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The Rangers are off to an 8-16 start this season, and GM Jon Daniels says that while some minor changes could be made this week, the team is “not going to going to wait too much longer before we consider mixing it up further,” writes Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Daniels didn’t specify what would constitute a more significant shakeup, but Grant speculates on three scenarios: demoting second baseman Rougned Odor, benching a struggling “core” player (i.e. Elvis Andrus) and/or replacing hitting instructor Dave Magadan.
Here’s more from the AL West…
- The Mariners last night announced the demotions of righty Yoervis Medina and lefty Tyler Olson to Triple-A Tacoma, and while no official word has been released on the corresponding roster moves that will follow, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports that signs point to Chris Taylor and Joe Beimel joining the club. Taylor was batting Brad Miller for the everyday shortstop role in Spring Training before a fractured wrist sidelined him for four to six weeks. He’s hitting .313/.385/.475 in Triple-A this season and could either serve as a platoon partner for the lefty-swinging Miller or eventually push him for more regular playing time. Beimel inked a Minor League pact in April after unsuccessfully holding out for a more lucrative big league deal this winter. Beimel isn’t on the 40-man roster, so a 40-man move will need to be made, though I’d imagine that could entail simply moving southpaw Edgar Olmos to the 60-day DL, as he’s already been on the 15-day DL since March 30.
- In the latest edition of his 10 Degrees column, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan notes that Angels righty Jered Weaver‘s fastball is averaging an alarming 83-84 mph (depending on whether one uses Baseball Info Solutions’ data or Brooks Baseball). Either way, the concern over his fastball is justified, as Passan points out that 120 of the 122 pitchers that throw four-seam fastballs have an average velocity higher than Weaver’s peak velocity of 87.81 mph this year. Weaver is averaging just 3.9 K/9 and has whiffed three or fewer hitters in all but one of his starts this season, en route to a 6.29 ERA. “Reinvention is the only way to save Weaver,” Passan opines, unless he, like righties Mike Pelfrey and Chris Young before him, is experiencing such a precipitous decline due to injury. (Young, like Weaver, never threw particularly hard in the first place and may be a more apt comparison.)
- Struggles in the Athletics‘ bullpen have the team pondering roster moves, writes Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. One option is switch-pitcher Pat Venditte, who has performed well at Triple-A since signing a Minor League deal this offseason. However, he’s not on the 40-man roster, and space is tight after claiming Alex Hassan off waivers for a staggering third time in the past several months. Slusser writes that when first baseman Nate Freiman is activated from the DL later this month, the team may try to sneak him through waivers to remove him from the 40-man but keep him in the organization. She also notes that southpaw Drew Pomeranz could be bullpen-bound when Jarrod Parker is activated from the DL and reinserted into the rotation.
- I’ll add a note on the surprising division leaders — the 18-7 Astros. Houston is the only club in the AL West with a record above .500 and, as the Chronicle’s Evan Drellich pointed out (Twitter link), they now rank as probables to make the playoffs looking at both Fangraphs’ and Baseball Prospectus’ postseason odds. However, outside of the excellent work provided by Collin McHugh and Dallas Keuchel, the team has received a collective 5.05 ERA from Scott Feldman, Sam Deduno, Brad Peacock, Asher Wojciechowski and Roberto Hernandez in the final three spots in the rotation. Given the club’s early lead, Brett Oberholtzer‘s health and the struggles of Dan Straily at Triple-A, I’d wonder if the ‘Stros would be open to pursuing an early rotation upgrade in an attempt to make their grip on the division more sustainable. Few teams are actively selling pieces this early in the season, but the Brewers are reportedly open to trade proposals, and Houston could look to clubs that have more serviceable arms than slots in the rotation. Given the lack of quality innings at the back of the Astros’ rotation, the team needn’t add an elite arm in order to acquire a significant upgrade. While this is all speculation, history has shown GM Jeff Luhnow to be aggressive on the trade market. Names like Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza and Dillon Gee have all been floated on the rumor mill lately, and it’s not hard to envision the Rays soon having a surplus of arms once Alex Cobb and, eventually, Matt Moore are healthy. For Astros fans that really want to dream big, the argument could be made that there is in Houston both the need and the means (in terms of prospects and finances) to take on a significant portion of Cole Hamels‘ contract, though the asking price could very well exceed Houston’s comfort level.
Here are Sunday’s minor moves from around MLB:
- The Athletics have released outfielder Cody Ross, according to the MLB.com transactions page. The A’s designated Ross for assignment yesterday when they claimed outfielder Alex Hassan from the Rangers. Ross will now be free to sign elsewhere, with the Diamondbacks still responsible for most of his $9.5MM salary (and the entire $1MM buyout on his 2016 option). After struggling with Arizona last season, Ross got just two hits in 25 plate appearances with Oakland.
- The Indians have outrighted outfielder Jerry Sands to Triple-A, tweets MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. Since the 27-year-old has been outrighted before, he can decline the assignment and become a free agent. Sands was designated for assignment by the Indians Wednesday after compiling a .348/.400/.435 slash in 25 plate appearances.
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Marlins), Steven Tolleson (Blue Jays), Jorge Rondon (Rockies), Andy Wilkins (Blue Jays), Matt West (Blue Jays), and Joseph Ortiz (Cubs) remain in DFA limbo, per MLBTR’s DFA Tracker.
The Athletics have claimed outfielder Alex Hassan from the Rangers, the Rangers have announced. Also, the Athletics have designated Cody Ross for assignment, according to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser (on Twitter). The A’s also promoted righty R.J. Alvarez and outfielder Billy Burns, placed Eric O’Flaherty on the DL (shoulder), and optioned Hassan to Triple-A Nashville.
If the news about Hassan sounds somewhat familiar, it’s because Hassan has spent the past several months in a waiver loop that’s rather comical (unless you’re him, presumably). Originally a Red Sox farmhand, he’s been claimed by the Athletics, Orioles, Athletics (again), Rangers, and Athletics (for a third time), all in the past seven months. The Rangers and A’s engaged in a similar waiver battle with infielder Adam Rosales last year. Hassan was hitting .267/.343/.350 in a small sample at Triple-A Round Rock, although he has a career .394 on-base percentage in the minors.
The 34-year-old Ross went 2-for-25 in nine games with the Athletics, who signed him after the Diamondbacks released him last month. The Diamondbacks are still on the hook for the bulk of Ross’ $9.5MM 2015 salary, plus a $1MM buyout on his 2016 option. Ross has played parts of 12 MLB seasons, suiting up for the Tigers, Dodgers, Reds, Marlins, Giants and Red Sox in addition to the Diamondbacks and Athletics, and hitting .262/.322/.445.
After seeing former teammate Jung-ho Kang sign with the Pirates this offseason, Byung-ho Park of the Korea Baseball Organization’s Nexen Heroes is hopeful that he will have the opportunity to make his way to MLB as well, reports Jee-ho Yoo of the Yonhap News Agency. Park, a two-time KBO MVP, told reporters prior to the season that he’s long dreamed of playing in Major League Baseball, according to Yoo.
Park is eligible to be posted for MLB clubs following the 2015 season if the Heroes choose to allow it. Yoo reports that Park has enlisted Octagon, the same agency that negotiated Kang’s four-year deal with the Pirates, to represent him if he is indeed posted. It’s worth reminding that the KBO posting process is not the same as the new posting process with Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball. Under the Korean system, which is the same as the old NPB posting system, all 30 teams would have the opportunity to submit a blind bid for Park’s services, and the team to submit the highest bid would then have a 30-day window to negotiate a contract with Park. Should the two sides fail to reach an agreement, the posting fee would be returned to the team that won the bid.
Six Major League clubs, including the Pirates, have asked for credentials to send scouts to watch the Heroes this week, according to Yoo. However, teams regularly scout KBO and other Asian leagues, and one Heroes official said to Yoo that he “only heard they’re here to watch the whole league.” Yoo adds that Park’s agents at Octagon had contact with the Red Sox and A’s during Spring Training when the Heroes were training in Arizona. Additionally, a scout who attended Tuesday’s Heroes game told Yoo that there is indeed interest in Park among scouts, though that shouldn’t be entirely surprising based on the 28-year-old’s numbers.
KBO is known to be an exceptionally hitter-friendly environment, but Park’s .310/.434/.645 batting line over the past two seasons is nonetheless impressive. After hitting 31 homers in 2012 and 37 in 2013, Park’s long ball total soared to 52 last season, and he’s already belted six in 103 plate appearances this season. However, with the increase in power came an uptick in strikeouts, as his strikeout rate jumped from about 17 percent in 2013 to 25 percent in 2014. His 24 punchouts in 103 PAs this season seem to suggest that the increase in whiffs could be a lasting trend.
The right-handed hitting Park is listed at 6’1″, 236 pounds and is set to turn 29 years old this July, so if he were to be posted, teams would still be potentially buying some prime years. While his placement on the low end of the defensive spectrum likely limits his value somewhat, a potential prime-aged, right-handed power bat could add an interesting wrinkle to a class of free agent first basemen that is led by Chris Davis but also features mid-30s bats such as Mike Napoli and Justin Morneau.
The Dodgers have claimed left-handed pitcher Eury De La Rosa off waivers from the Athletics, reports J.P. Hoornstra of the L.A. News Group (Twitter links). To make room on the 40-man roster, Brandon McCarthy has been transferred to the 60-day disabled list, he adds. De La Rosa will be assigned to Triple-A Oklahoma City, per Hoornstra.
The 25-year-old De La Rosa has worked exclusively at Triple-A for the Athletics this season, firing six innings with three unearned runs, five walks and four strikeouts in that time. Oakland picked De La Rosa up in a minor trade that sent cash to the D-Backs in December following a solid half-season of work in the Arizona ‘pen. Last year, De La Rosa totaled 36 2/3 innings of relief for the Snakes and notched a 2.95 ERA with 7.9 K/9, 3.4 BB/9 and a 43 percent ground-ball rate.
The question for De La Rosa, of course, will be just how long he remains on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster. Of late, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and his associates have been aggressive on the waiver wire, but the purpose behind most of their claims has been to attempt to pass the new player through outright waivers by designating him for assignment within days of the successful claim.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has previously explained to Hoornstra and other reporters that the whirlwind of transactions has actually been part of the team’s plan and wasn’t unexpected among decision-makers within the organization. Recently, Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles wrote that the rash of injuries incurred by the Dodgers has played a part in the revolving door that has been the team’s final roster spot.
Here are Sunday’s minor moves from around MLB:
- The Orioles will sign corner intfielder Brandon Snyder to a minor-league deal, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets. Snyder, 28, had agreed to a deal with the independent Southern Maryland Blue Crabs in March. He hit .206/.284/.444 in 141 plate appearances with the Red Sox’ Triple-A Pawtucket affiliate in 2014. He last appeared in the big leagues with the Red Sox in 2013 and had previously had cups of coffee with the Orioles and Rangers. The Orioles made him the 13th overall pick in the draft ten years ago.
- The Rays have outrighted Allan Dykstra, according to MLB.com’s transactions page. Dykstra playing first base for much of April, but he became superfluous when James Loney returned from the disabled list. The 27-year-old Dykstra hit .280/.426/.504 for the Mets’ hitter-friendly Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas last season, drawing 84 walks in 439 plate appearances.
- The Blue Jays outrighted right-hander Todd Redmond to Triple-A after he cleared waivers, tweets Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca. Redmond, who was designated for assignment April 16, struggled to start 2015 allowing eight runs (all earned) in a pair of relief appearanes (covering 4 1/13 innings) with five walks and four strikeouts.
- The A’s have signed infielder Ryan Roberts to a minor league deal and have assigned him to Triple-A Nashville, tweets the Sounds’ play-by-play announcer Jeff Hem. Roberts, who was in camp with the Royals before being released in March, made a cameo appearance with Boston in 2014 and batted just .105/.227/.105 in 22 trips to the plate during eight games. Over his nine-year career, the 34-year-old has slashed a much more acceptable .243/.320/.388 for the Red Sox, Rays, Diamondbacks, Rangers, and Blue Jays.
- The Marlins have outrighted left-hander Grant Dayton to Triple-A, per the club’s transactions page. The 27-year-old was designated for assignment Friday to create room on the 40-man roster for catcher Jhonatan Solano, whose contract was purchased when the Marlins placed Jarrod Saltalamacchia on the paternity list.
- The Mets signed free agent second baseman Brooks Conrad to a minor league contract, according to the International League transactions page. Conrad signed a minor league deal with the Padres in January of last year after spending some time in Japan and joined their major league team later in 2014. He spent the bulk of the year in Triple-A, slashing .278/.349/.529 with 18 homers in 337 plate appearances. In a limited sample size of 34 major league appearances in 2014, however, he couldn’t produce the same results, and he was released in August.
- Per MLBTR’s DFA Tracker, Eric Surkamp (White Sox), Grant Balfour (Rays), Eury De La Rosa (A’s), Steve Tolleson (Blue Jays), Xavier Cedeno (Dodgers), and Logan Verrett (Rangers) are still in DFA limbo.
Here’s the latest from around the league:
- Commissioner Rob Manfred would prefer for the Athletics to remain in Oakland, writes Bill Shaiken of the LA Times. The A’s are currently waiting to learn if the NFL’s Oakland Raiders will remain in the city or move to Los Angeles. Manfried also suggested that public financing would be helpful. “We want to remain loyal to [small market fans], but those markets also have to participate in providing the kind of facilities necessary to keep a Major League Baseball team.
- Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez won’t let the club’s slow start affect his decision to retire, reports MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. Milwaukee is quickly falling out of contention in the tough NL Central. Ramirez is off to a slow start, but you have to imagine he’ll be a trade candidate this summer. Assuming he’s dealt, he’ll have an opportunity to finish his career with a contender – it just probably won’t be the Brewers.
- The Twins remain among the teams interested in free agent reliever Rafael Soriano, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. Wolfson believes the fit is much better with the Tigers and Blue Jays. While Minnesota could definitely use some relief reinforcements, the club doesn’t figure to contend this season. As such, they probably view Soriano as a piece they could trade at the deadline.
Athletics utilityman Ben Zobrist confirms that he will have arthroscopic knee surgery, which likely means he will be out four to six weeks, Joe Stiglich of Comcast SportsNet California writes (via Twitter). That Zobrist would have surgery seemed increasingly likely earlier today, when the A’s placed him on the disabled list and promoted infielder Max Muncy to take his place on the active roster.
Via the Bay Area News Group’s John Hickey (on Twitter), Zobrist says he’s hopeful he can return by the start of June, giving the A’s four more months of regular-season baseball with him before he becomes a free agent. But the injury limits the amount of time the Athletics have to recoup the investment they made this offseason when they sent top prospect Daniel Robertson (along with big-leaguer John Jaso and another prospect, Boog Powell) to Tampa Bay for Zobrist and Yunel Escobar. Zobrist had been very durable before this season, having played 146 or more games in every year since 2009.
The Athletics have designated lefty reliever Eury De La Rosa for assignment, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets. The move clears space on the 40-man roster for infielder Max Muncy, who’s needed because the A’s are placing Ben Zobrist on the 15-day disabled list. Slusser also tweets that if Zobrist has arthroscopic knee surgery, which currently seems to be a possibility, he would likely be out three to six weeks.
The Athletics acquired the 25-year-old De La Rosa in a December trade after the Diamondbacks designated him for assignment. He’s spent the beginning of the 2015 season pitching at Triple-A Nashville, where he struck out four batters and walked five in six innings. Last season, he posted a 2.52 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and 4.6 BB/9 in 39 1/3 innings at Triple-A Reno, along with a 2.95 ERA, 7.9 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 in 36 2/3 innings in the big leagues.
Though the Giants have had a rough start to the season — their 4-9 record has them at the bottom of the NL West — new GM Bobby Evans isn’t overly concerned yet, and an early-season trade for reinforcements is unlikely, he tells the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. “At this point you’re just going back to players that were offered you before that you didn’t deal for,” Evans explains. “Players who some teams are still trying to move that you took a pass on.” Injuries have already been a problem for San Francisco, who saw Hunter Pence go down with a broken forearm in Spring Training and have already placed both Matt Cain and Jake Peavy on the 15-day disabled list. Cafardo notes, however, that in all three of the Giants’ recent World Series runs, midseason acquisitions such as Cody Ross, Marco Scutaro and Peavy have played integral roles (I’d add Pat Burrell‘s name to that list as well), and this year will likely be no different if the Giants are to ultimately turn things around.
Here’s more from Cafardo’s weekly Sunday Baseball Notes column…
- The Red Sox are in a catch-22 with Allen Craig, writes Cafardo. His poor 2014 performance has reduced him to a bench player, and no team is currently making much of an effort to acquire the first baseman/outfielder. However, if he doesn’t play much, he’s unlikely to look any better and boost his trade value.
- Right-hander John Lackey is hopeful that the Cardinals will approach him about a contract extension, Cafardo reports, but the team is currently thrilled to have him at just the league minimum. Lackey’s preference may be to remain with the Cardinals, but he’ll likely pitch in 2016 whether it’s in St. Louis or elsewhere, as he recently told USA Today’s Bob Nightengale that he wouldn’t be pitching this year if he didn’t plan to play beyond 2015.
- One general manager who has inquired recently tells Cafardo that the Phillies‘ asking price on Cole Hamels has not dropped one bit since the beginning of the season, despite the fact that Hamels has had two rough starts in his first three appearances of the year. Hamels has, somewhat incredibly, yielded seven homers in just 18 innings after surrendering only 14 in 204 2/3 frames last year. Of course, homer-to-flyball ratio tends to stabilize around 10-11 percent (Hamels’ career mark is 11.2 percent), and he’s currently sporting a remarkably high 36.8 percent HR/FB, so better days are almost certainly ahead for Hamels.
- An AL scout who has attended both of Scott Kazmir‘s starts this season says he’s never seen the left-hander more confident or more impressive on the mound. “Don’t know if it’s because it’s his walk year and he can become a free agent, but if he keeps this up most of the season, he’s going to make himself a lot of money,” said the scout. Of course, that’s just one scout’s take, but Kazmir has been electric to date. The 31-year-old has whiffed 18 hitters against five walks in 13 innings, and the 91.7 mph he’s averaged on his two-seamer in those two starts is up from last year’s average of 90.9, though it remains to be seen whether not that increase can be maintained.
- David Price‘s hot start to the season makes it likely that his offseason price will land somewhere in the vicinity of Max Scherzer‘s seven-year, $210MM and Clayton Kershaw‘s seven-year, $215MM pact, one Major League source opined to Cafardo.
- Former Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield is helping Frank Viola III, the son of former AL Cy Young winner Frank Viola, develop a knuckleball, Cafardo writes. Viola III was a 29th-round pick by the White Sox back in 2004, but Tommy John surgery and knee surgery derailed his career, and he retired from the game in 2010. He returned in 2014 and pitched with the Blue Jays’ Class-A affiliates, and he’s now aiming to get a look in the independent leagues as he attempts to work his way back into the game. Viola III has also worked with R.A. Dickey and Hall of Famer Phil Niekro on honing is skill with the pitch.