Trade Market Notes: Papelbon, Indians, Cotts, Maybin

Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon said today that he would be surprised and disappointed if he is not traded this summer,’s Todd Zolecki reports. The veteran righty indicated that he’d be willing to waive his no-trade clause to play for any contender — provided, that is, that he’d work in a closing capacity. “I think [the front office] knows where I’m at,” he said. “I’ve always been straightforward that I want to go play for a contender and I’m not going to shy away from it. I feel like that’s my right and my prerogative to have that opportunity and, you know, it’s in their hands. The ball’s in their court. I guess that’s kind of it.” While Papelbon’s preferences will play a significant role in his market, he’s done nothing but increase his trade value through his on-field performance this year. Entering today’s action, the 34-year-old owns a 1.65 ERA with 9.4 K/9 against 1.9 BB/9 — and a career-best 50.6% groundball rate — on the season.

  • The Indians are still alive for a post-season berth even though the club has underperformed expectations, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the club will probably stand pat for the most part at the trade deadline. Cleveland is not terribly interested in dealing away Carlos Santana, but could consider moving David Murphy or Ryan Raburn, both of whom have been quite productive this year and can be controlled through fairly reasonable 2016 options. In the event that the Indians decide to add pieces, says Rosenthal, the club could target a pen arm or a bat (at an unidentified position — the left side of the infield seeming most likely).
  • The Twins and Brewers have had some preliminary trade chats, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press reports (Twitter links). It is not clear precisely what players were under discussion, though Berardino indicates that Milwaukee lefty Neal Cotts could hold some appeal to Minnesota.
  • Some opposing clubs believe the Braves could be interested in selling high on outfielder Cameron Maybin this summer, Buster Olney of reports on Twitter. Olney had previously indicated on Twitter that Atlanta was not interested in parting with Maybin, who’s been quite a pleasant surprise since coming over as part of the salary swaps in the Craig Kimbrel deal. But he could have significant appeal to teams in need of an outfielder, particularly if the market ends up being largely devoid of bats.

Angels, A’s Talked Reddick, Zobrist Before Dipoto Resignation

10:16pm: The A’s gave the Halos “a flat ‘no'” when Reddick was brought up, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports adds. Notably, per the report, Los Angeles also inquired about Ben Zobrist, adding to the laundry list of teams with at least some interest in the useful veteran.

5:44pm: The Angels have been on the lookout for corner outfield help, and’s Alden Gonzalez reports that the team had discussions with the Athletics regarding Josh Reddick prior to the resignation of now-former Angels GM Jerry Dipoto (all links to Twitter). According to Gonzalez, the Angels tried to get the Red Sox involved to act as a liaison — acting in a similar fashion to the Dodgers in the team’s essential three-team Howie Kendrick trade this winter — but Boston wasn’t interested.

Specific names that were discussed haven’t been revealed, but Gonzalez reports that talks never got too far off the ground. However, the report is interesting in light of Reddick’s more recent comments regarding the Athletics’ front office and his playing time (or lack thereof) against left-handed pitching. Via CSN Bay Area’s Joe Stiglich, Reddick expressed frustration recently that he’s been held out of the lineup against left-handed pitching. In a radio appearance with Ray Fosse on 95.7 The Game in Oakland, Reddick was not shy about voicing some displeasure:

“It doesn’t come from anywhere in this clubhouse. Everybody knows what situations our general manager puts up there. … There’s probably so many numbers they could dig into their computers with and try to find one just to keep me out of the lineup. … I know [manager] Bob [Melvin]’s in there fighting for me. The other day I was supposed to play against De La Rosa, and Bob texts me at around 1:30 and told me he had been ‘trumped,’ was the word he used. I understood right away. … It still frustrates me beyond belief when I don’t play.”

Melvin told Stiglich that he is the one responsible for the lineup card, not the front office, and that he “got ahead of himself” in telling Reddick he’d be playing that day. “…I backtracked and told him you’re not playing now. And maybe to an extent he thought I was so-called trumped.”

Reddick did walk his comments back slightly, as Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports, though he did not waver from his feelings on playing time. “Bottom line, I want to be out there every day, no matter who’s on the mound,” said Reddick. “That was the message. How it came out may not have been how I wanted it to come out. Some miscommunication between me and Bob. I probably just assumed too much. … Who knows at this point how things are worked out? But I talked to Bob and we got a handle on it between the two of us.”

Platoons have long been commonplace in Oakland, and it seems that players there generally buy into the idea of part-time roles, though it’s not surprising to hear that any player would want to be in the lineup on a more regular basis. Reddick’s struggles against left-handed pitching, though, have been extensive. He’s batting .329/.384/.527 against righties this year but just .159/.227/.232 in 75 plate appearances against lefties. While a 75-PA sample is far too small to make a full assessment, Reddick’s lifetime slash line against same-handed pitching is .220/.283/.379, and the vast majority of that production came back in 2011-12. It’s certainly possible that fewer reps and more limited exposure to left-handed pitching have caused his skills in that regard to diminish, of course, but dating back to 2013, Reddick is hitting .198/.276/.296 in 328 turns at bat vs. lefties.

To what extent the Angels will remain interested following the abrupt departure of Dipoto isn’t known. The team still has a need to acquire left-handed bats and has received only a collective .220/.279/.319 batting line from its left fielders in 2015. Reddick is primarily a right fielder — and a good one at that, though defensive marks are a bit down on him in 2015 — so perhaps Kole Calhoun could slide to left field in the event that the division rivals match up down the road.

As for the A’s, it remains to be seen how interested the club will be in dealing away Reddick if it comes time to sell. The 28-year-old is controllable for another season through arbitration after earning a rather reasonable $4.1MM this year. Players like Ben Zobrist and Scott Kazmir have received more attention as possible trade pieces, in large part because they will become free agents after the season. But Oakland will surely at least entertain the possibility of a move involving Reddick, who could be in fairly high demand.

Ricky Nolasco To Undergo Ankle Surgery

Twins GM Terry Ryan announced today that starter Ricky Nolasco will undergo surgery on his right ankle, as’s Rhett Bollinger was among those to report. Nolasco has missed the last five weeks with an ankle impingement, and had been attempting to avoid a procedure.

While Nolasco’s timeline remains unclear, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets that a six-to-eight week absence seems to be the best-case scenario. It’s not clear whether that estimate would include the necessary rehab period, but regardless, it seems that Nolasco won’t have much of an impact until the tail end of the year — if at all.

That’s obviously disappointing news for a Minnesota club that was expecting to get steady, if unspectacular, production out of Nolasco when they signed him to a four-year, $49MM deal before the 2014 campaign. Now 32, Nolasco has contributed 191 2/3 innings of 5.40 ERA pitching to the organization.

The Twins have lagged a bit over the last several weeks since peaking at 11 games over .500, but are very much still in the postseason picture as the trade deadline nears. Particularly with Nolasco down, the rotation contains some questions. Mike Pelfrey has faded of late, while hurlers such as Kyle Gibson and Tommy Milone have outperformed their peripherals by notable margins.

While there surely is some impetus for an addition, the club did just plug Ervin Santana back into the staff. The veteran returned from his PED suspension yesterday and turned in quite a strong outing.

Minor MLB Transactions: 7/6/15

Here are the day’s minor moves:

  • The Mariners have released utilityman Willie Bloomquist, the club announced (via’s Greg Johns, on Twitter). Bloomquist was designated for assignment recently after a tough .159/.194/.174 start to the season. Seattle will owe the versatile defender the rest of his $3MM salary for the year.
  • The Red Sox outrighted right-hander Zeke Spruill after recently designating him, per a club announcement (h/t to Tim Britton of the Providence Journal, via Twitter). As he’s never before been outrighted and has little service time, Spruill did not have the opportunity to elect free agency after clearing waivers. The 25-year-old will continue working at Triple-A, where he’s worked 53 1/3 innings with a 5.40 ERA with 3.9 K/9 against 2.7 BB/9 over 53 1/3 innings for Pawtucket.

Royals Designate Jason Frasor For Assignment

The Royals announced today that they have designated right-hander Jason Frasor for assignment in order to clear space on the roster for outfielder Paulo Orlando.

The move will likely come as a surprise to many Royals fans — and fans in general — as the veteran setup man has worked to a stellar 1.54 ERA in 23 1/3 innings this season. However, Frasor’s also battled his control all season long, posting an 18-to-15 K/BB ratio in that time. That sub-par accuracy has led secondary stats like FIP (4.03), xFIP (4.60) and SIERA (4.71) to take a significantly more pessimistic stance on Frasor’s work to this point. Of course, it should also be noted that a pair of the walks yielded by Frasor in 2015 have been of the intentional variety.

The Royals acquired Frasor last summer in exchange for minor league right-hander Spencer Patton, and Frasor rewarded the team with a 1.53 ERA and a 16-to-1 K/BB ratio in 17 2/3 innings down the stretch in their push to the postseason. Frasor allowed just one run in 5 1/3 playoff innings and was re-signed by the Royals on a one-year, $1.8MM contract that includes a $1.25MM salary and a $550K buyout of a $2MM mutual option for the 2016 season.

Frasor chose the Royals over a few other interested clubs, with the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ Mike Berardino reporting back in December that the Twins were one team to make an offer. Agent Dave Meier told Berardino that the Twins were one of the final teams under consideration by Frasor. Given Minnesota’s own bullpen struggles and Frasor’s modest salary — he’s owed about $621K plus the $550K buyout — it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Twins among the teams to show interest. Kansas City will have 10 days to trade, release or attempt to outright Frasor, although even if he’s outrighted, he can refuse the minor league assignment in favor of free agency and retain his salary.

Josh Harrison Out Indefinitely With Thumb Injury

2:51pm: Harrison says he’ll receive a second opinion once the swelling in his hand goes down, but for the time being, there’s no specific diagnosis or timeline on his recovery, per’s Adam Berry (on Twitter).

2:36pm: Pirates third baseman Josh Harrison will miss the next six weeks with a torn ligament in his thumb, reports Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Twitter links). Harrison injured his thumb while sliding into second base on Sunday, according to Biertempfel.

Harrison will be placed on the disabled list to accommodate the club’s roster claim of Travis Ishikawa, the Pirates announced. The loss of Harrison likely means that the Pirates’ infield alignment will feature Jung Ho Kang at third base and Jordy Mercer at shortstop for the foreseeable future. Harrison will also no longer be an option to spell Gregory Polanco in right field against left-handed pitching, as he’s done on occasion this season.

The 27-year-old Harrison signed a four-year extension with the Pirates this offseason and got off to a slow start in the wake of that deal. However, he’s turned it on since the beginning of May, batting .302/.335/.391 in that time with a pair of homers and nine steals. Most of his defensive work this season has come at the hot corner, where Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved peg him at slightly below average to average, although he grades out as a plus defender there over the course of his entire career.

Harrison’s loss makes the club’s offseason acquisition of Kang that much more crucial, as Kang’s versatility will soften the blow of losing Harrison’s productivity for the next month and a half.

Tigers Claim Marc Krauss From Rays

The Tigers announced that they’ve claimed first baseman Marc Krauss off waivers from the Rays. Tampa Bay had designated Krauss for assignment over the weekend.

The claim of Krauss is a fairly logical move for the Tigers, who learned this weekend that they’ll be without two-time AL MVP Miguel Cabrera for the next six weeks due to a calf injury. Krauss, 27, hasn’t hit much in the Majors over parts of the past three seasons, but he does have some power, with 11 homers in 402 big league plate appearances and a career .198 ISO in the minors. With this move, he’ll join his fourth organization of the past seven months. The Angels claimed Krauss off waivers from the Astros back in December then traded him to the Rays earlier this season.

A’s Acquire Aaron Kurcz From Braves

The Braves announced that they’ve traded right-hander Aaron Kurcz to the Athletics in exchange for an international bonus slot that’s valued at $167K.’s Mark Bowman tweets that this latest trade will allow the Braves to sign Venezuelan shortstop Juan Morales.

The Braves have been the most active team in terms of trading for international bonus money. They’ve moved right-handers Cody Martin, Caleb Dirks and Garrett Fulenchek in addition to outfielder Jordan Paroubeck and now Kurcz in order to acquire an additional $1.299MM in bonus money to sign Morales, Dominican shortstop Derian Cruz and Dominican outfielder Christian Pache. By making these trades, the Braves have avoided incurring spending restrictions in the 2016-17 signing period, and Ben Badler of Baseball America tweets that the organization plans to spend aggressively in next year’s class.

An 11th-round pick by the Cubs in 2011, Kurcz went to the Red Sox as part of the compensation package for Red Sox GM turned Cubs president Theo Epstein. Boston traded him to the Braves in the offseason deal that sent Anthony Varvaro to the Red Sox. Kurcz, 24, missed the 2013 season due to Tommy John surgery but has otherwise posted consistently low ERA marks and gaudy strikeout totals with questionable control. He has a lifetime 2.87 ERA in the minors with 11.6 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9, with his BB/9 rates worsening as he’s ascended he minor league ladder.

Trade Market For Catchers

The Rays, Twins, Angels and Rangers all represent teams that above or near the .500 mark despite scarce production from the catcher position. Beyond that quartet, the Mariners, Marlins, Braves and White Sox have all received poor production, with none of the four definitively declaring itself a selling club yet. Many teams are in need of catching reinforcements, be it an upgrade of their primary catcher or an improved reserve option. We’ll kick off the 2015 Trade Market series here at MLBTR by running down a list of some players that could reasonably stand out as trade chips:


Jonathan Lucroy (Brewers), Stephen Vogt (Athletics), Derek Norris (Padres), Austin Hedges (Padres), Nick Hundley (Rockies), A.J. Pierzynski (Braves), Brayan Pena (Reds), Kevin Plawecki (Mets), Andrew Susac (Giants)

  • Lucroy’s offense in 2015 has been slowed somewhat a broken toe he suffered early on, but his track record and team-friendly contract make him a highly desirable asset. He’s earning $3MM in 2015, $4MM in 2016 and has a $5.25MM club option for 2017. The Brewers aren’t going anywhere this year and could be a long shot to contend in 2016, so listening to offers makes sense. Lucroy has batted .291/.345/.370 since coming off the DL.
  • Vogt has homered just twice since June 1 and slashed .245/.336/.355 in that time. Even that production is solid for a catcher, though, and his season line is still a robust .290/.380/.502. He’s homered 13 times despite calling O.Co Coliseum home, and Vogt is controllable through 2019. Though he’s been speculatively mentioned as a trade chip, those hoping to acquire the slugger (and the epic “I believe!” chants that come with him) may be doing some wishful thinking; GM Billy Beane has candidly said he’s not trading Vogt. Skeptics will point out that Beane’s comment is more than a month old and that the A’s expressed similar reservations about dealing Josh Donaldson last October. (Granted, those comments were made anonymously and not on-record by the GM.) I find a trade unlikely.
  • The 26-year-old Norris might be another long shot to be moved, as he’s controllable through 2018. The Padres parted with Jesse Hahn and R.J. Alvarez to land Norris this offseason, and he’s provided league-average offense for a San Diego club that is further down the standings than they’d hoped to be. GM A.J. Preller has proven to be quite aggressive and could conceivably move Norris, paving the way for Hedges as the catcher of the future.
  • Hedges hasn’t hit a lick in the Majors, but he’s a premium defender who hit quite well in 21 Triple-A games this year prior to his call-up. Some scouts have questioned whether or not he’ll ever hit in the Majors, however, and he wasn’t terribly impressive at the plate in Double-A last season. The Pads could theoretically move Hedges over Norris if they don’t feel that Hedges will develop at the plate enough to profile as a starter.
  • Hundley’s a classic trade candidate — a veteran hitter on a short-term deal that is enjoying a productive season for a last-place club. Signed to an affordable two-year, $6.25MM deal this offseason, Hundley’s slashing .296/.341/.458 with six homers. Most of that production has come at Coors Field, of course, but his road line of .264/.319/.364 is above average for a catcher.
  • The Braves are in contention, so trading Pierzynski may not be high on their to-do list, but he’s a productive veteran on a one-year, $2MM deal, so it has to be mentioned. Atlanta could flip Pierzynski and re-install Christian Bethancourt behind the plate. They could also move Pierzynski and acquire a different young catcher, as they’ve reportedly been asking rival clubs about young backstops. Either way, Pierzynski, who is hitting .267/.304/.416, isn’t a long-term piece.
  • Pena’s not an elite option, but he’s in the final season of a two-year deal with the struggling Reds and has a track record of hitting for a decent average. This season’s been arguably his best; Pena is batting .298/.366/.340 in 215 plate appearances and has a modest $1.4MM salary.
  • Plawecki and Susac make the list only because their team has other long-term options on the roster. Both strike me as long shots to be moved, but either could be used as a major chip in acquiring an established veteran to fill a need for his current club. Buster Posey can continue to handle catcher in the short-term for San Francisco (even though some feel he’ll eventually move to an infield corner full-time), and Travis d’Arnaud may still be the favored long-term option in Queens. d’Arnaud is currently injured but could return this month.

Backups/Struggling Veterans/Former Starters

Michael McKenry (Rockies), Carlos Ruiz (Phillies), Alex Avila (Tigers), Geovany Soto (White Sox), Dioner Navarro (Blue Jays), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (D-Backs)

McKenry finds himself in a similar situation to teammate Hundley; he’s an affordable option that is hitting well for a last-place team. His production comes mostly against left-handed pitching. Navarro’s DHing for the Blue Jays but has voiced a preference to return to full-time catching, even if it means via trade. The Jays could probably use an upgrade over his bat at DH anyhow. Avila’s future at catcher is cloudy due to his concussion issues, and the Tigers could turn things over to James McCann full-time if he’s moved. Ruiz, Soto and Saltalamacchia aren’t hitting much but have done so in the past and could be change-of-scenery candidates that can be had on the cheap.

Currently in the Minors

Steve Clevenger (Orioles), Christian Bethancourt (Braves), Josmil Pinto (Twins), Gary Sanchez (Yankees), Austin Romine (Yankees), Austin Barnes (Dodgers), Max Stassi (Astros), Tony Sanchez (Pirates), George Kottaras (White Sox)

Clevenger’s excelled against Triple-A pitching in 2015 and reportedly improved his throwing, but the Orioles don’t have a spot behind Matt Wieters and Caleb Joseph. It seems like a waste for him to be in Triple-A, though there’s value in quality depth. Bethancourt looked like a building block for the Braves, but their reported interest in acquiring a young catcher could indicate that their restructured front office isn’t as high on him as the previous regime. Gary Sanchez is blocked by Brian McCann, but some feel he’s not defensively sufficient behind the plate anyhow. The same could be said of Pinto, who is currently sidelined by a concussion but has raked in the minors when healthy. The out-of-options Romine cleared outright waivers earlier this year but is hitting well at Triple-A. Barnes is another promising young catcher who is blocked on his Major League roster (Yasmani Grandal). Stassi, 24, has ranked among the top 20 prospects for the A’s and Astros for six seasons (per Baseball America), but he’s blocked by Jason Castro and Hank Conger, and he’s struggling at Triple-A this year. Tony Sanchez has never lived up to his No. 4 draft slot and hasn’t hit much in the upper minors, but he could be a buy-low or backup option. The veteran Kottaras is no stranger to the bigs and is enjoying a monster season at Triple-A.

Latest On Braves’ First-Rounder Kolby Allard

The Braves have signed all of their top picks with the exception of first-round selection Kolby Allard, and David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that it’s looking like there’s a “legit chance” that Allard will honor his commitment to UCLA rather than sign with Atlanta (Twitter links). O’Brien does add that there’s a chance this could be posturing in an attempt to get a bit more money out of the Braves.

Selected with the No. 14 overall pick in this year’s draft, Allard’s slot comes with a value of $2,842,200. However, Allard was at one time speculated to be selected within the top 10, if not top five picks of this year’s draft before a stress reaction in his back cost him about two months of his senior season at San Clemente High School in California. As such, it’s possible that Allard’s advisers are pushing for a bonus that’s more commensurate with higher draft slots.

The Braves were assigned a bonus pool of $10,684,100 (via Baseball America) heading into this year’s draft, and they’ve saved a total of $87,500 on the rest of their picks from the top 10 rounds, per The Braves can also exceed their allotted bonus pool by 4.99 percent before incurring the loss of a pick in next year’s draft, which comes out to about $533K. Paired with the $87,500 they’ve saved on their other top picks, that means the Braves could afford to offer Allard up to $3,462,000 (roughly $620,600 over slot) without losing a future pick. That value would be just slightly below the slot value of the No. 8 overall selection ($3,470,600).

Allard ranked sixth on the Top 100 of ESPN’s Keith Law heading into the draft, while rated him 16th, and he placed 18th on the draft lists of BA and Fangraphs. Allard was considered the top prep arm in this year’s class thanks to a plus curve and an above-average fastball before injuring his back, per Law. Should Allard indeed end up attending UCLA, the Braves would be awarded with the 15th overall pick in next year’s draft (one slot lower than that of the failed signing).

Central Notes: Richard, Tigers, Verlander, Royals, Cueto

The Pirates‘ trade of minor league starter Clayton Richard to the Cubs might not seem like huge news on the surface, but the move could prove to be significant if the Bucs have injuries in the rotation, Paul Zeise of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes. With Richard out of the picture and the team’s rash of injuries, the Pirates’ organizational starting depth has been compromised.  Manager Clint Hurdle is not yet terribly concerned about it, saying “I still think we are in a place where we are coveredIf something were to happen here and we lost two starters, that might change. We have lost our surplus. We had great depth at one point, now our depth isn’t as deep.”  Richard, 31, was a productive starter for the Padres before shoulder issues derailed his career. In both 2010 and 2012, he put up 200+ innings with a sub-4.00 ERA. He last appeared in the big leagues in 2013, struggling badly before ultimately going under the knife.

A few more notes from the game’s Central divisions…

  • Just one week ago, the Tigers were locks to be buyers at this year’s trade deadline, but James Schmehl of examines the possibility that they could become sellers in the wake of Miguel Cabrera‘s injury. As Schemehl notes, the Tigers have a number of appealing trade chips in David Price, Yoenis Cespedes and Rajai Davis — each of whom is set to hit free agency at season’s end. However, Schmehl also notes that the team has made a significant investment in winning this season and may be more likely to add a pair of relievers with an eye on the postseason. Asked about the possibility of becoming a deadline seller, manager Brad Ausmus replied, “That’s not really my call, but I’d be surprised.” Given the Tigers’ win-at-all-costs approach over the past few seasons, it would be a surprise to me as well to see them as deadline sellers, though perhaps they’ll take a similar route to 2014 and deal from their big league roster as a means of strengthening the current on-field product.
  • The New York Post’s Joel Sherman makes a bleak comparison for Tigers fans, writing that Justin Verlander has become Detroit’s version of CC Sabathia. Verlander is in the first year of a five-year, $140MM extension and has struggled to deliver any form of positive results over the past two seasons while dealing with injuries. He notes that GM Dave Dombrowski even talks about Verlander in the same manner that his Yankees counterpart, Brian Cashman, discusses Sabathia. Sherman quotes Dombrowski: “We don’t think you will see MVP-season Justin, but he can still be a very good pitcher and that would be really big for us. … He has just been a little inconsistent. We just need him to get more comfortable.” Verlander’s not showing quite the depleted velocity that Sabathia has, however, so perhaps there’s hope for him yet.
  • The Royals should make an aggressive play to acquire the RedsJohnny Cueto prior to the deadline, opines ESPN’s Christina Kahrl. She feels that the Royals are already strong favorites to win the AL Central, but adding Cueto gives them the rotation depth necessary to be a force in shorter playoff series. With Cueto and perhaps a returning Kris Medlen in the fold, Kahrl notes, the Royals can be shielded from the need to start Jeremy Guthrie in a pivotal postseason contest.

Cubs Looking For Starting Pitching, Lefty Outfield Bats

The Cubs have had more talks about acquiring starting pitching than they have position players, though they would also like to add a left-handed hitting outfielder if the price is right, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi reports.

Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel, Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks have all posted good to excellent results as Chicago’s top four starters, though the fifth spot has been a problem area.  Tsuyoshi Wada has been effective when healthy but the southpaw is currently on the DL for the second time this season, while Travis Wood struggled in seven starts.  Clayton Richard was acquired from the Pirates on Friday and threw a quality start on Saturday, though it’s hard to see Chicago counting on Richard as a stable option.

It’s possible the Cubs could target a big name on the pitching market, as Morosi writes that the team hopes to have an ace in the fold by the start of next season.  To this end, the Cubs would prefer to acquire a pitcher under contract beyond this season (i.e. Cole Hamels) rather than a rental like Johnny Cueto, as if they get their top-of-the-rotation arm now, that would save them having to spend more time and money pursuing the likes of David Price in free agency this winter.

Morosi cites the Brewers’ Gerardo Parra and the Padres’ Will Venable as “two names to watch” as possible Cubs targets for their outfield need.  Either would spell the switch-hitting Dexter Fowler against right-handed pitching.  Fowler carried a tough .232/.308/.379 line into today’s action thanks in large part to a .660 OPS in 281 plate appearances against righties (but a healthy .833 OPS in 55 PA against lefties).  Given the abundance of right-handed starters in the NL Central, a righty-mashing bat is a clear need for the Cubs.

Shortstop has become another problem area, as Starlin Castro‘s below-replacement level season (-0.3 fWAR entering today) makes Morosi wonder if Chicago would consider getting a veteran middle infielder to pair with Addison Russell.  The problem is that Castro has minimal trade value right now given his poor performance and the roughly $41MM owed to him through the 2019 season.

Minor MLB Transactions: 7/5/15

Here are today’s minor moves from around the league.

  • The Braves acquired left-hander Mitchell Lambson from the Astros, Bryant-Jon Anteola of the Fresno Bee reports (Twitter link).  Lambson was a 19th-round pick for Houston in the 2011 draft who has posted strong minor league numbers in five pro seasons: a 2.79 ERA, 9.9 K/9 and 4.34 K/BB rate over 242 relief innings, including his first taste of Triple-A ball this year.
  • The Cubs have signed righty Ben Rowen to a minor-league deal, the Iowa Cubs have announced. Rowen had previously been in the Orioles organization until opting out of his contract. Rowen had posted a 2.41 ERA with 1.4 BB/9 in 37 1/3 innings with the Orioles’ top two minor league affiates. His strikeout rate (5.8 K/9) was a bit low, but he has a strong history of inducing ground balls. The 26-year-old came to the Orioles from the Dodgers as part of the two teams’ curious trade involving reliever Ryan Webb.
  • The Athletics have outrighted first baseman Nate Freiman to Triple-A Nashville, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets. They had designated him for assignment on Thursday. The 28-year-old Freiman hit .218/.269/.448 in 93 plate appearances with the A’s in 2014 and has struggled greatly in 129 plate appearances with Nashville in 2015.
  • The Blue Jays have outrighted righty Todd Redmond to Triple-A Buffalo,’s Gregor Chisholm tweets. They had designated him for assignment earlier this week. Redmond has pitched a total of 16 innings for the Jays so far this year, and he’s been designated for assignment and then outrighted three separate times. The 30-year-old has a 4.25 ERA, 7.9 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 171 1/3 career big-league innings in parts of four seasons with the Blue Jays and Reds.

NL West Notes: Frias, Giants, Maybin, Parra, Greinke, Gray

The Dodgerssearch for pitching may only intensify with the news that Carlos Frias has been placed on the 15-day DL with lower back tightness.  Los Angeles already dipped into its starter depth by installing Frias and Mike Bolsinger into the rotation in place of Hyun-jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy, so all eyes will be on the Dodgers this month to see if they can land another big arm before the trade deadline.  Here’s the latest from the NL West…

  • The Giants are looking for outfielders and Gerardo Parra and Cameron Maybin are two of the names who have been discussed, ESPN’s Buster Olney reports (via Twitter).  In another tweet, Olney notes that the Braves aren’t open to dealing Maybin right now.  Outfield had been cited as a possible target spot for San Francisco, though GM Bobby Evans didn’t seem set on obtaining an everyday outfielder since Hunter Pence and Nori Aoki will be expected to resume their regular spots in the lineup when they’re both healthy.  In my opinion, I’d think that a left-handed hitting outfielder like Parra could be of particular use in a center field platoon with Angel Pagan, who has struggled badly against right-handed pitching this season (though Pagan has generally fared better against righty arms over his career).
  • The Giants have liked Parra “forever,” according to Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News (via Twitter).  Parra had spent his entire career prior to August 2014 with the Diamondbacks, however, and Arizona didn’t want to deal the outfielder to a division rival.
  • In Olney’s latest Insider-only post, he observes that Zack Greinke‘s big season is putting him in position for a massive free agent payday this winter.  “It seems like a foregone conclusion” Greinke will opt out of his Dodgers contract in search of a more lucrative deal, and while he turns 32 in October, Olney believes he’s the type of pitcher with the athleticism, mechanics and pitching know-how to still be very effective as he ages.  Andrew Friedman has generally eschewed giving big contracts to older players in his career as an executive, though this could well change now that he runs a high-payroll team.
  • The Rockies are again in need of pitching reinforcements, and Nick Groke of the Denver Post wonders if the team could promote top prospect Jon GrayTroy Tulowitzki and Walt Weiss seem in favor of Gray coming to the bigs soon, though GM Jeff Bridich was more cautious.  “Jon Gray is doing a great job right now of learning lessons and evolving at the Triple-A level.  So there are things that he needs to do and will continue to do. And we’ll continue to exercise patience with him,” Bridich said.  Gray has a 4.88 ERA, 7.6 K/9 and a 2.45 K/BB rate in 90 1/3 Triple-A innings this season — respectable numbers in the very hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.

Nationals Place Stephen Strasburg On 15-Day DL

The Nationals have placed Stephen Strasburg on the 15-day disabled list with a left oblique strain, and recalled righty Taylor Jordan from Triple-A Syracuse to take his place, the club announced today.  Strasburg left his start yesterday after just 56 pitches due to discomfort in his left side.

The transaction continues what’s been a frustrating season for Strasburg, who’s already made one trip to the DL to recover from a strained left trapezius muscle and has also dealt with several other nagging injuries.  Strasburg has only pitched 61 innings in 2015 and his health issues have surely been a factor in his uncharacteristically high 5.16 ERA.  His peripheral numbers (9.3 K/9, 2.7 BB/9) and ERA indicators (3.55 FIP, 3.38 xFIP, 3.44 SIERA) suggest that Strasburg had pitched somewhat better than his ERA, which could also be explained by a .355 BABIP and a low 64.1% strand rate.  Since returning from his initial DL stint, Strasburg had looked much better, allowing just two runs and posting 18 strikeouts over 15 2/3 innings.

If Strasburg is able to make a quick recovery, there’s a chance he might technically not need to be replaced on the pitching staff.  Nats manager Matt Williams hinted that the team could simply employ a four-man rotation until the All-Star break since Washington has an off-day on Thursday.  If Strasburg is still on the DL once the second half resumes, Tanner Roark (who has already made six starts this year) will likely take his spot in the rotation.

It’s doubtful that Strasburg’s injury would lead to an external acquisition even if he did miss significant time.  Nationals starters have combined for a league-best 10.6 fWAR, with Roark and Joe Ross providing valuable depth behind Max Scherzer, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, Doug Fister and Strasburg.