Transactions Rumors

Minor Moves: Jesus Pirela

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

  • The Rangers have signed righty Jesus Pirela, Baseball America’s Matt Eddy writes. The 25-year-old Pirela spent five seasons in the Phillies organization, then ultimately wound up pitching for Veracruz last season and becoming one of the best relievers in the Mexican League, posting a 1.51 ERA, 10.2 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 over 53 2/3 innings. Eddy notes that the Rangers scouted him in the Mexican Pacific Winter League this offseason.

Minor Moves: Hill, Gillies, Sale, Tigers, Dbacks, Dodgers

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

  • Veteran southpaw Rich Hill has agreed to a minor league deal with the Nationals, the club announced. Hill, who has appeared in parts of ten MLB seasons, will receive an invite to big league camp. Soon to turn 35, Hill has long been effective against lefties but rather susceptible to opposite-handed bats, with good strikeout numbers in recent years offset by a hefty accumulation of free passes.
  • Former top Phillies prospect Tyson Gillies has signed a minor league deal with the Padres, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com tweets. Philadelphia released Gillies over the summer while he was in the midst of a tough .214/.270/.289 run at Triple-A. Now 26, the center fielder was a part of the 2009 deal that sent Cliff Lee to the Mariners.
  • The Rays have released former first-round pick Josh Sale, Baseball America’s Matt Eddy tweets. The outfielder hit .238/.313/.344 in 361 plate appearances for Class A+ Charlotte in 2014 before being suspended in August for drug use. He also received a 50-game suspension for drug use in 2012 and was suspended by the Rays in 2013 following an incident at a strip club.
  • The Tigers have signed righties Ryan Perry and Ross Seaton and first baseman Bobby Borchering to minor-league deals, Eddy tweets. Detroit drafted Perry, 28, in the first round in 2008, and he pitched for three seasons in their bullpen from 2009-2011. He also appeared with the Nationals in 2012 before struggling in Washington’s minor-league system in 2013 and 2014. The 25-year-old Seaton was a third-round pick of the Astros in 2008. He got through the lower levels of Houston’s system fairly quickly despite low strikeout rates, but struggled to establish himself in the Astros’ Triple-A rotation. Borchering, 24, was the 16th overall pick in the 2009 draft, and he headed from the Diamondbacks to the Astros in 2012 in the trade that sent Chris Johnson to the desert. He struggled that year at the Double-A level and hasn’t yet made it back yet, hitting .238/.324/.333 in 71 plate appearances at Class A+ Lancaster last season.
  • The Diamondbacks have signed lefties Erick Threets and Trevor Reckling, Eddy tweets. Threets, 33, appeared in parts of three seasons with the Giants and White Sox from 2007 through 2010. He pitched in Mexico last season and last appeared in affiliated ball when he posted a 2.79 ERA, 6.3 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9 in a 2012 season spent in Triple-A with the Athletics and Dodgers organizations. Reckling, a former Angels draftee, pitched in independent ball in 2013 and did not pitch in 2014.
  • The Dodgers have signed outfielder Travis Witherspoon, Eddy tweets. The athletic Witherspoon was once on the 40-man rosters of the Angels and Mariners. The 25-year-old hit .252/.338/.448 in the friendly hitting environment of Class A+ High Desert in 2014, mostly playing center field.

Brewers To Re-Sign Francisco Rodriguez

TODAY, 4:30pm: The deal includes a $2MM buyout on the club option and $2MM deferral, Haudricourt reports. The cost of the option remains unclear, with Haudricourt saying that he has heard both $6MM and $8MM mentioned.

It will take a few days for the deal to be finalized since Rodriguez must first get a work visa and take his physical.

YESTERDAY, 7:44pm: Rodriguez will be paid $3.5MM in 2015 and $5.5MM in 2016, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports (via Twitter).  The additional $4MM in guaranteed salary will be deferred.  The Brewers’ 2017 club option for Rodriguez is worth $6MM.

11:59am: The Brewers have reached agreement on a two-year, $13MM deal with reliever Francisco Rodriguez. Milwaukee also holds a club option for the 2017 season over the Boras Corporation client.

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals

While the annual breakdown is not yet fully reported, Rodriguez will earn just $3MM in 2015 and $6MM in 2016. The remainder will be deferred in some manner, though it is not clear how much is deferred salary and how much will go toward the option buyout. That will have important ramifications for the deal’s incentives, but the bottom line is that Milwaukee will save on up-front costs.

At $13MM, Rodriguez will land just shy of the $14MM that MLBTR predicted before the start of the offseason, though the option structure had to be agreed upon to achieve that. The deal appears to slot in fairly sensibly among recent contracts for similar-quality relievers. Only the younger Luke Gregerson landed a three year deal (at a $6MM AAV), while Koji Uehara ($18MM — just before hitting the market), Sergio Romo ($15MM), and Pat Neshek ($12.5MM) all got significant guarantees on two-year pacts.

Rodriguez, 33, has spent most of the past four seasons in Milwaukee. All said, he owns a 3.11 ERA over his 193 2/3 frames with the Brewers. He has maintained double-digit strikeout-per-nine rates over the last two years in addition to an excellent K%-BB%. Though FIP has been down on Rodriguez’s work in recent campaigns, other ERA estimators like xFIP and SIERA view him as a 3.00 or better performer.

One potential knock on Rodriguez — the many miles on his otherwise relatively young arm — has a positive side as well. Rodriguez has been exceptionally durable, putting up an average of 69 innings running all the way back to 2003. And he still delivers his fastball in the same general, low-90s range that he has found success with in the past.

In nailing down the closer role in Milwaukee and taking Rodriguez off of the market, the signing goes a long way to clarifying the remaining relief market. For one thing, it leaves Rafael Soriano as the undisputed best free agent still available. For another, it takes away the most obvious trade match for the Phillies and closer Jonathan Papelbon.

Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported the signing, length, and presence of an option (Twitter links). Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported the total guarantee on Twitter. Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel tweeted the annual breakdown.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Athletics Claim Alex Hassan From Orioles

The teams involved have announced that the Athletics have claimed outfielder Alex Hassan from the Orioles. The Orioles had designated Hassan for assignment earlier this week. To clear space on their 40-man roster, the Athletics have placed pitcher A.J. Griffin on the 60-day disabled list.

The Athletics’ latest waiver claim continues what must be a disorienting offseason for Hassan. The Athletics initially claimed him from the Red Sox in November, but lost him three days later when the Orioles claimed him. Now the Athletics have him back. The 26-year-old Hassan isn’t a power hitter, but he’s posted good on-base percentages in the minors. He hit .287/.378/.426 in 474 plate appearances while playing both corner outfield positions and first base for Triple-A Pawtucket in 2014, also going 1-for-8 in his first cup of coffee in the big leagues.


Juan Pierre Officially Retires

Veteran outfielder Juan Pierre has officially retired, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald tweets. Pierre did not play in 2014, so it comes as little surprise that he’s retiring.

The speedy Pierre racked up 614 stolen bases in parts of 14 seasons in the Majors and rarely struck out, finding ways to annoy opposing pitchers despite his lack of home-run power. He led his league in stolen bases three times and is currently 18th in career steals. (He’s also sixth in caught stealings for his career, with 203.)

For much of his career, Pierre was also a serious on-base threat, with six seasons with on-base percentages above .350. Pierre was a key member of the World Champion 2003 Marlins, swiping 65 bases that season before hitting .333/.481/.429 in the World Series against the Yankees.

Pierre finishes his career with a .295/.343/.361 line with the Rockies, Marlins, Cubs, Dodgers, White Sox, and Phillies, earning at least $57MM in the process, via Baseball Reference. Much of that came from a $44MM deal with the Dodgers signed prior to the 2007 season.


Blue Jays Sign Johan Santana To Minors Deal

FRIDAY: Santana will receive a $2.5MM base salary if he’s in the big leagues, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports (Twitter links). The deal also includes $2.05MM in incentives for games started (up to 25) as well as $2MM in roster bonuses. He has an April 28 opt-out date, and it’s not likely he’ll be ready by Opening Day, tweets Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca.

THURSDAY: The Blue Jays have signed veteran left-hander Johan Santana to a minor league contract with an invitation to their big league Spring Training camp, according to a team press release.  Santana is represented by Peter Greenberg of the Legacy Agency.

Santana hasn’t pitched in either the majors or minors since 2012, as he has been sidelined by both left shoulder capsule surgery (his second such procedure in three years) and, most recently, a torn Achilles tendon last June while on a minor league deal with the Orioles.  Santana returned to make some appearances in the Venezuelan Winter League this offseason and drew interest from multiple teams, including the Padres and Yankees, though his Venezuelan outings were limited by shoulder soreness.

Given his checkered injury history and the fact that Santana turns 36 in March, it’s hard to see this as anything more than a depth signing for Toronto.  It’s worth noting, however, that the last time Santana was healthy (the first few months of the 2012 season), he still gave the Mets several quality starts, including a no-hitter.

The Jays’ rotation depth was thinned by a few offseason trades, leaving rookie top prospect Daniel Norris as the projected fifth starter behind Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey, Marcus Stroman and Drew HutchisonAaron Sanchez and Marco Estrada are likely the two top backup options should Norris struggle, though since the Jays are aiming to have both pitchers in the bullpen, a veteran option like Santana could come in handy.  The Jays have been looking for relief pitching depth as well, though according to Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi (Twitter link), Santana is being looked at by the team as a starter.


Minor Moves: Cedeno, Thompson, Accardo

Here are the latest minor transactions from around the league, with the newest moves at the top of the post…

  • The Giants signed shortstop Ronny Cedeno to a minor league contract, according to the Pacific Coast League’s transactions page.  Cedeno appeared in nine games with the Phillies in 2014, spending the large majority of his season at the Triple-A level for Philadelphia and Arizona.  Over his 10 years in the majors, Cedeno has a .245/.289/.353 career slash line over 2792 plate appearances, seeing a few seasons in a starting or platoon role for the Cubs and Pirates.
  • The Athletics moved right-hander Taylor Thompson to the 60-day disabled list due to a strain in his throwing shoulder, the team announced.  In a corresponding move, Thompson’s 40-man roster spot will be filled by the newly-acquired Chad Smith.  Thompson, 27, made his Major League debut last season, throwing 5 1/3 innings out of the White Sox bullpen.  The A’s selected him off waivers from the White Sox in November.
  • The Diamondbacks signed righty Jeremy Accardo to a minor league deal, as per the PCL’s transactions page.  Accardo, an eight-year Major League veteran, last appeared in the bigs in 2012 and has since pitched in Mexico, Venezuela, the Independent League and for the Nationals’ Triple-A affiliate.

Athletics Claim Chad Smith From Tigers

The Athletics have claimed right-hander Chad Smith off waivers from the Tigers, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press tweets. Detroit had designated the 25-year-old for assignment in order to clear space on the 40-man roster for the recently re-signed Joba Chamberlain.

Smith is a former 17th-round pick of the Tigers that made his big league debut in 2014, allowing seven runs on 15 hits and three walks with nine strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings. He has worked to a strong 2.68 ERA over his minor league career, averaging 8.8 strikeouts and 2.6 walks per nine innings pitched. After working as a starter for part of his first minor league season, he transitioned to the bullpen in 2013 and has posted solid numbers since, though he did struggle in 27 innings at the Triple-A level last year.


Wily Mo Pena To Sign With Rakuten Eagles

Free agent slugger Wily Mo Pena has agreed to a one-year deal with Japan’s Rakuten Eagles, MLBTR has learned. The contract includes a club option for 2016.

Pena’s strong 2014 campaign — he hit .255/.344/.486 with 32 home runs for the Orix Buffaloes — raised the possibility of a return to the big leagues, but that never materialized. The 33-year-old was only interested in signing with an MLB team if he could achieve a major league contract. While there was some interest, and plenty of minor league offers, Pena was ultimately never offered a 40-man spot going into camp.

A veteran of eight big league seasons, Pena swatted 84 long balls and slashed .250/.303/.445 in his 1,845 career plate appearances. Best known for his time with the Reds, Pena also saw action with four other teams. Ultimately, despite carrying above-average offensive numbers for much of his career, Pena’s defensive limitations and relatively low on-base figures held him back in the majors.

But he hit his stride upon moving to Nippon Professional Baseball in 2012 with the Fukuoka Softbank Haws. The Dominican native slashed a productive .280/.339/.490 in his first Japanese campaign, establishing his presence as one of the league’s premier power threats. After putting aside his injury-marred 2013 with his performance last year, Pena entered this year’s market as one of the more appealing Japan-based international free agents.

Pena recently became a client of Matt Sosnick of Sosnick, Cobbe & Karon. He will now join with fellow former big leaguer Gaby Sanchez to form what the Eagles will hope is a potent middle-of-the-order, first base/DH pairing.


Minor Moves: Ransom, McCoy, Diaz, Gaudin

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

  • The MLB.com transactions page lists a few new minor league deals. Infielder Cody Ransom has joined the Diamondbacks after spending some time in Japan last year. Ransom, 39, has seen action in eleven big league seasons, though he has broken the 100 plate appearance barrier only twice — in 2012-13, oddly enough. Ransom played well in that late-career run, putting up 505 plate appearances with a .207/.301/.414 slash and twenty home runs over those two seasons.
  • The Padres signed utilityman Mike McCoy. Now 33, McCoy has yet to pass the 400 plate appearance barrier at the big league level and has struggled at Triple-A in the last two seasons, but does have a better prior track record.
  • Catcher Robinzon Diaz, 31, is joining the Brewers on a minor league deal. Diaz last saw MLB action back in 2008-09 and has bounced around the upper minors since. In parts of eight seasons at Triple-A, Diaz has slashed .278/.305.387.
  • The Dodgers will sign right-hander Chad Gaudin to a minor league deal, and he will be a non-roster invitee to Major League Spring Training, tweets MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick. The 31-year-old Gaudin sat out the 2014 season as he recovered from neck surgery but was quite good with the 2013 Giants, working to a 3.06 ERA (with a 3.34 FIP and 4.00 xFIP) in 97 innings. Gaudin has experience as both a starter and a reliever in parts of 11 Major League seasons — the bulk of which have come with the Athletics. He has a lifetime 4.44 ERA with 7.1 K/9, 4.2 BB/9 and a 42.4 percent ground-ball rate in 836 1/3 Major League innings. Gaudin also worked out for the division-rival Diamondbacks recently.