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Phil Coke Rumors
The Cubs have placed Phil Coke on release waivers, tweets SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo. Coke will become a free agent on Thursday afternoon once he clears waivers, and six clubs have reached out to Coke’s camp, according to Cotillo. Coke had been designated for assignment back on May 19.
The 32-year-old Coke signed a minor league contract with the Cubs this offseason and earned a guaranteed $2.25MM salary when he made the club’s roster. However, Coke’s tenure with the Cubs didn’t produce fruitful results, as he yielded seven runs on 14 hits and three walks (two intentional) in 10 innings with nine strikeouts. The resulting 6.30 ERA was hardly appealing, though FIP (3.54), xFIP (2.94) and SIERA (2.63) all showed more optimism regarding his small sample of work.
Coke’s velocity still checked in at a healthy 93 mph, and his 63.6 percent ground-ball rate was certainly a positive factor as well. Prior to his deal with the Cubs, Coke was most prominently connected to the Rangers, though there were also rumors linking him to the Royals and Marlins, among other clubs. Given the amount of teams consistently looking to add bullpen depth throughout the course of the season, Coke’s live arm will likely draw interest on the free agent market.
Coke, 32, made the club out of the spring after inking a minor league deal. His contract provided for a $2.25MM big league salary. Thus far, Coke has not managed to keep the runs off of the board with Chicago, permitting seven earned runs over 10 frames.
He does, however, carry more promising peripherals: he has struck out nine and walked three (two intentionally), and carries a robust 63.6% groundball rate. Coke’s fastball velocity is down nearly a tick and a half from last year’s average, but still checks in at a healthy 92.4 mph.
It isn’t hard to see why the Cubs decided to designate Coke, as the club still features three other lefties on its active roster. The re-emergence of James Russell and strong early strikeout numbers out of Zac Rosscup — combined with the availability of swingman Travis Wood — likely precipitated the move. It seems likely, though, that Coke will prove appealing to another big league club.
With teams making decisions on the final piece of their Opening Day rosters, especially regarding Article XX(B) players, we’ll keep tabs on the day’s moves to add non-roster invitees to the 40-man.
Right-handed relievers, somewhat unsurprisingly, dominate today’s news in this arena:
- Lefty specialist Joe Thatcher has been added to the Astros‘ 40-man roster, Rosenthal reports on Twitter. The Article XX(B) veteran will receive a $1MM salary and can add an additional $1.3MM through incentives. If he can return to form, Thatcher could be quite a nice addition to a Houston pen that was an area targeted heavily for upgrades this offseason.
- Fellow non-roster invitee Roberto Hernandez will also make the club, the Astros have announced. As MLBTR originally reported, Hernandez will earn $2.65MM on the year. The 34-year-old joined the fold in Houston late in the spring, but provides a sturdy and versatile presence as the club seeks to take the next step this year.
- The Twins have announced that righty Blaine Boyer is now a member of the team’s major league roster. Boyer’s deal will pay him $750K at the big league level and includes up to $100K in incentives tied to appearances, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets. MLBTR’s Zach Links recently spoke with Boyer about his interesting professional journey.
- Likewise, right-handed Carlos Villanueva has been added to the Cardinals‘ 40-man roster, the club announced. That means that the veteran swingman will be entitled to a $2MM salary this year with St. Louis. Villanueva, 31, has racked up 863 2/3 MLB innings in 76 starts and over 300 relief appearances. Though he had only a 4.64 ERA last year with the Cubs, Villanueva’s peripherals earned him strong marks from ERA estimators.
- The Indians have informed righty Anthony Swarzak that he will make the pen, Phil Miller of the Star Tribune tweets. Though it does not appear he has been officially added to the 40-man, that will need to occur. The 29-year-old has a 4.48 career ERA in 439 2/3 frames at the major league level, most of them coming from the pen. Swarzak will take home a $900K salary and can earn up to $350K in incentives.
- Similarly, the Cubs have told southpaw Phil Coke that he will be on the club, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets. Coke had exercised his opt-out clause on Friday when he was not added to the 40-man at that time, says Rosenthal. Now, it appears he will receive the $2.25MM (and up to $900K in bonuses) that his deal allows; indeed, the team has now announced that his contract was selected.
Scouts have identified Cardinals left-hander Sam Freeman and Nationals left-hander Xavier Cedeno as logical trade candidates for the Mets, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com writes. Both relievers are out of options and unlikely to make their clubs’ Opening Day rosters, though Rubin stresses that the Mets’ level of interest in either player is unknown. The Mets could be on the lookout for a lefty reliever in the wake of Josh Edgin‘s decision to undergo Tommy John surgery. Here’s more on the Mets and other news out of the NL East..
- The Mets don’t see Phil Coke as someone who can help them, Marc Carig of Newsday tweets. That has been their internal evaluation for some time and that has not changed in the wake of Edgin’s injury. Coke signed a minor league deal with the Cubs earlier this month and apparently chose that opportunity over at least one MLB offer.
- Veteran Wandy Rodriguez has pitched effectively enough to position himself for one of the two vacant spots in the Braves‘ rotation, but the team will still have to decide whether its worth taking a $2MM gamble on a pitcher who has made just 18 starts over the last two years, Mark Bowman of MLB.com writes. The left-hander inked a minor league deal with Atlanta after failing a physical with the Phillies.
- The Mets have four lefty options in camp in Sean Gilmartin, Dario Alvarez, Jack Leathersich and Scott Rice, but none have shined thus far, as Matt Ehalt of The Bergen Record writes.
- Meanwhile, the Mets will be keeping their fingers crossed when it comes to starter Zack Wheeler as they’re sending his MRI results to team medical director Dr. David Altchek, Anthony DiComo of MLB.com tweets. The Mets, meanwhile, are still saying they’re not concerned about Wheeler’s long-term situation.
Hector Olivera‘s newly-reported free agency could make for an interesting weekend. While we await further word on his market, let’s have a look at a few stray links to round out the evening:
- The Giants do not appear to have interest in pursuing a trade for Red Sox first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig to fill in for the injured Hunter Pence, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. While that could change if the asking price is “oddly low,” per Heyman, San Francisco is not inclined to make a move of that magnitude with Pence expected to return around the first of May. While a prior report had suggested the possibility of a Craig acquisition, the team would have no apparent role for him upon Pence’s return.
- Alex Speier of the Boston Globe takes a close look at the evolving ownership and leadership situation with the Red Sox — and, in particular, Fenway Sports Group part-owner and president Michael Gordon. Though some speculated that Gordon was attempting to build his influence over the ballclub as he gained control of the second-largest stake of the FSG umbrella entity, Speier explains that the notion of a power struggle in Boston is just not true.
- Displaced Dodgers GM Ned Colletti is enjoying his “respite” from the decisionmaking seat, as Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times writes in a fascinating look at the former top baseball man in Los Angeles. Now working as a senior advisor to club president Stan Kasten — who actually extended his contract through 2016 — Colletti says that he is enjoying a more grass-roots role than he could ever have hoped to play in the GM position. At the same time, he indicated that he does not intend to slowly ease out of the game. “The song isn’t over,” says Colletti. “It is just a pause.”
- Addressing the facially odd decision of lefty Phil Coke to take a minor league deal with the Cubs rather than a reported MLB deal elsewhere, CJ Nitkowski of FOX Sports says it is all about opportunity. Nitkowski says that he, too, made the decision to take a better opportunity on a non-guaranteed deal, though in his case it did not work out as hoped.
Indians outfielder Brandon Moss nearly retired from baseball in 2012, writes MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. Moss had nine days left before an opt-out clause in his minor league deal with the A’s and planned on playing out the season in Japan — on a more lucrative deal. His plans were then to join a high school friend as a firefighter in his native Georgia. However, Moss was called up to the A’s on June 6 that year and, after initially struggling, proceeded to mash five homers in a four-game span. That burst of power set the tone for Moss, who stuck with the A’s through this offseason when he was traded to Cleveland. Over the past three seasons, the late-blooming Moss is a .254/.340/.504 hitter with 76 home runs. Bastian’s article has several interesting quotes from Moss, his former coaches/managers and his friends and is well worth the read.
Here’s more from the AL Central…
- Royals lefty Tim Collins had an MRI on his left elbow yesterday after experiencing tightness Wednesday of this week, writes MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan. The Royals and Collins remain hopeful that it’s just normal soreness that can often be expected of pitchers early in Spring Training. If not, the team does have other lefty options in camp, including Franklin Morales, Brian Flynn, Joe Paterson and top prospect Brandon Finnegan.
- Twins GM Terry Ryan told reporters, including MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger, that his club isn’t hindered by payroll or revenue. Ryan’s goal, he says, is to reach the postseason this year, though he admits that a lot will need to go right for that to happen. Namely, the Twins will need to stay healthy and see a number of their younger players take their game to a new level.
- Phil Coke, who agreed to a minor league deal with the Cubs yesterday, told MLive.com’s Chris Iott that he’ll miss being a Tiger and enjoyed his time in the Motor City. Iott writes that while the Tigers never officially closed the door on re-signing Coke, his fate was more or less sealed once the team signed Tom Gorzelanny to his one-year, $1MM deal. Detroit didn’t want to carry a pair of veteran lefty relievers without options when it had a number of younger in-house options, such as Blaine Hardy, Ian Krol and Kyle Ryan, Iott explains. Iott adds that he, too, hears Coke rejected a Major League offer in favor of his minor league deal with the Cubs; it’s certainly possible that the relatively sizable $2.25MM salary Coke will be paid if he makes Chicago’s roster outweighs a more modest salary he received on a guaranteed deal.
2:15pm: Coke’s deal will pay him $2.25MM if he makes the Major League club with the opportunity to earn up to $900K more via incentives, reports MLive.com’s Chris Iott (Twitter links). The incentives kick in beginning with his 35th appearance of the season, Iott adds.
9:08am: The Cubs have agreed to sign left-handed reliever Phil Coke to a minor league deal, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links). Coke turned down at least one MLB offer, per the report.
Coke, 32, will give Chicago another southpaw option to pair with Felix Doubront in the pen. Chicago somewhat surprisingly decided to non-tender Wesley Wright earlier in the offseason, leaving some uncertainty in the depth chart. There are other internal options as well, such as Zac Rosscup and Drake Britton.
In Coke, the Cubs have added a still-live arm with a history of underperforming his peripherals. With the Tigers last year, he worked to a 3.88 ERA with 6.4 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9 over 58 frames. Unsurprisingly, Coke was much more effective when he enjoyed the platoon advantage (.691 OPS) than when pitching to right-handed hitters (.871).
Left-handed reliever Phil Coke is “very close” to signing a deal and getting into camp, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports on Twitter. He is expected to have a contract by tomorrow, per the report.
Coke, 32, has seemingly drawn fairly wide interest and could conceivably sign with any number of teams. The question has been whether he will be able to land a MLB deal with a reasonably significant guarantee, or instead whether he will need to choose a good destination and battle for a job on a minor league pact.
In spite of the fact that Coke has not put up particularly excellent bottom-line results, there is plenty to like about his package. Namely, he features a low-to-mid-90s fastball, gets groundballs, and has been rather durable (though he did have two fairly short DL stints in 2013). Coke owns a 4.16 ERA an 3.71 FIP in just under 400 career innings, most of them for the Tigers.
Even though Francisco Rodriguez is now off the market, the Marlins aren’t likely to pursue Rafael Soriano or Phil Coke on Major League contracts, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports. The Fish may be done with their bullpen shopping altogether, Frisaro writes, as they’re happy with the number of power arms they already have in camp and the money they intended to spend on Rodriguez could now be saved for in-season upgrades, if necessary.
As previously reported, the Fish had some interest in Coke if he was willing to take a minor league deal. The lefty has reportedly received minor league offers from multiple teams, however, so the Marlins would have competition if Coke were to give up his search for a big league contract.
As for Soriano, he’s never been linked to the Marlins on the rumor mill this season, despite the fact that he and Rodriguez (a known Miami target) share some on-paper similarities as veteran relievers with closing experience. The Marlins already have a closer in Steve Cishek but, as Frisaro notes, the team was looking for someone to handle the ninth on days when Cishek wasn’t available.
Despite some concerns from scouts about Soriano’s stuff, the veteran reliever has still drawn some interest this offseason. Soriano has been linked to the Blue Jays, Dodgers, Rockies and Brewers in rumors, though the latter two clubs have since addressed their bullpen needs.
Despite all of their success, it’s not easy for the Giants to land free agents thanks to the tax rate in California, Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News writes. The top income tax rate in California is 13.3%, which is more than double the top tax rate in all but a handful of states with major league teams. “It’s exponential when you get into the size of some of these numbers,” Sabean said. “It makes a difference.” The Giants have had to build differently and a little more creatively than others, sometimes with some key moves in the summer, but it has worked out pretty well for them. Here’s more from the West divisions..
- The Rangers‘ interest in lefty reliever Phil Coke has waned and the club doesn’t expect to sign the free agent reliever, a source tells Jeff Wilson of the Star-Telegram (via Twitter). The Rangers claimed a left-handed reliever earlier today when they plucked Edgar Olmos from the Mariners. The Tigers apparently haven’t expressed much interest in a reunion and another spot in their ‘pen was filled when they signed Joba Chamberlain.
- If shortstop prospect Ketel Marte plays well enough to reach the big leagues this year, the Mariners’ willingness to move Brad Miller or Chris Taylor will increase in the coming months, if not sooner, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. One Mariners official compared Marte, a switch hitter, to a younger version of Jose Reyes. He also has some second base experience, but he’s blocked there by Robinson Cano.
- All of the Angels‘ core relievers throw fastballs at an average speed of less than 92 mph, which means they’re basically ignoring baseball’s dogma about power arms in the bullpen, Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com writes. Recently, the Angels have placed more of a premium on strike-throwing ability than velocity.
- Trea Turner, who will be joining the Nationals as the player to be named later in the Wil Myers trade, is in camp with the Padres, Dennis Lin of U-T San Diego writes. Lin checks in on Turner’s unusual camp experience as he is still more than three months away from joining the Nats.