Rays Designate Hak-Ju Lee For Assignment

The Rays have designated minor league shortstop and former top prospect Hak-Ju Lee for assignment, tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune tweets that the move creates 40-man roster space for minor league catcher/first baseman Luke Maile.

The now-24-year-old Lee and Chris Archer highlighted the prospect package the Rays received from the Cubs in exchange for Matt Garza back in 2011. Lee was a consensus Top 100 prospect prior to that 2011 campaign and again heading into the 2012 and 2013 campaigns. Lee ranked as high as No. 44 in the game at one point (Baseball America, pre-2012), and he began his 2013 season at the Triple-A level on a torrid stretch, hitting .422/.536/.600 through his first 15 games. Unfortunately, the Korean-born shortstop tore multiple ligaments in his knee in a collision at second base, causing him to miss the remainder of the season. Since returning in 2014, he’s posted a sub-.600 OPS in 189 Triple-A contests.

Maile, 24, is a former eighth-round draft pick (2012) that reached Triple-A for the first time this year. In 337 plate appearances there, he’s slashed a mere .207/.298/.296 at the minors’ top level. However, Maile’s value lies more on the defensive side of the spectrum, as Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs explained in examining Tampa Bay’s prospects prior to the season. Maile profiles as a “nice catch-and-throw backup that’s above average defensively with a bat that’s just OK,” per McDaniel.


Twins Outright Jason Wheeler

The Twins have outrighted lefty Jason Wheeler off of the team’s 40-man roster, according to a club announcement. He was added to the 40-man roster last spring to keep him protected from the Rule 5 draft.

Though he has continued to put up quality numbers as a starter against Double-A competition, Wheeler has yet to master Triple-A, let alone the majors (where he’s yet to see time). In 78 innings at the highest level of the minors thus far in 2015, he’s surrendered 6.58 earned runs per nine with 4.6 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9.

Wheeler loses his spot as part of a number of moves announced today, including the call-up of players such as Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas. Notably absent, so far, is top pitching prospect Jose Berrios. As Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press notes on Twitter, the immediate need for a 40-man spot relates to the club’s decision to purchase the contract of catcher Eric Fryer.


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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Astros Designate Jake Buchanan

The Astros have designated righty Jake Buchanan for assignment, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports on Twitter. He lost his spot to clear space for the team’s call-up of lefty Joe Thatcher.

Buchanan, 25, has thrown 44 1/3 MLB innings over the last two years, with most of that experience coming in 2014. He has a 4.06 ERA in that span with 5.1 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9.

Prior to 2014, Buchanan had worked primarily from the rotation. But he’s thrown mostly in relief since. This season, over 80 1/3 Triple-A innings, he owns a 4.37 ERA while strike out 5.0 and walking 2.4 batters per nine.


Braves Promote Hector Olivera

The Braves have promoted infielder Hector Olivera for his first major league stint, according to a team announcement. The move had been expected, as reporters have indicated over recent days that Olivera was being prepared for a September call-up. (Among them, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweeted yesterday that a move was still expected and Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com added today on Twitter that it was forthcoming.)

Nothing about the 30-year-old’s nascent professional career has been straightforward thus far. While it’s hard to know quite what to expect, it will certainly be interesting to see him in action at the big league level. Olivera is expected to see regular time at third base, as O’Brien tweets.

Hotly pursued as a free agent out of Cuba, Olivera signed with the Dodgers over the winter for six years and $62.5MM after making a last-minute switch of agents. But he was ultimately traded to the Braves over the summer in an inordinately complicated three-team arrangement. With $28MM of that commitment accounted for in a signing bonus, he’ll only cost Atlanta about $30MM from 2016 to 2020.

Olivera was putting up big offensive numbers in the Dodgers’ system before suffering a hamstring injury. He continued to work back from that after being traded to the Braves, but he never came all the way back around at the plate before moving out of the minors. It’s important to bear in mind that we’re still looking at very small samples here. His time in the majors over the next month should say more about his longer-term outlook, though even that will serve as little more than an introduction.


West Notes: Zduriencik, Profar, Morneau, Angels

Over at Fangraphs, Jeff Sullivan takes a look at the just-ended tenure of former Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik. Seattle changed course in the middle of his tenure, says Sullivan, with the organization moving from a focus on finding value and prioritizing defense to a grab for power bats. The club also failed to develop its best-regarded talent to its full potential, Sullivan notes, even if it’s hard ultimately to pin down a cause for that failure. All said, whatever the reason, Zduriencik was never able to turn the club into a regular contender.

Here are a few more notes from out west:

  • Rangers infielder Jurickson Profar could join the big league club in September, GM Jon Daniels acknowledged yesterday, as Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. While the former top prospect still is not ready to play the field — he’s recovering from a series of significant shoulder problems — he could hit and run. Texas is considering an Arizona Fall League placement, if Profar seems ready to begin making full-speed throws.
  • First baseman Justin Morneau could still suit up for the Rockies this year, as Nick Groke of the Denver Post writes. Manager Walt Weiss said that the situation was different than most injuries, given Morneau’s somewhat tricky neck and concussion issues. Morneau has previously indicated that he hopes to play next season, so returning to show his health and some productivity would obviously be quite a boon to his stock. While his deal includes a $9MM mutual option for next year, Colorado seems quite likely instead to pay him a $750K buyout.
  • As the Angels reportedly begin what is expected to be a quick-moving GM search, Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler is one name that has been “heard frequently” by MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez (Twitter link). Eppler featured rather prominently in last year’s round of general manager hirings, though obviously he ended up staying in New York.

Blue Jays Designate Colt Hynes

The Blue Jays have designated lefty Colt Hynes for assignment, the club announced. He loses his 40-man spot to help clear space for the team’s September call-ups, which include the previously non-rostered Jeff Francis.

Hynes, 30, earned a brief call-up with Toronto for his second taste of big league action, but threw only three innings. He has enjoyed a solid season at Triple-A, though, throwing 44 2/3 innings of 3.22 ERA ball with 7.3 K/9 against 3.4 BB/9.


Yankees Designate Tyler Austin And Cole Figueroa, Call Up Andrew Bailey

The Yankees have designated outfielder Tyler Austin and infielder Cole Figueroa for assignment, the club announced. Those moves were made as part of a flurry of roster activity to clear 40-man space for September call-ups, including former All-Star closer Andrew Bailey.

Austin, 23, was once considered a top-100 prospect league-wide, but he’s fallen back with marginal results in the upper minors. Though he hit well at Double-A this year, earning a promotion, Austin slashed just .235/.309/.311 in 299 plate appearances in his first attempt at Triple-A.

Meanwhile, Figueroa is a 28-year-old utilityman who has played in just 25 big league games. He does, however, have a very steady track record of high-average, good-OBP, low-power offensive output in the upper minors.

It’s been a long road back to the big league mound for Bailey, 31, who hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2013. He’s had good results at Triple-A since joining New York on a minor league deal over the winter, throwing 35 innings of 1.80 ERA ball while putting up 10.8 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9.


Dodgers Acquire Chris Heisey

The Dodgers have acquired outfielder Chris Heisey from the Blue Jays, Toronto has announced (via Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca, on Twitter). A player to be named later or cash will make up the return in the deal.

While we’re just hearing about the deal today, Heisey was actually acquired last night and will be post-season eligible, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). With rosters now expanded, he’ll join the just-acquired Justin Ruggiano in expanding the team’s right-handed outfield options while the organization waits out some injuries.

Heisey, of course, has spent much of the season with the Dodgers organization after being added in an offseason trade. But he mostly played at Triple-A, and lost his 40-man spot earlier this summer after struggling in limited and scattered big league opportunities.


Minor MLB Transactions: 9/1/15

Here are the day’s minor moves:

  • The Mets have outrighted infielder Danny Muno, the club announced (via MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, on Twitter). His 40-man spot was needed for the activation of outfielder Eric Young Jr., which is expected today. Muno, 26, managed just four base hits and four walks in his first 32 big league plate appearances this season. He has played exclusively at Triple-A otherwise over the past two seasons, slashing a cumulative .274/.374/.408 in 723 turns at bat.
  • Outfielder Jose Constanza, meanwhile, has signed a minor league deal with the Rays, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. Constanza, who turns 32 today, had a nice (albeit brief) run with the 2011 Braves but saw his MLB opportunities dwindle in Atlanta over the next three years. He’s spent much of his career at the Triple-A level, registering an even .300 batting average, a sturdy .356 OBP, and rather light .350 slugging percentage in over 2,000 plate appearances. Constanza has also swiped 128 bags over that span.

Royals Acquire Jonny Gomes

TODAY: Atlanta will pay half of Gomes’ salary the rest of the way, or about $380K, per Heyman (via Twitter).

YESTERDAY, 8:42pm: The Royals have officially acquired outfielder Jonny Gomes from the Braves, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported on Twitter. Atlanta will send cash along with the veteran and will receive minor league infielder Luis Valenzuela in return, as Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported (Twitter links).

Aug 28, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves left fielder Jonny Gomes (7) reacts after getting a strike out after pitching in the ninth inning of their game against the New York Yankees at Turner Field. The Yankees won 15-4. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Gomes, 34, is a highly-regarded clubhouse presence and noted lefty killer at the plate. Though he’s seen his power numbers drop off this year, and owns only a 93 OPS+ overall, Gomes has still slashed a productive .247/.412/.466 against opposing southpaws.

The Braves signed Gomes to a one-year, $4MM free agent contract this winter. It includes a $3MM club option that would vest at different amounts based on various plate appearance thresholds. With Gomes likely to see only part-time duty, it’s unlikely that he’ll meet the minimum of 325 plate appearances (which would cause the option to vest at $3MM).

Kansas City is all but certain to win the AL Central at this point, so the move was presumably made with the post-season in mind. It isn’t hard to imagine Gomes seeing some important at bats in potential playoff matchups against pitchers such as David Price, Dallas Keuchel, and Cole Hamels.

It remains to be seen, though, what kind of alignment the Royals are pondering. Obviously, Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain will receive regular playing time so long as they are healthy. Among the club’s other righty outfield bats, neither starter Alex Rios nor fill-in Paulo Orlando have done much against left-handed pitching.

In Valenzuela, who just turned 22, the Braves will receive a player who reached the Class A level for the first time this year. Over 184 plate appearances, he’s slashed .339/.368/.483 with three home runs and eight stolen bases.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Giants Acquire Alejandro De Aza

The Giants have officially acquired outfielder Alejandro De Aza from the Red Sox, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported on Twitter. Lefty Luis Ysla will return to Boston in the deal, as Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reported on Twitter.

Jul 23, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Boston Red Sox right fielder Alejandro De Aza (31) during the game against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox will pay $650K of De Aza’s salary in the deal, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. Having agreed to a $5MM salary to avoid arbitration in his final year of eligibility, De Aza is still owed just under $930K the rest of the way. But Boston reportedly only took on around $1MM in total commitments to De Aza when it added him on June 4. With $650K said to be going with the veteran to San Francisco, it appears that the Giants will not be paying much (if anything) of the tab.

De Aza, 31, turned around a sluggish start upon his move to the Red Sox. The free agent-to-be has slashed .292/.347/.484 over 178 plate appearances since that trade. Once an everyday center fielder with the White Sox, De Aza now profiles more as a platoon corner defender. He’s continued to perform much better against right-handed pitching, with increasing platoon splits in 2015.

For San Francisco, the month of August has required some injury-driven leak plugging. The club reportedly pursued infield help, including Chase Utley, before adding Marlon Byrd and now De Aza to help account for injuries to outfielders Angel Pagan and Hunter Pence.

By squeezing in the deal in advance of midnight eastern time tonight, San Francisco will be able to utilize the veteran De Aza on its post-season roster, if it qualifies. He has now changed teams via trade for the second time this summer and for the third time in the last two seasons.

Ysla, 23, turned in a nice season last year as a starter at the Class A level, but has struggled in High-A ball this year. Serving mostly out of the pen, Ysla has allowed 12.3 hits per nine and 4.6 BB/9 while retiring 10.7 opposing batters via strikeout per nine innings thrown. In 79 2/3 frames, he’s worked to a 6.21 ERA.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Giants Designate Ryan Lollis

The Giants have designated outfielder Ryan Lollis for assignment, the club announced. His 40-man spot was needed for the acquisition of outfielder Alejandro De Aza.

Lollis, 28, received his first big league action this year, but made just 13 plate appearances. He has only seen 500 turns at bat in parts of two seasons at the highest level of the minors, though his .319/.385/.451 Triple-A batting line is better than any of his marks in the lower levels of the San Francisco system.

Though he doesn’t have much pop, with just 32 career home runs, Lollis has always hit for a high average and rarely strikes out. He’s split his time about evenly between center and the corner outfield, with occasional work at first base, over his professional career.


Dodgers To Acquire Justin Ruggiano

The Dodgers have acquired outfielder Justin Ruggiano from the Mariners, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports on Twitter. A player to be named later or cash considerations will head back to Seattle in the deal.

Ruggiano, 33, has spent much of the season at Triple-A after a slow start to the year. He agreed to an arbitration salary of just over $2.5MM over the winter (with about $465K left to go on that salary), and will be eligible for another arb year if his new club tenders him a contract.

While Ruggiano failed to match his productive 2014 in the earlygoing, he wasn’t actually that bad, putting up a .214/.321/.357 batting line over 81 plate appearances. And he’s slashed .296/.385/.514 with ten home runs in 205 plate appearances at Triple-A since being outrighted.

Most importantly, even during his MLB time this year, Ruggiano continued to hit lefties hard, as he has throughout his career. He’ll presumably be looked upon as an option against southpaws in Los Angeles. The Dodgers were in need of another right-handed-hitting outfield bat down the stretch after seeing both Yasiel Puig and Kike Hernandez go down to injuries in recent days.


Angels Begin Interviewing GM Candidates

10:54pm: Los Angeles has interviewed both Klentak and Servais but has yet to actually sit down with any external candidates, per Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times (via Twitter).

10:49pm: The Angels have begun interviewing both internal and external candidates for the club’s open general manager position, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. Los Angeles has utilized Bill Stoneman in an interim capacity since the mid-season resignation of Jerry Dipoto.

The Halos are not expected to spend long on their search, according to the report. A decision could ultimately come “shortly after the end of the season, if not before.”

While it’s not known who has interviewed, Fletcher writes that none have past experience as GMs. But Los Angeles will ultimately consider executives with that level of experience. He adds that current assistant GMs Matt Klentak and Scott Servais are likely to garner serious consideration, with the team also looking at a variety of other possibilities from outside the organization.

It’s been widely discussed, but bears noting again, that the Angels appear to be uniquely committed to and reliant on manager Mike Scioscia. That situation, which runs somewhat counter to league-wide trends, could well have an impact on the candidates being considered and the ultimate power structure that the organization will employ.