Carlos Villanueva Rumors

Added To The 40-Man Roster: Monday

With teams making decisions on the final piece of their Opening Day rosters, especially regarding Article XX(B) players, we’ll keep tabs on the day’s moves to add non-roster invitees to the 40-man.

Right-handed relievers, somewhat unsurprisingly, dominate today’s news in this arena:

  • Lefty specialist Joe Thatcher has been added to the Astros‘ 40-man roster, Rosenthal reports on Twitter. The Article XX(B) veteran will receive a $1MM salary and can add an additional $1.3MM through incentives. If he can return to form, Thatcher could be quite a nice addition to a Houston pen that was an area targeted heavily for upgrades this offseason.
  • Fellow non-roster invitee Roberto Hernandez will also make the club, the Astros have announced. As MLBTR originally reported, Hernandez will earn $2.65MM on the year. The 34-year-old joined the fold in Houston late in the spring, but provides a sturdy and versatile presence as the club seeks to take the next step this year.

Earlier Updates

  • The Twins have announced that righty Blaine Boyer is now a member of the team’s major league roster. Boyer’s deal will pay him $750K at the big league level and includes up to $100K in incentives tied to appearances, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets. MLBTR’s Zach Links recently spoke with Boyer about his interesting professional journey.
  • Likewise, right-handed Carlos Villanueva has been added to the Cardinals‘ 40-man roster, the club announced. That means that the veteran swingman will be entitled to a $2MM salary this year with St. Louis. Villanueva, 31, has racked up 863 2/3 MLB innings in 76 starts and over 300 relief appearances. Though he had only a 4.64 ERA last year with the Cubs, Villanueva’s peripherals earned him strong marks from ERA estimators.
  • The Indians have informed righty Anthony Swarzak that he will make the pen, Phil Miller of the Star Tribune tweets. Though it does not appear he has been officially added to the 40-man, that will need to occur. The 29-year-old has a 4.48 career ERA in 439 2/3 frames at the major league level, most of them coming from the pen. Swarzak will take home a $900K salary and can earn up to $350K in incentives.
  • Similarly, the Cubs have told southpaw Phil Coke that he will be on the club, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets. Coke had exercised his opt-out clause on Friday when he was not added to the 40-man at that time, says Rosenthal. Now, it appears he will receive the $2.25MM (and up to $900K in bonuses) that his deal allows; indeed, the team has now announced that his contract was selected.

NL Notes: Bryant, Garcia, Villanueva, Nats, Mets

The Cubs‘ impending decision about whether to have Kris Bryant start the season in the minors has players around baseball talking about service-time rules, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune writes in a story that collects responses to Bryant’s situation from players from several teams. “Hey, we have a chance to make a lot of money in this game, but the rules are the rules,” says Yankees reliever Andrew Miller. “If that works in the Cubs favor, and the Cubs are a better team for that, they’re entitled to (use the rule to their favor). We negotiated that. It’s the reality of what our collective bargaining agreement says.” Here’s more from the National League.

  • Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia will miss his start due to a shoulder issue, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports. Garcia likely will not be in the team’s Opening Day rotation. Garcia had impressed the team in camp and might well have made the Cardinals’ rotation, particularly since having him start rather than Marco Gonzales or Carlos Martinez would have been the best way for the Cards to protect their assets — they could have easily just optioned Gonzales to the minors, put Martinez in the bullpen and kept all three pitchers. Instead, it’s yet another injury for Garcia, who’s dealt with plenty of them in the past few seasons. There is, however, reason to hope it won’t be serious — GM John Mozeliak (via Langosch on Twitter) characterizes the injury as fatigue and the missed start as “more of a pause than anything.”
  • Pitcher Carlos Villanueva, who’s on a minor-league deal with the Cardinals, can opt out of that deal Monday, Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch notes (via Twitter). Villanueva has gotten fairly good results in camp and has a track record of providing solid performances in a swingman role, so the Cardinals could try to find space for him on their roster.
  • Intentionally or not, the Nationals, who have lefty relievers available, gave the lefty-starved Mets a look at Jerry Blevins Saturday, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. (Blevins struck out Curtis Granderson but gave up a triple to Lucas Duda.) The Nationals have Blevins, along with Xavier Cedeno and Matt Thornton, and all are out of options, so they could end up trading one.

Cardinals To Sign Carlos Villanueva To Minors Deal

FEBRUARY 24th: Villanueva will earn $2MM if he reaches the majors, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter).

FEBRUARY 4th: The Cardinals have reached a minor league pact with righty Carlos Villanueva, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports on Twitter. Villanueva will receive an invitation to big league camp.

The 31-year-old swingman spent the past two seasons with the Cubs, working to a cumulative 4.27 ERA over 206 1/3 innings (including twenty starts) with 7.6 K/9 against 2.6 BB/9. Though he was hit hard when working from the rotation last year, Villanueva held opposing hitters to a .226/.284/.364 slash in 237 plate appearances when pitching from the bullpen.

Villanueva looks to be a solid depth addition to a Cardinals staff that has plenty of talent, but also some important questions. It seems unlikely that he will crack the rotation out of camp, but could have a reasonable claim to a long-man/spot-starter role.



NL Central Notes: Villanueva, Castillo, Leake, Kang

Carlos Villanueva had hoped to throw in a different division before he was contacted by the Cardinals, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. After spending seven of his nine seasons with NL Central teams, Villanueva will look to take a swingman role with St. Louis. Though Villanueva was given no guarantees, Goold says that the club targeted him with hopes he would earn a pen/spot starter slot in camp.

Here are some notes from the rest of the division:

  • The time for Welington Castillo with the Cubs is up, says Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Though the backstop has said he still hopes to compete for a job, multi-year commitments to Miguel Montero and David Ross make that exceedingly unlikely. Chicago has continued to discuss trades — and had already started doing so even before dealing for Montero — with the Phillies among the teams in talks, per Wittenmyer. Castillo certainly seems to be bringing a good attitude with him to camp, but the report indicates that Chicago is mostly just waiting for the market to open up.
  • Righty Mike Leake, who’ll qualify for free agency after the season, said he would be interested in exploring an extension but that the club has not approached him, MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reports“I’ll be happy to stay in Cincinnati, but I’d also be happy to go to free agency,” he said. “I’d like for them to show interest. They haven’t yet. If they don’t have interest, they don’t have interest.”
  • It’s all reading tea leaves at this point, but Pirates manager Clint Hurdle gave no indication in early spring comments that Jung-ho Kang is being groomed as an eventual replacement for second baseman Neil Walker, MLB.com’s Tom Singer reports. Per Hurdle, Kang “will get reps at short and third, positions he has played, then maybe second.” While Kang’s potential versatility — like that of Josh Harrison — could well impact the team’s plans for the increasingly-pricey Walker, it seems most likely that Pittsburgh will allow circumstances to dictate how things proceed.
  • Of course, Kang has a significant period of transition in store, on and off the field. Global Sporting Integration discusses that and provides an audio link to the proper pronunciation of the Korean star’s name.

Cubs Notes: Schierholtz, Russell, Gregg, Villanueva

The Cubs have plenty of trade chips remaining, but time is running out to deal them as tomorrow's 4pm ET deadline looms. Here's the latest…

  • The Pirates remain interested in Nate Schierholtz, writes Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com. Concerns surrounding his shoulder cause the Bucs to switch gears to Alex Rios a few weeks back, but Schierholtz has demonstrated his health with strong play of late. Earlier today, Buster Olney of ESPN tweeted that Schierholtz is likely to be traded.
  • Levine also reports that James Russell was nearly acquired by the Braves last week, and he's now drawing interest from the Reds. The Braves have since acquired Scott Downs to fill the left-handed void in their bullpen.  Russell had a rough outing in the first game of today's doubleheader, allowing a three-run home run to Khris Davis plus two other hits and a free pass.
  • Schierholtz and Kevin Gregg are the two Cubs most likely to be dealt prior to tomorrow's deadline, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Time reports. The Pirates and Tigers are scouting the Cubs' series with the Brewers, with the Bucs looking for outfield help and the Tigers on the hunt for bullpen help.
  • The Blue Jays have also been scouting the Cubs for the past week, according to Wittenmyer, but that's likely because they're looking to add pieces for 2014.
  • Wittenmyer adds that Carlos Villanueva isn't likely to be traded, as the Cubs value his versatility and cheap contract as they look to shuffle the roster again in 2014.

NL Notes: Stauffer, Phillies, Cubs, Hairston

Let's take a look around the National League …

  • Pitcher Tim Stauffer was called up by the Padres, meaning that the team will not risk losing him to a June 1 opt-out clause, notes Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Returning for the second time in his career from major arm surgery, Stauffer was thrown right into the fire and worked 1 2/3 effective innings last night against the Nationals.
  • Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. believes his club has the pieces in place to be much better offensively and is not looking for outside help at the moment, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports"I don't see us making any trades any time soon," Amaro said. "There's too many teams that are in it, not enough teams that are out of it." Amaro is preaching patience with struggling hitters like Delmon Young and Ryan Howard: "Right now we have to be patient to see if Delmon starts swinging it. And Ryan [Howard] is going to have to start swinging it. If those guys do then we'll be OK. If they don't we'll have to figure out what we're going to do." As Salisbury notes, the Phillies rank near the bottom of baseball in most major offensive categories, including on-base percentage (.304, 25th); OPS (.683, 26th); and runs scored (3.61, 27th).
  • Prospective free agent Matt Garza will make his season debut for the Cubs this Tuesday, tweets Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald. Garza, who last checked in at eighth on Tim Dierkes's 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings, will be an interesting player to watch over the coming weeks. Depending upon his performance and the intentions of the Cubs, he could be an extension candidate, prime mid-season trade bait, and/or a major 2014 free agent target. 
  • To make room in the rotation for Garza, Miles further notes, the Cubs will bump Carlos Villanueva to the bullpen. The right-hander, who is in the first half of a two-year, $10MM deal with the Cubs, has struggled since a promising start to the 2013 campaign. After allowing just five earned runs and logging 29 1/3 innings in his first four starts, Villanueva has conceded eighteen earned runs and lasted only 23 1/3 innings over his next four outings. Pitching from the pen, Villanueva is much less likely to profile as a potential trade candidate for the Cubs.
  • In spite of a nice 2012 season in which he slashed .263/.299/.504 and hit 20 home runs over 398 plate appearances for the Mets, outfielder Scott Hairston says that the team never formally offered him a contract this offseason. As Adam Rubin of ESPN.com reports, Hairston felt that New York "wanted to go in a different direction," leading him to look elsewhere for a multi-year deal and regular playing time. He ultimately landed a two-year deal with the Cubs that guarantees him $5MM. Now, both player and team seem to be regretting how things turned out: the Mets outfield has been terrible, and Hairston has struggled in limited action for Chicago with a .125/.154/.354 line over just 52 plate appearances.

Trade Candidate: Carlos Villanueva

29-year-old righty Carlos Villanueva has kicked off his Cubs career with three quality starts.  That's been a big part of the team's 3.11 rotation ERA, third-best in the National League.  The Cubs, however, have failed in most other aspects of the game and are already six games back in the NL Central with a 5-13 record.  Once again, the team's veterans need to be ready for the possibility of a summer trade.

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Because of his age and some decent rotation work for the Blue Jays last year, Villanueva was able to find a two-year, $10MM deal with the Cubs in December.  The Cubs had already signed Scott Baker and Scott Feldman at that point, and went on to add Edwin Jackson.  That's a whopping four free agent starters, but the depth has been necessary so far with Baker and Matt Garza on the shelf.  Garza's first minor league rehab start is scheduled for tomorrow, so he's projected to return in May.  Baker will be out until at least June, after undergoing Tommy John surgery a year ago.  Even with the uncertainty surrounding Baker, the Cubs have assembled significantly more rotation depth than they had last July, when they traded Paul Maholm and Ryan Dempster.  

So, there's a chance the Cubs move two starting pitchers again this summer.  With free agency looming, Garza is a prime candidate.  If he stays healthy and reasonably effective, Villanueva is another.  Though he has one of the slower fastballs you'll see from a right-handed starter, Villanueva has been effective since joining the Jays' rotation in late June of last year.  Since then he's started 19 games, with a 3.90 ERA, 8.0 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, and 1.67 HR/9 in 113 innings.  Some of his numbers in his brief Cubs career are unsustainable, but if Villanueva's walk and groundball rates stick, he should have continued success.  In particular, he shouldn't be quite so homer-prone moving forward.

Perhaps they underestimated Maholm at the time, but the Cubs were still able to acquire a top-90 prospect from the Braves in Arodys Vizcaino last summer.  Like Maholm, the Cubs can offer an additional full season of Villanueva's services, making him more than just a rental.  The Indians, Angels, and Phillies are a few early potential matches, should those teams remain on the fringe of contention.  Should the longball remain an issue for Villanueva, though, it could cause teams with hitters' parks to shy away.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


NL Central Notes: Villanueva, Snider, Pirates, Reds

Brewers GM Doug Melvin is in good health following a unique Spring Training injury.  As MLB.com's Evan Drellich and Adam McCalvy relate, Melvin was stung by an Arizona bark scorpion on Wednesday night and, after his left hand swelled up, made a three-hour visit to a local emergency room.  Here's the latest from around the NL Central…

  • Cubs swingman Carlos Villanueva tells MLB.com's Carrie Muskat that long relievers (like himself) who can make spot starts are "definitely underappreciated" around baseball.  “There’s no market for it,” Villanueva said. “When you go arbitration with somebody, you hear you’re not good enough to start, you’re not good enough to close, and it obviously drives the value down."
  • After struggling to live up to his potential in Toronto, Travis Snider is eager to get a fresh start with the Pirates, MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo writes.
  • Snider is one of a dozen former first-round draft picks that could play key roles for the Pirates in 2013, according to MLB.com's Tom Singer.  The Bucs have acquired several former first-rounders (like Snider or Jason Grilli) and have plenty of homegrown top picks in the fold.
  • Jason Donald delivered the controversial hit that broke up Armando Galarraga's near-perfect game in 2010 and now the two are teammates with the Reds.  "We never have an in-depth discussion, but it was, 'Oh, hey … good to see you again,'" Donald told MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. "It wasn't anything like, 'Hey, you remember when I ruined the best game of your life?' He's such a good guy and I know he understands. It's something we can both look back on and know we were a part of history."
  • Earlier today on MLBTR, we featured a collection of Cardinals Notes and some Astros-related items as part of a Texas Notes post.

Quick Hits: Indians, Red Sox, Santana, Cubs

The Indians have a new-look offense and Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer examines it in detail following a busy offseason for GM Chris Antonetti. After signing free agents Nick Swisher, Mark Reynolds and Michael Bourn, the Indians have more speed and power than they did in 2012. "I don't think we'll be entirely reliant on any one way to score runs," Antonetti said. Here are some more links from around MLB…

  • The Red Sox are looking good after completing last summer's blockbuster trade with the Dodgers, Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe writes (on Twitter). Not only did the Red Sox send the cumbersome contracts of Carl Crawford and others to Los Angeles, they obtained promising right-handers Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster in the deal.
  • Questions surround Johan Santana and Frank Francisco, the Mets' two highest-paid pitchers, Ken Belson of the New York Times writes. Santana, who will earn $25.5MM this year, didn't arrive to Spring Training in top form, and Francisco, who will earn $6.5MM, could also open the season on the disabled list.
  • Carlos Villanueva told reporters that he signed with the Cubs as a free agent because he likes the direction of the franchise (video link via the Chicago Tribune). Villanueva said he seeks information on people running teams, just as Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer do their homework on players.

Cubs Designate Lendy Castillo For Assignment

The Cubs officially announced the signing of pitcher Carlos Villanueva to a two-year deal this afternoon.  In order to make room for him, Chicago has designated fellow right-hander Lendy Castillo for assignment.

Castillo, 23, pitched 16 innings for the Cubs' varsity squad last season and allowed 14 earned runs .  With the exception of one Double-A outing last season, he has never pitched above Single-A ball in the minors.

Villanueva agreed to his deal with the Cubs more than a month ago but the agreement wasn't finalized until today.  Terms of the pact weren't disclosed in the press release but the former Toronto pitcher will reportedly receive $10MM over the next two seasons.