Atlanta Braves Rumors

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

Braves Release Jason Frasor

The Braves have released righty Jason Frasor, as reflected on the MLB.com transactions page and as David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution confirms (on Twitter). Frasor was signed by Atlanta in mid-July after being released by the Royals.

Though he just turned 38, Frasor had no trouble keeping runs off the board this season. All said, he made it through 28 frames while allowing just four earned runs on 27 hits. But he walked 18 batters to go with his 22 strikeouts, which was likely the reason he was sent packing by a contending Kansas City organization.

Frasor has been on the disabled list with a strained right shoulder since early August. It’s not clear whether he’ll attempt to hook on with another team now or wait until the coming offseason to ramp back up.


NL Notes: Brewers GM, Francoeur, Braves, Urias

There’s been a good deal of speculation surrounding the Brewers‘ GM opening, and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick hears (Twitter link) two more names making their round of speculation: Braves assistant GM John Coppolella and Rays director of player personnel Matt Arnold. Coppolella has long been speculated to be Atlanta’s GM of the future, but John Hart is currently serving as the team’s president of baseball operations. Arnold has moved up from Rays pro scouting director to his current position over the past few seasons.

A few more late-night notes pertaining to the National League…

  • Jeff Francoeur is open to a return to the Phillies even in another rebuilding season, he tells MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki“I like where we’re going right now,” Francoeur explained. “Hell, we have the [fourth]-best record in the National League in the second half. At the same time, I’m not saying I’ve got to play every day, but I would want an opportunity to play if I’m playing well. I’m not saying every day, though.” A potential return for Francoeur, of course, will depend largely on the team’s impending front office decisions, which the outfielder acknowledged. Zolecki adds that he, too, hears that the Phillies pulled Francoeur back off waivers when he was claimed, adding that the Pirates were possibly the team.
  • Five young Braves prospects were injured in a bus accident in the Dominican Republic over the weekend, as MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez writes. Fortunately, most of the injuries were minor, though 18-year-old Luis Martin Severino Galvan is said to have suffered a broken leg.
  • Dodgers top prospect Julio Urias is not under consideration for a call-up in early September, manager Don Mattingly told reporters, including Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles“He probably would not be one of the guys we see right away,” said Mattingly. However, the team hasn’t entirely ruled out the possibility of Urias — a consensus Top 5 prospect — debuting later in the month and pitching in relief, Saxon writes. Urias only turned 19 years old earlier this month, but he’s already pitching at the Double-A level, where he has a 3.03 ERA with 10.3 K/9 against 2.2 BB/9 in 62 1/3 innings (12 starts).

Quick Hits: Chemistry, Cuba, Rule 5, Breakouts

Clubhouse chemistry still plays an important role in making a winner, writes Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Multiple players — in rather thoughtful and interesting quotes — tell Nightengale that it is unwise to reject that factor as having causative effect simply because it can’t presently be measured. Indeed, while some adages have been questioned, the ever-changing capacity to measure and value various components of the game has in some cases validated “traditional” viewpoints (as in the case of catcher framing). And it’s not hard to imagine how a positive work environment could help boost play over a long season under often-stressful conditions. Of course, valuing that impact remains a highly inexact science, and it is difficult to separate out true “chemistry” from the generally positive aura of a club that happens to be winning games (due to whatever combination of talent and luck it may have enjoyed). Regardless of one’s feelings on the subject, the piece provides good fodder for thought.

For more reading on the topic, I highly recommend a 2013 piece by Sam Miller for ESPN, which goes into outstanding depth on the opportunities and limitations in this arena. Here are few more notes from around the league:

  • Baseball America’s Ben Badler looks in at the latest on the developing market for Cuban talent. There’s too much to summarize here, but Badler includes updates on several of the players who are preparing to sign with major league teams as well as the latest developments and intrigue on those still in Cuba.
  • We are in the midst of a historic season for Rule 5 prospects, writes BA’s J.J. Cooper. As he notes, with just days to go until rosters expand, it appears that a remarkable ten of fourteen picks from last winter will be kept by their new teams. Even better, several players — Odubel Herrera and Delino DeShields Jr. chief among them — have been real big league contributors.
  • This season, like every other, has featured apparent breakouts from numerous players, only some of which will prove sustainable. In an Insider piece, ESPN.com’s Keith Law lists the nine men who are most likely to build off their big 2015 campaigns. Two of the names on the list — Shelby Miller of the Braves and Nathan Eovaldi of the Yankees — were acquired in offseason trades in hopes that they could regain upward trajectories.


Braves Recall Christian Bethancourt, Designate David Aardsma

The Braves announced a series of roster moves today, most notably recalling young catcher Christian Bethancourt from Triple-A Gwinnett and designating veteran reliever David Aardsma for assignment. Outfielder Eury Perez has also been optioned to Triple-A, with righty Sugar Ray Marimon being recalled to join the bullpen.

Originally signed to a minor league deal with the Dodgers, the 33-year-old Aardsma excelled at the Triple-A level and opted out of his contract with L.A. in May, quickly latching on with the Braves. Aardsma was added to the big league bullpen in relatively short order, and he’s totaled 30 2/3 innings of relief with Atlanta this year.

Though he’s missed quite a few bats (10.3 K/9 and a career-best 14.8 percent swinging-strike rate), Aardsma has also been more homer-prone than usual, surrendering six long balls in his time with the Braves. Paired with a 4.1 BB/9 rate, he’s posted a 4.70 ERA this season. He’s already cleared revocable waivers, so the Braves will have the ability to try to trade him for a nominal return if there are teams intrigued by Aardsma’s strikeout capabilities. xFIP and SIERA, which both normalize his abnormally high homer-to-flyball rate, peg him a 4.13 and 3.44, respectively, giving some hope for improved performance.

As for Bethancourt, the 23-year-old was looked at as Atlanta’s catcher of the future not long ago and may still be, though reports earlier this year tied the Braves to young catchers. Bethancourt batted just .198/.221/.287 in 104 PAs earlier this year and has batted just .223/.248/.279 in 222 big league PAs. However, he was hitting .327/.359/.480 at Triple-A this season and is lauded by scouts for his defensive prowess, including a throwing arm which many grade as an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale.


Mets Acquire Eric Young Jr.

The Mets have announced that they’ve acquired outfielder Eric Young Jr. from the Braves for cash considerations. They have assigned him to Triple-A Las Vegas.

The 30-year-old Young collected 80 plate appearances with the Braves this season and hit .169/.229/.273 before being outrighted to Triple-A Gwinnett, where he hit .248/.349/.312. Young played for the Mets in much of 2013 and in 2014 before heading to Atlanta, and he has a career big-league line of .248/.316/.329.

As those numbers suggest, Young doesn’t hit well. He can, however, play all three outfield positions, and he has 26 stolen bases against just three caught stealings between the Majors and Triple-A this year. He could, therefore, conceivably be useful on the Mets’ bench once rosters expand in September.


Heyman’s Latest: GMs, Castro, Gomes, Hosmer

Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com looks in depth at the still-developing front office market. There’s “no evidence” that the Mariners went after Dave Dombrowski, he says, and it remains entirely unclear what Seattle will look to do over the next several months. Likewise, there are a number of dugout swaps that could go down, per Heyman, who says as many as ten skippers are “on the hot seat.”

The piece is loaded with analysis and notes, but here are some of the most notable bits of hot stove information:

  • Cubs infielder Starlin Castro was placed on trade waivers recently, though it’s not yet known whether he’s cleared. Castro has shifted to a utility role for Chicago and is still owed $38MM, but is obviously a significant talent and is just 25 years old. While the Cubs now seem determined to go with Addison Russell at short in the near term and the long term, an August trade of Castro still seems unlikely.
  • Braves outfielder Jonny Gomes has cleared waivers and can freely be dealt. He’s playing on a $4MM salary this year and can be controlled in 2016 through a $3MM option. The 34-year-old doesn’t have a terribly impressive overall batting line, and has seen his power output drop, but is still slashing .231/.409/.385 against opposing lefties.
  • The Royals are “starting to think about” approaching Eric Hosmer to discuss an extension. He is already signed to a $8.25MM salary next year, and has one more year of arb control thereafter. Buying up additional years will not be easy or cheap for Kansas City: Hosmer is in the midst of a breakout .315/.379/.484 campaign, is just 25 years old, and is a client of Scott Boras.

NL East Notes: Utley, Phillies, Olivera, Stanton

Following Chase Utley‘s departure from the Phillies, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com pays tribute to one of the greatest and most beloved players in franchise history. Salisbury recalls the draft-day dilemma the Phillies faced, weighing the decision between Utley and Rocco Baldelli (though the Rays made the decision easier by selecting Baldelli nine picks before Utley). The selection reshaped the Phillies’ history, leading to the emergence of a player that Salisbury calls a “100 percent pure ballplayer” and whom Salisbury believes played through more pain and injury as a member of the Phillies than anyone in recent history. Meanwhile, Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News spoke to a number of Phillies players about their favorite Utley memories and what it meant to have him as a teammate.

More on the Phillies’ transition and the rest of their division…

  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes that while the Phillies may have waited too long to begin their rebuilding process, they deserve credit for making their sixth trade in the past eight months that has bettered the organization. The Phillies did well to include more than $24MM in cash considerations to improve their returns (to say nothing of taking on the remaining $32MM of Matt Harrison‘s contract), and as Rosenthal points out, nine of their top 16 prospects at MLB.com have been acquired in the past year’s trades. One rival exec to whom Rosenthal spoke praised the Phillies for ultimately doing what needed to be done — “[they] sold everyone they could get value from.”
  • Hector Olivera‘s debut with the Braves could come as soon as next Monday, reports David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The infielder, acquired from the Dodgers in a 13-player trade last month, had his minor league rehab assignment moved up to Triple-A on Thursday. O’Brien spoke to Freddie Freeman about the acquisition of Olivera, and Freeman candidly admitted that it was tough, as a player, to see the team give up so many players to acquire a hitter who has never played a Major League game. However, Freeman also saw Olivera while the two were rehabbing together and did come away impressed with the infielder’s skills — particularly his power. As O’Brien notes, Olivera has defensive versatility, but the Braves plan to make him their everyday third baseman.
  • Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton is hopeful that he can return to the roster by early September, writes MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. Stanton says he’s still feeling weakness when turning over his wrist, but he has progressed to hitting 95 mph pitches in the batting cage on back-to-back pain-free days. Stanton has been on the shelf since June 26, when he broke his hamate bone upon being hit by a pitch. He underwent surgery two days later.

NL East Notes: Gordon, Hech, Stanton, Nats, Phils, Braves

The Marlins‘ top two extension priorities over the offseason are middle infielders Dee Gordon and Adeiny Hechavarria, Joe Frisaro of MLB.com reports. It remains to be seen whether Miami will be able to gain traction in talks with the pair, which it already controls through the 2018 campaign. But, per Frisaro, the club is more concerned with striking new deals with Gordon and/or Hechavarria than it is with acquiring any particular player on the open market. A deal with Jose Fernandez still seems unlikely, he writes, and the same holds true of Marcell Ozuna.

More from Miami and the rest of the NL East:

  • While it remains unclear whether Fernandez will make it back to the Marlins this year, slugger Giancarlo Stanton appears to be on track to return to action at some point, as the Associated Press reports (via ESPN.com). Stanton began hitting yesterday, though his precise timetable remains unclear. The club will surely be cautious given its place in the standings and massive commitment to the 25-year-old.
  • Nationals ownership is “unhappy” with the team’s performance this year, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. It would be hard to imagine any other general reaction to a club that suddenly finds itself below the .500 mark despite a big payroll and high expectations, of course, and it’s not at all clear whether that sentiment will manifest itself in any modification in the decisionmaking structure. Rosenthal goes on to discuss the team’s front office situation, but it all seems to boil down to one key point: change is unlikely unless the Lerner family no longer wishes to place its trust in GM and president of baseball operations Mike Rizzo. (For what it’s worth, from my perspective, it seems difficult to blame him for the sudden fall-off of numerous key contributors, and the organization appears well-prepared for a coming offseason that will feature roster turnover at multiple key positions.)
  • The insurance policy on Matt Harrison‘s contract — which was acquired by the Phillies in the Cole Hamels deal — could still pay out to Philadelphia, Rosenthal suggests, though there is plenty of uncertainty. As he notes, too, the Phils would need to use at least some of any savings to fill in innings that might otherwise be occupied by the veteran lefty.
  • The future for the Phillies, of course, will depend less on freeing some extra cash than it will on the development of the team’s best young players. Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News profiles one if the organization’s most important assets: 20-year-old shortstop J.P. Crawford.
  • Braves reliever Chris Withrow, who was acquired along with Juan Uribe earlier this year, is progressing but likely won’t pitch this year, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets. Withrow is still working back from Tommy John and back surgeries. Meanwhile, another Atlanta upside grab — Rule 5 pick Daniel Winkler — is on track to take the bump in fall or winter league action, O’Brien adds on Twitter. Once activated from the DL, Winkler will need to stick on the active roster next year for the club to retain his rights.

Braves Likely To Bring Mike Minor Back For 2016

The Braves are likely to retain injured lefty Mike Minor for the 2016 season, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (links to Twitter). He cautions that it’s not yet certain how the team will proceed.

Minor, 27, can be controlled through arbitration for two more years. Since agreeing to a $5.6MM salary for the present season, a figure which was elevated by his prior Super Two qualification, Minor has accrued a full year of service time on the DL after undergoing shoulder surgery. Even before his lost 2015, Minor had followed up an outstanding 2013 campaign (204 2/3 innings, 3.21 ERA) with an injury-shortened disappointment last year (145 1/3, 4.77).

While Atlanta would undoubtedly prefer to keep the rights to the talented southpaw, and will have the benefit of watching him begin to throw in the coming weeks in assessing its position, that high salary starting point poses an issue. The CBA provides that teams “may not tender, sign or renew a Player under reserve to the Club” to a contract with a salary “that constitutes a reduction in excess of 20% of his salary for Major League service in the previous season.”

Salaries are rarely reduced through arbitration regardless, but that rule creates a firm $4.48MM floor if Atlanta tenders Minor a contract.  The very same consideration led Atlanta to non-tender pitchers Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy last offseason. But in Minor’s case, O’Brien suggests on Twitter, there may be greater team interest in trying to strike a deal in that range if one can be had.

Of course, tendering a contract would not only make for a firm commitment but would open up the possibility of being forced to pay more money. The Braves could instead look to work something out before the non-tender deadline in early December. Particularly given that Minor will still be a full season away from qualifying for free agency through accumulation of service time, he could presumably also be approached with some kind of multi-year arrangement (as both Medlen and Beachy ultimately landed as free agents) that provides him with some guaranteed money while giving the club a chance to participate in the upside through cheap future guarantees and/or option years.

It will certainly be interesting to see how things proceed, given that the Braves have been actively investing in fairly risky pitching talent. On the other side of the equation, as Minor and his representatives will be well aware, clubs around the league have shown a good deal of willingness to spend on injured pitching on the free agent market in recent campaigns.


Reed, Rodney, Axford, Mujica, Aardsma Clear Waivers

Right-handers Addison Reed, Fernando Rodney, John Axford, Edward Mujica and David Aardsma have all cleared revocable trade waivers, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post, making them eligible to be dealt to any club.

Of the listed group, only the veteran Aardsma has even posted a sub-4.00 ERA this season, as the 33-year-old has a 3.95 ERA with 10.2 K/9 and 4.6 BB/9 in 27 1/3 innings with the Braves. He’s generating grounders at just a 29.9 percent clip though and has had some home run issues to go along with his questionable control. Aardsma inked a minor league deal with the Braves, so his salary for the remainder of the season is light in comparison to the peers with whom he’s listed.

Reed, 26, was an up-and-coming closer not long ago was viewed in a strong enough light for the D-Backs to surrender one of their top prospects (Matt Davidson) for him in the 2013-14 offseason. His first season with the Diamondbacks resulted in a 4.25 ERA, however, and he’s up to 4.46 this season. Reed lost his job to Brad Ziegler earlier in the year and has been demoted to Triple-A this season.

Since returning, Reed has yielded just one run on nine hits and a walk with eight strikeouts in 10 innings, so things do look considerably brighter of late. However, Reed is also earning $4.875MM this season, and he’s still owed about $1.33MM of that sum through season’s end. He’s controllable through the 2017 season but is a definite non-tender candidate following the season, as he’ll top $5MM via arbitration despite his 2015 struggles.

The 38-year-old Rodney is perhaps the least surprising name on Sherman’s list. In 50 innings this season, he’s posted a 5.05 ERA with diminished strikeout (7.6 K/9) and walk (4.1 BB/9) rates to go along with a career-worst 1.44 HR/9 rate. Rodney’s fastball is averaging 94.9 mph, so he still has plenty of heat, but the results haven’t been there in 2015, and he’s owed $1.91MM of his $7MM salary through season’s end.

Axford, 32, has seen his share of struggles as well in his first year with the Rockies. Axford began the year in dominant fashion, yielding just one run in 19 innings and usurping LaTroy Hawkins as the Colorado closer. However, in the 19 2/3 innings that have followed that initial stretch, he’s been tagged for 19 runs on a dismal 29 hits and 15 walks. Teams in search of relief help may have some degree of hope that Coors Field has contributed to his poor results of late; Axford does have a 5.32 ERA in Denver versus a 3.78 ERA on the road. But, walks are walks in any park, and Axford has issued 10 free passes in 16 2/3 innings on the road.

Mujica has already been designated for assignment once this season (by the Red Sox), and his numbers have only worsened following a trade to the Athletics. The 31-year-old is still showing excellent control (1.3 BB/9 rate), but he’s averaging just six strikeouts per nine innings and has been entirely too hittable. Opponents are batting .309/.336/.525 against Mujica in 2015, and the result has been an unsightly 5.25 ERA. Even if he weren’t owed $1.3MM through the end of the season, he’d be a tough sell as a bullpen upgrade for a team seeking relief help.

Each of these relievers has been added to MLBTR’s list of players that have cleared revocable waivers, which can be always be found under the MLBTR Features on the right-hand sidebar for desktop users.