Cliff Pennington Rumors

NL West Notes: D-Backs, Dahl, Upton, Padres, Dodgers

After suffering a concussion during a simulated game and missing three weeks, 2015 first overall draft pick Dansby Swanson is ready for his first professional game.  MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg reports that Swanson will play tonight for the Diamondbacks‘ Class-A affiliate in Hillsboro.  Here’s some more from around the NL West…

  • The Diamondbacks‘ trades of Oliver Perez and Cliff Pennington both came together rather quickly, GM Dave Stewart told Zach Buchanan of AZCentral.com.  Stewart hadn’t had any talks with the Astros or Blue Jays, respectively, about either player prior to the July 31 trade deadline.  Stewart doesn’t expect to make any more deals in August, though “I didn’t think I was going to make those…. You never know.”
  • Baseball America’s Jack Etkin spoke with Rockies director of player development Zach Wilson about the frightening early-season injury to top outfield prospect David Dahl and the decision Dahl made to have his spleen removed following an outfield collision (subscription required). “The best thing for David’s life was to get that spleen out of there,” said Wilson, who went on to add that the splenectomy has allowed Dahl to play without fear. Dahl, who lacerated his spleen and suffered a concussion in the collision, would have had to play the rest of his career with a protective covering and would have been at risk of rupturing the spleen in the event of another collision. As Etkin notes, that’s a frightening proposition for a “hellbent” player like Dahl, who does not shy away from the outfield wall when roaming the outfield. Dahl is hitting .284/.301/.432 in 86 plate appearances since rejoining the Rockies’ Double-A affiliate.
  • The Padres will take a shot at re-signing Justin Upton this winter, GM A.J. Preller told MLB.com’s Barry Bloom“He’s made a very positive impression here,” said Preller. “We’re going to sit down in the offseason and see what we can do with him.” As Bloom notes, though the Padres haven’t panned out as they’d hoped, the team still has a core in place which can be built upon in future seasons, and improved ticket sales could help boost the team’s payroll heading into a season in which the Padres are set to host the All-Star Game.
  • The Dodgers‘ July pitching acquisitions haven’t worked out whatsoever to this point, writes ESPN Los Angeles’ Mark Saxon. Though Luis Avilan has tossed four reasonably effective relief innings, Mat Latos and Alex Wood have both struggled, while Jim Johnson has reverted to his disastrous 2014 form. As Saxon points out, Johnson did have very strong numbers in Atlanta, so it’s tough to fault the team for targeting him. He also points out that Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi must be a fan of Johnson, as he’s now been part of two front offices that have traded for Johnson in two years.

AL East Notes: Castillo, Yankees, Hunter, Pennington

The trade of Shane Victorino to the Angels has opened playing time for Rusney Castillo and allowed the Red Sox‘ $72.5MM man to impress his team, writes Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. Castillo is hitting .333/.375/.444 in his latest recall from Triple-A, and Boston is impressed with his ability to quickly make adjustments based on advice from the coaching staff. Assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez has already made slight changes to Castillo’s stance in an effort to shorten his swing, and both player and team feel the results have been positive. There are still greater adjustments to be made, MacPherson continues — Castillo, for instance, was taught in Cuba to swing each time he sees a baserunner in motion regardless of the pitch — but the 28-year-old says his confidence and comfort level are on the rise.

A few more AL East items on a quiet morning…

  • Yankees GM Brian Cashman took a big picture approach at the deadline by holding onto his best prospects, writes John Harper of the New York Daily News, but he may end up regretting that decision. The contrast between that approach and the aggressive one taken by Toronto counterpart Alex Anthopoulos is already apparent, as the Blue Jays are 11-1 since acquiring Troy Tulowitzki, Harper continues.
  • Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun opines that the Orioles are missing Tommy Hunter following what he calls a “curious” trade. Manager Buck Showalter has already been forced to lean on Chaz Roe in a high-leverage spot for which Hunter would have been better suited. Connolly feels that the reasoning behind the trade made some sense — the team wanted some maneuverability with its bullpen and none of their relievers have minor league options — but they’ve already contradicted that plan by activating Rule 5 right-hander Jason Garcia from the DL and devoting a spot to him. He concludes that the team has effectively weakened its bullpen in order to add a right-handed outfielder (Junior Lake) whose skill set is somewhat redundant with Nolan Reimold already on the roster.
  • Cliff Pennington spoke to Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi about his excitement to join a Blue Jays team that is in pursuit of a division title and a postseason berth. Pennington notes that he heard plenty of trade rumors with his name involved prior to the non-waiver deadline but was caught somewhat off guard by his August trade. As Davidi notes, Pennington is plenty familiar with Josh Donaldson from the pair’s days in the minors and Majors with the Athletics, and the pair reached the postseason together with the A’s in 2012.

AL East Notes: Napoli, Pennington, Price

Mike Napoli may have struggled this season, but he left his mark on the Red Sox organization, writes Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. The slugger hit .242/.350/.436 during his Red Sox tenure with 53 regular season home runs. He also popped two home runs in the 2013 ALCS. In addition to his on-field contributions, Napoli was known for his character. I’ll leave the story telling to Bradford.

Here’s more from the AL East:

  • The acquisition of Cliff Pennington by the Blue Jays is all about making final tweaks, writes Mike Wilner of Sportsnet.ca. The club could have survived with Munenori Kawasaki, but Pennington offers a modest upgrade. Not only is he a better defender with more utility, he also has solid splits against left-handed pitching. He’ll also provide insurance for second baseman Devon Travis. The rookie is currently on the disabled list with recurring a shoulder injury.
  • The Blue Jays are on a seven game winning streak and just 2.5 games behind the Yankees in the NL East. New acquisition David Price figures to pay “big dividends,” according to Mike Mazzeo of ESPN New York. Price is 2-0  with a 0.60 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 15 innings since the trade including a victory against the Yankees today. The Bronx Bombers may regret passing on Price and other aces. Instead, New York remained committed to their youth movement, refusing to part with Luis Severino or Aaron Judge.

 

 



Blue Jays Acquire Cliff Pennington

The Blue Jays have announced that they’ve acquired Diamondbacks infielder Cliff Pennington and cash for minor league shortstop Dawel Lugo. The Diamondbacks have also announced that they’ve selected the contract of infielder/outfielder Jamie Romak, as we reported earlier today.

USATSI_8690329_154513410_lowresThe switch-hitting Pennington batted a meager .237/.318/.281 in 157 plate appearances in Arizona, although he can play both middle infield positions and has a strong defensive track record at shortstop. He has four homers total in the last three seasons and doesn’t usually hit for high averages, although he does draw his share of walks. The Blue Jays currently have another light-hitting infielder, Munenori Kawasaki, backing up Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop, although Kawasaki can be optioned and probably isn’t quite as good as Pennington defensively. The Blue Jays are also missing second baseman Devon Travis, who’s dealing with a shoulder injury. Ryan Goins is their current starter at second.

Before the trade deadline, Pennington had been connected to the Pirates and Nationals. That the Blue Jays are acquiring him now means that, at the very least, all of the NL and most of the AL passed on him on the waiver wire, but perhaps that’s not surprising given his $3.275MM salary. He is eligible for free agency this winter. The 31-year-old has a career .248/.315/.346 line in parts of eight seasons in Oakland and Arizona.

The 20-year-old Lugo has hit just .257/.287/.343 in 408 plate appearances split between Class A Lansing and Class A+ Dunedin this season, although he’s been a bit young for both levels. MLB.com ranked him the Blue Jays’ 12th-best prospect, writing that he was one of the best hitters available on the international market in 2011 (when the Jays signed him for $1.3MM out of the Dominican Republic) but that he already had below-average speed and might end up at third base in the long term.

SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo first to tweet that the Blue Jays and Diamondbacks had made a deal involving Pennington. Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca tweeted that the Blue Jays would receive cash in the deal and the that the Diamondbacks would receive a minor leaguer.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Heyman’s Latest: Padres/Reds, Gausman, Cubs, Rox, Cespedes, Marlins

In his latest Inside Baseball column, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports provides a laundry list of free agent and trade-related info. He kicks off the piece with a lengthy look at the curiously passive approaches of two teams that were seen as likely to be active sellers: the Reds and Padres. San Diego GM A.J. Preller told Heyman that his team discussed a number of deals and felt that, ultimately, the long-term nature of most of the Padres’ trade chips outweighed the value they were offered. The one notable exception is Justin Upton, who, as first reported by Buster Olney, could’ve fetched Michael Fulmer from the Mets. Regarding Upton talks, Preller told Heyman: “…the evaluation was what we’re being offered versus the value of the pick and having Justin for the rest of the year. There were offers right on the line, but none that made us move.” As for the Reds, Heyman notes that many are questioning the team’s decision to hang onto Aroldis Chapman, who is controlled through 2016, when the Reds may not be competitive until 2017. The Reds backed out of a Jay Bruce-for-Zack Wheeler swap, a source tells Heyman, with a second source telling him that Cincinnati simply “got cold feet” when it came to dealing Bruce. He also spoke to a number of executives who expressed disbelief that neither team was more active at the deadline.

Some more highlights from his column, though there’s far more in the full article than can be summarized here, so it’s worth reading in its entirety…

  • The Diamondbacks are still seeking an elite closer after coming up empty in their pursuit of Aroldis Chapman, and they might pursue him again this winter. Heyman lists their priorities as: a closer, a starting pitcher (someone below the tier of Johnny Cueto/David Price) and a bat to slot behind Paul Goldschmidt in the order. The Snakes talked about deals for Jeremy Hellickson, Oliver Perez and Cliff Pennington. They came the closest to trading Hellickson, who drew interest from the Pirates and Blue Jays, he adds.
  • Kevin Gausman‘s name was very popular in trade talks with the Orioles, as he was asked for by the Rockies (in exchange for Carlos Gonzalez), the Tigers (Yoenis Cespedes) and Padres (Justin Upton). The Orioles also talked to the Dodgers about Carl Crawford (for a lesser package) but found his injury history and contract too risky.
  • Others are “convinced” that the Cubs will land one of the top starting pitchers on the market this winter, with Price as a leading candidate but Zack Greinke, Jordan Zimmermann and Cueto all landing on Chicago’s radar as well. The Cubs are expected to shop both Starlin Castro and Javier Baez this winter. The Padres‘ interest in Baez has been reported many places, though they do have some reservations about Baez’s approach at the plate (as, I would imagine, most teams do).
  • The Blue Jays, Astros and Giants all expressed interest in White Sox righty Jeff Samardzija, but the White Sox‘ winning streak plus so-so offers led the team to hold onto the right-hander. Heyman hears that the return would’ve been similar to the one the Reds ultimately got in exchange for Mike Leake, so the Sox simply held onto Samardzija. (Speaking of Leake, he adds that industry consensus pegs Leake as the most likely rental to stay with his new club — perhaps not surprising given Leake’s ties to California and the Giants’ history of retaining such pieces.)
  • The Indians received interest not only in Carlos Carrasco, but also in Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber. The Dodgers, Cubs and Red Sox all tried for Carrasco.
  • The Rockies were always more motivated to trade Troy Tulowitzki than Carlos Gonzalez, as the drama surrounding Tulo had become soap-opera-esque. The team didn’t shop Jose Reyes after the Tulo deal but did have his name come up in talks; Heyman writes that the Yankees are one club that “may have fit,” as they could’ve used him at second base.
  • The Angels made a brief run at Yoenis Cespedes but didn’t come close to landing him. Cespedes won the hearts of Mets fans in part by expressing an interest in signing long-term to remain in Queens, but as Heyman notes, Cespedes did the same in Boston and Detroit without any results. A long-term pact between the Mets and Cespedes is more likely than a reunion with the Tigers though, Heyman writes, as Detroit isn’t likely to enter a bidding war for the outfielder, let alone win one.
  • The Dodgers showed more interest in Cole Hamels than they did in either Price or Cueto. They were completely closed off to the idea of trading either Corey Seager or Julio Urias, though. He adds that right-hander Jose DeLeon wasn’t available in talks for rental pieces, which could imply that he was at least attainable in Hamels talks.
  • Dan Jennings is expected to be welcomed back to the Marlins‘ front office this winter, when the team will search for a long-term manager to replace him. The Marlins are also planning on trying to extend Dee Gordon and Adeiny Hechavarria this offseason, he hears. Talks for Hechavarria went nowhere last winter, and the shortstop’s batting line is nearly identical to its 2014 mark. Defensive metrics are far more impressed with Hechavarria’s work this season, though, for what it’s worth.
  • While Rays relief aces Jake McGee and Brad Boxberger were oft-mentioned in rumors leading up to the deadline, other teams came away with the impression that Tampa Bay wasn’t that interested in moving either.
  • There’s an “unhappy scene” surrounding the Nationals and manager Matt Williams, Heyman hears. Williams isn’t beloved by many of the team’s players, who feel that he’s “not loose” and “never relaxed.” There are those who have also questioned his bullpen usage, from the decision not to use Drew Storen/Tyler Clippard in the final game of last year’s NLDS to leaving both Jonathan Papelbon and Storen in the bullpen in close road games versus the Mets shortly after acquiring Papelbon (only to have both pitch with a five-run deficit in the next series). Heyman spoke to one Nats player who said the team is loose and has fun regardless of Williams’ demeanor. “I don’t think it affects us,” said the player. “That’s just how he is.”

Heyman On Cueto, Uribe, Wilson, Brewers, Niese, Pirates, Gallardo

In his latest notes column, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com addressed a number of interesting deadline issues, starting with Reds starter Johnny Cueto. There have been suggestions over concern among buyers with the health of the star righty, but Heyman cites one scout from a team with interest who tells him that Cueto “looks fine.” As far as interest, Heyman pegs the Blue Jays, Royals, Yankees, Dodgers, and Astros as “the most likely and logical landing spots.”

Here are some other highlights from an info-packed piece (which you’ll want to read in full for even more notes):

  • The Braves are shopping the recently-acquired Juan Uribe, says Heyman, with the asking price of a “mid-range prospect” and full unloading of the approximately $3MM left on Uribe’s deal. Atlanta has had communications with at least the Mets, per the repor.
  • While the Orioles had been looking at adding a starter, Heyman reports that the team now may instead be prioritizing bats. Though the report doesn’t specify a position, we’ve heard in the past that Baltimore had interest in adding to its corner outfield mix.
  • Heyman writes that it’ll be interesting to see if Angels lefty C.J. Wilson becomes “even more available” now that Jerry Dipoto has resigned as the general manager. Per Heyman, Wilson was close with Dipoto, and the Wilson signing (five years, $77.5MM) was the one significant free agent pickup that Dipoto was actually responsible for. Angels owner Arte Moreno was behind the Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton signings, as many other reports have indicated over the years.
  • The Brewers are officially open for business and “may be considering a rather big sale,” one competing team exec tells Heyman. Interest in Jean Segura is down due to his poor play since an early 2013 breakout, but Gerardo Parra‘s big year has lots of clubs asking about him. Mike Fiers, Wily Peralta and Francisco Rodriguez are drawing interest, and the Brewers are open to packaging some of those players to improve the return.
  • The Jon Niese saga continues, as Heyman hears that the lefty now doesn’t seem particularly available, with one Mets person telling Heyman that Niese never really was. In other Mets news, Heyman hears that the team floated the idea of a Rafael Montero-for-Ben Zobrist swap when Montero was still healthy, but Montero, of course, has since been injured. The Mets have also talked about Uribe, but there are other names higher on their list.
  • While some have connected the Pirates to Ben Revere and Jeff Francoeur, the Bucs might be aiming a bit higher, looking at Marlon Byrd of the Reds and Aramis Ramirez of the Brewers — both former Pirates. Heyman lists Ben Zobrist as a target for the Bucs as well. Earlier today the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Bill Brink linked Pittsburgh to Zobrist, Cliff Pennington and Clint Barmes.
  • Yovani Gallardo could hit the trade market if the Rangers end up selling short-term pieces, and he’s not interested in springing for an early extension with his hometown team. Agent Bobby Witt has apparently told the Rangers that Gallardo is looking forward to testing the free agent market.

Pirates Showing Interest In Zobrist, Barmes, Pennington

With both Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer out for six to seven weeks, the suddenly injury-plagued Pirates have reached out to the Athletics, Padres and Diamondbacks to express respective interest in Ben Zobrist, Clint Barmes and Cliff Pennington, reports Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Of the names in question, Zobrist is clearly the most high-profile addition. The switch-hitting 34-year-old missed a little more than a month earlier this year after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery, but he’s shown little in terms of ill effects at the plate. Since his activation from the DL on May 26, Zobrist is hitting a very solid .264/.358/.429 in 190 plate appearances.

In addition to a strong offensive track record, Zobrist is coveted by many clubs due to his defensive versatility. It should be noted that defensive metrics are down on his work in 2015, but we’re looking at a small sample of work there, and it’s certainly possible that the knee operation has had some lingering effects on his range at this year’s primary positions — second base and left field. (Zobrist has also made three errors in left, which is perhaps to be expected as he adjusts after serving far more time in right field during his Rays tenure.)

At $7.5MM in 2015, Zobrist’s contract is hardly prohibitive from a financial standpoint, but because of the sheer demand for his services and the affordable nature of that salary, an acquiring club would likely have to pay a relatively steep prospect price for a player that is a pure rental; Zobrist will hit free agency for the first time following the season.

Both Pennington and Barmes are strict rentals as well, though the price on either would be markedly lower than with Zobrist. Pennington has spent the past three seasons serving as a utility man for the D-Backs. He’s getting on base but showing little power this year, hitting .245/.322/.292. (Much of those on-base skills are likely attributable to the fact that 40 percent of his plate appearances have come in the eighth slot, in front of the pitcher.)

Pennington is known as a solid defensive player at shortstop, third base and second base, so he could provide the Pirates with some versatility even as their roster mends. He’s earning $3.275MM in 2015, and about $1.38MM of that sum remains.

Pirates executives, coaches, players and fans alike are all familiar with Barmes, who spent the 2012-14 seasons in a Pirates uniform. Known primarily as a defensive specialist at shortstop, Barmes is actually enjoying quite a strong season at the plate in his first year with the Padres after signing a one-year, $1.3MM contract this winter. In 144 plate appearances, he’s hitting .284/.324/.440 with three homers. Of course, he’s been allowed to see nearly half of his at-bats against left-handed pitching and slashed .317/.388/.500 in such situations, and he may not have that same platoon luxury in a return to Pittsburgh.

Should the Bucs elect to bring Barmes back to PNC Park, he’d likely play shortstop, with Jung Ho Kang remaining the club’s primary third baseman as both Harrison and Mercer heal. A return for Barmes would no doubt be well received by a large portion of the Pirates fan base, who greeted Barmes with a warm ovation in his return to PNC Park as a member of the Padres while the team honored him by playing his old walk-up music (video link).


Nats Interested In D-Backs’ Middle Infielders

The Nationals have been connected to Ben Zobrist in recent weeks, and he’s apparently not their only infield target, as the team has also expressed interest in the Diamondbacks’ middle infield depth, according to Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter link). The D-Backs have quite a few middle infield options, as Chris Owings, Nick Ahmed and Cliff Pennington are all capable of handling either shortstop or second base. Aaron Hill, though expensive, comes with quite a bit of experience at second base.

The Nats have seen Ian Desmond struggle for much of the season, and Anthony Rendon has missed a good chunk of the year as well. Despite that fact, though, the team does seem to have a relatively full infield picture. Rendon and Yunel Escobar can both play second and third base, Danny Espinosa is quietly having a very strong rebound season and is defensively gifted at both middle-infield positions. And, of course, despite the 2015 struggles, Desmond has been one of the team’s best overall players, if not one of the best overall players in the National League over the past few seasons.

There was at least some talk of Washington trading Desmond, a free-agent-to-be, this past offseason, so it stands to reason that the notion isn’t completely off the table for the Nationals as the trade deadline approaches. The team may feel that Desmond can be traded for more than a qualifying offer would return, though his .222/.266/.341 batting line hardly helps his trade value.

As for the players that the D-Backs could theoretically trade, Pennington and Hill would seem to be the most logical candidates. Pennington is owed $3.275MM in 2015 but has struggled at the dish, batting a mere .192/.297/.218. Hill is earning $12MM in 2015 and again in 2016, so Arizona would need to eat a lot of salary in order to facilitate a deal, but the veteran isn’t part of the team’s long-term picture.

The D-Backs have been willing to go to similar lengths in the past, keeping about half of Trevor Cahill‘s remaining salary and sending a Competitive Balance draft pick to the Braves. The D-Backs and Braves again matched up on a trade intended to save Arizona some money over the weekend when the Braves acquired Bronson Arroyo (and the remaining $10MM he’s owed) and top prospect Touki Toussaint in exchange for utility infielder Phil Gosselin. That move essentially proved to be the D-Backs selling Toussaint for about $10MM. Put more concisely, Arizona has shown a clear interest in getting out from underneath a portion of the large contracts they have on their books.

As for Owings and Ahmed, either one would figure to be significantly more expensive than their veteran counterparts. Owings is struggling greatly in 2015, hitting just .235/.252/.330, but he was an NL Rookie of the Year candidate in 2014 before shoulder troubles ended his season. Ahmed’s .227/.306/.319 batting line isn’t worlds better, but the 25-year-old is an elite defensive option at shortstop. Owings can be controlled through at least the 2019 season, while Ahmed is controllable through at least 2020.


Cliff Pennington, Diamondbacks Avoid Arbitration

The Diamondbacks have avoided arbitration with infielder Cliff Pennington by signing him to a one-year deal, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweets that Pennington will receive $3.275MM in his last year before free agency eligibility, almost identical to MLBTR’s projection of $3.3MM. Pennington is a client of Sosnick Cobbe.

Pennington, 30, just completed a two-year, $5MM deal that bought out his first two years of arbitration eligibility. He hit .254/.340/.350 in 201 plate appearances in 2014 and played good defense at second base, third base and shortstop, moving around the diamond while Aaron Hill, Martin Prado, Didi Gregorius and Chris Owings did most of the starting. Pennington missed most of June and all of July with a thumb injury.

You can keep track of all arbitration eligible players in MLBTR’s tracker.


D’Backs Notes: Pennington, Billingsley, Shortstops

Not only does new D’Backs GM Dave Stewart have Kevin Towers’ previous job, but the executive tells Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that he’s actually living in Towers’ old house (Twitter link). That anecdote has little to do with the Diamondbacks’ future, however, so here are some more pertinent links…

  • The Diamondbacks will definitely tender Cliff Pennington a contract, reports Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona (Twitter link). Stewart considers Pennington to be a valuable piece and won’t let him go to save salary. Pennington projects to earn $3.3MM in 2015 and is coming off a .254/.340/.350 batting line with his typically solid defense.
  • The Diamondbacks remain interested in Chad BillingsleyMagruder tweets. Billingsley didn’t pitch in 2014 due to a torn flexor tendon that he suffered while rehabbing from 2013 Tommy John surgery. The interest is hardly surprising, as Billingsley is a former client of Stewart’s from his agency days. Billingsley has since signed on with Octagon’s Steve Hilliard, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweeted last week.
  • Stewart went on-record with Andy Martino of the New York Daily News to say that if the D’Backs are to move either Didi Gregorius or Chris Owings, it would be to acquire controllable, young pitching (All Twitter links). The Diamondbacks don’t have any interest in names like Jon Niese, Dillon Gee or Bartolo Colon, Stewart stated.