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Cleveland Indians Rumors
- 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.
The Indians have acquired catcher Chris Gimenez from the Rangers in return for future considerations, tweets Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest.
The teams have confirmed the deal via press release. Gimenez, who was formerly with the Rangers Triple-A affiliate, will head straight to the Indians roster to fill in for the injured Yan Gomes.
Prior to the trade, Gimenez split time between the Rangers major league roster and Triple-A Round Rock. This season at the major league level, he hit .262/.331/.355 in 118 plate appearances. He might be best used in a platoon. He’s hit .282/.366/.366 in 162 career plate appearances against left-handed pitching. Defensive reports indicate that Gimenez is average or better. The Catcher Report at StatCorner.com rates Gimenez as three runs above average in his limited work this season.
Cleveland will be the 31-year-old catcher’s third organization of the year and fourth since the end of the 2013 season. He finished last year with the Rays, who lost him to the Athletics on waivers in December. The Athletics re-signed Gimenez in March to a one-year, $510,000 contract. They lost him on waivers to the Rangers later that month. To add a little extra spice to his recent transaction history, Texas outrighted Gimenez at the start of the season. Gimenez initially refused the assignment but ultimately signed a minor league deal to remain with the Rangers.
It has come full circle for Gimenez, who started his career with the Indians. He spent parts of two seasons with Cleveland before joining the Mariners as a minor league free agent in 2011. He moved on to Tampa Bay in 2012. Despite never accruing more than 130 plate appearances in a single season, Gimenez has appeared in the majors in six straight seasons.
For the Indians, Gimenez represents essential insurance. Gomes is out indefinitely with what is described as a “mild concussion.” The club has former catcher Carlos Santana available, but he hasn’t started behind the plate since late May. He’s dealt with his own concussion problems this season, so it’s likely he remain the club’s primary first baseman. Cleveland also has Roberto Perez on the active roster. The 25-year-old may receive the majority of the playing time due to solid minor league numbers, including a .305/.405/.517 line with eight home runs in 209 plate appearances.
GM Dave Dombrowski says the Tigers don’t expect to be able to find improvements from outside the organization to improve their offense down the stretch, MLB.com’s Jason Beck reports. “[T]he reality, is I don’t know where you’re going to find a bat to help your lineup. Runs are tough right now. It’s hard to find hitters right now.” Trades in August are difficult to complete due to waiver rules, and it doesn’t sound like the Tigers will be making any. Dombrowski also confirmed that Andy Dirks‘ hamstring injury will keep him out the rest of the season. Here’s more from around baseball.
- The Royals feel they need a pinch-runner, so outfielder Terrance Gore is likely to be promoted to the big leagues once rosters expand in September, even though he’s not on their 40-man roster, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets. The 23-year-old is hitting just .225/.292/.262 in 305 plate appearances this year, most of them spent with Class A+ Wilmington. He does, however, have 44 stolen bases and has only been caught seven times.
- Top Blue Jays prospect Daniel Norris is another potential callup, MLB.com’s Jamie Ross writes. “You could see him. No guarantees, but you might,” says Jays manager John Gibbons. The 21-year-old has zoomed through three levels this year, most recently striking out a ridiculous 32 batters in 16 2/3 innings with Triple-A Buffalo.
- Both the Nationals and Indians are happy so far with their deadline swap of Zach Walters and Asdrubal Cabrera, Bill Ladson and Daniel Popper of MLB.com report. Cabrera has played strong defense at second base in Washington, while Walters is off to a strong start in 35 plate appearances with Cleveland, hitting .212 with a .257 OBP, but with a terrific .576 slugging percentage even before homering tonight.
The Indians have announced that 1B/DH Nick Swisher will be out for the next eight to ten weeks after having surgery on both knees. That would suggest he’s out for the rest of the season. Swisher was in the midst of a disappointing season in the second year of his $56MM deal with Cleveland, hitting .208/.278/.331 in 401 plate appearances. Here’s more from the AL Central.
- GM Rick Hahn says the White Sox haven’t yet decided whether they’ll promote 2014 third overall draft pick Carlos Rodon once rosters expand in September, Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune tweets. If they do promote him, they could use him as a starter. The White Sox recently promoted Rodon to Triple-A Charlotte after pitching well in four appearances for Class A+ Winston-Salem.
- We still can’t get a clear read on the 2013 James Shields / Wil Myers trade between the Royals and the Rays because some of the secondary players involved haven’t yet reached their potential, Rob Neyer of FOX Sports writes. For example, the Rays received minor league infielder Patrick Leonard in the deal, and he’s currently hitting .293/.372/.470 in 476 plate appearances for Class A+ Charlotte (the Charlotte team based in Florida, not the Triple-A team mentioned above) as a 21-year-old. Also, 25-year-old Mike Montgomery, another Rays acquisition, has gradually improved at Triple-A.
Indians pitcher Scott Atchison, 38, has himself a new deal which gave manager Terry Francona a meatball of a joke setup. “What’d they give him?” Francona asked reporters, including Jordan Bastian of MLB.com. “A year, an option, and an AARP card?” More from around baseball..
- MLBTR (Twitter link) has learned that Clay Rapada will take 2-3 weeks to let his injured ankle heal before pursuing his next contract. The left-hander struggled with the Orioles‘ Triple-A affiliate in large part due to that bad ankle. Rapada had a 5.63 ERA in 38 1/3 Triple-A innings this season, a far cry from the 2.82 ERA he posted in 2012 for the Yankees.
- The Diamondbacks‘ record $115MM payroll isn’t a one-time thing, but rather a sign of what’s to come, president/CEO Derrick Hall tells Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona. “It is safe to say it will be $100MM-plus,” Hall said of the payroll for next year. “We definitely want to be close to where we were. Will we get to $115MM? I don’t know. But I don’t know if that is necessary.”
- The Nationals announced that outfielder Nate McLouth will undergo surgery on Thursday to repair the labrum in his right shoulder and will miss the remainder of the season. McLouth, 33 in October, signed a two-year, $10.75MM deal with the Nats in December that contains a club option for a third season valued at $6.5MM.
- A.J. Burnett was on the hill tonight for the Phillies and even though he lost, he’s got a reason to smile. As Todd Zolecki of MLB.com (on Twitter) notes, tonight was his 27th start of the season, which bumped his player option from $8.5MM to $10MM. With 30 total starts, he can bump that number to $11.75MM. If he reaches 32 starts, that number goes to $12.75MM.
The Indians have agreed to a one-year, $1MM extension with righty Scott Atchison, the club announced via press release. According to Jordan Bastian of MLB.com (via Twitter), Atchison will earn $900K next season. The deal includes a $1MM club option for 2016, which comes with a $100K buyout.
Atchison, 38, has produced very solid results this year out of the pen since signing with Cleveland on a minor league deal. He owns a 2.95 ERA with 6.1 K/9 against 1.5 BB/9, and has held opposing hitters to a paltry .218/.251/.342 line. The result is a surprisingly dominant 0.964 WHIP, the second time in three years that he’s been charged with less than one baserunner per inning. ERA estimators largely agree with the result, as Atchison has a 3.22 FIP, 3.17 xFIP, and 2.76 SIERA on the year. Remarkably, Atchison has run up his average fastball to a career-best 92.2 mph this season.
Despite his age, Atchison was set to qualify for arbitration next year for the final time after entering the season with just under five years of service time. Presumably, Cleveland was interested in cost certainty, and perhaps also sought something of a discount. (Coming off a less successful 2013, Atchison projected to earn $1.3MM through arbitration before being non-tendered.) For Atchison, the deal protects him from a late-season injury or potential non-tender situation. And the contract does extend team control by one season through the function of the option.
The deal is somewhat reminiscent of recent late-season, one-year extensions reached with veterans like Greg Dobbs (Marlins, 2013), Chad Tracy (Nationals, 2012), and Mark Kotsay (Padres, 2012). Several hurlers, too, have inked such deals, such as Tim Byrdak‘s 2011 extension with the Mets and Livan Hernandez‘s 2010 contract with the Nationals. Each of those guarantees came in under $1.5MM, though none contained an option year.
Corey Kluber‘s emergence as the Indians‘ ace began on a rainy day with Triple-A Columbus in 2011, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian writes in a close at why Kluber has been so successful this season. That day in 2011 is when Kluber began experimenting with his two-seam sinker, which has since become the pitch that allows him to set up his cutter and curveball. Kluber also adds that he’s gotten much better at commanding his cutter this season. Here are more notes on the Indians.
- The four-year, $25MM extension to which the Indians signed Michael Brantley in February now looks like a bargain, Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan writes in a piece for FOX Sports. Brantley has broken out in a big way, hitting .322/.380/.512 while producing 4.8 fWAR this season. Sullivan points out that Brantley’s offensive improvement this season has been bigger than any player’s except that of the Reds’ Devin Mesoraco. Brantley has increased his power while reducing strikeouts, and that’s a good combination for a player who already hit for a good average. Sullivan explains that Brantley’s increase in power has partially been the result of him being more of a pull hitter against fastballs. He’s also swinging at more strikes than he used to.
- The Indians are on the fringes of the playoff race, but they decided they didn’t want Josh Willingham, Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer writes. The Twins ended up trading Willingham to the Royals. Cleveland offered Willingham a two-year deal prior to the 2012 season, but he ended up taking three from Minnesota. Willingham was very productive in the first season of that deal, but the Indians may have had a point about that third year — Willingham’s production has slipped since 2012.
The Pirates have officially acquired righty John Axford from the Indians, the clubs have announced. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported the transaction (via Twitter). Axford, 31, joined Cleveland on a one-year, $4.5MM free agent contract after being non-tendered by the Cardinals.
Pittsburgh added the righty through a straight waiver claim , tweets ESPN.com’s Buster Olney. That means the club will be on the hook for the approximately $1.1MM that he is still owed this year, though it will not need to part with any young talent to add the veteran arm.
On the year, Axford has posted a 3.92 ERA with 10.5 K/9 but a troubling 6.5 BB/9 over 43 2/3 innings. He does have a career-best 54.1% groundball rate, but advanced metrics have not been impressed on the whole (4.71 FIP, 3.98 xFIP, 3.80 SIERA). Axford opened the season as the Cleveland closer, and picking up ten saves in the process, but lost the job with inconsistent performance. He has been much better of late, though saw his ERA jump 78 points in his last outing (August 8th) when he gave up four earned runs on three hits and an ill-timed home run.
Axford has now been dealt in August for the second time in as many seasons. Last year, the one-time Brewers closer moved from Milwaukee to St. Louis in late August. Though Axford has two years of arbitration eligibility remaining, it seems rather likely that he will be a non-tender candidate once again. As with Ernesto Frieri, who was recently acquired and later outrighted by the Pirates, early-career save opportunities make it difficult to justify tendering contracts to non-elite bullpen arms.
For the Bucs, Axford represents another attempt to shore up a pen that has failed to match last year’s unit, which was third in baseball with a collective 2.89 ERA. In 2014, the Pittsburgh relief corps has put up a negative fWAR tally and combined to allow 3.52 earned per nine.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.