Transactions Rumors

MLB transactions of all kinds, delivered to you before the player even finds out.

Rangers Designate Neftali Feliz, Activate Matt Harrison

The Rangers have designated righty Neftali Feliz for assignment, Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest reports on Twitter. His roster spot will go to starter Matt Harrison, who will return to the big leagues after a long layoff for serious back surgery.

May 12, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers relief pitcher Neftali Feliz (30) throws a pitch in the ninth inning against the Kansas City Royals at Globe Life Park in Arlington. The Royals won 7-6 in 10 innings. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Feliz, 27, was once an ace reliever for Texas and owns a 2.71 career ERA over 259 1/3 big league innings. He has struck out 8.4 and walked 3.5 batters per nine over that span, with a 35.4% groundball rate.

Those career marks include a particularly rough start to the current season. Feliz has allowed 5.09 earned runs per regulation game, with 7.6 K/9 against 4.6 BB/9. He still works in the 93 to 94 mph range with his fastball, down a few ticks from his early season peak but still in line with recent campaigns.

Truth be told, the results have not been supported by ERA estimators in recent seasons. Feliz has not posted a sub-4.00 SIERA since way back in 2011, and has not dipped below the 3.00 mark by that measure since his first two seasons. Much the same holds when one looks at his FIP and xFIP numbers.

Things seemingly took a turn for the worse when the team attempted to utilize him as a starter in 2012. Feliz had a rocky go of it, throwing 42 2/3 innings of 3.16 ERA ball while benefiting greatly from a high strand rate and miniscule .213 BABIP. ERA estimators all had him pegged as a replacement level rotation piece. Feliz ultimately succumbed to Tommy John surgery in May of 2012, and has never quite recovered his arm speed.

While all the signs were there, it nevertheless remains stunning to see the move. Feliz was one of the game’s more promising arms in his heyday. He is owed $4.13MM this year, and comes with one more season of arbitration eligibility. Given his salary and recent performance, it would not be surprising to see him pass through waivers, but with over five years of service (he entered the season with 4.151 on his tab), he’d be eligible to elect free agency and keep the money.

The other major news here, of course, is the return of Harrison. It once seemed unclear whether he’d ever throw again, yet alone return to the majors. The 29-year-old was a steady contributor over 2011-12, racing up 399 frames with a 3.34 ERA and leading the team to lock him up to a five-year, $55MM pact. He is still under control through 2018, with the last year coming through a $13.25MM club option ($2MM buyout), and at this point Texas will be glad to receive any contribution from the southpaw.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Draft Signings: Thomas Eshelman, Bryan Hudson

Let’s catch up on some recent draft signings, with slot values via Baseball America:

  • The Astros have locked up second-rounder Thomas Eshelman for a $1.1MM bonus that falls shy of the $1,325,700 slot value, Jim Callis of MLB.com reports on Twitter. Callis calls the righty the “best strike-thrower in NCAA history” — he averaged an unthinkable 0.42 BB/9 over this entire college career, per Baseball America — and indeed much of his value lies in his impeccable control. Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs had the highest grade on Eshelman, raning him 54th among draft-eligible players. Other evaluators placed him at or just out of the top 100. MLB.com explained that Eshelman’s fastball hovers in the 90 to 91 mph range, while his offspeed pitches are nothing particularly special.
  • Cubs third-rounder Bryan Hudson receives a well-over-slot $1.1MM bonus, per Callis (via Twitter). The slot value at 82nd overall was just $731K. He’s a tall, projectable righty who rated as high as 71st coming into the draft, with MLB.com giving that grade. Baseball America put him in the 101st slot, noting that Hudson features a good curve and has smooth mechanics for a hurler of his size.

Cubs Acquire Clayton Richard From Pirates

The Cubs have acquired lefty Clayton Richard from the Pirates in exchange for cash considerations, Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald reports on Twitter. Stephen Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes on Twitter that Richard appeared to be headed to a big league roster after clearing his locker out at Triple-A Indianapolis.

The impetus for the move was an “upward mobility” clause in Richard’s contract, which created a three-day period within which the Pirates had to offer him to other clubs willing to put him on a big league roster or instead add him to their own roster. Had no team been so willing, then Richard would have remained in Triple-A.

Chicago, obviously was prepared to give Richard an active roster spot while Pittsburgh was not. Miles adds that Richard will make a start this Saturday for the Cubs.

Richard, 31, was a productive start for the Padres before shoulder issues derailed his career. In both 2010 and 2012, he put up 200+ innings with a sub-4.00 ERA. He last appeared in the big leagues in 2013, struggling badly before ultimately going under the knife.

Richard appeared briefly in Triple-A last year for the Diamondbacks, but has returned to form at Indianapolis this season. In ten total minor league starts, he’s racked up 62 innings of 1.89 ERA pitching, striking out 4.4 and walking 2.0 batters per nine innings.



Red Sox Designate Zeke Spruill

The Red Sox have designated righty Zeke Spruill for assignment, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal reports on Twitter. His 40-man spot was needed for the promotion of Noe Ramirez.

The 25-year-old has worked exclusively at Triple-A this year for Boston, which acquired him from the Diamondbacks on the same day the Wade Miley deal went down. He owns a 5.40 ERA with 3.9 K/9 against 2.7 BB/9 over 53 1/3 innings for Pawtucket.

Spruill had spent time with the D’Backs in each of the last two seasons. In total, he’s thrown 34 big league frames, posting a 4.24 ERA and striking out 23 batters while issuing nine walks.


Giants Designate Brett Bochy

The Giants have designated righty Brett Bochy for assignment, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports on Twitter. Bochy, the son of manager Bruce Bochy, lost his 40-man spot as part of a series of transactions.

Bochy saw his first big league action last year, throwing 3 1/3 innings and allowing two earned runs to go with three strikeouts and two walks. He’s back in Triple-A this year for his third run at the level, working to a 4.30 ERA over 29 1/3 innings. Bochy’s strikeout numbers continue to fall, as he’s retired just 5.5 per nine by way of strikeout while issuing 3.7 BB/9.


Angels Acquire Rafael Lopez From Cubs

3:12pm: Chicago will receive the 120th slot, which carries $149,700 in spending capacity, Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com tweets.

1:56pm: The Angels and Cubs have agreed to a trade that will send minor league catcher Rafael Lopez to Anaheim in exchange for an international bonus slot and left-handed pitching prospect Manuel Rondon, the teams announced. Chicago had designated Lopez for assignment last week.

The 27-year-old Lopez debuted with the Cubs in 2014 and received 14 plate appearances. Lopez picked up a pair of hits in that brief cup of coffee, and he’s had a reasonable amount of success in the upper minors. In 107 games/410 plate appearances at the Triple-A level, Lopez is a .281/.359/.333 hitter and has caught 30 percent of attempted base stealers.  With Miguel Montero projecting as the team’s catcher for the foreseeable future and David Ross signed to a two-year deal, though, there was little hope of Lopez carving out a significant role in the Majors anytime soon. He was on the Cubs’ 40-man roster and has subsequently been added to the Halos’ 40-man roster as well. The Angels announced that Lopez has been optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake.

Rondon, 20, is a left-handed pitcher out of Venezuela that has spent the past two seasons pitching for the Angels’ affiliate in the Dominican Summer League. He worked to a 2.50 ERA with 8.0 K/9 against 3.8 BB/9 in 108 innings at that level over the past two seasons, though he’s not particularly young for the league. This season, Rondon has moved up to he Rookie league in Arizona, where he’s struggled in a small 8 1/3-inning sample, yielding eight runs on 13 hits and four walks with seven strikeouts. He will not turn 21 until next March.

In the past 24 hours, the Angels have added Lopez and right-handers Gaither Bumgardner and Jason Hoppe in exchange for international bonus slots. The Angels are restricted from signing any international amateur for more than $300K after blowing past their budget to sign Roberto Baldoquin last winter, rendering the slots largely inconsequential to them.


White Sox Sign Carson Fulmer

The White Sox announced today that they have signed first-round pick Carson Fulmer to a minor league contract with a $3,470,600 signing bonus. The announced bonus matches the full slot value of Fulmer’s No. 8 overall selection (slot value via Baseball America). A right-handed pitcher out of Vanderbilt, Fulmer was advised by and is now a client of Icon Sports Management.

Carson Fulmer

Fulmer was one of the most interesting available players heading into the draft, with big-time stuff and a track record of excellence in major college ball, but also questions about whether he’ll be a big league starter in the long run. Having dominated the SEC with a 1.83 ERA and 13.1 K/9 against 3.9 BB/9, and featuring a sustainable, mid-90s heater with a very good curve and promising change, Fulmer is about as MLB-ready as drafted players come.

So what’s the downside? To an extent, it comes down to how you value near-term contributions versus long-term expectations, as Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs explained before the draft. Those prospect observers that attributed significant value to his near-big league readiness rated Fulmer as a top-ten prospect (McDaniel had him fifth, MLB.com ranked him 3rd, and Baseball America placed him sixth on its list).

But others, concerned with Fulmer’s high-effort delivery, relatively small stature, and lack of a consistent third pitch, put more weight on the idea that he has too great a chance of being relegated tot he pen in the long run. Keith Law of ESPN.com fell in the latter camp, placing Fulmer way down in the 43rd spot on his board.

Chicago, obviously, decided that Fulmer’s risky (but still high-ceiling) future outlook was worth taking on in order to add such an immediately impactful arm. With Fulmer now set to join an increasingly impressive stable of controllable starters — led by Chris Sale but also including Jose Quintana and last year’s third overall pick, Carlos Rodon — the White Sox rotation has quite a bit o potential. The team has now signed all of its choices from the first ten rounds.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Tigers Designate Joba Chamberlain, Tom Gorzelanny

The Tigers will designate right-hander Joba Chamberlain for assignment, Kurt Mensching of SB Nation and the Detriot News first reported (on Twitter). Anthony Fenech of the Detroit News reports (via Twitter) that lefty Tom Gorzelanny will be designated for assignment as well. The Tigers have since announced the moves, adding that righties Jeff Ferrell and Drew VerHagen have been added to the roster in place of the departed veterans.

Chamberlain and Gorzelanny both came to the Tigers on one-year, $1MM contracts this offseason, and while each looked to be at least a reasonable low-cost roll of the dice at the time, neither has panned out as GM Dave Dombrowski and his staff have hoped.

The 29-year-old Chamberlain has posted a 4.09 ERA with 6.1 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and a 41 percent ground-ball rate in 22 innings with Detroit this season. Those numbers, on the surface, aren’t entirely unsightly, but Chamberlain has been plagued by the long ball in 2015. He’s yielded five homers in those 22 innings, resulting in an FIP mark of 5.49. (xFIP, which normalizes his homer-to-flyball rate, figures the 4.09 mark is more or less represented of Chamberlain’s talent level this year.) Chamberlain’s in the midst of a particularly poor stretch, having allowed nine runs (eight earned) in his past six innings — a span of eight appearances.

Gorzelanny’s struggles have been even more prolonged. The 32-year-old has totaled just 12 1/3 innings over his past 15 appearances, surrendering an alarming 15 runs, which translates to a 10.95 ERA in that stretch. Overall, he has a 6.75 ERA this season with 7.1 K/9, 5.6 BB/9 and a 36.7 percent ground-ball rate. While he’s proven capable of handling lefties in the past, same-handed hitters are batting .273/.380/.419 against Gorzelanny in 2015. Those numbers pale in comparison, though, to the batting line authored by opposing right-handed hitters: .382/.477/.600.

Both are owed $519K through the end of the season, and neither reliever appeared in enough games to see his incentives kick in. Chamberlain, somewhat notably, was five appearances shy of earning an additional $100K.


Giants Designate Travis Ishikawa For Assignment

12:52pm: The Giants have now announced the move, adding that Tim Hudson has been placed on the 15-day disabled list, with Jake Peavy being activated to fill his roster spot.

12:42pm: The Giants will announce today that they have designated first baseman/outfielder Travis Ishikawa for assignment and selected the contract of outfielder Ryan Lollis, a source tells Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News (Twitter link).

The 31-year-old Ishikawa was only recently brought up from Triple-A. He’s 0-for-5 with a walk in six plate appearances this season but has played a much more prominent role with the Giants in previous years. Last year, he batted .274/.333/.397 in 81 plate appearances with the Giants down the stretch and hit quite well for the team in the NLCS.

Originally a 21st-round pick of the Giants in 2002, Ishikawa bounced around the league a bit after parting ways with the team in 2010, only to return to the organization last season. The Giants elected to keep him around via the arbitration process, signing him to a one-year, $1.1MM contract, although he’s spent much of the season at Triple-A Sacramento. In parts of six seasons with the Giants, Ishikawa is a .264/.327/.396 hitter in 752 plate appearances.

The 28-year-old Lollis will be making his big league debut when he comes to the Giants. A 37th-round pick of the team back in 2009, he’s batting a hefty .358/.431/.500 across three minor league levels this season.


Minor MLB Transactions: 7-3-15

Today’s roundup of minor transactions from around the league…

  • Outfielder Xavier Avery exercised a July 1 opt out clause and was granted his release by the Tigers, reports James Schmehl of MLive.com (via Twitter). Formerly one of the Orioles’ top prospects, the fleet-footed Avery has enjoyed a very nice season with Triple-A Toledo to this point, hitting .305/.371/.393, although his typically strong success rate is stolen bases is down this year. The 25-year-old has swiped 14 bases but been caught 10 times. A former second-round pick, Avery has eclipsed the 30-steal mark four times throughout his minor league career.
  • Also via Schmehl, it seems that Avery’s spot will be filled by another once-promising outfield prospect, as he reports that Trayvon Robinson has signed a minor league pact with Detroit and is headed to Toledo. Once a well-regarded prospect in the Dodgers’ system, Robinson’s career has stalled a bit in recent seasons. He’s spent the early portion of the season with the Diamondbacks’ Triple-A affiliate, batting .276/.357/.448. He’s a career .258/.332/.423 hitter in parts of five Triple-A seasons. Robinson reached the Majors in 2011-12 with the Mariners but posted a .602 OPS in 319 total plate appearances.
  • First baseman Daric Barton has been released from the Blue Jays‘ Triple-A affiliate, tweets Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith. Barton, a longtime member of the Athletics, batted just .196/.282/.299 this season at Triple-A Buffalo. Still 29 years of age, Barton served as Oakland’s everyday first baseman in the 2010 season and led the American League with 110 walks that year. He’s slashed .216/.323/.284 in 600 big league plate appearances since that time, however.
  • The Blue Jays announced yesterday that the recently designated Steven Tolleson has cleared outright waivers and been outrighted to Buffalo. The 31-year-old utility man was designated on July 1 after his rehab assignment ended in the minors and Toronto had to make a call on his roster status. He’s been outrighted in the past and will therefore have the option to refuse the assignment in favor of free agency.