Author Archives: Brad Johnson

Quick Hits: Cuban Smuggling, Martin, Jackson, Howard, Castillo

While news of Cuban ballplayer Rusney Castillo continues to dominate the news cycle, the human trafficking side of Cuban imports also made headlines. Eliezer Lazo entered a guilty plea in connection to the smuggling of over 1,000 Cubans, including Rangers outfielder Leonys Martin, reports Curt Anderson of the Associated Press. The article covers some of the sordid details involved in this human trafficking case.

  • In related news, a lawsuit brought against Martin by a Mexican baseball academy associated with Lazo will likely be dropped as a result of the criminal case. The Estrellas baseball academy alleged that Martin agreed to pay them up to 35% of his major league contract, but Martin only paid $1.2MM of his $15.5MM deal.
  • The Braves and Cubs discussed a proposal that would have sent Edwin Jackson to Atlanta in return for B.J. Upton, writes Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports. The deal would have served as a straight swap of albatross contracts. The sides apparently weren’t close to finalizing a trade but could re-open talks over the offseason. It appears this was probably the rumored trade first reported on August 9.
  • In what is likely to become an ongoing “will they, won’t they” story, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer speculates about moving on from Ryan Howard. The club currently has Darin Ruf taking the occasional start in left field while Howard blocks his playing time at first base. Philadelphia seemingly needs to decide which of three players possess the higher upside – Howard, Ruf, or left fielder Domonic Brown. Given Howard’s age, 34, and rapidly diminishing numbers – he had a .678 OPS before today’s home run – it’s fair to wonder if Howard should be the odd man out. Corner infield prospect Maikel Franco could also figure in the mix before long.
  • We at MLBTR seek to find answers for the pressing questions such as “Does Rusney Castillo know Jay-Z?” Castillo, who is represented by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports and Brodie Van Wagonen of CAA, does indeed know the mogul, according to the Boston Herald’s Scott Lauber.

Indians Acquire Chris Gimenez

The Indians have acquired catcher Chris Gimenez from the Rangers in return for future considerations, tweets Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest.
The teams have confirmed the deal via press release. Gimenez, who was formerly with the Rangers Triple-A affiliate, will head straight to the Indians roster to fill in for the injured Yan Gomes.

Prior to the trade, Gimenez split time between the Rangers major league roster and Triple-A Round Rock. This season at the major league level, he hit .262/.331/.355 in 118 plate appearances. He might be best used in a platoon. He’s hit .282/.366/.366 in 162 career plate appearances against left-handed pitching. Defensive reports indicate that Gimenez is average or better. The Catcher Report at StatCorner.com rates Gimenez as three runs above average in his limited work this season.

Cleveland will be the 31-year-old catcher’s third organization of the year and fourth since the end of the 2013 season. He finished last year with the Rays, who lost him to the Athletics on waivers in December. The Athletics re-signed Gimenez in March to a one-year, $510,000 contract. They lost him on waivers to the Rangers later that month. To add a little extra spice to his recent transaction history, Texas outrighted Gimenez at the start of the season. Gimenez initially refused the assignment but ultimately signed a minor league deal to remain with the Rangers.

It has come full circle for Gimenez, who started his career with the Indians. He spent parts of two seasons with Cleveland before joining the Mariners as a minor league free agent in 2011. He moved on to Tampa Bay in 2012. Despite never accruing more than 130 plate appearances in a single season, Gimenez has appeared in the majors in six straight seasons.

For the Indians, Gimenez represents essential insurance. Gomes is out indefinitely with what is described as a “mild concussion.” The club has former catcher Carlos Santana available, but he hasn’t started behind the plate since late May. He’s dealt with his own concussion problems this season, so it’s likely he remain the club’s primary first baseman. Cleveland also has Roberto Perez on the active roster. The 25-year-old may receive the majority of the playing time due to solid minor league numbers, including a .305/.405/.517 line with eight home runs in 209 plate appearances.


Rosenthal’s Latest: Castillo, Machado, Reds

Rusney Castillo will likely serve as the Red Sox center fielder, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports in his latest video. As Rosenthal points out, the Red Sox also need a center field quality outfielder for their spacious right field, but Castillo may not have the necessary arm strength for right. The club views Castillo as similar to Shane Victorino. He should be able hit second, sixth, or seventh while delivering power and good base running skills. Once he receives his work visa, the Sox plan to get Castillo some reps at the minor league level before exposing him to the majors in September.

  • The Orioles are going to miss the presence of Manny Machado, who is sidelined for the remainder of the season while recovering from knee surgery. Chris Davis will slide to third with Steve Pearce at first. Club officials were peeved that news of the surgery leaked so quickly, since they believe it will affect their leverage in trade discussions.
  • Reds GM Walt Jocketty’s contract expires after this season, but he will remain in Cincinnati. He has “unfinished business” to resolve, including a rotation that is set to lose four of it’s five members following the 2015 season.


Quick Hits: Phillies, Jackson

The Phillies are pleased with the first part of their return for pitcher Roberto Hernandez, according to CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury. The club announced recently (MLBTR link) that they acquired Jesmuel Valentin as the first of two players to be named later. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. had plenty of things to say about Valentin. One line that stood out: “for the situation we’re in and the player we gave up, I think we did pretty well. Even if we had just this guy, we’d be happy.”

  • Salisbury also reports that the club may be close to choosing the second player to be named. Per Amaro, “We have a pretty good idea of who we want, but we’re waiting to make a decision right now. We’re checking on some medical stuff.”
  • Former prospect Brett Jackson was once frequently compared to greats like Jim Edmonds and Larry Walker. Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic spoke with several Diamondbacks insiders about the new acquisition. The prevailing hope is that a change in scenery could help Jackson tap into his former potential (and trim his 40 percent strikeout rate). He’s just 25 years old, so there is still time for the light to go on. However, his debut in the Arizona system was not a success – he went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts.

Gammons’ Latest: Manfred, Stanton, Rockies, Castillo

Rob Manfred will make a fine commissioner, notes Peter Gammons of Gammonsdaily.com. Among the many reasons are his familiarity with the issues of the game. Those include upcoming PED news, growing dissent between small and large market clubs, and the upcoming legal battle between the Orioles and Nationals over MASN revenues. Gammons concludes that the game would benefit most if the owners put some effort into helping Manfred settle into the job.

  • The Marlins have a seriously bad reputation when it comes to dealing away their stars in fire sales. According to Gammons, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria knows that a big brand can go a long way to improving attendance. With Lebron James back in Cleveland, Giancarlo Stanton is the top name in Miami sports. This is the reason why the Marlins have rebuffed all offers for Stanton.
  • The Rockies are on the hook for a combined $167MM between Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. This trade deadline included rumors that the club would consider dealing one or both of their stars, but their season ending injuries will probably prevent any offseason deals. Gammons notes that the rarefied air in Colorado can make recovery difficult.
  • One talent evaluator compares Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo to a center field capable Ron Gant. The Yankees are among the biggest players for Castillo, but they have to contend with a hefty luxury tax penalty. Because Alex Rodriguez will be back on the books, the Yankees will pay a tax in the range of 40% to 50% if they add Castillo. As Gammons notes, a $50MM contract would come with a $20MM to $25MM tax.
  • The league is concerned about two things related to Cuban imports. The defection process is morally troubling, as it supports human trafficking. The other issue is the diet of Cuban players. The stress fractures that have sidelined Jorge Soler and Jose Iglesias could be related to calcium deficiency. According to one insider, his team will be monitoring the “bone structure and diet” of their Cuban acquisitions.

Blue Jays Notes: Anthopoulos, Rogers Media, Gibbons

Alex Anthopoulos will remain the GM of the Blue Jays following the 2014 season, reports Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun. Anthopoulos has been under some scrutiny from fans, media, and even players over his failure to make a big acquisition at the trade deadline. The Blue Jays have begun to lag in the AL playoff picture. They are four games back in the Wild Card race, but would have to pass the Mariners, Tigers, and Yankees to claim the second spot. One reason ownership is patient with Anthopoulos is the emergence of pitchers Drew Hutchison, Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, and minor leaguer Daniel Norris. Anthopoulos is signed through 2015.

  • Also from Simmons, the Jays never actually approached ownership about expanding payroll because a deal was never close. Front office personnel do believe that more money is available for the right player.
  • Related to a deal not being close, the Rays apparently wanted both Stroman and Hutchison in return for David Price. In my opinion, it’s understandable why that offer didn’t get anywhere. The Jays would have upgraded one rotation spot while creating a potential hole with another.
  • Keith Pelley, president of Rogers Media, says the club is focused on the 2014 playoff run and has not evaluated offseason options, according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. That would seemingly contradict Simmons’ report, although such comments are often pure double talk.
  • Davidi also illuminated manager John Gibbons’ contract situation. Gibbons is signed through 2015 and will have a vesting option for 2016 triggered after December 31. His contract is structured to continuously add such options until it is terminated.

Will The Padres Execute An August Trade?

The Padres have dominated recent news with their hiring of new GM A.J. Preller. One of the main tasks set before Preller is to turn the current roster into a contender. The Padres have never won the World Series, and it will be Preller’s job to guide them through October. His first assignment – evaluate the club’s current assets and identify potential August trades.

A few players stand out as potential trade assets. They are unlikely to contribute to the next great Padres roster. As such, it might be best to get something back for them while it’s possible. As the club learned with Chase Headley, baseball assets can spoil unexpectedly.

Two players stand out as particularly valuable, although both are controllable through 2015. Ian Kennedy has recovered his career in San Diego, with a 3.51 ERA, 9.53 K/9, and 3.08 BB/9 through 146 and one-third innings. He has one more year of arbitration, and he’s likely to earn around $10MM. As such, he represents a substantial but potentially valuable financial investment. His struggles in Arizona and New York may give contenders pause before they buy his 2014 numbers.

The other top asset is closer Joaquin Benoit. He was a much rumored July trade candidate along with former closer Huston Street. Most clubs preferred him as a setup man despite closer quality numbers. His contract might explain why. Benoit is owed $8MM next season with a $8MM option for 2016 that becomes guaranteed with 55 games finished in 2015. The details of his contract could help him to pass through revocable waivers.

Even if both players are claimed, the Padres may have the opportunity to swing a trade with the claiming team. Other Padres like Will Venable could hit the market too, although they’re unlikely to return anything noteworthy.

 

For a more complete explanation of how revocable trade waivers and August trades work, check out MLBTR’s August Trades primer. You can also check out MLBTR’s list of players that have cleared revocable waivers to see who is eligible to be traded to any team.


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Quick Hits: DePodesta, Sternberg, Lucroy

We at MLBTR tend to focus on transactions, but the big news of tonight comes from Baltimore, where catcher Caleb Joseph homered for a fifth straight game. The Orioles catcher had hit just three major league home runs before his current onslaught. Last season, he did pop an impressive 22 home runs for the O’s Double-A affiliate. Prior to tonight, Joseph was hitting .220/.281/.401 on the season.

  • Last August, Mets Assistant GM Paul DePodesta discussed Moneyball misconceptions and the role of analysis in an interesting interview with Nautilus. Among the many topics, DePodesta talked about the importance of putting themselves in a position to get lucky. The Mets system certainly reflects that thought process. While the club has yet to succeed at the major league level, they are beginning to receive meaningful contributions from somewhat unexpected sources like Lucas Duda and Jacob deGrom.
  • Rays owner Stuart Sternberg doesn’t regret trading David Price despite the club’s current three game winning streak, writes Bill Chastain of MLB.com. Said Sternberg, “It really was the classic one-eye-on-the-present, one-eye-on-the-future kind of deal.” The Rays remain 10 games back in the AL East and five games back in the Wild Card race. Sternberg does regret failing to acquire a big bat after losing in the 2010 division series. 
  • Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy isn’t interested in following the Joe Mauer model, according to Tom Haudricourt. “I feel like I’d go from an above-average catcher to an average first baseman,” said Lucroy. Defensive measures rate him as among the best backstops in the game, and his current batting line (.307/.374/.493) is strikingly similar to that of Adrian Beltre. Lucroy recently missed a game with a hamstring issue, but that’s a far cry from the issues plaguing Mauer.

NL West Notes: Preller, Sandoval

Newly hired Padres GM A.J. Preller spoke about a variety of topics during his Wednesday introductory press conference. Dennis Lin of U-T San Diego provides the abridged version including why Preller was interested in the job, the challenge of wooing hitters to Petco Park, and his top priorities (answer: getting to know his employees).

  • Also from Lin’s piece, Preller commented on working with a small budget. The Rangers may be a big budget team now, but that’s a recent development. Preller was a part of the Rangers front office when they reached the World Series on a $55MM payroll in 2010, so he’s familiar with building on the cheap. Interestingly for Padres fans, Preller expressed an expectation that ownership would expand the budget when the team was a major player or two away from getting “over the top.”
  • With his impending free agency, Pablo Sandoval presents the Giants with a dilemma, writes Drew Fairservice of Fangraphs. On the surface, it’s easy to dismiss the nearly 28-year-old Kung Fu Panda as an inconsistent free-swinger. However, he consistently ranks among the top defensive third basemen and has settled in as a steady 120 wRC+ hitter (20 percent above league average). The Giants have a track record of loyalty to their free agents, so it will be interesting to see if they allow Sandoval to test the waters.

Rosenthal’s Latest: Red Sox, Tigers, Rollins, Castillo, Phillies

The Red Sox are receiving a lot of praise throughout baseball for their approach to the trade deadline, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports in his latest video. The club considered prospect based offers for Jon Lester and John Lackey from the Orioles and Marlins, but ultimately opted to bulk up on major league offense. Boston is loaded with pitching prospects who they’ll be able to audition over the remainder of the season. Ostensibly, the club will have fewer holes to plug over the offseason as a result of their deadline dealings.

  • Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski told Rosenthal that Mike Russell (a scout who covers the Rays for Detroit) and Jim Leyland advocated for acquiring David Price. Without their advice, Detroit might have passed on Price.
  • The A’s kicked the tires on a deal for Jimmy Rollins, but talks didn’t go anywhere. Oakland is Rollins’ home town, so he might considered waiving his no trade clause to go home.
  • Cuban free agent outfield Rusney Castillo is expected to be the biggest August acquisition. The Yankees, Red Sox, and several other teams are in on Castillo.
  • All of the guys the Phillies didn’t trade at the deadline – Cole Hamels, A.J. Burnett, and Jonathan Papelbon to name a few – could be dealt prior to the August trade deadline. The Phillies should see most of their roster clear waivers.
  • Josh Willingham, Alex Rios, Joaquin Benoit, and Neal Cotts are a few other names Rosenthal mentions as August targets.

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