This won’t light up the news wire, but it’s a savvy depth move for the Phils. Without the possibility of adding players on MLB deals in the month of August, options are limited for picking up needed gap-fillers. Straily was one of several players that fit into a narrow niche of readily stashable players, as we covered last week.
The Orioles announced that right-hander Dan Straily has accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Norfolk. The club designated Straily on June 20.
There were unsurprisingly no takers via the waiver wire for Straily, who has struggled mightily since inking a major league deal worth $575K with Baltimore in early April. The 30-year-old Straily pitched to a 9.82 ERA/9.30 FIP with 6.23 K/9 and 4.15 BB/9 across 47 2/3 innings before the Orioles booted him from their roster. The club first tried switching Straily from its starting staff to its bullpen last month, but neither role has worked for him this season.
Straily’s fall from grace comes after a few useful seasons as a starter in the National League. He was effective in 2016 with the Reds, who brilliantly flipped him to the Marlins during the ensuing offseason in a trade that delivered Luis Castillo to Cincinnati. Straily then turned in a pair of decent seasons in Miami before the team released him prior to the current campaign.
The Orioles have designated right-hander Dan Straily for assignment, as per a team announcement. The move is one of a series of transactions for the O’s, as the club also placed southpaw John Means on the 10-day injured list (retroactive to June 17) with a left shoulder strain, reinstated Dwight Smith Jr. from the 10-day IL and recalled righty Evan Phillips from Triple-A.
Today’s news ends Straily’s brief time in Baltimore after 47 2/3 innings and a disappointing 9.82 ERA. After the Marlins surprisingly released Straily near the end of Spring Training, the O’s inked the righty to a $575K one-year deal to fill a hole in their shaky rotation. Unfortunately, Straily simply never got on track either as a starter or as a reliever, as his career-long flyball tendencies bit him especially hard at Camden Yards. Straily has already allowed a whopping 22 homers during his brief time on the mound this season — for perspective’s sake, Dylan Bundy allowed a league-high 41 homers in 2018, though that was over 171 2/3 innings.
There was enough interest in Straily after his release from Miami that you would figure he’d get some looks now that he is on the market again, as the veteran posted decent numbers for the Reds and Marlins from 2016-18. Another Major League contract doesn’t seem as likely, however, as Straily seems like a candidate for a minor league deal with a team that will try to iron out his flyball problems down on the farm.
In terms of pure results, Means has been the lone bright spot on the Orioles’ struggling rotation this year, with a 2.67 ERA, 2.81 K/BB rate, and 7.5 K/9 over 70 2/3 innings. ERA indicators (4.08 FIP, 5.07 xFIP, 4.67 SIERA) hint at some serious regression, though Means hasn’t allowed much in the way of hard contract, with only a .309 xwOBA and .299 wOBA.
Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez has been a highly capable starter for most of tenure with the club, which dates back to 2013. But the Cardinals moved the then-injured Martinez to their bullpen in late April, and that’s where he’s going to stay for the time being, per manager Mike Shildt (via Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch). Shildt suggested the Cardinals don’t have time to build up Martinez, who opened the season on the injured list with shoulder problems. “To put him back in that cycle again doesn’t make a lot of sense when he’s in a spot where he’s had success and he’s recovering,” Shildt said of Martinez, who has totaled 12 appearances and 13 1/3 innings with a 3.38 ERA/3.47 FIP, 8.1 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and a 58.3 percent groundball rate since he made his season debut May 18. Even though Martinez has posted good numbers as a reliever, the Cardinals’ rotation has missed the 27-year-old. Their starting staff has been mediocre or worse this season.
Here’s more from around the majors…
- The Rangers were planning on giving left-hander Joe Palumbo a chance to audition for a role in their thin rotation, but that may not be the case anymore, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes. The 22-year-old Palumbo has started twice, including in Wednesday’s 10-4 drubbing at the hands of the Indians. The Tribe lit up Palumbo for seven earned runs on six hits (two home runs) in two innings. Reliever Jesse Chavez came in after Palumbo and tossed five innings of one-run ball. Although Chavez, 35, hasn’t started extensively since 2017, the Rangers are so hard up for stability in the back of their rotation that they’ll “consider” shifting him there, manager Chris Woodward said.
- Orioles righty Dan Straily’s place on the team’s roster may be in jeopardy, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com suggests. The low-risk flier the club took on Straily on April 5, a little over a week after the Marlins released him, hasn’t worked out to this point. Straily, 30, was coming off a multiyear run as a useful starter when he joined Baltimore, yet he has worked to a hideous 9.82 ERA/9.30 FIP in 47 2/3 innings since then. While Straily began 2019 as a starter, his struggles convinced the O’s to demote him to their bullpen nearly a month ago. Straily has fared even worse in that role.
- Injured Tigers shortstop Jordy Mercer is nearing a rehab assignment and could return to the majors by the first week of July, according to manager Ron Gardenhire (via Chris McCosky of the Detroit News). Mercer, out since April 14 with a right quad strain, already began a rehab stint once. However, he suffered a setback three weeks ago and hasn’t returned to game action yet. When the rebuilding Tigers signed the soon-to-be 33-year-old Mercer to a $5.25MM guarantee in the offseason, they were likely hoping he’d perform well enough to emerge as a summer trade chip. Instead, the former Pirate got off to a brutal start – .206/.275/.317 (55 wRC+) in 69 plate appearances – and hasn’t played since.
Righty Dan Straily is being shifted into the bullpen, the Orioles informed reporters including Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (via Twitter). It isn’t yet known who’ll step into his spot in the rotation.
This move wasn’t hard to see coming. The O’s added Straily for a low price at the outset of the year, with the idea that he’d help solidify the rotation. Unfortunately, that has just not happened.
While the 30-year-old has been a sturdy rotation piece for several years now, he has been drubbed in Baltimore. Over 34 2/3 innings, he carries a 9.09 ERA with just 18 strikeouts against 17 walks. Opposing hitters have already launched 14 long balls.
Straily is living outside of the zone (career-low 38.8%) in an effort to avoid that hard contact. He’s struggling to get swinging strikes (career-low 7.3%). Opposing hitters are putting the ball in the air against him more than ever before, with 20.6% of those flies leaving the yard.
While the O’s don’t have any particularly compelling replacement options, they are said to be browsing the market for pitching depth. If they can’t find a new arm quickly, they’ll need to look internally for at least one start. Just-claimed hurler Chandler Shepherd is one possibility. 40-man members Josh Rogers, Jimmy Yacabonis, and Luis Ortiz are also presently working at Triple-A. Southpaw Keegan Akin is there as well. He’s perhaps the most intriguing possibility, but would need a 40-man spot to be promoted.
After a 1-6 start to the Cubs’ season, Chicago fans are already pointing fingers in many directions, including criticism of ownership for not greenlighting more offseason spending, or of the team’s desultory pitching performance. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein, however, told ESPN.com’s Jesse Rogers and other reporters that the blame falls with him. “There is always a search for scapegoats when you get off to a tough start. [Pitching coach] Tommy Hottovy is not the problem. He’s a big part of the solution,” Epstein said. “[Owner] Tom Ricketts is not the problem. It’s not a resource issue. I know he’s another one that’s been taking a lot of heat. It’s not a resource problem. If people have a problem with the allocation of resources, then that’s on me. And it has been ever since I got here, with a lot of good and some bad.”
While it’s obviously still early in the season, the Cubs are already facing a big deficit in the NL Central due to the Brewers’ 7-1 start, as Rogers notes. The Cubs can make up some of that ground in their ongoing series with Milwaukee, plus there’s also really nowhere to go but up after this opening week. “It’s been real close to, if not, a worst-case scenario for us, defensively and in terms of our pitching….We’re sorry we’re putting our fans through this,” Epstein said.
Some more from around the National League…
- Phillies reliever Tommy Hunter has been shut down from throwing after receiving a PRP injection in his right arm. (MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki was among those to report the news.) Hunter won’t resume throwing for three weeks, so factoring in those days plus the time Hunter would require to get into game readiness after missing much of Spring Training, the veteran righty might not be back in the Philadelphia bullpen until late May or perhaps early June. A flexor strain sidelined Hunter during the spring, and while the injury wasn’t thought to be overly serious at the time, it will result in a lengthy absence for the 32-year-old. Hunter was a solid contributor for the Phils last season, posting a 3.80 ERA, 3.40 K/BB rate, and 7.2 K/9 over 64 relief innings in the first year of a two-year, $18MM contract.
- The Rangers and Blue Jays were two of the teams that had interest in Dan Straily before the right-hander signed with the Orioles last week, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link). Both Texas and Toronto are dealing with rotation injuries, though the Rangers had a more immediate need for starting help now that Edinson Volquez has been sidelined with a UCL injury.
- Japan used to be seen as something of a last resort for players that couldn’t crack the Major Leagues, though as The Athletic’s Peter Gammons writes (subscription required), more and more players are returning from stints in Nippon Professional Baseball capable of thriving at the MLB level. Colby Lewis, Ryan Vogelsong, Miles Mikolas, and Ryan Brasier are some of the pitchers who revived or kickstarted their careers while playing in Japan, which some players and executives feel is a more conducive environment than Triple-A. NPB not only offers a higher level of competition, but just competition in general — players are playing to win in pressurized games in front of large crowds, rather than the more developmental nature of the minor leagues. Plus, players can earn much more in guaranteed NPB deals than in playing for meager minor league salaries or even minimum-level Major League contracts, and the extra security allows more focus on performance. “I’m not looking over my shoulder after every outing,” said Frank Herrmann, who is in his third season as a star reliever for Rakuten Golden Eagles after tossing 135 1/3 innings for the Indians and Phillies between 2010-16. “When you are that ’4A guy,’ a bad outing or even an extra-inning game in which you did your job could potentially be a demotion to the minors. That’s a grind mentality.”
4:53pm: Baltimore announced the signing. Rule 5 pick Drew Jackson was designated for assignment to create roster space.
Jackson, 25, will be offered back to the Dodgers if he clears waivers. He had not appeared above the Double-A level prior to his brief stint with the O’s. Jackson slashed .251/.356/.447 with 15 home runs in 410 Double-A plate appearances last year.
3:42pm: The Orioles have agreed to a MLB deal with righty Dan Straily, as first reported on a transactional website that declines attribution. The deal comes with a $575K salary along with a $250K trade bonus, per Craig Mish of MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (Twitter link).
This move will help the O’s fill some innings and give Straily a sure rotation spot as he seeks to rebuild some value. Straily was cut loose late in camp by the Marlins, who are obligated to him for 45 days of severance pay on his previously agreed-upon, $5MM arbitration salary — about $1.21MM.
Straily, 30, has rarely been a high-end producer but has steadily eaten innings while providing solid results. Through 495 1/3 frames over the past three seasons, he carries a 4.03 ERA with 7.8 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9. Straily gives up too many home runs and has typically outperformed his peripherals. He has long generated a solid number of swinging strikes (10.8% for his career), but declined in that area last year while also seeing a worrying jump in hard contact. Long an extreme flyball pitcher, Straily will face a big challenge in Orioles Park.
Contenders that find themselves with a rotation opening and little in the way of cash to work with may see some appeal in Straily come late July. It’s not hard to imagine him turning into something of a trade deadline chip for the O’s, who’ll no doubt be willing to strike a deal if there’s any kind of intriguing return to be found. That possibility was obviously foreseen by both sides, given the inclusion of an unusually hefty (for this level of signing) assignment bonus.
The Royals are still listing Wednesday’s starter as TBA, but the nod will likely go to former Reds right-hander Homer Bailey, Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com reports. Bailey threw in a minor league game late last week and built up to 6 1/3 innings, and he was already in the team’s clubhouse over the weekend. Flanagan further tweets that the Royals have at least discussed the possibility of pursuing recently released Marlins right-hander Dan Straily or recently designated Reds lefty Brandon Finnegan (a former Royals first-round pick), but neither move is likely to come to fruition. The organization, it would seem, is committed to giving Bailey a look with its lone open 40-man roster spot. It’s hard to imagine that a team in the Royals’ position couldn’t clear some additional 40-man room should they see fit, so perhaps the organization simply isn’t that interested in either Straily or Finnegan.
More from the division…
- The Twins organization announced the Opening Day rosters for its Triple-A club Monday, revealing that left-hander Stephen Gonsalves is opening the season on the injured list due to a left flexor/pronator strain. Infielder Nick Gordon is also opening the season on the IL due to acute gastritis (inflammation of his stomach lining). Both Gonsalves and Gordon entered the 2018 season ranked among baseball’s 100 best prospects, though neither elevated his status last season. Gonsalves did make his MLB debut, though he was tagged for a 6.57 ERA in a small sample of four starts. The 24-year-old Gonsalves impressed with a 2.96 ERA and nearly a strikeout per frame in 100 1/3 Triple-A innings, but his 4.9 BB/9 mark there was the worst of his career. Still, he’s an important depth piece should the Twins lose a starter to injury, making his recovery timeline (which has yet to be announced) worth monitoring for Twins fans. As for Gordon, he obliterated Double-A pitching for 42 games before posting a disastrous .212/.262/.283 slash in 99 Triple-A games (his first exposure to that level of pitching).
- Jon Jay began the season on the injured list due to a hip strain and discomfort in his back, and Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times reports that the veteran outfielder “doesn’t appear close to a return” to the White Sox. Manager Rick Renteria indicated over the weekend that Jay will be reevaluated when the team is back in Chicago. There’s also at least some degree of concern surrounding a velocity drop for righty Nate Jones. While Jones maintains that he doesn’t feel any discomfort in his right arm — he missed much of 2018 due to a pronator strain — his early results have been troubling (both in Spring Training and the regular season). Jones averaged 97.2 mph on his heater in each of the past two seasons but has sat at 94.9 mph so far in his first two outings of the 2019 campaign.
Recently released Marlins right-hander Dan Straily has received big league offers from three American League teams, per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (Twitter link). Some clubs have been willing to promise a rotation spot to the 30-year-old Straily, who’ll take the next week or so to mull those and any other offers that arise with his family and his representatives.
Miami’s decision to release Straily registered as somewhat of a surprise. Miami had reportedly sought to trade Straily for much of the offseason but found no takers at his $5MM price point, it seems. Rather than opening the season with the 30-year-old holding down a starting job and then looking for early opportunities to move him, the Fish instead simply opted to cut Straily loose, eating about $1.21MM of his non-guaranteed arbitration salary in the process. Straily will take home that salary no matter what, and he’ll earn whatever sum a new organization is willing to pay him on top of that figure.
Straily struggled through a rough spring but has generally been a solid back-of-the-rotation arm for the Reds and Marlins across the past three seasons, pitching to a combined 4.03 ERA with 7.8 K/9, 3.4 BB/9 and 1.5 HR/9 in 495 1/3 innings. He’s an extreme fly-ball pitcher, which has led to frequent issues with the long ball, but Straily typically misses bats at an average or better rate and also generates a large number of infield flies.
Several teams throughout the American League could speculatively make sense for Straily. The Athletics are piecing things together at the back of their rotation, while the Angels have been perennially clobbered by injuries and are currently uncertain about the status of Andrew Heaney’s elbow. A rebuilding club like the Orioles could easily accommodate Straily, though he may prefer to head to a club with at least some semblance of postseason aspirations now that he’s choosing his destination. There are, of course, numerous clubs in the National League who could benefit from swapping out Straily for their current fifth option as well.
When Straily does sign, he’ll be an option not only for the remainder of the 2019 season but also the 2020 campaign. Because he has four years, 126 days of big league service time under his belt, Straily won’t qualify as a free agent at season’s end and would be controllable for another season via the arbitration process.
8:44am: Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill announced to reporters that Straily has been released by the organization (Twitter link via Joe Frisaro of MLB.com). Mish tweets that Straily is going on release waivers today, meaning he’ll become a free agent if he clears on Wednesday at 1pm ET. Assuming that happens, he’ll receive the aforementioned 45 days’ termination pay and can can sign with any club for any amount of money (on top of that termination pay from Miami).
7:52am: In a fairly surprising move, the Marlins have designated right-hander Dan Straily for assignment, according to Craig Mish of SiriusXM (all Twitter links). The Marlins will now have a week to trade him or release him. Left-hander Caleb Smith has made the Marlins’ Opening Day rotation in what was expected to be Straily’s spot, Mish adds.
Straily, 30, was acquired from the Reds in a January 2017 trade that cost the Marlins right-hander Luis Castillo (along with the since-reacquired righty Austin Brice and minor league outfielder Zeek White). Straily made 33 starts for Miami in his first year with the club and tallied another 23 starts for the Fish in a 2018 season that was slowed a bit by a forearm strain early in the year. In all, he gave the Marlins 304 innings of 4.20 ERA ball with averages of 8.0 strikeouts, 3.3 walks and 1.5 homers allowed per nine innings pitched.
On the heels of that output, Miami and Straily agreed to a $5MM salary earlier this winter, avoiding arbitration in the process. Today’s DFA will save the Marlins about $3.8MM of that $5MM sum, as even if Straily is released, the organization would only owe him 45 days’ termination pay (roughly $1.2MM). Ultimately, those cost savings were surely at the heart of the move. There’s little doubt that Straily is a better option for the Miami pitching staff than fellow veteran Wei-Yin Chen, but Miami will retain Chen and his fully guaranteed $20MM salary and instead part ways with a veteran arm whose salary was only partially guaranteed.
Miami has reportedly been exploring trades for Straily all offseason, including prior to tendering him at that $5MM rate, but without any success. As such, it may be difficult for them to find a partner in the coming days, though perhaps a club with injury issues in its rotation will have some interest — if not via trade then via straight waiver claim. Straily did rank in the 70th percentile of MLB pitchers in terms of fastball spin and in the 80th percentile in terms of curveball spin, so he could hold particular appeal to clubs that emphasize spin rate. If he goes unclaimed, Straily will become a free agent who is eligible to sign with any club for any amount of money while still pocketing the $1.2MM owed to him by Miami.
As for the Marlins, they’ll now trot out a younger rotation consisting of Jose Urena, Trevor Richards, Pablo Lopez, Sandy Alcantara and Smith, with Chen lined up as the long man in the bullpen. Elieser Hernandez, Jeff Brigham and Jordan Yamamoto are all on the 40-man roster as depth options.
Developmentally speaking, one can hardly fault the rebuilding Marlins for wanting to give as many of their growing stable of arms an opportunity as possible, though the fact that doing so now means paying a reasonably useful Major League arm to pitch somewhere else is hardly ideal. The truly questionable element of the whole equation will be the decision to tender Straily in the first place a youth movement was always the preferred route for the rotation. Presumably, though, when that decision was due in early December, Miami still had confidence in its ability to find a trade partner.