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The Commissioner’s Office and the MLBPA have been working on “clarification” of the rule preventing collisions at home plate, sources tell ESPN’s Jayson Stark. The two sides hope any uncertainty concerning how catchers can block the plate can be cleared up before any pennant races or postseason games are impacted, though rulings in several games earlier this year have already left many managers and players confused.
Here’s some more from around baseball as we kick off the week…
- The Royals will place right-hander Blake Wood on waivers tomorrow, MLBTR’s Zach Links reports (Twitter link). Wood was designated for assignment last week.
- Evan Gattis has been a big part of the Braves‘ lineup, but the catcher’s defensive limitations could see the club trade him to an AL team, Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes (AJC subscription required). Gattis could be better served by a regular DH role, while the Braves could trade him for a long-term outfield solution given that Justin Upton and Jason Heyward are both only signed through 2015. Gattis played some left field himself in 2013, though he was a defensive liability there as well.
- It doesn’t seem likely that the 2015 Cubs rotation will feature both Edwin Jackson and Travis Wood, ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers writes. The Cubs may be stuck with Jackson due to his contract, though Wood is only on a one-year, $3.9MM deal (with two years of arbitration eligibility left). Wood has a 5.15 ERA in 162 2/3 IP this season and could be a non-tender candidate, though he still has some value as an innings-eater.
- The White Sox have some holes to fill in the rotation, bullpen and lineup, yet Grantland’s Jonah Keri sees them as a possible sleeper team for 2015. The Sox have lots of payroll space to address those issues and build around their core of Jose Abreu, Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Adam Eaton.
- A veteran player suggests to ESPN’s Buster Olney (Insider subscription required) that players who fail two PED tests should be limited to one-year contracts for the remainder of their career. This would be a deterrent against players with one suspension on their record potentially using PEDs again in the hopes of scoring a big multiyear deal. As the veteran put it, “If I was someone who had been suspended before, why wouldn’t I use again? If you’ve robbed a bank before and you see that you could again and still walk away with millions, why wouldn’t you?“
- Also from Olney, he feels the Rockies have “an easy decision” to decline Brett Anderson‘s $12MM option for 2015, as the team can’t afford to commit that much payroll space to a pitcher with Anderson’s injury history. This would likely end Anderson’s tenure in Colorado, as Olney notes he wouldn’t accept a cheaper one-year deal from the Rockies when he could rebuild his value elsewhere in a more pitcher-friendly ballpark.
- Several key members of the Giants and Tigers hail from Venezuela, and FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi looks at how both teams approach scouting and development in the country.
Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro is likely done for the season, GM Jed Hoyer told reporters today (including MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat). Castro suffered a high ankle sprain in yesterday’s game, and while the Cubs aren’t going to officially shut him down, Hoyer says they’re treating the injury as though it’s season-ending. Castro, on the other hand, is of the mind that he can recover sooner than the team’s four-week projected recovery time and rejoin the roster before season’s end. The Cubs’ plan is to play Javier Baez at shortstop for the remainder of the season, Hoyer said (via Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com). If Castro’s season is over, it will go down as a strong rebound from a surprisingly disappointing 2013 season. Castro hit .292/.339/.438 and tied his career-high in homers (14) despite totaling 135 fewer plate appearances than the 704 he averaged over the past three seasons. It will also give the highly touted Baez an extended look at his natural position. Both Baez and Castro have seen their names bandied about in trade speculation, so Baez’s shortstop audition could be worth monitoring.
Here’s more on the Cubs…
- Many Cubs fans are disappointed not to get a look at Kris Bryant in September, and Bryant’s agent, Scott Boras, voiced his disappointment to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times as well. “[I]f this is a performance-driven industry as it should be, Bryant deserves the callup, based on performance,” said Boras. “What’s best for the player, what’s best for the team in 2015? The goal here is trying to make the team the best it can be in 2015. And what can you do to ready him for that?” Boras argues that a month of MLB experience would prepare Bryant for 2015, and club officials from other teams agreed when speaking to Wittenmyer. One official pointed back to Mike Trout‘s promotion in 2011, noting that even though he struggled, he broke out in a monstrous fashion the following season. Of course, there are also prospects who experience great success in September callups only to struggle the following season, and prospects who thrive from day one when being promoted early in a season.
- The Cubs announced that Ryan Kalish‘s contract has been selected and he will join the team as a September callup in the wake of the decision that the injured Ryan Sweeney‘s season is now over. Sweeney has been placed on the 60-day DL, thereby opening a roster spot for Kalish. Kalish was outrighted earlier this season and could suffer the same fate after September, though the Sweeney injury has at least opened a door for him to impress the organization.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tells the story of Billy Bean’s return to baseball as MLB’s newly-appointed Ambassador For Inclusion. Paul Mifsud — MLB vice president and deputy general counsel, and one of the key players in hiring Bean — said that he has experienced “a tremendous feeling of pride … using baseball to help people.”
Here are the latest notes from around the league …
- Top Cubs prospect Kris Bryant is very much on the cusp of MLB action, even if it won’t come this season, writes ESPNChicago.com’s Jesse Rogers. But it remains to be seen at what position he will end up. Bryant himself hopes to stay at third, and said he is proud of his improvements at the position this year. Meanwhile, club president Theo Epstein noted that the team will look to get Bryant some time in the outfield to “keep that fresh for him” going forward. “We think — no doubt in our minds — he can play third base and be a really good third baseman,” explained Epstein, “but we just don’t know how the roster is going to look a year from now, two years from now, five years from now.”
- Cuban ballplayers Jozzen Cuesta and Misael Siverio recently put on a showcase, and Jeff Moore of Baseball America provides an account (subscription required). Scouts came away somewhat underwhelmed by the “pedestrian performances” they witnessed, according to Moore.
- The upcoming Astros managerial search will once again be an uncertain undertaking for an organization that hopes to thrive on scientific decisionmaking, writes Ben Lindbergh of Grantland.com. GM Jeff Luhnow will need to evaluate how he interacts with his next manager, says Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, who notes that other teams (like the Athletics and Rays) seem to have been able to find smooth partnerships between forward-thinking front offices and their field managers.
The Reds have the toughest upcoming offseason of any team, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. They could lose most of their rotation following the 2015 season, they still have big commitments to Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Homer Bailey, and they’re facing dealing with three good NL Central competitors and another in Chicago that could have a very bright future. Sherman suggests the Reds consider trading Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and perhaps Jay Bruce. “We still have a small window,” Reds GM Walt Jocketty protests. “This year is disappointing because of the injuries. From the very beginning, we had 11 DL guys and eight were key. … I feel we still have a small window if the guys come back healthy.” Here’s more from the National League.
- The young Cubs are waiting for Kris Bryant to arrive in the big leagues, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. “Yeah, we’re imagining what [Bryant] can do,” says pitcher Kyle Hendricks. “I mean, the whole group together. It’s definitely exciting. You can feel it. Everyone’s talking about it around the clubhouse. It’s just awesome seeing these guys coming up and having success.” There’s already plenty of buzz surrounding Jorge Soler‘s debut, and already plenty of young talent in Chicago, and yet Bryant, arguably the Cubs’ best young player, remains in the minors, where he’s hitting .296/.417/.635 in 283 plate appearances with Triple-A Iowa.
- Padres 2B/3B/OF prospect Cory Spangenberg tweets that he will be promoted to the big leagues. Spangenberg has hit .331/.365/.470 in 304 plate appearances this season for Double-A San Antonio. Spangenberg has often been overshadowed by others from his draft class — he was taken between Javier Baez and George Springer in the first round in 2011. But after a strong fourth pro season, he’s about to make it to the Show.
- With all the exciting young hitters the Cubs are adding, Chicago could be an attractive destination for free agent pitchers, and it’s possible the Cubs could add one big-name pitcher this winter (possibly Jon Lester, who knows Theo Epstein well from Boston) and then another the following year (possibly David Price or a return of Jeff Samardzija).
- The Asdrubal Cabrera trade has worked out well for both sides. The Nationals have gotten a good second baseman, and the Indians have gotten strong shortstop defense from Cabrera’s replacement Jose Ramirez, and they’ve also added Zach Walters‘ power bat.
- If the Angels decline to acquire a starting pitcher because of luxury tax concerns, that would appear to be mostly a “philosophical decision” rather than a financial one. As a first-time offender, the Angels’ actual tax penalties would be minimal, at just 17.5% of the overage. Rosenthal notes, however, that one potential problem the Angels have with some of their potential trade targets (including Bartolo Colon, A.J. Burnett and Scott Feldman) is that they’re all guaranteed salary for 2015.
- One reason the Yankees acquired lefty Josh Outman was that they didn’t want to push top 2014 draft pick Jacob Lindgren to the big leagues, particularly given Lindgren’s workload between college and the pros this season and the fact that he’s not yet on their 40-man roster. As we noted earlier today, Lindgren has dominated in the minors since signing.
FRIDAY: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that 20 teams were in attendance for the showcase.
TUESDAY: Cuban first baseman Jozzen Cuesta and Cuban left-hander Misael Siverio will host a showcase for interested clubs on Friday in Jupiter, Fla., agent Eric Izen of the Legacy Agency tells MLBTR.
The last we heard on the 25-year-old Siverio came back in May when he was declared eligible for free agency. The 25-year-old Cuesta was, at the time, said to be awaiting clearance from Major League Baseball and the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control, but he has since been cleared by both entities and is now eligible to sign with any club. The 6’2″, 220-pound first baseman is said to possess some power and will present a younger alternative to the first basemen on the free agent market.
Reports on Siverio peg the lefty at 5’9″ tall, and while he’s not said to possess an overpowering fastball, he had drawn interest from 10 teams back in May. Siverio pitched in front of several clubs at a showcase in June, and the Yankees, Cubs and Astros were among the teams in attendance, MLBTR has learned.
Siverio posted a 3.24 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 over his career in Cuba’s Serie Nacional – a span of 153 games (75 starts). More recently, he pitched in Mexico this past winter, posting a 2.45 ERA and a 36-to-10 K/BB ratio. His full statistics and some video footage can be seen at ObstructedView.net.
The Mets have placed Daniel Murphy on the disabled list and will recall Double-A second baseman Dilson Herrera to fill his roster spot. The 20-year-old Herrera was the second player acquired from the Pirates (along with Vic Black) in last year’s Marlon Byrd/John Buck trade. In 274 plate appearances with Binghamton this season, he slashed a healthy .333/.401/.544 with nine homers and nine steals. Herrera’s overall numbers this season are quite strong, and his continued development has led some, including ESPN’s Keith Law, to consider him among the game’s Top 100 prospects.
Here are some more links from around the league…
- The Orioles have continued to be active on the waiver wire despite the fact that they’ve yet to make an August acquisition, executive vice president Dan Duquette tells Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. The O’s have been on the hunt for a left-handed hitting infielder but have come up empty in their search, Connolly writes.
- While the Mariners very much want to make the playoffs, team president Kevin Mather tells Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune that the M’s weren’t “going to sell [their] souls for a one-game Wild Card opportunity” by mortgaging the future at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Mather characterizes the acquisitions of Kendrys Morales, Austin Jackson and Chris Denorfia as “strategic” but “not crazy.” The team held onto top prospects Taijuan Walker and D.J. Peterson as well as young lefty James Paxton.
- Cubs president Theo Epstein told reporters, including ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers, that the team will have the financial wherewithal to add to the payroll in the coming years due to its young core. Epstein said he never looks at one offseason and decides that he has to get something done that year, but he expects to add impact starting pitching from outside the organization in the next 18 to 24 months.
- Victor Martinez would like to play for “a few more years” but thinks he’ll be out of the league by the age of 40, he tells Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Morosi spoke to Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who offered lofty praise for his DH, calling him the most prepared and focused hitter he has ever encountered. Morosi looks at the weak DH situations that many teams around the league have and wonders if the 35-year-old Martinez can fetch something in the neighborhood of Carlos Beltran‘s three-year, $45MM contract from last offseason.
The 22-year-old Soler entered the season ranked as a consensus Top 50 prospect in all of baseball, and while a pair of hamstring injuries has limited him to 61 games, he still ranked 28th on the midseason edition of Keith Law’s Top 50 prospects list over at ESPN.com. Soler has obliterated Rookie-level, Double-A and Triple-A pitching to the tune of a .338/.432/.687 batting line, belting 14 homers, 23 doubles and two triples in just 234 plate appearances.
Law called Soler a “monster if he can just stay on the field,” praising his “electric” bat speed and plus-plus raw power in his midseason scouting report. He also noted that Soler had the offensive ability to profile as a top-10 prospect, but his troubles staying on the field prevented him from being ranked any higher than 28th overall. Additionally, he points out that Soler has the arm and athleticism to profile as an average or better defensive right fielder.
Soler becomes the next elite Cubs prospect to make the jump to the Major Leagues, joining shortstop/second baseman Javier Baez and second baseman/center fielder Arismendy Alcantara. Baez has played second base since his recall (a spot vacated by the trade of Darwin Barney), while Alcantara has shifted to center field. Presumably, Soler will be playing right field at the Major League level, as he has throughout his minor league career.
Soler has already made plenty of headlines in his career, as the Cuban phenom inked a nine-year, $30MM contract with the Cubs back in 2012 just days before the collective bargaining agreement’s new rules on international signings kicked in. Had Soler signed after those rules, as a 20-year-old from Cuba, he would have been limited to a $2.9MM signing bonus.
Soler is guaranteed $2MM in 2014 after earning $1MM in 2012 and 2013. He will earn $2MM in 2015 before his salary rises to $3MM in 2016 and 2017. Soler is technically slated to earn $4MM annually from 2018-20, but his contract allows him to opt into arbitration once he is eligible. The contract, of course, seems light when compared to the contracts signed by Jose Abreu and Rusney Castillo, but keep in mind that Cespedes was 26 when he signed his deal and Abreu was 27.
Because of Soler’s guaranteed contract, the Cubs needn’t worry about service time considerations or Super Two status like they would need to with top prospects such as Kris Bryant and Addison Russell. Additionally, his Major League deal meant that he was already on the 40-man roster, so the Cubs don’t need to concern themselves with clearing a 40-man spot.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Pirates will send top prospect Gregory Polanco back to the minor leagues today, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link). However, Polanco’s demotion is likely to be relatively short-lived, as the 22-year-old could rejoin the team as soon as next Monday, when rosters expand. Polanco got off to a blazing start to his MLB career, but he’s cooled significantly since that time. He’s hitting .241/.308/.349 on the season as a whole, but he batted just .219/.276/.337 from July 1 through present day. Rosenthal tweets that Jose Tabata is expected to get the call to replace Polanco for the time being.
Here’s more from the game’s Central divisions…
- Though the Cubs have been making headlines by stockpiling high-upside young talent, the success of 33-year-old left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada is making the organization consider him as an option beyond the 2014 season, writes the Chicago Tribune’s Fred Mitchell. “He is pitching very, very well. There are decisions that have to be made. He certainly has put himself in a good position,” manager Rick Renteria tells Mitchell. Wada, who signed a minor league deal this offseason, pitched to a 2.77 ERA in 113 2/3 Triple-A innings this season, and he’s continued his success in the Majors. Since being promoted, Wada has turned in an outstanding 2.56 ERA with 8.1 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 and a 37.8 percent ground-ball rate in 45 2/3 innings. Sabermetric ERA estimators FIP (3.55), xFIP (3.61) and SIERA (3.50) all feel that while he’s been a bit fortunate, he’s still been highly effective.
- Speaking with Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Twins GM Terry Ryan clarified a comment that he made last week in which he suggested that manager Ron Gardenhire would return in 2015. Ryan explained that his comment was made off the cuff, without any consultation, and that no one’s job — including his own — was guaranteed in 2015. Twins owner Jim Pohlad did state last fall that Ryan’s job as GM was his for as long as he wanted to remain GM, but “everybody’s got a breaking point,” Ryan said to Miller. “I would never hold Jim Pohlad to that statement, because it wouldn’t be fair to him. We’re losing way too many games here for anybody to put that kind of faith in anyone.”
- White Sox general manager Rick Hahn appeared on the Mully and Hanley show last Friday and said that his staff is pleased with the results of the 2013-14 offseason, and he expects to be active in free agency this offseason. Hahn also sang the praises of top pick Carlos Rodon, saying that he’s even more advanced than the team had anticipated, and his transition to pro ball has been nearly seamless. Hahn did downplay, to an extent, the rumors surrounding a potential September callup for Rodon: “…ultimately the decision to bring him up or not bring him up is going to be about what’s best for his long-term development. We’re going to have to be real cautious before we decide just to bring him up and run him out there in big league games this year.”
While news of Cuban ballplayer Rusney Castillo continues to dominate the news cycle, the human trafficking side of Cuban imports also made headlines. Eliezer Lazo entered a guilty plea in connection to the smuggling of over 1,000 Cubans, including Rangers outfielder Leonys Martin, reports Curt Anderson of the Associated Press. The article covers some of the sordid details involved in this human trafficking case.
- In related news, a lawsuit brought against Martin by a Mexican baseball academy associated with Lazo will likely be dropped as a result of the criminal case. The Estrellas baseball academy alleged that Martin agreed to pay them up to 35% of his major league contract, but Martin only paid $1.2MM of his $15.5MM deal.
- The Braves and Cubs discussed a proposal that would have sent Edwin Jackson to Atlanta in return for B.J. Upton, writes Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports. The deal would have served as a straight swap of albatross contracts. The sides apparently weren’t close to finalizing a trade but could re-open talks over the offseason. It appears this was probably the rumored trade first reported on August 9.
- In what is likely to become an ongoing “will they, won’t they” story, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer speculates about moving on from Ryan Howard. The club currently has Darin Ruf taking the occasional start in left field while Howard blocks his playing time at first base. Philadelphia seemingly needs to decide which of three players possess the higher upside – Howard, Ruf, or left fielder Domonic Brown. Given Howard’s age, 34, and rapidly diminishing numbers – he had a .678 OPS before today’s home run – it’s fair to wonder if Howard should be the odd man out. Corner infield prospect Maikel Franco could also figure in the mix before long.
- We at MLBTR seek to find answers for the pressing questions such as “Does Rusney Castillo know Jay-Z?” Castillo, who is represented by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports and Brodie Van Wagonen of CAA, does indeed know the mogul, according to the Boston Herald’s Scott Lauber.