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Brent Morel Rumors
We’ve got some catching up to do on the minor moves front after a busy couple of days:
- Reds outfielder/first baseman Chris Dominguez has cleared outright waivers and been assigned to Triple-A, John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets. Dominguez has seen short big league stints in each of the past two seasons, but the 28-year-old has played mostly in the upper minors. He owns a .216/.264/.368 slash over 221 plate appearances on the year at Louisville.
- The Pirates outrighted infielder Steve Lombardozzi to Triple-A after recently designating him for assignment, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (via Twitter). Following two seasons as a significant utility piece for the Nationals, Lombardozzi has received only 85 big league plate appearances over the 2014-15 campaigns. He owns a .303/.362/.352 slash in his 291 turns at bat for Triple-A Indianapolis.
- After he, too, cleared waivers, Pirates third baseman Brent Morel elected free agency, per Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Twitter link). The 28-year-old has spent at least some time in the big leagues in every season since 2010, putting up a .601 OPS in 712 plate appearances. In 326 times coming to bat at Triple-A this year, he owns a .266/.322/.441 batting line.
- As expected, Astros outfielder Alex Presley has accepted an outright assignment with the organization, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports on Twitter. He previously agreed to an outright assignment in order to preserve his $1MM arbitration salary, and chose to do the same once again.
- The Mariners acquired righty J.C. Ramirez from the Diamondbacks, Seattle announced. Ramirez, 26, made it up to the big leagues for the second time this year, throwing 15 1/3 innings of 4.11 ERA ball from the Arizona pen. He’ll return to his first professional team, which shipped him to the Phillies in the 2009 Cliff Lee trade.
The Pirates have designated third baseman Brent Morel for assignment, MLB.com’s Adam Berry tweets. The move clears space on the Pirates’ active roster for fellow third baseman Aramis Ramirez. The Pirates’ 40-man roster now stands at 39, since the Pirates already designated Steve Lombardozzi to clear space for Ramirez on their 40-man roster, but Morel was out of options, so the Bucs could not merely send him back to the minors.
The 28-year-old Morel is a good defensive corner infielder but a weak hitter, as his career .227/.273/.328 line in the big leagues suggests. Morel was hitting .266/.322/.441 in 326 plate appearances for Triple-A Indianapolis before being pressed into duty in Pittsburgh thanks to injuries to infielders Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer.
The Pirates announced today that shortstop Jordy Mercer has been placed on the disabled list with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee as well as a lower leg contusion. The injury, which comes with a recovery time of approximately six weeks, per the team, was sustained on a controversial takeout slide (video link) by Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez.
The loss of Mercer further depletes Pittsburgh’s infield depth. Starting third baseman Josh Harrison is already on the shelf for up to six more weeks with a torn ligament in his thumb, which has caused offseason pickup Jung Ho Kang to shift into a full-time role at the hot corner. Presumably, Kang will now take over as the club’s shortstop, with Morel playing third base. As Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review tweets, acquiring a right field upgrade probably becomes a luxury for the Pirates, with the focus shifting to a third base upgrade.
The list of third base candidates believed to be available is relatively limited, with Aramis Ramirez from Milwaukee standing out as the most oft-mentioned possibility. Atlanta’s Chris Johnson, of course, is available, though his contract has stood as a significant road block. His Braves teammate, Kelly Johnson, is a versatile bat that could potentially play some third base in the short term. Utility options such as Cliff Pennington and Clint Barmes, who was with the Pirates from 2012-14, could potentially be acquired to step in at shortstop, with Kang remaining at third base.
Pirates infielder Jordy Mercer was injured by a take out slide while turning a double play earlier today. The extent of the injury is unknown. The Pirates may activate utility infielder Brent Morel if Mercer misses more than a few days, writes Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The club is already carrying a short bench, and none of the three healthy players have experience at third base. Morel was pulled from his Triple-A start today. The Pirates 40-man roster is full, so activating Morel will require a roster move.
- Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter) heard that the Reds did not want to trade Johnny Cueto last month because they feared having to watch him pitch for another team in the All-Star Game. Of course, Cueto was not named an All-Star and he remains a member of the Reds as of this writing.
- The Orioles are among the teams scouting the Reds, tweets Morosi. They’re most interested in Cueto and outfielder Jay Bruce. Cueto is a free agent after the season, but Bruce is under contract through 2016 for $12.5MM with a $13MM ($1MM buyout) for 2017.
- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle acknowledged the challenges Pedro Alvarez is having in his first season at first base, but he told reporters, including Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, that he’s not about to lobby GM Neal Huntington to make a move. “I think our [GM] knows as well as I do what we’re looking to identify as strengths and weaknesses on our club,” Hurdle said. “We will do everything we can to fortify and make our club better. I’m not a fan of saying OK, we need A, B and C when A, B and C are out there [in the clubhouse].”
- Justin Upton was pulled out of today’s game early, but it wasn’t a sign of an impending trade as many speculated. The Padres simply had a muscle tighten up on him in the middle of today’s contest and he was pulled from the game as a precaution due to weather, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets.
Several players were outrighted off of 40-man rosters today to clear space for players who needed to be protected from the Rule 5 draft:
- The Astros outrighted righty Anthony Bass, the club announced. Bass, 27, has seen his ERA rise over each of the last four years, and he suffered in 2014 from a sudden inability to miss bats.
- Right-handed reliever Ryan Mattheus was outrighted by the Nationals, also per the club. Mattheus has elected free agency. Though he has been effective in long stretches at times in D.C., Mattheus never regained his place in the bullpen after breaking his hand last May. The 31-year-old, out-of-options righty should certainly find a club willing to give him a chance to earn a job out of camp.
- The Mets announced that Jeff Walters has been removed from the 40-man. A 27-year-old right-hander, Walters has yet to see MLB action. He struggled mightily in 2014, his first attempt at Triple-A, and ultimately was diagnosed with a torn UCL that required Tommy John surgery.
- The Pirates announced that infielder Brent Morel has been outrighted. Morel has seen relatively scant MLB time since a run with the White Sox in 2011. Last year, at Triple-A, he slashed .271/.335/.375 over 376 plate appearances.
The Pirates claimed Brent Morel off waivers because they felt they needed a better "Plan B" in the event of an injury to Pedro Alvarez, manager Clint Hurdle told Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Pittsburgh has been following Morel since 2011 and had interest in him when he was placed on waivers in December, writes Brink. Toronto claimed him then, but Pittsburgh got their second chance this week and claimed him based on his solid defense, hands and power, said Hurdle. Morel told Brink that he's thankful for the opportunity and that, as a Steelers fan, he's excited to play in Pittsburgh.
A few more NL Central links as we await the start of the weekend…
- Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija told Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times that trade talks don't bother him, but instead simply put a chip on his shoulder when he pitches. Wittenmyer writes that the Blue Jays and D'Backs have shown interest in Samardzija this winter, and an executive from a third team called the 29-year-old a "monster in the making." Samardzija is used to pitching in front of scouts for numerous other clubs and simply smiled as he told Wittenmyer, "You want to put on a good show for them."
- ESPNChicago.com's Jesse Rogers took a look at the scenarios to watch in Cubs camp during Spring Training yesterday, most notably wondering if February pickup Emilio Bonifacio can supplant Darwin Barney at second base. He also examined whether or not July 2013 acquisition Mike Olt can recover from his vision issues and take the third base job from Luis Valbuena and Donnie Murphy.
- Michael Lorenzen was a two-way player when the Reds selected him 38th overall in last year's draft, having served as an outfielder and closer for Cal State Fullerton. In a piece for Baseball America, C. Trent Rosencrans reported that the Reds have told Lorenzen he will focus on pitching, and not only that, but they value him as a starting pitcher. Lorenzen sounded pleased with the decision and has already been talking with college-closer-turned-starter Tony Cingrani in Spring Training. "I’m picking his brain," Lorenzen told Rosencrans. "We’ve been in the same situation as a college guy moving quick. He’s been really good with me."
The Pirates announced that they have claimed infielder Brent Morel off waivers from the Blue Jays. Toronto designated Morel for assignment last week after claiming right-hander Liam Hendriks off waivers from the Orioles. Pittsburgh will announce a corresponding 40-man roster move later today, according to a team press release.
Morel cracked Baseball America's Top 100 list as a White Sox farmhand prior to the 2011 season but has slashed just .229/.276/.333 batting line in 669 Major League plate appearances. A bulging disk in his back has played a large part in the offense decline for the 26-year-old, who in 2010 batted .322/.359/.480 across two minor league levels. He's drawn praise for his glove at third base, though Toronto was reportedly going to use him at second base.
The 25-year-old Hendriks has been unable to put it together in three Major League stints, as evidenced by his bloated 6.06 ERA in 156 innings. He's averaged 5.8 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in those 156 frames to go along with a below-average 40.4 percent ground-ball rate.
However, the Australian hurler was once a well-regarded prospect in the Twins system, ranking sixth and seventh on the Baseball America's Top 10 Twins prospects lists from 2010-11. Hendriks has a 3.61 ERA with 6.2 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in 254 career innings at Triple-A and a career 2.99 ERA in the minors as a whole. He's been claimed off waivers by the Cubs and Orioles already this offseason, making the Blue Jays his fourth organization since being designated for assignment by Minnesota.
As for Morel, he too is a former AL Central top prospect. Morel cracked Baseball America's Top 100 list as a White Sox farmhand prior to the 2011 season but has slashed just .229/.276/.333 batting line in 669 Major League plate appearances. A bulging disk in his back has played a large part in the offense decline for the 26-year-old, who in 2010 batted .322/.359/.480 across two minor league levels. He's drawn praise for his glove at third base, though Toronto was reportedly going to use him at second base.
Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio said on MLBN's Inside Pitch show today that the Blue Jays expect to land one of Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez (Twitter link from MLB Network Radio). While Toronto has yet to make a formal offer to either right-hander, the team has had discussions with each former AL Central hurler's camp. More from around the league…
- Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com writes that the Dodgers' lack of infield depth could be troubling when the season gets underway. Of particular concern is Cuban signee Alexander Guerrero, who could struggle with the transition from shortstop to second base. The Dodgers have little in the way of alternatives, with Chone Figgins, Dee Gordon and light-hitting Miguel Rojas as the primary in-house candidates. Saxon also wonders how many games Hanley Ramirez can stay healthy for, and asks if the Dodgers are relying too heavily on Juan Uribe.
- JJ Stankevitz of CSN Chicago looks at the savvy scouting of Joe Siers and Daraka Shaheed of the White Sox — the two scouts who pushed the team to pluck lefty Jose Quintana off the scrap heap following his release from the Yankees organization. General manager Rick Hahn wasn't shy about his praise for Quintana, who he feels has exceeded expectations and become a strong No. 2 starter behind Chris Sale. "He doesn't have to improve in my book," Hahn said. "If he does, fantastic. He certainly has the aptitude and athleticism and now the knowledge of the league that it's not unrealistic to expect the improvement. …if he's this guy for the next several years we'll be very happy."
- The Blue Jays will move waiver claim Brent Morel from third base to second base, Morel told Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com (Twitter link). Toronto claimed the former White Sox top prospect off waivers earlier this year. The move isn't all that surprising given Toronto's lack of depth at the keystone.
- Bowden writes (Insider subscription required) that Athletics GM Billy Beane and Rays GM Andrew Friedman are the GM stars of the offseason. While Yankees GM Brian Cashman spent the most money, and Rangers GM Jon Daniels made the second-most noise with acquisitions of Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo, Bowden feels that the two small-market GMs shined above all others. In particular, he praises Beane's stockpiling of elite bullpen arms and Friedman's decision to resist the pressure to deal David Price.
The Blue Jays have claimed third baseman Brent Morel off waivers from the White Sox, according to Toronto's transactions page. The loss of Morel will create a 40-man roster spot for left-hander Eric Surkamp, who was claimed by the White Sox earlier this afternoon.
The 26-year-old Morel has a career .229/.276/.333 batting line in 669 Major League plate appearances with the White Sox. Heading into the 2011 season, Baseball America ranked Morel second among White Sox prospects and 85th in all of baseball, praising his quick line-drive swing and calling him an intelligent defender with a quick first step. His offense has tanked since that time, however, as he's batted just .248/.323/.373 in 608 minor league plate appearances over the past two years. A bulging disc in his back in 2012 likely played a large role in that offensive decline.
The writing was on the wall for Morel after a marginal season at the plate and Chicago's acquisition of the much younger Matt Davidson in last week's trade with the Diamondbacks.