Domingo Santana Rumors

NL Central Notes: Baez, Tucker, Marshall, Santana

Javier Baez is “definitely on the radar screen” for a September call-up with the Cubs, manager Joe Maddon tells Kevin Van Valkenburg of ESPN. Van Valkenburg chronicles the lengthy and difficult season for Baez, who dealt with the painful loss of his sister, Noely, early in the year and later broke his finger sliding into second base at Triple-A. The injury “might have been the best thing that ever happened” to Baez, Triple-A manager Marty Pevey tells Van Valkenburg, as his approach was much improved after taking some time away from the game, and he looked to have made some “veteran adjustments.” Van Valkenburg’s column provides readers with an excellent, in-depth look at Baez’s journey from childhood in Bayamon, Puerto Rico to his high school days in Jacksonville, Fla., to his 2014 debut and 2015 season, all while giving a look at the personal and family struggles he’s dealt with along the way. It’s well worth a full read.

Here’s more from the NL Central…

  • Pirates top shortstop prospect Cole Tucker will miss the remainder of the season, and possibly most of next season, the Pirates told reporters, including Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Twitter link). Tucker, the 24th overall pick in the 2014 draft, underwent surgery to repair the labrum in his right shoulder and will be sidelined for 10 to 12 months. Tucker batted .293/.322/.377 with a pair of homers and 25 steals in 73 games at Class A.
  • Reds left-hander Sean Marshall has been throwing off a mound every three days throughout the month of August and hopes to pitch again before season’s end, writes MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon. Marshall had his second shoulder surgery on May 20 this year and has not taken a big league mound all season. He has, in fact, only thrown 24 1/3 innings over the entire life of the three-year, $16.5MM extension he signed prior to the 2013 campaign. Marshall tells Sheldon he’s been throwing 35 to 40 pitches per session, including curveballs, in addition to playing long toss. Marshall, a free agent at season’s end, would benefit from getting into games and displaying some form of health in the final month of the season.
  • The Brewers have already gotten a look at Domingo Santana in all three outfield positions, and manager Craig Counsell said for the time being, that’s the best way to get him regular at-bats, per the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Todd Rosiak. Moving forward, the Brewers have three corner outfielders for two spots — an issue I touched on in yesterday’s MLBTR Mailbag — but Counsell isn’t worried about a potential logjam at this time. “I don’t think we need to figure that out right now,” said Counsell of determining Santana’s long-term position. “I think what’s important is that he starts getting experience just facing big-league pitching and being in big-league games.”

Brewers Promote Domingo Santana

The Brewers announced that they’ve recalled top prospect Domingo Santana from Triple-A Colorado Springs. (MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy had tweeted prior to the announcement that Santana could be on his way to the bigs.) Acquired last month from the Astros as part of the Carlos Gomez/Mike Fiers blockbuster, Santana ranks 83rd on MLB.com’s list of Top 100 prospects.

This will not be the 23-year-old Santana’s first taste of Major League action, as he tallied 20 games with the Astros over the past two seasons before coming over to Milwaukee in the trade. Santana hit .256/.310/.462 in 14 games with Houston earlier this season and has delivered excellent production at the Triple-A level all season between both organizations. Though his numbers come with the usual Pacific Coast League caveat (the league is an exceptionally hitter-friendly environment), Santana’s .333/.426/.573 batting line is nonetheless impressive.

Santana will take the roster spot of injured right-hander Tyler Cravy, though he seemingly will also be auditioning to lock down a long-term role in a Brewers outfield that is at least somewhat in transition following the departure of Gomez. Though Santana has played primarily in the corner outfield as a minor leaguer, and his future is likely to be in right or left field, he does have experience in center field as well, where Milwaukee has a more immediate need.

From a long-term perspective, the Brewers seem to have three big-league-ready assets for two corner outfield spots. Ryan Braun is, of course, under contract through the 2020 season at an average of $19MM per year. And while Khris Davis has had his struggles this season, he’s homered nine times in his past 35 games (29 starts), albeit with low batting average (.224) and OBP (.306) marks. The team’s corner outfield situation though, will seemingly be one of many situations that the Brewers’ new general manager will have to sort out this winter. A move from the outfield to first base for Braun has been discussed in the past, but neither he nor Davis has ever played a professional game at first base.

Looking more toward the short-term, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel notes that the Brewers do have an interleague series against the Indians coming up that will be played in Cleveland, giving manager Craig Counsell the opportunity to work all three right-handed bats into his lineup by adding a DH possibility. And, with rosters expanding on Sept. 1, Counsell and the Brewers won’t have to worry about keeping too many corner options on the active roster for long.


Astros Acquire Carlos Gomez, Mike Fiers For Four Prospects

The Astros and Brewers are announced a blockbuster trade on Thursday that will send center fielder Carlos Gomez, right-hander Mike Fiers and an international bonus slot (valued at $287,500) to Houston in exchange for outfield prospects Brett Phillips and Domingo Santana, right-hander Adrian Houser and lefty Josh Hader. The Astros did not have to make a 40-man move to add either player, as they had an open spot, and Santana was already on the 40-man.

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Gomez, of course, was believed to be headed back to the Mets last night in a swap that would’ve sent Zack Wheeler and Wilmer Flores to the Brewers, but the trade fell through after names were agreed upon due to a combination of medical concerns pertaining to his hip and perhaps financial elements as well.

Adding Gomez to the outfield mix should result in a significant improvement for the Astros over the remainder of the season. Despite hamstring issues that cost him three weeks earlier in the year, Gomez’s defense remains above average, and if he’s 100 percent healthy, he has a track record as one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball.

Plus defense has long been part of Gomez’s game due to his excellent range, but Gomez over the past three-plus seasons has turned himself into a genuine offensive weapon at the plate as well. Dating back to Opening Day 2012, Gomez is a .275/.335/.474 hitter that has averaged 24 homers and 38 stolen bases per 162 games played. Wins above replacement pegs Gomez at an average of five to five-and-a-half wins per year in that time, depending on your preferred version of the metric. Houston center fielders have been sound from a defensive standpoint this season, but they’ve combined to bat just .226/.285/.370, making Gomez an upgrade on both sides of the ball.

In addition to his strong all-around game, though, Gomez made for an appealing trade candidate due to his contractual situation. He’s the rare Scott Boras client that took an extension as opposed to waiting for free agency, and while he should still secure a $100MM+ contract with ease following the 2016 season, he’s currently in the midst of a three-year, $24MM pact that has worked out beautifully for the Brewers. Gomez is earning $8MM in 2015 — of which about $3.02MM remains — and he’ll earn $9MM in 2016. Provided he remains healthy, the Astros will pay about $12MM for as many as 221 games of Gomez’s career.

And of course, Gomez isn’t the only piece the Astros are receiving in this deal. By persuading the Brewers to include Fiers in the contract, they’ve landed a rotation piece that can potentially be controlled through the 2019 season. In fact, he won’t even be eligible for arbitration until after the 2016 season, meaning that Houston can control him for roughly the league minimum.

Fiers, 30, is a soft-tossing righty and a pronounced fly-ball pitcher, but he’s performed well overall despite an average of just 88.8 mph on his fastball. He’s somewhat of a late bloomer but has a 3.89 ERA in 118 innings this season and a lifetime 3.66 mark in 341 2/3 innings as a Major Leaguer. Fiers has averaged 9.2 K/9 despite his pedestrian heater, and he’s paired that ability to rack up K’s with solid control (2.8 BB/9). He should step directly into the Houston rotation behind ace Dallas Keuchel, rental acquisition Scott Kazmir and right-handers Collin McHugh and Scott Feldman. Fiers drew quite a bit of interest from the Blue Jays earlier this month, though Toronto has obviously gone a different route and made a splash of their own with the acquisition of David Price.

From the Brewers’ perspective, Phillips is the clear prize of the deal. A sixth-round pick by the Astros out of high school in 2012, the 21-year-old has risen to the Double-A level and shown no signs of being overmatched by the pitching he’s faced. Phillips is hitting .320/.377/.548 with 16 homers and 16 stolen bases this season while appearing primarily in center field. He entered the season as one of the Astros’ top prospects, but his excellent first half propelled him to rank 21st on Baseball America’s midseason Top 50, 35th on the midseason Top 50 of ESPN’s Keith Law and 39th on the midseason edition of MLB.com’s Top 100 prospects. Law calls him a “true five-tool” player with the potential to remain in center field, and MLB.com gives him above-average tools across the board, with his speed and arm rating as the top tools in his profile. He should immediately become the club’s No. 2 prospect behind shortstop Orlando Arcia.

The 22-year-old Santana, originally acquired by the Astros in the 2011 Hunter Pence trade with the Phillies, went hitless in a 17-at-bat big league debut in 2014 but has fared better in another limited sample in 2015, hitting .256/.310/.462 with a couple of homers in 42 plate appearances. A corner outfielder by trade, he could potentially step right onto the Brewers’ big league roster. He’s slashed .305/.400/.515 in 195 Triple-A games — part of the reason for his No. 7 ranking on MLB.com’s midseason Top 30 for the Astros and No. 87 on their overall Top 100. Santana has everyday upside but there are plenty that worry about his penchant for strikeouts; he’s whiffed at a 29.9 percent rate throughout his minor league career.

Hader came to Houston alongside L.J. Hoes from the Orioles in the 2013 trade that sent Bud Norris to Baltimore. He ranked eighth among Astros farmhands at the time of the swap, per BA, and 14th on MLB.com’s list. BA notes that Hader’s delivery at times draws comparisons to Chris Sale, and MLB.com writes that his velocity gets up to 96 mph but is paired with inconsistent secondary pitches. Hader has a 3.17 ERA with 69 strikeouts and 24 walks in 65 1/3 innings at Double-A as a 21-year-old this season.

Houser has a 5.10 ERA split across two levels (Class-A Advanced and Double-A) this season, and he’s worked as both a starter and a reliever. He’s averaged 8.5 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 this year, and MLB.com rated him 21st among Houston prospects prior to the trade. Their scouting report praises his mid-90s fastball and ability to generate grounders but notes that the 22-year-old’s control has plenty of room for improvement.

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports first reported (via Twitter) that Gomez and Fiers were going to Houston. The Houston Chronicle’s Evan Drellich reported that there would be four to five prospects in the return (Twitter link). Lookout Landing’s Nathan Bishop nailed the return (on Twitter), and Heyman added that all of the medicals had been approved.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Heyman’s Latest: Dodgers/Hamels, Braves, Frazier, Price, Brewers, Upton

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports kicks off his weekly Inside Baseball column by reporting that the Dodgers have “quietly continued having dialogue with the Phillies” regarding Cole Hamels. The Dodgers are also giving serious consideration to the rental market and prioritizing Johnny Cueto over others among such targets. The Dodgers “appear determined” to land a top-of-the-rotation arm to pair with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, writes Heyman, but most executives think they’ll hold onto top prospects Corey Seager and Julio Urias. The Dodgers have a deep farm system beyond that pairing (righty Jose De Leon has recently been ranked a Top 25 prospect by Baseball America and ESPN), and one exec tells Heyman that the Phillies’ asking price on Hamels has become “more reasonable” recently. The Dodgers feel that Greinke is a lock to opt out of his contract at the end of the season, and while they could possibly re-sign him by adding a year or two to the deal and upping his $24.5MM AAV, Hamels would provide insurance should Greinke sign elsewhere. Jeff Samardzija is also a consideration for the Dodgers, but while they like him, they consider him more of a No. 2/3 starter and don’t love him.

Some more highlights from Heyman’s article, though the synopsis won’t cover everything within the piece, so I’d highly recommend reading it in its entirety…

  • The Braves will be deadline sellers, Heyman hears, with Jim Johnson, Juan Uribe and Cameron Maybin among the players that will be available to interested teams. Chris Johnson, too, continues to be available, but there are no takers for his contract, which Atlanta has aggressively tried to move in the past.
  • With the Reds expected to trade so many veterans to other clubs, many in the industry expect the team to make a run at extending Todd Frazier beyond his current two-year deal, Heyman writes. (Frazier has one more year of arbitration following his current pact.) Jeff Todd and I have discussed Frazier’s situation on the MLBTR Podcast in the past (and will do so again this afternoon), and I’ve personally taken the stance that given the significant commitments to Joey Votto and Homer Bailey, the Reds could have a difficult time affording Frazier, whose 2014-15 breakout has hugely inflated his price tag. Given the lack of impact bats on the trade market, Frazier would net a king’s ransom and could rapidly expedite the rebuilding process, though the PR hit of trading him with so much control and on the heels of a Home Run Derby victory would of course be significant.
  • In other Reds news, Heyman hears Mike Leake‘s ground-ball tendencies are appealing to AL East clubs, and he’s drawn interest from the Blue Jays, Orioles and Red Sox in addition to the Royals, Dodgers, Rangers, Cubs and Giants. Manny Parra and Marlon Byrd are both “likely to go” as well.
  • Asked about the possibility of signing with the Cubs this offseason due to his relationship with skipper Joe Maddon, Tigers ace David Price replied, “Wherever I play baseball next year it’s not going to be because of a manager.”
  • The Astros are interested in both Cueto and Leake, and Houston seems willing to deal from its glut of MLB-ready outfield prospects, including Domingo Santana and Preston Tucker. (Previous reports have indicated they’re reluctant to part with Brett Phillips, however, who may be the best among the outfield bunch.)
  • The Brewers are now showing a willingness to trade both Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura, Heyman hears. Though it was previously believed they were reluctant to move Segura, the emergence of Orlando Arcia (the younger brother of the Twins’ Oswaldo Arcia) may have changed Milwaukee’s thinking. However, Arcia himself is also drawing a huge amount of trade interest, and the Padres have called to express interest. One NL exec called him the best player he’s seen in the minors this year, while another comped him to Francisco Lindor, but said Arcia is better. Regarding Segura, Heyman hears that the Mets dislike his free-swinging approach.
  • The Twins aren’t closed off to the idea of re-acquiring Gomez from the Brewers, but their primary focus at this point is bullpen help.
  • The Mets are aiming high in their pursuit of an outfield bat and have both Gomez and Justin Upton on their radar. They’re not likely to add Aramis Ramirez from the Brewers unless they receive bad news on the prognosis of David Wright. They also have little interest in swinging a deal for Uribe.
  • Padres officials insist that they haven’t determined their course of action heading into the deadline, but Heyman writes that free-agents-to-be such as Upton, Ian Kennedy, Joaquin Benoit and Will Venable could be traded regardless. James Shields‘ backloaded contract limits his value, but one GM felt Benoit has “big value” and Heyman notes that Craig Kimbrel would be in huge demand as well, should the Padres try to recoup some value from that deal.
  • Cueto, Samardzija and Leake are atop the Blue Jays‘ wish list, and the team was also in talks with the Braves regarding Jason Grilli prior to his season-ending injury. A top starting pitcher is Toronto’s top priority at this point, says Heyman. He also adds that there’s no evidence to suggest that manager John Gibbons is on the hot seat.

AL Notes: Indians, Santana, Red Sox

Indians scouting director Brad Grant says he had indications on the first day of the draft that University of San Francisco outfielder Bradley Zimmer would be available when Cleveland picked at No. 21, Fangraphs’ David Laurila reports. “There are a lot of sources who provide information on who is going to go where,” Grant says. “You talk to different sources in order to kind of put that together. … You usually get a pretty good feel from that and can normally narrow it down to one or two players for your first pick.” Grant adds that the Indians became especially interested in No. 31 overall pick Justus Sheffield because they scouted his older brother Jordan, a 2013 Red Sox 13th-round pick who is now at Vanderbilt. Here are more notes from the American League.

  • Astros top prospect Domingo Santana isn’t likely to be promoted this summer, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports. “Domingo still has some developing in Triple A, from our perspective,” says GM Jeff Luhnow. “We’re really excited about what he’s done, and I think the higher average at a higher level has been clearly a sign of better development and of him becoming a more complete player. But, the profile of the feast or famine is not something that we want to continue to have.” Santana has hit .305/.383/.508 so far this season for Oklahoma City, but with 94 strikeouts in 350 plate appearances. He’s already on the Astros’ 40-man roster, however, which makes him a good candidate for a September callup.
  • The Red Sox‘ options this summer remain wide open, WEEI.com’s Alex Speier writes. The Red Sox, in the midst of a disappointing season but still only 6 1/2 games back in the AL East, could become buyers with a good month, and the recent addition of top prospect Mookie Betts could spark the Red Sox to add talent this July. If they don’t play well, they could sell. They could also pursue a multifaceted strategy in which they move players who are eligible for free agency after the season in exchange for players who might be around for the longer term but still could help this season.

Quick Hits: Athletics, Phillies, Red Sox, Denorfia

The Athletics have been successful recently because they excel at finding role players, and because manager Bob Melvin helps keep them happy, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes in a piece contrasting the A’s with the Yankees and Mets. “(Melvin) has a good feel of the heartbeat of the clubhouse. You can look around and see when a guy is unhappy, and he calls him in the office. The rest of us might not even know he is doing it,” says Nick Punto. The A’s also get lots of mileage out of players acquired from outside their organization, like Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss and Jesse Chavez. Being in a lower-pressure environment may also help the A’s, who managed to keep their GM in place and take the time to build a top team despite not having a winning season from 2007 through 2011. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.

  • The Phillies deny that they make a mistake in including prospect Domingo Santana on a list of potential players to be named in the 2011 Hunter Pence trade with the Astros, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports. A story in the Houston Chronicle last week stated that Santana had been placed on the list of potential PTBNLs by accident. “There was no mistake,” says Phillies GM Ruben Amaro. “If someone said that, they are misinformed because it’s absolutely, unequivocally wrong. It’s false.” Then-Astros GM Ed Wade requested that Santana be placed on the list, Amaro says.  Santana, 21, is now a top prospect with the Astros, hitting .292/.368/.485 so far this season with Triple-A Oklahoma City.
  • The biggest problem in the Red Sox‘ disappointing season has been its outfield, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal writes. Britton suggests that the team’s decision to allow Jacoby Ellsbury to leave appears defensible, but there weren’t many good backup plans available if Jackie Bradley Jr. struggled, which he has. In addition, Daniel Nava has played poorly, and Shane Victorino has had injury trouble. In hindsight, Britton suggests, the best reasonable move might have been to acquire an outfielder like Chris Denorfia of the Padres in a trade.
  • Denorfia could be a hot name on the trade market this summer, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports predicts (scroll down). Denorfia can play all over the outfield and hit lefties, and he’ll be a free agent after the season. The Padres, meanwhile, have struggled, going 27-34 so far. Denorfia is hitting .265/.313/.368 in 167 plate appearances so far this season, although he’s hit better than that in four straight seasons before this one.