James McDonald Rumors


Cubs Sign James McDonald

The Cubs have officially signed pitcher James McDonald. The deal, originally thought to be a minor league contract, is actually a major league deal, tweets MLBTR's Tim Dierkes. 

McDonald's $1MM salary is not fully guaranteed, however, reports Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune via Twitter. The 29-year-old can also earn incentives, tweets Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com.

McDonald hit the open market in September when he refused an outright assignment from the Pirates. Things never came together for him last year, as he only got six starts and ended up with a 5.76 ERA in 29 2/3 MLB innings. Control was a particular issue, as McDonald ended up with 6.1 BB/9. In 33 Triple-A innings in 2013, McDonald scuffled to a 6.55 ERA.

Nevertheless, McDonald offers tantalizing upside. Over the first half of 2012, he carried a 2.37 ERA with a 3.23 K:BB ratio and allowed opponents to hit just .196/.258/.312 against him. (Of course, those numbers flipped to a 7.52 ERA, 1.34 K:BB rate, and .292/.388/.551 line in the second half.) And though he dealt with a shoulder issue last year, McDonald has otherwise been durable over his professional career.

Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com first reported the signing on January 31st (via Twitter). Carrie Muskat reported via Twitter that the deal was official. 



Central Notes: Grimm, Rodriguez, McDonald

Since picking up Justin Grimm from the Rangers in the Matt Garza deal, the Cubs have liked what they've seen from him in a relief role, writes Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. Pitching coach Chris Bosio explains that the club is "presenting different roles for him," and Gonzales says that Grimm could stay in the pen going into spring training. On to more links from the AL and NL Central...

  • The Pirates have shut down Wandy Rodriguez because of persistent pain and discomfort in his left forearm, according to a statement from GM Neal Huntington. The move will provide more time for the flexor tendon in Rodriguez's forearm to heal and sets him up to be ready for Opening Day 2014, Huntington said.
  • Rodriguez says he hasn't considered whether he'll trigger his $13MM player option for next year, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review tweets. However, it's unlikely that he doesn't do so, Biertempfel says. The Pirates are on the hook for $7.5MM of the option.
  • The Twins don't plan to sign James McDonald, who elected free agency today after being outrighted to Triple-A by the Pirates, Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN.com says. Minnesota will re-evaluate McDonald and take a look at his medicals over the offseason, however.

Jeff Todd contributed to this post.



James McDonald Elects Free Agency

SEPT 14: McDonald has refused his outright assignment and elected free agency, according to the Pirates' transactions page.

SEPT. 13: McDonald cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Indianapolis, according to the International League transactions page. As a player that has been outrighted off his 40-man roster but has three or more years of Major League service time, baseball's collective bargaining agreement allows McDonald to elect free agency following the season.

SEPT. 7: The Pirates announced that they have designated James McDonald for assignment.  The move will allow the Bucs to promote Brandon Cumpton from Triple-A Indianapolis.

McDonald, 28, was just reinstated from the disabled list after being out of action since April 30th due to issues with his throwing shoulder.  The right-hander wasn't terribly sharp in six starts this season, posting a 5.76 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 6.1 BB/9.  McDonald was once considered to be a high-upside prospect when he started out with L.A. and was rated No. 56 nationally by Baseball America before the '09 season.  For his career, McDonald owns a 4.20 ERA with 7.8 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9.

McDonald spent the entirety of the 2011-12 seasons in Pittsburgh's rotation, hurling 171 innings of 4.21 ERA each year with a combined 7.7 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9.  His fastball velocity has declined in each of the past two years, though, falling from an average of 92.7 mph in 2011 to 91.8 in 2012 and 90.5 in 2013's small sample of 29 2/3 innings.

To keep track of McDonald and everyone else in DFA limbo, check out the MLBTR DFA Tracker.

Steve Adams contributed to this post.



Twins Notes: Payroll, Offseason, McDonald

Ryan Doumit won't catch again for the Twins this season as the team looks to protect him from a similar situation to the one in which Joe Mauer currently finds himself, writes La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Mauer experienced a setback in his recovery from a concussion earlier this week and remains out indefinitely. Here's more on the Twins as they try to avoid a third consecutive 90-loss season...

  • A decrease in payroll isn't the reason for the Twins' struggles, argues Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN. Mackey cites the Athletics as a team whose model the Twins should follow, as they consistently draft talent and sell high on those players to replenish their farm system. Mackey points out that the Twins have only had two starters they've drafted since 2006 -- Kyle Gibson and Jeff Manship -- impact the Major League rotation. Mackey searches for the Twins' last instance of selling high came, naming only this past offseason's trades of Denard Span and Ben Revere. Indeed, the Twins have opted to hang onto names like Michael Cuddyer, Josh Willingham, Jason Kubel and others in recent years instead of trading them at their value's apex.
  • Twins owner Jim Pohlad said after the team's 18-3 loss to Oakland earlier this week that the loss team's play is "embarrassing," and he will afford GM Terry Ryan with financial resources to make changes via free agency, according to Charley Walters of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "We made a couple trades last year," said Pohlad. "I'm not sure that we can rely on that this year. So if we're going to do something, it's going to have to be that way (free agency)." Pohlad said he's willing to spend "any amount of money on the current year" but doesn't want to commit himself to seven- or eight-year mega contracts for free agents. He did specifically say that he wouldn't rule out two-, three- and four-year free agent contracts.
  • Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets that the Twins don't think that recently outrighted Pirates right-hander James McDonald has fully recovered from his shoulder woes, and as such they didn't pursue him when he was designated for assignment. Wolfson adds that the Twins may be interested this offseason if he ends up a free agent.



Central Notes: Peralta, McDonald, Sweeney

In some non-traditional transactional news, some Tigers fans are mourning the apparent firing of one of Comerica Park's fixtures, opera-singing hot dog vendor Charley Marcuse. More from MLB's central divisions...

  • The Tigers have a decison looming with Jhonny Peralta, who will return from a 50-game suspension with three games remaining in the regular season, John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press notes. The club may not reinstate Peralta to avoid associated media scrutiny, as the infielder was suspended for his connection with the Biogenesis scandal. However, keeping him on could protect the Tigers in the case of an injury to his replacement at shortstop, Jose Iglesias, or second baseman Omar Infante.
  • Though righty James McDonald has finally recovered after hitting the DL with shoulder discomfort in early May, he didn't factor into the Pirates' plans moving forward, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports in a tweet. McDonald, 28, was designated for assignment earlier today. The former top prospect is only a year removed from a 4.21 ERA, 171-inning campaign and has just a year of arbitration under his belt, so he could draw interest if clubs believe he's healthy.
  • The Cubs' Ryan Sweeney figures to get playing time this month so that the club can evaluate him, MLB.com's Carrie Muskat reports. Sweeney will be a free agent after the season. "You give him 500, 700 plate appearances that he’s never gotten before, I think you could project that to be a pretty good year," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. The 28-year-old signed a minor-league deal with the Cubs in April but missed more than two months after fracturing a rib.
Jeff Todd contributed to this post.



Quick Hits: Cubs, Zambrano, Amaro, McDonald

Cubs manager Dale Sveum says his team has no intention of releasing struggling reliever Carlos Marmol and eating the rest of his $9.8MM salary, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune reports. "We've come to find out that he has trouble with the last three outs," says Sveum. "But somebody has to pitch the other innings, and he's done a pretty good job in that role." Marmol allowed four runs in the ninth as the Cubs lost to the Mets 4-3 on Sunday. Here are more notes from around the National League.

  • The Cubs' bullpen has struggled this season, but in the aftermath of this summer's trading season, the team's rotation could end up being just as weak, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. Last season, the Cubs performed poorly down the stretch after the departures of two productive starters in Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm. This year, Wittenmyer says, Matt Garza and Scott Feldman could be those pitchers' 2013 equivalents.
  • Phillies starter Jonathan Pettibone struggled Saturday, but GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says that Carlos Zambrano won't be replacing Pettibone right away, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com writes. "Not based on what I saw his last outing, not in my mind," says Amaro. "I’d like to see him pitch again [in the minors]. We’ll keep a close eye on his starts and how effective he is. But he’s not ready yet in my mind." Zambrano has an out clause July 1. He allowed two runs in five innings in his first outing for Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Thursday, striking out five and walking four. His fastball did not exceed 88 MPH.
  • Speaking of Amaro, Bob Brookover of the Inquirer argues that "the bad has outweighed the good" in Amaro's stint as GM, and that it's unclear whether Amaro is the right person for the job. Amaro's signing of Joe Blanton and trade for Hunter Pence rank among his worst moves, Brookover says.
  • Pirates GM Neal Huntington says James McDonald's future with the team could be in jeopardy, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Karen Price writes in a pair of tweets. "As the clock ticks we’ll have to make a determination as to where James best fits in this group, on this club, or does he fit," says Huntington. "That’s a question to be answered ultimately by James McDonald." McDonald, once viewed as a potential franchise building block after promising seasons in 2010 and 2011 and a great first half in 2012, has fallen out of favor after collapsing down the stretch last year and posting a 5.76 ERA with 20 walks in six 2013 starts. He has also struggled in his rehab starts since landing on the disabled list with shoulder discomfort.
  • If the Blue Jays had already acquired Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio from the Marlins, they wouldn't have signed Maicer Izturis, Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star argues. Izturis signed a three-year, $10MM deal in November, and the Jays acquired Reyes and Bonifacio days later. Izturis has hit .222/.258/.308 this season.



Pirates Avoid Arbitration With McDonald, Walker

8:38pm: McDonald will earn $3.025MM while Walker's deal is worth $3.3MM, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports (Twitter link).

5:58pm: The Pirates have agreed to new contracts with right-hander James McDonald and second baseman Neil Walker, avoiding arbitration with the two players, MLB.com's Tom Singer reports (Twitter link).  Both players were arb-eligible for the first time and are both are represented by Hendricks Sports. 

McDonald, 28, held a 2.37 ERA through his first 17 starts in 2012 but a 7.52 ERA in his 13 outings and was even sent to the bullpen by season's end.  Since coming to the Pirates from the Dodgers in July 2010, McDonald has a 4.10 ERA, 2.07 K/BB ratio and a 7.8 K/9 rate in 72 games, all but one a start.  McDonald was looking for a $3.4MM salary while the Bucs countered with a $2.65MM offer.

Walker's contract will pay him in the neighborhood of $3.25MM in 2013, as Singer reports (Twitter link) that Walker will get around $300K more than what other arb-eligible second baseman like Daniel Murphy, Gordon Beckham and Ryan Roberts received from their teams.  Walker wanted a $3.6MM deal while the Pirates offered him a $3MM contract, so he should end up with around the midpoint between the two figures.

Like McDonald, Walker also had a roller-coaster of a season, posting a .648 OPS through May, then a .933 OPS over his next 52 games that included a whopping 1.097 OPS in July.  The Pittsburgh native fell off again down the stretch, due in part to a herniated disc in his back.  The Pirates discussed a long-term extension with Walker last offseason and could revisit the subject during Spring Training.  Walker, 27, has three more arb-eligible years left as a Super Two player. 

As MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker shows, the Pirates have now come to terms with all of their arbitration-eligible players.



NL Central Notes: Hart, Carpenter, Pirates

The Brewers continue their push for the second NL Wild Card spot as they look to win their series against Mets this afternoon at Miller Park. However, they will have to do so without Corey Hart. Hart has been sidelined for the last six games since he partially tore the plantar fascia, the connective tissue that runs across the bottom of the foot, in his left foot a week ago. Hart did running drills this morning, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and MLB.com's Adam McCalvy, and all did not go well. Hart, who was able to run in a straight line but suffered discomfort when making stops and turns, said, "It’s a little frustrating. Today was the first day I tried to run the bases, and it didn’t go as planned.” Elsewhere from the NL Central:



Platform Years For First-Time Eligible Starters

Clayton Kershaw's salary jumped from $500K to $7.5MM this year, and it wasn't just because of his Cy Young performance. Kershaw qualified for arbitration for the first time in his career over the winter, so he obtained the right to establish his salary by comparing his production to that of his peers.

James McDonald (Pirates) - PW

Though $7MM raises are reserved for elite performers like Kershaw, many first-time eligible starting pitchers will see their salaries rise from $500K or so to $2-4.5MM this coming offseason. A player’s case depends in large part on his career numbers, but his most recent season, or platform year, matters a great deal. 

Advanced statistics like xFIP, wins above replacement and swinging strike rate don't generally figure in to arbitration cases. Instead, traditional stats such as innings, starts, wins and ERA determine players' salaries.

With one third of the season now complete, let’s check in on the prominent starting pitchers on track to be first-time arbitration eligible this coming offseason:

Arb 1 Pitchers for 2012-13

Injuries have limited Jhoulys Chacin, Doug Fister, Marco Estrada, Chris Narveson and Neftali Feliz. All of these pitchers are on the disabled list, none of them are on pace to complete 150 innings, and three of them -- Estrada, Fister and Chacin -- remain winless.

Phil Humber and Tommy Hunter have stayed healthy, but they’re off to disappointing starts that include losing records and ERAs above 5.50. The homer-prone Hunter is pitching at Triple-A, and could soon be recalled. The collective bargaining recognizes special accomplishments, and Humber's perfect game definitely qualifies, so his representatives at Moye Sports Associates could play it up should the sides go to a hearing. Yet there's no clear conversion rate in place to help value Humber's perfecto.

Brian Matusz and Ross Detwiler both spent considerable time in the minor leagues last year, but they've responded with solid seasons to date. Both will head to arbitration with losing records, however, and Matusz's career ERA sits at 5.32.

Bud Norris, Ian Kennedy, Tommy Hanson, Mat Latos and, to a lesser extent, Mike Leake all entered the season with the bulk innings totals that often lead to generous salaries in arbitration. All five pitchers continue piling up innings, though Leake, Latos and Norris have ERAs above 4.50. The pitchers in this group figure to be compared against one another over and over this coming winter.

Former top prospects Jeff Samardzija and James McDonald (pictured) are enjoying breakout seasons. Both right-handers have career-best walk rates and are averaging one strikeout per inning. If they can keep this up -- or at least come reasonably close to doing so -- their paychecks will reflect the improvements in 2013 and beyond. Unfortunately for Samardzija, starters Rick Porcello and David Price didn't seem to be able to use their generous pre-arbitration salaries to boost their arbitration earnings this past offseason, so his current $2.64MM salary probably won't help much.

It's early enough for the fortunes of these pitchers to change dramatically. Feliz could return to the bullpen, Fister could replicate last year's second half success, or Samardzija could regress. But, ten-plus starts into the season, these pitchers' platform seasons have started taking shape.

Photo courtesy of US Presswire. Stats via Baseball-Reference.com. Note that Derek Holland and Jonathon Niese signed extensions covering what would have been their first arb years. Madison Bumgarner, Stephen Strasburg and Daniel Hudson are expected to fall just shy of super two eligibility, though that's not official.



Quick Hits: Rockies, Dodgers, McDonald, Clippard

Links for Thursday night..

  • While I wondered if the Braves could be a match for the Cardinals as they look for pitching, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports suggests that the Rockies could be a match.  A major league source told Rosenthal that the Cards will first explore internal options before looking out-of-house.
  • Commissioner Bud Selig has rejected a proposal under which FOX would have loaned about $200MM to Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, three people familiar with the talks told Bill Shaikin of the LA Times.
  • Ex-Giant Juan Uribe is happy to be aboard with the Dodgers, writes John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle.
  • Former Dodgers pitcher James McDonald is excited to turn over a new leaf with the Pirates, writes Evan Drellich of MLB.com.  McDonald was shipped to Pittsburgh along with Andrew Lambo for Octavio Dotel last season. 
  • Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard says that he will continue to be represented by agent Casey Close, who is leaving CAA Sports, writes MLB.com's Bill Ladson.
  • Brewers right-handers Justin James and Shaun Marcum were drafted by Toronto in the same year but took very different paths to wind up in Milwaukee, writes Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.  James claimed off waivers by the Brewers from the A's this offseason.
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