Atlanta Braves Rumors

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

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.


Braves, Mitchell Boggs Agree To Minor League Deal

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

  • The Braves have agreed to a Minor League pact with veteran right-hander Mitchell Boggs, tweets MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. The 31-year-old Boggs didn’t appear in the Majors last season and struggled greatly in 2013, but he was a reliable member of the Cardinals’ bullpen prior to that. From 2010-12, Boggs, worked to a 3.08 ERA with 7.1 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 and a 52.3 percent ground-ball rate, averaging 63 appearances and 67 innings per season. Boggs had disastrous results in a 2014 season split between the Triple-A affiliates for the White Sox and Giants, posting an 8.29 ERA with more walks (26) than strikeouts (23) in 51 innings of work.


NL East Notes: Span, Utley, Hamels, Johnson, Familia

The Nationals activated Denard Span from the disabled list and inserted him into the starting lineup for this afternoon’s game against the Phillies, reports MLB.com’s Bill Ladson. To make room for Span on the roster, Michael Taylor was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse despite slashing .271/.314/.500 in 51 plate appearances this season. “He is one of our future players and needs to play every day,” Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said in explaining the reasoning behind Taylor’s demotion. “We got to see Michael Taylor become a player for us right in front of our eyes. I thought he handled himself brilliantly with some youthful mistakes. The ability level is there. The usefulness of putting it to a Major League setting was there and he took to it very well.

Elsewhere in the NL East:

  • The Phillies have told teams over the past year Chase Utley will not waive his no-trade clause, but ESPN’s Buster Olney writes in an Insider piece (subscription required) the second baseman, facing a long rebuild in Philadelphia, may have a change of heart like former teammate Jimmy Rollins. Olney also notes rival evaluators believe Cole Hamels wants out of Philadelphia, as well.
  • Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez isn’t too concerned with Jim Johnson being roughed up in his last two appearances (four runs, six hits, and two home runs allowed) and will keep the right-hander in the role of the 8th inning setup reliever, according to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We’ll see how it plays out,” said Gonzalez. “But from what I saw in Spring Training, and other than these two outings here, I think he’s been fine. We always have a tendency to say what’s the matter with a guy as soon as he gives up something.
  • Mets manager Terry Collins told reporters, including MLB.com’s Joe Trezza, closer Jeurys Familia will remain in that role when Bobby Parnell and Vic Black join the club after completing their rehab assignments. “Certainly, right now Jeurys Familia has pitched well enough,” Collins said. “He is that guy until those other guys show us they’re ready.” Collins adds, in a perfect world, Parnell would be the closer with Black and Familia slotted for the 8th and 7th innings, respectively. Black’s return may be delayed as Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com tweets the right-hander will undergo a MRI of his shoulder/neck area.

NL East Notes: Braves, Peraza, Gee

Bartolo Colon did it all to help lead the Mets past the Marlins for their sixth straight win, Howie Rumberg of The Associated Press writes. Colon not only pitched the Mets past Miami, he hit a tying sac fly for his second RBI in two starts. Here’s more from the NL East..

  • Braves assistant GM John Coppolella made it clear that he has no interest in moving top prospect Jose Peraza, despite the Yankees’ apparent interest, Mark Bowman of MLB.com writes.  “We have no interest whatsoever in trading Jose Peraza,” Coppolella said. “Teams scout top prospects all the time, as we do other team’s top prospects. It was just a case where one of their scouts was sent to watch one of our guys.”  The soon-to-be 21-year-old has steadily climbed through Atlanta’s farm system and broke out with a .339/.364/.441 performance over 499 combined minor league plate appearances in 2014.
  • The Mets are still eager to trade Dillon Gee, and they view Rafael Montero as likely to take Gee’s spot, according to major league sources that spoke with Andy Martino of the New York Daily News.  Gee could be moved at anytime if a need arises elsewhere.  If they can’t move him, Montero will take his spot in the rotation, barring injury or regression. According to sources, there is no debate that Montero will get the first opportunity, before prospects Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz.
  • Luis Garcia, who was out of baseball three years ago, has become one of the steadiest arms in the Phillies bullpen, writes Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer.  The 28-year-old has allowed two hits and two walks in his five innings this season.

Heyman’s Latest: Padres, Buehrle, Greene

The Padres declined to part with top outfield prospect Hunter Renfroe in their deal for closer Craig Kimbrel, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.  At the same time, the Braves weren’t sold on top catching prospect Austin Hedges and feared that his hitting might not develop enough. Ultimately, that left pitcher Matt Wisler as the key prospect in the deal.  Here’s more from Heyman’s column..

  • Blue Jays left-hander Mark Buehrle is considering retirement following the 2015 season, Heyman reports. While he notes that April retirement ruminations often prove to be inaccurate, there seems to be a strong possibility that the 36-year-old Buehrle will call it quits.
  • Tigers executives were shocked that they were able to pry right-hander Shane Greene away from the Yankees this winter, Heyman writes. The Yankees considered trading Greene “painful,” but the team was desperate for a shortstop, and New York scouting guru Gene Michael was a strong supporter of Gregorius.
  • Trading Ryan Howard seems less and less likely for the Phillies each coming day, Heyman writes, noting that one scout said that Howard simply looks “lost” at the plate. Heyman also notes that the stacked starting pitching class on next year’s free agent market may be hindering the Phillies’ ability to move Cole Hamels, as teams are content to wait to bid on the likes of David Price, Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann, Jeff Samardzija and others.
  • The Orioles checked in on Blue Jays catcher Dioner Navarro at some point late in the spring.  Navarro, who has been supplanted as the starting catcher in Toronto by Russell Martin, is hoping to go elsewhere and start.  The diplomatic Navarro spoke with MLBTR’s Zach Links last month about the trade talk surrounding him.
  • One GM who has some interest in Elvis Andrus suggested to Heyman that it’d be hard for the Rangers to trade him now.  While Texas has infield depth, most of it is at the lower rungs of their system.  Meanwhile, they’ll be without Jurickson Profar for a second straight year.
  • Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has one year to go on his contract, but word is that the front office likes him and they mainly want to see progress from their younger players before extending him.  It’s said that Gonzalez won’t be judged on his win-loss record, but so far he’s doing pretty well in that department too.
  • The Red Sox made at least a preliminary offer to Yoenis Cespedes before trading him, which seems to poke a hole in the theory that Boston coaches “hated” the outfielder.

Zach Links contributed to this post.


NL East Links: Realmuto, Nats, Phillies, Kimbrel

Giancarlo Stanton connected on his first homer of the season tonight — a two-run blast off Mets righty Dillon Gee that marked the 155th round-tripper of his career. The home run had particular significance for Stanton, who now moves past Dan Uggla into sole possession of the Marlins‘ all-time franchise home run record. Given his 13-year contract, one can expect that Stanton will occupy the top spot on that list for quite some time.

Another Marlins item and some news from around the division…

  • Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto had two hits in the team’s win yesterday and started again on Thursday, and the top prospect could be ticketed for a more significant role on the team moving forward, writes MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. Manager Mike Redmond said he spoke with Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who is earning $7MM in 2015, about the division of playing time already. “I think it’s always a touchy situation anytime you have conversations with guys, and you have to give them a break,” Redmond explained. “…[W]e’re trying to win ballgames. If giving Salty a few extra days here or there helps him and helps us, then it will be worth it.”
  • The Nationals have had quite a bit of bad luck in terms of injuries early in the season, but Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post tweets that GM Mike Rizzo is focusing on internal options to patch up the bullpen. Of course, Janes’ tweet did come prior to the announcement that Craig Stammen may be lost for the season, but the Nats likely were prepared for bad news on Stammen at the time of her tweet.
  • Without a left-handed reliever in the bullpen beyond Jake Diekman, the Phillies could use an upgrade in that area but are short on internal options, writes MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. seemingly expressed a bit of frustration that lefty relief option Andy Oliver elected free agency rather than remaining with the club when he didn’t make the Opening Day roster. Zolecki writes that Oliver would’ve been on a short list of potential call-ups, and Amaro spoke candidly about the 27-year-old Oliver’s decision to leave: “We offered him a pretty good deal to come back. He just decided to go somewhere else. I think it was a very foolish move on his part, but that’s OK. He had a choice. He had that right.”
  • Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez spoke with Steve Phillips and Todd Hollandsworth of MLB Network Radio about the conversations he had with president of baseball operations John Hart prior to the finalization of the Craig Kimbrel trade (audio link). Gonzalez learned of the strong possibility of a trade 48 hours prior to its completion, and he called that time “maybe the toughest two days.” Gonzalez said it was difficult to see Kimbrel leave because of his talent and what he meant to the organization, and he also discussed the conflict he felt as a manager. “I’m going to have to put on two different hats here,” said Gonzalez. “You’re asking me to trade the best closer in the game, and you’re asking me to win ball games and I’m in the last year of my contract. But then you’re telling me the reasons of why we’re doing it and why it’s going to help the organization. … I took a step back and digested for a day and a half — I think it was going to happen whether I said yes or no — but I said, ‘You know what John, this is what’s best for the organization. This is what we have to do.'”

MLB Trade Rumors Podcast: Cash, Closers & Kimbrel

After the weekly quick hits, Jeff welcomes fellow MLBTR writers Steve Adams and Charlie Wilmoth to the show.  Jeff and Steve break down the blockbuster trade between the Braves and Padres that brought Craig Kimbrel to San Diego.  Jeff and Charlie then explore the unique set of recent transactions involving Ryan Webb, as well as a discussion of Charlie’s post from earlier this week about qualifying offer-worthy impending free agents who could be trade candidates this summer.

Click here to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and please leave a review! The podcast is also available via Stitcher at this link.

This week’s episode of the MLB Trade Rumors Podcast, which runs weekly on Thursday afternoons, is brought to you by DraftKings. Use the promo code “MLBTR” to gain free entry into a daily fantasy sports contest!


Bullpen Notes: Stammen, Ramirez, Martin

The Nationals relief corps took another blow yesterday when righty Craig Stammen was placed on the 15-day DL with stiffness in his right forearm.  Stammen will undergo an MRI soon and he told reporters (including CSN Washington’s Mark Zuckerman) that he is at least somewhat worried that it could be a more serious elbow injury.  Nats GM Mike Rizzo also told the media, including Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post, that the club is going with internal bullpen options for the time being.  Rafael Martin and Taylor Jordan were called up to replace Stammen and the recently-designated Xavier Cedeno, and Martin made an impressive MLB debut Wednesday, recording five strikeouts over two innings of work against the Red Sox.

Here are some more bullpen items from around baseball…

  • Cubs righty Neil Ramirez could also be facing some bad injury news, as he left Wednesday’s outing after just three pitches with a shoulder problem.  Ramirez will undergo an MRI today, ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers reports.  The reliever’s status has a bigger-picture impact on the rumored promotion of top prospect Kris Bryant on Friday.  If Ramirez needs some DL time, the Cubs could promote a reliever and continue with a 13-man pitching staff rather than call up Bryant and thin out an already heavily-worked bullpen.
  • Right-hander Cody Martin is off to a strong start, and the Braves rookie reliever tells MLB.com’s Mark Bowman that he is partially motivated by the fact that Atlanta didn’t protect him in the Rule 5 Draft last winter.  “That was tough, but I knew I belonged [on the roster] and belonged in the big leagues….I took it as a challenge to prove them all wrong, especially all the teams that didn’t pick me in the Rule 5 Draft,” Martin said.  “It all worked out pretty good. I’m where I need to be right now.”
  • Arquimedes Caminero enjoyed a strong Spring Training and earned a spot in the Pirates bullpen.  As Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan writes, the hard-throwing Caminero might be another reclamation success story for Bucs pitching coach Ray Searage, who encouraged the righty to simplify his delivery.  The result has been the fastest average fastball in the game this season, as Caminero is averaging 98.9 mph according to Fangraphs’ measurements.

Yankees Interested In Braves’ Jose Peraza

11:22am: A Braves official tells David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link) that the prospect of the club trading Peraza is a “complete fabrication.”

8:26am: The Yankees have been scouting Braves second base prospect Jose Peraza, former Major League scout Jeff Wren (brother of ex-Atlanta GM Frank Wren) reports via Twitter.  According to George A. King III of the New York Post, the Yankees have informed the Braves about their interest in Peraza, and King notes the Yankees are presumably interested in Peraza as a potential long-term answer at second.

Peraza, who turns 21 on April 30, was originally signed by the Braves for a $350K bonus out of Venezuela in 2010.  He has steadily climbed through Atlanta’s farm system and broke out with a .339/.364/.441 performance over 499 plate appearances (304 at the high-A level, 195 at Double-A) in 2014.  Speed is Peraza’s calling card, as he went 60-for-75 in stolen base attempts last season and is 178-for-220 in steals over his minor league career.

That big 2014 season earned Peraza a spot in several major top-100 prospect lists, albeit within a wide range.  ESPN’s Keith Law had Peraza as high as #24 in his preseason rankings, while MLB.com had him 39th (and first among Braves prospects), Baseball America had him 54th and Baseball Prospectus ranked Peraza in the 92nd slot.

It’s worth noting that Peraza is a natural shortstop and only became a primary second baseman last year, as the Braves shifted him since Andrelton Simmons has the position locked down at the MLB level.  The 2014 Baseball America Prospect Handbook praised Peraza’s hands and quick release and believed “he should be able to remain” at either middle infield position as he develops.

With this in mind, it’s possible the Yankees could see Peraza as a potential answer at shortstop rather than second base.  Both positions are rather up in the air for the club — Didi Gregorius has gotten off to a slow start both offensively and defensively, while veteran Stephen Drew is considered a placeholder for either Rob Refsnyder or Jose Pirela.  Refsnyder, however, has had defensive problems while Pirela is recovering from a concussion, King notes.

King speculates that New York could offer a package of two prospects for Peraza, one of whom could be catcher Gary Sanchez.  The Yankees seem set on John Ryan Murphy as their catcher of the future in anticipation of Brian McCann‘s eventual shift away from behind the plate, leaving Sanchez possibly expendable.  Sanchez was himself a highly-ranked prospect prior to the 2014 season, which saw him post solid offensive numbers at Double-A, but his defensive prowess is a question mark and “his work ethic and maturity are concerns” according to the MLB.com scouting report.

As for the second minor leaguer in the deal, King doubts the Yankees would move Luis Severino, the club’s top pitching prospect.  I agree with King — Severino and Peraza are roughly on the same level of value, so moving Severino and more would command a higher return than just Peraza.

That said, New York would certainly have to offer something significant to convince the Braves to part with Peraza whatsoever.  Atlanta acquired a bit of young middle infield depth in the form of Jace Peterson this offseason, so it’s possible they could be more willing to move Peraza.