Robbie Ray Rumors

Yankees Acquire Didi Gregorius In Three-Team Deal With D-Backs, Tigers

The Yankees, Diamondbacks and Tigers have officially announced a three-team trade sending shortstop Didi Gregorius from the D-Backs to the Yankees, right-hander Shane Greene from the Yankees to the Tigers, and left-hander Robbie Ray and infield prospect Domingo Leyba to the Diamondbacks.

"<strongGregorius, who turns 25 in February, has a good defensive reputation but comes with some question marks regarding his bat. In his age-24 season with the D-Backs, Gregorius batted .226/.290/.363 with six homers and three steals in 299 plate appearances. Overall, he’s compiled a .243/.313/.366 batting line over parts of three seasons in the Majors, showing stretches of offensive potential at times. For instance, Gregorius batted .275/.341/.403 in the first half of the 2013 season with a reasonable .313 BABIP, suggesting that his production wasn’t inflated heavily by luck. However, he followed that up with a .207/.314/.314 second half. He’ll obviously have large shoes to fill in New York as the Yankees hope that he can be a long-term replacement to Derek Jeter. Gregorius is controlled through the 2019 season, giving the Yankees at least five full seasons of his services if he proves that he can handle the job.

Greene is a candidate to immediately fill the fifth slot in the Tigers’ rotation behind David Price, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez and Rick Porcello. The 26-year-old had an impressive debut with the Yankees in 2014, making 15 appearances (14 starts) and posting a 3.78 ERA (3.73 FIP, 3.40 xFIP, 3.41 SIERA) with 9.3 K/9, 3.3 BB/9 and a 50.2 percent ground-ball rate in 78 2/3 innings. Greene averaged a solid 93.1 mph on his fastball last year and gives the Tigers a piece they can potentially control in the long-term, with Price and Porcello set to hit free agency next winter. Greene is controllable through the 2020 season.

The Diamondbacks are dealing from a position of depth, as they had a number of shortstop options in 2015, with Gregorius, Chris Owings and Nick Ahmed all representing controllable possibilities, and the veteran Cliff Pennington serving as a one-year option before hitting the open market next winter. With this move, Owings will presumably be penciled in as the everyday shortstop and will team with Aaron Hill to form the Diamondbacks’ double-play tandem.

Arizona is known to be seeking rotation options for the 2015 season this winter, and in landing Ray, they’d be acquiring an arm that has a bit of MLB experience and could soon step into the rotation. Ray, who turned 23 in October, made nine appearances in Detroit this season but allowed 26 runs in 28 2/3 innings. He also struggled, to an extent, in Triple-A last year, pitching to a 4.22 ERA with 6.7 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9. However, he’s one year removed from being regarded highly enough by the Tigers to serve as the centerpiece in their trade of Doug Fister to the Nationals.

Leyba was recently ranked fifth among Detroit farmhands by Baseball America. The 19-year-old switch-hitter played both shortstop and second base between short-season Class-A in the New York Penn League and Class-A in the Midwest League, batting .323/.360/.423 with a pair of homers and a pair of steals in 278 plate appearances. In BA’s scouting report, Ben Badler writes that while Leyba doesn’t have any “dynamic” tools, he’s a fundamentally sound infielder with good bat control and a line-drive stroke that can barrel up against good velocity. Badler noted that he’s probably better suited at second base, but the Tigers did give him a look at short in the season’s final two weeks. MLB.com ranked him eighth among Tigers prospects on its midseason Top 20 list, noting that he has double-digit homer potential once he matures and possesses good strike zone knowledge.

For the Yankees, this places an even larger need on acquiring starting pitching, either via free agency or trade, this offseason. Greene’s departure leaves New York with Masahiro Tanaka (whose elbow health is up in the air), CC Sabathia (coming off knee surgery), Ivan Nova (coming off Tommy John surgery), Michael Pineda (who has been plagued by shoulder problems) and David Phelps as potential rotation pieces. The decision to move Greene in order to address shortstop isn’t necessarily the result of a faulty thought process, however. The free agent and trade markets are both stacked with starting pitching options this winter, while there’s little in the way of shortstop talent available (particularly if one feels that Asdrubal Cabrera and Jed Lowrie are better equipped to play second base). Gregorius will team with Martin Prado either up the middle or on the left side of the infield (depending on how New York’s pursuit of Chase Headley ultimately concludes), with Mark Teixeira hoping to return to health at first base. If they elect to use Prado at third and give Rob Refsnyder a shot at second base, as the Post’s George A. King III and others have speculated, then it stands to reason that the primary focus from this point forth will be pitching upgrades, both in the rotation and in the bullpen.

WFAN’s Sweeny Murti first reported a framework that was being discussed. The Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro then tweeted that Ray was likely one of the names headed to the D-Backs, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports pushed the report across the finish line, noting that a deal with those parameters had indeed been agreed upon (Twitter links). Rosenthal’s colleague, Jon Morosi reported that Leyba was the second prospect in the deal (on Twitter).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Yankees, Tigers, D-Backs Discussing Three-Team Trade

The Yankees, Diamondbacks and Tigers are discussing a potential three-team trade that would send shortstop Didi Gregorius to the Yankees, reports WFAN’s Sweeny Murti (on Twitter). According to Murti, right-hander Shane Greene could head to the Tigers, with Detroit potentially sending a pair of arms to Arizona. Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic chimes in, tweeting that left-hander Robbie Ray is potentially available for the Diamondbacks in a three-team deal, so it seems that he could be one of the pitchers referenced by Murti.

Of course, there would be other pieces involved in this framework. The reported pieces, as it stands, don’t necessarily explain the Tigers’ primary motivation for being in this deal, unless they’ve soured on Ray and are willing to part with him and another prospect in order to obtain Greene. While the 26-year-old Greene unquestionably had a strong debut for the Yankees in 2014 — 3.78 ERA, 3.73 FIP, 9.3 K/9, 3.3 BB/9 in 78 2/3 innings — it would seem surprising to think that Detroit would part with Ray and another arm to land Greene alone. Ray, of course, was the centerpiece to last winter’s surprising trade of Doug Fister to the Nationals.

Gregorius, who turns 25 in February, has a good defensive reputation but comes with some question marks regarding his bat. In his age-24 season with the D-Backs, Gregorius batted .226/.290/.363 with six homers and three steals in 299 plate appearances. He’s compiled a .243/.313/.366 batting line over parts of three seasons in the Majors, showing stretches of offensive potential at times. For instance, Gregorius batted .275/.341/.403 in the first half of the 2013 season with a reasonable .313 BABIP, suggesting that his production wasn’t inflated heavily by luck. However, he followed that up with a .207/.314/.314 second half.

The Diamondbacks have a number of shortstop options in 2015, with Gregorius, Chris Owings and Nick Ahmed all representing controllable possibilities, and the veteran Cliff Pennington serving as a one-year option before hitting the open market next winter. Arizona is known to be seeking rotation options for the 2015 season this winter, and in landing Ray, they’d be acquiring an arm that has a bit of MLB experience and could soon step into the rotation.

Ray, who turned 23 in October, made nine appearances in Detroit this season but allowed 26 runs in 28 2/3 innings. He also struggled, to an extent, in Triple-A last year, pitching to a 4.22 ERA with 6.7 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9.


Central Notes: Moustakas, Knebel, Taveras, Cubs

The Royals announced today that they have optioned struggling third baseman Mike Moustakas to Triple-A Omaha. The move marks a significant fall for the former top prospect, who has yet to show any sort of consistency at the Major League level. Royals fans were optimistic when “Moose” hit .269/.314/.425 over his final 78 games last season and posted strong numbers in Spring Training, but the 25-year-old hit just .152/.223/.320 in 40 games this season despite being platooned for much of the year. Moustakas has turned in elite defensive numbers throughout his career, but he’ll need to show more at the plate to ever deliver on his lofty prospect status.

Here are some more items pertaining to baseball’s Central divisions…

  • The Tigers today optioned left-hander Robbie Ray to Triple-A Toledo and announced that they will purchase the contract of right-hander Corey Knebel prior to tomorrow’s game. Knebel, a right-handed reliever, will become the second player from the 2013 draft to reach the Major Leagues (Cleveland’s Kyle Crockett debuted on May 16). He’s posted a brilliant 0.90 ERA with 12.2 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 in 50 innings across three levels since being selected 39th overall less than one year ago.
  • Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes that playing time for Cardinals top prospect Oscar Taveras could present itself shortly in the Majors, as the team begins a stretch of seven games in AL parks in early June. However, the Cardinals could also recall Randal Grichuk, who has been on an otherwordly tear since being sent back to Triple-A, having slashed .347/.418/.776 with six homers in 12 games. GM John Mozeliak wouldn’t rule out the possibility of either player being promoted when asked by Goold.
  • Grantland’s Jonah Keri spoke with Cardinals pitching coach Derek Lilliquist, ace Adam Wainwright and former Redbird Kyle Lohse about the intricacies of former pitching coach Dave Duncan’s philosophy and approach to the game. Keri writes that Duncan’s influence still runs through the veins of the Cardinals’ organization, which is a driving force behind the team’s extended success. Wainwright said Duncan was “borderline maniacal” in terms of advance scouting and analytics. Keri notes that Duncan never cared much for pitcher-versus-batter data, as such small samples led to misguided decisions.
  • Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts will submit a revised proposal for renovations to Wrigley Field, writes MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat. If approved, they are prepared to move forward with the plans, which include additional seating in the Budweiser Bleachers, new outfield lights to reduce shadows, four additional LED signs of up to 650 square feet and a 2400 square foot video board in right field. Ricketts says negotiations with rooftop business owners have gone nowhere, so It has to end. It’s time to move forward.” He hopes they can avoid going to court with the rooftop owners.


Quick Hits: Jocketty, Uehara, Kolek, Mets

The Redsquiet offseason included few depth signings, and now that lack of roster depth is being tested given the number of key players currently on the team’s disabled list.  Cincinnati GM Walt Jocketty tells Fangraphs’ David Laurila that “there weren’t a lot of moves to make” and warned against too much roster turnover, though finances also played a part in the Reds’ uneventful winter.  “It wasn’t just [will we have money later], it was also ‘Do we have enough money now?,’ Jockett said.  “We’d have loved to have [Shin-Soo] Choo back, but we couldn’t afford him. And there really wasn’t anything else we felt we could do — that we felt we could financially do. Once your club is set, it’s pretty hard to make changes.”

Here are some more items from around baseball…

  • Also from Laurila’s piece, Red Sox closer Koji Uehara wasn’t sure he was ready to pitch in North America when he was first eligible at age 24, though he would’ve liked to have arrived sooner than his age-34 season.  The issue for Uehara was that his Japanese club, the Yomiuri Giants, didn’t post their players and instead required them to fulfill the entirety of their contacts.
  • Right-hander Tyler Kolek regularly hits the 100-mph plateau and “is the hardest-throwing high schooler of the draft era,” scouts tells Baseball America’s John Manuel.  Kolek has been widely predicted to be at least a top-three selection in this year’s amateur draft.
  • As pitchers like Kolek are throwing faster and harder at increasingly young ages, evaluating these young arms has become “a convergence of fascination and fear,” for scouts, MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince writes.  Teams are as interested in ever with hard-throwers, yet are also concerned with the injury risk attached with regularly throwing at such high velocities.
  • Mets fans are losing patience with the team’s rebuilding plan and Sandy Alderson’s front office has seemed either unwilling or unable to spend to make the Amazins more competitive, ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin opines.  Even the low-cost moves that were supposed to be Alderson’s forte have backfired, Rubin notes in regards to the club’s struggling bullpen.
  • Baseball America’s Ben Badler (BA subscription required) profiles five international prospects who have drawn the attention of the Yankees and Astros in the lead-up to the July 2 deadline.  New York has been linked to catcher Miguel Flames, shortstop Diego Castillo and outfielder Jonathan Amundaray, while Houston is interested in outfielder Ronny Rafael and shortstop Miguel Angel Sierra.
  • Should the Tigers use Robbie Ray as a much-needed southpaw reliever or send him back to the minors to get regular work as a starter?  Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press argues the former point while MLive.com’s Chris Iott argues the latter.
  • The revamped draft and free agent rules haven’t helped parity or benefited smaller-market teams, Peter Gammons writes for GammonsDaily.com.  Tying the draft directly to the free agent compensation system (in regards to qualifying offers) has created flaws in both areas, Gammons argues, and the real purpose of the new rules was “to lessen the power of agents and limit the money paid to amateur prospects.”

AL Notes: Angels, Tigers, Baker

The Angels, who have reportedly run into difficulties in their negotiations for a new deal to extend the team’s lease in Anaheim, are discussing potential alternative sites in two other California locations, according to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times: Tustin and, most recently, Irvine. A 2016 opt-out of the team’s current lease is looming in the near future.

  • In his podcast today (audio link), ESPN.com’s Buster Olney touched on several topics relating to the Tigers. Club GM Dave Dombrowski, joining for an interview, said that he is still looking internally first for bullpen solutions, calling it “a little early for clubs to be making trades at this time.”
  • Dombrowski also talked about Robbie Ray, the key piece acquired in the Doug Fister trade. He indicated that Detroit’s evaluators seemingly placed a higher value on Ray than did other teams around the league, saying that Ray “projects to be at least a number-three starter.” Though the club does not expect him to reach that level (let alone his potential ceiling) during his first call-up, Dombrowski said that Ray has thrown well enough at Triple-A to earn a chance to fill in at the big league level.
  • Discussing the Tigers’ reported $144MM extension offer that Max Scherzer declined with fellow ESPN analyst Keith Law, Olney noted that many players and agents he has spoken with felt they would have taken the deal. But the calculating Scherzer — who, in Olney’s opinion, may be the “pitcher’s version of Joey Votto” in terms of his incorporation of statistical analysis into his game — apparently determined that he will hold a good enough hand to warrant the risk of waiting for free agency.
  • Starter Scott Baker has not elected his opt-out clause with the Rangers, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com, after apparently not finding a major league opportunity elsewhere. If he finds such a chance, however, Baker will be able to opt out at that time, Cotillo adds.

Tigers To Promote Robbie Ray

The Tigers have announced that left-handed starter Robbie Ray will be recalled and make his Major League debut against the Astros next Tuesday.

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The 23-year-old Ray ranked 91st on MLB.com’s list of Top 100 prospects prior to the season and was the centerpiece to the trade that sent right-hander Doug Fister from the Tigers to the Nationals this offseason (Detroit also received utility infielder Steve Lombardozzi lefty reliever Ian Krol). He’s gotten off to an excellent start to the year in Triple-A, posting a 1.59 ERA with a 21-to-5 K/BB ratio in 28 1/3 innings of work (five starts). In their free scouting report, Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis of MLB.com offered the following take on Ray:

“Ray throws his fastball in the low-90s and can reach back for a tick more velocity when he needs it. His slider can look slurvy at times, but the best ones have good depth. He has a good feel for his changeup, which is a more consistent offering. His command has improved, but he would benefit from further refinement. Ray is a good athlete and has proven to be durable. He relies more on pitchability than overpowering stuff to get outs, but he has what it takes to succeed as a middle-of-the-rotation starter.”

Ray’s promotion was necessitated by an injury to Anibal Sanchez, but should he impress to the point where he sticks on the roster, his promotion likely will lead him to Super Two status. If his official promotion is delayed until next Tuesday, he would accrue 148 days of Major League service time through season’s end, which would almost certainly place him within the top 22 percent of the two-to-three year service class following the 2016 campaign. That would make Ray eligible for arbitration four times, beginning after the ’16 season, and also setting him to hit free agency in the 2019-20 offseason. Of course, that schedule would change were Ray to be sent back down when Sanchez returns, which should be sometime in mid-May.

Somewhat ironically, Ray is making his Major League debut before the injured Fister has thrown a single Major League pitch for the Nationals. The trade was widely panned in the media at the time, as many felt that Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski received too little for Fister, and it’s been compounded by his decision to trade Lombardozzi for Alex Gonzalez, who has already been released. Ray’s development into a reliable starting option for the Tigers would greatly change that perception.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.