- The Rangers’ injury woes seem to have continued, as Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News writes that righty Lucas Harrell is likely ticketed for the DL due to a groin strain that forced him to exit last night’s start after two innings. Harrell hasn’t performed well since being acquired by the Rangers (5.60 ERA in 17 2/3 innings) but was nonetheless occupying a spot in the rotation and will now force Texas to scramble a bit. Nick Martinez is likely to be brought back to the Majors to serve as a long reliever today, per Fraley, and the Harrell injury will have an impact on Texas’ decision as to when Derek Holland will be activated from the 60-day DL. He’s eligible to join the team this coming Saturday, and Holland himself tells Fraley that feels “very confident” in where he’s at in terms of recovery. Holland last tossed 75 pitches over four innings in a minor league rehab start. Manager Jeff Banister wouldn’t commit to exactly when Holland will rejoin the team, and Fraley points out that a pair of upcoming off-days gives the Rangers some flexibility with the rotation.
- Outfielder Darin Mastroianni has signed a minor league contract with the Rangers, reports Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (via Twitter). Mastroianni, 30, had a nice season as a fourth outfielder for the Twins back in 2012 but battled an ankle injury the following season and ultimately was designated for assignment in 2014. He’s bounced around the league on a number of waiver claims minor league deals since that time, making brief MLB appearances with the Blue Jays and with the Twins (in a second stint). The fleet-footed Mastroianni is a career .271/.341/.349 with 87 steals in 108 tries across 369 games.
- The Marlins released infielder Pedro Ciriaco, per Baseball America’s Matt Eddy. Miami acquired Ciriaco from the Rangers back on July 8 in exchange for lefty Eric Jokisch (who had been designated for assignment), but he hit just .221/.239/.250 in 68 plate appearances with Triple-A New Orleans. The versatile 30-year-old has plenty of big league experience under his belt, having compiled a .268/.294/.368 slash in 649 plate appearances across 272 Major League games from 2010-15.
Rangers outfielder Shin-Soo Choo is hitting the DL with a fractured left forearm, according to an announcement from VP of communications John Blake. The tough-luck injury occurred on a hit-by-pitch.
Given that it’s mid-August, it’s certainly possible that Choo’s latest injury could keep him out for the rest of the season. After all, Jon Jay is still on the DL after breaking his forearm nearly two months ago. And Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos missed two months with his own, similar injury.
That sort of timetable makes a post-season return possible, though that may be a tall ask if Choo doesn’t have a chance to rehab in live game action. And it isn’t yet clear whether Choo will require a full two months; we’ll need to wait to learn of his particular prognosis.
Regardless, it’s a big blow to Texas and to Choo. It seems that Ryan Rua will take his spot on the active roster, and the club also has slugger Joey Gallo available. Those two will be useful replacements, as will Delino DeShields Jr., and Drew Stubbs, and the club can mix and match at its leisure once rosters expand in September.
But Choo remains a strong on-base threat at 34 years of age, and is especially excellent against right-handed pitching (despite carrying reverse platoon splits in his limited action this year), making him a difficult player to replace. It just hasn’t been meant to be this year, as he has now hit the DL on four separate occasions for a variety of ailments. Texas has already needed to find replacements for Josh Hamilton (Ian Desmond) and Prince Fielder (Carlos Beltran) earlier in the year.
If the Rangers do take to the market once more, they’ll have a few options, as MLBTR’s top twenty current trade candidates list shows. Melky Cabrera would represent a rather similar player, though the Rangers may not love the idea of taking over his future commitments. Brett Gardner and Nick Markakis are other potential left-handed-hitting options. Carlos Gomez can be had, though he’s an uncertain commodity and hits from the right side.
Looking past the present campaign, Choo remains a somewhat frustrating player for the Rangers. He carries a useful .259/.361/.422 slash over 1,377 plate appearances since signing before the 2014 season. But that’s not quite what the team hoped to receive out of the first three of seven years in his huge contract. Choo is still owed $82MM over the remainder of that pact.
- Colby Lewis threw a 30-pitch bullpen session today and told reporters (including T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com) that “everything felt great.” Lewis has been on the DL since June recovering from a strained lat muscle, and the Rangers are aiming for a return in the first week of September if the rest of his recovery schedule goes as planned. Lewis will toss another bullpen session and live batting practice this week, then a minimum of two rehab starts in the minors. The Texas rotation will get a big boost if Lewis is able to continue his early-season form — a 3.21 ERA and identical 3.21 K/BB rate over his first 98 innings of 2016.
With the Tigers in Arlington to take on the Rangers, second baseman Ian Kinsler reflected on the November 2013 trade that sent him from Texas to Detroit for first baseman Prince Fielder, whose career ended this week because of neck problems. “It’s the best thing that’s happened,” said Kinsler of the deal (via Jason Beck of MLB.com). “Toward the end of my time in Texas, things got kind of stale, so to be able to be traded to an organization like Detroit really allowed me to kind of reflect on who I was as a player and what I needed to do to improve.” The 34-year-old’s two-plus-season run with the Tigers has been a resounding success. Dating back to 2014, his first year with the club, Kinsler ranks eighth among major league position players in fWAR (13.8) and has hit .287/.331/.441 with 49 home runs in 1,906 plate appearances. Kinsler, who’s slashing a robust .291/.347/.488 with 21 homers and 13 stolen bases this season, regards Detroit as the “perfect place” for him and hopes to finish his career there. Going forward, Kinsler is due a reasonable $11MM next year and the Tigers have a $10MM club option for 2018.
The Braves have claimed third baseman Kyle Kubitza off waivers from the Rangers, according to an announcement from Rangers VP of communications John Blake. Texas had designated the 26-year-old infielder for assignment earlier this week. The Braves, too, announced the move, adding that left-hander Manny Banuelos has been designated for assignment.
[Related: Updated Atlanta Braves Depth Chart]
Kubitza is a known commodity for the Braves, who selected him in the third round of the 2011 draft. The Texas State product ranked among the Braves’ top 30 prospects from 2011-14, per Baseball America, but he was traded to the Angels in January of 2015 in exchange for minor league lefty Ricardo Sanchez and minor league right-hander Nate Hyatt. Kubitza’s stock tumbled with the Halos, however, and he ultimately landed with Texas after Anaheim designated him for assignment. In 928 plate appearances at the Triple-A level, Kubitza is a .249/.342/.399 hitter. He’s walked in a strong 11.8 percent of his plate appearances at that level but has also struck out at a 25 percent clip. He has drawn praise in the past for a strong throwing arm and soft hands at third base.
Banuelos, 25, made his big league debut with Atlanta last season. The once-vaunted Yankees prospect managed just a 5.13 ERA in his 26 1/3 innings at the big league level, though, and the 2016 season has been a considerable struggle for him. He’s battled elbow issues this season and is currently on the disabled list with Double-A Mississippi. Banuelos has a collective 5.33 ERA in 50 2/3 innings across three minor league levels this season, and he walked more batters (22) than he struck out (21) in 30 1/3 innings at the Triple-A level.
At a press conference Wednesday, Rangers designated hitter and first baseman Prince Fielder announced that he will not be able to resume his career after undergoing neck fusion surgery in late July.
“I can’t play Major League Baseball anymore,” said Fielder, who was placed on the DL last month with a herniated disk in his neck before having surgery.
It was the second season in the last three he has had season-ending neck surgery, also having undergone fusion surgery in 2014. There were already questions about whether Fielder would make a full recovery from this second surgery, which could result in restrictions on his flexibility. After playing a solid full season in 2015, Fielder struggled greatly in 2016, batting just .212/.292/.334 with only eight homers in 370 plate appearances, and he has said that he’s suffered symptoms similar to those he battled in 2014, when he hit just .247/.360/.360.
Nonetheless, the end of Fielder’s career comes as a bit of a jolt. He’s only 32, and he’s under contract through 2020 at $24MM per year. Given that Fielder is medically unable to play and not technically retiring, the Rangers will still owe him $9MM per season through 2020, with $6MM annually coming from the Tigers (as per the terms of the trade that brought Fielder to Texas) and $9MM coming via insurance payments due to Fielder’s inability to play. He’ll also remain on Texas’ 40-man roster each offseason through the end of his deal, though the club will be able to free up room during the season by placing him on the 60-day DL.
The Brewers made Fielder the seventh overall pick in the draft in 2002, with Milwaukee likely imagining that he could become a first baseman and fearsome slugger in the mold of his father Cecil. Despite skepticism from some quarters about his body type, Prince quickly emerged as a serious home-run threat, making it to the big leagues in 2005 in his age-21 season. He swatted an NL-leading 50 home runs in 2007 at the tender age of 23, and joined Ryan Braun as dynamic power threat in the middle of Milwaukee’s lineup. Fielder also proved surprisingly durable, missing only one game in total over the five years spanning 2009-2013. Fielder signed his massive $214MM contract with the Tigers prior to the 2012 season before heading to the Rangers for second baseman Ian Kinsler following the 2013 campaign.
For his career, Fielder clubbed 319 home runs (exactly the number his father hit) while batting an impressive .283/.382/.506 in parts of 12 seasons. He also made six All-Star appearances and finished in the top 20 in league MVP balloting six times.
Fielder’s departure from the sport is the latest in a string of high-profile recent MLB career endings. The Yankees are set to release Alex Rodriguez, who is signed through 2017, and Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira also recently announced he would retire at the end of the season. All three have been among the game’s most prolific sluggers in recent memory.
FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal first reported that Fielder’s career was ending. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Rangers have announced third baseman Kyle Kubitza’s designation for assignment. Texas acquired Kubitza from the AL West rival Angels for cash considerations on June 21.
In his nearly two-month stint with the Rangers organization, Kubitza has logged 187 plate appearances at Triple-A Round Rock and batted .182/.290/.340 with four home runs. He fared better with Angels’ Triple-A affiliate, Salt Lake, with whom he hit .253/.349/.366 in 215 PAs. Kubitza also spent last year with the Angels organization and saw his only major league action with them, albeit over just 39 trips to the plate. The 26-year-old was previously with the Braves, who picked him in the third round of the 2011 draft.
There’s been a great deal written about the reasons behind Jonathan Lucroy’s decision to invoke his no-trade clause in order to veto a trade to the Indians, and Lucroy himself has elected to set the record straight, as told to ESPN.com’s Robert Sanchez. The entire explanation is well worth a look for any fan, but Cleveland fans feeling jilted by Lucroy will especially want to take a look to read his own take.
When first informed by Brewers GM David Stearns that he’d been traded, Lucroy said he wasn’t informed which team had struck a deal to acquire him, as medical information needed to be examined before anything could be finalized. He assumed, however, that he’d been dealt to a club that didn’t appear on his no-trade list, as he wasn’t asked about waiving the clause at the time. When Lucroy’s agent, Doug Rogalski, learned it was Cleveland who had the agreement, he called Lucroy to inform him. As Lucroy says…
“I was surprised, but I wanted to keep an open mind. Great team. Competitive team. There’s a real chance to win. Doug called Chris Antonetti, the Indians’ president. There was one thing we wanted to know: What was my future with the Indians? We knew Cleveland already had a good catcher, Yan Gomes, who’s injured right now. He’s getting paid more than me, and he’s younger than me. We knew they’d probably want him catching almost every day next year. Heck, if I were the general manager in Cleveland, I’d want Gomes catching every day.
We were right. Antonetti told Doug that the Indians couldn’t make any promises on me catching next season. There was no way they’d drop the team option, either, because I’m pretty inexpensive in 2017. I don’t blame them. I would have been mostly at first base and designated hitter.”
Lucroy stresses that the decision was not because of any negative feelings he harbors toward the city of Cleveland, Indians fans or the Indians organization. He, in fact, was sure to state that he actually respects the organization even more now due to Antonetti’s honesty: “He could have lied to my agent and said I’d play catcher every day next season. … He told the truth. I’m thankful for that.”
Lucroy calls the decision to reject the trade purely economic, believing that teams wouldn’t place as high of a value on him as a free agent if it had been more than a calendar year since he’d regularly been catching games. He also expressed a basic love for the position of catcher — his regular spot on the diamond since he was 12 years old — and spoke about the difficulty he had when thinking of not manning the spot on a near-daily basis in 2017. Lucroy goes on to discuss the uneasiness of waiting to find out if he’d be traded, the impact that the talks had on his wife and young daughter, the emotion he felt in his final at-bat as a member of the Brewers and the relief he felt not only from being traded to a contending club but one that is close to his offseason home in Louisiana. “I know I had nothing to do with the Rangers getting to where they are now, but I want to have a lot to do with finishing the job,” he closes.
Again, readers are strongly encouraged to check out Lucroy’s full statements, as they provide a behind-the-curtain look at the thoughts, emotion and stress that fans and the media alike will often take for granted when discussing trades.
The Rangers have released southpaw Craig Breslow, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford reports (Twitter link). The veteran reliever signed a minor league deal with Texas two weeks ago that contained an opt-out clause (for next week), though as Bradford notes, the two sides agreed to end their relationship now rather than wait Breslow to officially opt out.
Breslow posted a 4.50 ERA, 4.5 K/9 and 1.75 K/BB rate over 14 innings with Miami this season before the Marlins released him in May. He had only a brief stint with the Rangers’ Triple-A club (allowing three runs in two innings over three games), and apparently wasn’t close to receiving a promotion to the majors. The Texas bullpen has struggled as a whole, though the Rangers did acquire Jeremy Jeffress at the trade deadline and Jake Diekman and Alex Claudio are already in the fold as left-handed options, leaving little room for Breslow.
Breslow, who turns 36 on Monday, has been his effectiveness diminish over the last two seasons, thanks in large part to a spike in his home run rate. He was also hit hard by both left-handed and right-handed batters in 2014-15, after spending the majority of his career posting solid splits against hitters on both sides of the plate. Given that Breslow has a solid track record of effective relief pitching, however, he’ll likely get looks from several clubs in need of relief depth.