- Brewers righty Junior Guerra has been one of the game’s most remarkable stories in the first half, turning from a waiver claimee (in GM David Stearns’s first transaction) into a quality starter. As Gary D’Amato of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writes, it was his discovery — and mastery — of the splitter that made him a Rookie of the Year candidate at 31 years of age. Harnessing that key offering “was a long process,” he says, explaining that he didn’t feel comfortable with it until about two years ago. Because of his age, Guerra is in a rather unique position with regard to contract rights; he also could be a more likely trade candidate than might otherwise be anticipated given his meager service time (though I didn’t feel compelled to include him in our list of potentially available starters). “Right now I’m not thinking about money,” he tells D’Amato. “I’m just thinking about working hard and providing for my family. I want to keep working hard in order to keep getting chances.” Field questions about his trade status is probably quite an unexpected luxury, but Guerra says he hopes to continue pitching in Milwaukee.
The Brewers have announced that they’ve claimed righty reliever Rob Scahill from the Pirates and optioned him to Triple-A Colorado Springs. The Bucs designated Scahill for assignment when they claimed Eric Fryer from the Cardinals last week.
The 29-year-old Scahill has spent the season bouncing back and forth between Pittsburgh and Triple-A Indianapolis. He’s generally had good big-league results in two seasons with the Pirates, with a 3.26 ERA, but he’s posted somewhat underwhelming peripherals (7.1 K/9, 4.2 BB/9). Previously, he’d appeared in parts of three seasons with the Rockies. The Brewers probably liked that Scahill entered the season with less than two full years of service time, however, and that he can still be optioned back and forth to the minors.
- An unusually high number of scouts (18) recently took in a Class-A Rookie League Game for the Rangers, leading FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal to wonder if a trade is on the way. Specifically, the Rangers and Brewers could match up in a deal for catcher Jonathan Lucroy, Rosenthal suggests, with a scout informing him that Milwaukee has been observing Texas’ system. Brewers general manager David Stearns has not been averse to acquiring teenage prospects in the past, writes Rosenthal, who lists 17-year-old outfielder Leody Taveras and 18-year-old shortstop Anderson Tejada as a couple of the Rangers’ top Arizona League players. The Rangers have drawn connections since the offseason to Lucroy, an All-Star backstop who’s signed for cheap through next season.
Brewers catcher and eminently valuable trade chip Jonathan Lucroy said Monday that he and the team are not engaging in contract extension talks (Twitter link via Chris Cotillo of SB Nation). “I want to be competitive. I want to be on a team that is playing for a championship,” Lucroy told Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball. “If that’s the Brewers, great. If not, not. It’s a tough situation.” With a relatively insignificant $4MM salary this year and a $5.25MM club option for 2017, Lucroy is currently on one of the most team-friendly contracts in baseball. That should help the Brewers land a quality haul for the All-Star if they deal him by the Aug. 1 trade deadline. The 30-year-old has rebounded from an injury-plagued 2015 to hit .304/.361/.491 with 11 home runs in 324 plate appearances this season. Defensively, Lucroy has thrown out a terrific 39 percent of attempted base stealers while rating near the top of the league in the pitch-framing department.
This week’s installment of Knocking Down the Door features a top prospect whose older brother is already in the Majors, two players selected in the top 10 picks of the 2015 draft, and a pair of starters that could add some flames to the back of the bullpen with their organization’s big league club.
Orlando Arcia, SS, Milwaukee Brewers (Triple-A Colorado Springs)
Arcia cemented his spot as the Brewers’ shortstop of the near future when he posted an .800 OPS with 25 stolen bases while playing most of the 2015 season as a 20 year-old in Double-A Biloxi. Now he’s on the verge of claiming that starting job before he reaches his 22nd birthday on August 4.
While Jonathan Villar’s breakout season (.806 OPS, 31 steals) has played a part in pushing back Arcia’s estimated time of arrival in Milwaukee—it wouldn’t have surprised anyone if he was called up in early May—the recent trade of Aaron Hill opens up third base for Villar while Arcia is putting the finishing touches on his Minor League career with eight hits in his last 20 at-bats, including three doubles, a triple, a homer and seven runs batted in.
Andrew Benintendi, OF, Boston Red Sox (Double-A Portland)
The Red Sox have already patched up their bullpen by trading for Brad Ziegler, and they’re almost certain to acquire a starting pitcher before the non-waiver trade deadline on August 1 to shore up their shaky rotation. Their offense, meanwhile, is already the best in baseball and they could be even better once the Andrew Benintendi era begins.
I’m not certain that the 22-year-old Benintendi will be the first first-rounder (No. 7 overall) from the 2015 Draft to get the call to the big leagues—see Alex Bregman—but he shouldn’t be far behind. Coincidentally, Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski recently hinted that Benintendi is close and might not need a stop in Triple-A.
Since a promotion to Double-A in mid-May, the left-handed-hitting center fielder has an .844 OPS in 47 games, including a .310 batting average since a 2-for-19 start. He’ll man left field once he arrives in Boston with Brock Holt moving back into his valuable role as a super-utility man.
Alex Bregman, INF, Houston Astros (Triple-A Fresno)
If you watched the Futures Game on Sunday, you know that I’m not the only person that thinks Alex Bregman should be in the Majors by now, including Bregman, who declared, “I’m ready,” when asked on MLB Network what he wanted the world to know about him.
The 22-year-old continues to tear the cover off of the ball in Triple-A and obviously didn’t have any problems with the elite talent on the mound yesterday, as he was a home run shy of the cycle after just three at-bats. Opening a spot in the Houston’s lineup is really as simple as moving Luis Valbuena to first base and allowing A.J. Reed and Evan Gattis to platoon in the designated hitter spot—Gattis has an .802 OPS versus left-handed pitching and a .641 OPS versus right-handers.
Reynaldo Lopez, SP/RP, Washington Nationals (Triple-A Syracuse)/Alex Reyes, SP/RP, St. Louis Cardinals (Triple-A Memphis)
I’ve lumped Lopez and Reyes together since the theme here is very similar. They’re two of the best pitching prospects in the Minor Leagues, both with limited experience in the upper minors—Lopez has 14 Double-A starts and two Triple-A starts; Reyes has made eight Double-A starts and nine Triple-A starts—and still a lot of room to develop as starting pitchers. But most will agree that they could dominate in the Major Leagues right now in one-to-two inning relief stints.
At 22 and 21 years of age, respectively, Lopez and Reyes could find themselves in the thick of the 2016 playoff race and pitching in plenty of meaningful games. Both can hit 100 mph on the radar gun as starters—I wouldn’t be surprised to see 102 mph in games where they’re only needed for a few batters. And, most importantly, their respective organizations could each use some help in the bullpen.
“Knocking Down the Door” is a weekly feature that identifies minor leaguers who are making a case for a big league promotion.
The bullpen market has been picking up some steam lately, with the Red Sox acquiring Brad Ziegler from the D-backs and the Marlins landing Fernando Rodney in a trade with the Padres. Miami was apparently in the market for some more controllable bullpen help prior to landing Rodney, though, as MLB Network’s Peter Gammons reports (on Twitter) that the Marlins also spoke with the Brewers about Jeremy Jeffress. Milwaukee had a significant asking price on its closer, however, as Gammons hears that the Brewers asked for right-hander Chris Paddack (the pitcher Miami traded to get Rodney) and two more prospects in exchange for Jeffress. MLBTR’s Jeff Todd has long listed Jeffress on his weekly rankings of trade candidates, noting that it’s understandable for the Brewers to have a steep ask with another three years of club control remaining beyond 2016.
More from the NL…
- Josh Bell has been quite impressive in his limited big league experience, going 2-for-2 with a walk and a monstrous grand slam in three pinch-hit appearances over the weekend. However, Ron Cook of the Pittburgh Post-Gazette writes that the Pirates will option Bell back to Triple-A in spite of his strong first impression, as the team informed him from day one that he was being promoted for the weekend only. “I don’t see moving him to first base in front of [John] Jaso right now with the job [Jaso] has done,” said manager Clint Hurdle to Cook. “I think down the line we’ll see what a little bit more [of Bell] would look like. I don’t know when down the line is.” General manager Neal Huntington tells Cook that he still kicks himself for rushing Gregory Polanco and Pedro Alvarez to the Majors and doesn’t want to make the same mistake with Bell.
- Nationals GM Mike Rizzo tells Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post that he doesn’t see a glaring need anywhere on his roster that needs to be addressed at the trade deadline. “That’s not to say that we’re a perfect team and we couldn’t upgrade if the right possibility comes,” says Rizzo of his club, however. As far as payroll is concerned, Rizzo adds that the Nationals would be able to take on payroll in order to lessen the prospect cost of a trade.
- Braves catcher Tyler Flowers is having an MRI on his hand today after aggravating an injury that he sustained a week ago when he was hit by a pitch against the Marlins, writes MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. If a trip to the disabled list is necessary, the Braves could turn to Triple-A backstop Blake Lalli, though doing so would require a 40-man roster move. Bowman has updates on a number of injured Braves, noting that right-hander Shae Simmons has seen improvements in his shoulder since he resumed throwing off a mound. He’s been sidelined all season recovering from Tommy John surgery and twice had setbacks involving his right shoulder.
- Brewers relievers Jeremy Jeffress and Will Smith are getting a lot of attention from scouts, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports (Twitter link). Jeffress was recently ranked by MLBTR’s Jeff Todd as one of the top 20 trade candidates leading up to the deadline, as the righty has performed quite well as Milwaukee’s closer. It was an injury to Smith that opened the door for Jeffress to take over the ninth-inning role, and Smith has pitched well himself in 17 innings since returning from the DL.
Sunday’s minor transactions from around baseball:
- The Orioles have outrighted right-hander David Hale off their 40-man roster and assigned him to Triple-A Norfolk, the team announced. The Orioles claimed Hale off waivers from the Rockies in April, but he didn’t throw a pitch for Baltimore prior to the club outrighting him. The 28-year-old swingman has a 4.48 ERA, 6.04 K/9, 3.12 BB/9 and 52 percent ground-ball rate in 178 2/3 career major league innings.
- The Brewers have traded minor league righty Jaye Chapman to the Rays for cash, per an official announcement. The Rays will be the fourth organization for the 29-year-old Chapman, who has also spent time at various minor league levels with the Braves and Cubs. Since Atlanta selected Chapman in the 16th round of the 2005 draft, the reliever has logged a 3.94 ERA, 9.5 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 in 486 2/3 minor league innings. Chapman’s only major league experience came in 2012 as a member of the Cubs, with whom he threw 12 frames.
JULY 8: Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that Hill receives a $1MM assignment bonus due to the fact that he was traded (links to Twitter). Hill received the same bonus this past winter when being shipped from Phoenix to Milwaukee, he adds. Tim Britton of the Providence Journal tweets that the Sox are only paying a “modest” amount of the remaining commitment to Hill, with Arizona and Milwaukee on the hook for most of the remaining money.
JULY 7: The Brewers announced that they have traded Aaron Hill and cash considerations to the Red Sox in exchange for minor league right-hander Aaron Wilkerson and minor league second baseman Wendell Rijo. The Sox announced the trade as well, adding that outfielder Ryan LaMarre has been designated for assignment to clear a spot on the roster.
The 34-year-old Hill, traded from the D-backs to the Brewers this past offseason, has been enjoying a rebound campaign in Milwaukee, batting .283/.359/.421 with eight homers, 11 doubles and four steals in 292 plate appearances. While he’s played second base for most of his career, Hill has played third base in 59 games this season, compared to just 20 contests spent playing second base. He’ll provide the ailing Red Sox with some infield depth and also presents Boston with a capable platoon partner for Travis Shaw, who has batted .211/.240/.380 against left-handed pitching this year. Hill is in the final season of a three-year, $35MM deal that pays him $12MM in 2016. The D-backs, however, are on the hook for $6.5MM of that sum as part of the aforementioned trade, and the Brewers will cover a yet undetermined portion of the money remaining on his deal, so the financial implications for the Red Sox figure to be relatively minimal.
LaMarre, 27, is the roster casualty for Hill. He signed with Boston on a minor league deal this winter and appeared in six games but has spent most of his time in Triple-A, where he’s batted .313/.383/.475 in 180 trips to the plate. The Sox will have 10 days to trade LaMarre or try to pass him through outright waivers in an attempt to keep him in the organization as a non-40-man player. Prior to this season, the former second-round pick had spent his entire career in the Reds organization. He’s a .267/.332/.409 hitter in parts of four Triple-A seasons.
For the Brewers, they’ll now turn to a combination of Will Middlebrooks, Hernan Perez and Jake Elmore at the hot corner, GM David Stearns told the media (Twitter link via the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Todd Rosiak). Middlebrooks has enjoyed a nice season at Triple-A Colorado Springs, batting .282/.308/.508 with 10 homers, although that production does come in an excessively hitter-friendly environment. Perez and Elmore give the Brewers a pair of alternatives that come with a fair share of MLB experience, though each is more of a utility player than an everyday option for the club in the long term.
Of the two prospects acquired by the Brewers in this deal, Rijo has received more fanfare on prospect rankings. MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis have him 17th among Boston farmhands at the moment, while Baseball America rated him 15th following the season and Fangraphs’ Dan Farnsworth placed him 22nd in the offseason. The 20-year-old opened the season at Double-A but struggled as one of the youngest players in the Eastern League, hitting just .186/.245/.266 in 51 games. He was moved back down to Class-A Advanced when Yoan Moncada arrived in Double-A, and he’s batting an improved .270/.364/.324 in 11 games. Callis and Mayo note that a previous ACL injury has dropped Rijo from a plus runner to an average runner, but he offers plenty of gap power and the upside for double-digit home runs once he adds to his 5’11”, 170-pound frame. BA notes that he’s made some improvements at second base and has the potential to be an everyday option that racks up doubles, though Farnsworth pegged him as more of a bench player or fringe regular.
Wilkerson was absent from the club’s prospect rankings, but the 27-year-old did just land on Jason Martinez’s most recent edition of “Knocking Down the Door” here at MLBTR due to his strong performance for Boston’s Triple-A affiliate. In 92 1/3 innings between Boston’s Double-A and Triple-A affiliates this season, Wilkerson has compiled an oustanding 2.14 ERA with 9.9 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9 and a 40.3 percent ground-ball rate (via MLBFarm.com). The Texas native went undrafted out of college due to the fact that he required Tommy John surgery as a senior in college. That unfortunate realization led him to the independent circuit, where eventually caught the eyes of Boston scouts and signed with the Sox as a 25-year-old back in 2014. The Boston Herald’s Evan Drellich profiled Wilkerson’s unusual path to affiliated ball back in April, and as Jason noted in the above-linked piece, that path may have him on the cusp of the Major Leagues. The Brewers are currently relying on Matt Garza, Jimmy Nelson, Chase Anderson, Junior Guerra and Zach Davies in the rotation, but Wilkerson could be one of the top alternatives in the event that the club incurs an injury in the rotation or finds a trade partner for Garza.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
TODAY: The Marlins have agreed to terms with Albert Guaimaro for an unreported sum, Badler reports. He is considered the best of this bunch of players, per Badler, who says that the youngster sprays a lot of line drives with an aggressive approach. Miami will move him behind the plate from the outfield.
Meanwhile, Badler reported earlier today that shortstop Eduardo Torrealba is going to the Yankees for $300K. That leaves only righty Cesar Gonzalez unsigned among the five prospects who were turned into free agents.
YESTERDAY, 1:48pm: Sanchez also reports that shortstop Antonio Pinero has agreed to a new deal with the Brewers that will pay him $375K (links to Twitter). Of that sum, just $75K will count against Milwaukee’s bonus pool. Badler wrote earlier this spring that Pinero made a name for himself due to his defensive skills, and while he’s a below-average runner he has a quick first step, good hands and a strong throwing arm.
10:21am: The Phillies have reached an agreement with Venezuelan outfielder Simon Muzziotti that will pay the 17-year-old prospect $750K, reports MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez (via Twitter). Baseball America’s Ben Badler reported last night (Twitter link) that the Phils were the favorites to sign Muzziotti, who just one week ago was under the Red Sox’ control. However, Major League Baseball declared him a free agent as part of Boston’s punishment for the team’s violation of the international bonus pool system via package signings.
When it was ruled that Muzziotti and four other Red Sox prospects would once again be available to MLB clubs, it was ruled that the first $300K of a signing bonus for any of the five prospects would not count toward a club’s bonus pool. As such, $450K of Muzziotti’s bonus with the Phils will count against the club’s bonus pool. Muzziotti also was allowed to keep the original $300K he received from Boston, so he’ll end up with a total of $1.05MM between his two signing bonuses.
Muzziotti wasn’t expected to be part of this year’s July 2 pool and as such wasn’t a part of any international rankings, but Baseball America’s Ben Badler rated him 24th in last year’s class, praising his speed and range/instincts in center field. MLB.com compiled a free video/scouting report last season, and over the weekend, Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen wrote that Muzziotti wouldn’t have been ranked among his Top 25 but would’ve merited mention in the unranked portion of his international prospect rankings, meaning he’d have ranked in the Top 50 or so. In 65 plate appearances for Boston’s affiliate in the Dominican Summer League, Muzziotti batted .317/.354/.383.