Atlanta Braves Rumors

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

AL Central Notes: Indians, Tigers, Cabrera

For the third installment of a four-part series comparing the Indians and the division-rival Tigers, Cleveland.com’s Zack Meisel spoke to both Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski and Indians GM Chris Antonetti about the way in which their payroll allows them to operate. Dombrowski discussed how the financial muscle provided to him by owner Mike Ilitch allows for an aggressive approach that he didn’t necessarily have when serving as GM of the Expos and Marlins, or even earlier in his Tigers tenure. While a larger pool of resources hasn’t changed his philosophical approach to the game, per se, it has changed his approach to accomplishing his goals.

Antonetti, meanwhile, discussed the importance of acquiring and building around players in the “sweet spot” of their careers, as the Tribe GM termed it — players who are entering, or in the midst, of their peak years (and subsequently are in the early stages of arbitration). The young nature of Cleveland’s core made the team comfortable with adding only Brandon Moss and Gavin Floyd to the roster this winter, Antonetti added. “It’s a group that played its best baseball in the second half, and so as we looked at things, we felt very good about the group of guys we headed into the offseason with,” Antonetti said.

Some more AL Central notes…

  • The Tigers announced yesterday that two-time AL MVP Miguel Cabrera has been cleared to begin non-impact baseball activities, which include hitting and throwing. Cabrera “will begin a running progression until full weight-bearing is achieved,” per the press release. While the Tigers neglected to give a specific timetable for his return, the release indicated that the club is “optimistic” that Cabrera will be ready come Opening Day. Cabrera underwent surgery in October to remove bone spurs from his right ankle and repair a stress fracture in his right foot.
  • A report earlier this week indicated that the Royals watched Phil Coke throw recently, and Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets that the Royals have not only watched Coke, but also Alfredo Aceves throw. Kansas City is still on the hunt for relief depth, McCullough notes. While Coke makes some sense as a lefty option in the K.C. bullpen, he’s reportedly seeking a Major League contract, whereas Aceves could certainly be had on a minor league deal.
  • When the Braves and Royals engaged in Justin Upton trade talks earlier this winter, Atlanta wanted left-handed prospect Sean Manaea included in the deal, according to Peter Gammons in his most recent post at GammonsDaily.com. The 34th overall pick of the 2013 draft, Manaea was projected by many as a top 10-15 pick before questions about hip and shoulder injuries caused his stock to drop. The southpaw performed well in his first pro season, posting a 3.11 ERA, 10.8 K/9 and 2.7 K/BB rate over 121 2/3 IP in high-A ball. Gammons believes Manaea has a shot at being a late-season call-up this year, and compares him to another heralded left-handed prospect in Carlos Rodon.

East Notes: Hamels, Bradley, Minor, DeJesus, Aceves

ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark polled league executives for their takes on the offseason, and some of the strongest opinions related to the game’s eastern divisions. Collectively, that group liked the Blue Jays’ signing of Russell Martin, but was skeptical of the contracts given to players like Max Scherzer (Nationals) and Hanley Ramirez (Red Sox). Check out the piece for the results on a number of other questions.

  • Regarding the oft-discussed possibility of the Red Sox dealing for Cole Hamels of the Phillies, Peter Gammons of Gammons Daily suggests that circumstances may need to change to force a deal. Any changes to Boston’s internal pitching dynamics could, of course, push it toward a deal. Or, with the Sox uninterested in taking on all of Hamels’s salary, a new willingness by the Phils to eat cash to increase the prospect return could move the needle.
  • One other factor in driving trade possibilities for the Red Sox is the club’s overflowing cup of outfielders. Before deciding how to proceed, the club will look to see where things stand, says Gammons, especially in terms of health.
  • Of note is that the Braves have made clear to Boston that they have “strong interest” in young outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. This is not necessarily an active matter, however: Gammons notes that any possible action on that front would occur in the late spring, at the earliest, and David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets his understanding that the expression of interest was made earlier in the offseason, before other moves occurred.
  • Lefty Mike Minor will face a hearing with the Braves tomorrow, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman notes on Twitter. $500K remains at stake between the sides ($5.6MM versus $5.1MM).
  • Rays outfielder David DeJesus tells Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times that he has prepared for the possibility of being dealt but hopes to remain with Tampa. DeJesus says he is refreshed and ready after a “long, grueling” go of things last year, though as Topkin writes there appears to be a logjam in front of him in the outfield.
  • Alfredo Aceves, a seven-year veteran of the Red Sox and Yankees, will throw for teams this afternoon, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez tweets. Among those expected to be in attendance are the Giants, Padres, Royals, Brewers, and Reds.

Heyman On Contracts: Herrera, Holland, Coffey, Middlebrooks

Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com provides some finer details on various recently-struck contracts from around the game (links to Twitter):

  • Under his two-year dealRoyals reliever Kelvin Herrera can tack on an additional $250K to his 2016 salary based on games finished in 2015. That is not much, but does give at least some suggestion that he and the team have conceived of the possibility that he could end up in a closing role at some point.
  • Of course, Herrera is not first or even second in the pecking order there. Royals pen mate Greg Holland will handle the ninth until further notice, and his one-year deal to avoid arbitration contains several bonus provisions, including a $100K bump for taking home another reliever of the year award.
  • Todd Coffey‘s minor league deal with the Braves would pay him $800K annually for his time in the majors, if he can crack the roster. Coffey can also earn up to $200K through incentives.
  • The Padres will pay pre-arbitration-eligible third baseman Will Middlebrooks rather well. He will make $540,500 over his time in the majors and $324,300 for whatever time he spends in the minors. Last year at this time, MLBTR’s Zach Links took an interesting look at how teams pay pre-arb players.


NL Notes: D’Backs, Phillies, Hamels, Kimbrel

Though many have argued to the contrary, the Diamondbacks are internally optimistic that their club can ride its young pitching to a surprising campaign, as Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes. Piecoro discusses the club’s acquisitions, including a turnaround candidate in Jeremy Hellickson and advanced-level prospects Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, and Robbie Ray“It’s our belief that with the young pitching we’ve got, we think it’s the right time,” said GM Dave Stewart. “Young pitching doesn’t normally start to show itself until the age that these guys are approaching — they’re not even there yet, they’re just approaching. The scouting reports that we have on each and every last one of the guys we acquired are good reports. Now, it’s just a matter of if they’re ready to move forward.”

Here’s more from the National League:

  • Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says that the club has made “pretty decent progress” in turning over its club into a “younger and more athletic” unit, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports“We didn’t necessarily expect to make a full transition in a two- or three-month period of time,” said Amaro. “The process doesn’t start on October 1 and it doesn’t end on February 15. It continues. … There’s still a lot of work to be done.” Amaro rejected the idea that his club had set unrealistic price tags on its veterans: “Everybody has an idea of how they should evaluate. We have certain ways we evaluate our players and other players and what’s right for the organization. I think we’re in a better position to make those decisions than others.”
  • Most of the criticism, of course, has targeted the Phillies‘ inability to date to work out a deal for lefty Cole Hamels. Bob Ford of the Philadelphia Inquirer opines that Amaro ought to make the best deal he can, now, rather than risking an injury or ineffectiveness.
  • Speaking of Hamels, Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs has put together another fascinating study of pitch comps. In this one, he notes the incredible similarities between the offerings of Hamels and fellow southpaw (and former Phillies hurler) J.A. Happ. As Sullivan explains, Hamels has vastly outperformed Happ not because he has better stuff, but likely through some combination of superior control, deception, and the like.
  • The division-rival Braves, meanwhile, have not drawn the same kind of widespread scrutiny as have the Phils, even after stating that they were not interested in dealing star closer Craig Kimbrel. The outstanding righty remains entrenched in the ninth, and tells David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he still expects the team to compete for a championship and has a personal goal of converting every save chance he is given. As O’Brien notes, skeptics have suggested that the club may still hold out some possibility of trading Kimbrel if a truly massive package were dangled, but there have been virtually no reports suggesting any action. It is at least somewhat notable that Atlanta added two former closers in Jason Grilli and Jim Johnson, but at this point a hypothetical deal involving Kimbrel seems a topic that — at most — may be worth re-visiting at the trade deadline.

Updates On The Top Cuban Free Agents

Yoan Moncada, Hector Olivera and Yadier Alvarez represent the top three names on the Cuban market right now, with Andy Ibanez ranking as perhaps the fourth-most intriguing option from the island. Both Moncada and Ibanez are eligible to sign at any time, while Olivera is still awaiting MLB’s clearance. Alvarez is the furthest from signing, as he’s yet to establish residency in another country, which must be completed before he can begin the process of getting cleared.

There’s been a quite a bit written on each of these four of late, so we’ll look at each on a case-by-case basis within this post. All information is courtesy of this excellent and comprehensive piece from MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez unless otherwise noted.

Yoan Moncada

Moncada has yet to receive a formal offer, Sanchez writes, but he’s worked out privately for the Cubs, D-backs, Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Padres, Giants, Rangers, Rays, Tigers and Brewers, and there could be other private workouts to come.  Some scouts are a bit skeptical of Moncada’s ability to hit from the right side of the plate, but the belief is that he won’t require a lengthy stint in the minors before being ready for the big leagues.

Sanchez notes that any team that signs Moncada would have until July 15 to pay the overage tax on what will be a historic bonus, and that bonus can be paid out in installments over the next three years. So, while shelling out the tax due to the league in one lump sum may be onerous for smaller-market clubs like the Padres, the timeline on that payment is at least pushed back a ways.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports recently spoke to multiple executives regarding Moncada’s potential bonus, and while one estimated that the bonus alone could reach $50MM, others have expressed some skepticism at the numbers that have been thrown around. Rosenthal spoke to execs that are clearly on both ends of the Moncada spectrum, as one estimated a $30MM maximum bonus, with something in the range of $20MM being more likely. Of course, that would still shatter the current record, held by Yoan Lopez ($8.25MM).

Digging further into the Moncada market, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune spoke with Moncada’s agent, David Hastings, who iterated once again that he hopes to have Moncada in camp for Spring Training. Said Hastings of that goal: “Certainly that’s not all within our power, as we have to wait for teams to make a commitment, and we have to choose the team we think best suits my player. But hopefully we’re down to the final stages of the process and we can begin the contract phase.” Hastings added that he wants to give as many as teams as possible the opportunity to bid on his client, so the volume of private workouts Moncada has attended isn’t exactly surprising. Lin characterizes the Padres as a potentially “unlikely, if not improbable destination” for Moncada. The Dodgers and Yankees remain the favorites, per Sanchez.

Hector Olivera

The 29-year-old Olivera, who turns 30 in April, is said to be seeking a five- or six-year pact along the lines of the contracts signed by Yasmany Tomas (six years, $68.5MM with a year-four opt-out) and Rusney Castillo (seven years, $72.5MM), Sanchez writes. (Remember that Oliver’s age and professional experience make him exempt from international spending limitations.) A recent report by Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs depicts that as highly unlikely; McDaniel noted that concerns over Olivera’s age and a blood clot disorder (thrombosis) may limit his contract to three years, or potentially four, if multiple clubs become aggressive. He did concede that something around $10MM annually could be possible.

Sanchez writes that the 6’2″ Olivera is in the best shape of his career and has “wowed” in open showcases and private workouts, leading many to believe he could hit 15 to 20 homers annually.

Were Olivera younger, I’d be more inclined to believe that he could command something in the vicinity of the Tomas and Castillo deals, but I personally can’t envision that for a player of his age. Tomas will be younger than Olivera is right now when his six-year contract expires, and Castillo’s deal runs through just his age-32 season. A six-year pact for Olivera would carry through his age-35 campaign, so despite having seemingly impressive power for a second baseman (he can also play third), those goals seem far-fetched.

Lin notes that the Padres also have some interest in Olivera and may turn their sights his way if they’re unable to land Moncada. Padres pro scouting director/senior adviser Logan White attended Olivera’s final showcase in the Dominican Republic last week, per Lin.

Though Olivera isn’t yet cleared to sign, Sanchez hears that he could sign within 24 hours of being declared a free agent. The Mariners, Braves and Dodgers are the most likely landing spots for Olivera, per Sanchez, who also lists the Yankees and Padres as interested clubs. Clearly, Seattle is an odd fit, given the presence of Robinson Cano and the recently extended Kyle Seager. Perhaps, however, the Mariners would have interest in using Olivera in a corner outfield spot or in some form of super utility capacity.

Yadier Alvarez

One high-ranking NL official told Sanchez that Alvarez was the best 18-year-old pitcher he’s ever seen following a showcase in which he touched 98 mph on the radar gun and also showed a plus slider and above-average changeup. Scouts to whom Sanchez has spoke believe he could eventually become a No. 2 starter. One international scouting director also told Sanchez that given Alvarez’s age and lower asking price, he prefers the right-hander to Moncada.

The Dodgers, D-Backs, Rockies, Nationals, Blue Jays, Padres, A’s, Cardinals, Twins and Brewers are all interested, per Sanchez, with the D-Backs and Nationals as the likeliest destinations at the moment. However, Alvarez is still early on in the process, so those seem the most likely to change of any of Sanchez’s likely destinations.

Andy Ibanez

Ibanez, 21, has drawn comps to Omar Infante, Howie Kendrick, Miguel Cairo and Placido Polanco from scouts, Sanchez writes, although he’s probably a couple of years away from contributing in the Majors. As other reports have indicated, Ibanez’s tools don’t blow scouts away, but he does have Major League potential. Sanchez lists the Dodgers, Giants, Yankees, D-Backs, Brewers, Mariners, and Padres as interested parties, with the Yankees, Dodgers and Padres as the likeliest landing spots.


NL Notes: Heyward, Cards, Roenicke, Padres, Rockies

Minor league coaches and instructors earn relatively meager salaries, reports Fangraphs’ David Laurila. The minimum salary for one club is $30K while multiple sources pegged the top end (for long-time managers and coordinators) between $150-175K. One source told Laurila the Marlins pay poorly while the Braves are among the most generous (“That’s why Miami has a lot of turnover and Atlanta doesn’t.“). Another reason Laurila cites for the low pay is the number of people who want those minor league positions with one front office executive saying his club receives between 300 and 400 resumes per year.

Here’s the latest news and notes from the National League:

  • The Cardinals have the payroll flexibility and the prospects to either extend a player like Jason Heyward or acquire a high-profile contract like that of Cole Hamels, according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Within the same article, Goold notes GM John Mozeliak has fielded calls this winter on out-of-options players like infielder Pete Kozma and left-hander Sam Freeman.
  • Brewers manager Ron Roenicke told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he is not concerned about being on the hot seat as he enters the final year of his contract. “I know I’ve got a contract this year and I’ll try to do the best I can. I can’t control what happens with that. I just plan to get the guys playing well, and hopefully we’ll get off to a good start again and we’ll see what happens.
  • Despite the dramatic overhaul of their roster, the Padres have plenty of questions to address this spring, Jeff Sanders of U-T San Diego writes.
  • Nick Groke of The Denver Post takes a position-by-position look at the Rockies in 2015. This offseason, the Rockies put a heavy emphasis on improving their depth across the board.

Braves, Eric Young Jr. Agree To Minor League Deal

TODAY: Young will receive a $1MM base salary if he makes Atlanta’s Major League roster, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports (via Twitter).  The contract also contains $750K “in easily attainable incentives.”

FEB. 13: The Braves and outfielder Eric Young Jr. have agreed to a minor league deal with an invitation to Major League Spring Training, tweets MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. The fleet-footed Young will compete with Zoilo Almonte for a role as Jonny Gomes‘ platoon partner in left field, Bowman notes. Young is represented by MVP Sports Group.

Young, 30 in May, offers blistering speed but struggled with the bat in 2014, hitting .229/.299/.311 in 316 plate appearances. Despite the low on-base percentage and limited at-bats, however, Young still managed to swipe 30 bases, and he stole 46 bags the year prior in 598 PAs. Over the life of his career, Young has batted .252/.320/.332 with 138 steals in 171 attempts (81 percent).

Left field has been Young’s primary position over the past two seasons, and it’s also his best position, per both Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating. Last year, DRS valued him at +5 runs, while UZR pegged him at 8.8 in 577 innings. UZR has generally graded Young’s left field work better than DRS, pegging him at eight runs per 150 games, but DRS has given him a positive mark for three consecutive seasons. Young also has some experience at second base, and given Atlanta’s unstable situation at the keystone, it’s possible that he’ll see some time there as well over the course of the 2015 campaign.

The Mets non-tendered Young this December rather than pay him a projected $2.3MM salary (via MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz), and he was one of a handful of free agents with arbitration eligiblity remaining that I identified last week. Because he has just four years, 123 days of big league service, Young can be controlled next winter via arbitration if he performs well. He is eligible for free agency following the 2016 campaign.


Shae Simmons Undergoes Tommy John Surgery

The Braves have announced that right-hander Shae Simmons underwent Tommy John surgery today and will miss the 2015 season as he rehabs from the procedure.

Simmons, 24, surfaced with the Braves in late May and enjoyed a very strong run through the end of July, but a sore shoulder cost him the final two months of the season. While healthy, the former 22nd-round pick notched a 2.91 ERA with 23 strikeouts against 11 walks in 21 2/3 innings. He allowed just one home run and posted an excellent 52.8 percent ground-ball rate to go along with an average fastball velocity of 94.9 mph.

The news continues a run of bad luck the Braves (and the entire league, in a more general sense) have had with Tommy John surgery over the past year. Last spring, Atlanta lost both Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen to torn ulnar collateral ligaments, essentially wiping out 40 percent of their projected starting rotation. That led to the signing of both Ervin Santana and Aaron Harang, who performed admirably in their stead.

As MLB.com’s Mark Bowman tweets, the Braves say that Simmons began complaining of elbow discomfort last week. That may very well explain some of the team’s motivation for bringing in a vast array of experienced right-handers over the past week. Atlanta has added Jose Veras, Todd Coffey and Matt Capps on minor league pacts over the past three days, each of whom will be in Spring Training in hopes of securing a spot in the bullpen.


Minor Moves: Coffey, Colabello, Martinez, Adams

Here are the day’s minor moves:

  • Continuing their trend of adding veteran arms on minor league deals, the Braves have added right-hander Todd Coffey on such a pact and invited him to Spring Training, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Coffey missed the 2013 season after undergoing his second career Tommy John surgery and spent much of the 2014 campaign with the Mariners’ Triple-A affiliate, where he posted an excellent 1.93 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 in 37 1/3 innings of work. From 2009-12 with the Brewers, Nationals and Dodgers, Coffey notched a 3.76 ERA with 7.4 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 225 innings. The Braves have also added Jose Veras, Matt Capps, Chien-ming Wang, Wandy Rodriguez and Donnie Veal on minor league deals this winter.
  • The Blue Jays announced that first baseman/outfielder Chris Colabello has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A (h/t: Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet). The 31-year-old Colabello found himself designated for assignment to make room for waiver claim Jayson Aquino. The longtime indy ball star has been a nice story since signing with the Twins as a 28-year-old and rising through their ranks to the MLB level.
  • The Indians have signed former Phillies utility man Michael Martinez to a minor league deal and invited him to Spring Training, per MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (on Twitter). The 32-year-old switch-hitter brings plenty of defensive versatility to the table, though he’s just a .181/.231/.251 hitter in 440 big league plate appearances.

Earlier Updates

  • The Marlins have inked infielder David Adams to a minor league deal that does not include an invitation to big league camp, Joe Frisaro of MLB.com reports (Twitter links). Now 27, Adams slashed a meager .193/.252/.286 in 152 trips to the plate with the Yankees in 2013. He has performed much better in the upper minors, slashing .255/.349/.397 in 333 plate appearances at Triple-A and putting up a .290/367/.443 line in 899 Double-A turns at bat.
  • Another utility infielder, Chris Dominguez, has agreed to a minor league pact with the Reds, the club tweeted. Dominguez, who was recently designated and released by the Giants, will participate in MLB camp. The 28-year-old saw his first action in the bigs last year, a quick stop with San Francisco, but has spent most of his time over the last two seasons at Triple-A. In 1,203 total PCL plate appearances, Dominguez owns a solid .278/.312/.446 slash with 39 home runs.
  • Lefty Cesar Jimenez has cleared waivers and accepted a Triple-A assignment, the Phillies announced. Despite a strong 2014 and deal to avoid arbitration, Jimenez was designated and then outrighted recently.

Braves, Jose Veras Agree To Minor League Deal

The Braves and right-hander Jose Veras have agreed to a minor league contract with an invitation to big league Spring Training, reports MLB.com’s Mark Bowman (on Twitter).

With the exception of a 13 1/3 inning stint as the Cubs’ closer, Veras has been largely effective over the past two seasons. The Praver/Shapiro client pitched to a 3.02 ERA with 8.6 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 62 2/3 innings between the Astros and Tigers in 2013, registering 21 saves while serving as Houston’s closer. Upon his release from the Cubs in 2014 (which came on the heels of a ghastly 12 earned runs allowed in those 13 1/3 innings), Veras went back to Houston and worked to a 3.03 ERA with 37 strikeouts against 16 walks in 32 2/3 innings of work.

Veras had previously said he hoped to return to the Astros — an organization that has come to feel like home for him. However, Houston was but one of four teams with whom he was speaking at the time, and it appears that the Braves presented a better opportunity for the 34-year-old. He’ll compete for a spot in a revamped bullpen that has seen David Carpenter, Jordan Walden and David Hale depart via trade. In their place, Jason Grilli, Jim Johnson and Josh Outman have been added on Major League deals. Veras will look to join that trio, as well as elite closer Craig Kimbrel, lefty James Russell and righty Shae Simmons in manager Fredi Gonzalez’s bullpen.