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- Cubs Looking For Starting Pitching, Lefty Outfield Bats
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- Braves Still Shopping Chris Johnson
- Mets’ Alderson Expresses Support For Terry Collins
- Miguel Cabrera To Miss Six Weeks
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- Jocketty: Reds “Prepared To Go Either Way” At Deadline
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Vic Black Rumors
Movement towards a possible return of Major League Baseball to Montreal continues to build, though important questions like “how?” and “when?” remain to be answered in the future. Montreal mayor Denis Coderre met yesterday with commissioner Rob Manfred, as Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports. Coderre said he hoped to convey the city’s “political will” to land a franchise, calling the meeting “the beginning” of that process. “I think what we need to do is establish a roadmap,” said Coderre. “Our enthusiasm for this project is clear. We love the sport. We’re serious about it. This isn’t just a gesture. … I don’t know about a timeframe, but this is a town for baseball, and we’re keeping the flame.”
- The Mets have weathered the loss of several key relievers fairly well: the unit has combined for the fifth-best pen ERA in baseball. As Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes, New York can look ahead to the addition of Jenrry Mejia, Vic Black, Bobby Parnell, and Jerry Blevins, to say nothing of young starters like Rafael Montero and Steven Matz. While there’s plenty of uncertainty in that group, there is some upside, and Sherman says that could free the team to put its resources toward the acquisition of a hitter over the summer.
- With the mid-season trade market looming, the landscape has changed for the Phillies and ace Cole Hamels, Jake Kaplan of the Philadelphia Inquirer observes. He looks at the Cardinals, Dodgers, and Red Sox as possible landing spots, though certainly those clubs could be in on other arms and would very likely face other competition on Hamels if they choose to pursue him. Things are shaping up rather well for Philadelphia, on the whole: the 31-year-old leads the league with 74 1/3 innings and has produced a 2.91 ERA with 9.2 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9.
- The Nationals have placed Stephen Strasburg on the 15-day DL as he continues to deal with neck and back issues, Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com reports (links to Twitter). The team is “perplexed” as to the cause of the problems, per Kolko, particularly since the most recent stiffness has arisen on the opposite side of his body than that which occurred just weeks ago. While the hope is that Strasburg will only miss the minimum fifteen days, it seems time to attempt to identify the root cause.
- Top Braves prospect Jose Peraza, a second baseman by trade, is spending increasing time at center field for the club’s Triple-A affiliate, as MLB.com’s Mark Bowman writes. For now, the intent seems only to increase his defensive flexibility. The club has been impressed with young second baseman Jace Peterson, and Bowman explains that the team does not see either as an option at third. Of course, Cameron Maybin has shown new life in Atlanta out in center — a subject that David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution discussed with me on last week’s MLBTR podcast — but this move opens new possibilities for Atlanta.
The Nationals activated Denard Span from the disabled list and inserted him into the starting lineup for this afternoon’s game against the Phillies, reports MLB.com’s Bill Ladson. To make room for Span on the roster, Michael Taylor was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse despite slashing .271/.314/.500 in 51 plate appearances this season. “He is one of our future players and needs to play every day,” Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said in explaining the reasoning behind Taylor’s demotion. “We got to see Michael Taylor become a player for us right in front of our eyes. I thought he handled himself brilliantly with some youthful mistakes. The ability level is there. The usefulness of putting it to a Major League setting was there and he took to it very well.”
Elsewhere in the NL East:
- The Phillies have told teams over the past year Chase Utley will not waive his no-trade clause, but ESPN’s Buster Olney writes in an Insider piece (subscription required) the second baseman, facing a long rebuild in Philadelphia, may have a change of heart like former teammate Jimmy Rollins. Olney also notes rival evaluators believe Cole Hamels wants out of Philadelphia, as well.
- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez isn’t too concerned with Jim Johnson being roughed up in his last two appearances (four runs, six hits, and two home runs allowed) and will keep the right-hander in the role of the 8th inning setup reliever, according to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We’ll see how it plays out,” said Gonzalez. “But from what I saw in Spring Training, and other than these two outings here, I think he’s been fine. We always have a tendency to say what’s the matter with a guy as soon as he gives up something.“
- Mets manager Terry Collins told reporters, including MLB.com’s Joe Trezza, closer Jeurys Familia will remain in that role when Bobby Parnell and Vic Black join the club after completing their rehab assignments. “Certainly, right now Jeurys Familia has pitched well enough,” Collins said. “He is that guy until those other guys show us they’re ready.” Collins adds, in a perfect world, Parnell would be the closer with Black and Familia slotted for the 8th and 7th innings, respectively. Black’s return may be delayed as Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com tweets the right-hander will undergo a MRI of his shoulder/neck area.
Reds GM Walt Jocketty said today that the club has “had some discussions” on an extension with representatives of ace Johnny Cueto in an interview on MLB Network Radio (audio link). Noting that pitching salaries continue to rise, Jocketty said that he could not give “any odds” on how likely a new deal was, though he noted that the team is “still trying” and indicated that both sides hope to continue their relationship. Cueto, of course, is set to hit the free agent market after the season.
Here’s more from the National League:
- Giants skipper Bruce Bochy says he is “a little concerned” about the injury status of center fielder Angel Pagan, Alex Pavlovic of CSNBayArea.com tweets. “I think we need to be [concerned],” said Bochy. “I think we need to be. he had back surgery, now he’s hit a bump in the road.” With Hunter Pence already set to miss a good bit of time to start the year, any time missed from Pagan would stretch the club’s outfield depth. That could increase the urgency to make an addition, though a recent report suggests that the team has not been actively searching for another outfielder.
- Mets manager Terry Collins had some less-than-promising things to say about the state of the club’s bullpen, as Marc Carig of Newsday reports (links to Twitter). The most prominent issue, of course, is the question of matching up against opposing lefties now that Josh Edgin is out for the year. Collins also mentioned concern with Vic Black‘s ability to return from shoulder issues in time for Opening Day, though Black himself evidently does not see it as quite so large an issue. “We’ve been … telling everybody that we didn’t have to rebuild our bullpen,” said Collins. “Right now, we’re in the process of rebuilding it.” In spite of those comments, it would be surprising to see the club do anything to add a new arm other than searching for additional left-handed help.
- Top Cubs prospect Kris Bryant has handled the simmering controversy over his promotion timeline quite professionally, by all appearances. While praising the organization, and his agent, Bryant does say that he feels he’s received “mixed messages,” as Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. “I’m hearing from my teammates that they want me up and I’m doing well and everybody’s telling me I’m progressing well,” said Bryant. He continued to note that he “took … to heart” the team’s message to players that roster spots could be earned in the spring.
- Of course, the underlying service time rules at play are the larger issue in the Bryant matter, and it is rather difficult to dream up alternative systems that would really change the analysis for teams in a mutually agreeable way. ESPN.com’s Keith Law weighs in (subscription required) to offer a unique solution: when a team puts a true rookie on the active roster to start the year, and the player then reaches exactly six years of service, that player gets a special one-year form of free agency in which any team may make a single-season offer but his current team gets the choice to match the high bid. Law posits that this approach would encourage teams to go ahead and add their best prospects to the roster, comforted by the knowledge that they can still maximize team control — even if it ultimately comes at a (potentially much) higher cost in the final season. That proposal would obviously create quite an interesting new wrinkle in the market.
As you can tell from MLBTR's Reverse Standings page, the Mets currently don't have a protected first round pick in the 2014 amateur draft. Their 73-85 record puts them in line for the 12th overall pick, and only the teams with the 10 worst records (plus the Blue Jays' 11th overall pick, stemming from 2013 compensation) will have their picks protected. Though an unprotected first-rounder could hurt the Mets' plans to delve into the free agent market this winter, GM Sandy Alderson tells Mike Puma of the New York Post that he's just happy to see his team win. “I don’t view the draft-pick situation as relevant to what we’re doing here,” Alderson said. “We’re trying to win every game we play. We’re trying to build the credibility of the franchise and that goes beyond where we’re picking in the draft.”
Here's the latest from Queens…
- The Mets are "likely" to shop both Ike Davis and Lucas Duda this winter and possibly deal the one that commands the higher trade package, ESPN New York's Adam Rubin reports. Rubin also polls nine scouts about which of the two first baseman they would prefer to have, with seven picking Duda.
- David Wright expects the Mets to be a much better team in 2014, telling reporters (including MLB.com's Anthony DiComo) that he expects improvement from players currently on the club's roster and also believes some external acquisitions are on the way. "Everybody’s been saying that this is the year with the money coming off the books, with some of the free agents that are out there, with some of the possible trade candidates given some of the younger pitchers and players we’ve developed. It seems like it’s all kind of culminating into this offseason to try to go out there and make this team better," Wright said.
- The recently-acquired Vic Black is likely the Mets' backup plan at closer if Bobby Parnell isn't ready to start the 2014 season, manager Terry Collins told reporters (including DiComo). Parnell underwent neck surgery earlier this month and is expected to be ready for Spring Training. Black, a rookie right-hander, has a 3.27 ERA and 11 strikeouts in 11 relief innings since joining the Mets. You can keep up on the Mets' closing situation and more by following @CloserNews, MLBTR's sister Twitter feed for save-related news.
- Mike Baxter's possible Super Two status could make him a non-tender candidate this winter, DiComo writes. He could be expendable once the Mets add an outfielder or two, though Baxter could be helped by a relative lack of left-handed bats amongst the current Mets outfield options. Baxter has only a .190/.303/.256 line over 142 PA this season.
Reliever Vic Black did not suspect he would be headed to the Mets as the player to be named in the Marlon Byrd deal with the Pirates, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com writes. "It never crossed my mind," Black says. Black notes that his goal is to close in the big leagues, saying that he has the aggressive mentality necessary to be a closer. He also has closer-type stuff, with a plus fastball and a slider. Black had a 2.51 ERA with 12.2 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 Triple-A Indianapolis this season. Here are more notes from around the Majors.
- The loss of Black and, potentially, Duke Welker (who may or may not be headed to the Twins as the PTBNL in the Justin Morneau trade) will add more uncertainty to a Pirates' Triple-A Indianapolis roster that has already had more than its share of flux. Brian Peloza of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review writes that the Pirates have promoted 18 different players from Indianapolis this season, more than other NL playoff contenders. Those players include Black, Welker, Alex Presley (the other player included in the Morneau deal), and top prospect Gerrit Cole.
- The Phillies believe that Rob Rasmussen, the pitcher they received when they traded Michael Young to the Dodgers, could end up as a reliever, Bob Brookover of the Inquirer reports. "He's starting now, but he could be a guy later on who could pitch in the bullpen," GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says. "Lefthanders are always valuable. He's viewed as a really strong makeup kid with a big arm." Rasmussen, 24, had a 2.55 ERA with 8.4 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 for Double-A Chattanooga in 2013, although he struggled in 54 1/3 innings for Triple-A Albuquerque.
- Connecticut native and Massachusetts resident John McDonald is happy that a trade to the Red Sox brought him home, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. "[G]rowing up in New England, and getting to play in Fenway, and to put this uniform on today, it’s pretty awesome," McDonald says. The Red Sox will be the fourth team the infielder has played for this season, having also suited up for the Pirates, Indians and Phillies.
- Angels owner Arte Moreno needs to share his plan to rebuild the team with superstar outfielder Mike Trout, argues the Los Angeles Times' Bill Shaikin. Trout will be close to free agency by the time it will become possible for the Angels to return to contention, at least on a regular basis, Shaikin says.
- The Rockies need to acquire a veteran starter in the offseason, and they also need bullpen help and a right-handed power bat, Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post writes. Nonetheless, Renck suggests that the improvements in the Rockies' rotation this year (their 2013 starters have a 4.37 ERA, compared to a 5.81 ERA in 2012) suggest that the team is heading in the right direction.
The Mets officially announced today that right-hander Vic Black is headed to New York as the player to be named later in Tuesday's Marlon Byrd/John Buck trade. With the addition of Black and second baseman Dilson Herrera, the Mets will receive two players who were 11th (Herrera) and 17th (Black) among Pirates prospects at the time of the trade, as ranked by MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo. Here's more on Black and his new team…
- Black technically has 72 hours to report to the team, so the Mets will stall his arrival so that he can immediately join the Major League roster come Sept. 1, according to Adam Rubin of ESPN New York (on Twitter).
- Much has been made of manager Terry Collins' job security, but Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports that pitching coach Dan Warthen is also highly likely to return for the 2014 season. One team official told Martino: “Dan does a great job. If our pitchers don’t succeed, it is because they don’t execute a pitch. It is never because Dan Warthen failed to prepare them. He works hard at what he does.”
- David Wright expects the Mets to make significant moves to improve the team this offseason, even in the wake of Matt Harvey's injury, the third baseman told Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post: “With the money we have coming off the books this year, I expect us to go out there and make this team better whether it’s through free agency, whether it’s through trades,” said Wright. He added that he still believes in GM Sandy Alderson's vision even if Harvey isn't able to pitch in 2014.
WEDNESDAY, 5:34pm: Black is in fact the PTBNL in the deal, Rosenthal tweets.
WEDNESDAY, 5:09pm: Triple-A reliever Vic Black is a strong possibility to be the PTBNL heading from the Pirates to the Mets, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). Black is currently on waivers, but if he is the PTBNL, the Pirates can just pull him back and send him to the Mets at the end of the season rather than right away (Twitter links). In 46 and 2/3 Triple-A innings this season, Black owns a 2.51 ERA with 63 Ks and 21 BBs.
Baseball America rated Black as the Bucs' 16th best prospect heading into this season. Black, who was drafted 49th overall by the Pirates in 2009, began his pro career as a starter but was plagued by control issues and converted to a reliever in 2011. BA writes that if he can get his walks under control, he has the stuff close in the majors.
8:33am: The Mets also sent the Pirates $250K in the trade, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). That would mean the Pirates are paying just under $1MM — roughly $980K — for Byrd and Buck over the remainder of the season.
TUESDAY: The Pirates are likely headed for their first playoff berth since 1992, and they made sure to bolster their roster accordingly by acquiring Marlon Byrd and John Buck from the Mets for minor league second baseman Dilson Herrera and a player to be named later. Both teams have announced the trade.
Earlier today, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reported that in the wake of Matt Harvey's injury, the Mets were exploring trade options and had placed five players on waivers, including Byrd, Buck and Pedro Feliciano. Byrd (pictured on the right) was claimed by an unnamed NL team shortly thereafter, which clearly was the Pirates. It's unclear whether Buck cleared waivers or was also claimed by the Pirates following a season-ending injury to backup catcher Michael McKenry.
Byrd, who turns 36 on Friday, is having a surprising career year despite his age. In 464 plate appearances, he's batting .285/.330/.518. His 21 homers and 136 OPS+ are both career-bests. Byrd is no longer a regular center fielder (just two games there in 2013), but his defense in right field grades out to a solid +6.6 UZR/150, and The Fielding Bible pegs him at nine runs saved. Pirates right fielders have batted just .245/.307/.368 this season, and their right field defense ranks 24th in baseball, according to UZR, so Byrd's bat and solid glove will be welcome additions in the Steel City.
Byrd is also owed just $130K for the remainder of the season before he hits free agency, so he's an affordable upgrade for the Pirates, financially speaking. Given that salary, it's a surprise to see that the Reds didn't place a claim to block the Pirates from acquiring him. Cincinnati is just 3.5 games out of first in the NL Central while the Pirates are a half-game back of the Cardinals. All three NL Central teams would be in the playoffs if the season ended today, but the Reds and Pirates would face each other in the one-game Wild Card playoff.
Buck, 33, has cooled off considerably following a meteoric start that saw him club 10 homers in his first 25 games (23 starts). Since May 1, he's hitting just .206/.290/.302 with six homers, and he's owed $1.1MM. However, with McKenry out for the season following surgery to repair a torn meniscus, his pop and veteran leadership should be welcome additions for Pittsburgh. Buck has also caught a strong 30 percent of potential base-stealers.
Herrera, 19, is having a strong season at Class-A West Virgina. The Colombian infielder is hitting .265/.330/.421 with 11 homers and 11 stolen bases in 479 plate appearances. Herrera ranked as the No. 20 prospect in the Pirates system prior to the season, according to Baseball America, and his solid play in 2013 has him currently ranked 11th among Pirates prospects by MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo.
In their scouting report, BA noted that Herrera has plus speed and surprising power for someone of his size (he's listed as 5'10" and 150 pounds) with the ability to hit the ball to all fields. BA feels that his lack of arm strength will limit him to second base, and Mayo agrees. Mayo adds that Herrera had no problem adjusting to the game after coming to the United States, and he projects an above-average hitter and well-above average runner. Mayo also ranked Herrera as the ninth-best second base prospect in all of minor league baseball.
ESPN's Adam Rubin was the first to report that Byrd and Buck were headed to Pittsburgh (on Twitter), and MLB.com's Anthony DiComo was the first to break that the Pirates were giving up Herrera and a PTBNL (also on Twitter).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.