- Could the qualifying offer keep Mike Napoli in an Indians uniform? Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer floats the idea that the Tribe could extend the one-year QO (rumored to be worth $16.7MM) to Napoli as an attempt at keeping the slugger in the fold without making too lengthy a commitment to a player with a checkered injury history and who is entering his age-35 season. Napoli has enjoyed an outstanding season (.253/.339/.515 with 28 homers in 442 PA) and could certainly be in line for a multi-year deal this winter. If Napoli feels the draft pick compensation attached to the qualifying offer could dampen his market, however, he could also accept the QO and remain on a contender he enjoys playing for, while still taking home a nice payday. It’s certainly one of the more interesting possible QO scenarios in play this winter, assuming of course that the qualifying offer still exists in its current form if the new collective bargaining agreement is finalized before the offseason begins.
There’s been a great deal written about the reasons behind Jonathan Lucroy’s decision to invoke his no-trade clause in order to veto a trade to the Indians, and Lucroy himself has elected to set the record straight, as told to ESPN.com’s Robert Sanchez. The entire explanation is well worth a look for any fan, but Cleveland fans feeling jilted by Lucroy will especially want to take a look to read his own take.
When first informed by Brewers GM David Stearns that he’d been traded, Lucroy said he wasn’t informed which team had struck a deal to acquire him, as medical information needed to be examined before anything could be finalized. He assumed, however, that he’d been dealt to a club that didn’t appear on his no-trade list, as he wasn’t asked about waiving the clause at the time. When Lucroy’s agent, Doug Rogalski, learned it was Cleveland who had the agreement, he called Lucroy to inform him. As Lucroy says…
“I was surprised, but I wanted to keep an open mind. Great team. Competitive team. There’s a real chance to win. Doug called Chris Antonetti, the Indians’ president. There was one thing we wanted to know: What was my future with the Indians? We knew Cleveland already had a good catcher, Yan Gomes, who’s injured right now. He’s getting paid more than me, and he’s younger than me. We knew they’d probably want him catching almost every day next year. Heck, if I were the general manager in Cleveland, I’d want Gomes catching every day.
We were right. Antonetti told Doug that the Indians couldn’t make any promises on me catching next season. There was no way they’d drop the team option, either, because I’m pretty inexpensive in 2017. I don’t blame them. I would have been mostly at first base and designated hitter.”
Lucroy stresses that the decision was not because of any negative feelings he harbors toward the city of Cleveland, Indians fans or the Indians organization. He, in fact, was sure to state that he actually respects the organization even more now due to Antonetti’s honesty: “He could have lied to my agent and said I’d play catcher every day next season. … He told the truth. I’m thankful for that.”
Lucroy calls the decision to reject the trade purely economic, believing that teams wouldn’t place as high of a value on him as a free agent if it had been more than a calendar year since he’d regularly been catching games. He also expressed a basic love for the position of catcher — his regular spot on the diamond since he was 12 years old — and spoke about the difficulty he had when thinking of not manning the spot on a near-daily basis in 2017. Lucroy goes on to discuss the uneasiness of waiting to find out if he’d be traded, the impact that the talks had on his wife and young daughter, the emotion he felt in his final at-bat as a member of the Brewers and the relief he felt not only from being traded to a contending club but one that is close to his offseason home in Louisiana. “I know I had nothing to do with the Rangers getting to where they are now, but I want to have a lot to do with finishing the job,” he closes.
Again, readers are strongly encouraged to check out Lucroy’s full statements, as they provide a behind-the-curtain look at the thoughts, emotion and stress that fans and the media alike will often take for granted when discussing trades.
- Red-hot first baseman/designated hitter Mike Napoli is “not opposed to” the idea of an in-season contract extension with the Indians, he told Paul Hoynes of cleveland.com. “Yeah, I love it here. From the guys in the clubhouse, the front office, the training staff, the cooks. Everything has been wonderful,” stated Napoli, who homered Saturday for the sixth time in the Indians’ past eight games. In total, the 34-year-old has clubbed 28 homers in 442 plate appearances and owns a terrific .253/.339/.515 batting line, thereby giving first-place Cleveland excellent production at a reasonable cost ($7MM). Napoli has also been a positive influence in the Indians’ clubhouse, manager Terry Francona told David Glasier of the News-Herald on Thursday. “Man, he’s been a blessing to us. This guy is what you want. He shows up to win. When he doesn’t win, he’s (expletive),” said Francona. Napoli is making an underwhelming 2015 look like a fluke, so – whether it’s with the Indians or another team – he should certainly do better on his next deal.
Here are the day’s minor moves:
- The Indians announced that outfielder Joey Butler has cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A. Butler, 30, hasn’t seen the majors this year after posting a useful .276/.326/.416 batting line in 276 plate appearances last year for the Rays. Though he once seemingly represented a corner outfield option for Cleveland this year, he hadn’t yet earned a promotion and now loses his 40-man spot after running up a .238/.306/.360 slash at the highest level of the minors — well off of his .841 career OPS in extensive Triple-A action.
- Likewise, Giants infielder Ramiro Pena has cleared waivers and is ticketed for Triple-A, Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area tweets. The 31-year-old did excellent fill-in work for San Francisco, slashing .299/.330/.425 in his 91 plate appearances. But with the Giants welcoming back several players from the DL and re-aligning their infield mix, he was without a spot. Pena is a handy defender — he played at short, second, and third this year alone — but typically isn’t quite as productive at the plate as he has been in 2016. He carries a .636 OPS in his 701 trips to the plate as a big leaguer, though he has been swinging a good stick at Triple-A in each of the last two years.
- The Indians have inked lefty Colt Hynes to a minor league pact, according to the Plain Dealer’s Paul Hoynes (via Twitter). Hynes, 31, will head to Triple-A Columbus. The southpaw reliever has spent the last two years with the Blue Jays organization, briefly appearing in the majors last year. He has carried a sub-3.50 ERA at Triple-A each year, and was especially impressive this season. Over his 37 frames, Hynes retired 10.5 batters per nine via the strikeout while issuing only 1.7 BB/9.
Boston had actually added Martinez from Cleveland not long ago, and now sends him back. The 33-year-old switch-hitter has just 70 MLB plate appearances on the year, over which he carries a .273/.304/.364 batting line.
That doesn’t sound like much production, and it isn’t, but it actually stands quite a bit higher than Martinez’s career .515 OPS in 542 plate appearances. He has continued to draw interest from organizations, though, because of his defensive versatility. Martinez has lined up at every position except for first, pitcher, and catcher.
Olson, 26, was himself a recent waiver mover, with the Indians representing his third team on the year. He has reached the majors, but has received only minimal time there. Over his 95 1/3 career Triple-A innings, Olson has pitched to a 4.81 ERA with 7.7 K/9 against 3.0 B/9.
- The Indians considered a move for Padres catcher Derek Norris after their agreement to add Jonathan Lucroy was vetoed by the veteran backstop, according to Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer. Talks didn’t go very far, though, as Cleveland wasn’t enticed by a reportedly high asking price. The Indians also looked at Steve Pearce, but the team’s scouts weren’t enthused by his defensive profile at third.
A trio of notable players just hit the 15-day DL, so we’ll cover them all right here:
- The Indians announced that they have placed righty Danny Salazar on the 15-day DL while he rests his prized right elbow. Fortunately, an MRI seems only to have revealed inflammation, so the hope is that Salazar won’t miss an extended period of time. And Cleveland has plenty of rotation depth on hand, including Cody Anderson and Mike Clevinger, with the latter getting the nod for the time being. Still even a relatively brief absence will have an impact; Salazar has been nothing short of outstanding, and the AL Central-leading club holding a four-game cushion in the division race.
- After already recently placing infielder Jose Reyes on the shelf, the Mets have now done the same with shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. He suffered a strained patellar tendon and is headed for an MRI. The team also added just-signed outfielder Justin Ruggiano to the 15-day ranks. Cabrera’s loss is notable for an organization that was already scrambling to fill in for missing infielders. Matt Reynolds will come up for the meantime to help fill the void, but it seems there’s some real concern that the injury could require a fairly lengthy absence.
- Astros reliever Luke Gregerson is headed to the 15-day with an oblique strain, the team announced. That not only will keep him out of action for a bit, but will clear the way for Ken Giles to take over as the team’s closer with Will Harris struggling of late. Gregerson has been rather excellent this year despite himself losing the 9th-inning job previously, with ERA estimators valuing him even more highly than his 3.09 ERA.
- The Braves have added righty Julio Teheran to the DL as well. He is dealing with a lat strain that isn’t believed to be serious. Atlanta will obviously want to exercise plenty of caution in handling the injury, even if it isn’t particularly worrisome, as Teheran is a key piece of the organization’s rebuilding plans and there’s no need to rush him back.
- Cardinals reliever Trevor Rosenthal has been given platelet-rich plasma injections in his bothersome righty shoulder, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweets. GM John Mozeliak says that it’s possible Rosenthal Of course, St. Louis will be looking for more than just physical improvement; it’ll also hope that he can fix his skyrocketing walk rate during a rehab stint.
- As expected, Royals righty Luke Hochevar underwent a procedure today to help deal with a diagnosis of thoracic outlet syndrome, as Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star tweets. He is expected to be out for six months, which would conceivably mean that he’ll be ready for a full spring camp if the rehab goes according to plan. It seems likely that the Royals will decline their end of a $7MM mutual option on the reliever, which would make him a free agent, though certainly it’s possible to imagine him staying with Kansas City on some kind of creative, two-year deal of the sort that the team has reached in recent years with several injured hurlers.
Indians right-hander Danny Salazar is headed for what the club is calling a precautionary MRI due to discomfort in his right elbow, as MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian writes. “There’s something in my elbow,” said Salazar following a rough outing against the Twins on Monday. “I don’t know what it is. We don’t know. I think we’re going to find out tomorrow.” Manager Terry Francona said that Salazar’s elbow has been bothering him for at least a couple of weeks. Salazar had Tommy John surgery prior to making his big league debut and said the discomfort he feels in his elbow feels “totally different” than the pain he felt when he tore his ulnar collateral ligament. Nonetheless, there’s clearly some cause for concern, especially due to a recent decline in Salazar’s velocity (as Bastian highlights in his column).
The Rangers have reportedly agreed to a deal to acquire veteran outfielder Carlos Beltran from the Yankees. Righties Dillon Tate, Erik Swanson and Nick Green head to New York in the deal, which caps a partial but significant sell-off from the Bronx Bombers. The Rangers will pay $2.5MM of the approximately $5MM left of Beltran’s 2016 salary, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets.
Bringing in Beltran not only gives Texas an immediate upgrade to its lineup, helping to cover for injuries to Prince Fielder (out for the season) and Shin-Soo Choo (who recently returned to the DL), but may help the team stomach a deal of top prospect Joey Gallo. The young slugger was perhaps an increasingly important part of the near-term picture given the losses, but the Rangers are working hard to add pitching and he looks like a prime trade piece. Texas is also still in the market for catcher Jonathan Lucroy, with Gallo a possible piece in that prospective swap.
Beltran’s next birthday will be his fortieth, but that hasn’t prevented him from posting an outstanding .301/.342/.538 batting line and 21 home runs over 383 plate appearances on the year. His late excellence makes him not only a legitimate Hall-of-Fame candidate, but also a quality option down the stretch and in the post-season.
Indeed, Beltran has been at his best in the past under the brightest lights. He has produced a .332/.441/.674 slash and 16 home runs in 223 turns at the plate in the playoffs. Now, he’ll join a strong Texas club with designs on its own deep run.
Defense remains a question, of course, as Beltran has slowed considerably since his days of playing a solid center field. He’s limited to right at present, and is a marginal defender there. But the Rangers will presumably place him most often in the DH role, taking the spot vacated by Fielder.
The fourth overall pick in last year’s draft, Tate has seen his prospect star fade a bit this year. After opening the season as a consensus top-100 prospect, he has struggled to a 5.12 ERA with 7.6 K/9 against 3.7 BB/9 at the Class A level.
Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News said the Yankees were moving toward a deal (via Twitter). MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan said the Rangers were the team involved (via Twitter). Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported the inclusion of Tate (Twitter links). Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported the deal was done (Twitter links). Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reported the inclusion of another prospect (via Twitter). Jack Curry of the YES Network tweeted the full package.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.