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Throughout the Pirates organization, the first base position has become the home of players who have struggled at other positions, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. Of course, it’s not unusual for players at more demanding defensive positions to have to move to first base, but what’s distinctive about the Pirates’ case is the precise reasons players are moving to first. At the big league level, Pedro Alvarez is moving across the diamond because of inexplicable problems making routine throws to first. And in the minors, Stetson Allie moved to first (with a stop at third base) after flaming out as a pitcher, while catcher Tony Sanchez has experimented with the position after troubles throwing out basestealers. The Pirates’ future at first base, though, might belong to another prospect, Josh Bell, who’s learning the position for a more straightforward reason — with Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and Gregory Polanco set to man the Pirates’ outfield for the next several years, there might not be room for Bell there. Here’s more from the National League.
- The August trade deadline is quickly approaching, and the Phillies still don’t appear likely to deal A.J. Burnett or Jonathan Papelbon, CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury reports. Both players are owed significant money beyond this season. Whatever happens, Salisbury notes that Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, Cesar Hernandez and top prospect Maikel Franco, at least, are expected to be among the Phillies’ September call-ups.
- The Marlins‘ fire sale following the 2012 season is beginning to pay dividends, writes Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. In particular, the massive deal that sent Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson to Toronto has returned Henderson Alvarez and Adeiny Hechavarria, plus Jake Marisnick, a key piece in the deal that brought Jarred Cosart last month. “Our owner, Jeffrey Loria, took a lot of heat for [the trade with Toronto],” says Marlins executive Michael Hill. “But we really felt we needed to reset who we were and who we were going to be moving forward.” Their young outfield has rounded into form, with Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna complementing superstar Giancarlo Stanton, and the Marlins can add to an already exciting young core with the return of Jose Fernandez sometime early next season.
The Angels had interest in A.J. Burnett of the Phillies, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal writes, confirming a report by Peter Gammons (all Twitter links). The Angels, though, wanted Burnett to waive his player option for next season, perhaps to get them under the luxury tax threshold. It wouldn’t be surprising if Burnett hadn’t wanted to do that, given that he prefers playing near the East Coast, and that his option guarantees him $10MM or more in 2015. The Angels, then, will continue to hunt for a starting pitcher to replace the injured Garrett Richards. Here’s more from the West divisions.
- Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki would rather retire than change positions, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes. “No. It’s just who I am, it’s what I do, it’s what I have dreamed of as a kid,” Tulowitzki says. “So I guess when you have a dream and you accomplish it and someone tries to take it away from you … it wouldn’t be worth it for me to try and move somewhere else.” Tulowitzki is just 29 and is still a plus defensive shortstop when healthy, but he continues to have issues with injuries, and it’s not difficult to see how he might need to change positions before the end of his contract, which runs through 2020. Saunders notes that Tulowitzki is currently on crutches after surgery to fix a torn labrum in his hip.
- The Astros‘ “extreme Moneyball” approach is still controversial throughout the game, Joshua Green of Bloomberg BusinessWeek writes in a profile of the Astros since Jeff Luhnow’s hiring in 2011. The Astros’ poor results the past few years, and their relentless questioning of conventional wisdom (leading to, for example, their aggressive approach to shifting and to their tandem minor league rotations), have predictably been divisive. Luhnow gives Green a look at the Astros’ “Ground Control” database (notes from which were leaked in June), which uses an algorithm to tell the team’s management when players ought to be promoted.
New Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo will make his minor league debut tomorrow, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal writes. Castillo, who has not played in an official game since 2012, will debut in the Gulf Coast League. The minor league season is, of course, almost at an end — the GCL Red Sox have a three-game series against the Yankees in the GCL finals. Britton notes that Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket are both also headed to their league playoffs, so Castillo could soon head to one of those affiliates, possibly making his way to the Majors later this year. Here’s more from the East divisions.
- Second baseman Dilson Herrera made his big-league debut with the Mets last night and went 0-for-3 with an error. “To be honest, it was a little bit of nerves going into the first inning, but after that it was fine,” said Herrera, via MetsBlog. “I felt good the rest of the night.” Herrera has made great strides since the Mets acquired him from the Pirates with Vic Black in the Marlon Byrd trade last year, and after a half-season breakout at Double-A Binghamton, he now looks like a top prospect. The Pirates paid heavily for Byrd, but he did hit .318/.357/.486 down the stretch for them, also hitting a homer in the Bucs’ win in the Wild Card game against the Reds.
- Highly regarded former big-league GM Pat Gillick is now the Phillies‘ interim team president as David Montgomery takes a medical leave of absence, but GM Ruben Amaro says team operations will be “status quo,” Jake Kaplan of the Daily News writes. Gillick was the Phillies’ GM when they won the World Series in 2008, but Amaro says Gillick’s current duties will only be temporary.
Here’s the latest out of the National League …
- The Phillies reversed course on Ryan Howard‘s playing time because the club believes the only way it can salvage anything in return for him is to keep him in the everyday lineup, Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Philadelphia hopes that an American League team will bite on Howard over the offseason, especially if he can put up the kinds of numbers (25 home runs, 100 RBI) that would shine up his surface appeal.
- The word around Philadelphia is that no major changes to the decisionmaking structure will occur while club president David Montgomery is on leave, as MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. Both GM Ruben Amaro Jr. and Ryne Sandberg gave short and simple explanations that the status quo would continue. “We’re not really at liberty to really discuss much more about it,” said Amaro.
- Braves reliever Jonny Venters will undergo and attempt to return from a third Tommy John procedure, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports on Twitter. Venters was one of the game’s better southpaw setup men over 2010-12, but he would be a rare pitcher to make it back from a trio of UCL replacements.
- The Brewers are unlikely to make any last-minute moves, GM Doug Melvin tells MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy (Twitter link). Though the club made a claim and tried to acquire Rockies’ first baseman Justin Morneau, Melvin indicated that nothing seemed in the works at this point. “You never know, but probably not,” he said.
AUG. 28: The Phillies have announced that they’ve acquired right-hander Victor Arano as the second player in the Hernandez trade. The 19-year-old Arano ranked as the Dodgers’ No. 14 prospect on MLB.com’s midseason Top 20 list.
Arano totaled a 4.08 ERA with 8.7 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 in 86 innings of work at Class-A Great Lakes this season, making 15 starts and eight relief appearances. Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com praise Arano’s 90-91 mph fastball (which tops out at 94 mph) and slider, though they note that his changeup needs more work. Still, Arano is physically mature for a teenager and shows an advanced feel for pitching, per the MLB.com duo, who project him as a starter in the long term despite the fact that he’s presently had more success in the bullpen.
AUG. 16: The Phillies have announced that one of the two players they’re acquiring from the Dodgers is second baseman Jesmuel Valentin, a 2012 first-round pick from Puerto Rico who was hitting .282/.352/.433 for Class A Great Lakes as a 20-year-old. Heading into the season, Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook 2014 listed him as the Dodgers’ 22nd-best prospect, projecting him as a utility player. MLB.com ranked him at No. 13 in the Dodgers’ system and was somewhat more optimistic, suggesting he lacks power but could be the sort of hitter who typically bats second in a team’s batting order. He is the son of former big-league infielder Jose Valentin.
AUG. 7: The Phillies announce that they have traded Roberto Hernandez to the Dodgers for two players to be named later or cash considerations. The Phillies placed Hernandez, along with a number of other players, on revocable waivers on Saturday.
The Phillies signed Hernandez to a one-year, $4.5MM deal last winter, and he posted a 3.87 ERA with 5.6 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 in 121 innings for them, with a strong 52.0% ground ball rate. He has gotten good results recently, with a 2.18 ERA in three starts since the All-Star break. Hernandez, formerly known as Fausto Carmona, has played parts of nine seasons, also spending time with the Indians and Rays.
Hernandez’s role with the Dodgers is unclear. Obviously, they have a strong rotation featuring Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Josh Beckett has, however, struggled in three outings since returning from the disabled list with a hip injury, and Matt Gelb of the Inquirer tweets that Hernandez will start in Beckett’s place Friday.
For the Phillies, the move marks their first trade of a veteran since their very quiet trade deadline. It may have helped them that Hernandez’s contract was a relatively easy one to trade. The Phillies are currently 51-63 and in last place in the NL East.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Phillies have announced major organizational news, as general owner, president, and CEO David Montgomery will take a leave of absence while continuing his cancer treatment. Montgomery has been in charge of the club since 1997, overseeing the franchise’s rise in the first decade of the new millennium.
Taking over his duties in the meantime will be Hall of Fame former general manager Pat Gillick. The longtime executive has served as a senior advisor to the club since leaving active duty. In a statement, the team said that it “looks forward to [Montgomery] returning to his roles … when he is fully recovered.”
The move comes at a difficult time for a Phillies organization that faces many important questions regarding its on-field product. Philadelphia enters the final month of the regular season in last place in the division, leading to questions about the long-term viability of GM Ruben Amaro Jr. — the former Gillick understudy and successor who was hired by Montgomery.
MLBTR joins those around the game who have offered their best wishes to Montgomery as he works his way back.
It remains to be seen whether the Mets will pull off a deal for veteran starter Bartolo Colon, whose fate will be one of the most-watched storylines over the next few days. Over at Fangraphs, Mike Petriello questions why there has seemed to be such little demand for the righty, concluding that he is likely worth his $11MM salary for next season and could well be an important last-minute upgrade for a contender.
Here’s more from the east …
- Recent Red Sox signee Rusney Castillo has obtained a work visa in surprisingly short order and is now clear to play, Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com reports on Twitter. It remains to be seen whether Boston will expose him to MLB action this year, but that is now a possibility with about a month left to go in the regular season.
- The Yankees continue to move forward in a fairly high-stakes attempt to rehab Masahiro Tanaka for a return this year, with success meaning a top-end arm down the stretch and failure potentially meaning a delayed resort to surgery. As George A. King III reports for the New York Post, Tanaka continues to pass hurdles, with colleague Ken Davidson writing that today’s simulated game was a significant step towards a return.
- Recent acquisitions of the Yankees – including Martin Prado, Stephen Drew, and Chase Headley — could hint at a broader strategic shift, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. All of those players have seen action at multiple positions, and Sherman argues that New York could well commit more resources to depth and versatility going forward, essentially putting additional cash behind the strategies of the Athletics and Rays.
- Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton said that some have misconstrued his recent comments regarding his contractual situation, as Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun Sentinel reports. “There is no answer to what my future is,” he said, explaining that some have over-interpreted his words in either direction. Nevertheless, planned offseason extension discussions are sure to lead to immense scrutiny and speculation.
- Cole Hamels was just the latest Phillies player to publicly show up manager Ryne Sandberg in some manner, as Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com explains. Though the skipper downplayed the incident and said he has control of his clubhouse, Salisbury paints a picture of a tense situation in Philadelphia. As Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes, this on-field drama is playing out in the midst of broader leadership questions with the club. Martino says that the “fiercely loyal organization” is facing a difficult choice between that loyalty and the evident need for accountability.
Here are the day’s minor moves:
- Phillies infielder Reid Brignac has accepted an outright assignment with the club rather than electing free agency, Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com tweets. The 28-year-old Brignac, once a top prospect, has hit .222/.300/.346 in 91 plate appearances this year for Philadelphia.
- The Yankees have released righty Alfredo Aceves from their Triple-A affiliate, the club announced. The seven-year MLB veteran had struggled to a 6.52 ERA in 19 1/3 frames with the big club this year, but had been more effective in his 28 1/3 minor league frames (3.49 ERA). Aceves generally posted strong results up through 2011, even if his peripherals did not quite support them, but has not been a productive big leaguer since.
- Also being cut loose by the Yankees is Corban Joseph. The 25-year-old infielder has seen only a cup of coffee at the MLB level, but owns a .260/.343/.424 slash over 855 career Triple-A plate appearances.
Mets first baseman Lucas Duda may or may not fully blossom into a star, but his breakout year has at least forestalled any need for the club to go out and find a new first baseman, writes Mike Petriello of Fangraphs. Here’s more from the NL East:
- Both the Angels and Royals have considered attempting to deal for Mets righty Bartolo Colon, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports (Twitter links). At present, however, neither possible suitor is in strong pursuit, with dollars being a major deterrent and the sides not necessarily seeing eye to eye on a return.
- The Phillies will likely give Miguel Gonzalez a September call-up, writes Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Gonzalez has thrived recently in the upper minors in a relief role, but that transition away from the rotation means that Philadelphia will need to act quickly to reap any value from the 28-year-old’s three-year, $12MM pact.
- Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton says that he is still not certain that he wants to commit to a long-term deal with Miami, Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reports. While the club now features a fairly interesting, younger roster with some future promise, Stanton noted that “five months doesn’t change five years.”
- The Braves have shut down reliever Jonny Venters after he came up with a sore elbow when he tried to increase his velocity, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports on Twitter. The southpaw, who had been attempting to return from his second Tommy John procedure, earned $1.625MM in his second year of arbitration eligibility (the same figure as his first) after missing all of 2013. A non-tender certainly appears to be a reasonably likely scenario after the year.
Phillies right-hander A.J. Burnett dominated the Nationals last night, and on the heels of his 12-strikeout gem, he softened his stance on retirement, writes CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury. “My decision will come down to how I feel and what my family and I decide,” said Burnett. “It’s just one start, but to be able to go out and do that tonight makes you wonder.” Burnett spent the majority of the previous offseason debating retirement before ultimately deciding that he would pitch again. However, he kept his choices limited, preferring only to pitch near his Maryland home, and eventually agreed to a one-year deal with the Phillies. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says that starting pitching will be a priority for him this offseason — a statement that presumably will hold true regardless of the decision Burnett reaches on his player option.
Here are some more Phillies links…
- Right-hander Mike Adams told reporters Monday (including Salisbury) that he feels as though he has stolen money from the Phillies after spending the majority of his two-year, $12MM contract on the disabled list. “There probably isn’t anyone by the situation than myself,” Adams said. Adams’ injury troubles have become severe enough that he’s not sure whether or not he will try to pitch somewhere next season.
- The Phillies did indeed place a bid on Rusney Castillo, writes Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer, but it was not close to Boston’s winning offer of seven years and $72.5MM. Amaro would not characterize whether or not he considered the Phillies to be a finalist — Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that they had been, after Castillo signed — but the GM did say that the Phillies are aggressively scouting international free agents.
- Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wouldn’t be surprised if the Phils are getting some calls on Burnett following last night’s performance, and he also spoke with an AL scout regarding Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon (Twitter links). “He gets people out and does the job, but not much life in that arm like there used to be,” said the scout.