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6:41pm: For his part, Diamondbacks chief baseball officer Tony La Russa says no decision has been reached just yet, writes Steve Gilbert of MLB.com.
“I just think that at this point, we’re at Aug. 18, I’ve been around three months, I’ve observed a lot, talked to and met with a lot of people in the organization. I have a much better idea. I just think the official comment is, we’re at Aug. 18, the season is a month and 10 days from being over. So it won’t be long until you have to trot out your plan officially,” La Russa said.
10:09am: The Diamondbacks are planning to keep manager Kirk Gibson in his role next year, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports on Twitter. Arizona does not expect to make any official announcement at the moment.
Gibson, 57, has been at the helm in the Arizona dugout since mid-season 2010, and signed a one-year extension before the year that places him under contract for 2015. But his future — and, perhaps even moreso, that of GM Kevin Towers — came into question early this year with the team’s struggles. Things haven’t really turned around since; the D’backs have moved out of last place in the NL West, but only because of a Rockies freefall. The club ultimately added Tony LaRussa on top of the pair, installing him in the newly-created “chief baseball officer” role.
LaRussa, himself a Hall of Fame manager, has been evaluating things over the last few months and will presumably look to make any major organizational changes in rather short order once the season concludes. It remains to be seen, of course, whether this reported continuity in the field staff will carry over to the front office.
Let’s take a look at a few notes from around the National League …
- Some in the game believing there is an obvious trade match between the Cubs, who are loaded with middle infield prospects, and a Mets club laden with young arms, says John Harper of the New York Daily News. New York is somewhat disinclined to move its better starting pitching prospects in exchange for Chicago’s current starting shortstop, Starlin Castro, and are more attracted to the younger Addison Russell and Javier Baez. The Mets don’t believe the latter player could be had, even if they were willing to part with top prospect Noah Syndergaard, leading Harper to indicate that a move for Russell appears the most realistic possibility.
- Whether or not it’s the case, it is time for the Mets to act like they are only a piece or two away from contention, writes Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. With several young players generating excitement, Matt Harvey working back for the spring, and many of the team’s young hurlers in the bigs or the upper minors, another season of development at the big league level would be a huge disappointment, says Martino.
- Diamondbacks chief baseball officer Tony LaRussa is still keeping a poker face about where he intends to take the organization, writes Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. He noted that the club’s course would begin to clarify soon, with the offseason fast approaching. One focal point that did emerge was the D’backs’ instructional league, where the longtime manager indicated he will be active and involved in imparting his playing philosophies on Arizona’s best young talent.
- Regarding the seemingly tenuous employment situations of Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson, LaRussa seemed to indicate that clarity could be forthcoming once the offseason begins, though he declined to give any timetable. “I don’t think the timing for each of those has to coincide,” he said, referring to the GM and manager. “I just think that at this point, we’re at August 18. I’ve been around three months. I’ve observed a lot, talked to and met with a lot of people in the organization. I have a much better idea.”
The Phillies are pleased with the first part of their return for pitcher Roberto Hernandez, according to CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury. The club announced recently (MLBTR link) that they acquired Jesmuel Valentin as the first of two players to be named later. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. had plenty of things to say about Valentin. One line that stood out: “for the situation we’re in and the player we gave up, I think we did pretty well. Even if we had just this guy, we’d be happy.”
- Salisbury also reports that the club may be close to choosing the second player to be named. Per Amaro, “We have a pretty good idea of who we want, but we’re waiting to make a decision right now. We’re checking on some medical stuff.”
- Former prospect Brett Jackson was once frequently compared to greats like Jim Edmonds and Larry Walker. Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic spoke with several Diamondbacks insiders about the new acquisition. The prevailing hope is that a change in scenery could help Jackson tap into his former potential (and trim his 40 percent strikeout rate). He’s just 25 years old, so there is still time for the light to go on. However, his debut in the Arizona system was not a success – he went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts.
Here are Sunday’s minor moves from around MLB, updates first:
- The Rangers have released veteran first baseman Carlos Pena from their Triple-A roster, per the PCL transactions page. Pena struggled at the major league level for Texas with a .136/.190/.237 line in 63 plate appearances. He performed better during his month at Triple-A with a .297/.350/.500 line in 80 plate appearances. No word on why the club cut ties with Pena.
- The Mariners have released right-handed pitcher Matt Palmer from the Triple-A Rainiers, according to the PCL transactions page. The 35-year-old pitched to a 5.42 ERA for the Rainiers over 73 innings. He last appeared in the majors with the Padres in 2012. Angels fans may remember him from his 2009 season, when he won 11 games and posted a 3.93 ERA over 121 innings.
- Resolving an earlier bit of news, the Tigers have outrighted the contract of right-handed pitcher Kevin Whelan to Triple-A. The 30-year-old appeared once for the big league club and allowed two runs over one and one-third innings. Prior to his call up, he served as the closer for the Mud Hens, where he posted a 2.45 ERA, 10.93 K/9, and 4.02 BB/9. Presumably, he will return to that role. The team announced the move on Twitter.
- Padres minor league outfielder Corey Adamson has retired to pursue a career in Australian rules football, reports Jeff Sanders of U-T San Diego. The 22-year-old, six-year pro was hitting .257/.340/.399 in 348 plate appearances at the High-A level.
- The Brewers have signed right-hander Billy Buckner to a minor league contract, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. The 30-year-old was released two weeks ago by the Padres. Buckner made one spot start for San Diego this season allowing three runs on six hits in 5 2/3 innings and, in 15 appearances (14 starts) for Triple-A El Paso, has posted a 5.80 ERA, 6.2 K/9, and 4.7 BB/9 in 63 2/3 innings.
- Cotillo also tweets the Diamondbacks have released outfielder Aaron Cunningham from their Triple-A affiliate. The 27-year-old, who signed a minor league deal with Arizona in March, slashed .255/.342/.346 in 281 plate appearances for Reno. Cunningham hasn’t appeared in a MLB game since 2012 when he hit .175/.245/.247 for the Indians in 109 plate appearances.
- Per MLBTR’s DFA Tracker, there are four players in DFA limbo: Corey Brown (Red Sox), Charlie Leesman (White Sox), Matt Hague (Pirates), and Wirfin Obispo (Pirates).
Brad Johnson contributed to this post.
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe looks at some of the recently suggestions put forth by Red Sox chairman Tom Werner to help make the game more marketable to young people.
“Too many people are leaving games in the sixth and seventh innings because they can’t watch 3½-hour games, so they’re leaving the game at the point where the game should be getting exciting,” Werner said. “You wouldn’t make a 3½-hour movie. The NFL makes changes almost on an annual basis. They’re considering making the extra point from 35 yards rather than from the 8-yard line… I respect tradition, but I don’t revere it.”
Among Werner’s ideas: instituting a pitch clock, limiting the number of times a batter can step out of the box, and putting a cap on the number of catcher and pitching coach visits to the mound. More from today’s column..
- Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson could be on the hot seat and there has been a lot of speculation about Joe McEwing, a third base coach with the White Sox, or Mike Aldrete, the bench coach for the Cardinals. If Gibson is canned it would mark Tony La Russa‘s first big decision but GM Kevin Towers would also likely to have a say.
- In a chat with Cafardo, David Ross spoke glowingly of the amenities or “little things” that the Red Sox do for their players and Cafardo wonders if that could keep Jon Lester in Boston beyond this season. Lester’s family was always taken care of the team’s traveling secretary and while other teams can offer similar services, the consensus among players who have been multiple places is that Red Sox and Yankees are the teams that offer more to their players.
- Ross tells Cafardo that even though there have been no contract talks with the Red Sox yet, he would like to return. Boston would certainly love for him to keep working with Christian Vazquez, but Ross’s recent bout with plantar fasciitis has slowed him. Ross is finishing up a two-year, 6.2MM deal.
- Daniel Nava drew interest from the Tigers and had interest from the Royals before they traded for Josh Willingham, but he has yet to be put on waivers. It’s not a certainty that he’ll clear and but the Red Sox will likely put him on revocable waivers later in the month to see what type of interest he’ll get. The Sox’ outfield looks crowded next season with Allen Craig, Jackie Bradley Jr., Shane Victorino, Yoenis Cespedes, Mookie Betts, and Brock Holt all in the mix so it makes sense to see what can be had for Nava.
- In a separate tweet, Cafardo reports Nava, Mike Napoli, Koji Uehara, and Will Middlebrooks have been placed on revocable waivers.
We’ll keep track of today’s minor moves here.
- The Tigers will select the contract of reliever Jim Johnson on Sunday, MLB.com’s Jason Beck tweets. To make room on the 40-man roster, they’ll option fellow reliever Melvin Mercedes to Triple-A Toledo. Johnson, of course, struggled with Oakland after two strong years as the Orioles’ closer and ultimately got released before signing a minor league deal with Detroit. He has since pitched 4 2/3 innings for Toledo, allowing three runs, two earned.
- The Yankees have outrighted pitcher Chris Leroux, MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo tweets. Earlier this week, the team designated Leroux for the third time this year, and he’s only made two appearances this season in pinstripes, the last coming in early May. He has a 4.37 ERA with 6.9 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 45 1/3 innings so far this season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
- The Braves have signed infielder Donnie Murphy to a minor league contract, according to MLB.com’s transactions page. As MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo tweets, that likely means Murphy opted out of the minor league deal he signed with the Reds last month. Murphy, 31, hit .196/.268/.330 in 128 plate appearances with the Rangers earlier this year, mostly playing second base.
- The Reds announce that they have selected the contract of righty Dylan Axelrod. They’ve also moved Homer Bailey (neck) to the 15-day DL and Joey Votto (quadriceps) to the 60-day DL. Axelrod will start tonight’s game against the Rockies. The Reds acquired Axelrod from the White Sox in a minor trade in July, and since then he’s posted a 3.06 ERA with 6.1 K/9 and 1.3 BB/9 in 35 1/3 innings at Triple-A Louisville.
- The Diamondbacks have released outfielder Blake Tekotte, according to MiLB.com. Arizona acquired Tekotte from the White Sox in a minor deal less than two weeks ago. This season, the 27-year-old has hit .249/.320/.439 in 340 plate appearances. From 2011 through 2013, he made brief big-league appearances with the Padres and then the White Sox.
- The Phillies have released lefty Jo-Jo Reyes, according to the International League transactions page. The 29-year-old pitched for the Braves, Blue Jays and Orioles from 2007 through 2011. He spent 2012 in the Pirates’ farm system, then headed to Korea in 2013. He made 13 starts in Korea in 2014 and struggled there, then headed to Lehigh Valley, where he pitched 20 2/3 innings, striking out nine batters and walking eight en route to a 10.45 ERA.
Here are today’s minor moves and outright assignments from around the league…
- Outfielder Chris Young has been given his released by the Mets, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com tweets. The 30-year-old was recently designated for assignment after struggling for much of the season,. New York will remain on the hook for the rest of his $7.25MM salary this year (less any meager savings that might be achieved if he hooks on with another club at the league minimum rate).
- The Dodgers have inked righty Anthony Slama to a minor league deal, per the MLB transactions page. Slama, 30, saw brief action with the Twins in 2010-11, and has never played in another MLB organization. The reliever had a great 2012 Triple-A campaign, but struggled at the level last year and ended up with the indy league Southern Maryland Blue Crabs for 2014. Having allowed just two earned runs over 16 1/3 frames, he was picked up by a Los Angeles organization that has been looking for pitching depth.
- Designated for assignment by the Reds on Tuesday, outfielder Ryan LaMarre cleared release waivers and is now a free agent, tweets Cotillo. Cincinnati is talking with the 25-year-old about a new minor league deal, Cotillo adds.
- The Diamondbacks have signed right-hander Rob Wort to a minor league deal and assigned him to short-season Class-A, according to the team’s transactions page. Wort, a former Nationals farmhand, had been pitching for the independent American Association’s Sioux City Explorers. The 25-year-old posted a sparkling 0.97 ERA with a 58-to-14 K/BB ratio in 37 innings with Sioux City this season. The relief prospect has never had much of an issue striking hitters out, as he averaged 11.5 strikeouts per nine in five seasons in the Nationals organization, though he never progressed beyond Double-A.
- Left-hander Brad Mills has accepted his outright assignment from the Blue Jays and will report to Triple-A Buffalo, tweets Chris Cotillo of SB Nation’s MLB Daily Dish. The 29-year-old southpaw, who is no stranger to being designated for assignment this season, was most recently DFA’ed by the Jays on Tuesday this week. He will look to continue his excellent Triple-A work in hopes of receiving another crack at the MLB roster.
The Diamondbacks have acquired former first-round pick and top prospect Brett Jackson from the Cubs in exchange for minor league reliever Blake Cooper, the Cubs announced. The Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro tweets that Jackson will be assigned to Triple-A Reno in the D’Backs organization. Piecoro adds that Jackson had been claimed off waivers prior to the trade’s completion.
Jackson, 26, rated as one of the game’s top 100 prospects from 2010-12, according to both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus (he topped out at No. 32 on BA’s list and No. 44 on BP’s list). When his stock was at its highest, BA likened him to Jim Edmonds, noting that he had that type of ceiling at the plate, if not that type of Gold Glove caliber defense in center field. However, Jackson’s swing-and-miss tendencies caused his stock to plummet, as a problem he looked to have eliminated at the Double-A level resurfaced in Triple-A and still has yet to be corrected. Jackson was batting just .210/.298/.348 with a 37.3 percent strikeout rate for Triple-A Iowa this season and will look to deliver on some of his once sky-high potential in a new organization.
Cooper, also 26, was a 12th-round pick by the Diamondbacks in 2010 and reached Triple-A for the first time in 2014. Though he’s struggled to a 6.00 ERA in 24 innings there, Cooper was excellent at Double-A this year, posting a 1.85 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 34 frames. His command has faltered since moving up to the top minor league level, as he’s walked 17 hitters in his 24 innings at Reno. The 5’11″, 190-pound righty has never ranked among Arizona’s top 30 prospects, according to BA, and he didn’t rank on MLB.com’s midseason list of the D’Backs’ top 20 prospects either. In parts of five minor league seasons, Cooper has a 3.27 ERA with a 217-to-98 K/BB ratio (seven of those free passes were intentional) in 236 2/3 innings.
Because Jackson was waived by an NL team, the D’Backs had the second-highest priority of any club in placing a claim (by virtue of the second-worst record in the NL). Only the Rockies had a higher priority, and it’s not a surprise to see a team with as many outfield options as Colorado pass on a contact-challenged outfielder such as Jackson.
Here’s the latest out of the National League:
- The agent for Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval says that the free agent-to-be is still open to discussing a new deal, though no talks have occurred “in months,” according to a tweet from Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com. Sandoval, who will hit the market before his age-28 season, has put up a solid walk year. In addition to a .283/.330/.438 line and 14 home runs through 463 plate appearances, Sandoval has impressed defensive metrics and scouts alike with his glovework on the hot corner. Even better, his primary competitor on the third base market, Chase Headley, has not impressed. Of course, many clubs will probably view Hanley Ramirez as a third base option at this point as well.
- Cubs starter Jake Arrieta says he is open to an extension with the club, as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Though his agent, Scott Boras, typically advises his clients to go year-to-year until reaching free agency, Arrieta says he loves playing in Chicago and would be interested in a reasonable new contract. “I don’t think I’m a guy that’s going to ask for an astronomical amount of money,” he said. “But I think if there’s a fair deal to be reached, I’m in 100 percent.” Arrieta added that he felt Boras would not be any hindrance to a deal, but would instead arm him with the necessary advice and information to enable him to reach a decision. He did note that no talks had occurred to date: “I don’t think it’s out of the question. I don’t think there’s been anything formal in the works, but this is an organization that I’ve really seen a transformation take place … .” Arrieta will be arb-eligible for the first time next year, entering his age-29 season, and could not have set himself up much better. His current line: 2.77 ERA over 110 1/3 innings with 9.2 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9.
- The Diamondbacks will be in the market for starting pitching over the coming winter, and could look to the Japanese market to fill the need, reports Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. Having worked to increase the team’s presence in Japan, the D’backs have been among the many teams watching 26-year-old righty Kenta Maeda, says Piecoro.
- Braves righty Cody Martin drew plenty of interest as the club looked to bolster its bullpen and bench at the trade deadline, writes Bill Ballew of Baseball America. With a solid feel for multiple quality offerings, Martin has drawn comparisons to Kris Medlen and is viewed as a solid rotation or pen candidate despite his lack of a single plus pitch.
The Tigers have “kicked around” the idea of trading for a hitter to bolster the back end of their lineup, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports in his latest Full Count video. Finding a quality bat will be more difficult in the August waiver period, of course, and there also isn’t any position that Detroit would clearly be looking to upgrade. Rosenthal says the team is “pretty much set in the outfield,” though I’d argue that adding another outfielder to complement or even replace J.D. Martinez or Rajai Davis (both of whom were originally acquired to be part-timers) would help the Tigers down the stretch.
Here’s some more from Rosenthal’s video and a separate piece that examines which managers and general managers could be on the hot seat…
- Some of Jon Lester‘s former teammates believe the southpaw will sign with the Cubs this offseason. Lester, of course, has ties to Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, and the Cubs’ recent waiver claim of Cole Hamels indicates that the team is prepared to spend big money on a top-tier starting pitcher.
- Had the Padres hired Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler, the return of Kevin Towers to the San Diego organization “would’ve been almost automatic.” (The two worked together in New York.) Between Tony La Russa’s hiring in Arizona and the firing of Josh Byrnes in San Diego, rumors have swirled for weeks that Towers would find himself back with the Friars given his friendship with Padres president/CEO Mike Dee. As Rosenthal notes, Towers could still return under new GM A.J. Preller, though rival executives are split as to whether Towers’ presence would be a positive or a negative for Preller as a first-time general manager.
- Bud Black “would be out of work for about five minutes” if Preller decided to make a managerial change. Mike Dee recently told Rosenthal that Preller would decide on Black’s future with the Padres, though the fact that Black’s removal was “never seriously considered” by upper management would seem to bode well for the long-time skipper.
- While Reds GM Walt Jocketty is in the final year of his contract, “there is no indication that Jocketty wants to leave, or that owner Bob Castellini wants him out.” Rosenthal speculates that a reunion between Jocketty and La Russa in Arizona could be a possibility, though Jocketty might prefer to stay with the contending Reds rather than face a rebuilding job with the D’Backs.
- Ruben Amaro’s future as the Phillies‘ GM has been in question given the team’s struggles, which could also mean that manager Ryne Sandberg’s continued employment could also be up in the air. The Hall-of-Famer has “at times looks overmatched, struggling in his communications with veterans and with his in-game management,” Rosenthal writes, though he points out that Sandberg hasn’t been given much to work with on the roster. Sandberg is under contract through the end of the 2016 season.
- Could Jeff Luhnow’s job actually be in jeopardy? Rosenthal isn’t sure, though he notes that “internal tension seems unavoidable” in Houston. The Astros have seen little improvement on the field this season and Luhnow’s front office was widely criticized for its handling of the Brady Aiken negotiations.
- Mike Maddux’s Rangers contract is up at the end of the season, and while extension talks probably won’t take place until then, both Maddux and the team seem eager to see the long-time pitching coach remain in Texas.