Tampa Bay Rays Rumors

Tampa Bay Rays trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

Rays Acquire Garrett Fulenchek From Braves

The Braves announced that they have traded minor league right-hander Garrett Fulenchek to the Rays in exchange for a pair of international bonus slots. The value of those slots comes out to roughly $494K.

This marks the third separate trade that the Braves have made today in order to acquire international bonus money. The moves were made necessary by a pair of agreements to sign promising young international prospects Derian Cruz and Christian Pache for a combined total of $3.4MM. The Braves began this year’s international signing period with a bonus pool of $2,458,400, meaning they needed to acquire nearly $900K to accommodate the agreements free of penalty. Thus far, Atlanta has traded right-hander Cody Martin to the A’s and, in a second trade, sent minor leaguers Jordan Paroubeck and Caleb Dirks to the Dodgers. The combined total of those three moves has added $1,131,600 to its bonus pool, which will allow the Cruz and Pache signings to be finalized under the team’s cap, which has swelled to an even $3.59MM.

In parting with Fulenchek, however, the Braves have surrendered perhaps the most promising piece yet in any of these three deals. The 19-year-old was Atlanta’s second-round pick (66th overall) just one year ago. A high school righty out of Texas, Fulenchek debuted with the Braves’ Gulf Coast League affiliate in 2014 and pitched to a 4.78 ERA with 29 strikeouts against 22 walks in 37 2/3 innings. While those numbers aren’t exactly impressive, he still ranked firmly within the team’s Top 20 or so prospects. Baseball America rated him ninth among Atlanta farmhands this offseason, while Fangraphs placed him 17th. (Those rankings occurred prior to some of the team’s trades, however.) MLB.com presently ranks Fulenchek as the Braves’ No. 13 prospect.

Fulenchek received a $1MM signing bonus last year and is described by most as a projectable right-hander. BA praised Fulenchek’s ability to generate ground-balls with his fastball. Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel noted that he sits 91-95 mph with his fastball and touches 96 at times, also flashing an above-average slider. MLB.com notes that he’ll have to work on repeating his delivery point, but could develop into a big league starter over time.

Fulenchek is a far more notable acquisition than most players that are swapped for international pool money, though it should be noted that he was selected by the Braves’ previous front office, which has since undergone some changes. He’s not as highly touted a prospect as Touki Toussaint, whom Atlanta effectively purchased from the D-Backs last month, but it’s nonetheless a bit surprising to see such a high profile draft pick moved just over a year after he was selected.

The Rays, for comparison, acquired a similar pair of slots from the Marlins earlier today in exchange for minor league right-hander Enderson Franco despite being limited to a maximum of $300K per signing this period.

Rays Acquire International Slot From Marlins

The Marlins have traded an international bonus slot that is valued at about $500K to the Rays in exchange for minor league right-hander Enderson Franco, reports Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald (on Twitter). The decision is somewhat curious on Tampa’s part, as the Rays exceeded their international spending pool by quite a wide margin in 2014-15, which prevents them from signing an international amateur for more than $300K in the current signing period.

Franco, 22, is a Venezuelan right-hander that was originally signed by the Astros. The Rays selected him in the minor league portion of the 2013 Rule 5 Draft, and he’s pitched reasonably well for Tampa since being acquired. Franco has shown impeccable control throughout his minor league tenure, averaging just 1.8 walks per nine innings in part of six seasons — including a stellar 1.0 BB/9 rate in both 2014 and 2015. Thus far, in 71 2/3 innings as a starter in the Class-A Midwest League, he’s posted a 3.89 ERA with 5.9 K/9 against that 1.0 BB/9 mark.

Rays Designate Ronald Belisario

The Rays designated reliever Ronald Belisario for assignment after tonight’s game, the club told reporters including Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (via Twitter).

Tampa Bay recently decided to add the 32-year-old to its big league roster when he exercised an opt-out clause in his minor league deal. Since that time, Belisario has thrown eight innings for the club — including his appearance tonight — and allowed seven earned runs. He has compiled six strikeouts against four walks on the year.

Belisario was throwing rather well in Triple-A, sporting a 3.26 ERA with 5.3 K/9 against 2.7 BB/9 over 30 1/3 frames. And he’s had success in the big leagues in the past. But clubs considering Belisario will surely note that his fastball velocity (in his few big league outings this year) was down about two miles per hour from recent seasons.

Rays Sign First-Rounder Garrett Whitley

The Rays announced that they have signed first-round draft pick Garrett Whitley (Twitter link). The high school outfielder from New York will receive the full slot value of $2,962,100 that comes with the 13th overall selection, per Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Scouting director R.J. Harrison made the following comment on the team’s top pick (via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times):

“Garrett has all the tools we look for in a young prospect, both physically and mentally. He has the tools to play center field and hit in the middle of a lineup, and has the potential to impact the game with his legs, bat and glove. On top of that, Garrett is an intelligent young man with a great mental foundation for playing our game. We are very excited to welcome him to the organization and get him started on his professional journey.”

Whitley ranked as the seventh-best prospect in this year’s draft class in the eyes of Baseball America. ESPN’s Keith Law, meanwhile, ranked him 11th. Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs rated Whitley as the draft’s No. 15 prospect, and he placed 17th on the Top 20 of MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis.

Whitley’s draft stock took a step forward after he made adjustments based on input from pro scouts at last year’s Area Code Games, per BA’s report. As of right now, the only one of his tools that doesn’t project to be above average is his arm, but he takes “gazelle-like strides” in center thanks to plus speed and projects to hit for power. McDaniel calls Whitley a “linebacker-looking athlete” that can play center and has power, though he notes some questions about consistent contact. Law feels he has more upside than fellow first-rounders Kyle Tucker and Trenton Clark but less certainty due to concerns around his hit tool, and MLB.com feels that he has average-or-better tools across the board with an advanced approach at the plate. Whitley had been committed to Wake Forest.

Tigers To Acquire Alexi Casilla From Rays

The Tigers have acquired infielder Alexi Casilla from the Rays in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports (Twitter links). Per the report, Detroit made the move to bolster its organizational depth up the middle.

Casilla, 30, has not seen big league time this year and played in just one game last year for the Orioles. Before that, however, he was rather an active utility player, mostly from the Twins. All told, Casilla has taken 1,893 plate appearances and produced a .247/.302/.331 slash with 80 stolen bases. He has spent most of his time at second, but also has plenty of experience playing shortstop.

Though he’s yet to receive a call-up, Casilla has actually been quite productive this year at Triple-A. Over 142 plate appearances, he has slashed .315/.379/.449. Though a .363 BABIP has helped drive that productivity, Casilla is showing better patience and power numbers than he did last year in the upper minors.

Minor Moves: Mazzaro, Sizemore, Murata, Rogers

Here are today’s minor league transactions from around baseball, with the newest moves at the top of the post.  All moves were announced by the teams themselves unless otherwise cited.

  • Vin Mazzaro has elected to become a free agent, according to MLB.com’s official transactions page.  The veteran righty was designated for assignment by the Marlins earlier this week and then outrighted, giving him the option of accepting the assignment or choosing free agency.  Mazzaro has a 3.75 ERA, six strikeouts and six walks over 12 relief innings for Miami this season.
  • The Rays selected the contract of Grady Sizemore prior to today’s game, and the veteran outfielder delivered three hits in his Tampa debut.  Sizemore was released by the Phillies and signed to a minor league deal by the Rays earlier this month.  In corresponding roster moves, righty Matt Andriese was sent to Triple-A and outfielder Desmond Jennings was moved to the 60-day DL.
  • The Indians purchased the contract of right-hander Toru Murata, who is making his MLB debut in a start tonight against the Orioles.  Murata was signed as a free agent out of Japan in 2010 and he owns a 3.88 ERA, 3.01 K/BB rate and 6.8 K/9 over 489 2/3 minor league innings.  In a corresponding move, the Tribe released right-hander Scott Atchison.
  • The Yankees selected the contract of righty Esmil Rogers, who was just outrighted off the roster two weeks ago.  Rogers has a 6.27 ERA over 33 bullpen innings for New York this season, though he has been hamstrung by a .356 BABIP and a very low 56% strand rate.
  • The Pirates selected the contract of utilityman Gorkys Hernandez.  Once a top-100 prospect, Hernandez appeared in 70 MLB games with the Pirates and Marlins in 2012 and hasn’t since been back to the Show.  Hernandez has a .278/.342/.376 slash line, 33 homers and 213 steals (out of 285 chances) over 4055 career minor league plate appearances.
  • The Braves selected the contract of right-hander Ryan Kelly, who is getting his first taste of the majors after nine pro seasons.  Kelly was a 26th-round draft pick for the Pirates in 2006 and he’s compiled a 3.99 ERA, 3.10 K/BB rate and 8.2 K/9 over 462 2/3 innings (mostly as a reliever).

AL Notes: Young, Aro, Smyly, Jaso

The Royals had little obvious need for veteran righty Chris Young heading into the season, but GM Dayton Moore had the team sign him anyway, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star writes. The Royals offered a big-league deal just as Young was strongly considering a minor-league offer from the Dodgers, even though the Royals didn’t have a clear spot for Young in either their rotation or their bullpen. “The analytical guys can’t understand me, either,” says Moore. Moore’s “impulse,” as McCullough puts it, has paid off so far — Young has performed better than anyone else in the Royals rotation, except perhaps Edinson Volquez. Young’s contract calls for a base salary of just $675K, but he’s already reached some roster benchmarks, and he looks likely to collect incentives that should get him close to a maximum $6MM. Here’s more from the American League.

  • Red Sox righty Jonathan Aro‘s path to the big leagues was an unlikely one, Alex Speier of the Boston Globe writes. As a teenager, Aro twice contracted Dengue fever. He was already contemplating his life after baseball before finally signing at 20, a late age for a Dominican player, and for just $10K. “First of all, I signed as a 20-year-old. Secondly, I signed as a $10,000 guy. Thirdly, all the guys who signed in my class were high-dollar guys. I thought I was at the low end of the priority list,” says Aro through a translator. “So, in short, no — I didn’t think this was attainable.” Aro gradually made his way through the minors, though, and excelled for Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket this year, posting a combined 2.22 ERA with 9.9 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 in 44 2/3 innings. He made his big-league debut Thursday.
  • Rays lefty Drew Smyly will pitch from a mound for the first time on Saturday since heading to the disabled list in May with a torn labrum, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. In early May, it looked like Smyly was headed for season-ending surgery, but he currently appears set to rejoin the Rays at some point late this season.
  • In other Rays injury news, DH John Jaso will start a rehab assignment Saturday with the Class A+ Charlotte Stone Crabs, Topkin tweets. Jaso has missed much of the season with a wrist injury. Jaso should provide the Rays with another reliable bat, although they’ve done well at DH this season, with Joey Butler and David DeJesus taking most the available plate appearances.

Draft Signings: Lambert, Eshelman, Ferrell, Denton

Let’s wrap up some notable recent draft signings to close out the day. Slot values, as always, are courtesy of Baseball America.

  • We already noted that Rockies second-rounder Peter Lambert had signed, and now Jim Callis of MLB.com tweets that he’ll earn $1,495,000 to forego his commitment to UCLA. That’s just shy of a full $100K above the slot value for the 44th choice. A projectable right-hander, Lambert was rated a top-fifty draft-eligible player by both Baseball America and MLB.com.
  • The Astros have agreed to terms with second-round choice and 46th overall pick Thomas Eshelman, Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston reports on Twitter. The Cal State-Fullerton righty says he’ll formally sign next week. Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs had Eshelman as the 54th player on his pre-draft board, while others were somewhat less optimistic. Baseball America rated him 126th, explaining that Eshelman has exceptional command but lacks outstanding pure stuff.
  • The Astros have also announced the signing of TCU righty Riley Ferrell, as Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle first reported on Twitter. He’ll get a $1MM bonus from the club, per Jim Callis of MLB.com (via Twitter). MLB.com liked him as the 45th-best draft prospect, noting that the TCU closer has a big fastball-slider combination that could make him a big league contributor from the pen in short order.
  • The Cardinals are in agreement with second-round pick Bryce Denton, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Denton had been committed to Vanderbilt, but is just a physical away from becoming a professional. ESPN.com’s Keith Law rated Denton 68th coming into the draft, noting that he has enhanced his outlook with improved strength and conditioning. Law says that the Tennessee high schooler is likely to play in the corner outfield as a pro, and could ultimately possess both a high-contact and powerful bat if he develops.
  • Rays third-round second baseman Brandon Lowe has agreed to terms on an unspecified bonus, Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune reports on Twitter. Lowe was taken 87th overall, which came with a $676,900 slot value. The University of Maryland product ranked as high as 92nd in pre-draft rankings, with that tab coming from Law, who profiles him as a very good hitter with below-average power and solid-but-not-spectacular overall defensive ability.
  • The Nationals have agreed to a $500K bonus with 13th-round pick Max Schrock, Callis tweets, That’s the highest bonus yet given to a post-tenth-round selection, Callis adds. As I noted recently, Washington had freed a significant amount of cash with its previously reported signings, and $400K of that will go to add the South Carolina second baseman, who Baseball America rated 282nd overall based on his strong bat.

Minor Moves: Noesi, Dykstra, Velez, De La Rosa

We’ll track the day’s minor moves in this post:

  • White Sox righty Hector Noesi has accepted an outright assignment with the club, Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com reports on Twitter. The 28-year-old was designated for assignment recently after posting a 6.89 ERA over 32 2/3 frames to start the year. Working both as a starter and from the pen, Noesi has struck out 6.1 and walked 4.7 batters per nine on the season. He has permitted 5.30 earned runs per nine in his 395 1/3 career MLB innings.
  • The Rays have released first baseman Allan Dykstra and utilityman Eugenio Velez, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. Dykstra, 28, saw his first big league action this year, but has spent most of his time in recent seasons in the upper minors. Though he carries a strong .261/.411/.457 line in his 606 total plate appearances at Triple-A, with similar numbers over exactly twice as many career turns at bat at Double-A, Dykstra has scuffled to a .705 OPS this year at Durham. The 33-year-old Velez has not seen big league action since 2011. He has generally hit well at Triple-A in the years since, but slipped to a .272/.336/.371 slash in 236 plate appearances this season at that level.
  • Orioles righty Dane De La Rosa has retired, David Hall of the Virginia Pilot reports on Twitter. The big, 32-year-old reliever had worked to a 4.35 ERA in 10 1/3 innings at Triple-A Norfolk, striking out 6.1 but walking 7.0 batters per nine innings. De La Rosa had seen big league time in each of the last four years, and was quite a productive pen option for the Angels in 2013, when he delivered 72 1/3 innings of 2.86 ERA ball. But he’s struggled badly with command since that time while dealing with shoulder, forearm, and knee issues.

Rays Acquire Marc Krauss From Angels

The Rays have acquired first baseman/outfielder Marc Krauss from the Angels in exchange for righty Kyle Winkler, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports (Twitter links). Krauss will head straight to the active roster, with utilityman Nick Franklin being optioned to clear roster space.

The left-handed-hitting Krauss was designated and outrighted by the Angels earlier in the year. He was off to a rough .143/.211/.286 start over 38 plate appearances at that time. Krauss came to the Halos over the offseason in a waiver claim from the Astros.

Krauss has always hit well in the upper minors, and that has been no different this year. Over 195 trips to the plate, he owns a .289/.415/.453 slash with four long balls.

The former second-round pick has split his big league time between first and the corner outfield, but has mostly played on the grass in the minors. He has seen action in parts of three seasons in the majors, taking 392 plate appearances and posting a cumulative .603 OPS.

Winkler, 25, has not yet advanced out of the minors. He has mostly pitched in a relief capacity as a professional. This year, splitting his time between Double-A and Triple-A, Winkler owns a 1.46 ERA over 12 1/3 frames with 10.9 K/9 against just 0.7 BB/9, though the bulk of the positive numbers came at the lower of those levels.