- The Rangers are set to get Colby Lewis back on Sunday, as Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram writes. With Lewis joining Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Martin Perez and A.J. Griffin, Texas will have six options in the rotation, but skipper Jeff Banister says the team won’t deploy a straight six-man rotation. However, each of the six will get some starts down the stretch. Wilson writes that Perez, Griffin and Holland will each have some extra rest built into their schedules over the season’s final few weeks. Lewis, 37, has a 3.21 ERA with 5.6 K/9 against 1.7 BB/9 through his first 98 innings of the 2016 campaign.
- Wilson also writes that Shin-Soo Choo has begun throwing as he continues his rehab from a forearm fracture. He’ll throw every other day and take some swings with a fungo bat today as he aims to return to the Rangers’ roster for a potential playoff run. Choo’s chances of returning during the regular season aren’t great, but he said last month he hopes to play in October.
- Just-signed righty Vladimir Gutierrez was also pursued by several other clubs before agreeing with the Reds, Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports (Twitter links). The Rangers and Astros were the two primary pursuers who were willing to strike a deal right now, but three other organizations tried to convince the Cuban youngster to wait until the following July 2 signing period to put pen to paper. Meanwhile, Cinci GM Dick Williams says that the club likely won’t be making any other big-dollar signings in the near term.
The Brewers announced on Monday that they have acquired minor league third baseman/outfielder Ryan Cordell from the Rangers as the player to be named later in the Jonathan Lucroy/Jeremy Jeffress deadline blockbuster. In total, then, the Brewers will acquire outfielder Lewis Brinson, right-hander Luis Ortiz and Cordell for the pair of Lucroy and Jeffress.
The 24-year-old Cordell is rated as the Rangers’ No. 6 prospect, per MLB.com’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo. Baseball America rated him as the team’s No. 9 prospect in their own midseason update (Brinson and Ortiz were ranked second and third, respectively, on that same list). Cordell has played exclusively in the outfield this season (seeing time at all three positions) but also has 300+ innings of experience at third base and saw some time at shortstop last season as well. He’s spent the entire year with Texas’ Double-A affiliate and batted .264/.319/.484 with 19 homers, 22 doubles, five triples and 12 stolen bases.
Baseball America noted in their write-up on him that he’s made strides in his plate discipline, chasing fewer out-of-zone pitches in his second trip through Double-A, and that bears out in his strikeout rate; Cordell walked in just 4.9 percent of his plate appearances in Double-A last season, compared to a woeful 30.2 percent strikeout rate. This year, however, he’s walked at a 7.1 percent clip and cut his strikeout rate to 21.8 percent. In MLB.com’s scouting report, Callis and Mayo write that Cordell has “some of the best all-around tools” in the Rangers minor league system and could eventually have average-or-better tools across the board. His best tool right now is his speed, but he also has the bat speed to hit for power as well.
MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy points out (via Twitter) that Cordell’s season ended this year due to an Aug. 2 knee injury, and Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel tweets that the injury was sustained when Cordell crashed into the outfield wall. However, the Brewers clearly aren’t overly concerned about the long-term implications of that collision and will count on a full season from Cordell in 2017. Given his production and experience at the Double-A level, it’s not far-fetched to think that Cordell could either open the season with Triple-A Colorado Springs or, at the very least, be promoted to that level early in the 2017 campaign.
Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News first reported that Cordell was the player to be named later (via Twitter).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
- Rangers reliever Jeremy Jeffress’ stay in rehab will likely last weeks, not months, reports FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal (video link). If true, Jeffress – who was arrested and charged with DWI last month – will have an opportunity to return this season. Jeffress could even throw with a staff member at his rehab clinic, which contains a workout facility, says Rosenthal. With that in mind, it shouldn’t take him long to get back into game shape before rejoining the Rangers as they chase a championship.
The Rangers are promoting top left-handed pitching prospect Yohander Mendez as part of their first wave of September call-ups, reports MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan. The 21-year-old is already on the 40-man roster and thus won’t require a corresponding move to accommodate his addition to the Major League roster.
Mendez received a $1.5MM signing bonus during the same international signing class that brought the Rangers Nomar Mazara and will be making his Major League debut the first time he gets into a game for Texas. While he began the season at Class-A Advanced, he’s sliced through minor league competition with relative ease, dominating his way to a big league audition. Mendez has a 2.19 ERA on the season as a whole, having worked to a 2.57 mark at High-A, 3.09 in Double-A and a lustrous 0.57 mark in 31 1/3 innings at the Triple-A level. In 111 minor league frames, Mendez has allowed just 72 hits, walked 41 and struck out 113 with a 46.3 percent ground-ball rate. Mendez has dominated right-handed hitters (.558 OPS) and left-handed hitters (.484 OPS) alike and could factor into the Texas rotation as soon as next season, even if he’s more of a bullpen/spot start consideration in 2016.
The Venezuelan southpaw saw his name land on a number of midseason top prospect lists, ranking 47th, 49th and 59th, respectively, on the lists of Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com and ESPN.com. All three of the linked reports praise Mendez’s three-pitch mix, with his changeup regarded as the best of his offerings. He sits 90-94 mph with a fastball and has at least an average breaking pitch as well. Keith Law calls him a “potential mid-rotation starter, if not better,” with the primary question at this point being how well Mendez can shoulder the workload of a full season’s worth of innings. Mendez tossed 78 1/3 innings between the minors and the Arizona Fall League last season, but that modest sum represented his career-high in innings pitched prior to this season’s count of 111. Listed at 6’5″ and 200 pounds he’s still fairly lanky in build, and considering his youth, there’s room for him to continue growing and fill out that frame, as noted in MLB.com’s report on him.
As a reminder, readers can head over to Roster Resource for a full list of transactions thus far since Sept. 1 roster expansion.
- The Rangers acquired veteran minor league catcher Nevin Ashley from the Mets last night in exchange for cash, the team announced. Ashley, 32, played in a dozen games for the Brewers last season, which represents his lone season with MLB experience. He’s logged parts of seven seasons at the Triple-A level since being drafted in the sixth round by the (Devil) Rays back in 2006 and has compiled a .256/.341/.391 batting line at that level while also halting 35 percent of stolen base attempts made against him.
The Orioles announced on Wednesday that they’ve claimed outfielder Drew Stubbs off release waivers from the Rangers. While players that are claimed off release waivers have the right to reject the assignment in favor of free agency, Stubbs will join the Orioles on Friday and thus be eligible for the club’s postseason roster, as he was acquired prior to Sept. 1. In order to clear a spot for Stubbs on the 40-man roster, the Orioles have designated left-hander Kyle Lobstein for assignment just hours after acquiring him from the Pirates.
Stubbs, 31, will give Baltimore a right-handed-hitting reserve that can play all three outfield spots and brings some speed and a bit of power to the table. Stubbs is a career .244/.314/.396 hitter and has handled lefties pretty well throughout his career, slashing .275/.349/.449 when holding the platoon advantage.
As for Lobstein, while it’s certainly not common to see a player designated for assignment just hours after he was originally acquired, he can technically be eligible for the club’s postseason roster if he clears waivers and remains in the organization, as he was acquired prior to Sept. 1 himself. The 27-year-old soft-tosser spent the season with Pittsburgh and pitched to a 3.96 ERA with a 15-to-12 K/BB ratio and a 50 percent ground-ball rate in 25 innings. While his sample of work against opposing lefties was an admittedly small 29 plate appearances, Lobstein yielded a laughable .083/.241/.083 slash line to same-handed opponents this season and has held lefties to a .209/.295/.284 slash line in part of three big league seasons.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported that Baltimore had claimed Stubbs (Twitter link).
Rangers setup man Jeremy Jeffress has checked into an inpatient rehab clinic following last week’s DWI arrest but will not be suspended by Major League Baseball, reports Yahoo’s Jeff Passan. According to Passan, Jeffress will spend about a month in a Houston-area clinic, lending uncertainty as to whether he’ll rejoin the team for the remainder of the regular season. Even if he does not, a postseason return is still possible.
Jeffress was arrested last Friday for driving while intoxicated and reportedly had a blood-alcohol content of .115 at the time of the arrest. Police found marijuana in the car’s glove compartment, according to Passan’s report, but Jeffress denied that it was his and was ultimately not charged with possession. However, Jeffress has a history of marijuana usage, which resulted in a pair of suspensions while he was in the minor leagues. Jeffress attributed that use to self-medication for his epilepsy in a candid interview with MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan, during which the 28-year-old also spoke about his ongoing anxiety issues. Marijuana use typically does not result in suspensions for Major Leaguers, but FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets that Jeffress was asked to choose between a suspension and entering a treatment program, and he opted for the latter.
Via a press release from the Major League Baseball Players Association, Jeffress has issued the following statement:
“First, I would like to offer a sincere apology to the Texas Rangers, my teammates, my family, and to the fans for the incident that took place last Friday morning. Make no mistake, drinking and driving is wrong. I made a mistake that not only jeopardized my wellbeing, but the wellbeing of others, and I thank God that nobody was hurt because of my mistake. I have faced and overcome much adversity in my life, some of it self-inflicted, and I try very hard, every day, to be a positive influence in the lives of my family, friends, fans and, most importantly, my daughter, Jurnee. Moving forward, I promise to do everything I can to live my life the right way, as I look to put this incident behind me. I promise to do whatever it takes to get back on the field playing the game I love. And I will begin this process by being away from the team while I get the help I need to overcome these difficult personal issues. I am also making a commitment to speak out against impaired driving for the rest of my life, as I hope others will learn from my mistake. I also would like to thank the police department for their professionalism in handling the situation as well as they did. Lastly, I ask that others respect my privacy during my absence, just as I ask for their forgiveness. Thank you and God bless you all.”
The Rangers acquired Jeffress alongside Jonathan Lucroy in an Aug. 1 trade that sent Lewis Brinson. Luis Ortiz and a player to be named later to the Brewers. His absence will only further magnify what has been a shaky Rangers relief corps for much of the season. Of course, it’s worth noting that the group has performed better as a unit in the season’s second half, working to a 3.82 ERA that is markedly better than the collective 5.10 ERA posted by Texas relievers prior to the All-Star Game.
The first three two and a half weeks of August yielded only a few minor trades, featuring pickups by the Mariners (Arquimedes Caminero and Pat Venditte), a swap of veteran infielders (Erick Aybar and Mike Aviles) and the Marlins adding some left-handed depth to their ’pen (Hunter Cervenka). Since that time, several names have changed hands, though, including Carlos Ruiz, A.J. Ellis, Dioner Navarro, Jeff Francoeur, Daniel Nava, Marc Rzepczynski and Erick Aybar. A trade sending veteran outfielder Coco Crisp to the Indians should be announced on Wednesday as well.
Before diving into the names, a few items bear repeating. The majority of Major League players will be placed on trade waivers this month, with most instances going unreported. There are undoubtedly players (quite a few of them, most likely) who have already cleared waivers but have not been reported to have done so. Players can be traded into September, as well, but only those traded on or before Aug. 31 will be eligible for the postseason with their new teams, so there’s some urgency for contending clubs to complete deals by month’s end. And, of course, for those who aren’t familiar with the inner-workings of waiver trades, MLBTR published a full explanation of how August trades work earlier this month. Onto the known names…
- Ryan Braun (link): Although Braun has slashed an excellent .315/.377/.551 with 24 homers and 14 steals through 454 plate appearances this season, his pricey contract enabled him to slip through waivers. Braun, 32, is owed $76MM through 2021, and any team acquiring him would likely need Milwaukee to pick up a sizable chunk of his contract, according to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. That doesn’t seem to bode well for the possibility of a trade this month.
- Ervin Santana (link): Santana, 33, is due $13.5MM per year through 2018, which makes him a fairly expensive investment, but he’s in the midst of another fine season. The righty has been among the few bright spots for the last-place Twins, having recorded a 3.54 ERA, 6.9 K/9 and 2.38 BB/9 in 147 1/3 innings. Given that he cleared waivers, the Twins might have to eat some of Santana’s contract if they wish to move him for a decent return. However, Minnesota reportedly needed to be “overwhelmed” to deal Santana in July, and it’s doubtful their bullish opinion of him has changed since then.
- Ryan Howard (link): It seems as if any possibility of a Howard trade has gone out the window with his time with the Phillies drawing to an increasingly pleasant end. But he does still deliver more pure power than most hitters — albeit almost exclusively against righties — with 19 long balls in less than half a season worth of plate appearances.
- Matt Wieters (link): Not only is Wieters expensive ($15.8MM salary this year), but he’s also underperforming both offensively and defensively. Thus, with fellow backstops Kurt Suzuki and Brian McCann having already cleared waivers, it’s no surprise that Wieters did, too. Regardless of his struggles, Wieters is the starting catcher for a playoff contender with no better in-house option in place, making a trade involving the impending free agent all the more unlikely.
- Scott Kazmir (link): Kazmir is owed $16MM in each of the next two seasons, but he has the ability to opt out of his deal after this year. Kazmir’s run prevention (4.41 ERA) has been a letdown in 132 2/3 innings this season, although he has recorded an outstanding K/9 (9.02) to go with a 3.32 BB/9 and a superb 15.2 percent infield fly rate. The positives weren’t enough for anyone to claim Kazmir, though, and it’s doubtful the injury-riddled Dodgers will move out a healthy starter in the middle of a playoff race.
- James Shields (link): The right-hander was previously a high-end option that every team would’ve loved to slot into its rotation. At 34, he’s now pitching like a DFA candidate. The White Sox, who acquired Shields from the Padres earlier this year, owe him $10MM per season through 2018. Thanks largely to a plummeting strikeout rate and a propensity for allowing HRs, Shields has run up a 7.62 ERA in 69 2/3 innings with Chicago. Overall, he has a 5.98 ERA in 137 frames this year. While Shields is on track for a 10th straight 30-start season, there’s no point in trading for someone who isn’t at least keeping his team in games every fifth day.
- Nick Markakis (link): The negatives seem to outweigh the positives with Markakis, who’s on a $10.5MM salary through 2018 and doesn’t bring the offensive value to the table that he used to. Since leaving Baltimore for Atlanta last year, the right fielder has hit .285/.360/.384 with a mere 12 HRs in 1,200-plus plate trips. The average and on-base percentage are clearly pluses. Fact is, though, a corner outfielder who has little power, doesn’t grade well defensively and isn’t all that cheap isn’t too appealing.
- Mitch Moreland (link): Moreland is amid his third straight 20-homer season and isn’t overly expensive ($5.7MM salary) in the last year of his contract, so it wouldn’t have been shocking had someone claimed him. Instead, the lifetime .251/.316/.481 hitter got through waivers and looks likely to remain with World Series-contending Texas for the rest of the season.
- Matt Kemp (link): Once an MVP-level player, the 31-year-old Kemp has fallen off thanks to defensive issues and a decline at the plate. As a roughly league-average hitter on a $21.5MM salary through 2019, he was fully expected to go unclaimed had the Braves placed him on waivers. They did, and that’s exactly what happened. Atlanta’s on the hook for $18MM per year of Kemp’s money for the duration of his contract. The Padres, his previous team, make up the difference. For any deal to happen, the Braves would likely have to eat a hefty portion of that cash.
- Joakim Soria (link): The 32-year-old Soria has become increasingly homer prone and displaying some concerning control issues in 2016, so it’s not surprising that no team risked claiming the remaining $19.72MM that he is owed through the completion of the 2018 season. Soria’s 92.8 mph average fastball is actually a career-high, and his strikeouts and ground-ball rate both remain sound, so perhaps he could be moved if Kansas City were to eat some of the remainder on that deal.
- Eric O’Flaherty (link): Once a powerhouse out of the Braves’ bullpen, O’Flaherty’s second stint with Atlanta hasn’t gone nearly as well. He’s never fully regained his form after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2013, and his ERA in 2016 rested just shy of 7.00 when word of his clearing waivers broke. His $1.75MM salary wouldn’t be prohibitive were he pitching well, but even opposing lefties have roughed up O’Flaherty this season, and he’s been positively obliterated by right-handed opponents.
- Kurt Suzuki (link): The Twins’ catcher was reported to have cleared waivers just yesterday. Unlike a number of players that clear waivers in the month of August, Suzuki is relatively affordable, making it something of a surprise that no teams placed a claim on him. While he’s not regarded as a highly skilled defensive backstop, he’s hitting .281/.321/.431, which is quite a step up from the league-average catcher (.242/.311/.380). He doesn’t walk much, but he’s also very tough to strike out (12.9%), and he was owed just $1.54MM through season’s end when he reportedly cleared on Aug. 16.
- Brian McCann (link): It’s no surprise that McCann cleared waivers, as he’s owed a hefty $34MM beyond the 2016 campaign. McCann’s offensive production has wilted a bit in recent weeks, and while his .232/.333/.404 batting line and 15 homers are still solid marks for a catcher, it’s tough to imagine the Yankees moving him without absorbing a fair amount of the money that remains on his contract. Also standing in the way of a potential deal is the fact that teams looking for catching help beyond this year have a fair number of choices on the upcoming free agent market.
One final note: outfielder Jeff Francoeur (link) and catcher Carlos Ruiz (link) were both reported to have cleared waivers as well, but each has already been traded to a new team, with Francoeur going to the Marlins and Ruiz going to the Dodgers.
Rangers lefty Derek Holland has a lot at stake in his final month of the season — and, likely, the postseason to follow — as Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News explains. Holland, 29, is not only battling for a spot in the club’s playoff rotation, but also will be auditioning as the team considers whether to pick up his $11MM option for 2017. He has exceeded his limited inning tallies of the prior two campaigns, but still owns only a 4.68 ERA across 84 2/3 frames on the year. But his two outings since returning from his latest DL stint have been quite good — Holland has allowed just two earned runs over 12 innings on eight total hits and one walk, against ten strikeouts — and a continuation of that could make the option desirable once again. As Grant notes, Texas will need to weigh the lack of likely alternatives in free agency. Plus, parting ways with the southpaw would mean paying a $1.5MM buyout for 2017 while also passing on the rights to a $11.5MM option for the 2018 season (while coughing up another $1MM buyout).