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One of the biggest surprises of the season is that the Athletics have the third-worst record in baseball, writes Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron. The reason for Oakland’s woes, he continues, has been a bullpen that has performed dreadfully in high-leverage situations. Oakland relievers have allowed an opponent batting line roughly similar to Alexi Amarista‘s career rate in low-leverage situations, Cameron notes, but in high-leverage situations, opposing batters are hitting the A’s relief corps at a clip similar to Mike Trout‘s slash line. Cameron notes that according to BaseRuns, which estimates a team’s win-loss record based on context-neutral data, the A’s should be an 18-15 club. It’s not too late, then, for the team to expect a turnaround — especially with Ben Zobrist and Sean Doolittle nearing returns in what looks to be a weak division. However, the team has dug itself into a significant hole, so even another few weeks of poor baseball might make that hole too deep to escape.
Here’s more from the AL West…
- In his latest notes column, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports discusses a number of AL West topics and also notes the weak nature of the division. Rosenthal writes that the Rangers, who got off to an 8-16 start, have done well to stay afloat with a 5-2 road trip that has them within striking distance of .500. With Derek Holland and Martin Perez both potentially joining the club this summer, the team could hang around in contention, though he opines that they’ll need to add two relievers to make that realistic. Rosenthal also notes that the Rangers’ front office asked a number of Pirates players about former Pittsburgh bench coach Jeff Banister before hiring him as their new skipper. Andrew McCutchen, Russell Martin and A.J. Burnett were among the names to give Banister glowing reviews, and Rangers officials are quite pleased with the early returns on their hiring.
- Also in Rosenthal’s piece, he notes that sources have told him that Yunel Escobar wanted nothing to do with playing in Oakland when he was originally acquired alongside Ben Zobrist in the trade that sent a package headlined by Daniel Robertson to the Rays. Escobar’s distaste for playing with the A’s helped prompt the one-for-one swap of Escobar for Tyler Clippard. Clippard has delivered perhaps the best face-value results in the Oakland bullpen, but his peripherals have taken an alarming step backwards, as he’s averaging nearly four fewer strikeouts per nine innings and walking more than an extra batter per nine as well.
- The struggles of Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor will likely get him sent to the minors soon — possibly as soon as today, reports Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Odor’s batting line stands at an abysmal .144/.252/.233 in 103 plate appearances this season, and Grant breaks down the reasons for his struggles, most notably an inability to make any form of contact with pitches outside the strike zone. Grant breaks down the weak spots in Odor’s swing and addresses the issues he must work on to return to the Majors following his likely demotion.
- Pedro Moura and Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register discussed the landscape of the AL West as well as several Angels-related topics in their latest podcast, including whether or not the team should be interested in Allen Craig and whether or not reinforcements are needed for the back of the bullpen. (Much of the roster-related banter comes in the final 10 minutes of the podcast.) They also welcomed Jose De Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle on this episode to discuss the division-leading Astros.
In last week’s win over the Orioles, Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez officially passed Willie Mays for fourth place on the all-time home run list. Of course, his home run record is clouded by his history and the Yankees refusing to pay him his milestone bonuses has arguably become the bigger story.
Many former players have spoken out against current players that have used steroids, like Rodriguez. Former major league first baseman David Segui alleges that a few of those scolding players are PED users themselves.
“What bothers me is the hypocrites,” Segui told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. “I see them on TV sometimes criticizing people who took steroids. I say, ‘What a minute . . . maybe the public doesn’t know what you did, but I know what you did.’ Those are the ones that bother me. Just keep your mouth shut.”
Years ago, Segui fessed up to his own PED use, but he refused to turn on fellow players who also used steroids. Here’s more from Cafardo’s Sunday morning column..
- Scott Boras tells Cafardo that he’s getting closer with “a few teams” regarding Rafael Soriano. Late last month it was reported that Twins and Mariners are among the teams interested in Soriano. At the time, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, who reported that there were conversations between the M’s and Boras regarding Soriano, also suggested that the Pirates, Indians, and Dodgers could be “logical suitors.” If there is interest for Cleveland and Pittsburgh, one has to wonder if payroll constraints could play a factor.
- A major league source tells Cafardo that teams are already calling on Phillies veteran Aaron Harang and scouting him. One NL scout has been impressed with Harang before and feels that he would be worth a second-level prospect for a contending club. Back in March, MLBTradeRumors spoke with Harang about his experience in free agency and what led him to sign with the Phillies this winter. Harang also told MLBTR that he wasn’t overly concerned about the prospect of being traded midseason by GM Ruben Amaro as the team rebuilds.
- One AL GM feels that it’s just a matter of time before the A’s move left-hander Scott Kazmir. “Tick, tick, tick,” the GM said when asked if he thinks Kazmir might be moved before the deadline. “Sure. If Oakland can’t hang in, Billy [Beane] will flip him for prospects. He’s actually an interesting name. All you hear about is [David] Price, [Jordan] Zimmermann, [Johnny] Cueto, but that’s a pretty good name right there.” Yesterday, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that the A’s aren’t yet thinking about trading Kazmir as they still haven’t given up on their hopes of contending. In last place at 12-20 heading into today’s game against the Mariners, I’d imagine that the A’s will have to give some serious thought to moving the 31-year-old if things don’t turn around quickly.
A’s pitcher Jarrod Parker has suffered a fracture of the right medial epicondyle, as John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group writes. Parker is recovering from his second Tommy John surgery and given how critical the right medial epicondyle is to holding together a surgically-repair arm, it is feared that Parker could be in store for a third Tommy John procedure.
“We don’t know how much this is going to set back his recovery at this point in time,’’ A’s trainer Nick Paparesta said Saturday night. “He’s going to go home, where we’re going to set him up to see some specialists and see what our options are. It seems like surgery is kind of imminent, what kind of surgery we kind of have to wait and see.’’
Until Parker gets further evaluated, he won’t know the exact nature of his injury or the level of surgery that will be required. Therefore, at this time, there is no timetable for his recovery, but it sounds like there is fear that he could be lost for the season. Parker received a x-rays and a CT-scan on Saturday night, so a diagnosis might not be too far away.
Parker, 26, broke out in his first full major league season, pitching to a 3.47 ERA with 6.9 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9. He followed that up in 2013 by posting a 3.97 ERA with 6.1 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 across 32 starts. Unfortunately, however, he has not seen a big league mound since then. This season, Parker in the minors working to get back on track before this latest setback.
The Athletics have acquired right-hander Edward Mujica and cash considerations from the Red Sox in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations, the teams announced. Right-hander Jarrod Parker has been transferred to the 60-day disabled list to clear a 40-man roster spot for Mujica in Oakland, per MLB.com’s Jane Lee (Twitter link).
This complicated-looking trade likely essentially means that the Red Sox are giving up Mujica, plus a bit of extra money to pay some of the remainder of his $4.75MM 2015 salary, in exchange for a bit of salary relief. The Red Sox designated Mujica for assignment this week after he posted a 4.61 ERA with eight strikeouts and three walks in 13 2/3 innings this year. The former Cardinals closer didn’t make much of an impression after signing with the Red Sox before last season, posting a 3.90 ERA, 6.5 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 in 2014.
Mujica doesn’t throw particularly hard and has modest strikeout totals, not topping that 2014 6.5 K/9 in any of the last four seasons. As a result, his upside appears limited. He’s always had good control and has gotten his fair share of ground balls, however, so perhaps he can provide the Athletics with a decent middle reliever at a reasonable price until he becomes a free agent after the season. The Athletics’ bullpen has produced a 5.29 ERA this season while struggling through injuries, so Mujica looks likely to help.
Here are today’s minor moves from around the game.
- The White Sox have announced that they’ve selected the contract of righty Chris Beck to be the 26th man for the second game of their doubleheader today. Beck, 24, has made his way through the minors with few strikeouts but strong control, posting 5.4 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 since the White Sox drafted him in the second round in 2012. This season, he had a 4.78 ERA with 6.2 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 in 26 1/3 innings with Triple-A Charlotte.
- The Reds have signed outfielder Jose Constanza to a minor-league deal, according to MLB.com’s transactions page. The 31-year-old Constanza collected 240 plate appearances with the Braves from 2011 through 2014, batting .273/.316/.323. He spent most of last season with Triple-A Gwinnett. The Braves released him last month.
- The Blue Jays have signed veteran starter Joel Pineiro to a minor-league deal and assigned him to Double-A New Hampshire, Jays broadcaster Mike Wilner tweets. Pineiro, 36, last pitched in the big leagues with the Angels in 2011. He pitched briefly in the Cubs and Angels systems in a comeback bid last season, then pitched winter ball in Puerto Rico.
- The Brewers will sign infielder Chris Nelson to a minor-league deal, according to SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (Twitter links). The Phillies recently released Nelson from their minor-league deal with him. The five-year veteran played briefly with the Padres in 2014. The former first-round pick has a career line of .265/.311/.388, with many of his at-bats coming in hitter-friendly Coors Field.
- The Padres have outrighted catcher Wil Nieves to Triple-A El Paso, according to the MLB.com transactions page. The Padres designated Nieves for assignment earlier this week to make room for top prospect Austin Hedges. It’s unclear whether Nieves will accept his outright assignment or opt for free agency. Nieves appeared in just six games for the Padres this year.
- The Cubs have outrighted righty Anthony Varvaro, also according to the MLB.com transactions page. The Cubs recently claimed Varvaro from the Red Sox and then designated him for assignment on Wednesday. He did not appear in a game for them. He pitched in nine games for Boston earlier this season.
- The Athletics have released outfielder Alex Hassan, according to the Pacific Coast League transactions page. That news might actually come as a relief to Hassan, who had been claimed five times in the past seven months. The A’s designated Hassan for assignment yesterday.
- The Angels have released corner infielder Ryan Wheeler, via the Pacific Coast League transactions page. They had claimed the 26-year-old from the Rockies last August. Wheeler, who played briefly in the big leagues in 2012, 2013 and 2014, was hitting .291/.304/.418 for Triple-A Salt Lake, although he has a track record of hitting for better power at the Triple-A level.
- The Rays have announced that they’ve placed Alex Cobb, who’s having Tommy John surgery, on the 60-day DL and selected the contract of 23-year-old righty Andrew Bellatti. Bellatti had struck out 20 batters in 21 1/3 innings at Triple-A Durham this season, posting a 2.11 ERA, pitching as a starter even though he had spent most of the previous three seasons working in relief. As Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times explains, it’s been a strange path to the Majors for Bellatti, a 2009 draft pick who spent a few months in jail for vehicular manslaughter following a 2010 car accident.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Alex Hassan | Anthony Varvaro | Chicago Cubs | Chicago White Sox | Chris Nelson | Cincinnati Reds | Joel Pineiro | Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | Milwaukee Brewers | Oakland Athletics | Ryan Wheeler | San Diego Padres | Tampa Bay Rays | Toronto Blue Jays | Transactions | Wil Nieves
The Dodgers paid the Marlins to take on Dan Haren‘s salary and traded Dee Gordon in part to get Howie Kendrick, and Gordon has been one of baseball’s best players so far this season, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times writes. “I think this is kind of a fresh start for him,” says Haren. “I’ve been traded many times. You always kind of get a chip on your shoulder. You want to prove the other team wrong.” Gordon is hitting a ridiculous .437/.461/.521. Obviously, he won’t bat .437 or post a .491 BABIP over the course of a season, and May 9 isn’t the best time to judge offseason trades. But Gordon’s start would have helped the Dodgers (although Kendrick has played well), and Haren would have been a useful part in what’s been a banged-up rotation. Here are more notes from the West divisions.
- Recent injuries to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin show why the Athletics acquired so much starting pitching this offseason, John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group writes. The A’s got Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman in the Josh Donaldson deal, Jesse Hahn in the Derek Norris trade and Chris Bassitt in the Jeff Samardzija trade. Hahn is the only one of the four who’s made a significant impression so far, but the Parker and Griffin injuries could create opportunities for the other three.
- It might now be next to impossible for the Rockies to trade Carlos Gonzalez, FanGraphs’ Paul Swydan writes. Gonzalez’s ability to hit for power appears to have dwindled, and it will be difficult to interest other teams in a “broken down player” who will make $16MM this year and a total of $37MM in 2016 and 2017. Gonzalez will also receive a $1MM bonus if the Rockies trade him.
Here’s the latest from Ken Rosenthal, via a video at FOX Sports:
- The Athletics aren’t currently considering trading Scott Kazmir and aren’t yet letting go of their hopes of contending, Rosenthal says. The team was dealt another blow yesterday, however, in the form of setbacks to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin, at least one of whom the A’s might have counted on later in the season to fill a spot in the rotation and bump Drew Pomeranz to the bullpen.
- An executive says the Indians could be sellers this summer if their 10-18 season doesn’t dramatically improve. Carlos Santana and Brandon Moss could be on the block if they do. Santana is signed through 2016 with a reasonable option for 2017, while Moss has one more year of arbitration eligibility beyond this one before he can become a free agent.
- Rosenthal wonders how it will be possible for the Reds to sign Todd Frazier long-term, given their already-heavy load of commitments to veterans. Rosenthal says Frazier is eligible for free agency after next season, although he actually isn’t eligible until after 2017 — his current contract carries through 2016, but the Reds can take him through arbitration once more after that. That one year makes a considerable difference, since it means the Reds already control Frazier through his age-31 season. As terrific a year as Frazier is having, trying to control him beyond 31 might be risky, and representative of the kinds of commitments that have caused the Reds’ current payroll headaches. Still, Rosenthal is probably right that Frazier could become a trade candidate at some point, given the Reds’ need to acquire young talent.
Today marks the 55th birthday of Padres great Tony Gwynn, a birthday that provides opportunity for reflection after Gwynn’s untimely death from cancer last June. Gwynn’s son Tony Gwynn Jr., currently an outfielder for the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs in the Nationals system, says he had trouble coming up with a specific tribute to his father for his team’s game against Durham today, Kirk Kenney of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. The younger Gwynn notes that his father’s general policy was to “show up, do your job and go home.” Gwynn Jr. did, however, end up with two singles in five at-bats, which seems about right as a nod to his dad. Here’s more from the West divisions.
- The Rangers‘ outright of Mike Kickham seems like a minor one, but it could portend more transactions in the near future, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram writes. The move could clear space on the Rangers’ 40-man for infielder Ed Lucas, who could take over for Rougned Odor at second base, Wilson suggests. Delino DeShields could also see time at second, although probably not in a regular or even platoon role. The 21-year-old Odor has hit a meager .144/.252/.233 so far this season, while the 32-year-old Lucas has hit .316/.381/.421 for Triple-A Round Rock.
- Barry Zito, who’s with the Athletics‘ Triple-A affiliate in Nashville, is still adjusting to life in the minor leagues, Joe Stiglich of CSNBayArea.com writes. “I had to re-calibrate mentally and embrace the competition. It was definitely tough, and travel in the PCL is very difficult,” says Zito. “You’re up at 3 a.m., usually flying with a layover, to play a game that day. We’ve already sat on a tarmac in Abilene, Texas. There’s all kinds of shenanigans (with) commercial flights.” Zito, who turns 37 this week, has a 5.74 ERA with 6.3 K/9 and 4.9 BB/9 in 31 1/3 innings for Nashville as he attempts to make it back to the big leagues after a year away from the game.
We touched on injuries earlier this evening, but two significant situations have popped up since — both regarding rehabbing Athletics pitchers. First, righty A.J. Griffin was forced out early from his simulated game with shoulder soreness, as John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group reports. Griffin’s injury was to his elbow, of course, and the club is hopeful that the shoulder pain only constitutes a minor setback. More troublingly, fellow Tommy John patient Jarrod Parker left his Triple-A rehab start in a scene that left observers seriously concerned about his arm, as Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Parker, who is said to have been overcome by pain after throwing a very wild pitch, walked off with assistance while clutching his surgically repaired right elbow — which is now on its third UCL. The Athletics‘ summer trade plans are virtually impossible to gauge anyway, but the inability of either of those pitchers to return to the rotation would certainly have an impact. Lefty Scott Kazmir has been talked about quite a bit as a possible trade candidate, though moving him could prove tough if the team is in contention and does not have replacements lined up.
- Another new arm issue cropped up for the Rays, too, who have placed lefty Drew Smyly on the 15-day DL with shoulder soreness, per Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune (Twitter link). Smyly, the key piece in last summer’s David Price trade, had already missed time early this year with a shoulder issue, which enhances the level of concern.
- Injured Orioles shortstop Everth Cabrera, who has struggled for Baltimore, is no longer capable of being optioned without consent as he has reached five years of service, Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun notes (Twitter link). With J.J. Hardy returning to action, Cabrera may not have an active roster spot when he returns, and his new service time status could well complicate the club’s decisionmaking.
- The Red Sox have hired away Carl Willis from the Indians to become their new pitching coach, Jim Massie of the Columbus Dispatch reports (h/t to Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe). Willis had been the Triple-A pitching coach for Cleveland. He’ll be tasked with getting better production out of a starting staff that has struggled in the first five weeks of the season.
- Prized White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon is expected to receive only a spot start tomorrow, Doug Padilla of ESPNChicago.com reports. Manager Robin Ventura did leave some room open for Rodon to earn another start, however, saying: “the way it sits right now, he would still be back in the bullpen and getting us some innings there.” Regardless of how things progress in the near term, it seems that Chicago’s plan is to use Rodon in the pen to manage his innings, perhaps with the hope of having him as a starter down the stretch — assuming, at least, that the club can stay in the postseason picture.
The Angels have acquired righty Chad Smith from the Athletics for cash considerations, Oakland announced. Smith had been designated for assignment.
The 25-year-old had a rough go in a short stint this year at the big league level for the A’s, who claimed him off waivers from the Tigers this winter. All said, he owns a 8.31 ERA in his 13 big league frames, with 11 strikeouts and eight walks. He was better in his 11 2/3 innings at Triple-A this season, however, permitting just three earned runs while striking out seven and issuing five walks.
For the Angels, the move was about building bullpen depth. As Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register tweets, Smith will be optioned to Triple-A.