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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.
Left-handed relievers Paco Rodriguez and Antonio Bastardo have changed agencies, according to Liz Mullen of Sports Business Journal. Rodriguez, formerly represented by BKK Sports, will be joining the MVP Sports Group and is now represented by agency president Dan Lozano. Bastardo, who had been represented by ACES, is now a client of Greg Genske of the Legacy Agency.
The 23-year-old Rodriguez blitzed through the minor leagues and was the first 2012 draftee to appear in the Major Leagues, as he made his debut on Sept. 9, 2012, just months after being selected in the second round. He was a lights-out setup man for the Dodgers in 2013, but he has somewhat curiously spent much of the 2014 campaign at Triple-A (perhaps due to some September/postseason struggles last year).
Rodriguez turned in a 2.35 ERA with a 63-to-19 K/BB ratio in 53 2/3 innings for the Dodgers in 2013 and has posted a 4.35 ERA in 10 1/3 innings this season. Overall, he’s notched a 2.52 ERA with 80 strikeouts against 26 walks in 71 1/3 innings out of the Dodgers’ bullpen. He has struggled against right-handers in 2014, yielding a .250/.395/.469 batting line between the Majors and Minors. He’s currently on the DL with a strained teres major muscle in his left shoulder but is expected to return in September.
Bastardo, who will turn 29 next month, is heading into his final offseason of arbitration eligibility before hitting the free agent market. He’s earning $2MM this season and has produced a 4.47 ERA with 11.3 K/9 and 5.0 BB/9 in 54 1/3 innings. Since cementing himself as a member of the Phillies’ bullpen back in 2011, Bastardo has pitched to a 3.48 ERA with 11.6 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 in 207 big league innings. He’s held opposing lefties to a .188/.286/.345 batting line in his career, though right-handed hitters have a similarly feeble .655 OPS against Bastardo.
The representation changes for Rodriguez and Bastardo are both reflected in the MLBTR Agency Database, which contains agent information on more than 2,000 Major League and Minor League players. If you see any errors or omissions within the database, please let us know via email: email@example.com.
Here are today’s minor moves from around the league…
- Phillies infielder Reid Brignac has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, according to the team’s transactions page. The former top prospect was designated for assignment this weekend to clear a spot on the roster for Freddy Galvis. Brignac, 28, batted .222/.300/.346 in 91 plate appearances with the Phillies this year.
- The Rangers have signed catcher J.R. Towles to a minor league deal, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The 30-year-old Towles was once seen as the potential catcher of the future for the Astros, but he never consistently put together success at the big league level, as evidenced by his .187/.267/.315 batting line. Towles has had quite a bit of Triple-A success, however, and he batted .292/.411/.519 in 67 games for the independent Atlantic League’s Bridgeport Bluefish in 2014. Texas needed some additional catching depth after dealing Geovany Soto to the A’s yesterday.
- Baseball America’s Matt Eddy has published his weekly minor league transactions roundup, and within the excellent recap, he notes that the Blue Jays have released right-hander Mickey Storey. The 28-year-old Storey has big league experience with both the Astros and the Jays and pitched to a 3.12 ERA with a 28-to-9 K/BB ratio in 26 innings across three minor league levels with Toronto this season.
Yangervis Solarte has made a good impression on the Padres since arriving from New York in the Chase Headley trade, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. He’s versatile (playing second base, third base and outfield), and he’s hit .271/.347/.383 in 126 plate appearances so far, coming up with several big hits. That’s not bad at all for a solid defender playing in Petco Park. The Padres can move him around the diamond to accommodate their other players. “He’s shown he’s capable of holding down a major-league job,” says manager Bud Black. “What role that is, I think depends on the makeup of the other 12 position players.” Here are more notes from the NL.
- It’s unclear what the Brewers will do with Rule 5 pick Wei-Chung Wang, Caitlin Swieca of MLB.com writes. Milwaukee selected Wang from the Pirates last fall even though he hadn’t played above rookie ball. He predictably struggled out of the Brewers’ bullpen, but since hitting the DL with shoulder tightness in July, he’s transitioned back into starting while on a rehab assignment at the Class A level. It’s unclear whether the Brewers will recall him in September.
- The Phillies have had trouble drumming up interest in closer Jonathan Papelbon even though he’s cleared waivers and the Phillies are willing to eat some of his salary, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. Papelbon’s declining velocity might be a one problem, but as Rosenthal points out, he’s gotten good results despite it. His personality might be another issue, but GM Ruben Amaro insists Papelbon is well behaved, even though he’s opinionated.
Top Mets pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard likely won’t get to make his big-league debut this season, Newsday’s Marc Carig reports. Mets manager Terry Collins says Syndergaard, who has pitched 124 1/3 frames for Triple-A Las Vegas this season, is close to hitting his innings limit for the year. Las Vegas will also make the PCL playoffs, so their season will continue past the usual early-September endpoint. Collins also says that if Syndergaard were to be promoted, the Mets would want it to be for more than just an inning or two. Here’s more from the East divisions.
- Rusney Castillo was able to get such a big contract from the Red Sox in part because his skill set of speed, defense and power will be rare in this offseason’s free agent market, his agent tells Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. “[E]specially when teams were evaluating what was going to be available either at the trade deadline this summer or, more importantly, in free agency this winter, there just weren’t players that matched (Castillo’s) skill set,” says Brodie Van Wagenen of Roc Nation Sports.
- The Phillies need to seriously consider removing Ryan Howard from their roster this offseason, David Murphy of the Daily News writes. Howard has, of course, struggled this season, hitting .222/.300/.373, but Murphy points out that Howard’s offensive struggles go all the way back to 2012, and there were signs of decline even before that. Meanwhile, as the Phillies attempt to remake themselves, plate appearances represent an asset — a way to gain information about a player who might help in the future, like Darin Ruf. Instead of finding playing time for Ruf primarily at first, though, the Phillies are moving him around, cutting into Domonic Brown‘s playing time.
While news of Cuban ballplayer Rusney Castillo continues to dominate the news cycle, the human trafficking side of Cuban imports also made headlines. Eliezer Lazo entered a guilty plea in connection to the smuggling of over 1,000 Cubans, including Rangers outfielder Leonys Martin, reports Curt Anderson of the Associated Press. The article covers some of the sordid details involved in this human trafficking case.
- In related news, a lawsuit brought against Martin by a Mexican baseball academy associated with Lazo will likely be dropped as a result of the criminal case. The Estrellas baseball academy alleged that Martin agreed to pay them up to 35% of his major league contract, but Martin only paid $1.2MM of his $15.5MM deal.
- The Braves and Cubs discussed a proposal that would have sent Edwin Jackson to Atlanta in return for B.J. Upton, writes Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports. The deal would have served as a straight swap of albatross contracts. The sides apparently weren’t close to finalizing a trade but could re-open talks over the offseason. It appears this was probably the rumored trade first reported on August 9.
- In what is likely to become an ongoing “will they, won’t they” story, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer speculates about moving on from Ryan Howard. The club currently has Darin Ruf taking the occasional start in left field while Howard blocks his playing time at first base. Philadelphia seemingly needs to decide which of three players possess the higher upside – Howard, Ruf, or left fielder Domonic Brown. Given Howard’s age, 34, and rapidly diminishing numbers – he had a .678 OPS before today’s home run – it’s fair to wonder if Howard should be the odd man out. Corner infield prospect Maikel Franco could also figure in the mix before long.
- We at MLBTR seek to find answers for the pressing questions such as “Does Rusney Castillo know Jay-Z?” Castillo, who is represented by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports and Brodie Van Wagonen of CAA, does indeed know the mogul, according to the Boston Herald’s Scott Lauber.
The Phillies have announced that they’ve designated Reid Brignac for assignment and recalled fellow infielder Freddy Galvis from Triple-A Lehigh Valley, essentially replacing an older, lefty-hitting utilityman with a younger, switch-hitting one. Brignac, 28, was hitting .222/.300/.346 in 91 plate appearances with the Phillies. He hit better for Lehigh Valley, batting .299/.375/.521 in 138 plate appearances there.
Brignac signed a minor league deal with the Phillies last winter. He has previously played for the Rays (for whom he was once a top prospect), Rockies and Yankees, posting a .222/.266/.314 line in parts of seven big-league seasons.
THURSDAY: In an appearance on ESPN Radio 97.5 with Mike Missanelli, ESPN’s Jayson Stark said that he’s not so sure there won’t be changes to the Phillies’ front office following the season (via Philly.com’s Peter Mucha). “They are certainly going to make changes in the organization,” Stark said. “There’s a lot of rumors swirling about all sorts of stuff below Ruben.”
Stark also notes that ownership outside of Montgomery may not be as confident in Amaro. Additionally, Stark points to Montgomery’s firing of former GM Ed Wade back in 2005 — a move that was heavily influenced by the public opinion.
WEDNESDAY: While many outside the Phillies organization have been quick to criticize general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., team president David Montgomery is still voicing public support for his GM. Via Todd Zolecki, Erin Bacharach and Greg Johns of MLB.com, Montgomery addressed a large group of fans in a Q&A session on Tuesday and plainly stated, “Ruben is not on the hot seat.”
The Phillies currently sit in last place with a 55-71 record and are on the verge of missing the playoffs for a third straight season. Since winning the NL East and posting a 102-win season in 2011, they’ve been on a sharp decline. Philadelphia finished 81-81 in 2012 (third place), 73-89 in 2013 (fourth place) and are now on pace for a last-place finish and just 70 wins this year.
Philadelphia’s decline, aging roster and thin farm system (at the upper levels) have all fueled criticism for Amaro. Moves such as Ryan Howard‘s extension (five years, $125MM); the re-signing of aging veterans Jimmy Rollins and Carlos Ruiz; the free-agent signing of Jonathan Papelbon to a four-year deal with a vesting option; and the decision not to trade veterans in order to start a rebuild have not sat well with many Phillies fans.
The Phillies do appear to have done well in recent drafts — Aaron Nola and J.P. Crawford are both highly regarded prospects — and some recent offseason additions, such as Marlon Byrd and Roberto Hernandez have paid dividends. Of course, while Byrd has been very productive, his contract and limited no-trade clause (along with a reportedly lofty asking price) prevented the Phils from being able to trade him.
That’s nothing new for the Phillies and Amaro, however, as vesting options and partial no-trade clauses have sapped their leverage in trading many players. A glance at their current roster shows that Byrd, Howard, Hamels, Papelbon, A.J. Burnett, Cliff Lee and Chase Utley are all associated with those trading road blocks (be the no-trade protection contractual or via 10-and-5 rights).
As the MLB.com trio points out, this is not the first time that Montgomery has backed Amaro, though it’s certainly his most straightforward defense of his general manager. Montgomery defended his front office to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Matt Gelb in June and to Zolecki back in February as well.
MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki runs down a number of decisions with which the Phillies are faced in the coming offseason and examines some of the perceived problems on the roster. Sources have indicated to Zolecki that despite manager Ryne Sandberg’s desire to play Darin Ruf more often at first base, the Phils feel they need to let Ryan Howard play if they have any hope of moving him to an AL club this winter. Zolecki adds that while Sandberg would like to learn more about Ruf via extra playing time, the organization feels it knows that Ruf is a platoon player — a view shared by other clubs as well.
Here’s more from the NL East…
- Despite the common belief that the Mets should move Bartolo Colon this offseason, Ben Berkon of SNY.tv’s MetsBlog opines that the pitching-rich Mets should at least consider the possibility of moving a different starter such as Jon Niese. While Colon could potentially net some minor league pieces to help out in 2017-18, flipping Niese and his desirable contract (but oft-questionable health status) could bring the Mets more immediate help. Berkon speculates that Niese — perhaps paired with prospects Noah Syndergaard, Kevin Plawecki and/or Rafael Montero — could allow the Mets to land an impact bat that the Mets have been lacking despite strong seasons from Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda.
- The acquisition of Asdrubal Cabrera has helped the Nationals not only on the field but in the clubhouse as well, writes James Wagner of the Washington Post. Manager Matt Williams offered nothing but praise for Cabrera’s professionalism, and shortstop Ian Desmond said he strives to live up to the clubhouse reputation and league-wide repsect that Cabrera has built.
- Between top prospects Christian Bethancourt and Jose Peraza, only Bethancourt should expect a September callup, writes MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. Peraza has very little experience above Class A to this point, whereas Bethancourt impressed the Braves in his handling of the pitching staff in a brief two-week audition this summer. Bowman feels that the Braves’ comfort level with Bethancourt’s glove increases reason to believe that Evan Gattis should be traded to an AL club this winter. That seems like a leap in my eyes, given Bethancourt’s modest production at Triple-A and struggles against MLB pitching. Of course, Bethancourt, 22, is quite young to have played a full season at Triple-A as well, making his pedestrian numbers more understandable.