- Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that right-hander Carlos Frias has accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Columbus after clearing waivers (Twitter link). The Indians designated the longtime Dodgers reliever for assignment over the weekend. Frias, 27, has a 4.50 ERA with 5.9 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and a 53.7 percent ground-ball rate in 114 Major League innings spread across parts of three seasons. He’s struggled in Triple-A this year, however, surrendering 17 earned runs on 20 hits and nine walks with eight strikeouts in 17 innings.
- Indians right-hander Carlos Frias cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A, per an announcement from the club. Frias, whom Cleveland designated for assignment Tuesday, has worked exclusively at the Triple-A level this year and posted a 9.00 ERA, 4.24 K/9 and 4.76 BB/9 in 17 innings.
- The Indians will send righty Corey Kluber out for a 35-pitch sim game tomorrow, per Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer (via Twitter). Cleveland’s staff ace will test out his balky lower back and hopefully begin moving back toward the majors. Kluber currently owns an uncharacteristic 5.06 ERA through six outings, though he still carries 9.9 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9.
The Rays have acquired infielder/outfielder Michael Martinez from the Indians in exchange for cash or a player to be named later and placed fellow infielder Brad Miller on the 10-day disabled list due to a left abdominal strain. In order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Martinez, Tampa Bay transferred Xavier Cedeno to the 60-day disabled list.
Martinez, 34, was designated for assignment by the Indians recently after collecting four hits and a pair of walks in 15 plate appearances this season. The versatile veteran can play all over the infield and outfield, though he batted just .238/.267/.307 last season and is a lifetime .200/.246/.270 hitter in the Majors (592 plate appearances). Miller has been the team’s primary second baseman this season, but Martinez can now step in and share time at that position with rookie Daniel Robertson.
- The Indians have some added clarity on the timeline for injured outfielder Abraham Almonte, as MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. The team anticipates that he’ll be down for three to five weeks with what has been diagnosed as a sprained right biceps tendon. While the team is down a few outfielders, that has opened the door to top prospect Bradley Zimmer. Though Zimmer went down on strikeouts three times in his debut yesterday, he has already slashed a double today for his first MLB hit and seems to have an opportunity to lay claim to a regular job.
Cleveland also announced a few other corresponding moves. Righty Shawn Armstrong was recalled, as well, creating a need for two active roster spots. Those were cleared by placing outfielder Abraham Almonte on the 10-day DL and optioning utilityman Yandy Diaz.
[Related: Updated Cleveland Indians depth chart]
Zimmer, now 24, has been seen as a key future piece for the Indians ever since he was taken with the 21st overall pick of the draft back in 2014. (He spoke with MLBTR’s Steve Adams earlier that year.) He has been a consensus top-100 prospect entering each of the past two seasons, though he fell in some rankings due to a so-so 2016 campaign. In advance of the current campaign, MLB.com slotted Zimmer 22nd, Fangraphs had him at #45, Baseball America ranked him 62nd (now up to 54th in their updated list), and Baseball Prospectus had him at 80th. ESPN.com’s Keith Law dropped Zimmer out of his own top-100.
The reasons for concern were rather clear. While Zimmer has the tools — raw power, good speed, and a quality glove that plays up the middle — he hadn’t yet put it all together. In 557 plate appearances in the upper minors last season, he slashed .250/.365/.425 with 15 home runs and 38 steals. But the bulk of the damage came at Double-A; over his 150 trips to the plate at the highest level of the minors, Zimmer went down on strikes 37.3% of the time. The left-handed hitter also turned in a rough overall .179/.343/.250 batting line against left-handed pitching.
As MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian wrote this spring, Zimmer has worked hard to upgrade his swing mechanics. And that seems to be paying dividends. He hit well in the Arizona Fall League and has been clicking thus far at Triple-A, with a .294/.371/.532 slash. The swing-and-miss will likely always be a part of his game — Zimmer currently carries a 29.9% strikeout rate on the year — but he’s showing an ability to make more and better contact thus far. He has also reversed his results against southpaws — albeit in quite a small sample. Coupled with a typically selective approach, and some untapped power potential, there’s reason to hope that Zimmer could blossom into a high-end major league piece.
The move comes with potential contract implications. Zimmer will have the opportunity to accumulate as many as 138 days of MLB service this year, so long as he can hold onto an active roster spot the rest of the way. If he can stick in the majors from here on out, then, he’d have a solid chance of qualifying for an addition year of arbitration after the conclusion of the 2019 season. The cutoff for Super Two status has ranged between 2.122 and 2.146 years of service over the past eight years, landing at 2.131 last season. Regardless, the Indians will control him through at least 2023.
That all depends upon Cleveland’s intentions — as well as Zimmer’s performance. While this could constitute only a brief preview, the fact that the Indians moved him onto the 40-man roster suggests the team intends to rely on him for more than a temporary patch. So long as Zimmer is up for any extended period, it seems likely he’ll see fairly regular action — meaning he could have a chance to play himself into a permanent role for the defending American League champs.
To add Zimmer meant clearing space on the roster, so the Indians elected to bump Frias, who was acquired over the winter. The 27-year-old had struggled through 17 frames at Triple-A this year, allowing 17 earned runs while recording just eight strikeouts to go with nine walks. Over three years of action with the Dodgers at the major league level, splitting his time between starting and relieving, he has worked to a 4.50 ERA in 114 frames.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
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.
- The Indians will be without Brandon Guyer for the next four to six weeks due to a sprained left wrist, manager Terry Francona told reporters today (via MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian). Guyer will be completely shut down for a week before he begins the next phase of his rehab. Bastian also notes that ace Corey Kluber tossed a 20-pitch session today but still needs a more aggressive mound session and a simulated game before he’s cleared to begin a rehab assignment. And if those injuries aren’t enough for Cleveland, the Indians’ No. 2 starter, Carlos Carrasco, exited tonight’s game with tightness in his left pectoral muscle (Twitter link via Bastian). There’s no word on the severity of that issue, though it seems reasonable to expect further word following the completion of tonight’s game.
The 34-year-old Martinez is in the midst of his third season as a member of the Cleveland organization, which briefly separated from in 2016 by way of a July trade with Boston. Martinez ended up returning to the Indians via waivers in August, and he went on to make the final out in the club’s Game 7 World Series loss to the Cubs. While Martinez is versatile in the field, having appeared at six defensive positions in his career (he even pitched earlier this season), he has been an especially poor offensive player in the majors. Martinez owns a .200/.246/.270 line in 592 plate appearances, though he has performed well in an extremely small sample this year (.364/.462/.455 in 14 PAs).
Robertson, 31, made his major league debut with the Rangers in 2014 and has also seen action with the Angels and Mariners, hitting .273/.322/.325 with no home runs in 298 PAs. He has been far more successful at the Triple-A level, having slashed .290/.365/.393 in 1,929 trips to the plate.
- Indians righty Corey Kluber is moving slowly in his rehab, Ryan Lewis of the Akron Beacon Journal reports. Out with lower back issues, Kluber has begun throwing from flat ground but still hasn’t taken the hill. Manager Terry Francona did say that the team is seeing progress, though perhaps the biggest test is yet to come.