Milwaukee Brewers Rumors

Milwaukee Brewers trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

Morneau Claimed By Brewers, Pulled Back By Rockies

Rockies first baseman Justin Morneau was claimed off revocable waivers by the Brewers, but pulled back by Colorado when the sides could not reach a deal, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. An unknown offer from Milwaukee was apparently insufficient to pry Morneau free.

Morneau, 33, has enjoyed a career renaissance since joining the Rockies over the offseason, posting his finest season since his injury-shortened 2010 campaign. Leading the league with a .317 batting average, Morneau has reached base at a .360 clip while slugging an even .500 and swatting 14 home runs in 453 plate appearances. Of course, the lefty has continued to struggle against southpaws, putting up rather sizeable platoon splits (.930 OPS against righties; .655 OPS versus same-handed pitchers).

He does come with an increasingly attractive contract: earning just $5MM this year, Morneau is guaranteed $6.75MM next season along with a $750K buyout on a $9MM mutual option for 2016. (His 2015 salary is likely to rise by $500K based on a plate appearance escalator.) While it would have made little sense for Colorado to give Morneau away for a meager return, it is also fair to wonder whether the cellar-dwelling club should have dealt (and, looking forward, should deal) the veteran while his value is trending upwards.

With his defense and baserunning factored in, Morneau still profiles as less than a 3-WAR player, ranking in the middle of the league’s regular first baggers when his numbers are adjusted to account for playing at Coors Field. But that would have represented a nice upgrade for the Brewers, whose combined first base output stands at 1.5 fWAR and a 92 wRC+.


NL Notes: Solarte, Wang, Papelbon

Yangervis Solarte has made a good impression on the Padres since arriving from New York in the Chase Headley trade, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. He’s versatile (playing second base, third base and outfield), and he’s hit .271/.347/.383 in 126 plate appearances so far, coming up with several big hits. That’s not bad at all for a solid defender playing in Petco Park. The Padres can move him around the diamond to accommodate their other players. “He’s shown he’s capable of holding down a major-league job,” says manager Bud Black. “What role that is, I think depends on the makeup of the other 12 position players.” Here are more notes from the NL.

  • It’s unclear what the Brewers will do with Rule 5 pick Wei-Chung Wang, Caitlin Swieca of MLB.com writes. Milwaukee selected Wang from the Pirates last fall even though he hadn’t played above rookie ball. He predictably struggled out of the Brewers’ bullpen, but since hitting the DL with shoulder tightness in July, he’s transitioned back into starting while on a rehab assignment at the Class A level. It’s unclear whether the Brewers will recall him in September.
  • The Phillies have had trouble drumming up interest in closer Jonathan Papelbon even though he’s cleared waivers and the Phillies are willing to eat some of his salary, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. Papelbon’s declining velocity might be a one problem, but as Rosenthal points out, he’s gotten good results despite it. His personality might be another issue, but GM Ruben Amaro insists Papelbon is well behaved, even though he’s opinionated.

Minor Moves: Pena, Palmer, Whelan, Adamson, Buckner, Cunningham

Here are Sunday’s minor moves from around MLB, updates first:

  • The Rangers have released veteran first baseman Carlos Pena from their Triple-A roster, per the PCL transactions page. Pena struggled at the major league level for Texas with a .136/.190/.237 line in 63 plate appearances. He performed better during his month at Triple-A with a .297/.350/.500 line in 80 plate appearances. No word on why the club cut ties with Pena.
  • The Mariners have released right-handed pitcher Matt Palmer from the Triple-A Rainiers, according to the PCL transactions page. The 35-year-old pitched to a 5.42 ERA for the Rainiers over 73 innings. He last appeared in the majors with the Padres in 2012. Angels fans may remember him from his 2009 season, when he won 11 games and posted a 3.93 ERA over 121 innings.
  • Resolving an earlier bit of news, the Tigers have outrighted the contract of right-handed pitcher Kevin Whelan to Triple-A. The 30-year-old appeared once for the big league club and allowed two runs over one and one-third innings. Prior to his call up, he served as the closer for the Mud Hens, where he posted a 2.45 ERA, 10.93 K/9, and 4.02 BB/9. Presumably, he will return to that role. The team announced the move on Twitter.
  • Padres minor league outfielder Corey Adamson has retired to pursue a career in Australian rules football, reports Jeff Sanders of U-T San Diego. The 22-year-old, six-year pro was hitting .257/.340/.399 in 348 plate appearances at the High-A level.
  • The Brewers have signed right-hander Billy Buckner to a minor league contract, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. The 30-year-old was released two weeks ago by the Padres. Buckner made one spot start for San Diego this season allowing three runs on six hits in 5 2/3 innings and, in 15 appearances (14 starts) for Triple-A El Paso, has posted a 5.80 ERA, 6.2 K/9, and 4.7 BB/9 in 63 2/3 innings.
  • Cotillo also tweets the Diamondbacks have released outfielder Aaron Cunningham from their Triple-A affiliate. The 27-year-old, who signed a minor league deal with Arizona in March, slashed .255/.342/.346 in 281 plate appearances for Reno. Cunningham hasn’t appeared in a MLB game since 2012 when he hit .175/.245/.247 for the Indians in 109 plate appearances.
  • Per MLBTR’s DFA Tracker, there are four players in DFA limbo: Corey Brown (Red Sox), Charlie Leesman (White Sox), Matt Hague (Pirates), and Wirfin Obispo (Pirates).

Brad Johnson contributed to this post.



Brewers Notes: Braun, Ramirez, Segura, Parra

Fresh off wins over Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, the Brewers, who have occupied first place for a club-record 135 days, will look to sweep the NL West-leading Dodgers for just the second time in franchise history. Here’s the latest news and notes out of Milwaukee, courtesy of Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

  • The front office is very worried about the chronic nerve injury to Ryan Braun‘s right thumb, which has sapped his power and threatens to make the five-year, $105MM extension signed in 2011 an albatross. “I don’t think the financial part of it matters because he’s going to get it whether he has a good thumb or a bad thumb,” Assistant GM Gord Ash told Haudricourt. “It’s guaranteed money. From a comfort and playing point of view, you want to find a solution. The money is the money. You can’t change it now. So, what you’re trying to do is put him in the best physical condition you can to succeed.
  • The Brewers and Aramis Ramirez hold a $14MM mutual option (with a $4MM buyout, if the team declines its half) for 2015. Haudricourt envisions a scenario where Ramirez and his agent, Paul Kinzer, could leverage a weak crop of free agent third basemen and seek a second year or, at the very least, a vesting option in return for exercising the player’s half of the mutual option. If a deal cannot be worked out and Ramirez does decline his option, Haudricourt notes he could receive a qualifying offer dampening the market for the 36-year-old, but also leaving the Brewers on the hook for approximately $15MM.
  • The Brewers tabled extension talks with shortstop Jean Segura in March over an inability to gauge the 24-year-old’s worth in light of Andrelton Simmons‘ seven-year, $58MM deal. Segura has struggled offensively this year (.234/.268/.318), which Haudricourt attributes to a combination of pressing to show he is deserving of such a rich contract, bad luck (.261 BABIP compared to .325 in 2013), and the tragic death of his infant son. Haudricourt opines the best course of action for both sides is to let Segura establish his future value in 2015, since he isn’t eligible for salary arbitration until after that season.
  • In a recent online chat, Haudricourt sees the Brewers tendering a contract to Gerardo Parra, who is eligible for arbitration for the final time this offseason. The 27-year-old outfielder, acquired by the Brewers at the Trade Deadline, is earning $4.85MM this season.

Quick Hits: Rodon, Bryant, Blue Jays, Russell

Top White Sox prospect and 2014 No. 3 overall draft pick Carlos Rodon has been promoted to Triple-A Charlotte, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune tweets. As anticipated, Rodon has moved quickly through the minors — he pitched 9 2/3 innings with Class A+ Winston-Salem, striking out 15 batters while walking five. The promotion to Charlotte (for whom he’ll start on Tuesday) means he’s skipping Double-A, which in turn likely means the White Sox think he’s close to being ready for the Majors. Here are more notes from around baseball.

  • Top Cubs prospect Kris Bryant left Saturday’s Triple-A Iowa Cubs game with a foot injury, Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register writes (Twitter links). The injury was the result of a foul ball Bryant struck off his foot a few days ago. His foot is being X-rayed. The seriousness of the injury is unclear, but his coaches did seem to know about it before tonight. Bryant’s departure from the game set off speculation that he had been promoted to the big leagues, but it does not appear that he has been. He has a ridiculous .306/.415/.648 line in 234 plate appearances so far with Iowa.
  • Two MLB insiders believe that Addison Russell will eventually become the Cubs’ starting shortstop despite the team’s surplus there, Jorge Arangure of the New York Times reports. “From what I’ve seen, [Starlin] Castro moves for sure,” says one. “Russell has the edge over [Javier] Baez.” Baez, for his part, says he enjoys playing second base.
  • The Blue Jays have optioned reliever Chad Jenkins to the minors five times this season, and he’s just one of several Blue Jays who have been optioned four or more times this year, Brendan Kennedy of TheStar.com writes. Kennedy points out that the Jays have made more non-trade, non-injury roster moves than any team this season, about 40% more than the average team. GM Alex Anthopoulos says the Blue Jays option players in order to avoid having other players land on the disabled list. “We definitely haven’t used the waiver wire much this year, but we have consciously optioned players back and forth to avoid DL placements,” he says. For example, the Jays have had Liam Hendriks spot start three times in order to get their starting pitchers more rest. Of course, Kennedy writes, a limited number of players can be optioned, and so all the Jays’ roster moves can have the effect of moving one group of players up and down regardless of how they perform.
  • Brewers owner Mark Attanasio says the team is trying to improve its bullpen, making waiver claims for relievers as recently as today, MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy tweets. The Brewers’ bullpen got off to an extremely hot start in April but has struggled a bit since.

NL Notes: Thornburg, Henderson, Medlen, Phils, Tulo

The Brewers will go the rest of the way without righties Tyler Thornburg and Jim Henderson, according to a tweet from MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. Thornburg will receive a platelet-rich plasma injection in a bid to avoid surgery on his elbow, while Henderson may need shoulder surgery. Thornburg, 25, tossed 29 2/3 innings before being shut down, while the 31-year-old Henderson (who saved 28 games last season) scuffled through just 11 1/3 frames.

Here’s more out of the National League …

  • Braves hurler Kris Medlen is just two and a half weeks away from beginning to throw again after his second Tommy John surgery, and feels confident that he’ll be back on the hill  “at some point next season,” David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. But it remains to be seen whether he’ll work his way back with Atlanta, as his current $5.8MM salary and status as a two-time TJ patient makes him a non-tender possibility. “I’m a little nervous about it, just because it’s not in my hands,” said Medlen. “… It’s exciting to be able to pick up a ball in a couple of weeks, but I’m not going to lie, the contract stuff and wanting to come back — I mean, that’s somewhat up in the air this time, so it’s a little nerve-racking, but all I can do is get healthy.” In spite of his uncertain future, the 28-year-old righty should draw plenty of interest around the league if the Braves allow him to hit the open market.
  • Were it not for Jonathan Papelbon‘s continued presence at the back of the Phillies‘ bullpen, young righty Ken Giles would likely have moved into the closer’s role, Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News writes. Commenting on the story, Buster Olney of ESPN.com (Insider link) argues that the club should move Papelbon back into a setup role to give Giles an audition as a 9th-inning option and to prevent Papelbon from finishing enough games for his 2016 option to vest at $13MM. While this approach has some facial appeal, I would note that allowing Giles to begin racking up saves now will ultimately raise his price significantly when he ultimately reaches arbitration. (And, of course, there is the question of how to handle Papelbon’s insistence that he continues to close.)
  • Yesterday, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. again discussed his organization’s future, as MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. Declining to give many specifics, Amaro said that the “biggest plan is to make sure we improve offensively and with our pitching overall,” saying he will look to address those (rather broadly-framed) needs “in a variety of ways.” Sitting 14 games back in the division and 11 out of the wild card, the Phillies are nonetheless not entirely ready to give up hope this year. “Right now, we’re trying to win as many games as possible,” said Amaro. “At the same time, at some point, we’re going to have to start looking to the future. … And at some point, we may be looking more at what we have to do for 2015 as far as what’s going on, on the field. … We’re not quite there yet.”
  • Though Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies continues to play shortstop at a very high level, it is time he considered moving to first base, argues Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post. Tulowitzki’s bat is obviously good enough to make the move — he led the league in all three triple-slash categories (.340/.432/.603) when he suffered his season-ending hip injury — but switching to first would obviously sap a good portion of his immense bottom-line value. On the other hand, of course, it is fair to wonder whether playing the least-demanding spot on the diamond might not only help keep Tulowitzki on the field but might also enable him to hit at a top-end level even further into the six years (and $118MM) left on his contract.

Minor Moves: Falu, Mills, Abreu, Kalish, Herrmann

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

  • The Brewers have outrighted infielder Irving Falu, according to MLB.com’s transactions page. They claimed him last month from the Padres, who had previously claimed him from Milwaukee, so that the Brewers finally got him through to the minors must represent a small victory. The 31-year-old has hit .289/.342/.333 in 230 plate appearances for Triple-A Nashville this season.
  • The Blue Jays have announced that they’ve selected the contract of lefty Brad Mills and optioned infielder Ryan Goins to Triple-A Buffalo. The Jays outrighted Mills in late July. He’s posted a 1.81 ERA with 9.0 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 at Triple-A this season.
  • The Mets have released outfielder Bobby Abreu, according to MiLB.com. The 40-year-old was designated for assignment last week after hitting .238/.331/.336 in 142 plate appearances in his first big-league action since 2012.
  • The Cubs have outrighted outfielder Ryan Kalish to Triple-A Iowa, per the team’s transactions page. The 26-year-old was designated for assignment Friday after posting a slash of .242/.303/.330 in 100 plate appearances.
  • The Indians have released right-hander Frank Herrmann from their Triple-A affiliate, tweets MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. The 30-year-old, the longest-tenured player in the Cleveland organization, has struggled in 28 relief outings for Columbus to the tune of a 6.37 ERA, 9.1 K/9, and 5.8 BB/9 in 29 2/3 innings. Herrmann hasn’t pitched in a MLB contest since 2012 when he recorded a 2.33 ERA, 6.5 K/9, and 1.9 BB/9 over 19 1/3 innings (15 games) for the Indians.
  • The White Sox have released right-hander Shawn Hill from Triple-A Charlotte, according to the International League transactions page. The veteran 33-year-old pitched to a 4.81 ERA with 4.2 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 in 58 innings for the Knights after being acquired in a minor trade with the Blue Jays back in June. Hill last saw the bigs in 2012 with Toronto, and he has a lifetime 4.69 ERA with 5.6 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 242 Major League innings.
  • Jason Pridie has accepted his outright assignment by the Rockies to Triple-A, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. The 30-year-old outfielder, who was designated for assignment Wednesday, had the option to become a free agent since he had been outrighted previously, but chose to remain at Colorado Springs where he has hit .275/.341/.426 in 378 plate appearances.
  • Cotillo also tweets Andy Marte has accepted his outright assignment with the Diamondbacks rather than electing free agency. Marte, who batted .332/.385/.513 at Triple-A this season, will return to Reno in pursuit of the Pacific Coast League batting title, Cotillo adds. Marte was DFA’ed last week and sent outright to Reno last night, but, like Pridie, had been outrighted in the past and had the option to elect free agency.
  • With the Dodgers and Phillies designating Colt Hynes and Sean O’Sullivan, respectively, for assignment today, a total of six players are now in DFA limbo. As can be seen in MLBTR’s DFA Tracker, in addition to Hynes and O’Sullivan, the following players have yet to have their DFA situation resolved: Chris Young (Mets), Ernesto Frieri (Pirates), Nate Schierholtz (Cubs) and Chone Figgins (Dodgers).

Edward Creech and Charlie Wilmoth contributed to this post.


Central Notes: Johnson, Bullpen Issues, Suzuki

The closest pennant races are in MLB’s two Central divisions. Here’s the latest from both the NL and AL Central:

  • The Brewers sense they were the runner-up for the services of right-hander Jim Johnson, who signed a minor league deal with the Tigers on Tuesday, tweets MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy.
  • Despite the lack of offense from their first base platoon of Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay, the Brewers were wise not to re-sign first baseman Corey Hart this past winter, opines Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Hart, who missed six weeks with a strained left hamstring earlier this season and is on the disabled list for second time with a bruised right knee, has posted a meager slash of .203/.278/.314 with five home runs in 230 plate appearances.
  • Also within Haudricourt’s article, he details the injury and performance issues which have hobbled the Brewers‘ bullpen. Haudricourt notes the Brewers could still acquire a reliever this month, but there is no guarantee they will have a chance to claim one based on their waiver position.
  • The Cardinals could also be facing an issue with their bullpen, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Derrick GooldIn two of the past three years, Goold notes, the Cardinals have reached the World Series in the same season they had to change closers in the final month with fatigue being a contributing factor both times and it could happen again considering the recent usage of Trevor Rosenthal. Manager Mike Matheny acknowledges he has “ridden him hard,” but pointed to Rosenthal’s save success when asked about overuse. Goold reports Scott Boras, Rosenthal’s agent, has spoken to the club and his client about the workload.
  • Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki did not request a no-trade clause when he negotiated his recent contract extension, writes Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer PressWe didn’t think it was necessary,” Suzuki told Berardino.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Aramis Ramirez

This season, I’ve looked at the stock of a couple potential free agents that have a mutual option on their deal in the form of Nick Markakis (link) and Adam LaRoche (link). Another such player is Aramis Ramirez, and given the rarity with which mutual options are exercised — if the player is playing well, he almost certainly declines in search of a multi-year deal, and if not, the team declines due to poor production — Ramirez can be very reasonably expected to hit the open market heading into his age-37 season.

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The question then, is whether Ramirez hits the open market because he declines his half of the $14MM option, or whether the Brewers send him on his way and pay a $4MM buyout.

Ramirez is hitting a strong .301/.341/.461 with 13 homers this season — good for an .802 OPS, a 122 OPS+ and a 123 wRC+. He’s been 22 to 23 percent better by park- and league-adjusted metrics like OPS+ and WRC+, and even you’re more partial to traditional statistics, he’s been well above average. The league-average OPS this season for non-pitchers is .716, and the league-average OPS for a third baseman is .714.

Additionally, a look at the market reveals some spotty competition. Two years ago, seeing Ramirez stacked up against Chase Headley, Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez would’ve seemed much bleaker than it does now. Headley hasn’t hit much this season, and Sandoval has been a slightly weaker hitter than Ramirez (albeit at a younger age and with better defense). He’s outperformed Headley, and his asking price will assuredly be lower than Kung Fu Panda and Hanley, who both rank in the Top 5 of MLBTR’s Free Agent Power Rankings. Ramirez may not be a premier free agent, but he’s an upper-tier bat in a weak crop that will require fewer years than those in the top tier. Teams in need of help at the hot corner (and possibly DH) should show interest.

Of course, Ramirez isn’t a player without his faults. He missed 70 games in 2013, mostly due to a recurring issue in his left knee, and this season he’s already missed 22 games with a left hamstring injury. His defense doesn’t come with a great reputation, and while he’s posted a solid UZR in 2014, a half-season of UZR rarely tells the whole tale of a player’s glovework. Ramirez posted a negative UZR mark (and a negative DRS mark) in all but one season from 2008-13. Beyond that, his walk rate is down to a career-low 3.6 percent, and his solid OBP has been bolstered by an abnormally high HBP total (nine — which is quite a few based on his history).

At the time Ramirez hit the disabled list, he looked like a candidate for a one-year deal, and it was debatable whether or not Milwaukee would even exercise its half of the mutual option (he was hitting .252/.309/.390). Since returning in early June, however, he’s been excellent, hitting .329/.360/.502 with eight homers in 225 plate appearances. The ZiPS projection system forecasts a .285/.339/.469 line from here on out, while Steamer projects a similar .275/.333/.460 (both available on Ramirez’s Fangraphs page).

If he can hit at that pace or better, his option should be a non-factor. With a $4MM buyout on a $14MM option, Ramirez and the Brewers are essentially deciding on a one-year, $10MM deal. Milwaukee would likely jump at that price, but given his overall production, Ramirez will have no trouble topping that as long as he remains healthy. The interesting wrinkle will be whether or not Milwaukee extends a qualifying offer should Ramirez reject his half of the mutual option. At that point, the Brewers would essentially be offering one year at $19MM+ (assuming a $15MM+ qualifying offer value) — which they may be hesitant to do given their typically middle-of-the-road payroll.

Ramirez said last month that he had decided to play beyond this season and would try to reach the 2,500-game plateau (he’d need at least three more seasons to do so). Given his strong production and desire to play for several more seasons, it seems fair to expect the veteran slugger and his agents at Kinzer Management Group to pursue multiple years. There’s no precedent for a third baseman entering his age-37 season to get a significant three-year deal, but we did see aging slugger Carlos Beltran land a three-year pact last offseason as he headed into his age-37 campaign. (Marlon Byrd, another comparable in terms of age, netted a nice two-year deal with a vesting option, albeit at a lower rate than Ramirez would command.)

While Ramirez hasn’t necessarily been a heavily discussed free agent name to this point, a strong finish will position him nicely in a what looks to be a weak crop of free agent position players. His case will be a bit unique, but as long as he can continue at a strong pace, there’s little reason to doubt another multi-year deal for a player that is on pace to post an OPS+ north of 120 for the 10th time in 11 seasons.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Quick Hits: DePodesta, Sternberg, Lucroy

We at MLBTR tend to focus on transactions, but the big news of tonight comes from Baltimore, where catcher Caleb Joseph homered for a fifth straight game. The Orioles catcher had hit just three major league home runs before his current onslaught. Last season, he did pop an impressive 22 home runs for the O’s Double-A affiliate. Prior to tonight, Joseph was hitting .220/.281/.401 on the season.

  • Last August, Mets Assistant GM Paul DePodesta discussed Moneyball misconceptions and the role of analysis in an interesting interview with Nautilus. Among the many topics, DePodesta talked about the importance of putting themselves in a position to get lucky. The Mets system certainly reflects that thought process. While the club has yet to succeed at the major league level, they are beginning to receive meaningful contributions from somewhat unexpected sources like Lucas Duda and Jacob deGrom.
  • Rays owner Stuart Sternberg doesn’t regret trading David Price despite the club’s current three game winning streak, writes Bill Chastain of MLB.com. Said Sternberg, “It really was the classic one-eye-on-the-present, one-eye-on-the-future kind of deal.” The Rays remain 10 games back in the AL East and five games back in the Wild Card race. Sternberg does regret failing to acquire a big bat after losing in the 2010 division series. 
  • Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy isn’t interested in following the Joe Mauer model, according to Tom Haudricourt. “I feel like I’d go from an above-average catcher to an average first baseman,” said Lucroy. Defensive measures rate him as among the best backstops in the game, and his current batting line (.307/.374/.493) is strikingly similar to that of Adrian Beltre. Lucroy recently missed a game with a hamstring issue, but that’s a far cry from the issues plaguing Mauer.