Orioles Acquire Kelly Johnson

The Orioles have announced that they’ve acquired infielders Kelly Johnson and Michael Almanzar from the Red Sox for infielders Jemile Weeks and Ivan De Jesus. This is the Orioles’ second significant trade of the evening, having also recently acquired outfielder Alejandro De Aza from the White Sox. The Johnson deal gives the Orioles a bit of low-cost infield depth.

Johnson, 32, began the season with the Yankees, then headed to Boston in a trade for Stephen Drew. (He also played for the Rays in 2013 and the Blue Jays in 2011 and 2012, meaning that he’s now been or will be on the roster of all five AL East teams, with no non-AL East teams in between.) He’s played mostly third base and first base since 2012, and he’s hit .212/.290/.354 for the season. With the Orioles, he’ll likely play mostly at third base in the wake of the team’s loss of Manny Machado for the rest of the year.

The Orioles selected Almanzar from the Red Sox in the Rule 5 Draft last winter, but returned him in early July. Since then, he’s hit .280/.360/.427 in 186 plate appearances for Double-A Portland, mostly playing third base. At 23, he’s the youngest player in the deal.

Weeks was a first-round draft pick by the Athletics in 2008, and they sent him to Baltimore in 2013 in the Jim Johnson trade. The 27-year-old Weeks played in 215 games with the A’s in 2011 and 2012 but has spent most of the past two seasons in the minors. This season, he’s hit .278/.391/.385 in 254 plate appearances for Triple-A Norfolk. Despite the high on-base percentage, the second baseman probably profiles mostly as depth at this point, although CSNNE.com’s Sean McAdam tweets that Weeks will join the Red Sox’ big-league team. (Dustin Pedroia may have suffered a concussion in Saturday’s game, but the timing of Weeks’ acquisition appears to be a coincidence.)

De Jesus, who heads back to the Red Sox after spending a few months in the organization in 2012, also appears to be mostly a depth player. De Jesus came to Boston from the Dodgers in the Adrian Gonzalez / Carl Crawford / Josh Beckett blockbuster, then headed to Pittsburgh almost immediately as the Red Sox traded for Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt. The Pirates showed little interest in him despite a strong offensive season in Triple-A in 2013, and he signed with the Orioles after the season. The 27-year-old hit .282/.358/.389 in 469 plate appearances for Norfolk this year, mostly playing shortstop.


Orioles Acquire Alejandro De Aza

The Orioles have announced that they’ve acquired left-handed outfielder Alejandro De Aza from the White Sox for minor league pitchers Miguel Chalas and Mark Blackmar. Orioles executive Dan Duquette says (via MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko on Twitter) that De Aza had been available for a few weeks, which suggests he cleared waivers.

USATSI_7890034_154513410_lowresDe Aza, 30, has hit .246/.312/.358 this season, with his power, in particular, taking a step backward — he hit a career-high 17 homers last year, but only has five this season, and his slugging percentage is off by about 50 points as compared to the last two years. He remains, however, a solid defender who can play all three outfield spots. He’s making $4.25MM this season in his second year of arbitration, and he can become eligible for free agency after 2015, although at least one executive has opined that De Aza could be a non-tender candidate after the season.

The Orioles already have a strong starting outfield of Nelson Cruz, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis, but they can surely use De Aza as a backup. With Manny Machado‘s recent injury, sometime-outfielder Steve Pearce is needed more frequently in the infield, meaning the Orioles have playing time available for a fourth outfielder type. De Aza’s addition will probably also mean even less playing time for fellow lefty outfielder David Lough, who has struggled at the plate this season.

Even with the Orioles’ need to play Pearce more in the infield, they were fairly well stocked with outfielders, so De Aza represents more of a luxury than a need. It’s no surprise, then, that they do not appear to have paid a high price to get him. Chalas, 22, has pitched most of the season with Class A+ Frederick, where he posted a 4.80 ERA, 6.4 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 69 1/3 innings of relief. He has also appeared in two games for Triple-A Norfolk. Blackmar, also 22, has pitched 130 1/3 innings for Frederick, with a 3.18 ERA, 5.7 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9, pitching mostly has a starter. MLB.com does not rank either of them in its list of the top 20 Orioles prospects.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


NL Notes: Pirates, Phillies, Marlins

Throughout the Pirates organization, the first base position has become the home of players who have struggled at other positions, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. Of course, it’s not unusual for players at more demanding defensive positions to have to move to first base, but what’s distinctive about the Pirates’ case is the precise reasons players are moving to first. At the big league level, Pedro Alvarez is moving across the diamond because of inexplicable problems making routine throws to first. And in the minors, Stetson Allie moved to first (with a stop at third base) after flaming out as a pitcher, while catcher Tony Sanchez has experimented with the position after troubles throwing out basestealers. The Pirates’ future at first base, though, might belong to another prospect, Josh Bell, who’s learning the position for a more straightforward reason — with Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and Gregory Polanco set to man the Pirates’ outfield for the next several years, there might not be room for Bell there. Here’s more from the National League.



Angels Not Expecting To Make Deal For Pitching

Angels GM Jerry Dipoto says he is not expecting to make additional trades before tomorrow’s deadline for new additions to be postseason eligible, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register tweets. Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times tweets that Dipoto says he will rely on the Angels’ bullpen and September roster expansion to help the team get through the rest of the season.

After losing Garrett Richards to a season-ending injury, the Angels had been connected to pitchers like A.J. Burnett and Bartolo Colon, but they’ve reportedly been hemmed in by their desire to stay below the luxury tax threshold next season. (Pitchers like Burnett, Colon and Scott Feldman who might otherwise be good August additions for a team in need all are owed significant money in 2015.) Instead, it appears the Angels will allow pitchers like Cory Rasmus, who will make his first big-league start tonight, to continue to take turns in their rotation. Randy Wolf and Michael Roth could also be candidates to take starts alongside Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Hector Santiago and Matt Shoemaker.


NL Notes: Reds, Bryant, Spangenberg

The Reds have the toughest upcoming offseason of any team, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. They could lose most of their rotation following the 2015 season, they still have big commitments to Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Homer Bailey, and they’re facing dealing with three good NL Central competitors and another in Chicago that could have a very bright future. Sherman suggests the Reds consider trading Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and perhaps Jay Bruce. “We still have a small window,” Reds GM Walt Jocketty protests. “This year is disappointing because of the injuries. From the very beginning, we had 11 DL guys and eight were key. … I feel we still have a small window if the guys come back healthy.” Here’s more from the National League.

  • The young Cubs are waiting for Kris Bryant to arrive in the big leagues, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. “Yeah, we’re imagining what [Bryant] can do,” says pitcher Kyle Hendricks. “I mean, the whole group together. It’s definitely exciting. You can feel it. Everyone’s talking about it around the clubhouse. It’s just awesome seeing these guys coming up and having success.” There’s already plenty of buzz surrounding Jorge Soler‘s debut, and already plenty of young talent in Chicago, and yet Bryant, arguably the Cubs’ best young player, remains in the minors, where he’s hitting .296/.417/.635 in 283 plate appearances with Triple-A Iowa.
  • Padres 2B/3B/OF prospect Cory Spangenberg tweets that he will be promoted to the big leagues. Spangenberg has hit .331/.365/.470 in 304 plate appearances this season for Double-A San Antonio. Spangenberg has often been overshadowed by others from his draft class — he was taken between Javier Baez and George Springer in the first round in 2011. But after a strong fourth pro season, he’s about to make it to the Show.

Rosenthal’s Latest: Cubs, Cabrera, Angels, Lindgren

Here’s the latest from Ken Rosenthal, via two videos at FOX Sports:

  • With all the exciting young hitters the Cubs are adding, Chicago could be an attractive destination for free agent pitchers, and it’s possible the Cubs could add one big-name pitcher this winter (possibly Jon Lester, who knows Theo Epstein well from Boston) and then another the following year (possibly David Price or a return of Jeff Samardzija).
  • The Asdrubal Cabrera trade has worked out well for both sides. The Nationals have gotten a good second baseman, and the Indians have gotten strong shortstop defense from Cabrera’s replacement Jose Ramirez, and they’ve also added Zach Walters‘ power bat.
  • If the Angels decline to acquire a starting pitcher because of luxury tax concerns, that would appear to be mostly a “philosophical decision” rather than a financial one. As a first-time offender, the Angels’ actual tax penalties would be minimal, at just 17.5% of the overage. Rosenthal notes, however, that one potential problem the Angels have with some of their potential trade targets (including Bartolo Colon, A.J. Burnett and Scott Feldman) is that they’re all guaranteed salary for 2015.
  • One reason the Yankees acquired lefty Josh Outman was that they didn’t want to push top 2014 draft pick Jacob Lindgren to the big leagues, particularly given Lindgren’s workload between college and the pros this season and the fact that he’s not yet on their 40-man roster. As we noted earlier today, Lindgren has dominated in the minors since signing.

Minor Moves: Aaron Thompson, Chris Bassitt

Here are today’s minor moves from around the game.

  • The Twins have selected the contract of lefty Aaron Thompson, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press tweets. Thompson will take the roster spot vacated when the Twins lost Sam Deduno to the Astros’ waiver claim. Thompson, 27, posted a 3.98 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 in 52 innings this season at Triple-A Rochester. The former Marlins first-round draft pick appeared briefly in the big leagues with the Pirates in 2011.
  • The White Sox have selected the contract of pitcher Chris Bassitt from Double-A Birmingham, Fred B. Mitchell of the Chicago Tribune tweets. The White Sox also optioned Scott Carroll to Triple-A Charlotte and recalled pitcher Eric Surkamp. Bassitt will start the second game of Chicago’s doubleheader against the Tigers tonight (against another pitcher making his big-league debut, Kyle Ryan). The 25-year-old Bassitt has pitched well in 34 2/3 innings at Birmingham this year, posting a 1.56 ERA with 9.3 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9.

Rangers Designate Mike Carp For Assignment

The Rangers have announced that they’ve designated 1B/OF Mike Carp for assignment. The move clears space for Derek Holland to be activated from the 60-day DL. (The Rangers also recalled Robbie Ross and optioned Nick Tepesch to Triple-A Round Rock.) Carp had only made 46 plate appearances for the Rangers, who claimed him from the Red Sox earlier this month.

Carp, 28, had a breakout season in part-time duty with the Red Sox in 2013, hitting .296/.362/.523. But he never got untracked in 2014, hitting poorly in a small sample in Boston and then requesting a trade. The Red Sox designated him for assignment instead, and he hit even worse while playing first base in Texas, leading to a combined .175/.289/.230 line with no home runs in 145 plate appearances. He’s making $1.4MM in his first season of arbitration eligibility.

Holland, meanwhile, is set to make his 2014 debut after missing the entire season so far after an offseason knee injury and then struggling with back spasms. It will, obviously, be too little too late for a Rangers team whose season has gone south in more ways than it possibly could have imagined, but the standout lefty’s return will surely be a welcome one in Texas.


Orioles Outright Suk-Min Yoon, Cord Phelps

The Orioles announce that they’ve outrighted pitcher Suk-min Yoon and infielder Cord Phelps. The moves open two spots on the Orioles’ 40-man roster.

Baltimore signed Yoon to a three-year deal before the season. Their total financial commitment was minimal, at $5.575MM guaranteed, but they were surely still hoping for better results than they’ve gotten so far. Yoon has pitched 90 2/3 innings for Triple-A Norfolk, posting a 5.56 ERA with 6.4 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9. He has not yet pitched in the big leagues. The Orioles owe him $1.75MM in 2015 and $2.4MM in 2016.

Yoon was a standout in Korea, but was widely regarded as having less upside than, for example, Hyun-jin Ryu, who has had success with the Dodgers. Yoon was coming off a 2013 shoulder injury and did not have dominating stuff.

The O’s designated Phelps for assignment to make room for Miguel Gonzalez earlier this week. The former Indians prospect hit .258/.358/.380 in 395 plate appearances for Norfolk this season.


West Notes: Angels, Burnett, Tulowitzki, Astros

The Angels had interest in A.J. Burnett of the Phillies, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal writes, confirming a report by Peter Gammons (all Twitter links). The Angels, though, wanted Burnett to waive his player option for next season, perhaps to get them under the luxury tax threshold. It wouldn’t be surprising if Burnett hadn’t wanted to do that, given that he prefers playing near the East Coast, and that his option guarantees him $10MM or more in 2015. The Angels, then, will continue to hunt for a starting pitcher to replace the injured Garrett Richards. Here’s more from the West divisions.

  • Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki would rather retire than change positions, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes. No. It’s just who I am, it’s what I do, it’s what I have dreamed of as a kid,” Tulowitzki says. “So I guess when you have a dream and you accomplish it and someone tries to take it away from you … it wouldn’t be worth it for me to try and move somewhere else.” Tulowitzki is just 29 and is still a plus defensive shortstop when healthy, but he continues to have issues with injuries, and it’s not difficult to see how he might need to change positions before the end of his contract, which runs through 2020. Saunders notes that Tulowitzki is currently on crutches after surgery to fix a torn labrum in his hip.
  • The Astros‘ “extreme Moneyball” approach is still controversial throughout the game, Joshua Green of Bloomberg BusinessWeek writes in a profile of the Astros since Jeff Luhnow’s hiring in 2011. The Astros’ poor results the past few years, and their relentless questioning of conventional wisdom (leading to, for example, their aggressive approach to shifting and to their tandem minor league rotations), have predictably been divisive. Luhnow gives Green a look at the Astros’ “Ground Control” database (notes from which were leaked in June), which uses an algorithm to tell the team’s management when players ought to be promoted.

Astros Claim Sam Deduno From Twins

The Astros have claimed pitcher Sam Deduno from the Twins, MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger reports (Twitter links). The Twins had placed Deduno on non-revocable waivers, so his contract now belongs to the Astros.

Deduno is already 31 and has gotten middling results this season in Minnesota, with a 4.60 ERA, 7.2 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 in 92 innings split between the rotation and the bullpen. He also doesn’t throw particularly hard, with an average fastball velocity of just 89.7 MPH this season (though the pitch does get plenty of movement). He will not be eligible for arbitration until after next season, however, and his near-league-minimum salary and ability to start will give the Astros flexibility. He also gets plenty of ground balls, with a very high career rate of 57%.

In the short term, Deduno hasn’t pitched more than three innings in an outing since late July, so he might not be able to start right away, if that’s even what the Astros ultimately want. He has also gotten much better results as a reliever than as a starter this season, so he might fit better in a bullpen role.

Deduno briefly pitched for the Rockies and Padres before signing with Minnesota after the 2011 season, where he soaked up starts in some tough years for the Twins rotation. In parts of five seasons in the big leagues, he has a 4.24 ERA with 6.5 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9.


Yankees & Red Sox Notes: Tanaka, Lindgren, Shields

Masahiro Tanaka threw a simulated game in Detroit earlier this week, but the Yankees have sent him back to New York with “general soreness” in his arm, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News writes. “There’s not a specific spot; it’s just throughout the arm that’s sore,” says Tanaka. “I’m glad that it’s not the elbow itself.” Right now, Yankees manager Joe Girardi describes the situation as a “little setback.” The setback further delays Tanaka’s return, however, meaning it’s increasingly unlikely he’ll be able to make it back before the season ends. Tanaka’s elbow injury has kept him out of action since July 8. Here’s more out of New York and Boston.

  • Girardi says he’s keeping his eye on 2014 second-round pick Jacob Lindgren, Brendan Kuty of NJ.com writes. After zooming through four levels in his first pro season, Lindgren could be a potential September call-up, perhaps helping the Yankees bullpen down the stretch. So far, he’s pitched 24 2/3 innings and has struck out an amazing 17.5 batters per nine innings, or almost half the batters he’s faced. He’s currently at Double-A Trenton.
  • Missing on Jose Abreu last year helped lead the Red Sox to put in the highest bid for Rusney Castillo, owner John Henry tells WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. “Yes, the financial aspects were impacted by coming close on Abreu. The White Sox did their homework,” says Henry. Castillo is scheduled to play his first minor league game with the Gulf Coast League Red Sox tomorrow.
  • The Red Sox could pursue Royals ace James Shields to upgrade their rotation this offseason, particularly if they’re unable to stage a reunion with Jon Lester, Bradford notes. The Red Sox spent their July acquiring hitting and are likely to address starting pitching this offseason, and ESPN’s Buster Olney had previously noted that Shields was a potential target for the Red Sox. At 32 (33 in December), Shields isn’t young, but he might be able to get a four-year deal this winter.

Tigers Designate Justin Miller For Assignment

The Tigers have designated pitcher Justin Miller for assignment, Chris Iott of MLive.com tweets. The move clears space for lefty Kyle Ryan, who will make his MLB debut tonight as the starter for the second game of a doubleheader against the White Sox.

Miller has pitched 12 1/3 innings out of the bullpen for the Tigers this season, posting a 5.11 ERA while striking out five batters and walking two. The 27-year-old righty has had a good season for Triple-A Toledo, posting a 1.81 ERA with 7.9 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 44 2/3 innings. Miller missed the 2012 season due to Tommy John surgery, then was released by the Rangers near the end of last season. He signed a minor league deal with the Tigers last September.


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


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