- Nationals’ shortstop Trea Turner underwent surgery on his problematic index finger last November. Now, he’s primed to enter 2020 at full strength, he tells reporters (including Mark Zuckerman of MASN). “I’ve started hitting. I can hit with 10 fingers, so it’s good,” Turner told reporters. As Zuckerman notes, Turner played almost all of the 2019 season with nine healthy fingers after fracturing the digit on a hit-by-pitch in the first week of April. The injury hardly seemed to hold him back, as Turner slashed .298/.353/.497 (117 wRC+) with 19 home runs and 35 stolen bases as Washington’s primary shortstop and leadoff hitter.
- Drew Pomeranz had upwards of six offers this offseason, he tells Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Nevertheless, the Padres’ surprising decision to offer a four year deal, coupled with Pomeranz’s enjoyable experience in his prior stint in San Diego, inspired him to rejoin the Friars. As Sanders details, the 31-year-old is a much different pitcher than he was in 2016, when he earned his only All-Star appearance in San Diego. Pomeranz made a full-time move to the bullpen last season in San Francisco, and a velocity uptick and increased willingness to attack the strike zone helped him dominate following a midseason trade to the Brewers.
- Following their extension last week, the White Sox have now invested over $100MM in Luis Robert before his major league debut, observes Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic. As Rosenthal explains, the Sox paid over $25MM in overage taxes while guaranteeing Robert $26MM as an amateur under the prior international spending rules. (Spending on international amateurs was hard capped following the 2016-17 signing period, so deals like Robert’s are no longer permissible). Nevertheless, Rosenthal argues, the extension makes perfect sense for the White Sox. Not only does it grant Chicago an extra season of team control, it creates a ceiling for Robert’s earnings in arbitration, he points out. While Robert was wise to secure the guarantee, Rosenthal opines, the agreement serves as the latest reminder that MLB’s economic landscape drastically underpays players at the beginnings of their careers, when they are likely to be their most productive. MLBTR readers certainly anticipate Robert’s becoming an impact player, with 56% of poll voters forecasting him to exceed 2.3 wins above replacement in his first season.
Nov. 30: Rosenthal adds that Pomeranz’s $8MM signing bonus is deferred and will be paid between November 2020 and November 2023.
Nov. 27, 4:02pm: Pomeranz received an $8MM signing bonus and will be paid annual salaries of $4MM in 2020, $6MM in 2021 and $8MM in 2022-23, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports (on Twitter).
1:54pm: Pomeranz will be guaranteed $34MM over a four-year term, pending a physical, Murray tweets.
10:20am: The Padres have struck a deal with free agent lefty Drew Pomeranz, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (via Twitter). The signing of the CAA client adds to what is quickly becoming a barn-burner of a day for the Friars, who have already struck a four-player swap with the Brewers.
Details remain unknown, but it seems fair to guess the southpaw has done quite well for himself — likely on a multi-year pact — in a surprise return to San Diego. The 31-year-old had an excellent, but brief run with the organization back in 2016 before being flipped to the Red Sox in a trade for then-top prospect Anderson Espinoza. Pomeranz has had some ups and downs as a starting pitcher since that time, but he finished the ’19 season riding high in a return to a relief setting.
Just a few months ago, the notion of Pomeranz being considered a top-tier free agent would’ve seemed unthinkable. He’d been booted from a pedestrian Giants rotation after posting a 5.97 ERA through 18 starts, but Pomeranz morphed into one of baseball’s most dominant bullpen weapons down the stretch. In 28 relief appearances, he not only posted a 1.88 ERA but also punched out a staggering 50 of the 106 batters he faced (47.2 percent). The Brewers were clearly intrigued by Pomeranz’s early work out of the ’pen, acquiring him and flamethrower Ray Black in a deadline swap that sent infield prospect Mauricio Dubon to San Francisco.
The addition of Pomeranz will give the Padres a dynamic back-end bullpen duo, as he’ll team with right-hander Kirby Yates, who has emerged as one of baseball’s premier relievers since joining the Padres via waiver claim early in the 2017 season. Yates figures to continue handling ninth-inning duties, with Pomeranz serving as a top setup man, although today’s signing does give the San Diego organization even greater flexibility to shop Yates around as he enters his final year of club control. That said, the Padres have made a clear shift toward more of a win-now ideology after a grueling rebuild, and the Yates/Pomeranz pairing unequivocally makes them more formidable.
Shake off your tryptophan coma with a few quick bursts of baseball-related action…
- The availability of catcher Omar Narvaez in trade talks can be directly linked to the Mariners’ recent extension with first base prospect Evan White, suggests Greg Johns of MLB.com (link). While that may seem like a logical leap at first glance, White’s forthcoming presence on the club’s major league roster should allow GM Jerry Dipoto to utilize Austin Nola as a backup catcher. Nola, a catcher by trade, was mostly used in combination with Daniel Vogelbach at first last season. Johns also notes that the club’s recent signing of Patrick Wisdom, though minor in nature, gives the club yet another option at first in the event of an injury to White. As explored earlier, the bat-first Narvaez should only look more appealing as a trade target as this offseason progresses; as of Friday, open market catchers Yasmani Grandal, Travis d’Arnaud, Tyler Flowers, and Yan Gomes have all been spoken for.
- Carter Stewart’s foray into the Nippon Professional Baseball ranks is covered in a recent profile from Jim Halley of Baseball America, with several interesting notes on the youngster’s on-and-off-field adjustments in Japan. Beyond the obvious cultural adjustments that a nineteen-year-old American would face in moving to Japan, Matt Skrmetta, a scout with Stewart’s Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, relays that the right-hander is currently adapting to the league’s more contact-oriented hitters. For those who may not remember, the 6’6 Stewart was originally the 8th overall draft pick of the Braves in 2018, although a longstanding wrist injury led the club to only offer him a signing bonus at less than half of the pick’s $4.98MM slot value. The righty spurned that offer and spent a year pitching in the JuCo ranks before a lack of interest at the top of the 2019 draft led Fukuoka to come calling with an unprecedented long-term deal.
- For the time being, the Padres are penciling in Drew Pomeranz and Kirby Yates as their back-end bullpen options, conveys The Athletic’s Dennis Lin in a recent mailbag. While there were Twitter rumblings this week that Pomeranz’s acquisition only made an offseason trade of Yates more likely, Lin notes that an extension with the 32-year-old Hawaiian is still an entirely plausible scenario. For what it’s worth, Pomeranz and Yates compiled 89.1 innings of a combined 1.41 ERA as relievers last year, potentially setting San Diego out with a thoroughly effective–if pricey–backend. MLBTR projects Yates to receive a $6.5MM award in a final pass through arb, while Pomeranz’s deal included an $8MM signing bonus in advance of a $4MM 2020 salary.
The 22-year-old Avila made his major league debut in 2019, throwing 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball in a start against the Diamondbacks in April, but that’s his only MLB appearance to date. He also combined for just 24 innings among three minor league levels this past season, and saw his year come to an early end in late August when he underwent Tommy John surgery. As a result, Avila won’t factor in much (if at all) in the majors or minors next season.
Prior to his surgery, Avila was considered a promising prospect for the Padres, as FanGraphs ranked him 28th in a loaded San Diego farm system back in May. But Avila’s pro experience has largely been limited to High-A ball, where he has put up a 4.45 ERA with 10.1 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 in 174 innings.
Brewers GM David Stearns talked about the upcoming offseason in the wake of his club’s Wild Card loss, with Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel among those to cover the proceedings.
Despite the disappointing end, it was obviously another successful campaign, as the Brewers charged late and again reached the postseason despite losing superstar Christian Yelich. But the club won’t be able to rest on its laurels, as there are a variety of decisions to be made right out of the gates.
As Stearns puts it, he and his front office has “some important questions” that will need to be answered. Every offseason has its own “narrative,” he said, and it’s still not clear what path this one will take.
The first call that has to be made involves corner infielders Eric Thames ($7.5MM club option, $1MM buyout) and Travis Shaw (arbitration eligible). Stearns said he hasn’t reached any decision on Thames, who had a productive season with the bat and seems a reasonable value at that price. As for Shaw, whose season was a disaster, Stearns says the club will “spend a lot of effort internally determining what to do” in advance of the non-tender deadline.
The Shaw situation ties in to the Brewers’ slate of departing free agents, which includes several key players. Infielder Mike Moustakas could replace Shaw, though he’ll likely require a bigger commitment to retain than he commanded on the open market last winter. And then there’s Yasmani Grandal, who had a highly productive year behind the plate and will leave a big hole. Stearns was happy to acknowledge that he’d “love to have both of them back.” Will it happen? “Whether the realities of the market permit that and whether the realities of the free-agent market permit that is something we will have to evaluate as we go through the off-season.”
Likewise, a pair of key hurlers will be available to all teams. Mid-season trade acquisitions Jordan Lyles and Drew Pomeranz. Stearns called the pair “unbelievable” and said he’d be interested in returns in both cases. “They both contributed a lot to this club and I’m sure we’ll be in contact with them,” said Stearns.
There’s no shortage of other roster issues to be addressed. The Brewers’ creative pitching strategies will again be tested. Stearns said he isn’t ready to say precisely how hurlers such as Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta, and Brent Suter will be used next year, though he did note that “we tend to blur lines between starters and relievers anyways.” And it certainly sounds as if the Brewers will at least be interested in exploring ways of supplementing (if not supplanting) Orlando Arcia at shortstop. Stearns says the team “need[s] better overall production” from that spot, though he added that he believes Arcia is “a better player than he showed this year” and that the incumbent could still represent the necessary solution.
1:25pm: Lefty Drew Pomeranz is one player headed to the Brewers in the swap, tweets Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. If the Brewers are parting with a prospect of Dubon’s caliber, there’ll surely be other names in play.
1:23pm: The Brewers ad Giants are in agreement on a “significant” trade, reports Robert Murray of The Athletic (via Twitter). The big league players involved in the swap remain unknown, but well-regarded second base prospect Mauricio Dubon is headed from Milwaukee to San Francisco as part of the exchange. Madison Bumgarner is *not* going to Milwaukee, tweets MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.
In Dubon, the Giants will acquire a Major League-ready 25-year-old who can step directly onto the roster. Dubon’s 2018 season was cut short by a torn ACL, but he’s returned to bat .297/.333/.475 with 16 home runs, 22 doubles, a triple and nine steals in the hitter-friendly Triple-A Pacific Coast League. He’ll face a much more daunting offensive environment in the big leagues when he plays his home games at the cavernous Oracle Park in San Francisco.
Scouting reports on Dubon peg him as a hit-over-power prospect, and the move to Oracle Park doesn’t figure to do his power numbers any favor. But he’s never batted lower than .274 in a full minor league season, and he’s maintained strikeout rates south of 15 percent on a year-over-year basis. Dubon doesn’t walk much, but his knack for putting the ball in play should help his on-base skills in the big leagues. He’s considered capable of playing an average or better second base even after last year’s knee injury.
The veteran Pomeranz is the more well-known of the two arms being acquired by the Brewers, but he seems like a secondary piece in this swap. Pomeranz had an awful year in the Giants’ rotation but has garnered some attention following a (very) recent shift to the bullpen. In four relief outings, he’s tossed 5 1/3 shutout frames with just one hit and one walk allowed against eight strikeouts. The lefty has ample experience in the rotation and could return to that role if the Brewers feel he’s a mechanical adjustment or pitch-selection alteration away from returning to hi 2017 form, but his recent success in a return to the bullpen is more intriguing.
Black is already 29 years old but is the more appealing piece for Milwaukee. Durability has been an issue for the right-hander, but if he’s healthy he’ll be among the hardest-throwing pitchers in Major League Baseball. Black has averaged 99.1 mph on his heater in a tiny sample this season and regularly hits triple digits with a fastball that draws 80 grades on some scouting reports. Black has averaged nearly 17 strikeouts per nine innings pitched in his minor league career and might not even finish the season with a full year of MLB service, meaning he can be controlled through 2025.
The Reds just agreed to acquire right-hander Trevor Bauer from the Indians on Tuesday evening. Could the Reds now turn around and flip Bauer by Wednesday’s trade deadline? Not likely, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today and Mark Feinsand of MLB.com. Meanwhile, two of Bauer’s new Cincinnati rotation mates – Alex Wood and the previously reported Tanner Roark – have drawn interest from the Phillies. Philly has “taken a very close look at” Wood, per Matt Gelb of The Athletic. Wood finally just made his season debut Sunday after months of back troubles, but the non-contending Reds could now attempt to get what they can for the pending free agent. The 28-year-old Wood, who’s on a $9.65MM salary, posted quality production with the Braves and Dodgers from 2013-18.
A smorgasbord of other pitcher-related rumors…
- Despite their recent run of excellence, the Giants are fielding calls and “engaging in negotiations” for starter Madison Bumgarner and reliever Will Smith, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The Astros are reportedly among the teams chasing Bumgarner, but Smith is the more likely of the two to find himself in a new uniform by Wednesday, Schulman suggests. Although he’s a pending free agent, it’s likely Smith would bring back a significant return. He’s affordable ($4.225MM salary) and enjoying a marvelous season as the Giants’ closer.
- Back to Bauer, who was reportedly one of the Yankees’ preferred targets in their search for starting help. That may have been overblown, though, as the Yankees and Indians didn’t engage in “serious talks” over Bauer, Andy Martino of SNY relays.
- The asking price for Tigers closer Shane Greene is “far more reasonable” than the requests for other high-end relievers around the league, Feinsand tweets. Feinsand points to the Pirates’ Felipe Vazquez, the Reds’ Raisel Iglesias, the Mets’ Edwin Diaz and the Padres’ Kirby Yates as relievers who would be much harder to acquire, which isn’t surprising.
- Reliever Nick Anderson is among Marlins hurlers garnering interest, though he’ll be difficult to pry loose, Joe Frisaro of MLB.com writes. As a 29-year-old rookie, the hard-throwing Anderson has put up a 3.92 ERA with a much better 2.73 FIP in 43 2/3 frames this season. While Anderson has only induced ground balls at a 27.3 percent clip, he has helped offset that by racking up a prodigious 14.2 strikeouts against 3.3 walks per nine. Adding to his value, Anderson’s on a league-minimum salary and won’t be eligible for arbitration until after the 2021 season.
- The Giants and Nationals “have discussed” southpaw Drew Pomeranz, Jon Morosi of MLB.com tweets. Pomeranz, whom the Giants recently demoted to their bullpen amid a rough season, has also been drawing interest from elsewhere in recent days.
The Giants are suddenly drawing some interest in lefty Drew Pomeranz, tweets Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The 30-year-old southpaw lost his rotation spot a couple weeks back and has been sharp since moving to the ’pen — albeit in a tiny sample of three appearances. Pomeranz has tossed 4 1/3 shutout frames with six strikeouts, one hit allowed and one walk.
It’s obviously unlikely that he’d command a significant return after logging a 6.10 ERA, 5.58 FIP and 4.67 xFIP in 72 1/3 innings as a starter. But Pomeranz has had considerable success as a reliever in the past. He spent the bulk of the 2014-15 seasons in the Oakland bullpen and posted a 3.08 ERA with 8.5 K/9, 3.3 BB/9 and 0.9 HR/9. In his career, he’s turned in a 2.86 ERA in 91 2/3 innings of relief, notching a 96-to-34 K/BB ratio and allowing just a .213/.292/.317 batting line in that time.
The situation for Pomeranz isn’t entirely different from that of just-traded former teammate Derek Holland. Pomeranz has also fared much better against left-handed hitters this year, holding them to a cumulative .250/.309/.398 batting line with 11.1 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9. Pomeranz also wouldn’t cost much, as he’s playing on a $2MM base salary in 2019. Both pitchers hold appeal as possible left-on-left matchup men who’d also represent swingman depth given their long histories as starters.
For the Giants, moving Pomeranz wouldn’t necessarily have to occur as part of a broader sell-off. If the club decides to hang onto its best relief assets, it’d continue to feature two quality southpaws in closer Will Smith and setup man Tony Watson. At the same time, if the club does forego significant sell-side moves, it probably doesn’t make much sense to part with Pomeranz if he’s seen as one of the club’s best seven relievers. The return isn’t likely to be substantial. But if he just isn’t a part of the San Francisco plans, perhaps there’s a shot of gaining some salary relief.
Giants prospect Conner Menez will replace left-hander Drew Pomeranz in the rotation tomorrow, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Henry Schulman reports.
Menez, 24, has risen steadily through the Giants system with little fanfare until quite recently. The lefty, who’s said to have “plus-plus extension” (per FanGraphs, though the site didn’t rank him among the club’s top 35 prospects) and a “high [fastball] spin rate” (MLB.com, where he ranks 21st in the system), led all minor-league left-handers with 171 strikeouts last season. He’s leveled up further in ’19, setting down 123 hitters in just 85 innings for Double-A Richmond and Triple-A Sacramento.
Pomeranz, who signed a one-year, $1.5MM (plus incentives) pact this offseason, has furthered has rapid descent in San Francisco. In 72 1/3 innings for the club, the 30-year-old’s been torched for a startling 17 homers in the Giants’ massive park while walking 35 in the process. His 4.60 SIERA, reflective of a typically-stellar K rate and unsustainable 21% HR/FB, is optimistic of a rebound, but it’s the second consecutive 6+ ERA campaign for the lefty who was once swapped straight-up for a then-top 20 prospect. Pomeranz’s average fastball velocity and strikeout rate are both career bests, but his once-vaunted curveball his abandoned him: per FanGraphs, the pitch has been among the league’s worst since the start of the ’18 campaign.
The sizzling-hot Giants, winners of 14 of the club’s last 16, will now line up with Menez, Madison Bumgarner, Jeff Samardzija, Shaun Anderson, and Tyler Beede in the rotation as the club surges toward the second wild-card spot. It isn’t a mix that inspires much hope, though perhaps the club’s lights-out bullpen – the only NL unit with a sub-4 collective FIP – can safely be counted on to soften the blows. Schulman does note that, per manager Bruce Bochy, the club rotation’s mix “remains fluid” and the Giants will look to rest starters and limit the innings of the three rookies.
TODAY: Pomeranz has not been removed from the rotation, Bochy told Schulman (Twitter links) and other reporters today. Anderson is slated to start on Thursday, which would have been Pomeranz’s normal turn, though Pomeranz could still make a start next weekend. In the interim, however, Pomeranz could potentially come out of the bullpen if required.
YESTERDAY: Left-hander Drew Pomeranz, one of the Giants’ most notable offseason acquisitions, is changing roles. The team has moved Pomeranz out of its rotation and into its bullpen, according to Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Pomeranz is now the third starter the struggling Giants have dropped from their rotation since the season began. They previously relegated righty Dereck Rodriguez and lefty Derek Holland after they got off to poor starts. With Pomeranz joining those two in the bullpen, lefty Madison Bumgarner and righty Jeff Samardzija are the only survivors from San Francisco’s year-opening starting five.
Along with Holland, Pomeranz was one of just three free agents the Giants signed to major league contracts during a low-spending winter for the franchise. New president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi handed Pomeranz a one-year, $1.5MM guarantee, but the minimal investment hasn’t gone well for either party thus far.
A former Rockie, Athletic, Padre and Red Sox, Pomeranz has racked up 10 starts with the Giants, averaging a bit under four innings per appearance (39 total) while posting a hideous 8.08 ERA/6.45 FIP. Pomeranz has struck out nearly 10 hitters per nine, but that hasn’t been enough to cancel out his other problems – mainly an unappealing walk rate (4.85 BB/9) and significant issues keeping the ball in the park. The 30-year-old Pomeranz’s home run-to-fly ball rate is at a career-worst 26.2 percent, more than double his lifetime mark (12.9). Pomeranz has yielded the majority of his HRs outside of pitcher-friendly San Francisco, unsurprisingly, though he hasn’t been effective there either. He’s also getting demolished by right-handed hitters, who have recorded a .436 weighted on-base average off him (for reference, Christian Yelich’s 2019 wOBA is .440).
Including his work against lefties, batters have feasted on Pomeranz for a .420 wOBA. Statcast paints a less bleak picture, crediting Pomeranz with a still-unimpressive .369 xwOBA against. He’s suffering from poor fortune in the BABIP (.369) and strand rate (67.7) departments, and has experienced a jump in velocity compared to last season. But none of that is of any solace to the Giants, who saw Pomeranz allow 22 earned runs on 25 hits (six HRs) and nine walks in 10 1/3 innings in May.
This is the second straight season a team has taken Pomeranz out of its rotation. The Red Sox did it last year during an injury-limited campaign for Pomeranz, who collected 15 relief appearances out of 26. Among hurlers who have thrown at least 100 innings dating back to 2018, Pomeranz ranks last in ERA (6.77), fourth worst in FIP (5.78) and fWAR (minus-1.0), and fifth from the bottom in BB/9 (5.18). It’s a steep drop for someone who was once a top prospect and isn’t far removed from a terrific run as a big league starter. Pomeranz excelled with San Diego in 2016, when it sent him to Boston that summer in a controversial trade for then-premium pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza, and enjoyed another quality year with the BoSox the next season.
The 2016-17 version of Pomeranz now looks long gone, and barring a seismic turnaround over the next few months, he’ll likely have to settle for a minor league deal on his next pact. Free agency could come sooner than expected for Pomeranz if the Giants release him during the season, which doesn’t seem like a far-fetched idea. In the meantime, Pomeranz will try to rebuild his stock in the Giants’ bullpen. San Francisco will eventually have to pick someone else to slot into its rotation behind Bumgarner, Samardzija, Shaun Anderson and Tyler Beede, but it has enough off days on the horizon to wait on making a decision.