J.R. Towles Rumors

Minor Moves: Brignac, Towles, Storey

Here are today’s minor moves from around the league…

  • Phillies infielder Reid Brignac has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, according to the team’s transactions page. The former top prospect was designated for assignment this weekend to clear a spot on the roster for Freddy Galvis. Brignac, 28, batted .222/.300/.346 in 91 plate appearances with the Phillies this year.
  • The Rangers have signed catcher J.R. Towles to a minor league deal, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The 30-year-old Towles was once seen as the potential catcher of the future for the Astros, but he never consistently put together success at the big league level, as evidenced by his .187/.267/.315 batting line. Towles has had quite a bit of Triple-A success, however, and he batted .292/.411/.519 in 67 games for the independent Atlantic League’s Bridgeport Bluefish in 2014. Texas needed some additional catching depth after dealing Geovany Soto to the A’s yesterday.
  • Baseball America’s Matt Eddy has published his weekly minor league transactions roundup, and within the excellent recap, he notes that the Blue Jays have released right-hander Mickey Storey. The 28-year-old Storey has big league experience with both the Astros and the Jays and pitched to a 3.12 ERA with a 28-to-9 K/BB ratio in 26 innings across three minor league levels with Toronto this season.

Quick Hits: Towles, Braves, Prospects

There have been 23 perfect games in Major League history and 16 instances of a player hitting four home runs in one game, and both of these rare baseball events have taken place on April 30.  White Sox right-hander Charlie Robertson threw a perfecto against the Tigers on this day in 1922; 39 years later, the legendary Willie Mays homered four times as part of a 14-4 Giants rout of the Braves.  Incredibly, there have been two other instances of a four-homer game and a perfect game on the same day — July 18 (Pat Seerey in 1948 and David Cone in 1999) and May 8 (Josh Hamilton in 2012 and Catfish Hunter in 1968).

Here’s some news from around the majors as we head into May…

  • J.R. Towles is fully recovered from a home plate collision that ended his 2013 season and is receiving some interest from Major League teams, MLBTR’s Zach Links reports (Twitter links).  Considered a top-55 prospect headed into the 2008 season, Towles hit .187/.267/.315 in 484 PA with the Astros from 2007-11.  The catcher spent 2012-13 playing for the Triple-A affiliates of the Twins, Dodgers and Cardinals, and is currently hitting well for the independent Bridgeport Bluefish.
  • Three years ago, Jason Heyward was seen as the Braves‘ signature star of the future while Freddie Freeman was projected to have a more modest ceiling, Sports Illustrated’s Ben Reiter writes.  Now, Freeman is emerging as one of the game’s best first basemen while Heyward has yet to truly break through thanks to both injuries and a hole in his swing.  Reflecting how the two players have switched roles, the Braves only locked Heyward up to a two-year commitment during their offseason extension frenzy, while Freeman was given an eight-year, $135MM contract.
  • In an Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Jim Bowden looks at seven top prospects who could be making their Major League debuts sometime this season.
  • Fortitude is a quality that every scout wants to see in a pitcher, yet it’s one of those intangibles that is hard to both identify or even define, Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus writes.

Minor Moves: Wells, Reds, McPherson, Towles

Here are your minor moves for Wednesday…

  • Salt Lake Bees radio broadcaster Steve Klauke reports (on Twitter) that the Angels have released veteran Kip Wells to make room on the roster for the recently outrighted Billy Buckner. Wells, 36, had a 10.36 ERA, 3.3 K/9 and 8.1 BB/9 in 24 1/3 innings at Triple-A.
  • Reds assistant director of media relations Jamie Ramsey reports that the team has purchased the contract of 21-year-old outfielder Sebastian Elizalde from the Mexican League. In 147 career games in that league, Elizalde is a .301/.353/.450 hitter. He will report to extended Spring Training (Twitter links).
  • Dallas McPherson has signed a contract with the York Revolution of the Atlantic League, according to Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com (on Twitter). McPherson has a pair of 40-homer minor league campaigns under his belt and was once one of the best power prospects in baseball. He's hit just .241/.292/.446 as a Major Leaguer, however.
  • The Dodgers have signed catcher J.R. Towles to a minor league contract, tweets Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. The former top prospect is now 29 years old and has a .265/.361/.423 batting line in 223 career games at Triple-A. At the Major League level, he's just a .187/.267/.315 hitter in 484 plate appearances — all coming with the Astros. He last saw the bigs in 2011.
  • The Blue Jays have selected the contract of Triple-A Buffalo closer Neil Wagner, tweets MLBTR's Tim Dierkes. The Jays already had an open spot on their 40-man roster. The 29-year-old NDSU product has a 0.89 ERA with 32 strikeouts and eight walks in 20 1/3 frames at Buffalo this season.

Cardinals Sign J.R. Towles

The Cardinals have signed J.R. Towles to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training, reports Ken Davidoff of The New York Post (on Twitter). The catcher is represented by Burton Rocks LTD.

Towles, 28, is a career .187/.267/.315 hitter in 484 big league plate appearances with the Astros. He spent last season with the Triple-A affiliate of the Twins, where he hit .214/.280/.315 in 189 plate appearances. Baseball America ranked Towles as the 53rd best prospect in the game prior to the 2008 season, but he was unable to live up to the promise he showed earlier in this career.

Quick Hits: Ankiel, Dempster, Towles, Bourn

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to check out Tim Dierkes’ list of the top 50 free agents for the upcoming offseason. The list includes Tim’s predictions for each player, and we’d like you to join us in predicting the destinations for the top 50 free agents. You can make your picks here. Now for this afternoon’s links…

  • Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch hears Rick Ankiel is open to giving pitching another shot. The Cardinals could be among the teams willing to give Ankiel another chance on the mound. Ankiel pitched for the Cardinals from 1999-2004, putting together a strong season as a 20-year-old in 2000. He returned to the big leagues as a hitter in 2007.
  • The Cubs have been in contact with Ryan Dempster’s agent about the possibility of a contract, Carrie Muskat of MLB.com reports (on Twitter). The Cubs traded the LSW baseball client to the Rangers midseason and he’s now a free agent (he can't sign with a team other than Texas until Saturday).
  • Catcher J.R. Towles left Hendricks Sports for agent Burton Rocks, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter). Our Agency Database has current information on the agents of most MLB players.
  • Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com hears word that Michael Bourn could be looking for as much as $100MM in free agency. The Phillies would probably be reluctant to spend that kind of money on a 30-year-old player who relies heavily on his legs, Salisbury writes.
  • Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports previews the destinations for a number of the offseason’s top free agents.

Twins Sign Steve Pearce, J.R. Towles

The Twins announced a major signing today, and GM Terry Ryan also stayed busy on the minor league front. The Twins signed Steve Pearce and J.R. Towles to minor league deals, according to Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune (Twitter links). Scott McCauley first reported the Towles deal.

Towles, 27, posted a .184/.256/.293 line in 165 plate appearances with the Astros this past season. His career line is .187/.267/.315, though he picked up just 484 plate appearances over the course of five seasons in Houston. Like Rene Rivera, another recent minor league signing, Towles provides depth behind the plate. Pearce, 28, has MLB experience at all four corner positions. He posted a .202/.260/.255 line in 105 plate appearances for the Pirates in 2011.

Astros Outright Arias, Towles, Valdez

The Astros announced that they outrighted catcher J.R. Towles and right-handers Alberto Arias and Jose Valdez to Triple-A Oklahoma City after the trio cleared waivers. The move clears space on Houston’s 40-man roster, which now includes 35 players. 

Arias and Valdez can both elect free agency instead of accepting the assignment, while Towles will automatically become a free agent after the World Series. 

Arias would have been arbitration eligible, but he spent the 2011 on the season on the disabled list after undergoing shoulder surgery in March. The 27-year-old has a 3.74 ERA with 6.6 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 in 74 2/3 career innings and hasn't pitched since 2009. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes recently predicted that the Astros would cut him loose.

Towles, 27, was once a highly-regarded prospect, but he has struggled to produce at the plate in parts of five MLB seasons. He has a .187/.267/.315 line in 484 MLB plate appearances since 2007. Valdez appeared in 12 games for the Astros this year, striking out 15 in 14 innings. He also posted a 5.47 ERA with 12.0 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 in 24 2/3 minor league innings this year.

Top Trade Chips: NL Central

Let's continue our series looking at each team's top trade chips with the NL Central…

  • Astros: Teams can ask for Hunter Pence, but it's just not happening. 26-year-old catcher J.R. Towles and his five years of team control could be shopped with top prospect Jason Castro coming up behind him. If Houston falls way out of it, Roy Oswalt could be made available, but it would be a massive PR hit. He's owed $31MM through 2011 with a $16MM option ($2MM buyout) for 2012, and would have to approve any trade. Dealing him would signify the start of a full rebuilding effort. 
  • Brewers: Yovani Gallardo was never going to be moved in the first place, but his new contract extension all but guarantees it. Manny Parra seems to have fallen out of favor, but a lefty who can dial it up to the mid-90's will always have value on the trade market. He still has three years of arbitration eligibility ahead of him. 
  • Cardinals: The Cards dealt away most of their top prospects for Matt Holliday and Mark DeRosa last year, so there's not much left to move. Triple-A catcher Bryan Anderson and Double-A outfielder Daryl Jones could be used in a trade since the big league team is pretty well set at those positions. Jones is more highly regarded of the two. Colby Rasmus is untouchable, obviously.
  • Cubs: Josh Vitters, the third overall pick in 2007, watched his name pop up in trade rumors involving Jake Peavy last year. If Chicago is willing to eat some of the $26.5MM left on his contract, there would be interest in Kosuke Fukudome.
  • Pirates: Neal Huntington has completely turned over the team's roster since taking over in September 2007, dealing away every notable veteran player. He did, however, build up a nice inventory of veteran relievers this offseason. Octavio Dotel, D.J. Carrasco, Brendan Donnelly, and Javier Lopez could all be used as trade fodder this summer.
  • Reds: Cincinnati is clearly a team on the rise, but one young player they could make available is the blocked Yonder Alonso. The power hitting first baseman masquerading as a left fielder in Double-A has all six years of team control left, and is the best trade chip in the division.

Odds & Ends: Padres, Greene, Dye, Giants

Here are some links to close out the week…