Click here to read a transcript of Tuesday’s chat with MLBTR’s Steve Adams.
Last Friday’s trade deadline brought about a slew of DFAs as teams made room for newly acquired big leaguers. With the trades of players who’d been on Major League contracts no longer allowed post-deadline, most of these players will hit outright waivers and be made available to all 29 other clubs. (Others may simply be released.) That’s going to lead to a series of outright assignments for those who ultimately go unclaimed on waivers.
As a reminder, players with at least three but fewer than five years of service time can reject an outright assignment in favor of free agency. However, doing so requires forfeiture of any remaining guaranteed salary. Players with five or more years of MLB service time can reject an outright assignment and retain any guaranteed salary on their deals. Players with fewer than three years of service can also reject outright assignments if they’ve been previously outrighted at any point in their career. We’ll run through the latest crop of outright assignments in this post…
- Outfielder Mike Tauchman went unclaimed on outright waivers and was assigned to Triple-A Sacramento, the Giants announced Monday night. Tauchman crossed the three-year mark in terms of Major League service time just last week, giving him the option of rejecting the assignment should he choose. The Giants made no indication that Tauchman was rejecting, though players typically have a day or two from the time of the announcement to weigh whether to accept. Tauchman, 30, has batted just .181/.284/.283 in 191 plate appearances this season. He enjoyed a big 2019 season in the Bronx, however, and carries a generally strong track record (.309/.378/.493) in parts of five Triple-A seasons. As an outrighted player with three-plus years of service, Tauchman could become a free agent at season’s end even if he does opt to remain with the organization in Triple-A.
- The Yankees announced late last night that outfielder Ryan LaMarre went unclaimed on waivers and has been outrighted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The 32-year-old LaMarre has previously been outrighted, so he’ll have the option to reject the assignment should he choose, although he’s already accepted an outright assignment from the Yankees once this summer. LaMarre went 4-for-21 with a pair of homers with the Yankees’ big league club and has batted .308/.400/.479 in 135 Triple-A plate appearances. He’s a career .232/.286/.350 hitter in the Majors and a .283/.353/.420 hitter in parts of eight Triple-A seasons. LaMarre has experience at all three outfield spots but has been deployed primarily as a left fielder with the Yankees’ Triple-A club in 2021. He can be a free agent at season’s end unless added back to the roster.
- The Brewers announced that right-hander Patrick Weigel went unclaimed on waivers and has been assigned outright to Triple-A Nashville. Milwaukee picked Weigel up in the April trade that sent shortstop Orlando Arcia to the Braves. He’s allowed a pair of runs in four MLB frames this year but has struggle mightily in Nashville, where he’s posted a 6.84 ERA and walked a batter per inning (20.8 percent of his total opponents) through 25 frames. Weigel lacks the service time or prior outright assignment necessary to elect free agency, so he’ll remain with the Brewers organization in Triple-A.
It’s been a surreal week for Cubs fans, watching the core of the 2016 World Series club head out the door at the trade deadline in exchange for a series of prospects. Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez have been the faces of the Cubs for a half decade now, but they now find themselves with the Giants, Yankees and Mets, respectively. Also out the door are closer Craig Kimbrel, right-hander Ryan Tepera, lefty Andrew Chafin, outfielder Joc Pederson and outfielder Jake Marisnick.
Generally speaking, fans knew this was coming, but even after president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer made clear that the Cubs were shifting to a seller’s mindset, there were many who questioned just how far the sale would go. Bryant had long been viewed as a trade candidate after talks with him had failed to materialize in a deal multiple times in the past. Baez, however, had spoken more optimistically about reaching a deal in the past, as had Rizzo. Now, days after the deadline, Hoyer expressed frustration during a radio interview on ESPN 1000.
“I put my head on the pillow every night knowing that we put our best foot forward,” said Hoyer (Twitter thread via ESPN’s Jesse Rogers). “The extensions we offered these guys will hold up exceptionally well, historically they’ll hold up exceptionally well against the open market. I don’t know why guys didn’t want to sign. I don’t know why guys didn’t even want to counteroffer sometimes.”
Hoyer lamented that while many players publicly expressed interest in staying long-term, “when we sat down to do negotiations, that wasn’t how they acted.” Somewhat curiously, he pointed across town to the White Sox, noting that Lance Lynn “could’ve gotten more on the open market this winter but he said ’I want to stay here.'” Of course, Lynn is a 34-year-old trade acquisition who isn’t at all in the same position as the core Cubs who were dealt last Friday, and the implication of blame residing with the now-former Cubs players lacks plenty of critical context.
Rizzo, for instance, would’ve been a free agent in the 2018-19 offseason had he not inked a seven-year, $41MM contract back in May 2013. That deal contained a pair of club options and ultimately wound up paying him $75MM over nine years. There’s a difference in taking the “I want to stay here” approach when you’re an inexperienced pre-arbitration player and a soon-to-be free agent, but Rizzo surely felt he’d already given the Cubs one major break and may have been less inclined to do so a second time. Hoyer was clear that his comments were more general and that not all applied to all three of this core trio, so perhaps the Lynn comparison wasn’t intended to strike a parallel with Rizzo — but it’s difficult to overlook that disconnect.
In Hoyer’s defense, we don’t know how many attempts were made to further extend that contract over the years, but Rizzo’s initial extension proved a to be an overwhelming bargain for the club. We do know that back in March, Hoyer proclaimed he was “very confident” that the Cubs would extend Rizzo. That optimism, which came after Rizzo had already turned down a reported five-year, $70MM offer, didn’t manifest in a deal.
Hoyer is probably correct in asserting that said offer will hold up well against open-market bids, barring a huge post-trade surge for Rizzo. That said, it’s also not hard to see why Rizzo would be nonplused with the offer, if the reported terms were indeed accurate. He was entering the final season of the previously mentioned bargain extension, and a year prior he’d seen the Cardinals lock up Paul Goldschmidt for nearly twice as much — a contract that would begin with Goldschmidt’s age-32 season. Next year is Rizzo’s age-32 season. There’s no ignoring that Rizzo was coming off a down season in 2020, but the gap in those offers is still rather sizable, to say the least.
Baez, meanwhile, spoke openly and often about his desire to remain with the Cubs long-term — just as they similarly expressed interest in keeping him. Talks between the two parties seemed to be ongoing for years, with his chances of striking an accord regularly framed as the most favorable of this core trio.
As with the Rizzo/Lynn bit, it’s important to remember that Hoyer was speaking generally rather than addressing all of his former core players. But his assertion that some players didn’t even bother to counter the team’s extension offers certainly seemed to catch the attention of Baez’s agent, Nick Chanock of Wasserman. Chanock tells ESPN’s Jesse Rogers that the Baez camp did indeed present the Cubs with a counterproposal not long before the Covid-19 pandemic shut the league down. Rogers goes on to write that the team didn’t rekindle those talks, nor did they make a final offer to Baez before trading him.
Reports from ESPN’s Buster Olney and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman earlier this summer suggested that the Cubs offered Baez anywhere from $160MM to $180MM, though the length of those deals isn’t clear. It’s also worth noting that at the time, Baez was a 27-year-old shortstop coming off consecutive six-WAR, All-Star seasons — one of which saw him finish runner-up in NL MVP voting. As with Rizzo, that numbers reported by Olney and Heyman will likely “hold up historically” against any open-market earnings for Baez this winter, but that’s only true in light of Baez’s 2020-21 decline at the plate.
Arguably the most notable bit of context in all this is the Cubs’ brazen manipulation of Bryant’s service time, wherein they called him up to the Majors in 2015 the first day he was assured of missing a full year of service that season. In doing so, they effectively pushed his free agency back a year. Bryant went on to win NL Rookie of the Year honors and NL MVP honors over the next two seasons while earning scarcely more than the league minimum.
The Cubs eventually won a service time grievance over Bryant after a league-appointed arbitrator ruled in the team’s favor. Bryant was not granted the extra year of service he sought. No one would expect any team executive to willingly bring such matters up in an interview of this nature, but that’s a clear piece of the puzzle being left untouched in Hoyer’s telling of the situation.
On the one hand, it’s refreshing to see a team’s president of baseball operations speak with candor rather than deliver the same tropes we hear time and again. On the other, it’s almost befuddling to state that it’d be “bad faith” to go into specifics regarding individual negotiations only to then cast blame on the entire group of players while painting with broad strokes. Nearly any GM or agent, when discussing contract negotiations, will break out some variation of the “it takes two to tango” cliche. Hoyer’s assertion that the Cubs “put our best foot forward and tried our hardest, but it was not reciprocated,” however, puts the onus squarely on the players.
Perhaps in some cases, that’s where the “fault” (for lack of a better term) should lie. Perhaps the team will have better luck this winter with catcher Willson Contreras, who said this weekend that even in spite of the sell-off, he hoped to remain with the Cubs and was “happy to talk” if the team “wants to rebuild around me.” But comments questioning the extent to which former teammates were committed to the team don’t seem the best way to set the table for negotiations with Contreras or any other player — and they’re unlikely to assuage a fanbase that has heard more about the luxury tax and revenue losses for the past few years than about any headway in retaining the core players who changed hands last week.
The Athletics announced Monday that right-hander Domingo Acevedo, who’d been designated for assignment Saturday, cleared release waivers and has re-signed a minor league deal to return to the organization.
Acevedo made his big league debut with the A’s earlier this season, allowing three runs in three innings before being designated for assignment. That DFA was largely a numbers game, as Oakland needed to clear space for deadline acquisitions Yan Gomes and Josh Harrison.
Based on Acevedo’s success in an exceptionally hitter-friendly Triple-A Las Vegas setting, it’s no surprise that the A’s wanted to quickly bring him back. In 23 1/3 innings with Vegas this year, the 27-year-old righty pitched to a 3.09 ERA with an enormous 42.6 percent strikeout rate and a 5.3 percent walk rate. Among 147 pitchers who’ve appeared in at least 20 Triple-A games this season, Acevedo ranks second in strikeout rate and 33rd in ERA.
Acevedo spent seven years in the Yankees system but never got a look in the Majors with them. He carries a career 3.02 ERA in eight minor league seasons, including a 4.12 mark in 52 1/3 innings of Triple-A ball. If he continues performing at his previous levels, he ought to get another look in the Majors before too long.
The Angels have recalled outfield prospect Jo Adell and right-hander Chris Rodriguez from Triple-A Salt Lake, per a club announcement. Rodriguez, who was in the team’s bullpen earlier this season, will make his first MLB start tonight against the Rangers.
This will be the second call to the Majors for Adell, 22, who struggle mightily in his first go-around last summer. At the time, Adell had just 27 Triple-A games under his belt when making the jump to the big leagues. He’d have garnered more experience there if possible, but the cancellation of the 2020 minor league season deprived him of that opportunity.
So far in 2021, Adell has certainly looked like a player who’s benefited from the extra developmental opportunity in Salt Lake. After hitting just .161/.212/.266 in 132 Major League plate appearances last summer, Adell has returned to Salt Lake and posted a hearty .289/.342/.592 slash with 23 home runs in 339 plate appearances. By measure of wRC+, that’s “only” about 19 percent better than league-average in a supercharged Triple-A offensive environment, but Adell’s recent work has certainly been improving. Since the calendar flipped to July, Adell has absolutely mashed to the tune of a .339/.387/.615 line. He’s dropped his long-problematic strikeout rate to 24.4 percent in that time.
Adell entered the 2020 season as a consensus Top 10 prospect in all of baseball and still ranked No. 13 on Baseball America’s preseason list heading into the current campaign. He fell a bit shy of a full year of service time in 2020, so the timing of his 2021 promotion has no real impact on his path to free agency. Adell accrued 153 days of service in 2020, leaving him 19 days shy of a full year. He’d have finished the current season as a one-plus player whether he was called up on Opening Day or called up on Sept. 1. The later nature of his promotion does remove the possibility of him qualifying as a Super Two player — barring future demotions that further alter his service time — but he’d have been controllable through the 2026 season in virtually any scenario that saw him called to the Majors in 2021.
As for Rodriguez, the 23-year-old righty is a well-regarded farmhand himself. He hasn’t drawn Adell’s level of national fanfare, but he impressed with 19 2/3 frames of 3.66 ERA relief as a 22-year-old earlier this season and will now transition into the rotation — a role the Angels hope he can hold down over the long term.
A back injury that ultimately required surgery has limited Rodriguez’s innings count since he was selected in the fourth round of the 2016 draft. Accordingly, he’s pitched just 117 2/3 innings in total since that selection — including this year’s work both in the minors and in the big leagues. He’ll add a potential power arm to the team’s rotation mix, as he averaged just shy of 97 mph on his heater as a reliever earlier in the year. Given that lack of total innings, it’s not a surprise that the Angels started Rodriguez in the bullpen this year to limit his workload and build him up for future seasons.
Between Rodriguez and the recently promoted Reid Detmers, the Halos are hoping that some of their farm system’s most-promising arms can both help them claw back into the 2021 Wild Card hunt and also gain some vital experience for future seasons. Neither pitcher is guaranteed a spot in the 2022 rotation, but it stands to reason that the final two months could serve as an audition — as is the case with Adell in the corner outfield.
The D-backs announced Monday that they’ve claimed righty Sean Poppen off waivers from the Rays. Right-hander Stefan Crichton, who’d been with the club as a Covid-19 replacement player, was returned to Triple-A Reno in a corresponding roster move. Because Crichton had been selected to the roster as a replacement player, he didn’t need to be put through outright waivers to be sent back to Reno.
Poppen, 27, has seen brief big league action in each of the past three seasons, totaling 21 1/3 innings between the Twins, Pirates and Rays. He pitched just two-thirds of an inning for Tampa Bay this season and another 4 2/3 frames with the Pirates early in the year. The rest of his MLB experience has come in Minnesota. Overall, he carries a 6.33 ERA but a much more palatable 3.85 FIP and 4.12 SIERA in that small sample of work.
Poppen has spent parts of two seasons in Triple-A and pitched quite well — particularly with the Rays’ top affiliate so far in 2021. He’s thrown 28 1/3 frames of 1.59 ERA with Durham while also notching strong strikeout, walk and ground-ball percentages (26.8, 9.8 and 64.3, respectively). Poppen is in his final option year, so he can be shuttled between Reno and Phoenix as the D-backs see fit for the remainder of the 2021 campaign. He’ll be out of options at season’s end, however, so the D-backs won’t be able to send him down next spring unless they first pass him through outright waivers.
Kuhl, 28, tested positive for Covid-19, per the Pirates, so he’ll be sidelined a minimum of 10 days under this year’s health and safety protocols. The right-hander has been a serviceable back-end starter for the Bucs, pitching to a 4.43 ERA in 67 innings this year. However, he’s also averaged fewer than five innings per outing while posting sub-par strikeout and walk percentages (20.1 percent and 12.2 percent, respectively).
The 26-year-old Spitzbarth will make his MLB debut the first time he gets into a game with the Pirates. He’d spent his entire pro career with the Dodgers prior to the 2021 season, having joined the organization as a nondrafted free agent back in 2015. Generally speaking, he’s struggled in the upper minors — at least until the 2021 season. This year, Spitzbarth has pitched to a 1.41 ERA through 32 innings of relief work. Other metrics aren’t as bullish, as evidenced by a 4.42 FIP and 5.09 xFIP. Spitzbarth has benefited from a .202 average on balls in play and a 90.9 percent strand rate so far in Triple-A. Nevertheless, he’ll get his first look in the big leagues more than six years after first signing.
Also of note, manager Derek Shelton revealed to reporters that left-hander Steven Brault is expected to start tomorrow’s game for the Pirates (Twitter link via Mike Persak of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). The 29-year-old Brault hasn’t pitched yet in 2021 owing to a forearm strain suffered late in Spring Training. At the time, it was announced that he’d be shut down at least a month and could miss as much as 12 weeks with the injury, but the timetable proved even lengthier than that.
Brault has spent the past several weeks on a minor league rehab assignment, pitching a total of 12 innings between Class-A and Triple-A as he’s begun to build up for a return to the Pirates. He’s tossed four innings in each of his past two outings, totaling 58 and 56 pitches in that pair of starts (and allowing just one earned run). He’s unlikely to jump from that point to 90-100 pitches in a single outing, but he could give the Pirates four or five innings if he’s reasonably efficient tomorrow.
Mets ace Jacob deGrom has suffered a setback in his rehab from a forearm issue, as recent testing revealed additional inflammation, MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo reports (Twitter link). He’ll be shut down from throwing entirely for another two weeks.
It’s already been more than three weeks since deGrom pitched in a game, so he’ll need some form of rehab assignment or buildup once he’s ready to begin throwing again. Given that, it’s hard to imagine him returning to a big-league mound for the Mets prior to September.
The Mets have a 3.5 game lead in the National League East. Neither the Braves nor Phillies – their closest competitors – made significant splashes at today’s deadline, though both clubs did add some pieces in an attempt to contend with New York. The Nationals and Marlins both sold pieces, and the Mets face that pair 11 times in the coming month.
In terms of their own deadline, the Mets clearly had their pitching depth in mind, though they weren’t able to make a significant addition to that end, and besides, no one can fill deGrom’s shoes. Carlos Carrasco is returning, however, and Trevor Williams was a fine pickup from the Cubs as a depth option (he was optioned to Triple-A). Still, the Mets’ viability as a contender would seem to hinge on deGrom’s long-term health.
Clearly, this will be a situation to monitor moving forward. The trade deadline has passed, so the Mets are what they are for the most part, but hopefully, another couple of weeks of rest will be enough to figure out how to get deGrom back on track and ready for the postseason push.
The Braves and Pirates completed a last-minute deal sending closer Richard Rodriguez from Pittsburgh to Atlanta, reports ESPN’s Jeff Passan (via Twitter). Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic adds that righties Bryse Wilson and Ricky DeVito are headed to Pittsburgh in return for Rodriguez.
Rodriguez, 31, is under team control through 2023. He currently sports a 2.82 ERA, 22.8 K%, 3.4 BB%, and 29.2% groundball rate. Rodriguez’s only standout ability this year has been avoiding walks, and with so few groundballs he may return to his homer-prone ways. Nor does Rodriguez throw particularly hard for a reliever in 2021, averaging 93.2 miles per hour on his fastball. Rodriguez’s ERA stood at 0.45 on May 25th, but since then in 18 games he’s managed a 5.40 ERA.
Still, the Braves have added a solid, controllable setup man to their bullpen behind closer Will Smith. This month Smith has gotten the highest-leverage work for Atlanta, followed by A.J. Minter and Chris Martin. The Braves are four games out in the NL East, sitting one game below .500 at present. This still leaves the club with a 9.7% chance at the playoffs, according to FanGraphs, and Braves President, Baseball Operations & General Manager Alex Anthopoulos chose to go into buying mode. Aside from Rodriguez, Anthopoulos has essentially assembled a brand new outfield with Eddie Rosario, Joc Pederson, Adam Duvall, and Jorge Soler.
In Wilson, the Pirates snagged a 23-year-old righty with 14 career big league starts to his name. Drafted in the fourth round out of high school back in 2016, Baseball America gave Wilson a 50 grade before the season. BA wrote, “Wilson profiles as a back-of-the-rotation workhorse type who will throw strikes and compete.” The Braves had optioned Wilson to Triple-A on Tuesday, but GM Ben Cherington said he should be in Pittsburgh and active tomorrow.
DeVito, a 21-year-old righty, has a 2.66 ERA this year in five High-A starts. FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Kevin Goldstein gave him a 40 grade before the season, noting that “if Devito’s pitch-quality improves a little bit he has a strong chance to be a three-pitch reliever.”
The Cardinals added a second veteran lefty just prior to the trade deadline, agreeing to acquire longtime division rival Jon Lester from the Nationals in exchange for outfielder Lane Thomas. Both teams announced the swap.
Lester joins fellow graybeard J.A. Happ as a new addition to a Cardinals rotation that has been decimated by injury. The Cards are currently without ace Jack Flaherty (oblique strain), while Carlos Martinez is done for the year after undergoing thumb surgery. Miles Mikolas has pitched just four innings this year owing to another forearm strain. The Cards knew Dakota Hudson wouldn’t pitch in 2021 after he had Tommy John surgery last September. They’ve also seen absences for Kwang-hyun Kim and Daniel Ponce de Leon at times; the latter is on the shelf with a shoulder issue at the moment, in fact.
With so many injuries on the staff, the Cards had already turned to veteran lefty Wade LeBlanc to soak up some innings, and their acquisitions of Happ and Lester come with similar goals. Neither Happ nor Lester has pitched all that well in 2021, though Lester has the far better results of the two. He’s worked to a 5.02 ERA in 76 innings for the Nats and generated respectable ground-ball (42%) and walk (8.5%) rates. His 14.9 percent strikeout rate, however, is about nine percent worse than the league-average.
Lester, at this point, is primarily a five-inning pitcher. He’s recorded an out in the sixth inning or later in just five of his 16 trips to the mound this season and has been rocked at a .333/.386/.627 clip on the rare occasions he’s been asked to turn a lineup over for a third time. He’s not the innings eater that he once was, but if the Cardinals don’t try to push him into the sixth and seventh innings on the regular, he ought to be able to keep them in games and help bridge the gap until Flaherty and Mikolas are hopefully able to return. Lester is on a one-year, $5MM contract and will be a free agent at season’s end.
As for the Nationals’ return, the 26-year-old Thomas has yet to produce in the big leagues outside a quick cup of coffee late in the 2019 season, although it’s still rather surprising to see the Cardinals part with a big-league-ready outfielder who can be optioned both this year and next. Thomas is hitting just .104/.259/.125 this year, though it’s just a sample of 58 plate appearances. He’s an overall .172/.289/.336 hitter in a similarly small sample of 142 plate appearances.
Thomas ranked as the Cardinals No. 14 prospect at FanGraphs as recently as last summer, drawing praise for his defensive prowess in center field and the potential to pair that with some improved power and plate coverage. His lack of production in the big leagues notwithstanding, Thomas is a .269/.342/.468 hitter in parts of three Triple-A seasons, including a .265/.339/.451 showing in Triple-A Memphis this season.
The move to the Nationals seems like a good opportunity for Thomas, who’d been squeezed out of the outfield picture in St. Louis in favor of Tyler O’Neill, Harrison Bader and Dylan Carlson. With the Nationals, who traded Kyle Schwarber and have a struggling Victor Robles in center field, opportunities for Thomas ought to be more plentiful. He might be a long shot to break out as an everyday option in D.C., but Thomas should at least get that chance. For two months of a struggling veteran starter, it’s a pretty nice roll of the dice for the Nats to inherit.