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The Reds announced that they’ve claimed right-hander Jake Buchanan off waivers from the Cubs and designated minor league outfielder Peter O’Brien for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster. Buchanan, it seems, will be added to the Major League roster, as Cincinnati also announced that left-hander Amir Garrett has been placed on the 10-day disabled list due to inflammation in his right hip.
The 27-year-old Buchanan has seen time in the Majors each year from 2014-16, tossing a combined 50 1/3 innings of 3.75 ERA ball for the Astros and the Cubs. In that time, he’s averaged just 5.2 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9 with a tepid 88.7 mph average on his sinker, though he’s also generated grounders at an excellent 58.5 percent clip.
The Astros shifted Buchanan away from the rotation in 2015, but the Cubs have plugged him back into a starting role in the past two seasons. This year, he’s made eight starts (41 2/3 innings) for Triple-A Iowa and posted a 4.75 ERA with 6.3 K/9, 4.1 BB/9 and a 48.9 percent ground-ball rate.
O’Brien, meanwhile has now been designated for assignment by his third organization of the past six months. The new-look Diamondbacks front office cut him loose back in December and traded him to the Royals in exchange for minor league righty Sam Lewis. However, O’Brien’s strong Spring Training was followed by a woeful .162/.235/.276 batting line in his first 27 games with Kansas City’s Triple-A affiliate, prompting a second DFA and a waiver claim from the Reds. Through five games with Cincinnati’s Triple-A affiliate, O’Brien hit .200/.333/.450.
The 26-year-old O’Brien has long intrigued fans with his excellent power numbers in Triple-A, but Major League teams appear to be persistently wary of his lack of defensive value and penchant for racking up strikeouts at an alarming rate. Originally a catcher in the Yankees’ organization, the D-backs moved O’Brien to the outfield due to defensive deficiencies behind the plate. His glovework there and at first base both remain a work in progress. He’s made some level of progress in terms of plate discipline this year, as his 26.6 percent strikeout rate is down from last year’s mark of 33.8 percent in Triple-A Reno. Still, a near-27 percent clip is rather lofty for a 26-year-old in Triple-A with questionable defensive value.
As for Garrett, the 25-year-old rookie southpaw has been torched for a 13 runs on a dozen hits and five walks with seven strikeouts in nine innings since his most recent recall from Triple-A. Of those 12 hits against him, six have cleared the fence for home runs. That’s a far cry from the form Garrett showed early in the year, logging five quality starts in his first six appearances and pitching to a 4.25 ERA.
The Twins are leaning toward passing on high school right-hander/shortstop Hunter Greene with the top overall pick in the upcoming MLB draft, writes Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. Greene has drawn quite a bit of fanfare over the past calendar year, due largely to his ability to reach triple digits with his fastball. However, he’d be the first high school right-hander ever selected with the draft’s top pick, and there’s a clear level of risk when selecting any prep arm near the top of the draft. Rather, the Twins are leaning toward Vanderbilt right-hander Kyle Wright, Heyman hears, with Louisville left-hander/first baseman Brendan McKay and prep shortstop Royce Lewis also under consideration. Baseball America’s John Manuel had the Twins selecting Wright in last week’s mock draft, while MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo had Greene tabbed as the Twins’ selection in his own mock draft from that same day.
A few more notes from the division…
- Despite a perhaps surprisingly solid start to the year from the White Sox, general manager Rick Hahn is maintaining a long-term outlook as the summer trade season approaches, writes MLB.com’s Barry M. Bloom. “We remain very open-minded about whatever opportunities present themselves to make us better for the long run,” said Hahn. “Our focus is on something that is more sustainable than this one season. We’re in the same mode we were in this past offseason, looking for some long-term pieces to put us in position to contend on an annual basis.” David Robertson, Todd Frazier and Jose Quintana are among the top names the Sox could make available, Bloom observes, though the latter two from that trio haven’t exactly gotten off to strong starts in 2017.
- The Royals announced yesterday that right-hander Nate Karns has been placed on the 10-day disabled list due to an “extensor strain” (per the club’s transactions page at MLB.com). For the time being, his spot in the rotation will go to rookie Miguel Almonte, who was slated to start today’s series finale at Yankee Stadium prior to a rainout, per MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan. There’s been no timetable provided by the Royals for Karns’ absence, though his injury comes at an especially inopportune time; the right-hander had been excellent across his past four starts, pitching to a 2.01 ERA with an otherworldly 32-to-4 K/BB ratio through 22 1/3 innings. It’s not yet clear if today’s postponement will deprive Almonte of the opportunity to make a start, though Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star tweets that the starts in this weekend’s series will go to Ian Kennedy, Jason Vargas and Danny Duffy.
- Anthony Gose, who has converted from playing center field to pitching, made his pro debut on the mound for Class-A Lakeland yesterday, writes Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus tells Fenech that Gose’s fastball sat at 97 mph, and the left-hander also touched 98 mph twice and 99 mph three times. Gose was a two-way prospect in the draft back in 2008, so pitching isn’t exactly new to him, though he obviously hasn’t focused on it in his nearly nine seasons of professional ball. Ausmus noted that due to Gose’s age, he may not be progressed through the minors like a typical (i.e. younger) prospect would be. The implication there, seemingly, is that Gose may not need to stop at every level before the club decides to take a look at him in the Majors. That, however, could be a long shot to happen in 2017. GM Al Avila appeared on the Jamie and Stoney Show on 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit this week and said that he wouldn’t put a firm “no” on Gose pitching in the Majors this season, though he also didn’t characterize that outcome as likely (via Will Burchfield of CBS Detroit).
Nationals outfielder Chris Heisey was placed on the disabled list with what the team termed a “right biceps rupture,” per a club announcement. That’s an ominous-sounding injury for the 32-year-old Heisey, and he will indeed undergo an MRI today to learn if the injury requires surgery, as MASNsports.com’s Byron Kerr writes. As Heisey explains the injury, he’s felt on-and-off discomfort in his shoulder and biceps all season but felt an increase in discomfort in a pinch-hitting appearance on Tuesday. “I came in [Wednesday], got some treatment and tried to give it a go. I thought it would be fine,” says Heisey. “I took a swing in batting practice and actually tore my bicep tendon.” Heisey does expect to be back with the team at some point, stating that he doesn’t believe the injury is season-ending in nature. Through 50 plate appearances, Heisey is hitting just .128/.180/.213, though certainly his ongoing arm troubles may have impacted that lackluster batting line. The veteran did slash .216/.290/.446 and club nine homers in just 155 PAs a season ago. In Heisey’s place, fellow outfielder Brian Goodwin has been recalled from Triple-A.
More from the NL East…
- The Mets have told manager Terry Collins to stop discussing injury timelines with the media, reports John Harper of the New York Daily News. Specifically, a source tells Harper that Collins was instructed not to discuss whether Yoenis Cespedes would require a minor league rehab assignment — an order that left Collins “furious.” As Harper notes, when asked yesterday about the timeline for some of his returning players, Collins informed the media: “I’m not at liberty to discuss the injury situation.” It’s been an injury-plagued season for the Mets, although as Harper points out, Collins was not the one behind the decisions to allow Noah Syndergaard to refuse an MRI or to keep Cespedes off the disabled list with his initial hamstring injury (only to land on the DL for a presumably lengthier stay upon returning to the lineup after just a few days off).
- Ryan Lawrence of PhillyVoice.com argues that it’s time for the Phillies to bring Roman Quinn back to the Majors and see if he can produce in a semi-regular role. Other well-regarded prospects in the organization are currently blocked by younger players (e.g. second baseman Scott Kingery and first baseman Rhys Hoskins), but Lawrence opines that reducing the playing time of Michael Saunders and even giving the struggling Odubel Herrera a day off each week would allow the Phils to get Quinn into the lineup a four times per week or so in an effort to invigorate an unproductive lineup. The 24-year-old Quinn hasn’t exactly set Triple-A on fire (.245/.346/.375), but he’s heated up quite nicely after a slow start to his season. And with the Phillies having lost 20 of their past 24 games (including five straight and nine of their last 10), the team is clearly in need of a shakeup. The return of Howie Kendrick will only further muddle the outfield mix, however, and the Phils announced last night that he’s embarking on a rehab assignment.
- Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich is confident that he can avoid the disabled list after suffering what now looks to be a minor hip flexor injury, writes MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. Perhaps of greater consequence in the long term, Frisaro adds that there’s yet to be any discussion of Tommy John surgery for Marlins southpaw Wei-Yin Chen. Dr. Neal ElAttrache examined Chen’s left elbow recently and recommended rest as the best option for the ailing lefty. “Everybody hears ’tear’ and fears the worse, but a sprain is technically a tear,” said Marlins president of baseball ops Mike Hill. “Like, with anything, if there is an injury, you try to maintain it and give it the rest that it needs to be effective.”
The Braves have recalled right-hander Matt Wisler from Triple-A Gwinnett and designated fellow righty Josh Collmenter for assignment in order to clear a spot on the active roster, according to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution (Twitter link).
The 31-year-old Collmenter turned in a solid April for the Braves but has been shelled in the month of May, allowing runs in six of his seven appearances this month. That culminated in a seven-run shellacking at the hands of the Pirates last night — an outing that lasted just two-thirds of an inning and included three Pittsburgh home runs.
Collmenter proved to be a useful pickup for Atlanta late in the 2016 campaign, tossing 19 innings and allowing just five earned runs on 15 hits and five walks with 16 strikeouts. That performance proved to be enough for the Braves to retain the former D-backs Opening Day starter via arbitration this winter, as Collmenter agreed to a $1.2MM salary for the 2017 season. Because Collmenter has more than five years of big league service time, he’ll earn the entirety of that sum even if he elects free agency upon being outrighted (or if he is released).
In parts of seven Major League seasons (695 1/3 innings), Collmenter has a 3.64 ERA with 6.4 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 and a 36 percent ground-ball rate. He’s worked as both a starter and a reliever and has actually never finished a season in the big leagues with an ERA north of 3.79. However, he’s also never been a hard-thrower, and his velocity in 2016-17 has hovered in the 84-85 mph range, which doesn’t lend much optimism moving forward.
The Padres recently reaffirmed to clubs that they’re “open for business,” and lefty reliever Brad Hand is the “primary” piece that they have on the table at present, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney (Twitter link).
San Diego’s willingness to sell off pieces isn’t exactly a new development, though the fact that the Padres are marketing Hand (or are at least willing to part with him) is of note. It does not, however, seem that there have been any serious trade discussions regarding Hand just yet; Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union Tribune tweets that the Friars have had some “very preliminary” on the lefty. Lin adds in a full column that Hand has “emerged as a coveted trade piece.”
It’s early in the year to see a trade for such a notable commodity take place, though the Padres have been a definitive seller for quite some time now, so perhaps they’d be more willing than most to move a quality reliever. The 27-year-old Hand may not be a household name, but he’s emerged as a dominant relief arm since the Padres plucked him off waivers from the Marlins in early April last year.
Since joining the Padres, Hand has turned in 115 1/3 innings of 2.65 ERA ball with a 146-to-46 K/BB ratio. He’s held left-handed opponents to a comical .123/.234/.221 batting line in that time but also shut down right-handed batters to the tune of a .219/.295/.350 triple slash.
That level of excellence figures to appeal to just about any club in need of bullpen help, but the most appealing aspect in a potential Hand trade could be the amount of club control remaining on his contract. The former second-round pick still has two years of control beyond the 2017 season remaining, and he’s earning a modest $1.375MM in 2017. That makes him financially affordable for virtually any team in the Majors, although the low salary and considerable amount of control remaining should also make the Padres’ asking price rather substantial.
It’s also worth noting that struggles from Hand’s teammate, Brandon Maurer, have opened up the ninth-inning picture in San Diego somewhat. Maurer worked the eighth inning tonight in a one-run game (and fired a perfect frame against the Mets), while Hand was tabbed for the save by manager Andy Green. The outing wasn’t exactly pretty — Hand loaded the bases on a pair of singles and a walk before recording an out — but Hand did manage to fire a scoreless inning to notch his third career save. Green, however, said after the game that Hand is not necessarily his new closer (Twitter link via MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell). Rather, the Padres will take save opportunities on a case-by-case basis and mix in both Maurer and Hand.
MLBTR’s Jeff Todd listed Hand among the game’s likeliest summer trade candidates last week when previewing some names to keep an eye on as the July 31 non-waiver deadline draws nearer. Hand figures to be just one of many assets that the Padres market to rival clubs this summer as general manager A.J. Preller continues his effort to stock his farm system and build a sustainable contender. Trevor Cahill, assuming he returns to health, would be another ideal trade candidate for the Padres. Names like Yangervis Solarte, Clayton Richard and perhaps Maurer (if he regains his form) also figure to frequent the rumor circuit this summer.
9:30pm: Ellsbury has been placed on the 7-day DL, tweets MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. The team has yet to announce a corresponding roster move, however.
7:30pm: The Yankees announced that center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury was removed from tonight’s game with a concussion and a neck sprain. Ellsbury made a sensational catch of a deep fly-ball to center field but crashed into wall upon making the grab and was down on the field for several seconds before being attended to by trainers (video link). That occurred on the first play of the game, and while Ellsbury initially remained in the contest, he was replaced by Aaron Hicks in the bottom of the second inning.
While the Yankees haven’t made an announcement of a DL trip, it seems that the diagnosis of a concussion would likely call for a trip to the 7-day disabled list. Ellsbury has played quite well thus far in 2017, hitting .281/.349/.422 with four homers and eight steals through the first 153 plate appearances of his age-33 campaign. If he is indeed sidelined, the Yanks have the outfield depth to get by, as Hicks has also been tremendous in what is shaping up to be a breakout campaign. Hicks or Brett Gardner could handle the bulk of the work in center, with the other playing left field and Aaron Judge manning right field.
In the event of a DL stint, Mason Williams seems like the most logical candidate to replace Ellsbury on the roster. The fleet-footed 25-year-old has hit poorly in Triple-A this season, but he’s already on the Yankees’ 40-man roster, whereas top prospect Clint Frazier would require a corresponding 40-man roster move. And, given the organization’s hope for Frazier in the long run, the Yankees may not want to bring Frazier up as a temporary injury replacement. Alternatively, the ability of both Hicks and Gardner to handle center field could make Rob Refsnyder a short-term option, as he’s begun to play some corner outfield in recent seasons as well.
The Giants have promoted 2015 first-round pick Chris Shaw from Double-A to Triple-A, and as Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area writes, the former first baseman will continue his work in left field following the latest promotion. Giants GM Bobby Evans spoke to reporters about Shaw’s impressive run in Double-A (.301/.390/.511, six homers, 10 doubles) and stated that Shaw was simply “ready for the next challenge.” Pavlovic notes that although Shaw is the more highly regarded prospect, fellow minor league outfielder Austin Slater is probably ahead of him in the pecking order when it comes to a potential MLB promotion. Shaw doesn’t need to be added to the 40-man roster this year in order to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft, but Slater, who is hitting .313/.376/.435 in 40 Triple-A games, does. As for Shaw’s ability to handle the outfield despite his considerable 6’4″, 235-pound frame, Evans noted that Shaw played nearly 100 games in the outfield in college and added that the team wants to see if he can get comfortable in left field. That, of course, is perhaps the Giants’ greatest position of need at the Major League level, and Shaw is blocked at first base by Brandon Belt.
More on the Giants…
- Right-hander Johnny Cueto was hit hard again in yesterday’s start, and he revealed after the game that he’s been pitching through a pair of blisters on his right hand, writes MLB.com’s Chris Haft. Cueto has one blister on his index finger and another on his middle finger, though he wouldn’t point to that issue as the source of his 2017 struggles. “I’m getting hit,” Cueto said bluntly, noting that the blisters are “not an excuse.” To this point there’s been no talk of a quick stint on the 10-day DL for Cueto to allow his fingers to heal up, though other pitchers around the league (e.g. Rich Hill, Aaron Sanchez) have required multiple absences due to blister troubles.
- Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News writes that the Giants are giving Kelby Tomlinson continued work in center field with their Triple-A affiliate as hope that he can emerge as a center field alternative on the big league roster. Presently, Gorkys Hernandez and Justin Ruggiano are the team’s only other options beyond starter Denard Span, but neither has provided much in the way of offense. Ruggiano has displayed some pop but is hitting .244/.273/.415, while Hernandez has posted a woeful .160/.248/.213 batting line through 106 plate appearances.
- Baggarly also notes that Korean star Jae-gyun Hwang is hitting fairly well in Triple-A and is likely to receive a call-up before the July 1 opt-out provision in his contract. Both Evans and manager Bruce Bochy have suggested that they hope to see what they have in Hwang eventually, per Baggarly. Hwang has hit for a respectable average and displayed some power thus far while seeing time at both infield corners and in left field. However, his 32-to-5 K/BB ratio suggests that his approach still needs some refinement. Through 168 plate appearances, he’s hitting .280/.298/.435 with three homers, 12 doubles and a pair of triples.
Click here to read the transcript from MLBTR Chat With Jason Martinez: May 24, 2017
First baseman/left fielder Chris Marrero has agreed to a deal with the Orix Buffaloes of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, tweets Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News was the first to report that Marrero, who was recently designated for assignment and outrighted by the Giants, was close to joining the Buffaloes (Twitter link).
The Giants will receive some level of cash compensation for selling Marrero’s contract to the Buffaloes, and Marrero himself will presumably be paid more than he’d have earned if he stuck with the Giants’ Triple-A affiliate, thus making it a winning scenario for all parties involved. Marrero is represented by MSM Sports.
Marrero, 28, was a first-round pick by the Nationals (15th overall) back in 2006 and made his big league debut with the Nats as a 22-year-old in 2011. However, he’s never solidified himself in the Majors and would only see action in parts of two big league seasons with the Nationals before being cut loose in 2013.
Since that time, Marrero has bounced around the minor league circuit, logging seasons with the Double-A and Triple-A affiliates for the Orioles, White Sox and Red Sox before signing a minors pact with the Giants this past winter. A Herculean Spring Training in which Marrero clubbed seven homers with a .979 OPS (plus some injuries to his competitors) led Marrero to break camp with the Giants as part of a left-field platoon with Jarrett Parker. However, Marrero hit just .132/.171/.211 across 41 plate appearances with the Giants before being designated for assignment to clear a spot for Christian Arroyo.
For all of his struggles in the Majors, Marrero has a much stronger .274/.340/.430 career batting line in parts of seven Triple-A seasons. That includes a robust .284/.344/.494 slash and a career-best 23 homers with the Red Sox’ Triple-A affiliate in 2016. If Marrero can find success overseas, he can certainly carve out a lucrative career playing in Japan. Alternatively, he could make some adjustments to his game and pique the interest of an MLB club, perhaps leading to another crack at the Majors somewhere down the line.