Tigers Acquire Joakim Soria

10:25pm: The Tigers have announced the deal, making it official.

9:23pm: The Tigers have agreed to acquire reliever Joakim Soria from the Rangers in exchange for right-handed pitching prospects Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel, Kyle Bogenschutz of Scout.com was first to report on Twitter. Jon Morosi of FOX Sports confirmed that an agreement is in place (via Twitter).

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Texas Rangers

With the acquisition of Soria, the Tigers now possess both of the Rangers’ most recent closers (having signed Joe Nathan as a free agent over the offseason). It appears that Nathan will retain the closer’s mantle for the time being, but regardless the team will now have an additional premium arm to throw into high-leverage situations. At the moment, the team owns the fifth-worst relief ERA in baseball.

Soria, a 30-year-old righty, owns a 2.70 ERA with a spectacular strikeout to walk ratio of 11.3 K/9 against only 1.1 BB/9. Indeed, his FIP stands at a miserly 1.07, which handily leads all pitchers who have thrown at least 30 innings. Other ERA estimators (2.25 xFIP; 1.84 SIERA) concur in Soria’s excellence to date in 2014.

He is playing out the back end of the two-year, $8MM deal he signed to join the Rangers after Tommy John surgery led to the end of his tenure with the Royals. But Soria also comes with a seemingly reasonable $7MM club option. (That option would increase to $8MM if he finishes 55 games; he is sitting on 32 at present. The contract also includes performance bonuses.)

The return would appear to be substantial. Both Thompson and Knebel rated among Detroit’s ten best prospects coming into the year, per Baseball America, with the former landing at fourth and the latter at sixth on BA’s list. If anything, their stock has risen since that time.

Thompson, a 20-year-old starter, just earned a promotion to Double-A after posting a 3.14 ERA over 83 innings with 8.6 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 at the High-A level. Baseball America says he has mid-rotation upside. He has a low-to-mid 90s fastball and promising slider, but profiles as a mid-rotation arm if he can develop a consistent third pitch from amongst his other offerings (curve and circle change).

The 22-year-old Knebel, meanwhile, has already made his big league debut after being selected 39th overall in last year’s draft. Though he surrendered six earned runs in 8 2/3 MLB frames, he also notched 11 strikeouts against just three walks and has dominated minor league hitters. He profiles as a potential future closer, says BA, though Detroit had weighed the possibility of trying him as a starter.

With Soria and Huston Street now taken, the relief market now lacks somewhat for obviously available closers. Jonathan Papelbon is surely available, but of course comes with a still-sizable contract. The Padres will presumably listen on Joaquin Benoit, but may want a large return to part with him after dealing Street. And it remains to be seen whether names like Koji Uehara and Steve Cishek could become available.


Padres GM Finalists Are Preller, Hazen, Eppler, Ng

JULY 23, 8:50pm: Taking his second interview today was Eppler, according to a tweet from the San Diego Union Tribune.

11:04am: The Padres have completed a second interview with Hazen as well, the team announced (h/t: MLB.com’s Corey Brock on Twitter).

JULY 22: The Padres announced late last night that they have officially completed a second interview with Preller.

JULY 20th: Jim Bowden of ESPN (on Twitter) hears from a league source that Eppler and Preller have moved into the lead.

JULY 17th: The Padres have narrowed their list of candidates for the club’s open GM position with intentions of conducting second interviews next week, reports Scott Miller of Bleacher Report (Twitter links). Among the candidates for the GM office, Red Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen could be the favorite, according to a report from Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (via Twitter).

According to Miller, the finalists are Hazen, Rangers assistant GM A.J. Preller, Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler, and MLB executive Kim Ng. It appears from that list that the club has every intention of handing the reins over to a somewhat younger option who has never occupied the head baseball operations role.

Reports have indicated, however, that the club could look to bring back former GM Kevin Towers in a senior adviser role if he is dumped by the D’backs. Click here to read a recent round-up of the San Diego front office search.


AL East Notes: O’s Catching, Uehara, Rays, Tanaka, Pineda

Here’s the latest out of an AL East division that will be quite intriguing to watch over the coming days:

  • While noting that it is difficult to “transition” the club’s catchers more than one time in a season, Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette told Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com that the addition of another backstop is “something [the club is] taking a look at.” While he is happy with the way that Caleb Joseph and Nick Hundley have handled the staff, Duquette acknowledged that their offensive production was lacking. Nevertheless, upgrading at the catching position is still third on the team’s priority list after a late-inning pen arm and starter, according to Kubatko.
  • The Red Sox have not engaged closer Koji Uehara in extension talks, reports WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford“So far, there have been no talks,” Uehara said through his translator. “I’ll leave it all up to my agent, but right now I haven’t heard anything.” Recent reports have indicated that Boston is disinclined to deal Uehara even if it does go into sell mode, in large part because the team hopes to bring back the 39-year-old pending free agent. But it remains unclear how it will pursue that outcome; as Bradford notes, Uehara could be extended a qualifying offer (with the expectation that he would probably accept). Or, in a more likely scenario, the club could offer him a deal at some point that includes a guaranteed second year or vesting option.
  • Rays GM Andrew Friedman has not yet ruled out the possibility of adding players at the deadline, he told Jim Bowden on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (Twitter link via Bowden). Then again, Bowden notes, neither would Friedman say that ace David Price would not be dealt. It seems that the Tampa strategy will be to wait until the last point possible to make some key decisions. If the club decides to keep the band together and even add to it, Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com says the word is that the Rays could be interested in adding a reliever. The club just lost Joel Peralta to the DL and has obviously received disappointing results from closer Grant Balfour.
  • Two key Yankees arms remain in limbo, and the latest news was mixed. Michael Pineda has progressed to the point that he is set to toss 30 pitches over two simulated innings tomorrow, tweets MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. Meanwhile, Masahiro Tanaka is still feeling pain in his elbow, which is “not good … at this stage,” GM Brian Cashman told Michael Kay of ESPN New York 98.7 (quotes via Brendan Kuty of NJ.com). Though the New York GM said that the plan remains to watch Tanaka closely and “adjust accordingly,” his statements seem to shed some doubt on the hurler’s efforts to return this year (if not also to avoid Tommy John surgery).
  • Cashman explained yesterday that part of the motivation for acquiring Chase Headley was his improvement in some underlying metrics such as hit velocity (the speed of the ball off of the bat), as John Harper of the New York Daily News reports. Similar analysis led the club to add Brandon McCarthy and encourage him to go back to using his cutter more frequently.


Buddy Carlyle, Jair Jurrjens, Sergio Santos Outrighted

Here are today’s outright assignments from around the league…

  • Mets righty Buddy Carlyle has also been outrighted to Triple-A, per the MLB transactions page. He was recently designated by the club in spite of the fact that he has allowed just one earned run in five appearances on the year (with seven strikeouts and three walks). The 36-year-old has the option of choosing to test the open market.
  • The Rockies have outrighted right-hander Jair Jurrjens to Triple-A, according to the PCL transactions page. Like Santos, the 28-year-old Jurrjens will have the opportunity to refuse the assignment and elect free agency.
  • Blue Jays right-hander Sergio Santos has cleared outright waivers and been assigned to Triple-A Buffalo, reports Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. He has accepted the assignment rather than electing free agency, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. GM Alex Anthopoulos said earlier in the week, when Santos was designated for assignment, that he had placed the righty directly on waivers and was hopeful that he would clear. Santos did just that, and he’ll have a chance to sort out his command issues in the minors, with the Jays hoping that he can resurface and make an impact later in the season.

Phillies Have Considered Releasing Ryan Howard After Season

As his struggles worsen, the Phillies have had internal discussions about releasing one-time star first baseman Ryan Howard after the season, reports Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Howard is owed the rest of his $25MM salary this season and comes with $60MM in future guarantees.

It does not appear that the club has reached any finality in regards to Howard’s future. The possibility of a trade has been explored, but Philadelphia has not found another club interested in taking on any substantial part of Howard’s contract. That is not surprising, of course, given that the 34-year-old is slashing a career-low .224/.305/.377 through 417 plate appearances on the year.

Now, with Howard’s decline becoming more pronounced, Philadelphia appears set to give more playing time to younger first base option Darin Ruf, who was recalled today. Manager Ryne Sandberg did not call it a platoon situation, but suggested as much. “As far as the lineup, that will be a day-to-day thing,” he said. “I think it’s important to see what a guy like Darin Ruf can do also going forward,” the skipper added.

Howard signed his extension at the start of the 2010 season, coming off of a four-year run in which he put up a composite .278/.379/.589 line and hit 198 home runs. Though he continued to produce at an above-average clip at the plate for two more seasons, things began to head south when he tore his Achilles tendon while making the last out of the team’s Game 5 loss in the 2011 NLDS. (That, of course, was also the Phils’ most recent postseason game.) Since that time, Howard — long considered a substandard fielder and baserunner – has mustered only 917 trips to the plate and owns an OPS that falls below league average.


West Notes: Aiken, Qualls, Sipp, Kemp, Padres, D’backs

Nick J. Faleris of Baseball Prospectus provides a thorough account of the Brady Aiken failed signing from both his perspective and that of the Astros. Anyone with interest will want to give it a full read; I’m still working through the lengthy (but entirely worthwhile) piece myself.

Here’s the latest from the game’s western divisions:

  • The Astros are unlikely to deal away any of the club’s young starting pitching but are definitely listening on relievers Chad Qualls and Tony Sipp, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. In particular, the Tigers have asked about Qualls, who has served as the Houston closer of late, according to Heyman. Meanwhile, there has not been much discussion of other Astros veterans such as Scott Feldman, Dexter Fowler, and Jason Castro.
  • Though some around the league believe the Dodgers are highly motivated to deal former star Matt Kemp, the Red Sox were not left with that impression after making an inquiry, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. At least three other American League teams have also asked about Kemp’s availability, including the IndiansMariners, and Rangers, but Rosenthal says that none have made trade proposals. Cleveland and Texas both appear unlikely partners, while Seattle could have an outside chance of adding him. Though moving Kemp poses many difficult questions for the Dodgers, Rosenthal says that the veteran is “at odds” with manager Don Mattingly.
  • Taking a look at a Padres club that has already dealt away several veterans, Rosenthal writes that the team should also move outfielder Chris Denorfia. But key pitchers Ian Kennedy and Joaquin Benoit are under control for 2015, and Rosenthal opines that the team’s new GM ought to make the call on them.
  • A new GM is, of course, at or near the Padres‘ priority list, and the club is indeed nearing a conclusion of its search. Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets that the club will finish up its second round of interviews on Thursday and hopes to have a new GM installed within two to three weeks.
  • The Diamondbacks have exhibited a startling tendency, writes Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic: former pitchers have succeeded elsewhere while newly-acquired arms have struggled. Piecoro lists Brandon McCarthy, Kennedy, Tyler Skaggs, and Trevor Bauer as examples of the former phenomenon, with Trevor Cahill, Randall Delgado, and Addison Reed representing the latter. For his part, GM Kevin Towers says it is not a result of anything the organization is doing differently: “It’s not anything that we’re doing in the minor leagues or development or up here that prevents guys from having success,” he said. “Especially young guys, they usually get better with time and experience in the big leagues. The reason why guys get better [elsewhere] isn’t because we don’t have good instructors here. I believe in our staff and in our farm system and the people we have down there.”

Twins Designate Matt Guerrier For Assignment

The Twins have designated reliever Matt Guerrier for assignment, according to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com (via Twitter). His roster spot will go to fellow righty Ryan Pressly.

Guerrier, a 35-year-old righty, had been fairly steady for Minnesota for much of the season, though he saw his ERA rise by more than a full run after last night’s rough outing. He still sports a 3.86 ERA over 28 innings, though he’s averaging only 3.9 K/9 (by far the lowest in his career) against 3.2 BB/9. Guerrier, who has seen time in each of the last 11 MLB seasons, was signed to a minor league deal over the offseason.


Maybin Suspended 25 Games For Amphetamine Use

2:19pm: Maybin has issued the following statement through the Major League Baseball Players Association:

“I have been undergoing treatment for several years for a medical condition, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), for which I previously had a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE).  Unfortunately, in my attempts to switch back to a medicine that had been previously ok’d, I neglected to follow all the rules and as a result I tested positive. I want to assure everyone that this was a genuine effort to treat my condition and I was not trying in any way to gain an advantage in my baseball career. I understand that I must accept responsibility for this mistake and I will take my punishment and will not challenge my suspension. I apologize to my family, friends, fans, teammates, and the entire Padres organization. I look forward to returning to the field and contributing to the success of my Club.”

2:09pm: Padres center fielder Cameron Maybin has been suspended 25 games, without pay, after testing positive for amphetamine usage, the league announced.

Maybin, 27, was hitting .247/.286/.368 with a homer and three steals in 62 games this season. He missed most of the season’s first month as he recovered from a torn tendon in his biceps. From a financial standpoint, the suspension will cost Maybin about $683K of his $5MM salary.

This is the second notable suspension of a Major Leaguer for amphetamine usage in 2014, as former Orioles reliever Troy Patton (who, coincidentally, is now a teammate of Maybin), began the year serving a 25-game suspension for Adderall usage. In 2013, Carlos Ruiz had to serve the same suspension to open the season.


2015 Competitive Balance Lottery Results

The Competitive Balance Lottery for the 2015 MLB Draft took place this afternoon. Twelve competitive balance picks are awarded, with the first six taking place after the first round’s conclusion and the next six taking place following conclusion of the second round. Here are the results, per MLB.com (Twitter links)…

Competitive Balance Round A

  1. Marlins
  2. Rockies
  3. Cardinals
  4. Brewers
  5. Padres
  6. Indians

Competitive Balance Round B

  1. Reds
  2. Athletics
  3. Mariners
  4. Twins
  5. Orioles
  6. Diamondbacks

As MLB.com’s Jim Callis explained earlier in the week, teams that have one of the 10 smallest markets or one of the 10 smallest revenue pools are eligible to receive a compensatory pick between the first and second rounds (Round A) or between the second and third rounds (Round B).

The A’s, Diamondbacks, Indians, Marlins, Orioles, Padres, Pirates, Rays, Reds, Rockies and Royals were eligible for Comp Round A picks. The teams that didn’t receive an extra pick from that pool were placed into a second pool that also included the Mariners and Twins to determine which would receive a Comp Round B selection. These picks are eligible to be traded any time during the regular season, right up until 5pm ET on the day of next year’s draft.


Phillies Designate Jeff Manship For Assignment

The Phillies announced that they have designated right-hander Jeff Manship for assignment. The DFA comes as a series of roster moves that will see Carlos Ruiz reinstated from the disabled list, Phillippe Aumont recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley and catcher Cameron Rupp optioned to Triple-A.

Manship, 29, posted a 6.65 ERA with 6.3 K/9, 5.5 BB/9 and a 43.1 percent ground-ball rate in 23 innings for the Phillies this season. The former Twins and Rockies hurler has struggled throughout his big league career but owns a much more palatable 4.22 ERA with 6.5 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 358 innings at the Triple-A level.


NL Central Links: Ramirez, Bucs, Byrd, Cubs, Cards

The next game that Aramis Ramirez plays will be the 2,000th of his Major League career, but the Brewers‘ third baseman doesn’t sound like he plans on calling it quits anytime soon. Ramirez told reporters today, including Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, that he plans to try to play another 500 games: “I’m going to go for 2,500 (games) so let’s see what happens. … I’m playing past this year, for sure. I don’t know how much longer but definitely more years.” Ramirez’s contract contains a $14MM mutual option with a $4MM buyout. Given the rarity with which mutual options are exercised, there seems to be a good chance that Ramirez could hit the open market as a free agent this winter.

Here’s more from the NL Central…

  • The Pirates are scouting the Diamondbacks‘ bullpen of late, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports, who speculates that old friend Oliver Perez could be a potential target for the Bucs.
  • The Reds and Phillies remain in contact regarding a potential Marlon Byrd trade, sources tell Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio and ESPN (Twitter link). The Reds have Jay Bruce in right and Billy Hamilton in left, but their left fielders have combined to hit .242/.304/.358. Additionally, with Bruce’s slumping and Joey Votto on the disabled list, the team is short on power.
  • Cubs GM Jed Hoyer tells Carrie Muskat of MLB.com that Arismendy Alcantara will likely be in the lineup everyday, splitting time between second base and center field. The Cubs designated defensive specialist Darwin Barney for assignment yesterday, which should clear some playing time for the 22-year-old Alcantara.
  • Alcantara isn’t the only Cubs prospect on the rise. Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald tweets that outfielders Jorge Soler and Albert Almora have each moved up a level, with Almora heading to Double-A Tennessee and Soler reaching Triple-A Iowa.
  • David Price, who recently took in a game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, told Bob Nightengale of USA Today that the fans of St. Louis were great and treated him well in his time there. One high-ranking AL exec tells Nightengale that if the Rays decide to move their ace, the Cardinals stand out as the most likely team to acquire him.
  • MLB.com’s Jen Langosch was among the reporters who spoke to Cardinals GM John Mozeliak yesterday. Langosch writes that the Redbirds are pursuing rotation help as the deadline approaches, but Mozeliak cautioned that no deal is imminent. Asked if the club was pursuing a top-of-the-rotation arm or some depth for the back end, Mozeliak replied that the latter was more likely.

Yankees Designate Bruce Billings For Assignment

The Yankees announced that they’ve designated right-hander Bruce Billings for assignment to clear a roster spot for fellow righty Chris Leroux, whose contract has been selected from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Additionally, Kelly Johnson has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left groin strain.

In a brief stint with the Yankees this season, the 28-year-old Billings allowed four runs in four innings. Most of his time has come at Triple-A, where he’s posted a 4.94 ERA with 6.5 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 71 innings for the Rail Riders.

Leroux, 30, also had a short stint with the Bombers earlier in the year, in which he allowed five runs in a pair of innings. The Canadian hurler has posted a 5.08 ERA with a 23-to-10 K/BB ratio in 28 1/3 innings for the Rail Riders this season.


Multiple Teams Scouting Antonio Bastardo

With multiple teams on the lookout for bullpen help, left-hander Antonio Bastardo is drawing some significant trade interest, reports Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Sources tell Salisbury that the Royals are very interested in Bastardo, while the Tigers, Pirates and Blue Jays are all in the mix as well. All four teams have scouted each of Philadelphia’s past two games (Salisbury notes that the Tigers are also believed to be keeping an eye on Jonathan Papelbon).

The 28-year-old Bastardo makes sense as a trade chip for the Phillies, whose large commitments to veterans and willingness to include no-trade clauses and vesting options in their contracts has left them with few pieces that are both movable and desirable. Bastardo is both of those, however, as he’s owed just $2MM in 2014 and is controlled through 2015 as an arbitration eligible player. He’s also had good results this season, having compiled a 3.27 ERA with 10.8 K/9, 4.9 BB/9 and a 33.7 percent ground-ball rate. Bastardo has been effective against both left-handed hitters (.616 OPS) and right-handed hitters (.634 OPS) throughout his career.

The Reds have also been connected to Bastardo this month, and the Braves have been known to be seeking a southpaw for their bullpen as well (though the usual intra-division caveat applies). Interested teams do have some alternatives, including James Russell and Wesley Wright of the Cubs, and possibly Andrew Miller of the Red Sox.


AL Central Links: Royals, Hanrahan, Lindor, Sox

Despite the fact that the Royals recently went through a stretch of 18 losses in 27 games, GM Dayton Moore tells Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star that manager Ned Yost’s job is safe. Perhaps more pertinent to MLBTR faithful is that Moore tells McCullough his 49-50 ball club will not be sellers at this year’s deadline. Moore says that he doesn’t blame the players, coaches or anyone but himself: “I look at myself, and what I can do, and what we can do as a baseball operations department to improve our team. … We’re going to keep pushing until the standings say we’re done.”

Here’s more from the AL Central…

  • The Royals scouted the Phillies twice this week already, tweets Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Salisbury notes that Antonio Bastardo performed well in front of Kansas City evaluators, who are on the lookout for bullpen help.
  • Joel Hanrahan is a “long shot” to pitch in the Majors this season, reports Lynn Henning of the Detroit News (Twitter link). The Tigers, who signed Hanrahan for a guaranteed $1MM base salary in May, have been hopeful that he will eventually fortify their late-inning relief corps, but they’ve also been linked to numerous bullpen arms, suggesting that they may not be counting on much from the former Pirates All-Star.
  • Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes that while it may have been a planned promotion, the timing of Francisco Lindor‘s promotion to Triple-A is “as subtle as a brick to the head.” The Indians announced Lindor’s promotion to Columbus shortly after Asdrubal Cabrera left Monday’s contest with an injury, and while Lindor likely wouldn’t be the immediate replacement, there’s little doubt that he’s seen as Cabrera’s replacement next year. Hoynes also notes how poorly timed a DL stint would be for Cabrera, as it would hurt the team’s chances to stay in the AL Central race while also costing them a potential trade chip.
  • The two White Sox players that are generating the most interest in trade are John Danks and Dayan Viciedo, tweets Chris Cotillo of SB Nation’s MLB Daily Dish. The Yankees have reportedly had some discussions with the South Siders about acquiring Danks as of yesterday afternoon. Danks has a six-team no-trade clause, with only four contenders on the list, according to yesterday’s report from MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. He can block deals to the Orioles, A’s, Nationals and Blue Jays.

A’s On Track To Finalize 10-Year Coliseum Lease

Various roadblocks slowed final approval of the Athletics’ 10-year lease agreement with the Oakland-Alameda County Colisum Authority. Now, an agreement has been reached that paves the way to a finalization of the deal, which is expected to keep the club in the O.Co Coliseum for the next decade, as Will Kane and Carolyn Jones of the San Francisco Chronicle report.

Oakland raised various issues after the deal had initially been struck, leading MLB Commissioner Bud Selig to give A’s owner Lew Wolff permission to look for a new home city for the club. But those issues were worked out this week, with Oakland’s City Council joining the Coliseum Authority in granting approval. The last apparent hurdles — approval by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and a potential re-approval by the Authority — are expected to pose no difficulties, according to the report.

The approximately $20MM deal still permits the A’s to leave the stadium as soon as December of 2017, though they would remain on the hook for the full rental term. Both Wolff and Oakland Mayor Jean Quan have expressed hope in finding a way to build a new ballpark in the relatively near future.