- The Rangers are moving lefty Derek Holland to the bullpen, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram writes (Twitter links). Holland has been a fixture in the Rangers’ rotation since 2009, but he’s posted a 5.04 ERA, 5.7 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 105 1/3 innings of a 2016 season marred by shoulder trouble. The idea behind the switch is to evaluate whether Holland help the team out of the bullpen in the playoffs. According to manager Jeff Banister, the team will likely go with eight relievers on its ALDS roster.
TODAY, 6:18pm: Jeffress has been reinstated but will not be in uniform tonight, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News tweets. He’ll need to rebuild strength for at least a week on a throwing program, Grant adds, and it remains unclear whether and when he’ll actually take the hill for Texas.
YESTERDAY: Right-handed reliever Jeremy Jeffress, who has been checked into an inpatient rehab clinic for nearly a month following a DWI arrest, is expected to rejoin the Rangers’ bullpen tomorrow, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter).
Jeffress, who turned 29 yesterday, was arrested late last month for driving with a reported blood-alcohol content of .115, and marijuana was reportedly found in the glove compartment of his car as well, although Jeffress was not charged with possession. Jeffress released a statement containing a lengthy and seemingly heartfelt apology at the time he entered the rehab clinic, and he’ll return to the club having spent between three and four weeks in treatment following his arrest.
The Rangers acquired Jeffress alongside Jonathan Lucroy in the trade that sent Lewis Brinson, Luis Ortiz and Ryan Cordell to the Brewers, and the former Milwaukee closer had settled into a setup in manager Jeff Banister’s bullpen before his arrest. In nine innings with Texas, Jeffress has a 4.00 ERA, and he’s pitched to a collective 2.52 ERA with 6.9 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and a 59.3 percent ground-ball rate in 53 2/3 innings this season. The Rangers control him for another three years via arbitration.
FanRag’s Jon Heyman kicks off his weekly notes column by recapping seven moves that turned the Cubs from cellar-dwellers into contenders, recalling the trades that netted the team Anthony Rizzo, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and Addison Russell as well as the Rule 5 selection of Hector Rondon. Here are some highlights from his roundup of notes on all 30 big league clubs…
- Brian Snitker, Terry Pendleton and Bo Porter are the Braves’ primary internal candidates to fill the managerial vacancy, while Heyman lists some potential outside candidates as Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo, former Padres manager Bud Black, former Twins manager Rob Gardenhire and Royals bench coach/former Mariners skipper Don Wakamatsu.
- The Astros will seek rotation help this offseason even if Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers get back up to full strength from their respective shoulder and elbow issues. With Doug Fister hitting the open market and the Astros receiving lackluster production from Collin McHugh and Mike Fiers, that’s not exactly a surprise.
- Both Tim Lincecum and Jered Weaver are determined to return in 2017, according to Heyman. He writes that Lincecum feels that he focused so much on strengthening his surgically repaired hip that he neglected to strengthen his arm enough, though a return to prominence for Lincecum always seemed like a fairly noted long shot after four down seasons and a significant surgical procedure.
- The Yankees will make a run at re-signing Aroldis Chapman as a free agent this winter, Heyman writes, at least in part due to Dellin Betances’ recent struggles. While Betances’ slump has been magnified by the fact that it’s taken place in late September, he was excellent for the bulk of the time following the Yankees’ deadline sale, pitching to a 0.57 ERA in his first 15 2/3 innings following the deadline and allowing only one run in August. If the motivation to re-sign Chapman is simply to once again create an extraordinarily deep back of the bullpen, that certainly makes sense, but pursuing him in light of three poor September outings from Betances seems rather reactionary when looking at Betances’ body of work as a whole.
- Second-half bullpen struggles have the Giants kicking themselves for not making a stronger push for Mark Melancon, Heyman reports. The Giants felt their offer was comparable to that of the Nationals, but Pittsburgh ultimately traded Melancon to D.C. in exchange for left-hander Felipe Rivero and minor league lefty Taylor Hearn. While the Giants made a run at Andrew Miller, as well, the Yankees asked for Joe Panik in exchange, which the Giants understandably found to be too steep an ask. GM Bobby Evans lamented not adding another established reliever to Heyman, and it seems likely that they’ll be in the mix for the top bullpen options this winter (Chapman, Kenley Jansen, Melancon).
- Extension talks between the Rangers and Rougned Odor were put on hold earlier this season, as the two sides couldn’t get on the same page. Odor’s camp was seeking a deal larger than Gregory Polanco’s five-year, $35MM pact with the Pirates, and while the Rangers wanted two club options tacked onto their top offer, Odor’s reps were only willing to concede one option year. That, of course, doesn’t rule out a deal being reached further down the line, but Odor’s 31-homer season as a 22-year-old second baseman figures to give his side plenty of leverage in talks, even if that power comes with an OBP that’s barely scraping the .300 mark.
The Rangers have agreed to terms with Cuban third baseman Yanio Perez, reports Jorge Ebro of El Nuevo Herald. Perez, who rates 13th on Jesse Sanchez’s top 30 international prospect rankings at MLB.com, will receive a $1.1MM signing bonus.
The 21-year-old Perez was cleared to sign on May 20 and receives plus grades for his raw power, per Sanchez, though some scouts have questioned his athleticism and ability to stick at third base. He’s said to have a good makeup by scouts, according to Sanchez, and is also an above-average runner. Baseball America’s Ben Badler has a full scouting report up on Perez, noting that he was once a 45-grade runner (on the 20-80 scale) but is now up to roughly 70 speed once underway, based on his 60-yard dash time. Badler, too, spoke to some scouts who graded Perez’s power well, though he heard above-average as opposed to the more impressive 65 grade used by Sanchez in his report. Perez hasn’t played in Cuba’s top league since the 2014-15 season and was just a career .259/.335/.328 hitter in Serie Nacional, though those stats came in his age 18-19 seasons. Perez is now listed at 6’2″ and 205 pounds, so it seems reasonable to believe that he’s filled out a bit since his last bit of pro experience in Cuba. Badler writes that he could begin next season at the Class-A level.
While Texas has taken an aggressive approach to the international market in seasons past, they’ve been more measured thus far in 2016. Perez’s bonus is the largest they’ve issued, with the next-biggest bonus going to Venezuelan catcher David Garcia, who received an $800K signing bonus in early July, per Sanchez. Even with this notable signing on the books, the Rangers haven’t cleared their allotted pool, so they’re not facing any type of long-term penalization.
Though expectations had been that Shin-Soo Choo would be out through mid-October after surgery on a fractured forearm, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan reports that he may be ready to return to the Rangers for an early postseason series. Choo could be taking BP with the big league club by the weekend if he continues to progress, and would then head to the instructional league to face live pitching. Texas skipper Jeff Banister said that the team misses Choo’s presence in the leadoff spot; he could provide a nice boost if he can remain on track.
- The Rangers outrighted left-hander Michael Roth to Triple-A after he accepted the assignment, club executive VP of communications John Blake tweets. Roth was designated for assignment earlier this week. The southpaw appeared in just one game for the Rangers this season (allowing six ER over 3 2/3 relief innings) while posting a 2.97 ERA, 2.24 K/BB rate and 5.8 K/9 over 145 1/3 innings at Triple-A, with 23 of his 28 outings coming as a starter.
The Rangers announced this afternoon that right-hander R.J. Alvarez has been assigned outright to the minor leagues. Texas just claimed Alvarez off waivers from the Cubs over the weekend, though it now looks as though Alvarez was claimed with the intent of the Rangers trying to sneak him through outright waivers themselves. Texas succeeded and will therefore be able to retain Alvarez for the time being without dedicating a 40-man roster spot to him.
The 25-year-old Alvarez was once a well-regarded prospect within the Angels’ farm system and has been included in a pair of high-profile trades — going from the Halos to the Padres in the Huston Street deal and going from San Diego to Oakland in the Derek Norris swap. The Cubs picked him up off waivers earlier this season, but he struggled considerably with Chicago’s Double-A affiliate in Tennessee.
In 27 innings split between Triple-A, Double-A and Class-A Advanced this season, Alvarez has a 7.00 ERA, and while the 35 strikeouts he’s racked up in that time are impressive, they also come with a dozen walks, a pair of hit batters and six wild pitches. Those troubles are reflective of the control issues that have plagued Alvarez throughout his minor league career, as he’s averaged 5.8 walks per nine innings pitched since being selected in the third round of the 2012 draft (by the Angels). Alvarez’s brief time in the Majors hasn’t gone any better, as he’s posted a 7.39 ERA in 28 big league innings, again showing a penchant for missing bats (32 strikeouts) but a susceptibility to bases on balls (18 walks).
The Rangers have activated right-hander Colby Lewis from the 60-day disabled list and designated left-hander Michael Roth in a corresponding move, according to the team’s executive vice president of communications, John Blake.
Lewis, out since late June with a lat strain, was highly effective for the Rangers during the season’s first two-plus months. The 37-year-old registered a 3.21 ERA, 5.6 K/9 and 1.74 BB/9 in 98 innings for a club that had been without ace Yu Darvish for a significant portion of time. Lewis, who will start Sunday against the Angels, will now join Darvish and Cole Hamels atop the Rangers’ rotation as the team moves toward clinching the American League West. At 85-58, Texas holds a 9 1/2-game lead in its division and owns the best record in the AL.
Roth, 26, has spent the vast majority of this year as a member of the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate, Round Rock, with which he logged an impressive 2.97 ERA over 145 1/3 innings. He has thrown 3 2/3 frames with Texas this year, giving him a career 38 major league innings with the Rangers, Angels and Indians. The 2012 ninth-round pick has recorded an 8.50 ERA, 7.25 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 over that limited sample size.
- The Rangers attempted to acquire Ivan Nova from the Yankees last month, with the talks occurring very close to the deadline. The Yankees, of course, sent Nova to the Pirates, where he has had tremendous success in their rotation. Nova has posted a 2.53 ERA, 6.2 K/9 and a remarkable 0.4 BB/9 in 46 1/3 innings for Pittsburgh. It’s impossible to say, of course, whether Nova would have had similar success in Texas, which is a completely different context in which to pitch, perhaps especially for someone like Nova, who struggled with allowing home runs in New York. But he might well have been able to help a team that has seen A.J. Griffin and Lucas Harrell struggle at the back of its rotation over the past month.
The Rangers have announced that they’ve claimed right-handed reliever R.J. Alvarez off waivers from the Cubs. They’ve optioned him to the Class A+ High Desert Mavericks. To clear space on their 40-man roster, they’ve moved righty Lucas Harrell (groin strain) from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL. The Cubs designated Alvarez for assignment earlier this week.
The 25-year-old Alvarez has spent the entire season in the minors, posting a 7.00 ERA, but with 11.7 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9, in 27 innings split between three levels in the Cubs and Athletics organizations. He spent the early part of the season recovering from arthroscopic elbow surgery.
Alvarez has also struggled in parts of two seasons in the Majors, posting a 7.39 ERA, 10.3 K/9 and 5.8 BB/9 in 28 total innings. It’s easy to see why he keeps generating interest after previously going from the Angels to the Padres in the Huston Street deal and from the Padres to the Athletics in the Derek Norris trade, however. Alvarez possesses mid-90s velocity, and he has an outstanding 12.6 K/9 in five career minor league seasons. He also has minimal service time, so the Rangers can keep him in their organization for the next several years if they choose.