San Diego Padres Rumors

San Diego Padres trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

Quick Hits: Mock Draft, Upton, Papelbon, Verlander, Rondon

Early mock drafts continue to roll out, with MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis releasing their first effort at spitballing the always hard-to-call results. The MLB.com team pegs high school outfielder Daz Cameron — son of longtime big leaguer Mike Cameron — as the likeliest current optiton for the Rangers at fourth overall.

Here are a few more notes from around the game:

  • The Padres expect outfielder Melvin Upton to begin a rehab stint in the near future given the improvement in his foot injury, MLB.com’s Corey Brock writes in response to a reader question. San Diego probably will not have any decisions to make until the start of June, says Brock, which is probably the earliest he’ll be ready to come off of the DL. What happens at that point remains to be seen, of course, but Brock notes that the club could theoretically give Wil Myers more time at first base to afford Upton a useful place on the roster — and a chance to attempt to return to form. In truth, Upton represents a free roll for the Friars, who took on his salary only to facilitate the addition of Craig Kimbrel. But the team has every incentive to see if it can get him back on track.
  • The market for Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon has evolved significantly over time, of course, and figures to continue to do so as the summer draws near. Corey Seidman of CSNPhilly.com argues that the Marlins currently make the most sense as a trade partner for Papelbon, whose contract appears more and more manageable over time — particularly as he continues to produce on the field. We just saw reports that the Fish are indeed exploring external options to bolster their pen, of course, and Papelbon remains an intriguing option. While I agree with Seidman that the division rivals would probably not hesitate to deal with one another, I wonder whether Miami would have the appetite for Papelbon’s still-hefty salary (he’s owed $13MM this year and $13MM next if his option vests).
  • The Tigers watched bullpens from two important right-handers today, as Jon Morosi of FOX Sports and Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press report (Twitter links). Starter Justin Verlander threw twenty pitches and left pitching coach Jeff Jones “very pleased,” while reliever Bruce Rondon also took a turn on the bump. Detroit ranks toward the upper-middle of the pack in terms of run prevention thus far in 2015, but the club has relied more than it might prefer on the largely untested Kyle Lobstein in the rotation and could certainly use a quality set-up man at the back of the pen. The progress of Verlander and Rondon, then, is likely to have a significant impact on the team’s summer plans.

Wil Nieves Elects Free Agency

Veteran catcher Wil Nieves has rejected his outright assignment from the Padres in favor of free agency, reports Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Nieves had been designated for assignment last week in order to clear a spot on the 40-man and 25-man roster for top prospect Austin Hedges.

The 37-year-old Nieves received scarce playing time with the Friars due to iron man Derek Norris‘ impressive workload, and he ultimately collected just one hit in his second stint with the Padres. It was a big one though, as Nieves drilled a grand slam that proved to be the difference in San Diego’s April 12 victory over the division-rival Giants.

In parts of 12 big league seasons, Nieves is a .241/.280/.317 hitter and has thrown out 24 percent of would-be base stealers. He’s graded out as anywhere from average to slightly above average in terms of pitch-framing over the past five seasons, and the same holds true of his blocking skills, per Baseball Prospectus’ catching defense metrics. Nieves could slot in nicely to a team looking for a backup catcher. Of late the Royals, Mariners and Orioles were all connected to catching help (i.e. Jarrod Saltalamacchia), and I’d imagine that the D-Backs and Indians could serve as potential landing spots for a backup catcher as well.


Minor Moves: Beck, Constanza, Pineiro, Nelson

Here are today’s minor moves from around the game.

  • The White Sox have announced that they’ve selected the contract of righty Chris Beck to be the 26th man for the second game of their doubleheader today. Beck, 24, has made his way through the minors with few strikeouts but strong control, posting 5.4 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 since the White Sox drafted him in the second round in 2012. This season, he had a 4.78 ERA with 6.2 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 in 26 1/3 innings with Triple-A Charlotte.
  • The Reds have signed outfielder Jose Constanza to a minor-league deal, according to MLB.com’s transactions page. The 31-year-old Constanza collected 240 plate appearances with the Braves from 2011 through 2014, batting .273/.316/.323. He spent most of last season with Triple-A Gwinnett. The Braves released him last month.
  • The Blue Jays have signed veteran starter Joel Pineiro to a minor-league deal and assigned him to Double-A New Hampshire, Jays broadcaster Mike Wilner tweets. Pineiro, 36, last pitched in the big leagues with the Angels in 2011. He pitched briefly in the Cubs and Angels systems in a comeback bid last season, then pitched winter ball in Puerto Rico.
  • The Brewers will sign infielder Chris Nelson to a minor-league deal, according to SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (Twitter links). The Phillies recently released Nelson from their minor-league deal with him. The five-year veteran played briefly with the Padres in 2014. The former first-round pick has a career line of .265/.311/.388, with many of his at-bats coming in hitter-friendly Coors Field.
  • The Padres have outrighted catcher Wil Nieves to Triple-A El Paso, according to the MLB.com transactions page. The Padres designated Nieves for assignment earlier this week to make room for top prospect Austin Hedges. It’s unclear whether Nieves will accept his outright assignment or opt for free agency. Nieves appeared in just six games for the Padres this year.
  • The Cubs have outrighted righty Anthony Varvaro, also according to the MLB.com transactions page. The Cubs recently claimed Varvaro from the Red Sox and then designated him for assignment on Wednesday. He did not appear in a game for them. He pitched in nine games for Boston earlier this season.
  • The Athletics have released outfielder Alex Hassan, according to the Pacific Coast League transactions page. That news might actually come as a relief to Hassan, who had been claimed five times in the past seven months. The A’s designated Hassan for assignment yesterday.
  • The Angels have released corner infielder Ryan Wheeler, via the Pacific Coast League transactions page. They had claimed the 26-year-old from the Rockies last August. Wheeler, who played briefly in the big leagues in 2012, 2013 and 2014, was hitting .291/.304/.418 for Triple-A Salt Lake, although he has a track record of hitting for better power at the Triple-A level.
  • The Rays have announced that they’ve placed Alex Cobb, who’s having Tommy John surgery, on the 60-day DL and selected the contract of 23-year-old righty Andrew Bellatti. Bellatti had struck out 20 batters in 21 1/3 innings at Triple-A Durham this season, posting a 2.11 ERA, pitching as a starter even though he had spent most of the previous three seasons working in relief. As Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times explains, it’s been a strange path to the Majors for Bellatti, a 2009 draft pick who spent a few months in jail for vehicular manslaughter following a 2010 car accident.


West Notes: Gwynn, Odor, Zito

Today marks the 55th birthday of Padres great Tony Gwynn, a birthday that provides opportunity for reflection after Gwynn’s untimely death from cancer last June. Gwynn’s son Tony Gwynn Jr., currently an outfielder for the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs in the Nationals system, says he had trouble coming up with a specific tribute to his father for his team’s game against Durham today, Kirk Kenney of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. The younger Gwynn notes that his father’s general policy was to “show up, do your job and go home.” Gwynn Jr. did, however, end up with two singles in five at-bats, which seems about right as a nod to his dad. Here’s more from the West divisions.

  • The Rangers‘ outright of Mike Kickham seems like a minor one, but it could portend more transactions in the near future, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram writes. The move could clear space on the Rangers’ 40-man for infielder Ed Lucas, who could take over for Rougned Odor at second base, Wilson suggests. Delino DeShields could also see time at second, although probably not in a regular or even platoon role. The 21-year-old Odor has hit a meager .144/.252/.233 so far this season, while the 32-year-old Lucas has hit .316/.381/.421 for Triple-A Round Rock.
  • Barry Zito, who’s with the Athletics‘ Triple-A affiliate in Nashville, is still adjusting to life in the minor leagues, Joe Stiglich of CSNBayArea.com writes. “I had to re-calibrate mentally and embrace the competition. It was definitely tough, and travel in the PCL is very difficult,” says Zito. “You’re up at 3 a.m., usually flying with a layover, to play a game that day. We’ve already sat on a tarmac in Abilene, Texas. There’s all kinds of shenanigans (with) commercial flights.” Zito, who turns 37 this week, has a 5.74 ERA with 6.3 K/9 and 4.9 BB/9 in 31 1/3 innings for Nashville as he attempts to make it back to the big leagues after a year away from the game.

NL Notes: Escobar, O’Brien, Draft, Luebke

Yunel Escobar of the Nationals, like many other Cuban ballplayers, followed a difficult path to the big leagues, as James Wagner of the Washington Post writes. It has not always been smooth sailing for the 32-year-old since he finally made it as a professional, of course, though he is settling in nicely in D.C., where he has played an important role on a team that is still missing Anthony Rendon. Escobar owns a .303/.358/.394 slash in 109 plate appearances thus far in 2015.

  • Diamondbacks prospect Peter O’Brien — acquired in last summer’s Martin Prado deal — says he believes his shift out of a catching role has helped him to a strong start offensively, Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic reports. It remains to be seen whether Arizona will look to move him back behind the dish at some point — he did finally don the gear for the first time this year recently — but it sounds as if O’Brien may be ready to embrace a more permanent change. “Catching is a lot of fun, but I really enjoy the outfield and I definitely think that my bat is my biggest strength,” O’Brien said. “I think that plays a little bit better in the outfield.”
  • This year’s amateur draft figures to feature a lot of moving parts, and it’s still months away. But that didn’t stop Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel and Baseball America’s John Manuel from taking a shot at early mock drafts. The analysts disagree somewhat on the direction the Diamondbacks will take with the first overall pick, with McDaniel tabbing Vanderbilt shortstop Dansby Swanson (a shift from another recent post, reflecting the uncertainty) and Manuel pointing to UCSB righty Dillon Tate. Neither of those highly-regarded players would represent a big surprise in that slot, of course, as both have consistently been listed as amongst the consensus three best players available along with high school shortstop Brendan Rogers.
  • MLB.com’s Barry Bloom checks in with Padres hurler Cory Luebke, who is diligently working back from his second Tommy John surgery and is hoping to throw live BP within the next few weeks. “I’m making progress,” Luebke said. “It’s been a long haul, but it’s the best place I’ve been in for the last few years. It’s exciting, but if I’ve learned anything it’s not to ride the roller coaster. Take a week at a time. But I definitely see the light at the end of the tunnel a little bit.” Luebke is in the final guaranteed year of his four-year, $12MM extension, though San Diego holds successive club options ($7.5MM and $10MM, respectively, over his next two seasons).

NL West Notes: Alonso, Saltalamacchia, Pence, Beachy

The Padres could be facing an extended absence for first baseman Yonder Alonso following a shoulder injury sustained in last night’s contest, reports MLB.com’s Barry M. Bloom. Alonso is slated to have an MRI today after jamming his shoulder while diving to field a grounder. The 28-year-old was already scheduled for an x-ray on the shoulder today as well, Bloom notes, having been hit by a pitch there over the weekend — an incident which led to soreness that cost him two games in this week’s series against the Giants. Losing Alonso would be a difficult setback for the Padres for a number of reasons. The former top prospect is hitting well this season, with a .333/.427/.437 batting line in 103 plate appearances. He’s also the only true first baseman on the 25-man roster, and he’s been the most productive left-handed bat on an exceptionally right-leaning Padres roster.

In other news from the NL West…

  • The D-Backs made no promises to Jarrod Saltalamacchia upon signing him to a Minor League deal, writes Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic. In fact, chief baseball officer Tony La Russa tells Buchanan that the team wouldn’t have signed Saltalamacchia had he and agent Jim Munsey insisted on being added to the 25-man roster. The club has received virtually no offense from Tuffy Gosewisch thus far — though Gosewisch did respond to Salty’s signing by lacing three doubles on Thursday — but manager Chip Hale said they knew they’d likely be sacrificing some offense for Gosewisch’s glove. The D-Backs were hoping to have more offense from the rest of the order, making the need for production from catcher a bit less glaring. “It depends on how much our shortstop hits, how much our second baseman hits,” said Hale. “You can’t have it be really tough on you after the fifth hitter.”
  • Hunter Pence has yet to play in the second season of his five-year, $90MM contract with the Giants, but the right fielder is set to begin a rehab assignment at Triple-A Sacramento on Friday, reports Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. Pence is in line for a relatively long rehab assignment, possibly as many as 10 games according to Schulman, in order to make up some of the lost ground from missing Spring Training. Justin Maxwell and Gregor Blanco have shouldered the load in Pence’s absence, but the Giants’ collective .229/.305/.400 line from right fielders clearly isn’t equal to what Pence can provide.
  • Dodgers righty Brandon Beachy is traveling with the Dodgers and working with VP of medical services Stan Conte and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt on changing his mechanics, writes Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. The changes, made in an effort to prevent further elbow injury once he’s healed from his second Tommy John surgery, were Beachy’s idea. Conte immediately supported the pitcher’s interest in pitching mechanics and biomechanics. Beachy admitted that he’s having trouble commanding his pitches thus far in bullpen sessions, perhaps in part due to the new mechanics. While he has plenty of time to iron out the kinks, reduced control would be a trade-off Beachy would happily make if it meant avoiding another surgery. “I think I’d rather be less effective and be able to stay healthy for longer than one or two months.”

Minor Moves: Baker, Ortiz, Tolleson, Bello, Sands

The day’s minor moves will be tracked right here:

  • The Dodgers have outrighted Scott Baker to Triple-A Oklahoma City following his DFA, tweets J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles News Group. The 33-year-old Baker was designated on Sunday following a pair of starts in which he allowed seven runs in 11 innings of work with an 8-to-3 K/BB ratio. The former Twin has yet to establish himself as a credible mid-rotation starter, as he was in Minnesota from 2007-11, after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2012.
  • Left-hander Joseph Ortiz has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Iowa after being designated for assignment by the Cubs over the weekend, MLBTR has learned (Twitter link). The 24-year-old Ortiz enjoyed a solid season with the Rangers in 2013 at just 22 years of age, working to a 4.23 ERA with 27 strikeouts against eight unintentional walks in 44 2/3 innings. Ortiz was involved in a freak accident prior to the 2014 season when was struck by a motorcyclist while walking down the street in his native Venezuela. The resulting fractures in his left foot cost him much of the 2014 season. Ortiz was claimed off waivers by the Cubs this winter and has a 3.38 ERA in 10 2/3 Triple-A innings, though he’s struck out just one hitter despite a career K/9 of 8.6 in the Minors.
  • Steven Tolleson has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A by the Blue Jays, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca tweets. The infielder could find himself back on the active roster in short order, per Davidi, as the club is currently lacking a reserve middle infielder after today’s roster moves.
  • The Padres have purchased the rights to catcher Yenier Bello from the independent league’s Joplin Blasters, according to Mark Schremmer of the Joplin Globe (via Twitter). Bello, 30, was released by the Braves just one year after signing out of Cuba. It seems rather likely that he will be looked upon as an organizational depth piece by the San Diego organization.
  • The Indians announced that outfielder Jerry Sands has accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A. Sands could have declined the assignment and shopped his early-season .348/.400/.435 batting line on the open market, but apparently felt his best opportunity remained with the Cleveland organization.

Padres Designate Wil Nieves For Assignment

The Padres announced that they have designated veteran catcher Wil Nieves for assignment in order to clear a 40-man roster spot for top prospect Austin Hedges, whose previously reported promotion is now official.

Nieves, 37, won the Padres’ backup catching job out of Spring Training but rarely got into games this year, with Derek Norris shouldering an abnormally large workload behind the dish. Nieves appeared in just six games, only four of them starts, and totaled 14 plate appearances with a .077/.143/.308 batting line. His lone hit in his second go-around with the Padres was a big one, however, as it came in the form of an April 12 grand slam that fueled a 6-4 win over the division-rival Giants.

Nieves spent the 2014 season serving as the backup to Carlos Ruiz in Philadelphia, accumulating 128 plate appearances over the course of 36 games. He’s appeared in the Major Leagues in each season dating back to 2005, and the well-seasoned backstop is a career .241/.280/.317 hitter in 427 big league games.


Padres To Promote Austin Hedges

The Padres will promote top catching prospect Austin Hedges, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune tweets. It’s uncertain how much he’ll play with the Padres, however, since their current starting backstop, Derek Norris, is in the midst of a strong season, and first baseman Yonder Alonso and the Padres’ outfielders have all played well too, so there’s nowhere else to move Norris (who has little big-league experience at any position besides catcher anyway). The team does have a brief series in Seattle next week that could allow Hedges to catch while Norris plays DH. Wil Nieves is the Padres’ current backup catcher, and Lin suggests Nieves could be designated for assignment, with Hedges taking over in a backup role.

Hedges is ranked as the No. 23 prospect in baseball by Baseball Prospectus, No. 50 by MLB.com, and No. 74 by ESPN’s Keith Law (Insider-only). Hedges’ defensive ability wins widespread acclaim from nearly all prospect analysts. MLB.com praises his receiving, arm, and potential game-calling ability, while Law notes that framing pitches should prove to be a strength as well. Hedges wins less praise for his hitting — he batted a weak .225/.268/.321 at Double-A San Antonio last year. He’s off to a much better start in 2015 for Triple-A El Paso this year, however (.343/.413/.552 in 75 plate appearances), and his strong standing among prospect analysts suggests he might be so valuable defensively that he won’t need to hit much.

If Hedges manages to stick in the big leagues, he’ll likely be in line to become eligible for arbitration as a Super Two player following the 2017 season. He could then become a free agent after 2021.


Carlos Quentin To Retire

Mariners outfielder Carlos Quentin confirms that he will retire from the game, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports in a series of tweets. Quentin had been playing with Seattle’s top affiliate since inking a minor league deal, but left Tacoma last night.

Mar 10, 2015; Peoria, AZ, USA; San Diego Padres left fielder Carlos Quentin (18) looks on against the San Francisco Giants at Peoria Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Quentin, 32, has $8MM left on the deal that he originally signed with the Padres. San Diego shipped him to the Braves just before the start of the season, of course, as part of the salary swaps included in the Craig Kimbrel deal. Atlanta cut him loose in short order, eating the remainder of that contract.

The route being pursued currently would see Quentin retain his rights to that guaranteed money. Atlanta would have been able to earn some relief had Quentin continued playing, though that amount would not have exceeded the pro-rated portion of the Major League minimum salary.

The Mariners will technically grant Quentin his release, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (via Twitter), but that’s little more than semantics. Heyman notes that Quentin’s injuries will no longer allow him to play, which is the reason for his departure from Tacoma and his decision to retire.

The Mariners had hoped that Quentin would re-establish himself as a viable part-time bat, though obviously the team was not relying on that outcome and essentially took on no financial risk in signing him. Between 2008 and 2013, Quentin slashed a robust .260/.356/.503 with 136 long balls. But he has been slowed by injuries in recent seasons, making only 815 total plate appearances in that stretch.

Quentin confirmed in the press release that physical issues drove the decision to retire. “Over the past several days, it became clear to me that my injuries have taken too great of a physical toll for me to be able to perform at the level I expect from myself,” he explained.  “As a result, I believe it is the right time for me to walk away and to refocus my energy on the next chapter of my life with my family.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.