Joe Thatcher Rumors

AL West Notes: Grilli, Angels, Aiken, Morales

In a video interview with ESPN’s Jim Bowden, Angels GM Jerry Dipoto discussed the recent trades his team has made. Regarding the team’s swap of Ernesto Frieri for Jason Grilli, Dipoto tells Bowden that he received a text message from Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington, and the discussions took “about seven minutes” from start to agreement. The Halos’ interest in Grilli dates all the way back to his most recent run as a free agent, says Dipoto, who adds that the team discussed similar deals to this trade before making the move.

More from Dipoto’s chat with Bowden and the rest of the AL West below…

  • Regarding his acquisition of lefty Joe Thatcher, Dipoto notes “that’s one we’d been looking at for quite a long time.” Dipoto adds that Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers had made his interest in Zach Borenstein, who went to Arizona in the deal, known in the past. Perhaps most interestingly, Dipoto implies that the negotiations on the trade took place with Towers. Previous reports have indicated that some organizations weren’t sure about Arizona’s front office hierarchy now that Tony La Russa is in the mix.
  • Asked by Bowden if the Angels were done shopping, Dipoto replied, “We’ll continue to try to find ways to make the team better. Particularly, I’ve talked about the idea that if we can find one more piece for that bullpen.” Dipoto makes sure to qualify that he’s very pleased with the current mix of relievers but remains open to possible improvements at the back of the ‘pen.
  • Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle spoke with Astros GM Jeff Luhnow, who said he’s hopeful the team can reach an agreement with top pick Brady Aiken, but he won’t handicap it either way (Twitter link). Earlier today, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that a ligament issue in Aiken’s elbow has held up negotiations and caused the Astros to drop their bonus offer from $6.5MM to $5MM. Drellich talked to Aiken’s trainer, who claims that the lefty is healthy.
  • With the Twins in Seattle, Kendrys Morales spoke through an interpreter to the Seattle media (including Bob Candotta of the Seattle Times) about his offseason discussions with his former club. Morales said there was a bit of discussion with the Mariners, but as his interpreter says: “…in his heart he just didn’t really want to come back here and be in the same spot. He was taking his chances to see maybe something would get better.”

Angels Acquire Joe Thatcher, Tony Campana

10:19am: The Diamondbacks will receive outfielder Zach Borenstein and right-hander Joey Krehbiel, tweets Heyman.

Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times notes (via Twitter) Borenstein was the Angels’ minor league player of the year in 2013 (.337/.403/.631 at Class A-Advanced Inland Empire). The 23-year-old (the Angels’ 23rd-round selection in 2011), however, hasn’t been able to replicate those numbers this season while bouncing back and forth between Double-A (.266/.338/.440 in 207 plate appearances) and Triple-A (.256/.279/.342 in 123 plate appearances).

Krehbiel is an interesting bullpen arm with a fastball sitting between 92-95 MPH with a good slider, tweets Piecoro. The 21-year-old (taken in the same draft as Borenstein, but in the 12th round) has compiled a 2.00 ERA, 11.5 K/9, and 3.5 BB/9 with five saves in 17 appearances covering 18 innings this season for Class-A Burlington and Class A-Advanced Inland Empire.

10:00am: Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter) heard last night that the Halos would be giving up a minor league second baseball in a Thatcher deal.  Either Taylor Lindsey or Alex Yarbrough makes sense, according to Passan. 

9:48am: The D’Backs get a few prospects in the deal and one is a high-ranking prospect, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.  Arizona is saving about $1.1MM with this deal, Piecoro tweets.

9:33am: The D’Backs are receiving a prospect and another minor leaguer in the deal, tweets Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic.

8:57am: The Angels are set to acquire Joe Thatcher and Tony Campana from the Diamondbacks, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  The return is not yet known.

Rosenthal reported late last night that the Angels were on the hunt for a left-handed reliever and Thatcher was high on their wish list.  Thatcher, who will be a free agent at season’s end, has a 2.63 ERA with 9.4 K/9 and 1.1 BB/9 through 37 appearances this season.

For his career, the 32-year-old owns a 3.26 ERA with 9.4 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 across eight seasons with the Padres and Diamondbacks.  Now, he’ll ply his craft for the Halos in what will be his first time outside of the NL West.  Thatcher is a rather inexpensive addition for the Halos as they’re on the hook for the prorated portion of his $2.375MM deal.

Campana, 28, hasn’t done much offensively this season, hitting .150/.164/.200 in 61 plate appearances.   In four years for the Cubs and D’Backs, Campana has hit .246/.294/.286 in 239 total games.  Still, the speedy outfielder has managed to provide value even when he’s not doing much with his bat.  He has 66 career stolen bases and a career 14.6 UZR/150 in the outfield.

Edward Creech contributed to this post.


Angels Close To Trade For Relief Pitcher

The Angels are on the hunt for a left-handed reliever and the Diamondbacks’ Joe Thatcher is on their list, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter).  Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter) hears that the Halos are close to a deal with major league players and also says that they have their eye on relief pitching, specifically lefties.

The Angels have been hunting for a left-hander for some time now and it would make sense for them to try and land one well in advance of the deadline.  Late last month it was reported that the D’Backs were getting ready to sell and Thatcher’s name was amongst those mentioned as possible trade chips.  Thatcher, who will be a free agent at season’s end, has a 2.63 ERA with 9.4 K/9 and 1.1 BB/9 through 37 appearances this season.  Teammate Oliver Perez, who is controlled through 2015, could also be of interest to teams.

Passan (on Twitter) suggests that the Mariners could be a possible match as they’ve been shopping their own relief pitching surplus.



D’Backs Preparing To Sell; McCarthy Drawing Interest

Though his ERA and win-loss record aren’t much to look at (5.38 and 1-10), Diamondbacks right-hander Brandon McCarthy is drawing trade interest, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). A free agent at season’s end, McCarthy has about $4.72MM remaining on this year’s $9MM salary — the second year of a two-year, $15.5MM pact he inked in the 2012-13 offseason. Rosenthal notes that Arizona is likely to make multiple trades before this year’s deadline.

While McCarthy’s season looks rough on the surface, there are a lot of factors suggesting that he could quickly turn things around. McCarthy’s .339 batting average on balls in play is 44 points higher than the league average, and he’s sporting the best ground-ball and K/9 rates of his career (55.9 percent and 7.4, respectively). His fastball velocity has soared from an average of 90.8 mph over the past two seasons to 93 mph, and he’s sporting his best swinging-strike rate since 2006 as a result. McCarthy has mostly been plagued by home runs this season, but his fluky 21.7 percent homer-to-flyball ratio figures to come down.

There’s not much question that McCarthy will be available in trades. As Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports, the Snakes are said to be preparing to put a “for sale” sign on their roster and are weighing trades of multiple veteran players. GM Kevin Towers — who, despite the hiring of Tony La Russa, calls this July business as usual — told Piecoro: “[W]e have to look at being more open-minded of moving some contracts and some veteran players for younger players.”

A fire sale may not be as easy for the D’Backs as it would for most teams, however, Piecoro cautions. McCarthy and fellow veterans Cody Ross and Aaron Hill are underperforming this season, which will hurt Arizona’s potential return in trades. Other movable veterans such as Eric Chavez, Bronson Arroyo and Mark Trumbo are all currently on the disabled list.

One scout told Piecoro that the left-handers in Arizona’s bullpen — Joe Thatcher and Oliver Perez — figure to be of interest to other clubs. Both have enjoyed strong seasons to this point. Thatcher is a free agent at season’s end, while Perez, who signed a two-year deal this winter, is controlled through 2015. That same scout said he is intrigued by Gerardo Parra, but noted that the outfielder’s declining speed is a concern.

Towers noted to Piecoro that he would be reluctant to move young, controllable players such as Didi Gregorius and Triple-A shortstop Nick Ahmed (presumably, Chris Owings falls into that category as well).


Players Avoiding Arbitration: Friday

We'll keep track of today's smaller deals to avoid arbitration in this post. Click here for background on the upcoming arbitration schedule and how MLBTR is covering it. You can also check in on our Arbitration Tracker and look at MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz's arbitration projections.

Today's noon CT deadline to exchange arb figures has passed, but negotiations to avoid an arbitration hearing can continue into February. The Braves are the only strict "file and trial" team that did not agree to terms with all of its arb-eligible players, meaning they could be headed for several hearings. The Nats and Indians have also shown a willingness to go to a trial and still have some players unsigned. On to today's contract agreements…

  • After exchanging numbers, the Mets and pitcher Dillon Gee have agreed to settle at the midpoint of $3.625MM, tweets Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Swartz projected Gee to earn $3.4MM.
  • The Cubs have avoided arbitration with reliever Pedro Strop, president Theo Epstein told Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). He will earn $1.325MM next year, according to a tweet from Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. It is not immediately apparent whether the deal was reached before the sides exchanged terms.
  • The Angels have reached agreement on a $3.8MM deal with reliever Ernesto Frieri, reports Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com (on Twitter). 
  • Mike Minor has agreed to terms on a $3.85MM deal with the Braves to avoid arbitration, reports Mark Bowman of MLB.com (Twitter links). The deal came before figures were exchanged, Bowman notes.
  • Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the D-Backs and lefty Joe Thatcher have avoided arb with a one-year, $2.375MM deal (Twitter link).
  • Nicholson-Smith tweets that the Angels and Fernando Salas reached an agreement to avoid arbitration. Salas is the first Halos player to avoid arb. Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times tweets that Salas will earn $870K, which beats out his $700K projection.
  • MLB.com's Jason Beck reports (via Twitter) that the Tigers and righty Al Alburquerque have reached agreement on a deal to avoid arb. The hard-throwing righty will earn $837.5K in 2014, tweets Beck.
  • Sherman tweets that the Yankees and Ivan Nova avoided arbitration with a one-year, $3.3MM deal.
  • The Pirates and Vin Mazzaro inked a one-year, $950K deal in lieu of an arbitration hearing, tweets Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune.
  • The Royals announced that they've avoided arbitration with infielder Emilio Bonifacio. Heyman tweets that Bonifacio will earn $3.5MM in 2014.
  • Sherman reports that the Rays avoided arbitration with Jeremy Hellickson and Sean Rodriguez (Twitter link). Hellickson landed a $3.625MM payday with a $25K bonus if he hits 195 innings pitched. Rodriguez will get $1.475MM with a $25K bump for hitting 300 plate appearances.
  • Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets that Brian Matusz avoided arb with the Orioles. Sherman adds that he'll earn $2.4MM in 2014.
  • MLB.com's Brian McTaggart tweets that Jason Castro and the Astros have avoided arbitration. McTaggart adds in a second tweet that Jesus Guzman avoided arb as well. Heyman reports that Castro will be paid $2.45MM, while Sherman tweets that Guzman will make $1.3MM.
  • The Indians tweeted that they've avoided arb with lefty Marc Rzepczynski, and MLB.com's Jordan Bastian tweets that he'll earn $1.375MM in 2014. Bastian adds that Scrabble will earn an additional $25K for appearing in 55 games and another $25K for 60 games.
  • The Giants avoided arbitration with Yusmeiro Petit, according to MLBTR's Steve Adams (on Twitter).  He'll earn $845K, according to Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith (via Twitter).

(more…)


NL Notes: Rockies, Flowers, Thatcher, Barney

The Dodgers have a thrown a wrench into the free agent outfield market by listening to trade offers for Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Carl Crawford, writes Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio in an Insider post (subscription required). Scott Boras is also a complicating factor, according to Bowden, because he represents the two top free agent outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo (#2 and #3, respectively, on MLBTR's 2014 Top 50 Free Agents list). Bowden theorizes the other top-tier free agent outfielders may wait to sign in order to see how Boras sets the market for Ellsbury and Choo. In today's news and notes from the National League:

  • Rockies owner Dick Monfort provided Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post with a detailed line-by-line budget for his franchise. Monfort explains how revenue from the new national TV contract is absorbed by payments on the club's MLB credit line, player raises, and projected revenue losses for not having home dates with the Yankees and Red Sox. Monfort estimates being able to reinvest only $4-5MM of the new TV money into the on-the-field product.    
  • Renck, via Sulia, agrees with the assessment of MLBTR's Tim Dierkes that the Ricky Nolasco contract resembles Edwin Jackson's. Renck believes the Rockies would have been paralyzed under their self-imposed budget constraints had they signed Nolasco, so their best option for a rotation upgrade is through a trade.
  • The Mets will have interest in catcher Tyler Flowers, if he is non-tendered by the White Sox, tweets the New York Post's Mike Puma. Mets executives have liked Flowers in the past and see him as a potential backup to Travis d'Arnaud. Flowers, however, told Scott Merkin of MLB.com "(t)here have been a couple of conversations" with the White Sox about reaching an agreement to avoid arbitration. "I put it at 51-49 in favor of staying because of the contractual conversation we've had before," Flowers said. "They've reached out to me to try to see where each other is at. If they didn't care at all, they would have done nothing and non-tendered me."
  • It would be a surprise if the Diamondbacks non-tender left-handed reliever Joe Thatcher because free agent bullpen arms aren't cheap, tweets Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca. Thatcher struggled after Arizona acquired him from San Diego in the Ian Kennedy trade to the tune of a 6.75 ERA, 6.8 K/9, 5.8 BB/9, and 11.6 H/9 in 9 1/3 innings (22 appearances).  
  • The Cubs will likely tender second baseman Darwin Barney, despite a career-worst season at the plate (.208/.266/.303 in 501 plate appearances), because the only realistic in-house replacement is Luis Valbuena, reasons MLB.com's Carrie Muskat. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects a $2.1MM arbitration salary for Barney and $1.5MM for Valbuena, who is playing second base in the Venezuelan Winter League.
  • The Cardinals made the right move in signing Jhonny Peralta because they were able to upgrade a position of need while retaining their prized young arms, opines MLB.com's Richard Justice

Padres Acquire Ian Kennedy

The Padres have bolstered their rotation for the present and future, acquiring righty Ian Kennedy from the division rival Diamondbacks for lefty reliever Joe Thatcher, Double-A reliever Matt Stites, and a compensation round B draft pick, according to a tweet from MLB.com's Corey Brock.  It's a surprisingly light haul for Kennedy, a 28-year-old who is under team control through 2015 as an arbitration eligible player.

USATSI_7329036

Drafted 21st overall by the Yankees in '06, Kennedy joined Arizona in the December 2009 three-team trade with the Yanks and Tigers, at a time when Josh Byrnes was the Diamondbacks' GM.  Byrnes was fired the following year and later landed the GM job in San Diego, while Kevin Towers took over for Arizona.  Clearly, Byrnes has an affinity for Kennedy, who tossed 624 1/3 regular season innings from 2010-12 with a 3.55 ERA and finished fourth in the NL Cy Young voting back in 2011.  Kennedy's walk rate worsened this year, en route to a 5.23 ERA in 124 frames.  His skills suggest something closer to 4.00 moving forward.  As a fly-ball pitcher, Kennedy will likely benefit tremendously from leaving the hitter-friendly Chase Field to a more pitcher-friendly stadium in Petco Park.

Thatcher is a useful left-handed specialist who joined the Padres in a July 2007 trade brokered by Towers.  The 31-year-old has a 2.10 ERA, 8.7 K/9, 1.2 BB/9, 0.90 HR/9, and 42.4% groundball rate in 30 innings this year.  He's faced 70 lefty batters and held them to a .212/.257/.231 line.  Earning $1.35MM this year, Thatcher is under team control through 2014 as an arbitration eligible player.

Stites, a 23-year-old reliever, has a 2.08 ERA, 8.8 K/9, 1.4 BB/9, and 1.04 HR/9 in 52 Double-A innings this year.  Prior to the season Baseball America ranked the 5'11" Stites 27th among Padres prospects.

To clear space on the 40-man roster following the trade, the D'Backs have outrighted Nate Adcock to Triple-A Reno, according to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic (on Twitter).

The draft pick headed to the D'Backs is San Diego's competitive balance lottery pick, which is the first pick of Comp Round B (between the second and third rounds). As such, it will likely fall in the 70 to 75 range; Comp Round B consisted of picks 69 to 73 in this year's draft. Those picks carried assigned values of between $808K and $759K, according to Baseball America.

Towers and the Diamondbacks clearly thought Kennedy to be expendable with Trevor Cahill and Brandon McCarthy on the mend and Archie Bradley in the minor leagues. Kennedy scored a near-record $4.265MM salary for 2013, his first arbitration year.  MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects a mild raise to the $5.9MM range for 2014, so there's a financial element to the trade as well. Still, it seems to be an underwhelming return for a pitcher with Kennedy's upside, even in a down season.

As shown in MLBTR's Transaction Tracker, Towers and Byrnes have connected on a pair of past deals for Tony Clark and Scott Hairston back in 2008 and 2007, respectively.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Padres To Keep Gregerson

The latest on the Padres, who host the Reds today 20 minutes prior to the trade deadline…

Earlier Updates


Relief Rumors: Lopez, Gregerson, Thatcher, Red Sox

Less than one day remains until the trade deadline, and relievers have been the most moved commodity in recent days, with Scott Downs, Jose Veras, Jesse Crain and Marc Rzepczynski all changing teams. Here's more on the relief market…

  • The Tigers remain open to adding relief help and have expressed interest in Javier Lopez, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter). It seems that Detroit isn't necessarily set in the bullpen department after adding Veras yesterday.
  • Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tweets that the Indians called the Giants about Lopez but the talks ended quickly when San Francisco asked for top prospect Danny Salazar in return.
  • The Padres are listening on both Luke Gregerson and Joe Thatcher, but they'd need to be "inspired" to move either pitcher, according to ESPN's Buster Olney (Twitter link).
  • Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reported earlier today the Red Sox still consider bullpen help as a high priority (Twitter link). However, the team acquired Jake Peavy and Brayan Villarreal earlier tonight, so that may no longer be a need. Villarreal could slot into Boston's bullpen, and the Sox could also push Brandon Workman to the bullpen, as Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe noted (on Twitter).

Bullpen Notes: Papelbon, Nathan, Tigers, Padres

Closer Jonathan Papelbon is dissatisfied with the Phillies' current direction, MLB.com's Todd Zalecki reports. In the midst of an eight-game losing streak, Philadelphia has fallen to seven games below .500, and that's not what Papelbon anticipated when he signed with the Phils. "I definitely didn't come here for this," he says. He also doesn't sound optimistic when asked about the Phillies' future. "Oh man," he says. "We could be here all day."

Papelbon is of the opinion that the Phillies need to undergo an overhaul, similar to that of his former team, the Red Sox (whose overhaul, ironically, included losing Papelbon to free agency). He says he does not want to be traded, but adds that he does not want to stay in Philadelphia if his team continues on the same path.