- The Cubs made attempts over the past couple years to acquire right-hander Tyson Ross from the Padres and could pursue him in free agency, according to Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago. “The Padres were close to trading Ross to the Cubs for Starlin Castro,” a major league source who worked for one of the teams told Levine. “San Diego execs were mixed on asking for Castro or Javier Baez. The deal went down to the wire in late July of 2015 but never got to the point of exchanging medicals.” Ross was a front-of-the-rotation starter at that point, but he only threw 5 1/3 innings last season and is currently recovering from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery. The Padres non-tendered him Friday.
8:44pm: Ross is so early in his surgery rehab that his progress wasn’t a factor, GM A.J. Preller tells AJ Cassavell of MLB.com (links to Twitter). San Diego is open to a return, at a lower price. Obviously, a trade didn’t come together, but Preller says that discussions were explored.
7:18pm: The Padres have non-tendered righty Tyson Ross and five other players, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports on Twitter. Also cut loose were Alexi Amarista, Jon Edwards, Erik Johnson, Jose Pirela and Hector Sanchez.
Ross, 29, easily becomes the most prominent player to be non-tendered this year. Excellent as he has been when healthy, he missed virtually all of 2016 and is still working back from shoulder surgery.
Still, the wide assumption had been that San Diego would roll the dice on Ross returning to form, perhaps hoping he’d emerge as a trade candidate as soon as the spring — or, if not, by the mid-season market. After all, he compiled a 3.03 ERA over 391 2/3 innings in the 2014 and 2015 seasons, with a strong 9.4 K/9 against 3.6 BB/9.
Ross is typically a very strong groundball pitcher, with a lifetime 56.0% mark. But his velocity had been falling of late, and then the shoulder issues arose in full force. While it seemed at various times as if he’d make it back in 2016, after making just a single start (on Opening Day), he ultimately required thoracic outlet surgery in mid-October.
Given the risk — and, perhaps, the unknown medical reports the team has received — perhaps the move isn’t as surprising as it seems at first glance. MLBTR projected Ross to repeat his $9.6MM salary from a year ago, and that’s no small amount to stake on a single season. Still, organizations searching for upside on a thin market will no doubt take a long look at a pitcher who’s a top-of-the-rotation piece when healthy.
Among the other players, Amarista ($1.6MM projection) and Sanchez ($900K) were also eligible. They’ll also save the team money; San Diego already parted with Derek Norris and his projected $4.0MM salary earlier today via trade.
The others will mostly depart to open roster space. All came with questions. Edwards, a converted outfielder, has a big arm but threw just one competitive inning last year. Johnson, who came over in the James Shields trade, underwent Tommy John surgery in early October. And Pirela was once a highly regarded prospect, but hasn’t stayed healthy and didn’t hit much last year at Triple-A.
It’s a homecoming of sorts for Norris, who was once a well-regarded prospect in the D.C. system before being shipped to Oakland in the deal that landed Gio Gonzalez. Now, he joins righty A.J. Cole in finding his way back to the Nationals organization via trade.
Norris never suited up at the major league level with the Nationals, but he’ll surely do so in 2017. The organization was looking for a replacement for Wilson Ramos to pair with incumbent reserves Jose Lobaton and Pedro Severino. Odds are that the organization is planning some form of timeshare, presumably featuring Norris against left-handed pitching while Lobaton (a switch-hitter) gets the bulk of his time against righties. Severino still has options and will likely begin the year at Triple-A.
Washington will obviously tender Norris a contract, and can expect to pay him in the neighborhood of a projected $4.0MM arbitration salary. He can be controlled for one more season via the arbitration process.
The move almost certainly spells the end of Ramos’s tenure in D.C. In conjunction with the new deal just given to Lobaton, it likely also means that the Nats won’t chase free agent Matt Wieters or an alternative option behind the dish.
In Norris, the Nationals are taking a gamble on a return to form offensively. The 27-year-old posted an anemic .186/.255/.328 batting line over 458 plate appearances last year for San Diego, though he did manage to tie a career high with 14 home runs. But he was a near-average hitter in the season prior, and carried a strong 115 OPS+ in the 2013-14 seasons with the Athletics. As we noted in reviewing the organization’s offseason outlook, Norris seemed a reasonable candidate to roll the dice on given this year’s weak crop of available receivers.
The concern with Norris isn’t so much that he had a rough year — after all, his .238 BABIP figures to improve — but that his approach has eroded rather drastically. In his heyday with the A’s, Norris drew walks at about a 12% clip while striking out in around a fifth of his plate appearances. Both numbers have moved in the wrong direction in San Diego, though; last year, he posted a 7.9% walk rate (improving upon his 6.3% from the year prior) and jumped up to a 30.3% strikeout rate. Norris is both chasing pitches out of the zone and swinging and missing far more often than he had previously. Despite the anemic BABIP last year, he did post a career-best 34.4% hard-hit ratio and put the ball on a line as much (21.9%) as he ever had previously.
While the Nationals would surely love to see improvement with the bat, that’s not the only basis for the move. Norris has turned into one of the game’s better pitch framers (2016; 2015) after previously rating poorly in that area. And he rates as approximately average in other defensive areas. Plus, Norris can add some value with his legs, as he swiped nine bags last year and made an above-average overall baserunning contribution.
For the Padres, parting with Norris opens the door for top prospect Austin Hedges behind the dish. Though Christian Bethancourt remains on hand as a reserve, he has been dabbling in the idea of becoming a part-time pitcher, and certainly does not profile as anything like a regular.
The Friars also add an interesting arm in the 19-year-old Avila. A native of Venezuela, he has shown some swing-and-miss ability in the lower minors. At the low-A level in 2016, Avila ran up a solid 3.48 ERA over 93 frames across twenty starts, with 8.9 K/9 against 3.7 BB/9. As Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser writes, the young righty has a slight frame and lacks a huge heater, but makes up for that with a solid three-pitch mix and “an excellent feel to pitch.” He did end the year with an injury of some kind, the details of which remain unknown.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
With the Arizona Fall League wrapping up, the MLB.com Pipeline team broke down the top players at each position. Perhaps no single prospect impressed to the extent of Gleyber Torres, the Yankees shortstop who was acquired in the Aroldis Chapman trade. Live-armed Red Sox righty Michael Kopech and Indians outfielder Bradley Zimmer were among the other high-profile young players who impressed, but a variety of lesser-known names also drew attention.
Here are some more prospect and international notes from around the game:
- Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper broke down the top Rule 5 draft candidates. Teams always have to balance roster needs with their assessments of young players who are eligible for the draft, and every year at least a dozen or so players who aren’t added to a 40-man roster will be plucked by another organization. This time around, as usual, many of the most plausible Rule 5 options are pitchers. But two position players warranted mention from Cooper as well: Pirates third baseman Eric Wood and Mets utility infielder Phillip Evans. Both have posted much better numbers of late, but apparently did not do quite enough to convince their organizations of their value — or, perhaps, of their ability to stick on another team’s active roster for a full season.
- The first player that Cooper notes, Padres righty Yimmi Brasoban, seems an intriguing candidate for the Rule 5 since he possesses a big fastball and quality slider that could make him a useful bullpen piece. But San Diego’s decision to leave him unprotected may well be due to elbow issues, as Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports on Twitter. The young reliever is undergoing stem cell and platelet-rich plasma treatments, suggesting he may be trying to stave off a surgical option. We have seen injured players go in the Rule 5 before; if they aren’t able to meet the active-duty requirements in the season following the draft, they can reach it in future campaigns.
- Ben Badler of Baseball America argues that Major League Baseball would be better served to increase its current bonus pool limitations for international players than to institute an international draft. Low-revenue clubs are able to compete for top talent in the current system, he explains, so there’s no compelling reason in that regard to move to a draft. The problem, per Badler, is that the current signing levels are just too low, which has led many teams in baseball to exceed the limitations and accept future bonus limitations. His solution is to significantly boost the overall pool bonus amounts, make them equal for all teams, and increase the penalties for exceeding the pool. That — or some other hypothetical system — would still allow for cost containment while also serving other interests, Badler argues, including competitive balance and equal opportunities for all teams and players.
- There are new details in the human trafficking case against agent Bart Hernandez, as Jose Pagliery of CNN.com reports. Hernandez was allegedly involved in a scheme with a violent smuggler, the government alleges, with tens of millions of dollars flowing to the masterminds after Cuban ballplayers such as Jose Abreu and Yoenis Cespedes landed large bonuses with major league organizations. While the players were treated more humanely than the average citizens who were also being moved in the alleged conspiracy, they were nevertheless treated like prisoners and coerced into signing with Hernandez, per the charges.
NOVEMBER 23: The Padres have issued a statement regarding Dee’s departure. It reads: “The Padres and Mike Dee have amicably parted ways. We thank Mike for his contributions and wish him and his family all the best. Consistent with our policy not to comment on personnel matters, we have no further comment.”
“I wish to thank Ron Fowler and Peter Seidler for the opportunity to lead the Padres over the last three years,” says Dee. “I wish them and the entire organization well in what I believe is a very bright future that lies ahead.”
OCTOBER 13: Team sources insist that the move on Dee was not related to the health disclosure controversy, Lin reports in a further update on the story. Though Seidler recently defended Dee, who was under contract for at least another year, it seems that other factors were at play.
San Diego will not be hiring a president of baseball operations over Preller, Lin adds, though it’s also not clear whether Dee’s role — in which he oversaw business and baseball ops — will be occupied fully by a single new hire. The Padres also fired vice president of strategy and innovation Ryan Gustafson, per the report.
OCTOBER 12, 5:14pm: The Padres also dismissed senior advisor Randy Smith yesterday, Lin reports (via Twitter). Smith had spent more than two decades in the Padres organization, though not all in succession. The veteran baseball exec was the Padres’ GM back from 1993-95 (initially named GM at the age of 29) and spent the 1996-2001 seasons as the Tigers’ general manager. In his most recent run in San Diego, Smith had served as the Padres’ VP of player development and director of player development in addition to at one point overseeing the club’s international operations. He’d been a senior advisor to Preller for the past two seasons. The decision to dismiss Smith, according to Lin, is unrelated to Dee’s departure.
Additionally, Lin tweets that while there’s been some speculation of this nature, the Padres won’t hire a president of baseball operations. That would, of course, effectively be a demotion for Preller, but it would seem there’s no such plan at this time.
12:10pm: The Padres have parted ways with president and CEO Mike Dee, according to a report from Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune which the team has confirmed in an announcement. He had held down his role since 2013.
It remains unclear at this point what precipitated the move and just how Dee’s departure came about. The move was not spurred directly by the recent controversy surrounding the organization’s failure to disclose medical information in trade talks, Lin reports. An investigation from Major League Baseball led to the thirty-day suspension of general manager A.J. Preller, but the club has stood by him. Today’s news also doesn’t change Preller’s status, according to Lin, who writes that the controversial GM isn’t in danger of losing his job.
Still, that episode my have played a role. As Lin adds (Twitter links), the embarrassing suspension of the team’s top baseball operations man may have functioned as a “tipping point.” But other areas of discord had evidently already eroded the relationship between Dee and the ownership group.
All said, the departure represents another jolt to a club that has seen its fair share of turmoil of late. “My goal and our organization’s objective is to have stability and long-term tenure in our front office, but sometimes these changes are inevitable,” said Padres managing partner Peter Seidler.
Dee’s job duties, which included hiring Preller and running numerous important business initiatives, were obviously of critical importance to the Friars. “Mike’s departure creates a position we will need to fill, and the search will begin immediately,” executive chairman Ron Fowler said. “In the meantime, we will work closely with our talented and trusted senior executives to lead the organization forward.”
Free agent outielder Eric Thames has drawn interest from the Padres, Rays and Athletics (as Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle previously reported), according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com. Thames, who has starred in Korea since 2014, previously saw major league action with the Blue Jays and Mariners from 2011-12.
Thames, 30, was so-so in his two-year major league stint, hitting .250/.296/.431 with 21 home runs in 684 plate appearances, but he could cash in this winter thanks to his phenomenal showing with the NC Dinos of the hitter-friendly KBO. Thames swatted at least 37 homers in each of the previous three seasons, including 47 in an MVP-winning 2015, giving him a combined 124 since he immigrated to Korea. All told, he has slashed a videogamelike .348/.450/.720 in 1,634 plate appearances and also added 64 stolen bases on 78 attempts since leaving America.
Assuming he returns to the States, MLBTR projects a two-year, $10MM deal for Thames (from the Rays, in fact), but one National League executive told Crasnick he could fare even better than that.
“Look at some of the money that Cuban players have gotten,” said the exec. “What’s the difference here? I think somebody is going to bite, and he’ll get a contract for two years and $12 million, or three years and $15-18 million.”
Thames, a California native, acknowledged that he has contemplated another major league go-around.
“Yes, the thought has crossed my mind a few times,” Thames told Crasnick via email. “I’m wondering about how my new mindset could transfer over. Next year feels like light years away! Who knows where I will end up.”
Re-signing in Korea or heading to Japan are also possibilities for Thames, who might not exclusively play the outfield in a second major league stint. Thames moved to first in Korea, notes Crasnick, and the lefty-swinger would likely spend time there, in the outfield and, if he signs with an American League team, at designated hitter. With Wil Myers at first and no DH, the Padres would have to to utilize Thames in the outfield, while the hitter-needy Rays and A’s would have more flexibility in deploying him.
- The Padres are high on first baseman Wil Myers and won’t trade him unless they’re “blown away” by an offer, sources informed Rosenthal. San Diego and Myers are in the early stages of long-term extension talks, so the plan is to retain the soon-to-be 26-year-old for the long haul. Myers, a 2016 All-Star who slashed .259/.336/.461 with 28 home runs and 28 steals in 676 plate appearances, is set to make his first of as many as three arbitration trips.
We’ll use this post to keep track of the players being added to their teams’ respective 40-man rosters today, which is the deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 draft. Players must be added to the big league roster within either four years (if they were 19 or older at the time of their original signing) or five years (if 18 or younger) of their signing year in order to be shielded from selection.
MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo took a look at some of the biggest names who face roster decisions, though most of those won’t be much in question. At the fringes, teams must also consider the major league readiness of the player, since that factors heavily into whether they’ll be taken and kept. Any drafting team, of course, must keep a player on its active MLB roster for the full season (with certain exceptions relating to the DL) in order for their control rights to vest. Adding a player to the 40-man too early can have its own risks, because it limits flexibility and could require a team to expose that player to waivers if a need arises. With 26-man rosters reportedly under consideration, the Rule 5 draft could be quite intriguing this year, and that may bleed into today’s decisions as well.
Below is a division-by-division rundown of the names that were added to each team’s 40-man roster (plus the various waiver claims that spawned from teams trying to outright players to protect Rule 5-eligible prospects). We won’t delve into each player’s background, but if you’re looking to a little more about the names that were added, I’d highly recommend this tremendous, in-depth examination of each team’s additions by Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper. If you want to see how the moves look in the context of a team’s roster, head over to Roster Resource for your club’s depth chart.
Onto the moves…
American League West
- Angels: Nate Smith (LHP), Keynan Middleton (RHP), Austin Adams (RHP) and Eduardo Paredes (RHP)
- Astros: None today
- Athletics: Paul Blackburn (RHP), Bobby Wahl (RHP), Franklin Barreto (SS), Yairo Munoz (INF) and Jaycob Brugman (OF)
- Mariners: Paul Fry (LHP), D.J. Peterson (1B/3B) and Thyago Vieira (RHP); Also acquired LHP James Pazos (link), 1B/OF Richie Shaffer and INF/OF Taylor Motter (link)
- Rangers: Ronald Guzman (1B); Also claimed RHP Tyler Wagner
American League Central
- Indians: Francisco Mejia (C); Also claimed LHPs Tim Cooney (link) and Edwin Escobar (link)
- Royals: Andrew Edwards (RHP), Jake Junis (RHP), Cam Gallagher (C), Samir Duenez (1B)
- Tigers: Sandy Baez (RHP)
- Twins: Felix Jorge (RHP), Fernando Romero (RHP), Zach Granite (OF), Daniel Palka (OF), Mitch Garver (C), Engelb Vielma (SS)
- White Sox: Brad Goldberg (RHP), Adam Engel (OF), Jacob May (OF)
American League East
- Blue Jays: Anthony Alford (OF), Ryan Borucki (LHP), Richard Urena (INF); Also claimed RHPs Dominic Leone (link) and Leonel Campos (link)
- Orioles: Joe Gunkel (RHP) and Jesus Liranzo (RHP)
- Rays: Chih-Wei Hu (RHP), Hunter Wood (RHP), Ryne Stanek (RHP), Austin Pruitt (RHP), Jaime Schultz (RHP), Willy Adames (INF), Daniel Robertson (INF) and Jose Alvarado (LHP)
- Red Sox: Kyle Martin (RHP) and Luis Ysla (LHP)
- Yankees: Miguel Andujar (INF), Dietrich Enns (LHP), Jorge Mateo (SS), Giovanny Gallegos (RHP), Ronald Herrera (RHP) and Yefrey Ramirez (RHP)
National League West
- Diamondbacks: Anthony Banda (LHP), Jimmie Sherfy (RHP), Dawel Lugo (SS), Jack Reinheimer (INF) and Ildemaro Vargas (2B)
- Dodgers: Chase De Jong (RHP), Jacob Rhame (RHP) and Kyle Farmer (C)
- Giants: Orlando Calixte (SS), Miguel Gomez (3B), Reyes Moronta (RHP), Dan Slania (RHP), Chase Johnson (RHP)
- Padres: Franchy Cordero (OF),Javier Guerra (SS), Walker Lockett (RHP), Jose Ruiz (C)
- Rockies: Yency Almonte (RHP), Shane Carle (RHP), Rayan Gonzalez (RHP), Zach Jemiola (RHP) and Sam Moll (LHP)
National League Central
- Brewers: Josh Hader (LHP), Taylor Williams (RHP), Lewis Brinson (OF), Ryan Cordell (OF) and Brett Phillips (OF); Also claimed 1B/OF Adam Walker
- Cardinals: Magneuris Sierra (OF), Eliezer Alvarez (INF), Edmundo Sosa (INF) and Rowan Wick (RHP)
- Cubs: Victor Caratini (C), Duane Underwood (RHP), Jacob Hannemann (OF) and Jack Leathersich (LHP); Also claimed LHP David Rollins
- Pirates: Clay Holmes (RHP)
- Reds: Barrett Astin (RHP), Keury Mella (RHP), Jackson Stephens (RHP), Nick Travieso (RHP), Aristides Aquino (OF), Phil Ervin (OF) and Jesse Winker (OF)
National League East
- Braves: Max Fried (LHP), Lucas Sims (RHP), Johan Carmago (INF); Also claimed C Tuffy Gosewisch
- Marlins: Luis Castillo (RHP), Drew Steckenrider (RHP), Austin Nola (INF), J.T. Riddle (INF); Also claimed LHP Elvis Araujo
- Mets: Amed Rosario (SS), Wuilmer Becerra (OF), Chris Flexen (RHP), Marcos Molina (RHP), and Tomas Nido (C)
- Nationals: Austin Voth (RHP), Rafael Bautista (OF), Raudy Read (C), Matt Skole (1B/3B) and Jose Marmolejos (1B/OF)
- Phillies: Drew Anderson (RHP), Mark Appel (RHP), Ricardo Pinto (RHP), Nick Pivetta (RHP), Alberto Tirado (RHP), Ben Lively (RHP), Dylan Cozens (OF), Nick Williams (OF), Andrew Knapp (C), Elniery Garcia (LHP) and Jesmuel Valentin (2B)
The Padres announced tonight that outfielder Oswaldo Arcia has been designated for assignment. Additionally, first baseman Brett Wallace has been outrighted off the 40-man roster and elected free agency. In corresponding moves, the Padres added the contracts of outfielder Franchy Cordero, shortstop Javier Guerra and right-handers Walker Lockett and Jose Ruiz to the 40-man roster.
San Diego was Arcia’s fourth organization in 2016 alone, as the former top prospect was designated for assignment by the Twins and bounced from Minnesota to Tampa Bay to Miami to San Diego on waivers. Once hoped to be the Twins’ right fielder of the future, Arcia hit just .203/.270/.366 this year and has batted a combined .219/.286/.369 in his past 287 plate appearances between the 2015-16 seasons. The 25-year-old unquestionably possesses pop — he’s homered 44 times in 1075 career plate appearances — but has looked consistently overmatched by left-handers, shows a lack of discipline at the plate and rates as a negative defender in the outfield.
Wallace, meanwhile, hit .189/.309/.318 in 256 plate appearances with San Diego this past season. The 30-year-old is a former top prospect himself, but the former first-rounder has never established himself as a quality regular or even a reliable bench option in the Majors. Wallace has had productive stretches — including above-average season totals in 2012 and 2015 (in small samples of work) — but he’s a cumulative .238/.316/.389 hitter. That’d cut it for a catcher or a defensively strong shortstop, but for a corner infielder the production is light.
The names added to the 40-man are headlined by Guerra, who was one of the centerpieces of last winter’s Craig Kimbrel blockbuster. Guerra was joined by Manuel Margot, Carlos Asuaje and Logan Allen in the trade that sent Kimbrel to Boston, and though he took a step back with a dreadful season (.202/.264/.325 in Class-A Advanced), the Padres still saw enough upside to dedicate a 40-man spot to him. Prior to the 2016 season, Guerra rated as a Top 60 prospect in the eyes of Baseball America, MLB.com, Baseball Prospectus and ESPN.
The Blue Jays announced that they’ve claimed right-hander Leonel Campos off waivers from the Padres. He’s the second right-hander they’ve claimed off waivers out of the NL West today, as Toronto also picked up Dominic Leone from Arizona.
Campos, 29, pitched 22 innings for the Padres this past season and turned in an unsightly 5.73 ERA and 5.7 BB/9, though he posted a more encouraging 9.8 K/9 and 50.9 percent ground-ball rate. Campos has averaged 93.3 mph on his fastball in his MLB career — a total of just 30 innings all coming with the Padres. He has a 4.35 ERA in parts of three seasons at Triple-A and has averaged nearly 12 strikeouts per nine innings at that level. However, he’s also displayed some considerable control issues, averaging 5.3 walks per nine and throwing 25 wild pitches in 109 2/3 innings.