Atlanta Braves – MLB Trade Rumors 2019-06-20T20:45:26Z https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/feed/atom WordPress Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Braves To Start Dallas Keuchel On Friday]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=163106 2019-06-20T14:28:58Z 2019-06-20T14:26:17Z JUNE 20: Keuchel will start for the Braves on Friday, O’Brien tweets. The club has optioned righty Huascar Ynoa to Triple-A Gwinnett to clear a 25-man roster spot for Keuchel.

JUNE 17: The Braves plan for left-hander Dallas Keuchel to make his season debut Friday against the division-rival Nationals, according to manager Brian Snitker (via David O’Brien of The Athletic and Mark Bowman of MLB.com).

Keuchel has pitched two minor league tuneup games since he ended his protracted trip to free agency with a one-year, $13MM agreement on June 7. The first, in which Keuchel threw seven shutout, one-hit innings at the Single-A level, went swimmingly. Keuchel added another seven frames in a Double-A start Saturday, though he allowed 11 hits and three earned runs. However, the Braves are “encouraged” by the fact that Keuchel threw 101 pitches in that outing, Bowman writes.

Although the reigning NL East champion Braves lead their division by 2 1/2 games this year, they’ve gotten to this point with middling starting pitching. In need of a complement to superb rookie Mike Soroka, the club made a notable in-season commitment to the 31-year-old Keuchel, who often excelled in Houston over the previous half-decade and has a 2015 AL Cy Young Award on his resume.

Keuchel is now about to join a Braves rotation which, aside from Soroka, isn’t the most trustworthy group. Julio Teheran has enjoyed a major bounce-back year in terms of bottom-line results, but as always, his peripherals aren’t as encouraging as his ERA. Meantime, Max Fried has cooled off since a great start, Mike Foltynewicz has been surprisingly poor after what looked like a breakout 2018, and Kevin Gausman (now injured), Sean Newcomb, Kyle Wright, Touki Toussaint and Bryse Wilson haven’t offered solutions over a combined 22 starts.

Fortunately for Atlanta, Keuchel’s not the only reinforcement on the way. Injured center fielder Ender Inciarte – out since May 15 with a lumbar strain – has been cleared for baseball activities and could embark on a rehab assignment next week, per Bowman. However, as Bowman notes, Inciarte will not reclaim the starting job in center field when he returns to the majors.

The Braves can’t sit rookie standout left fielder Austin Riley, who will continue to line up alongside Inciarte’s center field replacement, Ronald Acuna Jr., and right fielder Nick Markakis. The defensively adept Inciarte had center on lockdown in Atlanta from 2016 until landing on the IL this year, but his injury and subpar start over the first month and a half of this season opened the door for the hot-hitting Riley.

]]>
74
Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Braves Sign Two Draft Picks]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=162794 2019-06-15T22:53:01Z 2019-06-15T22:45:30Z
  • Two teams made significant signings beyond the 10th round that will have hefty impacts on their draft bonus pools, as every post-10th round draft pick who signs for more than $125K will have the extra money counted against the pool.  The Braves signed 13th-round pick Tyler Owens to a $547.5K bonus, as per MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo, while MLB.com’s Jim Callis reports that the Cardinals have signed 14th-rounder Tyler Statler to a $300K bonus.  Both Owens and Statler are right-handed pitchers out of high school, who had respectively committed to attend Florida and Southeast Missouri State.
  • Braves second-rounder Beau Philip (No. 60) has signed a below-slot deal for $700K, Mayo tweets. He’d have earned $1,157,400 at full value. Philip barely cracked MLB.com’s Top 200 entering the draft, coming in at No. 195. The Oregon State shortstop should be able to stay at the position, write Callis and Mayo, who laud his athleticism and bat speed.
  • ]]>
    27
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Free Agent Stock Watch: Josh Donaldson]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=162546 2019-06-14T18:00:11Z 2019-06-14T00:54:27Z Third baseman Josh Donaldson was one of the majors’ elite players from 2013-17, a five-year, 3,270-plate appearance span with the Athletics and Blue Jays in which he ranked second only to Mike Trout in fWAR (34.4). Donaldson slashed .282/.377/.524 along the way and placed fifth in wRC+ (148) and sixth in home runs (164). In 2015, his best season during that stretch, Donaldson smashed 41 homers en route to American League MVP honors. Four years later, though, it’s highly questionable whether Donaldson will ever approach the MVP conversation again.

    After an injury-limited 2018 season with the Jays and Indians, with whom he combined for a solid but unspectacular .246/.352/.449 line (117 wRC+) in 52 games and 219 trips to the plate, Donaldson headed to the NL via free agency this past winter. While he only inked a one-year contract with the Braves, they gave him $23MM in hopes he’d rekindle his glory years. However, two-plus months into the season, his production hasn’t matched his expensive salary.

    The 33-year-old Donaldson turned in a 1-for-4 performance in a win over the Pirates on Thursday, contributing to a .236/.349/.419 line in 269 PA this season. While Donaldson has been a durable option for the Braves so far, his wRC+ only rates 5 percent above league average – his worst mark since his rookie year with the A’s in 2012. Having hit nine home runs, Donaldson’s on pace for 21, which would be his fewest in a full season. And Donaldson’s current ISO (.187) would also go down as his worst over a full campaign.

    One of the problems, it seems, is that Donaldson’s not hitting enough fly balls. Donaldson’s pulling the ball more than ever, but that’s not particularly beneficial if he’s not elevating it. Although Donaldson was one of the game’s most notable spokesmen of its fly ball revolution during his heyday, his FB rate in 2019 (34 percent) is 8-plus percent lower than where it was in 2017 and checks in nearly 2 percent below league average. It’s unfortunate, too, because Donaldson’s 97.7 mph exit velocity on flies and line drives ranks 10th in the majors this year, according to Statcast. Donaldson’s 93 mph exit velo on all batted balls sits an even better ninth, though there’s not a ton of value in hitting hard grounders – especially when you possess below-average speed.

    Beyond Donaldson’s batted-ball profile, his increasing strikeout rate presents more bad news. Donaldson has gone down on strikes 28.3 percent of the time this season, up from 18.4 percent during his half-decade stretch of greatness. To his credit, Donaldson’s somewhat offsetting that with a high walk rate (13.8 percent). However, he’s chasing more pitches than ever outside the strike zone, swinging and missing more than he has since his 34-PA debut in 2010, and making far less contact than he did in his star-level years.

    Left-handed pitchers, whom the righty-swinging Donaldson has pulverized throughout his career, have been especially tough on him this year. He has slashed a horrid .167/.335/.229 against southpaws, who have stifled his power (ISO heatmaps via FanGraphs: 2010-18; 2019), in part because he’s no longer offering much resistance against offspeed pitches.

    Adding everything up, Donaldson’s weighted on-base average and expected wOBA (.340/.354) indicate he’s still a quality producer at the plate. Beyond that, with three Defensive Runs Saved at the hot corner this season, Donaldson’s still capable of handling his position. But Donaldson’s not the All-Star performer he was in Oakland and Toronto, and he hasn’t done a lot in Atlanta to help his stock as he gears up for a second straight trip to free agency.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    ]]>
    59
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Braves Sign First-Rounder Braden Shewmake]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=162255 2019-06-12T03:46:38Z 2019-06-12T01:54:22Z 8:54pm: Shewmake signed for full slot value, Jim Callis of MLB.com tweets.

    7:48pm: The Braves have announced the signing of first-round draft pick Braden Shewmake. Bonus details aren’t yet known.

    Shewmake was taken with the 21st overall selection, which came with a $3.13MM bonus pool allocation. The Texas A&M infielder becomes the second of the two Atlanta picks to put pen to paper. The Braves already tied the knot with Shea Langeliers, who was taken with the compensatory pick (ninth overall) from the club’s failure to agree to terms with last year’s first-rounder.

    While he didn’t draw pre-draft grades as high as his eventual selection, Shewmake was seen as a potential first-round talent. ESPN.com’s Keith Law (#26) and Baseball America (#27) were highest on him among the pundits.

    Though he’s a highly accomplished collegiate hitter, some wonder whether Shewmake will ever have much power as a pro. He’s also a candidate to move off of the shortstop position in the long run — particularly if he adds the strength necessary to increase his pop. There are several potential paths available for Shewmake; the Braves obviously feel that one of them will lead to a productive MLB career.

    ]]>
    12
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Braves Place Gausman On IL; Donaldson Appeals One-Game Suspension]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=162232 2019-06-11T23:37:17Z 2019-06-11T23:37:17Z The Braves announced Tuesday that right-hander Kevin Gausman has been placed on the 10-day injured list due to plantar fasciitis in his right foot. Lefty A.J. Minter is up from Triple-A Gwinnett in a corresponding move. Meanwhile, the league announced that third baseman Josh Donaldson has received a one-game suspension for his role in last night’s benches-clearing incident with the Pirates, but he’s appealed the punishment and is in Tuesday’s lineup.

    With Gausman shelved for the time being, lefty Sean Newcomb will likely make at least a one-off return to the rotation in Atlanta this weekend, tweets MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. That’d change in the event that Newcomb is needed out of the bullpen Friday, but he won’t pitch out of the ’pen for at least the next couple of days after picking up a win with 4 2/3 innings of exceptional relief yesterday.

    It’s been a nightmare of a season for Gausman, whom the Braves acquired from the Orioles at last year’s non-waiver trade deadline. Acquired to be a piece of the rotation for multiple years, Gausman has instead pitched like a non-tender candidate thus far in 2019. He’s posted a 6.21 ERA through 62 1/3 innings, albeit with more promising K/BB numbers. Gausman has averaged 9.2 strikeouts and 3.5 walks per nine innings while actually logging the lowest full-season home run rate of his career (1.16 HR/9). He’s been plagued by a somewhat elevated .339 average on balls in play, but the greater problem has been an inability to strand runners; Gausman’s 57.6 percent strand rate is nearly 20 percent lower than his career mark (74.2 percent).

    It’s not clear how long Gausman is expected to be out, but even if he’s facing an extended absence, this figures to be a brief return to the rotation for Newcomb. Atlanta signed Dallas Keuchel last week, and he’s slated to make a second minor league appearance on Saturday, per David O’Brien of The Athletic (Twitter link). Keuchel tossed seven shutout innings with nine strikeouts in his first appearance with Class-A Rome this week as he continues to build toward a return to the big league mound.

    As for Donaldson, he clearly took exception to being hit by a Joe Musgrove offering in last night’s contest and voiced his thoughts toward Musgrove as he walked toward first base. The two eventually had to be separated by Pittsburgh catcher Elias Diaz, and the incident led to ejections for Donaldson, Musgrove and Pirates manager Clint Hurdle.

    ]]>
    33
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Dallas Keuchel Dominates In First Minor League Tuneup ]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=162145 2019-06-11T06:17:25Z 2019-06-11T06:17:25Z After signing a one-year, $13MM contract with the Braves last week, left-hander Dallas Keuchel made his first minor league tuneup with their Single-A affiliate Monday. Unsurprisingly, the accomplished Keuchel looked too advanced for the level, throwing seven shutout innings and 77 pitches of one-hit, one-walk ball with nine strikeouts. The soft-tossing 31-year-old’s fastball sat in the high 80s and maxed out at 89, per Tim Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Afterward, Keuchel suggested he could return to the majors following one more minor league start. Braves manager Brian Snitker said that “we’ll talk to [Keuchel] to see where he’s at” after he takes the mound one more time. Barring setbacks, though, Keuchel does seem likely to end up in Atlanta after that outing.

    ]]>
    40
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Slow Progress For Ender Inciarte]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=162098 2019-06-11T02:11:24Z 2019-06-11T01:43:38Z
  • The Braves haven’t yet seen much progress for outfielder Ender Inciarte, skipper Brian Snitker told David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other reporters. (Twitter link.) The veteran center fielder has yet to engage in any significant baseball activities, Snitker indicates, as the club has exercised ample care with his lumbar strain. “Still no timetable,” says Snitker. “… It’s kind of two steps forward and one back, it seems, in the whole process. It’s a back; you’ve got to be careful.”
  • ]]>
    12
    George Miller <![CDATA[Braves Agree To Terms With First-Rounder Shea Langeliers]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=161956 2019-06-09T22:22:06Z 2019-06-09T20:24:43Z The Braves have agreed to terms with their first-round (ninth overall) selection Shea Langeliers and will pay the 21-year-old catcher a $4MM bonus, reports Jon Heyman of the MLB Network.  The deal allows Atlanta to save a notable chunk of funds in its overall draft pool, as the ninth overall pick carries a recommended slot price of $4,949,100.

    Baseball America, MLB.com, ESPN’s Keith Law, and Fangraphs all placed Langeliers in the upper tier of this year’s draft class, as the catcher was rated between 9th (BA) and 14th (Fangraphs) overall in all four outlets’ respective prospect rankings.

    The Baylor product is lauded first and foremost for his stellar defense behind the plate, including a strong, accurate throwing arm and elite pop times, a combination that allowed him to cut down 70 percent of prospective basestealers in his sophomore season, per MLB.com. While his bat lags behind top catcher Adley Rutschman, his offense took a step forward this year and many scouts believe his defense alone could carry him to be an average regular at the Major League level. Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs describe Langeliers as featuring budding power, though he favors a contact over power approach at the plate.

    The Braves’ farm system is already one of the deepest in baseball, ripe with young pitchers who figure to contribute in some fashion at the highest level. In Langeliers, the Braves now have a catcher who looks as if he offers the defensive tools to assist those pitchers not only in the minor leagues, but also as they advance through the ranks and graduate to the Majors. If Langeliers pans out, his career could coincide with a staff that consists of the likes of Mike Soroka, Max Fried, Kyle Wright, Touki Toussaint, and others.

    It bears mentioning that Langeliers was selected with the compensation pick the Braves received for failing to sign last year’s first round choice, Carter Stewart.

    ]]>
    29
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Braves Sign Dallas Keuchel]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=161559 2019-06-08T02:47:32Z 2019-06-08T02:07:50Z FRIDAY, 9:07pm: The Braves have announced the agreement. To make room for Keuchel on their 40-man roster, they transferred reliever Darren O’Day to the 60-day injured list. Atlanta plans to activate Keuchel after he makes two starts in the minors, Mark Bowman of MLB.com tweets.

    6:32pm: Keuchel has passed a physical, per Gabe Burns of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (via Twitter). The signing is expected to be announced tonight.

    THURSDAY, 9:02pm: Keuchel’s contract is indeed for one year, reports Yahoo’s Tim Brown (Twitter link). He’ll be paid $13MM between now and season’s end, which is a bit more than the $11.16MM he’d have made on a prorated deal worth the same amount as the $17.9MM qualifying offer. (ESPN’s Jeff Passan adds that his base salary is technically around $20MM, and the $13MM represents the prorated version of that sum.) Keuchel will take a physical tomorrow, and he’ll jump right into the fray with Triple-A Gwinnett when he makes a start there on Saturday.

    8:18pm: The Braves have agreed to terms with left-hander Dallas Keuchel, reports David O’Brien of The Athletic (Twitter link). It’s “likely” a one-year deal, O’Brien adds. Keuchel is represented by the Boras Corporation.

    "<strong

    As was the case with Craig Kimbrel, Keuchel will see his prolonged free-agent saga come to a close just days after the draft-pick compensation that has hung over his head was lifted. The terms of the contract will surely be only a fraction of what the former Cy Young winner had eyed when rejecting a $17.9MM qualifying offer from the Astros back in November, but but a short-term arrangement will allow Keuchel the opportunity to once again test free agency — this time without the burden of a qualifying offer and likely with some lower expectations; Keuchel and Boras reportedly sought a contract of five years and more than $100MM in the early stages of free agency.

    Keuchel, 31, has seen his results tail off since his brilliant Cy Young campaign back in 2015, but he’s still a quality arm who should provide some much-needed stability to a Braves rotation that hasn’t functioned according to plan (or anywhere close) in 2019. Top starter Mike Foltynewicz missed several weeks to open the season and has struggled considerably in his return from the injured list, while Sean Newcomb has been moved to the bullpen and Kevin Gausman is lugging around a 6.15 ERA. Julio Teheran has posted solid bottom-line results, but fielding-independent pitching metrics forecast him as a regression candidate.

    Mike Soroka has been far and away the team’s best starter, putting himself not only in the Rookie of the Year race but in the Cy Young race early in the season. Soroka, however pitched just 56 1/3 innings between the Majors and minors last season and figures to have some degree of workload restriction facing him down the line. Lefty Max Fried has also emerged as a largely solid option, but he tossed only 111 innings last year and could see his own innings monitored a bit late in the year.

    Last season, Keuchel racked up 204 2/3 innings while working to a 3.74 ERA with 6.7 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 0.79 HR/9 and a 53.7 percent ground-ball rate. Keuchel’s strikeout and ground-ball rates have dipped in recent seasons, particularly in 2018, and he also saw both his 2016-17 seasons shortened a bit by injuries. All of that has taken some of the shine of the lefty, but it’s also a fact that he’s posted a sub-3.00 ERA in three of the past five seasons. Even when throwing out his Cy Young campaign, Keuchel has a 3.77 ERA with a premium ground-ball rate and above-average control through his past 518 1/3 innings.

    Based on that track record, there’s little doubt that he’ll be an upgrade for the Braves — especially when considering who he’ll likely replace. Gausman would appear to be the odd man out in this situation, as he’s struggled through the worst season of his career and could very well be bullpen-bound. If he can manage to find success in that admittedly presumptive new role, the benefit to the Braves would be twofold; not only would they get another quality arm in the ’pen, they’d have a starter working deeper into games (Keuchel) and thus not forcing the bullpen into action as frequently.

    Keuchel drew interest elsewhere around the league, with the Yankees in particular being mentioned as an aggressive pursuer. However, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees had a very clear cutoff with their offer and were not willing to budge beyond paying Keuchel the prorated portion of the $17.9MM qualifying offer (Twitter link). That base salary would’ve paid Keuchel about $11.16MM through season’s end — assuming a deal is completed tomorrow. The Cardinals, Twins and Rays were all mentioned as interested parties, to varying extents, although Juan Toribio of MLB.com tweets that Tampa Bay was never strongly after the lefty. Those teams will instead have to turn to the trade market in order to find rotation upgrades, as Keuchel was the open market’s lone realistic difference-maker.

    The Braves, too, still figure to be active on the trade market moving forward. Even after adding Keuchel to the rotation, the Atlanta bullpen has been shaky and could stand to be improved upon. The team has been relying on Luke Jackson in the ninth inning as well as a host of converted starters and a series of low-cost fliers on veterans (e.g. Jerry Blevins, Anthony Swarzak). Newcomb has shown well in that role, as has Touki Toussaint, which makes the situation a bit less dire, but it’d nevertheless be a surprise if the Braves didn’t add at least one more reliable arm to the relief corps. Keuchel may very well be the highest-profile addition made by Atlanta between now and July 31, but he’s unlikely to be the only one.

    ]]>
    181
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[The Offseason’s Best Minor League Signings (So Far)]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=161496 2019-06-07T19:19:45Z 2019-06-07T17:15:40Z The final two top-tier free agents are finally off the board — it only took until June! — but most clubs have long since begun to reap the benefits of their offseason additions from the open market. That includes those who partook in the annual grab bag of minor league contracts.

    Each year, there are dozens upon dozens of recognizable names who settle for non-guaranteed pacts — perhaps more in this past winter’s frigid free-agent climate — and while most fail to yield dividends, there’s always a handful of gems unearthed. The Rangers, Reds and Pirates did particularly well in terms of signing players on minor league contracts this offseason, but there have certainly been other deals of note. It’ll merit revisiting this bunch after the season is over to see who maintained their pace and who stepped up in the final two thirds of the 2019 campaign, but to this point in the year, here’s a look at the most productive minor league signees of the winter.

    Rangers: Hunter Pence, Logan Forsythe, Danny Santana

    Hunter Pence | Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    Much was made of Hunter Pence’s efforts to revamp his swing while playing winter ball in the offseason. Frankly, it’s not uncommon to hear of veteran players perhaps in the twilight of their career making alterations in an effort to stick around a bit longer. What is uncommon is for the results to be this eye-opening.

    Pence hasn’t simply bounced back from a pair of awful seasons to close out his Giants tenure — he’s given the Rangers one of the best offensive performances of his 13-year Major League career. The 36-year-old has posted a resplendent .288/.341/.583 batting line with a dozen home runs, 10 doubles and a triple through 179 plate appearances. His 47.6 percent hard contact rate lands in the 91st percentile of big league hitters, per Statcast, and his average exit velocity of 92.6 mph is in the 96th percentile. Defensive metrics are down on Pence, which isn’t a huge surprise for a 36-year-old corner outfielder, but he’s hitting at a star level without benefiting from a gaudy BABIP (.299). If he can maintain this pace, he’ll have no trouble landing not just a 40-man roster spot this winter — but a solid salary to go along with it.

    Pence alone would make for a terrific minor league add, but the Rangers are also getting the best form of Logan Forsythe we’ve ever seen (.299/.404/.472 through 172 PAs) and a strong showing from Danny Santana (.291/.333/.465 in 139 PAs). Those performances are a bit more dubious, as the pair improbably sports matching .388 averages on balls in play. But, Forsythe is walking at a 14 percent clip that he’s never previously approached outside of a 2017 season in Los Angeles where he logged ample time hitting eighth in front of the pitcher (with a 21 percent walk rate in such plate appearances). Santana can’t boast that same plate discipline — to the contrary, his longstanding inability to draw a walk is as pronounced as ever — but he’s making hard contact more than ever before while also stealing bases with great efficiency (7-for-8). Both Forsythe and Santana can move all over the diamond as well.

    Reds: Derek Dietrich, Jose Iglesias

    Derek Dietrich | David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

    Cincinnati has gotten even more production out of its minor league deals than Texas, although the two player the Reds landed on non-guaranteed contracts both came as a surprise. Even after Dietrich was effectively non-tendered by the Marlins, he was expected to get a big league deal. Iglesias enjoyed a solid season at the plate and has long been regarded as a stellar defender at shortstop. The Tigers jumped on a one-year deal with Jordy Mercer worth $5MM in early December, seemingly believing Iglesias would command more.

    That neither player found his asking price met by the time mid-February rolled around has been nothing short of a godsend for the Reds, who scooped up both on minor league pacts. Cincinnati couldn’t have known that a spring injury to Scooter Gennett would create even more at-bats for this pair early in the season, but Dietrich and Iglesias have each been sensational in capitalizing on the opportunity for unexpected levels of playing time.

    Dietrich has already pounded a career-high 17 home runs despite accruing only 157 plate appearances. Detractors will point to his new hitter-friendly home park, but Dietrich has a .377 on-base percentage, .541 slugging percentage and six home runs on the road this year. Besides, it’s not as if every member of the Reds has belted 17 home runs simply by virtue of playing games at Great American Ball Park. Dietrich has a career-best 9.4 percent walk rate and career-low 20.4 percent strikeout rate as well.

    Iglesias, meanwhile, has batted .294/.335/.421 with four homers and a characteristically low strikeout rate (13.5 percent) in 2019 plate appearances. He’s already tallied seven Defensive Runs Saved with a +3.3 Ultimate Zone Rating in 477 innings at shortstop, making Detroit’s decision to move on from look all the more egregious, considering they went out and signed a different veteran to man the position anyhow. He’s not running like he did in 2018, but Iglesias has been a flat-out steal.

    Pirates: Melky Cabrera, Francisco Liriano

    Cabrera has been forced into minor league deals in each of the past two offseasons and will turn 35 later this summer, but the Melk Man just keeps on hitting. Injuries to Corey Dickerson, Gregory Polanco and Lonnie Chisenhall created an opening for Cabrera, and he’s responded with a .335/.376/.467 line through 179 plate appearances. It’s true that he’s benefited from a .366 average on balls in play, but Cabrera’s 11.7 percent strikeout rate is excellent and represents a continuation of the elite bat-to-ball skills he’s demonstrated throughout his career. The defense isn’t pretty — it never really has been — but Cabrera’s bat has been a huge plus for the Bucs.

    The Astros tried Liriano in the bullpen down the stretch in 2017 and weren’t able to get the results they’d hoped. Liriano returned to a starting role with the Tigers in 2018 and found middling results, but he’s been reborn in the Pittsburgh bullpen in his second go-around at PNC Park. In 29 1/3 innings, Liriano has a 1.21 ERA with 32 punchouts, 12 walks and a 47.3 percent grounder rate. He won’t maintain a 96 percent strand rate or a .233 BABIP, but Liriano’s 14.7 percent swinging-strike rate is the best of his career. Even if he takes what seems like an inevitable step back, FIP pegs him at 3.08 while SIERA checks in at 3.82. While the game’s highest-paid free-agent relievers have largely flopped, Liriano looks every bit the part of a viable bullpen option.

    Others of Note

    There have been successful minor league signings outside of Arlington, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, of course. Eric Sogard, he of the former #FaceOfMLB and #NerdPower hashtag fame, has been a superlative pickup for the Blue Jays, hitting at a .290/.365/.481 pace with a career-high five homers in just 151 plate appearances. With several injuries and poor performances around the Toronto infield, his presence has been a boon to an otherwise disappointing lineup.

    Sogard’s former teammate and fellow Oakland cult hero, Stephen Vogt, thought his career could be over at this time a year ago. Instead, he’s back in the Majors and enjoying a solid showing at the plate with the Giants. In 66 plate appearances, Vogt has hit .250/.318/.417, and Buster Posey’s recent placement on the injured list will only create more opportunity for playing time. The Giants cycled through an all-you-can-sign buffet of veteran catchers earlier this spring, and Vogt is the last man standing.

    As far as other catchers go, Matt Wieters landed the role of baseball’s most seldom-used backup: the Cardinals’ second option to iron man Yadier Molina. Wieters has just 50 plate appearances on the year through June 6, but he’s going to see an uptick in playing time with Molina on the injured list for a bit. In his 50 trips to the dish, Wieters has connected with three long balls and slashed a very solid .277/.300/.511. His 15 strikeouts against just one walk could very well be a portent for struggles to come, but some more frequent playing time could also help the veteran find his rhythm.

    Speaking of players who’ve succeeded in minimal playing time, right-hander Mike Morin has given the Twins 10 1/3 innings of terrific relief since having his contract selected in early May. He’s punched out seven hitters, hasn’t allowed a walk, is sitting on a career-high 56.7 percent ground-ball rate and has limited opponents to just one run (a solo home run). He’ll need to miss more bats, as he’s not going to maintain a .172 BABIP and will eventually walk a batter, but Morin’s newfound knack for keeping the ball on the ground is encouraging. (For those wondering where Ryne Harper is, he was technically signed in the 2017-18 offseason and is in his second year with the organization.)

    In a similarly small sample of work — four games, 20 1/3 innings — left-hander Tommy Milone has given the Mariners some competitive starts to help out in their beleaguered rotation. Milone is sitting on a 3.10 ERA and 3.84 FIP, and while he’s never been one to miss bats in the past, he’s punched out 20 hitters against only five walks. His velocity hasn’t changed, but Milone is throwing more sliders at the expense of his four-seamer and changeup.

    Over in Atlanta, the Braves have enjoyed their own bullpen find, as Josh Tomlin has pitched a team-high 32 innings of relief. Tomlin’s 3.94 ERA doesn’t exactly stand out, and fielding-independent metrics all suggest a mid-4.00s mark is more realistic, but he’s been a relief workhorse for a team whose rotation and bullpen have struggled mightily for much of the year. The 32 innings Tomlin has already soaked up have been vital for the Braves.

    Elsewhere in the NL East, former Pirates and Blue Jays prospect Harold Ramirez is doing his best to continue earning playing time with the Marlins. He’s hit .329/.368/.427 through 87 plate appearances, and while that line has been buoyed by a .394 average on balls in play, Ramirez is making solid contact and isn’t striking out much. He batted .320/.365/.471 in 120 games with Toronto’s Double-A affiliate last season and .355/.408/.591 in 31 Triple-A games with the Marlins in 2019, so he’s earned a look at the game’s top level.

    ]]>
    30
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Poll: The Braves & Dallas Keuchel]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=161548 2019-06-07T00:57:53Z 2019-06-07T00:57:53Z The Braves are reportedly in the driver’s seat to land free-agent left-hander Dallas Keuchel, who they hope would provide a significant in-season boost to a so-so rotation. Aside from Mike Soroka, Max Fried and Julio Teheran, no one in Atlanta’s starting five has performed all that well this year. Even Fried’s bubble has burst to some degree since a tremendous start to the season, while Teheran’s peripherals provide far less hope than his sterling 3.28 ERA.

    Beyond Soroka, Fried and Teheran, 2018 summer acquisition Kevin Gausman, ’18 standout Mike Foltynewicz, and youngsters Sean Newcomb, Kyle Wright, Touki Toussaint and Bryse Wilson are the only other Braves who have made starts this season. Gausman has long been a credible starter, but he has pitched to a hideous 6.15 ERA (albeit with a much rosier 4.03 FIP); Foltynewicz’s 6.10 ERA actually sits well ahead of his awful 6.68 FIP; and Newcomb and Toussaint are now functioning as relievers, serving as two of the most reliable options in an Atlanta bullpen that has endured no shortage of down moments in 2019.

    Considering the difficulties of their pitching staff this year, it’s no surprise the Braves are pursuing Keuchel. The latest reports indicate the Braves could reel in Keuchel on a multiyear deal. Earlier this week, though, there were rumblings indicating the Braves weren’t keen on paying Keuchel the prorated portion of the $17.5MM qualifying offer ($11MM-plus) that he rejected at the outset of the offseason. Potential price aside, the Braves will have to ask themselves a.) how long it’ll take for Keuchel to get ready and b.) how effective he’ll be after sitting out several months.

    Former Braves/Padres/Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel just agreed to terms with the Cubs on Wednesday after a long free-agent trip of his own, and it’s likely he’ll be prepared to join Chicago within the next couple weeks. A similar time frame may be in the cards for Keuchel, who has been throwing sim games of at least 95 pitches in recent weeks as he waits for his next opportunity.

    As for his on-field performance, Keuchel has generally been excellent since he broke out in 2014 – the year before he won his lone AL Cy Young Award. However, the longtime Astro did see his strikeout, groundball and run prevention numbers drop off to certain degrees in 2018. Having totaled fewer than seven strikeouts per nine a year ago, it’s fair to guess the quality of defense behind Keuchel will play a key role in his ability to stymie opposing offenses this season. With that in mind, it’s important to note the Braves’ defense has been one of the one of the worst in the majors on grounders in 2019.

    Defensive concerns aside, it’s worth pointing out signing Keuchel would only cost the Braves money. As everyone who has paid close attention to his free-agent journey knows, inking Keuchel before June 2 would have meant surrendering both draft compensation and cash. Nevertheless, if you’re a Braves fan, perhaps you’d rather see them give up talent from their farm system in a trade for a starter (Madison Bumgarner? Marcus Stroman?) than sign Keuchel. The reigning NL East champion Braves are two games out of their division lead right now, so they may have to get this decision right if they’re going to overtake the first-place Phillies.

    (Poll link for app users)

    ]]>
    20
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Braves Reportedly Emerge As Favorites For Dallas Keuchel]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=161515 2019-06-10T05:06:10Z 2019-06-07T00:05:42Z 7:05pm: The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal tweets that the Braves and Keuchel are in “serious talks.” There’s “some thought” that the Braves are willing to offer multiple years to Keuchel, tweets MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. Earlier this morning, the New York Post’s George A. King III reported that Keuchel did indeed have teams willing to push their offer to the multi-year deal range, whereas the Yankees were still set on limiting any offer to one year.

    2:18pm: The Braves have emerged as the “frontrunners” to sign free-agent lefty Dallas Keuchel, reports Mark Feinsand of MLB.com (via Twitter). The Yankees have been prominently connected to the southpaw since the draft-pick compensation tied to him expired on Monday, but Atlanta has long been mentioned as a potential landing spot as well. Feinsand notes that the Yankees are still in the mix, but Atlanta has recently stepped up its efforts.

    Earlier today, SNY’s Andy Martino reported that the Yankees were also facing some degree of competition from the Cardinals. He, too, listed the Braves as a potential factor in the Keuchel market, along with the Twins, though Minnesota’s interest has yet to be characterized as particularly serious.

    For the Braves, Keuchel would help to stabilize a rotation that is enjoying strong performances from high-upside young pitchers who are likely to eventually face some type of workload restrictions (e.g. Mike Soroka, Max Fried). Beyond that excellent pairing, the starting pitching hasn’t panned out as hoped in Atlanta so far this season. Mike Foltynewicz missed the first month of the season and hasn’t performed well since returning (today’s quality outing notwithstanding). Lefty Sean Newcomb was demoted to Triple-A early in the season due to significant control issues, and he’s come back as a reliever. Righty Kevin Gausman has an ERA north of 6.00 through a dozen starts. Of the Braves’ starters, Julio Teheran has been the most effective holdover, but there’s certainly room to add another veteran to the mix to help smooth things over.

    Unlike fellow free agent Craig Kimbrel, Keuchel has been reported to be more amenable to the concept of a one-year contract. The New York Post’s Joel Sherman wrote earlier this week that agent Scott Boras has discussed some multi-year scenarios that would contain an opt-out after the current season, but a straight one-year pact would be less complicated and more palatable for a signing team. Braves leadership has previously spoken about payroll flexibility, though the exact level of financial resources Liberty Media is willing to provide to general manager Alex Anthopoulos is, of course, anyone’s guess.

    Any one-year deal signed by Keuchel would come with a prorated salary; inking him for the same rate as the $17.9MM qualifying offer he rejected back in November, then, would cost a team just north of $11MM from today through season’s end. Atlanta has a payroll of about $121MM at present, and their previous franchise-record Opening Day payroll total was $122MM. Signing Keuchel would push the Braves into uncharted territory, financially speaking — particularly when considering the fact that they’ll likely still make some additions on the trade market in an effort to bolster the bullpen.

    That said, the National League East is among the game’s more tightly contested divisions. The Braves are currently 1.5 games behind the division-leading Phillies, 3.5 games ahead of the Mets and five games ahead of the suddenly surging Nationals. Given the competitive nature of the division, it’s understandable that they’re perhaps willing to push beyond previous comfort zones as they vie for a second consecutive playoff berth. Atlanta is currently in possession of the second National League Wild Card spot, but the difference between a guaranteed ticket to the NLDS and a winner-take-all, one-game coinflip is significant for any club.

    ]]>
    107
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[O'Brien: Braves' Interest In Dallas Keuchel "Overstated"]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=161447 2019-06-06T06:54:13Z 2019-06-06T06:54:13Z Reports have pegged the Braves as one of the favorites to sign free-agent left-hander Dallas Keuchel, but David O’Brien of The Athletic throws cold water on that possibility. The Braves have inquired about Keuchel and do have interest in him, per O’Brien, though he writes their interest has been “overstated.” Atlanta has not engaged in deep negotiations with Keuchel, O’Brien adds. The latest from O’Brien jibes with a Tuesday report from Joel Sherman of the New York Post, who wrote that the Braves are “uncomfortable” with the idea of paying Keuchel the prorated value of the $17.9MM qualifying offer (approximately $11.5MM).

    ]]>
    62
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Braves Reportedly Not Among “Finalists” To Sign Kimbrel]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=161310 2019-06-05T18:04:49Z 2019-06-05T17:55:53Z Though Atlanta fans have been vocal about their desire to see Craig Kimbrel suit up for the Braves once again, that appears decreasingly likely. The Braves have been loosely connected to Kimbrel throughout the year, but now that he’s free of draft compensation and expected to sign in the near future, MLB.com’s Jon Morosi reports (via Twitter) that the Braves aren’t among the “finalists” to sign the seven-time All-Star.

    That comes on the heels of a morning report from The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal which indicates that the Cubs are “pushing hard” to sign the right-hander. Kimbrel has also been recently connected to the Twins and Phillies.

    The Braves’ bullpen need is rather acute, so it would appear that the team has simply decided that even without draft-pick forfeiture, Kimbrel’s asking price is too steep. He’s reportedly been seeking a three-year contract, and while the salary in the first year of such an arrangement would be prorated now that we’re a third of the way through the season, Kimbrel is surely seeking a hefty annual rate of pay all the same.

    If Kimbrel ultimately lands in Chicago or elsewhere, the Cubs will quite likely look to the trade market to bolster what has been an injury-plagued and generally disappointing relief unit. Luke Jackson, thrice outrighted off the Braves’ 40-man roster last season, has been the club’s most consistent reliever for most of the season. Touki Toussaint is among the game’s most highly regarded starting pitching prospects but has thrived since moving into a relief role (albeit with a somewhat elevated walk rate). Sean Newcomb also looks sharp in a relief capacity, while Anthony Swarzak has been solid since his acquisition. Josh Tomlin, signed to a minor league deal in Spring Training, has been a durable source of multi-inning stints.

    But while the Atlanta bullpen’s 4.31 ERA is 15th in the big leagues, the Braves’ 4.93 FIP ranks 26th and their 4.69 xFIP ranks 20th. Braves relievers have walked 11.7 percent of the hitters they’ve faced — the third-highest mark in the Majors. They’re also averaging 1.55 home runs per nine innings pitched, which ties them with the Nationals for the fourth-highest rate in the Majors. The Braves have been fortunate than more than half of the home runs allowed by their bullpen have come with the bases empty, but the combination of one of MLB’s highest walk rates and highest home-run rates isn’t a recipe for long-term success. With several clubs likely to sell off pieces this summer — the Giants, Blue Jays, Orioles, Royals and Tigers will have arms available — there’ll be plenty of options for Atlanta general manager Alex Anthopoulos to explore.

    ]]>
    124
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Dallas Keuchel Rumors: 6/4/19]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=161101 2019-06-05T03:30:36Z 2019-06-04T21:33:31Z 4:33pm: Joel Sherman of the New York Post takes a lengthy look at the situation, examining the possible reasons that Keuchel has yet to strike up a deal. As Sherman points out, even the prorated version of the $17.9MM qualifying offer value checks in close to $11.5MM, and few teams have that type of money budgeted this time of year. The Braves, for instance, are “uncomfortable” with that price point, per Sherman, while the Yankees are unlikely to exceed it, George A. King III of the New York Post writes.

    Previous struggles from players who waited into the season to sign (e.g. Kendrys Morales, Greg Holland) have created concerns over what to expect from Keuchel. As a result, some clubs would prefer a lower base salary with per-start incentives — similar to the one Gio Gonzalez initially signed with the Yankees in Spring Training — but Keuchel and Boras would obviously prefer a full guarantee. Sherman adds that Keuchel’s camp has floated some multi-year scenarios with an opt-out after the 2019 season, but a straight one-year pact still seems likely.

    8:55am: With draft compensation no longer a factor, a signing could come at any time for free agent starter Dallas Keuchel. As always, we’ll be on top of the latest developments in the market here at MLBTR.

    We heard yesterday that the Yankees and Braves were among the likeliest possible landing spots for Keuchel, with a few other teams also among those with ongoing interest. Now, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (via Twitter) takes things a bit further by labeling the New York and Atlanta organizations the favorites for the veteran southpaw.

    Another source labels the Yankees the true favorites, Feinsand tweets. Braves beat reporters, meanwhile, have poured cold water on the idea of a move for Keuchel. (Links to Twitter.) It’s impossible to know when and how a signing will come together, but Andy Martino of SNY.tv tweets that there’s a sense resolution could come “relatively soon.”

    As things stand, says Feinsand, the Yankees and Braves “are believed to be in the same area with their offers.” No doubt Keuchel and agent Scott Boras are hopeful that one of these or another team will create some separation in the financial department.

    There has long been some uncertainty regarding Keuchel’s contractual demands and outlook. There’s little question he has backed down from any opening asking price, but there have been varying indications as to whether he’d accept (or even seek) a contract that wraps up at season’s end. If he’s only looking for a half-year arrangement, Keuchel will surely want it to be for a hefty rate of pay. But he’d assuredly also consider other factors with an eye already on a return to the open market.

    Even if the Yanks and Braves are indeed “favorites” at the moment, it’s worth remembering that such a status means relatively little until the ink hits the paper. Other organizations are surely also engaged with Boras — the Cardinals, Rays, Brewers, and Twins have all been cited of late — and all are no doubt also canvassing the early trade market possibilities.

    ]]>
    130