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Cleveland Indians Rumors
For those who missed it over the weekend, reports from MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez pegged this coming Sunday (Sept. 21) as the date for Cuban slugger Yasmani Tomas‘ showcase, which will be held at the Giants’ complex in the Dominican Republic. Here are a few notes on the international prospect front…
- Tomas’ agent, Jay Alou, told Jorge Ebro of El Nuevo Herald in Miami last week (Spanish link) that he expects to set a record this offseason when negotiating Tomas’ contract. Rusney Castillo‘s seven-year, $72.5MM contract currently stands as the most lucrative contract ever for a Cuban player, but Tomas’ combination of age and power will certainly give him a chance to top that figure. It would also seem possible that Tomas tops Jose Abreu‘s $11.33MM average annual salary as well.
- The Red Sox have scouted Japanese right-hander Kenta Maeda extensively, reports Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. Cafardo says it would be a surprise if Boston didn’t make a bid for the 26-year-old, assuming he is posted this offseason (Cafardo makes the assumption that he will be). Maeda has posted a 2.71 ERA with 7.5 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 in 156 innings for the Hiroshima Carp this season — his sixth straight season with an ERA south of 3.00. Set to turn 27 next April, Maeda has a career 2.45 ERA over seven seasons in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball. Of course, Maeda is a rather high-profile arm, so it’s likely that a large amount of other clubs have been scouting him as well.
- Sanchez traveled to the Dominican Republic this weekend for a week-long Dominican Prospect League showcase — an event at which roughly 200 teenagers will be seen by scouts. According to Sanchez (Twitter links), 29 of baseball’s 30 clubs will be in attendance. The Indians, he says, are the lone club that is not expected to attend. Sanchez’s timeline currently has plenty of Vine clips of prospects performing drills for those who are interested in the event.
Some might argue that Mike Trout has taken his focus away from speed and put more into being a middle-of-the-order hitter, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia says that’s not really the case, writes Pedro Moura of the Orange Country Register. “If your point is, has he lost speed, the answer is no,” Scioscia said. “Is his game shifting more toward the middle-of-the-order hitter where he won’t run again? No. There’s been no strategic change in how we view his assets or how he should play the game, philosophically, this year.” Here’s more out of the AL..
- In theory, the Indians could move Jason Kipnis to the outfield in 2015 with the emergence of Jose Ramirez at shortstop and Francisco Lindor breaking in at Triple-A, but now is not the time, argues Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer. It’s not clear where Kipnis would fit considering Michael Brantley‘s season in left field and the less-than-stellar trade values of Michael Bourn and David Murphy. Nick Swisher could also be slotted in the outfield next year.
- The Indians will certainly look out-of-house for offseason improvements, but there’s a lot to like about what they have for 2015, writes Hoynes. The Indians have a number of young pitchers emerging at the same time and and bullpen has been sharp all year. Even though the bats haven’t been there this year, Hoynes says 2015 is looking like one of the best situations the Tribe has been in in a while.
- A reader asked Jim Callis of MLB.com (on Twitter) if Brady Aiken will have to disclose his medicals to all interested clubs next year and Callis responded in the affirmative. Aiken’s name came up in the news again when commissioner Bud Selig inadvertently implied that the Astros could still sign him. It seems rather unlikely that Houston would be allowed to do that.
Top prospects must often react to failure for the first time in their career at the major league level, writes the Providence Journal’s Brian MacPherson in a pair of articles (first, second). Red Sox manager John Farrell points to the mental side and getting to know his young players. Their ability to handle adversity can explain the different developmental patterns for players like Will Middlebrooks, Xander Bogaerts, and Jackie Bradley - all of whom have experienced similar struggles this season. Bogaerts has played through the worst of his slump while Middlebrooks and Bradley Jr. spent time in the minors. Teams can also use veterans like David Ross to help young players like Christian Vazquez transition to the majors.
- Continuing our theme, Eno Sarris of FanGraphs wonders if the Indians ought to trade Francisco Lindor this offseason. The club is pleasantly surprised with Jose Ramirez, who features superb defense and a typical bat for a shortstop. While his .256/.298/.339 slash is unexciting, it’s comparable to the average line produced by all major league shortstops – .250/.306/.362 (and that line includes Troy Tulowitzki). Shortstop prospects are the most common in baseball, and they bust 10 percent more frequently than any other position. Perhaps the Indians ought to consider acquiring a “sure thing” for their top prospect.
In his latest piece for ESPN.com, Jerry Crasnick examines how vital a piece of the Pirates‘ success Russell Martin has become. While his two-year, $17MM deal was initially viewed as an overpay by some after a so-so season in New York, he’s become an indispensable asset. Said GM Neal Huntington: “Russ has put us in a position where we got crushed when we brought him in, and if we let him go out the door, we’re gonna get crushed again.” As Crasnick notes, the Rangers, Rockies, Tigers, Dodgers, Cubs and White Sox could all be players in a thin crop of free agent catchers this offseason. Martin spoke to Crasnick as well, explaining that given the proximity to the end of the season, it simply makes sense to see what his options are in free agency. He did profess a love of playing in Pittsburgh, although Pirates fans may be troubled to hear that a more aggressive approach in Spring Training could have helped to retain their backstop: “If there would have been something done in spring training, it would have been a different story,” Martin told Crasnick. I agree with Crasnick’s take that a contract between Carlos Ruiz‘s three-year, $26.5MM contract and Miguel Montero‘s five-year, $65MM deal seems attainable. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes recently noted that a $50MM figure seems plausible.
Here’s more from the game’s Central divisions…
- MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon opines that the Reds should shut down Joey Votto for the season rather than rush him back for the final week or so of a non-contending season. Even if Votto appeared to be 100 percent, he would still risk re-injury, while the focus should be on making sure he’s fully healthy for 2015, when the team will desperately need him.
- Jason Kipnis tells Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer that he pressed too hard early in the season as he tried to live up to the expectations set by his contract extension with the Indians. However, he does feel that this is something he can learn from: “I can change,” said Kipnis. “I can come to the realization that I have that in my back pocket and just go out and enjoy myself and play the game.”
- Following the trade of Gordon Beckham to the Angels, second base has become a position of flux for the White Sox, writes MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. Top prospect Micah Johnson has been shut down for the year due to an injury, but he’ll be firmly in the mix with Carlos Sanchez and Marcus Semien, both of whom are getting looks over the season’s final month. Manager Robin Ventura offered high praise for what he’s seen of Sanchez thus far, calling him a smart player and saying that it’s easy to see why the organization was so high on him.
- Twins pitching prospect Lewis Thorpe has been diagnosed with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his left arm, Mike Beradino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes. It’s been a rough year for Minnesota prospects, as Miguel Sano had Tommy John surgery, Byron Buxton missed much of the year with wrist and concussion issues, and Alex Meyer experiencing shoulder discomfort in his final start of the season. The Australian-born Thorpe has soared up Twins prospect rankings since signing, and Baseball Prospectus ranked him as the game’s No. 101 prospect prior to the season. He posted a 3.52 ERA with 10.0 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 in 71 2/3 innings as an 18-year-old at Class A. As Berardino notes in a followup piece, Thorpe isn’t expected to need Tommy John surgery and will rehab in the fall instructional league.
We’ll keep track of today’s outright assignments here..
- The Royals have placed both Chris Dwyer and Blake Wood on outright waivers, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Both hurlers were designated recently to clear space for September call-ups. Once a top prospect, Dwyer has struggled to a 5.59 ERA working mostly in relief at Triple-A this year, while Wood has yet to re-establish himself since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2012.
- The Indians announced that they have outrighted outfielder Chris Dickerson to Triple-A Columbus. Cleveland acquired Dickerson from the Pirates in exchange for a player to be named later back in July. GM Chris Antonetti traded for Dickerson because he valued his ability to play all three outfield positions and ability to hit against right-handed pitching.
Every small-market team dreams of building a rotation of young, controllable arms, and Peter Gammons (in his latest piece for Gammons Daily) feels the Indians have done just that in Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer. Salazar was signed as an undrafted high schooler and the other three were acquired in trades, giving the Tribe an enviable collection of pitchers for both their wild card push this season and to stay in contention for years to come.
Here’s some more from around the game as we head into the weekend…
- The Astros have made little progress in negotiations with draft pick Jacob Nix and the situation between the two sides seems likely to proceed to a hearing, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports. The MLBPA filed a grievance on Nix’s behalf after Houston withdrew an offer to the fifth-rounder that had seemingly been agreed-upon.
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow hasn’t decided whether to make his managerial search candidates known to the public, he tells Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle.
- Mark Buehrle‘s future with the Blue Jays is discussed by several Sportsnet writers and broadcasters. Buehrle will earn $19MM in 2015, his last year under contract, and the feeling amongst the panel is that the Jays could explore trading the veteran in order to free up payroll space. While Buehrle still has value on the mound and as a mentor to Toronto’s young starters, that might not be worth the $19MM piece he takes out of what could be a limited Jays budget.
- Koji Uehara will be temporarily replaced by Edward Mujica as the Red Sox closer, manager John Farrell told reporters today (including MLB.com’s Steven Petrella). Uehara has slumped badly over his last few outings, indicating to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal that GM Ben Cherington may have erred in not dealing Uehara at the trade deadline. Uehara is a free agent this winter and, at the very least, his struggles have eliminated any chance of the Sox extending him a qualifying offer.
- Right-hander John Holdzkom began his season in independent ball and now may end it on the Pirates‘ Major League roster. Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper looks at Holdzkom’s seven-year journey through the minors that finally led to his Major League debut last Tuesday.
The move is a homecoming for Shuck, who was born in Westerville, Ohio and went to Ohio State. The Halos designated Shuck for assignment three days ago, and now he joins a Tribe roster that is already pretty deep in left-handed hitting outfielders. Still, Shuck has experience at all three outfield positions and could be a longer-term option for Cleveland since he’s controlled through the 2018 season. Shuck has a .272/.316/.344 slash line over 658 career PA with the Angels and Astros.
With Shuck’s situation resolved, check out the MLB Trade Rumors DFA Tracker to follow which players are still in “DFA limbo.”
- 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.
The former big league slugger has spent the 2014 season with los Toros de Tijuana of the Mexican League and has slashed a robust .296/.423/.620 with 19 home runs in 272 plate appearances. However, he hasn’t been in affiliated ball since 2012 and last saw the Majors in 2011 when he split the season between the D’Backs and Angels. Branyan hit .197/.295/.370 with just five homers in 146 PA that year.
The Indians drafted Branyan back in the seventh round of the 1994 draft, and since that time they’ve now signed him three times and traded for him once as well. Branyan, now 38 years of age, has seen the Majors in parts of 14 different seasons between the Indians, Brewers, Padres, Mariners, Diamondbacks, Rays, Phillies, Cardinals and Angels. He’s a lifetime .232/.329/.485 hitter with 194 homers, including a career-high 31 back in 2009 with Seattle.
Outman, who had been pitching at Triple-A Columbus for the Indians, will report to the Yankees’ Major League roster. It’s unclear whether the Yankees claimed Outman off waivers or if they struck a deal with Cleveland after Outman had already cleared revocable waivers.
The 29-year-old Outman was acquired by the Indians this past offseason in a straight up swap for outfielder Drew Stubbs. While Stubbs has gone on to enjoy a strong season in Colorado, Outman saw his control decline with Cleveland, resulting in a demotion to the minor leagues. (The move did save the Indians $2.85MM, as Outman’s $1.25MM arbitration salary was significantly lower than the $4.1MM paid to Stubbs.) Though he posted a strong 3.28 ERA with 24 punchouts in 24 2/3 innings, Outman also walked 16 batters in that time, making for a career-worst 5.8 BB/9 rate.
What Outman has provided throughout his career is a strong option against left-handed batters. He held opposing lefties to a .180/.293/.380 batting line in 2014 and has limited them to a .188/.257/.287 triple-slash in 403 career plate appearances. Since his demotion, Outman had posted an inferior 4.41 ERA in 22 1/3 innings but had seen his command improve, walking just eight batters against 20 strikeouts in that time.
The Yankees are currently relying on David Huff and Rich Hill as the left-handed options in their bullpen, and Outman will provide manager Joe Girardi with another lefty to use if neither of those arms is removed from the roster in order to clear space. Outman is slated to finish the year with less than five years of Major League service time, meaning that the Yankees could control him through the 2016 campaign via arbitration if they wish.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.