- The Red Sox have been scouting a veteran third baseman in Todd Frazier, and like in a hypothetical Peralta scenario, the White Sox would cover some salary in a trade (Frazier is owed a little under $9MM for the rest of 2017). Also like Peralta, Frazier isn’t in good form, hitting just .191/.280/.357 in 132 PA this season. Frazier has hit 75 homers over the last two years, however, and is a well-regarded clubhouse leader.
- The White Sox are encouraged by the early pen sessions turned in by currently DL’ed setup man Nate Jones, as Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com writes. He might only need one or two more controlled sessions before facing hitters in some fashion — either in a sim game or at the start of a rehab assignment. Jones is dealing with a case of elbow neuritis, but could turn into a significant trade piece this summer if he’s able to pick up where he left off upon his return.
TODAY: The Reds likely won’t end up with Robert, president of baseball operations Dick Williams suggested in comments to Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Per Williams, the price is “moving beyond something that we are able to do.” While the club does indeed have interest, says its top baseball decisionmaker, “there’s a certain amount beyond which a franchise in our market just can’t afford.”
YESTERDAY: The White Sox and Cardinals are seen as the two likeliest organizations to land standout Cuban youngster Luis Robert, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America. Sources say the same to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.
That’s not to say that other teams aren’t still involved in pursuit of the 19-year-old phenom, who will officially be eligible to sign this weekend. He will need to ink a deal by June 15th if he wishes to avoid the hard spending caps that will be instituted for the next July 2nd signing period — which seems a certainty at this point. Passan, in fact, suggests that Robert has already selected a team and will sign soon after he is eligible. Furthermore, he cites three sources in stating that the “suggested floor” when teams began submitting bids for Robert was $20MM — a sum that would be accompanied a 100 percent luxury tax.
Among the others that have been tied to Robert are the Reds, Astros, Athletics, and Padres. Neither the Nationals nor the Braves appear to be in pursuit, per Badler, despite going well over their own allocations. Those organizations have taken close looks at the intriguing prospect and have already accepted the maximum penalties for overshooting their pool allocations.
As Badler explains, the Cards are in a somewhat unique situation because of their lack of draft picks this year. (The club’s top three selections are gone due to the signing of Dexter Fowler and the Astros database access scandal.) That leaves the club with a large war chest with which to work internationally.
The White Sox, meanwhile, have not yet exceeded their 2016-17 pool, meaning they could avoid a two-year ban on $300K+ signings if they don’t get Robert. But Chicago is obviously focused on accumulating high-upside young talent that’s nearing readiness, and Robert is closer to the majors than the typical sixteen-year-old international signee. Notably, per Badler, the club hasn’t lined up deals with high-bonus talent for the ensuing signing period — perhaps suggesting that the organization is eyeing a move on Robert.
Whichever way Robert goes, Passan writes, it’ll be the end of an interesting era of major Cuban signings. For one thing, the pipeline of talent will likely hew to an earlier age, particularly if there’s a continued move to improve relations between the United States and the neighboring island nation. Combined with the new rules prohibiting teams from going past their spending limits on players under 25 years of age — even if they’d be willing to pay a 100% tax on overages — there’s little prospect for another major payday unless and until the system undergoes an unexpected change.
Jon Heyman of Fan Rag takes a look around the league in his latest notes columns. In addition to providing updates on every National League and American League team, he takes a particularly close look at the Nationals in separate posts. Let’s take a look at some of the items of particular relevance to the transactional landscape:
- The Nationals are beginning to put in phone calls to rivals as they start the search for a new closer in earnest, Heyman writes. Among the players under consideration by the team, at present, are a variety of names with differing contract situations. David Robertson of the White Sox, Kelvin Herrera of the Royals, and A.J. Ramos of the Marlins all have two years remaining at less-than-bargain rates (the latter two via arbitration). Alex Colome of the Rays and Roberto Osuna of the Blue Jays, meanwhile, bring more years of cheap control — and, in all likelihood, astronomical asking prices. Then there’s old friend Mark Melancon, who is in the first year of the four-year pact he signed with the Giants — who evidently beat the Nats’ offer over the winter. Needless to say, there’s quite a lot that could change that picture over the coming months.
- Looking back a bit, the Nationals came closer than any other team to landing Andrew McCutchen from the Pirates over the winter, Heyman adds.Per the report, the sides held talks that “revolved around three players, including Lucas Giolito and veteran Gio Gonzalez.” It’s not immediately clear what else might have been involved, and where things went south, but it’s interesting to hear those parameters. The Nats ultimately pivoted to Adam Eaton, of course, but he’s now out for the year. Perhaps it’s conceivable that the team could take another look at McCutchen, though no doubt the teams would need to start discussions anew with Giolito in Chicago, Gonzalez a key member of the Nats staff and McCutchen struggling.
- The Marlins sale talks had seemingly been building, but Heyman writes that there’s no deal ready to be made at present. For one thing, there are whispers that the purchase price will continue to drop as the organization’s financial health comes under greater scrutiny. For another, there are still questions about where the money will come from on the buyer’s side. “[A]t least the Bush-Jeter group and maybe the Romney-Glavine group, too, [are] still seeking investors,” per Heyman.
- Two significant recent investments made by the Marlins aren’t delivering value at present. Per Heyman, lefty Wei-Yin Chen is headed for a second opinion with his elbow issue still failing to progress. It seems the team could be bracing for a relatively lengthy absence. And Heyman notes that some in the baseball operations department weren’t thrilled at the idea of extending Martin Prado last year at $40MM over three years. He has been playing well enough, but is back on the DL with a recurring hamstring injury.
- Pirates righty Gerrit Cole has looked strong in the early going, but Heyman says the team may not be interested in dealing him even if they continue to lag in the standings. “We’re not in any rush,” a club source tells him. “I don’t think we’re there yet.” The 26-year-old owns a 2.84 ERA with 7.9 K/9 and 1.0 BB/9; while the peripherals are largely in line with his 2016 work, the improved results are supported by jumps in swinging-strike rate (9.9%) and average fastball velocity (a career-high 96.1 mph). With two more years of arb eligibility to go, Cole would likely command a big price at the deadline.
- While the Rays entered play today just one game under .500, that doesn’t mean they aren’t readying for the possibility of selling. Of course, given the team’s pitching depth, it’s imaginable that the team could send out a veteran while still maintaining hopes of cracking the postseason. Per Heyman, Tampa Bay has “already begun calling to get a gauge on the value of Alex Cobb.” Rivals also think the club will be amenable to discussing both Jake Odorizzi and Chris Archer, he adds. Cobb, though, is the most obvious possible trade chip. The 29-year-old was homer-prone in his return from Tommy John surgery last year, but has looked solid through 56 1/3 innings this year — his last before reaching free agency. He carries a 3.67 ERA with 6.1 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 to go with a 47.5% groundball rate. Cobb still isn’t getting swings and misses like he used to, but his velocity is better than ever and he has tamped down on the long balls thus far.
White Sox fans hoping to see Yoan Moncada join the Major League club will definitely be waiting a bit longer, as Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago reports that the top prospect is expected to land on the minor league 7-day disabled list tomorrow (Twitter link). Moncada has been playing through a sore left thumb, and while an MRI didn’t reveal any serious injury, it’s been nagging him enough that the team has decided it’s best to get him some rest. Soon to turn 22, Moncada got off to a ridiculous start to the 2017 season, hitting .352/.427/.565 through his first 27 games (124 plate appearances). His bat has slowed mightily over the last week, though, as he’s managed just a .258/.303/.290 line through his seven most recent games.
Outfielder/corner infielder Cody Asche has been outrighted off the White Sox’ 40-man roster, according to Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago (Twitter link). Asche has accepted his assignment to Triple-A Charlotte, Hayes adds.
Asche’s removal from the 40-man roster leaves Chicago’s 40-man count at 39. The team opened a spot for right-hander Gregory Infante by placing Geovany Soto on the 60-day disabled list yesterday, but it’s not yet clear what the corresponding move for Asche’s outright will be.
Once one of the top prospects in the Phillies organization, the now-26-year-old Asche has stumbled in multiple auditions at the Major League level. Although he owns a strong .297/.359/.491 batting line across parts of four Triple-A campaigns (644 plate appearances), Asche has managed just a .234/.293/.376 triple slash in the Majors. That includes a woeful .105/.177/.175 effort through 62 plate appearances with the White Sox this season.
It has been a long and winding path back to the big leagues for White Sox righty Gregory Infante, as Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago writes. After briefly making his MLB debut at 22 years of age, the now-29-year-old had bounced around the upper minors waiting for another shot. That finally came after Infante threw 13 dominant innings at Triple-A Charlotte to open the current season, earning him a ticket back to the majors. “I am very happy and glad to get this opportunity,” Infante said. “The last seven years were tough years, but I also worked a lot in the last seven to get to this point because this is where you want to be as a player.”
- That White Sox bullpen of which Infante is now a member figures to draw plenty of attention over the coming months. With a variety of interesting arms — closer David Robertson, injured setup man Nate Jones, and suddenly interesting righties Tommy Kahnle and Anthony Swarzak — on hand, the rebuilding organization could be in quite a nice selling position at the deadline. In the meantime, manager Rick Renteria tells Hayes, the organization plans to carry eight relievers — helping to spread the burden in the pen and alleviate any innings shortages from the rotation.
- Tigers reliever Joe Jimenez is expected to miss about a month with a back injury, writes John Wagner of the Toledo Blade. Jimenez, 22, has been working at Triple-A after a rough debut in the majors. Since his demotion, Jimenez has continued the dominant path he charted over the preceding four seasons, racking up 13 strikeouts against four hits and two walks over 6 1/3 scoreless innings. Had that continued, he may well have been positioned to return to the bigs in relatively short order. Instead, he’ll first have to rehab the injury.
- Indians outfielder Austin Jackson appears to be progressing from his toe injury, as Jordan Bastian of MLB.com reports on Twitter. The veteran is with the club today, participating in agility drills and baserunning work. It’s not clear whether he’ll require a brief rehab stint once he’s back to health, but presumably he’ll be ready for MLB duty in relatively short order once his toe is healed.
This week’s installation of “Knocking Down The Door” includes two of the best middle infield prospects in baseball, a 22-year-old first baseman with a .404 OBP in Triple-A, and a pair of starting pitchers who combined for 23 strikeouts in their last start.
Jacob Faria, SP, Tampa Bay Rays (Triple-A Durham)
Despite not making it through the fifth inning in his latest start, the 23-year-old Faria has likely propelled himself to the top of the Rays’ “next in line” spot in the starting rotation. Striking out 13 hitters while recording 14 outs does tend to get a pitcher noticed, as will his overall numbers on the season (3.47 ERA, 3.7 BB/9, 14.4 K/9).
Coincidentally, there is a spot open after Blake Snell was optioned to Triple-A over the weekend. The Rays will certainly discuss whether Faria can have more success than the inconsistent and inefficient Snell, who has completed six innings only six times in 27 MLB starts. Prior to his 108-pitch, 4 2/3-inning outing on May 10th, Faria had back-to-back six-inning starts in which he threw 89 and 91 pitches, respectively, while allowing only two runs with one walk and 17 strikeouts. That should help his cause.
Ronald Guzman, 1B, Texas Rangers (Triple-A Round Rock)
Mike Napoli’s four homers and two doubles over a 10-game span to start the month, as well as the team’s recent six-game win streak, should at least temporarily halt any talk of a lineup shakeup. However, Triple-A first baseman Ronald Guzman hasn’t slowed down one bit, and Napoli is still just 6 for his last 34 with with an overall season slash line of .165/225/.353. Even for a well-respected veteran with a strong track record, that’s not going to cut it for much longer.
The left-handed hitting Guzman struggled after a late-season promotion to Triple-A in 2016, but he’s having no such trouble this time around. After a multi-homer game on Sunday, the 22-year-old is slashing .343/.404/.518 with five homers, five doubles and two triples in 36 games with Triple-A Round Rock.
Yoan Moncada, 2B, Chicago White Sox (Triple-A Charlotte)
The White Sox could have a lineup spot available after optioning designated hitter Cody Asche to the minors today. The corresponding move is a reliever, but that could be temporary with the team possibly calling up another position player in the near future. A pair of candidates, Nick Delmonico, a Knocking Down The Door pick from three weeks ago, and Danny Hayes, haven’t hit much this month and Triple-A Charlotte’s two most productive hitters, Kevan Smith and Willy Garcia, are already in the Majors. Would they promote top prospect Moncada just days after general manager Rich Hahn shot down the idea? It wouldn’t be the first time a team has misled the media on a player move or simply just changed their mind.
The 21-year-old Moncada is still striking out at an alarming rate (42 K in 153 PAs) and was overwhelmed in a late-season stint with the Red Sox in 2016. But he’s also putting up huge numbers in Triple-A (.333/.405/.511 with six homers, four doubles and 10 stolen bases) and his plate discipline has improved drastically this month. He had 10 walks and 30 strikeouts in April; he has seven walks and 12 strikeouts in May.
At this point, Moncada’s free agency has already been pushed back another season—he won’t be eligible until after the 2023 campaign, at the earliest. Calling him up now, or in the near future, would allow him to gain some valuable experience while possibly providing an offensive spark for a team that has probably been more competitive than many expected.
Amed Rosario, SS, New York Mets (Triple-A Las Vegas)
Asdrubal Cabrera’s torn thumb ligament could send him to the disabled list at some point, maybe even today, which could prompt Rosario’s immediate call-up. Let’s be clear, though. The 21-year-old shortstop has done everything in his power to warrant the promotion and a good argument could be made even if Cabrera was healthy.
After all, the defensive-savvy Rosario is knocking the cover off of the ball in his first Triple-A stint—.359/.401/.493 with two homers and 11 doubles—and this struggling Mets team could use all the help it can get.
Lucas Sims, SP, Atlanta Braves (Triple-A Gwinnett)
The Braves’ successful finish to the 2016 season—they won 35 of their last 62 games—had some fans thinking playoffs in 2017. Instead of taking a chance on their unproven young pitching prospects to fill out the MLB rotation, the Braves added three veteran starters over the offseason: Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey and Jaime Garcia. This was not a bad decision, as they didn’t break the bank for free agents Colon or Dickey and they give up elite prospects to acquire Garcia. However, things are going poorly. The Braves are 13-21 and 9.5 games behind the 1st place Nationals — and we could still see a youth movement in Atlanta before long.
Sims, the 21st overall pick in the 2012 draft, is leading the charge. The 23-year-old lowered his ERA to 2.16 after tossing two-hit ball over 6 2/3 scoreless innings with a walk and 10 strikeouts in his last start. In 50 Triple-A innings last season, he had a 7.56 ERA with 10.1 H/9, 6.7 BB/9 and 10.4 K/9. In 41 2/3 innings in 2017, the right-hander has a 5.4 H/9, 1.9 BB/9 and 9.1 K/9. That’s what’s called “making the proper adjustments”.
“Knocking Down the Door” is a weekly feature that identifies minor leaguers who are making a case for a big league promotion.
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The White Sox have announced that catcher Geovany Soto will undergo arthroscopic surgery for debridement and the removal loose bodies in his right elbow — a procedure that’ll sideline him for at least the next 12 weeks, per the team. Soto has been transferred to the 60-day disabled list, and his 40-man roster spot will go toright-hander Gregory Infante, whose contract has been selected from Triple-A Charlotte. Cody Asche has been optioned to Triple-A to make room for Infante on the active roster.
[Related: Updated White Sox Depth Chart]
Soto, 34, returned to the ChiSox for his second stint with the team this year and was expected to receive a fair share of the playing time, but he’s tallied just 48 plate appearances and batted .190/.271/.405 on the year thus far. He’ll now be out until at least mid-August due to the injury. In his stead, Omar Narvaez and Kevan Smith seem likely to handle the bulk of the catching duties on the South Side of Chicago.
The 25-year-old Narvaez should slot in as manager Rick Renteria’s primary backstop; since making his Major League debut in 2016, he’s proven to have a keen eye at the dish but hasn’t demonstrated much in the way of power. Narvaez has walked more than he’s struck out (13.9 percent versus 12.8 percent) and posted a collective .253/.355/.310 batting line in 187 plate appearances as a big leaguer to date. He’s caught just 18 percent of potential base thieves thus far in his career, though he’s gone 4-for-8 in that regard this year after struggling substantially in 2016 (2-for-25). Baseball Prospectus pegs him as a slighty below-average pitch framer.
As for Infante, the 29-year-old will be returning to the Majors for the first time since a brief, five-game stint with the White Sox all the way back in 2010. He has just 4 2/3 innings under his belt in the Majors, though he possesses a solid Triple-A track record and has been excellent there in 2017. Thus far with Charlotte, Infante has tossed 13 innings and allowed just three runs on seven hits and six walks with 16 strikeouts. Overall, he owns a 3.47 ERA in parts of seven Triple-A campaigns, though he’s been a bit wild there at times, averaging just under five walks per nine innings pitched.
- The Nationals and Red Sox have had evaluators watching White Sox players, CBS Chicago’s Bruce Levine reports. Both clubs have been scouting Jose Quintana, while the Nationals continue to have interest in closer David Robertson, and Levine figures the Sox could also be looking at Todd Frazier to address their need at third base. Chicago already completed major trades with both teams this past winter, of course, in deals that sent Adam Eaton to Washington and Chris Sale to Boston, so there is already a great deal of familiarity between these organizations. Quintana would fill the Nats’ revolving door in the fifth starter’s spot, though obtaining Robertson to help their struggling bullpen seems like the more pressing fit. The Red Sox could use Quintana and Frazier, though they seem likely to wait to see how David Price and their internal third base options return before deciding if upgrades are necessary.