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Though his role with the Cubs had diminished, Welington Castillo was still “shocked” to learn he’d been traded to the Mariners, he tells Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times: “I wasn’t expecting it. Now I’m here. It was a long day yesterday. Now I’m here and ready to go. I’m really excited to be here.” Castillo discusses the sometimes overlooked difficulty of being traded for a catcher, as he’s already been informed that he’ll be behind the dish for Thursday’s matinee, leaving him scarce time to get to know starter J.A. Happ, whom he’ll catch for the first time in his career. “I’m going to go and sit and watch video with him and go over the lineup, ask him, ‘what do you want to do, what do you like to do? What’s your first pitch? What’s your last pitch? What’s the pitch you throw behind in the count for a strike?’” Castillo is excited for the opportunity to play more, as even though he won’t be Seattle’s everyday option at catcher — that honor will still go to Mike Zunino — he should now pick up a couple of starts per week. With the Cubs, Castillo had just 47 plate appearances on the season.
More from the AL West…
- After speaking with Mariners director of minor league player development Chris Gwynn, Divish also reports that top prospect and 2014 first-rounder Alex Jackson has been shut down with a shoulder issue. According to Gwynn, Jackson hurt his left shoulder in Spring Training while diving for a ball, and the injury has likely hampered his swing this season. That would explain how Jackson, who slashed .280/.344/.476 in his pro debut with the club’s Rookie-level affiliate in 2014, saw his production plummet to .157/.240/.213 with Class-A Clinton in 2015. Jackson will head to extended Spring Training for the time being as he works to rehab the injury.
- Athletics righty Jarrod Parker underwent successful surgery to repair the fractured medial epicondyle in his right elbow, reports MLB.com’s Jane Lee. The club briefly thought that Parker might need a third Tommy John surgery after he initially sustained the injury, making this operation something of a relief, despite the its generally unfortunate nature. There’s still no timetable on his recovery, however.
- The Rangers‘ decision to designate Carlos Peguero earlier today opened a spot on the 25-man roster and was likely influenced by the impending return of Josh Hamilton (who will pick up most of Peguero’s at-bats in the corner outfield), but Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets another wrinkle to the move. The open spot on the 40-man roster won’t be filled immediately — Klein was already on the 40-man, as is Hamilton — which could allow the Rangers to give former first-round pick and consensus Top 100 prospect Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez a look in the rotation if they wish. Gonzalez hasn’t dazzled in his first taste of Triple-A pitching, but the 23-year-old does have a lifetime 3.14 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in the minors.
- Albert Pujols left the game tonight after being hit by a pitch on the hand, but Angels GM Jerry Dipoto told reporters, including Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times (Twitter link) that there are no fractures. Pujols will be day-to-day with a bruise but shouldn’t miss any significant amount of time.
The Marines have signed righty Kevin Gregg to a minor league deal, the team announced (via Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times, on Twitter). He will head to Triple-A, taking the place of the recently-traded Yoervis Medina in the Tacoma pen.
Gregg, 36, was designated recently by the Reds after opening the year with a prominent role in the Cincinnati pen. He struck out 14 batters in his 10 2/3 innings, walking five in the process, but nevertheless scuffled to a 10.13 ERA.
Over parts of 13 years in the big leagues, Gregg has posted 720 1/3 innings and averaged a 4.24 ERA. His best stretch came in the 2007-2010 time frame, when he closed for the Marlins, Cubs, and Blue Jays. (Since, he has also functioned in a 9th-inning capacity for the Orioles and again in Chicago.)
Here are the day’s minor moves:
- It appears that the Mariners have released veteran backstop John Baker, according to Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune (via Twitter). Obviously, Seattle just added an additional catcher to its organization with the acquisition of Welington Castillo. Baker, 34, has hit just .161/.185/.194 in 65 plate appearances this year with Tacoma. He has seen big league action in seven seasons.
- The Rangers have assigned right-handed reliever Stolmy Pimentel to Triple-A after he cleared waivers, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports on Twitter. Texas will no doubt be pleased to retain the rights to the 25-year-old, who owns a 3.97 ERA over 11 1/3 innings on the year. Pimentel has seen his strikeout numbers plummet from double figures last year to just 5.6 per nine thus far in 2015.
- Blue Jays lefty Jeff Francis has cleared outright waivers and is expected to report to Triple-A, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca tweets. The 34-year-old has given up nine earned runs over 12 innings thus far, though he has struck out 15 opposing batters while walking five.
The Athletics have hired former Rangers manager Ron Washington as a special instructor, as Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle and MLB.com’s Jane Lee (via Twitter) report. Washington, the club’s former infield coach, will not unseat current infield coach Mike Gallego. But he will work with the club’s big league players — particularly shortstop Marcus Semien, who paces the league with 15 errors thus far. Washington, of course, resigned from Texas late last year in rather dramatic fashion. He recently worked on the staff of the University of New Orleans.
Here’s more from out west:
- In other coaching news, the Padres have reportedly declined to allow Triple-A manager Pat Murphy to depart the organization to take a major league coaching job with the Brewers, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports analyzes the decision. Though San Diego sources tell Rosenthal that the club simply wants to retain a valued employee while avoiding early-season turmoil at their top affiliate, others around the game tell him that the move is highly unusual because heading to Milwaukee would have constituted a promotion. That has led to some speculation that the Padres see Murphy as a potential coach at the MLB level — if not even a replacement option for current big league skipper Bud Black. “(Murphy) must have been made promises — big ones,” a rival executive tells Rosenthal.
- Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik and manager Lloyd McClendon each addressed the team’s acquisition of catcher Welington Castillo yesterday, as MLB.com’s Greg Johns reports. “It’s very challenging in this day and age to have catching depth,” said Zduriencik. “To add a catcher that has a reasonable amount of Major League experience is important to the entire organization.” McClendon, meanwhile, echoed the notion of adding depth and also emphasized that the team had no plans to insert him as the starter: “His playing time will be predicated by Zunino’s performance on the field,” McClendon said. “We’re not fooling anybody here. Mike Zunino is our everyday catcher.”
The Mariners have agreed to acquire catcher Welington Castillo from the Cubs in exchange for right-handed reliever Yoervis Medina, the clubs announced. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports first reported the deal on Twitter.
Castillo, who only recently turned 28, has long seemed one of the more likely players in the game to be dealt — as I explained in breaking him down as a trade candidate back in March. Over the offseason, the Cubs dealt for Miguel Montero and signed David Ross to back him up, leaving Castillo without an obvious role.
Indeed, Castillo has only appeared behind the plate in nine games thus far, though he’s managed to see 47 plate appearances due to pinch-hitting duties. Regardless of his role, Castillo has struggled this year, slashing just .163/.234/.349. Of course, a .172 BABIP surely is not helping. And while Castillo carries a hefty 14.3% infield fly rate, he is also credited with more hard-hit balls than he has historically produced.
As always, there’s a deeper track record to consider. All said, Castillo has been an approximately league-average hitter over his career, which is certainly useful for a backstop. And he has at times shown something more, putting up a composite .271/.345/.404 line across the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
The real questions with Castillo seem to be on the other side of the ledger, though that is not entirely borne out by the numbers. He has never rated very highly in the pitch-framing department, but receives strong marks for his arm and pitch-blocking.
He is far from a perfect player, of course, which is presumably why the Cubs sought out replacements. But there is a lot to like about Castillo, who is playing on a $2.1MM salary this year and can be controlled for two more seasons through arbitration.
From the Mariners perspective, this deal provides the club with a long-term partner for incumbent Mike Zunino, who figures to lose some playing time after a rather active start to the year. Seattle has received scant production from its backstops: Zunino himself owns a meager .179/.241/.348 slash, though he has hit five long balls, while Jesus Sucre has just one hit in 16 turns at bat.
On the Cubs side of the ledger, Medina seemingly represents a buy-low arm of the sort that the team has targeted in recent years with some frequency. Though the 26-year-old has struggled with just 6.8 K/9 against 5.3 BB/9 this year — the walks are nothing new, though he had struck out better than nine hitters per nine innings in prior years — he still owns a 3.00 ERA in his 12 innings of work. And Medina has compiled 125 innings of 2.81 ERA pitching over the prior two seasons.
Medina has exhibited some rather significant velocity loss this year, dropping from last year’s 94-95 mph range down to 92.4 mph with both his four-seamer and two-seamer thus far in 2015. In addition to a quality sinker, which he went away from this year, Medina also features a rather promising curveball. That offspeed offering rated as one of the best in the game back in 2013 and continues to generate positive (albeit less excellent) results, at least by measure of Pitch F/X pitch value.
Chicago can and will stash Medina in Triple-A while attempting to work on his control issues and waiting for a need to arise. With two years of MLB service entering the season, Medina had figured to quality for arbitration next year, but that could well be in doubt at this point (though he’ll also have a chance at Super Two status if he doesn’t reach three years of service). All said, then, Chicago will control Medina for at least three and potentially four seasons after this one.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
MAY 15: Red Sox GM Ben Cherington says there’s no truth to that trade proposal, Edes tweets. He adds that a member of one of the involved clubs was the source on his info.
MAY 14: The Mariners turned down a trade offer from the Red Sox in the spring that would’ve seen outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. go to Seattle in exchange for left-handed reliever Charlie Furbush, ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes reports (Twitter link).
Moving Bradley would’ve helped clear up the outfield surplus that the Sox are still dealing with, though there’s been less of a logjam for playing time than expected given some injuries and a few underperforming players. Furbush has posted solid numbers since 2012 and you have to think he would’ve upgraded a Boston bullpen that entered today with the second-lowest fWAR of any relief corps in the game. That said, Furbush’s 1.86 ERA this season is belied by some shaky peripherals numbers (.185 BABIP, 4.37 xFIP, 3.89 SIERA) so perhaps he might’ve struggled at Fenway Park. Furbush is on a one-year, $1.3MM deal and still has two remaining years of arbitration eligibility.
Offering Bradley for a good-but-not-elite setup reliever would’ve seemed unthinkable a year ago, when the outfielder was considered one of the consensus top prospects in the game. Over 530 MLB plate appearances in 2013-14, however, Bradley hit a measly .196/.268/.280, posting the second-lowest wRC+ (51) of any player in that stretch with at least 500 PA. The Sox have already seemed to have moved on to Mookie Betts as their center fielder of the future and signed Rusney Castillo to a $72.5MM contract.
It’s hard to see Bradley’s hitting numbers improving with a move to the notoriously pitcher-friendly Safeco Field, and clearly the Mariners had enough concern about his bat that they weren’t willing to pull the trigger on an ex-top prospect who is controllable through 2019. Bradley has shown himself to be a phenomenal defender, and could’ve potentially been a long-term answer in center with Austin Jackson scheduled for free agency after the season.
With more than a fifth of the season in the books, we’ve had an early look (a peek, really) into where things may be headed on next winter’s free agent market. One of the most interesting positions to watch, in my estimation, is center field, where there are several players who had a lot to prove coming into the season.
There figure to be several clubs looking at adding new, mid-term or long-term options. The Indians, Mariners, Rangers, Athletics, Rangers, Cubs, and Padres all look like fairly good bets to at least dabble in the market at center. Depending upon how things shake out, it is not impossible to imagine that clubs like the Blue Jays, Tigers, Astros, Cardinals, and Giants could be as well.
Looking at MLBTR’s 2016 free agent list, which documents the players currently on track to qualify for the open market, a small group stands out as possible starting-caliber options. The trio is particularly interesting because they were so tightly bunched coming into the season — all looking to be solidly average to above-average performers, depending on one’s particular viewpoint. (Note: I’m not considering Colby Rasmus here because he has spent most of his time in the corner outfield this year. But he could also figure into the mix.)
Let’s see where things stand:
Value up: Denard Span, Nationals.
After missing the spring and early part of the season following core muscle surgery, Span needed more than ever to show that he could repeat last year’s excellent campaign. Things are certainly pointing up in the early going, as he owns a .316/.375/.532 slash over 88 turns at bat.
While it’s obviously unlikely that he’ll maintain that kind of power output — his current .215 ISO is more than double than his career 108 mark — Span is driving the ball consistently, as he did in 2014, while posting an impeccable strikeout-to-walk ratio. His .310 BABIP actually trails his career levels slightly, so it seems that quality contact is driving the early productivity.
Overall regression is almost certainly in store, but the early returns serve to confirm that Span is a quality top-of-the-order bat and, perhaps more importantly, that he is healthy. Span will need to keep things up in both regards after entering the year with injury questions and as the elder member (31 years of age) of the group considered in this post. Of course, he could stand to see a boost in his somewhat lagging early defensive ratings (which seem to belie the perceptions of some around the game) and his stolen base tallies, but the arrow is pointing up overall and he’s done the most to increase his stock.
Value neutral: Dexter Fowler, Cubs.
While his walks are down somewhat early, Fowlers continues to deliver solid results at the plate with a fairly typical .262/.345/.397 batting line. He has shown more at times, but that lands firmly within expectations. More promisingly, the 29-year-old has swiped eight bags already and is on pace for career highs in that arena, though he has been caught three times as well.
The major talent assessment question with Fowler is his defense in center. He has spent much of his time in tough-to-patrol outfields — Coors Field and Minute Maid Park — and rated terribly at the position last year (tallying negative 20 Defensive Runs Saved and negative 21.8 UZR on the year). That has turned around somewhat in a still-small sample this year in Chicago, with Fowler posting positive UZR marks (10.7 UZR/15) while receiving a less-glowing -3 DRS rating.
All said, the early speed and defense returns rate as good signs for Fowler, and the results at the plate have done nothing to detract from his appeal. You could argue, then, that his value is slightly on the rise. If nothing else, Fowler seems a reasonable target at center, after entering the year with the possibility that he’d be viewed more as a corner option. Some clubs may still end up seeing him that way, of course, especially as it is really too soon to draw much from defensive numbers. All said, Fowler’s value is largely holding steady at the present time.
Value down: Austin Jackson, Mariners.
Jackson looked like a nice get for the Mariners at last year’s trade deadline, but has been a significant disappointment thus far in Seattle. He just turned 28 a few months back, but 2015 has continued a troubling downturn in his overall productivity.
Over 339 plate appearances with the M’s, Jackson has put up a meager .233/.275/.280 line with two home runs. He has added a healthy 16 stolen bases over that stretch, but that’s hardly enough to offset concerns. To be sure, Jackson’s .284 BABIP is due for some positive regression — his career mark sits at .351 and he’s never ended a professional season below last year’s .325 — and his strikeout/walk numbers are in line with career norms. But he is making more weak contact than ever before while hitting more groundballs (50%) this year than is his custom.
Jackson still rates as a solid average center fielder and seems to have the legs to maintain that going forward. His current DL stint with a sprained ankle is probably not cause for any long-term concern, and may even afford him a chance to work on his difficulties if he takes a short rehab stint. But the sub-.100 ISO he has carried over this season and last has significantly reduced his appeal. There’s plenty of time for a turnaround, but Jackson is trending down at present.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Here are today’s minor moves:
- Infielder Reid Brignac has accepted the Marlins‘ assignment to Triple-A, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets. Brignac could instead have elected free agency upon being outrighted. The 29-year-old produced a hit and three walks in 17 MLB turns at bat this year. He owns a .219/.266/.310 slash over 922 career plate appearances at the major league level.
- Righty Logan Kensing has signed a minor league deal with the Mariners, the club announced. Kensing, 32, worked to a 3.58 ERA last year in 88 frames at Triple-A Tacoma, registering 8.1 K/9 against 3.4 BB/9. Despite a single appearance with the Rockies in 2013, Kensing has not seen regular big league action since back in 2009. All said, he owns a 5.79 earned run average over his 161 2/3 innings in the majors.
- Catcher Blake Forsythe is headed from the Athletics to the Phillies via trade, per Nashville Sounds broadcaster Jeff Hem (via Twitter; h/t Matt Rappa of Philliedelphia.com). The 25-year-old reached the Triple-A level for the first time this year after spending each of the last two seasons at the Double-A level with the Mets and then A’s organizations. He figures to provide organizational depth behind the dish for a club that is proceeding cautiously with former top prospect Tommy Joseph, who is being monitored for concussion symptoms.
- The White Sox have released outfielder Engel Beltre, according to a tweet from Triple-A Charlotte. Beltre, 25, signed a minor league deal with Chicago over the winter. He had risen to the major league level in 2013, earning 42 plate appearances after putting up solid-enough numbers (for a speedy center fielder) in the upper minors in 2012-13. But Beltre was sidetracked by a broken leg last year, and was off to a slow start (.234/.268/.312) at Charlotte.
Mariners righty Hisashi Iwakuma has been shut down for ten days to two weeks after experiencing continued upper back tightness, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports. “He’s going to be pushed back, so to speak,” said manager Lloyd McClendon. “His rehab has not gone as well as we thought it would have gone. He’s still experiencing some stiffness.” The longer Iwakuma is delayed, the more it begins to look like another arm might be a trade deadline consideration for Seattle.
- Meanwhile, the Red Sox rotation woes worsened last night with a rough outing for Justin Masterson. As Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com reports, manager John Farrell indicated that there is cause to believe there is more to be concerned with than the poor results. “The last two times out for Justin have not been anywhere close to what he’s shown this year — set aside prior to the start of 2015,” said Farrell. “Clearly, he’s not right. Whether that’s physical, whether that’s delivery-wise, the ball is not coming out of his hand as he’s shown the better part of the year. We’ve got to gather information, we’ve got to check on him in the morning, get a full workup, get a better assessment of where things are.”
- Of course, it’s far from clear that there is any realistic possibility of an outside addition to the Red Sox staff in the immediate future. As Alex Speier of the Boston Globe explains, utilizing the MLBTR Transaction Tracker, history teaches that starters (at least, impactful ones) are rarely dealt in the season’s first two months. Regardless, the club figures to be at or near a breaking point with its current starting five, and it would be surprising if internal replacements — Eduardo Rodriguez, most interesting among them — are not at least given a chance as the summer draws near.
- The Orioles are holding their breath after 20-year-old prospect Hunter Harvey left an outing with elbow tightness, as Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun reports. The rising Harvey, who is coming back from a shin fracture suffered this spring, already was shut down late last year with some elbow concerns and now is set for an MRI. His health and progress is critical to the organization, particularly with Dylan Bundy dealing with his own elbow problems and with the aforementioned Rodriguez shipped out at last year’s trade deadline.
Lefty Mike Kickham has cleared outright waivers, and the Rangers have assigned him to Triple-A Round Rock, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets. The move clears a spot on the Rangers’ 40-man roster.
The Rangers claimed the 26-year-old Kickham earlier this week after the Mariners designated him for assignment. It appears, though, that he passed through waivers rather quickly after that, and now will provide depth for Texas. Kickham was a reliable Triple-A starter in the Giants system in 2013 and 2014, but he struggled in brief shots in the big leagues and is off to an awful start at Triple-A this year, walking 28 batters in his first 21 innings.