting a 5.03 ERA with 4.8 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 while losing two miles an hour on his fastball. The Angels signed him to a minor-league deal last month. The veteran has pitched in the big leagues in all of the last eight seasons, appearing with the Marlins, Astros, Rockies, Orioles and Diamondbacks in addition to the White Sox.
Highly regarded Twins prospect Lewis Thorpe has a torn UCL and will have Tommy John surgery at an undetermined date, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune tweets. Baseball Prospectus ranked Thorpe the No. 91 prospect in baseball last month, and MLB.com ranks Thorpe the No. 9 prospect in an excellent Twins system. His injury is simply the latest in an epidemic of arm problems leading to Tommy John surgery, with Yu Darvish and unsigned 2014 No. 1 overall draft pick Brady Aiken among the latest victims.
Thorpe pitched well against much older competition last year in the Midwest League, posting a 3.52 ERA with 10.0 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 as an 18-year-old. The previous season, he racked up 64 strikeouts against six walks in 44 innings in the Gulf Coast League. MLB.com praised the velocity (in the low 90s) and movement on the young Australian’s fastball, noting that he also had a good changeup and was working on two breaking pitches.
Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez says his recent elbow MRI “found something,” but there’s no diagnosis yet, the Boston Globe’s Alex Speier tweets. Vazquez will seek a second opinion. If the Red Sox were to need to replace Vazquez, Ryan Hanigan would be the obvious choice. If Vazquez were to need to miss significant time, there would likely be speculation about the promotion of top prospect Blake Swihart, who the Red Sox optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket last week. Here are more notes from the East divisions.
- James Russell and Josh Outman have struggled this spring, widening the field of decisions the Braves will have to make as they set their roster, Mark Bowman of MLB.com writes. The Braves could release either one and pay only about a quarter of their salaries. Outman, who’s set to make $925K after signing with the Braves in January, could be in particular danger, Bowman suggests. It now looks increasingly likely that Luis Avilan will make the team as one of the Braves’ bullpen lefties, with prospect Brady Feigl as another possibility.
- There don’t appear to be any trades involving Dioner Navarro in the works, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets. Navarro, of course, became mostly superfluous to the Jays after they acquired Russell Martin. Navarro’s name had lately been connected to the Diamondbacks, although the D-backs have said they can’t afford his $5MM salary.
Here’s a look back at this week at MLBTR.
Key Minor League Signings
Here’s the latest from the game’s eastern divisions to wrap up the day’s news:
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos was notably on hand to watch Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon work early in his outing today against the Yankees, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports. While Salisbury notes that it is impossible to know the reason for the visit, Toronto obviously has some questions at the back of its pen and has been mentioned as a plausible suitor for the veteran righty. Papelbon has looked strong this spring, as the report further notes, though his contract (and, in particular, its vesting clause for next year) remains the largest factor in his trade value.
- Though the Yankees have yet to say so officially, Adam Warren appears ticketed for the team’s fifth starter role, as Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reports. If he does indeed take that slot, the out-of-options Esmil Rogers will either need to lock up a pen slot or, perhaps, find another team.
- Shane Victorino‘s recent comments about the possibility of the Red Sox dealing for Cole Hamels led to a bit of a dust-up in Boston, due in part to a seemingly strained interpretation suggesting that Victorino was advocating for the departure of phenom Mookie Betts. As Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports, Victorino vehemently denies that reading of his words. Regardless, of course, as Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal explains, Boston’s front office understandably has little interest in shipping away its most prized young talent for expensive veterans.
Here are the day’s minor transactions from around the league…
- Baseball America’s Matt Eddy delivers a series of recent releases. You can check his always-useful Twitter feed for the full run, but the highlight is probably the Royals‘ release of lefty Noel Arguelles (Twitter link). A high-profile signee out of Cuba back in 2009, the 25-year-old was hit hard in Double-A last year after switching full-time to a relief role. He was brought as a minor league free agent, but Kansas City has apparently seen enough.
- Eddy also tweets that the Rays have parted ways with two of the team’s seven supplemental first-rounders from 2011, shortstop Brandon Martin and outfielder James Harris. Both players are still just 21 years of age, but neither has mastered the lower minors or even reached the High-A level.
- The Cubs have released left-hander Jeff Lorick, per the team’ transactions page. The 27-year-old Lorick was a 20th-round selection back in the 2009 draft and spent the 2014 campaign (his age-26 season) at Double-A Tennessee, where he worked to a 4.52 ERA in 63 2/3 innings of work. Lorick struggled as a starter in the Class-A Advanced Florida State League in 2011, but he’s always missed a good number of bats when working as a reliever. However, he’s also walked more than four hitters per nine innings and has yet to reach the Triple-A level.
- The Marlins have released second baseman Alfredo Lopez, also via the team transaction page at MLB.com. The 25-year-old batted .216/.298/.263 at Double-A in 2014 and had spent most of the 2015 spring working in Minor League camp. Lopez has hit well in the lower minors (.300 average, .384 OBP in Class-A Advanced) but stalled in Double-A and has very limited experience at the Triple-A level.
- The Rockies released outfielders Jared Simon and Brian Humphries as well as infielder Matt Wessinger, per the MLB transaction page. Simon, a 2010 sixth-round pick, and Humphries, a 14th-rounder in 2011, each spent last season with Double-A Tulsa and OPSed south of .700. Wessinger is perhaps the most notable, as he was a fifth-rounder as recently as 2012, but he batted just .214/.278/.295 at Class-A Advanced in 2014.
Here are some notes out of the game’s western divisions:
- Rule 5 pick Delino DeShields Jr. appears to have a place on the Rangers roster, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. Taken from the Astros this winter, DeShields could be a force on the basepaths and would otherwise represent a backup center field and second base option.
- The Astros-Brady Aiken fallout remains too clouded in uncertainty for final judgment, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle writes. While Aiken’s Tommy John procedure has led some to claim that Houston was justified in seeking to drop the price tag on the first overall pick last year, Drellich explains that it is more complicated than just looking at that result. There’s a lot of ground covered in the article, and it is worth a full read for those interested in understanding this complicated situation.
- New Diamondbacks righty Yoan Lopez has shown steady improvement in spite of an unsightly ERA in his first professional action, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes. Rival scouts have raised some questions about his upside, but D’backs pitching coach Mike Harkey says that he fully expects the 22-year-old to become “a really good pitcher.” Lopez has not brought quite the level of velocity that led the team to sign him, but manager Chip Hale explains that velo isn’t everything: “I think the fastball hasn’t been quite the velocity that we thought, but 92 is nothing to sneeze at, especially when you can make it move and control it, spot it,” said Hale. “The electricity has been in the breaking ball, especially, and the change-up. But I think we do expect a little tick up in the velocity eventually.”
Word in the scouting community is that the Twins made a great Rule 5 pick-up in righty J.R. Graham, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com tweets. Graham was once a top-100 prospect with the Braves, who would receive him if he cannot stick with Minnesota or another club for the duration of the year. He scuffled in his second attempt at Double-A last year, throwing 71 innings (including 19 starts) of 5.58 ERA ball, striking out 6.3 and walking 3.3 batters per nine.
Here’s more from Minnesota and the rest of the AL Central:
- The Twins might benefit from shipping Mike Pelfrey to a team that needs starting depth in exchange for a lefty pen piece, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Pelfrey is, however, owed $5.5MM this year, which as Berardino notes would stand to complicate any trade efforts. The 31-year-old righty recently spoke with MLBTR’s Zach Links about his situation, saying that he feels good and is preparing to embrace whatever role he is given.
- The Indians optioned righty Danny Salazar to Triple-A today, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports. The 25-year-old has shown flashes of brilliance — in thirty career big league starts, he has struck out more than ten and walked less than three per nine — but has yet to put it all together and struggled badly this spring. With 162 days of service to his name, Salazar will pick up a year of service so long as he spends any real amount of time in the bigs, though a prolonged stint in the minors could jeopardize his ability to qualify as a Super Two down the line. Zach McAllister, T.J. House, and Josh Tomlin are now the three arms in the mix for the club’s final two rotation spots.
- Also headed back to the minors is Royals lefty Brandon Finnegan, as Barry Bloom of MLB.com reports. A draft pick turned late-season star in 2014, Finnegan had a rough go in his first big league camp and will also benefit from the chance to develop as a starter. “We just thought it was better for him to go down,” said manager Ned Yost. “He had a huge workload last year. He hasn’t been real sharp in Spring Training. Just get him back down, get him going again. And have him ready for whenever we need him.” Of course, the club intends to be careful with limiting Finnegan’s workload, so it remains to be seen how much impact he can have at the major league level. Then again, the loss of Tim Collins leaves the club relying on Franklin Morales and Brian Flynn as pen lefties, so it is not hard to imagine a need arising. Finnegan has 28 days of service thus far, so a few months in the minors would likely keep him shy of a full year of credit.
The Padres are among the teams around the league who are receiving trade interest in their relief pitching, MLB.com’s Corey Brock reports on Twitter. As Brock notes, that is not necessarily surprising given San Diego’s pen depth.
Joaquin Benoit is cemented at the back of the pen, with righties Kevin Quackenbush, Dale Thayer, and Nick Vincent also looking like solid bets to maintain their roles. Offseason acquisitions Shawn Kelley and Brandon Maurer are also options from the right side, along with several minor league free agent signees, such as Jose Valverde, Marcos Mateo, and Jay Jackson.
Assuming he is not able to crack the rotation, Odrisamer Despaigne looks like a good bet to function as a long-man and spot starter. The club claimed the Rule 5 rights to Jandel Gustave recently, though he seems a long shot to break camp at this point.
The Pads have Alex Torres leading things among lefties, with Frank Garces and Chris Rearick also still in camp. Southpaw Scott Elbert has been sent to the minor league side for now but could factor into the equation down the line.
It remains to be seen whether San Diego will be motivated to pull the trigger on a deal, but it likely will not be forced into action. The team could roll with Benoit, Quackenbush, Thayer, Vincent, Kelley, and Despaigne, with Torres functioning as the lone lefty, while starting the remainder of those names mentioned in the minors. Of course, opt-outs or long-term strategic considerations could lead the team to part with one or more of its minor league free agents, but there appears to be a reasonable amount of flexibility. That depth also could allow the Friars to strike a deal to fill another need, of course.
The Brady Aiken saga culminated yesterday with the news that he had undergone Tommy John surgery. Now, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the league and players association are preparing to explore ways in which medical information procedures can be adjusted to foreclose such a scenario in the future.
Aiken, of course, was the first overall pick of the Astros. He reportedly had a deal in place until a physical revealed a thinner-than-normal ulnar collateral ligament, leading the team to reduce its offer. Aiken ultimately did not sign. He will be eligible for the coming year’s draft, but will enter it in the midst of a rehab protocol.
There is still plenty of uncertainty as to where things might be headed in terms of the draft. One possibility, per Passan, is that a panel of medical experts would certify some number of draft-eligible players as having clean bills of health. On the other end of the spectrum, a full-fledged combine could take place that, among other things, would result in much more significant medical information going to every team.
Even the less involved of those two poles of the range of possibilities would come with difficulties. Logistics such as draft timing (in relation to the NCAA season) must be addressed. Both sides will have plenty to work through, but it seems from the report as if there is at least broad agreement that some procedural improvements should be considered.
Dodgers righty Brandon League is expected to miss at least a couple of months with a right shoulder injury, manager Don Mattingly told reporters including MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick (via Twitter). An MRI revealed that there was sufficient injury to require League to be shut down, though it appears he will avoid surgery for the time being.
League, 32, figured to be a fairly important piece in the Dodgers pen. Though he is undoubtedly overpaid as he enters the final guaranteed year of his three-year, $22.5MM pact, League is nevertheless a plenty viable arm. Last year, he tossed 63 innings of 2.57 ERA ball, compiling a 3.40 FIP in spite of just 5.4 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 because he also managed to induce groundballs at a ridiculous 67.5% clip.
League’s deal includes a vesting option that will not almost certainly not vest. Of course, that was quite unlikely regardless since the clause was tied to games finished, requiring League to be the last Dodger to toe the rubber at least 55 times this year. Barring a run of unpredictable events, that was not going to happen anyway.
The news on League is perhaps most troubling for what it means for the Dodgers’ overall pitching depth. Already compensating for injuries to Kenley Jansen and starter Hyun-jin Ryu, the team is looking somewhat thin on established, healthy arms. Of course, with plenty of trade candidates amongst their positions players, the Dodgers could conceivably swing a deal or two to fill some innings.
Nationals righty Jordan Zimmermann, one of the team’s proudest homegrown talents, indicated today that a new deal appears rather unlikely, as Mark Zuckerman of CSN Washington reports. Zimmermann made clear again today that he will refuse to discuss a contract during the season, leaving scant time to revive momentum.
Zimmermann, a Relativity Baseball client, is set to become one of the most desirable free agents in next year’s class. “I’m just not going to talk during the season,” said Zimmermann. “If something gets done before then — which is probably pretty rare right now — then it gets done. But it’s not looking good.”
With Max Scherzer now under contract for the foreseeable future, the Nationals seemingly lost interest in trying to convince the 28-year-old Zimmermann to take a deal that was palatable to the club. The same, perhaps, is true of Doug Fister. It remains to be seen, of course, whether the team will ultimately make a run at inking Stephen Strasburg to a long-term deal, though he too may be too close to free agency for that to be a realistic possibility.
As for Zimmermann, even an average season by his standards should make him an easy $100MM+ free agent. If he can repeat or improve upon last year’s effort (2.66 ERA/2.68 FIP over 199 2/3 innings), then he’ll probably be looking to build on the Jon Lester deal.
The Twins have inquired about watching free agent right-hander Rafael Soriano throw, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN reports (via Twitter). Minnesota is known to be looking for bullpen help, and Soriano is the most established relief arm left on the open market. It’s possible, Wolfson notes, that they’ve already seen him throw in Miami.
Soriano, 35, is a client of Scott Boras and the lone remaining player from MLBTR’s list of Top 50 free agents that is yet unsigned this winter. At first glance, his 2014 numbers might make the fact that he remains a free agent surprising. He did, after all, work to a 3.19 ERA with 8.6 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and 32 saves with the Nationals.
Soriano did also benefit from the second-lowest homer-to-flyball ratio of his career, however, and he lost the handle on the closer’s gig in September. Over Soriano’s final 18 appearances last year, he yielded 13 runs in 16 2/3 innings for a 7.02 ERA. Those struggles likely played a big role in the somewhat tepid market for Soriano this offseason, as scouts told ESPN’s Buster Olney last month that they felt the veteran closer’s stuff evaporated late in the year.
Still, it’s not entirely surprising to see Minnesota inquiring on Soriano. I noted in my Offseason Review of the Twins that it wouldn’t be surprising for Boras to try to sell GM Terry Ryan on Soriano, as closer Glen Perkins was shut down late last year with a forearm injury and has been battling an oblique issue this spring. Beyond Perkins, the Twins lack established bullpen arms. Casey Fien looks to be the top setup option, and lefty Brian Duensing is a lock for the ‘pen as well. Tim Stauffer will probably hold down a spot despite a poor spring, and his former Padres teammate Blaine Boyer looks increasingly likely to make the club as a non-roster invitee. Additionally, it’s possible that Mike Pelfrey, Trevor May or Tommy Milone, each of whom is fighting for the fifth starter’s role, could end up in the ‘pen as well. Other options such as Ryan Pressly and Michael Tonkin have already been optioned, though Rule 5 pick J.R. Graham is still in the mix for a spot and may yet make the club to open the season.