June 2014

Royals Designate Pedro Ciriaco, Justin Maxwell For Assignment

The Royals have designated infielder Pedro Ciriaco and outfielder Justin Maxwell for assignment, the team announced.  This is the second time that each player has been designated for assignment this season.

Ciriaco has seen limited action this season, posting a .484 OPS in 49 PA as the Royals’ utility infielder, and he has a more impressive .295/.318/.475 line at Triple-A (albeit in only 66 PA).  Ciriaco originally came to K.C. in July 2013 when the Royals claimed him off waivers from the Padres.

Maxwell came to the Royals in a trade deadline deal with the Astros last July and hit very well in the last two months of 2013, posting an .857 OPS in 111 PA.  The 30-year-old outfielder avoided arbitration with Kansas City by agreeing to a one-year, $1.325MM contract after avoiding arbitration last winter, yet he has struggled badly this year, with just a .397 OPS and one extra-base hit over 45 PA.  Maxwell has dominated Triple-A pitching, however, to the tune of an .899 OPS in 106 PA.

Ciriaco and Maxwell join southpaw Donnie Joseph as Royals players currently in “DFA limbo,” according to the MLB Trade Rumors DFA Tracker.  Five more players around the league are also in limbo — Michael Almanzar (Orioles), Chris Capuano (Red Sox), Greg Dobbs (Nationals), Scott Downs (White Sox) and Sean O’Sullivan (Phillies).


Royals Sign Raul Ibanez

The Royals have signed Raul Ibanez to a Major League contract, the team announced.  The 42-year-old was released by the Angels last week after signing a one-year, $2.75MM deal with the Halos in the offseason.  Ibanez is represented by ACES.

Ibanez didn’t produce much in Anaheim, hitting only .157/.258/.265 with three homers over 190 PA this season.  He projects as a bench bat and occasional designated hitter for the Royals, likely spelling regular DH Billy Butler every once in a while against a right-handed starter.  Ibanez, while a below-average defensive outfielder, could also see a bit of time in the outfield since the Royals just designated Justin Maxwell for assignment.

While it’s unclear if Ibanez has anything left at the plate, it’s a fairly low-risk signing for the Royals considering Ibanez’s track record, clubhouse presence and the fact that he’s signing for a minimum salary.  This is Ibanez’s second stint with Kansas City, as he originally played for the Royals from 2001-03.


Minor Moves: Collier, Loe, Pineiro, Maine

Here are today’s minor league transactions from around baseball, with the newest moves at the top of the post…

  • Phillies outfielder Zach Collier cleared waivers and was outrighted to Double-A, the team announced.  The Phils designated Collier for assignment earlier this week.  Collier, picked 34th overall in 2008, has a .240/.312/.349 slash line over 2084 career minor league plate appearances.
  • The Braves released righty Kameron Loe, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (via Twitter).  Loe posted an 8.83 ERA in 17 1/3 relief innings with Triple-A Gwinnett after signing a minor league deal with the Braves last month.  This is Loe’s third change of teams in 2014, as he already opted out of a minor league deal with the Giants in March and was released by the Royals in May.
  • The Angels released right-hander Joel Pineiro, Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports (Twitter link).  Pineiro struggled to a 7.48 ERA over four Triple-A starts after signing a minor league deal with the Halos earlier this month.  Pineiro was attempting a comeback after missing most of 2012 and all of 2013 recovering from shoulder problems,  and the Angels were his second stop after already being released by the Cubs earlier this season.
  • The Reds have signed left-hander Scott Maine to a minor league deal and assigned him to Double-A.  Maine had been pitching for the Bridgeport Bluefish of the independent Atlantic League, and the transaction was announced via Bridgeport’s team website.  The southpaw had a 4.95 ERA, 10.4 K/9 and a 5.75 K/BB rate in 20 innings for the Bluefish this season, with all but one of his 19 appearances coming out of the bullpen.  Maine posted a 5.59 ERA and 48 strikeouts over 46 2/3 IP with the Cubs and Indians from 2010-12, though he was plagued by both the long ball (1.5 HR/9) and walks (4.8 BB/9) over his brief stint in the bigs.  Maine spent 2013 pitching in the Marlins’ farm system.


AL East Links: Machado, Reimold, Lester, Jays

Manny Machado‘s five-game suspension has been upheld by the league, the Orioles announced today, and the third baseman will begin serving his suspension tonight.  Machado had been appealing the ruling, which stemmed from a June 8th incident that saw him throw his bat towards third base in a game against the Athletics.

Here’s some more from around the AL East…

  • The Orioles are thought to be looking at trade options for Nolan Reimold, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko reports.  The O’s must decide by today what they will do with Reimold, as they would otherwise have to designate the outfielder for assignment unless he is placed on the Major League roster.  Reimold has been hampered by multiple neck surgeries over the last few seasons but has posted a .902 OPS over 17 games on a Double-A rehab assignment.
  • Jon Lester told reporters (including WEEI.com’s Alex Speier) that there haven’t been any new negotiations between his representatives and the Red Sox, and there won’t be any extension talks during the season since Lester considers them a distraction.  “Like I said from the beginning of the season, everything is amicable. Conversations continue. But nothing as far as contract or numbers or anything like that,” Lester said.  The southpaw also noted that his preference to wait until after the season to negotiate doesn’t mean he is any less set on remaining in Boston.
  • Also from Speier, Mookie Betts and Brock Holt are both similar to Dustin Pedroia in both makeup and physical stature, a sign of how the Red Sox are focusing more on ability than body type in developing their prospects.
  • One AL scout would “without hesitation” trade the prospect package of Daniel Norris, Aaron Sanchez and Dalton Pompey for David Price if the Blue Jays received such a demand from the Rays, the scout tells Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun.  This may not be enough for the Jays to outbid others for Price, however, given the number of teams interested and how Tampa is rumored to want a premium if they were to trade Price within the division.  Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos is said to be refusing to move all of Norris/Sanchez/Pompey in a deal for anyone, including Price, Jeff Samardzjia or another pitcher.
  • Yankees GM Brian Cashman is “looking to make some additions if I can,” he told reporters, including Zach Schonbrun of the New York Times. “I’d like to try to do a few things before those guys [C.C. Sabathia, Michael Pineda] get back, if possible. But I’ve already been trying. There’s a reason we haven’t done anything; it’s not because of a lack of phone calls. We’ll see.”  The Yankees are known to be looking for starting pitching to help their rotation depth.

Draft Signings: Graves, Laxer, Schuh

Here are today’s notable amateur draft signings, with all slot information provided by Baseball America

  • The Athletics have signed third-rounder Brett Graves, MLB.com’s Jim Callis reports (via Twitter).  Graves signed for a $510K bonus, giving the A’s a slight discount on the $519.2K slot price attached to the 101st overall selection.  Graves is a 6’1″, 173-pound right-hander from the University of Missouri.  He was ranked as the 59th-best draft prospect by ESPN’s Keith Law, 61st by Baseball America and 80th by MLB.com.  The BA scouting report noted that Graves “appeared to be losing steam as the college season wound down,” which could explain why he was still available after the first 100 picks.
  • The Tigers have signed ninth-round pick Josh Laxer, according to the MLB.com transactions page.  Laxer signed for the $143.9K bonus price assigned to the 280th overall pick, MLB.com’s Jim Callis reports (Twitter link).  Laxer, a right-handed reliever from Ole Miss, has a fastball that can touch 96mph at best, though Baseball America’s scouting report noted that he’ll have to work heavily on his command.
  • The Orioles announced the signing of left-hander Max Schuh, their seventh-round draft choice.  No terms were announced, though the slot value for the 211th overall pick is $179.9K.  Schuh is a 6’4″, 210-pound southpaw out of UCLA.  Baseball America’s scouting report projects Schuh as a reliever since he only has a two-pitch repertoire, though both his pitches (a fastball and slurve) were considered to be very good, and Schuh could add velocity to his 86-91mph heater.

NL Central Notes: Weeks, Cardinals, Davis

After covering some Cubs Notes earlier today, let’s take a look around the rest of the NL Central…

  • The Blue Jays haven’t shown any interest in Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks since they’re looking to land a better defender at the keystone, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports.  (Similar defensive concerns were also the reason for Toronto’s lack of interest in Daniel Murphy, as Heyman reported over the weekend.)  Weeks is hitting .263/.344/.463 in 90 PA against left-handed pitching this season, and would make sense on paper for a Jays team that is need of both second base help and a right-handed bat.
  • The Cardinals are open to acquiring a second or third baseman and have also considered adding a “complement upgrade” for their lineup, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.  Padres outfielder Seth Smith is cited by Goold as an example of the type of complementary player the Cards are discussing, though Smith himself isn’t necessarily being targeted by the team.  If the Cardinals do add a 2B or 3B, Matt Carpenter would play the other position.
  • The Piratestrade for Ike Davis is over two months old, and Tim Rohan of the New York Times checks in to see how both the Bucs and Mets have progressed since the deal.  The Mets have been very pleased by how Lucas Duda is hitting as the new regular first baseman, and while Davis hasn’t been hitting quite as well (.250/.359/.364 in 217 PA as a Pirate), he mentioned in a recent WFAN interview that he enjoys playing for a team that expects to contend.

Cubs Notes: Epstein, Barney, Samardzija

The Cubs begin a series at Fenway Park tonight, getting back in action following a rare Sunday off-day.  The club played a doubleheader on Saturday in order to keep Sunday free for Chicago’s Pride Parade, which could’ve created a traffic jam in the Wrigleyville area had the Cubs been playing as originally scheduled.  MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat takes a look at the history of Sunday baseball, and passes along the historical note that the Cubs were off on a Sunday for the first time since 1932.

Here’s the latest from the north side of Chicago…

  • Theo Epstein denied rumors that he will leave the Cubs after his contract expires following the 2016 season, he tells Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune.  While some speculate that Epstein has been upset at the lack of Major League resources he’s been given by the Cubs, he “insists he will be here as long as the Cubs want him,” Sullivan writes.
  • Two scouts aren’t impressed by Darwin Barney‘s bat, telling Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune that while Barney is a good fielder, “if he can’t hit in the National League, what makes anyone think he can hit in the American League?”  Barney has only slashed .198/.243/.284 in 174 PA this season and could be non-tendered if he can’t improve at the plate.  Gonzales feels Barney’s time with the Cubs is probably nearing an end, though it could come via a trade if he can hit enough to get a look from another team.
  • Also from Gonzales’ reader mailbag piece, he expects the Cubs “to wait as long as possible” for the best offer before trading Jeff Samardzija or Jason Hammel.  He thinks Samardzija might even not be moved until the offseason if necessary, though this would lessen this trade value as a new team would only have him under contract for the 2015 season.
  • The Cubs haven’t gotten much production out of their veteran outfielders, and Gonzales expects maybe one (at most) of Nate Schierholtz, Justin Ruggiano, Ryan Sweeney, Chris Coghlan or Ryan Kalish to be back next season and Chicago will look for more veteran upgrades.  Since Sweeney is owed $2MM for 2015 and the others are all on one-year or minor league contracts, I’d suspect Sweeney is the favorite to return, though $2MM isn’t so large an amount that the Cubs couldn’t eat it if necessary.

Quick Hits: Headley, Braves, Uehara, Peavy

The results of today’s Giants-Reds and Dodgers-Cardinals games look like the crest of a sea change that has reshaped the NL playoff race. Homer Bailey took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning against the Giants, and the Reds emerged with a 4-0 win. Meanwhile, Clayton Kershaw struck out 13 Cardinals in seven innings as the Dodgers cruised to a 6-0 victory. The Dodgers, 9 1/2 games out of first in the NL West three weeks ago, are now even with the Giants, and the Reds are now tied with St. Louis for second place in the Central. With two teams near the top in the NL East as well, and a wide-open Wild Card picture, there could be plenty of competition for veteran talent at the trade deadline. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.

  • Third baseman Chase Headley says he doesn’t feel the Padres are the reason he’s inconsistent, and doesn’t think a change of scenery will help him, Chris Jenkins of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. “Even when things are going full-on crappy, like now, I’m confident that sometime in the near future, I’m going to get healthy, stay healthy and start playing the way I know I’m capable of,” says Headley. “I don’t look at it like, ‘Man, I gotta get out of here to be me again.’ I’m going to be me again, whether it’s here or somewhere else.” Headley is currently hitting .207/.294/.332 while dealing with a herniated disk in his back, but his banner 2012 season likely ensures there will be plenty of interest in him, both at the trade deadline and when he becomes a free agent this offseason.
  • The Braves‘ constant stream of young talent helps keep them consistently competitive and prevents them from having to rebuild, Marc Narducci of Philly.com writes.  “What they have done in our organization is pretty special,” says Freddie Freeman. “They have great development people and it seems like when a guy is ready, they don’t let him sit there and they give him at-bats – and that is what they did with me.” Narducci contrasts the Braves’ approach with that of the Phillies, who seem to keep older players longer and often lack interesting young players to plug into their lineup when playing time finally becomes available.
  • The Red Sox should consider trading Koji Uehara, John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes. Tomase points to the Rangers’ 2003 trade of Ugueth Urbina to the Marlins for Adrian Gonzalez and two other players as evidence of the good things that can happen when a team deals an experienced closer. As Tomase himself notes, of course, it’s very rare to receive a player of Gonzalez’s caliber in return for a reliever. And of course, first the Red Sox need to figure out if they’re buyers or sellers. “Here’s how I view it from the outside. The first thing you have to do is cross that bridge and say, ‘Is it even worth it for us to go out and try to fill two or three holes?‘” says John Hart, the former Rangers GM who pulled off the Gonzalez deal.
  • Sox starter Jake Peavy will be a free agent this winter, and the emergence of Rubby De La Rosa has led to speculation about the possibility Peavy could be traded. But Peavy says he’s not concerned about trade rumors, WEEI.com’s Alex Speier writes. “I have a great relationship with my pitching coach (Juan Nieves), my manager (John Farrell) and my general manager (Ben Cherington). We’re all very open with each other. I don’t need any clarity on any situation involving anything,” says Peavy. “If you start worrying about stuff like that, your focus is off where it needs to be and it’s going to affect things.”

Draft Signings: Kam Uter, Chris Ellis

Here are Sunday’s notable mid- to late-round draft signings, with all slot courtesy of Baseball America:

  • The Dodgers have signed 12th-round pick Kam Uter for $200K, MLB.com’s Jim Callis tweets. The Georgia high school pitcher had a commitment to play wide receiver for Wake Forest. Picks from after the 10th round can earn bonuses of up to $100K before they count against the signing team’s pool, so Uter’s signing will cost the Dodgers $100K against their bonus pool.
  • The Angels have signed their third-round selection Ole Miss right-hander Chris Ellis, reports MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez (Twitter links). Callis tweets that Ellis will receive $575K, slightly less than the bonus pool allotment of $612.8K. First-rounder Sean Newcomb (15th overall) is the only Angels’ draft choice from the first ten rounds who remains unsigned. In a separate tweet, Gonzalez notes no progress has been made with Newcomb, but he expects the University of Hartford left-hander to come to terms before the July 18 deadline.

Charlie Wilmoth contributed to this post.


Red Sox Again Trying To Extend Jon Lester

9:37pm: The Red Sox do want to reignite extension talks with Lester, but there has been no progress toward an extension, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford writes.

9:02pm: The Red Sox are making what could be a final attempt to extend starting pitcher Jon Lester before he reaches free agency this winter, ESPN’s Buster Olney reports. Olney says the Red Sox have improved upon their previous offer to Lester. It’s unclear, however, whether Lester is even receptive to extension talks at this point, preferring to concentrate on pitching during the season. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal noted yesterday that Lester and the Red Sox were very far apart on the terms of a potential deal.

Olney writes that Lester and the Red Sox had not negotiated since the spring, when the Red Sox reportedly made a four-year, $70MM offer. (Since then, even the Red Sox have characterized the $70MM figure as something less than a final offer.) Lester has pitched brilliantly so far this season, posting a 2.92 ERA with 9.1 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 114 innings, and with the recent escalation in salaries for starting pitchers like Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez and Homer Bailey, one would think that Lester would have little trouble topping $70MM on the open market.