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Philadelphia Phillies Rumors
The Phillies have indeed been talking about a deal involving outfielder Ben Revere with the Angels, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. With Philadelphia moving Cody Asche to a corner role and presumably prepared to give Domonic Brown another shot at the big league level, Revere figures to find himself without a role. Revere is earning a relatively steep $4.1MM salary in 2014 and will be eligible to be tendered arbitration contracts each of the next two seasons.
A bit more from the NL East…
- Commissioner Rob Manfred left little doubt where he stands on the still-pending legal dispute between the Nationals and Orioles regarding television fees, as Eric Fisher of the Sports Business Journal reports (Twitter links). “Sooner or later MASN is going to be required to pay those rights fees,” said Manfred of the increased payouts awarded to the Nationals by the league’s Revenue Sharing Decisions Committee. Technically, the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network is the plaintiff in the lawsuit; it is jointly owned by both clubs but controlled by Baltimore, which holds a majority share. That validity of that panel’s decision is the immediate matter at issue in the suit.
- Danny Espinosa has been a pleasant surprise for the Nationals, but his turnaround is due more to a lack of trying too hard than to any intentional adjustments, as James Wagner of the Washington Post writes. While Espinosa spent the spring hitting exclusively from the right side of the plate, he returned to a switch-hitting approach during the season and has suddenly thrived from the left side. The 28-year-old middle infielder is playing on a $1.8MM contract this year, and can be controlled for two more years via arbitration. Washington gained an extra season of arb control when it demoted him early in 2013. Espinosa has long been talked about as a trade candidate, but with Anthony Rendon injured and Ian Desmond struggling in his final contract year, that increasingly seems unlikely — despite the fact that Espinosa’s value is higher now than it has been in some time.
Here are today’s minor moves from around the league…
- The Brewers announced yesterday (via Twitter) that they’ve traded right-hander Chris Leroux to the Phillies in exchange for cash considerations. Leroux, 31, is a veteran of parts of six big league seasons and owns a career 6.03 ERA in the Majors. While he’s allowed his fair share of runs in 71 2/3 Major League innings and averaged 4.4 walks per nine, Leroux has also averaged 8.3 K/9 with a 48.9 percent ground-ball rate.
- The Cubs announced today that veteran first baseman/outfielder Mike Baxter‘s contract has been selected from Triple-A Iowa. The team also recalled Junior Lake from Iowa and activated Tsuyoshi Wada from the disabled list in a series of moves that saw Welington Castillo traded to Seattle, Phil Coke designated for assignment and righty Brian Schlitter optioned to Triple-A. The 30-year-old Baxter is a career .225/.331/.342 hitter in 423 big league plate appearances — most of which came with the Mets. As far as Triple-A production, Baxter has slashed a strong .286/.367/.452 in more than 1800 PAs.
Opposing teams continue to scout Ben Revere for a possible trade, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Revere may be somewhat of an odd man out when both Cody Asche and Domonic Brown return to the club, Rosenthal notes, now that Asche is transitioning to the outfield. Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com hears that the Angels like Revere but are in “exploratory mode” and aren’t rushing in any direction for outfield help (Twitter link).
Revere, 27, was said to be available in a trade shortly before Opening Day, and it would appear that a position change for Asche has made that even more evident. Gonzalez’s mention of the Angels isn’t the first time they’ve been connected to the fleet-footed Revere in recent weeks; the Orange County Register’s Jeff Fletcher also has mentioned Revere as a possibility for the Halos of late.
Through 159 plate appearances this season, Revere’s batting average is down a bit from the .301 mark he’s posted over the past three seasons. However, he’s seen his walk rate jump from a dismal 2.1 percent in 2014 to 5.7 percent in 2015. That, of course, is still below the league average, but the net result of Revere’s efforts at the plate this season is a .268/.314/.356 batting line that could very well improve if his .299 BABIP moves closer to his .319 career mark. Revere isn’t stealing with quite as much frequency as he did in 2014 — he had 12 steals in 14 attempts through 39 games last year — but he’s still chipped in eight steals in 11 tries.
Philadelphia’s usage of Odubel Herrera in center field has shifted Revere to left field, where his limited arm but strong range play a bit better than in center. (The early returns on Revere’s first action in left field since 2012 are positive, per Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved.) Left field has been arguably the Angels’ greatest deficiency this season, as they’ve received a collective .150/.187/.218 batting line from their left fielders this season.
Revere wouldn’t provide virtually any power for an acquiring club, but he’s a career .290 hitter with a .323 on-base percentage despite his lack of pop and averaged 50 steals per 162 games from 2011-14. That skill-set of speed and contact is undervalued in arbitration, which has kept Revere’s price tag relatively modest. He’s earning $4.1MM this season, meaning that he is owed about $3.1MM through season’s end. As a Super Two player, Revere has two more trips through the arbitration process in his future before becoming eligible for free agency following the 2017 campaign.
Braves infielder Phil Gosselin will miss about eight weeks with a thumb fracture, the team announced. Gosselin will require surgery. Taking his place on the active roster is fellow infielder Adonis Garcia, a 30-year-old who had a rather quiet minor league career before posting strong results at Triple-A over the last two seasons. After logging 368 plate appearances with a .319/.353/.474 slash last year in the Yankees organization, the infielder/outfielder has slashed .351/.380/.455 thus far at Gwinnett. Garcia signed with New York out of Cuba back in 2012, ultimately settling for a minor league deal when early rumors of a $16MM to $18MM bonus never panned out.
Here’s more from the NL East:
- Righty Kyle Kendrick discussed his departure from the Phillies, telling Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News that the end did not come without some perceived irony. “Ruben [Amaro Jr.] called me about a week after the season and said we’re going to go in a different direction, we’re going to go younger,” Kendrick said, “and then he signs Aaron Harang and Jerome Williams. So I was like, [huh]. That’s the way it is. Honestly I think it’s just part of the game and [they] wanted some different faces. That’s the way it goes.”
- Meanwhile, the Phillies are struggling with pitching health, as the club announced that righty Chad Billingsley is headed to the 15-day DL with a right shoulder strain. The talented but oft-injured thirty year old had made his first starts since early in 2013. He has permitted 12 earned runs over 16 total frames, striking out seven and walking three, though the good news is that his fastball velocity is sitting right at career norms. While the setback is discouraging, Philly will certainly hope that Billingsley can return in relatively short order and provide innings — if not also a trade piece.
- ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick profiles the recently-extended Mets center fielder Juan Lagares, explaining that Lagares has undergone a rather interesting breakout on the defensive side of the ledger after receiving some middling scouting grades in center in the minors. It is now broadly recognized, of course, that his glove is what gives Lagares such unique value. You’ll want to give the piece a read to learn about the 26-year-old’s journey.
- Deposed Marlins manager Mike Redmond will still take home a fairly significant amount of guaranteed money from his former team, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. In addition to the remainder of this year’s $850K salary, says Heyman, the Fish owe Redmond just over $1MM annually over the next two seasons.
Here are a few highlights from Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe’s latest rumors roundup:
- The Phillies have scouted the Red Sox‘ Double-A Portland team the past six days, Cafardo writes. The Red Sox have, of course, repeatedly been connected to Cole Hamels, although the Phillies have several other veterans who could also be trade candidates. Portland isn’t a particularly prospect-rich team right now, with many of the Red Sox’ best minor-leaguers at Triple-A Pawtucket or Class A Greenville. So it’s hard to say who the Phillies might be scouting, and it’s likely they aren’t scouting a potential centerpiece for a Hamels deal.
- The Brewers are already prepared to trade starters Matt Garza and Kyle Lohse. At least one scout tells Cafardo that Lohse (who has allowed ten homers in his first 47 2/3 innings this season, although his strikeout and walk numbers have been fine) is in need of a “change of scenery.”
- The Royals‘ bullpen this year has been terrific, but their rotation hasn’t. The Royals are looking for cheap starting pitching to help ease the burden on their bullpen caused by short outings from their starters (although any acquisition they might make right now would likely be minor, since they aren’t yet willing to trade for a starter).
- Teams could see Reds starter Mike Leake as a very viable trade candidate. Leake is having a strong season so far, and it would likely be easier to sign him long-term than to sign his rotation-mate Johnny Cueto, so Leake could attract plenty of interest. Like Cueto, he’s eligible for free agency after the season.
- If the Marlins‘ season doesn’t improve, they could easily trade Dan Haren to a team on his preferred coast, Cafardo writes. Haren’s desire to play in California is well known. He’s in the midst of a good season (3.70 ERA, 6.1 K/9, 1.7 BB/9), and any number of teams out west could have interest.
Here are today’s minor moves from around the league, with the most recent at the top.
- the Yankees have released righty Jared Burton, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch tweets. Burton, formerly a regular in the Reds and Twins bullpens, has made a handful of appearances for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season. The Yankees originally signed Burton to a minor-league deal with a series of opt-out dates, and they already released and re-signed him in March, so perhaps it’s not out of the question that they could re-sign him yet again.
- The Royals have announced that they’ve selected the contract of veteran righty Joe Blanton. Blanton had an opt-out opportunity yesterday on his minor-league deal. He had been pitching for Triple-A Omaha, where he posted a 3.89 ERA, 6.9 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 39 1/3 innings. The longtime Athletics and Phillies starter last appeared in the big leagues in 2013, when he posted a 6.04 ERA in 132 2/3 innings with the Angels. Blanton will work in long relief, as MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan tweets. The Royals also announced that they optioned righty Aaron Brooks to Omaha and placed lefty Brian Flynn on the 60-day disabled list.
- The Pirates have selected the contract of righty Wilfredo Boscan, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweets. They also optioned utilityman Steve Lombardozzi to Triple-A Indianapolis and moved righty Brandon Cumpton to the 60-day disabled list. Boscan will, presumably, help the Pirates’ bullpen after yesterday’s 11-10 extra-inning loss, which required the Bucs to throw 261 pitches. The 25-year-old Boscan has a 2.87 ERA, 5.7 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 31 1/3 innings at Triple-A Indianapolis this season. He has never pitched in the Majors.
- The Angels have signed outfield Jared Mitchell and assigned him to the Double-A Arkansas Travelers, the Travelers have announced. The White Sox released Mitchell, a 2009 first-round pick, earlier this month. The 26-year-old has hit .226/.334/.381 in parts of six seasons in the minor leagues.
- The Phillies have acquired infielder Jayson Nix from the Orioles for cash considerations, the teams have announced. Nix will head to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. The 32-year-old was hitting .167/.190/.198 in 100 plate appearances for Triple-A Norfolk, and he struggled in brief stints in the big leagues last year with the Phillies, Pirates and Royals. In parts of seven seasons in the Majors, he’s hit .212/.282/.345. The move gives the Phillies infield depth after the recent promotion of Maikel Franco and their decision to have Cody Asche transition to playing outfield.
- The Rays have signed former Pirates pitching prospect Kyle McPherson, Steve Kinsella of DRaysBay tweets. McPherson pitched 26 1/3 strong innings with the Bucs in 2012 after posting a 3.22 ERA, 8.5 K/9 and an extremely stingy 1.2 BB/9 in 67 innings in the high minors that year, but he had Tommy John surgery in 2013 and another elbow injury last season. He became a minor-league free agent last fall.
The Phillies announced this afternoon that they’ve outrighted Dustin McGowan to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. The move will clear space on the 25-man roster for the promotion of Maikel Franco, and it also, of course, clears a spot on the 40-man roster, reducing the current total to 39.
The 33-year-old McGowan signed with the Phillies late in Spring Training after being cut loose by the Dodgers. He’s struggled to a 5.79 ERA in 14 innings with the Phils, however, with the most troubling part about his performance being an eye-popping 16 walks in those 14 frames. McGowan has battled slight control issues in the past, but never anything of this magnitude.
That McGowan was outrighted means that he’s already cleared waivers. The Phillies, then, opted to immediately place McGowan on waivers as opposed to designate the righty for assignment.
The Phillies announced this morning that they’ve recalled top prospect Maikel Franco from Triple-A Lehigh Valley, giving the power-hitting third baseman a second crack at the Majors after struggling in a late-season debut in 2014. Franco, 22, rated as Baseball America’s No. 56 prospect this offseason, also ranking 55th on MLB.com’s Top 100 and 96th on the Top 101 of Baseball Prospectus.
The Phillies seem intent on giving Franco a shot to become their everyday third baseman, as Cody Asche has already been sent down to Triple-A to work on transitioning to the outfield. That move, as well as Franco’s hefty .355/.384/.539 batting line in 33 Triple-A games helped pave the way for what seems to be a more serious look than the one he received in 2014. Last September, Franco split time Asche at third and with Ryan Howard at first, ultimately hitting just .179/.190/.214 in 16 contests.
Perhaps most interesting about Franco’s promotion, however, is the service time implication that comes along with it. The Cubs’ handling of Kris Bryant in Spring Training this season spurred a good deal of controversy, but the Phillies have effectively taken the same route with Franco. Last September, Franco accrued 27 days of Major League service time in his September cup of coffee. That service time means that he’d have needed just 145 days of service this season to reach the 172 days necessary to be credited with a full year of service time. The Phillies have, likely not in coincidental fashion, promoted Franco at a time when there are only 144 days of the regular season remaining. That means that he, like Bryant, will fall one day shy of a full year of service. Because of that, the earliest that Franco could be eligible for free agency would be following the 2021 season.
GM Ruben Amaro Jr. and the Phillies, of course, aren’t acknowledge that reasoning — no team would openly do so. In a similar manner to the way in which the Cubs’ front office sidestepped the service time factor, Amaro said of today’s promotion: “This was a baseball decision based on Maikel’s development and performance. We believe he is ready for the next step.”
That the Phillies waited to ensure they could delay Franco’s free agency is telling about their hopes for this promotion, however. Clearly, the Phillies believe that Franco is capable of holding down third base long-term; they’ve moved Asche to another position and, if they weren’t serious about this promotion being a long-term move, the service time considerations likely wouldn’t have factored so heavily into their thinking.
It’ll be interesting to see if Franco’s case generates anywhere near the level of drama that Bryant’s case did in late March/early April. That level of controversy admittedly seems unlikely, but Franco’s case nonetheless serves as another example that this type of service time manipulation is a relatively common practice when it comes to the game’s most highly regarded prospects. Looking at the view through the Phillies’ lens, one can hardly blame the team for being willing to give up 40 games of Franco in a rebuilding season in order to control him for an additional year (2021) when they hope to be in a better spot to contend.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Mike Trout isn’t the only baseball talent in his family, as Grantland’s Ben Lindbergh details in a piece about the Angels superstar’s father. Jeff Trout was a Twins fifth-round draft pick in 1983 and he put up an impressive .303/.382/.425 slash line in 1575 career minor league at-bats, with three of his four seasons coming at the Double-A level. The elder Trout chose to retire early, however, partially due to injuries and partially out of some frustration that his career was stalling in the minors. Here’s some more from around baseball…
- Cuban outfielder Eddy Julio Martinez could sign with a team as early as next week, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports (Twitter links). The 20-year-old was seen by scouts and executives from 17 teams during a workout in the Dominican Republic today. He boasts a 6.4 second time in the 60-yard dash and has two years of experience in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, including hitting .229/.333/.324 over 133 PA as an 18-year-old in 2013. Martinez is subject to international pool guidelines, and if he does sign during what’s left of the 2014-15 signing period, it will mean the Cubs and Rangers (due to penalties) won’t be able to land him unless he accepts a bonus of $300K or less. If Martinez doesn’t sign until after the 2015-16 period opens on July 2, the Angels, Rays, Red Sox, Yankees and Diamondbacks will be under those penalties.
- Huston Street “might have gotten the best deal he could get,” Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times opines about the closer’s two-year, $18MM extension with the Angels. Shaikin thinks that Street might not have found such a generous deal in free agency given how several teams are becoming more likely to rely on cheap power arms in the ninth inning rather than spend big on veteran closers. An injury also could’ve hurt Street’s value, which is a significant concern given that he’s spent a notable amount of time on the DL in his career.
- Ben Revere is no stranger to trade rumors, though the Phillies outfielder is trying to focus on playing rather than speculation that he could be dealt, Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News writes. “I know it’s a business. I know we need some guys to help this program out, this organization out,” Revere said. “If I do [get traded], it’s a part of the game. But the only thing I’m trying to do is help the team win. I’m not worrying about it. If it does happen, it happens. If it doesn’t, I’m going to try to bring some W’s to this team.”
Over at Fangraphs, Jeff Sullivan takes a look at the cause of Stephen Strasburg‘s uncharacteristically slow start for the Nationals. As he explains, batters have teed off on Strasburg when he is working out of the stretch. It is impossible to pin down the exact issues, of course, but Sullivan explains that — as pitching coach Steve McCatty believes — lingering side-effects of an offseason ankle injury may still be impacting Strasburg’s mechanics. Obviously, Strasburg is in no danger or need of being replaced in D.C., and he remains an over-scrutinized pitcher. But both player and club obviously have some work to do to get him back on track.
Here’s more from the NL East:
- The Marlins pulled out of their pursuit of free agent reliever Rafael Soriano because of their assessment of his likely impact more than the money involved, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports (Twitter link). Of course, it is nearly impossible to separate talent assessment and cost entirely. After all, Miami presumably wouldn’t hesitate to add Soriano on a league-minimum contract. But the Marlins could well have determined, whether based on scouting him last year or learning more about his current status, that Soriano did not warrant any kind of significant outlay.
- Phillies ace Cole Hamels has turned things around after a slow start, as MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki writes. The southpaw has allowed just 2.72 earned runs per nine over his last five starts, Zolecki notes, and turned in a nice, nine-strikeout outing last night. All said, Hamels’ trade value remains as robust as ever as the summer draws near.
- After failing to stick as a big league reliever, Phillies righty Phillippe Aumont is impressing as a starter at Triple-A, Zolecki reports. The only remaining piece of the Cliff Lee trade, the 26-year-old had seemed destined to be a disappointment but is showing some life in the upper minors with a 1.36 ERA over 33 innings (7.6 K/9 vs. 3.5 BB/9). “Phillippe told me he’s extremely happy to be back in the rotation,” Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan tells Zolecki. “He looks like it. There’s a tempo to what he’s doing. He used to take forever between pitches. He’s crisp. He has some big misses, but he gets right back in the zone. Seven strong innings today, really. He had an above-average, maybe well above-average fastball. Above-average breaking ball. Two Major League pitches.”