- MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says that the league won’t take any action with regard to Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang until the Chicago police have advanced their investigation into allegations of sexual assault, Stephen Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. “We are aware of the situation and are working with law enforcement,” said Manfred. “We will make a decision when we have sufficient facts as to whether application of, for example, the administrative leave provisions in the new policy are applicable.” The league had moved more swiftly to place Hector Olivera on administrative leave earlier this season, but he was arrested and charged in the immediate aftermath of the incident in question. In many ways, Kang’s situation will represent a new challenge for the commissioner’s office, who has already dealt with several cases under a still-new policy addressing domestic violence and sexual assault. This is the first case falling under the latter rubric, and also the first involving an important player whose team is involved in a post-season race.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred had a wide-ranging conversation with reporters today in San Diego. Here’s a little of what he had to say, via Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times (Twitter links: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8), Bleacher Report’s Scott Miller (1 2 3), David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (1) and John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle.
- Manfred lists the number of African-American players (currently 8%, although he says 20% of recent first-round draft picks have been African-American) as a significant concern. “This is an economic imperative for us,” he says, noting that, as the US becomes increasingly diverse, MLB must strive for diversity as well. On a somewhat related note, Manfred also said that the lack of a Latino manager in the game right now was “glaring.”
- MLB will not consider expanding until the Rays and Athletics get their stadium issues resolved, Manfred says. Manfred sounds determined to keep a team in Oakland, however. “I am committed to Oakland as a major league site,” he says. If the A’s were to depart, “we would be looking backwards and saying we made a mistake.” He adds that he thinks the Oakland market will be increasingly appealing going forward. “I think the growth in that area, the way the growth has moved up into San Francisco, I think Oakland is more likely than not to be a better market five years from now than it is today,” he says.
- Perhaps unsurprisingly, Manfred said he was confident that labor talks this offseason would not result in a strike or lockout.
- Of the current clamor to raise wages for minor league players (which has included a class-action lawsuit brought by former minor leaguers), Manfred says, “Excessive regulation could have a really dramatic impact on the size of minor league baseball,” seemingly suggesting that increased wages might result in the folding of some minor league teams.
- It sounds like Manfred expects some form of draft pick compensation for free agents to continue into the next Collective Bargaining Agreement — he says owners would be making a “major concession” if draft-pick compensation were to be dropped.
- It sounds like Manfred did not come out in support of an international draft today quite as strongly as he has in the past, but he did say MLB needs “a more transparent operating system in the international player acquisition process.”
- Manfred admits that the current 162-game schedule is tough on players, and says players and owners are currently discussing ways to reduce the difficulty of the season by optimizing game times and improving teams’ travel schedules. Of the possibility of reducing the number of games, however, he says, “You want to work less, generally you get paid less.”
- The league has not received enough information from law enforcement to decide whether Pirates third baseman Jung Ho Kang, who has been accused of sexual assault, should be placed on administrative leave.
The Brewers have announced that they’ve claimed righty reliever Rob Scahill from the Pirates and optioned him to Triple-A Colorado Springs. The Bucs designated Scahill for assignment when they claimed Eric Fryer from the Cardinals last week.
The 29-year-old Scahill has spent the season bouncing back and forth between Pittsburgh and Triple-A Indianapolis. He’s generally had good big-league results in two seasons with the Pirates, with a 3.26 ERA, but he’s posted somewhat underwhelming peripherals (7.1 K/9, 4.2 BB/9). Previously, he’d appeared in parts of three seasons with the Rockies. The Brewers probably liked that Scahill entered the season with less than two full years of service time, however, and that he can still be optioned back and forth to the minors.
- Pirates Comp Round A pick Nick Lodolo looks likeliest to be the highest unsigned pick in this year’s draft, MLB.com’s Jim Callis tweets. Lodolo, a lanky high school lefty from California, has a commitment to TCU. Via MLB.com’s draft signing and bonus tracker, three picks above Lodolo remain unsigned — seventh overall pick Braxton Garrett (Marlins), 12th overall pick Jason Groome (Red Sox) and No. 31 pick Anthony Kay (Mets).
The bullpen market has been picking up some steam lately, with the Red Sox acquiring Brad Ziegler from the D-backs and the Marlins landing Fernando Rodney in a trade with the Padres. Miami was apparently in the market for some more controllable bullpen help prior to landing Rodney, though, as MLB Network’s Peter Gammons reports (on Twitter) that the Marlins also spoke with the Brewers about Jeremy Jeffress. Milwaukee had a significant asking price on its closer, however, as Gammons hears that the Brewers asked for right-hander Chris Paddack (the pitcher Miami traded to get Rodney) and two more prospects in exchange for Jeffress. MLBTR’s Jeff Todd has long listed Jeffress on his weekly rankings of trade candidates, noting that it’s understandable for the Brewers to have a steep ask with another three years of club control remaining beyond 2016.
More from the NL…
- Josh Bell has been quite impressive in his limited big league experience, going 2-for-2 with a walk and a monstrous grand slam in three pinch-hit appearances over the weekend. However, Ron Cook of the Pittburgh Post-Gazette writes that the Pirates will option Bell back to Triple-A in spite of his strong first impression, as the team informed him from day one that he was being promoted for the weekend only. “I don’t see moving him to first base in front of [John] Jaso right now with the job [Jaso] has done,” said manager Clint Hurdle to Cook. “I think down the line we’ll see what a little bit more [of Bell] would look like. I don’t know when down the line is.” General manager Neal Huntington tells Cook that he still kicks himself for rushing Gregory Polanco and Pedro Alvarez to the Majors and doesn’t want to make the same mistake with Bell.
- Nationals GM Mike Rizzo tells Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post that he doesn’t see a glaring need anywhere on his roster that needs to be addressed at the trade deadline. “That’s not to say that we’re a perfect team and we couldn’t upgrade if the right possibility comes,” says Rizzo of his club, however. As far as payroll is concerned, Rizzo adds that the Nationals would be able to take on payroll in order to lessen the prospect cost of a trade.
- Braves catcher Tyler Flowers is having an MRI on his hand today after aggravating an injury that he sustained a week ago when he was hit by a pitch against the Marlins, writes MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. If a trip to the disabled list is necessary, the Braves could turn to Triple-A backstop Blake Lalli, though doing so would require a 40-man roster move. Bowman has updates on a number of injured Braves, noting that right-hander Shae Simmons has seen improvements in his shoulder since he resumed throwing off a mound. He’s been sidelined all season recovering from Tommy John surgery and twice had setbacks involving his right shoulder.
Minor league deals often go unnoticed or are met with an eye roll from fans — the ever-witty “Championship!” comments abound following such deals — and more often than not, they end up as inconsequential moves that are quickly forgotten. Each year, though, a handful of minor league signings yield legitimate value for their new clubs. With the more than half of the season in the books and the All-Star break upon us, enough of the season has passed that we can discern which minor league deals have yielded the most significant dividends in 2016…
- Robbie Grossman, Twins: Grossman wasn’t an offseason minor league signing, but he inked a minors pact with the Twins in mid-May and was brought up to the big leagues almost immediately thereafter. Since arriving in Minneapolis, he’s seen regular playing time and enjoyed the most productive stretch of his career. The switch-hitter is batting .289/.421/.465 with six homers and 10 doubles over the life of 195 plate appearances and has walked at an incredible 18.5 percent clip. Defensive metrics are way down on his work in left field, but the bat has been good enough that Fangraphs pegs him at a strong 1.1 WAR thus far. He’s controllable for another four seasons as well.
- Matt Joyce, Pirates: Joyce’s 2015 season with the Angels was awful, but he’s more productive on a per-plate-appearance basis in 2016 than he ever has been before. He’s been heavily platooned, as usual, and has posted an excellent .295/.420/.558 batting line with eight homers in 157 plate appearances as the Pirates’ fourth outfielder. He, too, has drawn poor marks from UZR and DRS, but he’s been productive enough at the plate that he won’t be settling for a minor league contract again this winter.
- Dae-ho Lee, Mariners: Lee didn’t generate as much interest as countryman Byung Ho Park, but he’s been the better player of the two thus far. Through 188 plate appearances, the former KBO and NPB star is hitting .288/.330/.514 with a dozen homers and four doubles. He’s been platooned quite a bit himself, but his numbers against righties are actually a bit better than his still-strong production against lefties.
- Fernando Abad, Twins: Some of the shine has worn off from Abad’s early dominance, as he’s yielded seven runs in his past six outings. In spite of that slump, though, Abad boasts a 2.83 ERA with 8.2 K/9, 4.1 BB/9 and a 46.7 percent ground-ball rate. He’s pitched 28 2/3 innings for the Twins and could be a trade chip this summer. He’s controllable through the 2017 campaign, which adds to his appeal.
- Matt Belisle, Nationals: A strained calf has limited Belisle to 19 innings with the Nats this season, but he’s been terrific when healthy. The veteran right-hander has a 2.37 ERA with 16 strikeouts against four walks (two intentional) with a 41.1 percent ground-ball rate in D.C. He’s helped to stabilize what has been a vastly improved Nationals bullpen in 2016.
- Ryan Buchter, Padres: The 29-year-old has been brilliant for San Diego in 2016, logging 38 innings with a 2.61 ERA and averaging 13 strikeouts per nine innings. He has some control issues, averaging five walks per nine as well, but he’s missed so many bats that the free passes haven’t hurt him often. He’d only thrown one big league inning prior to this season, so San Diego can control him for six years if he can maintain this breakout. (Apologies for leaving Buchter off the initial list; he was added to the 40-man back in January, which caused me to incorrectly remember him as a Major League signee.)
- Matt Bush, Rangers: That Bush even made it to a Major League mound after the trajectory his career took is astonishing on its own, but his performance thus far with the Rangers has been excellent as well. The 30-year-old has a 2.49 ERA with 8.9 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a 37.1 percent ground-ball rate through 25 1/3 innings out of the Rangers’ bullpen. With Shawn Tolleson’s 2016 struggles and a three-month stay on the disabled list for Keone Kela, Bush’s emergence has been critical for Texas.
- Dillon Gee, Royals: Gee’s 4.11 ERA isn’t exactly flashy, but he’s provided 57 serviceable innings in 13 relief appearances and five starts for the Royals. And, with Chris Young shifting to the bullpen, Gee could continue to get some starts for Kansas City following the All-Star break. The Royals can hang onto him for another season via the arbitration process, as well.
- Brandon Kintzler, Twins: The former Brewers right-hander has found himself in the closer role for the Twins following an injury to Glen Perkins and a disastrous season for Kevin Jepsen. Kintlzer doesn’t miss bats (5.5 K/9), but he’s walked just two batters in 26 innings and has posted an exceptional 64.2 percent ground-ball rate en route to a 2.42 ERA. Like his bullpen-mate Abad, Kintzler is controllable through the 2017 season and could be appealing to clubs in need of relief help.
- Chien-Ming Wang, Royals: Wang’s improved velocity was a big storyline in Spring Training, but he’s settled in at an average of 91.6 mph, which is right in line with his career mark in that regard. The 36-year-old’s sinker isn’t generating grounders like it used to, but he’s still managed a 3.68 ERA with 5.9 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and a 46.2 percent ground-ball rate in 36 2/3 innings with the reigning World Series champions this year.
- Having won 12 of 15, the 46-42 Pirates now sit just 1.5 games back of a Wild Card spot. Thus, they’re approaching the trade deadline as buyers. “Our expectation is we are going to add,” GM Neal Huntington told Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Our mindset is we are going to add and put ourselves, for the first time in the franchise history, in position to make the postseason four consecutive years.” The Pirates’ resurgence has come without ace Gerrit Cole and catcher Francisco Cervelli, of which Huntington is cognizant. “We’ve gone through this toughest part of our schedule,” he said. “We’re going to get guys back healthy.”
- The Pirates’ recent revival will likely erase the chances of right-handed closer Mark Melancon switching teams prior to the Aug. 1 trade deadline, according to Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The free agent-to-be seemed like a prime trade candidate earlier this summer, but the Bucs have gone 11-3 since sitting a season-worst 34-39 on June 23 and have climbed to within 2.5 games of a Wild Card spot. Melancon is amid yet another stellar season, with a sparkling 1.26 ERA, 8.07 K/9 and 2.02 BB/9 in 35 2/3 innings. The 31-year-old has also converted 27 of 28 save opportunities.
The Pirates have signed free agent left-hander Josh Outman to a minor league contract, per a team announcement. The Turner Gary Sports client will head to Triple-A Indianapolis. While Outman likely faces long odds of returning to the majors, it’s worth noting that the Pirates only have one southpaw in their bullpen, as their depth chart shows.
Outman, 31, last saw major league action in 2014. As a member of the Indians and Yankees that year, he combined for 40 appearances and posted a terrific 2.86 ERA and solid 53.9 percent ground-ball rate in 28 1/3 innings. However, a 5.08 BB/9 offset his 8.26 K/9 somewhat and he benefited from an 87.2 percent strand rate. Outman, who dealt with thoracic outlet syndrome last season but has now recovered from the issue, spent some of the year in the Braves organization and amassed 8 2/3 frames across four minor league levels. He opened this season with the independent Atlantic League’s New Britain Bees.
On the whole, Outman has recorded a 4.43 ERA, 7.41 K/9, 3.77 BB/9 and 43.8 percent ground-ball mark over 274 1/3 major league innings. Thirty-two of his 161 appearances have come in the form of starts, mostly with the Athletics from 2008-11. His latest start in the majors came back in 2012 with the Rockies.
- Veteran lefty Tom Gorzelanny has declined his outright assignment with the Indians and is now a free agent, the team has announced. The Indians designated Gorzelanny for assignment on Monday after he allowed seven runs in three innings for them. Gorzelanny, who turns 34 this week, has a career 4.40 ERA, 7.3 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 in parts of 12 seasons with the Pirates, Cubs, Nationals, Brewers and Tigers in addition to the Indians.
- The Pirates have outrighted catcher Jacob Stallings, as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Bill Brink tweets. The Bucs designated the defensive specialist for assignment last week. The 26-year-old has batted just .200/.235/.326 this season, but he received a brief callup because of a rash of injuries to Pirates catchers.