- The Braves haven’t yet made any move towards being deadline sellers, as ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (via Twitter) reports that Atlanta is still looking to add players. After splitting a doubleheader with the Mets yesterday, the Braves are 49-51 and five games behind division-leading New York, with the Phillies now sitting between the two teams in second place. Atlanta has three games remaining in their series with the Mets, so it isn’t a stretch to say that this series could decide the Braves’ season.
Carlos Carrasco pitched a rehab outing for Triple-A Syracuse today, with Mets manager Luis Rojas telling reporters (including The New York Post’s Mike Puma) that the veteran righty’s “stuff was great.” It now seems like Carrasco is finally ready to make his Mets debut, as a source tells Puma that Carrasco is likely to be activated from the 60-day injured list for his next outing, which would seem to line up for next weekend’s series against the Reds.
Acquired along with Francisco Lindor in perhaps the biggest trade of the offseason, Carrasco suffered a torn right hamstring during Spring Training. Initially expected to miss roughly six to eight weeks, Carrasco has now missed the majority of the season after his recovery took longer than expected. Assuming Carrasco is healthy and able to return to his usual above-average form, he’ll be able to provide immediate help to a Mets rotation that has been shorthanded by injuries.
More from the NL East…
- The Marlins have offered first-round draft pick Kahlil Watson a $4.5MM bonus, The Miami Herald’s Craig Mish reports (via Twitter). This figure would put the Marlins in excess of their overall draft pool limit, but under the five percent penalty threshold with a bit of room to spare, according to MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis (Twitter link). Any team that exceeds their draft spending pool by more than five percent would be penalized future picks, so in staying under the five percent line, the Marlins would only have to pay a 75 percent tax on the overage. Miami’s offer is well above the $3,745,500 assigned slot price for the 16th overall pick, but extra money was likely to be necessary considering that many pundits expected Watson to be selected near the top of the draft board, before he surprisingly fell to the Marlins’ pick.
- Drew Smyly left yesterday’s game after four innings due to soreness in his left knee, but testing today revealed no structural damage, The Athletic’s David O’Brien tweets. Assuming no setbacks, the Braves left-hander should be able to take the ball for his next start. Smyly didn’t pitch well over the season’s first two months but he has quietly regained his form, posting a 2.19 ERA over his last seven starts and 37 innings.
This was Inciarte’s sixth season in Atlanta, but he slashes just .215/.276/.316 in 89 plate appearances. He missed time with a strained hamstring and then, more recently, was placed on the COVID-related injured list.
Given the Braves’ current need in the outfield, it certainly speaks volumes to DFA Inciarte at this time. That said, given his $8.7MM contract for this season, there’s a pretty good chance he makes it through waivers and could remain in the organization. Atlanta holds a $9MM club option for Inciarte next season.
- Veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy was assigned outright to Triple-A Gwinnett after clearing waivers, the Braves announced. He has enough service time to reject the assignment in favor of free agency. Once one of the game’s premier catchers, the now-35-year-old Lucroy has slipped into journeyman status. He went 1-for-5 in a brief look with the Braves, who are his second big league team of the season and fifth in the past three years (not counting his Spring Training run with the White Sox). An All-Star in 2016, it’s been a swift decline for Lucroy, who has batted just .249/.317/.350 in 1286 plate appearances split among eight teams since the start of the 2017 season.
The Diamondbacks announced they’ve reinstated veteran reliever Tyler Clippard from the 60-day injured list. Additionally, Arizona claimed righty Ty Tice off waivers from the Braves. To open a spot on the 40-man roster, the D-Backs designated lefty Alex Young for assignment.
Arizona signed Clippard over the offseason. The generally durable righty went down with a capsule sprain in his throwing shoulder during Spring Training, though, and he’s missed the entire season to date. Clippard’s return should aid an Arizona bullpen that has been one of the league’s worst, although it’s obviously far too late in a lost season to make much difference in the standings.
In theory, a contending club could swing a trade for Clippard based on his strong track record. He won’t have much of an opportunity to demonstrate he’s back to peak form, though, with the trade deadline just nine days away. He’s playing out the year on a $2.25MM salary, just under $900K of which remains to be paid.
Atlanta picked up Tice in a small trade with the Blue Jays in early June. They’ll lose him a little more than six weeks later, with the reliever having made just one major league appearance in a Braves uniform. He’s thrown eight innings of four-run ball between Toronto and Atlanta this season, his first with any big league experience. Tice has a 4.20 ERA across 45 career innings at Triple-A, striking out a fine 24.0% of batters faced but walking a lofty 13.7% of opponents. The 25-year-old has a pair of minor league option years remaining beyond this season, so he can be kept in the high minors for a while so long as he sticks on the 40-man roster.
Young, who was selected 43rd overall in the 2015 draft, was one of the better pitching prospects in the Arizona system coming up through the minors. He made his major league debut in 2019, working to a decent 3.56 ERA/4.68 SIERA across 17 appearances (including 15 starts). The 27-year-old hasn’t managed to build off that fine initial showing to this point. Since the start of 2020, Young has tossed 88 innings of 5.83 ERA/5.91 FIP ball. While he’s thrown a fair amount of strikes, Young hasn’t missed many bats (19.4% strikeout rate) and has been plagued by the long ball (2.3 HR/9).
The D-Backs will have a week to trade Young or expose him to outright waivers. He still has all three option years remaining. If another club is willing to a 40-man roster spot, they could stash him in the minors as a depth option capable of working multiple innings.
The Braves announced they’ve reinstated catcher Alex Jackson from the 60-day injured list and optioned him to Triple-A Gwinnett. Space on the 40-man roster was created when Atlanta placed outfielder Ender Inciarte on the COVID-19 injured list earlier this week. A corresponding 40-man transaction will be necessary once Inciarte returns.
Jackson has picked up 50 MLB plate appearances over the last two seasons. He hasn’t played well, but the right-handed hitter has a massive .269/.337/.667 line over 104 trips to the dish with the Stripers this year. For now, Jackson will serve as high minors’ depth behind the veteran catching duo of Stephen Vogt and Kevan Smith. He had been out since early May due to a left hamstring strain.
Atlanta placed Inciarte on the IL on Monday. The team announced at the time that he’d tested negative for the virus, suggesting he’d either been a close contact of a person who’d tested positive or had been experiencing viral symptoms.
Today’s notable signings of Day Two draftees:
- The Reds have signed second-rounder Andrew Abbott to a $1.3MM deal, reports Carlos Collazo of Baseball America (Twitter link). That’s just a bit below the slot value that accompanies the 53rd overall pick. Abbott, a senior left-hander from the University of Virginia, gets good life on his low-mid 90’s fastball and missed plenty of bats in one of college baseball’s top conferences. Abbott’s 162 strikeouts this season trailed only top ten draftees Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker in Division I baseball.
- The Rangers have agreed to a $1MM deal with third-rounder Cameron Cauley, reports Jon Heyman of MLB Network (Twitter link). That’s a bit north of the $857.4K slot value associated with the 73rd selection. A high school shortstop from Texas, the right-handed hitting Cauley was ranked #84 on Baseball America’s pre-draft rankings. BA writes that the Texas Tech commit is a good athlete with advanced bat-to-ball skills but limited power projection.
- The Cardinals have signed Competitive Balance Round B selection Ryan Holgate for $875K, reports Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com (Twitter link). That’s a bit below the slot value that comes with the #70 selection. A power-hitting corner outfielder from the University of Arizona, Holgate checked in at #107 on BA’s rankings.
- The Padres inked Competitive Balance Round B selection Robert Gasser for $884.2K, reports Jim Callis of MLB.com (Twitter link). That’s full slot value for the #71 overall pick. A left-handed pitcher from the University of Houston, Gasser checked in at #63 on BA’s rankings. He attracted attention from evaluators after experiencing a velocity spike into the mid-90’s this year to accompany a solid slider.
- The Braves went well overslot to sign seventh-rounder A.J. Smith-Shawver. The righty from a Texas high school received a $997.5K bonus, reports Callis. That’s nearly $800K above slot to convince him to pass on a two-sport commitment (baseball and football) to Texas Tech. Smith-Shawver landed at #318 in BA’s rankings, drawing praise for a mid-90’s fastball and solid curveball.
The Braves have agreed to terms with first round pick Ryan Cusick on a $2.7MM signing bonus, reports Jim Callis of MLB.com (Twitter link). That’s very slightly below the $2.8313MM slot value associated with the 24th overall pick.
Each of Baseball America, Kiley McDaniel of ESPN and Keith Law of the Athletic slotted Cusick among the top 40 talents in this year’s class. Law was most bullish of that group, placing Cusick 12th and pointing to his high-90’s fastball as the driver of a potential high-end arsenal. He also flashes a quality curveball, but there are concerns about his changeup and inconsistent strike-throwing.
Cusick spent three years at Wake Forest, pitching to a 5.01 ERA across 158 innings with the Demon Deacons. The righty struck out a lofty 28.7% of opposing hitters in his college career, but he also issued free passes at an alarming 11% clip.
A few notable draft signings for Day Two selections:
- The Braves signed right-hander Spencer Schwellenbach to a $1MM bonus, reports Jim Callis of MLB.com (Twitter link). That checks in a bit below the $1.1855MM slot value associated with the 59th overall pick. A two-way star at the University of Nebraska, Schwellenbach was announced as a pitcher on draft day. He pitched exclusively in relief for the Cornhuskers this season because he was the team’s everyday shortstop, but it’s possible the Braves stretch him out as a starting pitcher in pro ball. Keith Law of the Athletic is particularly bullish on Schwellenbach, ranking him the class’ #29 prospect pre-draft and praising his delivery, mid-90s fastball, and promising secondary pitches.
- The Cardinals have signed second-rounder Joshua Baez to a $2.25MM bonus, Callis reports. That’s well above the $1.3385MM slot value that accompanies the 54th selection. A corner outfielder from a Massachusetts high school, Baez had been committed to Vanderbilt University. He’s a high-volatility prospect, with some of the best raw power in the class but questions about his hit tool given the lack of quality pitching he faced in the Northeast. Baez’s huge upside earned him spots among the top 35 prospects in the estimation of Law, Baseball America, and Eric Longenhagen and Kevin Goldstein of FanGraphs. St. Louis saved a bit of bonus pool space by going underslot with UCSB right-hander Michael McGreevy in the first round.
- The Royals came to a $1MM agreement with fourth-rounder Shane Panzini, Callis reports. That’s nearly double the $538.2K slot value that comes with the 108th selection. Kansas City’s clearly more bullish than most public evaluators on Panzini, who came in at #239 in Baseball America’s pre-draft rankings. BA noted that the right-hander can get his fastball into the mid-90s and has a clean delivery, but expressed concerns about his lack of impactful secondary pitches and advanced age for a prep draftee (he turns 20 in October). Nevertheless, the Royals were comfortable offering the New Jersey native seven figures to forego his commitment to the University of Virginia.
The Braves announced that catcher Jonathan Lucroy has been designated for assignment. The move opens up a roster spot for another veteran catcher in Stephen Vogt, who was acquired in a trade from the Diamondbacks.
Lucroy signed a minor league deal with Atlanta in May, and appeared in two games for the Braves after his contract was selected 10 days ago. In 23 total plate appearances with the Braves and Nationals this season, Lucroy has a .316/.409/.368 slash line, though it isn’t clear whether that small sample size might earn Lucroy a look with another team if the Braves do indeed part ways with the 35-year-old.
The former All-Star has appeared in eight total Major League games since the start of the 2020 season, and apart from a second-half outburst as a member of the Rockies in 2017, he hasn’t been an above-average hitter since the last of those All-Star campaigns in 2016. With catching depth always a scarcity around baseball, the odds are probably in favor of Lucroy landing elsewhere on another minor league deal, or a team could even claim him off DFA waiver or arrange a trade with Atlanta.
Lucroy is one of six different catchers who have suited up behind the plate for the Braves this season, as injuries (particularly to projected starter Travis d’Arnaud) have turned the catching position into a big weak spot for the team. D’Arnaud is expected to return at some point in August, while the combo of Vogt and Kevan Smith will hold the fort in the interim.