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Reds utility man Kristopher Negron‘s season is over due to a torn labrum and fractured scapula in his left shoulder, tweets C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Negron suffered the injury whilst making a spectacular diving catch in left field and was in good spirits about the injury, joking with Rosecrans (Twitter link), “At least it was on a pretty sweet play.” (It was indeed quite a nice grab, as can be seen here.) The versatile Negron’s season will come to an end with a disappointing .140/.238/.161 batting line in 107 plate appearances, though he was much more impressive in 2014 when he slashed .271/.331/.479 in 158 PAs.
A few more notes from the game’s Central divisions…
- The Cubs project to see an attendance increase of roughly 275,000 fans over their 2014 number, reports Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. That significant spike in fans — due largely to the team’s much-improved on-field results — could result in a substantial payroll increase. As Wittenmyer notes, conservative estimates peg the attendance increase at an extra $20.6MM in revenue, and while perhaps not all of that money will go directly into payroll, the boost could be enough for the Cubs to make a serious run at elite free agents such as David Price and Zack Greinke.
- Former Cubs farmhand Mike Olt, now with the White Sox after being claimed off waivers, will see plenty of playing time down the stretch, writes Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago. “He’ll probably get the majority of that time as we go through the rest of September, depending on matchups and things like that,” manager Robin Ventura tells Hayes. “We’ll be able to mix and match with him in there, but I would say he would get the majority of it.” Hayes notes that the ChiSox lack a definitive answer at third base in 2016 and will as such give Olt a chance to prove that he’s worthy of that distinction. Formerly a Top 50 prospect in his days with the Rangers, Olt has a lifetime .263/.361/.486 batting line in the minors. He’s battled vision problems and other injuries in the past and has always been strikeout prone, however, all of which have contributed to considerable struggles in the Major Leagues.
- The White Sox have seen rapid improvement in former No. 3 overall pick Carlos Rodon, writes ESPN Chicago’s Doug Padilla. Ventura tells Padilla that Rodon had a hard time accepting some of the struggles he had early in the season, but he’s come away better off for it. “He took the not-pitching-well part tough, and I think he also was able to put it behind him and come back,” said Ventura. “I think deep down, it’s something he just has. That’s something he can hold onto and know that he can overcome things. When you have that, there’s something you have that nobody can take away from you.” Rodon has a 3.94 ERA with 9.4 K/9, 4.7 BB/9 and a 47.3 percent ground-ball rate in 125 2/3 innings this season, but he’s been much better of late. In his past six starts he has a 1.76 ERA with a 41-to-15 K/BB ratio and a 52 percent ground-ball rate in 41 innings. Rodon told Padilla that he’s enjoying the grind of a 162-game season, and Padilla notes that the talented rookie should finish with more than 150 innings between the Majors and minors this season.
The White Sox have claimed Mike Olt from the Cubs, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat tweets. The Cubs designated Olt for assignment last week when they acquired outfielder Austin Jackson. They originally acquired Olt from the Rangers when they sent Matt Garza to Texas in 2013. At the time, Olt was a well regarded young player who had hit for good power in the minors, but he struggled at the Triple-A level after arriving in the Cubs system. He got an extended shot in the Majors last season and didn’t hit well, batting .160/.248/.356 in 258 plate appearances (although he did hit 12 homers). This year, he’s hit .265/.333/.460 in 235 plate appearances at Triple-A, missing time early in the season due to a wrist injury.
With Kris Bryant at third base, Anthony Rizzo at first and plenty of young talent elsewhere, it appeared unlikely Olt would get many more chances with the Cubs. Now 27, he’ll attempt to revive his career with the Cubs’ crosstown rivals. The White Sox should be able to provide more opportunities at third base — the team currently has Tyler Saladino and Gordon Beckham at third, neither of whom have hit well this year.
The Cubs have designated infielder Mike Olt for assignment, the club announced. His roster spot was needed for the acquisition of Austin Jackson, which Chicago also made official.
Olt, 27, has never regained his trajectory after topping out as a prospect that rated as high as 22nd on league-wide rankings. In the midst of a disappointing 2013 season, he was dealt to Chicago as part of a package deal that sent righty Matt Garza to the Rangers. Vision issues were noted as a cause for concern at the time, and Olt has dealt with a right wrist fracture more recently.
Last season represented Olt’s first real opportunity at the big league level, in spite of that rough 2013, but he did not make the most of it. Over 258 plate appearances, Olt swatted 12 home runs but slashed just .160/.248/.356 while striking out an even 100 times.
He cracked the Opening Day roster as Chicago’s starting third baseman, but that run was short-lived. Olt suffered the aforementioned wrist injury and was ultimately replaced, as had been expected anyway, by Kris Bryant — after the team was assured of keeping another year of future control.
Nevertheless, another team will likely be glad to take a shot on Olt’s upside. He’s always been regarded as a potentially solid defender at third base and has shown plenty of pop in his right-handed bat. And despite his struggles in relatively scant action at the big league level, Olt has hit will at Triple-A over the last two years. In 246 turns at bat there this season, he’s slashed .273/.346/.477.
Scouting pitching in the Dominican is a challenging endeavor on many levels, writes Ben Badler of Baseball America. Players are incented to light up radar guns (or, for hitters, launch home runs) in non-game situations due to a “showcase mindset” that pervades the baseball environment. Here are more notes from around the game:
- Baseball executives believe it an increasing likelihood that Kendrys Morales will wait to sign until after the June 5-7 amateur draft, reports CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman. If he does so, then a signing club would not lose a draft pick and his former club (the Mariners) would not gain a compensatory choice. Morales has had discussions since the start of the season — Heyman says the Orioles are believed to have had “serious talks” — but apparently nothing is close. In addition to Baltimore and Seattle, says Heyman, possible landing spots could hypothetically include the Brewers and even the Athletics.
- Cubs third baseman Mike Olt, 25, has done enough in the early going to earn a chance at additional playing time, writes Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. Though his on-base and strikeout numbers are less than promising, Olt has blasted four home runs in 48 plate appearances. Olt, of course, came over in last year’s Matt Garza trade as something of a buy-low prospect, after eye issues contributed to a rough season at Triple-A in 2013 (.201/.303/.381, with 15 home runs and 132 strikeouts, in 432 plate appearances).
- Outfielder Willy Taveras is eyeing a comeback, according to a report from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). The 32-year-old, who last played in the bigs in 2010, is playing in Mexico at present. Best known for his wheels — he led the league in stolen bases (68) in 2008 — Taveras has swiped seven bags in seven attempts in his first 18 games in the Mexican League, Rosenthal notes. In 279 plate appearances at Triple-A last year with the Royals, Taveras slashed .239/.308/.340 and stole 11 bases.
- With a young staff, the Astros have made the league’s most extensive use of true long relief, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. GM Jeff Luhnow says that the club’s minor league use of a true tandem system is “more of a development thing,” with the big league club’s employment of long men more a “cousin” deployed for “high-pitch count guys.” Looking ahead, though, Luhnow says he “would not be surprised if clubs started to think about some unique solutions to help prevent injuries” noting that “we’re certainly one of them.” Notably, given his organization’s upper-minor tandems, Luhnow observed:“you do it at Triple-A — what’s the difference doing it at the big leagues?” Athletics assistant GM Farhan Zaidi was even more bullish on the possibility of tandem starters appearing in MLB. “I can absolutely see it happening,” he said. “We actually talked about doing it a few years ago when we had pitching depth that wasn’t unlike what the Astros have now. The reason I think it could still happen is overwhelming evidence that limiting the exposure of pitchers to a third time through the lineup is really advantageous.” The full piece includes many more interesting observations from these executives, and is well worth a read.
In his latest piece for FOX Sports, Ken Rosenthal wonders how the Indians could possibly say no to Justin Masterson's proposed extension. Rosenthal's sources tell him Masterson is seeking a three-year extension on top of his current deal at roughly market value in terms of average annual salary (Rosenthal speculates $17-18MM). Few Cleveland stars in any sport express a willingness to take a discount to stay, adds Rosenthal, and it would send a poor message to fans and the Indians' players to make the decision not to pay Masterson. Here are some more highlights from a jam-packed Rosenthal column…
- Outfielder Billy Burns might be the most intriguing player in Athletics camp, writes Rosenthal. Acquired from the Nationals in exchange for Jerry Blevins, Burns was attractive to the A's because he was one of just three players in all of minor league baseball with more than 50 stolen bases and an OBP north of .400 last season. Burns has swiped seven bags in eight Spring Training games thus far, and scouts have raved about his instincts as a leadoff man, says Rosenthal.
- Mike Olt has looked good thus far in camp with the Cubs, and the team's preference is for him to win the third base job out of Spring Training rather than head back to Triple-A. Doing so would allow the club to start Christian Villanueva at third in Triple-A and Kris Bryant at the hot corner in Double-A. Rosenthal points out that if Olt were to rebound from the concussion/vision issues that plagued him last season, the Cubs' haul for Matt Garza would look all the more impressive. Chicago also plucked C.J. Edwards from the Rangers, who enters the 2014 season ranked as the game's No. 26 prospect, per Baseball America.
- Brewers first baseman Juan Francisco could be squeezed out again and find himself on the move, writes Rosenthal. Francisco is out of options, and the Brew Crew could prefer to take Lyle Overbay as a potential pairing with Mark Reynolds due to Overbay's superior glove. Rosenthal speculates that the Tigers could be a good fit for Francisco, as they have just four players capable of hitting left-handed on their roster. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes ran down all of the NL Central's out-of-options players yesterday.
- It's been reported in recent days that the Royals and James Shields aren't likely to work out an extension, and sources tell Rosenthal the same thing. A Masterson extension would be a clear benefit to Shields, as Shields would have less competition on next year's open market. MLBTR recently examined what Shields might earn as a free agent next offseason.
The Brewers shipped out reliever John Axford to the Cardinals at last year's trade deadline, bringing back young righty Michael Blazek. Milwaukee has been impressed with the 25-year-old, with manager Ron Roenicke saying he profiles as a late-inning arm, reports Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentine. Meanwhile, after being non-tendered by the Cards and signed by the Indians, Axford hopes to continue learning from his brief stint in St. Louis. As MLB.com's Jordan Bastian reports, his former club informed him that he'd been tipping pitches, and Axford hopes that correction — along with regained velocity — will allow him to return to his peak form.
Here are more stray notes from around the game …
- Another trade deadline mover, Mike Olt of the Cubs, has shown substantial improvement in the eyesight issues that plagued him last year with the Rangers, reports Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun Times. Though his prospect stock has fallen in the meantime, all that matters to Olt is maintaining his health. "As long as I'm healthy," he said, "I know that I can do what I was capable of."
- Reliever Jason Frasor explained that he elected to re-sign with the Rangers for the simple reason that he likes playing for the club, reports Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com. "Free agency isn't that great for middle relievers," he said. "I never wanted to be the kind of guy that bounced around from team to team as middle relievers often do with one-year deals. I found a place I really, really liked. … I think I was the first [free agent] to sign [this offseason]. I just didn't feel it was worth it to try to scrape out maybe a little better contract … ."
- One free agent who faces a much more open-ended market is former ace Johan Santana. As Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports, Santana has fielded interest from at least three American League clubs. The 34-year-old is hoping to be ready to take the mound in a big league game in June.
- The Rays' roster battle features several situations where options will play a role, reports Bill Chastain of MLB.com. Among the players who must make the active roster or face a DFA are Chris Archer, Josh Lueke, Jake McGee, Cesar Ramos, Brandon Guyer, and Matt Joyce.
9:05pm: Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports (via Twitter) that the Cubs can select right-hander Neil Ramirez as the PTBNL in the deal. However, if the Cubs select Ramirez, they will not receive a second PTBNL. Otherwise, they can select two other pitchers from the agreed upon list of names.
6:20pm: The Rangers aren't afraid to make splashes and add pitching help if they feel they have a shot at the World Series. In 2010, it was Cliff Lee. In 2011, it was Mike Adams and Koji Uehara. In 2012, it was Ryan Dempster. This season, it's Matt Garza. The Rangers and Cubs have officially announced a trade that will send Garza to Texas for third baseman Mike Olt, right-hander Justin Grimm, right-hander C.J. Edwards and at least one player to be named later, although Rangers GM Jon Daniels noted that the Cubs can also receive a second PTBNL depending on who they select as the first. The Cubs will be choosing the PTBNL(s) from a list entirely composed of pitchers, GM Jed Hoyer said Monday.
Garza, 29, has been tremendous for the Cubs in limited action this season. Though he began the year on the disabled list, he's shown little signs of rust since being activated on May 21. In 71 innings, Garza has pitched to a 3.17 ERA with 7.9 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9. He will join the front of a loaded Rangers rotation that also features Derek Holland and Yu Darvish, who is set to return from the DL tonight. Garza is a free agent at season's end and therefore cannot be tied to draft pick compensation, meaning that he is strictly a rental for the Rangers, barring a long-term extension. He currently ranks fifth on Tim Dierkes' Free Agent Power Rankings.
Olt, 24, entered the season as the No. 22 prospect in baseball according to both Baseball America and MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo, while ESPN's Keith Law ranked him 71st. Olt batted .288/.398/.579 at Double-A Frisco last season and made his Major League debut with the Rangers. He's battled vision problems in 2013, however, which could be the reason his production has tumbled to .218/.318/.438 at Triple-A Round Rock. Prior to the season, BA praised his plus raw power and advanced hitting approach, calling him "a threat to go deep anytime he steps to the plate." BA, Law and Mayo all agree that he's a plus defender at third though Law questions whether or not he will make enough contact to hit at the big league level with any consistency.
Grimm, also 24, has made 17 starts for the Rangers this season but posted an ugly 6.37 ERA in 17 starts. However, Grimm posted a 3.93 ERA through his first nine starts, and advanced metrics like FIP (4.79), xFIP (4.25) and SIERA (4.34) all suggest that his ERA should be substantially lower. Prior to the season, BA ranked Grimm fifth among Rangers prospects, calling him a potential mid-rotation starter. He's averaged 91.4 mph on his heater this season, also mixing in a 12-to-6 curveball and a changeup.
Edwards, 21, ranked as Texas' No. 14 prospect prior to the season, according to BA, whose scouting report notes that the South Carolina native fell to the 48th round of the draft and signed for just $50K because he didn't pitch in any high-profile showcases prior to the 2011 draft. Edwards' stock has skyrocketed in 2013, as he's pitched to a pristine 1.83 ERA with 11.8 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 93 1/3 innings for Class A Hickory.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported that the two sides were nearing a new deal for Garza (Twitter link). Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports was the first to break that a deal had been reached, and he also was the first to report Olt's inclusion (Twitter links). Rosenthal tweeted that Edwards and a third player would be going to the Cubs, and Passan reported that the package included Grimm and a PTBNL (on Twitter). Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest reported that the Cubs could receive one or two PTBNLs, depending on who they selected as the first (on Twitter).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Earlier this afternoon, the Rangers acquired Matt Garza from the Cubs in exchange for Mike Olt, C.J. Edwards, Justin Grimm and at least one player to be named later (the Cubs could also receive two PTBNLs, depending on who they select as the first from a list of pitchers). Here are some quotes from both general managers, reactions from scouts and media members, as well as some more details surrounding the initial trade that fell apart last Friday…
- The Athletics made a late push for Garza, which is what caused the Rangers to up their offer at the last minute, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter).
- For Cubs fans who would like more info on what they received for Garza, Baseball America's Matt Eddy provides scouting info on Olt, Edwards and Grimm.
- The Cubs had to accept Grimm instead of second baseman Rougned Odor when the Rangers raised questions about Garza's elbow, tweets Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News.
- The Cubs tried to acquire Olt at the deadline last year, GM Jed Hoyer told reporters (including the Daily Herald's Bruce Miles).
- The Rangers felt that Garza was the best pitcher available on the market, GM Jon Daniels told reporters, including Scott Miller of CBS Sports. Miller's piece is loaded with quotes from Daniels, who feels that the addition of Garza may give the Rangers as strong of a pitching staff they've ever had.
- The Rangers overpaid to get Garza, but all teams do so in order to acquire the top rental on the market, writes Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com. Durrett adds that the Rangers needed to make this move and it's a worthwhile gamble given their minor league depth.
- In an Insider-only piece, ESPN's Keith Law writes that both sides did well in the trade, as Garza could represent a two WAR upgrade over Grimm through the end of the season, and the Cubs received a nice package of players in return. Olt and Edwards alone would've been a good return, in Law's opinion, making the addition of Grimm and at least one PTBNL even better.
- Garza never should have been a Cub, opines Jon Greenberg of ESPNChicago.com. He writes that the acquisition of Garza was a poorly timed win-now move by former GM Jim Hendry that was made when the team wasn't in a position to win. Dealing Garza for a strong package from Texas was the right move, adds Greenberg, who notes that better days are ahead for Cubs fans.
- With Garza off the market, trade talks for Bud Norris will likely now heat up, writes MLB.com's Brian McTaggart. Astros GM Jeff Luhnow told McTaggart that the Garza trade may "start a series of different types of talks."
Yesterday, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com heard that a deal that would send Matt Garza from the Cubs to the Rangers could still go "either way". Today, it's a different story. Here's the latest on Chicago's prized right-hander:
- A Major League source tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe the Red Sox's interest level in Garza is deepening (Twitter link). This comes in the wake of the news Clay Buchholz will seek a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews tomorrow. Manager John Farrell, as quoted by WEEI.com's Alex Speier on Twitter, explained the purpose of the visit is for "verification and clarification to get some peace of mind."
- Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times (free registration required) calls the Pirates "the team du jour" after GM Neal Huntington's comments earlier today and adds the Orioles, who are scouting the Cubs on their current road trip, are viewed as sleepers for Garza.
- The Cubs have worked to draw competing offers into the Garza bidding in order to create alternatives to Texas, tweets ESPN's Buster Olney.
- Cubs manager Dale Sveum told reporters, including the Chicago Sun-Times' Gordon Wittenmyer (Twitter link), Garza will "100 percent" make his start tomorrow against the Diamondbacks.
- The Cubs would prefer to deal Garza before his scheduled start tomorrow against Arizona, sources tell Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter).
- The Rangers and Cubs were set back in talks to the point where the Rangers are now viewed as only one of many teams now in the mix for Garza, Heyman writes. For now it seems that Texas and Chicago made no progress in overcoming the snag that derailed their swap on Friday night, though the Rangers aren't out of it. The deal that fell apart included a package of Rangers prospects, with third baseman Mike Olt and pitchers C.J. Edwards and Neil Ramirez thought to have been on the table.
Edward Creech contributed to this post.
For a while earlier today, it looked like the top available starting pitcher on the trade market could pack his bags for Texas. The Cubs and Rangers reached the point of exchanging medical information on six players who were apparently ready to change teams, most prominent among them the Cubs' Matt Garza.
Cubs GM Jed Hoyer and president Theo Epstein have already been active on the trade front this summer, dealing Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger to the Orioles, sending Scott Hairston to the Nats, swapping Carlos Marmol and an international bonus slot for Matt Guerrier, and sending Ronald Torreyes to the Astros for international bonus money. A Garza deal would be the duo's highest-profile trade of the summer and arguably the highest-profile trade of their tenure with the Cubs. It could also have the most impact of any 2013 trade deadline deal.
With the Cubs now reportedly looking to open talks back up with other clubs, even as they continue to talk with the Rangers, let's take stock of where we're at and track new updates right here:
- The prospective trade broke down over the medicals of one player, tweets Bowden. He says that the clubs are "working hard" to re-formulate the deal with a replacement piece. Quite the opposite is true, according to Sullivan, who writes that "right now there is nothing happening" and that "tonight is not the night."
- The loss of momentum between the Cubs and Rangers occured after the teams had swapped medical information on the players that were to be involved, writes Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. If medical concerns are to blame, Passan says it was likely not an issue with Garza, since the Rangers are apparently continuing to pursue him.
- Some of the deal's apparent urgency may have come from the fact that the Rangers hoped that Garza would pitch for the club tomorrow, explains Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star Telegram. While the team thought at one point that a deal could have been locked down as early as yesterday, Wilson says that club officials now do not believe an agreement is likely tonight.
- While various trade packages were discussed and reported, the Rangers prospects believed to be potentially in play at this point are third baseman Mike Olt and starters Neil Ramirez and C.J. Edwards. As Passan also reported, the Rangers also inquired about Cubs reliever James Russell, though it is not known whether he was a part of the trade that almost went through. (MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan first reported that the deal under consideration likely included Ramirez, Olt and Edwards.)
- As for other teams that could jump in, we learned earlier of a possible "mystery team" that was rumored to play in the National League. Previous National League clubs that have been connected to Garza include the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Rockies and Pirates. The Cubs have not re-engaged the Dodgers at this point, however, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
- While the Cardinals have been connected to Garza as well, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times tweets that they are not the unnamed team in the mix. The Nationals also appear to be out of the race, both Wittenmyer and ESPN's Jim Bowden (Twitter link) report. Of course, at this point, it seems that negotiations could pick up with any club — American or National League — that has the need and the means for Garza.
Earlier Updates (reverse chronological order)
- Garza's agent (Nez Balelo of CAA Sports) has reportedly been notified by the Cubs that a trade could be coming, according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times (free registration required). Garza himself confirmed that notification, though he downplayed its significance given his seemingly annual involvement in trade rumors.
- A deal sending Garza to the Rangers "will get done," according to a source of Jim Bowden of ESPN (Twitter link). He says that Neil Ramirez is expected to be the featured piece going back to the Cubs. While Ramirez was reported to have been scratched from his minor league start today, according to a Bowden tweet, Bowden retracted that information shortly thereafter (via Twitter).
- A Cubs source tells Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times that a mystery NL team has joined the fray and may intercept Garza (Twitter link). Previous National League clubs that have been connected to Garza include the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Rockies and Pirates. The Cardinals have been connected to Garza as well, but in a separate tweet, Wittenmyer adds that they are not the unnamed team in the mix.
- MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez points out that both the Rangers and Cubs have committed all of their international signing money, so no bonus slots can be used as a component to this trade (Twitter link).
- MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan writes that the Rangers would like to get a deal completed in time for Garza to start for them tomorrow night against the Orioles. The two sides are discussing Ramirez, Olt and Edwards, but the Rangers are unwilling to part with Martin Perez or Luke Jackson. Their refusal on Perez is nothing new, but this is the first report that they're unwilling to part with Jackson.
- Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that Rangers minor league right-hander Neil Ramirez has also been discussed in trade talks.
- The Cubs and Rangers are on the verge of completing a trade that would send Matt Garza to Texas in exchange for "a strong package of prospects," according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The two sides have discussed prospects at multiple levels, including third baseman Mike Olt and right-hander C.J. Edwards, as Rosenthal reported last night. Rosenthal notes that other interested parties such as the Red Sox, Indians, Diamondbacks, Dodgers and Cardinals are reluctant to meet the club's asking price for Garza, who is a free agent at the end of the season.
Jeff Todd contributed to this post.