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June 10: Veras has been released, tweets Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune.
June 3: The Cubs have designated reliever Jose Veras for assignment, tweets Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald. The 33-year-old veteran was signed to serve as Chicago’s closer after the Tigers declined to pick up his club option.
Veras represents a fairly significant miss for the Cubs front office. He was given a $4MM guarantee, including this year’s salary and a $150K buyout for a 2015 club option at $5.5MM. In addition to putting a consistent presence at the back of the bullpen, the Cubs no doubt considered the possibility of dangling Veras at the trade deadline.
But that was not to be. Across 13 1/3 innings on the season, Veras has worked to a 8.10 ERA with 8.8 K/9 against 7.4 BB/9. Adding injury to insult, he then missed 17 games with an oblique strain. But Veras was actually much better upon his return from the DL. Since May 15, he has thrown 7 2/3 innings and allowed just two earned runs and a walk while setting down eight batters on strikes.
The rise of Pirates call-up Gregory Polanco from a virtually unknown international signee to a top prospect has been quite rare in recent history, writes Alex Speier in an ESPN Insider piece. Slowly but surely, the 22-year-old tightened his skills to match his raw tools, and his now-obvious upside emerged.
Here’s more from the National League:
- While Polanco is undoubtedly an exciting addition for the Pirates, the team should nevertheless be prepared to sell over the summer, opines Paul Swydan of ESPN.com (Insider link). Russell Martin and Francisco Liriano are among the pieces that the team could consider moving, he says. Meanwhile, the Mets and Padres are other NL clubs that Swydan says should look to move pieces.
- While Swydan does not discuss their situation, the Phillies also seem like possible sellers, though it is hard to know the club’s thinking. Corey Seidman of CSNPhilly.com discusses the trade-worthiness of several of the team’s possible deadline chips.
- The Mets‘ struggles this year are bad enough that they have shifted the team’s seemingly promising trajectory, writes Kevin Kernan of the New York Post. The team’s key cog, third baseman David Wright, says that he remains committed to the Mets and has no desire to be dealt. (Of course, that seems a rather unlikely outcome regardless.) “I knew that when I signed my extension, I knew that things were not going to be easy,” he said. “If I wanted the easy way out, I would have signed somewhere else. The challenge of it, the loyalty to the organization, the direction I think we’re going, yes, we’ve gone through some rough stretches … but that is the process.”
- The Rockies, who dropped their ninth of ten games tonight, are now dealing with another spate of bad injury news. In addition to placing recent top prospect call-up Eddie Butler on the 15-day DL after his first big league start, the team learned today that it will be without two key veterans for some time. Star outfielder Carlos Gonzalez will undergo exploratory surgery on the left index finger that has bothered him this year, reports Nick Groke of the Denver Post (via Twitter). And right fielder Michael Cuddyer has suffered a fracture of the glenoid socket in his right shoulder, which will keep him out for at least six to eight weeks, as Cody Ulm of MLB.com reports on Twitter. Now well off the pace in the NL West, the Rockies would need a quick turnaround to position themselves as contenders as the trade deadline approaches.
- In need of arms, the Rockies will call up 23-year-old lefty Tyler Matzek to start on Wednesday against the Braves, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post reports on Twitter. Once a top-25 prospect league-wide and the 11th overall choice in the 2009 draft, Matzek has climbed through the minors even as his prospect shine has dimmed somewhat. After opening the year rated 12th among Colorado prospects by Baseball America, which noted that struggles with consistency and command could push him to the bullpen, Matzek has worked to a 4.05 ERA in his first 66 2/3 innings at the Triple-A level. More importantly, perhaps, he has worked to a career-best 4.2 BB/9 at Colorado Springs while also racking up 8.2 K/9.
- ESPN.com’s Keith Law has posted his round-up (Insider link) of the draft haul from National League clubs. He says that the Diamondbacks brought back an impressive haul across the board, and casts some doubt on some of the Cubs‘ early-round selections while noting that the team went after high-upside arms further down.
Here are today’s minor moves from throughout baseball.
- The Phillies have signed former Red Sox infielder Nate Spears, reports Mike Ashmore of MyCentralJersey.com (via Twitter; hat tip to Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com). Spears, 29, had been playing with the indy league Somerset Patriots. Despite two very brief cups of coffee with Boston, Spears has not recorded a hit in eight MLB plate appearances. He owns a career .244/.335/.371 line through 1,442 career plate appearances at the Triple-A level.
- Joel Pineiro has signed a minor-league deal with the Angels, according to MiLB.com, and he will start tonight for the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees. The Cubs had recently released him. Pineiro is attempting to make it back to the big leagues after having last appeared in the Majors in 2011. He had made four starts with the Double-A Tennessee Smokies, posting a 4.43 ERA in 22 1/3 innings with 4.0 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9.
- Infielder Danny Worth has accepted his outright assignment and will head to Triple-A Toledo, Chris Iott of MLive.com tweets. The Tigers designated worth for assignment on Wednesday after he hit .167/.217/.190 in 46 plate appearances.
- The Angels have outrighted pitchers Michael Brady, Jarrett Grube and Brooks Raley, according to MiLB.com. After a strong 2013 season in the Marlins organization, Brady has struggled in the high minors in 2014, posting a 7.18 ERA with 7.9 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9. Grube, 32, made his big-league debut for the Angels last week. He had posted a 3.52 ERA in 61 1/3 innings for Triple-A Salt Lake with 7.5 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9. The Angels claimed Raley from the Twins last month, and he struggled for Salt Lake, allowing 26 runs in 21 innings there. These moves likely signal that the Angels are about to make other transactions that will affect their 40-man roster.
Here’s a roundup of today’s key news regarding signings from the draft.
- The Twins have agreed to a slightly below-slot bonus with 9th rounder Max Murphy, tweets Cotillo. The Bradley outfielder will get $130K, just over $20K below his slot amount.
- A few more drafted players have agreed to terms with the Royals, per Pete Grathoff of the Kansas City Star (Twitter link), though bonus amounts have not yet been reported. High school shortstop Dawon Burt (fourth round; $420K slot) and Texas A&M righty Corey Ray (fifth round; $314K slot) are both in agreement, joining sixth-rounder Logan Moon (see below).
- The Rangers have agreed to terms with fourth-rounder Brett Martin on a $475K deal, MLB.com’s Jim Callis tweets. The deal comes in $67K above the $408K bonus pool value of the pick. The lefty Martin hails from a Tennessee junior college.
- The Rangers have also agreed to terms with tenth-rounder and Abilene Christian catcher Seth Spivey for $10K, tweets MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo. The signing would allow the Rangers to save about $128K against their bonus pool, which would appear to help them balance their budget after the Martin signing is complete.
- The Diamondbacks have signed third-rounder Matt Railey, the outfielder himself tweets. Railey, a Florida high-schooler, had a commitment to Florida State. There is no immediate word on his bonus, but the pool value of the pick is $603K.
- The Cubs have agreed to terms with third-rounder and Virginia Tech catcher Mark Zagunis for $615K, Cotillo tweets. The deal saves the Cubs about $100K against the draft pool value of the pick.
- The Astros have agreed to terms with eighth-rounder Bobby Boyd, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports. There is no immediate word on a bonus for the junior outfielder from West Virginia University, but pool value for that pick is around $163K. McTaggart also reports that the Astros have agreed to terms with tenth-rounder Jay Gause, a junior pitcher from Faulkner University. The pool value for Gause’s pick is $142K.
- Georgia high school lefty Mac Marshall plans to head to LSU rather than going pro, the pitcher himself tweets. MLB.com had ranked Marshall the No. 66 prospect in the draft, but he was not taken until the 21st round by Houston, surely due in large part to teams’ awareness of his reluctance to sign.
- The Reds have agreed to terms with fifth-rounder Tejay Antone, a tall righty from a Texas community college, at the bonus-pool figure of $308K, Cotillo tweets. Antone had planned to head to Auburn next year if he didn’t end up signing.
- The Royals have agreed to terms with sixth-round pick Logan Moon, Cotillo tweets. The senior outfielder from Missouri Southern will get less than the bonus pool value of about $235K.
The first day of the 2014 draft is complete, and as many expected, the Astros selected high school left-hander Brady Aiken with the No. 1 overall pick. The team is in no hurry to sign Aiken, however, the Houston Chronicle’s Evan Drellich reports (Twitter links). Still,the Astros are understandably excited about the player they drafted. “This is the most advanced high school pitcher I’ve ever seen in my entire career,” says GM Jeff Luhnow. “He has command like I’ve never seen before.”
Here’s more from the draft’s first day…
- The Cubs turned some heads by selecting Indiana catcher/outfielder Kyle Schwarber with the fourth overall pick, but scouting director Jason McLeod told reporters that Schwarber was No. 2 on the team’s draft board all along. ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers quotes McLeod (on Twitter) as saying that Schwarber trailed only Aiken on their board, though as the Chicago Sun Times’ Gordon Wittenmyer tweets, McLeod did acknowledge that the pick will save them some money. The Cubs are expecting him to sign quickly.
- Braves top pick Braxton Davidson says he will sign rather than attending UNC, tweets David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Davidson’s slot — No. 32 overall — carries a $1.7054MM value, per Baseball America. I spoke with Davidson as part of MLBTR’s Draft Prospect Q&A series.
- Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish hears that the Dodgers and No. 62 overall pick Alex Verdugo already have an agreement in place, and the ASU commit will not be attending college (Twitter link). VP of amateur scouting Logan White tells MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick that Verdugo, a two-way prospect, will start as a center fielder and convert to pitching if he doesn’t hit well (Twitter link).
- MLB.com’s Corey Brock spoke with Padres scouting director Billy Gasparino and got the impression that the team will shift its focus on jump on some arms tomorrow (Twitter link). San Diego drafted a pair of bats today in UNC shortstop Trea Turner and prep outfielder Michael Gettys.
Charlie Wilmoth contributed to this post.
The Diamondbacks announced today that outfielder A.J. Pollock underwent surgery to repair a right hand fracture and would not resume baseball activity for eight weeks. Pollock, 26, had been a rare bright spot on one of baseball’s most disappointing clubs, emerging with a .316/.366/.554 triple-slash with six home runs and eight stolen bases in 192 plate appearances. Here’s more from around the league:
- The Royals could enter the running to sign first baseman/DH Kendrys Morales to bolster a sagging offense, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. While no serious discussions have happened to date, the club is not ruling out the possibility, adds Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star (via Twitter). According to Heyman, pursuit of Morales would require the Royals to move some salary off its books. Ticking through the team’s roster, the most obvious big-salary trade candidate (assuming, of course, that the team is looking to make a run) is DH Billy Butler, who earns $8.5MM this year and comes with a $12.5MM club option ($1MM buyout) for 2015. But his defensive limitations and serious struggles this year make it somewhat difficult to imagine that the team will be able to find a buyer willing to take on enough salary to make the switch-out plausible — especially since clubs looking at Butler would presumably also have interest in Morales. (Then, there’s the question whether Kansas City could both lock up Morales and dump Butler or another contract in early June.)
- Meanwhile, the Yankees have made contact with Morales but are waiting to learn more on Mark Teixeira‘s wrist re-aggravation before acting decisively, Heyman reports. Turning to analysis, Heyman writes that the Yankees have many reasons to pursue Morales strongly, whether or not they get good news on Teixeira in the coming days.
- Informed of recent comments from Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino indicating that the club expects to re-engage him in extension talks, Jon Lester emphasized that he remains focused on the season at hand, reports Boston.com’s Maureen Mullen. “I think right now, obviously with us playing good baseball and us focused on what we need to do today, I think that’s where we need to stay,” he said. “The contract talks will come at the right time. … [T]hat time’ll come, whether it’s tomorrow, I don’t know. Whether it’s in the offseason, I don’t know. We’ll figure that out as we go.”
- Carlos Villanueva of the Cubs says that he and fellow righty Jason Hammel hope to stay with the team but realize they could be traded, reports MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat. “What’s happened here the last couple years, you can’t help but wonder if you’re going to be one of those guys, too,” he said. “When they sign here, they know. They know the direction this team is going.” Both pitchers, explained Villanueva, have played with multiple clubs and understand the business of the game. “In a perfect world, we could stay here and build around the young guys, and we could be part of the upswing of the team,” he said. “That could still happen — we’re still here, we’re going to make the most of it.”
12:56pm: A baseball source differs from the report referenced below, telling MLBTR there is no truth to the assertion that the Cubs have inquired about receiving a competitive balance draft pick as part of a Samardzija deal.
10:57am: The Cubs have asked about acquiring a competitive balance-round draft pick and the associated bonus slot money as part of their desired return for Jeff Samardzija, Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reports. This would give Chicago an extra pick either between 35th-41st overall (Round A of the competitive balance picks) or 69th-74th overall (Round B) in this year’s amateur draft, should a trade be completed between now and Thursday.
Here’s a refresher on the order of the competitive balance round, which awards an extra pick to teams that play within the 10 smallest markets and/or teams with the 10 lowest revenues. Unlike other draft selections, competitive balance picks can be traded; just yesterday, the Marlins dealt the 39th overall pick to the Pirates in exchange for reliever Bryan Morris.
Passan cites the Rockies (picking at No. 35) as the best fit for Samardzija among the Round A teams with picks to trade, given Colorado’s long-standing need for starting pitching. The draft pick would just be part of a Samardzija trade package, of course, and I would guess the Cubs would also ask for Rockies pitching prospects Jonathan Gray or Eddie Butler in exchange for their ace. The Rox could possibly upgrade their rotation simply by promoting one of those two young arms, however, rather than deal assets for a veteran.
It seems unlikely that the Cubs would move Samardzija between now and Thursday’s draft, though they could still target a competitive balance pick in the 2015 draft. The competitive balance lottery for next year’s draft will take place in roughly six weeks’ times, and an extra pick could be a valuable trade chip for any contending teams who win those additional selections.
Count FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal among those puzzled by David Price‘s revived feud with David Ortiz, as Rosenthal notes that the two seemed to have buried the hatchet after last year’s controversy in the ALDS. While Price has been no stranger to high-profile situations over his career and is widely considered to be a level-headed person, Rosenthal wonders how the Rays ace would deal with increased scrutiny if he is dealt to a more pressurized market than Tampa Bay. Here’s some more from around the AL East…
- The Blue Jays don’t have the prospect depth to pursue Price or Jeff Samardzija on the trade market this summer, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes (Insider subscription required). Both aces are only under contract through 2015 and seem unlikely to sign extensions to stay in Toronto, so the Jays aren’t willing to pay the high price of several top prospects for such short-term acquisitions.
- The Jays could look to add less-costly pitching help before the deadline, Olney writes, as well as an upgrade at second base, though the Brett Lawrie/Steve Tolleson/Juan Francisco rotation between 2B and 3B is working well. Toronto could also add another bullpen arm (if Sergio Santos isn’t healthy or effective) either before the deadline or into the August waiver period.
- “There’s no magic number for attendance” that will impact whether the Blue Jays make deadline deals or not, team president Paul Beeston tells Sportsnet’s Michael Grange. “If there’s a deal it’s not going to be money that determines if it’s going to be done, it’s going to be wins. If we’re winning we’ll do it. I hope we have that opportunity,” Beeston said.
- The big free agent deals signed by Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury last winter have yet to translate into an improved offense for the Yankees, Bill Madden of the New York Daily News writes. Beltran has been injured, McCann has struggled and Ellsbury has been miscast as a No. 3 hitter, a lineup spot Ellsbury has often been forced to fill due to injuries. Madden wonders why the Yankees didn’t pursue a first base backup for Mark Teixeira (again battling wrist problems) over the offseason and believes the team needs to sign Kendrys Morales to help the lineup.
- Ken Davidoff of the New York Post also looked at the Yankees’ hitting woes and argues that the club could be better served by trading for starting pitching rather than offensive help. If the Yankees’ veteran hitters are healthy, they’re at least known commodities, while New York has several unproven young arms in its injury-riddled rotation.
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe ran down the 20 best stories in baseball, starting with the worst-to-first (so far) Blue Jays. Toronto has gotten great hitting out of Jose Bautista, Melky Cabrera, Edwin Encarnacion, and Adam Lind and great pitching from Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey, and Drew Hutchison. Now, it remains to be seen whether the Blue Jays will be willing to part with Hutchison in a deal for Cubs‘ ace Jeff Samardzija. More from today’s column..
- The Red Sox and Rangers have the most to offer the Cubs for Samardzija, followed by the Giants. Of course, Cubs president Theo Epstein is quite familiar with the Red Sox’s farm system. The Cubs need pitching, but Boston will definitely not part with lefthander Henry Owens. If that’s not a deal breaker, the Sox have other pitchers like Brandon Workman, Matt Barnes, Anthony Ranaudo, Allen Webster, and Rubby De La Rosa that they can offer. Cafardo guesses that it would take two of them, plus perhaps a catcher, to pry Samardzija loose.
- With the Diamondbacks likely out of the race by the deadline, Cafardo says that we should look for veteran Bronson Arroyo to change uniforms again. Arroyo isn’t a shutdown guy, but he’s an experienced starter who could solidify the back of a rotation, particularly for an NL team.
- The Phillies have made John Mayberry Jr. available and Cafardo writes that the Red Sox could be interested. The Phillies have been scouting the Sox for a third straight series and are looking at Boston as a possible trade partner.
In case you missed it, the Cubs‘ efforts to renovate Wrigley Field have run into some snags that have stirred up controversy in Chicago. That project has frequently been cited by the team as a key factor in future payroll expansion. Club executive Crane Kenney discussed the latest in an interview with David Kaplan on The Game 87.7 FM (audio link). Kaplan also released a copy of the agreement with the neighboring rooftop owners that is at the center of the dispute (on CSNChicago.com). Today, first baseman Anthony Rizzo expressed frustration over the delays, saying that players had been told to expect significant clubhouse renovations, as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Here’s the latest from around the league to finish up the night …
- With the Blue Jays seemingly more interested in adding a short-term rental arm than a player who comes with more control (and a higher price), Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com says that James Shields of the Royals could be a possible target for Toronto. Heyman says that the Jays hope to avoid “gutting” the team’s prospect pool in adding a pitcher, and like that Shields has proven himself in the AL East. Of course, unless Kansas City is well out of the race by the time the trade deadline comes around, Shields may not even be available. And even if he is shopped, he would draw lots of interest from other contenders and should command a substantial prospect haul himself. Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos said earlier today that he is confident the club can take on salary to add an impact pitcher; in discussing that news, MLBTR’s Steve Adams listed several possible free agents-to-be that could become available and attractive to the Jays.
- Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado will not require surgery on his broken left middle finger, reports Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. That is good news for a suddenly-reeling Colorado club, though Arenado still figures to miss at least six more weeks. It will be interesting to see whether an anticipated mid-to-late July return for Arenado could help encourage the Rockies to buy at the trade deadline, if they can stay afloat in the meantime.
- The Reds were among the many clubs on hand to watch Cuban righty Raciel Iglesias throw today in Haiti, tweets C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer. The Cinci pen has struggled to the league’s third-worst ERA through the first third of the season. Iglesias is said to have the potential to be a legitimate big league relief contributor right away.
- One aspect of the Mariners‘ decision to purchase the contract of outfielder Endy Chavez today was his June 1 opt-out date, tweets Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. The 36-year-old was carrying a .272/.346/.289 triple-slash in 134 plate appearances at Triple-A.
- Other opt-out situations around the league are coming to a decision point. In addition to attempting to address the clause of rehabbing starter Johan Santana, the Orioles are waiting to find out whether reliever Luis Ayala will opt out of his deal tomorrow, with the expectation that he will, reports Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (Twitter links). The veteran righty has allowed three earned runs (with five strikeouts against two walks) in 5 1/3 innings at Double-A thus far in 2014.
- Meanwhile, Brewers lefty Brad Mills has been excellent at Triple-A and is nearing a June 15 opt-out date, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. The 29-year-old has a 1.74 ERA in 57 innings (including nine starts), with 9.0 K/9 against just 1.9 BB/9.