J.P. Arencibia Rumors

AL East Links: Matusz, Tanaka, Arencibia

Though the Rays are just 24-21 for the season and 5-5 over their last 10 games, they’ve vaulted into first place in the AL East as the division’s only winning team.  The Yankees have lost 10 of their last 11 games to drop to an even 22-22 while the Red Sox (21-23), Orioles (19-22) and Blue Jays (20-26) are just struggling to get back to the .500 mark.  Here’s the latest from the struggling division…

  • Orioles reliever Brian Matusz was ejected from Saturday’s game with the Marlins for having a foreign substance on his arm, and now the southpaw has been suspended for eight games, Major League Baseball announced today.  Matusz is appealing the suspension.  As Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun notes, the suspension comes at an inopportune time for the O’s, as their pitching depth will already be tested due to a stretch of 14 games in 13 days (thanks to a double-header).  Left-handed batters have only hit .185/.214/.296 this season against Matusz, who has a 3.18 ERA in 17 innings.  The eight games matches the length of the suspension handed out to Brewers lefty Will Smith for a similar offense last week.
  • Masahiro Tanaka told reporters (including Dan Martin of the New York Post) that he is “not gonna make a change” to his pitching style in the wake of forearm and wrist injuries, but admits that he is “going to have to oversee my body a little bit better.”  Tanaka’s health has been of great concern since it was revealed that he had a partially-torn UCL last summer, and despite a couple of DL stints since, the Yankees still hope their ace can avoid a longer-term stay on the injured reserve.  Tanaka will make his second minor league rehab start on Wednesday.
  • J.P. Arencibia is trying to stay optimistic as the catcher continues his pro career for the Rays‘ Triple-A team, he tells Sportsnet’s Greg Mercer.  Arencibia goes into detail about how he felt he didn’t deal with the pressure of being an everyday player with the Blue Jays, and also about his surprise at being released by the Orioles’ Triple-A affiliate earlier this season.

AL East Notes: Reyes, Castro, Arencibia, Ramirez

In a radio appearance on FAN 590, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons told Sportsnet’s Jeff Blair that Jose Reyes had an MRI the revealed a small crack/fracture in his rib — an injury that could require a trip to the disabled list (Twitter links via Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith). The Blue Jays expect to have a better sense of whether or not Reyes will end up on the disabled list later today, though the injury certainly doesn’t seem to bode well for the shortstop, who exited last night’s game in the first inning. A DL trip for Reyes would seemingly mean that Ryan Goins would see time at short in his absence.

More from the AL East…

  • Shi Davidi of Sportsnet has posted an excellent look at the way in which Miguel Castro came to sign with the Blue Jays. Castro first worked out for both the Mets and Phillies, but failed to finalize a deal with either club for different reasons. Blue Jays director of Latin American operations was occupying that role with the Mets when the team pursued Castro, and Cruz recalls that he and Mets GM Sandy Alderson liked Castro and were comfortable signing him for $200K. However, some of the Mets pitching coaches and Cruz’s direct supervisor were concerned by Castro’s body type — he’s been likened, physically, to NBA superstar Kevin Durant due to his lanky frame — and the Mets ultimately passed. Castro then agreed to a $180K bonus with the Phillies, pending a physical, but Philadelphia didn’t like the look of his elbow and voided the deal. Cruz was transitioning to the Jays at that time and made his first order of business to ask GM Alex Anthopoulos for the money to sign Castro. A physical did reveal that Castro’s elbow looked to have had a past injury that no longer looked to be a major concern, but it was enough for Toronto to drop its initial offer to $43K. Castro accepted, and he impressed enough in his first big league camp to break camp with the team. Castro, of course, has already been moved to Toronto’s closer role.
  • J.P. Arencibia, who signed a Minor League pact with the Rays yesterday, will head to Triple-A and work mostly as a first baseman/DH, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Arencibia will get some occasional time at catcher, but manager Kevin Cash seemingly indicated that the 29-year-old’s bat, not the desire for additional depth behind the plate, was the reason for the signing. “He’s got some pop… we like what he does offensively,” Cash told Topkin. “Any added insurance he can provide, we’ll kind of see how it goes, but we’re excited.”
  • Righty Erasmo Ramirez has been shelled in two outings with the Rays, but Topkin writes that it appears the 25-year-old will stick with the club and try to work out his control issues out of the bullpen. The Rays don’t need a fifth starter until April 25, Topkin points out, and while either Alex Colome or Drew Smyly could theoretically be ready by that point, Tampa is not yet ready to give up on Ramirez.

Rays Sign J.P. Arencibia To Minor League Deal

The Rays have signed catcher J.P. Arencibia to a Minor League contract, tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The veteran Arencibia, a client of CAA Sports, will head to the Rays’ Triple-A affiliate in Durham, per Topkin.

The 29-year-old Arencibia was outrighted by the Rangers last winter and elected free agency rather than accepting an assignment to the Minors. He originally inked a Minors pact with the Orioles, but Baltimore cut him loose last week when he had previously been expected to join their Triple-A affiliate. Perhaps it’s not a surprise that Arencibia preferred not to head to Triple-A with Baltimore, as the O’s have a significant amount of catching depth already in their organization.

The same cannot necessarily be said of the Rays, who are currently relying on a tandem of Rene Rivera and Bobby Wilson behind the plate, with Curt Casali as the top option at the Triple-A level. Arencibia has more big league service time than any of those catching options, even Rivera, and will give Tampa a depth option with significant power but difficulty managing his strikeouts and getting on base.

Arencibia, once considered one of baseball’s top prospects, was the Blue Jays’ regular catcher from 2011-13, averaging 21 homers per season and 28 per 162 games played. However, his OBP dropped regularly in that stretch, bottoming out at an alarming .227 in 2013. Arencibia also saw his strikeout rate climb from 27.4 percent to 29 percent to 29.8 percent over that three-year stretch. He joined the Rangers last season and saw some time at first base but did little to pick up his offensive game.

From a defensive standpoint, Arencibia has been just a tick below average in controlling the running game (26 percent caught-stealing rate) and steadily improved his pitch framing. He graded above average in that latter skill in 2013 and average in 2014.

Orioles Release J.P. Arencibia

The Orioles have released catcher J.P. Arencibia, reports MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko (on Twitter). The former Blue Jays/Rangers backstop was reassigned to Minor League camp at the end of Spring Training and was expected to head to Norfolk but will now be a free agent.

Arencibia, 29, spent 2011-13 seasons as the Blue Jays’ primary catcher, surviving early in his career on plus power in spite of low averages and on-base percentages. However, his .194/.227/.365 line wasn’t enough to outweigh his 21 homers in 2013, and the Orioles cut him loose following the season. Arencibia spent time at catcher and first base for the Rangers last season but didn’t see his overall production improve much.

Orioles Sign J.P. Arencibia To Minor League Deal

The Orioles have reportedly been looking to add another catcher (despite having five on the 40-man roster), and they did so today, announcing the signing of J.P. Arencibia to a minor league deal. The CAA Sports client will receive an invite to Major League Spring Training.

Arencibia, who just turned 29, handled most of the catching duties for the Blue Jays over the 2011-13 campaigns. His low-OBP, high-strikeout approach yielded a steady diet of ~20-home run campaigns, but reached an extreme in his final year in Toronto, when he managed only a .227 on-base percentage while striking out 148 times and walking only 18 times in 497 turns at the plate.

It was much the same last year in Texas, where Arencibia scuffled to a .177/.239/.369 slash with ten long balls in 222 plate appearances. On a Rangers team beset with injury issues, he split his time evenly between catching, playing first, and slotting in as the designated hitter.

Arencibia will presumably challenge for a similar role in Baltimore or serve as depth while starting the year in the upper minors. As Connolly notes on Twitter, Arencibia put up big numbers at Triple-A during his time in Texas, when his swing was being overseen by new O’s hitting coach (and then-Rangers minor league hitting coordinator) Scott Coolbaugh.

From a defensive standpoint, Arencibia has prevented base stealing at a roughly league-average clip throughout his career (26 percent). He’s also typically graded out as a plus pitch-framer, according to both Baseball Prospectus and Matthew Carruth’s Framing Report at StatCorner.com.

Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun first reported that the deal was close (on Twitter), and Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweeted that an agreement had been reached.

West Notes: Kapler, Gasparino, Tomas, Rangers, Angels

The Dodgers‘ front office shakeup isn’t over yet. As Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles reported first, the Dodgers announced that they have hired Gabe Kapler as their farm director and Padres scouting director Billy Gasparino as their new director of amateur scouting (All Twitter links). Additionally, the team will hire Red Sox special assignment scout Galen Carr, per Saxon, though his role in the Dodgers’ front office is yet unreported. The Dodgers, of course, have already poached Andrew Friedman from the Rays (president of baseball ops) and Farhan Zaidi from the A’s (GM) in addition to hiring former Padres/D’Backs GM Josh Byrnes as their new senior VP of baseball ops. The new-look group is made up of some of the most respected executives from around the game.

Here’s more from the game’s Western divisions…

  • On a conference call with Padres season-ticket holders last night, general manager A.J. Preller spoke candidly about the team’s interest in Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas (Twitter link): “We’ve had the chance to see Yasmany Tomas and we’re in the process of determining his value for the Padres. We’re in the game.” San Diego has been said to be one of the front-runners for Tomas, and he’d certainly provide the team with some much-needed offense if he lives up to the hype surrounding him.
  • The Rangers will be on the lookout for a backup catcher to pair with Robinson Chirinos this offseason, writes MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan. Sullivan looks at the crop of free agents and notes that A.J. Pierzynski, Gerald Laird and J.P. Arencibia have all played with the Rangers in the past, but he wonders if the team will spend a bit more money on a name like Nick Hundley rather than bringing in familiar faces.
  • The Angels announced today that they have promoted Mike LaCassa to assistant director of player development and promoted Jonathan Strangio to manager of Major League Operations (Twitter link).

Minor Moves: Arencibia, Kouzmanoff

Here are the day’s minor moves:

  • Catcher J.P. Arencibia and third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff have elected free agency rather than accepting outright assignments with the Rangers, Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest reports on Twitter. The pair was set to reach free agency anyway, but will be eligible to test the market now rather than waiting until after the World Series.

Rangers Outright J.P. Arencibia, Kevin Kouzmanoff

The Rangers announced today that they have outrighted catcher J.P. Arencibia, third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff, infielder Guilder Rodriguez, outfielder Engel Beltre, right-hander Wilmer Font and left-hander Pedro Figueroa off the 40-man roster to Triple-A Round Rock. Both Kouzmanoff and Arencibia are eligible to become free agents, and will likely do just that. The moves drop the Rangers’ 40-man roster to 37, as three of the players (Beltre, Kouzmanoff and Figueroa) all had to be activated from the 60-day DL in order to be outrighted.

Arencibia, previously of Blue Jays fame, hit .177/.239/.369 in 222 plate appearances for Texas this year, appearing at both catcher and first base. His .196/.263/.427 batting line following a recall from the minors and a shift to first base was an improvement over his numbers while serving as a catcher, but his 28 percent strikeout clip this past season was still troubling.

Kouzmanoff was outstanding in 13 games for Texas before hitting the 60-day DL due to a back injury that required surgery. The former Padre/Athletic hit .362/.412/.617 with a pair of homers in 51 trips to the plate as he filled in for a then-injured Adrian Beltre.

Beltre spent the entire season on the DL as he recovered from surgery on each of his legs, and Figueroa saw just 10 games of action before going down to Tommy John surgery. Rodriguez was a feel-good story that made his big league debut and collected two hits after 13 seasons in the minors. Font didn’t pitch in the Majors this season and underwent elbow surgery in August before being designated for assignment last week when the team claimed Alfredo Figaro from the Brewers.

Rangers Designate Carlos Pena For Assignment

The Rangers announced that they have designated first baseman Carlos Pena for assignment. That move, along with yesterday’s trade of Jason Frasor to the Royals, clears 40-man and 25-man roster spots for Geovany Soto and J.P. Arencibia — both of whom will be added to the big league roster.

The veteran Pena batted .136/.190/.237 in 63 plate appearances for Texas after having his contract selected from Triple-A Round Rock. The 36-year-old had signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, who have lost first basemen Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland for the season due to injuries.

Soto will be activated from the 60-day disabled list and make his season debut for the Rangers sometime in the team’s upcoming three-game series against the Blue Jays. Arencibia, meanwhile, is a bit of an interesting story. The 28-year-old struggled tremendously with the Rangers earlier this season and was outrighted off the 40-man back in May after clearing waivers. However, he’s now picked up some experience at first base with Round Rock, and as Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports (on Twitter), that’s where the Rangers will use him this time around.

Rangers Outright J.P. Arencibia Off 40-Man Roster

After originally optioning struggling catcher J.P. Arencibia, the Rangers have outrighted him off of the club’s 40-man roster, according to the PCL transactions page. Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram first reported yesterday via Twitter that Arencibia had cleared outright waivers and been assigned to Triple-A.

The 28-year-old Arencibia has continued the decline he showed last year before being non-tendered by the Blue Jays and inking a one-year, $1.8MM deal with Texas. He carries a .133/.182/.233 line through 66 plate appearances this season, with just one home run. While Arencibia struggled to get on base even at his best, his .225/.279/.437 triple-slash (and 41 home runs) over 2011-12 was good for a 91 OPS+. He has been a sub-replacement-level player since.