Author Archives: Jeff Todd

Minor MLB Transactions: 9/2/15

Here are the day’s minor moves …

  • The Pirates have selected the contract of infielder Pedro Florimon, the club announced. Florimon, 28, was outrighted recently after seeing 15 games of action with the big league club. He required a 40-man spot, which was opened when the Bucs placed righty Deolis Guerra on the 60-day DL. Though he’s compiled only a .201/.264/.297 batting line in his 713 career MLB plate appearances, Florimon possesses a highly-regarded glove and figures to provide a defensive option for Pittsburgh down the stretch.

Extension Candidate: Justin Turner

Every winter, we cover a host of seemingly minor signings — veteran utility players, swingmen, platoon outfielders, etc. — as teams fill out their rosters by adding depth and competition in areas of uncertainty. It’s unusual for such deals to have truly significant impact.

But minor league signings can be hugely important. The Tigers, for instance, have rightly received ample attention for their immensely beneficial decision to bring in late-blooming slugger J.D. Martinez, who engineered a hard-to-predict turnaround through carefully thought-out changes in his swing mechanics and approach.

As good as Martinez has been, though, there’s an argument to be made that Justin Turner was the more insightful breakout signing of the winter of 2014. Turner languished on the market until February, when the Dodgers — then still under the command of Ned Colletti — swooped in with a minor league deal that ultimately paid out just $1MM.

July 12, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner (10) during a stoppage in play in the ninth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

At the time, Turner was a 29-year-old utility infielder who carried an approximately league-average batting line. He profiled as a solid-enough defender at third who delivered usable, but inferior, glovework up the middle.

It looked like a nice get for the Dodgers, who committed nothing but a spring invite, but hardly seemed a game-changing addition. With two more years of arb control, there was some added value since Los Angeles effectively picked up option years at values that would be dictated by his performance.

What seemed to be solid value has turned into an unbelievable bargain. Over 672 plate appearances in Dodger blue, Turner owns a .314/.379/.501 slash line with 22 home runs and eight stolen bases. There were some questions whether he could keep things up this year after posting a .404 BABIP in 2014, but Turner has thrived by increasing his power output even as his batting average on balls in play has fallen back to normal levels.

It’s questionable, to be sure, whether he can maintain the power surge that has pushed his isolated slugging mark to over .200. Turner’s 15.6% home run per flyball rate in 2015 may be unsustainable — that’s a career-best by a significant margin — but he has obviously learned something about driving the ball that seems likely to stick. Building off improvements in his contact profile that were evident in his 2013 numbers with the Mets, the 2015 version of Turner makes hard contact in approximately one third of his plate appearances while generating the same soft contact rate (10.8%) as Paul Goldschmidt and Miguel Cabrera.

On the defensive side of the ledger, Turner continues to receive fairly poor defensive metrics when playing at second and short. But he’s spent most of his time at the hot corner, and both UZR and Defensive Runs saved value him as an above-average defender there over the last two years.

Needless to say, the aggregate package is quite good. Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference credit Turner with about 6.5 to 7 wins above replacement since the start of 2014. That’s all the more impressive given his somewhat limited plate appearances — he was a part-timer last year and missed time with injury this year — meaning it was accrued in about a full season’s worth of regular playing time. And it’s not as if Turner has succeeded because he’s been limited to situations with the platoon advantage; he’s actually delivered significantly better numbers against right-handed pitching this season and over his career.

It’s not clear whether the Dodgers’ new front office will pursue a new deal with Turner, but this coming offseason presents an obvious opportunity to do so. Howie Kendrick, Jimmy Rollins, and Chase Utley will all be free agents after this year, assuming the team declines Utley’s option. While the organization has some immediate options — Corey Seager, Enrique Hernandez, and Jose Peraza chief among them — none have had the chance to establish themselves fully at the big league level. Hector Olivera, of course, has already been cleared out of the picture with a mid-season trade.

From Turner’s perspective, too, there are some good reasons to consider such an arrangement. He earned a relatively meager $2.5MM in 2015, and will be in line for a significant raise. But Turner will still be a great value for next season, will remain a year away from the open market, and will then be signing in advance of his age-32 season.

If the sides choose to chat, it will be difficult to find comparable players. Late-career breakouts are hardly unheard of, but even premium players such as Jose Bautista and Corey Kluber have signed extensions at rather reasonable prices with shorter track records to work from.

And there is one obvious comp: Martin Prado, a similarly-profiling defender, who inked a four-year, $40MM pact with the Diamondbacks the winter before he would have reached free agency. Prado was then entering his age-29 season and had a longer history of good offensive production and strong defensive work around the field. But he was also just one year removed from a down season and had not shown the same offensive ceiling that Turner has established.

All told, that contract seems to provide a useful starting point for talks between the Dodgers and Turner’s representatives at the Legacy Agency. Of course, whether or not an extension can be reached (or will even be pursued) depends on the motivations of all involved, but a big new contract for Turner seems a reasonably plausible scenario.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Poll: Best August 31st Outfield Addition

The August 31st trade deadline — for adding players to an organization who will be eligible for the post-season — is not nearly as celebrated as the July 31st version. To be sure, most significant deals occur at the earlier date, since thereafter players must clear revocable waivers (or be claimed by the acquiring team) to be dealt.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t relevant. This year, several clubs were in competition to add outfield options as September approached. On deadline day alone, five players who figure as platoon/reserve options changed hands.

So, which of these moves looks to provide the best value to the acquiring team? (Links to posts on acquisitions; poll order randomized.)

Cubs acquire Austin Jackson from Mariners — Jackson will cost Chicago $1MM, a player to be named later, and an international bonus slot ($211,100). In exchange, the Cubs get a center field-capable player who has fallen why shy of his early-career numbers since heading to Seattle. He’s always maintained even platoon splits, so he’s not exactly a typical time-share candidate, but he provides flexibility across the outfield.

Royals acquire Jonny Gomes from Braves — Kansas City took on about $380K of Gomes’ remaining salary and parted with young infielder Luis Valenzuela to add the veteran. Gomes is a classic late-season add: he’s a valued member of the clubhouse and mauls left-handed pitching, making him a limited but useful role player.

Giants acquire Alejandro De Aza from Red Sox — While they won’t owe De Aza much (if anything) in the way of salary, San Francisco did have to give up an interesting (but underperforming) arm in Luis Ysla. In De Aza, San Francisco gets a player who has hit well in recent months and traditionally performs well against right-handed pitching.

Dodgers acquire Justin Ruggiano from Mariners, Chris Heisey from Blue Jays — Los Angeles took a different approach from the teams listed above, adding two right-handed bats who could end up serving in platoon roles with expanded rosters and possibly competing for a single post-season roster spot. Both have spent much of the year in Triple-A, and cost little to add.


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AL East Notes: Bundy, Eveland, Yankees, Craig

The Orioles will begin to get an idea of where things stand with former top prospect Dylan Bundy, as he’s been cleared to begin a throwing program, MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski tweets. It’ll be important for Baltimore to get a read on the righty, as he’ll be out of options next year. Now nearly 23, Bundy remains talented and rather youthful. But he’s thrown just 63 1/3 competitive, regular season innings since the end of the 2012 campaign.

Here’s more from the AL East:

  • Orioles lefty Dana Eveland had an opt-out date yesterday, according to SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (via Twitter), but he remains listed on the roster of the Triple-A Norfolk Tides. It would appear, then, that he’ll stay in the Baltimore organization and hope that his solid numbers at Triple-A earn him another chance at big league action late this year.
  • The Yankees are set up to test their commitment to in-house development as soon as next season, ESPNNewYork.com’s Andrew Marchand writes. He discusses some of the options that could be relied upon in filling out the organization’s roster in the near future. GM Brian Cashman explained that the club is “pretty locked in on some guys,” apparently referencing the fact that New York is not looking at much roster turnover. What upcoming needs there are could be met from within. “We do have some square pegs that will fit in some square holes when you look at 2017,” said Cashman. “That’s a long way off. We do have some placeholders that potentially are going to be in place, if that is the direction we choose. That’s a good thing.”
  • Red Sox first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig is getting another shot at the big leagues and is eager to prove he can still be productive, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal reports. “I feel great about where I’m at,” said Craig. “I know I’m a good player. I’m just looking forward to being back here and playing.” The former All-Star, who has struggled in recent years, says he’s still focused on the present and isn’t concerned with the possibility of moving to another organization. The big question with Craig, of course, is whether he can regain his power, which has yet to come around at Triple-A. Barring a sustained turnaround, Boston figures to have no real promise of finding a taker for any substantial portion of the 31-year-old’s remaining contract obligations.

Front Office Notes: Jennings, Mariners, Beinfest, Scioscia

The Marlins will ask manager Dan Jennings to relinquish his managerial role and return to the GM position he occupied previously, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. That’s largely a confirmation of expectations at this point — Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald and Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com each indicated in early August that such a move was likely. The more intriguing elements of the situation appear still to be sorted out. Yesterday, a report from the Herald’s Clark Spencer indicated that Miami has a lot of internal tension. Per the report, Jennings could end up as GM, in another front office role, or out of the organization altogether. And there are shakeups in the offing in the club’s scouting and player development departments.

Here’s more on the still-developing front office landscape around the league:

  • Jennings has “strong interest” in pursuing the Mariners‘ open GM position, Rosenthal adds. Of course, he’s still under contract in Miami. But it’s not clear at all what kind of front office alignment might be utilized were Jennings to move back upstairs. While Jennings has served as skipper, assistant GM Mike Berger has largely filled his role.
  • Former Marlins GM Larry Beinfest is another name that could figure in the executive market this fall. He sat down recently with Spencer, explaining that he’s ready to get back in on “the everyday competitiveness” of MLB front office work. It’s a long and interesting interview with plenty of discussion of Beinfest’s time in Miami. “I was never frustrated by low payrolls,” he said. “What was more challenging than the lower payrolls was the roller coaster of the payrolls. They go up. They go down. It made it very hard to plan.”
  • Angels manager Mike Scioscia says that he will not play a significant part in the club’s GM hiring process, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez reports. That would certainly be the case for most managers, but a highly-publicized feud with former GM Jerry Dipoto reportedly led to his departure from the organization, leading many to believe that the 16-year-veteran skipper holds outsized influence in the Halos organization. “I don’t plan on being part of any selection committee,” said Scioscia. “I know the role of a manager in an organization, and I love that part of it. It’s not to go pick a GM. I just think, just like any team, you have to be philosophically on the same page, all the way down from ownership to the general manager’s seat to the manager to the Minor Leagues and scouting director, everything that’s important in fueling your Major League roster. You have to be on the same page.” While Scioscia said that he is not sure what the organization is looking for in its new hire, he again reiterated that he would “imagine” they’ll seek “somebody who will be philosophically lined up with what we’re trying to do.”

Notable September Call-Ups

Today’s flurry of transactions has been driven by September call-ups as teams look to expand their flexibility with expanded rosters. Only players who are on the 40-man roster can be activated, of course, meaning that several organizations have had to designate or outright players to clear roster space. On the activation side of the equation, we always see big name prospects reach the bigs in early September, though many of the game’s best big-league ready youngsters have already been elevated this year.

We already noted Hector Olivera‘s promotion earlier today, and you can see all of the day’s promotions at the MLB.com Transactions page. Here are some more of the notable call-ups (for various reasons)…

  • Zach DaviesBrewers — Acquired in the Gerardo Parra deal, Davies is heading into the Milwaukee rotation for his first big league action. The rebuilding Brewers figure to have multiple rotation spots open in the long-term, making Davies’ late audition one to keep an eye on. Be sure to check out the MLBTR Podcast episode featuring the young righty.
  • Miguel CastroRockies — Another recent trade acquisition, Castro was one of the two main pieces (along with fellow righty Jeff Hoffman) who went to Colorado in exchange for Troy Tulowitzki. It’s not clear what role the Rockies have in mind in the near-term, but they’ll get an early look to see whether he will be a part of their plans for 2016.
  • Dalton PompeyBlue Jays — Pompey opened the season with a chance to solidify himself as Toronto’s everyday center fielder, but offensive struggles saw him slide all the way to Double-A. Pompey nonetheless rates as one of baseball’s best prospects, and he’ll again have the opportunity to show the Blue Jays that he can be a long-term piece.
  • Javier BaezCubs — It’s been a difficult season for Baez, who has dealt with the tragic death of his younger sister and then a broken finger but hit well late in the year at Triple-A. Baez’s light-tower power and exceptional bat speed make him one of the game’s most intriguing power prospects, and a huge September could lead the Cubs to pencil him in as their second baseman in 2016.
  • Joey GalloRangers — Speaking of the game’s top power prospects, Gallo wowed the baseball world when he .260/.362/.580 with five homers through his first 14 big league games earlier this year. But, he went 6-for-37 with 22 strikeouts over his next 11 games and was optioned to Triple-A, where his struggles continued. Gallo posted a very three-true-outcomes batting line in 53 games there: .195/.289/.450 with a 39.5 percent strikeout rate in 228 plate appearances. He has as much power as anyone in baseball, but the strikeouts are a concern.
  • Marco Gonzales, Cardinals — The 19th overall pick back in 2013, Gonzales debuted with the Cardinals in 2014 and tossed 34 2/3 respectable, if unspectacular innings. He’s dealt with injuries in 2015 and hadn’t pitched in the Majors this season prior to September. The Cards threw him right into the fire tonight, and things didn’t go well (four runs in 2 2/3 innings). Gonzales could be in line for a rotation spot next season, although with Adam Wainwright returning and Jaime Garcia’s option likely to be picked up, he could begin 2016 in Triple-A again.
  • Rob Refsnyder, Yankees — Refsnyder had a nice season at Triple-A (albeit a bit light in the power department), and Yankee fans have been clamoring for him to inherit the everyday second base job for quite some time. A platoon with Stephen Drew may be more likely, but Refsnyder will get his first extended run on a big league roster this month and hope to impress the team as Drew heads into free agency.
  • Trevor Cahill — Cahill joins the Cubs on a mission to show some semblance of the form he displayed from 2010-13 with the A’s and D-Backs, when he very much looked the part of a mid-rotation starter. Since that four-year stretch (when he notched a 3.72 ERA in 751 innings), Cahill has an ERA just under 6.00 and has been released by the Braves and opted out of a deal with the Dodgers after floundering in Triple-A as well. He’s still only 27.
  • Matt MooreRays — Moore’s return from Tommy John was dreadful, but he flat out dominated Triple-A hitters following a demotion to get his control back in check. Moore had a 3.30 ERA in Triple-A but held hitters to a .207/.273/.333 batting line with a 43-to-8 K/BB ratio in 30 innings, including an Aug. 22 start in which 16 of the 18 outs he recorded came via strikeout.
  • Andrew Bailey, Yankees — The right-hander was a young, ace closer for the Athletics but saw his career fall apart due to injuries after being traded to the Red Sox. He’s thrown well at Triple-A this year after joining the Yankees on a minor league deal, and he’ll now get his first chance at the big league level since way back in 2013.
  • Allen CraigRed Sox — Craig has fallen off the radar after three outstanding seasons with the Cardinals from 2011-13. He’s probably not in Boston’s long-term plans, but a nice September could make it a bit easier for the Sox to generate a little trade interest. Craig batted .274/.368/.350 in Triple-A this season, and while the average/OBP are nice, he had just 18 extra-base hits (14 doubles, four homers) in 399 PAs there.
  • Rex Brothers, Wilin Rosario, Rockies — Formerly two key contributors for the Rockies, both have wilted recently, and both could be viewed as change-of-scenery candidates this offseason. Their September performances, for that reason, are worth keeping an eye on.

Twins Outright Jason Wheeler

The Twins have outrighted lefty Jason Wheeler off of the team’s 40-man roster, according to a club announcement. He was added to the 40-man roster last spring to keep him protected from the Rule 5 draft.

Though he has continued to put up quality numbers as a starter against Double-A competition, Wheeler has yet to master Triple-A, let alone the majors (where he’s yet to see time). In 78 innings at the highest level of the minors thus far in 2015, he’s surrendered 6.58 earned runs per nine with 4.6 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9.

Wheeler loses his spot as part of a number of moves announced today, including the call-up of players such as Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas. Notably absent, so far, is top pitching prospect Jose Berrios. As Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press notes on Twitter, the immediate need for a 40-man spot relates to the club’s decision to purchase the contract of catcher Eric Fryer.


Astros Designate Jake Buchanan

The Astros have designated righty Jake Buchanan for assignment, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports on Twitter. He lost his spot to clear space for the team’s call-up of lefty Joe Thatcher.

Buchanan, 25, has thrown 44 1/3 MLB innings over the last two years, with most of that experience coming in 2014. He has a 4.06 ERA in that span with 5.1 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9.

Prior to 2014, Buchanan had worked primarily from the rotation. But he’s thrown mostly in relief since. This season, over 80 1/3 Triple-A innings, he owns a 4.37 ERA while strike out 5.0 and walking 2.4 batters per nine.


Braves Promote Hector Olivera

The Braves have promoted infielder Hector Olivera for his first major league stint, according to a team announcement. The move had been expected, as reporters have indicated over recent days that Olivera was being prepared for a September call-up. (Among them, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweeted yesterday that a move was still expected and Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com added today on Twitter that it was forthcoming.)

Nothing about the 30-year-old’s nascent professional career has been straightforward thus far. While it’s hard to know quite what to expect, it will certainly be interesting to see him in action at the big league level. Olivera is expected to see regular time at third base, as O’Brien tweets.

Hotly pursued as a free agent out of Cuba, Olivera signed with the Dodgers over the winter for six years and $62.5MM after making a last-minute switch of agents. But he was ultimately traded to the Braves over the summer in an inordinately complicated three-team arrangement. With $28MM of that commitment accounted for in a signing bonus, he’ll only cost Atlanta about $30MM from 2016 to 2020.

Olivera was putting up big offensive numbers in the Dodgers’ system before suffering a hamstring injury. He continued to work back from that after being traded to the Braves, but he never came all the way back around at the plate before moving out of the minors. It’s important to bear in mind that we’re still looking at very small samples here. His time in the majors over the next month should say more about his longer-term outlook, though even that will serve as little more than an introduction.


West Notes: Zduriencik, Profar, Morneau, Angels

Over at Fangraphs, Jeff Sullivan takes a look at the just-ended tenure of former Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik. Seattle changed course in the middle of his tenure, says Sullivan, with the organization moving from a focus on finding value and prioritizing defense to a grab for power bats. The club also failed to develop its best-regarded talent to its full potential, Sullivan notes, even if it’s hard ultimately to pin down a cause for that failure. All said, whatever the reason, Zduriencik was never able to turn the club into a regular contender.

Here are a few more notes from out west:

  • Rangers infielder Jurickson Profar could join the big league club in September, GM Jon Daniels acknowledged yesterday, as Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. While the former top prospect still is not ready to play the field — he’s recovering from a series of significant shoulder problems — he could hit and run. Texas is considering an Arizona Fall League placement, if Profar seems ready to begin making full-speed throws.
  • First baseman Justin Morneau could still suit up for the Rockies this year, as Nick Groke of the Denver Post writes. Manager Walt Weiss said that the situation was different than most injuries, given Morneau’s somewhat tricky neck and concussion issues. Morneau has previously indicated that he hopes to play next season, so returning to show his health and some productivity would obviously be quite a boon to his stock. While his deal includes a $9MM mutual option for next year, Colorado seems quite likely instead to pay him a $750K buyout.
  • As the Angels reportedly begin what is expected to be a quick-moving GM search, Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler is one name that has been “heard frequently” by MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez (Twitter link). Eppler featured rather prominently in last year’s round of general manager hirings, though obviously he ended up staying in New York.