- Left-hander Mike Minor has been shut down for the year by the Royals, GM Dayton Moore told reporters, including Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star (Twitter link). Minor, 28, signed a two-year, $7.25MM contract with a mutual option this offseason but ultimately will mis the entire 2016 season — the second straight year in which shoulder problems have prevented him from being able to set foot on a Major League mound. The longtime Braves lefty last pitched in 2014, posting a 4.77 ERA in 145 1/3 innings and has a career 4.10 ERA in 652 2/3 innings with Atlanta. His backloaded contract only calls for him to earn $2MM this season.
The Royals and left-hander Danny Duffy have yet to engage in negotiations for a long-term deal, The Kansas City Star’s Rustin Dodd reports, but it seems as enough those talks could take place after the season. Royals GM Dayton Moore said talks would be held “at the appropriate time,” adding that “Danny has been a very important part of our organization and our pitching staff, and we’ll work very hard to keep him a part of what we’re doing going forward.”
For his part, Duffy is also excited at the prospect of spending potentially his entire career in Kansas City. “I don’t picture myself wearing anything but a Royals jersey….I’m not trying to pull out the violin, but I want to be here,” Duffy said. “They’ve been really good to me, good to my family. And it would just be absolutely devastating if I ever had to leave. In a perfect world, I would be here forever.”
Duffy, who turns 28 in December, is arbitration-eligible for the third and final time this coming offseason and he’ll be a free agent following the 2017 campaign. He and the Royals avoided arbitration last winter by agreeing on a one-year, $4.225MM deal, and Duffy is sure to be in line for a sizable raise given his breakout season.
After tossing a quality start and earning the win against the Twins today, Duffy now has a 2.66 ERA and 9.54 K/9 (against only 1.88 BB/9) over 138 2/3 innings in 2016. His .275 BABIP and hefty 84.1% strand rate indicate some good fortune and his 3.75 xFIP is over a run higher than his ERA, though it seems as if Duffy has finally not only solidified his place in the K.C. rotation, but could potentially become its ace. Dodd’s piece is well worth a full read, detailing how Duffy has used a newly-developed breaking ball to great effect and is now more or less bailing out the Royals’ struggling rotation.
While extension talks are usually saved for the offseason in most cases, the Royals front office may be more willing to take their time with the southpaw just to see how he finishes the full year. Duffy also pitched well in 2014 and seemed on the verge of a breakout before scuffling through much of 2015 and receiving a demotion to the bullpen in late September and through the playoffs. Innings could also be a factor, as Duffy already has one Tommy John operation under his belt and he is set to easily top his previous career high (in both the majors and minors) of 155 1/3 innings in 2014.
The coming offseason will be a particularly fascinating one for Moore given how many key Royals (Duffy, Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, Wade Davis) will all be free agents after the 2017 campaign, and a score of other important names (such as Alcides Escobar) could join them depending on whether or not the Royals exercise club options this winter or next. Clearly the Royals won’t be able to extend or re-sign all of those players, and there has been much discussion about how the 2016-17 seasons may be the last years of Kansas City’s so-called “contention window” with this core of players. Alex Gordon’s struggles after the Royals re-signed the homegrown star to four-year/$72MM deal last winter could also factor into the club’s wariness about other pricey contracts.
As one would expect from a smaller-market club, the Royals’ history of extensions in recent years has focused around locking up young talent to early-career deals or in gaining cost certainty over established stars by extending them through their arbitration years. (Salvador Perez’s extension from March is a bit of an outlier, given that the Royals almost seemed to be compensating the catcher for how overtly team-friendly his original contract ended up being.) It could be difficult for the Royals to convince Duffy to sign an extension and forego a big score on 2017-18 free agent market, or Duffy could be inclined to take his big payday this winter rather than risk injury or another inconsistent year in 2017.
Royals right-hander Joakim Soria and Braves lefty Eric O’Flaherty have cleared revocable trade waivers, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. As such, either player is free to be traded to any other club.
That Soria, 32, went unclaimed is hardly a surprise considering the fact that he’s just four and a half months into a substantial three-year, $25MM contract signed as a free agent this offseason. Soria, though, has hardly performed like a $25MM pitcher, pitching to a pedestrian 4.03 ERA with 9.1 K/9, 3.7 BB/9 and a 52.9 percent ground-ball rate. While the strikeouts and grounders are impressive, Soria has demonstrated the worst control of any healthy season he’s had in his career this year and is allowing hard contact at a career-high rate of 29.3 percent, per Fangraphs. The frequency with which opponents are barreling up his offerings has led to a career worst 1.4 HR/9 rate.
Soria is earning $7MM this season in the first year of the slightly backloaded deal, meaning he still has $19.72MM remaining on his pact from now through the end of the 2018 season (including the buyout of a 2019 option). While his performance to date hasn’t been encouraging, the Royals may be able to find a taker if they’re willing to eat some of that contract, though they could also simply hope for a better performance in 2017. Soria is, after all, still missing bats and keeping the ball on the ground, as previously mentioned, and his 92.8 mph average heater is actually the best of his career.
The 31-year-old O’Flaherty is more affordable than Soria, with a $1.75MM base salary on the minor league deal he signed this winter, but his performance has been considerably worse. His ERA to date sits at a decidedly unappealing mark of 6.91, and while his 54 percent ground-ball rate is promising, his 22-to-11 K/BB ratio (plus two hit batters and three wild pitches) is less inspiring. While some might hope that O’Flaherty could at least be relied upon as a lefty specialist, he’s allowed same-handed opponents to bat .284/.329/.439 against him. The Braves were able to find a taker for Erick Aybar, so perhaps there’s hope that he could be moved, but even Aybar had a solid three or four weeks of production under his belt prior to being flipped (in a trade that saw the Braves take some salary back in the form of Mike Aviles). O’Flaherty has surrendered six earned runs in his past six innings, issuing more walks (six) than strikeouts recorded (five) in that time.
It’s been a bit quiet this August in terms of players clearing revocable waivers and, generally speaking, in terms of August trades. We’ve seen a few minor pickups by the Mariners (Arquimedes Caminero and Pat Venditte), a swap of veteran infielders (Erick Aybar and Mike Aviles) and the Marlins adding some left-handed depth to their ’pen (Hunter Cervenka), but activity thus far has been sparse. Nonetheless, a handful of recognizable names have cleared trade waivers to this point, and several more should follow in the remaining two weeks of this month. We’ll update this post throughout the remainder of August with additional names as they clear.
Before diving into the names, a couple of items bear repeating. The majority of Major League players will be placed on trade waivers this month, with most instances going unreported. There are undoubtedly players (quite a few of them, most likely) that have already cleared waivers but have not been reported to have done so. Players can be traded into September, as well, but only those traded on or before Aug. 31 will be eligible for the postseason with their new teams, so there’s some urgency for contending clubs to complete deals by month’s end. And, of course, for those that aren’t familiar with the inner-workings of waiver trades, MLBTR published a full explanation of how August trades work earlier this month. Onto the names…
(Last Updated 8/24/16)
- Ryan Howard (link): It seems as if any possibility of a Howard trade has gone out the window with his time with the Phillies drawing to an increasingly pleasant end. But he does still deliver more pure power than most hitters — albeit almost exclusively against righties — with 19 long balls in less than half a season worth of plate appearances.
- Carlos Ruiz (link): Chooch is still a useful reserve catcher at 37 years of age, and is said to have interest in chasing another playoff appearance — with at least two teams having some inclination to honor that wish. His $8.5MM salary and a $500K buyout for next year probably won’t pose a major obstacle, as the Phils would likely take whatever is offered to facilitate a move if that’s what the veteran prefers. But it still doesn’t sound as if a trade is particularly likely.
- Matt Wieters (link): Not only is Wieters expensive ($15.8MM salary this year), but he’s also underperforming both offensively and defensively. Thus, with fellow backstops Kurt Suzuki and Brian McCann having already cleared waivers, it’s no surprise that Wieters did, too. Regardless of his struggles, Wieters is the starting catcher for a playoff contender with no better in-house option in place, making a trade involving the impending free agent all the more unlikely.
- Scott Kazmir (link): Kazmir is owed $16MM in each of the next two seasons, but he has the ability to opt out of his deal after this year. Kazmir’s run prevention (4.41 ERA) has been a letdown in 132 2/3 innings this season, although he has recorded an outstanding K/9 (9.02) to go with a 3.32 BB/9 and a superb 15.2 percent infield fly rate. The positives weren’t enough for anyone to claim Kazmir, though, and it’s doubtful the injury-riddled Dodgers will move out a healthy starter in the middle of a playoff race.
- James Shields (link): The right-hander was previously a high-end option that every team would’ve loved to slot into its rotation. At 34, he’s now pitching like a DFA candidate. The White Sox, who acquired Shields from the Padres earlier this year, owe him $10MM per season through 2018. Thanks largely to a plummeting strikeout rate and a propensity for allowing HRs, Shields has run up a 7.62 ERA in 69 2/3 innings with Chicago. Overall, he has a 5.98 ERA in 137 frames this year. While Shields is on track for a 10th straight 30-start season, there’s no point in trading for someone who isn’t at least keeping his team in games every fifth day.
- Nick Markakis (link): The negatives seem to outweigh the positives with Markakis, who’s on a $10.5MM salary through 2018 and doesn’t bring the offensive value to the table that he used to. Since leaving Baltimore for Atlanta last year, the right fielder has hit .285/.360/.384 with a mere 12 HRs in 1,200-plus plate trips. The average and on-base percentage are clearly pluses. Fact is, though, a corner outfielder who has little power, doesn’t grade well defensively and isn’t all that cheap isn’t too appealing.
- Mitch Moreland (link): Moreland is amid his third straight 20-homer season and isn’t overly expensive ($5.7MM salary) in the last year of his contract, so it wouldn’t have been shocking had someone claimed him. Instead, the lifetime .251/.316/.481 hitter got through waivers and looks likely to remain with World Series-contending Texas for the rest of the season.
- Matt Kemp (link): Once an MVP-level player, the 31-year-old Kemp has fallen off thanks to defensive issues and a decline at the plate. As a roughly league-average hitter on a $21.5MM salary through 2019, he was fully expected to go unclaimed had the Braves placed him on waivers. They did, and that’s exactly what happened. Atlanta’s on the hook for $18MM per year of Kemp’s money for the duration of his contract. The Padres, his previous team, make up the difference. For any deal to happen, the Braves would likely have to eat a hefty portion of that cash.
- Joakim Soria (link): The 32-year-old Soria has become increasingly homer prone and displaying some concerning control issues in 2016, so it’s not surprising that no team risked claiming the remaining $19.72MM that he is owed through the completion of the 2018 season. Soria’s 92.8 mph average fastball is actually a career-high, and his strikeouts and ground-ball rate both remain sound, so perhaps he could be moved if Kansas City were to eat some of the remainder on that deal.
- Eric O’Flaherty (link): Once a powerhouse out of the Braves’ bullpen, O’Flaherty’s second stint with Atlanta hasn’t gone nearly as well. He’s never fully regained his form after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2013, and his ERA in 2016 rested just shy of 7.00 when word of his clearing waivers broke. His $1.75MM salary wouldn’t be prohibitive were he pitching well, but even opposing lefties have roughed up O’Flaherty this season, and he’s been positively obliterated by right-handed opponents.
- Kurt Suzuki (link): The Twins’ catcher was reported to have cleared waivers just yesterday. Unlike a number of players that clear waivers in the month of August, Suzuki is relatively affordable, making it something of a surprise that no teams placed a claim on him. While he’s not regarded as a highly skilled defensive backstop, he’s hitting .281/.321/.431, which is quite a step up from the league-average catcher (.242/.311/.380). He doesn’t walk much, but he’s also very tough to strike out (12.9%), and he was owed just $1.54MM through season’s end when he reportedly cleared on Aug. 16.
- Jeff Francoeur (link): Francoeur doesn’t hit right-handers well and has limited range, at best, in the outfield. However, he’s handled opposing lefties pretty well this season and does still possess a strong throwing arm. With just a $1MM base salary on the season, he’d make an affordable bench pickup for a contending club, and he draws rave reviews for his leadership and clubhouse personality. The sticking point is that the Braves are said to value those latter, intangible components quite highly, and they’re only interested in parting with Francoeur if it means acquiring a prospect in exchange. Some clubs may be reluctant to give up anything of value in exchange for a role player.
- Brian McCann (link): It’s no surprise that McCann cleared waivers, as he’s owed a hefty $34MM beyond the 2016 campaign. McCann’s offensive production has wilted a bit in recent weeks, and while his .232/.333/.404 batting line and 15 homers are still solid marks for a catcher, it’s tough to imagine the Yankees moving him without absorbing a fair amount of the money that remains on his contract. Also standing in the way of a potential deal is the fact that teams looking for catching help beyond this year have a fair number of choices on the upcoming free agent market.
The Royals have released right-handed reliever Edward Mujica, according to a team announcement. Mujica joined the Royals organization less than a month ago, signing a minor league deal July 15. Notably, that pact included an Aug. 7 opt-out.
The 32-year-old Mujica threw 12 innings and struck out an impressive 14 batters for the Royals’ Triple-A affiliate in Omaha, but he proved eminently hittable, yielding 11 earned runs on 17 hits. Mujica was previously far stingier as a member of the Phillies’ Triple-A club earlier this season, logging a 3.04 ERA and .92 BB/9 during a 39-inning stint with Lehigh Valley.
Mujica, who has pitched in each of the prior 10 major league campaigns, has compiled a 3.85 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 1.5 BB/9 over 546 2/3 big league innings. However, the well-traveled veteran scuffled to a combined 4.75 ERA with the Red Sox and Athletics in 47 1/3 frames in 2015 and hasn’t gotten back to the majors since.
- The emergence of Cheslor Cuthbert gives the Royals some interesting options when it comes to constructing their 2017 roster, writes Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star. Cuthbert has taken over the regular third base job following Mike Moustakas’ torn ACL, and he’s responded with a .301/.339/.449 slash line and nine homers on the season. However, the Royals plan to have Moustakas back in 2017 — his final year before free agency — when he is already guaranteed an $8.7MM salary. Further adding to the muddled scene is former first-round pick Hunter Dozier, whom the team believes to be about Major League ready from an offensive standpoint. GM Dayton Moore spoke about the possibility of his younger players being versatile enough to handle multiple positions, which would indeed give manager Ned Yost additional options to work more than one of said bats into his lineup. Additionally, Dodd notes that Kendrys Morales is likely to hit the open market this winter, so the Royals can use a the DH slot and second base to work Cuthbert into the lineup more often.
- Cheslor Cuthbert has played well as Mike Moustakas’ replacement at third base, leaving the Royals with some depth options for next season, Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star writes. Beyond Moustakas and Cuthbert, top prospect Hunter Dozier is hitting well and getting close to a promotion. The hot corner is still slated to belong to Moustakas in 2017, as the others have more defensive versatility — Dozier has been action at first and in both corner outfield spots, plus the Royals feel Cuthbert is capable of handling several spots around the diamond. The DH spot could also be open if the Royals led Kendrys Morales go in free agency. Long-term, it seem as though K.C. could be prepared at third if Moustakas himself leaves as a free agent after the 2017 campaign.
- MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan tackles a host of roster-related questions in his latest Royals Inbox, noting right off the bat that there’s “not a chance” the Royals will decline Alcides Escobar’s $6.5MM option in spite of his .279 OBP and recent rumors suggesting that the team may look to go with prospect Raul Mondesi Jr. at short in the near future. He also expects the Royals to try to work out a new two-year contract with Edinson Volquez, whom they like very much and who loves both the city of Kansas City and the Royals organization, according to Flanagan.
- The Royals have disappointed this season, and rival executives tell Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star that the Royals could face a tough time reloading for another quick return to prominence. A lack of quality pitching in the system is one issue, not to mention rule changes to the draft and international spending that have made it harder for smaller-market teams like K.C. to stockpile talent. Dodd’s piece is well worth a full read for a look at what plagued the Royals this season and the challenges they’ll face in the future.
A trio of notable players just hit the 15-day DL, so we’ll cover them all right here:
- The Indians announced that they have placed righty Danny Salazar on the 15-day DL while he rests his prized right elbow. Fortunately, an MRI seems only to have revealed inflammation, so the hope is that Salazar won’t miss an extended period of time. And Cleveland has plenty of rotation depth on hand, including Cody Anderson and Mike Clevinger, with the latter getting the nod for the time being. Still even a relatively brief absence will have an impact; Salazar has been nothing short of outstanding, and the AL Central-leading club holding a four-game cushion in the division race.
- After already recently placing infielder Jose Reyes on the shelf, the Mets have now done the same with shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. He suffered a strained patellar tendon and is headed for an MRI. The team also added just-signed outfielder Justin Ruggiano to the 15-day ranks. Cabrera’s loss is notable for an organization that was already scrambling to fill in for missing infielders. Matt Reynolds will come up for the meantime to help fill the void, but it seems there’s some real concern that the injury could require a fairly lengthy absence.
- Astros reliever Luke Gregerson is headed to the 15-day with an oblique strain, the team announced. That not only will keep him out of action for a bit, but will clear the way for Ken Giles to take over as the team’s closer with Will Harris struggling of late. Gregerson has been rather excellent this year despite himself losing the 9th-inning job previously, with ERA estimators valuing him even more highly than his 3.09 ERA.
- The Braves have added righty Julio Teheran to the DL as well. He is dealing with a lat strain that isn’t believed to be serious. Atlanta will obviously want to exercise plenty of caution in handling the injury, even if it isn’t particularly worrisome, as Teheran is a key piece of the organization’s rebuilding plans and there’s no need to rush him back.
- Cardinals reliever Trevor Rosenthal has been given platelet-rich plasma injections in his bothersome righty shoulder, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweets. GM John Mozeliak says that it’s possible Rosenthal Of course, St. Louis will be looking for more than just physical improvement; it’ll also hope that he can fix his skyrocketing walk rate during a rehab stint.
- As expected, Royals righty Luke Hochevar underwent a procedure today to help deal with a diagnosis of thoracic outlet syndrome, as Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star tweets. He is expected to be out for six months, which would conceivably mean that he’ll be ready for a full spring camp if the rehab goes according to plan. It seems likely that the Royals will decline their end of a $7MM mutual option on the reliever, which would make him a free agent, though certainly it’s possible to imagine him staying with Kansas City on some kind of creative, two-year deal of the sort that the team has reached in recent years with several injured hurlers.