Arodys Vizcaino Rumors

Quick Hits: Payrolls, DH, Suspensions, Trade Candidates

ESPN’s Jayson Stark examines the rising payrolls around the game, noting that even 10 years ago, just three teams has payrolls topping $100MM. This year, Stark points out, 22 clubs have $100MM+ payrolls. Stark spoke with Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski, Giants CEO Larry Baer and sports economics expert Andy Zimbalist about the change and its impact around the league. Dombrowski notes that the extra Wild Card added to each league has made teams more willing to spend, because more teams believe they can win, and he also discussed the impact of increased payrolls on roster construction around the league. Baer commented that the additional sources of revenue — namely, TV deals, I would presume — have made it easier for teams to sign players to long-term deals, because revenue is easier to project. Not that long ago, Baer notes, revenue was tied much more heavily to ticket sales, and signing a young player to an extension was riskier, because teams could only project revenue a few years out at a time.

A few more miscellaneous notes from around the league…

  • Baseball America’s Matt Eddy provides a thorough, comprehensive explanation of his belief that it’s time for the National League to adopt the DH rule. Eddy notes that pitcher productivity is at an all-time low, relative to the production of non-pitchers — even as the production of non-pitchers declines in its own right. One NL assistant GM spoke to Eddy about the advantage that AL teams have not only in interleague games in AL stadiums, but in the ability to rest their best players while still giving them four at-bats. Eddy also argues that because improving their offensive prowess doesn’t accelerate their timeline to the Majors — no pitcher will be promoted because he’s a good hitter or withheld from the Majors to work on his swing — there is neither means nor incentive to improve their hitting skills. Eddy views the DH and the pitcher as “two sides of the same, hyper-specialized coin,” noting that a DH contributes solely to the offensive element of a game, whereas a pitcher functions as the key constituent of the defense. Interestingly, a 2013 poll of 18 MLB managers revealed that 12 of those managers were in favor of adding the DH to the NL, Eddy adds.
  • Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post looks at the recent suspensions of Mariners lefty David Rollins, Twins right-hander Ervin Santana, Mets closer Jenrry Mejia and Braves prospect Arodys Vizcaino for Stanozolol and investigates a possible connection. Commissioner Rob Manfred said earlier this week that the league conducts an investigation anytime that there are multiple suspensions for the same banned substance, though he has no reason to assume a connection at this point. Kilgore spoke with subject matter expert Dr. Charles Yesalis about the tests and was told, “There is no way, in my mind, this is one big coincidence.”
  • Cole Hamels, Johnny Cueto, Carlos Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir and Adrian Beltre top a list of midseason trade candidates compiled by Jim Bowden of ESPN (Insider subscription required/recommended). Kazmir’s inclusion is interesting, in that Bowden expects a trade to occur whether the A’s are contending or not, as he notes that the team won’t be able to afford to re-sign Kazmir. He speculates that Kazmir will be flipped, possibly for another Major League caliber starter to step into his spot, though as I pointed out in reviewing their offseason, the A’s already have a sizable reserve of rotation options from which to draw.

Added To The 40-Man Roster: Sunday

The rosters for Opening Day have been officially submitted this afternoon. Several minor league signees have won jobs with their clubs and earned 40-man roster spots. Here are today’s additions:

  • The Orioles will purchase catcher Ryan Lavarnway‘s contract on Monday, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets. The 25-man roster that the Orioles announced today included Caleb Joseph and Steve Clevenger at catcher, but not Lavarnway, who they had reassigned to the minors.
  • The Padres have announced that they’ve purchased the contract of catcher Wil Nieves. With Tim Federowicz out with a knee injury, Nieves will back up Derek Norris. As we noted when Nieves signed, his big-league salary will be $850K.
  • Ryan Madson has made the Royals‘ Opening Day roster, tweets MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan. Madson caps his comeback from multiple elbow injuries and his first appearance for Kansas City will be his first in the Majors since 2011.
  • The Nationals have announced on Twitter that second baseman Dan Uggla and outfielder Reed Johnson have made their Opening Day roster.
  • The Braves announced they have officially purchased the contracts of outfielders Eric Young, Jr. and Kelly Johnson, left-hander Eric Stults, and right-hander Cody Martin. The Braves cleared space on their 40-man roster by placing right-hander Arodys Vizcaino and outfielder Dian Toscano on the restricted list.
  • One name missing from the Braves‘ roster is Pedro Ciriaco, who was reported yesterday to have made the club. This is likely a procedural move, according to MLB.com’s Mark Bowman (Twitter links), because the Braves placed Josh Outman on the 25-man roster instead of releasing him after the left-hander complained of shoulder tenderness. The move will also buy the Braves some time to look for an upgrade over Ciriaco, tweets Bowman.
  • The Phillies have announced outfielder Jeff Francoeur and infielder Andres Blanco have made the team. Francoeur is just one of four outfielders on Philadelphia’s Opening Day roster, so he could see time as Grady Sizemore‘s platoon partner in right field. The Phillies are now at their 40-man limit.
  • The Marlins have selected the contract of utility player Don Kelly, tweets MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. Kelly earned his spot with solid Spring Training line of .270/.357/.324 in 42 plate appearances. Frisaro reports the 35-year-old will backup both the corner infield and outfield spots, as well as serving as the team’s emergency third catcher.

Arodys Vizcaino Suspended 80 Games For PED Usage

Braves right-hander Arodys Vizcaino will be suspended for 80 games after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. The league has since announced the suspension, citing Stanozolol as the banned substance in question.

The Braves re-acquired the 24-year-old Vizcaino from the Cubs this offseason, swapping him straight up for second baseman Tommy La Stella. As Passan notes in a second tweet, the former top prospect was throwing significantly harder in spring this year and will serve his suspension at the Triple-A level, where he was optioned on Monday.

Vizcaino has just 22 1/3 innings of experience at the big league level, having allowed 12 runs in that time with a 21-to-12 K/BB ratio. Vizcaino had Tommy John surgery in 2012 and underwent a second elbow surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow the following year. He split the 2014 season across three levels in the Cubs’ Minor League system, working to a 3.54 ERA with 42 strikeouts against 18 walks in 40 2/3 innings. One would think that a strong start to the season could have positioned Vizcaino to surface in the Majors as a bullpen option for the Braves.

The suspension is particularly detrimental to Vizcaino due to service time implications. While he was slated to start the season in the Minors, Vizcaino has two years, 77 days of Major League service time, meaning he needed just 95 days of big league service to reach three total years and somewhere in the vicinity of 53 days to put him on the bubble of Super Two status. Both of those distinctions will be difficult to reach now, as he’ll sit out half the season and would likely need to prove himself in the Minors following that suspension before warranting consideration at the Major League level.



Cubs Acquire Tommy La Stella

The Cubs have announced they have acquired infielder Tommy La Stella from the Braves for right-hander Arodys Vizcaino. The two teams also traded 2014-15 international bonus slots: the Cubs receiving the Braves’ number four slot ($142K) in exchange for Chicago’s second ($458K), third ($309.3K), and fourth ($206.7K) slots (figures courtesy of Baseball America’s Ben Badler). The Braves will net $832K in the swap of bonus slots.

La Stella made his MLB debut for the Braves in 2014 and slashed .251/.328/.317 in 319 plate appearances while leading all National League rookies with his .328 OBP and 36 walks. La Stella, who will turn 26 in January, joins a crowded Cubs second base picture with Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara, and Logan Watkins seeing time there last year. Third baseman Luis Valbuena also saw over 150 innings at second base, as well. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal opines La Stella is not an ideal positional fit, although the Cubs like his bat and ability to make contact and have tried to obtain him for a while. In a series of tweets, Rosenthal feels this trade could be a precursor to other moves and, while not necessarily because of La Stella’s addition, Starlin Castro may be the odd man out (I, II, III).

With La Stella being moved, Ramiro Pena and Philip Gosselin are the only second basemen on the Braves’ 40-man roster. Top prospect Jose Peraza could still be a year away after having split 2014 between Class A-Advanced and Double-A. David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets the Braves may give Peraza a look during Spring Training, but he expects they will sign a bridge second baseman on a one-year deal.

Vizcaino, who the Cubs acquired two years ago from the Braves in the Paul Maholm trade, only made five appearances during his Chicago career, all this past September (three earned runs over five innings), as he recovered from Tommy John surgery. The 24-year-old spent the bulk of 2014 across three levels of the Cubs’ organization posting a combined 3.51 ERA, 9.2 K/9, and 4.0 BB/9 in 41 innings of work during 40 relief outings.

 


Prospect Rumor Roundup: 2012 Trade Deadline Review

If you're a fan of Major League Baseball and of reading sports tickers on the television, then July is the perfect month for you. More than 20 trades occurred in July 2012 as playoff-hopeful clubs looked to position themselves for strong second halves of their seasons and robust drives for the postseason.

For just about every veteran player on the move to a contending club in July, there is a prospect or two heading back in the other direction — towards a rebuilding club desperate for a cost-controlled building block. Close to 80 players changed jerseys last July prior to the looming trade deadline at the end of the month, and the 2013 season is expected to be no different.

But just how many of those young players that changed allegiances have maintained their values with their new organizations? Below is a list of the Top 10 young players who were traded last July. Only players who had not exceeded their MLB rookie eligibilities (50 IP for pitchers, 130 AB for hitters) at the 2012 trade deadline were considered for the article, and the list is in alphabetical order.

Rob Brantly, C (Tigers to Marlins): Given the Marlins' starting catcher gig at the beginning of the 2013 season, the offensive-minded backstop's bat has wilted under the pressure, and he has a .587 OPS in 49 games. The good news is that his defense has improved noticeably — perhaps thanks to the guidance from veteran second-string receiver Jeff Mathis, an excellent defensive player, and manager Mike Redmond, a former catcher. Juan C. Rodriguez of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel looked at Brantly's inconsistent season.

Matt Dominguez, 3B (Marlins to Astros): It's been an inconsistent season for the young third baseman — both at the plate and in the field, despite his reputation as a strong defender. Just 23, Dominguez has time on his side as he looks to breathe new life into his withering bat, but questions about his offensive abilities have been floating around since his amateur days. Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle penned a piece about Dominguez' focus on the future rather than the past.

Robbie Grossman, OF (Pirates to Astros): Grossman earned a shot at a starting outfield gig in Houston after a hot April in Triple-A. Unfortunately, he posted an OPS of just .553 and was returned to the minors after 28 games. His offensive struggles followed him back to Oklahoma City and he managed a measly .512 OPS in June.

Johnny Hellweg, SP (Angels to Brewers): Hellweg's raw ability is undeniable but command and control issues have haunted him throughout his pro career. Tall pitchers are considered late bloomers in those areas, and the 6'9'' right-handed hurler definitely fits into that category. He recently received his first big league promotion, but he was roughed up during his first two appearances in The Show. Michael Hunt of the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel spoke to the rookie, as well as his manager, after his first outing.

Tommy Joseph, C (Giants to Phillies): Joseph has experienced a major setback with the bat in 2013. After beginning the year in Triple-A, he hit just .209 before a concussion knocked him out of action. Now healthy again, Joseph is getting back into playing shape while at the A-ball level. The struggles and injury helped to ensure that he missed an opportunity to fill in at the big league level when both Carlos Ruiz and Erik Kratz went down in Philadelphia. Jeff Schuler of The Morning Call wrote a piece on Joseph's return from the disabled list.

Jean Segura, SS (Angels to Brewers): Perhaps the biggest success story on this list, Segura is currently in the hunt for a batting title in the National League. He also has surprising pop and an outside chance at eventually becoming a 20-20 (HR-SB) hitter. Originally a second baseman, the sturdy but diminutive hitter was relocated to the left side of the infield, but it remains to be seen how long he'll stick there. Either way, he could be a mainstay in the middle of the diamond for years to come. Mike Woods of the Sheboygan Press recently spoke to Segura who admitted to being surprised by his success in 2013.

Jacob Turner, SP (Tigers to Marlins): Turner's value has taken a hit over the past year or two as his stuff has regressed. Scouting forecasts focus more on the ceiling of a No. 3 or 4 starter now, rather than that of the No. 1 or 2 starter ceiling from the early days of his pro career. Despite that, Turner has had an excellent start to the 2013 season at the big league level by posting a 1.76 ERA and holding hitters to a .229 batting average in six starts.

Christian Villanueva, 3B (Rangers to Cubs): The emergence of Mike Olt in the Rangers system made Villanueva expendable. The Cubs third baseman has the chance to develop into a multifaceted player, albeit one without any true standout tool. He's showing solid gap power at the Double-A level but both his batting average and his on-base percentage are down in 2013.

Arodys Vizcaino, SP (Braves to Cubs): Vizcaino, 22, hasn't pitched since 2011, but he's been the property of three organizations thanks to his power arm. The right-hander injured his elbow early on in his career with the Yankees and finally underwent Tommy John surgery, missing all of the 2012 season. He looked ready to return in 2013 before undergoing a second surgery on his throwing elbow.

Asher Wojciechowski, SP (Blue Jays to Astros): One of the most unheralded acquisitions of 2012, Wojciechowski was a supplemental first round selection from the 2010 amateur draft. He didn't respond well at all when the Jays attempted to rework his delivery and his results suffered. He has rediscovered his prospect value with the Astros, although inconsistency continues to haunt him. It remains to be seen if his future lies in the starting rotation or the bullpen.

Honorable Mentions: Colton Cain, SP (Pirates to Astros); Kevin Comer, SP (Blue Jays to Astros); Kyle Hendricks, SP (Rangers to Cubs); Marc Krauss, OF (Diamondbacks to Astros); Ethan Martin, SP (Dodgers to Phillies); Carlos Perez, C (Blue Jays to Astros); David Rollins, SP (Blue Jays to Astros).

2012 Trade Deadline Winners: Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers

2012 Trade Deadline Losers: Los Angeles Angels, Toronto Blue Jays


Braves Acquire Reed Johnson, Paul Maholm

The Cubs have traded left-hander Paul Maholm, outfielder Reed Johnson and cash considerations to the Braves in a four-player trade that provides Atlanta with reinforcements for the season's final two months and bolsters Chicago's minor league system. The Cubs obtain right-handers Jaye Chapman and Arodys Vizcaino in the trade, which the teams have announced. 

Paul Maholm - Cubs (PW)

Maholm has a 3.74 ERA with 6.1 K/9, 2.5 BB/9 and a 49.9% ground ball rate in 120 1/3 innings for the Cubs this year. The 30-year-old has never thrown particularly hard; his average fastball checks in at 87.6 mph this year, according to FanGraphs. He earns a $4.75MM salary in 2012 and his contract includes a $6.5MM club option for 2013. The Royals and Pirates appeared to have interest in Maholm earlier this month.

Johnson, 35, has a .307/.361/.452 batting line in 180 plate appearances this year. The right-handed hitter has played all three outfield positions for the Cubs and owns a career .313/.370/.469 line against left-handed pitching. He's signed to a one-year, $1.15MM contract and will hit free agency after the season. Four teams made offers for Johnson today, including the Pirates and Tigers, according to Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com.

Vizcaino, who entered the 2012 season ranked by Baseball America as the 40th-best prospect in MLB, had Tommy John surgery this spring. The 21-year-old posted a 3.06 ERA with 9.3 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 97 innings for three Braves affiliates as he made his way through Atlanta's minor league system in 2011. The right-hander reached the Major Leagues last year, posting a 4.67 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 4.7 BB/9 in 17 relief appearances.

Chapman, a 25-year-old right-hander, has a 3.52 ERA with 10.1 K/9 and 4.9 BB/9 in 53 2/3 innings of relief for Atlanta's Triple-A team so far in 2012. The Braves selected him in the 16th round of the 2005 draft.

Maholm joins a Braves rotation that includes Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Mike Minor, Ben Sheets and, as of tomorrow, Kris Medlen. The Braves nearly traded for Ryan Dempster this month, but the sides don't appear to have obtained the right-hander's permission. 

Geovany Soto has been traded to the Rangers in a separate move.

Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com first reported that Johnson had been traded (on Twitter). Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports first reported Maholm's role in the trade and first reported that the Braves were the other team involved (Twitter link). ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick first reported that the Cubs were getting two minor league pitchers, including Chapman. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that the Cubs were getting Vizcaino. Photo courtesy of US Presswire.


NL East Notes: Vizcaino, Phillies, Mets, Lannan

Earlier today MLBTR's Tim Dierkes reviewed the Marlins' busy offseason. Here are some more links from the NL East…

  • Braves GM Frank Wren told reporters that reliever Arodys Vizcaino will miss the 2012 season after undergoing Tommy John ligament replacement surgery. The 21-year-old right-hander appeared in 17 games with the Braves last year and entered the season as the 40th-best prospect in MLB, according to Baseball America.
  • The Phillies could start the season with prospect Freddy Galvis at second base, or explore the trade market for alternatives. ESPN.com’s Buster Olney hears from rival executives that there’s a short list of veteran middle infielders available in trades. Maicer Izturis, Alberto Callaspo, Chris Getz and Blake DeWitt appear to be options for teams seeking infield depth. 
  • Even though they're short on left-handed relief, the Mets are unlikely to sign C.J. Nitkowski, Hong-Chih Kuo or Dontrelle Willis, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com reports.
  • Jayson Stark of ESPN.com hears the Nationals "still have a lot of motivation" to trade John Lannan and his $5MM salary (Twitter link).

NL East Notes: Reyes, Utley, Vizcaino, Perez

Here's the latest from the NL East…

  • Jose Reyes told reporters (including WFUV's Amit Badlani) that he signed with the Marlins because of the team's potential to contend, not just because of the money, as recently stated by Marlins president David Samson.
  • Chase Utley's chronic right knee tendinitis "is not going away.  More than likely, it might never go away," says Phillies manager Charlie Manuel told reporters, including CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury.  Utley has yet to play during Spring Training and the Phillies are known to be looking for infield depth for not only Utley, but also Ryan Howard and Placido Polanco.  Prospect Freddy Galvis has seen a lot of time at second this spring, and Manuel thinks he could potentially handle the position should Utley miss significant time during the season.
  • Braves right-hander Arodys Vizcaino will visit with Dr. James Andrews on Monday, reports MLB.com's Mark Bowman.  Vizcaino has been suffering from ulnar neuritis in his right elbow and could potentially face Tommy John surgery if Andrews feels the ailment is serious enough.  Vizcaino is one of Atlanta's several top-tier pitching prospects and was recently ranked as the 40th-best prospect in the sport by Baseball America.
  • The Nationals optioned Eury Perez to Double-A today but some front office officials think he could be eventually be their answer in center field, reports Adam Kilgore of the Washington PostAdam Jones, B.J. Upton and Gerardo Parra are just a few of the many names that have been connected to Washington's search for a long-term center fielder.  The 21-year-old Perez is coming off a .283/.319/.321 season for Class A Potomac in 2011 but he turned a lot of heads with an impressive Spring Training performance.
  • For more Nationals news, check out this collection of Nats links from earlier today.

Braves, Orioles Discussed Jones, Pitchers

The Braves and Orioles discussed a possible Adam Jones trade recently, but talks didn’t progress far, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports (all Twitter links). The Orioles wanted Jair Jurrjens, Martin Prado and at least two of Brandon Beachy, Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino and Randall Delgado. The Braves weren’t interested at that price, Crasnick writes.

Conflicting reports about the Braves’ interest level in Jones emerged yesterday, but it appears some preliminary discussions occurred. Orioles GM Dan Duquette joined Jim Bowden and Casey Stern on MLB Network Radio this week and explained that the Orioles are trying to "build around" Jones. "When you have some good players, other teams are interested," he said. "We're not marketing Adam Jones." However, he stopped short of guaranteeing that Jones would stay put.


Atlanta’s Starting Pitching Depth

The Braves blew a late-inning lead before losing a painful game to the Phillies tonight, but if Atlanta goes on to win in the playoffs this year, their bullpen will probably be a major reason for their success. The Braves’ late inning trio of Eric O'Flaherty, Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel is as good as it gets.

Brandon Beachy

Health permitting, the three relievers figure to return to Atlanta in 2012, but the same can’t necessarily be said for the Braves’ starting corps. Every one of the eight pitchers who has started a game for the Braves in 2011 is under team control next year and with a trio of MLB-ready arms entering the discussion for big league rotation spots, it won’t be surprising if the Braves hear an offer or two for their surplus arms.

Before we get too carried away with assumptions about health, it’s important to note that two Braves starters are on the disabled list and another one is dealing with an injury. Kris Medlen hasn’t pitched since undergoing Tommy John surgery last August and won’t be ready before 2012. Tommy Hanson is also on the disabled list (shoulder) and Jair Jurrjens (knee) is banged up as well.

Despite those injuries, the Braves have a full rotation: Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, Brandon Beachy (pictured), Mike Minor and Randall Delgado. Top prospects Arodys Vizcaino and Julio Teheran (who will start one of tomorrow’s games) also represent viable rotation options for manager Fredi Gonzalez.

All told, the Braves have nine options. Hudson, Lowe, Jurrjens, Hanson, Beachy and Minor have all had extended looks in the rotation this year, Teheran, Delgado and Vizcaino spent most of the 2011 season in the minors and Medlen, a wild card heading into 2012, hasn’t pitched at all. 

Not only do the Braves have nine pitchers around in 2012, most of them are under team control in 2013 (Lowe’s contract expires after next season and the Braves have a $9MM club option for Hudson in ’13). This group isn’t going anywhere.

As unusual as it is for a team to have too much pitching, this Braves team may find themselves with extra arms over the winter. Unlike most teams, however, the Braves already have the main components of their roster in place for 2012. They won’t have many obvious holes to address over the winter.

Yet the Braves aren’t set at every position – shortstop Alex Gonzalez hits free agency and Martin Prado hasn't shown the on-base skills or power you'd expect from a left fielder. If the Braves decide not to retain the slick-fielding Gonzalez and opt to move Prado back into a utility role, they could have holes at shortstop and left field (assuming they don’t view Jose Constanza as a permanent solution). 

The Braves are a playoff-caliber team and they seem poised to contend in 2012, but significant needs could emerge within a month or two. Wren avoided last year's free agent frenzy and if he hopes to do the same this offseason without ignoring possible weaknesses, he could make the organization's pitching depth available in trades.

Photo courtesy Icon SMI.