Atlanta Braves Rumors

Atlanta Braves trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

Quick Hits: Papelbon, Beachy, Olivero

Talks between the Phillies and Brewers concerning closer Jonathan Papelbon are “on life support,” reports Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Haudricourt reported earlier today that “there was no traction” between the two sides. GM Doug Melvin echoed that sentiment, saying there was no momentum. It is thought that Papelbon’s $13MM option for 2016 is holding up an agreement. Since Papelbon has a limited no trade clause that includes the Brewers, he may ask for the option to be guaranteed before accepting a trade. The ball may be in Philadelphia’s court to find a financial solution to the situation.

  • Brandon Beachy has “zeroed in on a new team,” tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN. Beachy and the unknown team are currently working on contractual details. Wolfson adds that the team is not the Twins. Beachy was non-tendered by the Braves earlier in the offseason after undergoing his second Tommy John procedure. If he avoids setbacks, he’s may return to action mid-season. It’s easy to compare Beachy’s situation with fellow former Brave Kris Medlen, who signed a two-year, $8.5MM deal with an option. Like Beachy, Medlen is also recovering from his second Tommy John surgery.
  • Cuban infielder Hector Olivera held a public workout in the Dominican Republic last week and over 200 scouts attended, tweets Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. The Giants, Padres, Rangers, Braves, and Yankees are showing the strongest interest in Olivera.

Minor Moves: Jurrjens, Rodriguez, Ohlendorf, Rowen, Beltre, Carpenter

Here are the day’s minor moves:

  • Righty Jair Jurrjens has agreed to return to the Rockies on a minor league deal with a big league camp invite, MLB.com’s Thomas Harding reports. The 28-year-old righty has never regained the form he showed early in his career with the Braves. Last year, he was hit hard in two big league starts and worked to a 4.54 ERA over 81 1/3 Triple-A frames with the Reds and Rockies organizations.
  • The Orioles sent cash to the Braves in exchange for lefty Daniel Rodriguez. Baltimore had tried to nab Rodriguez out of Mexico several years ago, says Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (via Twitter). The 30-year-old came to Atlanta from Saltillo before the 2012 campaign and went straight to Triple-A Gwinnett, where he has generally struggled while working as a starter. The team is likely interested in taking a look at Rodriguez out of the pen, Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun tweets.
  • The Rangers have signed righty Ross Ohlendorf to a minor league deal that includes a spring invite, the club announced. Ohlendorf had a quality 60 1/3 inning run with the Nationals in 2013, working to a 3.28 ERA with 6.7 K/9 against 2.1 BB/9. That earned him a $1.25MM arbitration deal, but injury derailed his entire 2014 campaign.
  • Two former Rangers ballplayers are among the recent moves reported by Baseball America’s Matt Eddy (links to Twitter). The Dodgers have signed righty Ben Rowen, a 26-year-old righty who cracked the Rangers’ pen last year and who has had solid results in the upper minors. And the White Sox signed center fielder Engel Beltre, a defense-first player who has struggled to produce offensively and missed most of last year with a fractured tibia.
  • Also via Eddy, the Braves have inked former Angels reliever David Carpenter — not to be confused with the other right-handed reliever by the same team that Atlanta just traded. Carpenter has struggled in limited MLB exposure, but last year put up a 2.17 ERA over 62 1/3 innings, with 8.3 K/9 against 6.4 BB/9, despite pitching in the notoriously hitter-friendly PCL.

Braves Claim Eury Perez From Yankees

The Braves announced that they have claimed outfielder Eury Perez off waivers from the Yankees. The speedy Perez was designated for assignment by the Yankees in order to clear a spot on the roster for Stephen Drew.

The Yankees claimed Perez off waivers from the Nationals in late September, and the 24-year-old went 2-for-10 with a pair of singles in a brief cameo with the Bombers late in the season. Perez has just 23 big league plate appearances and a .174/.174/.174 batting line to show for it, but he possesses a well-regarded glove and blistering speed in center field. In 844 PAs at the Triple-A level, he’s a career .310/.354/.411 hitter with eight homers and 63 steals (in 79 attempts). Perez will provide the Braves with some outfield depth and a center field alternative should B.J. Upton‘s prolonged struggles continue in 2015.



Braves To Sign Jonny Gomes

JAN. 23: Brown reports that Gomes’ option can vest at three different amounts, depending on his playing time (Twitter link). The option will vest at $3MM upon reaching 325 plate appearances, $3.5MM if he reaches 425 PAs and $4MM if Gomes reaches 500 PAs.

JAN. 22, 9:03pm: Gomes will earn $4MM in 2015, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports (Twitter link).  The 2016 vesting option is worth $3MM, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets, and it will become a club option if it fails to vest.

7:20pm: The Braves have reached agreement with free agent outfielder Jonny Gomes on a one-year deal with a vesting option for 2016, Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown reports (Twitter links).  Gomes is represented by the MVP Sports Group.

MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reported on Tuesday that Atlanta was interested in Gomes as a platoon option in left field, likely as a partner for Zoilo Almonte.  The right-handed hitting Gomes has an outstanding .861 OPS over 1494 career plate appearances against left-handed pitching, including a .276/.373/.371 slash line in 204 PA against southpaws in 2014.  Gomes hit .234/.327/.330 overall last season over 321 with the Red Sox and A’s, going to Oakland along with Jon Lester in the trade deadline blockbuster that also saw Yoenis Cespedes go to Boston.

Gomes is the latest new piece to join a revamped Braves outfield that will see his platoon with Almonte (or another left-handed hitting outfielder) replace Justin Upton in left field and Nick Markakis replace Jason Heyward in right.  Gomes, 34, is also widely regarded as a strong clubhouse presence, which could be helpful in mentoring Almonte and the several other young players acquired by the Braves this winter as they’ve looked to semi-rebuild their roster.

The Mariners, Rangers, Cubs and Orioles are some of the teams also known to have shown interest in Gomes this winter.  David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets that the Braves were worried as late as this afternoon that Gomes would end up signing with the Rangers, so Texas may indeed have been the runner-up suitor.


Braves To Sign Kelly Johnson To MiLB Deal

The Braves have agreed to sign infielder Kelly Johnson to a minor league deal with an invite to big league camp, Mark Bowman of MLB.com reports on Twitter. The 32-year-old is a client of Relativity Baseball.

Johnson spent his first ten years of professional baseball in the Atlanta organization, including parts of four seasons at the big league level. In the interim, he has played for the Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Rays, Yankees, Red Sox, and Orioles.

All said, Johnson has produced at an approximately league average rate at the plate, with a career .250/.333/.423 slash at the MLB level. He’ll deliver some much-needed punch to the new-look Atlanta lineup: his 131 lifetime home runs average out to 18 per 162 games, and Johnson owns a .173 ISO over his 4,471 plate appearances.

It is worth noting, however, that a large portion of those numbers are wrapped up in (and before) a big 2010 season. More recent figures are less encouraging, and last year was perhaps Johnson’s worst as a big leaguer. In 297 total plate appearances, he slashed .215/.296/.362 with seven home runs.

On the other side of the scorebook, Johnson has generally graded out as an approximately average performer at second base, where he has spent most of his time. Johnson has also played third, left field, and a touch of first base.

The Braves will presumably give Johnson a chance to earn a super-utility/bench bat role. He should have at least some chance of unseating presumptive starters Alberto Callaspo (2B) and Chris Johnson (3B) at some point during the year, depending upon how things shake out.


Braves Pursuing Jonny Gomes

The Braves are pursuing free agent outfielder Jonny Gomes as a potential platoon option in left field that could pair with Zoilo Almonte, tweets Mark Bowman of MLB.com.

Gomes, 34, split the 2014 campaign between the Red Sox and Athletics, posting a combined .234/.327/.330 batting line in 321 trips to the plate. While the average and on-base percentage in that triple-slash line aren’t too far from Gomes’ career marks (.244 and .335, respectively), his slugging percentage was a full 112 points below his career rate.

Power outage notwithstanding, Gomes remained an effective weapon against left-handed pitchers in 2014, batting .276/.373/.371 in 170 plate appearances. That production, paired with a career line of .277/.376/.485 versus southpaws, does indeed seem to make him a nice platoon candidate with Almonte. Though the 25-year-old Almonte is a switch-hitter, he’s shown a significant platoon split over the past two seasons, posting an OPS below .600 as a right-handed hitter between the Majors and Minors combined. However, he did manage a seemingly solid .272/.313/.468 triple-slash with 18 homers as a left-handed hitter between Triple-A and the Yankees. He’s also a more gifted defender than Gomes and would naturally receive the bulk of the playing time in left given his side of the platoon.

Atlanta, of course, has traded an entire starting outfield this offseason, moving Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Evan Gattis. The team now projects to have Almonte starting in left field, with B.J. Upton in center field and offseason signee Nick Markakis in right field. Gomes has had a fairly quiet offseason in terms of rumors circulating around his name, but with the majority of the starting options off the market, I’d imagine interest in his more specified skill set could increase.

Other speculative options for Atlanta in left would include free agents Ichiro Suzuki and Eric Young Jr., while the trade market could present names like Charlie BlackmonAllen Craig, Shane Victorino, Cameron Maybin, Will Venable and Dayan Viciedo.


Cafardo On Scherzer, Shields, Kimbrel, Chapman

Teams are aware that Max Scherzer and James Shields are excellent pitchers, but many teams don’t have enough money remaining in their budgets to sign them, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. The Red Sox like both pitchers and don’t have an obvious ace, but they’ve already spent heavily this offseason and have plenty of good starters, one of whom could emerge to lead them. A number of teams, meanwhile, are waiting for Shields’ price to come down. Where Scherzer and Shields land could depend on owners who are willing to step up and sign them, regardless of their teams’ budgets. (The Nationals and another team are reportedly currently involved in the bidding for Scherzer.) In other nuggets from Cafardo’s Sunday Notes column:

  • The Red Sox are committed to Christian Vazquez being their starting catcher; but, with the development of Blake Swihart, it may not be for long. The Phillies covet Swihart in a potential Cole Hamels trade, but one NL executive wonders whether they would take Vazquez instead.
  • Baseball executives tell Cafardo the Braves may be willing to deal closer Craig Kimbrel at the trade deadline, if the club is struggling. The same goes for the Reds and Aroldis Chapman. Cafardo lists the Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Tigers as the teams who would most benefit from adding either reliever.
  • The Orioles will not be able to obtain an MLB player as compensation if Dan Duquette joins the Blue Jays, but owner Peter Angelos will seek one or two very good prospects.
  • The Giants scored another quality signing when they came to terms with outfielder Nori Aoki. The Giants had inquired with the Red Sox about their surplus of outfielders, including Shane Victorino, Allen Craig, and Daniel Nava.

Outfield Notes: Aoki, Blackmon, Heyward

New Giants outfielder Nori Aoki could have scored multiple years and a larger guarantee elsewhere, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, but he preferred the opportunity to receive significant playing time for a contender and also liked the idea of living in San Francisco.

  • The Orioles are “doing their homework” on Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon and could become involved in trade talks, but seemingly have not yet engaged in any discussions, per Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Baltimore does not consider it a fit for Dexter Fowler of the Astros, says Kubatko, and is still considering a run at free agent Colby Rasmus. The club is looking for left-handed-hitting outfielders, though Alejandro De Aza and David Lough remain under contract.
  • Jason Heyward and the Cardinals have each expressed general interest in exploring an expansion of their current one-year relationship, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. A feeling-out process seems in order first, and neither side appears to be in a rush to sit down at the negotiating table.
  • Heyward also offered some interesting words on his past talks with the Braves and why they never proved fruitful, in his view. “For me, I’m from Georgia [and] I grew up playing baseball in that state,” said Heyward. “I grew up watching the great teams of the 1990s and got to play for a Hall of Fame manager [Bobby Cox] who helped build that organization. For me, I was never opposed to [staying]. There wasn’t a lot of time put in on their part, I feel like, getting to know me as a person and getting to know my mindset on it.”

Minor Moves: Bard, Berry, Hand, Pastornicky

Here’s a roundup of minor moves from late this week.

  • The Cubs have signed free agent pitcher Daniel Bard to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training, tweets Mike Perchick of WAPT Sports. The former Red Sox relief ace last appeared in the majors during the 2013 season when he tossed just one inning. After three solid campaigns to begin his career, the wheels fell off in 2012 with a 6.22 ERA, 5.76 K/9, and 6.52 BB/9 in 59 and one-third innings.
  • The Red Sox have signed free agent outfielder Quintin Berry to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training, tweets Mike Perchick of WAPT Sports. The 30-year-old outfielder has seen infrequent action since making his major league debut with the Tigers in 2012. That year, he hit .258/.330/.354 in 330 plate appearances with 21 steals. He’s since served short stints with the Red Sox and Orioles as a defensive replacement and pinch runner.
  • Free agent righty Donovan Hand tweets that he has agreed to a deal with the Reds. The deal would presumably be of the minor league variety. Hand, 28, spent his eighth season in the Brewers organization in 2014 as a swingman for Triple-A Nashville, posting a 5.20 ERA with 8.0 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9. Hand had the same role in the big leagues in 2013, posting a 3.69 ERA and 2.8 BB/9 in 68 1/3 innings but with just 4.9 K/9.
  • The Braves have outrighted infielder Tyler Pastornicky, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman tweets. The Braves designated Pastornicky for assignment last week after he hit .290/.330/.347 in 189 plate appearances last year for Triple-A Gwinnett. The 25-year-old has appeared in parts of three seasons in the Majors, most notably hitting .243/.287/.325 in 188 plate appearances in 2012.
  • The Athletics have outrighted infielder Andy Parrino, MLB.com’s Jane Lee tweets. The A’s designated Parrino for assignment in the wake of the Ben Zobrist deal last weekend. The 29-year-old hit .274/.352/.384 at the Triple-A level in 2014.
  • The Mariners have outrighted lefty Anthony Fernandez, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times tweets. Fernandez, 24, has never pitched in the big leagues and missed most of last season due to injury, making just five starts for Triple-A Tacoma. The Mariners designated him for assignment Thursday.
  • The Orioles have outrighted catcher Ryan Lavarnway, according to MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko. Lavarnway, 27, was claimed three times in the past six weeks (by the Dodgers, Cubs and Orioles) before finally making it through waivers. He hit .283/.389/.370 in 257 plate appearances for Triple-A Pawtucket in the Red Sox system in 2014.
  • The Blue Jays have outrighted righty Cory Burns, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca tweets. The Jays designated Burns for assignment earlier this week when they claimed Matt West. Burns, 27, pitched well in relief at Double-A and Triple-A in the Rays organization early in the season, but struggled after being claimed by the Rangers in June. The Blue Jays then claimed him in late September.
  • The Rays have signed lefty Everett Teaford, the Ballengee Group announces (via Twitter). The contract will presumably be a minor-league deal. Teaford appeared in parts of three seasons with the Royals from 2011 through 2013, but pitched for the LG Twins in the offense-heavy KBO in 2014, posting a 5.24 ERA with 7.7 K/9 and 4.6 BB/9 in 99 2/3 innings.

Jason Heyward Open To Extension With Cardinals

Outfielder Jason Heyward is open to the possibility of an extension with the Cardinals, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch writes. The Casey Close client adds that he would have no problem discussing an extension even during the season.

They asked me to be here and I was traded into this situation, and it’s a good situation,” says Heward. “[W]e’ll see what happens. It’s kind of a unique situation because this is my last year before free agency.”

The Cardinals acquired Heyward from Atlanta earlier this offseason, and Heyward says that he was frustrated by the Braves’ lack of initiative on extension talks. “For me, I was never opposed to (staying),” he says. “There wasn’t a lot of time put in on their part, I feel like, getting to know me as a person and getting to know my mindset on it.”

Heyward is right that his case is unique. He’s set to hit the free agent market next offseason as a 26-year-old, and his combination of youth, defense, on-base ability and pedigree should make him very valuable once he does, even though his power perhaps hasn’t developed as anticipated. His age, in particular, is a huge asset, since free agents tend to be much older — Heyward could be the rare free agent whose best years are still ahead of him. Last month in a post on Heyward’s extension candidacy, we noted that Heyward could easily receive a deal of at least eight years and possibly $200MM or more.

As Goold notes, the Cardinals should have a reasonable amount of money available to sign Heyward, should they choose to do so, especially in seasons beyond 2015. Adam Wainwright and Matt Carpenter are the only players they have signed beyond 2017, and Carpenter’s is their only veteran contract that’s backloaded.