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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.
Today is the bicentennial of The Star-Spangled Banner. MLB.com’s Doug Miller chronicles the link between our country’s national anthem and its national pastime from the first time it was sung before a baseball game (May 15, 1862) to the great and not-so-great renditions. From the national anthem to the National League East, here are today’s notes from the division:
- Rafael Soriano is making progress after working on his mechanics, but there is no timetable to reinstall him as the Nationals‘ closer, according to James Wagner of the Washington Post. MLBTR’s Jeff Todd noted recently Soriano’s $14MM club option for 2015 will not vest and the Nationals are all but certain to decline the option making him an interesting free agent to watch.
- Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg won’t speak ill of Ryan Howard or suggest a trade would make sense, but he admits a move to first base could be beneficial for Chase Utley, writes the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Matt Gelb. “I think playing first base would eliminate a little wear and tear at that position,” Sandberg said. “Whether that’s a consideration or not has yet to be seen.” Gelb suggests a plan for 2015 where Utley is slated to play about 130 games with 100 of them at first base.
- Kyle Kendrick isn’t sure if he made his final home start in a Phillies‘ uniform last night, but it sounds like he’d like to stay put in Philadelphia, if possible. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s out of my control. But if I’m somewhere else, I’ll miss it,” Kendrick told reporters, including Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com.
- The Mets have shut down left-hander Dana Eveland for the remainder of the season because of elbow inflammation, reports MLB.com’s Tim Healey. The 30-year-old, who will become a free agent at the end of the season, has had a career year with the Mets posting a 2.63 ERA, 8.9 K/9, and 2.0 BB/9 in 30 relief outings (27 1/3 innings).
The state of next year’s free agent class will be impacted by whether or not players with vesting options in their contracts achieve the necessary playing time to trigger those conditional options. As we near the end of the season, here’s a rundown of these players and their progress toward triggering their options …
- Nick Punto, Athletics: Punto has a $2.75MM club option that will automatically vest if he spends fewer than 30 days on the disabled list, assistant GM David Forst told reporters at the time of the signing. Though Forst did add that there are other ways for Punto’s option to vest, the health route is no longer available. Punto was only activated yesterday — ten days into the September active roster expansion — after going on the DL on August 3rd. If the option doesn’t vest, the A’s have the choice of picking him up at $2.75MM or buying him out for $250K.
- Rickie Weeks, Brewers: Weeks has an $11.5MM option that won’t be vesting, as he would have needed to total 600 PA in 2014 or 1,200 PA in 2013-14 and finish the season healthy. He has just 255 PAs on the season, so he’ll fall well shy of that mark. Weeks will also fall shy of reaching 400 PAs, which would have entitled him to a $1MM buyout of his option.
- Jimmy Rollins, Phillies: Rollins’ option vested earlier this year when he reached 1,100 plate appearances over 2013-14. (He has also made 600 trips to bat in 2014, an independent basis for triggering the provision.) That clause, however, also required that he not finish the year on the disabled list, and Rollins left yesterday’s game with a hamstring injury. Word is that Rollins should be able to return, but with just three weeks left even a minor setback could well end his season. Nevertheless, Philadelphia would need to go out of its way to place him on the DL at this point, with active rosters expanded. And, in any event, the option would still vest if a mutually agreed-upon doctor deemed Rollins ready to start the 2015 season.
- Dan Haren, Dodgers: Haren needs 180 innings to trigger a $10MM player option for the 2015 season. Heading into his scheduled outing this evening, he has already notched 162 frames. Haren should be in line for at least three more starts (including tonight’s) before the end of the month, and maybe another depending upon how the club approaches the last few games of the year. Having averaged 5.79 innings per start on the year, it will be incumbent on Haren to pitch his way to the option — especially in the midst of a playoff race and backed by a well-stocked bullpen.
- Mike Adams, Phillies: Adams’ $6MM club option for 2015 would have vested with 60 innings pitched in 2014, but he’s obviously not going to get there with just 17 2/3 innings in the tank. Adams has thrown just 42 2/3 innings in his season-and-a-half with the Phils, and it seems highly unlikely that the team will pick him up at $6MM given his injury troubles. He should, however, be an attractive buy-low candidate given his general success when on the field.
- Rafael Soriano, Nationals: Soriano’s $14MM club option vests with 120 games finished over 2013-14. While that always seemed a longshot, any realistic hope was snuffed out when Soriano lost his closing gig to Drew Storen, the man he replaced when he signed on with Washington. Whether or not Soriano makes it back into the 9th inning role over the next few weeks, he now sits at 104 games finished over the last two seasons, making it all but impossible for him to trigger the vesting provision. With the Nationals all but certain to decline their club option on Soriano, he should make for an interesting free agent to watch.
- Kyuji Fujikawa, Cubs: The Cubs hoped that Fujikawa, one of the best relievers in Japanese history, would help to fortify their bullpen when they signed him to a two-year, $9.5MM contract in the 2012-13 offseason. Instead, both player and team received a hefty dose of bad luck when Fujikawa needed Tommy John surgery after just 12 innings last season. He has a vesting option based on games finished, but the 33-year-old has made it back for only 10 1/3 innings in 2014 and surely won’t be crossing that (unreported) threshold.
- Sean Burnett, Angels: Burnett’s $4.5MM club option vests if he appears in a total of 110 games between 2013-14, but like Fujikawa, he’s been plagued by injury and has no chance of that happening. Burnett has appeared in just 16 games total over the past two seasons and underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this year. The Halos will certainly be paying the $500K buyout on his club option.
- Scott Downs, White Sox: Downs had a $4MM vesting option that would have vested with 55 appearances, as MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes reported in June (via Twitter). Though he appeared to be headed in that direction earlier in the year, the White Sox cut bait with Downs and his then-6.08 ERA. He owns a 3.55 mark over 12 2/3 innings with the Royals — who signed him to a separate, minor-league deal — and has now thrown in 53 games, but the vesting clause is now a moot point.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Chicago Cubs | Chicago White Sox | Dan Haren | Jimmy Rollins | Kyuji Fujikawa | Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | Los Angeles Dodgers | Mike Adams | Milwaukee Brewers | Newsstand | Nick Punto | Oakland Athletics | Philadelphia Phillies | Rafael Soriano | Rickie Weeks | Scott Downs | Sean Burnett | Washington Nationals
Indians-turned-Nationals middle infielder Asdrubal Cabrera will finish his eighth year of MLB action at just 28 years of age, presenting a rare youthful free agent option. He can hit and play up the middle. Yet he left Cleveland as something of a disappointment, and has not generated nearly as much hype as was once expected heading into his first crack at free agency. Once expectations are moderated for reality, however, it is apparent that Cabrera remains a rather intriguing player to watch on the coming market.
Cabrera’s free agent case remains difficult to figure. Over the 2007-12 period, he slashed .279/.342/.416 while manning an up-the-middle defensive spot (mostly, shortstop). Though advanced metrics never viewed him as even an average fielder, Cabrera delivered some value on the basepaths and was at least a solid, above-average regular in the aggregate.
That account of Cabrera took something of a turn, however, more recently. Over 978 plate appearances with Cleveland since the start of 2013, Cabrera’s OPS fell beneath the .700 level, making for a below-average bat that significantly reduced his overall appeal.
Nevertheless, in need of a veteran infielder down the stretch, the Nationals made a move to acquire Cabrera at the trade deadline. Notably, the Indians agreed to pay all of Cabrera’s salary in the deal, while acquiring an interesting but little-hyped prospect in Zach Walters. On a busy deadline day, the swap looked like a relatively low-impact, gap-filling move for Washington.
Since heading to the NL East-leading Nats, however, Cabrera has looked energized. He owns a .252/.341/.443 slash in the first 133 National League plate appearances of his career, including five home runs and two stolen bases. His resulting 115 OPS+ looks much more like the marks he was putting up in his heyday. Nearly as importantly, perhaps, Cabrera has looked comfortable at second, racking up 284 errorless innings at the position.
Without question, Cabrera’s late-season run of success at the plate will have a positive impact on his free agency. He has at least suggested the possibility that he is still capable of being the hitter of old; whether he’s convinced scouts, of course, remains to be seen.
The defensive returns, on the other hand, are somewhat more ambiguous. To be sure, proving that he is capable of solidly handling the keystone is a nice feather in Cabrera’s hat. At the same time, misplays have not been the major knock on his glove. Range is the primary concern, and he’s continued (obviously, in a short sample) to receive well-below-average marks in that respect.
So, where does Cabrera fit into the middle-infield market? Things are somewhat more crowded over at shortstop, where J.J. Hardy probably sets the standard and Jed Lowrie and Stephen Drew also present possible starting-caliber options. And that assumes that Hanley Ramirez is pursued primarily as a third baseman; if enough serious bidders look at him as a shortstop, the market would look even more crowded.
But Cabrera is perhaps best positioned to benefit from a lack of options at second, given his arguably superior bat (to all but Ramirez, at least) and recent experience at the keystone. Clubs looking to add a new second bagger will find limited possibilities on the market; as things stand, Emilio Bonifacio is probably the most appealing candidate.
Cabrera also has added appeal given that he will not turn 29 until the offseason, making him the youngest shortstop-capable player available to the highest bidder. That holds significant value, particularly when viewed alongside the fact that he does not have any significant recent injury history. Cabrera will also come free and clear of draft compensation, as his mid-season trade ensures that Washington will not be able to make him a qualifying offer. Particularly given the down years at the plate from Hardy (at least in terms of power production), Lowrie (who has been better in the second half), and Drew (who has been awful since his mid-season signing), Cabrera stacks up reasonably well.
In the aggregate, though Cabrera may never take the final step forward to become a truly premium ballplayer, he has shown the ability to produce at his earlier levels and should draw fairly significant and potentially broad interest. Depending on his performance down the stretch and in the post-season, he still has some capacity to climb up free agent boards and become a sought-after asset heading out of the 2014 season.
The Brewers‘ recent struggles could lead to firings in Milwaukee, Tom Haudricourt of the Journal Sentinel writes. The Brewers fired Ned Yost after an ugly two-week stretch in the midst of a contending season in 2008. Now, after spending the majority of the season in first place, the Brewers run the risk of missing the playoffs — they would just miss the second Wild Card if the season ended today. It’s not clear if the Brewers’ skid might cause owner Mark Attanasio to want to make moves involving GM Doug Melvin or manager Ron Roenicke. Here’s more from the National League.
- Matt Thornton has come up big in the Nationals‘ bullpen since the Nats claimed him from the Yankees, Tom Schad of the Washington Times writes. Thornton has pitched 9 1/3 innings for the Nats so far, striking out eight batters, walking one and allowing no runs in his first stint as a National Leaguer. “Haven’t faced a lot of these guys, so it’s kind of all new,” Thornton says. “But at the same time, they haven’t faced me. So I’m using that to my advantage.” MLBTR readers recently ranked Thornton the fifth most impactful August addition of any team, behind Adam Dunn, Jacob Turner, Jonathan Broxton and Josh Willingham.
- Rockies manager Walt Weiss would like to see the team re-sign Michael Cuddyer, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes. “I would like to see him back here,” says Weiss. “I just think he means so much to our club, in ways that go beyond the stat sheet.” Cuddyer has suffered through an injury-plagued season and will be 36 by the time next season starts, but he’s hit very well with the Rockies, posting a .331/.380/.546 line in 142 plate appearances in 2014 that’s similar to his output over a full season last year.
- It’s unclear whether the Rockies will pick up Brett Anderson‘s $12MM option, Saunders writes. The option contains a $1.5MM buyout. Anderson has been effective this season, but injuries have limited him to just 43 1/3 innings so far, and he hasn’t topped 100 innings in a season in 2010. The Rockies need to try to figure out if Anderson’s injury troubles are likely to continue, and whether they might be able to lure a better pitcher to Coors — never easy to do — with that $12MM.
In an excellent piece at Fangraphs, August Fagerstrom looks at the Athletics‘ acquisition of Adam Dunn as the final piece of GM Billy Beane’s playoff roster. Fagerstrom notes that if the A’s play in a Wild Card game — which is very likely — they’ll likely face either Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Shields, Yordano Ventura, Max Scherzer or David Price. Five of the six are right-handed, making Dunn a formidable weapon in such a matchup. Beyond that, Fagerstrom looks at the Athletics’ bench versus a right-handed pitcher and versus a left-handed pitcher, noting that each group is composed of entirely different players (with the exception of Sam Fuld). However, each group will also feature two catchers that can hit reasonably well, an infielder that can play all four infield positions, and a pair of elite defensive outfielders. The balance of the roster is truly impressive, and Fagerstrom’s piece highlights the roster construction particularly well.
Here’s more from the AL West…
- In a lengthy piece for ESPN The Magazine, Tim Keown spoke with Beane at length about his team’s bold moves this season and the competition they’re facing in their quest for the World Series. Beane referred to division rival Mike Trout as “the best player who has ever walked on the planet” and said he doesn’t care for the narrative that the A’s are “all in” this season: “Just assume that every move we make in the front office means we’re all-in. We can’t afford a five-year plan, so every move means we’re trying to win every game we possibly can. All-in — I never liked that term. For one thing, I don’t have that many chips to throw into the middle of the table.” Keown also spoke with Jon Lester about his trade from the Red Sox to Oakland, and his piece also contains quotes from assistant GM Farhan Zaidi and Jeff Samardzija. The entire article is well worth the read not only for A’s fans, but for baseball fans in general.
- Angels infielder John McDonald tells Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com that he may end up retiring following the 2014 season. McDonald says he’s more than aware of his dwindling playing time — he’s received just 81 PA despite appearing in 81 games this season — and knows the market for 40-year-old infielders isn’t great. “I got more out of my career than I ever thought was possible,” said McDonald. “I didn’t think I’d get a day in the big leagues, let alone parts of 16 years.” For the time being, he’s trying not to even think about the offseason, however, as it’s “just too much fun” to go to the stadium every day in the midst of a pennant race.
- In a second Fangraphs piece pertaining to the AL West, Tony Blengino (former special assistant to the GM with the Mariners) looks at Dustin Ackley‘s batted ball data in an attempt to determine whether or not his second-half resurgence is legitimate. As Blengino notes, Ackley’s production has soared on pulled fly-balls, and his line-drive production has trended upward as well. The trade off has been some loss of authority on ground-balls, but as he notes, hitters will gladly make that swap. Blengino concludes that Ackley may never become a star, as his previously excellent walk rate now looks more pedestrian, but he’s capable of hitting .275-.280 with a .310-.310 OBP and a slugging percentage around .425 with solid-or-better defense in left field — an asset that seemed unlikely just a few months ago.
- Also of interest, Blengino discusses how those with the benefit of hindsight may wonder why Trout didn’t go at the top of the draft class when Ackley was selected, but most clubs felt he was too raw to select near the top of the draft despite being an obvious talent. The Mariners had Stephen Strasburg atop their board and Ackley second, and current Reds righty Mike Leake was “likely” their backup plan should anything go wrong with Ackley, whom he says was “considered a pretty obvious second selection back in 2009.”
While there have been indications that the Marlins won’t trade Giancarlo Stanton, many writers continue to speculate and discuss the possibility with league sources, and ESPN’s Buster Olney is the latest to talk Stanton with executives from around baseball (ESPN Insider required). Olney spoke to many executives about the potential NL MVP, with one telling him, “No team is going to give up the kind of prospects that is going to be required without knowing they’re going to be able to keep him.” The “kind of prospects” to which that official refers, according to Olney, is a Top 5 type of prospect that can serve as the anchor for the deal in front of many other well-regarded prospects. One executive half-joked that the Dodgers, for example, should open negotiations by simply offering all three of Corey Seager, Joc Pederson and Julio Urias, as the price will be astronomical. (Olney notes that Miami would ask for two of the three at the very least.) Olney names several teams that have the necessary prospects, including the Cubs (Kris Bryant), Cardinals (Oscar Taveras, presumably, as he doesn’t specify) and Astros (Carlos Correa, presumably) among others. And Stanton’s price tag on Stanton’s next major contract? Execs polled by Olney pegged him for a deal in the $250-300MM range, though it seems possible for that expectation to rise if he hits free agency after two more elite and healthy seasons.
Here’s more from the NL East…
- Stanton is the focus of the latest from Grantland’s Jonah Keri, who looks at the historic company with which Stanton has aligned himself early in his career. Keri’s excellent piece points out that Stanton is just the 11th player in history to have 150+ homers through his age-24 season. Additionally, when looking at players who have signed contracts for $180MM+, only two had amassed a higher WAR total than Stanton’s 20.9 (Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols). Keri and researcher Michael Bonzagni “scoured” history books to find a player with the same level of skill, youth and success that was traded at this juncture of his career, and the only comparison they could find came back in 1919 — a man by the name of George Herman Ruth.
- Rehabbing Mets starter Matt Harvey will throw a few more bullpen sessions and then be shut down until the spring, reports Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News. He will reach the point of using all his pitches and throwing in a simulated inning setting, but will not face batters until ramping back up. Needless to say, Harvey’s recovery is a critical piece of the club’s plans both in the immediate and long term.
- James Wagner of the Washington Post reports that the legal battle between the Orioles and Nationals over the latter’s television rights with the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) will drag on for at least three more months. The O’s have until Sept. 23 to file an amended petition to the New York Supreme Court, and the Nationals and MLB have until Oct. 20 to file a cross petition to dispute the other side’s claims. All parties involved will meet before a judge for a Dec. 15 hearing, Wagner adds.
Mets reliever Bobby Parnell, who is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, says he is making good progress and expects to be ready for the spring, as Mike Vorkunov of the Star-Ledger reports. Having suffered his injury early in 2014, it seems that Parnell has a good chance of returning early in the year, if not by Opening Day itself. That would create difficult but welcome decisions for New York, which has received encouraging production from some younger late-inning arms like Jenrry Mejia, Vic Black, and Jeurys Familia.
Here’s more from the NL East:
- The Mets are using the rest of this year to take a long look at outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis, tweets Mike Puma of the New York Post. The 27-year-old will be out of options next year. Though he has spent much of the year at Triple-A, Nieuwenhuis has posted a strong .259/.361/.506 slash with three home runs and four stolen bases over his 97 big league plate appearances to date.
- An underappreciated element of the Nationals‘ success is the team’s well-balanced lineup, writes Drew Fairservice of Fangraphs. The club’s current starting lineup is made up entirely of players who have produced better than league average offensively this year, and that is with Ryan Zimmerman still on the disabled list.
- Of course, that same well-balanced group of position players will also make for some tough decisions — both now and in the future — when Zimmerman returns to the mix. His torn hamstring is improving, making a mid to late-September return seem likely, according to a report from Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. When he is activated, manager Matt Williams says, Zimmerman will play multiple defensive positions as he dials in his bat. “I would imagine he’ll play all three of those, on any given day,” said Williams. That creates some interesting possibilities for the Nats down the stretch, as they will be able to match up for the platoon advantage, give rest to regulars, and find a workable strategy for the postseason. It also could provide a look ahead at some of the possible arrangements for 2015 and beyond.
- Whereas the Nats have plenty of options, the Phillies have few, writes Mike Petriello of Fangraphs. The club will shed only minimal veteran obligations after this year (Kyle Kendrick and Mike Adams), and arbitration raises will absorb much of that cash. Philadelphia’s problems remain largely the same as those I predicted and Petriello documented earlier this year: despite solid enough production from older players, the team’s overall roster (and, especially, its younger side) has not been good enough to rise out of the cellar. As Petriello goes on to argue, GM Ruben Amaro Jr.’s stated intention to turn over the club’s roster will play out against the stark backdrop that there are limited apparent routes — shopping Cole Hamels, getting something for Marlon Byrd, perhaps convincing Chase Utley to accept a trade — to swapping present value for future talent.
- With all the exciting young hitters the Cubs are adding, Chicago could be an attractive destination for free agent pitchers, and it’s possible the Cubs could add one big-name pitcher this winter (possibly Jon Lester, who knows Theo Epstein well from Boston) and then another the following year (possibly David Price or a return of Jeff Samardzija).
- The Asdrubal Cabrera trade has worked out well for both sides. The Nationals have gotten a good second baseman, and the Indians have gotten strong shortstop defense from Cabrera’s replacement Jose Ramirez, and they’ve also added Zach Walters‘ power bat.
- If the Angels decline to acquire a starting pitcher because of luxury tax concerns, that would appear to be mostly a “philosophical decision” rather than a financial one. As a first-time offender, the Angels’ actual tax penalties would be minimal, at just 17.5% of the overage. Rosenthal notes, however, that one potential problem the Angels have with some of their potential trade targets (including Bartolo Colon, A.J. Burnett and Scott Feldman) is that they’re all guaranteed salary for 2015.
- One reason the Yankees acquired lefty Josh Outman was that they didn’t want to push top 2014 draft pick Jacob Lindgren to the big leagues, particularly given Lindgren’s workload between college and the pros this season and the fact that he’s not yet on their 40-man roster. As we noted earlier today, Lindgren has dominated in the minors since signing.
Bartolo Colon is on revocable waivers, and while he could be of interest to a contending team in need of pitching such as the Dodgers or Angels, Marc Carig of Newsday hears that the Mets will not simply let Colon go to a claiming club in order to shed the remainder of his salary (Twitter links). The Mets feel that they can hang onto Colon and find a good trade for him in the offseason, when the remaining commitment will be just one year at $11MM.
Elsewhere in baseball’s Eastern divisions…
- MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo runs down the Mets‘ options with Colon and lists some potential destinations, speculating that the A’s and Pirates could be under-the-radar fits. While he ultimately deems the A’s a long shot (noting that they would only place a claim to block the Angels), he does remind that the Bucs were interested in Jon Lester prior to the July 31 deadline, and the Pirates did successfully complete a waiver trade with the Mets in 2013 (Marlon Byrd and John Buck for Dilson Herrera and Vic Black).
- Nationals trade acquisition Jose Lobaton hasn’t hit much this season, but the catcher has provided plenty of defensive value and credits one of his former teammates, James Wagner of the Washington Post writes. Lobaton says that the years he spent learning about pitch framing from Jose Molina have made perhaps the biggest impact on his game. Lobaton ranks 35th out of 91 catchers in total extra strikes added via framing, according to Baseball Prospectus. (Unsurprisingly, his former teammate Molina ranks first.)
- Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel provides a brief scouting report on new Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo. As McDaniel notes, while Castillo added a significant amount of muscle since defecting, the extra muscle hasn’t caused his 70-grade speed to diminish. The key to Castillo’s future will be his hit and power tools. While they project to be average (think .260-.270 average and 15-20 homers), they’re volatile enough that either could swing to above-average or below-average in short order.
- Despite repeated stories that the Marlins will not trade Giancarlo Stanton, his name has appeared in trade speculation, but Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald thinks the Red Sox should have their eyes on another NL East corner outfielder. Jason Heyward, one of the only core players on the Braves not to receive a long-term deal that extended the team’s control this offseason, would look very good in a Red Sox uniform, Lauber opines. Lauber suggests that the BoSox should look to trade a package of three young players to the Braves to land Heyward and extend him so that his prime years come with Boston. Heyward’s left-handed bat would help balance the lineup, and his elite defense is a good fit for Fenway Park’s tricky right field, he adds.