Federowicz did not see much game action during his brief stint in the majors, striding to bat only seven teams. He has seen time in seven MLB seasons, but only once has taken more than 78 plate appearances. Federowicz had been hitting quite well at Triple-A, though, with a .337/.407/.584 slash in his 113 plate appearances.
The Astros will place catcher Brian McCann on the 10-day DL with knee soreness, Jake Kaplan of The Athletic was among those to report on Twitter. He’ll be replaced on the active roster by fellow backstop Tim Federowicz, whose contract will be selected.
McCann has dealt with knee issues in the past, which perhaps is not terribly surprising for a 34-year-old who has logged over 1,500 games behind the dish in his MLB career. By the description, it seems this placement is more about dealing with the long-term wear and tear than addressing any particular recent, acute injury.
Certainly, the numbers suggest it’s time for a respite. While the ’Stros have surged, McCann has fallen off with the bat. He posted a .271/.397/.407 slash in his first 73 plate appearances but is hitting just .164/.207/.291 in his most recent 58 trips to the dish.
As for Federowicz, he’ll be appearing in his seventh MLB season, though he has only 318 total plate appearances to date at the game’s highest level. He has been doing damage at Triple-A, as is his wont, with a .337/.407/.584 slash in 113 plate appearances this year — boosting his lifetime OPS at the highest level of the minors to a healthy .884 mark.
Generally, this move helps explain why many see the ’Stros as a plausible suitor for catching help at the trade deadline. McCann, who’s controlled by a club option for 2019, has generally been a solid asset for Houston but likely isn’t suited to heavy usage behind the dish at this stage of his career. Current reserve Max Stassi has impressed to date with a .300/.371/.525 slash on the year, though that has come with 29 strikeouts in 89 plate appearances.
Cole Hamels has a 20-team no-trade clause in his contract, though the veteran southpaw described his no-trade protection as “just kind of a formality” during a wide-ranging chat with NJ Advance Media’s Randy Miller. Hamels can block deals to every team except the Braves, Mariners, Phillies, Nationals, Rays, Cardinals, Cubs, Royals, and Astros, though it doesn’t sound like he would have any specific objection to being dealt to a contender. “Really, it’s just kind of like heads up….It just kind of provides a little bit more information, a little bit more bargaining power,” Hamels said. “That’s kind of really what that entails. But at the end of the day, situations kind of come up and I think everybody understands what can transpire.”
With the Rangers struggling and Hamels in his final year under contract, the former World Series MVP has often been cited as a potential deadline trade chip. Some players in Hamels’ position have used their no-trade clause to garner some extra money and/or future security, though it doesn’t seem like Hamels would be particularly inclined to insist that a new team (for example) automatically pick up the $20MM club option on his services for 2019. It’s worth noting that several of Hamels’ nine non-protected teams are contenders, so Texas might not necessarily have to worry about the no-trade clause at all to potentially deal the left-hander. Miller’s full piece is well worth a read, as Hamels discusses several topics about his past and future in baseball.
Some more from the AL West…
- An MRI revealed some damage to Blake Wood’s ulnar collateral ligament, the Angels told MLB.com’s Maria Guardado and other reporters today. Wood will receive a second opinion before deciding on his next course of action. The extent of the damage isn’t known, though the worst-case scenario would be that Wood undergoes Tommy John surgery and is thus sidelined through at least half of the 2019 season. Wood has been on the DL for the last month due to an elbow impingement, and had posted a 2.31 ERA, 7.7 K/9, and 1.43 K/BB rate over 11 2/3 IP out of the Los Angeles bullpen this season. Wood is a free agent this winter, and would be facing some type of incentive-heavy, minor league deal at best if he does face a Tommy John absence.
- The Angels’ balancing act of using Shohei Ohtani as a two-way player has been “perfect” based on Ohtani’s projected and assumed values as a pitcher and as a hitter, according to ESPN.com’s Sam Miller. “The miracle isn’t just that we get to see a player who is as good at hitting and as good at pitching as Ohtani is. It’s that we get to see one who is precisely this good at each so that this usage makes sense,” Miller writes.
- As part of a reader mailbag piece, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart writes that he would “be surprised” if Brian McCann is with the Astros in 2019. McCann is in the final guarantee year of his contract and the Astros hold a $15MM club option on him for next season. This option vests into a player option should McCann has 601 PA and at least 90 starts at catcher this season, and doesn’t end the year on the disabled list, though obviously Houston could manage McCann’s workload to ensure he doesn’t hit the vesting threshold. The hot-hitting Max Stassi has already cut into McCann’s playing time, though McTaggart isn’t sure that Stassi (a longtime prospect) would necessarily be the starting catcher going forward if the Astros parted ways with McCann. It’s worth noting that the Astros were linked to J.T. Realmuto in trade rumors last winter, and the team has the minor league trade chips to manage such a big acquisition. McCann, 34, has above-average run creation numbers (111 wRC+) via his .248/.347/.396 slash line in 118 PA this season, though his production over the last five years has generally been closer to league-average.
- The Athletics’ pick of Matt Chapman with the 25th overall selection of the 2014 draft came about due to something of a “reverse Moneyball” situation, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal writes (subscription required). Chapman had only modest hitting numbers in college ball but his skillset was heavily praised by A’s scouts; unlike the events of the film and Michael Lewis’ book, Billy Beane and company decided to go against the statistics to choose Chapman, as a private workout for the team prior to the draft helped answer the front office’s concerns. The pick looks like a great one for the A’s, as Chapman has broken out into one of the game’s most promising young stars.
As major league organizations compete to bring home the shiniest new cars in Playoffville (Copyright Scott Boras), let’s check in on the latest rumored connections:
- The Pirates have at least “some interest” in old friend Neil Walker, Jon Morosi of MLB Network tweets. Morosi cites uncertainty surrounding Jung Ho Kang as driving the possibility of a reunion, though as MLB.com’s Adam Berry writes, there’s another perspective on that subject, too. GM Neal Huntington says there’s still some hope that Kang will be able to return and finish his contract. If not, though, he feels the team is in good shape in the infield without him, due in part to the acquisition of Sean Rodriguez over the summer.
- It seems there’s some mutual interest between the Cubs and righty Alex Cobb, as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. That’s not a surprising connection, given the common roots with the Rays of Cobb and several key Cubs figures. The sides have engaged in preliminary discussions, though Wittenmyer’s sources tell him that contract particulars haven’t yet been broached.
- Another starter getting a bite is Tyler Chatwood, in whom the Orioles have shown interest, per Morosi (via Twitter). That’s a connection that comes as little surprise. Baltimore is going to have to take some chances to fill out its staff, and Chatwood looks to be one of the market’s more interesting possibilities to provide value. He won’t turn 28 until December and has posted solid results outside of Coors Field, prompting MLBTR to predict a three-year deal (albeit at a relatively modest annual value). While Camden Yards and the AL East are an intimidating prospect for many pitchers, Chatwood at least has plenty of experience dealing with similar challenges.
- The Mets are among the teams with interest in free agent southpaw Mike Minor, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. We’ve heard recently about New York’s desire to pursue impact relief pitching, and Minor certainly fits that mold. Given his past history as a starter and dominance against southpaws last year, the 29-year-old would provide quite a bit of functionality.
- The Astros are showing some interest in free agent catcher Jonathan Lucroy, according to Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter). Lucroy could make for an interesting fit in Houston, though adding a backstop of that quality no doubt would represent a luxury for the team that already has most everything. Presumably, the ’Stros could plan to split time between Lucroy and fellow veteran Brian McCann, with the other spending quite a lot of time at DH (if not also some first base). Signing Lucroy could mean non-tendering Evan Gattis, though he might also be retained and also utilized in the same rotation. There are certainly some intriguing possibilities here, though Lucroy should also be pursued by others that might offer him significant time as a primary catcher.
- It seems the Rays could again be a suitor for veteran slugger Jose Bautista, per Morosi (Twitter links). Talks haven’t really progressed to this point, but that’s hardly surprising — particularly since Tampa Bay’s entire offseason approach remains largely unclear. For his part, Bautista is said to be willing to spend time at DH or the corner infield, per agent Jay Alou.
A few notes from around the game:
- Soon-to-be free agent ace/outfielder Shohei Ohtani spoke with the Associated Press and other media on Saturday about his desire to leave Japan for the major leagues this winter. “The other day I met with team officials and stated my intentions,” Ohtani said, referring to the Nippon Ham Fighters. “My request was met with warm words of support, so I hope to do my best in America from next year on.” The 23-year-old is renowned for both his pitching and hitting skills, but he noted that he’s “not a complete player yet,” which is his “strongest reason for wanting to go now.” While Ohtani does have “a strong desire” to continue as a two-way player in the majors, he admitted that he’s unsure if it’ll be possible.
- Astros catcher Brian McCann told Gabriel Burns of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Friday that he’d like to end his career as a member of the Braves, with whom he thrived from 2005-13. “One hundred percent,” said the 33-year-old McCann. “One hundred percent. This is my home. I played close to 10 years here. This organization is really, really, really close to my heart. I love this organization.” McCann, a Georgia native who still lives there, will be a free agent next offseason if the Astros decline his $15MM option. Braves backstops Tyler Flowers and Kurt Suzuki are also slated to hit the open market, which could pave the way for a McCann-Atlanta reunion in 2019 if the club’s interested in making it happen.
- The team that makes a surprise splash in free agency is most likely to be the Phillies, according to a group of executives and agents who spoke with Mark Feinsand of MLB.com. “They say they aren’t doing anything, but I have a feeling they will go after someone big,” an exec told Feinsand, who points to right-handers Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb as potential targets for the team. On paper, either would improve a Phillies rotation that ranked 19th in fWAR and 21st in ERA in 2017, when Aaron Nola was their only starter who turned in a particularly strong performance.
The Astros have placed catcher Brian McCann on the 10-day DL and designated righty Jordan Jankowski for assignment, Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle reports (Twitter links). Jankowski will lose his 40-man spot to allow the club to select the contract of Max Stassi, who is needed to fill in for McCann.
It isn’t yet known what kind of absence McCann is facing, though it doesn’t sound like there’s too much cause for concern. The veteran backstop is said to be dealing with right knee soreness. Given Houston’s commanding position in the AL West standings, some down time for McCann won’t likely hurt.
In McCann’s steady, the 26-year-old Stassi will get his first MLB time in 2017. He has appeared very briefly in each of the four prior campaigns; while it seemed he’d get a longer look in 2016, that failed to come about due to an injury and Stassi ended up losing his 40-man spot.
Thus far in 2017, Stassi has turned around what had been a lengthy offensive malaise. Through 287 plate appearances at the highest level of the minors, he’s slashing .266/.383/.473 with a dozen home runs and greatly improved plate discipline (13.2% walk rate against a 23.3% strikeout rate).
Jankowski will not control his fate. He’ll either end up with another organization (via trade or claim), land back at Triple-A Fresno after being outrighted (without right of refusal), or be set onto the open market (if the ’Stros don’t wish to keep him).
Thus far in 2017, the 28-year-old Jankowski has failed to carry a sub-4.00 ERA for the first time as a professional. Through 40 1/3 innings at Triple-A, he owns a 5.13 ERA with 11.8 K/9 and 5.1 BB/9. Jankowski did earn his first MLB call-up, though he was knocked around in 4 1/3 innings, and could intrigue other organizations with his history of big strikeout numbers.
The Astros have placed catcher Brian McCann on the seven-day concussion disabled list, retroactive to Saturday, and selected the contract of fellow backstop Juan Centeno from Triple-A, per Brian McTaggart of MLB.com (on Twitter).
McCann is now the second prominent Astro to hit the DL since Saturday, joining ace Dallas Keuchel on the shelf. Like Keuchel, McCann has thrived for the 29-14 Astros, owners of the majors’ best record. McCann, whom Houston acquired from the Yankees in an offseason trade, has slashed .269/.365/.454 with six home runs and as many walks as strikeouts (17) in 126 plate appearances. On the defensive side, the 33-year-old has continued a careerlong trend of serving as a plus pitch framer, according to Baseball Prospectus.
Fortunately for the Astros, they do have a quality reserve behind McCann in the power-hitting Evan Gattis, who has also performed well this season. Centeno, an offseason minor league signing, will back up Gattis. The 27-year-old Centeno has been great this season at Triple-A, where he has slashed .368/.395/.487 line in 83 PAs, though he hasn’t been nearly as successful in the majors. In 258 big league PAs, including 192 with the Twins last year, Centeno has hit .236/.290/.338. Behind the plate, BP ranked him among the majors’ worst framers in 2016.
With Rick Porcello and Chris Sale suddenly looking like the only healthy and reliable members of the Red Sox starting five, Boston’s rotation is “a house of cards,” in the words of CSNNE.com’s Evan Drellich (video link). Lou Merloni, Jared Carrabis, and Drellich discuss Boston’s lack of pitching depth in the wake of David Price’s season-opening DL stint and Drew Pomeranz having to leave an outing today due to left triceps tightness. The controversial circumstances of the Red Sox/Padres deal that brought Pomeranz to Boston last season are also revisited, with Carrabis noting that “the trade looks like it keeps getting worse every single day” from the Sox perspective given Pomeranz’s ongoing injury problems.
Here’s more from around the AL East…
- Brian McCann has nothing but fond memories of his time with the Yankees, though he told Randy Miller of NJ Advance Media that being traded to the Astros represents “a best-case scenario for both sides.” McCann was willing to waive his no-trade protection in order to join “a team filled with talent…young talent that’s going to be together for a while” that would allow him to regularly catch, while the Yankees were clearly going with Gary Sanchez as the catcher of both the future and the present. “You’ve got to see what you have, and what they have is a very talented catcher that is going to be there for a long time,” McCann said, noting that he himself displaced a veteran catcher (Johnny Estrada) when he first broke into the bigs as a rookie with the Braves in 2005.
- Players face a big decision when presented with the opportunity to sign an early-career extension, as Evan Longoria and Jake Odorizzi of the Rays tell Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Longoria’s first extension with the Rays (a six-year, $17.5MM deal signed just a week into his big league career) drew some criticism at the time, though Longoria saw it as a chance to “have this security for myself and my family and just play and relax.”
- Odorizzi, meanwhile, passed on a discussed extension with the Rays two offseasons ago. Topkin reports that the proposed extension would have been a six-year deal worth close to $30MM in guaranteed money, with over $20MM more available via two additional club option years. Such a deal would’ve covered at least two of Odorizzi’s free agent seasons and potentially kept him under team control through his age-33 season. Odorizzi doesn’t regret turning down the extension, saying “sometimes it boils down to, and I hate to say it, but the dollar amount. We all know the money in this game and the value of players and what your value is. And sometimes it just doesn’t match up. That’s just the circumstances.”
- The Blue Jays hope to gain a competitive advantage with their high performance department, as Sportsnet.ca’s Arden Zwelling takes a look inside the all-encompassing plan dedicated to keeping players physically and mentally prepared year-round. Club president Mark Shapiro hired sports psychologist Angus Mugford last year to create the high performance department, which has now grown into a 43-person staff consisting of fitness trainers, dieticians, mental coaches, and more. The department’s focus on each player’s individual status helped the Jays decide to keep Aaron Sanchez in the rotation last season, as since Sanchez had so diligently been keeping himself in good condition, there was less fear that he would wear down after throwing so many innings.
Two weeks ago, the Dodgers were leaning toward having left-hander Julio Urias open the season in their rotation. It now appears he’ll begin in the minors as they attempt to tamp down his workload, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The 20-year-old phenom threw a career-high 122 innings between the majors and minors in 2016, and LA wants to keep him fresh this season for a potential playoff run. Should the Dodgers send down Urias, they’d choose among Brandon McCarthy, Alex Wood and “wild card” Hyun-Jin Ryu to fill their final two rotation spots, adds Sherman (Twitter links here).
Elsewhere around the majors…
- Houston’s acquisition of catcher Brian McCann from the Yankees in November played a key role in their December signing of designated hitter Carlos Beltran, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow informed Mark Feinsand of MLB.com. “As we recruited Beltran, bringing McCann over was a big part of getting Beltran to accept coming over here,” said Luhnow. Teammates in New York from 2014-16, McCann and Beltran have already been quite valuable behind the scenes for the Astros, per Luhnow. “These two guys have been a tremendous boost to the environment in our clubhouse,” he stated. “I’m so glad they’re here.”
- When he accepted the Royals’ two-year, $12MM guarantee as a free agent last month, southpaw Travis Wood seemed like a decent bet to start 2017 in their rotation. But another offseason acquisition, trade pickup Nate Karns, has emerged over Wood and Chris Young as the clear favorite for Kansas City’s last starting spot, tweets Sherman. The right-handed Karns, 29, made 46 starts with the Nationals, Rays and Mariners from 2013-16 and logged a 4.19 ERA, 9.0 K/9 and 3.69 BB/9 over 249 innings. The 30-year-old Wood worked solely as a reliever with the World Series champion Cubs last season, which came after he racked up 133 starts in Cincinnati and Chicago from 2010-15. He recorded the same ERA as Karns (4.19) to go with 7.11 K/9 against 3.15 BB/9 during that 776-inning span.
- Free agent reliever Eric Gagne, 41, is making a case for a contract in the World Baseball Classic, though the Team Canada righty and 2003 NL Cy Young winner realizes he’d first have to succeed in the minors to have any chance at returning to the majors. “I know the game, I know how it happens, I know they need spots on the 40-man roster and don’t want to release a young guy for a 41 year old, so of course I’d be willing to do anything,” the former closer told Shi Davidi of Sportsnet. Gagne, who hasn’t pitched in the bigs since 2008, worked out for five teams before the WBC, writes Davidi, and has since fared well in the tournament. “Words are irrelevant at this point. Clubs are seeing it with their own eyes,” Gagne’s agent, Scott Leventhal, told FanRag’s Jon Heyman (Twitter link).
There’s an expectation among rival executives that the Rays will trade one of either Drew Smyly or Chris Archer this winter, writes ESPN’s Buster Olney in his latest blog (Insider subscription required and recommended). Other teams are also expecting that Tampa Bay will trade closer Alex Colome, who moved into the ninth inning following an injury to Brad Boxberger and delivered a brilliant breakout season in the Rays’ bullpen, though we haven’t really heard any specific clubs tied to him. Smyly is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $6.9MM this winter in his latest trip through the arbitration process, while Colome is not yet eligible for arbitration (though he’s building a nice case for himself when he does reach that point). Because Colome hasn’t reached arbitration and comes with an additional four years of club control, the Rays should be able to ask for a sizable haul. Of course, those same factors also mean that Tampa Bay doesn’t need to feel an urgency to move Colome, as he’d earn scarcely over the league minimum in 2017. The 27-year-old posted a pristine 1.91 ERA and averaged 11.3 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9 to go along with a 47.1 percent ground-ball rate in 56 2/3 innings.
A bit more on some other possible trade and free agent scenarios around the league…
- The Athletics are “actively listening to offers” for right-hander Sonny Gray, per Olney. Gray’s name has been a mainstay in trade rumors over the past year and a half, but with a $3.7MM salary projection for next season and Oakland looks more likely to move veteran pieces, there’s a better chance this winter that he’s moved than there has been in previous trade seasons. Of course, teams may be wary of Gray’s 5.69 ERA and time on the disabled list this past season, and the A’s aren’t likely to consider selling Gray at a discounted price, so agreeing on price with interested teams certainly presents some hurdles. Gray is still just 27 and is controlled for another three seasons.
- With Brian McCann shipped out today, the Yankees appear to be turning their attention to additions to the roster. Pitching is at the top of the list, with Rich Hill a possible target, Olney tweets. And he adds that slugger Carlos Beltran remains a target. As James Wagner of the New York Times reports (Twitter links), GM Brian Cashman says that the organization is looking to add bats. While it isn’t committed to spending big, he says he expects to continue discussions with top-of-the-market hitter Yoenis Cespedes. “I’m sure we’ll talk again,” said Cashman of his contact with Cespedes’s reps. “Now that we have more flexibility, it gives us more choices.”
- Though the Braves have been connected to several top young starters, their focus is on trying to work a deal with the White Sox for Chris Sale, according to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It’s still unclear just how hard Atlanta will push to pry him loose, and certainly Chicago isn’t in a position where it needs to move its affordable, excellent, and still-youthful ace. And as O’Brien notes, the Braves have signaled previously that they aren’t interested in emptying their farm to move toward contention — though there may be an added willingness to give up some premium assets in this case, as would certainly be necessary to get something done.
- The Blue Jays are looking into infielder/outfielder Sean Rodriguez, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca reports. It seems that Toronto would like to add a right-handed-hitting piece with some defensive versatility, with Rodriguez joining Steve Pearce as plausible targets. The idea would be to utilize such a player as a platoon complement to first baseman Justin Smoak (a switch-hitter who struggles against lefties) and in the corner outfield.