We’ve long heard chatter about a possible reunion between Yankees catcher Brian McCann and the Braves, and MLB.com’s Mark Bowman provides some hints about where things stand. New York has asked for righty Mike Foltynewicz or center fielder Ender Inciarte to part with the veteran receiver, which certainly sounds like a non-starter from here. An arrangement could yet make sense, Bowman writes, but Atlanta won’t include either of those two players.
Here are today’s minor moves, with all links to the Twitter feed of Baseball America’s Matt Eddy.
- The Braves have signed lefty Sam Freeman to a minor league pact. Presumably, he’ll have at least some reasonable shot at pushing for a spot in the organization’s bullpen pecking order — if not even a big league job out of camp. The 29-year-old was rather productive from 2013 through 2015, posting a 2.74 ERA over 88 2/3 total innings, though organizations have never full trusted him with a locked-down MLB relief role. And last year was a tough one for Freeman, who not only scuffled at Triple-A (5.20 ERA with 7.5 K/9 and 4.6 BB/9 over 55 1/3 innings) but was hit hard in a brief stint at the major league level with the Brewers.
- Another southpaw pen candidate, Onelki Garcia, is headed to the Royals on a minor league arrangement. The 27-year-old has seen only brief MLB action (just three appearances, in fact), and did not spend any time with a major league organization last year. But he did show rather well in the competitive Mexican League, for the Diablos Rojos del Mexico. Over 33 innings, Garcia worked to a 3.82 ERA on 28 hits with 8.2 K/9 against 2.5 BB/9.
- Promising indy ball player Dalton Wheat has had his contract purchased by the Marlins, as his former team, the Kansas City T-Bones, announced recently. According to a gripping story in the Wyandotte Daily, Wheat isn’t just an interesting player who was overlooked after a strong D-II college career, leading Baseball America to name him the top indy ball prospect. He also already has a legitimately unusual, trademark attribute that will make him a fascinating player to watch as he enters the affiliated ranks. Beyond his top-end speed and solid on-base potential, Wheat truly shows up to work — taking his turns at the plate with a pair of standard-issue work gloves rather than typical baseball batting gloves. (Yes, the Wyandotte Daily provides a great photo.) Wheat tells a fan on Twitter that he’ll keep chopping wood in his signature handwear so long as the Marlins allow it.
Braves left-hander Matt Marksberry, who as of Tuesday was battling potentially serious health issues, awoke from a medically induced coma yesterday, writes David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Marksberry had been suffering from intense stomach pains and wound up suffering a seizure that led to a collapsed lung while at the hospital for treatment, according to O’Brien. Marksberry’s sister tweeted that her brother “still has a long journey ahead of him” as he recovers from the frightening incident. Needless to say, we’re happy to learn that the 26-year-old appears to be on the road to recovery and continue to hold Marksberry in our thoughts as we wish him a speedy recovery.
Our thoughts at MLB Trade Rumors are with Braves left-hander Matt Marksberry and his friends and family, as David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that the 26-year-old is being treated for “severe dehydration” at an Orlando-area hospital after originally going in for a non-baseball procedure. As O’Brien writes, Marksberry’s brother said on Facebook earlier today that he was on life support, though O’Brien cites multiple people familiar with the situation in stating that Marksberry is unconscious but has stable vital signs. Earlier this week, Marksberry tweeted: “I don’t want to sound selfish but I really could use some prayers for my health right now. Non baseball related. Thank you guys.” While the specifics surrounding Marksberry’s health are unclear, it seems certain that the complications he’s currently battling could be fairly severe. MLBTR wishes him a quick return to full health.
- The Braves re-signed catcher Blake Lalli after recently outrighting him. Lalli, 33, received a brief MLB cameo for the first time in quite a while, but hasn’t spend much time in the majors and figures to remain in the upper minors next year. He carries a .265/.316/.376 batting line over parts of five seasons at Triple-A.
- Meanwhile, the Braves outrighted 26-year-old lefties Matt Marksberry and Andrew McKirahan as well as shortstop Daniel Castro. Marksberry has made 35 appearances over the last two seasons, posting a composite 5.06 ERA, though he was effective in 42 2/2 frames in the upper minors last year, carrying a 2.32 ERA with 8.2 K/9 against 3.6 BB/9. McKirahan spent the year recovering from Tommy John surgery. As for Castro, 23, the last two years have come with a fair amount of major league opportunities, but his bat hasn’t been up to the task. Over 239 total plate appearances, he has hit just .217/.250/.265.
We’re just a few months away from this winter’s Rule 5 draft, so it makes sense to take a look back and see how things shook out from the 2015 selections. Several organizations found useful players, even if the most recent class didn’t include an Odubel Herrera-esque breakout sensation. Some of the most recent draftees have probably locked up MLB jobs again for 2017, though others who stuck on a major league roster all year may head back to the minors for further development. (Once a player’s permanent control rights have been secured, his new organization is free to utilize optional assignments as usual for future years.)
Here’s a roundup of the 2015 draft class with the 2016 season in the books:
- Tyler Goeddel, OF, kept by Phillies from Rays: The 23-year-old struggled with the aggressive move to the big leagues, carrying a .192/.258/.291 batting line in 234 trips to the plate, but showed enough for the rebuilding Phillies to hold onto him all year long.
- Luis Perdomo, RHP, kept by Padres (via Rockies) from Cardinals: It didn’t look good early for Perdomo, but he showed better after moving to the rotation and ended with a rather promising 4.85 ERA over twenty starts. Though he struggled to contain the long ball, and only struck out 6.4 per nine, Perdomo sported a nifty 59.0% groundball rate on the year.
- Joey Rickard, OF, kept by Orioles from Rays: After opening the year with a bang, Rickard faded to a .268/.319/.377 batting line on the year but held his roster spot in Baltimore. He ended the season on the DL with a thumb injury, though, and may end up at Triple-A for some added seasoning.
- Joe Biagini, RHP, kept by Blue Jays from Giants: The only Rule 5 pick to appear in the postseason, Biagini was a great find for Toronto. He ended with 67 2/3 innings of 3.06 ERA pitching, with 8.2 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9, and now looks like a potential fixture in the Jays’ relief corps.
- Matthew Bowman, RHP, kept by Cardinals from Mets: Bowman rounds out a trio of impressive relievers. He contributed 67 2/3 innings with a 3.46 ERA and 6.9 BB/9 against 2.7 BB/9 to go with a monster 61.7% groundball rate.
Retained By Other Means
- Deolis Guerra, RHP, re-signed by Angels (who selected him from Pirates) after being outrighted: Guerra was in an unusual spot since he had previously been outrighted off of the Bucs’ 40-man roster when he was selected, meaning he didn’t need to be offered back. Los Angeles removed him from the major league roster and then brought him back on a minor league deal, ultimately selecting his contract. Though he was later designated and outrighted by the Halos, Guerra again returned and largely thrived at the major league level, contributing 53 1/3 much-needed pen frames with a 3.21 ERA on the back of 6.1 K/9 against just 1.2 BB/9.
- Jabari Blash, OF, acquired by Padres (who acquired Rule 5 rights from Athletics) from Mariners: Blash’s intriguing tools weren’t quite ready for the majors, but San Diego struck a deal to hold onto him and was surely impressed with his showing at Triple-A. In his 229 plate appearances there, Blash swatted 11 home runs but — more importantly — carried a .415 OBP with a much-improved 66:41 K/BB ratio.
- Ji-Man Choi, 1B, outrighted by Angels after Orioles declined return: The 25-year-old scuffled in the bigs but was rather impressive at the highest level of the minors, where he walked nearly as often as he struck out and put up a .346/.434/.527 slash with five home runs in 227 plate appearances.
- Jake Cave, OF, returned from Reds to Yankees: After failing to crack Cinci’s roster out of camp, Cave impressed at Double-A but slowed at the highest level of the minors (.261/.323/.401 in 354 plate appearances) upon his return to the New York organization.
- Evan Rutckyj, LHP, returned from Braves to Yankees: Sent back late in camp, the 24-year-old struggled in limited action on the Yanks’ farm after missing most of the season with elbow issues.
- Josh Martin, RHP, returned from Padres to Indians: In his first attempt at Triple-A, Martin posted 66 frames of 3.55 ERA pitching with 8.2 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9.
- Daniel Stumpf, LHP, returned from Phillies to Royals: Slowed by a PED suspension, Stumpf was bombed in a brief MLB stint with the Phils but dominated at Double-A upon his return to K.C., posting a 2.11 ERA with 11.0 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9 in 21 1/3 innings.
- Chris O’Grady, LHP, returned from Reds to Angels: Sent back in late March, O’Grady compiled a 3.48 ERA over 95 2/3 innings in the upper minors, though he performed much better as a Double-A starter than he did as a Triple-A reliever.
- Zack Jones, RHP, returned from Brewers to Twins: The 25-year-old was out with a shoulder injury for most of the year, and ended up being sent back to Minnesota in late June, but has shown swing-and-miss stuff when healthy.
- Blake Smith, RHP, returned from Padres to White Sox: Smith ended up making a brief MLB debut upon his return to Chicago, but spend most of the year pitching well at Triple-A Charlotte, where he ran up a 3.53 ERA in 71 1/3 innings with 9.5 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9.
- Colin Walsh, INF, returned from Brewers to Athletics: After struggling badly in his major league stint with the Brewers, Walsh went to Oakland’s Triple-A affiliate and put up a .259/.384/.388 bating line over 245 plate appearances.
TODAY: Johnson’s contract is worth $10MM in guaranteed money, The Associated Press reports. He will be paid $4.5MM in 2017 and 2018, with a $1MM signing bonus. The righty can earn up to $1.75MM in performance bonuses each season based on games finished. Johnson earns $250K for finishing 30 games, and then another $250K for hitting each of the 35, 40, 45, 50, 55 and 60-game thresholds.
OCTOBER 2: Braves reliever Jim Johnson could have hit free agency during the offseason, but the 33-year-old will instead continue his career in Atlanta. He and the Braves have agreed to a two-year contract extension, according to a team announcement. Financial details are not yet available, but the deal will keep the Moye Sports Associates client under Atlanta’s control through the 2018 season.
Johnson is amid his second stint as a Brave after signing a one-year, $2.5MM deal with the club last offseason. That ended up being a bargain for the rebuilding Braves, as Johnson has logged a 3.11 ERA, 9.33 K/9 and 2.83 BB/9 over 63 2/3 innings. Johnson has also kept up a career-long trend of inducing ground balls, having posted a 55 percent mark, and added 19 saves on 22 chances. Overall, 2016 has been a major bounce-back season for Johnson, who fared poorly with the Tigers, Athletics and Dodgers during the previous two campaigns.
Despite his struggles elsewhere, Johnson has clearly found a home in Atlanta. Previously, he recorded a 2.25 ERA over 48 innings with the team in 2015 before it traded him to Los Angeles in July. Part of the reason for Johnson’s success with the Braves is his strong relationship with pitching coach Roger McDowell, per Mark Bowman of MLB.com (Twitter link). Going forward, the longtime Oriole – who has 153 career saves – said Sunday the plan is for him to remain as the Braves’ closer, according to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (via Twitter). That means Johnson will continue leading a bullpen cast that should include the likes of Ian Krol, Arodys Vizcaino and Mauricio Cabrera, among others, in 2017.
It’s unknown how much interest Johnson would have garnered as a free agent, of course, but playoff contenders were zeroing in on him as a trade target over the summer. In fact, a deal nearly came to fruition in late July, and the Blue Jays, Mets and Rangers were among the clubs that eyed Johnson in advance of the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline. An unidentified team also claimed Johnson on revocable waivers in August, but the Braves pulled him back after they and the other club weren’t able to agree on a trade. Now, after nearly joining his sixth major league team over the summer, he’s primed to stay in Atlanta for the next couple years.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Former Astros skipper and current Braves special assistant Bo Porter is receiving at least some consideration for the Rockies’ open managerial position, according to MLB.com’s Thomas Harding. The report identifies a number of other possibilities on a growing list of names who appear to be on Colorado’s radar.
Another former Astros’ manager, current Indians bench coach Brad Mills, has also come up. His Cleveland staff mate, first base coach Sandy Alomar Jr., is another name to watch. Obviously, neither of those possible candidates can be pursued in earnest at present, with the Indians just opening play in the ALCS.
Two other bench coaches who could draw interest from the Rockies are Dave Martinez of the Cubs, who also is busy with his current position, and Ron Wotus of the Giants. We heard earlier today that Wotus had received contact from a team with a managerial opening. Given that the Diamondbacks — the other team with an opening — haven’t yet resolved their front office situation, it seems reasonable to suspect that it was the Rockies who came calling.
Today’s report significantly expands the group of names tied in some way to the Rockies’ top dugout post. Last we checked in, the scuttlebutt was that former Brewers skipper Ron Roenicke (most recently of the Angels), former Padres manager Bud Black (ditto), Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo, Braves first base coach Eddie Perez, and Rockies Triple-A skipper Glenallen Hill had some form of connection to the gig — though in some cases, the reporting involved interest on their behalf rather than the team’s.
All told, that slate largely represents a “who’s who” of skippers-to-be around the game. Those that haven’t yet taken managerial jobs at the major league level have at least interviewed for jobs with other organizations.
Still, the Rockies aren’t just looking to plug in an experienced hand. According to Harding, Colorado hopes to find someone “who will apply statistics and other research into managing and coaching, and who are adept at various methods for creating team chemistry.” In that regard, certainly, the organization seems to be participating in a near-universal trend leaguewide.
- Newly-inked Braves third base coach Ron Washington thought at one point he’d land the team’s managerial job, as John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group reports. “I thought my interview was good to the point I got that I had the [managerial] job, no doubt in my mind,” Washington said. “But you never know what the other side is thinking and how it will go. They offered me a different job in the organization.” Though he missed on the top post, and could’ve earned the same money on a two-year deal to stay with the Athletics in a coaching capacity, Washington chose to take a position that would put him closer to home.
The Braves have outrighted reliever Joel De La Cruz, catcher Blake Lalli and first baseman Brandon Snyder off their 40-man roster, according to Baseball America’s Matt Eddy. Each of the three can and very likely will become minor league free agents this offseason.
Signed to a minor league pact this offseason, the 27-year-old De La Cruz made his big league debut with Atlanta in 2016 and wound up tossing a fairly substantial 62 2/3 innings for the Braves across nine starts and 13 relief appearances. In that time, De La Cruz worked to a 4.88 ERA with 5.3 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and a 43.1 percent ground-ball rate. The longtime Yankees farmhand, who has also spent time in the Brewers and Nationals organizations, averaged 91.3 mph on a sinker he threw for just over half of his offerings, per PITCHf/x data, also working in a slider and a changeup. Neither De La Cruz’s Major League nor minor league numbers stand out, but his 4.15 ERA in parts of three seasons (184 1/3 innings) at the Triple-A level is an identical match with his career 4.15 ERA across five minor league levels, so he can function as a serviceable depth piece in a club’s Triple-A rotation or bullpen.
The 33-year-old Lalli, meanwhile, returned to the Majors for the first time since 2013 and picked up 13 plate appearances with a pair of hits. He’s seen parts of three seasons in the Majors, though he has just 53 plate appearances and a .305 OPS in that time. He’s fared considerably better at Triple-A, where he’s a lifetime .265/.316/.376 hitter.
And Snyder, 29, tallied 47 PAs this season and hit .239/.255/.652 — one of the stranger batting lines you’ll come across anytime soon. The 29-year-old collected 11 hits but just one single, as he belted four homers to go along with five doubles and a triple in his brief stint, bumping his career batting line to .242/.279/.459. Clearly, as evidenced by the .217 ISO (slugging percentage minus batting average) that he’s posted in the Majors, there’s some pop in Snyder’s bat, though he’s never been able to carve out a prolonged role in the bigs. Formerly selected with the 13th overall pick by the Orioles in 2005, Snyder is a career .274/.336/.437 hitter in the minors, including a .259/.319/.411 slash in parts of seven Triple-A seasons.