- Indians utilityman extraordinaire Jose Ramirez will move his representation to the Wasserman Media Group, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets. It seems that Ramirez is sticking with agent Rafa Nieves, who just joined Wasserman. Ramirez has only just embarked upon a new, four-year deal with Cleveland that was inked late in Spring Training. With two options included, the contract covers all of Ramirez’s potential arbitration eligibility and allows the organization to control the switch-hitting 24-year-old through his age-31 season. He had earned the deal after a strong 2016 season, but his stock has risen yet further after opening the 2017 campaign with a .322/.376/.557 slash through 290 plate appearances. Notably, Ramirez has already swatted 11 long balls, matching last year’s tally in less than half the trips to the plate.
- The Indians announced that right-hander Jarrett Grube has been acquired from the Blue Jays for cash considerations. Grube will report to Triple-A Columbus. Grube spent part of 2016 in the Tribe’s organization before being released in June. The righty had a 6.14 ERA over 55 2/3 IP and 11 starts with the Jays’ Triple-A affiliate this season. Over 14 pro seasons, the 35-year-old Grube has pitched for five different organizations and appeared in just one Major League game, back in 2014 with the Angels.
- There still haven’t been any talks about an extension between Carlos Santana and the Indians. One executive believes Santana can land four years and $60MM in free agency this winter.
- The Rays made a “creative” offer to Jose Bautista last winter that could have become a three-year deal if all options had been exercised. The Rays were one of relatively few teams that were linked to Bautista (Heyman also mentions the Indians had interest) this winter, and ultimately, the slugger chose to stay in Toronto for more guaranteed money. Bautista is earning $18MM this season, with a $17MM mutual option (with a $500K buyout) for 2018 and a $20MM club option for 2019 that can vest based on games played.
- The Red Sox’ signing of first baseman Mitch Moreland rather than Edwin Encarnacion looks like a good one, Jen McCaffrey of MassLive.com writes. Moreland’s offense so far this season has been the best of his career — he’s currently batting .281/.382/.492 with 26 extra-base hits. Encarnacion, meanwhile, has hit .245/.351/.446 with Cleveland, although he’s hit well recently. Interestingly, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi tweeted today that Moreland turned down more money from the Indians to play for the Red Sox.
The Indians announced Tuesday that a sore right shoulder has landed right-hander Danny Salazar on the 10-day disabled list. Outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall has been activated from the seven-day concussion DL as a corresponding move.
[Related: Updated Cleveland Indians depth chart]
Cleveland did not provide any sort of timetable for a return to action for Salazar, who has struggled for the majority of the season. Through his first 55 innings, Salazar has turned in a disheartening 5.40 earned run average, due in large part to an increased penchant for allowing home runs. The 27-year-old Salazar yielded just 16 homers through 137 1/3 innings last season in Cleveland, but he’s been tagged for 11 big flies in his limited work thus far in 2017. While his 35 percent fly-ball rate is a mirror image of last season’s mark, Salazar has seen 22.4 percent of those fly balls leave the yard in 2017, as compared to a more reasonable 12.8 percent in 2016.
Those struggles had already cost Salazar his starting spot, as he’d recently been moved to the bullpen. The Indians have since been relying upon Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger and Josh Tomlin in the rotation, and they’ll move forward with that group in Salazar’s absence.
Chisenhall has been out since May 22 due to concussion symptoms but was enjoying an excellent season at the plate prior to his injury. Through 107 plate appearances, the former third baseman batted .261/.333/.543 with six homers, six doubles and a triple.
Both left-hander Steven Matz and right-hander Seth Lugo will join the Mets’ rotation next weekend for their 2017 debuts, manager Terry Collins announced Saturday (via Anthony DiComo of MLB.com). The Mets have been without the pair all season because of elbow injuries, and once they return, righties Robert Gsellman and Tyler Pill will exit the team’s rotation. While righty Matt Harvey has arguably pitched poorly enough to warrant a demotion, the Mets aren’t considering relegating him to the big league bullpen or their Triple-A rotation, according to David Lennon of Newsday. Instead, they’ll continue to give the former ace an opportunity to work his way back from last year’s thoracic outlet syndrome surgery as part of their starting five.
- Righty Tyson Ross could start for the Rangers next weekend, though the team hasn’t made a decision yet on when it will activate him, per T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. “It comes down to how he feels the next few days, going through the progression and his overall health,” manager Jeff Banister said of Ross, an ex-Padre who hasn’t pitched in the majors since suffering a shoulder injury on Opening Day 2016. Ross, who underwent thoracic outlet syndrome surgery last October and then signed with the Rangers in the winter, made his third Triple-A rehab start Saturday and allowed two runs and five hits over 5 1/3 innings (93 pitches).
- White Sox southpaw Carlos Rodon, on the shelf all season with shoulder bursitis, is about to take an important step in his recovery. Rodon will begin a rehab assignment Tuesday at the Class-A level, which will represent his first game action since a March 19 spring training start, writes Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune. A key piece for the rebuilding White Sox, the 24-year-old Rodon recorded a 4.06 ERA, 9.16 K/9, 2.95 BB/9 and a 44.1 percent ground-ball rate in 165 innings last season.
- Indians righty Danny Salazar hasn’t made enough progress since his demotion to the bullpen last week to return to the rotation, manager Terry Francona suggested Sunday (per Robert Falkoff of MLB.com). “He’s got some work to do,” Francona said. “We felt like the best thing to do is keep him where he is and let him keep working more often. He’ll have more chances to throw with shorter segments. He’s still not where he needs to be.” In two appearances and 2 2/3 innings in relief, the flamethrowing Salazar has given up one earned run on four hits and four strikeouts.
The Rangers made a pair of Triple-A moves on Thursday, announcing that veteran infielder Josh Wilson has been traded to the Indians in exchange for cash, while minor league outfielder Cesar Puello has exercised a June 1 out clause in his deal and been granted his release.
Wilson, 36, inked a minors pact with the Rangers back in mid-April and has gotten off to a torrid start with Triple-A Round Rock, slashing an eye-popping .329/.370/.548 with four homers and four doubles through 22 games (82 plate appearances). Obviously, that production isn’t sustainable — especially for a 36-year-old with a career .264/.325/.399 batting line in parts of 12 Triple-A campaigns — but he’ll give the Indians a versatile depth piece that has plenty of MLB experience. Wilson has seen action in parts of eight big league seasons and compiled a .229/.280/.319 triple slash while spending time at all four infield slots (mostly shortstop) and in left field.
Puello, 26, was once one of the top-regarded prospects in the Mets’ farm system and was regarded as a Top 100 prospect by Baseball America in the 2010-11 offseason. Puello had a terrific season with Double-A Binghamton in 2013, though that season was cut short by a suspension tied to the Biogenesis PED scandal. Puello’s bat never really took off at the Triple-A level after returning, as he’s now hit at a .261/.365/.403 clip through 839 career plate appearances at the minors’ top level. Thus far in 2017, he’s hit .247/.307/.420 with six homers and five steals through 179 plate appearances.
As expected, the Indians have activated righty Corey Kluber. He’s back on the hill today for Cleveland after missing a few weeks resting his lower back. The 31-year-old will be looking to improve upon a tepid start to the season. Over his first 37 1/3 innings, he has managed only a 5.06 ERA with 9.9 K/9 but an uncharacteristically high 3.1 BB/9. Righty Shawn Armstrong was optioned to create roster space.
- With the Athletics still lagging in the standings, eyes are beginning to turn to their deadline plans. As Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle writes, the organization will likely increasingly turn to more youthful options as it deals away veteran assets. In particular, she says, second baseman Jed Lowrie “almost certainly will be dealt” — helping clear the way for top prospect Franklin Barreto. The A’s will surely also entertain a move involving surprising slugger Yonder Alonso, and Slusser notes that the club could also part with a few lesser-performing veterans as well.
Mining the free agent ranks for good value remains an art, with the potential for rather significant rewards. While it’s unusual for a team to find a true gem — think Justin Turner — there is quite a lot of potential for adding impact in part-time roles.
We already looked at some minor-league signees who have impacted their organizations’ bullpens. Now, let’s check in on some hitters who signed for little but have been rather useful through about two months of action:
- Alexi Amarista, INF, Rockies — The 28-year-old has helped cover for the injured Trevor Story, and he’s doing more than just keeping the team afloat. Through 69 trips to the plate, he’s hitting .338/.348/.515. There’s obviously quite a lot of room for regression baked in — Amarista has drawn just one walk and carries a .412 BABIP — but he’s been a big help for the emerging Rockies team at the meager cost of $1.25MM.
- Daniel Descalso, INF, Diamondbacks — After Colorado let the utilityman go over the winter, Descalso landed only $1.5MM despite a solid 2016 season. That has worked out just fine for Arizona, which has received 92 plate appearances of .218/.337/.410 hitting from the veteran, who is walking at a 13.0% clip and succeeding despite a .250 BABIP.
- Chris Iannetta, C, Diamondbacks — Also earning a meager $1.5MM, Iannetta has helped the DBacks feel better about the decision to allow Welington Castillo to walk. Though the typically patient Iannetta is walking at about half of his career rate, he’s driving the ball like never before. Over eighty plate appearances, Iannetta has smacked six long balls and owns a .288 isolated slugging mark.
- Franklin Gutierrez, OF, Dodgers — Taking home a modest $2.6MM salary, Gutierrez has been quite productive when healthy. While Los Angeles will only ask him to play a limited role, the team will be thrilled if he can keep producing at a .257/.350/.429 rate the rest of the way.
- Austin Jackson, OF, Indians — After settling for a minor-league deal over the winter, Jackson came with low expectations. But he made the Opening Day roster and owns a .273/.327/.523 batting line that points back to his days as one of the game’s more promising young players.
- Adam Lind, 1B, Nationals — Lind languished on the market along with a variety of other sluggers, eventually scoring just $1.5MM to function as a lefty complement to Ryan Zimmerman at first base. While the Nats have received plenty of production from Zimmerman, the team is also enjoying Lind’s robust output off the bench. He owns a .340/.400/.604 slash over sixty plate appearances, with as many walks as strikeouts (10.0% apiece).
- Mark Reynolds, 1B, Rockies — Expected to land on the bench after returning to Colorado on a minors deal, Reynolds was thrown into a more significant role when Ian Desmond opened the year on the DL. He has responded with outstanding production: .313/.388/.555 with 13 home runs in 206 plate appearances.
- Kurt Suzuki, C, Braves — At just $1.5MM, Suzuki has been quite the bargain. He’s outhitting most of the league’s catchers in his 88 plate appearances, with a .257/.379/.457 slash. Interestingly, Suzuki is walking 11.4% of the time — nearly double his typical levels — while also hitting for good power (.200 ISO).
- Chase Utley, INF, Dodgers — The former star took home just $2MM in exchange for his services this year, and seemed ready to take a smaller role on the Dodgers’ bench. After a slow start, though, he has begun to deliver. 125 plate appearances into the season, he’s batting .252/.347/.430 with three dingers and three steals — the type of production not seen since back in 2013, when he was still with the Phillies.
- Heyman reported in April that the Indians would look to extend first baseman/designated hitter Carlos Santana, but discussions between the two sides still haven’t taken place. They might not occur, either, as Heyman relays that Santana is likely to hit free agency at season’s end. At .219/.321/.390 in 215 PAs, the 31-year-old hasn’t carried his typically above-average production into this season so far, but he continues to exhibit quality plate discipline with 27 walks against 31 strikeouts. Santana’s walk rate has dropped in each season since 2014, however, and is now at a career-low 12.6 percent.