Transactions Rumors

Pirates Acquire Sellers, Designate Axford And Gomez

The Pirates have announced that they’ve acquired shortstop Justin Sellers from the Indians for cash considerations. They’ve also designated relievers John Axford and Jeanmar Gomez for assignment and reinstated starter Charlie Morton from the 60-day disabled list.

Sellers spent most of the 2014 season with Triple-A Columbus, hitting .254/.307/.355. The 28-year-old has hit sparingly in parts of four seasons with the Dodgers and Indians, but he can play second and third as well as shortstop and he has a strong defensive reputation. He will be on the Pirates’ 40-man roster.

Axford and Gomez were both non-tender candidates, so it’s no surprise that the Bucs would designate them for assignment. Axford, a former closer, would have received a small raise on this year’s $4.5MM salary, even though he had a walk-heavy 2014 season in which the Indians let him head to the Pirates via waivers. Gomez served as a long reliever for the Pirates in 2014 and posted a 3.19 ERA, but with an underwhelming 5.5 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9.


Royals Designate Liam Hendriks For Assignment

The Royals have designated righty Liam Hendriks for assignment, according to the MLB.com transactions page. Presumably, the move creates space for Moises Sierra, who was claimed earlier today.

Hendriks, 25, threw 19 1/3 frames for Kansas City after being acquired from the Blue Jays in a mid-season deal. On the year, Hendriks tossed 32 2/3 innings if 5.23 ERA ball, striking out 6.3 and walking 1.9 batters per nine and posting a more favorable 3.84 FIP.

Over parts of four seasons in the bigs, Hendriks has worked to cumulative 5.92 ERA over 188 2/3 total innings. In nearly 400 Triple-A innings in his career, however, Hendriks has allowed 3.19 earned per nine.


Royals Claim Moises Sierra From White Sox

The Royals have claimed outfielder Moises Sierra off outright waivers from the White Sox, according to MLB.com’s Scott Merkin (Twitter link). Additionally, the Sox have outrighted outfielder Michael Taylor to Triple-A Charlotte.

The move comes at a somewhat unexpected time for the Royals, who are in the midst of the World Series, but Sierra will add to the team’s outfield depth for the 2015 season. The 26-year-old batted .276/.311/.417 with a pair of homers in 135 plate appearances for the White Sox this season after they claimed him on waivers from the Blue Jays. Sierra has played mostly right field in his career, and while defensive metrics didn’t like his work with the Blue Jays, both Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating gave him positive reviews in a small 372-inning sample this season. Sierra has less than two years of Major League service and can be controlled through the 2019 season if Kansas City sees fit.

Taylor, 28, at one time ranked as high as the No. 29 prospect in the game, according to Baseball America, but his career stalled after a few promising seasons at the Triple-A level. Taylor was one of three players, along with Travis d’Arnaud and Kyle Drabek, traded by the Phillies to the Blue Jays in exchange for Roy Halladay. Toronto traded him to Oakland for Brett Wallace (another top prospect who ultimately did not pan out), who eventually flipped him to the White Sox in a minor deal for right-hander Jake Sanchez. Taylor is a career .167/.254/.216 hitter in 114 big league plate appearances, though he sports a .278/.369/.441 batting line at Triple-A.

With these moves, Chicago’s 40-man roster is down to 37, Merkin notes.



Orioles Outright Steve Johnson

1:37pm: Johnson will be a free agent, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets. Baltimore hopes to sign him to a minor league deal, however, while he continues to rehab his shoulder.

1:12pm: The Orioles have outrighted right-hander Steve Johnson, the club announced. With the move, Baltimore has opened a 40-man roster spot.

Johnson, 27, did not see any time at the MLB level this year after receiving brief stints in each of the last two seasons. In total, he owns a 3.67 ERA over 54 big league innings. Johnson struggled mightily this year at Triple-A, allowing 7.11 earned runs per nine over 13 starts (over which he lasted just 38 innings).

Control issues were the primary culprit, as Johnson issued more than seven free passes per nine innings after never coming close to that mark in prior years. Of course, underlying that may well have been the presence of a significant bone spur in his throwing shoulder, which was ultimately removed surgically.


Phillies Avoid Arbitration With Cesar Jimenez

The Phillies have agreed to a one-year deal to avoid arbitration with lefty Cesar Jimenez, the club announced. Terms were not made available, though MLBTR’s Matt Swartz projected Jimenez to earn just over league minimum, $600K, through the arbitration process.

In concert with the team’s recent one-year extensions — really, pre-market free agent deals — with Grady Sizemore and Jerome Williams, it appears that Philadelphia is pursuing a strategy of locking in cost certainty early on with several veterans.

Jimenez, 29, had his best season as a pro in 2014. After largely struggling in limited MLB action, he tossed 16 innings of 1.69 ERA ball. But his peripherals were less promising, as he struck out 4.5 and walked 3.9 batters per nine while generating a 40.8% groundball rate. And ERA estimators provided cause to expect regression, as Jimenez put up a 4.26 FIP, 5.22 xFIP, and 5.02 SIERA.


Phillies Extend Grady Sizemore For 2015

The Phillies have agreed to a one-year, $2MM extension with Grady Sizemore that will keep the outfielder in Philadelphia for 2015, the club announced. Sizemore’s contract includes performance incentives that could boost its value to $5MM, per MLBDailyDish.com’s Chris Cotillo (via Twitter).

Sizemore, 32, was one of the game’s most interesting stories last year, when he returned from a long layoff and had a big spring with the Red Sox. The fairytale took a turn when Sizemore struggled to keep pace in Boston, however, and he ultimately was designated for assignment as his OPS dipped to .612.

Philadelphia gave Sizemore a late run, however, and he had better overall success there. With the Phillies, Sizemore put up a .253/.313/.389 slash with three home runs over 176 plate appearances.

Spending most of his time in the corner outfield with the Phillies, Sizemore ultimately landed with approximately average defensive ratings there. His time in center, mostly with Boston, was less promising, as both UZR and Defensive Runs Saved viewed him as a below-average performer.

For the Phillies, the move does offer some cost certainty, and opens renewed questions about the team’s intentions as the offseason nears. All three of the team’s Opening Day starters — Domonic Brown, Marlon Byrd, and Ben Revere — have been mentioned as trade candidates (the former two in particular). Brown and Revere both swing from the left side of the plate, as does Sizemore.


Minor Moves: Mark Hamburger, Josh Stinson

Here are today’s minor moves from around the league…

  • The Twins have re-signed minor league right-hander Mark Hamburger to a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. The 27-year-old St. Paul native has had a brief taste of the Majors, tossing eight innings for the 2011 Rangers after the Twins sent him to Texas in exchange for Eddie Guardado. Last season, Hamburger split the season between Double-A and Triple-A, posting a combined 3.69 ERA with 6.9 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 in 70 2/3 innings.
  • The Pirates announced that they have signed right-hander Josh Stinson to a minor league contract that contains in invitation to Major League Spring Training. The Moye Sports client has big league experience with the Mets, Brewers and most recently the Orioles. Over the past two seasons, Stinson has posted a 4.50 ERA with 18 strikeouts and nine walks in 30 innings for Baltimore. Stinson, who will turn 27 next March, has a career 4.47 ERA in 52 1/3 Major League innings and a 4.88 ERA in 306 innings at the Triple-A level.

Phillies To Sign John Hester

Here are today’s minor moves from around the league…

  • The Phillies and catcher John Hester have agreed to a minor league deal with an invitation to Major League Spring Training, tweets Chris Cotillo of SB Nation’s Daily Dish. The 31-year-old is a veteran of 93 Major League games over parts of four seasons with the D’Backs and Angels. In his 232 trips to the plate, Hester has produced a .216/.294/.351 batting line with six homers. He’s had considerably better luck in 402 games at the Triple-A, where he’s batted .278/.344/.449 batting line in 1567 plate appearances.

Twins Sell Kris Johnson To Hiroshima Carp

The Twins have sold left-handed starter Kris Johnson to the Hiroshima Carp of Nippon Professional Baseball, reports Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. At least six clubs from Japan’s top league showed interest in Johnson, but the Carp submitted the highest bid, according to Wolfson.

The move appears to work out for both the Twins and Johnson, as Wolfson reports in a followup tweet that the Twins will receive a six-figure sum for selling Johnson’s rights, while Johnson himself will have a seven-figure salary in Japan. (Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press tweets the Twins will receive something in the “mid six figures.”)

Johnson, 30, was acquired from Pittsburgh following the 2013 season in exchange for Duke Welker. Johnson and Welker had both been available for the Twins to select as a PTBNL in the Justin Morneau trade. The Twins initially selected Welker, then flipped him back to the Pirates for Johnson in the offseason. (The other player in the trade, Alex Presley, was claimed off waivers by the Astros earlier this year.)

Johnson made three spot starts for the Twins this season, surrendering seven runs in 13 1/3 innings of work with a 12-to-9 K/BB ratio. Though he has very little big league experience, Johnson has six seasons of experience at the Triple-A level and posted a 3.48 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 in 132 innings at that level in 2014.

Johnson offered the following take on his situation to Wolfson via text message: “I’m very excited about playing for Hiroshima and appreciate the Twins making it happen. I talked to different players about how great the fans and team treat foreign players. I was really impressed with the respect they showed me during the negotiations.”

This transaction marks the second time that the Twins have sold a player to a foreign league, as last offseason the team sent lefty Andrew Albers to the Hanwha Eagles of the Korea Baseball Organization.

Minnesota also freed up a 40-man roster spot earlier today by declining a $3.6MM club option Jared Burton.


Angels Claim Jackson Williams From Rockies

The Angels announced (Twitter link) that they have claimed catcher Jackson Williams off waivers from the Rockies. As MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez explains (also on Twitter), the Angels’ 40-man roster is full, but Williams will head directly to the 60-day disabled list, as he’s coming off knee surgery, so he therefore does not require a 40-man roster spot at this time.

The 28-year-old Williams made his big league debut with the Rox this season, appearing in seven games and collecting 16 plate appearances. He picked up three hits in 14 official at-bats, including his first Major League homer.

Williams was selected 43rd overall by the Giants in the 2007 draft but left that organization as a minor league free agent last offseason and signed a minor league pact with Colorado. In five seasons at the Triple-A level, the University of Oklahoma product has a .235/.307/.361 batting line. Angels director of communications points out that Williams was Garrett Richards’ catcher in college (Twitter link).

Williams twice ranked among the Giants’ top 30 prospects, according to Baseball America, placing 18th and 16th, respectively, following the 2007 and 2008 campaigns. BA listed him as the best defensive catcher in San Francisco’s system on three separate occasions, most recently before the 2011 season.