Tampa Bay Rays Rumors

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

Rays Outright Ali Solis

The Rays have outrighted catcher Ali Solis to Triple-A, according to the Rays’ transactions page. Tampa’s 40 man roster now stands at 39 players.

The 26-year-old catcher has struggled with the bat. In 258 plate appearances for Triple-A Durham, Solis has hit .210/.238/.292. In 11 major league plate appearances spread over the last two seasons, Solis is 0-for-11 with six strikeouts and one walk. He appeared briefly with the Pirates last season.


AL East Notes: Rays, Escobar, Johnson, Red Sox

In his Sunday column, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes that “the key to [the Rays'] offseason flexibility might be trades” before noting that Tampa would be eager to deal either Grant Balfour or Jose Molina if they opportunity presented itself. He also speculates that names such as Matt Joyce, Sean Rodriguez and Jeremy Hellickson are names to watch, and he wonders whether or not Desmond Jennings and even Wil Myers will be discussed in trades this winter as well.

Here’s more from Topkin’s piece and the rest of the AL East…

  • While trading Yunel Escobar to the A’s or letting him go on waivers might’ve been popular with Rays fans (and even some in the clubhouse, Topkin notes), the team held onto him for multiple reasons. Firstly, the Rays are confident that Escobar will rebound from a tough 2014 season next year. They also don’t trust Ben Zobrist at shortstop next year in his age-34 season and aren’t sold on Nick Franklin‘s defense at short. Nor are they certain whether or not Hak-Ju Lee and Tim Beckham will be ready in 2015. Beyond that, the Rays don’t feel they can replace Escobar for as cheap little as he stands to earn in 2015 ($5MM).
  • Kelly Johnson, who went to the Orioles as the key to a four-player deal Saturday night, is now headed to his fifth straight AL East team. He’s happy to be headed to a likely playoff team in Baltimore, he tells the Providence Journal’s Tim Britton. “It’s crazy,” says Johnson. “Obviously I’ll be familiar with the surroundings. … I’m obviously excited to be in a situation where you’re on a first-place team.”
  • In a second piece, Britton also looked at the struggles of Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley, and he spoke with Red Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen about whether or not the hardships experienced by that duo has led the Sox to reevaluate their evaluation process for young players. Hazen speaks at length about the league-wide decline of offense, the increase in defensive shifts and the progress made in scouting reports, noting that it’s tougher now for young players to break through.

Rays To Pull Yunel Escobar Back From Waivers

The Athletics were awarded a waiver claim on Yunel Escobar this weekend, but Rays manager Joe Maddon tells reporters, including Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, that Escobar will not be traded via waivers this month (Twitter link).

The 31-year-old Escobar is controlled through the 2016 season at annual rates of $5MM (2015) and $7MM (2016) with a $7MM club option or $1MM buyout for the 2017 season. Those salaries are the result of an extension inked by Escobar earlier this season, but his production thus far likely hasn’t been what the Rays were expecting.

Escobar has batted just .253/.317/.318 this season — numbers that are far inferior to the .256/.332/.366 batting line he posted for Tampa in 2013. However, Escobar hasn’t been known for his bat for quite some time. Rather, his value has been in providing top-tier defense at shortstop, but metrics such as Ultimate Zone Rating (-13.9 runs) and Defensive Runs Saved (-18 runs) feel he’s been well below average in that regard as well in 2014. Single-season samples of defensive metrics rarely tell the entire story of a player’s defense, however, and this is the first year in which Escobar has posted anything but a positive total in either metric. He’s been bothered by shoulder problems this season, which could have had some impact on both his swing and his throws across the diamond (though his range appears to be the culprit on defense, based on his Fangraphs fielding page).

Oakland has been using Andy Parrino at short of late due to a fractured finger from regular shortstop Jed Lowrie. The fact that Lowrie is a free agent at season’s end could also have played a part in the Athletics’ decision to claim Escobar, as his affordable salaries for the coming seasons would fit well within Oakland’s typically tight payroll. However, as Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported earlier this morning, Lowrie could soon begin throwing, which would give him a chance to play by the end of the month.

It’s possible that the Rays could move Escobar this offseason if they feel they can find a suitable alternative on the free agent market, or if they feel that veteran Ben Zobrist or trade acquisition Nick Franklin can hold down the fort at shortstop. However, Zobrist hasn’t been a regular shortstop in years, and scouts have long questioned whether or not Franklin can handle short. Many feel that his ultimate position will be second base.



Athletics Claim Yunel Escobar On Revocable Waivers

MONDAY: Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle also hears that a deal for Escobar is unlikely, in part due to the progress that Lowrie has made on his injured finger. Lowrie could begin throwing within the next couple of days, which could allow him to return by the end of August.

SUNDAY, 6:51pm: The Athletics and Rays don’t appear likely to reach agreement on a trade involving Escobar, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. If they can’t, Escobar would stay with the Rays.

1:48pm: The Athletics have claimed shortstop Yunel Escobar from the Rays on revocable waivers, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets. That means the two teams will have until Tuesday afternoon to agree upon a trade, if they’re going to make one.

Escobar is making $5MM this season and is already signed to a two-year, $13MM deal for 2015 and 2016 that also includes a club option for 2017. He had been a solid, underappreciated player for several years before this one, but this season he’s struggled, hitting .250/.315/.316 while getting uncharacteristically bad marks for his defense — UZR had rated him as an above-average shortstop for seven straight seasons before this one, but this year he’s 14 runs below average. That figure might be somewhat fluky, but he’s nearly 32 and has also struggled offensively, suggesting he might be declining.

Given Escobar’s contract status, then, it’s a little surprising that the Athletics claimed him, but perhaps they feel he has rebound potential, and they do have a need at shortstop. Jed Lowrie is currently on the disabled list and will be a free agent after the season, and journeyman Andy Parrino has recently taken his place. The A’s also recently shipped top prospect Addison Russell to Chicago in the Jeff Samardzija deal.


AL Central Notes: Swisher, Rodon, Royals

The Indians have announced that 1B/DH Nick Swisher will be out for the next eight to ten weeks after having surgery on both knees. That would suggest he’s out for the rest of the season. Swisher was in the midst of a disappointing season in the second year of his $56MM deal with Cleveland, hitting .208/.278/.331 in 401 plate appearances. Here’s more from the AL Central.

  • GM Rick Hahn says the White Sox haven’t yet decided whether they’ll promote 2014 third overall draft pick Carlos Rodon once rosters expand in September, Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune tweets. If they do promote him, they could use him as a starter. The White Sox recently promoted Rodon to Triple-A Charlotte after pitching well in four appearances for Class A+ Winston-Salem.
  • We still can’t get a clear read on the 2013 James Shields / Wil Myers trade between the Royals and the Rays because some of the secondary players involved haven’t yet reached their potential, Rob Neyer of FOX Sports writes. For example, the Rays received minor league infielder Patrick Leonard in the deal, and he’s currently hitting .293/.372/.470 in 476 plate appearances for Class A+ Charlotte (the Charlotte team based in Florida, not the Triple-A team mentioned above) as a 21-year-old. Also, 25-year-old Mike Montgomery, another Rays acquisition, has gradually improved at Triple-A.

AL East Notes: Jimenez, Red Sox, McCann, Rays

Red Sox manager John Farrell says you have to take the good with the bad when it comes to mid-season acquisition Yoenis Cespedes.  “With it will come some quick outs, but at the same time the ability to impact the baseball is a result of the aggressiveness as well,” Farrell said of Cespedes’€™ plate approach, writes Katie Morrison of WEEI.com. “€œHe hasn’€™t become more aggressive since coming over here. This is the player we were well aware of and pursued heavily. We’€™re fully accepting of the style of player he is.”  So far with Boston, Cespedes has a .219/.231/.406 line.  Here’s more out of the AL East..

  • Orioles skipper Buck Showalter announced that the club is moving Ubaldo Jimenez to the bullpen, Britt Ghiroli of MLB.com writes.  Needless to say, this isn’t how the O’s expected things to pan out when they signed Jimenez to a four-year, $50MM deal this winter.
  • Earlier today, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said that he would consider trading prospects this winter in the right deal.  With that in mind, Jason Mastrodonato of The Springfield Republican looks at some of the youngsters Cherington could possibly part with.  If the Red Sox can’t find a way to utilize catcher Blake Swihart, who is doing well at the plate in the minors and catching 48% of base stealers, he could be made available in a deal.  Right-hander Anthony Ranaudo is another promising prospect, but there’s already tons of young rotation talent in the organization.
  • It was unthinkable just months ago, but Yankees catcher Brian McCann couldn’t be given away for free right now, writes Mike Petriello of Fangraphs.  It’s unknown whether McCann has been placed on waivers, but no team would risk putting in a claim on him and getting stuck with his $17MM annual salary, Petriello opines. So far this year, McCann has a .235/.291/.380 slash line.
  • The deal the Rays made on July 31 will always and forever be known as the day they traded away David Price, but, someday, it could also be known as the day they got Willy Adames, writes Marc Topkin for Baseball America.  “The guy that’s really intriguing to me is Adames,’’ manager Joe Maddon said. “That’s the kind of guy there, when you make a trade like this, people are always going to look at who’s coming to the big leagues primarily, but you got to look under the surface. … To be that young and that proficient, he sounds very exciting.’’

Minor Moves: Hill, O’Sullivan, Sale, Daley, Gimenez, Thomas

Here are today’s minor moves …

  • The Tigers inked right-hander Shawn Hill to a minor league deal today, as James Wagner of the Toledo Blade reports on Twitter. Hill, 33, has seen mostly scattered MLB action since taking 28 starts for the Nationals over the 2007-08 seasons. He has a 4.87 ERA through 105 1/3 innings (4.7 K/9 against 2.2 BB/9) in the upper minors this year with the White Sox and Blue Jays organizations.
  • The Phillies have outrighted Sean O’Sullivan to Triple-A, according to the International League transactions page. The righty accepted a previous outright assignment earlier this year, but will once again have the right to elect free agency instead.
  • Rays prospect Josh Sale has been hit with a 50-game suspension for recreational drug use, MLB announced today. This is hardly the first brush with trouble for the 23-year-old former first-round pick, who came into the 2013 season rated Tampa’s 24th-best prospect by Baseball America. After a previous drug-related suspension, Sale missed all of last year when the team banned him for inappropriate conduct. He had slashed .238/.313/.344 over 361 plate appearances on the year at the High-A level.
  • After reporting earlier today that Matt Daley has accepted an outright assignment from the Yankees, MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo tweets that Daley has actually been optioned by the club. The righty still occupies a 40-man spot.
  • Catcher Chris Gimenez has accepted an outright assignment from the Rangers rather than electing free agency, tweets John Blake, the club’s executive VP of communications. The 31-year-old was designated for assignment five days ago, and apparently has not found a better opportunity with another organization.
  • The Phillies have released outfielder Clete Thomas, Cotillo tweets. The 30-year-old has seen 794 MLB plate appearances in parts of four seasons, but had not been elevated by Philadelphia this season. Over 226 minor league plate appearances, he carries a .247/.345/.335 slash.

Earlier Updates

Baseball America’s Matt Eddy has posted his weekly look at minor league transactions from around the league from the past seven days. We’ll highlight a couple of the (relatively) notable names that were missed in the past week:

  • Eddy reports that the Cardinals have released southpaw Pedro Feliciano from his minor league deal. The 37-year-old, once an excellent setup man with the Mets, pitched to a 5.57 ERA with 8.1 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 in 21 frames with Triple-A Memphis this season.
  • The Reds have released left-hander Scott Maine, Eddy reports. The former Cub was inked to a minor league deal in June after pitching well for the independent Atlantic League’s Bridgeport Bluefish, but he posted a 6.10 ERA in 10 1/3 innings with the Reds organization.
  • The Athletics have released first baseman/third baseman B.A. Vollmuth, tweets Eddy. Vollmuth, a third-rounder as recently as 2011, batted just .207/.278/.341 this season at Class A Beloit. The 24-year-old has yet to move above the Class-A Advanced level and a has a .702 OPS in his pro career.

Quick Hits: DePodesta, Sternberg, Lucroy

We at MLBTR tend to focus on transactions, but the big news of tonight comes from Baltimore, where catcher Caleb Joseph homered for a fifth straight game. The Orioles catcher had hit just three major league home runs before his current onslaught. Last season, he did pop an impressive 22 home runs for the O’s Double-A affiliate. Prior to tonight, Joseph was hitting .220/.281/.401 on the season.

  • Last August, Mets Assistant GM Paul DePodesta discussed Moneyball misconceptions and the role of analysis in an interesting interview with Nautilus. Among the many topics, DePodesta talked about the importance of putting themselves in a position to get lucky. The Mets system certainly reflects that thought process. While the club has yet to succeed at the major league level, they are beginning to receive meaningful contributions from somewhat unexpected sources like Lucas Duda and Jacob deGrom.
  • Rays owner Stuart Sternberg doesn’t regret trading David Price despite the club’s current three game winning streak, writes Bill Chastain of MLB.com. Said Sternberg, “It really was the classic one-eye-on-the-present, one-eye-on-the-future kind of deal.” The Rays remain 10 games back in the AL East and five games back in the Wild Card race. Sternberg does regret failing to acquire a big bat after losing in the 2010 division series. 
  • Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy isn’t interested in following the Joe Mauer model, according to Tom Haudricourt. “I feel like I’d go from an above-average catcher to an average first baseman,” said Lucroy. Defensive measures rate him as among the best backstops in the game, and his current batting line (.307/.374/.493) is strikingly similar to that of Adrian Beltre. Lucroy recently missed a game with a hamstring issue, but that’s a far cry from the issues plaguing Mauer.

AL East Notes: Victorino, Price, Lester, Yanks, Johnson

The Red Sox announced tonight that outfielder Shane Victorino underwent a season-ending lumbar disectomy surgery. The 33-year-old appeared in just 30 games for the BoSox this season, slashing .268/.303/.382 with two homers and two steals. Clearly, the second year of his three-year, $39MM contract with the Red Sox didn’t pan out as well as the first — which was arguably the finest season of his entire career. Though his contract was widely panned at the time of the signing, Victorino silenced critics by batting .294/.351/.451 with 15 homers, 21 steals and elite outfield defense — all of which combined to total more than 5.5 wins above replacement.

Here’s more from the AL East…

  • David Lennon of Newsday tweets that the Red Sox and Rays both received permission from their owners to trade their left-handed aces to any team in baseball, with one exception: the Yankees.
  • The injury to David Phelps should push the Yankees back into the starting pitching market, writes Mike Axisa of River Ave. Blues. As he notes, the case can be made that the Yankees’ five best starting options — Phelps, Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda — are all on the disabled list at this time.
  • Allowing Matt Thornton to be claimed by the Nationals saved the Yankees about $1MM in 2014 salary and $3.5MM in 2015 salary, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that the Yankees could redirect some of those savings to add some pieces this month. New York is working on some potential additions already, says Rosenthal. GM Brian Cashman is “open to anything that makes [the Yankees] better,” he tells MLB.com’s Jake Kring-Schreifels.
  • The Orioles had interest in adding former closer Jim Johnson on a minor league deal, writes Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com, but they felt they didn’t have room to add him to the big league squad until rosters expand in September. Manager Buck Showalter tells Kubatko that he expressed that point to Johnson in multiple phone conversations
  • Former Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski tells Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com that while he assumes that many people will expect him to be bitter toward Boston, he has no hard feelings toward the organization or his former teammates (even those who have spoken against him since his departure). Pierzynski said he didn’t ask for a reason when he was DFAed, although he wasn’t exactly expecting the move. He also offers high praise for his brief time with the Cardinals and briefly discusses the difficulty of a catcher transitioning pitching staffs midseason.

Trade Deadline Links: Price Trade, Red Sox, Phillies

It’s been a quiet night for transactions and rumors, so let’s take a look at some audio looking back at the deadline:

  • Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski joined ESPN.com’s Buster Olney on his podcast (audio link) to discuss the David Price trade. Dombrowski’s account is essential listening, but here are some highlights: Though Dombrowski was thinking initially about adding to the pen, internal recommendations led him to reach out to his Rays counterpart, Andrew Friedman, before the All-Star game. The sides chatted, but did not discuss a deal intensively until the evening before the deadline. Tampa had previously raised the name of young shortstop Willy Adames, was interested in some of the Mariners players, and liked Drew Smyly, but the precise package was only put together with the deadline closing in. In Dombrowski’s mind, the deal went from a “slight chance” overnight to happening quickly early in the afternoon. (Interestingly, the Detroit Free-Press tweeted that Dombrowski was notably absent from his usual seat just before the game; as it turns out, Dombrowski tells Olney that the key phone conversations were in fact taking place at that time.)
  • Dombrowski had high praise for Friedman, who he described as direct and thorough. As for the idea that the haul was light for Price, Dombrowski explained that he had faced similar reactions after the Doug Fister deal, and feels that often such reactions come from a lack of information. In particular, he expressed that other clubs may not have a full read on Adames, who he calls a potential future All-Star.
  • In his podcast today (audio link), Jonah Keri of Grantland spoke with Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports about the trade deadline and what it means the rest of the way. Rosenthal wonders whether the Red Sox have created a sort of new model for sellers by pursuing big league pieces instead of unproven youngsters. Of course, Boston also created a much-discussed “model” for free-agent spending before the club’s 2013 World Series run, when it added a series of mid-tier veterans who seemed to gel together in Fenway. Keri also chats with Dan Okrent, discussing his excellent (and highly-recommended) book, Nine Innings, which delivers an incredible portrait of the workings of a ballclub from the front office to the field.
  • Former MLB GM Jim Duquette shared his own thoughts on the deadline — in particular, regarding the Phillies — on The Jayson Stark Show of 97.5 The Fanatic (audio link). Duquette said he thought the club “missed an opportunity” by standing pat. He also said it was surprising to hear GM Ruben Amaro Jr. say that his peers were not sufficiently aggressive in pursuing Philadelphia’s players, with Stark adding that other general managers have indicated to him that they were less than pleased with the commentary.