Christian Villanueva Rumors

Quick Hits: Pollock, Morales, Lester, Cubs

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.”

Prospect Rumor Roundup: 2012 Trade Deadline Review

If you're a fan of Major League Baseball and of reading sports tickers on the television, then July is the perfect month for you. More than 20 trades occurred in July 2012 as playoff-hopeful clubs looked to position themselves for strong second halves of their seasons and robust drives for the postseason.

For just about every veteran player on the move to a contending club in July, there is a prospect or two heading back in the other direction — towards a rebuilding club desperate for a cost-controlled building block. Close to 80 players changed jerseys last July prior to the looming trade deadline at the end of the month, and the 2013 season is expected to be no different.

But just how many of those young players that changed allegiances have maintained their values with their new organizations? Below is a list of the Top 10 young players who were traded last July. Only players who had not exceeded their MLB rookie eligibilities (50 IP for pitchers, 130 AB for hitters) at the 2012 trade deadline were considered for the article, and the list is in alphabetical order.

Rob Brantly, C (Tigers to Marlins): Given the Marlins' starting catcher gig at the beginning of the 2013 season, the offensive-minded backstop's bat has wilted under the pressure, and he has a .587 OPS in 49 games. The good news is that his defense has improved noticeably — perhaps thanks to the guidance from veteran second-string receiver Jeff Mathis, an excellent defensive player, and manager Mike Redmond, a former catcher. Juan C. Rodriguez of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel looked at Brantly's inconsistent season.

Matt Dominguez, 3B (Marlins to Astros): It's been an inconsistent season for the young third baseman — both at the plate and in the field, despite his reputation as a strong defender. Just 23, Dominguez has time on his side as he looks to breathe new life into his withering bat, but questions about his offensive abilities have been floating around since his amateur days. Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle penned a piece about Dominguez' focus on the future rather than the past.

Robbie Grossman, OF (Pirates to Astros): Grossman earned a shot at a starting outfield gig in Houston after a hot April in Triple-A. Unfortunately, he posted an OPS of just .553 and was returned to the minors after 28 games. His offensive struggles followed him back to Oklahoma City and he managed a measly .512 OPS in June.

Johnny Hellweg, SP (Angels to Brewers): Hellweg's raw ability is undeniable but command and control issues have haunted him throughout his pro career. Tall pitchers are considered late bloomers in those areas, and the 6'9'' right-handed hurler definitely fits into that category. He recently received his first big league promotion, but he was roughed up during his first two appearances in The Show. Michael Hunt of the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel spoke to the rookie, as well as his manager, after his first outing.

Tommy Joseph, C (Giants to Phillies): Joseph has experienced a major setback with the bat in 2013. After beginning the year in Triple-A, he hit just .209 before a concussion knocked him out of action. Now healthy again, Joseph is getting back into playing shape while at the A-ball level. The struggles and injury helped to ensure that he missed an opportunity to fill in at the big league level when both Carlos Ruiz and Erik Kratz went down in Philadelphia. Jeff Schuler of The Morning Call wrote a piece on Joseph's return from the disabled list.

Jean Segura, SS (Angels to Brewers): Perhaps the biggest success story on this list, Segura is currently in the hunt for a batting title in the National League. He also has surprising pop and an outside chance at eventually becoming a 20-20 (HR-SB) hitter. Originally a second baseman, the sturdy but diminutive hitter was relocated to the left side of the infield, but it remains to be seen how long he'll stick there. Either way, he could be a mainstay in the middle of the diamond for years to come. Mike Woods of the Sheboygan Press recently spoke to Segura who admitted to being surprised by his success in 2013.

Jacob Turner, SP (Tigers to Marlins): Turner's value has taken a hit over the past year or two as his stuff has regressed. Scouting forecasts focus more on the ceiling of a No. 3 or 4 starter now, rather than that of the No. 1 or 2 starter ceiling from the early days of his pro career. Despite that, Turner has had an excellent start to the 2013 season at the big league level by posting a 1.76 ERA and holding hitters to a .229 batting average in six starts.

Christian Villanueva, 3B (Rangers to Cubs): The emergence of Mike Olt in the Rangers system made Villanueva expendable. The Cubs third baseman has the chance to develop into a multifaceted player, albeit one without any true standout tool. He's showing solid gap power at the Double-A level but both his batting average and his on-base percentage are down in 2013.

Arodys Vizcaino, SP (Braves to Cubs): Vizcaino, 22, hasn't pitched since 2011, but he's been the property of three organizations thanks to his power arm. The right-hander injured his elbow early on in his career with the Yankees and finally underwent Tommy John surgery, missing all of the 2012 season. He looked ready to return in 2013 before undergoing a second surgery on his throwing elbow.

Asher Wojciechowski, SP (Blue Jays to Astros): One of the most unheralded acquisitions of 2012, Wojciechowski was a supplemental first round selection from the 2010 amateur draft. He didn't respond well at all when the Jays attempted to rework his delivery and his results suffered. He has rediscovered his prospect value with the Astros, although inconsistency continues to haunt him. It remains to be seen if his future lies in the starting rotation or the bullpen.

Honorable Mentions: Colton Cain, SP (Pirates to Astros); Kevin Comer, SP (Blue Jays to Astros); Kyle Hendricks, SP (Rangers to Cubs); Marc Krauss, OF (Diamondbacks to Astros); Ethan Martin, SP (Dodgers to Phillies); Carlos Perez, C (Blue Jays to Astros); David Rollins, SP (Blue Jays to Astros).

2012 Trade Deadline Winners: Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers

2012 Trade Deadline Losers: Los Angeles Angels, Toronto Blue Jays