Atlanta Braves Rumors

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

East Notes: Yankees, Braves, Howard

The Yankees are making the right moves to build their bullpen by adding inexpensive depth, ESPN’s Keith Law writes (Insider-only). Chasen Shreve, acquired from the Braves in the Manny Banuelos deal, gives the Yankees another hard-throwing lefty to go with Andrew Miller and Justin Wilson, and David Carpenter, the Yankees’ other acquisition in that deal, should be tough on righties. Miller, of course, was very expensive, but he was one of baseball’s best relievers last season. The Braves, meanwhile, got a project in Banuelos, and they could try to continue developing him as a starter, hoping his velocity rebounds after missing most of 2012 and all of 2013 due to injury. Here are more notes from the East divisions.


Quick Hits: Olivera, Howard, Braves

Here are a few notes from around the game to round out the evening:


Quick Hits: Braves, Orioles, Royals

ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick kicked off the new year by running down MLB’s 15 most interesting people for ’15.  Among names like incoming commissioner Rob Manfred and Cubs skipper Joe Maddon, Padres GM A.J. Preller is highlighted as one of baseball’s names to watch.  The GM has overhauled the entire team, prompting new acquisition Matt Kemp to term him a front office “rock star,” a designation that is hard to argue with.  Here’s more from around baseball…

  • Yesterday, Mark Bowman of MLB.com raised the possibility that the Braves could pull Luis Avalan out of trade discussions after moving fellow southpaw Chasen Shreve.  However, he also notes that James Russell could take over as the top lefty out of Atlanta’s ‘pen if he can show that his struggles against left-handed batters are a thing of the past.   Avalan is under control through 2018, making him appealing to other clubs but also an asset that Atlanta might like to keep.
  • With eleven pending free agents, the Orioles will be facing some major questions soon, Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com writes.  The O’s have five position players, four relievers, and two starting pitchers that can hit the open market after the 2015 season.  Some are calling for them to start making moves now as a preemptive strike, but that would likely hamstring them for 2015.  The O’s could instead wait and see how the first half of the season goes, then start making trades at the deadline if they’re not looking the part of the contender.  Alternatively, Baltimore could let those players go and spend the money elsewhere.  Those eleven players will earn $56.6MM in 2014, meaning that they could do a lot with that money in the offseason.
  • The Royals love their hard throwers at the back end of their bullpen and they acquired another one in right-hander Jandel Gustave.  Alan Eskew of Baseball America looks at what Kansas City can expect out of the 22-year-old.  The Red Sox selected Gustave sixth overall in the Rule 5 Draft from the Astros, then sent him to KC for cash.


Quick Hits: Avilan, Zduriencik, Red Sox

We at MLBTR would like to extend our condolences to the friends and family of Bill Kearns, a veteran Mariners scout who passed away last night at age 94.  Kearns was hired by the Mariners prior to their debut 1977 season and has been with the franchise for its entire history.  A World War II veteran and former Brooklyn Dodgers minor leaguer, Kearns’ long career in baseball led him to scouting jobs with the Dodgers, White Sox and Royals before eventually joining the M’s.  In a statement from the team, Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik said “Bill was a gentleman, in the finest sense, and represented his family and the Mariners in a first-class manner. And he was an excellent scout, a true ambassador of the Mariners and the game of baseball. Bill was one of the most positive people I have ever met.  He will be missed.”

Here’s some more notes from around the league as 2015 is now upon us…

  • Left-hander Luis Avilan‘s name had recently come up in trade talks, though now that the Braves have traded another southpaw in Chasen Shreve, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman wonders (Twitter link) if Atlanta could keep Avilan in the fold.  Earlier today, the Braves sent Shreve and David Carpenter to the Yankees in exchange for Manny Banuelos.
  • Zduriencik and Seth Smith discussed the recent trade that brought Smith to the Mariners in a conference call with reporters (including Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune).  The extension that Smith signed with the Padres last summer was a factor in the trade, as Zduriencik noted that “one of the things we tried to stay away from was giving up talent for one-year returns…I think you’re getting a player who can be with you for at least the next three years.”
  • With Craig Breslow‘s physical scheduled for Monday, the Red Sox will face a tough decision in opening up a spot for the reliever on their 40-man roster, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford writes.  Dan Butler, Tommy Layne, Zeke Spruill and Drake Britton are potential candidates to lose their 40-man spots, with Bradford citing Britton as maybe the most vulnerable because he’s out of options.  There’s also “a very real scenario” where Boston makes a trade to free up roster space.
  • A number of recent Orioles news items and rumors are recapped by MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko, including the new information that the O’s would like to sign a right-handed reliever, possibly on a minor league deal.
  • Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi recently said his team won’t be making any other major starting pitching signings, which worries Steve Dilbeck of the L.A. Times since he feels the rotation lacks depth beyond the top three of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu.  On the other hand, Dilbeck wonders if Zaidi’s statement was tactical, similar to how the GM denied that Dee Gordon was being shopped just before Gordon was dealt to Miami.
  • In an Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Tony Blengino describes Adam LaRoche signing with the White Sox as “a perfect marriage of club, player, ballpark and contract.”  Using analyses of LaRoche’s swing and U.S. Cellular Field’s park factor, Blengino thinks the veteran first baseman could challenge for the AL homer crown if he stays healthy.

Braves, Yankees Trade David Carpenter For Manny Banuelos

The Yankees have acquired right-hander David Carpenter and left-hander Chasen Shreve from the Braves in exchange for southpaw Manny Banuelos, Jack Curry of the YES Network reports (Twitter link).

It was just three years ago that Banuelos was considered to be one of baseball’s top prospects and projected as a future cornerstone of the Yankees rotation.  His progress, however, was halted by injuries — he pitched only 24 innings in 2012 and missed all of 2013 recovering from Tommy John surgery.  Returning to the mound this past season, Banuelos posted a 4.11 ERA, 8.3 K/9 and 2.29 K/BB rate over 76 2/3 minor league innings spread across the high-A, Double-A and Triple-A levels.

Injuries notwithstanding, it’s rather surprising to see New York move on quite so quickly from a pitcher who doesn’t even turn 24 years old until March.  Just a few years ago, Banuelos was almost seen as an untouchable for the team, or at least someone the Yankees wouldn’t deal for anything less than an established star player.

If Banuelos regains his health and past form, the Braves may have gained a steal in a controllable young arm who has yet to even reach the bigs.  It’s yet another interesting move towards youth for the Braves this offseason, as they’ve added the likes of Shelby Miller, Tyrell Jenkins, Max Fried and Jace Peterson while trading Justin Upton and Jason Heyward, yet Atlanta also isn’t totally rebuilding, as evidenced by the signings of veteran free agents Nick Markakis and Jason Grilli.

Carpenter adds some immediate value to the Yankees, as the righty has posted strong numbers (a 2.63 ERA, 3.92 K/BB rate and 141 strikeouts over 126 2/3 IP) with the Braves over the last two seasons.  Brian McCann apparently played a key role in Carpenter’s acquisition, as Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that McCann gave the Yankees a “strong endorsement” of his former Atlanta teammate.  New York recently traded right-handers Shawn Kelley and David Phelps, so Carpenter and his 95mph-fastball brings some right-handed strength back to the Yankees bullpen.

Carpenter was arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter, and was projected to earn $1.1MM through the arb process by MLBTR’s Matt Swartz.  The righty has been involved in some other notable AL East trades in recent years; Carpenter was part of the 10-player deal between the Astros and Blue Jays that brought J.A. Happ to Toronto in July 2012, and Carpenter was also dealt along with then-Jays manager John Farrell to the Red Sox in November 2012.

Shreve, 24, was picked in the 11th round of the 2010 draft and owns a 3.22 ERA, 8.9 K/9 and 2.64 K/BB rate over 276 2/3 innings (all in relief) in the Braves’ farm system.  He made his Major League debut last season, striking out 15 batters and allowing just one run over 12 1/3 IP.  Shreve should also be in the mix to win a spot in the New York bullpen in Spring Training.


Phillies Interested In Aaron Harang

The Phillies have shown interest in free agent righty Aaron Harang, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com tweets. The 36-year-old Harang has also lately been connected to the Braves and Rockies after a surprising comeback season in Atlanta in which he threw 204 1/3 innings with a 3.57 ERA, 7.1 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9. Homer-happy Citizens Bank Park might not be the best place for Harang to continue that renaissance, however — his 37.8% fly ball rate in 2014 was his lowest since 2003, but he’s still a pronounced fly ball pitcher. Still, he could potentially provide the Phillies with a bit of stability in the back of their rotation.

In any case, Harang had to take a minor-league deal last offseason, but that won’t happen again this winter, despite his advanced age. MLBTR’s Zach Links predicted in October that Harang would receive a two-year, $14MM deal.


NL East Notes: Pierzynski, Phillies, Marlins, Mets

Earlier today, MLBTR posted the latest news and notes on the Nationals. Let’s now take a look at the other teams in the NL East:

  • If A.J. Pierzynski‘s Spring Training looks like a continuation of his subpar 2014 season, he may not make the Braves‘ Opening Day roster, writes Fangraphs’ David Laurila in his latest Sunday Notes column. Pierzynski and the Braves agreed to a one-year, $2MM deal on Christmas Eve.
  • The Phillies will spend considerably less on their starting pitching in 2015 and the rotation may actually be better, opines Corey Seidman of CSNPhilly.com.
  • With the Braves and Phillies prioritizing years beyond 2015, the New York Post’s Joel Sherman surveyed seven baseball executives representing all six MLB divisions whether the Marlins or the Mets will be the Nationals‘ primary challenger this season. A split decision of 4-3 favored the Marlins.

Braves To Sign A.J. Pierzynski

DEC. 26: Pierzynski will earn exactly $2MM, and his contract contains an additional $700K worth of incentives, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

DEC. 24, 2:01pm: Pierzynski is expected to earn around $2MM in the deal, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets.

1:50pm: The Braves have reached a one-year deal with free agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports on Twitter. Financial terms are not yet reported, and the deal will not become official until a physical that will be delayed by the holidays.

Soon to turn 38, Pierzynski played last year for the Red Sox and Cardinals, struggling to the lowest offensive output of his career. The veteran slashed just .251/.288/.337 and hit five home runs in 362 plate appearances. Advanced defensive metrics (via Baseball Prospectus) saw Pierzynski as slightly below average. The net package was below replacement level.

All that being said, Pierzynski has a lengthy history of solid-to-good output for his position. His lifetime slash of .281/.320/.424 is quite productive for a backstop, and he was good for an .827 OPS and 27 home runs as recent as 2012. Pierzynski has also generally been regarded as a sturdy option behind the dish, both in terms of defensive ability and (especially) durability.

It is ultimately not surprising to see the Braves add a veteran of this ilk. The team appears set to move Evan Gattis out from behind the plate (if not to another team altogether), and pairing well-regarded youngster Christian Bethancourt with a more established option makes plenty of sense.

If Pierzynski returns to his prior form, he could help lead a surprise run for a team that many have written off. Or, he could turn into July trade fodder. Of course, there may be some added risk given the frequent chatter about issues with Pierzynski’s personality. But that likely figured into the price tag, and he delivers scarce upside in a largely barren catching market.

Aaron Lunsford first tweeted news of Pierzynski’s agreement.


Managers And GMs On Expiring Contracts

Contract length isn’t necessarily a guarantee of job security.  Over the years, we’ve seen countless examples of teams who have made surprising management changes in the wake of an unexpected losing season (such as the Braves firing ex-general manager Frank Wren) or simply due to new candidates coming onto the market (such as the Cubs firing Rick Renteria when Joe Maddon became available).  Similarly, some managers and GMs aren’t troubled by being a so-called “lame duck” entering their last year under contract.  Some have unofficial handshake deals to continue on in their roles as long as they wish, or some actually prefer a one-year deal  — i.e. former Tigers skipper Jim Leyland — if they aren’t sure how much longer they want to remain in baseball.

For other executives and bench bosses, however, an expiring contract can indicate that they’re under significant pressure to get results in their last year under contract.  Here’s a list of managers and GMs who are believed to be entering the last year of their contracts in 2015.  (I say “believed to be” since some clubs keep front office contract terms private, so there could be a few more GMs who are also entering their last guaranteed season, or perhaps some of the names on this list have already been quietly signed to extensions.)  As always, a big tip of the cap to Cot’s Baseball Contracts for many of these details.

  • Blue Jays: John Gibbons’ rolling contract will guarantee his 2015 team option on New Year’s Day, and also add another club option to his deal that covers the 2016 season.  The relationship between Gibbons and GM Alex Anthopoulos is known to be a firm one, though with the Jays so clearly set on contending in 2015, a disappointing record could lead to some questions about Gibbons’ future with the team.
  • Braves: Atlanta’s late-season collapse cost Wren his job, though manager Fredi Gonzalez retained his spot in the team’s dugout.  This is an interesting situation to monitor given how the Braves’ trades of Justin Upton and Jason Heyward indicate that they’re at least partially rebuilding, though the additions of Shelby Miller and Nick Markakis hint that they intend to stay competitive.  All indications are that the Braves plan to contend when they move into their new ballpark in 2017, so if the team will look to somewhat tread water until then, Gonzalez could be safe.
  • Brewers: Doug Melvin has been Milwaukee’s general manager since September 2002, taking over a struggling franchise and helming them to two postseason appearances (in 2008 and 2011) during his tenure.  Since that most recent playoff berth, the Brewers have posted two winning seasons sandwiched around a poor 2013 season for an overall 239-247 record.  The club’s payroll cracked the $100MM threshold last year and projects to do the same in 2015, so the Crew will be expected to rebound from last season’s second-half struggles.  Another middling record won’t cut it in the increasingly-competitive NL Central, so it’s possible Melvin could be on the hot seat if the Brewers aren’t in contention.  That said, given Melvin’s history with the team, I’d guess he’ll receive a two- or three-year extension to give him a bit more time to get things on track.
  • Mets: Terry Collins’ role in his first four seasons as the Mets’ manager has been to act as a teacher and mentor to the club’s young players as the Amazins have been rebuilding.  All signs point to 2015, however, as the season when the Mets are looking to again become a factor in the playoff race.  If the Mets get off to a slow start, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Collins fired in favor of a manager who can theoretically help the team take that next step.
  • Nationals: Matt Williams is technically entering his walk year, though the Nats hold team options on the manager’s services for 2016 and 2017.  Barring a total collapse in Washington next year, Williams isn’t going anywhere.
  • Padres: Bud Black is the rare manager who has lasted in his position through both an ownership change and four different general managers.  Though Black has only posted two winning records in his eight seasons as San Diego’s manager, he is still regarded by many as one of the game’s better skippers, and it’s indeed hard to fault Black given the Padres’ front office instability and sub-par rosters during his tenure.  2015 will be a different story, as new GM A.J. Preller has made several major acquisitions to help revamp the Padres’ lineup.  Black has said he’s not worried about not having an extension in place, and while he probably has reason to feel secure given how long he’s lasted in San Diego already, another losing season could convince the new-look Padres to make a change on the bench.
  • Phillies: The Jimmy Rollins trade indicates that the Phillies are finally embarking on a much-needed rebuild, and it appears that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. will be the one to oversee it as he enters the last year of his contract.  You’d think the Phils would’ve already made a change if they wanted a new face to usher in this new era for the team, though it’s worth noting that the Phillies’ upper management situation is also in flux as general owner David Montgomery is on leave while undergoing cancer treatments.  (Former GM Pat Gillick is filling in for Montgomery in the interim.)  It could be that Amaro’s future in Philadelphia won’t be addressed until his contract is actually up, or when Montgomery has recovered enough to resume his duties.
  • Royals: Ned Yost could hardly have made a better argument for a new deal by leading Kansas City to within a game of a World Series title.  Royals GM Dayton Moore hinted that Yost’s contract would be addressed later in the offseason, so it’s probably just a matter of time before Yost is extended beyond 2015.
  • Tigers: Dave Dombrowski is entering the last year of his contract as Detroit’s general manager, president and CEO.  Given his track record with the Tigers, it’s safe to assume that Dombrowski is one of those “has the job for as long as he wants” executives and he’ll get an extension sooner rather than later.

The original version of this post incorrectly indicated that Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill and GM Dan Jennings were heading into the final years of their contracts. In fact, both are already under contract through 2018. Hat tip to MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro.


NL East Notes: Avilan, Cole, Mets

It was on this day in 1959 that the Braves signed a very notable 20-year-old outfielder out of San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic.  Rico Carty ended up playing in 829 games for the Braves from 1963 to 1972, and one wonders just how good Carty might’ve been had it not been for several injury setbacks.  Despite all the injuries, Carty still produced a .299/369/.464 line and 204 homers over 15 Major League seasons, also playing for the Rangers, Cubs, A’s, Indians and Blue Jays during his career.  Here’s the latest from the NL East…

  • The Braves have discussed left-hander Luis Avilan with other teams recently, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports (via Twitter).  Avilan has a 2.56 ERA, 6.0 K/9, 1.81 K/BB rate and a 55.5% ground ball rate over 144 1/3 relief innings for Atlanta over the last three seasons.  Advanced metrics indicate he was somewhat fortunate to post low ERA totals in 2012-13, and with more even peripherals in 2014, Avilan’s ERA ballooned to 4.57 last season.  The 25-year-old Avilan is under team control through the 2018 campaign.
  • It comes as no surprise that the Nationals are excited by right-handed pitching prospect A.J. Cole, as an opposing scout tells MASNsports.com’s Pete Kerzel that Washington has been declining his team’s trade inquiries about Cole for almost two full years.  “They ain’t letting him go. They’re that high on him,” the scout said.  Kerzel examines how the Nats might handle Cole’s development in 2015, as he could be kept in Triple-A or perhaps used in the Show as an electric bullpen option.
  • Is the Mets‘ relatively quiet offseason a tactical decision, or does it represent a “lack of ingenuity by the front office or lack of financial resources by ownership,” Joel Sherman of the New York Post wonders.  The aggressive moves made by such teams as the Padres, Cubs and Marlins have overshadowed the Mets’ more modest transactions, though one AL West executive thinks the Amazins are “laying in the weeds waiting for hopeful January free-agent bargains.”  A big-ticket addition like Troy Tulowitzki seems unlikely since, as the exec opines, “I don’t think they [the Mets] have the financial flexibility to pay for him even if they could get him.”