- Olney lists Sonny Gray, Yonder Alonso, J.D. Martinez, Justin Wilson and Pat Neshek as five players that definitively will be traded prior to the non-waiver trade deadline. All of those players are known to be available, with the Athletics and Phillies at differing stages of a lengthy rebuilding process and the Tigers aiming to pare down payroll by moving short-term veterans. But, Olney’s strong characterization of the likelihood is nonetheless notable, especially since both Gray and Wilson are controllable beyond the 2017 campaign. The Brewers, Cubs, Astros, Yankees, Braves and Indians are among the teams in the mix for Gray, though likely not all to the same extent. Alonso, meanwhile, has reportedly had talks with the A’s about an extension, though Billy Beane’s rebuilding comments yesterday certainly lend credence to the notion that a trade could be the likelier outcome.
- The Braves, meanwhile, are “very much open to offers for Julio Teheran,” Olney reports, citing execs with other clubs that have spoken to Atlanta about the righty. Olney’s report meshes with recent indications from David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, as he writes that the Braves would like to move Teheran for a package of prospects but would first prefer to acquire a suitable rotation replacement for him. Teheran has struggled mightily at Atlanta’s new SunTrust Park this season (7.58 ERA, 13 HR in 46 1/3 home innings; 2.53 ERA, seven HR in 57 road innings), so perhaps the Atlanta front office thinks now more than ever that he’s best suited for a change of scenery.
- The Twins have let other clubs know that while they plan to be buyers at the deadline, they’ll act in a measured sense and won’t gut the upper echelon of their farm system in order to land a significant name. Minnesota has previously been linked to bullpen and rotation help, and while GM Thad Levine has outwardly suggested that the team will at least consider pursuing controllable assets this July, Olney’s column casts some doubt on how strongly the Twins will be in the mix for the top names available (e.g. Gray).
- The Padres seem intent on getting the best return possible on lefty Brad Hand at some point in the next two weeks rather than waiting for the offseason, Olney writes. While the 27-year-old is controlled through the 2019 season, there’s an argument to be made that his value is near its peak right now, especially with so many clubs seeking bullpen help. Olney notes that the Rays are one such team that is looking specifically for left-handed relief pitching.
- Currently sitting at 46-49 and buried in the AL West but just 3.5 games out of a Wild Card spot, the Angels will determine their deadline course based largely on their play in the next week or so, per Olney. A strong week that puts them closer to a Wild Card spot could lead to a conservative buyers’ mentality (similar to the Twins), but if they struggle and fall further back, rental relievers like Bud Norris, David Hernandez and Yusmeiro Petit could all be marketed. The same goes for other impending free agents such as Cameron Maybin and Yunel Escobar.
There’s no more fickle existence in Major League Baseball than that of a relief pitcher. Teams are generally more willing to tinker with their bullpens than their benches, and often need to make changes to account for overworked staffs.
But the tumult also brings opportunity. Relievers who are throwing well at the right moment can find themselves right back in the majors. And there are often wide-open Spring Training battles to be joined and won.
Plenty of relievers signed minor-league deals last winter. And a solid number of them ended up on MLB rosters within the first two months of the season. Despite failing to receive MLB guarantees on the free-agent market, these ten hurlers have provided quite a bit of value in the early going:
Matt Albers, Nationals: With the Nats’ pen struggling badly, Albers has been a desperately need source of reliable frames: 16 2/3 innings of 1.62 ERA ball. A strong 57.8% groundball rate and meager 1.6 BB/9 walk rate tend to support the results, though Albers isn’t getting enough whiffs (7.6 K/9) to keep up quite this level of pitching.
Craig Breslow, Twins: The lefty specialist has been everything the Minnesota front office hoped for when it bought into his new-look delivery over the winter. Like Albers, a minimal BABIP (.217 in this case) helps explain the sub-2.00 ERA, though in both cases the solid early work is enough to entrench these pitchers in their respective pens for the time being.
Jorge De La Rosa, Diamondbacks: A long-time starter, De La Rosa has averaged less than one inning per relief appearance in Arizona. But the results of that change in focus have been quite promising. It’s good enough that De La Rosa carries a 50% groundball rate with 8.8 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9, supporting a 2.35 ERA through 15 1/3 frames. But there could be more in the tank, as he’s also averaging a career-high 94.1 mph with his fastball and generating a huge 19.5% swinging-strike rate.
David Hernandez, Angels: Though he has completed just 11 innings thus far, after making his debut later than most of the names on this list, Hernandez has impressed. He’s showing the same kind of velocity and swinging-strike rates that made him a buy-low option last year for the Phillies, but the real question is whether he can continue to avoid the long balls that have plagued him in recent years.
J.J. Hoover, Diamondbacks: It was anyone’s guess whether the former Reds’ late-inning stalwart would rebound, but he’s showing well through fifteen frames in Arizona. Hoover is walking more than five batters per nine, but has also racked up 12.6 K/9 (on a career-high 12.6% swinging-strike rate) and owns a 3.00 ERA. So far, a new pitch mix (more two-seamers and sliders) seems to be working.
Jason Motte, Braves: After beating out Hernandez to become the next veteran reclamation project in Atlanta, Motte has ascended to the majors and helped stabilize the pen. His peripherals aren’t terribly inspiring — 6.4 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 53.1% groundball rate — but the results (1.59 ERA) have been there through 11 1/3 innings.
Bud Norris, Angels: The crown jewel of the Halos’ impressive slate of finds, Norris has thrived in the closer’s role that he took over out of necessity. Through 23 2/3 innings, he carries a 2.66 ERA with 11.8 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, and a 44.2% groundball rate. Norris is bringing more velocity (94.1 mph fastball) and swinging strikes (13.2%) than ever before.
Yusmeiro Petit, Angels: The veteran long man has been stellar, delivering 28 1/3 staff-preserving innings of 2.54 ERA ball through 16 appearances. Petit is carrying 9.5 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9 on the year. (As if the trio of arms on this list weren’t enough, the Halos have also benefited from the strong work of Blake Parker, who had been outrighted off the 40-man roster over the winter.)
Anthony Swarzak, White Sox: There are some very strong performers on this list, but perhaps none has been quite as impressive as Swarzak. He has given the South Siders 19 2/3 breakout innings of 1.37 ERA ball, with 10.1 K/9 and just 0.9 BB/9 in that span. At present, he’s working at a 19.8% swinging-strike rate — about double what he carried over the prior two campaigns — making him quite an interesting potential trade candidate this summer.
Jacob Turner, Nationals: Though he isn’t carrying sparkly numbers, Turner has been an important contributor in D.C. He’s functioning in the swingman role that Petit occupied last year, providing 21 2/3 innings (over two starts and six relief appearances) of 3.74 ERA pitching thus far. While Turner is averaging only 5.8 strikeouts and 3.3 walks per nine, he is continuing to carry the velocity boost he showed last year. Interestingly, he is now working in the zone far more than ever before (50.2% versus 42.1% career average) — though it’s also important to note that his swings and misses are way down (4.8%).
12:55pm: Hernandez is expected to be added directly to the Angels’ active roster, tweets SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo. There’s a vacant 40-man spot on the club’s roster already, so the Angels will only need to make a 25-man roster move to accommodate him.
12:19pm: The Angels announced on Monday that they’ve acquired right-hander David Hernandez from the Braves in exchange for a player to be named later or cash. Hernandez isn’t on the 40-man roster, but the veteran righty could conceivably join the Halos’ Major League club in the near future to add some depth to a relief corps that has lost Cam Bedrosian, Andrew Bailey, Huston Street and Mike Morin to injuries already in 2017.
[Related: Updated Los Angeles Angels Depth Chart]
Hernandez, 32 next month, spent the 2016 season with the Phillies, where he logged a 3.84 ERA with 9.9 K/9 against 4.0 BB/9 with a 37.3 percent ground-ball rate in 72 2/3 innings. While he opened the season as the closer in Philly last year, he quickly relinquished the role following an ugly start to the year. Hernandez rebounded to finish the year with useful numbers, and while his career 4.10 ERA isn’t necessarily impressive, he’s a relatively hard-thrower (average 94 mph fastball in 2016) that has punched out 9.1 hitters per nine innings pitched in parts of seven Major League seasons. Hernandez is off to a strong start to the season in Triple-A, where he’s yielded just one run on four hits and two walks with nine strikeouts in eight innings of work.
While Bedrosian’s injury seems likely to be rather short-term in nature, Street won’t return until at least June, and it’s not yet known how long Bailey will be out. With all of the injuries on the roster, the Halos currently have a patchwork bullpen consisting of Bud Norris, Yusmeiro Petit, Blake Parker, Brooks Pounders, Deolis Guerra and lefty Jose Alvarez.
The Diamondbacks drafted both Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock in 2009 and the two have been teammates for years, but they might not remain in the same organization for long, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes. If the Snakes don’t contend this season — and that doesn’t appear particularly likely after a disappointing 2016 — the team could begin considering dealing Goldschmidt, Pollock or Zack Greinke. Dealing Goldschmidt or Pollock would give the Diamondbacks a head start in a rebuild, an organizational route of which new GM Mike Hazen seems to see the benefits. “Picking first is a lot better than picking fifth,” Hazen said earlier this month. “From a long-term building standpoint, there are clear advantages to being in those positions over a period of time. The majority of your superstars, by and large, are going to come in those areas of the draft and the international market.” Here’s more from the National League.
- Much of the Braves’ Opening Day roster is set, but there are still jobs available on the bench and in the bullpen, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman writes. Chaz Roe, who is out of of options, has the inside track on one of the remaining bullpen jobs, although fellow righty David Hernandez (who the Braves recently added on a minor-league deal) is another possibility. Paco Rodriguez and Kevin Chapman are competing to join the ’pen as lefties, while veteran hitters Matt Tuiasosopo and Mel Rojas Jr. could also have shots at making the team, particularly, it would seem, if the Braves opt to go with five bench players instead of four. The Braves will also keep an eye on the trade and free-agent markets.
- The Mets are hoping for fourth outfielder Juan Lagares to soon recover from the oblique strain he suffered this weekend, and therefore do not seem overly interested in Drew Stubbs, MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo tweets. The veteran Stubbs opted out of his minor-league deal with the Twins yesterday. Assuming he’s healthy, Lagares seems set to back up a Mets outfield of Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce.
The Braves have signed reliever David Hernandez to a minor league contract, the team announced. The right-hander hit the market when the Giants released him Friday.
The 31-year-old Hernandez would provide another experienced bullpen option if he were to make the Braves, who have fellow 30-something relievers on hand in Jim Johnson, Eric O’Flaherty and Josh Collmenter. Hernandez might have a legitimate shot to crack Atlanta’s roster, too, as Mark Bowman of MLB.com reported Saturday that righties Mauricio Cabrera and Armando Rivero are likely to open the season on the disabled list.
The Braves are the fifth major league organization for Hernandez, who debuted with the Orioles in 2009 and has registered a 4.10 ERA, 9.13 K/9, 3.83 BB/9 and a low ground-ball rate (31.6 percent) over 487 innings. He posted similar numbers to his career totals last year in Philadelphia, where he logged a 3.84 ERA with 9.91 K/9 against 3.96 BB/9 and a 37.3 percent grounder rate in 72 2/3 frames. Hernandez has typically helped offset his paltry ground-ball totals by inducing plenty of infield pop-ups (13.5 percent career rate), and he features a 94 mph fastball.
The Giants have released veteran righty David Hernandez, as Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area was among those to report on Twitter. Hernandez asked to be cut loose upon being informed that he would not crack the active roster to start the season.
Hernandez, 31, always faced an uphill battle to make the club with a variety of righties ahead of him in the pecking order. And he didn’t do enough to impress in his 5 2/3 spring frames, allowing three earned runs on seven hits and three walks while recording four strikeouts.
San Francisco took a shot on Hernandez with a minors deal that would have paid him $1.5MM had he made the roster. Last year, with the Phillies, he worked to a 3.84 ERA over 72 2/3 innings. With a 94.0 mph average fastball and 9.9 K/9 on the year, there were some positives, though he also walked 4.0 batters per nine with a meager 37.3% groundball rate while permitting 1.36 home runs per nine.
10:07am: Hernandez would earn $1.5MM if he makes the MLB roster, Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News reports on Twitter. He has already passed his physical.
Hernandez, 31, landed a $3.9MM deal last year with the Phillies, but he’ll need to earn a major league job in camp this time around. He ended up posting an up-and-down season, but did show that he was fully recovered from Tommy John surgery and capable of providing innings.
Over 72 2/3 frames in 2016, Hernandez worked to a 3.84 ERA with a healthy 9.9 K/9 to go with a sub-optimal 4.0 BB/9 walk rate. While he continued to generate few grounders (37.3% groundball rate) and allow a few too many home runs (1.36 HR/9 and 14.3% HR/FB), he also showed typically strong velocity (94.0 mph average four-seam fastball) and swinging-strike numbers (11.7% SwStr).
While that effort largely fell in line with Hernandez’s overall career numbers, perhaps there’s still some upside left in his right arm. He logged a 2.50 ERA with 12.9 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 over 68 1/3 innings back in 2012, and still has much the same arsenal that he did then.
For San Francisco, the move puts another experienced late-inning arm in camp at a minimal commitment. Hernandez will likely compete with pitchers such as George Kontos, Cory Gearrin, and fellow minor-league signee Bryan Morris for a slot in the Giants’ relief corps.
Newly acquired Red Sox ace Chris Sale’s unorthodox delivery hasn’t posed any significant problems to this point, as he has exceeded the 200-inning mark in three of his five seasons as a starter and combined for 386 frames in the other two campaigns. Asked if that delivery will lead to trouble down the road, Sale’s former pitching coach with the White Sox, Don Cooper, told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, “He knows himself really good. His delivery is solid.” Cooper added, “Chris Sale has three above-average major league pitches that he pours in and throws strikes. I don’t want to sound cocky, but I don’t think anyone saying stuff has a better idea about his delivery than me.” Cooper then lavished further praise on the 27-year-old Sale, who he thinks landed with the right club. “He’s put up Hall of Fame-credible numbers. And now he’s going to a team that is sparing no expense,” said Cooper. “Nothing stands in the way of them putting together the best team. He’s going to a team where he has a chance to put up even more wins. If he has 10 years like he’s had, he has a chance to have a Hall of Fame career.” Cooper had plenty more to say about Sale, so checking out Cafardo’s piece to read all of the pitching guru’s comments is highly recommended.
More from the American League:
- The Orioles are interested in bringing back two of their former relievers, free agent right-handers David Hernandez and Vance Worley, reports Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Hernandez, 31, was the Orioles’ fifth-round pick in 2005 and stayed with the organization through the 2010 campaign. He spent 2016 in Philadelphia, where he tossed 70 2/3 innings and logged a 3.84 ERA, 9.91 K/9 and 3.96 BB/9. Worley was with the Orioles last season, but they non-tendered him earlier this month in lieu of paying the 29-year-old a projected $3.3MM via arbitration in 2017. The swingman recorded a 3.53 ERA despite an ugly 1.6 K/BB ratio last season.
- Having traded Cameron Maybin to the Angels earlier this offseason, the Tigers are looking for center field help “on every front,” general manager Al Avila told Evan Woodbery of MLive.com. “Maybe we can get that guy in a trade,” Avila said. “Maybe we can wait until January and get a guy to be a temporary fix. Maybe we can plug that hole with a sixth-year minor league free agent.” The Tigers have in-house center fielders Tyler Collins, JaCoby Jones and Anthony Gose set to compete for jobs, but they’d like for Jones to develop further at Triple-A Toledo. Gose spent most of his time last season in Toledo, where he got into a dispute with then-manager and now-Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon. That rift is now “water under the bridge,” according to Tigers skipper Brad Ausmus. Gose is unlikely to reunite with McClendon in Detroit, writes Woodbery, who points out that Gose has no minor league options remaining. As a result, he might end up joining another organization via waivers if he doesn’t crack the Tigers’ roster. Collins is also devoid of options, though he’s a better bet than Gose to stick with the Tigers, suggests Woodbery.
- After the Mariners promoted Edwin Diaz from Double-A Jackson to the majors last June, the electric 22-year-old burst on the big league scene and quickly became an elite reliever with his fastball-slider mix. The club might have another Diaz on its hands in relief prospect Thyago Vieira, who also relies on a fastball and slider, as Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times details. Vieira, who’s older than Diaz (24 next month), is capable of hitting 103 mph on the radar gun. “There can’t be many people in professional baseball with a better arm,” Mariners director of player development Andy McKay told Divish. “He throws enough strikes. I don’t think anyone would say there’s a ton of command, but there are plenty of strikes and the slider is hard to hit and really hard not to swing at.” Vieira spent most of 2016 at the High-A level and then pitched in the Arizona Fall League, but the Mariners nearly released him before the season. “In spring training, there was a question as to whether he was going to make a team or not based on his age and general performance history,” GM Jerry Dipoto revealed. Now, after working with minor league pitching coach Ethan Katz, Vieira is on Seattle’s 40-man roster and could debut in the majors in 2017. “I saw a big arm with a lot of potential that just needed a little more time to figure it out,” Katz stated. “There was some stuff that he was doing that needed to be fixed to help him succeed.” Vieira credits Katz for his breakout year. “I have to say thank you to the Mariners for giving me the opportunity to work with him,” Vieira said.
There’s no question that the Phillies are rebuilding, with some of their better prospects—see J.P. Crawford, Nick Williams and Jake Thompson—closing in on the Major Leagues. As a result, there was an expectation that general manager Matt Klentak would, at the least, trade away free agents-to-be Jeremy Hellickson and David Hernandez, both of whom are having strong seasons, and veteran catcher Carlos Ruiz, who has a $4.5MM club option in 2017. But the first-year general manager came up empty during his first trade deadline.
As Klentak explained on a conference call earlier today, he was open-minded to making a deal and had dialogue with quite a few teams on a number of their players.
“We had offers out to other teams that, if accepted, we would have done,” Klentak said. “At the end of the day, there was nothing we felt made sense for the organization at this time.”
Citing a focus on appropriately balancing the present and the future, Klentak believes that Ruiz and Hellickson are playing a key role in the development of their younger players.
“We want to make sure our young players are being mentored by the right veterans,” Klentak explained. “Chooch has had a great career with the Phillies, and we value what he means to the organization and to the younger players. We like what he brings to this team.”
With regard to the 29-year-old Hellickson, who was acquired from the Diamondbacks last winter, Klentak stressed the importance of having a reliable innings-eater with many of the Phillies’ young pitchers beginning to approach innings totals that they haven’t reached in their careers.
“The reason we went out and acquired him last offseason is to provide stability to our rotation and mentor our young pitchers,” Klentak said. “I think he’s been outstanding in that role.”
While Klentak said that they have not determined whether Hellickson will be given a qualifying offer, which is estimated to be $16.7MM, they are mindful that a new Collective Bargaining Agreement could be in place by the offseason. With a very supportive ownership group and few future commitments, however, he wouldn’t rule it out. He also didn’t rule out the possibility of an August trade, although there are more hurdles to clear that would make it complicated.
As far as opening up playing time for young prospects, Klentak said that he never looked at the trade deadline as the platform that would allow them to play. The important thing, he said, is to call them up when they’re ready and never have to send them back because they’re not ready.
“[The lack of trades] doesn’t set back the timeline for any promotion,” he says. “We will promote them when they’re ready. If we need to create room, we will do so. There’s a decent chance we’ll see another somewhat notable promotion of a first-time big-leaguer before the season’s up.”
Giants GM Bobby Evans suggested yesterday that his organization is looking hard at relievers, in an appearance on the podcast of ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (audio link). Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, the organization is said to be “blanketing” the market for bullpen arms, according to ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (Twitter link).
The Phillies and Brewers are among the rival teams being eyed by San Francisco scouts, per Crasnick’s report. It appears that the Giants are paying particular attention to Philly’s Jeanmar Gomez and David Hernandez, as well as Milwaukee’s Will Smith and Jeremy Jeffress. All of those players have featured on MLBTR’s breakdown of the top trade candidates, though only Jeffress has consistently cracked the ranking itself.
Notably, Crasnick adds that the Giants are mostly “lingering” in the market for Yankees’ relief aces Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller. The expectation seems to be that other National League contenders — namely, the Cubs and Nationals — are likely to be bigger players for those two high-octane lefties.
Evans had hinted that there’s a lot of demand to contend with on the market. That was a significant factor in the team’s decision to rely on some younger arms this year, he suggested. “We didn’t realize that half of baseball would be also looking for the same relievers and that the market would be so limited,” he said of the winter’s free agent market, “but that’s where we are.”
The San Francisco GM went on to note that his organization will not just be looking to build out depth in its relief corps. “We have a pretty strong bullpen in the sense of guys that are pretty hard to replace,” he said, “so you’re really trying to replace one guy, and we’ve got to be sure it’s an upgrade. So we won’t be getting a reliever just to get a reliever.”
Evans also touched upon the idea of adding an outfielder, which has often been noted as a possible need. With Hunter Pence nearing a return, the veteran executive indicated that the position isn’t a high priority. It seems that a depth addition could be considered, but isn’t viewed as essential.