Athletics executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane is elite at maximizing players’ values, opines the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo, who writes that Beane is in prime position to shine as this year’s trade deadline approaches. The last-place A’s, who are likely to sell, have appealing trade chips like outfielder Josh Reddick, starter Rich Hill and relievers Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle and John Axford. None will be as intriguing as 26-year-old right-hander Sonny Gray if the A’s put him on the block, though. The A’s are unsure about whether to make Gray available, per Cafardo, who reports that double-digit scouts from contenders take in each of his starts.
- The Athletics are being careful with injured left-hander Rich Hill as he works his way back from a right groin strain, tweets Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle. The 36-year-old threw a 10-pitch bullpen session Thursday, and there’s no word yet on when the improbable ace/trade chip will return. Hill hit the disabled list on June 9, retroactive to May 30, with the ailment.
Here are the latest notable draft signings from around the majors:
- The Nationals have signed second-round shortstop Sheldon Neuse to a below-slot pact, tweets Jim Callis of MLB.com. Neuse will rake in $900K, down from the $1,107,000 allotted to the 58th pick. The righty-swinging Neuse profiles as a third baseman, according to Callis, who adds that he can hit 94 mph on the mound.
- The Pirates have agreed to a below-slot deal with second-round pick Travis MacGregor, according to Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com (Twitter link). MacGregor will receive $900K, which is $48,900 less than the value of his pick (68th overall). Baseball America rated the high school right-hander from Florida as the 186th-best prospect available in the draft, noting that the Clemson commit has bumped his fastball velocity from the high-80s into the low-90s; he also possesses an average changeup and some feel for a breaking ball.
- The Twins have agreed to sign supplemental second-rounder Jose Miranda and 11th-round choice Tyler Benninghoff, writes Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com. Miranda, a Puerto Rican shortstop, will land $775K. That’s a good deal less than the value of the 73rd pick ($878,500). BA had Miranda as the 113th-ranked player in the draft and praised his offensive abilities, though the outlet expects him to move to second or third base. Benninghoff, BA’s 201st-rated prospect, will collect the highest bonus ($600K) thus far of anyone outside of this year’s first 10 rounds. An early season biceps injury weighed down the Missouri high school righty, who BA notes had the potential to go in the first five rounds had he stayed healthy.
- The Angels have signed fourth-rounder Chris Rodriguez, the 126th pick, to a significantly above-slot deal. Rodriguez will collect $850K – not the $464,300 his selection called for – according to Callis (Twitter link). The high school righty from Florida earned the 162nd overall ranking from BA, which Rodriguez impressed with his 93 to 95 mph fastball and hard slider.
- The White Sox have agreed to a $700K deal with sixth-round shortstop Luis Curbelo, per Callis (on Twitter). That’s a far cry from the $286,700 value of the 176th choice. Callis is bullish on the Florida high schooler’s pop at the plate and plus arm, and believes he could be a major league third baseman.
- Third-rounder Aaron Civale has signed a below-slot contract with the Indians, tweets Callis. The Northeastern right-hander, who went 92nd (worth $655,500), will get $625K. Civale’s best offering is his cutter, says Callis.
- The Athletics have agreed to an above-slot deal with fourth-round pick Skylar Szynski, a high school right-hander from Indiana, reports Callis (Twitter link). As the 112th pick, Szynski was in line for a $531,500 bonus, but the A’s will give him $1MM. Szynski sits 90 to 95 mph with his fastball, complementing that pitch with a hard curve and a changeup, according to Callis.
- Third-round shortstop Stephen Alemais, a Tulane product, has signed a below-slot deal with the Pirates, Callis tweets. Alemais will receive $500K, which is $68,400 less than the worth of the 105th pick. The contact-hitting Alemais should be able to stay at short, notes Callis.
- The White Sox have signed third-rounder Alex Call for $719,100, the exact value of his pick (No. 86), relays Callis (Twitter link). The Ball State outfielder mixes pop at the plate with solid running ability and a capable arm, with Callis adding that he has the potential to play center in the majors.
- The Rangers have signed fourth-rounder Charles LeBlanc for $415K, which is $36K below the slot value of his pick – the 129th selection – tweets Mayo. BA ranked the shortstop from Pitt as the 452nd-best player available in this year’s draft, lauding his bat but questioning whether the 6-foot-4 LeBlanc will be able to stick at short.
The Mets reached out to the Athletics recently to inquire about third baseman Danny Valencia, according to a report from Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. New York went on to acquire Kelly Johnson from the Braves, but as Davidoff notes, that move doesn’t necessarily rule out a continued pursuit of Valencia.
Johnson was added both to fill an immediate need and to provide a utility option the rest of the way. Valencia, though, would be a more significant target. It’s certainly arguable that he makes even more sense for New York now than he did a few weeks back, given that David Wright has elected to undergo neck surgery due to the lack of progress on his rest-and-rehab plan.
Valencia would represent more of a direct replacement for Wright, allowing Wilmer Flores to spend more time elsewhere in the infield and pushing Johnson into a fairly limited utility role. Though he isn’t regarded as a very good fielder, Valencia has seen the field at multiple other positions, with time at the corner outfield, first base, and even second base all on his resume.
That positional flexibility ought to increase Valencia’s appeal as a trade target, especially for a New York team that faces long-term questions with Wright and will lose second baseman Neil Walker to free agency after the season.
Valencia is greatly outperforming the $3.15MM deal he signed to avoid arbitration before the 2016 campaign. He is slashing .327/.370/.550 with ten home runs over 184 plate appearances on the year, adding to the already-impressive results from a season ago. In fact, in over a thousand trips to the plate since the start of 2013, Valencia has mashed to the tune of a .290/.334/.489 line.
If he can keep up anything approaching that level of production, Valencia would make for quite a nice replacement for Wright (or upgrade for any other team that might pursue him). Of course, Oakland might prefer not to trade him for the same reason, as he’ll be controllable one more time via arbitration after the season. The A’s may well hang a fairly substantial asking price on the one-time journeyman, who has risen to the number four spot on MLBTR’s most recent ranking of top trade candidates.
Tim Lincecum is set to debut for the Angels tomorrow against the Athletics, as MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez writes. Per Gonzalez, the Angels felt that Lincecum might’ve been ready for his debut after his second rehab outing, but the pitcher himself asked GM Billy Eppler for one more rehab tune-up because he wasn’t pleased with his ability to command his fastball in that second outing. His third outing proved to be the best of the bunch, as he went seven innings and picked up eight strikeouts while yielding just one hit and one walk. His velocity is still in the 88-91 mph range, Gonzalez notes, but Eppler says that he expects Lincecum will be able to locate his fastball and secondary pitches to get by “with moxie and some deception and pitchability.” Lincecum appears set to join Jered Weaver, Hector Santiago, Jhoulys Chacin and Matt Shoemaker in the Halos’ rotation, as is reflected on their updated depth chart.
- Danny Valencia feels like he’s found a home with the Athletics — his sixth team in four years — but he knows there’s a possibility that he could again be traded this summer, he tells USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. “We all joke about it,” said Valencia, who is hitting .302/.353/.529 with 28 homers dating back to the start of the 2015 season. “They are notorious for making trades, so it’s in the back of everybody’s mind. If the team’s not in the thick of things, they will make moves and blow up the team to some degree. I know I don’t want to go anywhere. I love Oakland. I love the Bay Area. I love my coaching staff, my teammates. We all love it here.” Valencia acknowledged that the team’s poor play decreases the likelihood of him remaining there, however, and Nightengale speculates that he could be a strong fit for the Mets, who recently lost David Wright to neck surgery. Valencia’s clubhouse personality has drawn some negative reviews in the past, though teammate Yonder Alonso spoke to Nightengale about that perception, opining that Valencia is the type of player that is loved by his own team but rubs opponents the wrong way. “He’s a guy that if you’re not his team, you may not like him, and you want to beat him,” said Alonso. “If he’s on your team, you want this guy playing every single night, helping you win. And if you’re in a fight, you want him right next to you.”
- Athletics lefty Rich Hill is still about a week away from throwing off a mound, tweets Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. With his last outing having come on May 29, it seems likely that Hill will need to make at least one minor league rehab start, which could push his return back into late June or early July depending on the exact timing of his ability to throw off a mound.
There are a lot of notable draft deals to work through from the last two days. Among them:
- Blue Jays second-rounder Bo Bichette announced that he’s signed a deal, which Chris Cotillo of SB Nation tweets is for a $1.1MM bonus. A son of long-time big leaguer Dante Bichette, the high-school shortstop landed above the $978,600 value at the 66th overall pick. Fellow second-rounder J.B. Woodman inked for $975K, Callis adds on Twitter. An outfielder from Mississippi, he also will deliver some savings to Toronto. The 57th selection came with a $1.124MM slot value. The Jays also added third-round pick Zach Jackson, Callis tweets. The Arkansas righty signed for $540K, leaving the team with $45,100 in savings.
- Another second-round pick who’s ready for a minor league assignment is C.J. Chatham, who goes to the Red Sox for $1.1MM, per MLB.com (via Twitter). Chosen 51st overall, the Florida Atlantic shortstop rated just outside the top 100 per Baseball America. His signing saves the club $132,800 against the slot value.
- The Brewers agreed with second-rounder Lucas Erceg for $1.15MM, Callis reports on Twitter. The Menlo College third baseman rated 47th on the draft board of ESPN.com’s Keith Law. He was taken 46th overall, which came with an allocation of $1,386,900.
- The Twins are in agreement with second-rounder Ben Rortvedt on a $900K bonus, per another Callis tweet. Minnesota saves $241,600 against the slot value while adding the Wisconsin high school backstop. Cotillo tweets that Twins third-rounder Griffin Jax, a righty from the Air Force Academy, has agreed to an at-slot, $645.6K bonus.
- The Dodgers agreed to a $590,800 bonus with second-round pick Mitch White, MLB.com’s Jim Callis tweets. The Santa Clara righty ended up going for over $400K less than the 65th pick’s pool allocation, so Los Angeles can put that money to work in other areas.
- Rays third-round choice Austin Franklin signed for a $600K bonus that falls a bit shy of the $676,200 slot value, Callis tweets. Franklin is a high-school righty out of Florida.
- The Royals have an above-slot deal with third-rounder Khalil Lee, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets, though the exact bonus isn’t known. Taken with the 103rd selection, the Virginia high school outfielder rated 121st on BA’s board.
- The Athletics have locked up third-rounder Sean Murphy for an at-slot, $753,100 bonus, Callis tweets. Baseball America had rated him 63rd among draft-eligible prospects, but Oakland got him with the 83rd pick.
- Bryson Brigman appears to be in agreement with the Mariners for $700K, just under the $708,200 slot value, per a tweet from Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. A shortstop from the University of San Diego, Brigman went 87th overall.
- The Giants have given an at-slot, $625,900 bonus to Heath Quinn, Callis tweets. The power-hitting Samford outfielder was taken with the team’s third-round selection.
- The Cardinals signed fourth-rounder Jeremy Martinez, a catcher from the University of Southern California, for $600K, Chris Cotillo of SB Nation tweets. That lands over the $421,600 allocation that came with the 136th selection in the draft.
- Brewers fourth-round selection Corbin Burnessigned for a slot bonus of $536,400, Callis tweets. A righty from St. Mary’s, Burnes took the 57th slot on the Baseball America draft chart on the basis of improving velocity and the possibility of sticking as a starter.
Jefferies, a righty out of the University of California, faced medical questions after dealing with shoulder problems this year. MLB.com still rated him 56th among draft prospects, explaining that Jefferies holds plenty of promise for a shorter (6’0) hurler. He was able to restore some of his draft stock by returning late in the year, and will bring a solid three-pitch mix with him to Oakland.
Other prognosticators were slightly more concerned, but had him in the same general range. Baseball America placed Jefferies 61st on its list, noting that his change-up grades as a plus pitch with a slider rating as an average or better offering. Jefferies also features a low-90s fastball that at times touches 95 mph. He fell to 74th on the board of ESPN.com’s Keith Law.
Oakland will save $145,700 against the slot value for the 37th overall selection. The club also drafted collegiate starters with its other two top selections, both of whom played at the University of Florida: A.J. Puk (first round, 6th overall) and Logan Shore (second round).
6:38pm: The belief after an MRI is that the injury is “muscular and minor,” manager Bob Melvin told reporters including MLB.com’s Jane Lee (Twitter link). The hope is that Manaea will be back after the minimum (or close to it).
6:15pm: The Athletics have placed young southpaw Sean Manaea on the 15-day DL, per Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter). He has been diagnosed with a pronator strain in his left forearm.
Things could be worse, as it was scary to see the 24-year-old walk off with an apparent injury in his most recent start. Forearm troubles often precede more serious elbow issues, and it’s promising that there’s no current evidence of a problem further up the arm. On the other hand, as Carson Smith showed earlier this year, a preliminary assessment of a forearm injury doesn’t mean that the ulnar collateral ligament is safe.
Manaea represents an important part of Oakland’s present and future plans. He has struggled a bit early in his debut season, surrendering 33 earned runs and eight long balls in 49 1/3 innings. But Manaea has also shown promise, putting up 7.3 K/9 (with a 10.7% swinging strike rate) against 2.9 BB/9.
[Related: Updated Oakland Athletics depth chart]
It’s unclear at present how long the youngster will be out, but odds are that the club will take things slow. And it’s still possible that further assessment will reveal further cause for concern — or, at least, caution. For the time being, Erik Surkamp has been recalled to take Manaea’s spot on the active roster.
This is the debut of my weekly “Knocking Down the Door” series here at MLBTR. The purpose is to identify players in Triple-A or Double-A who are doing everything in their power to earn a big league call-up in the very near future.
For the most part, I’ll try to include players who could make a significant impact soon after arriving to the majors, if not right away. So unless it’s a really slow week for potential impact prospects, I will not be telling you about the pending arrival of the next great middle reliever, spot starter or fourth outfielder.
Here are five players to keep an eye on …
Alex Bregman, 3B, Houston Astros (Double-A Corpus Christi): The Houston Astros might be the most disappointing team in baseball. And while the next Carlos Correa probably isn’t waiting in the wings—check back in another decade or so—it’s possible that Alex Bregman can give them a much-needed spark before their season goes completely down the drain.
Correa did make a quick stop in Triple-A before he was called up to the majors last season, but the fading Astros might not be able to wait much longer on the 22-year-old Bregman if they think he can help them out.
The 2nd overall pick in the 2015 draft, Bregman has been a man among boys in Double-A with a 1.007 OPS to go along with 13 homers and more walks (27) than strikeouts (20), which is a good sign that he can handle himself against big league pitching. He’s only played seven games at third base, although a move from shortstop shouldn’t be a difficult transition.
Ryon Healy, 1B, Oakland Athletics (Triple-A Nashville): The A’s have plenty of incentive to continue giving at-bats to Yonder Alonso, who was acquired in the offseason for All-Star candidate Drew Pomeranz, and Billy Butler, who is in year two of a three-year, $30MM deal.
But at some point very soon, they’ll need to move on from at least one of the two—Alonso does have 13 hits in his last eight games to boost his OPS to .642; Butler is coming off of a three-hit game that increased his OPS to .683—and reward first base prospect Ryon Healy for the damage he’s done to Double-A and Triple-A pitching this season.
The 24-year-old Healy has nine hits, including three homers, in his last 22-at-bats to give him an overall slash line of .343/.404/.615 in 60 games between the two levels.
Jose De Leon, SP/RP, Los Angeles Dodgers (Triple-A Oklahoma City): After a breakout season in 2015, Jose De Leon has fallen a bit off the radar due to multiple injuries that have limited him to only three Triple-A starts this season.
While this makes it unlikely that he’ll be able to make an impact in the Dodgers’ rotation anytime soon—he’s made a pair of three-inning starts since returning from the disabled list earlier this month—the 23-year-old right-hander is an intriguing option for a bullpen that does not have a reliable power arm to bridge the gap to closer Kenley Jansen.
In 11 innings, De Leon has allowed three earned runs on four hits with three walks while striking out 21 batters. Sounds like a power arm to me.
Hunter Renfroe, RF/LF, San Diego Padres (Triple-A El Paso): Top outfield prospect Hunter Renfroe is doing his part to earn a big league promotion with a robust .598 slugging percentage after recently belting his 13th and 14th homers of the season. Now he just needs general manager A.J. Preller to do his part and create a spot for him.
Preller has his work cut out for him as he works the phones and tries to find takers for outfielders Matt Kemp and Melvin Upton Jr. and at least some of the remaining salary due on their contracts. Trading free agent-to-be Jon Jay, who is having a nice bounce back season, shouldn’t be difficult. It should only take one trade, though, for the 24-year-old Renfroe to get the call, where the big league coaching staff will hopefully introduce him to something called “plate discipline.”
Renfroe’s Kemp-esque 7-to-45 walk-to-strikeout ratio is a concern. However, in what should be a rebuilding season, it would be great if a key part of the team’s future can get regular at-bats against big league pitching.
Ben Lively, SP, Philadelphia Phillies (Triple-A Lehigh Valley): It’s Zach Eflin who is getting the call tomorrow to replace the injured Vince Velasquez, but it could’ve easily been Ben Lively or Jake Thompson. All three are pitching well. In fact, it was pretty much a coin toss between Lively and Thompson for this highly-coveted spot on the “Knocking Down the Door” list. With the 24-year-old Lively being nearly two years Thompson’s elder, I’m giving him the nod.
Acquired from the Reds for Marlon Byrd two offseasons ago, Lively has really stepped up his game after not making much of an impression in his debut season with the Phillies. After posting a 4.13 ERA in 25 Double-A starts in 2015, the 6’4″ right-hander has put himself on the prospect map with a 1.94 ERA, 2.6 BB/9 and 7.9 K/9 in 13 starts between Triple-A and Double-A. He’s also 10-0, which is probably meaningless, but impressive, nonetheless. Maybe he’s one of those guys who “just knows how to win.”