Billy Buckner Rumors

Minor Moves: Wagner, Angels, Rhymes, Wood

Some minor league deals from around the baseball world…

  • The Blue Jays have signed right-hander Neil Wagner to a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training, MLBTR has learned.  Wagner has a 3.77 ERA, 2.95 K:BB ratio and 10.2 K/9 rate in 312 career minor league relief appearances in the Padres, A's, and Indians' systems, plus pitched five Major League innings with Oakland in 2011.
  • The Angels signed Billy Buckner, Luke Carlin, Brendan Harris, Trent Oeltjen, Jo-Jo Reyes and J.B. Shuck to minor league contracts with invites to the Major League Spring Training camp, reports's Alden Gonzalez.
  • The Nationals have signed infielder Will Rhymes to a minor league contract with a Spring Training invite, reports the Beverly Hills Sports Council's Twitter page.  (Rhymes is represented by the BHSC.)  Rhymes was designated for assignment by Tampa Bay in September and has a .266/.328/.343 line in 449 career plate appearances over three seasons with the Tigers and Rays.
  • Matt Eddy of Baseball America recaps the week's minor league transactions, including news of Brandon Wood signing a minor league deal with the Royals.  Wood, the former Angels third baseman who was once considered one of the top prospects in the game, last appeared in the Majors with the Pirates in 2011 and posted a .722 OPS for the Rockies' Triple-A team in 2012.

Minor Moves: Red Sox, Cubs, Rockies, Nationals

We'll keep track of today's minor moves here…

  • Right-hander Scott Atchison signed a minor league contract with the Red Sox after being removed from the 40-man roster and clearing waivers, according to Matt Eddy of Baseball America.
  • The Cubs signed left-hander Nate Robertson to a minor league deal, Eddy writes.  Robertson had a 7.14 ERA with 5.3 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 in 18 starts with the Mariners' Triple-A affiliate last season.
  • The Rockies signed left-handed pitcher Royce Ring, according to Eddy.  The former first-round pick saw time in the majors for four different clubs between 2005-2010.  Ring spent time with the Triple-A affiliates for Seattle and Boston last season.
  • The Nationals signed right-hander Mike Schultz, who has one big league inning to his credit from his time with Arizona in 2007.  The 32-year-old has been pitching well in Japan for the last four years, posting a 2.55 ERA with 7.5 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9.
  • MLBTR has learned that the Orioles signed catcher Josh Johnson.  The 29-year-old played the last three years in the Atlantic League but prior to that spent time with the Rays and Astros Triple-A affiliates.
  • The Red Sox signed right-handed pitchers Garrett Mock and Billy Buckner to minor league deals and will report to minor league camp, an industry source tells Alex Speier of  Mock, 28, was once considered a top pitching prospect by Washington but strugged in 2011 as he posted a 6.39 ERA with 9.3 K/9 and 5.3 BB/9.  Buckner, meanwhile, made 21 starts and two relief appearances for the Rockies' Triple-A affiliate in 2011. 
  • The Dodgers signed right-hander Blake Johnson and shortstop Brandon Mims to minor league deals following this week's open tryout, Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times tweets. Johnson spent the 2011 season in the upper minors with the Royals and Rockies, posting a 5.59 ERA in 77 1/3 innings. Mims, 19, was the Blue Jays' ninth round selection in 2010.
  • The Orioles signed 27-year-old Mexican pitcher Miguel Gonzalez to a minor league deal, the pitcher told Fernando Ballesteros at Puro Béisbol (link in Spanish). Gonzalez posted decent strikeout rates across three levels in the Red Sox system last year after two years away from the minors. He told Ballesteros he will start off at Triple-A for the Orioles. 

Rockies Sign Billy Buckner

The Rockies signed righty Billy Buckner to a minor league deal with a spring training invite, reports's Thomas Harding.

Buckner, 27, came up through the Royals' system and was traded to Arizona in '07 for Alberto Callaspo.  This year, the D'Backs sent Buckner to the Tigers for Dontrelle Willis, but Detroit released him less than two months later.  In 2010 the former second-rounder posted a 6.25 ERA, 5.4 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, and 1.1 HR/9 in 80 2/3 innings across two Triple-A stops.

Heading into the '09 season, Baseball America ranked Buckner eighth among D'Backs prospects.  At that time, they suggested Buckner had "the weapons to pitch in the middle of a rotation."  Today, Rockies player development director Marc Gustafson told Harding, "We've seen a lot of him, and he's a hard worker and he still has some upside as a prospect."

Hard work will indeed be required for Buckner to get starts for the 2011 Rockies.  Their rotation seems locked in with Ubaldo Jimenez, Jorge de la Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin, Jason Hammel, and Aaron Cook, while Felipe Paulino, Esmil Rogers, and Eric Stults are back-end candidates as well.

Tigers Designate Fien, Release Buckner

To make room for Jeff Larish and Will Rhymes on their 40-man roster, the Tigers have designated Casey Fien for assignment and released Billy Buckner, according to the team's official Twitter feed. The club also placed Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen on the disabled list.

For Fien, it's his second DFA by the Tigers this year, though he spent time with the Red Sox and Blue Jays since the last time Detroit designated him for assignment. He appeared in just two games for the Tigers this year, allowing three runs in 2.2 IP.

Buckner, meanwhile, came to Detroit from Arizona in the Dontrelle Willis trade and struggled with the team's Triple-A affiliate. In 37.1 IP for Toledo, the right-hander posted a 9.40 ERA.

D’Backs Acquire Dontrelle Willis For Billy Buckner

It’s a new beginning for Dontrelle Willis, who returns to the league he once thrived in.  And it’s an attempt to restore order by the Diamondbacks, who have allowed more runs than any NL team and are in the midst of an eight-game losing streak. Today the D’Backs announced that they have acquired Willis and cash from the Tigers for Billy Buckner.

There's about $8MM remaining on Willis' salary and the Tigers will pay all of it, except the pro-rated portion of the major league minimum. Buckner, a 26-year-old righty who started three games for Arizona this year, will begin his Tigers career in Triple A, according to the team. Buckner allowed 26 hits in 13 big league innings this year, striking out 11 and walking five. The former second rounder pitched better in Triple A, posting a 3.53 ERA with 5.6 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9.

Ed Price of AOL FanHouse first reported the deal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports confirmed it (via Twitter). Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reported that Buckner was in the deal (via Twitter) and Jon Heyman of reported how much cash was changing hands (via Twitter).

As many as four teams had some interest in the 28-year-old Willis, according to Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post. The Tigers designated Willis for assignment Saturday.

Diamondbacks Set To Add Payroll, Says CEO

TUESDAY 3:41pm: D-Backs' managing general partner Ken Kendrick says the payroll will likely increase to north of $75MM next year, according to's Steve Gilbert. The payroll in 2009 was appoximately $73.5MM.

"We definitely have more than $10 million to spend in the market," Kendrick said. "There are other moves that we may make that could change the money landscape that have yet to be determined."

MONDAY 6:54pm: Arizona Diamondbacks President and CEO Derrick Hall said his team is "definitely adding to the payroll" during a web chat on Monday.

Hall weighed in on a huge number of issues, including:

  • He wants to look at free agent starting pitchers, relievers, and a bench player. He expects most acquisitions to come through trades.
  • He believes both Juan Gutierrez and Esmerling Vasquez can pitch the sixth, seventh or eighth innings next season.
  • Only Brandon Webb, Dan Haren and Max Scherzer are guaranteed rotation spots in 2010. Billy Buckner, Kevin Mulvey, and possibly free agents could also be in the mix.
  • Stephen Drew "would be too tough to replace if we ever moved him."

Check out the full discussion. This is a great example of a team using new media to connect to fans.

Waivers Possible For Nippert, Medders?

The Diamondbacks are facing too much of a good thing this spring, with five relievers competing for just one remaining spot in the bullpen.

Righthander Dustin Nippert was the frontrunner, but has stumbled in Spring Training. Strong performances by young throwers Billy Buckner, Juan Gutierrez, and Yusmeiro Petit have also complicated the situation, as each has made a strong case for his inclusion on the big-league roster. However, Nippert and fellow righty Brandon Medders have both been with the team for three years, and are out of minor league options. If the Diamondbacks leave them off the roster, they’ll hit the waiver wire.

One thought is that if Randy Johnson isn’t ready to go, his absence will leave a second slot open for a pitcher. However, that could still leave Medders and Nippert disappointed.

Sarah Green writes for the Boston Metro and; she can be reached here.

Dutton On The Buckner/Callaspo Trade

Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star recently snagged our Rumor Royalty honor for the Royals.  It’s a way to acknowledge the best beat writer for each team, the person who brings us the most hot stove material.  I do a Q&A with each writer, if they’re willing.  Click here and scroll to see all the entries in the Rumor Royalty series.

MLBTR: Do you think swapping a solid-looking starter in Billy Buckner for a young second baseman in Alberto Callaspo was a wise move by Dayton Moore?

Dutton: I think it was a reasonable gamble — but it was a gamble, no question about it. Callaspo’s off-field problems are well-documented, but he’ll get a new slate in Kansas City.

The Royals’ reasoning was this: They have no long-term replacement for second baseman Mark Grudzielanek, who turns 38 at the end of June. Esteban German is a top utilityman but his production tends to fall off when given regular duty.  Callaspo was a top prospect throughout his minor-league career.

The Royals also believe Buckner tops out as a No. 4 starter. I’ve got to say that I didn’t see much in his limited big-league time, but I mean that in both ways. His stuff didn’t particularly impress me, but I really didn’t see him pitch a lot. Some folks I respect think he’s got a real chance.

From Arizona’s view, put Buckner on a young, talented team in a rotation that includes Webb, Haren and, probably, Johnson, and there’s a chance he really blossoms. Also, the D-Backs don’t need Callaspo even if he wasn’t a headache.

The question for the Royals, however, is whether it’s worth trading a young, back-of-the-rotation starter for a young second baseman with high-end potential. If you need a second baseman, I think it’s a no-brainer — until you factor in that the second baseman brings some baggage. That baggage makes it a gamble.

Royals Acquire Alberto Callaspo

Interesting move today, as the Royals sent 24 year-old minor league starter Billy Buckner to the Diamondbacks for 24 year-old second baseman Alberto Callaspo.

Buckner, a labrum surgery survivor, has a plus curveball according to Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein.  Goldstein adds that he’s able to get groundballs and projects as a fourth starter.  Throw him in the NL, maybe he could even become a #3.

Callaspo is one of the better second base prospects out there, but keep in mind that good prospects rarely come up at that position.  He almost never whiffs, and plays strong defense.  The high contact approach led to a .341 average in Triple A this year.  That the D’Backs shipped him off could imply they want to sign Orlando Hudson long-term.  Perhaps Callaspo’s off-field indiscretions played into the decision.  At any rate he’s a nice addition for the Royals.