Cleveland Indians Rumors

Cleveland Indians trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

AL Central Notes: Tigers, Chisenhall, Santana

White Sox Jeff Samardzija hurler  “may be the first starting pitcher moved ahead of the trading deadline” since “scouts are constantly at his games,” Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wrote yesterday.  Cafardo believes that the Royals, Tigers, Astros, Twins, Blue Jays, Yankees, Cardinals, Orioles, Angels, and Dodgers are among the many clubs with interest in the 30-year-old.  Here’s more from the AL Central..

  • Brad Ausmus told reporters, including James Schmehl of MLive.com (on Twitter), that he’d “probably be surprised” if the Tigers were sellers around the trade deadline.  The 41-39 Tigers learned on Saturday that they’ll be without the services of Miguel Cabrera for six weeks thanks to a calf strain.  Detroit will certainly miss his bat as Cabrera currently leads the American League in batting average (.350), on-base percentage (.456) and OPS (1.034).
  • Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer wonders what’s next for Lonnie Chisenhall now that he has played 21 games for Triple-A Columbus since his demotion.  At present, it’s hard to say where the 26-year-old could fit on the Indians‘ varsity squad.  Hoynes wonders if the third baseman could attract some interest from teams looking for some left-hander power off the bench or simply a reclamation project with upside.  In 89 plate appearances for Triple-A Columbus, Chisenhall has hit .309/.371/.469 with two home runs.
  • The Twins figure to get a rotation boost with Ervin Santana returning from an 80-game suspension today, Mike Bauman of MLB.com writes.  Santana inked a four-year, $55MM deal with Minnesota in December but his Twins debut was put on hold after his PED suspension.  Santana threw 196 innings for the Braves in 2014, posting a 3.95 ERA with 8.2 K/9 against 2.9 BB/9 and a 42.7% groundball rate.  There were signs that he was even better than those results would indicate, as FIP (3.39), xFIP (3.47), and SIERA (3.63) all liked his work.

Indians Agree To Over-Slot Bonus With Triston McKenzie

The Indians and No. 42 overall pick Triston McKenzie have agreed to a bonus of $2.3MM, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (via Twitter). As Heyman notes, that bonus comes in significantly higher than the slot value of $1.468MM.

Heading into the draft, some felt that McKenzie’s commitment to Vanderbilt would make him a tough sign, but his tantalizing arm led Cleveland to select him at No. 42 anyhow. McKenzie rated 44th, 46th, 51st and 53rd on the respective prospect lists of Fangraphs, ESPN, Baseball America and MLB.com.

As Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs notes, McKenzie is, at present, an incredibly thin 6’5″ and 165 pounds without great velocity. However, he projects to add a good deal of size and strength and also possesses advanced command with the potential for three above-average pitches. McKenzie won’t turn 18 until August, giving him additional time to fill out what ESPN calls “one of the most projectable arms most scouts have ever seen.” There’s some concern that McKenzie will always be on the thin side, but BA notes that if he does fill out well, “there’s plenty to dream on.”

The Indians have gone over slot to sign both top pick Brady Aiken and McKenzie, but they’ve made up for it further down the board, perhaps most notably with a pair of $5,000 senior signs in the ninth and tenth rounds of the draft.


Minor Moves: Mazzaro, Sizemore, Murata, Rogers

Here are today’s minor league transactions from around baseball, with the newest moves at the top of the post.  All moves were announced by the teams themselves unless otherwise cited.

  • Vin Mazzaro has elected to become a free agent, according to MLB.com’s official transactions page.  The veteran righty was designated for assignment by the Marlins earlier this week and then outrighted, giving him the option of accepting the assignment or choosing free agency.  Mazzaro has a 3.75 ERA, six strikeouts and six walks over 12 relief innings for Miami this season.
  • The Rays selected the contract of Grady Sizemore prior to today’s game, and the veteran outfielder delivered three hits in his Tampa debut.  Sizemore was released by the Phillies and signed to a minor league deal by the Rays earlier this month.  In corresponding roster moves, righty Matt Andriese was sent to Triple-A and outfielder Desmond Jennings was moved to the 60-day DL.
  • The Indians purchased the contract of right-hander Toru Murata, who is making his MLB debut in a start tonight against the Orioles.  Murata was signed as a free agent out of Japan in 2010 and he owns a 3.88 ERA, 3.01 K/BB rate and 6.8 K/9 over 489 2/3 minor league innings.  In a corresponding move, the Tribe released right-hander Scott Atchison.
  • The Yankees selected the contract of righty Esmil Rogers, who was just outrighted off the roster two weeks ago.  Rogers has a 6.27 ERA over 33 bullpen innings for New York this season, though he has been hamstrung by a .356 BABIP and a very low 56% strand rate.
  • The Pirates selected the contract of utilityman Gorkys Hernandez.  Once a top-100 prospect, Hernandez appeared in 70 MLB games with the Pirates and Marlins in 2012 and hasn’t since been back to the Show.  Hernandez has a .278/.342/.376 slash line, 33 homers and 213 steals (out of 285 chances) over 4055 career minor league plate appearances.
  • The Braves selected the contract of right-hander Ryan Kelly, who is getting his first taste of the majors after nine pro seasons.  Kelly was a 26th-round draft pick for the Pirates in 2006 and he’s compiled a 3.99 ERA, 3.10 K/BB rate and 8.2 K/9 over 462 2/3 innings (mostly as a reliever).


Indians Release Scott Atchison

The Indians have released reliever Scott Atchison, the club announced.  The 39-year-old righty had been designated for assignment earlier in the week.

Atchison struggled to a 6.86 ERA over 19 2/3 innings this season, though ERA estimators such as xFIP (4.35) and SIERA (4.03) paint a somewhat more sympathetic view of his 2015 performance.  Atchison has been badly hurt by the long ball, as he’s already allowed six homers and owns a 2.75 HR/9, which more than triples his 0.91 career HR/9.  His 42% ground ball rate is also well below his career 49.7% GBR, which especially hurts since Atchison isn’t a strikeout pitcher.

Cleveland signed Atchison to a $1MM extension last August that paid him a $900K base salary in 2015 as well as a $100K buyout of a $1MM option for 2016.  The right-hander was in the midst of a very solid 2.75 ERA campaign for the Tribe in 2014 and had posted very effective numbers from 2011-14 as a member of the Indians, Mets and Red Sox.

With Atchison’s release, only four players remain in limbo according to the MLB Trade Rumors DFA Tracker: Erik Kratz (Red Sox), Rafael Lopez (Cubs), Jose Tabata (Pirates) and Chris Volstad (Pirates).


AL Central Notes: Buxton, Twins, Sox, Ramirez, Royals, Santana

The Twins announced today that Byron Buxton has been placed on the 15-day disabled list due to a sprained left thumb that was suffered when sliding in an attempt to steal second base on Tuesday. Danny Santana, the club’s Opening Day shortstop, has been recalled to take Buxton’s roster spot. Presumably, Santana could see some time in center field, where he played extensively at the big league level in 2014. Some within the organization tell 1500 ESPN’s Darren Wolfson that Buxton could be good to go within two weeks (Twitter links), but manager Paul Molitor took a more conservative approach, telling Go 96.3 Radio’s Dana Wessel that Buxton could miss a month or more (Twitter link).

More from the AL Central…

  • Twins general manager Terry Ryan spoke with FOX Sports North’s Tyler Mason in a lengthy Q&A, discussing the team’s unexpected status as a contender within the division and the timelines/future roles of some key prospects. Specifically, Ryan said that Miguel Sano‘s bat is well ahead of his glove, adding that while that’s OK, he does need to continue to improve his fielding and all-around game. Regarding Alex Meyer, who was promoted to the Majors for today’s game to join the team’s bullpen, Ryan said the team has not closed the book on Meyer as a starting pitcher. He also addressed the impending return of Ervin Santana and the potential rotation logjam that will face the Twins.
  • Jeff Samardzija spoke with Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune about the likelihood of hearing his name in trade rumors over the coming month due to the White Sox‘ poor standing in the AL Central. Samardzija, who has been traded twice in the past calendar year, said those previous two swaps have helped him learn to ignore the rumors. “It’s easy to get distracted in this game, whether it’s trade rumors or personal life,” said Samardzija. “…It’s so important to make your priorities between the foul lines.” It’s not known for sure that Samardzija will be shopped, but Sullivan notes that the White Sox are willing to part with the struggling Alexei Ramirez. Of course, given Ramirez’s $10MM salary, declining glove and .222/.243/.293 batting line, he’d likely be difficult to move.
  • The Royals are looking at second base, the starting rotation and right field as potential areas to upgrade via the trade market, writes Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star in this morning’s mailbag. However, he notes that GM Dayton Moore has never made a blockbuster addition in July, and opines the team is better than it was in 2014 when it elected not to make a deal and rode its core to the World Series.
  • In his latest notes column, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes that the Indians haven’t lived up to expectations to this point and are facing a tough road trip during which they’ll face the Orioles, Rays and Pirates. Rosenthal wonders if Carlos Santana may eventually be made available — a topic on which Jeff Todd and I have speculated regularly on the MLBTR Podcast (including just last week). Rosenthal feels that a team like the Red Sox would have interest in Santana due to his affordable 2016 salary ($8.25MM) and 2017 club option ($12MM).

Indians Designate Scott Atchison

The Indians have designated righty Scott Atchison for assignment, the club announced. His roster spot will go to fellow right-hander Austin Adams.

Atchison, 39, had a great 2014 campaign, when he tossed 72 innings of 2.75 ERA ball for Cleveland with 6.1 K/9 against 1.8 BB/9. More broadly, he had performed well — at least according to ERA estimators, if not always results — dating back to the start of 2011. All said, the Indians felt comfortable giving Atchison a $1MM deal for 2015, which was agreed upon last August.

This year has been different, however. While his strikeout and walk numbers are similar, Atchison has not generated groundballs as consistently and has been punished by the long ball (25.0% HR/B, 2.75 HR/9). The average velocity on both his fastball and slider is down two full miles per hour. Even the most optimistic of advanced stats show him as a below-average performer at this point, and his ERA stands at an unsightly 6.86 over 19 2/3 innings.

Adams, 28, has put up big strikeout numbers this year at Triple-A, though that ability has not shown up yet in his limited MLB action over the last two years. In 18 1/3 total big league frames, he has a 4.91 ERA with 5.4 K/9 against 2.5 BB/9.


Indians Sign Brady Aiken

JUNE 22: The bonus is for $2,513,280, Callis tweets.

JUNE 19: 5:25pm: The precise bonus value is not yet known but will be above the slot allotment, Jim Callis of MLB.com reports on Twitter.

11:10am: The Indians announced the signing of Aiken, noting that he’s already completed a medical evaluation with the team and is rehabbing at the club’s Spring Training complex in Goodyear, Ariz.

11:00am: The Indians have signed left-hander Brady Aiken, the No. 17 overall pick in this year’s draft, reports Jordan Bastian of MLB.com (on Twitter). Terms of the bonus are unknown, although the 17th overall slot comes with a value of $2,393,600, according to Baseball America.

Aiken, of course, has been in baseball headlines for more than a year. Selected with the first overall pick by the Astros in the 2014 draft, Aiken was widely expected to sign and even headed to Houston to take a physical and finalize his contract. However, the Astros came away from the physical feeling uneasy about the status of the ulnar collateral ligament in Aiken’s left elbow and reduced their bonus offer from roughly $6.5MM to $5MM. Aiken elected not to sign and in the offseason enrolled at the IMG Academy in Florida in order to be eligible again for the 2015 draft.

Aiken’s season at IMG didn’t last long, however. He left his first start of the season, stating afterward that “something felt a little wrong” in his throwing elbow, and further tests revealed that he had torn the UCL that had given the Astros pause. Aiken underwent Tommy John surgery shortly thereafter.

The injury naturally caused Aiken’s draft stock to drop a bit, but the mystery surrounding his elbow may have caused his stock to slip a bit further. Multiple reports headed into the draft indicated that there was general concern surrounding Aiken’s elbow because his Tommy John surgery and UCL were both said to be abnormal. Houston was said last summer to be concerned by general size of Aiken’s UCL — said to be smaller than a standard elbow ligament — and the difference from that of a straightforward Tommy John case created genuine befuddlement among draft experts as to where he might be selected and which team might take the gamble on Aiken’s highly talented left arm.

Cleveland stepped up and took that gamble, and the potential reward they face if Aiken is fully healthy and can have a normal career moving forward is sizable. Aiken was widely labeled as one of the top talents in each of the past two draft classes. Despite the injury, Aiken was ranked 17th in this year’s draft by Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs, 22nd by Baseball America, 24th by MLB.com (Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis) and 27th by Keith Law of ESPN.com.

Aiken sits in the low 90s with his fastball and has topped out at 96-97 mph, and McDaniel labels three of his pitches — fastball, curveball and changeup — as future plus pitches, giving each an average-or-better grade at present despite his age. Mayo and Callis praised his advanced command and a curveball that added more power and depth late in Aiken’s prep career. BA termed Aiken a “standout athlete,” noting that the former high school quarterback also comes with an ideal 6’3″, 210-pound frame. ESPN noted that as good as Aiken’s pure stuff is, his delivery is one of the cleanest they’ve seen out of a high school pitcher in quite some time (making the injury concerns all the more confounding).


AL Notes: Red Sox, Castellanos, Weaver, Anderson

Despite what has been a wildly disappointing season to this point, the Red Sox aren’t likely to completely blow up their roster again, writes Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports in his latest 10 Degrees column. For all of Boston’s 2015 woes, the team will still have Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts up the middle in 2015, and the departure of Mike Napoli via free agency could allow Hanley Ramirez to move over to first base with Rusney Castillo getting an everyday outfield role. Blake Swihart, too, has shown promise this month and gives the team another building block. Passan hears that the team has no designs on trying to dump either Ramirez or Pablo Sandoval to another club.

A few more notes from around the AL…

  • Nick Castellanos isn’t hitting well in 2015, but manager Brad Ausmus tells MLB.com’s Jason Beck that the Tigers will remain patient with the young third baseman. The team has a plan on how to handle Castellanos’ struggles, and while Ausmus wouldn’t elaborate, there’s no talk of sending him to Triple-A or reducing his playing time dramatically. The 23-year-old Castellanos is hitting just .217/.267/.328 in 255 plate appearances this year.
  • Angels right-hander Jered Weaver hit the DL last night due to hip inflammation, writes Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times, and he’ll undergo an MRI to determine if there is anything more severe at play. Weaver said he’s felt a sharp pain in his hip on and off as of late, and DiGiovanna notes that there’s always some concern with this type of injury that the MRI will reveal a tear and necessitate surgery. The Halos did position themselves to be able to replace an injury to one of their starters this winter by acquiring Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano.
  • Cody Anderson is the Indians‘ latest attempt to fix what has been a revolving door in the fifth spot of their rotation, writes Zack Meisel of Cleveland.com. The 24-year-old rookie made his big league debut Sunday and pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings against the Rays, limiting Tampa to six hits and a walk with four strikeouts. Manager Terry Francona was impressed not only by the results and Anderson’s poise on the mound, but his ability to hold runners and field his position. “I’m sure there’s a lot of guys in player development today that are really proud,” said Francona. “And, they should be, because he did a hell of a job.” For the time being, it seems that Anderson will have the opportunity to lock down that rotation spot, and I’d imagine his ability (or inability) to do so could impact Cleveland’s plans come July.

Quick Hits: Castellini, Aiken, Rays, Brewers

Unless someone blows the Reds away with an offer, John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer could see them rolling the dice, effectively staying pat, and hoping for a second-half turnaround.  There are people in the organization willing to blow it all up, but Fay writes that owner Bob Castellini is an optimist.  Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, and Aroldis Chapman could yield great returns for the Reds, but their owner might not be ready to call it quits on 2015.  The Reds are 32-36 following today’s 5-2 win over the Marlins.

  • Since signing Brady Aiken, the Indians have kept the size of his bonus “on top-secret lockdown for some reason,” MLB.com’s Jim Callis writes (all Twitter links).  Callis predicts that Aiken will receive the “max of what [the] Indians can pay without crossing 105% pool threshold,” so roughly a bonus of $2.7 to $2.75MM, which would top his slot value as the 17th overall pick by over $300K.  Aiken’s bonus has been the source of speculation given how he was both the first player taken in 2014 and a recent Tommy John patient.  As Jason Lukehart of the Let’s Go Tribe blog recently noted, Cleveland has saved a lot of money in their draft pool to go significantly over slot to sign Aiken and 42nd overall pick Triston McKenzie.
  • The Rays have long been able to deliver winning teams on small payrolls, yet Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times observes that the 2015 season may be the club’s most impressive feat yet.  The Rays are in first place in the AL East despite paying almost $36MM of their $72MM Opening Day payroll to players who are either on the DL, in the minors or no longer with the organization.
  • It will be tough for the Brewers to receive good prospect value back on the trade market since so many of their high-priced veterans are struggling, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes.  Dealing controllable pieces like Jonathan Lucroy, Wily Peralta or Jimmy Nelson wouldn’t make sense, so Haudricourt thinks Carlos Gomez or Jean Segura would have to be the ones to go in order for Milwaukee to get some quality minor league talent.
  • Chasen Shreve and Justin Wilson have become big parts of the Yankees bullpen, though Joel Sherman of the New York Post notes that the Bombers paid a surprisingly hefty price.  Ex-top prospect Manny Banuelos (dealt for Shreve and the released David Carpenter) is pitching well for the Braves’ Triple-A team while Francisco Cervelli (traded for Wilson) has emerged as a huge help behind the plate for the Pirates.
  • While the chances of the White Sox trading Chris Sale are remote, ESPN’s Buster Olney (Insider-only piece) opines that the Sox should at least consider dealing Sale since the return would be so enormous for a 26-year-old ace who is controllable through 2019 on a team-friendly contract.  White Sox sources told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that the club isn’t making Sale available, which is understandable, though Olney is right in noting that Sale would instantly become the biggest trade chip on the market.

Minor Moves: Nelson, Grube, Moreno, Rumbelow

Here are today’s minor transactions from around baseball, with the newest moves at the top of the post…

  • The Nationals signed free agent third baseman Chris Nelson to a minor league deal, according to MLB.com’s transactions page.  Nelson, 29, was released by the Brewers just last week.  He has moved around quite a bit since his promising run with the Rockies in 2012 as he also saw time with the Yankees, Angels, Padres, and Phillies.  This year, Nelson posted a .202/.256/.290 slash line in 133 plate appearances at Triple-A Colorado Springs.
  • Also from MLB.com’s transactions page, the Indians signed right-hander Jarrett Grube to a minor league deal.  Grube has spent 2015 pitching in the Mexican League, where he has a 2.98 ERA, 7.5 K/9 and a whopping 8.33 K/BB rate over 60 1/3 innings (11 starts).  The 33-year-old Grube was a 10th-round pick of the Rockies in the 2004 draft and he’s also spent time in the Mariners and Angels farm systems.  He made his MLB debut last season, appearing in one game for the Angels.
  • The Yankees have selected the contracts of right-handers Diego Moreno and Nick Rumbelow, the club announced.  In corresponding moves, Jose De Paula and Danny Burawa were optioned to Triple-A while Sergio Santos was placed on the 60-day DL.  Moreno reaches the Show after eight pro seasons in the minors with the Pirates and Yankees, and the 27-year-old has a 2.27 ERA, 3.63 K/BB rate and 7.3 K/9 in 35 2/3 Triple-A innings this season.  LSU product Rumbelow was a seventh-round pick for New York in the 2013 draft and he’s posted a 2.79 ERA, 4.73 K/BB rate and 142 strikeouts in 116 1/3 innings in the minors, all as a reliever.