Kyler Murray Opts Out Of MLB Draft

High school shortstop/second baseman Kyler Murray tweeted today that he is withdrawing from the MLB draft. Murray was ranked 32nd in this year’s draft class by ESPN’s Keith Law, 34th by MLB.com and 15th by Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs. Rather than enter the draft, Murray will instead head to Texas A&M not only as a highly touted baseball recruit, but also as one of the nation’s top quarterback recruits.

As Baseball America’s Teddy Cahill notes, Murray is expected to compete to be the Aggies’ starter. Multiple reports have noted that a shoulder injury which limited Murray to DH for much of the year made him tough to peg, but the consensus appears to be that he had a shot to go in the first round and, had he been committed solely to baseball, perhaps quite high up in the first round.

Of note is that Murray is not merely telling teams not to draft him, as Josh Bell did in 2011 before signing with the Pirates for $5MM. Rather, he has completely removed himself from the draft pool, as McDaniel tweets, meaning that he will not be eligible to be selected by any club. Murray will likely be eligible for the 2018 draft following his junior season, provided he does not shift his focus entirely to football.


NL Central Notes: Saltalamacchia, Garcia, Kang

After a more in-depth look at the Brewers earlier today, here’s a look around the rest of the NL Central…

  • The Reds will not pursue catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia despite an injury that could force Devin Mesoraco to undergo hip surgery, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Mesoraco will serve as a pinch-hitter/interleague DH and try to delay surgery for as long as he is able. The Reds have 8 games in AL parks over the coming two weeks, Rosenthal adds. The decision not to place Mesoraco on the disabled list is strange, to say the least, as he’s contributed a mere eight plate appearances to the Reds dating back to April 12. By opting not to place Mesoraco on the DL, the Reds have given manager Bryan Price a limited bench with which to work and prevented themselves from perhaps adding some defensive versatility or speed to the bench.
  • Oft-injured Cardinals lefty Jaime Garcia has ramped up his throwing program to a 70-pitch live BP, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports on Twitter. At this point, St. Louis probably cannot count on much from Garcia, given his significant shoulder problems, but would surely welcome the opportunity to get what it can from him with Adam Wainwright down for the year.
  • The Pirates ought to seriously consider giving more time to infielder Jung-ho Kang, Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review opines. Pittsbugh’s offense has scuffled badly, of course, with shortstop Jordy Mercer and third baseman Josh Harrison among the struggling starters. It would not be surprising to see Kang appear more frequently in the lineup, particularly given that he has exhibited some promising signs with a 10.3% walk rate, 17.9% strikeout rate, and sturdy .265/.333/.412 overall batting line, along with solid-enough defensive ratings, all in a short sample. Harrison, at least, presumably has a reasonably long leash after signing a significant extension over the offseason.

White Sox Designate Javy Guerra For Assignment

The White Sox announced that they’ve returned right-hander Javy Guerra from his rehab assignment at Triple-A, reinstated him from the disabled list and designated him for assignment.

Guerra, 29, had been rehabbing from right shoulder inflammation down at Charlotte after appearing in just three games for the Sox this season. Guerra, however, was a nice piece in the Chicago bullpen last year, working to a 2.91 ERA with 7.4 K/9, 3.9 BB/9 and a 40. percent ground-ball rate. Those 46 1/3 innings translated to an ERA+ of 132, though his adjusted FIP and xFIP were below the league average.

Guerra broke into the league in 2011 with the Dodgers and spent the bulk of that, his age-25 campaign, as their closer, racking up 21 saves in 46 2/3 innings. For his career, the Texas native has enjoyed excellent bottom-line results, including a 2.87 ERA with 125 strikeouts against 57 unintentional walks in 150 1/3 innings. He has, however, missed a good bit of time due to knee surgery and shoulder surgery in 2012.



Cubs Designate Anthony Varvaro For Assignment

The Cubs announced today that they have designated right-hander Anthony Varvaro for assignment. His roster spot will go to fellow righty Justin Grimm, who was activated from the disabled list. Additionally, the Cubs have optioned Junior Lake to Triple-A Iowa and recalled outfielder Matt Szczur.

The Cubs claimed the 30-year-old Varvaro off waivers from the Red Sox just three days ago, and he didn’t get into a game with Chicago in his brief time with the club. Varvaro was likely added to keep a fresh arm in the ‘pen should a need arise, and the Cubs may have similar hopes to those of the Dodgers, who have recently claimed and quickly designated promising arms in the hopes that they will clear outright waivers and be able to be kept in the organization.

That may be unlikely in Varvaro’s case, as the former Braves/Red Sox hurler has a solid track record in the Majors. Varvaro posted a 2.74 ERA with 6.5 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and a ground-ball rate near 48 percent with the Braves from 2012-13, making their offseason decision to part ways with him somewhat surprising. With the Red Sox this year, Varvaro appeared in nine games and totaled 11 innings. The five runs he surrendered aren’t particularly concerning, but his velocity was down from an average of 92.5 mph in 2014 to 91.1 mph in 2015. That, combined with the 14 hits and six walks he yielded in his 11 innings, likely aided in his swift exit from the Boston organization.

The Cubs will have 10 days to trade Varvaro or place him on outright waivers. Given his track record, it’s not difficult to envision another club claiming him if he is placed on waivers.


Minor Moves: Walters, Hernandez, Stock

Some minor transactions from around the league and the independent circuit…

  •  The Dodgers have signed right-hander P.J. Walters, who had been pitching with the independent Atlantic League’s Lancaster Barnstormers, reports Mike Ashmore of the Trentonian (Twitter link). The 30-year-old Walters should join L.A.’s Minor League ranks following the move. Though Walters has posted just a 6.28 ERA in parts of five Major League seasons with the Cardinals, Twins and Blue Jays, he does have a lifetime 4.70 ERA with 8.0 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 in Triple-A.
  • Former Twins left-hander Pedro Hernandez has signed a contract with the independent St. Paul Saints, the team announced. Hernandez was acquired along with Eduardo Escobar in the 2012 trade that sent Francisco Liriano to the White Sox. The now-26-year-old Hernandez struggled to a 7.33 ERA with 33 strikeouts against 26 walks in 66 1/3 Major League innings with the Sox, Twins and Rockies from 2012-14. He posted solid, if unspectacular numbers throughout much of his Minor League career until reaching the Triple-A level.
  • Right-hander Robert Stock‘s contract has been purchased by the Pirates, according to a tweet from the Normal CornBelters of the independent Frontier League. The 25-year-old hit the indy circuit after posting a 4.12 ERA with 43 strikeouts against 46 walks in 63 1/3 innings between the Cardinals’ Class-A and Class-A Advanced affiliates in 2014.

Brewers Notes: Attanasio, Melvin, Lucroy, Braun

Brewers owner Mark Attanasio indicated that his scuffling club is looking at all options, as Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports“Over 11 years, I’ve made some pretty tough decisions and I’m ready to make them again,” said Attanasio. “Whether it’s remodel, retool, rebuild, whatever it takes to bring winning baseball to Milwaukee is what I’m going to do. The organization always comes first to me and for everybody.” While the owner says that all members of the organization must be held accountable, he expressed confidence in GM Doug Melvin — though he also declined to address Melvin’s contract situation.

Milwaukee will face many tough questions over the coming months, and here are a few more notes on their current situation and future outlook:

  • The Brewers are telling other clubs that injured catcher Jonathan Lucroy is not available via trade, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reports on Twitter. It is early, of course, and that stance could presumably always change with the right offer, but Milwaukee is presumably less than thrilled with the prospect of parting with perhaps its highest-value asset. The very same thing that makes Lucroy so appealing to the rest of the league — his top-level offensive and defensive production in an up-the-middle position at a bargain rate for multiple years — also make him an obvious player to build around in either a go-for-it or reloading scenario. Assuming his club option is picked up, the 28-year-old will earn just $12.25MM from the start of this season through 2017.
  • Whatever they may be saying in talks, the Brewers should strongly consider dealing Lucroy, in the opinion of Dave Cameron of Fangraphs. That assessment is due in part to the fact that Lucroy’s cheap contract opens up a wide array of possible trade partners, to say nothing of the dearth of other available top-end options at the catching position. Of course, it bears noting that Lucroy is off to a rough start to the year (.133/.216/.178 in 51 plate appearances) and will be sidelined for another few weeks as he rehabs a broken toe. And Martin Maldonado, his quality backup, has also failed to deliver much offensively thus far in 2015.
  • J.P. Breen of Baseball Prospectus examines Ryan Braun‘s lack of productivity, noting that Braun’s ability to handle pitches on the inner third of the plate has dramatically decreased over the past two seasons. That was understandable in 2014, Breen points out, due to a devastating nerve issue in Braun’s thumb that made it difficult for him to even shake hands with another person, let alone play baseball. Braun began starting his swing early in an effort to keep up with fastballs that he could once handle, leaving him susceptible to breaking pitches away. Breen wonders if Braun may still be working to correct some of those bad habits he developed last year. Though he’s still whiffing on inside pitches, Braun has excellent exit velocity and hard-contact numbers, indicating that if he can close the hole in his swing, he could return to his status as a premier threat. However, as Breen concludes, any significant dip in production would mean that Braun likely won’t live up to his five-year, $105MM extension — a contract that begun only this season.

West Notes: Guerrero, Miller, Burns

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

  • Dodgers utilityman Alex Guerrero, fresh off a National League rookie-of-the-month award, has already drawn trade interest, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. But Los Angeles is not quite ready to act on its obvious glut of options in the corner outfield and around the diamond. That over-abundance of quality utility-type options has long been apparent — Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times talked about it with me in length on the MLBTR Podcast a few weeks back — but the team has managed to spread playing time thus far. As Rosenthal notes, however, the time is probably coming where the club will need to strongly consider dealing from its depth.
  • Truly, the depth that the Dodgers have compiled at the corner outfield, second, and third is a thing to behold. In addition to Guerrero, Justin Turner and Scott Van Slyke are both mashing in the early going. With Andre Ethier also hitting, Howie Kendrick locked in at second, and Juan Uribe still available at third, the impending return of Yasiel Puig will create yet more lineup pressure. Carl Crawford‘s own DL stint has freed things up somewhat in the meantime, but it still seems apparent that something will ultimately have to give. (And that’s all before considering shuttle players like Enrique Hernandez, Chris Heisey, and Darwin Barney.) Of course, this certainly rates in the category of a good problem to have, as many of the above-named players could profile as significant trade pieces should the Dodgers look to add arms over the summer.
  • Brad Miller appears to be moving off of the shortstop position for the Mariners in at least a semi-permanent manner, as Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports. Skipper Lloyd McClendon said that he envisions Miller taking on a Ben Zobrist-like super-utility role. While Miller himself did not sound too pleased with the move, he also expressed a determination to handle the shift professionally. Of course, while Chris Taylor will presumably receive a lot of time at short, it remains to be seen precisely how Miller will slot into the rest of the team’s picture. Second and third base are not exactly positions where Seattle will be looking to utilize a time share, and the club already has left-handed-hitting corner outfield options in Dustin Ackley and Seth Smith.
  • With Coco Crisp nearing a return for the Athletics, that raises a tough question regarding speedy young outfielder Billy Burns, as Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. Burns is off to a hot start at the plate and has been a dynamic presence for a team that is off to a 12-16 start. As Slusser explains, the decision will not come down to whether to keep Burns on the roster or make a move with the struggling Craig Gentry. Instead, it is really a matter of deciding what to do with Rule 5 pick Mark Canha — a power bat who is off to a strong start and must be kept on the active roster or placed on waivers. As always, the Oakland roster is loaded with potential scenarios, and Slusser breaks them all down in the piece.

 


D’Backs One Of Four Teams Looking At Saltalamacchia; Rays, Red Sox Are Not

9:11am: The D’Backs are joined by three other teams in “looking at” the backstop, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports on Twitter. The Red Sox and Rays are not among them, he adds.

8:28am: Arizona has indeed already reached out to Saltalamacchia, tweets Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca. Multiple clubs are involved early in the process, per the report.

8:19am: The Diamondbacks are considering a run at newly-minted free agent catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports. Arizona was said to be one of the teams discussing the veteran with the Marlins prior to his release.

“He’s a player that we’re going to talk a little bit more in-depth about,” said GM Dave Stewart. “I have to see what our scouts are saying and talk to our internal guys, and if it makes sense then we’ll make the next step.”

Now that Saltalamacchia’s large salary is destined to remain entirely on the Marlins’ tab, clubs can pursue him as a risk-free addition. It remains to be seen what kind of market will develop now that Salty is back on the open market, but competition to acquire his services will presumably focus on non-compensatory matters, such as playing time, fit, and location.

Arizona’s catching situation has been as unproductive as expected, though at least four other teams have compiled more negative fWAR at the position. Starter Tuffy Gosewisch has slashed just .176/.222/.176 through 72 plate appearances. And while the versatile Jordan Pacheco has provided some value offensively, his .280/.379/.400 slash is fueled by a .400 BABIP and seems highly likely to come back to earth.

Stewart acknowledged that situation, saying while he liked the job Gosewisch has done behind the plate, “we still expect a little more offense from him.” While the rookie GM did not give any indication that Gosewisch’s time was short, he did make clear that change was not out of the question: “He may make those adjustments,” said Stewart, “but with that being said, we have to at least go through the process internally and see if Saltalamacchia is an option to bring here.”

All said, the D’Backs look like precisely the kind of club that ought to take a shot on a return to form from Saltalamacchia, who just turned thirty a few days ago. He may never get back to the low-OBP but high-power option he was before going to Miami, but his ceiling is known and is obviously higher than that of most freely available talent. At the very least, the switch-hitting Saltalamacchia has always high right-handed pitching, making him a useful option to pair with a right-handed bat.


Should The Astros Pursue Cole Hamels?

Cole Hamels‘ name has been on the trade market for the better part of a year, but despite reported interest from teams such as the Red Sox, Rangers, Cardinals, Dodgers, Padres and others, the 31-year-old ace remains in Phillies pinstripes to open the 2015 season. The expectation is that Hamels will once again frequent the rumor circuit this summer, and many of the aforementioned clubs figure to be mentioned as suitors. Struggles in the Red Sox’ rotation and injuries to the Dodgers should place them among the most oft-mentioned suitors, but with an 18-8 start under their belt, the Astros merit consideration as a potential landing spot.

Yesterday, when looking at some items from around the AL West, I briefly explored the idea of a Hamels-to-Houston move when discussing the idea of the Astros making an early move to fortify their rotation. As Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle pointed out, both Baseball Prospectus and Fangraphs have the Astros’ playoff odds listed at greater than 50 percent with their 18 wins already banked and the second-place Angels trailing by seven games. While an elite bullpen (2.13 ERA, 2.81 FIP, 2.87 xFIP) and an offense that has collectively batted .247/.324/.446 (good for a fourth-ranked wRC+ of 113) have paired with a decisively above-average defense, the team’s rotation has has been less impressive.

Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh have continued their 2014 breakouts and stepped into the No. 1 and 2 slots atop the rotation, but the collective contributions of Scott Feldman, Roberto Hernandez, Sam Deduno, Asher Wojciechowski and Brad Peacock have yielded just a 5.05 ERA. Feldman’s track record of solid innings and contract will keep him locked into a rotation spot, barring injury, but aside from him, there’s little certainty in the team’s remaining rotation options.

Deduno’s solid 2013 effort was bookended by a pair of replacement-level showings. Hernandez was reasonably effective with the Phillies last season, but he hasn’t been a reliable rotation arm since he was still known as Fausto Carmona. Wojciechowski and Peacock are both prospects that have proven little at the Major League level, and neither Dan Straily or Brett Oberholtzer (rehabbing from a blister issue) has ever handled a full big league workload.

While we can make the case that the team has enough arms to patch its way through the season with this mix, the rotation appears to be the clearest spot for an upgrade. Indeed, GM Jeff Luhnow has acknowledged as much, saying yesterday that the rotation is the team’s only “obvious” area to make an addition. He also hinted that the club may ultimately look to add at the top of the rotation rather than just settling for a back-of-the-rotation option. As Luhnow put it, “there are scenarios where we would continue to invest in this team as the year goes on in order to maximize our chances of not just getting to the playoffs, but being better in the playoffs.” 

There’s certainly an argument to be made that a less expensive veteran such as Kyle Lohse would be a better target for the Astros, but Houston showed little interest in giving up talent for one-year rentals this winter when it acquired a long-term piece in Evan Gattis. They, in fact, traded a rental by moving the final year of Dexter Fowler‘s contract for Luis Valbuena and Straily (and replacing him cheaply via free agency with another rental, Colby Rasmus). Perhaps if the price is right, that would end up being the preferred route, but with an Astros team that is seemingly on the brink of what it hopes will be a sustainable run of contending seasons, there may be some additional value placed on adding Hamels at a below-market rate as opposed to spending heavily in free agency this winter on the likes of David Price, Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann, etc.

The Astros aren’t known as big spenders, but they invested $62MM in Major League free agents this offseason — the 13th-largest sum of any team — and they can’t be criticized for not trying to spend more. Houston reportedly made the largest offer for Andrew Miller and aggressively pursued David Robertson, only to see each sign elsewhere. They also appeared set to add Ryan Vogelsong late in the offseason before questions regarding his physical resulted in a decrease in their offer.

Nonetheless, the $96MM in guaranteed money remaining on Hamels’ contract (not including an option that could invest and bring the guarantee to $124MM) is certainly a level of spending that we haven’t seen the Astros approach since escaping the tail end of what was a disastrous $100MM contract issued to Carlos Lee by the previous front office/ownership group. However, if the sum is daunting for owner Jim Crane, the Phillies have expressed a willingness to include money to facilitate a trade. And, as MLBTR’s Jeff Todd explained on Opening Day, the Astros have the second-lightest swath of long-term commitments among all MLB clubs, with only the A’s having a clearer payroll in the years to come. Houston, then, is arguably better-equipped to add a hefty contract like the Hamels pact than the Red Sox or Dodgers, both of whom would acquire Hamels with the added cost of serious luxury tax implications.

As far as prospects are concerned, there’s no question that the Astros’ farm system has deteriorated a bit following the trade for Gattis and the promotion of George Springer (among others). However, ESPN’s Keith Law still ranked them third, even after the Gattis swap, and Basebal America ranked them a less-impressive 14th late in Spring Training. Carlos Correa is among the game’s very best prospects, and while he’d surely top GM Ruben Amaro Jr.’s wishlist when discussing Hamels deals, I’d imagine the Astros consider him untouchable. Moving on from Correa, however, the Astros have a host of Top 100 prospects, with Mark Appel likely considered the second-best among their ranks. Appel ranked between 30th and 35th on the Top 100 lists of BA, Law, MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus, while Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel ranked him 18th entering the season. A deep farm system beyond that top two reveals the likes of Vincent Velasquez, Colin Moran, Michael Feliz, Domingo Santana, Josh Hader and Brett Phillips, among others. And while parting with a significant portion of that talent would come as an unequivocal blow to their organizational depth, the Astros are positioned to add more high-impact talent in this year’s draft, with two of the top five picks and four of the top 46.

I’ll be the first to admit that this is a somewhat reactionary response to a 25-game sample, but with 18 wins accounted for, the Astros could play sub-.500 baseball (68-69) over the rest of the season and still finish with 86 wins. Another five months of ~.500 ball will have them firmly in the mix for a playoff spot. At that point, an early or midseason swap of Hamels for the group of occupants that would’ve otherwise provided innings from the fifth slot in the rotation could prove an upgrade of two or three wins.

Hamels, of course, hasn’t looked himself to open the season, but his 91.5 mph average fastball velocity is in line with his 2012-13 levels, and a fluky homer-to-flyball ratio has plagued him thus far. Overall, his bottom-line results through six starts aren’t entirely dissimilar from the first six outings of his 2014 campaign. Perhaps the one area for concern with Hamels is his increased walk rate, but with a rebound in his control, Hamels still appears plenty capable of providing a significant jolt to any big league rotation.

With my perhaps unnecessarily long-winded preamble aside, let’s open it up to public debate…


Quick Hits: Myers, Salty, Correa, Appel, Draft

Right-hander Brett Myers, who spent parts of 12 Major League seasons with the Phillies, Astros, White Sox and Indians, said in an interview with Section215.com that he’s enjoying retired life and believes that his playing days are likely over. Myers explained that over the final few years of his playing career, he missed spending time with his children, but he now is enjoying coaching his 10-year-old son’s baseball team. In his career, the former 12th overall pick posted a 4.25 ERA a 97-96 record, 40 saves, 7.3 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 1710 big league innings spent as both a starter and a closer. His playing days were also marred by off-field issues, including charges of domestic violence that were eventually dropped at his wife’s request, and an expletive-laced tirade aimed at a Phillies beat reporter whom he ultimately threatened with physical violence.

Some more notes from around the league…

  • Though Chris Iannetta has struggled tremendously with the bat in 2015, the Angels don’t consider Jarrod Saltalamacchia a fit, reports MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez. The 30-year-old Saltalamacchia cleared release waivers earlier today and is free to sign with any club. Gonzalez also adds that the Angels are hopeful that fellow catcher Drew Butera will clear waivers, giving them a chance to keep him in the organization following his recent DFA.
  • Astros GM Jeff Luhnow discussed the timelines for prospects Carlos Correa and Mark Appel with Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle, and Drellich notes that the 20-year-old Correa could very likely beat the 23-year-old Appel to the Majors. Luhnow acknowledged that Correa has a good chance of being promoted to Triple-A this month, once they see a bit more of how he reacts to facing teams and pitchers for the second time in Double-A. Appel, meanwhile, has struggled a bit at Double-A, and the GM said he’d like to see some consistently dominant outings from Appel before moving him up the Minor League ladder.
  • Brendan Rodgers of Florida’s Lake Mary High School is the first of three shortstops perched atop Keith Law’s list of Top 100 Draft prospects at ESPN.com (Insider subscription required and highly recommended, particularly for draft followers). Arizona’s Kevin Newman and Vanderbilt’s Dansby Swanson add a pair of college shortstops to the mix, while UC Santa Barbara righty Dillon Tate and prep lefty Kolby Allard round out the top five. Former No. 1 overall consideration Mike Matuella has dropped to 19th, as the Duke right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this spring. Last year’s No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken sits 26th on Law’s list following his own Tommy John surgery.

Minor Moves: Baker, Ortiz, Tolleson, Bello, Sands

The day’s minor moves will be tracked right here:

  • The Dodgers have outrighted Scott Baker to Triple-A Oklahoma City following his DFA, tweets J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles News Group. The 33-year-old Baker was designated on Sunday following a pair of starts in which he allowed seven runs in 11 innings of work with an 8-to-3 K/BB ratio. The former Twin has yet to establish himself as a credible mid-rotation starter, as he was in Minnesota from 2007-11, after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2012.
  • Left-hander Joseph Ortiz has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Iowa after being designated for assignment by the Cubs over the weekend, MLBTR has learned (Twitter link). The 24-year-old Ortiz enjoyed a solid season with the Rangers in 2013 at just 22 years of age, working to a 4.23 ERA with 27 strikeouts against eight unintentional walks in 44 2/3 innings. Ortiz was involved in a freak accident prior to the 2014 season when was struck by a motorcyclist while walking down the street in his native Venezuela. The resulting fractures in his left foot cost him much of the 2014 season. Ortiz was claimed off waivers by the Cubs this winter and has a 3.38 ERA in 10 2/3 Triple-A innings, though he’s struck out just one hitter despite a career K/9 of 8.6 in the Minors.
  • Steven Tolleson has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A by the Blue Jays, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca tweets. The infielder could find himself back on the active roster in short order, per Davidi, as the club is currently lacking a reserve middle infielder after today’s roster moves.
  • The Padres have purchased the rights to catcher Yenier Bello from the independent league’s Joplin Blasters, according to Mark Schremmer of the Joplin Globe (via Twitter). Bello, 30, was released by the Braves just one year after signing out of Cuba. It seems rather likely that he will be looked upon as an organizational depth piece by the San Diego organization.
  • The Indians announced that outfielder Jerry Sands has accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A. Sands could have declined the assignment and shopped his early-season .348/.400/.435 batting line on the open market, but apparently felt his best opportunity remained with the Cleveland organization.

Injury Notes: Rendon, Johnson, Walden, Albers, Lucroy

Anthony Rendon‘s return to the Nationals appears to be on hold, as the infielder has suffered a strained oblique muscle during his rehab assignment, manager Matt Williams told reporters, including James Wagner of the Washington Post (Twitter link). Rendon was on the mend from a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee but had his rehab assignment shut down after the oblique issue popped up. The severity of the issue and timeline of his return are unknown at this point, per Williams, but the plan for now is for Rendon to rest more.

More injury news pertaining to the Nats and from around the league…

  • Nationals outfielder Reed Johnson underwent surgery to repair a damaged tendon in his foot over the weekend, Wagner wrote earlier in the week. Wagner writes that the 38-year-old Johnson is expected to be able to rejoin the club later this summer. Williams didn’t sound sure, however, as MASNsports.com’s Dan Kolko tweeted yesterday. Asked whether Johnson would be able to return to the Nats this season, Williams simply replied, “I don’t know.”
  • Cardinals GM John Mozeliak expressed some concern over the shoulder and biceps of setup man Jordan Walden, who is currently on the disabled list, writes MLB.com’s Jen Langosch. Walden is getting a second opinion of the MRIs taken on his arm, but surgery has not been ruled out as a possibility. Mozeliak said at this time, Walden is leaning toward pitching through the injury.
  • The White Sox will be without right-hander Matt Albers longer than expected, tweets Scott Merkin of MLB.com. Albers injured a finger on his right hand in the Sox’ benches-clearing brawl with the Royals earlier this season, and the digit ultimately wound up requiring surgery which will keep him on the shelf for six to eight weeks.
  • After a slew of bad news in this post, we’ll touch on some good news for the Brewers; Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel tweets that the early signs on Jonathan Lucroy‘s broken toe are positive, and he currently hopes that he can return on the low end of his projected four- to six-week timeline for recovery.

AL East Notes: Pirela, Travis, Paredes, Red Sox

The Yankees are set to bring up second base prospect Jose Pirela, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reports on Twitter. It remains to be seen how the playing time will be sorted in the middle infield, but the club has received scant production to date at both second base (Stephen Drew and Gregorio Petit) and shortstop (Didi Gregorius). With the Yankees otherwise looking good atop the AL East, it is fair to wonder whether Pirela and/or Rob Refsnyder will get extended early looks to help inform the club’s decisionmaking over the summer.

Here’s more from the competitive AL East:

  • Meanwhile, things are headed in quite a different direction at the keystone for the Blue Jays, who have received stunning production from offseason acquisition Devon Travis. As Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca explains, while Travis’s incredible start is obviously not sustainable, he has exhibited a series of skills — hitting the ball long and hard, and showing quality strike zone control — that bode well for his future. While Toronto obviously hoped he could become a long-term answer when it dealt for him, the club now has good reason to believe that he will be installed at second for years to come.
  • Another infielder off to a surprisingly hot start is Jimmy Paredes of the Orioles. As Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun writes, the 26-year-old has traveled a long road through five organizations to get to this point. Still a work in progress in the field, Paredes has shown real promise at the plate this year. With Jonathan Schoop still working back from injury and Manny Machado having missed significant time in each of the last two seasons, Paredes could be an important piece for Baltimore if the team hopes to stay in the playoff hunt.
  • Things have gotten bad in a hurry for the Red Sox, writes Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. Bradford opines that losing Hanley Ramirez for any significant stretch would be a huge blow for Boston; while his injury does not appear to be as serious as it looked, any loss of production could be problematic in a tough division. Of course, the club has plenty of options in the outfield, and the bigger concern remains a rotation that has struggled badly. Though it is reasonable to hope that the results will begin to better match the underlying peripherals, Bradford says that the team does not have any obviously promising internal candidates to add quality innings in the near term.

Cubs Designate Blake Parker For Assignment

The Cubs announced today that they have selected the contract of lefty James Russell from Triple-A Iowa and designated right-hander Blake Parker for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster. Chicago’s press release also notes that outfielder Chris Denorfia has been placed on the 15-day disabled list, and recently claimed righty Anthony Varvaro has been added to the 25-man roster.

The 29-year-old Parker has seen Major League action with the Cubs in each of the past three seasons, working to a 3.68 ERA with 10.4 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 and a 30.6 percent ground-ball rate. Most of that work came in an excellent 2013 season during which he racked up 46 1/3 innings in the Chicago ‘pen. Parker’s velocity dipped from 91.9 mph in 2013 to 90.5 mph last year, however, and his ERA spiked to 5.14 in 21 innings . His K/BB numbers from that season and FIP, xFIP and SIERA all indicate that his ERA was quite misleading, however. Parker had thrown 3 1/3 innings this season at Triple-A but hadn’t appeared since April 15. Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times tweets that he has been on the disabled list with an elbow injury.

Russell, of course, recently returned to the Cubs after being released by the Braves in Spring Training. The 29-year-old was traded from Chicago to Atlanta at least year’s trade deadline, alongside teammate Emilio Bonifacio, in exchange for catching prospect Victor Caratini. Aside from that brief appearance in Atlanta, Russell’s entire career has been spent in a Cubs uniform. Over the past three seasons, he’s notched a combined 3.26 ERA with 6.7 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 in 179 2/3 innings while holding opposing lefties to a .235 average and .289 OBP, though they’ve still slugged .392 against him — good for a .157 ISO.


Alex Cobb Has Partially Torn Ligament In Elbow

Rays right-hander Alex Cobb‘s 2015 season is in jeopardy, as is much of his 2016 season, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that an MRI has revealed a partially torn ligament in his right elbow. For the time being, Cobb will rest and undergo treatment in an attempt to pitch through the injury, but he’ll be facing Tommy John surgery if that route proves unsuccessful.

Cobb, 27, has already received a platelet-rich plasma injection in the elbow as part of a visit with Dr. James Andrews. President of baseball operations Matt Silverman told Topkin earlier that the team was in “wait and see” mode and that speculation regarding surgery was premature, though that appears to have been before Topkin learned of the MRI results.

Over the past two seasons, Cobb has looked the part of a front-line starter when healthy enough to take the hill. He’s worked to a 2.82 ERA with 8.2 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and a 56 percent ground-ball rate in 309 2/3 innings. He has also, however, missed time with a concussion and an oblique injury, and this season he opened the year on the disabled list due to what was originally termed right forearm tendinitis.

Losing Cobb would be a significant blow to a second-place Rays team that has been anxiously awaiting his return to the rotation. However, Tampa successfully weathered the storm after losing Matt Moore to Tommy John surgery last year and trading ace David Price, as their new-look rotation currently features Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Drew Smyly, Nate Karns and Alex Colome.

Moore is expected to rejoin the club sometime in June or July, and there are other depth options on the 40-man roster including Erasmo Ramirez and Matt Andriese. Another potential depth option, righty Burch Smith (acquired in the Wil Myers trade) is already lost for the year due to Tommy John surgery, however, and Ramirez’s struggles over the past year-plus have been extreme. Further injuries in the rotation, then, could lead to some trade consideration this summer, but adding Moore to the current crop of healthy starters would seem enough to carve out a competitive rotation, even if Cobb is unfortunately lost for the next year.