Transactions Rumors

Braves Release Venters, Designate Pena

FRIDAY: Atlanta has released Venters, per the MLB.com transactions page.

WEDNESDAY: The Braves have designated left-hander Jonny Venters and infielder Ramiro Pena for assignment, according to the team’s transactions page. Additionally, the team has added Brandon Cunniff, Yean Carlos Gil, Kyle Kubitza, Williams Perez, Mauricio Cabrera and top prospect Jose Peraza to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft.

The 29-year-old Venters was an elite setup man with Atlanta from 2010-12 but underwent Tommy John surgery — the second of his career — that kept him out for all of the 2013 season. Venters rehabbed the injury through August of this season before learning that he had re-torn the ligament. In September, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reported that Venters would undergo a third Tommy John and attempt to make a comeback. Venters has a 2.23 ERA in three career seasons to go along with an average of 10.1 strikeouts and 4.3 walks per nine innings pitched.

Pena, 29, batted .245/.304/.347 in 165 plate appearances for the Braves this season — a decline from the .278/.330/.443 line he posted in 107 PA the previous year. Pena has more than four years of big league service as a utility player with the Yankees and Braves. He’s a career .244/.288/.330 hitter in 610 PAs at the big league level.

Both Venters and Pena were arbitration eligible. Venters would have earned either the same $1.6MM he made in 2014 or slightly less, had he gone through arb, while MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projected Pena to earn $900K.


Minor Moves: Satin, Kensing, Romak, Orioles, Billings, Avery

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

Earlier Updates

  • The D’Backs have agreed to terms on a minor league deal and a Spring Training invite with infielder/outfielder Jamie Romak, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes tweeted today. The 29-year-old Romak, a client of Taurus Sports’ David Sloane, made his big league debut with the Dodgers in 2014 and collected his first hit in the Majors. The former fourth-rounder is a lifetime .258/.324/.474 hitter at Triple-A.
  • The Orioles announced the signings of infielder Paul Janish, right-hander Terry Doyle and outfielder Quincy Latimore to minor league contracts and invitations to big league Spring Training. SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo was the first to tweet Janish’s agreement, and Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com had previously reported that the team was working on a deal with him. Janish is the only one of the bunch that comes with MLB experience; the 32-year-old defensive specialist is a career .214/.284/.288 hitter in 1206 plate appearances between the Reds and Braves.
  • The Nationals announced that they have signed right-hander Bruce Billings to a minor league contract with an invite to Major League Spring Training. The 29-year-old Billings pitched four innings for the Yankees last season and split the season between the Yankees and Dodgers organizations. Overall, the veteran posted a 5.27 ERA with 6. K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 95 2/3 innings.
  • Outfielder Xavier Avery has inked a minor league deal with the Tigers and will receive a Spring Training invite as well, tweets SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo. The 24-year-old Avery spent last season with the Mariners after being acquired from the Orioles in the 2013 Mike Morse trade. Avery hit .275/.344/.413 with 10 homers and 31 steals, appearing at all three outfield spots for Seattle’s Triple-A affiliate in 2014.

White Sox To Sign Adam LaRoche

The White Sox have signed first baseman Adam LaRoche to a two-year, $25MM deal, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today. LaRoche is a client of Relativity Sports’ Mike Milchin.

Adam LaRoche

Left-handed power has been a priority for the Sox this offseason, and LaRoche will bring just that to the table, having averaged 26 homers per year over the past three seasons to go along with a solid .256/.346/.458 batting line in that same span. LaRoche will team up with American League Rookie of the Year Jose Abreu to create a formidable punch in the middle of manager Robin Ventura’s order. He’s regarded as a plus defender at first base, although he may see some more time at designated hitter with Abreu also figuring to log significant innings at first.

LaRoche has spent the past four seasons with the Nationals but will now move to a much more hitter-friendly environment in the form of U.S. Cellular Field, which should only serve to boost his already solid power marks. However, LaRoche does come with a sizable platoon split, having batted just .201/.269/.325 against southpaws over the past two seasons after a more promising line of .268/.319/.506 in his excellent 2012 season, when he finished sixth in the NL MVP voting.

The 35-year-old LaRoche reportedly had a two-year, $20MM offer from the Marlins and has also been connected to the Padres, but he’ll instead head to the south side of Chicago where GM Rick Hahn is acting quickly to build a team that has eyes on contention in the near future. (In a free agent profile for LaRoche, I was a bit more bullish, pegging him for $30MM over this same two-year term.) In addition to Abreu, the Sox have a pair of nice young outfielders in Adam Eaton and Avisail Garcia, and the rotation is fronted by a stellar combination of Chris Sale and Jose QuintanaCarlos Rodon, the No. 3 pick in this year’s draft, looms as a possible addition to that duo.

LaRoche is the second major free agent signing for Hahn and his lieutenants this week, as the Sox also inked southpaw reliever Zach Duke to a three-year, $15MM contract on the heels of a dominant season that can be largely credited to altering his delivery. Chicago still figures to add at least one more relief arm and could entertain trades for shortstop Alexei Ramirez, as has been rumored of late, but Hahn’s aggressiveness signals a clear goal of putting a contending group on the field in 2015.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Pirates To Sign Radhames Liz To Major League Deal

The Pirates have signed right-hander Radhames Liz to a Major League contract, tweets ESPN’s Jayson Stark. Dan Kurtz of MyKBO.net was the first to report that he’d been signed to a big league deal, reporting it as a two-year, $3MM contract (Twitter link).

Some may remember the hard-throwing Liz from his days with the Orioles, with whom he pitched from 2007-09. Liz ranked as a Top 100 prospect per Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus, but he struggled greatly in those three seasons, pitching to a 7.50 ERA with 6.7 K/9 and 6.2 BB/9 in 110 1/3 innings. Following his time with Baltimore, the Dominican hurler spent a season with the Padres’ Triple-A affiliate before heading overseas to pitch in Korea.

Liz reinvented himself as a member of the LG Twins in the Korea Baseball Organization, compiling a 3.51 ERA with 454 strikeouts against 240 walks in 518 2/3 innings over a three-year stint. Those numbers are no small feat in the hitter-friendly KBO, and Liz’s best season was his last in Korea — a 3.06 ERA with a league-leading 188 strikeouts in 202 2/3 innings.

The righty returned to pro ball in North America in 2014, notching a 2.95 ERA in 61 innings with the Blue Jays’ Double-A and Triple-A affiliates. Liz was said to be mulling over multiple seven-figure offers to return to Japan or Korea, but the Pirates were able to convince him to stay, apparently with a two-year contract that comes with little financial risk.

Pittsburgh is known for revitalizing pitchers under coordinator Jim Benedict and pitching coach Ray Searage. The team has worked wonders with the likes of A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, Mark Melancon, Jason Grilli, Vance Worley and Edinson Volquez in recent seasons. Liz will be the next reclamation project, it seems. He averaged nearly 94 mph on his heater back in his Orioles days and has what one scout from the Dominican Republic described to Stark as “power stuff” and a “vicious curve.”


Dodgers Acquire Joel Peralta

The Dodgers announced that they have acquired right-hander Joel Peralta and lefty Adam Liberatore from the Rays in exchange for right-handers Jose Dominguez and Greg Harris.

Joel Peralta

Peralta, 39 in March, has been a workhorse out of the Rays’ bullpen for the past four seasons, averaging 74 appearances and 67 innings per season while posting a 3.58 ERA with 9.8 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 269 1/3 innings. Peralta is an extreme fly-ball pitcher, with a ground-ball rate just north of 31 percent in his career, but the pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium should mitigate some of that concern.

The veteran Peralta gives the Dodgers a much-needed bullpen upgrade at a very reasonable financial cost. He’s due just $2.5MM in 2015 and has club options for 2016 and 2017 at the same rate — neither of which has a buyout attached. There’s an obvious connection between the Dodgers and Peralta, as former Rays GM Andrew Friedman recently jumped ship to become the president of baseball operations with Los Angeles. Friedman no doubt thinks highly of both Peralta and Liberatore.

Peralta struggled, to some extent, in 2014, posting a 4.41 ERA — his worst mark since an ugly 2009 season with the Rockies. However, he still managed to strike out 10.5 hitters per nine innings and showed the best control he has displayed in recent years, walking just 2.1 batters per nine. Peralta’s typically low BABIP spiked to .307 this past season and he allowed homers at a slightly higher clip than usual; those factors are the likely reasoning behind his increased ERA. However, metrics such as FIP (3.40) and SIERA (2.54) feel that Peralta was much better than his earned run average would indicate.

The 27-year-old Liberatore was lights out in Triple-A this past season, notching a 1.66 ERA with 11.9 K/9 against just 2.1 BB/9 in 65 innings of relief work. He was highly effective against both right- and left-handed hitters, holding each to an OPS south of .500.

Dominguez, 24, has received a brief taste of Major League action in each of the past two seasons with L.A., allowing 10 runs in 14 2/3 innings with a 12-to-6 K/BB ratio. He’s shown a propensity for strikeouts in the minors, however, averaging 10 punchouts per nine innings for his career. Dominguez struggled in the lower levels but has posted a 2.22 ERA in 24 1/3 Double-A innings and a 2.61 ERA in 41 1/1 Triple-A innings. Baseball America ranked him 11th among Dodgers prospects last offseason, calling him a “pure power arm” whose fastball sits 97-100 mph and can touch 102. However, BA noted his erratic command and a 50-game suspension for PED use on his minor league track record in their scouting report. MLB.com ranked him 13th among Dodgers prospects midseason, also praising his fastball but noting that his slider is better known for its velocity than its bite at this time.

The Dodgers selected Harris, 20, in the 17th round of the 2013 draft, and he posted nice strikeout numbers in Class A this season. Harris pitched to a 4.45 ERA as a 19-year-old in the Midwest League, whiffing 92 hitters against 28 walks in 87 innings of work. Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel tweets that he’s heard good things about the velocity of both pitchers acquired by the Rays in this deal, with Dominguez having been clocked as high as 103 mph and Harris sitting in the mid 90s as a starter.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Players Added To The 40-Man Roster

Midnight EST is the deadline for teams to add players to their 40-man roster in order to protect them from being selected in next month’s Rule 5 Draft. Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com lists the notable prospects who are newly Rule 5 eligible. Of course, the decision whether or not to protect a player has as much to do with roster flexibility and his expected ability to stick on a big league roster for a full season as it does the player’s overall prospect value.

We’ll keep tabs on the day’s 40-man additions here, and you can also check Baseball America’s running updates, which includes breakdowns of the players added.

  • The Rays have yet to announce their full list of roster moves, but Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper tweets that second baseman Ryan Brett will be added to the 40-man.
  • Following their trade with the Dodgers, the Rays announced that they have added Brett (as Cooper tweeted), right-hander Matt Andriese, left-hander Grayson Garvin, outfielder Mikie Mahtook and catcher Justin O’Conner to the 40-man roster.
  • The Dodgers announced that lefty Adam Liberatore, acquired in the trade with the Rays, has been added to the 40-man roster.

Earlier Updates

  • The Astros have made one final 40-man roster move, announcing the addition of right-hander Michael Feliz. Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper was among those to express surprise that Feliz had not previously been added to the roster, with some executives telling him they’d be shocked if Feliz wasn’t the No. 1 pick in the Rule 5 Draft (Twitter link).
  • The Rangers announced that they’ve added righties Luke Jackson and Jerad Eickhoff, infielder Hanser Alberto and catcher Jorge Alfaro to the 40-man roster.

(more…)


Rays Designate Michael Kohn, Cole Figueroa For Assignment

The Rays have designated right-hander Michael Kohn and infielder Cole Figueroa for assignment, the team announced.

Kohn, 28, was signed to a Major League deal by the Rays earlier this offseason after being outrighted by the Angels. The South Carolina native has shown the ability to miss bats at the Major League level, striking out 107 hitters in 110 1/3 innings, but he’s also battled with control issues, walking 73 hitters in that time. The Rays were impressed enough with Kohn to give him that Major League deal, but if he once again clears outright waivers, he’ll be able to elect free agency in search of a new contract.

Figueroa, 27, was originally acquired by the Rays in the Jason Bartlett trade back in 2010. He picked up 49 plate appearances with the Rays this year — his first big league action — but hit just .233/.286/.326 in that small sample. Figueroa is a career .285/.359/.378 hitter in nearly 1200 Triple-A plate appearances and has extensive experience at shortstop, second base and third base.


Yankees Sell Zelous Wheeler’s Contract To Rakuten Golden Eagles

10:25pm: The Yankees received $350K for the rights to Wheeler, reports Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News (via Twitter).

6:31pm: The Yankees have sold the contractual rights of infielder Zelous Wheeler to the Rakuten Golden Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball, thereby freeing a spot on their 40-man roster, according to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News (on Twitter).

Wheeler, 28 in January, made his big league debut with the Yankees this season and batted .193/.230/.298 with a pair of homers in 62 trips to the plate. The former Brewers prospect was a 19th-round draft pick in 2007 and has a solid track record in Triple-A, having posted a .277/.352/.434 batting line in 817 plate appearances. The move likely affords Wheeler the opportunity to earn a significantly larger payday in Japan than he would have in the U.S., and the Yankees will receive a small amount of financial compensation, making it an appealing proposition for all parties involved.


Rangers Designate Jim Adduci For Assignment

10:20pm: Adduci is likely to be sold to a Korean or Japanese club, a Major League source tells MLBTR.

10:15pm: The Rangers announced that they have designated first baseman/outfielder Jim Adduci for assignment.

The 29-year-old Adduci has picked up 148 plate appearances with Texas over the past two seasons, batting a combined .189/.259/.242. His Triple-A batting line — .281/.352/.397 in 1157 plate appearances — is a significant improvement over those marks. Originally a 42nd-round draft pick of the Marlins, Adduci has also spent time in that organization as well as with the Cubs from 2007-12.


Angels Designate Alfredo Marte For Assignment

The Angels announced that they’ve designated outfielder Alfredo Marte for assignment to clear a roster spot for the newly acquired Dan Robertson.

The 25-year-old Marte was selected off waivers from the Diamondbacks last month after posting a strong .319/.407/.519 batting line at the Triple-A level this past season. He’s picked up a combined 162 plate appearances between the 2013-14 seasons with the D’Backs but managed just a .174/.236/.282 batting line in that time.