Author Archives: Mark Polishuk

AL East Links: Matusz, Tanaka, Arencibia

Though the Rays are just 24-21 for the season and 5-5 over their last 10 games, they’ve vaulted into first place in the AL East as the division’s only winning team.  The Yankees have lost 10 of their last 11 games to drop to an even 22-22 while the Red Sox (21-23), Orioles (19-22) and Blue Jays (20-26) are just struggling to get back to the .500 mark.  Here’s the latest from the struggling division…

  • Orioles reliever Brian Matusz was ejected from Saturday’s game with the Marlins for having a foreign substance on his arm, and now the southpaw has been suspended for eight games, Major League Baseball announced today.  Matusz is appealing the suspension.  As Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun notes, the suspension comes at an inopportune time for the O’s, as their pitching depth will already be tested due to a stretch of 14 games in 13 days (thanks to a double-header).  Left-handed batters have only hit .185/.214/.296 this season against Matusz, who has a 3.18 ERA in 17 innings.  The eight games matches the length of the suspension handed out to Brewers lefty Will Smith for a similar offense last week.
  • Masahiro Tanaka told reporters (including Dan Martin of the New York Post) that he is “not gonna make a change” to his pitching style in the wake of forearm and wrist injuries, but admits that he is “going to have to oversee my body a little bit better.”  Tanaka’s health has been of great concern since it was revealed that he had a partially-torn UCL last summer, and despite a couple of DL stints since, the Yankees still hope their ace can avoid a longer-term stay on the injured reserve.  Tanaka will make his second minor league rehab start on Wednesday.
  • J.P. Arencibia is trying to stay optimistic as the catcher continues his pro career for the Rays‘ Triple-A team, he tells Sportsnet’s Greg Mercer.  Arencibia goes into detail about how he felt he didn’t deal with the pressure of being an everyday player with the Blue Jays, and also about his surprise at being released by the Orioles’ Triple-A affiliate earlier this season.

Cubs Notes: Baez, Russell, Schwarber

Two of the NL’s top clubs begin a three-game series today at Wrigley Field when the Cubs host the Nationals.  Beyond just sharing impressive records, ESPN.com’s Ken Woolums notes that the Cubs have gone about their rebuilding process in a manner similar to how the Nats have reconstructed their roster prior to their current run of two NL East titles in the last three seasons.  Here’s more on the Cubs…

  • Javier Baez has a .944 OPS in 99 Triple-A plate appearances this season, yet ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers wonders if the former top prospect can find playing time with the Cubs no matter how well he’s hitting.  Baez has been splitting time between second base and shortstop in the minors, though the Cubs are obviously set at both positions with Addison Russell and Starlin Castro.  Of course, questions remain about Baez both defensively (he already has 11 errors, nine at short) and offensively (he has 24 strikeouts in his 99 PA, and nine walks) and thus the Cubs could decide he’s expendable; Rogers notes that shifting Baez between two positions could be an audition for other teams just as much as it has to do with his development.  That said, Rogers also observes that the Cubs are under no pressure to swing a deal now and have plenty of time to figure out how to best deploy their numerous young talents.
  • Rogers hears from league sources that the Cubs have repeatedly turned down offers for Russell and have no interest in trading him.  If Chicago does decide to move a notable middle infielder, then, it would have to be Baez or Castro.
  • Kyle Schwarber is another prospect who has often been rumored to eventually change positions, though Cubs director of player development Jaron Madison tells Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register that Schwarber will remain a catcher.  “With all the work he’s done in the offseason and spring training and big league camp, and going into this year and what he’s done so far this year, we’re more certain than ever that he’s going to stay behind the plate long-term. We’re committed to that right now,” Madison said.
  • Madison discusses several Cubs minor leaguers within that same piece, including Baez.  The team doesn’t have any plans to use Baez at any positions besides second and shortstop for now, Madison said.  There has been some speculation that the Cubs could make room for Baez by moving him to third and shifting Kris Bryant to left field, though Baez has never played the hot corner in his pro career and Bryant has only three innings under his belt in left.

Minor Moves: Parker, Cerse, Bell, Ryan

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

  • The Cubs re-signed right-hander Blake Parker to a new minor league contract, team director of player development Jaron Madison tells Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register (Twitter link).  Parker was released by the Cubs earlier this month.  The righty posted a 3.68 ERA, 10.4 K/9 and 3.54 K/BB rate over 73 1/3 innings out of Chicago’s bullpen from 2012-14, but he’s been limited to only 3 1/3 Triple-A innings this season due to an elbow injury.
  • The Red Sox have officially signed second baseman Yoilan Cerse, according to Baseball America’s Matt Eddy.  MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reported earlier this month that the Cuban second baseman was close to a minor league deal with Boston.
  • Also from Eddy, the Padres released third baseman Josh Bell.  The 28-year-old signed a minor league deal with San Diego in February but has yet to see any action in 2015.  Bell appeared in 100 games with the Orioles and D’Backs from 2010-12 and has since played in the minors with the White Sox and Yankees, as well as spending 2014 in the Korean Baseball Organization.
  • The Yankees moved shortstop Brendan Ryan from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day DL and also optioned righty Branden Pinder to Triple-A.  Both moves created 25-man roster space to accommodate newly-promoted southpaw Jacob Lindgren.  Ryan suffered a calf injury during Spring Training and isn’t expected back in action until early June.


Draft Notes: Rodgers, Diamondbacks, Fernandez

A look at recent draft history suggests the Diamondbacks should take shortstop Brendan Rodgers with the No. 1 pick, MLB.com’s Jim Callis writes. Rodgers headed into the season as the consensus top talent in the draft, and teams who have picked No. 1 overall in recent years have avoided consensus top talents at their peril — No. 1 picks like the Rays’ selection of Tim Beckham and the Royals’ selection of Luke Hochevar haven’t worked out as well as they would have if the Rays and Royals had simply picked more straightforwardly. Here’s more on the draft.

  • The Diamondbacks currently appear more likely to take Vanderbilt pitcher Carson Fulmer first overall, according to John Manuel of Baseball America’s latest mock draft. The Diamondbacks seem to want a college pitcher, and Fulmer seems to be gaining a slight edge over UC-Santa Barbara’s Dillon Tate. The Astros then take another Commodore, infielder Dansby Swanson, in Manuel’s mock before the Rockies take Rodgers at No. 3. Manuel suggests the collection of injured top pitchers (Brady Aiken, Michael Matuella and Kolby Allard) will fall to the end of the first round.
  • Cuban right-hander Yoandy Fernandez has been declared eligible for the draft, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports.  Fernandez has far more seasoning than your average draft candidate; he’s 27 and has six years of experience in Cuba’s Serie Nacional league, where he posted a 4.22 ERA, 72 strikeouts and 62 walks over 157 2/3 innings.  Almost all of Fernandez’s work came as a reliever, and Sanchez notes that teams are still figuring out if he projects as a starter or a reliever in MLB.  Perhaps more information will be determined later this month, as Fernandez has several tryouts scheduled for various teams.

NL Notes: D’Backs, Marlins, Herrera, Tulowitzki

None of the top candidates for the first overall pick in the upcoming amateur draft seem likely to command the $8.6MM+ bonus slotted for the #1 pick, MLB.com’s Jim Callis writes as part of a draft mailbag.  Callis notes that the Diamondbacks would likely save a couple of million on whomever they pick first overall, making the team’s explorations of taking a lesser-ranked prospect first to save even more bonus pool money seem rather needless.  “There’s no need to do a discount of $4 million or more, and it’s unlikely there will be enough quality players to spend that much extra money on in later rounds,” Callis writes.

Here’s more from the National League:

  • The Marlins‘ decision not to pursue Rafael Soriano does not indicate that the team is not going to look to spur change in its pen, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro writes. Nevertheless, the focus is now internal. A.J. Ramos is just beginning his audition in the closer’s role, and should get a fairly long look. Otherwise, righties David Phelps and Tom Koehler could be shifted to full-time bullpen roles. It makes sense for Miami to see how things look with in-house changes now, of course, to gather information before the summer trade market heats up.
  • Mets second baseman Dilson Herrera is headed to the DL with a broken middle finger on this throwing hand, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com reports (Twitter links). Third baseman and utilityman Eric Campbell will slide into the mix for the time being. It remains to be seen how long Herrera will be out, but his absence could impact the club in a multitude of ways. For one thing, it reduces (or even eliminates) the possibility that Herrera will seize the everyday job and render Daniel Murphy a trade piece — an admittedly somewhat unlikely scenario to begin with, especially given David Wright‘s prolonged absence. Also of note: the decision to tab Campbell means that the team is not yet ready to bump Wilmer Flores off of shortstop, which was at least a theoretical alternative if Matt Reynolds had received the call. Unless and until Flores can curb his difficulties in the field, the position will remain an area of focus. As Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes, the overall disposition in New York (particularly given the context of a five-game losing streak) is not terribly sunny at present.
  • The Rockies‘ shortstop situation is also going to continue to get press, albeit for somewhat different reasons. Dave Cameron of Fangraphs takes a shot at valuing Troy Tulowitzki, opining that the excellent but oft-injured star would probably command something north of the Jacoby Ellsbury contract. That implies something like $50MM to $60MM in excess value in his contract, says Cameron, indicating that Tulo might bring back a package of very good prospects rather than one headlined by a super-premium young player. (Though, as Cameron notes, we should expect some mark-up for an in-season deal. Last year’s Jeff SamardzijaAddison Russell trade certainly illustrates that point.) The article suggests some possible groups of players that could theoretically be offered to Colorado.

Cherington Denies Bradley/Furbush Rumor

MAY 15: Red Sox GM Ben Cherington says there’s no truth to that trade proposal, Edes tweets. He adds that a member of one of the involved clubs was the source on his info.

MAY 14: The Mariners turned down a trade offer from the Red Sox in the spring that would’ve seen outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. go to Seattle in exchange for left-handed reliever Charlie Furbush, ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes reports (Twitter link).

Moving Bradley would’ve helped clear up the outfield surplus that the Sox are still dealing with, though there’s been less of a logjam for playing time than expected given some injuries and a few underperforming players.  Furbush has posted solid numbers since 2012 and you have to think he would’ve upgraded a Boston bullpen that entered today with the second-lowest fWAR of any relief corps in the game.  That said, Furbush’s 1.86 ERA this season is belied by some shaky peripherals numbers (.185 BABIP, 4.37 xFIP, 3.89 SIERA) so perhaps he might’ve struggled at Fenway Park.  Furbush is on a one-year, $1.3MM deal and still has two remaining years of arbitration eligibility.

Offering Bradley for a good-but-not-elite setup reliever would’ve seemed unthinkable a year ago, when the outfielder was considered one of the consensus top prospects in the game.  Over 530 MLB plate appearances in 2013-14, however, Bradley hit a measly .196/.268/.280, posting the second-lowest wRC+ (51) of any player in that stretch with at least 500 PA.  The Sox have already seemed to have moved on to Mookie Betts as their center fielder of the future and signed Rusney Castillo to a $72.5MM contract.

It’s hard to see Bradley’s hitting numbers improving with a move to the notoriously pitcher-friendly Safeco Field, and clearly the Mariners had enough concern about his bat that they weren’t willing to pull the trigger on an ex-top prospect who is controllable through 2019.  Bradley has shown himself to be a phenomenal defender, and could’ve potentially been a long-term answer in center with Austin Jackson scheduled for free agency after the season.


Quick Hits: Trout, Martinez, Street, Revere

Mike Trout isn’t the only baseball talent in his family, as Grantland’s Ben Lindbergh details in a piece about the Angels superstar’s father.  Jeff Trout was a Twins fifth-round draft pick in 1983 and he put up an impressive .303/.382/.425 slash line in 1575 career minor league at-bats, with three of his four seasons coming at the Double-A level.  The elder Trout chose to retire early, however, partially due to injuries and partially out of some frustration that his career was stalling in the minors.  Here’s some more from around baseball…

  • Cuban outfielder Eddy Julio Martinez could sign with a team as early as next week, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports (Twitter links).  The 20-year-old was seen by scouts and executives from 17 teams during a workout in the Dominican Republic today.  He boasts a 6.4 second time in the 60-yard dash and has two years of experience in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, including hitting .229/.333/.324 over 133 PA as an 18-year-old in 2013.  Martinez is subject to international pool guidelines, and if he does sign during what’s left of the 2014-15 signing period, it will mean the Cubs and Rangers (due to penalties) won’t be able to land him unless he accepts a bonus of $300K or less.  If Martinez doesn’t sign until after the 2015-16 period opens on July 2, the Angels, Rays, Red Sox, Yankees and Diamondbacks will be under those penalties.
  • Huston Street “might have gotten the best deal he could get,” Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times opines about the closer’s two-year, $18MM extension with the Angels.  Shaikin thinks that Street might not have found such a generous deal in free agency given how several teams are becoming more likely to rely on cheap power arms in the ninth inning rather than spend big on veteran closers.  An injury also could’ve hurt Street’s value, which is a significant concern given that he’s spent a notable amount of time on the DL in his career.
  • Ben Revere is no stranger to trade rumors, though the Phillies outfielder is trying to focus on playing rather than speculation that he could be dealt, Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News writes.  “I know it’s a business.  I know we need some guys to help this program out, this organization out,” Revere said.  “If I do [get traded], it’s a part of the game. But the only thing I’m trying to do is help the team win. I’m not worrying about it. If it does happen, it happens. If it doesn’t, I’m going to try to bring some W’s to this team.”

AL East Notes: Kelly, Cueto, Whitley, Harvey

Red Sox righty Joe Kelly had the luxury of having Yadier Molina call his games with the Cardinals, yet Kelly is now having to manage his own games, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford.  Kelly has gotten off to a rough start in Boston, and he admits “my stats don’t show, but I feel like I’m better at” reading situations and recognizing what pitches to throw at the right times.  Here’s some more from around the AL East…

  • Twenty scouts were in Cincinnati to watch Johnny Cueto‘s start tonight, Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News reports.  The group included high-ranking evaluators from the Blue Jays and Padres.  Cueto delivered another impressive start (7 IP, 2 ER, 5 H, 3 BB, 9 K) for his audience in a no-decision in the Reds‘ 4-3 victory over the Giants.
  • Yankees right-hander Chase Whitley left tonight’s game after just 1 2/3 innings due to an elbow injury.  Whitley will undergo an MRI tomorrow and he told reporters (including Chad Jennings of the LoHud Yankees blog) that he has been coping with the injury for a while but hadn’t told the club about it until tonight.
  • Orioles prospect Hunter Harvey will visit Dr. James Andrews next week in regards to his injured right elbow, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports.  Harvey underwent an MRI yesterday and O’s executive VP Dan Duquette said the club believes the injury is a flexor mass strain in Harvey’s right forearm.  Duquette is hopeful the injury won’t require surgery and Harvey can return to action this season after a rest period, though these plans will likely change if Andrews disagrees with the initial diagnosis.  Harvey, the 22nd overall pick of the 2013 draft, drew high placements in preseason prospect rankings from ESPN’s Keith Law (16th), MLB.com (41st) and Baseball America (68th).
  • The Orioles have ten players scheduled for free agency this winter, and if MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko were to set an over/under of three players re-signed by the team, he would “take the under if pressed to wager today.”  The free agent trio represented by Scott Boras (Wei-Yin Chen, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters) may potentially be the likeliest to depart, and Kubatko says “you’ll find plenty of people in the industry, and at least a few in the Orioles organization, who are making that assumption.”  Kubatko does stress that it’s still far too early to guess with any certainty about who could be leaving or staying, however — in Wieters’ case, for instance, he has yet to even hit the field this season.

Astros Notes: Correa, McCullers, Rasmus

The Astros sent Jon Singleton to Triple-A to begin the season in the wake of his lackluster 2014 numbers and a poor Spring Training, yet the former star prospect is doing his best to earn a return ticket to the bigs.  Singleton has 11 homers and an impressive .274/.386/.632 slash line over 140 plate appearances at Triple-A Fresno, highlighted by a two-homer, 10-RBI game last night.  While stats in the very hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League have to taken with a grain of salt, Singleton’s production is certainly a positive sign.  Here’s some more from Houston…

  • The time is now for the Astros to promote Carlos Correa, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal opines.  While the Astros’ decision to give Correa more Triple-A seasoning is a reasonable one, Rosenthal argues that if Houston will just promote him in two weeks if he’s tearing up the PCL, the club should just get him to the bigs now.  Correa would instantly upgrade the Astros at shortstop and help the team maintain its surprising first-place status.
  • Righty Lance McCullers has also been promoted to Triple-A, and Astros GM Jeff Luhnow told MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart that McCullers could potentially be in the mix for a Major League call-up this season.  “The reality is if he’s pitching the way he’s been pitching, we could probably benefit from having him here.  There is a possibility he will be here,” Luhnow said.  McCullers was a top-100 ranked prospect by both MLB.com and Baseball America prior to the 2013 and 2014 seasons, but his stock dipped a bit following an unimpressive year at high-A ball last year.  The 21-year-old rebounded to post an 0.62 ERA, 13.3 K/9 and 3.91 K/BB rate over 29 innings at the Double-A level this year.
  • Colby Rasmus is enjoying his time in Houston, the outfielder tells Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi.  Rasmus is one of the more experienced players in the young Astros clubhouse, which seems to be a relief for him given how he wasn’t happy playing for the more veteran Blue Jays last season.  Rasmus said he felt judged “in the sense of how much (service) time you had, and the pecking order, just feeling comfortable in the clubhouse. I’m not going to go into any details, but I feel more comfortable in this clubhouse and in this environment.”

Troy Tulowitzki Will Not Ask For Trade From Rockies

After meeting with his agent today, Rockies star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki has decided that he will not ask to be traded away from his struggling club.  Tulowitzki told reporters, including MLB.com’s Thomas Harding, that “whatever happens on the Rockies’ end happens, but for me to sit here and try to force my way out of here, that’s not the caseI don’t think it’s fair to my teammates and the relationships I’ve built here to take that route.”

Tulowitzki has long been a key figure in trade rumors given how the Rockies are coming off four losing seasons and are currently in last place in the NL West with an 11-19 record.  His meeting with agent Paul Cohen was therefore seen a significant step towards a possible departure from Colorado, though Tulowitzki noted that he didn’t tell Cohen to inform the New York Post about his dissatisfaction with the team’s lack of success.  “If I have an issue I would take care of it myself. The last [thing] I would try to do is leak something and get it out there,” Tulowitzki said.  “The Rockies’ ownership and myself have always been close, so there’s no reason to try to leak something. I’d go straight to them.”

Rather than ask for a deal, Tulowitzki put an onus on himself to perform better to help the team win.  Tulowitzki is hitting .303/.310/.477 over 113 plate appearances this season and while his injury problems have certainly been a factor in the Rockies’ poor records, it’s hard to point the finger at the shortstop given that when he has been healthy, he’s been one of the better performers in the game.

It could be argued that even if Tulowitzki doesn’t officially ask to be dealt, the fact that he even considered doing so essentially acts as the same thing; in my opinion, it certainly doesn’t sound like Tulowitzki would disregard any trade that would send him to a contender.  In not demanding a deal, Tulowitzki could actually pave a clearer road to a trade since it allows the Rockies to keep a bit of negotiating leverage with other teams.

Tulowitzki has approximately $109MM in guaranteed salary remaining on his contract through the 2020 season, plus a $4MM buyout of his $15MM club option for 2021 and an extra $2MM assignment bonus if he’s traded during the course of the deal.  It’s a hefty price tag for a 30-year-old player with a significant injury history, though Tulowitzki has thus far been healthy in 2015, playing in all 30 of Colorado’s games.