Los Angeles Dodgers Rumors

Los Angeles Dodgers trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

Quick Hits: Hart, Phillies, Davis

CJ Nitkowski of FOX Sports takes a look at the upcoming generation of MLB managerial candidates. He provides some interesting notes on five names to watch: D’Backs scout and special assistant Todd Greene, White Sox third base coach Joe McEwing, Dodgers director of player development Gabe Kapler, and Alex Cora and Raul Ibanez, each of whom currently work in the media.

Here are some more scattered notes from around the league:

  • The Pirates announced today that first baseman Corey Hart is finished playing this year. Hart, who signed a one-year, $2.5MM deal with Pittsburgh over the offseason, had been attempting to make a late-season return, but his health and productivity have been lacking all year. He’ll return to the free agent market after the season, but he hasn’t been a significant contributor since 2012 and his future looks murky.
  • While the Phillies possess an ugly win-loss record, as had been expected, the organization has shown real progress this year, CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury writes. Rival scouts have looked favorably upon the young players acquired in Philadelphia’s numerous recent trades, says Salisbury, and the team’s best higher-level talent has transitioned well thus far to the majors. There’s more to be done, of course, but it isn’t hard to see a promising path forward — especially given that the big-budget Phils now have less than $100MM in total future commitments on their books.
  • Slugger Chris Davis means more to the Orioles than his home run tallies, writes Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun. Of course, bringing him back in free agency will require a sizable commitment, particularly now that Davis — who has yet to turn 30 — is closing in on 40 home runs with a 138 wRC+. It doesn’t hurt that Davis has shown the ability to play a serviceable corner outfield (UZR views him as a slight positive, DRS as a slight negative) in addition to a solid first base. He’ll hold appeal to a variety of teams this winter.

Front Office Notes: Dipoto, Hazen, Cherington, Angels

The Mariners plan to interview current Red Sox consultant and former Angels GM Jerry Dipoto, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. Seattle recently parted with former GM Jack Zduriencik and is on the hunt for a replacement. Seattle appears likely to choose a baseball operations leader with prior experience in a general manager role, though it’s also said to be considering internal options.

Here are more notes on the front office and managerial changes expected to take place this fall and winter:

  • Red Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen is a candidate for the Brewers‘ general manager position, Rosenthal and colleague Jon Morosi report (Twitter links). Milwaukee has not yet begun a formal interview process, he adds. The Brewers say they’ll take their time in finding a new GM, but could be leaning toward a young, analytically-minded candidate.
  • Outgoing Red Sox GM Ben Cherington, meanwhile, may not be in a rush to reclaim that position with a new team, according to another tweet from Rosenthal. Cherington has received interest from clubs in unspecified opportunities, and he’s “in listening mode” rather than actively pursuing another GM post.
  • MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez discusses the Angels‘ GM search, which as recently reported is expected to move quickly. The club has stayed quiet on its thinking thus far, says Gonzalez, but it seems reasonably likely that it will look to go with a first-time GM from another organization. Gonzalez lists a wide number of theoretical candidates.
  • Bob Nightengale of USA Today provides an overview of the actual and potential front office openings around the game. He breaks down the latest rumblings among all of the clubs that seem reasonably likely to pursue change.

Dodgers Designate Andy Wilkins

The Dodgers have designated first baseman Andy Wilkins for assignment, the club announced. His 40-man spot was needed for the activation of top prospect Corey Seager, who’ll start tonight at shortstop.

Wilkins, 26, was acquired from the Blue Jays back in early May. He received a brief call-up last year with the White Sox, but has spent most of his time over the last several seasons in the upper minors. Since coming to the Los Angeles organization, Wilkins has slashed .249/.307/.472 while contributing 18 home runs at the Triple-A level.

Dodgers To Promote Corey Seager

10:15am: Part of the reason for Seager’s recall is that fellow shortstop option Jose Peraza is dealing with a sore hamstring that will sideline him for three to five games, leaving the team with no backup shortstop, tweets Rosenthal. Kiké Hernandez, another option, is still on the disabled list with his own hamstring injury.

9:05am: The Dodgers are calling up top infield prospect Corey Seager, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Seager is ranked by many as the game’s top overall prospect.

Corey Seager

The 21-year-old Seager is the younger brother of Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager and is a former first-round pick (18th overall in 2012). Seager has steadily risen up prospect charts over the course of his pro career and currently ranks No. 1 overall per Baseball America, ESPN’s Keith Law and Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel. MLB.com ranks him second in the game, placing him behind only Minnesota’s Byron Buxton.

Seager has split the 2015 season between Double-A and Triple-A, where he has accumulated a combined .292/.343/.486 batting line with 18 homers, 36 doubles and three triples on the season. Though he’s spent much of his career at shortstop, Seager has played some third base this season, and all of the prospect rankings above mention that he seems likely to eventually transition to the hot corner due to his size (6’4″, 215 pounds). MLB.com notes that he has the arm and instincts to handle shortstop but lacks the quickness one would typically expect out of a shortstop.

For the remainder of the 2015 season, however, Seager could get looks at both shortstop and third base. Jimmy Rollins has struggled with the bat for most of the season (though he’s been better of late, slashing .262/.313/.436 over an admittedly arbitrary sample of his past 37 games), and Justin Turner is presently dealing with an injured finger. As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets, the Dodgers’ previous mentality had been that they wouldn’t promote Seager unless he had a spot to play, so perhaps Turner’s hand is worse than they’ve let on, or the team simply had a change of heart.

From a service time standpoint, Seager currently would project to be a free agent after the 2021 season and would not be in line to achieve Super Two designation along the way. Of course, that assumes that the Dodgers will keep him in the Major Leagues from this point forth. Seager could certainly struggle in the Majors in his first cup of coffee, prompting further minor league time. The Dodgers could see long-term benefit from keeping him in the minors a bit longer, as delaying his 2015 debut into mid-May would buy the team an additional year of control over Seager by delaying his free agency until after the 2022 campaign.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extension Candidate: Justin Turner

Every winter, we cover a host of seemingly minor signings — veteran utility players, swingmen, platoon outfielders, etc. — as teams fill out their rosters by adding depth and competition in areas of uncertainty. It’s unusual for such deals to have truly significant impact.

But minor league signings can be hugely important. The Tigers, for instance, have rightly received ample attention for their immensely beneficial decision to bring in late-blooming slugger J.D. Martinez, who engineered a hard-to-predict turnaround through carefully thought-out changes in his swing mechanics and approach.

As good as Martinez has been, though, there’s an argument to be made that Justin Turner was the more insightful breakout signing of the winter of 2014. Turner languished on the market until February, when the Dodgers — then still under the command of Ned Colletti — swooped in with a minor league deal that ultimately paid out just $1MM.

July 12, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner (10) during a stoppage in play in the ninth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

At the time, Turner was a 29-year-old utility infielder who carried an approximately league-average batting line. He profiled as a solid-enough defender at third who delivered usable, but inferior, glovework up the middle.

It looked like a nice get for the Dodgers, who committed nothing but a spring invite, but hardly seemed a game-changing addition. With two more years of arb control, there was some added value since Los Angeles effectively picked up option years at values that would be dictated by his performance.

What seemed to be solid value has turned into an unbelievable bargain. Over 672 plate appearances in Dodger blue, Turner owns a .314/.379/.501 slash line with 22 home runs and eight stolen bases. There were some questions whether he could keep things up this year after posting a .404 BABIP in 2014, but Turner has thrived by increasing his power output even as his batting average on balls in play has fallen back to normal levels.

It’s questionable, to be sure, whether he can maintain the power surge that has pushed his isolated slugging mark to over .200. Turner’s 15.6% home run per flyball rate in 2015 may be unsustainable — that’s a career-best by a significant margin — but he has obviously learned something about driving the ball that seems likely to stick. Building off improvements in his contact profile that were evident in his 2013 numbers with the Mets, the 2015 version of Turner makes hard contact in approximately one third of his plate appearances while generating the same soft contact rate (10.8%) as Paul Goldschmidt and Miguel Cabrera.

On the defensive side of the ledger, Turner continues to receive fairly poor defensive metrics when playing at second and short. But he’s spent most of his time at the hot corner, and both UZR and Defensive Runs saved value him as an above-average defender there over the last two years.

Needless to say, the aggregate package is quite good. Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference credit Turner with about 6.5 to 7 wins above replacement since the start of 2014. That’s all the more impressive given his somewhat limited plate appearances — he was a part-timer last year and missed time with injury this year — meaning it was accrued in about a full season’s worth of regular playing time. And it’s not as if Turner has succeeded because he’s been limited to situations with the platoon advantage; he’s actually delivered significantly better numbers against right-handed pitching this season and over his career.

It’s not clear whether the Dodgers’ new front office will pursue a new deal with Turner, but this coming offseason presents an obvious opportunity to do so. Howie Kendrick, Jimmy Rollins, and Chase Utley will all be free agents after this year, assuming the team declines Utley’s option. While the organization has some immediate options — Corey Seager, Enrique Hernandez, and Jose Peraza chief among them — none have had the chance to establish themselves fully at the big league level. Hector Olivera, of course, has already been cleared out of the picture with a mid-season trade.

From Turner’s perspective, too, there are some good reasons to consider such an arrangement. He earned a relatively meager $2.5MM in 2015, and will be in line for a significant raise. But Turner will still be a great value for next season, will remain a year away from the open market, and will then be signing in advance of his age-32 season.

If the sides choose to chat, it will be difficult to find comparable players. Late-career breakouts are hardly unheard of, but even premium players such as Jose Bautista and Corey Kluber have signed extensions at rather reasonable prices with shorter track records to work from.

And there is one obvious comp: Martin Prado, a similarly-profiling defender, who inked a four-year, $40MM pact with the Diamondbacks the winter before he would have reached free agency. Prado was then entering his age-29 season and had a longer history of good offensive production and strong defensive work around the field. But he was also just one year removed from a down season and had not shown the same offensive ceiling that Turner has established.

All told, that contract seems to provide a useful starting point for talks between the Dodgers and Turner’s representatives at the Legacy Agency. Of course, whether or not an extension can be reached (or will even be pursued) depends on the motivations of all involved, but a big new contract for Turner seems a reasonably plausible scenario.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dodgers Acquire Chris Heisey

The Dodgers have acquired outfielder Chris Heisey from the Blue Jays, Toronto has announced (via Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca, on Twitter). A player to be named later or cash will make up the return in the deal.

While we’re just hearing about the deal today, Heisey was actually acquired last night and will be post-season eligible, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). With rosters now expanded, he’ll join the just-acquired Justin Ruggiano in expanding the team’s right-handed outfield options while the organization waits out some injuries.

Heisey, of course, has spent much of the season with the Dodgers organization after being added in an offseason trade. But he mostly played at Triple-A, and lost his 40-man spot earlier this summer after struggling in limited and scattered big league opportunities.

Dodgers To Acquire Justin Ruggiano

The Dodgers have acquired outfielder Justin Ruggiano from the Mariners, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports on Twitter. A player to be named later or cash considerations will head back to Seattle in the deal.

Ruggiano, 33, has spent much of the season at Triple-A after a slow start to the year. He agreed to an arbitration salary of just over $2.5MM over the winter (with about $465K left to go on that salary), and will be eligible for another arb year if his new club tenders him a contract.

While Ruggiano failed to match his productive 2014 in the earlygoing, he wasn’t actually that bad, putting up a .214/.321/.357 batting line over 81 plate appearances. And he’s slashed .296/.385/.514 with ten home runs in 205 plate appearances at Triple-A since being outrighted.

Most importantly, even during his MLB time this year, Ruggiano continued to hit lefties hard, as he has throughout his career. He’ll presumably be looked upon as an option against southpaws in Los Angeles. The Dodgers were in need of another right-handed-hitting outfield bat down the stretch after seeing both Yasiel Puig and Kike Hernandez go down to injuries in recent days.

August Trade Notes: Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Orioles, Astros

Tonight marks the end of the August trade period, and two deals have already gone down today. Clubs that wish to add players from outside their organizations who are eligible to play in the post-season must do so by midnight eastern time. Of course, to be dealt, players must either clear revocable trade waivers or have been claimed by the team that seeks to acquire them.

Here’s the latest chatter with one and a half hours to the deadline:

  • The Cubs are “pushing hard” to bolster their pitching staff before tonight’s deadline, Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com tweets. Chicago has already added several veteran arms over the last few months, but apparently is still looking at possible moves over the next few hours.
  • Meanwhile, the Dodgers have their eye on a relatively minor addition of outfield depth this evening, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. With several injuries to right-handed outfielders, the club could seemingly stand to put another option on its roster.
  • Giants outfielder Hunter Pence may be progressing more slowly from his oblique injury than had been hoped, Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area tweets. Manager Bruce Bochy did note that there hasn’t been any setback, though Pence may have been hoping to feel better in his light hitting session today, as Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News adds on Twitter. We heard earlier this evening that San Francisco remained active in the market, with outfielder Alejandro De Aza still on their radar and a continued desire to add an infielder.
  • While he’s now ticketed for Chicago, Austin Jackson drew interest from the Orioles, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports on Twitter. Baltimore has been said to be quite active over the month of August even as they’ve faded in the standings. As things stood before they lost tonight, however, the club was already 5.5 games out of the Wild Card and a full 11 back in the AL East.
  • While the Astros pursued several avenues over the month of August, they appear set to move on with only the addition of lefty Oliver Perez, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle writes“We made some, a few claims that we didn’t get,” said GM Jeff Luhnow. “And [on]] players we probably would have been interested in working out a deal for, but it didn’t work out. We feel pretty good about the guys we have on our roster right now.”

J.P. Howell Attains 2016 Player Option

Dodgers left-hander J.P. Howell made his 52nd appearance of the season in tonight’s game with the Cubs, and also his 120th appearance since the start of the 2014 season.  By reaching this milestone, the $6.5MM option the Dodgers held on Howell’s services for 2016 has now been converted into a player option.  (Hat tip to Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register.)  Howell’s option will become official provided he doesn’t end the season on the disabled list.

The veteran southpaw signed a two-year, $11.25MM deal with Los Angeles in December 2013 that paid him a $3MM signing bonus and $4MM salaries in each of the 2014 and 2015 seasons.  The $6.25MM team option carried a $250K buyout, though Howell did have some agency if the Dodgers exercised it; Howell would’ve been allowed to opt out of the option if he forfeited the $250K.  Given how well Howell has pitched this season, he likely would’ve given up that $250K anyway in search of a longer-term contract, and the 32-year-old will get plenty of offseason attention from teams looking for bullpen help.

Howell has been a bright spot in a shaky Dodgers bullpen, posting a 1.46 ERA, 2.75 K/BB rate, 59.3% ground ball rate and 33 strikeouts over 37 innings.  Left-handed batters have only managed a .225/.309/.225 batting line against Howell this year.  The lefty has a 2.27 ERA in 198 1/3 innings from 2012-15, and while the peripheral stats indicate that he’s gotten some significant BABIP and strand-rate help over that stretch, Howell’s 2.9 BB/9 this season is on pace to be the lowest of his 10-year career.

Quick Hits: Scully, Harang, Profar, Kirby

Legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully has announced his intention to return for the 2016 season. He expects it to be his final season as a broadcaster, writes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. It will be his 67th season in the booth. As Sportsnet Stats tweeted earlier today, Scully has announced games involving A’s manager Connie Mack (born 1862) and Cubs shortstop Addison Russell (born 1994). He’s likely to see a couple even younger players including Julio Urias (born 1996).

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Phillies starter Aaron Harang was not claimed on waivers, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. As Heyman notes, Harang has a 7.09 ERA since the All-Star break. He has about $1MM remaining on his $5MM contract and is a free agent following the season. The Cubs and Pirates are among the contenders in need of rotation depth, but it’s unclear if either team would view him as an upgrade over internal options. It doesn’t seem as though the Phillies could acquire much more than some financial relief or a non-prospect in a deal. As such, a trade may be unlikely.
  • Former number one prospect Jurickson Profar could work his way back onto the Rangers roster, writes Stefan Stevenson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The 22-year-old is rehabbing from multiple shoulder injuries. He won’t play the field this fall. However, he could help the club after rosters expand as a pinch-hitter or runner while working directly with the major league training staff.
  • Brewers prospect Nathan Kirby is likely to undergo Tommy John surgery, writes Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The 40th overal pick of the 2015 draft led the University of Virginia Cavaliers to the 2015 World Series. An undisclosed medical issue -presumably the elbow issue – led the club to reduce the lefty’s signing bonus from $1.545MM to $1.25MM. Kirby will miss the entire 2016 season.