- The Indians have signed 16-year-old Cuban right-hander Roberto Hernandez to a deal with a $320K bonus, Baseball America’s Ben Badler reports. Hernandez wasn’t included within MLB.com’s top 30 or BA’s top 50 rankings of 2017-18 international prospects, though Badler describes the righty as “one of the better” arms available in the July 2 class. Cleveland had an international spending pool of $5.75MM to work with in this signing period, and $3.825MM has already been accounted for by the team’s signings of youngsters George Valera, Aaron Bracho, Jose Tena and Wilfi Peralta.
September 1 marks the date on which regular-season rosters expand from 25 to 40 in Major League Baseball. While the merit of that rule and its impact on games are a source of debate — MLB games tend to increase considerably in length in September as managers can more freely make pitching changes with deeper bullpens — the fact remains that there could be more than 100 players promoted to the big leagues today as the first wave of call-ups arrives.
Many September call-ups are players that have experience already under their belt. Journeyman big leaguers with exceptionally specific roles (e.g. pinch-running and defensive specialists) become a luxury that teams can now afford, and many teams will bring up a third catcher or additional bullpen arms for depth, even if a long-term MLB role isn’t likely for said players.
Some promotions, though, are more notable than others. Big league teams will often use the month of September to get a look at their top organizational prospects, and in some instances September can provide a potential audition for former stars seeking to reestablish themselves. (The Orioles, for instance, were reported last night to be bringing slugger Pedro Alvarez up from Triple-A for the season’s final month.)
All that said, here are some of this year’s more notable September promotions (we’ll update throughout the day as more moves are announced)…
- Four new youngsters are joining the Cardinals, the team announced. Outfielder Harrison Bader and infielder Alex Mejia were already on the 40-man, but the team has also gone ahead and added righty Sandy Alcantara and backstop Alberto Rosario. Alcantara is an interesting pitcher to keep an eye on, as he reputedly comes with a big arm and could contribute from the bullpen — though he’s still ironing things out as a starter after spending the year pitching to a 4.31 ERA at Double-A.
- The Indians announced that they’ve recalled top catching prospect Francisco Mejia from Double-A Akron and selected the contract of outfielder Greg Allen from Akron, thus adding him to the 40-man roster. The 21-year-old Mejia is commonly regarded as one of the top 25 prospects in all of Major League Baseball and was reportedly the would-be centerpiece to the Jonathan Lucroy trade that Lucroy vetoed in 2016. Allen, too, was set to be a part of that trade but has instead remained in the Indians organization and will now join Mejia in donning a big league jersey for the first time this month.
- Right-hander Fernando Salas will return to the Angels, who announced last night that his contract has been selected from Triple-A Salt Lake. Salas spent parts of three seasons as a useful bullpen arm for the Angels before a trade to the Mets last August. While he dominated for New York down the stretch, Salas was torched for a 6.00 ERA this year after re-signing with the Mets. He tossed three scoreless innings in Salt Lake City and will hope for a strong finish to bolster offseason interest.
- The Blue Jays, too, will be getting another look at an old friend. Outfielder Michael Saunders is joining the Jays as a September call-up, tweets MLB.com’s Greg Johns. While Saunders is merely looking to show well in his return to the Majors after struggling badly with the Phillies earlier this season, another outfielder is looking to carve out a long-term role in Toronto; trade acquisition Teoscar Hernandez is also on his way to the Majors, per Johns. The 24-year-old Hernandez was acquired in the Francisco Liriano swap and has posted a combined .265/.351/.490 batting line in 456 Triple-A plate appearances this season.
- The Mets are promoting right-handers Jacob Rhame and Jamie Callahan, tweets MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo. While neither reliever is considered to be among the game’s best prospects — they rank 23rd and 30th, respectively, on MLB.com’s list of the Mets’ top 30 prospects — both were recently acquired on the trade market. Rhame came to the Mets from the Dodgers as the return for Curtis Granderson, while Callahan arrived in Queens by way of the Addison Reed trade with the Red Sox. Both will be looking to make a strong impression as they seek to secure a long-term spot in the Mets’ bullpen.
- The Tigers are getting their first look at left-handed reliever Jairo Labourt, per a team announcement. The 23-year-old was acquired alongside Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd in exchange fo David Price back in 2015. He’s turned in an excellent 2.17 ERA across three minor league levels this season and averaged better than 10 strikeouts per nine innings, albeit with some shaky control (4.5 BB/9).
The Yankees announced that they’ve acquired veteran catcher Erik Kratz from the Indians in exchange for cash considerations.
The 37-year-old Kratz has spent parts of the past seven seasons in the Majors, logging a combined .200/.248/.362 batting line in 647 plate appearances as an up-and-down reserve option. He’s had a very nice year with Cleveland’s Triple-A affiliate, however, posting a robust .270/.359/.472 slash with 13 homers in 324 plate appearances. Kratz has also thwarted 37 percent of stolen base attempts against him this season in Triple-A and posted characteristically solid framing marks (per Baseball Prospectus).
Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine will remain the two primary catchers in the Bronx, but the addition of Kratz gives the Yankees a veteran option to serve as a third catcher down the stretch in September when rosters expand. Notably both Sanchez and Romine are facing potential suspensions following the Yankees’ recent brawl with the Tigers, so Kratz can help fill in during their absences as well.
Here are Wednesday’s minor moves from around the league…
- The Indians announced that right-hander Diego Moreno has cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Columbus after being recently designated for assignment. Cleveland claimed Moreno off waivers from Tampa Bay in late July, but he didn’t appear in a game for their Major League club. In 27 1/3 minor league innings this season, Moreno has logged a 0.99 ERA with a 27-to-4 K/BB ratio, though his overall Triple-A track record isn’t quite as impressive (3.54 ERA in 175 1/3 innings with similar strikeout rates but lesser control). Moreno has allowed nine earned runs on 15 hits and five walks with 14 strikeouts in 16 Major League innings — including 5 2/3 frames with the Rays earlier this year.
The Indians have selected the contract of veteran left-hander Craig Breslow from Triple-A Columbus, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports (via Twitter). In corresponding moves, lefty Ryan Merritt was optioned to Triple-A and right-hander Diego Moreno was designated for assignment.
Breslow signed a minor league deal with the Tribe earlier this month after being released by the Twins at the end of July. Breslow posted a 5.23 ERA, 1.5 K/BB and 5.2 K/9 over 31 innings for Minnesota, though those unimpressive overall numbers mask some glaring splits. Right-handed hitters accounted for much of the damage against Breslow this season, while he held left-handed hitters to just a .200/.279/.257 slash line (over 44 PA).
With Andrew Miller on the DL, Breslow adds some veteran depth to a Cleveland bullpen that only has one other left-hander (Tyler Olson, who is yet to allow a run over 10 innings pitched this season). Miller isn’t expected to be out of action long, and when he returns after the September 1 roster expansion, so the Tribe will have their multi-inning threat as well as two southpaws in Breslow and Olson who can handle more specific situations against lefty bats late in games.
Moreno was claimed off waivers from Tampa Bay last month and he has since made six appearances for Cleveland’s Triple-A affiliate. Moreno has a 2.97 ERA, 9.3 K/9 and 3.7 K/BB rate over 424 2/3 career innings over ten years in the minors, as well as a 5.06 ERA over two brief stints in the big leagues (10 1/3 IP with the Yankees in 2015 and 5 2/3 IP with the Rays this season).
Indians lefty Andrew Miller has been diagnosed with “patellofemoral syndrome” in his right knee, per a club announcement (via Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer, on Twitter). At this point, he’ll just need to be shut down for five days to a week before being reevaluated.
The diagnosis doesn’t appear to be all that concerning. Rather, it’s a common condition that can occur when cartilage underneath the kneecap is not functioning properly. It seems likely that the club will largely be looking to get the inflammation and discomfort under control before allowing Miller to ramp back up.
All told, then, the news is as good as the Indians could have hoped for. Certainly, when Miller left his most recent outing after sitting well below his usual velocity level, there were some fears it could be worse. The key fact is that there’s no bone, muscle, or ligament damage. And the relatively short rest period that has been prescribed seemingly indicates that doctors anticipate the joint ought to respond fairly quickly to treatment.
Cleveland has been hit with a sudden rash of injuries, with Danny Salazar and Jason Kipnis also just heading to the DL. Players such as Josh Tomlin, Michael Brantley, and Lonnie Chisenhall are all on the shelf as well, so the Indians still have quite a few notable players working back toward full health. Fortunately, the team maintains a sturdy, 5.5-game lead in the AL Central, so there’s a decent bit of cushion to work with.
3:32pm: The team doesn’t currently have a timetable for Kipnis’ return, manager Terry Francona tells reporters (Twitter links via Bastian). An MRI revealed a strain, but there could be some scar tissue forming in Kipnis’ hamstring as well. As for Miller, the Indians consulted with the Cleveland Cavaliers’ medical staff to get another opinion on dealing with this type of injury to a player of Miller’s height. They’ll have a more detailed update tomorrow, but it doesn’t appear that the injury is especially serious.
Aug. 23, 1:57pm: Kipnis is headed to the DL with what the team is calling a hamstring strain, though the severity isn’t yet known. Infielder Erik Gonzalez has been recalled to take his roster spot.
Aug. 22, 10:38pm: Indians fans can breathe a sigh of relief with respect to Salazar, as Ryan Lewis of the Akron Beacon-Journal tweets that his MRI came back clean. That said, Salazar will still “be down a few days before being built back up,” per Lewis.
Unfortunately for Cleveland fans, though, there’s now yet another injury situation over which to have some trepidation. Second baseman Jason Kipnis exited tonight’s game in the second inning with tightness in his right hamstring, and Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tweets that Kipnis is scheduled for an MRI of his own tomorrow.
Kipnis was on the disabled list from July 9 through Aug. 6 due to a strained right hamstring and missed three additional games with discomfort in that same hamstring earlier this month.
4:22pm: MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian tweets that Salazar felt “tightness” in his right elbow during a side session Tuesday and will undergo an MRI later tonight.
2:23pm: The Indians have placed two key hurlers — lefty Andrew Miller and right-handed starter Danny Salazar — on the 10-day DL, per a club announcement. The team has recalled righty Shawn Armstrong and infielder Yandy Diaz to take the open roster spots.
It’s disappointing to see both Miller and Salazar landing back on the DL so soon after recent trips. The former left his appearance last night after a worrying dip in velocity, as his patellar tendinitis flared up. Meanwhile, the latter has been diagnosed with elbow inflammation. He missed a lengthy stretch with shoulder woes, but had pitched brilliantly in his first five starts upon his return before turning in a dud in his last outing.
The outlook on these two pitchers isn’t yet clear, but Cleveland will obviously be hoping for a relatively quick return. While the Indians do enjoy a fairly healthy 5.5-game cushion in the AL Central, that’s hardly an unassailable position. If a repeat postseason run is to be had, the club will need these high-powered arms at its disposal.
Star Indians reliever Andrew Miller left his appearance today with what the team is calling an aggravation of the right knee patella tendinitis that recently sent him to the DL, as MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian tweets. His outlook is not currently known.
Miller missed little more than the minimum earlier this month, and threw without apparent issue on Friday. But he exited after just seven pitches tonight, issuing a walk and showing a significantly reduced fastball velocity. Miller, who typically sits at 95 mph, was clocked at an average of around 90 mph this evening.
It’s too soon to know whether there’s cause for real concern. And Cleveland can afford to exercise caution with a five-game lead (entering today’s action) in the AL Central. Still, at this stage of the season, it’s a bit worrying to see such a showing from such an important piece of the team’s hopeful post-season roster.
Even if it turns out that Miller’s situation is serious, the Indians would have no realistic hope of finding a similarly valuable arm on the August trade market. With Boone Logan possibly out the rest of the way, though, any questions surrounding Miller could leave the club with added impetus to find another southpaw reliever.
Fortunately for Cleveland, Tyler Olson has been a revelation since ascending to the MLB roster. Through 11 appearances this year — already matching a career-high — Olson has racked up 13 strikeouts (on a 13.6% swinging-strike rate) against just one walk without allowing a run.
The Indians also announced that first baseman Carlos Santana departed the contest with lower-back tightness. There’s little reason at this point to believe that is an injury of any significance.
Thanks as always for your questions! If yours wasn’t selected this week, you can always pose it in one of our weekly chats: Steve Adams at 2pm CST on Tuesdays, Jason Martinez at 6:30pm CST on Wednesdays, and yours truly at 2pm CST on Thursdays.
Here are this week’s questions and answers:
Why is it so hard for the A’s to move Jed Lowrie? — Rene H.
Well, there has been a bit of a game of musical chairs in the second/third base market. The Red Sox went with Eduardo Nunez. The Nationals grabbed Howie Kendrick, who can also play outfield. The Brewers ended up with Neil Walker in August. Those deals filled some of the main needs out there, though there are at least a few teams that could still make a move. The Angels stand out; the Indians have looked in this area; and the Blue Jays could be a dark horse if they make a run.
But let’s suppose a few organizations are indeed still poking around on Lowrie. Those same teams will also have other options to consider. Ian Kinsler is now off the market after his waiver claim was revoked by the Tigers. But Brandon Phillips and Zack Cozart are both pending free agents who could move. Yangervis Solarte may not clear waivers, but could be claimed and pursued. And Asdrubal Cabrera also represents a possibility.
Cabrera, like Lowrie, comes with a club option for 2018. In Lowrie’s case, it’s just a $6MM cost to keep him (against a $1MM buyout). He has surely played well enough to make that a decent asset to move over the winter. And perhaps Oakland isn’t all that anxious to press Franklin Barreto into everyday duty in the majors just yet. After all, he’s only 21, didn’t hit much in his brief debut, and has encountered a rising strikeout rate at Triple-A. Lowrie could help stabilize the infield the rest of the way or even in 2018, or he could still be flipped if a decent offer comes along.
How do you guys see the [free-agent] market for Jay Bruce developing? I have a hard time believing that a 30/31-year-old who has six seasons where he OPSed over .800 would have trouble locking down a fourth year at a $13MM AAV. — Alex W.
As Alex helpfully pointed out in his email, there are indeed quite a few corner outfielders that have landed free-agent contracts in that range. Recent deals that could work as comparables run from Nick Markakis (4/$44MM) and Josh Reddick (4/$52MM) up to Nick Swisher (4/$56MM) and Curtis Granderson (4/$60MM). Bruce is a plausible candidate to land in that general realm.
I do think Bruce is flying under the radar a bit, given the obvious appeal of his quality offensive output this year — .267/.334/.541 with 32 homers. It doesn’t hurt that he has turned things on thus far since going to the Indians, has finally reversed the abysmal defensive metrics, and is regarded as a top-shelf professional. The two lost seasons of 2014 and 2015 are hard to ignore entirely, and he has never hit lefties nearly so much as righties, but he has returned to his prior trajectory since and has been average at the plate when facing southpaws this season. Plus, there won’t be any draft compensation to contend with.
But where exactly he falls, and whether he gets a fourth year or instead takes a higher AAV over three, will depend upon market forces. J.D. Martinez and Justin Upton (if he opts out) would be the two top corner outfielders, but both are righty bats that would require very significant contracts. Granderson and Melky Cabrera will present alternatives for teams seeking lefty pop, but neither has quite Bruce’s present power and both are much older. All things considered, Bruce should be fairly well positioned.
I’m wondering if the Giants’ plan to re-tool, rather than rebuild, has a reasonable chance of success. Does SF have only two or three spots, like one outfielder and two pitchers, that will make the difference in being competitive? Or will the re-tooling need to involve more spots on the roster, like two outfielders, maybe an infielder (third base), and three or four pitchers? And are there players available in free-agency for them to do that? — Tim D.
Let’s start with the presumption that Johnny Cueto opts into the remainder of his deal. That would fill one of the rotation slots but also keeps a lot of cash on the books — over $150MM total already for 2018, with more than $100MM promised in each of the next two seasons. And the club will also have to consider what it’ll cost to keep Madison Bumgarner around past 2019.
Looking over the roster — see the current depth chart here — the Giants will face questions in a variety of areas. Third base is unresolved, the team needs at least one starting outfielder (a center-field-capable player would perhaps be preferred, bumping Denard Span to left), and several bench/platoon roles are open to question. The team will likely at least look into adding a starter, though it could choose instead to go with Matt Moore along with Ty Blach or another less-established pitcher to line up behind Cueto, Bumgarner, and Jeff Samardzija. Bullpens can always be improved, though the Giants can hope for a bounceback from Mark Melancon and continued performance from reclamation hit Sam Dyson in the late innings.
On the whole, then, perhaps a more dramatic roster overhaul isn’t really needed. Assuming the club is willing to spend up to, but not past, the $180MM-ish payroll it carried entering the current season, that leaves some room to add. But the long-term commitments and 2017 downturns certainly also speak in favor of exercising some caution. I’d expect a focus on striking shorter-term deals with veterans.
Possibilities at third could include Pablo Sandoval, Todd Frazier, and Yunel Escobar, or the Giants could go bigger and chase the still-youthful Mike Moustakas. In the outfield, Lorenzo Cain would be the top center-field target, though he’ll be entering his age-32 season and won’t be cheap. There are some interesting alternatives, including Carlos Gomez, Jon Jay, and Jarrod Dyson. It’s also possible the Giants could chase Bruce or another corner piece while adding a player like Austin Jackson to platoon with Span in center. And as ever, there are lots of different pitchers available at different price points should they look to add there.
Ultimately, there ought to be decent value available in the price range the Giants will be shopping. Whether that’ll work out or not … well, that’s dependent upon quite a few other factors and is tough to predict at this point.
Which young, controllable starters (like Chris Archer, for example) will potentially be available via trade this upcoming offseason? –Matt H.
Archer is certainly a good example of a guy who could be available and who’ll be asked about quite a lot. Depending upon how things end up for the Rays this year — currently, it’s not trending in the right direction — they may be more or less inclined to undertake a more dramatic move such as dealing the staff ace.
Generally, though, I’d expect the pickings to be slim. Several teams that sit in the bottom of the standings and have young arms don’t seem likely to move them. For instance, I don’t really expect the Mets (Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, etc.), Blue Jays (Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez), or Phillies (Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez) to be looking to deal young starters.
There are a few other names to watch, though. Michael Fulmer of the Tigers would figure to draw some of the most fervent interest, and Detroit has to be thinking creatively entering an offseason full of questions. The Pirates could decide that now’s the time to move Gerrit Cole, though he’ll only have two years of control remaining so may not really meet the parameters. Julio Teheran of the Braves will surely again be a topic of speculation, at least, and the Marlins will have to consider cashing in Dan Straily.
Here are some of the latest minor moves from around the game, courtesy of Baseball America’s Matt Eddy except where otherwise noted:
- The Mariners outrighted right-hander Christian Bergman to Triple-A after he cleared waivers, per a club announcement. Bergman, 29, had the right to opt for free agency now or at the end of the season; given that he’s now listed on Tacoma’s roster, it seems he’ll wait and consider the latter option when the time comes. Bergman, 29, has thrown 51 1/3 innings on the year for Seattle, working to a 4.91 ERA with 5.9 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9.
- Outfielder Daniel Robertson will return to the Indians on a minors deal after being designated for assignment and then released, the club announced. The 31-year-old has appeared in each of the past four MLB campaigns — each time with a different team. This year, he took 88 plate appearances for Cleveland, slashing .225/.287/.338. While it’s not clear whether Robertson will factor at the major league level again this year, the fleet-footed, high-contact 31-year-old could conceivably make for a useful bench piece once rosters expand in September.
- The Diamondbacks have added right-handers Andury Acevedo and Louis Coleman on minors deals. Acevedo, who’ll soon turn 27, was intriguing enough to land a 40-man spot with the Cubs a few years back, but has yet to show any consistency on the mound in the upper minors. As for Coleman, who threw 48 innings of 4.69 ERA ball last year for the Dodgers, he’ll return to Arizona after briefly testing the open market. He has worked to a 2.05 ERA with 10.6 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 over 57 innings this year in stints with the D-Backs’ and Reds’ top affiliates.
- Heading to the Reds on a minors deal is slugging outfielder Adam Walker. He has bounced around via waiver claims and minor-league deals of late, seeing time in three organizations thus far in 2017. All told, he has compiled a tepid .185/.220/.410 batting line — with a dozen home runs but also 88 strikeouts against just ten walks — in his 241 plate appearances in the upper minors.
- The White Sox released infielder Grant Green, who had previously seen brief action in the majors this year with the Nationals. On the season, Green owns an overall .232/.306/.300 slash over 245 plate appearances at the Triple-A level with those two organizations. The 29-year-old was once considered a notable possible contributor with the Athletics and Angels, but has managed only a .248/.283/.336 batting line in his 353 trips to the plate in the majors.
- Six-year MLB veteran Collin Cowgill has been released by the Padres. Cowgill, 31, joined the organization on a minors deal over the winter, but never earned a crack at a return to the majors. He carries a .235/.297/.390 slash through 220 plate appearances
- Finally, the Rangers have released lefty Bobby LaFromboise and righty Jaye Chapman. The former has made 27 MLB appearances and shown some intriguing numbers at times, but struggled last year at Triple-A with the Phillies and was sidelined for much of the current season. The 30-year-old Chapman, meanwhile, is looking to work back toward the majors for the first time since his lone stint back in 2012. But he was hit hard in his 36 2/3 innings at Triple-A Round Rock, with a 6.63 ERA and 6.9 K/9 against 5.2 BB/9.