AL West Notes: Altuve, Morales, A’s, Jackson

Astros second baseman Jose Altuve is just 5’6″, but he doesn’t allow his height, or lack thereof, to be a disadvantage, writes Tyler Kepner of the New York Times.  “He’s an anomaly,” said David Stearns, the Astros’ assistant GM. “He’s tough to explain, other than the fact he works as hard or harder than anyone, he’s got freakish hand-eye skills, he loves baseball and he wants to be great.”  More out of the AL West..

  • Bob Dutton of The Tacoma News Tribune (on Twitter) believes that the Mariners have interest in keeping Kendrys Morales beyond this season but, of course, it’ll depend on the price.  The M’s acquired Morales from the Twins in exchange for right-hander Stephen Pryor late last month.  Morales batted just .234/.259/.325 for Minnesota and has slashed .207/.280/.329 for Seattle across 22 games.
  • As commissioner Bud Selig makes his farewell tour, he readily admits that he wishes the A’s stadium situation would be resolved and over with, writes Joe Stiglich of CSNBayArea.com.  “One of the reasons for the resurgence of this sport are the new stadiums, there’s no question about it,” Selig said. “I know better than anybody (that the A’s need a new stadium). It was and is complicated. I know people don’t understand that, but it is. And if it was easy, just like if it was easy in Tampa, I’d have been 24 out of 24. But I have hopes in both places. Do I wish it’d been solved? Of course I do. I wish it had.
  • Who’s the best corner outfield prospect in baseball?  Jim Callis of MLB.com says that distinction belongs to Alex Jackson, whom the Mariners selected with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2014 draft.  Jackson was the consensus top position prospect in his class and received the third-highest draft bonus of anyone this year.  He’s got company at the top, however.  MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo says the Pirates’ Josh Bell is the game’s best corner outfield prospect.

NL West Notes: Sabean, Padres, Dodgers, Gonzalez

Earlier today, we learned that the Dodgers are interested in adding a reliever, as well as a bench bat.  The club has already added two right-handed starters this month, acquiring Roberto Hernandez and Kevin Correia. Now, comes word Zack Greinke has skipped his between-starts side session with what manager Don Mattingly called “some soreness and things like that,” reports ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Mark Saxon. The Dodgers, who have lost starters Josh Beckett and Hyun-Jin Ryu to the disabled list, are hopeful Greinke will make his next start Thursday.  Here’s more out of the NL West..

  • Giants GM Brian Sabean said he is skeptical making of any roster additions in August, tweets Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com.  Heading into tonight’s slate of games, the Giants trail the Dodgers by 3.5 games in the NL West and hold a thin lead on the second Wild Card spot.
  • New Padres GM A.J. Preller has successfully pried veteran executive Don Welke away from the Rangers, two sources tell Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News.  The Padres have confirmed the hiring announcing Welke will serve as their vice president of scouting operations.  The Rangers had the right to refuse but chose not to get in Welke’s way of taking a job with San Diego.  Welke, a long-time scout under Pat Gillick in Toronto, was in his eighth season with the Rangers after coming over from the Dodgers.
  • Earlier today, the Padres optioned right-hander Jesse Hahn to Double-A San Antonio as a way to taper his workload, according to Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. The 25-year-old has tossed 110 1/3 innings this season between San Diego and San Antonio and is expected to rejoin the parent club when rosters expand in September.
  • The Dodgers are having bullpen problems, but acquiring a quality reliever at this point of the season is downright impossible, writes MLB.com’s Sarah D. Morris.  The Dodgers’ bullpen has been performing below expectations all season long, but losing both Paul Maholm and Chris Perez weakened it even further.
  • Carlos Gonzalez underwent left knee surgery today (his third different operation this year) and says “everything went perfect,” reports Nick Groke of the Denver Post. The rehab, however, is expected to extend into Spring Training as the Rockies outfielder will be in a walking brace for three months and a determination on his status won’t be made for another two months after that.

Edward Creech contributed to this post.


Rusney Castillo Rumors: Tuesday

There has been a lot of chatter regarding 27-year-old Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo. (Read here for some reactions to his well-attended recent workout, which seems to have increased his standing quite a bit around the league.) We’ll keep tabs on the latest right here:

  • The Tigers, Red Sox, and Giants are still in the mix for Castillo, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  Meanwhile, the Cubs, Yankees, and Phillies are not expected to place high bids for him.

Earlier Updates

  • Bidding is strong, and could well reach or even exceed the $55MM level, according to a tweet from Sahadev Sharma of Baseball Prospectus. The Cubs appear not to be interested at that level, he adds.
  • The Braves are “not in the bidding right now” for Castillo, tweets David O’Brien of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. Atlanta has been noted as a possible suitor in the past.
  • Six clubs are seen as viable landing spots for Castillo at this time, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (echoing, in some cases, earlier reports): the Red SoxTigersPhilliesCubsYankees, and Mariners. Castillo could sign a deal as soon as the end of the week, Heyman adds. We’ve heard conflicting reports on Philadelphia’s interest, in particular, and one executive tells Heyman that he believes the team could be attempting to downplay its interest while working to ink Castillo.


AL East Notes: Jimenez, Red Sox, McCann, Rays

Red Sox manager John Farrell says you have to take the good with the bad when it comes to mid-season acquisition Yoenis Cespedes.  “With it will come some quick outs, but at the same time the ability to impact the baseball is a result of the aggressiveness as well,” Farrell said of Cespedes’€™ plate approach, writes Katie Morrison of WEEI.com. “€œHe hasn’€™t become more aggressive since coming over here. This is the player we were well aware of and pursued heavily. We’€™re fully accepting of the style of player he is.”  So far with Boston, Cespedes has a .219/.231/.406 line.  Here’s more out of the AL East..

  • Orioles skipper Buck Showalter announced that the club is moving Ubaldo Jimenez to the bullpen, Britt Ghiroli of MLB.com writes.  Needless to say, this isn’t how the O’s expected things to pan out when they signed Jimenez to a four-year, $50MM deal this winter.
  • Earlier today, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said that he would consider trading prospects this winter in the right deal.  With that in mind, Jason Mastrodonato of The Springfield Republican looks at some of the youngsters Cherington could possibly part with.  If the Red Sox can’t find a way to utilize catcher Blake Swihart, who is doing well at the plate in the minors and catching 48% of base stealers, he could be made available in a deal.  Right-hander Anthony Ranaudo is another promising prospect, but there’s already tons of young rotation talent in the organization.
  • It was unthinkable just months ago, but Yankees catcher Brian McCann couldn’t be given away for free right now, writes Mike Petriello of Fangraphs.  It’s unknown whether McCann has been placed on waivers, but no team would risk putting in a claim on him and getting stuck with his $17MM annual salary, Petriello opines. So far this year, McCann has a .235/.291/.380 slash line.
  • The deal the Rays made on July 31 will always and forever be known as the day they traded away David Price, but, someday, it could also be known as the day they got Willy Adames, writes Marc Topkin for Baseball America.  “The guy that’s really intriguing to me is Adames,’’ manager Joe Maddon said. “That’s the kind of guy there, when you make a trade like this, people are always going to look at who’s coming to the big leagues primarily, but you got to look under the surface. … To be that young and that proficient, he sounds very exciting.’’

Latest On Diamondbacks, Kirk Gibson

6:41pm: For his part, Diamondbacks chief baseball officer Tony La Russa says no decision has been reached just yet, writes Steve Gilbert of MLB.com.

I just think that at this point, we’re at Aug. 18, I’ve been around three months, I’ve observed a lot, talked to and met with a lot of people in the organization. I have a much better idea. I just think the official comment is, we’re at Aug. 18, the season is a month and 10 days from being over. So it won’t be long until you have to trot out your plan officially,” La Russa said.

10:09am: The Diamondbacks are planning to keep manager Kirk Gibson in his role next year, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports on Twitter. Arizona does not expect to make any official announcement at the moment.

Gibson, 57, has been at the helm in the Arizona dugout since mid-season 2010, and signed a one-year extension before the year that places him under contract for 2015. But his future — and, perhaps even moreso, that of GM Kevin Towers — came into question early this year with the team’s struggles. Things haven’t really turned around since; the D’backs have moved out of last place in the NL West, but only because of a Rockies freefall. The club ultimately added Tony LaRussa on top of the pair, installing him in the newly-created “chief baseball officer” role.

LaRussa, himself a Hall of Fame manager, has been evaluating things over the last few months and will presumably look to make any major organizational changes in rather short order once the season concludes. It remains to be seen, of course, whether this reported continuity in the field staff will carry over to the front office.


Minor Moves: Brown, Leroux

Here are the day’s minor moves:

  • The Red Sox announced that Corey Brown has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Pawtucket.  Brown, 28, saw action in three games and made just one plate appearance in this year’s stint with the Red Sox. Brown has spent the bulk of the year in Triple-A Pawtucket, where he posted a slash line of .226/.294/.452.
  • Righty Chris Leroux has accepted an outright assignment with the Yankees rather than electing free agency, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Leroux, 30, was recently designated and outrighted for the third time this season.

Padres Designate Brooks Conrad For Assignment

The Padres announced that they have designated Brooks Conrad for assignment.  In related moves, left-hander Frank Garces will be called up from Double-A San Antonio and right-hander Jesse Hahn is on his way back to San Antonio.

Conrad signed a minor league deal with the Padres in January after spending some time in Japan.  The infielder has 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, he hasn’t been able to produce the same results.  For his career, Conrad owns a .200/.271/.660 line across parts of six big league campaigns.

As our DFA Tracker shows, there are now four players in DFA limbo: Corey Brown (Red Sox), Charlie Leesman (White Sox), Wirfin Obispo (Pirates), and Conrad.


Red Sox Rumors: Bogaerts, Cespedes, Cherington

Red Sox GM Ben Cherington chatted with reporters just minutes ago and it’s no surprise to hear his admission that the club was not expecting Xander Bogaerts to struggle to this extent in 2014 (via Tim Britton of The Providence Journal on Twitter).    Still just 21, Bogaerts has slashed .226/.293/.339 in 472 plate appearances this season.  Earlier this week, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wrote that the struggles of Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. have left many around the game wondering how good each player truly is.    Here’s more out of Boston..


MLBTR Chat Transcript

Click here to read a transcript of this week’s live chat, hosted by MLBTR’s Steve Adams.


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Indians Extend Scott Atchison

The Indians have agreed to a one-year, $1MM extension with righty Scott Atchison, the club announced via press release. According to Jordan Bastian of MLB.com (via Twitter), Atchison will earn $900K next season. The deal includes a $1MM club option for 2016, which comes with a $100K buyout.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Cleveland Indians

Atchison, 38, has produced very solid results this year out of the pen since signing with Cleveland on a minor league deal. He owns a 2.95 ERA with 6.1 K/9 against 1.5 BB/9, and has held opposing hitters to a paltry .218/.251/.342 line. The result is a surprisingly dominant 0.964 WHIP, the second time in three years that he’s been charged with less than one baserunner per inning. ERA estimators largely agree with the result, as Atchison has a 3.22 FIP, 3.17 xFIP, and 2.76 SIERA on the year. Remarkably, Atchison has run up his average fastball to a career-best 92.2 mph this season.

Despite his age, Atchison was set to qualify for arbitration next year for the final time after entering the season with just under five years of service time. Presumably, Cleveland was interested in cost certainty, and perhaps also sought something of a discount. (Coming off a less successful 2013, Atchison projected to earn $1.3MM through arbitration before being non-tendered.) For Atchison, the deal protects him from a late-season injury or potential non-tender situation. And the contract does extend team control by one season through the function of the option.

The deal is somewhat reminiscent of recent late-season, one-year extensions reached with veterans like Greg Dobbs (Marlins, 2013), Chad Tracy (Nationals, 2012), and Mark Kotsay (Padres, 2012). Several hurlers, too, have inked such deals, such as Tim Byrdak‘s 2011 extension with the Mets and Livan Hernandez‘s 2010 contract with the Nationals. Each of those guarantees came in under $1.5MM, though none contained an option year.


NL Notes: Cubs, Mets, D’backs

Let’s take a look at a few notes from around the National League …

  • Some in the game believing there is an obvious trade match between the Cubs, who are loaded with middle infield prospects, and a Mets club laden with young arms, says John Harper of the New York Daily News. New York is somewhat disinclined to move its better starting pitching prospects in exchange for Chicago’s current starting shortstop, Starlin Castro, and are more attracted to the younger Addison Russell and Javier Baez. The Mets don’t believe the latter player could be had, even if they were willing to part with top prospect Noah Syndergaard, leading Harper to indicate that a move for Russell appears the most realistic possibility.
  • Whether or not it’s the case, it is time for the Mets to act like they are only a piece or two away from contention, writes Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. With several young players generating excitement, Matt Harvey working back for the spring, and many of the team’s young hurlers in the bigs or the upper minors, another season of development at the big league level would be a huge disappointment, says Martino.
  • Diamondbacks chief baseball officer Tony LaRussa is still keeping a poker face about where he intends to take the organization, writes Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. He noted that the club’s course would begin to clarify soon, with the offseason fast approaching. One focal point that did emerge was the D’backs’ instructional league, where the longtime manager indicated he will be active and involved in imparting his playing philosophies on Arizona’s best young talent.
  • Regarding the seemingly tenuous employment situations of Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson, LaRussa seemed to indicate that clarity could be forthcoming once the offseason begins, though he declined to give any timetable. “I don’t think the timing for each of those has to coincide,” he said, referring to the GM and manager. “I just think that at this point, we’re at August 18. I’ve been around three months. I’ve observed a lot, talked to and met with a lot of people in the organization. I have a much better idea.”

AL East Notes: Venditte, Beeston, Blue Jays, Herrera

Yankees farmhand Pat Venditte is hoping to have a chance to be the first major leaguer to regularly employ a switch-pitching approach, as Newsday’s Jim Baumbach writes. Just like a switch-hitter, Venditte chooses which arm he’ll use to achieve the platoon advantage. (A rule crafted with him in mind requires the pitcher to choose which side he will throw from, with switch-hitting batters then permitted to pick a side of the box.) Venditte has been quite effective; he owns a 2.49 career ERA in the minors. This year, he dominated at Double-A before getting bumped to Triple-A, where he has a 3.75 ERA over 48 frames with 8.6 K/9 against just 2.8 BB/9. Across both levels, he has held righties to a .668 OPS, with lefties posting a meager .512 mark against his sidearm offerings (a mid-80s heater and a slider, one from each side).

Here’s more from the American League East:

  • While Blue Jays watchers tend to have focused on the standing of GM Alex Anthopoulos, who reportedly will stay on past the present season, an even more important situation to watch is that of CEO Paul Beeston, writes Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. Beeston’s contract is said to be expiring this year, says Davidi, and other organizational changes signal that change could be afoot.
  • Blue Jays righty Chad Jenkins has been one of several Toronto players to shuttle constantly between the majors and Triple-A this year, writes Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star. The Jays have been the most active team in the league this year in optioning and recalling players, but Anthopoulos says that has resulted from an effort to avoid straining players on the major league roster. “We definitely haven’t used the waiver wire much this year,” Anthopoulos explained, “but we have consciously optioned players back and forth to avoid DL placements. That has absolutely been by design. … All players, especially relievers, realize that when the pen has been used a lot, those with options get sent out to protect the entire group, including the player being optioned.”
  • Red Sox utilityman Jonathan Herrera will undergo season-ending surgery to deal with bone chips in his elbow, tweets Alex Speier of WEEI.com. The 29-year-old, who came over from the Rockies in an offseason deal, struggled to a .233/.307/.289 slash over 104 plate appearances on the year. He played on a $1.3MM salary this year, his second season of arbitration eligibility. Though his price tag will remain manageable, Herrera would appear to be a non-tender candidate.

Dodgers Interested In Adding Reliever, Bench Bat

Dodgers GM Ned Colletti says that he is still interested in adding a bullpen arm and power bench bat to the roster, Ken Gurnick of MLB.com reports. The club has already added two right-handed starters this month, acquiring Roberto Hernandez and Kevin Correia.

Los Angeles surprised some by essentially holding firm at the July 31 non-waiver deadline, picking up only DFA’d second baseman Darwin Barney. Despite being tied to major names like David Price, the club declined to part with its top prospects to add a top player. Instead, Colletti elected to bide his time and see if any needs arose in August. “We don’t stop scouting after July 31, there’s just fewer choices,” said Colletti.

The Dodger bullpen, like its rotation, has seen its ranked thinned by injury. Chris Perez, Paco Rodriguez, and Paul Maholm (among others) are currently on the DL. As for the idea of a big bat, the current roster composition (with Juan Uribe and Hanley Ramirez out) includes the .497-slugging Scott Van Slyke but little else in the way of power options. (While Andre Ethier has shown plenty of pop at times in his career, he has slugged a meager .366 with only 4 home runs this year.) Of course, well-regarded youngster Joc Pederson is knocking on the door at Triple-A, where he owns a .301/.424/.572 line with 29 long balls.


Reds Outright Chad Rogers

Here are the minor moves from the day …

  • The Reds have outrighted right-hander Chad Rogers off the club’s 40-man roster, according to the MLB.com transactions page. Rogers, 25, has yet to see MLB action. He moved to a relief role this year after spending much of his career as a starter, but has struggled thus far in 2014. Over 45 2/3 innings, Rogers owns a 4.53 ERA but has walked as many batters (5.7 per nine) as he has struck out. All of those marks are career-worsts.

Rusney Castillo Rumors: Monday

Here’s the latest on Cuban free agent Rusney Castillo, who has drawn plenty of attention from teams looking to add a bat this year and into the future …

  • Several competitors believe that the Phillies are the favorites to land Castillo, George A. King III of the New York Post reports, though that is not a universally shared belief. While Castillo is actively considering offers, there is presently no known timetable for him to choose a team and finalize a contract, King adds. Sources tell King that the contractual guarantee will likely fall in the $40MM to $55MM range.

Earlier Updates

  • Castillo is “moving quickly” toward choosing a club, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald reports on Twitter. As Lauber notes, the Red Sox are one club that appears to be strongly pursuing the 27-year-old outfielder/infielder. Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com reported early this morning that Boston was intrigued by Castillo’s skillset and was continuing to pursue him despite the recent additions of Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig.
  • The Phillies appear to be a “longshot” to add Castillo, reports Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, who also notes that a decision seems to be close. Though Philadelphia GM Ruben Amero Jr. is in contact with Castillo’s representatives, Salisbury cites sources who question just how interested the club is in beating the market for Castillo.
  • Responding to a poll this morning, MLBTR readers say that the Yankees and Red Sox are the leading candidates to land Castillo, with “mystery team” and the Tigers the next most likely destinations.