- After Trevor Rosenthal yielded three earned runs and failed to record an out in a losing effort Friday, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny informed the right-hander Saturday that he’s out as the Redbirds’ closer, tweets Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. For now at least, the Cardinals will go with a combination of Seung-hwan Oh, Kevin Siegrist and Jonathan Broxton in save situations, Matheny said (Twitter link via Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com). Rosenthal took the reins as the Cardinals’ closer in 2014 and proceeded to save 93 of 102 opportunities and log a 2.65 ERA over a two-season, 139-inning span. This year has been a different story, though, as Rosenthal has offset excellent strikeout (13.5 per nine innings) and grounder rates (56.7 percent) with a 7.88 BB/9 (up from 4.34 from 2014-15) and a soaring home run rate. The 27-year-old’s ERA sits at an unsightly 5.63.
The Pirates have underperformed to this point in the season, but general manager Neal Huntington tells ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick that he’s not entertaining the thought of parting with center fielder Andrew McCutchen or any of his other stars. “We hear the narrative,” said Huntington in reference to recent speculation about the possibility of putting McCutchen on the trade block. “We’re aware of the narrative. But it’s not on our radar.” Similarly, FanRag’s Jon Heyman spoke to an anonymous Pirates official about the possibility of a Gerrit Cole trade and was met with a definitive reply of, “No!! Zero chance.” A recent report indicated that the Red Sox inquired on Cole and Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, but a rival GM told Heyman that such scenarios are “pipe dreams” and nothing more.
Here’s more from the NL Central…
- Heyman also spoke to execs from teams that have engaged (or attempted to engage) the Cubs in trade talks and was told that Chicago has shown “no interest” in trading Kyle Schwarber, Willson Contreras or Javier Baez. One opposing exec said that the Cubs are only open to moving their second-tier prospects, though a different GM opined to Heyman that the Cubs’ second tier of prospects should be rich enough to fill the bulk of their needs on the summer trade market. GMs around the league believe that Albert Almora is more or less off limits as well, Heyman writes, though the belief is that shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres isn’t in that same “untouchable” category.
- The sentencing of former Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa for his crimes in the breach of the Astros’ proprietary computer network has been pushed back for a third time, reports the Houston Chronicle’s David Barron (via Twitter). The new date for Correa’s sentencing is now July 18. The sentencing had already been pushed to June 6 and then July 5 prior to today’s news. Correa plead guilty to five of the 12 charges filed against him for unauthorized access to a private computer, each of which is punishable by up to five years in a prison and a fine of $250K.
- The Brewers are moving toward an agreement with first-rounder Corey Ray, MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports. An agreement isn’t yet in place, though one could be as soon as Friday afternoon. Ray’s bonus is expected to land between $4MM and his slot value of $4.382MM, according to McCalvy’s source. Ray, selected fifth overall by the Brewers in the draft, chatted with MLBTR’s Chuck Wasserstrom in a Q&A prior to the draft.
The Mets and their fans had a scare earlier today when both Noah Syndergaard and Yoenis Cespedes departed from a game early, but the team gave fairly positive updates on that pair and on Zack Wheeler tonight (links to Twitter via David Lennon of Newsday). There’s no structural damage in Syndergaard’s elbow. He’s free to resume his normal routine and will begin taking some anti-inflammatory medication to help with the discomfort he’s experienced twice this season. Cespedes received a cortisone shot for a sprained left wrist but is day to day and isn’t headed to the disabled list at this time. Wheeler, too, received a cortisone shot for a nerve issue in his elbow but has no structural damage.
As Mets fans breathe a sigh of relief, here are a few other notes from around the Senior Circuit…
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports points out that the Dodgers spent more on international amateurs (players that fall within international signing guidelines) than six organizations spent on their Major League payroll to open the season. Los Angeles spent about $96MM this period ($48MM on players plus about $48MM in luxury taxes), and that figure doesn’t even factor in the six-year, $30MM deal signed by right-hander Yaisel Sierra. Rosenthal spoke to commissioner Rob Manfred about the Dodgers’ spending, and Manfred said that there will be a strong focus on changes to the international system in the upcoming wave of CBA negotiations. “…when you see that kind of disparity in any part of the system, it generally suggests to us that the system is not functioning in a way that promotes competitive balance,” said the commissioner. “Rest assured, we’re going to be making proposals to address that.”
- The Padres remain “active” in trade talks, per Jon Morosi of MLB.com (via Twitter), but one name that hasn’t seen much chatter is Wil Myers. It seems that San Diego is not terribly interested in discussing the outfielder/first baseman. The 25-year-old will hit arbitration eligibility after the season, and will be in line for a nice payday if he can keep hitting at anything like his current .290/.336/.529 pace. Myers has already knocked a career-high 16 long balls in 301 plate appearances, and finally seems to be coming into his own after inconsistency and injury issues in recent years. San Diego paid a high price to get Myers before the 2015 season, with talented young players Joe Ross and Trea Turner moving to D.C. in a notable three-team swap, and it appears for now as if the club would like to see its investment pay off on the field rather than cashing him in for prospects.
- The Rockies pulled Jon Gray from today’s start with what the team is terming “arm fatigue,” and he’ll be reevaluated tomorrow, writes Nick Groke of the Denver Post. Gray threw just 40 of his 80 pitches for strikes and admitted that he’s felt some fatigue in his arm for his past couple of outings, but “it’s just now getting to a serious point.” Manager Walt Weiss said that Gray’s arm felt “heavy” today, and the right-hander himself said he had more trouble with his control than he ever has. “I’ve never had great control, but this, I didn’t know where this was going,” he said. “I wanted to leave it all out there and grind through it, but it wasn’t working.”
- Brayan Pena is nearing the end of his 20-day rehab window with the Cardinals, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which could mean that the team will part ways with veteran backup Eric Fryer. The 30-year-old Fryer has been great in a very limited role with St. Louis, hitting .406/.457/.469 in just 35 plate appearances (despite appearing in 22 games). However, Pena is on a two-year contract signed with the Cardinals last offseason, so even though he’s struggled through 11 rehab games as he recovers from knee surgery, he figures to be in the team’s plans.
- Cardinals righty Mitch Harris required significant elbow surgery to reattach his ulnar collateral ligament, he announced on Instagram. The 30-year-old cracked the majors last year for St. Louis, providing 27 innings of 3.67 ERA pitching. MLBTR wishes the best of luck to the former Naval officer, who has one heck of a back story.
It’s been a little more than a month since we last checked in on the vesting options from around the league. Here’s where this year’s collection of players with vesting options for the following season stand…
- Coco Crisp ($13MM option vests at 550 plate appearances or 130 games played in 2016): Crisp was hitting .234/.304/.405 at the time of my initial look at this group of players, but his bat has gone in the tank since that time. The 36-year-old switch-hitter has batted just .212/.235/.343 in 102 plate appearances since that time, but he’s continued to see playing time in part due to injuries elsewhere on the roster (Josh Reddick, Mark Canha). Crisp is still on pace to come in a bit shy of that 550 PA mark, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a reduced role upon Reddick’s return to health, as the A’s probably don’t love the idea of paying him $13MM for his age-37 campaign when he’s struggling to this level in 2016.
- Matt Holliday ($17MM option vests with Top 10 finish in MVP voting): Holliday is having a strong season, as he’s proven that the power outage he experienced last season was more anomaly than a portent for significant decline. However, he’s hitting .257/.332/.478 — numbers that help the Cardinals but won’t make him a factor in MVP voting barring a mammoth finish to the 2016 season.
- Chris Iannetta ($6MM option vests with 100 games started in 2016): Iannetta has already started 55 games for the Mariners this season, making it seem very likely that he’ll be around in Seattle for the 2017 campaign as well. He hasn’t set the world on fire in his first year with the Mariners, but he’s hitting .237/.337/.395, which translates to an OPS+ of 104 and a wRC+ of 105. (Put another way: he’s been about four to five percent above the league-average hitter after adjusting for his pitcher-friendly home park.)
- Yusmeiro Petit ($3MM option vests with 80 innings pitched in 2016): At last check, Petit was on pace to see his option vest, but he’s been used very sparingly in the month of June, totaling just six innings thus far after combining for 26 innings in April and May. Given his status as a multi-inning reliever, he could pick up some additional innings in a hurry, but as it stands, he’s behind pace to see that payday locked in automatically. Of course, he’s also posted a 2.81 ERA in those 32 innings, so the Nats may simply pick up his option even if it doesn’t automatically trigger. To this point, he’s pitched well enough that it seems like a fairly easy call.
- CC Sabathia ($25MM option vests if he does not end season on DL with shoulder injury or miss 45+ games in 2016 due to shoulder injury): Sabathia’s option seems likely to vest, as his shoulder has remained healthy this season. However, what once looked like an egregious overpay can perhaps be seen in a different light for the time being. While few would argue that the Yankees shouldn’t mind paying Sabathia that sum in 2017, his contract looks considerably better than it did last year. The former Cy Young winner has made 11 starts this season and has posted a resurgent 2.20 ERA with 7.7 K/9 against 3.7 BB/9. Sabathia has benefited from some good fortune in terms of homer-to-flyball ratio and strand rate, but this is the best he’s looked since 2012.
- Kurt Suzuki ($6MM option vests with 485 plate appearances in 2016): Suzuki’s overall production this season has been well below average, but since the last of these updates he’s batting a considerably improved .268/.297/.394 with a pair of homers in 74 PAs. That’s a bit better than the league-average catcher, but the Twins still don’t seem inclined to allow his option to vest. Suzuki has totaled just 158 plate appearances this season even with John Ryan Murphy, his projected replacement, floundering in the Majors and getting optioned to Triple-A (where his struggles have continued). Journeyman Juan Centeno is getting some time behind the dish as well (61 PAs) for the Twins as well. It seems unlikely that Minnesota will allow Suzuki to average 3.5 PAs per game over the final 93 contests after he’s averaged just 2.3 per game thus far.
As noted in the original update, both Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn had vesting options for the 2017 season as well, but those options were negated when each was released from the four-year contracts they initially signed with the Indians.
The Cardinals have optioned starting center fielder Randal Grichuk to Triple-A Memphis and recalled Tommy Pham to take his place, tweets Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. As Goold notes (on Twitter), the Cardinals are hoping Grichuk reacts similarly to a demotion as Kolten Wong did. Despite signing Wong to a $25MM extension during the offseason, the Redbirds sent Wong to the minors June 6 after he got off to a nightmarish start during the first two months of the year. Wong then slashed .429/.529/.929 with four home runs in 34 Memphis plate appearances to regain his spot on the Cardinals’ roster.
Grichuk, 24, was a rookie revelation for the Cardinals in 2015, compiling a stellar .276/.329/.548 line with 17 homers and a .272 ISO in 350 PAs. Grichuk’s production was 37 percent better than the league average in 2015, per wRC+, but he’s down to .206/.276/.392 (20 percent below average) and a .186 ISO in 250 trips to the plate this year. Grichuk’s decreased output has come in spite of improving his walk rate from 6.3 percent to 8.0 percent and striking out at a noticeably lower clip (31.4 percent to 24.0). His batting average on balls in play has tumbled from .365 to .238, however, and he’s hitting fewer line drives and more grounders.
Pham, like Grichuk, was outstanding for the Cardinals last season, putting up a .268/.347/.477 line with five long balls in 173 PAs and providing plus defense. The 28-year-old has spent the vast majority of 2016 in Memphis thanks in part to an early season oblique injury, though, and has hit a disappointing .236/.344/.382 in 128 Triple-A PAs. The right-handed Pham figures to platoon in center with the lefty-swinging Wong, as Roster Resource shows.
The Cardinals have announced that they’ve signed righty Dakota Hudson, the 34th overall pick in the draft. According to MLB.com’s Jim Callis (via Twitter), Hudson will receive $2MM, a bit more than the pool value of the 34th pick, which is $1.878MM. That figure still leaves the Cardinals with surplus pool space with which to sign remaining picks, since another Cards first-rounder, outfielder Dylan Carlson, signed for about $560K less than his pool value.
Hudson, a 6’5 junior from Mississippi State, was ranked the No. 15 prospect in the draft by MLB.com, which notes that he sits 93-95 MPH with his fastball (although he can touch 97) and throws a terrific slider/cutter. He also has a curveball and changeup, giving him a four-pitch mix. This season, he posted a 2.55 ERA, 9.2 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 113 innings. He also excelled last summer in the wood-bat Cape Cod League.
The Cardinals received the 34th overall pick as compensation for the departure of Jason Heyward. Hudson was the team’s third 2016 draft pick, after shortstop Delvin Perez (No. 23 overall) and Carlson (No. 33). All three have now agreed to terms.
The Cardinals have recalled second baseman Kolten Wong from Triple-A Memphis after optioning him to the minors just 10 days ago. In his place, center fielder Jeremy Hazelbaker has been optioned to Memphis. Wong’s demotion was the culmination of a marked decline and came just three months after he’d signed a five-year, $25.5MM contract extension. After hitting just .222/.306/.286 through his first 144 plate appearances and losing the second base job — Matt Carpenter is manning that position with Jhonny Peralta handling third and rookie Aledmys Diaz playing shortstop — Wong went on an absolute tear in Triple-A; in 34 plate appearances there, he batted .429/.529/.929 with four homers while seeing quite a bit of action in center field. Hazelbaker was one of the most talked-about players in the Majors in April when he batted .317/.357/.683, but the 28-year-old has come back to earth and seen his playing time dwindle since.
The Cardinals have agreed to a $2,222,500 bonus with first-round draft pick Delvin Perez, MLB.com’s Jim Callis reports on Twitter. That’s precisely the slot value that came with the 23rd overall selection.
Coming into the draft, Perez was viewed as a top ten pick. But his stock began to fall as word got out that he had failed a test for a performance-enhancing drug.
St. Louis ultimately struck with the last pick of the first round, and they’ll get a player with some serious upside in spite of the concerning test results. Baseball America rated him the eighth-best prospect available, explaining that he’s a speed demon and defensive whiz who still needs to refine his approach at the plate. Perez landed ninth on the MLB.com board and ESPN.com’s Keith Law ranked him 15th in the class based upon his “lightning-quick hands, a plus arm, plus range and 70 running speed.”
Perez is one of several interesting players taken by the Cards. The club saved a nice amount of cash in its deal with 33rd-overall pick Dylan Carlson, but has yet to sign its trio of college righties: Mississippi State’s Dakota Hudson (34th), Connor Jones of the University of Virginia, and UNC’s Zac Gallen.
Some minor moves from around the game…
- Righty Brandon Gomes has been released by the Cubs, as Baseball America’s Matt Eddy recently reported. The 31-year-old had thrown 167 relief innings over the last five years with the Rays, working to a 4.20 ERA with 7.8 K/9 against 3.3 BB/9. He had struggled with command this year at Triple-A in the Chicago organization, however. In his 22 2/3 frames, Gomes allowed ten earned runs on 14 hits and 14 walks while striking out twenty.
- The Orioles have re-signed lefty Andy Oliver, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports on Twitter. Oliver, 28, had recently opted out of his minor league pact with Baltimore, but evidently did not find a better opportunity elsewhere. He owns a nice 2.08 ERA over 34 2/3 Triple-A frames on the year, with 8.8 K/9 against 2.6 BB/9.
- Veteran catcher Gerald Laird has signed a contract with the Mexican League’s Tijuana Toros, MLBTR has learned. The 36-year-old Laird signed the with D-backs prior to the 2015 season but appeared in just one game before a back injury sidelined him into late August, at which point he was designated for assignment and released. Laird enjoyed a productive season with the Braves back in 2013, when he batted .281/.367/.372 in 141 plate appearances. In parts of 13 Major League seasons, Laird is a career .243/.305/.353 hitter. He’s spent time with the Rangers, Tigers and Cardinals in addition to Arizona and Atlanta.
- The Angels announced that lefty David Huff has cleared waivers and been sent outright to Triple-A Salt Lake. The 31-year-old made a pair of spot starts for the Halos this season but struggled in each and ultimately yielded seven earned runs on 13 hits and two walks in 5 1/3 innings. He’ll have the right to reject the outright assignment in favor of free agency, though he could very well accept due to the fact that the injury-riddled state of the Angels’ pitching staff could afford him another crack at the Majors later this summer.
- Former Major League right-hander Robert Coello has been waived by the Nexen Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization, as Jeeho Yoo of the Yonhap News Agency writes. In his place, the Heroes will sign right-hander Scott McGregor, who had been pitching for the Somerset Patriots of the independent Atlantic League (Mike Ashmore of MyCentralJersey.com reported the McGregor news earlier this week). The 31-year-old Coello hasn’t appeared in the Majors since 2013, when he posted a 3.71 ERA in 17 innings for the Angels. He had a 3.77 ERA in 62 innings out of the Heroes’ rotation this season, but Yoo notes that control problems (42 walks in those 62 innings) led him to be waived. McGregor, a longtime Cardinals farmhand, has a career 4.78 ERA at the Triple-A level and was throwing well for Somerset this season, having posted a 3.36 ERA with a 31-to-6 K/BB ratio in 59 innings.