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- Right-Hander Norge Ruiz Leaves Cuba, Will Seek Deal With MLB Club
- Smyly Will Not Have Surgery, Is Confident He Can Pitch In 2015
- Hyun-jin Ryu Undergoes Season-Ending Shoulder Surgery
- 2016 MLB Free Agent Power Rankings
- Hyun-jin Ryu To Undergo Shoulder Surgery
- Mariners Acquire Welington Castillo From Cubs For Yoervis Medina
- Bruce Chen Announces Retirement
- Red Sox Outright Allen Craig
- Marlins Name GM Dan Jennings Manager
- GM Dan Jennings Could Become Marlins Manager
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- East Notes: Syndergaard, Duda, Castillo, Red Sox
- Quick Hits: Reds, Meyer, Ryu, Arruebarrena
- Dodgers Acquire Eric Surkamp From White Sox
- West Notes: Street, Crisp, Athletics, Dodgers
- Minor Moves: Josh Elander, Brock Peterson
- Red Sox Promote Rusney Castillo
- Rangers To Release Kyuji Fujikawa
- Right-Hander Norge Ruiz Leaves Cuba, Will Seek Deal With MLB Club
- Blue Jays Notes: Hamels, Travis, Kawasaki, Norris
- Heyman’s Latest: Hamels/Jays, Lucroy, Baez, Correa, Alvarez
- Cubs Among Teams Showing Interest In Rafael Soriano
- Indians Notes: Gomes, House, Marcum, Murphy
- Cubs Notes: Baez, Bryant, Russell, Maddon, Castro
- Smyly Will Not Have Surgery, Is Confident He Can Pitch In 2015
- Astros Release Darin Downs
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Texas Rangers Rumors
One of the biggest surprises of the season is that the Athletics have the third-worst record in baseball, writes Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron. The reason for Oakland’s woes, he continues, has been a bullpen that has performed dreadfully in high-leverage situations. Oakland relievers have allowed an opponent batting line roughly similar to Alexi Amarista‘s career rate in low-leverage situations, Cameron notes, but in high-leverage situations, opposing batters are hitting the A’s relief corps at a clip similar to Mike Trout‘s slash line. Cameron notes that according to BaseRuns, which estimates a team’s win-loss record based on context-neutral data, the A’s should be an 18-15 club. It’s not too late, then, for the team to expect a turnaround — especially with Ben Zobrist and Sean Doolittle nearing returns in what looks to be a weak division. However, the team has dug itself into a significant hole, so even another few weeks of poor baseball might make that hole too deep to escape.
Here’s more from the AL West…
- In his latest notes column, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports discusses a number of AL West topics and also notes the weak nature of the division. Rosenthal writes that the Rangers, who got off to an 8-16 start, have done well to stay afloat with a 5-2 road trip that has them within striking distance of .500. With Derek Holland and Martin Perez both potentially joining the club this summer, the team could hang around in contention, though he opines that they’ll need to add two relievers to make that realistic. Rosenthal also notes that the Rangers’ front office asked a number of Pirates players about former Pittsburgh bench coach Jeff Banister before hiring him as their new skipper. Andrew McCutchen, Russell Martin and A.J. Burnett were among the names to give Banister glowing reviews, and Rangers officials are quite pleased with the early returns on their hiring.
- Also in Rosenthal’s piece, he notes that sources have told him that Yunel Escobar wanted nothing to do with playing in Oakland when he was originally acquired alongside Ben Zobrist in the trade that sent a package headlined by Daniel Robertson to the Rays. Escobar’s distaste for playing with the A’s helped prompt the one-for-one swap of Escobar for Tyler Clippard. Clippard has delivered perhaps the best face-value results in the Oakland bullpen, but his peripherals have taken an alarming step backwards, as he’s averaging nearly four fewer strikeouts per nine innings and walking more than an extra batter per nine as well.
- The struggles of Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor will likely get him sent to the minors soon — possibly as soon as today, reports Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Odor’s batting line stands at an abysmal .144/.252/.233 in 103 plate appearances this season, and Grant breaks down the reasons for his struggles, most notably an inability to make any form of contact with pitches outside the strike zone. Grant breaks down the weak spots in Odor’s swing and addresses the issues he must work on to return to the Majors following his likely demotion.
- Pedro Moura and Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register discussed the landscape of the AL West as well as several Angels-related topics in their latest podcast, including whether or not the team should be interested in Allen Craig and whether or not reinforcements are needed for the back of the bullpen. (Much of the roster-related banter comes in the final 10 minutes of the podcast.) They also welcomed Jose De Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle on this episode to discuss the division-leading Astros.
Today marks the 55th birthday of Padres great Tony Gwynn, a birthday that provides opportunity for reflection after Gwynn’s untimely death from cancer last June. Gwynn’s son Tony Gwynn Jr., currently an outfielder for the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs in the Nationals system, says he had trouble coming up with a specific tribute to his father for his team’s game against Durham today, Kirk Kenney of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. The younger Gwynn notes that his father’s general policy was to “show up, do your job and go home.” Gwynn Jr. did, however, end up with two singles in five at-bats, which seems about right as a nod to his dad. Here’s more from the West divisions.
- The Rangers‘ outright of Mike Kickham seems like a minor one, but it could portend more transactions in the near future, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram writes. The move could clear space on the Rangers’ 40-man for infielder Ed Lucas, who could take over for Rougned Odor at second base, Wilson suggests. Delino DeShields could also see time at second, although probably not in a regular or even platoon role. The 21-year-old Odor has hit a meager .144/.252/.233 so far this season, while the 32-year-old Lucas has hit .316/.381/.421 for Triple-A Round Rock.
- Barry Zito, who’s with the Athletics‘ Triple-A affiliate in Nashville, is still adjusting to life in the minor leagues, Joe Stiglich of CSNBayArea.com writes. “I had to re-calibrate mentally and embrace the competition. It was definitely tough, and travel in the PCL is very difficult,” says Zito. “You’re up at 3 a.m., usually flying with a layover, to play a game that day. We’ve already sat on a tarmac in Abilene, Texas. There’s all kinds of shenanigans (with) commercial flights.” Zito, who turns 37 this week, has a 5.74 ERA with 6.3 K/9 and 4.9 BB/9 in 31 1/3 innings for Nashville as he attempts to make it back to the big leagues after a year away from the game.
Lefty Mike Kickham has cleared outright waivers, and the Rangers have assigned him to Triple-A Round Rock, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets. The move clears a spot on the Rangers’ 40-man roster.
The Rangers claimed the 26-year-old Kickham earlier this week after the Mariners designated him for assignment. It appears, though, that he passed through waivers rather quickly after that, and now will provide depth for Texas. Kickham was a reliable Triple-A starter in the Giants system in 2013 and 2014, but he struggled in brief shots in the big leagues and is off to an awful start at Triple-A this year, walking 28 batters in his first 21 innings.
As expected, Reds starter Homer Bailey underwent Tommy John surgery today, as MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reports. Though his previously-repaired flexor mass tendon apepared in good shape, Bailey’s UCL was determined to be completely torn, leaving little in the way of options to avoid surgery.
- Likewise, Rays righty Alex Cobb was found to have a fully torn UCL, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports, meaning he too was virtually assured to require a TJ procedure. Cobb says the best-case scenario would have him return late in 2016. Fellow Tampa hurler Matt Moore has continued to build his way back from his own UCL replacement, with MLB.com’s Bill Chastain reporting that Moore was able to throw all of his pitches in a live BP session. Moore says he is targeting a mid-June return to the big league bump.
- Though his shoulder has shown some evidence of progress, Rangers lefty Derek Holland will wait an additional two weeks before he begins throwing, as Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets. Though Texas has enjoyed a somewhat surprising contribution from its starting staff (3.71 ERA, 9th in baseball), peripherals suggest that some regression is forthcoming. Regardless, Holland’s health is critical to the club, both this year and — perhaps even more so — in the future.
- Orioles catcher Matt Wieters is set to catch seven innings tomorrow as he continues to work fully back from Tommy John surgery, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets. Wieters’ ability to return to health and productivity will go a long way toward determining his free agent earning power next winter, of course. It will also tell on Baltimore’s ability to compete for a postseason slot, though replacement Caleb Joseph has been a revelation.
- The Mariners appear unlikely to see righty Hisashi Iwakuma return until early June, at the soonest, per Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. Manager Lloyd McClendon says that Iwakuma is “probably still two to three weeks from going out [on a rehab assignment]” and will then need to throw a few outings before making it back to the big leagues. As with Wieters, Iwakuma needs to get healthy and show that he can continue to be effective in order to bolster his open market case. The scuffling Mariners, meanwhile, are not only firmly in need of his services, but also must assess whether they will be in the market for rotation help over the summer.
- Red Sox outfielder Hanley Ramirez is not likely to need a DL stint for his left shoulder sprain, manager John Farrell tells Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). Boston seems to have dodged a bullet with the injury situation, as the club can ill afford an extended absence from the player who has paced the club in hitting thus far.
CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman touched on many topics in his latest “Inside Baseball” column, and since we’ve already focused on Heyman’s notes about the Brewers, let’s look at some of his other hot stove info from around the league…
- The Astros will be looking to add one or even two starting pitchers, though Cole Hamels is “too pricey” for them, according to one team source. MLBTR’s Steve Adams recently explored the case for Houston going after the Phillies southpaw, and 42.44% of MLBTR readers polled thought that the Astros should indeed pursue Hamels.
- Rival executives aren’t bothered by Hamels’ sub-par performance this season since all of this trade speculation is assumed to be impacting his work. Executives “seem to be split on” whether the Phillies are making the right move in holding out for a blue chip prospect or two in exchange for Hamels, or if they should just be looking to get his big salary off the books for a lower return of young talent.
- A.J. Hinch’s deal with the Astros is a three-year contract with a club option for 2018. The exact dollar figure isn’t known but Heyman reports that the average annual value is less than $1MM, which could end up being a bargain given how Houston has thus far played under Hinch’s management.
- While Zack Greinke is expected to opt out of his contract at the end of the season, Heyman doubts he’ll leave the Dodgers since they certainly have the money to sign him to a new deal.
- One scout suggests that Javier Baez might need “a change of scenery” to get back on track. Baez struck out a whopping 95 times in 229 plate appearances with the Cubs last season, and only has a .755 OPS at the Triple-A level this year. Baez is only a year removed from being considered an elite-level prospect, so while it seems early to consider trading him, Chicago is already deep in young middle infield talent.
- The Rangers are willing to deal Shin-Soo Choo, rival executives believe. This is no surprise given Choo’s huge contract and underwhelming performance in Texas, though obviously those same issues will make dealing him a tall order. Heyman notes that the Yankees were interested in Choo when he was a free agent two winters ago, though even if Choo turns it around, I’m not sure I see New York taking on a big contract when they already have a pretty full outfield.
- The Cardinals “will rue the day they made that trade” of Shelby Miller and prospect Tyrell Jenkins for Jason Heyward and Jorden Walden, in the words of one scout. Heyman feels this is a bit of a stretch, even though Miller has been outstanding for the Braves and Heyward has struggled for the Cards (and Walden is on the DL).
- Veteran Andruw Jones isn’t yet planning to retire, though he won’t play in 2015. Jones has played in Japan for the last two seasons and expressed interest in a return to Major League Baseball this winter, drawing interest from at least two teams, including the Indians. According to Heyman, Jones turned down minor league contract offers from multiple teams.
Here are the latest minor transactions from around the baseball world, with the newest moves at the top of the post…
- The Royals moved lefty Tim Collins from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day DL, the team announced. The move was an expected one, as Collins will miss the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in March.
- Outfielder Nyjer Morgan has been released by the Korean Baseball Organization’s Hanwha Eagles, Han Lee of Global Sporting Integration reports. Morgan signed a one-year, $700K contract with Hanwha in the offseason and hit .273/.405/.333 over 42 plate appearances, but as Lee reports, Morgan had some personality clashes with the coaching staff. The seven-year MLB veteran appeared in 15 games with the Indians in 2014.
- The Rangers released left-hander Kevin Matthews, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. Matthews was picked 33rd overall by the Rangers in the 2011 draft but has only pitched 132 1/3 career minor league innings due to multiple injuries. Wilson notes that Texas probably could’ve parted ways with Matthews later in the season, though his release may have been quickened after the southpaw was charged with a DWI on Wednesday.
The Rangers have claimed lefty Mike Kickham off waivers from the Mariners, club executive VP of communications John Blake announced. Outfielder Ryan Rua was transferred to the 60-day DL to create space.
Per the release, Kickham will be optioned to Triple-A to start his tenure with Texas. The 26-year-old has struggled badly with his control in the early going this year, issuing 28 walks in just 21 innings for Triple-A Tacoma.
With the Rangers, Kickham will have a chance to get back to being the swingman option he was earlier in his career with the Giants. He has 30 1/3 big league innings under his belt, all with San Francisco, over which he struck out thirty hitters while walking eleven. But the long ball has proved problematic thus far, as nine batters have left the yard against Kickham in his brief MLB time.
Rule 5 Draft pick Logan Verrett, who was designated for assignment by the Rangers in late April, has cleared waivers and been returned to the Mets, according to a press release from the Mets. Texas has also confirmed the move.
The 24-year-old Verrett was originally selected by the Orioles in the most recent Rule 5 Draft. When Baltimore couldn’t find a spot for him and fellow Rule 5 pick Jason Garcia in Spring Training, it was Verrett who the O’s tried to sneak through waivers. However, Texas claimed him and placed him on its Opening Day roster as Spring Training broke.
Verrett appeared in four games for the Rangers, totaling nine innings but yielding seven runs (six earned) on 11 hits and three unintentional walks with just three strikeouts. Verrett did rack up ground-balls at an impressive 57.1 percent clip in his small sample of work, though he also displayed a fastball that averaged just 89.1 mph.
A former third-round selection by the Mets (2011), Verrett has a very strong K/BB ratio throughout his Minor League career, having averaged 7.5 K/9 against 1.7 BB/9 in 411 1/3 innings. He spent the 2014 campaign with Triple-A Las Vegas — an exceptionally hitter-friendly environment — and worked to a 4.33 ERA in 162 innings. Baseball America ranked Verrett 24th among Orioles farmhands this winter after they selected him in the Rule 5 Draft, noting that he mixes four pitches, including a solid-average slider that he is comfortable throwing in any count. Presumably, he will return to the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate and add to New York’s enviable stock of upper-level arms.
The Rangers are off to an 8-16 start this season, and GM Jon Daniels says that while some minor changes could be made this week, the team is “not going to going to wait too much longer before we consider mixing it up further,” writes Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Daniels didn’t specify what would constitute a more significant shakeup, but Grant speculates on three scenarios: demoting second baseman Rougned Odor, benching a struggling “core” player (i.e. Elvis Andrus) and/or replacing hitting instructor Dave Magadan.
Here’s more from the AL West…
- The Mariners last night announced the demotions of righty Yoervis Medina and lefty Tyler Olson to Triple-A Tacoma, and while no official word has been released on the corresponding roster moves that will follow, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports that signs point to Chris Taylor and Joe Beimel joining the club. Taylor was batting Brad Miller for the everyday shortstop role in Spring Training before a fractured wrist sidelined him for four to six weeks. He’s hitting .313/.385/.475 in Triple-A this season and could either serve as a platoon partner for the lefty-swinging Miller or eventually push him for more regular playing time. Beimel inked a Minor League pact in April after unsuccessfully holding out for a more lucrative big league deal this winter. Beimel isn’t on the 40-man roster, so a 40-man move will need to be made, though I’d imagine that could entail simply moving southpaw Edgar Olmos to the 60-day DL, as he’s already been on the 15-day DL since March 30.
- In the latest edition of his 10 Degrees column, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan notes that Angels righty Jered Weaver‘s fastball is averaging an alarming 83-84 mph (depending on whether one uses Baseball Info Solutions’ data or Brooks Baseball). Either way, the concern over his fastball is justified, as Passan points out that 120 of the 122 pitchers that throw four-seam fastballs have an average velocity higher than Weaver’s peak velocity of 87.81 mph this year. Weaver is averaging just 3.9 K/9 and has whiffed three or fewer hitters in all but one of his starts this season, en route to a 6.29 ERA. “Reinvention is the only way to save Weaver,” Passan opines, unless he, like righties Mike Pelfrey and Chris Young before him, is experiencing such a precipitous decline due to injury. (Young, like Weaver, never threw particularly hard in the first place and may be a more apt comparison.)
- Struggles in the Athletics‘ bullpen have the team pondering roster moves, writes Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. One option is switch-pitcher Pat Venditte, who has performed well at Triple-A since signing a Minor League deal this offseason. However, he’s not on the 40-man roster, and space is tight after claiming Alex Hassan off waivers for a staggering third time in the past several months. Slusser writes that when first baseman Nate Freiman is activated from the DL later this month, the team may try to sneak him through waivers to remove him from the 40-man but keep him in the organization. She also notes that southpaw Drew Pomeranz could be bullpen-bound when Jarrod Parker is activated from the DL and reinserted into the rotation.
- I’ll add a note on the surprising division leaders — the 18-7 Astros. Houston is the only club in the AL West with a record above .500 and, as the Chronicle’s Evan Drellich pointed out (Twitter link), they now rank as probables to make the playoffs looking at both Fangraphs’ and Baseball Prospectus’ postseason odds. However, outside of the excellent work provided by Collin McHugh and Dallas Keuchel, the team has received a collective 5.05 ERA from Scott Feldman, Sam Deduno, Brad Peacock, Asher Wojciechowski and Roberto Hernandez in the final three spots in the rotation. Given the club’s early lead, Brett Oberholtzer‘s health and the struggles of Dan Straily at Triple-A, I’d wonder if the ‘Stros would be open to pursuing an early rotation upgrade in an attempt to make their grip on the division more sustainable. Few teams are actively selling pieces this early in the season, but the Brewers are reportedly open to trade proposals, and Houston could look to clubs that have more serviceable arms than slots in the rotation. Given the lack of quality innings at the back of the Astros’ rotation, the team needn’t add an elite arm in order to acquire a significant upgrade. While this is all speculation, history has shown GM Jeff Luhnow to be aggressive on the trade market. Names like Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza and Dillon Gee have all been floated on the rumor mill lately, and it’s not hard to envision the Rays soon having a surplus of arms once Alex Cobb and, eventually, Matt Moore are healthy. For Astros fans that really want to dream big, the argument could be made that there is in Houston both the need and the means (in terms of prospects and finances) to take on a significant portion of Cole Hamels‘ contract, though the asking price could very well exceed Houston’s comfort level.
The Angels signing of Josh Hamilton has set the franchise back in ways other than financial, opines Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. During the 2012 offseason, the Angels decided to invest their payroll in Hamilton rather than make a serious bid to retain Zack Greinke. The five-year, $125MM contract forced GM Jerry DiPoto to cut corners when building his pitching staff for the 2013 sesaon and eventually he had to deal bats like Mark Trumbo and Howie Kendrick to acquire young arms (Hector Santiago, Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney) over the next two offseasons. Shaikin posits the Angels’ lineup is a Mike Trout injury away from being devasted.
Elsewhere in the American League:
- With public criticism mounting against White Sox manager Robin Ventura, first baseman Jose Abreu came to the defense of his skipper, Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune tweets. “If the people want someone to blame, it’s the players, not Robin,” Abreu said.
- Twins Rule 5 pick J.R. Graham is here to stay, manager Paul Molitor tells reporters, including Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press (on Twitter). “He’s going to be here all year,” the manager said. Graham threw two scoreless innings to close out the Twins’ 13-3 beating of the White Sox this afternoon.
- The Rangers will have a logjam at first base once Mitch Moreland recovers from his elbow surgery, but they won’t be able to move some of the surplus to the outfield because of the injury history of Moreland and Kyle Blanks, reports Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News. Moreland says there was only one bone chip (a little bigger than the size of a watermelon seed) that needed to be removed from his elbow, tweets FOXSportsSouthwest.com’s Anthony Andro.
- Indications are the continuing waiver wire saga of outfielder Alex Hassan (who has been claimed five times over the past seven months after being picked up by the A’s yesterday) will prompt the MLBPA to make this an issue during the next round of collective bargaining, according to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. The concern is the procedural movement hampers a prospect’s development, a sentiment echoed by Hassan. “You’re just behind,” Hassan said. “Do I prefer to be claimed by another team and have to break my lease and have to move my family and have to go find another apartment and take another short-term lease and get settled — and have to perform right away, knowing you’re the last guy on the 40-man roster? Or would it be better to stay where you are and get some stability and hopefully play well enough to where you might earn your way back up there? I don’t know the answer to that.“