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In Thursday’s edition of his Insider-only blog, ESPN’s Buster Olney opines that the Reds should give serious thought to trading ace Johnny Cueto this offseason. Cueto has a no-brainer $10MM club option for 2015, making him a highly affordable and elite talent — an appealing alternative to clubs in win-now mode that don’t want to commit long-term dollars to Max Scherzer, Jon Lester or James Shields. The Reds will see Cueto, Mat Latos and Mike Leake hit free agency following the 2015 season, with Aroldis Chapman set to do the same the following year. Those losses, coupled with the rising salary of Joey Votto, give the Reds incentive to create some flexibility and add prospect depth. Olney wonders if the Reds could look to pair Cueto with Brandon Phillips in an effort to free themselves of the $36MM remaining on the second baseman’s deal. Of course, even if a team were to take on Phillips, they’d still likely need to surrender notable prospect value.
Here’s more from the NL Central…
- Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan looks at Jake Arrieta‘s breakout season through a historical lens, noting that he has the sixth-largest season-to-season K-BB% improvement since 1920 (min. 75 IP each season) and the single largest FIP- improvement in that same span. Sullivan looks at how much more effectively Arrieta has repeated his mechanics with the Cubs, and he also points to the fact that Arrieta has doubled the usage of his hard slider/cutter while moving to the third-base side of the rubber. Both David Ross and Ryan Zimmerman noted that Arrieta, who now busts right-handed hitters inside at a much greater rate, often appears to be “throwing behind you” before his ball breaks over the plate. Whether or not Arrieta is a legitimate ace, the trade that sent him and Pedro Strop to Chicago in exchange for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger looks like quite the feather in the cap of GM Jed Hoyer and president Theo Epstein.
- The Brewers announced that they have agreed to a new minor league contract with catcher Shawn Zarraga and invited him to 2015 Spring Training. Zarraga, 25, was Milwaukee’s 44th-round pick out of high school in 2007 and enjoyed a strong season at Double-A this year before struggling in his first crack at Triple-A. The Aruban backstop hit .330/.440/.419 in 267 plate appearances with Double-A but just .213/.304/.255 in 57 PA at the top minor league level.
- In more Brewers news, GM Doug Melvin isn’t happy about the split between his organization and the team’s Triple-A affiliate in Nashville. Melvin told reporters, including MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy, that he asked the Sounds to let them know if they were considering re-affiliation three weeks ago. The Brewers heard nothing and then saw the Sounds sign a new player development contract with the A’s, which Melvin feels cost the Brewers a chance to pursue an affiliation with what they considered to be an attractive fallback option. The Sounds, McCalvy writes, weren’t pleased with the losing product the Brewers had put on the field in the two seasons prior to 2014.
The Nationals have claimed infielder Pedro Florimon off waivers from the Twins, the club announced. This is the move that necessitated the designation of Eury Perez for assignment, which the team also announced.
Florimon, a switch-hitter, slashed .221/.281/.330 over 446 plate appearances in full season action last year for Minnesota. He swiped 15 bases (caught six times) and hit nine home runs. He was worse at the plate in minimal action this year, though did manage a .257/.328/.389 slash in 314 plate appearances at the Triple-A level. Florimon’s calling card, of course, is not his bat but his glove. Depending on one’s preferred defensive metric, Florimon has been anywhere from above average (career 3.8 UZR/150) to outstanding (21 defensive runs saved) in the field.
It is not immediately clear why Washington made a claim on Florimon. He will not, of course, be eligible for the postseason, and the club already has the pennant in hand. On the other hand, the 27-year-old shortstop could conceivably be a utility infield option for the team next year, as he can be controlled for the league minimum. The team has been said in the past to be looking for alternative options at short in the event that an extension cannot be reached with Ian Desmond, but it would seem a stretch to believe that Florimon would figure in those plans.
If Danny Espinosa is traded or non-tendered, a bench spot could conceivably go to a player such as Florimon (who, it is worth noting, has a much better track record hitting against righties). It appears that Florimon also comes with an option remaining, as he was added to the 40-man before the 2012 season but did not spend any time in the minors last year.
The Nationals have designated outfielder Eury Perez for assignment, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). The speedy 24-year-old missed significant time this year with a fractured toe, but was activated off of the 60-day DL and optioned to Triple-A in July. Perez was designated to make room for shortstop Pedro Florimon, who was claimed off waivers.
Perez entered the season rated 20th among Nationals prospects, according to Baseball America, after posting a .300/.336/.422 season with 23 stolen bases in his first full year at Triple-A in 2013. That line represented a step up in his slash and a step back in his baserunning output from years prior. In 273 plate appearances this year, Perez swiped 26 bags (against just four unsuccessful attempts) while slashing .310/.371/.409.
Though he remains a reasonably interesting player, Perez seems largely without a place in D.C. and has burned his last option this year. With Denard Span having an excellent season at the major league level and higher-upside prospects like Michael Taylor and Brian Goodwin filtering up, Perez is not a long-term piece for the Nats. On the other hand, it would be somewhat disappointing to lose him without achieving any return.
We’ll keep tabs on the day’s minor moves here …
- The Dodgers have outrighted right-handed pitcher Red Patterson, according to the PCL transactions page. Patterson, 27, was recently designated to open a 40-man spot. He had one solid start at the MLB level this season, but has struggled to a 5.79 ERA over 121 1/3 frames at Triple-A.
- As MLBTR’s DFA Tracker reflects, there are currently no players in limbo now that Patterson has cleared waivers.
Here are the day’s minor moves:
- After being outrighted by the Indians, outfielder Chris Dickerson has elected free agency, according to the MLB.com transactions page. Dickerson, 32, slashed .224/.309/.327 in 112 plate appearances this year for Cleveland. He has seen part-time duty with five different clubs in each of the last seven seasons, but has not managed to keep a sustained role at the game’s highest level.
Here are today’s minor transactions, with the newest moves at the top of the post…
- The Diamondbacks selected the contract of catcher Bobby Wilson, according to a team press release. The veteran backstop signed a minor league deal with Arizona last November and he will look to appear in his first Major League game since 2012. Wilson hit .208/.272/.321 in 447 career PA, all with the Angels from 2008-12, and he spent 2013 playing for the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate. In a corresponding move to open a 40-man roster spot for Wilson, the D’Backs transferred Bronson Arroyo on the 60-day DL.
Here are some recent minor moves from around MLB:
- The Blue Jays have released right-hander P.J. Walters, according to Matt Eddy of Baseball America. The 29-year-old, acquired by the Blue Jays in May from the Royals, pitched to a 4.82 ERA, 7.9 K/9, and 2.9 BB/9 in 142 innings this year covering 27 appearances, 25 of which were starts. Walters last saw MLB action in 2013 with the Twins.
- Infielder Cutter Dykstra has avoided minor league free agency by re-signing with the Nationals, Eddy reports. Dykstra, perhaps better known for being the son of ex-MLB outfielder Lenny Dykstra or the fiance of The Sopranos actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler, slashed .279/.356/.399 in 433 plate appearances for Washington’s Double-A and Class A-Short Season affiliates.
- The Dodgers‘ Red Patterson is the only player currently in DFA limbo, per MLBTR’s DFA Tracker.
We’ll keep tabs on the day’s minor moves right here:
- The Blue Jays have outrighted outfielder Darin Mastroianni and corner infielder Matt Hague, according to the International League transactions page. Both 29-year-olds were designated on the 2nd in order to clear roster space for the team’s September call-ups. Mastroianni struggled in limited action in Toronto this year. Hague, meanwhile, has yet to see much of a chance at the MLB level but posted solid numbers at Triple-A this year.
The Dodgers have designated righty Red Patterson for assignment, the club announced via press release. His 40-man roster spot will go to lefty Scott Elbert, who will join the big league club after being designated and outrighted earlier in the year.
Patterson, 27, had made just one appearance on the year — a 4 2/3 inning start in which he allowed just two hits and one run. One year after posting a solid 3.03 ERA at the Triple-A level (including 12 starts), however, Patterson struggled at the highest level of the minors in 2014. He has allowed 5.79 earned runs while striking out 7.7 and walking 3.2 batters per nine.
For Elbert, the move represents an opportunity to see some action on a big league hill for the first time since 2012. He tossed 66 innings of 2.32 ERA ball for Los Angeles over 2011-12, but faced a long recovery from Tommy John surgery.
1:40pm: The Rays have officially announced the signing of Wagner.
9:48am: The Rays and right-hander Neil Wagner are in agreement on a unique two-year minor league deal that contains an invitation to 2016 Spring Training, reports Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet (Twitter link).
The 30-year-old Wagner, a client of Munsey Sports Management, underwent Tommy John surgery this August and is expected to miss most, if not all of the 2015 campaign. That injury is the reason behind the deal’s rather uncharacteristic nature, as Wagner will spend all of 2015 rehabbing with the Rays before attempting to break camp with the club in 2016.
Wagner has spent the past two seasons with the Blue Jays, and though he posted an 8.10 ERA in 10 innings this season, he pitched to a 3.79 ERA with 7.8 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 and a 44.1 percent ground-ball rate in 38 frames with the Jays in 2013. He was designated for assignment and eventually released by Toronto last month.
The way in which Wagner was compensated for his solid 2013 season was the subject of ire from agent Jim Munsey, who explained back in April how his client came to earn the league minimum ($500K) this year despite the fact that his initial contract with Toronto was a $525K minor league deal. Toronto’s pre-arbitration pay scale is based on service time, and the salary they offered was just $506,250. Munsey refused the salary in protest, at which point the Blue Jays renewed his contract for just $500K, as was their right. (MLBTR’s Zach Links looked at pre-arb pay scales in depth earlier this year.)
The contract with Wagner is somewhat reminiscent of Juan Carlos Oviedo‘s deal with Tampa. Oviedo (who formerly pitched as Leo Nunez) inked a minor league deal prior to the 2013 season that contained a $2MM club option for the 2014 campaign as he recovered from Tommy John. Oviedo’s contract was a bit more significant given his previous success closing games for the Marlins from 2010-12 (when pitching as Nunez).