- Melvin Upton is enjoying a good season and could eventually be a trade chip for the Padres, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes as part of a reader chat. San Diego would probably still have to eat some of the roughly $30.18MM owed to Upton through the 2017 season to make a trade work. That would still represent something of a win for the Padres and Upton, as his deal was though to be one of the worst in baseball at this time just a year ago. In two seasons as a Padres, however, Upton has regained some value by hitting .261/.334/.433 with seven homers over 292 PA and he also posted above-average defensive metrics in center field in 2015.
Here are the latest minor transactions from around baseball:
- The Twins have called up right-hander Tyler Duffey from Triple-A and optioned infielder Jorge Polanco, the team announced. Duffey will start the Twins’ game Sunday against the Nationals in place of Ervin Santana, who has back tightness. Duffey, 25, broke into the majors last season and was excellent for the Twins, throwing 58 innings of 3.10 ERA ball with an 8.22 K/9 and 3.10 BB/9. Duffey’s standout performance has continued this year in Triple-A Rochester, where he has pitched to a 1.72 ERA and 2.98 FIP in three starts. Polanco, who’s regarded as a top-100 prospect, got the call to Minnesota last week but didn’t last long. The 22-year-old logged only eight plate appearances, giving him 28 in the big leagues since 2014.
- The Rays wasted no time sending top pitching prospect Blake Snell back to Triple-A after his stellar debut at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune tweets. With Snell returning to Durham, the Rays have selected the contract of right-hander Jhan Marinez. Snell threw five innings of one-run ball in his first major league start, holding the Yankees to two hits and a walk while striking out six. Snell got a no-decision in the Rays’ 3-2 loss. Marinez, 27, could now make his first trip to a major league mound since he picked up 2 2/3 frames for the White Sox in 2012.
- The Blue Jays have optioned southpaw Chad Girodo to Triple-A to make room for right-hander Drew Hutchison, who will start their game Sunday against the A’s, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet (Twitter link). Girodo has tossed two scoreless innings for the Jays this year. Hutchison racked up 62 appearances (60 starts) and 335 innings with the Jays from 2014-15, but he struggled to prevent runs (4.97 ERA) despite a quality K/9 (8.41) and decent BB/9 (2.79).
- The Marlins have placed third baseman Martin Prado on the paternity list and selected the contract of left-hander Cody Ege, per a club announcement. Ege, 24, will make his major league debut after recording stellar numbers in 161 2/3 minor league innings. Ege owns a 2.23 minors ERA to go with an 11.4 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9.
- The Diamondbacks have recalled right-hander Enrique Burgos from Triple-A and optioned righty Silvino Bracho, the team announced. Burgos accrued 27 innings out of the D-backs’ bullpen last season and put up a lofty ERA (4.67) that belied an impressive strikeout rate (13.0 per nine). Bracho threw just 1 2/3 innings for Arizona prior to the demotion, surrendering five hits and three earned runs.
- The Padres have placed utilityman Alexi Amarista on the 15-day DL (retroactive to April 20) with a right hamstring strain and recalled Cesar Vargas from Double-A, according to Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune (Twitter link). Amarista owns a career .229/.277/.325 batting line in 1,601 major league plate appearances, but he was off to a solid start this year (.333/.440/.333 in 26 PAs). Vargas will start the Padres’ game against the Cardinals tonight. The Mexico native could be a diamond in the rough, as Chris Mitchell of Fangraphs details.
- The Nationals signed righty Jaron Long to a minor league deal, the team announced. Jaron Long, the son of Mets hitting coach Kevin Long, spent 2013-15 working through the Yankees’ minor league system. Long, 24, has put up some solid totals in the minors (3.26 ERA, 6.8 K/9, 1.6 BB/9), but he hasn’t yet earned a call-up to the majors.
- The Tigers have claimed catcher John Hicks off waivers from the Twins, Anthony Fenecki of the Detroit Free Press was among those to report (on Twitter). Hicks owns a .279/.325/.408 line in 1,690 minor league PAs and has thrown out a whopping 48 percent of base stealers at various levels. The 26-year-old debuted in the majors last season with the Mariners, collecting only two hits and a walk in 34 trips to the plate.
- The Blue Jays announced that right-hander Arnold Leon cleared waivers and has been outrighted to Triple-A (Twitter link via Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com). Leon gave up two runs in 2 1/3 innings with the Jays before they designated him for assignment April 13. He made his major league debut last year with Oakland and posted a 4.39 ERA in 26 1/3 innings. Leon induced an average amount of ground balls (45.9 percent) and averaged 6.4 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9 during that time.
- The Royals have released minor league left-hander Brandon Zajac, tweets Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com. Zajac was a 23rd-round pick of the Giants in 2013.
- The Braves have recalled lefty reliever Matt Marksberry from Double-A and optioned right-hander Casey Kelly to Triple-A, reports Mark Bowman of MLB.com. The Braves needed a fresh arm in place of Kelly, who threw three innings of one-run ball for them on Friday. Marksberry, who has put up a 3.63 ERA over 203 1/3 career minor league innings, tossed 23 1/3 frames for the Braves last season. He compiled a 5.01 ERA to accompany an 8.1 K/9 and 6.2 BB/9.
- The Mets sent right-hander Rafael Montero to Triple-A to make room for the return of starter Jacob deGrom, according to Adam Rubin of ESPN. New York called up Montero on April 12 and he went on to surrender three earned runs on five hits, one walk and three strikeouts in 2 1/3 innings. DeGrom hasn’t pitched since April 8 because of right lat tightness and medical complications with his recently born son, Jaxon, who was released from the hospital Monday.
- The Red Sox recalled left-handler Roenis Elias on Friday and sent righty William Cuevas to Triple-A, per the Boston Herald. Elias, whom Boston acquired from Seattle during the offseason in the Wade Miley/Carson Smith trade, will work out of the Red Sox’s bullpen. Elias has made a pair of starts for Pawtucket this year after totaling 49 as a Mariner the previous two seasons. During that time frame, Elias combined for 277 2/3 innings of 3.99 ERA ball to go with a 7.75 K/9 and 3.47 BB/9. Cuevas, who has been in the Boston organization since 2008, made his major league debut this season to poor results before the demotion. The 25-year-old allowed five base runners (three hits and two walks) and two earned runs in 2 1/3 frames.
APRIL 22: Padres manager Andy Green told reporters, including MLB.com’s A.J. Cassavell, that the MRI results reached him in the middle of last night’s game. Ross will not require surgery on the shoulder, but he still won’t throw for another couple of weeks. Ross will be re-evaluated in two weeks, per Green. While the fact that he’ll avoid surgery is obviously a positive for the Padres, that timeline seemingly suggests that Ross could be out until at least mid-May. One has to imagine that he’ll require a minor league rehab assignment before returning, so even in an ideal scenario it’d be fair to tack another week or two on top of the two week point of re-evaluation.
Green did note that the injury to Spangenberg appears to be mild in nature, adding that there’s “some optimism that at the end of 15 days, he could be back with us.”
APRIL 20: Padres right-hander Tyson Ross will undergo an MRI on his ailing right shoulder, per multiple reporters, including Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune (Twitter link). Yesterday, Lin tweeted that Ross was beginning to play catch for the first time since being placed on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation on April 5.
While it’s not yet clear that Ross is facing a serious shoulder injury, he’s unquestionably facing a longer absence than he and the club had hoped when he originally hit the disabled list. Ross was initially optimistic that he’d be able to return after missing the minimum amount of time, but it’s already been 15 days since he was placed on the disabled list and a rehab assignment doesn’t appear to be in his immediate future.
The 28-year-old was San Diego’s best starter last season and has in fact quietly been one of the NL’s better starters across the past three seasons. Dating back to 2013, Ross has given the Padres 516 2/3 innings of 3.07 ERA ball, averaging 9.2 strikeouts and 3.5 walks per nine innings to go along with a 58.2 percent ground-ball rate. However, Ross also easily leads all Major League starters in slider usage over that three-year span; thirty-nine percent of Ross’ offerings from 2013-15 were sliders (via Fangraphs), and that’s a full four percent higher than Ervin Santana, who rated second on that list. Some in the past have questioned Ross’ delivery, as well, wondering about his ability to remain healthy.
Ross is earning $9.625MM this year after his second trip through the arbitration process this past winter. He reportedly drew significant trade interest both last summer and in the offseason, but the Padres elected not to move him, instead counting on him to help front the 2016 iteration of their starting rotation alongside James Shields and Andrew Cashner. While moving Ross this summer, when he would have a year and a half of club control left, seemed like a plausible fallback option, a significant injury would of course cast a shadow of doubt on that possibility.
Ross’ troubling news isn’t the only bit of bad luck for the Padres on the health front; the club placed infielder Cory Spangenberg on the disabled list today with a strained left quad. Spangenberg, a former first-round pick, has quietly delivered solid production for the Padres since his big league debut in 2014, batting a combined .269/.327/.402 (106 OPS+, 105 wRC+). The club added Jemile Weeks to its 40-man roster to take Spangenberg’s place.
The Athletics announced following tonight’s game that third baseman Danny Valencia will be placed on the 15-day disabled list due to a hamstring injury suffered in yesterday’s contest. Valencia, though, tells reporters that he doesn’t consider the issue to be serious and doesn’t anticipate missing more than the minimum amount of time (Twitter link via the Bay Area News Group’s John Hickey). “I will be very upset not to be in [the] lineup,” said Valencia in reference to the end of his 15-day DL window. The A’s didn’t announce a corresponding roster move, but Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets that it’s “clear” that the versatile Tyler Ladendorf will be recalled from Triple-A.
A few more notes from the game’s Western divisions…
- The Padres have placed left-hander Robbie Erlin on the 15-day DL and recalled right-hander Leonel Campos from Triple-A El Paso, as Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. “He’s had some tightness in his forearm,” manager Andy Green said of Erlin. “He’d pitched through it, was capable of continuing to pitch through it. … We just thought it best at this point in time to shut him down for a couple weeks and get on top of it.” The Padres haven’t announced a replacement yet, but Lin tweets that Double-A right-hander Cesar Vargas was scratched from his start tonight and does not have an injury, making him a definite possibility. The Friars gave Vargas a big league contract and put him on the 40-man roster this offseason despite the fact that he’s never pitched in the Majors. Vargas has a 1.42 ERA through his first two starts this season and has a career 2.58 ERA at that level.
- Angels lefty Tyler Skaggs tells MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez that he’s throwing his fastball between 90 and 94 mph and is ready for a return to the Majors. However, Skaggs is still building up his endurance and says he understands the Halos’ cautious approach to his return. “I haven’t had any input or anything,” said Skaggs. “They said they want to save my innings for the end of the year, which completely makes sense. It’s frustrating for me because I want to pitch more. But it’s a good thing that they care about me, care about my future, about my health.” A healthy Skaggs could be a boon to an Angels rotation that is without C.J. Wilson and is going to be without Andrew Heaney for an indefinite amount of time. Heaney went on the disabled list with a forearm strain and, as of earlier this week, was said by manager Mike Scioscia to have “plateaued” in his rehab from the injury.
- Rockies right-hander Miguel Castro is dealing with shoulder inflammation and could land on the disabled list, writes MLB.com’s Thomas Harding. The hard-throwing 21-year-old, acquired in last summer’s Troy Tulowitzki blockbuster, has been outstanding for the Rockies early in the 2016 season, allowing just one run on two hits and two walks with eight strikeouts in six innings pitched.
- The Mariners’ revamped bullpen has delivered excellent results early in the season, writes Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. Incredibly, as Dutton points out, none of the seven relief pitchers that are currently in manager Scott Servais’ bullpen were on the Mariners’ Opening Day roster in 2015. GM Jerry Dipoto acquired four of the club’s current relievers (Steve Cishek, Joaquin Benoit, Joel Peralta and Nick Vincent — this offseason, but Dipoto explained to Dutton that he’s all too aware of how fleeting the success could be. “I spent my entire major-league career pitching 400 pitched games in the bullpen,” said Dipoto. “Never did anything else. If you think you’ve got it figured out, you don’t. The bullpen is about as unpredictable as it gets.”
Here are the day’s minor moves:
- The Padres have selected the contract of second baseman Jemile Weeks and transferred lefty Buddy Baumann to the 60-day disabled list, per a club announcement. Weeks will step into the roster spot of infielder Cory Spangenberg, who has been placed on the 15-day disabled list due to a left quad strain. Weeks, 29, is a former first-round pick and the younger brother of veteran infielder Rickie Weeks, who is currently suiting up for the division-rival Diamondbacks. The younger Weeks was a fairly promising prospect with the A’s but hasn’t panned out at the big league level. He’s followed up a promising rookie campaign (.303/.340/.421 in 437 PAs in 2011) with a combined .226/.307/.311 in 574 plate appearances in parts of four seasons since that time.
- Righty Logan Kensing has accepted an assignment to Triple-A with the Tigers after clearing outright waivers, MLB.com’s Jason Beck reports on Twitter. The veteran reliever hasn’t seen much MLB action of late, and only lasted 4 2/3 with Detroit before losing his roster spot. But the 33-year-old obviously feels as if another call-up could be in the future, as he could have elected free agency and looked for another organization. Over parts of nine MLB seasons, Kensing has compiled 181 2/3 innings of 5.70 ERA pitching with 7.8 K/9 against 4.9 BB/9.
The Padres are working hard to develop a set of reliable new rotation options with several key veterans ticketed for the open market in short order — if they aren’t traded first — as Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. Hurlers such as Drew Pomeranz, Colin Rea, and Robbie Erlin offer future control that could make them important assets to an organization with a limited budget. Of course, all still need to prove that they can stick in the rotation.
- Of the veteran Padres most often cited in trade rumors, Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune opines that catcher Derek Norris is the most likely to be dealt. Following Norris are, in order, Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, James Shields and Matt Kemp. Sanders covers several other Padres topics as part of this online chat with Union-Tribune readers.
- The Diamondbacks could be in for a few days’ worth of roster shuffles after using nine pitchers in Saturday’s 14-inning loss to the Padres, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes. “It could be one of those things where this whole week is flip-flopping people. [We] might have to go down to 12 position players, too, at some point,” manager Chip Hale said. Shelby Miller had to leave Saturday’s start after just 1 2/3 innings under odd circumstances, as he twice banged his throwing hand against the mound and scraped his knuckles after extending his follow-through on pitches. The D’Backs entered Sunday’s action with a league-high 47 1/3 bullpen innings, though Patrick Corbin gave the staff some breathing room by tossing 6 2/3 frames in today’s win.
- Although Padres president Mike Dee gave second-year GM A.J. Preller a vote of confidence last month, Friars ownership expects better from the team than what it has shown during a 3-8 start. If such poor play continues, it could put Preller’s job in jeopardy. However, as Rosenthal notes, the Padres hired Preller because of his eye for young talent, which the club is in position to accrue in droves over the next several months. Preller’s Padres have three of the top 25 picks in June’s draft and are expected to be highly active when the international free agent spending period begins July 2. They could also add more youth by trading certain veterans this summer.
The Red Sox, who optioned outfielder Rusney Castillo to Triple-A Pawtucket following last night’s win over the Orioles, will recall catcher Christian Vazquez from his rehab assignment at Triple-A Pawtucket tonight, reports the Boston Herald’s Evan Drellich (Twitter link). Everyday catcher Blake Swihart hasn’t hit much and, perhaps more troublesomely, has demonstrated a few defensive hiccups, including missed pop-ups and some difficulty keeping the ball in front of him. (Swihart has allowed three passed balls on the young season.) The Red Sox, for the time being, seem poised to carry three catchers on the roster with Vazquez, Swihart and Ryan Hanigan, though it’s hard to envision that as a long-term arrangement. The 25-year-old Vazquez is recovering from Tommy John surgery that was performed on him last spring and played in five games at Triple-A prior to his promotion.
Here’s more on the Red Sox…
- Yahoo’s Jeff Passan writes that the Red Sox could quickly look for a way to cut ties with Pablo Sandoval, who was placed on the DL with a somewhat dubious shoulder strain. As Passan notes, the Red Sox opted not to even bother performing an MRI on Sandoval — a test that would be standard in evaluating anything other than a catastrophic injury. Sources tell Passan that Sandoval only wants to remain in Boston if he’s able to play every day, but there’s no way the Sox will run him out there on a daily basis at this point given his struggles at the plate (in 2015 and in Spring Training), his rapidly deteriorating defensive skills and questions about his conditioning. Despite persistent speculation about a Sandoval-for-James Shields swap (which frankly makes no sense for San Diego), the Padres have cooled on Sandoval since pursuing him as a free agent in the 2014-15 offseason, Passan hears. The only way the Sox would give Sandoval regular time, Passan writes, would be if he loses weight and others in their lineup struggle. However, he can’t reestablish even a modicum of trade value without playing, creating something of a catch-22 in Boston.
- The Red Sox continue to be haunted by a series of deals from the second half of 2014, writes the Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, who looks back at a series of now-ill-fated moves that began with the July 31 trades of Jon Lester for Yoenis Cespedes and John Lackey for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly. Less than a month later, the Sox signed Castillo to a seven-year, $72.5MM deal, and in late November they announced the signings of Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez on the same day. Speier writes that the series of transactions helps to create a two-fold legacy for departed GM Ben Cherington, who helped the club to a 2013 World Series but has seen poor returns on nearly all transactions made from that point forth. However, Cherington’s unwillingness to deal prospects and moves to acquire young talent also left the club with a base of Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, Brock Holt, Swihart, Vazquez, Eduardo Rodriguez and others. And, that strong base makes it possible for the club to survive some of the more high-profile missteps (Sandoval, Castillo, etc.).
This is part of MLBTR’s series of posts breaking down the offseasons of every team in baseball. You can find all the others at this link.
After one of the most hyper-aggressive offseasons in recent history, the Padres pumped the brakes at the 2015 trade deadline and did so again with a more reserved winter.
Major League Signings
- Alexei Ramirez, SS: One year, $4MM (plus $4MM mutual option)
- Fernando Rodney, RHP: One year, $2MM (plus $2MM club option)
- Carlos Villanueva, RHP: One year, $1.5MM
- Buddy Baumann, LHP: One year, $520K
- Cesar Vargas, RHP: One year, salary unreported
- Total Spend: $8.02MM
Notable Minor League Signings
- Jeremy Guthrie, Brandon Morrow, Adam Rosales, Mike Olt, Matt Thornton, Casey Janssen, Christian Friedrich, Justin Sellers, Josh Satin, Erik Kratz, Philip Humber
Trades and Claims
- Acquired CF Manuel Margot, SS Javier Guerra, 2B Carlos Asuaje and LHP Logan Allen from Red Sox in exchange for RHP Craig Kimbrel
- Acquired RHP Enyel De Los Santos and IF Nelson Ward from Mariners in exchange for RHP Joaquin Benoit
- Acquired CF Jon Jay from the Cardinals in exchange for INF Jedd Gyorko and cash considerations ($7.5MM)
- Acquired LHP Drew Pomeranz, LHP Jose Torres and a PTBNL (Rule 5 pick Jabari Blash) from Athletics in exchange for 1B Yonder Alonso and LHP Marc Rzepczynski
- Acquired C Christian Bethancourt from Braves in exchange for RHP Casey Kelly and C Ricardo Rodriguez
- Acquired 2B Jose Pirela from Yankees in exchange for RHP Ronald Herrera
- Acquired LHP Trevor Seidenberger from Brewers in exchange for OF Rymer Liriano
- Acquired RHP Jean Cosme from Orioles in exchange for Odrisamer Despaigne
- Acquired RHP Dan Straily from Astros in exchange for C Erik Kratz (Straily was then claimed off waivers by Reds)
- Traded RHP Nick Vincent to Mariners in exchange for PTBNL
- Selected RHP Luis Perdomo from Cardinals in Rule 5 Draft
- Selected RHP Blake Smith from White Sox in Rule 5 Draft
- Justin Upton, Ian Kennedy, Craig Kimbrel, Joaquin Benoit, Shawn Kelley, Jedd Gyorko, Yonder Alonso, Clint Barmes, Dale Thayer, Will Middlebrooks, Odrisamer Despaigne, Bud Norris, Marc Rzepczynski
Looking at the list of trades made by general manager A.J. Preller and his staff this winter, perhaps “reserved” wasn’t an optimal word selection for the introductory sentence to this review. The Padres were hardly dormant this offseason, but the club’s direction unequivocally changed: while the 2014-15 offseason was about acquiring Major League talent with an eye towards immediate improvement, the 2015-16 offseason instead focused on long-term value and short-term additions that didn’t compromise that long-term outlook.
Chief among those forward-looking moves was the decision to trade one of the game’s best closers, Craig Kimbrel, less than nine months after acquiring him. In terms of prospect capital, the Padres received more than they gave up in order to acquire Kimbrel in the first place, although part of the reason they were able to acquire Kimbrel at a lesser price in terms of young talent was their willingness to absorb Melvin Upton’s contract. The addition of Manuel Margot, Javier Guerra, Carlos Asuaje and Logan Allen was a huge boost to a floundering Padres farm system, but the club still rates among the worst overall minor league systems in baseball, per Baseball America and ESPN’s Keith Law. Be that as it may, the Kimbrel trade could reap Major League benefits in the very near term, as Margot is close enough to the big league level that he could be in center field for the Friars as soon as this summer. Asuaje, too, could emerge on the big league scene relatively quickly.
While many thought the trade of Kimbrel and the subsequent trade of Joaquin Benoit signaled that the Padres would embark on an offseason fire sale, the team didn’t move enticing veterans like Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner or Derek Norris. Rather, the Padres dealt from the fringes of their Major League and 40-man rosters and, in doing so, were able to pare down the payroll a bit while simultaneously bringing in additional near-term pieces. The new regime clearly wasn’t as high on Jedd Gyorko as the former front office, and shedding his salary for a more substantial up-front cost (the final year of Jon Jay’s contract) created some roster flexibility down the line. Christian Bethancourt and Jose Pirela give the Friars a pair of young players that can step directly onto the roster.
San Diego also moved a year of Marc Rzepczynski and two years of Yonder Alonso for three years of Drew Pomeranz and an intriguing Rule 5 pick in Jabari Blash (plus minor league lefty Jose Torres). From my vantage point, it was hard not to like the deal for the Padres, who gained more control over Pomeranz than they had over either Alonso or Rzepczynski. Pomeranz might not have lived up to his potential yet, but he posted solid numbers in both seasons he spent with the A’s and is nearly two years younger than Alonso, whose ceiling is pretty limited at this point.
In Rodney, Villanueva, Baumann and Vargas, the Padres made a series of low-cost bullpen signings to help replace some of the depth they surrendered in other trades, and while none of the group will replicate the production of Kimbrel, there’s reason enough to believe that Rodney or Villanueva could easily justify the modest salaries that each was guaranteed.
The Padres’ only other free-agent expenditure was a similarly small commitment to Alexei Ramirez, and he’ll serve as a short-term patch over a long-term problem. I’ll talk a bit more about the deal later in the review.
Keep reading for more analysis after the break …