Tampa Bay Rays Rumors

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

Rays Designate Allan Dykstra For Assignment

The Rays have designated first baseman Allan Dykstra for assignment, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. The move clears space for pitcher Everett Teaford, whose contract the Rays selected from Triple-A Durham.

Dykstra collected the first 38 plate appearances of his big-league career with the Rays this season, hitting .129/.289/.226 before being optioned to Durham when James Loney returned from injury. The 27-year-old Dykstra is now in his eighth season in the minors and could be on his way out of his third organization despite a first-round draft pedigree and consistently impressive-looking minor-league stats. He hit .280/.426/.504 in 439 plate appearances with the Mets’ (admittedly hitter-friendly) Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas last season.


Heyman’s Latest: Bryant, Upton, Rays, Leake, Soriano, Polanco

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark is said to be “ready to reach out to [Kris] Bryant soon to determine his mindset” on whether or not a grievance should be filed against the Cubs for holding him in Triple-A to start the season, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports in his latest Inside Baseball column. Heyman notes that the union could file a grievance on Bryant’s behalf even without his consent, though that’s unlikely. The issue at hand, of course, would be whether or not Bryant was clearly one of Chicago’s 25 best players and the demotion was made purely for service time implications. (Chicago bought an extra year of control over Bryant by stashing him in the Minors for all of eight games/11 days). Heyman points out that it would be difficult to an arbitrator to rule in Bryant’s favor, as there’s no precedent for this type of grievance. Players in similar situations have historically been hesitant to file a grievance, he adds, because it would be a contentious way to begin a relationship with a team to which a player will be tied for the next six-plus years. A “Cubs connected person” called the notion of a grievance “laughable” when asked by Heyman. However, the points that Bryant was recalled on the first day the team could add him while still delaying free agency and slotted directly into the cleanup spot could make a case that the club had an understanding of his value, Heyman writes. From the union’s perspective, it’s understandable that they’d have interest in preventing this type of situation in the future, even if it’s a long shot.

More highlights from a lengthy Heyman column…

  • The Padres don’t yet view Melvin Upton Jr. as a throwaway piece and will use him as an occasional outfielder and pinch-runner, Heyman writes. He also looks back on Upton’s original five-year, $75.2MM pact and notes that it’s one of the worst contracts in recent history, particularly given the fact that the next-highest offer was believed to come from the Phillies at somewhere in the $40MMs.
  • The league’s investigation into the Rays‘ allegations of the Cubs‘ tampering in the Joe Maddon saga could come to a close as soon as next week, per Heyman. MLB was still interviewing people as recently as last week, but to this point there “is believed to have been no smoking guns found.”
  • The Reds never approached right-hander Mike Leake about a contract extension this offseason, and the free-agent-to-be is said to be a bit hurt not to have been contacted. Leake’s not a front-line starter, but he’ll hit the open market heading into his age-28 season and currently sports a 3.56 ERA in 427 1/3 innings dating back to Opening Day 2013. A third straight season of 190+ innings and an ERA in the mid-3.00s should position him for a nice contract, especially considering the fact that half of his starts have come in the hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park.
  • Multiple teams have worked out Rafael Soriano, and while he’s on the Tigers‘ radar, there’s also been some contact with the Mariners. Heyman adds the Pirates, Indians and Dodgers as “logical suitors,” though I’d imagine the Pirates and Indians in particular would have some payroll constraints, depending on the asking price of agent Scott Boras.
  • Heyman echoes ESPN’s Buster Olney in speculating that the Dodgers could make a run at extending Howie Kendrick, noting that the Dodgers love Kendrick both on the field and in the clubhouse. He also notes that the Dodgers are impressed with Alex Guerrero‘s bat and may coming around on him as a passable option at third base or in left field, though the team is already well-stocked at each position.
  • The Pirates and Gregory Polanco may have come as close as about $1MM on agreeing to a seven-year contract, Heyman hears. The biggest holdup was over the three club options on the deal, which ranged from $11-13MM, and when the team would have been required to exercise them.
  • Though recent reports have indicated that John Lackey hopes the Cardinals will approach him about an extension, Heyman writes that it’s not a likely scenario. St. Louis likes its pitching depth and the young starters in line beyond those in the 2015 rotation.
  • The Orioles asked the Blue Jays for both of the team’s first round picks from the 2014 draft — right-hander Jeff Hoffman and catcher Max Pentecost — in exchange for the ability to hire EVP/general manager Dan Duquette as their new president, according to Heyman.

AL East Notes: Rays, Red Sox, Tanaka

Here’s the latest from the American League East:

  • The Rays are going to have to drop a player from their 40-man roster to account for the club’s bullpen injuries, Cork Gaines of Rays Index explains. With C.J. Riefenhauser joining Jeff Beliveau on the major league DL, and fellow southpaws Enny Romero and Grayson Garvin both on the DL in the minors, the club is low on options.
  • While the Red Sox rotation additions have struggled badly to start the year, the club did not have many appealing alternatives available to it, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal writes. MacPherson ticks through the possibilities, explaining that, by and large, Boston was probably wise not to beat other teams’ offers for several top arms.
  • Masahiro Tanaka has trended up in his last two outings for the Yankees, as Brendan Kuty of NJ.com explains. His ability to pitch through a partial UCL tear remains critical to the club not just this year, but looking into the future.


Jeff Beliveau To Undergo Surgery For Torn Labrum

Rays reliever Jeff Beliveau will undergo surgery Thursday to repair a torn left shoulder labrum, the club announced. Beliveau has already been transferred to the 60-day DL, and will obviously miss significant time.

As Jay Jaffe wrote for Baseball Prospectus back in 2012, surgical repairs of torn labrums have had their share of success stories. But recovery is far from a sure thing, and the details — for example, whether there is also rotator cuff damage — matter quite a bit.

Beliveau, 28, had seemed poised to play an important role in the Tampa bullpen this season after a surprising 2014 campaign in which he posted a 2.63 ERA over 24 frames, backed by 10.5 K/9 against 2.6 BB/9 and a 2.47 FIP. He was off to a rough start this year, however, having allowed seven baserunners and four earned runs in just 2 2/3 innings. Though he has never been a hard thrower, Beliveau was down two ticks on his fastball.

The loss of Beliveau leaves the club somewhat lacking in terms of experienced left-handed relievers. C.J. Riefenhauser is the only southpaw on the active roster at present, though players like Everett Teaford, Jordan Norberto, Enny Romero, and Grayson Garvin all represent depth options in the upper minors.


AL East Notes: Francis, Balfour, Betts, Schoop

The Blue Jays announced today that they’ve selected the contract of veteran left-hander Jeff Francis and optioned fellow lefty Colt Hynes to Triple-A Buffalo. The 34-year-old Francis, a native of Vancouver, will add another Canadian player to Toronto’s roster, joining Russell Martin, Michael Saunders and Dalton Pompey. Francis will hope for better results than he’s seen over the past three seasons, during which he’s posted a combined 5.84 ERA in 203 1/3 innings with the Rockies, Reds, A’s and Yankees. Toronto already had an open 40-man roster spot after designating Todd Redmond for assignment last week.

Here’s more from the AL East…

  • Recently designated right-hander Grant Balfour spoke with Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times about how he wished his second run with the Rays had yielded better results. Balfour admitted to shying away from his fastball after the realization that the pitch lacked its typical life. The Australian righty wouldn’t state for certain whether or not he’d pursue another opportunity immediately: “Maybe a little bit of rest will be good for me. … I’m not thinking too far ahead. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”
  • After speaking to multiple scouts about the futures of Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald writes that Betts has leap-frogged Bogaerts in the eyes of the baseball industry. “I don’t think you could find anyone in baseball who would pick Bogaerts over Betts right now,” one scout told Silverman. Another said Betts “clearly” has the better bat of the two, while a third scout said that in 20 years, Betts “makes quicker adjustments to his game than anybody I’ve seen.” All of the scouts to whom Silverman spoke are quick to clarify that Bogaerts still has star potential, but the glowing reviews add to the meteoric rise of Betts over the past 12 months.
  • Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop is likely to miss longer than the minimum amount of time on the 15-day disabled list, writes Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun. The 23-year-old Schoop suffered a Grade 1 partial PCL tear and an MCL sprain, and while surgery is unlikely, an exact timetable is unknown. Encina looks at Anthony Rendon as a possible comparable, noting that Rendon has just resumed baseball activities six weeks after spraining his left MCL.

Rays Designate Grant Balfour For Assignment

The Rays have designated reliever Grant Balfour, the team announced. The decision comes on the heels of an outing in which he allowed three runs on three walks and a home run over two-thirds of an inning. The club owes him $7MM this season. Tampa has selected the contract of Brandon Gomes in his place.

Balfour, 37, has a career 3.44 ERA with 9.53 K/9, 4.16 BB/9, and 84 saves. This season, his velocity has declined to a career low 89 mph. In his heyday, he regularly pumped 93-94 mph heat. After today, he’s walked four batters in four and one-third innings without a strikeout. It’s possible that he was underprepared for the season. Balfour’s father passed early during spring training, so it’s certainly understandable if he had trouble focusing on baseball.

The Aussie reliever is joined in DFA limbo by Xavier Cedeno, Todd Redmond, and Ryan Dennick.


AL East Notes: Reyes, Castro, Arencibia, Ramirez

In a radio appearance on FAN 590, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons told Sportsnet’s Jeff Blair that Jose Reyes had an MRI the revealed a small crack/fracture in his rib — an injury that could require a trip to the disabled list (Twitter links via Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith). The Blue Jays expect to have a better sense of whether or not Reyes will end up on the disabled list later today, though the injury certainly doesn’t seem to bode well for the shortstop, who exited last night’s game in the first inning. A DL trip for Reyes would seemingly mean that Ryan Goins would see time at short in his absence.

More from the AL East…

  • Shi Davidi of Sportsnet has posted an excellent look at the way in which Miguel Castro came to sign with the Blue Jays. Castro first worked out for both the Mets and Phillies, but failed to finalize a deal with either club for different reasons. Blue Jays director of Latin American operations was occupying that role with the Mets when the team pursued Castro, and Cruz recalls that he and Mets GM Sandy Alderson liked Castro and were comfortable signing him for $200K. However, some of the Mets pitching coaches and Cruz’s direct supervisor were concerned by Castro’s body type — he’s been likened, physically, to NBA superstar Kevin Durant due to his lanky frame — and the Mets ultimately passed. Castro then agreed to a $180K bonus with the Phillies, pending a physical, but Philadelphia didn’t like the look of his elbow and voided the deal. Cruz was transitioning to the Jays at that time and made his first order of business to ask GM Alex Anthopoulos for the money to sign Castro. A physical did reveal that Castro’s elbow looked to have had a past injury that no longer looked to be a major concern, but it was enough for Toronto to drop its initial offer to $43K. Castro accepted, and he impressed enough in his first big league camp to break camp with the team. Castro, of course, has already been moved to Toronto’s closer role.
  • J.P. Arencibia, who signed a Minor League pact with the Rays yesterday, will head to Triple-A and work mostly as a first baseman/DH, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Arencibia will get some occasional time at catcher, but manager Kevin Cash seemingly indicated that the 29-year-old’s bat, not the desire for additional depth behind the plate, was the reason for the signing. “He’s got some pop… we like what he does offensively,” Cash told Topkin. “Any added insurance he can provide, we’ll kind of see how it goes, but we’re excited.”
  • Righty Erasmo Ramirez has been shelled in two outings with the Rays, but Topkin writes that it appears the 25-year-old will stick with the club and try to work out his control issues out of the bullpen. The Rays don’t need a fifth starter until April 25, Topkin points out, and while either Alex Colome or Drew Smyly could theoretically be ready by that point, Tampa is not yet ready to give up on Ramirez.

Rays Sign J.P. Arencibia To Minor League Deal

The Rays have signed catcher J.P. Arencibia to a Minor League contract, tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The veteran Arencibia, a client of CAA Sports, will head to the Rays’ Triple-A affiliate in Durham, per Topkin.

The 29-year-old Arencibia was outrighted by the Rangers last winter and elected free agency rather than accepting an assignment to the Minors. He originally inked a Minors pact with the Orioles, but Baltimore cut him loose last week when he had previously been expected to join their Triple-A affiliate. Perhaps it’s not a surprise that Arencibia preferred not to head to Triple-A with Baltimore, as the O’s have a significant amount of catching depth already in their organization.

The same cannot necessarily be said of the Rays, who are currently relying on a tandem of Rene Rivera and Bobby Wilson behind the plate, with Curt Casali as the top option at the Triple-A level. Arencibia has more big league service time than any of those catching options, even Rivera, and will give Tampa a depth option with significant power but difficulty managing his strikeouts and getting on base.

Arencibia, once considered one of baseball’s top prospects, was the Blue Jays’ regular catcher from 2011-13, averaging 21 homers per season and 28 per 162 games played. However, his OBP dropped regularly in that stretch, bottoming out at an alarming .227 in 2013. Arencibia also saw his strikeout rate climb from 27.4 percent to 29 percent to 29.8 percent over that three-year stretch. He joined the Rangers last season and saw some time at first base but did little to pick up his offensive game.

From a defensive standpoint, Arencibia has been just a tick below average in controlling the running game (26 percent caught-stealing rate) and steadily improved his pitch framing. He graded above average in that latter skill in 2013 and average in 2014.


AL East Notes: Pillar, Orioles, Garcia, Greene

Kevin Pillar was expected to be the Blue Jays‘ fourth outfielder this season and, until Michael Saunders returned from the DL, only a short-term replacement in left field.  After a hot start both offensively and defensively (including an incredible homer-robbing catch last night), however, Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith notes that Pillar is making a strong bid for regular playing time even after Saunders is back.  Given Saunders’ knee injury and recent hamstring issue, I’d guess that he could see some DH time to keep him fresh, opening the door for Pillar to continue playing in left.  Switch-hitting center fielder Dalton Pompey has badly struggled against left-handed pitching in his brief career, so Pillar (a right-handed hitter) could also be used in a semi-platoon situation.

Here’s some news from around the AL East…

  • The Orioles are dealing with several roster questions, and MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko notes that the club’s decisions involve both making the team better in 2015 and also looking ahead to who might fill some holes on the 2016 roster.  Baltimore has 10 players scheduled for free agency this winter, leaving plenty of room to evaluate players for bigger roles, like T.J. McFarland or Mike Wright for a possible rotation spot next year.
  • Also from Kubatko’s piece, the Orioles want to keep Rule 5 Draft pick Jason Garcia as a piece for 2016 and beyond, though keeping him on the roster for all of this season could be tricky.  Garcia also has some interest from other teams, as “at least one member of the organization is convinced that the Rays would claim” the young righty if he was put on waivers.
  • Grantland’s Jonah Keri explores why the Orioles are keeping Kevin Gausman in the bullpen when the promising youngster and former fourth overall pick could be more valuable in the rotation.  One theory Keri has heard is that the O’s are giving their five veterans an opportunity to start in order to showcase them for possible trades, which would then open a space for Gausman.  Wei-Yin Chen and Bud Norris are both free agents after the season and the O’s would likely love to rid themselves of Ubaldo Jimenez‘s contract, though it’s worth noting that Gausman has thus far struggled (8.31 ERA and a 1:1 strikeout to walk ratio over four innings) in a relief role.
  • The early returns on the Yankees‘ offseason three-team trade with the Diamondbacks and Tigers aren’t promising for the Bronx Bombers, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes.  Shane Greene, who went to Detroit from New York, has yet to allow a run in 16 innings for the Tigers, while Didi Gregorius has had an all-around rough start to his Yankees career.  While it’s still early, one scout tells Sherman that Greene made some strong adjustments and “was the best pitcher he had seen in March.”  Sherman also notes that the Yankees haven’t historically had much success in trades with Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski.

Minor Moves: Andy Oliver

Here are today’s minor moves from around the league…

  • The Rays have signed left-hander Andy Oliver to a Minor League deal, tweets Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune. Oliver, 27, was in camp with the Phillies as a Rule 5 pick, and struck out 22 hitters in 12 2/3 innings, but the 11 walks he issued prompted the team to place him on waivers. Oliver was eventually outrighted and elected free agency. The former Tigers prospect also punched out 85 hitters in just 64 relief innings at Triple-A with the Pirates last year, albeit with a problematic 47 walks also coming in that time.