- MLB.com’s Mark Bowman fielded some relevant questions from Braves fans. Among other items, he notes that the club now seems somewhat unlikely to promote infielder Ozzie Albies to join prospective double-play mate Dansby Swanson in the majors this year — even though he still has a chance at playing a major role in 2017. Speaking of next year, Bowman says it wouldn’t be surprising at this point if interim skipper Brian Snitker is retained, though the team has several other internal and external candidates it may wish to consider.
- The Braves’ interest in bringing back Brian McCann will likely be revived in the offseason, Bowman further writes. He no longer looks like a terribly plausible trade candidate right now, and Atlanta may wish to explore the free agent market first. Improving the situation behind the plate and bolstering the rotation remain the club’s two major offseason goals, he adds. The team may also look at a third baseman, he suggests.
Here are the day’s minor moves, all courtesy of Baseball America’s Matt Eddy (except where otherwise noted):
- The Braves have released backstop George Kottaras, who’ll re-enter the open market not long after he left it to join the Atlanta organization. Kottaras, 33, has only been at Triple-A Gwinnett for about six weeks, but his .196/.328/.294 batting line over 61 plate appearances wasn’t enough to warrant a lengthier stint. The veteran has seen action in seven major league campaigns, posting a useful .215/.326/.411 overall slash in 858 trips to the plate, but he hasn’t seen substantial time at the game’s highest level since 2013.
- Outfielder Chris Dickerson has signed on with the Orioles on a minor league deal after sitting out the entire season to date. As Dan Connolly of Baltimore Baseball reports, the O’s seem to be looking for another possible major league piece from an unlikely place with this signing. Dickerson, 34, is still working back from shoulder surgery and hasn’t seen the majors since 2014. But he was hitting well before his injury last year, and VP of baseball operations Dan Duquette suggested that he could move into a “fifth outfielder” role at the major league level.
- The Cubs have cut ties with left-handed reliever C.J. Riefenhauser, per Badler. The 26-year-oldhad briefly reached the majors in each of the last two years. But he was having trouble at the Triple-A level with the Chicago organization, compiling a 4.55 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 5.9 BB/9 over 27 2/3 innings.
- Left-hander Jason Gurka has been released by the Rockies. He was bombed in brief stints at the majors in each of the last two seasons. But the results were much more promising at Triple-A, where Gurka had a solid campaign in 2015 and was largely lights out this year. In his 21 1/3 innings, he racked up 31 strikeouts against just six walks and permitted only four earned runs.
- The Braves are unsure if they’ll promote high-end infield prospect Ozzie Albies when rosters expand next month, writes Mark Bowman of MLB.com. Atlanta already called up shortstop Dansby Swanson, who figures to be half of a long-term double-play tandem with Albies, but he’s three years older than Albies, notes Bowman. The 19-year-old Albies, whom Baseball America, MLB.com and ESPN’s Keith Law all regard as a top 20 prospect, hit an excellent .322/.394/.446 in 325 Double-A plate appearances this year, but he hasn’t been as effective at the Triple-A level (.248/.307/.351 in 247 PAs). Albies has combined for 27 stolen bases, though, and has posted similar strikeout and walk rates at each level.
- Right-hander Jake Peavy was supposed to return to the Giants’ rotation Saturday to fill in for the injured Matt Cain, but he instead ended up on the 15-day disabled list because of a lower back strain (via Justin Wise of MLB.com). “He can’t pitch with the way his back is. Jake was excited to get back into starting, so it’s a bad break for him,” said manager Bruce Bochy, who turned to Albert Suarez to start in place of his two hurt veterans. Suarez threw 4 1/3 innings of three-run ball in a 3-1 loss to the Braves. Peavy, whom hitters have teed off on in eight relief innings (.351/.368/.568), has recorded a 5.47 ERA, 7.47 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 108 2/3 frames as a starter this year.
The Marlins announced tonight that they have acquired outfielder Jeff Francoeur and cash considerations from the Braves in a three-team deal that also involves the Rangers. The Braves will acquire minor league shortstop Dylan Moore from the Rangers and minor league catcher/first baseman Matt Foley from the Marlins. The Rangers, meanwhile, will receive three international bonus slots — two from the Marlins and one from the Braves — that total $860K in value.
Francoeur will give the Marlins a right-handed bat to play in right field in the wake of Giancarlo Stanton’s injury, possibly sharing time with the left-handed-hitting Oswaldo Arcia (whom Miami claimed off waivers from the Rays earlier this week) and veteran Ichiro Suzuki.
While the veteran Francoeur’s overall .249/.290/.381 batting line isn’t especially impressive, his .273/.313/.431 line against lefties is much more palatable, and he regularly draws positive reviews for his presence in the clubhouse. Any alignment featuring regular time from Francoeur and/or Arcia figures to be sub-par from a defensive standpoint, but the pair’s platoon stats (Arcia is a .244/.317/.468 hitter vs. righties) complement each other nicely, and Ichiro still profiles as a useful defender in right even at 42 years of age.
The 32-year-old Francoeur is a free agent at season’s end, making this is a short-term pickup for the Fish. Francoeur inked a minor league pact with Atlanta this offseason that came with a $1MM base salary and another $1MM available via incentives. Presumably, the cash considerations headed to Miami will help cover the remaining $213K on Francoeur’s deal plus any incentives he may have already reached. (The specific nature of his performance bonuses was not reported at the time of his signing.)
As Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News points out (Twitter link), the $860K total value of the international slots in this deal, when paired with the $210K the Rangers acquired in the trade that sent outfielder Ryan Strausborger to the Mariners, mean that Texas has acquired the maximum $1.07MM they were allowed to add to their international signing pool. Per the league’s stipulations, a team can only acquire up to 50 percent of its original bonus pool, and Texas entered the current signing period with a pool of $2,157,400 (per Baseball America).
Neither Moore nor Foley ranked within the top 30 prospects of their respective organizations. The 24-year-old Moore, though, has enjoyed a nice season split between Class-A and Class-A Advanced, hitting .263/.377/.440 with 14 homers and 40 stolen bases. While it should be pointed out that the 2015 seventh-round pick spent most of the season playing at Class-A, where he was a good bit older than the average player in the league, his production didn’t really take off until he was moved up to High-A, where he has slashed .351/.400/.649 with five homers in just 17 games. He’s a bit old for that level as well, but his quick adaptation could prompt further promotion. Beyond that, he’s a jack of all trades in the field, as pointed out by David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link). Moore has played every position on the field except catcher, and that includes pitcher (though the seven hits he allowed in his lone inning of work probably mean he won’t be spending much time on the mound in the future).
Foley, meanwhile, has spent the season with the Marlins’ Rookie-level affiliate in Arizona before recently being bumped up to short-season Class-A. The 2015 40th-rounder has totaled just 44 plate appearances and batted .257/.386/.257 and caught one of four runners that have attempted to steal against him.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported that a trade between the Braves and Rangers had been agreed to (via Twitter). Joel Sherman of the New York Post added that it was a three-team deal that would send Francoeur to Miami (links to Twitter). Rosenthal tweeted that international bonus money would go to Texas, and Sherman tweeted that the Braves would send one slot while the Marlins would send two. MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro tweeted that Foley was in the trade, and
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
- The process behind the Diamondbacks’ already-infamous trade for Shelby Miller is recapped by Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic, as the Snakes were intent on adding another top-caliber arm to pair with Zack Greinke last offseason. Names such as the Marlins’ Jose Fernandez and the Indians’ Danny Salazar were discussed but GM Dave Stewart said those clubs were asking for more than the D’Backs eventually gave up to land Miller from the Braves; both teams wanted A.J. Pollock and Miami also wanted Patrick Corbin. Once the Braves moved off Pollock themselves and the D’Backs made it clear that pretty much anyone else (including first overall pick Dansby Swanson) could be had, the trade came together quickly.
In addition to declaring that the rebuilding, last-place Braves need to start winning in 2017, general manager John Coppolella touched on the statuses of three of his team’s players in a Sunday interview with MLB Network Radio (Twitter links). Specifically, Coppolella mentioned outfielder Matt Kemp and a pair of right-handers, Matt Wisler and Aaron Blair.
Coppolella believes Kemp, a much-maligned defender, will be able to contribute more in the field if he gets in better shape.
“A big part of why he isn’t real good in left field is because he’s out of shape,” Coppolella said. “If he gets in shape, he’ll be much better.”
Unless Kemp has been out of shape since his major league career began with the Dodgers in 2006, there doesn’t seem to be much reason to expect a significant defensive turnaround. Metrics like Defensive Runs Saved, Ultimate Zone Rating and UZR/150 have regularly given Kemp negative grades in the field. So far, the 31-year-old has compiled minus-98 DRS, minus-116.6 UZR and minus-12.6 UZR/150 in the big leagues.
Given his power-hitting ways, Kemp has fewer limitations at the plate, but he’s still batting just .261/.292/.480 in 510 plate appearances this season. Of greater concern, perhaps, is that Kemp has the ninth-worst BB/K ratio (.21) in baseball among 158 qualified hitters. In combining the flaws in his game with his salary, it’s not surprising that Kemp passed through revocable trade waivers unclaimed. The Braves, who acquired Kemp from the Padres prior to the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline, owe the ex-MVP candidate $18MM per year through 2019. Kemp entered Sunday with a .242/.320/.379 line and one homer through his first 66 at-bats as a Brave. Now, having only traded the toxic Hector Olivera for Kemp, Coppolella will hope his high-profile pickup improves his conditioning and becomes a legitimate producer in Atlanta.
As for Wisler and Blair, they’ll have to fight for rotation spots next season. During his interview Sunday, Coppolella named starting pitching and the catcher position as two areas the club will focus on upgrading in the offseason. In doing so, he described Wisler and Blair as “hard to count on” at this juncture.
Wisler, also a former member of the Padres organization, has not fared well since debuting with the Braves last season. In 231 career innings, Wisler has posted a 4.95 ERA/4.96 FIP/4.99 xFIP trio to go with a 36 percent ground-ball rate. The 23-year-old, once a well-regarded prospect, hasn’t pitched for the Braves since July 28. Wisler has since been at Triple-A Gwinnett, where he has fared better in 26 2/3 frames. Still, Wisler’s 3.71 ERA, 7.43 K/9 and 1.69 BB/9 in the minors haven’t earned him another big league shot yet and won’t guarantee him a place in the Braves’ starting five next season.
Like Wisler, Blair’s quality prospect status hasn’t yet transferred to the majors, and he’ll have to earn his place in the Braves’ 2017 rotation. After joining the Braves last offseason as part of their return from the Diamondbacks in the famous Shelby Miller trade, Blair has recorded a 7.99 ERA with a matching K/9 and BB/9 (5.15) in 50 2/3 big league innings. As a result of that disastrous output, the 24-year-old Blair has spent the past two months at Gwinnett. While his 4.59 ERA at the Triple-A level isn’t inspiring, Blair has put up much better strikeout and walk rates (9.18 and 3.78) than the ones he compiled in the majors before his late-June demotion.
Thanks in part to the early struggles of Wisler and Blair, Coppolella will have his work cut out for him during the winter as he tries to find complements to the Braves’ ace, Julio Teheran.
With red-hot prospect Gary Sanchez in the midst of taking over the Yankees’ starting catcher role, an offseason deal sending veteran Brian McCann back to Atlanta is a legitimate possibility, writes Randy Miller of NJ.com. In theory, the teams could work out a deal sometime this season, as McCann cleared trade waivers two weeks ago. At the time, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman reported that the Yankees and Braves engaged in McCann-related discussions prior to the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline.
Atlanta likes the idea of adding the 32-year-old McCann as a leader of a young team, Heyman reported. Further, general manager John Coppolella told Jim Bowden of Sirius XM on Sunday that, along with finding a manager and upgrading his club’s rotation, improving at catcher will be a high priority during the offseason (Twitter link).
“We need to win games next year,” Coppolella said of the Braves, who will move to a new ballpark in 2017.
As of now, the Braves’ leading in-house candidate to start behind the dish next season is likely Tyler Flowers, who has been out since mid-July after suffering a broken hand. Flowers hit a solid .254/.343/.422 with seven homers in 210 plate appearances before the injury, but the Braves clearly aren’t buying into him as a solution.
Before joining the Yankees on a five-year, $85MM deal in December 2013, McCann was a star with the Braves. As a full-time member of the team from 2006-13, he batted .277/.350/.477 with 171 home runs in 4,150 PAs. That stellar production hasn’t quite transferred to New York, where McCann has posted a league-average .233/.311/.418 line in 1,452 trips to the plate. Still, McCann’s on-field mix of respectable offense and well-regarded defense (StatCorner and Baseball Prospectus have mostly given him good pitch-framing marks, and the latter is fond of his blocking skills) could make him an appealing option.
Moreover, the Yankees are amid a youth movement, making a McCann deal seem like an inevitably. Of course, McCann would first have to agree to waive his full no-trade clause. Money could also complicate matters, as he’s owed $34MM through the 2018 season. However, McCann’s best chance to continue as an everyday catcher will likely be in another uniform. The writing is on the wall in New York, which has turned to Sanchez lately and shifted McCann to designated hitter. The 23-year-old Sanchez is doing his best to seize the backstop role for good, having recorded a videogamelike .379/.419/.776 line with six long balls in 62 trips to the plate.
“It was always the case that Sanchez at some point was going to come up and hopefully come up to stay,” Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said earlier this week. “So we’ll cross that bridge in the offseason when we come to it, but McCann’s a great player, too.”
McCann is taking the Yankees’ future-oriented approach in stride, telling Miller, “This is the best young group I’ve seen.”
He’ll soon get a look at a different group of young players if a potential return to Atlanta becomes a reality.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
In addition to the previously reported Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters, James Shields and Scott Kazmir, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe adds Braves outfielder Matt Kemp and Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland to the list of veterans who have cleared waivers. Like the other four players, Kemp and Moreland are now eligible to be traded anywhere.
Kemp is only a few weeks into his stint with the Braves, who acquired him from the Padres in exchange for Hector Olivera on July 30. In doing so, the Braves got rid of an on- and off-field disappointment in Olivera and added Kemp on a $21.5MM salary through 2019. The Braves are on the hook for $18MM of that sum, while the Padres will pay $3.5MM of it for the duration of the deal. Undoubtedly, Atlanta would have to eat quite a bit of money to move Kemp, who hasn’t provided much all-around value since the 2012 season.
Kemp’s best asset is his bat, but he has only produced a league-average line (.259/.291/.475) despite 24 home runs in 505 plate appearances this year. At .265/.312/.443 in 648 PAs last season, Kemp wasn’t overly effective then, either. Even if the former MVP candidate and ex-Dodger experiences an offensive revival, which looks unlikely for a player whose walk rate is at a career-worst 4.8 percent, his defensive woes will continue limiting his value. Long a negative in the field, Kemp currently ranks toward the bottom of the majors in Defensive Runs Saved (minus-6), Ultimate Zone Rating (minus-7.9) and UZR/150 (minus-12.3). Thus, Kemp is likely better off as a designated hitter than an outfielder, yet the 31-year-old has played his entire career in the National League. Given his likely low to nonexistent trade value, Kemp looks primed to continue in the Senior Circuit.
While Kemp is on a last-place team that has no hope of contention in 2016, Moreland is a member of a club with World Series aspirations. In 376 trips to the plate, Moreland has mimicked Kemp in swatting plenty of homers (21) while recording a batting line that’s only slightly better than league average (.251/.316/.481). Those numbers are essentially right in line with Moreland’s career, as the 30-year-old has hit .258/.319/.449 in 2,635 PAs. He’s also amid his third straight 20-plus-HR season, making him one of four Rangers who have achieved the feat this year (excluding midseason pickups Carlos Beltran and Jonathan Lucroy).
Moreland, who’s on a $5.7MM salary, is due to hit free agency in the offseason. While he could leave the Rangers then and perhaps pave the way for the Joey Gallo era, it seems unlikely to happen during a season in which first-place Texas is 73-51 and aiming for a championship.
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Braves right fielder Nick Markakis, Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, White Sox right-hander James Shields and Dodgers southpaw Scott Kazmir have each cleared trade waivers, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported Friday (Twitter link). The four players’ teams are now free to trade them to any other major league club.
The only member of the group who’s unsigned beyond this season is Wieters, who’s a starter on an Orioles team that entered Saturday in possession of an American League wild-card spot and only 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Blue Jays in the AL East. The soon-to-be 31-year-old is amid one of the worst offensive seasons of his career, having posted a .240/.294/.381 batting line with 10 home runs in 340 plate appearances. Wieters has been a roughly league-average hitter throughout his career, including last season (.267/.319/.422 in 282 PAs). Defensively, StatCorner has assigned Wieters negative pitch-framing marks five years running, while Baseball Prospectus hasn’t looked favorably on his work in that department since 2012.
The Orioles tendered a $15.8MM qualifying offer last November to Wieters, who accepted it and is once again scheduled for free agency at the conclusion of this season. Baltimore could give him another qualifying offer (if they’re still around should a new collective bargaining agreement be in place by then), but that doesn’t seem likely to happen. It’s also doubtful the contending Orioles will trade Wieters, who has upward of $3.7MM remaining on his contract, especially given fellow backstop Caleb Joseph’s ugly performance this year.
Like Wieters, Kazmir is also part of a team with championship aspirations. Kazmir, who signed with the Dodgers over the winter, is owed $16MM in each of the next two seasons, but he has the ability to opt out of his deal after this year. Kazmir’s run prevention (4.41 ERA) has been a letdown in 132 2/3 innings this season, although he has recorded an outstanding K/9 (9.02) to go with a 3.32 BB/9 and a superb 15.2 percent infield fly rate. And while Kazmir has regularly dealt with injuries throughout his career, he has been one of the few consistently healthy Dodgers starters this year. As a member of a first-place team that’s in no place to be moving pitching depth, a Kazmir trade probably isn’t in the cards.
- The Braves have released righty Andrew Thurman, per Matt Eddy of Baseball America (Twitter link). The Astros took Thurman in the second round of the 2013 draft before ultimately shipping him to Atlanta in a January 2015 trade involving catcher Evan Gattis. Control problems have hampered the 24-year-old Thurman since that year, having failed to post a sub-5.00 BB/9 in stints at the High-A and Double-A levels. With Double-A Mississippi this year, Thurman threw 62 2/3 innings and compiled a 6.89 ERA, 7.47 K/9 and 6.75 BB/9.