Atlanta Braves Rumors

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

NL East Notes: Johnson, Howard, Flores, Murphy, Puello

Braves third baseman Chris Johnson is expected to miss three to six weeks after receiving good news from his MRI, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports. Because his hand fracture was “preexisting,” per the report, Johnson will not be out as long as originally feared.

Here’s more from New York and the rest of the NL East:

  • Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard will qualify for ten-and-five rights tomorrow, as Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News reports. Howard downplayed the importance of that fact as regards his contract status, though he rightly noted that it was a worthwhile achievement standing alone. As Lawrence notes, there is little practical effect, as a modification to Jimmy Rollins‘ contract before his trade left Howard with virtually complete no-trade protection regardless.
  • Despite a troubling start to the year defensively — he tacked on a seventh error tonight — Mets shortstop Wilmer Flores is in no danger of being replaced, as Rubin reports. The club thinks that the youngster will return to making the routine plays that are giving him fits right now, with GM Sandy Alderson saying that Flores has “plenty of room” to get back on track.
  • Dilson Herrera did not do much in his first appearance of the year for the Mets, but New York is already considering what will happen if he’s as good as advertised during his call-up, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports. The present alignment will feature Herrera at second and Daniel Murphy at third. But when David Wright returns from the DL, something will have to give. GM Sandy Alderson would say only that “the plan” is for Murphy to return to second, adding that “at the moment” there is no movement toward keeping Herrera there. But sources tell Martino that the Mets would be increasingly willing to move Murphy, even for a lesser return and even well before the trade deadline, if Herrera seems ready.
  • The Mets will soon face another decision on Cesar Puello, the outfielder whose outright was rescinded earlier in the offseason when he was found to have a back issue that required a DL stint. As ESPNNewYork.com’s Adam Rubin explains, Puello is likely to hit the waiver wire again once his rehab stint is finished.

Carlos Quentin To Retire

Mariners outfielder Carlos Quentin confirms that he will retire from the game, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports in a series of tweets. Quentin had been playing with Seattle’s top affiliate since inking a minor league deal, but left Tacoma last night.

Mar 10, 2015; Peoria, AZ, USA; San Diego Padres left fielder Carlos Quentin (18) looks on against the San Francisco Giants at Peoria Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Quentin, 32, has $8MM left on the deal that he originally signed with the Padres. San Diego shipped him to the Braves just before the start of the season, of course, as part of the salary swaps included in the Craig Kimbrel deal. Atlanta cut him loose in short order, eating the remainder of that contract.

The route being pursued currently would see Quentin retain his rights to that guaranteed money. Atlanta would have been able to earn some relief had Quentin continued playing, though that amount would not have exceeded the pro-rated portion of the Major League minimum salary.

The Mariners will technically grant Quentin his release, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (via Twitter), but that’s little more than semantics. Heyman notes that Quentin’s injuries will no longer allow him to play, which is the reason for his departure from Tacoma and his decision to retire.

The Mariners had hoped that Quentin would re-establish himself as a viable part-time bat, though obviously the team was not relying on that outcome and essentially took on no financial risk in signing him. Between 2008 and 2013, Quentin slashed a robust .260/.356/.503 with 136 long balls. But he has been slowed by injuries in recent seasons, making only 815 total plate appearances in that stretch.

Quentin confirmed in the press release that physical issues drove the decision to retire. “Over the past several days, it became clear to me that my injuries have taken too great of a physical toll for me to be able to perform at the level I expect from myself,” he explained.  “As a result, I believe it is the right time for me to walk away and to refocus my energy on the next chapter of my life with my family.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Chris Johnson Has Fractured Hand; Braves Call Up Foltynewicz

Braves third baseman Chris Johnson will go on the disabled list with a fractured left hand, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports on Twitter. Top prospect Michael Foltynewicz will take his roster spot to make his first big league start after picking up 16 relief appearances last year.

Johnson, 30, has not been forced to the DL since a short stint back in 2010. And he continues to produce an excellent batting average, hitting right in the range of his career mark this season.

Of course, the issue with Johnson has never been his ability to generate hits; it has been his inability to consistently hit for power or reach base by other methods, combined with substandard defense. His career slash stands at .283/.319/.418, right at the league average. But by measure of wins above replacement, he has produced less than a full total win in over 2,500 turns at bat. This year, likewise, Johnson currently owns a sub-replacement level mark (by measure of Baseball-Reference) in spite of a sturdy-enough .286/.340/.381 line.

His best season, of course, came in 2013, when he turned from a bit piece in the Justin Upton trade to a highly productive regular. Somewhat unfortunately for Atlanta, that coincided with the team’s aggressive push to lock up multiple players to extensions. Of the deals signed, only Johnson’s really looked bad from the early going. The three-year, $23.5MM pact kicked in this year, leaving Atlanta on the hook for $17.5MM (including a 2018 option buyout) in 2016-17.

Johnson has worked in a timeshare this season, as Alberto Callaspo, Kelly Johnson, and Phil Gosselin have all seen time at the hot corner. While that means that the Braves have plenty of options to fill in for Johnson, the club surely hopes that he will be as productive and healthy as possible given his contract. Even if the team can’t stay in the race this year, it would surely like to find a taker for some of Johnson’s contract.

As for Foltynewicz, a 23-year-old righty, Atlanta will get a chance to see one of the key pieces it acquired in the winter’s Evan Gattis trade. He is off to a strong start at Triple-A, allowing just five earned in 21 2/3 frames while posting 12.5 K/9 against 4.2 BB/9. The Braves will surely give him every chance to succeed as a starter, though some believe his future will be in the late innings as a reliever. Foltynewicz was a consensus top-100 prospect last year, though his stock slid somewhat after an unproductive 2014. MLB.com does still list him as the game’s 78th overall prospect.



2016 Vesting Options Update

Several notable players could see their 2016 statuses change depending on whether or not they unlock vesting options in their current contracts.  With the opening month of the 2015 season almost in the books, let’s check in on the progress each of these players are making towards those getting those options to vest…

  • Chase Utley: The veteran second baseman has a $15MM vesting option for 2016 that becomes guaranteed if he makes 500 plate appearances.  (If he doesn’t, it becomes a team option worth between $5MM-$11MM depending on how much time Utley spends on the DL, with a $2MM buyout.)  Utley has received 81 PA while playing in 21 of the Phillies’ first 22 games, so he is well on the way to having his option vest despite a very rough start — only a .398 OPS and two homers this season, thanks to an incredibly low .102 BABIP.  There is little chance the Phils would let Utley walk for nothing this winter, especially when they could obtain something for him in a trade this summer if Utley agrees to waive his no-trade clause.
  • Jonathan Papelbon: The Phillies closer’s 2016 vesting option is one of the reasons why he hasn’t yet been traded, as other teams have been wary about acquiring a reliever with such a potentially large price tag.  Papelbon’s $13MM vests if he finishes 55 games this season, or posts a combined 100 games finished between 2014-15.  The stopper finished 52 games last year and has seven finishes thus far in 2015, putting him on pace for that guaranteed salary next year.
  • David Ortiz: If Ortiz makes at least 425 PA and passes a physical after the season, Boston’s $10MM team option on his services for 2016 will become guaranteed at $11MM (or more, depending on how many plate appearances Ortiz makes).  Ortiz has only had less than 425 PA in two of the last 14 seasons, so barring any injury setbacks for Big Papi, this one seems like a safe bet to vest.
  • Joaquin Benoit: The Padres hold an $8MM team option on Benoit for 2016, but the righty can turn that into a guaranteed option if he finishes at least 55 games this season.  Benoit’s chances are pretty remote, as he was relegated to setup man duties after San Diego acquired Craig Kimbrel.
  • Marlon Byrd: His original two-year, $16MM deal with the Phillies included an $8MM club option for 2016 that becomes guaranteed if he reaches 600 PA this season, or a total of 1100 PA over 2014-15 with at least 550 PA this season.  Byrd received 637 PA last season and he has 74 PA over 20 games with the Reds in 2015.  He should continue to get regular playing time for Cincinnati though Byrd is off to a slow start — a .441 OPS with no walks and 24 strikeouts.
  • Santiago Casilla: The Giants righty signed a three-year, $15MM deal in the 2012-13 offseason that contained a vesting option, though little is known about the option’s value or specifics.
  • Nori Aoki: The Giants’ $5.5MM club option on Aoki for 2016 will become a mutual option if Aoki reaches 550 PA.  The outfielder is hitting well and his 102 PA currently leads the league, so he’s well ahead of the pace to vest his option.
  • Jonny Gomes: The Braves outfielder can guaranteed another year on his contract (at a $3MM salary) if he makes 325 PA, and he can unlock higher salaries at the 425 PA and 500 PA plateaus.  Gomes has thus far received 47 PA over 15 games, putting him in decent shape for at least the first level of his vesting option.

We already know that Cliff Lee won’t achieve the innings totals required for his 2016 option to vest.  The Phillies southpaw is attempting to recover from a torn left flexor tendon without undergoing surgery and is currently on the 60-day DL.  Dodgers reliever Brandon League is also recovering from a right shoulder injury and thus stands virtually no chance of reaching the games-finished totals required to allow his 2016 player option to vest.


NL Notes: Rendon, McCarthy, Rollins, Braves Stadium

While most have assumed that Anthony Rendon will return to third base upon his activation from the disabled list, with Yunel Escobar shifting to second base, but Jon Heyman of CBS Sports hears that may not be the case. Some close to the situation have told Heyman that Escobar may continue to play third base, with Rendon handling second base, though GM Mike Rizzo and manager Matt Williams would only comment by saying nothing definitive has been decided. “They can both play both very well,” said Rizzo. Escobar’s time at either position may only be temporary, as he figures to slide into the shortstop position next year if Ian Desmond departs as a free agent. As for timing, Rendon sat out a scheduled rehab start today for precautionary reasons with what the team described as fatigue. Washington will surely continue to exercise care, but needs him to return as soon as possible, as the club has struggled to produce runs while dropping six straight.

Here’s more from the National League:

  • Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman says that he intends to fill in for injured starter Brandon McCarthy with internal options for the foreseeable future, as Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports“We’ll wake up in June having scouted other organizations over the next four to six weeks, and we’ll see where we are,” said Friedman, who noted that deals are “pretty uncommon” in the season’s first two months.
  • Meanwhile, Dodgers shortstop Jimmy Rollins acknowledges that this is the toughest start to a season that he has experienced, but says he is not worried, as Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register writes. Saying that he believes his “process is good” at the plate, Rollins expressed confidence that some minor tweaks will get him back on track. Los Angeles is paying Rollins $10MM this year, with the Phillies picking up an additional $1MM as part of the deal that brought the veteran out west.
  • The Braves continue to line up major corporate partners for their new ballpark, with Tim Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporting that Omni Hotels will participate in the mixed-use development that is set to accompany the stadium. The club is counting on a revenue boost from the controversial project to improve its financial standing going forward.

Minor Moves: Juan Jaime, Daniel Corcino

Here are today’s minor moves from around the game:

  • The Braves have outrighted righty Juan Jaime to Triple-A Gwinnett, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The 27-year-old Jaime, who throws very hard and gets plenty of strikeouts, surely would have been an interesting project for any number of teams, but other clubs were likely deterred from claiming him because he was out of options. In 41 innings at Gwinnett last season, he posted a 3.51 ERA with 13.8 K/9 but an unsightly 7.9 BB/9. He walked four batters in 1 1/3 innings with the Braves this season.
  • The Dodgers have outrighted righty Daniel Corcino, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register tweets. They claimed Corcino from the Reds earlier this month. The 24-year-old posted a 4.14 ERA with 7.1 K/9 in 143 1/3 innings at Double-A Pensacola last season. He walked too many batters, with 4.4 BB/9, but given his relative youth and prospect status (Baseball America ranked him the No. 94 prospect in the game heading into 2013), he should provide the Dodgers with valuable minor-league depth. Corcino is the second former Reds pitcher the Dodgers have claimed and then outrighted this month, the other being reliever Ryan Dennick, who they removed from their roster when they claimed Corcino.

Minor Moves: Michael Kohn, John Cornely

Here are today’s minor moves from around the league…

  • The Braves have selected the contracts of right-handed relievers Michael Kohn and John Cornely from Triple-A Gwinnett, Mark Bowman of MLB.com first tweeted earlier this morning. Kohn and Cornely both had to be added to the 40-man roster, though the team had enough space on the 40-man roster to accommodate them without designating anyone for assignment. Kohn originally inked a Major League deal with the Rays this offseason, but Tampa cut him from its roster, and he eventually latched on with a Minor League deal in Atlanta. He’s shown the ability to miss bats at the Major League level (8.7 K/9 in 110 1/3 innings) but has struggled with control (6.0 BB/9) en route to a 3.67 ERA. The 25-year-old Cornely will be making his MLB debut the first time he appears for the Braves after being selected in the 15th round of the 2011 draft. He has a career 2.75 ERA with 12.2 K/9 and 4.8 BB/9 in 219 2/3 Minor League innings. Relievers Brandon Cunniff and Sugar Ray Marimon have been optioned to Gwinnett to make room on the 25-man roster.

NL East Notes: Redmond, Backman, Feigl, Cosart

Given the opportunity to provide a vote of confidence in manager Mike Redmond yesterday, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria passed on the opportunity to do so, writes ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. Loria and GM Dan Jennings briefly met with Redmond in his office and, upon leaving, Loria was asked about Redmond’s job security. The owner replied: “I’ve got one thing to say: I’m not interested in palace intrigue. We’ve got games to win — period. (The speculation) doesn’t have anything to do with anything.” Crasnick also spoke to Redmond, who said he’s as disappointed with the poor start as anyone else, if not more so. “I can’t control the stuff that people write,” said Redmond. “All I can do is come out and be consistent. I think I’ve showed that the last couple of years. I think the guys know where I’m coming from. We’ve got to win some ballgames. That’s the way it is.”

More news from the AL East…

  • Mike Puma of the New York Post hears from a source that Loria recently quizzed people who know Mets Triple-A manager Wally Backman to see if Backman would make a good big league manager. The Miami Herald’s recent report that Redmond was on the hot seat also noted that Backman would be a consideration as an alternative, though Backman himself has expressed surprise at his connection to the Marlins, and GM Sandy Alderson has said he’s yet to be asked to interview Backman.
  • Braves left-hander Brady Feigl underwent Tommy John surgery yesterday, the pitcher himself tweeted. The 24-year-old Feigl almost made the team out of Spring Training following an excellent showing in which he yielded one run on seven hits and no walks with seven strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings. Signed as an undrafted free agent, Feigl enjoyed a very strong year with the Braves’ Class-A affiliates in 2014, posting a 3.08 ERA with 60 strikeouts against 13 walks in 65 2/3 innings. Feigl adds to a rash of Tommy John operations that has plagued the Braves, who have seen Brandon Beachy (now with the Dodgers), Kris Medlen (now with the Royals) and Shae Simmons all undergo the procedure in the past 13 months.
  • Marlins righty Jarred Cosart tells Paul Hudrick of CSNPhilly.com that it would be “pretty cool to beat the Phillies,” the team that originally drafted him but traded him to Houston as part of a package for Hunter Pence. Cosart doesn’t hold any ill will toward the Phillies and in fact spoke fondly of the four years he spent with the team. Regarding the decision to trade him, he said he understood the decision and appreciated GM Ruben Amaro Jr.’s candor. “I talked to Ruben on the phone,” Cosart recalls. “He said, ‘We’re trying to win a World Series now and Hunter Pence is a guy we think that can help us, so we’re trading you to Houston.'” Cosart would again be traded last summer, this time heading to the Marlins in a trade that sent Jake Marisnick, Colin Moran and a 2015 Competitive Balance pick to the Astros. Cosart will face the Phillies in Philadelphia tonight.

Minor Moves: Smith, Wheeler, Robinson

Here are the latest minor transactions, with the newest moves at the top of the post…

  • The Braves signed southpaw Greg Smith to a minor league deal, as announced by the club’s Triple-A affiliate in Gwinnett.  Smith posted a 4.51 ERA over 40 starts (229 1/3 innings) with the A’s and Rockies from 2008-10, and he has spent the last four seasons with the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels and Phillies farm systems, plus a short stint with an independent team.
  • The Mets announced that righty Zack Wheeler has been moved from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL.  The move creates a 40-man roster spot for catching prospect Kevin Plawecki, whose contract was officially purchased by the club today.  Wheeler underwent Tommy John surgery in late March and will miss the entire 2015 season.
  • The Diamondbacks have signed outfielder Trayvon Robinson to a minor league contract, as announced by the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League.  Robinson signed a minor league deal with the Padres in December but was released on April 2, and he signed his deal with the Ducks just over a week ago.  Robinson posted a .602 OPS over 319 plate appearances with the Mariners in 2011-12 and hasn’t been back to the majors since, spending the last two seasons in the Orioles and Dodgers farm systems.

Braves’ Andrew McKirahan Suspended 80 Games

11:40am: The league has officially announced the suspension, adding that the banned substance for which McKirahan tested was Ipamorelin.

10:43am: Bowman reports that McKirahan’s positive test was conducted in March, before the Braves claimed him from the Marlins, but the results of the test were not revealed until Sunday (Twitter links).

9:03am: MLB.com’s Mark Bowman tweets that McKirahan apologized to his teammates yesterday and informed them that he used a cream during Spring Training.

7:45am: Braves left-hander Andrew McKirahan has been suspended 80 games after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter).

McKirahan, 25, was the Marlins’ selection in the 2014 Rule 5 Draft, (out of the Cubs’ system) but the team placed him on waivers late in Spring Training and saw the division-rival Braves claim him. McKirahan has pitched 4 1/3 innings for Atlanta so far this season, yielding a pair of runs on three hits and a walk with two strikeouts.

It’s not yet known what substance triggered the positive test, but four players have been suspended for Stanozolol over the past month. Ervin Santana and Jenrry Mejia were the most notable names among the four, but the Braves also lost Arodys Vizcaino for 80 games. The other to test positive was another Rule 5 Draft selection — the Mariners’ David Rollins.

In a bizarre way, the suspension does make it easier for the Braves to retain the rights to McKirahan. Because McKirahan was a Rule 5 pick, the Braves were required to keep him on the 25-man roster or Major League disabled list all season, as he cannot be sent to the Minors without first clearing waivers and then being offered back to the Cubs. As we saw with Rollins, the team will still control his rights while he serves his suspension on the restricted list, and they can therefore avoid rostering an inexperienced arm for much of the season. Of course, that’s not how the Braves wanted to retain McKirahan, and it remains to be seen if they’ll maintain their interest following the suspension.