- Right-hander Tyler Chatwood tells Nick Groke of the Denver Post that he wasn’t pleased when the Rockies demoted him to a relief role earlier this summer, but he used the frustration as motivation to reclaim his rotation spot. The 27-year-old acknowledged that his mechanics had been off, specifically when it comes to his two-seam fastball — his best pitch. Chatwood made clear that he views himself as a starting pitcher, which is notable for an impending free agent that looks to be finishing the season strongly. He’s allowed one run in 13 2/3 innings since moving back into the rotation and has an overall 1.54 ERA with 8.1 K/9, 3.9 BB/9 and a 60 percent ground-ball rate over his past nine appearances (23 1/3 innings).
Rockies outfielder/first baseman Ian Desmond has shown troubling signings in the first season of a five-year, $70MM contract, notes. Along with a .273/.319/.367 batting line that’s 35 percent worse than league average (per FanGraphs’ wRC+ metric), Desmond’s groundball rate and exit velocity have trended in the wrong direction. His 63.1 percent grounder mark is nearly 12 percent worse than his yearly average and of MLB.comranks last among hitters with at least 300 PAs. At the same time, Desmond’s exit velo has dropped from 90.5 mph last season to 87.4 mph this year. But health issues have likely contributed to Desmond’s drop-off, as the soon-to-be 32-year-old has been on the disabled list three different times. Indeed, Desmond told Randhawa that the injuries – including the fractured left hand he suffered in spring training – have made it difficult for him to establish himself this season. Based on his track record, Desmond expects to return to form. “Line drives and hard contact. For me, that’s my game,” Desmond said. “I’ve got to utilize my speed, and I think there’s complete validity in hitting the ball in the air and launch angle and all that stuff, but at the same time, my swing and the results I’ve been able to produce over the years is plenty for me. And I think that game plays anywhere. The thing is just a matter of getting the swings off and timing.”
We previously checked in on the vesting option scenarios playing out around the game. In the interim, though, we learned of a previously unreported clause and also gathered quite a bit more information about which options will and will not vest.
Here’s where things stand with just two weeks to go:
- Greg Holland: It didn’t take long for the Rockies closer to finish thirty games, which triggered a clause that turned his $10MM mutual option into a $15MM player option. All indications are that Holland will spurn that payday (and the qualifying offer that will surely follow in close succession) to test the open market, but it affords him injury protection the rest of the way. Holland has already earned $9MM in bonus money. With six more games finished over the final two weeks of the season, he’d tack on another $2MM.
- Gio Gonzalez: After topping 180 frames in his most recent start, Gonzalez is now under contract for 2018 at $12MM. While he has hit a bit of a wall of late, that still looks like quite an appealing price for a pitcher that has worked to a 2.68 ERA on the year.
- Ian Kinsler: It was learned recently that Kinsler’s 2018 option actually has a somewhat convoluted vesting provision. He’s guaranteed to earn $11MM upon reaching 600 plate appearances. And if he takes home another Gold Glove award, he’ll earn another $1MM in 2018. The option is going to be picked up regardless, but the 35-year-old can make things official if he strides to the plate 49 more times between now and the end of the season. He’ll likely get there if he plays more or less every day over the next two weeks.
Will Not Vest
- Ricky Nolasco: It’s still theoretically possible that Nolasco can reach the 202 1/3 innings he needs to transform a $13MM club option into a player option, but with over forty to go that’s just not happening as a practical matter. Instead, he’ll likely receive a $1MM buyout on the option.
- Matt Cain: Cain is even more certain to receive a buyout; he’ll get a cool $7.5MM when the Giants say no to the alternative of paying $14MM more to keep him for another season. The veteran has compiled 119 1/3 innings of 5.66 ERA ball to this point, far shy of the volume or quality needed for that option to come into play. (It would have vested at 200 frames.)
- Hisashi Iwakuma: Though he needed only 125 innings for his $15MM vesting provision to be triggered, Iwakuma has managed just 31 to date and is still on the DL. Instead, the M’s will likely pay him a $1MM buyout rather than picking up his option at $10MM.
- Andre Ethier: Though he made it back from the DL, it was far too late for Ethier to lay claim to a $17.5MM salary for 2017. Since it’s impossible for him to make it to 550 plate appearances, he’ll instead receive a $2.5MM buyout when the Dodgers all but certainly decline the club option.
- Matt Garza: Garza will be controllable via a $5MM club option. He was not able to reach 110 total starts from 2014-17, so his option did not vest at $13MM. But he also did not miss 130 or more days of action on the DL this year, so he avoided a provision that would’ve left the Brewers with a $1MM option for 2018.
- J.J. Hardy: Also now back from the DL, Hardy returned far too late to reach the 600 plate appearances he’d have needed for a $14MM club option to become guaranteed. Instead, he’s destined to receive a $2MM buyout from the O’s this fall.
With just a few weeks left in the season, we have a pretty clear idea of which Rule 5 draft picks will stick with their drafting teams. At this point, having already carried the player this far and with expanded rosters easing any pressures, teams are quite likely to stay the course. Here’s how this season’s Rule 5 group has shaken out thus far:
It isn’t official yet, but these
- Miguel Diaz, RHP, kept by Padres (via Twins) from Brewers: As part of the Pads’ unusually bold Rule 5 strategy, the club kept three youngsters this year. Diaz, 22, has managed only a 6.21 ERA with a 31:22 K/BB ratio over 37 2/3 innings. But he is showing a 96 mph heater and will remain with the organization, quite likely heading back to the minors next season to continue his development.
- Luis Torrens, C, kept by Padres (via Reds) from Yankees: The youthful backstop — he’s just 21 — has struggled badly on offense in limited action. Through 133 plate appearances, he’s slashing just.169/.246/.212 — with just four extra-base hits, none of them home runs.
- Allen Cordoba, INF, kept by Padres from Cardinals: And then there’s Cordoba, who’s also just 21 years of age. He faded after a hot start at the plate, but on the whole his output — a .209/.284/.304 batting line and four home runs over 215 plate appearances — is fairly impressive given that he had never before played above Rookie ball.
- Dylan Covey, RHP, kept by White Sox from Athletics: Technically, owing to a DL stint, Covey has only compiled 83 of the minimum 90 days of active roster time required to be kept. But he’s going to make it there before the season is up, meaning that the Sox will be able to hold onto his rights and option him back to the minors in 2018. Covey, 26, has struggled to a 7.90 ERA with 4.9 K/9 against 4.4 BB/9 over 54 2/3 innings, allowing 18 long balls in that span.
- Stuart Turner, C, kept by Reds from Twins: Turner has seen minimal action, appearing in just 33 games and taking only 77 trips to the plate. And he’s hitting just .141/.184/.268 in that sporadic action. Clearly, though, the Reds have seen enough to believe he’s worth the trouble to hang onto.
Still In Limbo
- Kevin Gadea, RHP, selected by Rays from Mariners: Gadea has not pitched at any level this year owing to an elbow injury. He’ll remain with the Tampa Bay organization for the time being, but will still need to be carried on the 40-man roster over the offseason and then on the active roster for at least ninety days for his rights to permanently transfer.
- Armando Rivero, RHP, selected by Braves from Cubs: It’s the exact same situation for Rivero as for Gadea, though he has had shoulder problems.
- Josh Rutledge, INF, selected by Red Sox from Rockies: This was not your typical Rule 5 move. Boston snagged the veteran infielder after he signed a minors deal with Colorado. He ended up seeing minimal MLB time owing to injuries and his season ended recently with hip surgery. Rutledge is eligible for arbitration this fall and isn’t likely to be kept on the 40-man roster regardless.
- Anthony Santander, OF, selected by Orioles from Indians: Since he only made it off of the DL late in the summer, Santander can accrue only 45 days on the active roster. If Baltimore wants to keep him, then, it’ll need to put him on the Opening Day roster next year. Santander has seen minimal playing time thus far, recording two hits in twelve trips to the plate, though he put up impressive numbers on his rehab assignment.
Kept By Other Means
- Daniel Stumpf, LHP, signed with Tigers after electing free agency upon return to Royals: This is another unusual situation. As a previous Rule 5 returnee, Stumpf was eligible to elect free agency upon being returned to his original organization. That’s just what happened when Detroit sent him back to Kansas City; the southpaw then turned around and re-signed a MLB deal with the Tigers. He has ended up turning in a rather productive year, posting 32 1/3 innings of 2.78 ERA ball with 8.6 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 at the major-league level and showing even more impressive numbers during his time at Triple-A.
- Tyler Jones, RHP, returned to Yankees by Diamondbacks: Jones has thrown rather well at Triple-A since going back to the New York organization, posting 10.7 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9 in 63 2/3 innings, though he has also allowed 4.38 earned per nine.
- Caleb Smith, LHP, returned to Yankees by Brewers: Smith ended up earning a 40-man roster spot and spending some time in the majors after showing quite well as a starter in the minors. But he has been knocked around in his 18 2/3 MLB frames on the year.
- Justin Haley, RHP, returned to Red Sox by Twins (via Angels): The 26-year-old didn’t stick with Minnesota, allowing a dozen earned runs in 18 innings before being returned to Boston. But he has thrown well since landing back at Triple-A Pawtucket, posting a 2.66 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 in 44 innings over seven starts.
- Tyler Webb, LHP, returned to Yankees by Pirates: Webb also gained a 40-man spot with the Yankees after showing some intriguing K/BB numbers at Triple-A. He was ultimately dealt to the Brewers.
- Aneury Tavarez, OF, returned to Red Sox by Orioles: Tavarez played his way back up to Triple-A upon his return to his former organization, but has hit just .244/.292/.400 in 145 plate appearances there.
- Glenn Sparkman, RHP, returned to Royals by Blue Jays: Sparkman was bombed in his one MLB appearance and has been limited to just 30 1/3 minor-league frames due to injury.
- Hoby Milner, LHP, returned to Phillies by Indians: Another player who has risen to the majors with the organization that originally let them leave via the Rule 5, Milner has turned in 24 1/3 frames of 1.85 ERA ball in Philadelphia. Of course, he has also managed just 15 strikeouts against ten walks in that span.
- Mike Hauschild, RHP, returned to Astros by Rangers: The 27-year-old righty struggled badly in his eight MLB frames. Upon returning to the rotation for Houston’s top affiliate, Hauschild has uncharacteristically struggled with free passes (5.3 per nine).
Rockies catcher Jonathan Lucroy, acquired just six weeks ago at the deadline, has fit in well with his new team, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes. With the open market beckoning at season’s end, Lucroy says he’d “absolutely” have interest in re-joining the organization as a free agent.
The 31-year-old Lucroy noted that he’s not yet thinking in earnest about his next contract. But he also emphasized that he intends to consider quite a bit more than salary in making his choice. “As a free agent, you look at a lot of things,” he tells Saunders. “I look at things even more than money. I want to know what teams are going to be in there. … I want to contribute to a playoff team.”
Lucroy has turned things around at the plate somewhat after a rough stretch to open the year with the Rangers. He’s batting .274/.388/.400 through 116 plate appearances in Colorado, which equates to roughly league-average production when ballpark effects are taken into account. While the power hasn’t quite come around, Lucroy has recorded more walks (15) than strikeouts (14) since changing uniforms.
It seems Lucroy has had an even greater impact with the catching gear on. Manager Bud Black and members of the pitching staff credit his overall impact as a defender and leader behind the plate. Lucroy has also shown much-improved framing numbers, though it’s still quite a small sample and he remains below-average in an area he once excelled.
Understandably, neither Lucroy nor the Rockies are thinking too hard about the future at the moment. The club is busy fending off challengers to its hold on the second National League Wild Card slot, though it remains in solid position with just over two weeks left in the regular season. Like Lucroy, GM Jeff Bridich says the team isn’t “focused on that right now,” but also expressed satisfaction with the veteran backstop.
When he does hit free agency, Lucroy figures to represent an interesting player to watch. Entering the year, it seemed possible he’d challenge for a five-year contract of the sort that Russell Martin landed a few years back with the Blue Jays. Expectations have certainly trended down, though Lucroy still figures to command a solid, multi-year deal. He’ll face market competition from players such as Welington Castillo and Alex Avila.
The Rockies have acquired minor-league righty Jon Keller from the Orioles, per an official announcement. He’ll become the player to be named later in the April swap that sent right-hander Miguel Castro to Baltimore.
Keller, 25, has yet to move past the Double-A level through five seasons in the minors. Though he has had some intriguing moments at times in the lower minors, he has stalled out with command issues at Bowie. Over 53 total frames there since 2015, Keller owns a 7.13 ERA with 41 strikeouts and 51 walks.
Meanwhile, Castro — once seen as an intriguing prospect — has produced for the O’s this year. The 22-year-old carries a 2.65 ERA through 54 1/3 innings spread over 33 appearances. Those innings alone make the deal worthwhile and Castro won’t reach arbitration eligibility until at least 2020.
Of course, while he’s averaging 96 mph with his fastball and generating swings and misses at a solid 10.1% rate, Castro is also averaging just 4.8 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9 on the year. There’s little chance that he will sustain his current .201 BABIP moving forward, so he’ll need to find a way to put away big league hitters to keep his earned run average anywhere near its current levels.
The Padres fired hitting coach Alan Zinter on Friday, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune tweets. Zinter lasted less than two seasons in the position, having taken the job in November 2015. The Padres’ offense ranked toward the bottom of the majors during Zinter’s run, but he didn’t exactly have a world of proven talent at his disposal. Manager Andy Green explained to Lin that he’s seeking a “different voice” for the role. Meanwhile, GM A.J. Preller told AJ Cassavell of MLB.com that the Padres will begin searching for a successor immediately, but he indicated there’s no rush to hire a replacement (Twitter link).
Here’s more from the National League:
- The Brewers’ rotation was rife with question marks entering the season, but it now appears the surprise contenders have at least three legitimate building blocks in Jimmy Nelson, Chase Anderson and Zach Davies, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel observes. The emergence of that cost-controlled trio has been especially important to a team that’s not able to spend big on free agents, and Haudricourt points out that the Brewers may even have a couple more promising young starters on hand (Brandon Woodruff and Josh Hader). It’s possible they’ll go into 2018 with those five comprising their rotation, Haudricourt notes.
- Rockies outfielder David Dahl is resigned to the fact that he won’t be able to contribute this year, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes. Dahl hasn’t appeared in a major league game this season, and he hasn’t played in a minor league contest since July 31, thanks to the rib injury he suffered during spring training. Now, Dahl doesn’t expect to swing a bat again until December, according to Saunders. “The thing I really need is rest, to let it heal completely, because every time I would start swinging, I would start feeling it again,” said the 23-year-old Dahl, who excited the Rockies last season with a .315/.359/.500 batting line in a 237-plate appearance rookie campaign.
- A partial UCL tear in Wei-Yin Chen’s left elbow has kept him from taking the mound since May 1, but he’ll return to the Marlins in the coming days, Tim Healey of the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports. While Chen will finish 2017 as a reliever, the Marlins expect to slot him back into their rotation next season. After this fall’s World Series, Chen will be able to opt out of the remaining three years and $52MM left on the five-year, $80MM contract he signed with the Fish in January 2016. That’s obviously not going to happen, though, as the ex-Oriole has struggled with injuries and turned in mediocre results during his two years in Miami.
- Even with his recent struggles, Rockies closer Greg Holland still plans to decline his $15MM player option at season’s end in order to retest the free agent market. Holland looked unhittable for the season’s first two months before showing some red flags in June and July (as Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron recently pointed out). Those troublesome trends have caught up to Holland in August, as he’s been torched for 14 runs on 14 hits (four homers) and six walks with eight strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings this month.
- Rockies manager Bud Black gave slumping closer Greg Holland a vote of confidence earlier this week, but after another rough outing Saturday, his hold on the ninth-inning job seems weaker. Black told reporters, including Thomas Harding of MLB.com, on Sunday that the Rockies will “navigate” the ninth while Holland works to fix his slider and “simplify some things when it comes to basic pitching mechanics.” Holland allowed two earned runs in a third of an inning Saturday, the fifth time in 10 appearances this month that he has yielded multiple ER. His ERA is now up to 4.05 after sitting at 1.56 on Aug. 4, and failing to turn things around over the next several weeks would seemingly increase the likelihood of Holland exercising his $15MM player option for 2018 in the offseason.
- While the Rockies did offer outfielder Carlos Gonzalez a contract extension during the offseason, the reported four-year term is “not true,” according to the player. “They offered me an extension, but it was not a four-year deal,” Gonzalez told Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. “I was looking for something bigger, for more years.” Without knowing the details of the offer, it’s tough to say whether Gonzalez erred to a significant degree in declining it. Regardless, it’s clear his stock has tanked thanks to an uncharacteristically poor year – one likely to be his last in Colorado, Saunders notes. Known for his bat, the 31-year-old CarGo has hit a meek .240/.308/.359 in 432 plate appearances.