Author Archives: Mark Polishuk

Cubs Looking For Starting Pitching, Lefty Outfield Bats

The Cubs have had more talks about acquiring starting pitching than they have position players, though they would also like to add a left-handed hitting outfielder if the price is right, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi reports.

Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel, Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks have all posted good to excellent results as Chicago’s top four starters, though the fifth spot has been a problem area.  Tsuyoshi Wada has been effective when healthy but the southpaw is currently on the DL for the second time this season, while Travis Wood struggled in seven starts.  Clayton Richard was acquired from the Pirates on Friday and threw a quality start on Saturday, though it’s hard to see Chicago counting on Richard as a stable option.

It’s possible the Cubs could target a big name on the pitching market, as Morosi writes that the team hopes to have an ace in the fold by the start of next season.  To this end, the Cubs would prefer to acquire a pitcher under contract beyond this season (i.e. Cole Hamels) rather than a rental like Johnny Cueto, as if they get their top-of-the-rotation arm now, that would save them having to spend more time and money pursuing the likes of David Price in free agency this winter.

Morosi cites the Brewers’ Gerardo Parra and the Padres’ Will Venable as “two names to watch” as possible Cubs targets for their outfield need.  Either would spell the switch-hitting Dexter Fowler against right-handed pitching.  Fowler carried a tough .232/.308/.379 line into today’s action thanks in large part to a .660 OPS in 281 plate appearances against righties (but a healthy .833 OPS in 55 PA against lefties).  Given the abundance of right-handed starters in the NL Central, a righty-mashing bat is a clear need for the Cubs.

Shortstop has become another problem area, as Starlin Castro‘s below-replacement level season (-0.3 fWAR entering today) makes Morosi wonder if Chicago would consider getting a veteran middle infielder to pair with Addison Russell.  The problem is that Castro has minimal trade value right now given his poor performance and the roughly $41MM owed to him through the 2019 season.


NL West Notes: Frias, Giants, Maybin, Parra, Greinke, Gray

The Dodgerssearch for pitching may only intensify with the news that Carlos Frias has been placed on the 15-day DL with lower back tightness.  Los Angeles already dipped into its starter depth by installing Frias and Mike Bolsinger into the rotation in place of Hyun-jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy, so all eyes will be on the Dodgers this month to see if they can land another big arm before the trade deadline.  Here’s the latest from the NL West…

  • The Giants are looking for outfielders and Gerardo Parra and Cameron Maybin are two of the names who have been discussed, ESPN’s Buster Olney reports (via Twitter).  In another tweet, Olney notes that the Braves aren’t open to dealing Maybin right now.  Outfield had been cited as a possible target spot for San Francisco, though GM Bobby Evans didn’t seem set on obtaining an everyday outfielder since Hunter Pence and Nori Aoki will be expected to resume their regular spots in the lineup when they’re both healthy.  In my opinion, I’d think that a left-handed hitting outfielder like Parra could be of particular use in a center field platoon with Angel Pagan, who has struggled badly against right-handed pitching this season (though Pagan has generally fared better against righty arms over his career).
  • The Giants have liked Parra “forever,” according to Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News (via Twitter).  Parra had spent his entire career prior to August 2014 with the Diamondbacks, however, and Arizona didn’t want to deal the outfielder to a division rival.
  • In Olney’s latest Insider-only post, he observes that Zack Greinke‘s big season is putting him in position for a massive free agent payday this winter.  “It seems like a foregone conclusion” Greinke will opt out of his Dodgers contract in search of a more lucrative deal, and while he turns 32 in October, Olney believes he’s the type of pitcher with the athleticism, mechanics and pitching know-how to still be very effective as he ages.  Andrew Friedman has generally eschewed giving big contracts to older players in his career as an executive, though this could well change now that he runs a high-payroll team.
  • The Rockies are again in need of pitching reinforcements, and Nick Groke of the Denver Post wonders if the team could promote top prospect Jon GrayTroy Tulowitzki and Walt Weiss seem in favor of Gray coming to the bigs soon, though GM Jeff Bridich was more cautious.  “Jon Gray is doing a great job right now of learning lessons and evolving at the Triple-A level.  So there are things that he needs to do and will continue to do. And we’ll continue to exercise patience with him,” Bridich said.  Gray has a 4.88 ERA, 7.6 K/9 and a 2.45 K/BB rate in 90 1/3 Triple-A innings this season — respectable numbers in the very hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.

Nationals Place Stephen Strasburg On 15-Day DL

The Nationals have placed Stephen Strasburg on the 15-day disabled list with a left oblique strain, and recalled righty Taylor Jordan from Triple-A Syracuse to take his place, the club announced today.  Strasburg left his start yesterday after just 56 pitches due to discomfort in his left side.

The transaction continues what’s been a frustrating season for Strasburg, who’s already made one trip to the DL to recover from a strained left trapezius muscle and has also dealt with several other nagging injuries.  Strasburg has only pitched 61 innings in 2015 and his health issues have surely been a factor in his uncharacteristically high 5.16 ERA.  His peripheral numbers (9.3 K/9, 2.7 BB/9) and ERA indicators (3.55 FIP, 3.38 xFIP, 3.44 SIERA) suggest that Strasburg had pitched somewhat better than his ERA, which could also be explained by a .355 BABIP and a low 64.1% strand rate.  Since returning from his initial DL stint, Strasburg had looked much better, allowing just two runs and posting 18 strikeouts over 15 2/3 innings.

If Strasburg is able to make a quick recovery, there’s a chance he might technically not need to be replaced on the pitching staff.  Nats manager Matt Williams hinted that the team could simply employ a four-man rotation until the All-Star break since Washington has an off-day on Thursday.  If Strasburg is still on the DL once the second half resumes, Tanner Roark (who has already made six starts this year) will likely take his spot in the rotation.

It’s doubtful that Strasburg’s injury would lead to an external acquisition even if he did miss significant time.  Nationals starters have combined for a league-best 10.6 fWAR, with Roark and Joe Ross providing valuable depth behind Max Scherzer, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, Doug Fister and Strasburg.



New York Notes: Drew, Refsnyder, Lagares

Here’s the latest from both Big Apple teams…

  • Despite Stephen Drew‘s struggles, ESPN New York’s Andrew Marchand writes that the Yankes may not address second base in any major way at the trade deadline due to a lack of clear upgrades on the market.  Rob Refsnyder has shown defensive improvement at Triple-A and could be called up to supplant Jose Pirela, yet it’s possible Refsnyder himself could be trade bait; he has some prospect value but he isn’t one of the “top tier guys” in the Yankee farm system.
  • From that same piece, Marchand also notes that the Yankees aren’t likely to obtain an ace starter like Johnny Cueto or Cole Hamels “unless prices drop significantly.”
  • The Yankees are only a season and a half removed from handing more than $500MM in free agent contracts to Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Masahiro Tanaka, yet the early returns are still inconclusive at best, Marchand and Wallace Matthews write.  Beltran hasn’t shown much, McCann struggled in 2014 but has hit well this season, and Ellsbury and Tanaka have both looked good when healthy but still have injury question marks hanging over them.  While there’s still plenty of time for the quartet to live up to their big contracts, this uncertainty in the early years of their contracts (when each, save Beltran, should still be in or close to their primes) isn’t an encouraging sign.
  • The Mets have struggled badly against right-handed pitching this season, a problem that Joel Sherman of the New York Post blames on “front office negligence” and a “refusal to churn — to aggressively try to upgrade even marginally” for quality left-handed bench depth.  Juan Lagares has been particularly ineffective against righty pitching, and Sherman lists five players (Brock Holt, Gerardo Parra, David Peralta, Seth Smith and Will Venable) he feels would be good options as platoon partners with Lagares in center field.  Of that group, I highly doubt the Red Sox would deal the versatile Holt and Smith’s contract is likely too expensive for the Mets’ seemingly limited payroll.
  • If Mets GM Sandy Alderson is indeed “prepared to overpay” for a hitting upgrade, ESPN’s Buster Olney (via Twitter) wonders if the team could shop Zack Wheeler to an American League team.  The Mets already have a plethora of young rotation options and Wheeler could be seen as expendable.  An interested team would be making “a futures bet,” as Olney puts it, since Wheeler is out of action until roughly the middle of 2016 recovering from both Tommy John and tendon surgeries.

Outfield Prospect Jorge Ona Leaves Cuba

Jorge Ona, a 19-year-old outfielder from Cuba, has left the island to chase an MLB contract, Baseball America’s Ben Badler reports.  Despite not much playing time in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, Ona still ranked sixth on Baseball America’s list of the top 20 prospects still in Cuba (as of April) due to strong performances for the Cuba junior national leagues and in international tournaments.

Ona is a 6’2″, 192-pound right-handed hitter with “a quick, compact swing from the right side, plus raw power and a strong arm in right field.”  In a longer scouting report within that top-20 prospects piece (open to BA subscribers), Badler noted that Ona showed good athleticism in as a fielder and “showed a good approach [at the plate] for his age,” though “gauging plate discipline and pitch recognition can be difficult in a brief look.”  Badler projected Ona would be a first-round draft pick if he were eligible for the North American draft.

Ona’s lack of Serie Nacional experience and his age will make him subject to international draft pools, and since he was born after Sept. 1, 1995, he would have had to have registered by last May 15 to be eligible for the current international prospect class.  Ona therefore won’t be eligible to be signed until July 2, 2016, and since he’ll surely command more than a $300K bonus, that will eliminate a number of teams from his market.  The Angels, Blue Jays, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Giants, Rays, Red Sox and Yankees are all prohibited from spending more than $300K on any one player in the 2016-17 international signing period due to exceeding their spending pools in either of the last two signing periods.


White Sox Won’t Dismantle At Deadline

With a few weeks to go until the trade deadline, little is certain about what the White Sox will do.  Jeff Samardzija has a litany of possible suitors, but he and other trade chips could wind up staying put depending on how the Sox fare in the coming days.  No matter what happens, however, White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams told Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports that the team won’t be holding a fire sale.

It’s important that we not lose sight of what our organization goal was, and that was to give us the best three-year window. And we’re not going to abandon that completely with only three months to play,” Williams said.  “I think [Rick Hahn’s] done one hell of a job. Everyone wants to put the blame on [manager] Robin [Ventura], too, but all he can do is put the players in position to succeed. They’re the ones who have to look in the mirror and execute. If we do anything, it will be consistent with trying to maximize this three-year plan or window that we set out originally.”

After today’s loss to the Orioles, Chicago owns a 36-43 record and sits last in the AL Central, 10 games back of the first-place Royals and 5.5 games behind the last wild card spot.  It’s not an ideal spot by any stretch, yet given the crowded American League standings, the White Sox are just be a hot week or two away from being right back in the hunt.

While it may be a bit too early to start selling yet, Williams said he’s open to at least hearing any trade proposal.  Teams can even pitch trades for ace Chris Sale, but it’s extremely unlikely that anything will happen on that front.

We’ve always had that mind-set that we will listen to anyone who wants to make an offer for our players,” Williams said. “How else do you know what the value is? Something may bowl you over. But we can’t envision anything happening along those lines.”

While Sale is locked up on a team-friendly deal that could run through the 2019 season, Samardzija is a different story, as he’s set to hit free agency this winter.  Nightengale mentions that “every club with an urgent pitching need” has expressed an interest in Samardzija, and that the Blue Jays in particular have “strongly pursued” the righty.

If Samardzija signed an extension to remain on the south side, that would obviously change things.  “We just have to get some sort of indication it’s possible or not to sign him. We have to also see if it’s realistic given our resources and the other obligations we have,” Williams said.

That said, a midseason deal seems very unlikely with Samardzija so close to the open market.  While he stressed that “by no means does it take the White Sox off my list” if he hits free agency, Samardzija seemed eager to take control over his playing future.

I worked hard to get to this spot in free agency.  I just want to sign with a team that is competing every September with a chance to be playing in October,” Samardzija said.  “Look, I don’t hold bad blood or grudges against anybody. I understand how the business side works. Front offices have to do what they have to do. But I also need to protect myself and make sure I’m in a situation where I can win for a long time.”


NL Notes: Strasburg, Mozeliak, Boras, Fernandez

Stephen Strasburg left the mound during the fourth inning of today’s Giants/Nationals game with an injury in his left side.  The Nats ace wanted to keep pitching but “given his season, so far, I don’t want to take a chance there,” manager Matt Williams told reporters, including MLB.com’s Bill Ladson.  Strasburg has already had one extended DL stint to recover from a strained left trapezius and he’s been dealing with neck and back soreness all year, which has undoubtedly contributed to his 5.16 ERA over 61 innings (though an ungainly .365 BABIP also hasn’t helped).  Here’s the latest from around the senior circuit…

  • Cardinals GM John Mozeliak tells Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he’s targeting starting pitching depth and a left-handed bench bat.  While the Cards’ rotation has been one of the best in the game this season, it’s also a pretty young staff with some pitchers who have had checkered injury histories, so Mozeliak said he has to “be aware of the potential hazards” and that “my job is to make sure if it doesn’t last, then how do you answer it?
  • Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks the July 2 prospects already signed by the Cardinals (righty Alvaro Seijas and shortstop Raffy Ozuna, both 16 years old) and how the team has evolved its forays into the international market.
  • Scott Boras tells Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald that he sees no reason why the Marlins couldn’t afford to keep Jose Fernandez, even with Giancarlo Stanton already locked up on a historically large deal.  “With TV rights and the general fund contribution and everything — every club, before they sell a ticket, they’re making $120 million,” Boras said.  “There’s a lot of revenue in this game to pay a lot of players and keep players at home.”  The Marlins believes that Fernandez and Marcell Ozuna both declined to pursue extensions last winter under Boras’ advice, but the agent said that his players make those decisions.
  • Cubs president Theo Epstein cautioned that his team may not make any huge moves at the trade deadline, telling reporters (including Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune) that “if you look at the history of teams that go on and play in the World Series, very rarely is it (because of a) deadline deal.  We know what we’d like to do, but we’re realistic about what we might be able to do.”  Epstein also noted that some teams who are solely in the wild card hunt may not favor making a big push just to get into a one-game playoff; while he was “just speaking generally,” Epstein’s comments could relate to the Cubs themselves, who are 8.5 games back of the Cardinals in the NL Central.

AL West Notes: Wilhelmsen, Crane, Angels

The Mariners officially demoted Tom Wilhelmsen to Triple-A prior to today’s game in the wake of the right-hander’s recent struggles.  Wilhelmsen has been a fixture in Seattle’s bullpen for the last five seasons and served as closer prior to Fernando Rodney‘s acquisition, yet he had allowed nine runs over his last 6 2/3 innings of work (over seven games).  Wilhelmsen has a 4.68 ERA, 10.1 K/9 and 2.55 K/BB over 25 IP this season, though a .413 BABIP may explain why is ERA is so much higher than his indicators (2.68 FIP, 3.50 xFIP, 3.32 SIERA).  Here’s some more from around the AL West…

  • Astros owner Jim Crane tells MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart that GM Jeff Luhnow and his staff is “working hard” to find rotation help.  “If we can get the right move, I’m sure Jeff will pull the trigger.  He has the ability to do that if he wants to do it,” Crane said.  “It will depend on what kind of contract it is and how long it is and who it is and what we need, but I know it’s something a lot of teams are looking at right now.”
  • The conflict between Mike Scioscia’s coaching staff and Jerry Dipoto’s front office was “no clash of Ivy League nerds vs. old-school baseball men,” Grantland’s Jonah Keri writes.  Dipoto, assistant GM Scott Servais and pro scouting director Hal Morris were all long-time MLB veterans.  Keri suspects Servais could also soon leave the Angels given his issues with Scioscia and the coaches.  Keri’s piece outlines some of the disagreements between the Angels’ executives and coaches, including (as FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal initially reported earlier in the week) seemingly routine team matters as how scouting information was being presented to the players.
  • In other AL West news from earlier today, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported on some Angels/Brewers trade talks and speculation that Bud Black could be a favorite to be Anaheim’s new general manager.

Cafardo’s Latest: Revere, Kennedy, Hamels, Jays

The Angels were first linked to Ben Revere in trade rumors in May but the rumors almost became a reality.  Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports that the Phillies and Angels came close a few weeks ago on a trade that would’ve sent Revere to Anaheim for right-hander Trevor Gott.  The Phils thought the deal was done but the Halos “pulled out of the deal at the last minute and tried to redirect the Phillies toward a starting pitching prospect.”  Talks fell through after that.  Here’s some more from Cafardo’s weekly notes column, with a particular focus on news from Toronto…

  • Ian Kennedy has a 2.31 ERA over his last six starts and the Padres right-hander has begun to generate some trade interest in his services.  Kennedy had an ugly 7.15 ERA over his first eight starts and owns a 4.86 ERA for the season, though his peripherals (8.51 K/9, 3.04 K/BB rate, 3.74 xFIP, 3.70 SIERA) are are pretty solid, aside from a 22.1% homer rate that more than double his career average.  Kennedy is a free agent this winter and would be a natural trade chip for San Diego if the Friars decided to sell.
  • Cole Hamels has publicly said he’s willing to consider deals to any team but is reportedly unlikely to waive his no-trade clause if he’s dealt to the Astros or Blue Jays.  Cafardo wonders if Hamels would remain adamant against a move to Houston or Toronto, however, if those were the only deals on the table and his only avenues away from the rebuilding Phillies.
  • Attracting free agents north of the border has long been an issue for the Blue Jays, as Cafardo cites higher taxes, customs delays and the Rogers Centre’s artificial surface as factors that can sometimes make Toronto a tough sell.  (Josh Donaldson and Jose Reyes both praised their city, though Reyes admitted he isn’t a fan of the turf.)  The bigger problem for the Jays, however, is that they have barely contended since their last playoff appearance in 1993.  “It just seems GM Alex Anthopoulos has to go through corporate layers to OK big expenditures, slowing the process considerably,” Cafardo writes.  “Players always want to know that their ownership is doing all it can to produce a winner.”
  • Braves closer Jason Grilli is one of the Blue Jays‘ targets as the team looks for bullpen help.  Grilli would cost less in both salary and trade chips than Jonathan Papelbon or Francisco Rodriguez, two closers who have also been connected to the Jays this summer.  Atlanta isn’t yet looking to move Grilli, however, as the team is still in the race.
  • Other have asked the Blue Jays about several players in trade talks, including young talent like Miguel Castro, Daniel Norris, Roberto Osuna, Kevin Pillar, Dalton Pompey, Aaron Sanchez and Devon Travis.
  • “Every indication is that” R.A. Dickey is in his last year with the Blue Jays, as the team will either use their $1MM buyout of Dickey’s $12MM club option for 2016 or Dickey may just retire.  The 40-year-old knuckleballer had a tough start today against the Tigers and now owns a 5.02 ERA over 107 2/3 innings this season.
  • Jeff Samardzija “may be the first starting pitcher moved ahead of the trading deadline” since “scouts are constantly at his games,” Cafardo writes.  The White Sox aren’t ready to start selling yet, but they’ll find a strong market for Samardzija’s services that includes the Royals, Astros and Tigers.  (Cafardo cited several more teams in the Samardzija market in his column last week.
  • Nobody knows what the Red Sox are going to do because they don’t know what they’re going to do,” one NL executive said.  Boston has played modestly better as of late, winning 10 of its last 16 games, though the Sox are still just 38-45 on the season.  Koji Uehara is cited by the executive as one of “a few players teams would want” if the Red Sox decided to start selling.  The team is known to be looking for young pitching on the trade market.

Minor MLB Transactions: 7/4/15

Here are today’s minor moves from around the game.

  • Righty Ben Rowen has opted out of his contract with the Orioles and is now a free agent, MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski reports (via Twitter).  Rowen’s contract gave him the option of opting out if he wasn’t on the team’s MLB roster by July 1.  Rowen has a 2.41 ERA, 24 strikeouts and six walks over 37 1/3 Triple-A relief innings this season, and he appeared eight big league games with Texas in 2014.
  • Earlier this week, the Twins signed veteran righty Scott Atchison to a minor league contract, according to MLB.com’s official transactions page.  Atchison his the open market last week when he was released by the Indians.  Atchison posted a 6.86 ERA, 5.5 K/9 and a 3:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 19 2/3 innings out of Cleveland’s bullpen this season, though with strong numbers in 2011-14, it’s a no-risk signing by the Twins to see if Atchison can regain his form.
  • Reliever Ronald Belisario, who was recently outrighted by the Rays, has cleared waivers and elected to become a free agent, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. The Rays recently designated Belisario for assignment after he allowed seven runs in eight innings in a brief stint with the team covering two weeks in late June.
  • The Mariners have outrighted outfielder Julio Morban, MLB.com’s Greg Johns tweets. The move clears a spot on the Mariners’ 40-man roster, which now stands at 39. Morban, 23, had a pair of strong seasons in 2012 at Class A+ High Desert and in 2013 at Double-A Jackson. He has struggled with injury throughout his career, however, and his performance has tailed off significantly in the past two seasons. He only recently returned from a two-month stay on the restricted list due to personal reasons.
  • The Mariners have released righty Justin Germano and lefty Rafael Perez, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports. Both of them had out clauses. Germano confirms (via Twitter) that he will head to Korea to pitch with the KT Wiz. The 32-year-old was in the midst of a good season for Triple-A Tacoma, with a 2.83 ERA, 6.6 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 in 89 innings. The 33-year-old Perez had been on loan to Quintana Roo in the Mexican League and had not actually pitched in the Mariners system.
  • The Rangers have traded outfielder Jake Skole to the Yankees for cash, FOX Sports Southwest’s Anthony Andro tweets. Skole, the 15th overall pick in the 2010 draft, was hitting .218/.313/.335 for Double-A Frisco, consistent with his walk-heavy but generally unimpressive offensive performances throughout the minor league career.
  • Andy Oliver has opted out of his minor league deal with the Rays, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. The 27-year-old Oliver has good stuff, particularly for a lefty, but has struggled with control problems throughout his career. He had a 3.86 ERA and 10.3 K/9 but with 7.7 BB/9 in 28 innings for Triple-A Durham. The Phillies took him in the Rule 5 Draft last winter, but he elected free agency after they outrighted him in April.
  • The Giants have signed outfielder Xavier Avery to a minor league deal, Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News tweets. The 25-year-old Avery opted out of his deal with the Tigers this week after hitting .305/.371/.393 for Triple-A Toledo. The Giants have assigned him to Triple-A Sacramento.
  • The Orioles have signed Cuban first baseman Yaisel Mederos, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko tweets. The 25-year-old Mederos hit .268/.343/.402 in parts of four seasons in Cuba’s Serie Nacional. He only hit 12 home runs in 531 plate appearances, although Kubatko notes that Mederos has power potential.