It’s not entirely clear why the Cubs decided to pick up Torreyes days ago, only to set him free. It could be, though, that the club wanted the added insurance while deciding what to do with Addison Russell, who was tendered earlier today. And several other teams have done the same with certain players, so it’s hardly a one-off situation. It seems clear the utilityman could end up in the Chicago organization, though perhaps only if he is willing to sign a minors deal.
The Cubs have selected the contract of right-hander Allen Webster and moved Brandon Morrow to the 60-day disabled list to open a roster spot, tweets Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. Chicago had announced yesterday that Morrow would not return in 2018.
Now 28 years of age, Webster once rated as one of the game’s top overall prospects but has never lived up to that considerable potential. The journeyman righty has spent time in the Majors with the Red Sox and Diamondbacks and has also appeared in the upper minors with the Dodgers, Rangers and Cubs. Beyond all that, he spent the 2016 season pitching for the Samsung Lions of the Korea Baseball Organization, albeit with generally unfavorable results.
Webster hasn’t been in the Majors since 2015 but has been excellent since debuting for the organization this summer, in an admittedly tiny sample of work. Through 17 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.65 ERA with an outstanding 24-to-3 K/BB ratio, one homer allowed and a ground-ball rate near 60 percent.
The Cubs have shut down Brandon Morrow for the remainder of the 2018 season, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein announced to reporters Tuesday (Twitter link via Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune). Morrow has been out since mid July due to a biceps injury.
Signed to a two-year, $21MM contract on the heels of a resurgent 2017 campaign, Morrow was nothing short of excellent for the Cubs when healthy enough to take the field. In 30 2/3 innings, he racked up 22 saves and posted a 1.47 ERA with 9.1 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 0.59 HR/9 and a career-best 51.9 percent ground-ball rate.
With Morrow out, right-hander Pedro Strop has gotten the majority of the Cubs’ save opportunities, although Strop himself has recently been hobbled by a hamstring injury and isn’t expected to return until the postseason. Right-handers Steve Cishek and Jesse Chavez have each found their way into save opportunities late in the year, and it seems likely that manager Joe Maddon will go with a matchup-based committee approach down the stretch.
Gonzales tweeted earlier in the day that right-hander Allen Webster could be a candidate to come up to the Majors if Morrow is unable to return. The top prospect-turned-journeyman hasn’t been in the Majors since 2015 but has been excellent since debuting for the organization this summer — albeit in a small sample of work. Through 17 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.65 ERA with an outstanding 24-to-3 K/BB ratio, one homer allowed and a ground-ball rate near 60 percent.
We’ll track the day’s minor moves here:
- The Cubs have added righty Allen Webster on a minors pact, according to Chris Cotillo of SB Nation (via Twitter). Now 28, Webster was once a highly regarded prospect. But he struggled to a 6.13 ERA in 120 1/3 MLB innings between 2013 and 2015. And he has been knocked around over the past two seasons in stints with Korea’s Samsung Lions and the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate. In his first crack at the game’s highest level, with the Red Sox, Webster showed a 95 mph four-seamer and 94 mph sinker. But he lost two miles per hour on both offerings over the next two seasons. And though he has shown some ability to get swings and misses, control has been a big problem for Webster, who was in the zone on just 40.3% of his pitches in the majors. Here at MLBTR, Webster is perhaps best known for being included in both the August 2012 Dodgers-Red Sox blockbuster and the rather less memorable 2014 Wade Miley swap that sent Webster from Boston to the Diamondbacks.
Here are the day’s minor moves from around the league…
- The Cardinals have signed right-hander Kendry Flores and outfielder Todd Cunningham to minor league deals with invitations to Major League Spring Training, tweets MLB.com’s Jen Langosch. Flores, 25 next week, made one appearance with the Marlins in 2016 and has totaled 15 1/3 innings in Miami over the past two seasons, logging a 4.02 ERA with 10 strikeouts against seven walks (one intentional). He has a career 3.78 ERA with 7.0 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9 in 150 innings at the Triple-A level and has made 124 minor league starts, so he can give St. Louis some rotation depth with a bit of MLB experience. Cunningham, meanwhile, spent the 2016 season with the Angels but posted just a .438 OPS in 29 MLB plate appearances. The former Braves prospect, who will turn 28 in March, hasn’t hit much in the Majors but is a .274/.349/.368 hitter in parts of four Triple-A seasons and can play all three outfield positions.
- The Rangers announced this week that they’ve signed right-hander Allen Webster to a minors deal and invited him to Spring Training. Webster, 27 in February, was a big-time prospect with the Dodgers and Red Sox but never found his footing in the Majors. He went from L.A. to Boston in the Adrian Gonzalez/Carl Crawford blockbuster and then from Boston to Arizona alongside Rubby De La Rosa in exchange for Wade Miley. Through 120 1/3 Major League innings, Webster has a 6.13 ERA and a 76-to-66 K/BB ratio. He spent last season with Samsung Lions in the Korea Baseball Organization and didn’t fare much better, posting a 5.70 ERA in 12 starts.
- Left-hander Evan Grills has agreed to a minor league deal with the Rockies, reports Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet (on Twitter). The Canadian-born southpaw has spent his entire career in the Astros organization to date and pitched at three levels in 2016 (Class-A Advanced, Double-A and Triple-A), working to a combined 3.71 ERA with 6.6 K/9 against 1.5 BB/9 in 135 2/3 innings.
SATURDAY: Webster is indeed heading abroad — the Samsung Lions of the KBO have announced that they’ve signed him along with righty reliever Collin Balester. Sung Min Kim of River Ave. Blues initially tweeted that Webster was headed to Korea. The 29-year-old Balester has a 5.47 ERA, 7.0 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 in parts of five big-league seasons with Washington, Detroit and Cincinnati. He made 15 appearances with the Reds in 2015.
FRIDAY: The Pirates have released righty Allen Webster, as the team’s transactions page reflects and as Stephen Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. Webster had been acquired for cash after the Diamondbacks designated him for assignment.
Tim Williams of PiratesProspects.com first noted the unexpected change in Webster’s status on the Bucs’ transactions page, explaining that Pittsburgh did not seem to have an immediate need for a 40-man spot. That could mean that Webster is headed for an opportunity with an Asian club, as the Bucs had previously seemed set to give a chance this spring to the out-of-options right-hander.
Webster, 25, has long been seen as a rising power arm, but he’s struggled to make good on his promise in the majors. In 120 1/3 MLB frames over the past three years, he owns a 5.81 ERA with 5.7 K/9 and 4.9 BB/9.
While he had previously put up strong numbers in the upper minors, Webster was bombed to the tune of a 8.18 ERA over 15 Triple-A starts last year. It’s worth noting, too, that Webster’s average fastball velocity (in the majors) dropped to 91.5 mph in 2015 after clocking in at over 94 in his first season of MLB action.
The Pirates are one of several teams holding a FanFest today. Reporters, including MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth, were on hand for the Q&A with GM Neal Huntington. The Pirates’ GM admitted that today’s Morton swap was mostly about payroll relief, although the club does like David Whitehead.
Here’s more Pirates notes:
- Today’s trade of Charlie Morton will likely instigate “multiple moves,” tweets Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. After the move, the Pirates payroll is around $88MM with a target of about $105MM per Biertempfel (tweet). Huntington told reporters including MLB.com’s Adam Berry (tweet), “A big part of the motivation was to free some dollars to allow us to deepen the club, to reestablish some depth.“
- Industry sources implied to Biertempfel (tweet) that pitchers like Scott Kazmir, Mike Leake, or others over $10MM per season are not on the Pirates radar. However, there is no doubt that at least one starting pitcher is on the agenda. The rotation presently consists of Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano, Jon Niese, and Jeff Locke. Presumably, the club prefers for Locke or Niese to fill a long relief role with Allen Webster serving as minor league depth. Top prospect Tyler Glasnow is not expected to reach the majors early in the season.
- Closer Mark Melancon is expected to earn $10MM in arbitration per MLBTR estimates, but the club is under no pressure to trade him, tweets Biertempfel. The team could potentially get by in the late innings with Tony Watson, Arquimedes Caminero, and new acquisition Juan Nicasio. However, a bullpen with Melancon is certainly more robust. With the market for quality closers at a premium, Pittsburgh would find it difficult to replace Melancon. Per Huntington, “if somebody steps up and gives us a return that’s significant enough to motivate us to get a little bit uncomfortable, then we get a little bit uncomfortable.” (h/t to Wilmoth for the quote).
- In commenting on Nicasio, Huntinton told Wilmoth, “We do think there are some things we can help him with. Now, is it going to be enough to make him a good starter? Time will tell. Is it going to be enough to make him a really good reliever? Time will tell.” The Pirates have developed a reputation as a haven for reclamation projects which could make Nicasio an interesting player to watch.
- Comparing recent acquisition Jon Niese to the market, Huntington said “he’ll continue to put up numbers similar to guys who are getting sixty, seventy, eighty, ninety million dollars in free agency — we have three, essentially, one-year contracts with Jon Niese.” While Niese comes with less cachet than somebody like Mike Leake, it’s true that they project to perform similarly. As such, Huntington may very well beat the market with this swap.
- Huntington says Jung-ho Kang is more likely to return in April than May, per Berry (tweet). If true, this is a lucky break for the club. They currently have some combination of Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer, Alen Hanson, and Pedro Florimon penciled in for second base, shortstop, and third base. An injury or poor performance from Hanson could leave the club scrambling for reinforcements.
- The Pirates will retrench in 2016 with an aim to contend again in 2017, writes John Perotto of the Beaver County Times. While the club will still pursue a postseason berth next year, they’ll have their eyes on developing top prospects like Josh Bell, Glasnow, and Jameson Taillon.
The Diamondbacks announced that they’ve traded right-hander Allen Webster to the Pirates in exchange for cash considerations. Webster was designated for assignment last week.
Webster, 26 in February, was once considered a consensus Top 100 prospect. The former 18th-round pick (Dodgers, 2008) has been involved in a pair of notable trades, first going to Boston from L.A. as part of the Adrian Gonzalez/Carl Crawford blockbuster and then being traded to the D-Backs last winter in the Wade Miley deal.
Webster displayed a penchant for strikeouts early in his minor league career but has struggled more recently, both at the upper levels of the minors and in the Major Leagues with Boston and Arizona. Control, in particular, has become a problem for Webster, who has averaged 4.9 walks per nine innings in parts of three big league seasons and walked more batters (20) than he struck out (17) in 31 innings with the D-Backs this year. All told, Webster has a 6.13 ERA in 120 1/3 big league innings.
When his prospect status was at its peak, Baseball America wrote that Webster showed the “best pure stuff of anyone in the Red Sox system,” praising a fastball that ranged from 93-98 mph with good sink as well as a plus changeup. BA noted, however, that while Webster’s “outrageous” stuff came with top-of-the-rotation potential, an inability to command his fastball and questions about his confidence were enough to wonder if he’d ever reach that ceiling.
Certainly, the Pirates will hope that realization is still possible, though Webster needn’t become more than a solid middle reliever for this to look like a shrewd pickup in hindsight. He’s out of minor league options, however, so he’ll need to stick with the Bucs out of camp next spring or again be exposed to waivers.
The Diamondbacks have designated righty Allen Webster for assignment, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports on Twitter. Righties Jake Barrett and Matt Koch will take up 40-man roster spots along with outfielder Gabby Guerrero, Piecoro adds on Twitter.
Webster, of course, was an important part of the deal that sent Wade Miley to the Red Sox. Unlike the other young righty acquired in that deal, Rubby De La Rosa, he hasn’t shown the ability to transition into a MLB pitcher.
The 25-year-old owns a 6.13 ERA over 120 1/3 total MLB innings, with a miserable 5.7 K/9 against 4.9 BB/9. It’s probably fair to call this past season his worst as a professional, as Webster walked more batters than he struck out in the majors and was bombed for 70 earned runs in his 77 Triple-A frames. Notably, also, his average fastball velocity at the major league level is nearly three miles per hour slower than it was with the Red Sox in 2013.
Nevertheless, there ought to be more than one club with interest in attempting to turn things around for the still-young hurler.
After winning the World Series in three out of the last five years, the Giants have become a model front office, writes Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. They’ve done a little bit of everything ranging from developing their own home grown pitching staff to acquiring and extending Hunter Pence. GM Brian Sabean has balanced sabermetric ideas with traditional scouts, and brought in one of the top managers in Bruce Bochy.
Here’s more from the NL West:
- The Padres are willing to eat a “chunk of money” to move Cameron Maybin or Carlos Quentin, a talent evaluator tells Tom Krasovic of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Per the evaluator, experiments with Quentin at first base did not meet with success. Both players are being shopped aggressively, although rivals may think one or both will be released before long.
- The Padres don’t consider themselves to be a small market club, writes Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. While it may look like the club “opened the coffers” over the offseason, it was all a part of a steady build up. The franchise now supports a $100MM payroll thanks to a lucrative TV contract, central revenue, local sponsorships, and non-baseball events at Petco Park.
- The Diamondbacks have made Aaron Hill available, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. However, the club has not talked with the Angels about the second baseman. That Arizona would like to deal Hill is no surprise. He has two-years and $24MM remaining on his contract, but he’s been ousted by a combination of Nick Ahmed and Chris Owings. The club also has utility infielder Cliff Pennington available. The Angels do appear to be an obvious fit after naming Johnny Giavotella as their starting second baseman.
- Arizona is searching for a new formula to develop ace pitching, writes Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. The club has a plethora of high upside pitching, but they still need to find that breakout talent. Piecoro examines a few of 2014’s newest studs. Corey Kluber is said to have an elite work ethic, which is obviously an important but difficult-to-measure skill. Others like Garrett Richards and Jake Arrieta always had excellent stuff but lacked consistency. Some of the pitchers that could take a step forward for the D’Backs include Archie Bradley, Robbie Ray, Rubby De La Rosa, and Allen Webster.