MLB Trade Rumors 2017-09-24T03:06:36Z https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/feed/atom Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Quick Hits: Sandoval, Tigers, Royals, Paxton]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103308 2017-09-24T03:06:36Z 2017-09-24T03:03:21Z Third baseman Pablo Sandoval’s reunion with the Giants this season has been a disaster from a statistical standpoint, as the former franchise linchpin has batted just .213/.253/.346 in 146 plate appearances in his return to the Bay Area. Nevertheless, the Giants seem primed to keep Sandoval on their 40-man roster into next spring, Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News reports. Factors working in Sandoval’s favor include his inexpensive price tag – the 31-year-old has a club option for 2018 worth the league minimum – and manager Bruce Bochy’s favorable opinion of him. Bochy said Saturday that the Sandoval experiment has “gone well,” and he praised the former member of the Red Sox for his defensive work at both corner infield positions. Because injuries frequently kept Sandoval out of action during his nightmarish stint in Boston from 2015-17, he’ll play winter ball during the upcoming offseason in an effort to make up for some of the missed time. After that, it appears he’ll have an opportunity in spring training to earn a spot on San Francisco’s 25-man roster.

  • The Tigers announced that reliever Alex Wilson suffered a broken right leg (a non-displaced fibular fracture, to be exact) in their game against the Twins on Saturday. The injury occurred in the eighth inning when a 103.8 mph line drive off Joe Mauer’s bat struck Wilson. Wilson’s now facing a three-month recovery, giving him plenty of time to work back to full strength by next spring, Jason Beck of MLB.com tweets. The 30-year-old right-hander logged 60 innings of 4.50 ERA ball and posted 6.3 K/9 against 2.25 BB/9 in 2017. Wilson, who earned $1.18MM this year, is scheduled to make his second trip through arbitration over the winter.
  • Royals manager Ned Yost tells Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com that the team will consider using the athletic Raul Mondesi in center field next season. Mondesi has only played the middle infield in the majors since debuting last year, but he could help the club fill impending free agent Lorenzo Cain’s void should the standout center fielder depart in the offseason. It may be wishful thinking for the Royals, though, as the 22-year-old Mondesi has batted an ugly .178/.224/.265 in 206 plate appearances in the majors. Mondesi did provide some reason for hope at the Triple-A level this year, however, with a .305/.340/.539 line, 13 home runs and 21 stolen bases across 357 PAs.
  • Separate stints on the disabled list have kept Mariners ace James Paxton out for approximately two months this year and limited him to 124 2/3 innings. In an effort to ward off injuries in 2018, Paxton will undergo body and blood testing in the offseason to find diet and workout regimens that suit him, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times tweets. Paxton has pitched to a 3.03 ERA and registered 10.25 K/9 against 2.67 BB/9 this year, which are the type of numbers that could make him a Cy Young contender over a full season of work.
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Connor Byrne <![CDATA[NL East Notes: Conforto, Harper, Braves]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103304 2017-09-24T01:02:53Z 2017-09-24T01:02:53Z The latest from the NL East:

  • Mets outfielder Michael Conforto suggested Saturday that he’s unsure if he’ll be able to slot into the team’s lineup on Opening Day next year, according to James Wagner of the New York Times (Twitter link). Conforto suffered a torn capsule in his left shoulder in late August, ending his season, and then underwent surgery earlier this month. The 24-year-old noted that the procedure should help stave off future shoulder dislocations, which would certainly be optimal for him and the Mets. Conforto emerged as a breakout performer and one of the few bright spots for the woebegone Mets before the injury, hitting .279/.384/.555 with 27 home runs in 440 plate appearances. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said on the heels of Conforto’s surgery that the club’s optimistic he won’t have to alter his swing upon returning. He’s roughly six months away from resuming baseball activities.
  • Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper is “very close” to making his highly anticipated return, manager Dusty Baker told Mark Zuckerman of MASNSports.com and other reporters Saturday. Harper, out since Aug. 13 with injuries to his left knee and calf, could be back in Washington’s lineup as early as Monday, per Zuckerman. That would give the superstar a week to readjust to game action before the Nationals’ NLDS matchup against a to-be-determined opponent (likely the Cubs).
  • The Braves’ previously reported agreement with Korean shortstop prospect Jihwan Bae became an official signing Saturday, according to Gabriel Burns of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The Braves have high hopes for the 18-year-old Bae, whom special assistant Chad MacDonald heaped praise on Saturday. “It’s an elite runner, top-of-the-scale runner,” MacDonald said. “He’s very athletic. He stays at shortstop, he’s going to be a solid to plus defender there. His bat-to-ball skills are really good. There’s more power in the bat. If everything clicks, we have a left-handed version of Trea Turner, who I signed in San Diego. Again, maybe not that much power, but certainly the impact speed and defense, with bat-to-ball skills and a left-handed hitter.” As MacDonald mentioned, he was in the Padres’ front office when they inked Turner after selecting him 13th in the 2014 draft. Turner has since blossomed into a star with the Nats.
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Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Rosenthal’s Latest: Phillies, Marlins, Brewers, Padres]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103298 2017-09-23T23:47:59Z 2017-09-23T23:47:59Z Given their prospects and resources, the Phillies are in position to make at least one big offseason splash, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal observes (video link). “It’s no secret” the Phillies have interest in Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich, and teammate Giancarlo Stanton could also be on their radar, Rosenthal says. Elsewhere, they’ll “actively” seek starting pitching, with Rosenthal naming impending free agent Rays right-hander Alex Cobb as a logical target, and may dangle shortstop Freddy Galvis to address a need in another area.  (Earlier Saturday on MLBTR, Mark Polishuk broke down the Phillies’ three biggest needs heading into the offseason.)

More from Rosenthal:

  • Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun wouldn’t have been minded going to the Dodgers had the teams’ talks last summer led to a trade, per Rosenthal. Now, Braun’s happier than ever in Milwaukee, which has unexpectedly turned into a playoff contender this season. “I do love it here. If I didn’t, I probably would have been out of here a long time ago,” Braun told Rosenthal. Playing his age-33 season, in which injuries have limited him to 394 plate appearances, Braun has slashed .274/.345/.503 – somewhat modest production by his standards. With $57MM left on his contract, including a $4MM buyout in 2021, he’d be a difficult player for the low-payroll Brewers to move even if they wanted to part with him. Braun also has a full no-trade clause and 10-and-5 rights, further decreasing the likelihood of a trade.
  • Speaking of potential Brewers trades, they weren’t willing to deal rookie left-hander Josh Hader in a package for White Sox southpaw Jose Quintana back in July, Rosenthal reports. The Sox ended up sending Quintana to one of the Brewers’ NL Central rivals, the Cubs, for a return including outfielder Eloy Jimenez and right-hander Dylan Cease. Milwaukee might not have topped that in the White Sox’s eyes even if it offered outfielder Lewis Brinson and righty Luis Ortiz, as the South Siders were bent on landing Jimenez, Rosenthal suggests. As for Hader, the 23-year-old has turned in 44 relief innings of 1.64 ERA ball, with 12.48 K/9 against 4.3 BB/9, making him one of the Brewers’ best players this season.
  • At 69-85, the Padres have fared better than expected in the win-loss department this year (though their minus-182 run differential ranks last in the majors). In hopes of making more progress next season, they’ll look to the trade and free agent markets over the winter for “complementary” starting pitchers, help at shortstop and a veteran lineup stabilizer, according to Rosenthal.
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Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Braves Likely To Exercise Tyler Flowers’ Option]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103290 2017-09-23T23:54:39Z 2017-09-23T22:38:34Z The Braves’ catcher tandem will remain intact next season. After re-signing backup Kurt Suzuki to a one-year contract on Saturday, general manager John Coppolella told Mark Bowman of MLB.com and other reporters the Braves are “strongly leaning toward” exercising starter Tyler Flowers’ $4MM club option for 2018. Buying out the O’Connell Sports Management client would cost the team $300K (Twitter link).

“This has worked great this year and we want to see if it can work as well in 2018 too,” Coppolella said of the Flowers-Suzuki tandem (via David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, on Twitter).

Retaining Flowers should be an easy call for the Braves, who have witnessed the 31-year-old turn into a quality all-around backstop in their uniform. Flowers took an unusual route to do so, as he first joined the Braves as a 33rd-round pick in 2005 before heading to the White Sox in a 2008 trade (one that saw Javier Vazquez go to Atlanta) and then returning to his native Georgia as a free agent in December 2015.

During his two seasons as a Brave, Flowers has mixed above-average offensive production – including a .283/.377/.444 line in 345 plate appearances this year – with brilliant work as a receiver. While Flowers threw out a mere 5 percent of attempted base stealers last year and has caught only 19 percent this season, ranking well below the 27 percent league average, both Baseball Prospectus and StatCorner have placed him among the game’s very best pitch framers in the same time period.

All told, Flowers and Suzuki have been worth 4.5 fWAR this year, making them one of the top backstop duos in the majors in their first season together. Even if there’s some regression from the Braves’ catchers in 2018, they should still form a cost-effective pairing at a combined $7.5MM.

[RELATED: Braves News & Rumors On Facebook]

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Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Quick Hits: Suarez, Castillo, Pearce, Morimando]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103275 2017-09-23T21:58:45Z 2017-09-23T21:58:45Z Eugenio Suarez is “open for everything” in terms of discussing an extension with the Reds, MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reports.  Suarez will be eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter, though he’s still focused on the season and not on the numbers.  “I don’t think about how much I want.  I just want to sign with this team.  I don’t want hesitation or arbitration,” Suarez said.  The third baseman is in line for a very nice payday in the wake of a breakout season that saw him hit .265/.374/.476 with a career-best 26 home runs.  As Sheldon notes, the Reds just signed Tucker Barnhart (another player about to enter arbitration eligibility) to a long-term deal, and Suarez certainly makes sense as an extension candidate this winter.  MLBTR’s Jeff Todd recently opined that Suarez’s future with the team could be at shortstop, should Zack Cozart leave in free agency and third base prospect Nick Senzel forces his way into the big league lineup in 2018.

Here are some notes from around the big leagues…

  • Welington Castillo is concentrating on playing and tells Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun that he has yet to consider the player option decision facing him after the season.  The catcher did say, however, that he enjoys playing in Baltimore and wants to remain with the Orioles.  Castillo controls his own fate in the form of his $7MM option for 2018, though given his impressive numbers this year, he is likely to find a much richer long-term deal by testing the free agent market.  From the perspective of Orioles executive VP of baseball operations Dan Duquette, the team would be happy to have Castillo back but the O’s also have catching depth in the form of Caleb Joseph and top prospect Chance Sisco.  “Either way is helpful to the club,” Duquette said.
  • Steve Pearce has been shut down for the season due to a bad back, Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports.  Pearce will receive epidural injections next week in order to hopefully solve the back soreness that has bothered him for much of the season.  Pearce will conclude his first season with the Blue Jays with a .252/.319/.438 slash line and 13 homers in 348 PA, as he was limited to 92 games due to the back problem and a month-long DL stint due to a calf strain.
  • Left-hander Shawn Morimando has been sent home by the Indians due to a rather unusual reason — the team simply can’t find any innings for him, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.  Morimando was promoted on September 1 since the Tribe wanted extra pitching on hand for a double-header, but Morimando had yet to make an appearance over three weeks into his call-up.  Morimando will still receive service time and pay for the remainder of the year.  The 24-year-old does have some MLB experience on his resume, appearing in two games (4 2/3 IP) for Cleveland in 2016.
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Steve Adams <![CDATA[Latest On Miguel Sano]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103113 2017-09-23T21:10:17Z 2017-09-23T21:10:01Z TODAY: Sano has yet to resume baseball activity, Bollinger tweets in the latest update, as the third baseman has continued to receive treatment on his shin.

WEDNESDAY: The Twins are currently 1.5 games up on the Angels for the second Wild Card spot and have a favorable remaining schedule — seven games against the rebuilding Tigers — but they may be without their top slugger over the final 11 games. Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com write that Miguel Sano looks to be running out of time to make a regular-season return.

Sano hasn’t played since fouling a ball into his shin on Aug. 19 — a seemingly innocuous incident that ultimately caused a stress reaction which has prevented him from running without pain. It’s been previously suggested that Sano wouldn’t play third base again this season even if he did return, instead serving as the Twins’ primary DH due to the difficulties that the shin issue could present with his mobility at the hot corner. But, with 11 games remaining, Sano has yet to run the bases, and it’s now a question of whether he will take another at-bat at all.

“My biggest concern now is even if he gets to the point where we get him on the field in any capacity, how much of a challenge is it going to be for him to have any type of timing at all?” manager Paul Molitor said to Twin Cities media. “…It’s hard to speculate until we get to where someone tells me he’s going to give it a shot and he’s got clearance and he feels good enough to be able to run 75 percent and let’s see where we’re at. I don’t know if that’s going to happen.”

Eduardo Escobar has ably filled in for Sano over the past month, moving from a utility role to everyday third baseman and a surprisingly powerful middle-of-the-order bat. In Sano’s absence, the switch-hitting Escobar has batted .248 with just a .297 on-base percentage but a gaudy .530 slugging percentage as well (109 wRC+). Escobar has homered eight times and also chipped in three doubles and three triples with Sano on the shelf.

It remains to be seen whether the Twins would press the issue and try to work Sano back into the lineup for a theoretical Wild Card berth of American League Division Series appearance, should they advance that far. Even with Escobar showing surprising pop at third base, Sano’s absence is a significant blow for a team that is within arm’s reach of its first playoff appearance since the 2010 campaign — the inaugural season of Minneapolis’ Target Field. In 111 games and 475 plate appearances this year, Sano slashed .267/.356/.514 with 28 homers, 15 doubles and a pair of triples — good for a 126 wRC+.

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Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Tigers Notes: Managers, Avila, Ausmus, Verlander, Astros]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103261 2017-09-23T20:34:59Z 2017-09-23T20:34:59Z The latest from the Motor City…

  • The Tigers are planning “an extensive search” for their next manager, GM Al Avila told MLB.com’s Jason Beck and other reporters.  Avila didn’t specify whether he was looking for a veteran skipper or a younger alternative to lead the Tigers through the “trying, grinding process” of a rebuild, though Avila did say that the new manager had to have some type of dugout experience, whether as a manager in the majors or minors, or as a Major League coach.  Previous manager Brad Ausmus, of course, lacked this experience, coming into the job after his playing career and a stint in the Padres’ baseball operations department.
  • From that same piece, Beck lists nine names he feels could be potential candidates to be Detroit’s next manager.  Beck’s options range from internal choices (hitting coach Lloyd McClendon and first base coach Omar Vizquel) to several other names with ties to Avila and/or the Tigers, including Fredi Gonzalez, Phil Nevin and Mike Redmond.
  • Ausmus’ lack of experience proved to be his undoing, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press opines, especially after the Tigers lost a key on-field leader in Torii Hunter after the 2014 season.  Ausmus was popular with his players but generally seemed like more of a teammate than a manager, creating a “country club” atmosphere within the clubhouse.  There were rumors that the Tigers were parting ways with Ausmus after both the 2015 and 2016 seasons, and Fenech believes that Avila should’ve made a managerial change then instead of giving Ausmus more chances.  Fenech also notes, in partial defense of Ausmus, that he faced a particularly large challenge for a first-time manager in taking over a team expected to be World Series contenders.
  • The trade that sent Justin Verlander to the Astros was finalized literally just two seconds before the August 31 deadline, Sports Illustrated’s Ben Reiter reports in a behind-the-scenes look at how the blockbuster deal came together.  Unable to return to his Houston home due to Hurricane Harvey, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow ended up making the final negotiations on August 31 while trying to find a cellphone signal at his in-laws’ dining table (during a dinner party, to boot).
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Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Braves Extend Kurt Suzuki Through 2018]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103267 2017-09-23T20:22:54Z 2017-09-23T19:29:39Z The Braves have signed catcher Kurt Suzuki, to a one-year deal.  MLB.com’s Mark Bowman initially reported (Twitter link) that the two sides were finalizing a new contract, with The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reporting that the deal will pay Suzuki $3.5MM in 2018.  Suzuki is represented by the MVP Sports Group.

Suzuki, who turns 34 in October, came to Atlanta last winter on a one-year deal worth $1.5MM in guaranteed money.  He more than delivered on that agreement, producing a career-high 18 homers as well as a .271/.343/.525 slash line over 287 plate appearances.  Remarkably, Suzuki has an .868 OPS both at home and on the road, so his unexpected breakout at the plate can’t be entirely chalked up to the Braves’ move into hitter-friendly SunTrust Park.

Suzuki has markedly improved his hard-hit ball rate and his contact rate for pitches outside the strike zone, and his .255 Isolated Slugging mark is the third-best of any catcher with at least 275 PA this season (just one percentage point ahead of fourth-place Gary Sanchez).  Suzuki’s defense continues to garner below-average grades as per StatCorner and Baseball Prospectus, though that is a tradeoff the Braves are willing to make given Suzuki’s bat; it also doesn’t hurt that battery-mate Tyler Flowers is one of the league’s top defensive catchers.

Between Suzuki and Flowers, the Braves have generated 4.4 fWAR from the catcher position this season, more than any other team in baseball save the Buster Posey-powered Giants.  Atlanta has a $4MM club option on Flowers that seems like a no-brainer to be exercised, so the Braves head into next season looking very strong behind the plate.

Rosenthal notes that talks between Suzuki and the Braves had been ongoing “for weeks” about a new contract, so the catcher was seemingly pretty unlikely to ever hit the open market.  Still, teams looking for catching help this winter now have one less ’plan B’ type of option behind the three backstops (Jonathan Lucroy, Welington Castillo, Alex Avila) who are bound to attract the most attention amongst free agent catchers.

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Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[AL East Notes: Ubaldo, Shapiro, Blue Jays, Farrell]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103256 2017-09-23T19:00:35Z 2017-09-23T18:38:57Z With Ubaldo Jimenez making what was very likely his final home start in an Orioles uniform last night, Dan Connolly of BaltimoreBaseball.com wonders if the right-hander will influence how the O’s approach free agent pitching decisions in the future.  The Orioles have been notoriously hesitant about committing big money to (or even acquiring) pitchers, making their four-year, $50MM investment in Jimenez in the 2013-14 offseason a particular risk for Dan Duquette, who had to talk ownership into the signing.  In the wake of Jimenez’s struggles, Connolly wonders if the Orioles will now totally shy away from big-money deals for veteran arms.  This would, of course, complicate Duquette’s offseason work, as the O’s are known to be looking to add two starters to help their beleaguered rotation.

Here’s more from around the AL East…

  • Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro took part in a wide-ranging interview with Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi (part one; part two) that included some mention of Josh Donaldson’s future in Toronto, though Shapiro said that the team wasn’t planning to publicly discuss such matters.  Shapiro wouldn’t confirm or deny if the team had already held any extension talks with the star third baseman, who is set to hit free agency after the 2018 season.
  • Shapiro said “Durability.  Athleticism. Flexibility” will be three of the Jays’ biggest lineup needs, noting that the team could address those needs via a corner outfielder or in a backup middle infield role behind Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis.  A large roster overhaul isn’t forthcoming, as Shapiro believes “it’s not a big leap for us” to return to postseason contention given the number of injuries and unexpected setbacks that plagued the Jays’ season.  The interview is well worth a full read, as Shapiro touches on such other subjects as player development philosophy, the team’s farm system, plans for a new Spring Training facility and renovations to Rogers Centre.
  • John Farrell’s contract as the Red Sox manager only runs through the 2018 season, and given Farrell’s relative lack of job security since Dave Dombrowski took over Boston’s baseball ops department, CSNNE.com’s Evan Drellich argues that the team should either give Farrell a long-term extension this winter or part ways with the manager.  Either decision would remove Farrell’s status as a distraction both inside or outside the clubhouse.  With the Sox closing in on their second straight AL East title, Farrell’s performance certainly seems worthy of a longer commitment, though there have been whispers that Dombrowski (like most executives) would prefer to hire his own manager, rather than stick with the manager inherited from the old regime.
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Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Three Needs: Philadelphia Phillies]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=102986 2017-09-23T17:18:55Z 2017-09-23T17:18:55Z This is the latest edition in MLBTR’s Three Needs series. Click to read entries on the BravesTigersRedsPiratesGiantsMets, Blue Jays, Athletics and White Sox.

It’s been another tough year on the field for the Phillies, and though the team looks to have added some very notable building blocks in their rebuild, there are still plenty of holes to fill.  The Phils won’t be making a push to contend until 2019 at the earliest, so this winter will likely look much the same as last — adding veterans on short-term deals with an eye towards flipping those players at the trade deadline.  Here are a few needs that will be at the top of the Phillies’ list this offseason…

1. Add starting pitchingAaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff are penciled into next year’s rotation, and Vince Velasquez will get first dibs on a spot if healthy.  A variety of young arms (Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively, Jake Thompson, Zach Eflin) could be in the mix for the fifth starter’s job or as rotation depth, particularly given Velasquez’s multiple injury issues.

That leaves room for at least one or possibly two veteran starters to join the starting staff.  The Phillies obviously won’t be shopping at the top of the free agent market, instead targeting mid-range starters that could be had on a one-year deal.  Such pitchers could also be pursued in trades, akin to how the Phillies acquired Clay Buchholz from the Red Sox last offseason in the hopes that he would stay healthy and add rotation stability.  Citizens Bank Park isn’t the most pitcher-friendly environment for a hurler looking to perhaps rebuild his value for a more lucrative contract in the 2018-19 offseason, though the Phillies can certainly offer innings and opportunity.

2. Use short-term payroll space on both young and old talent.  The Phillies have less than $7MM on the books for 2018, so there’s plenty of room for creativity with so much payroll space to work with.  Some of that money will be spent on veterans added in signings or trades, though for the latter, the Phillies have the flexibility to take on quite a bit of money.

For instance, GM Matt Klentak could approach a team burdened by a pricey contract and offer to take that deal off the rival club’s hands, as long as a promising young player was also included in the trade.  This “buy a prospect” strategy would likely only be deployed in order to take on a starter or reliever’s bad contract since the Phillies are pretty set around the diamond in terms of players who have either earned everyday jobs or players the team wants to see more of — it would make little sense to block Nick Williams from regular duty by acquiring a pricey outfielder, for instance.

The exception to this would be if the Phils were to acquire a bigger-name talent who offered enough years of control that he could be part of the next contending Philadelphia team.  Last summer, the Phillies expressed interest in the Marlins’ Christian Yelich (who is under contract through 2021 with a club option for 2022) and were also reportedly open to eating some of the Marlins’ other bad contracts in order to make a Yelich deal happen.  If the Phillies were to make such a deal for Yelich or a similar player, you could see someone like Williams moved as part of the trade package.

The argument could be made that the Phillies could go after a big-ticket free agent this winter as sort of a harbinger of larger spending, akin to how the Nationals’ signing of Jayson Werth in the 2010-11 offseason served as an announcement that the team was looking ahead to being a contender in the near future.  Since it has been largely rumored that the Phils will be players in the star-studded 2018-19 free agent class, I’d argue that any “coming attractions” signing Philadelphia might make will come next offseason rather than this winter, since there are still too many question marks for the team (or a free agent looking to win) to assume that a guaranteed contender in 2019.

3. Identify and extend some cornerstone playersOdubel Herrera was signed to a five-year extension last winter that will keep him in Philly until at least 2021, making him the first player clearly marked as a key part of the team’s future plans.  Herrera was signed when he was a season away from becoming eligible for salary arbitration, which is the same situation that Nola and Aaron Altherr are in this winter.

The situations aren’t identical, of course, though there’s reason that signing an extension would make sense for Nola and Altherr at this junction.  Altherr, who turns 27 in January and only rose to prominence as a prospect within the last couple of years, would likely to be open to his first big payday.  Nola already made his first fortune in the sport when he collected a $3.3MM bonus as the seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft, though since he already went through a UCL/flexor scare last year, Nola might also be eager to lock down some guaranteed money early in his career.

Cesar Hernandez is arb-eligible for the first time last winter, and he has three more trips through the arbitration process coming due to his Super Two status.  He’s due for a nice raise on his $2.55MM salary in 2017, and the Phillies could gain cost certainty on the second baseman via an extension.  On the flip side, Hernandez could also be a potential trade chip, with the Phillies using Freddy Galvis and, eventually, prospect Scott Kingery at second.  With Maikel Franco coming off a brutal year and top prospect J.P. Crawford coming off a pair of underwhelming minor league seasons, however, the Phillies might not want to lose Hernandez with that much uncertainty on the left side of the infield.  The team isn’t in any rush to make a decision either way, and the best course could be to just give Hernandez his arb raise and then see how things develop with their other infielders.

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Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Twins To Sign Venezuelan Prospect Carlos Aguiar]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103247 2017-09-23T15:05:04Z 2017-09-23T15:05:04Z The Twins have agreed to a deal with Venezuelan outfielder Carlos Aguiar, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.  The contract contains a $1MM bonus.

Aguiar wasn’t eligible to be signed until his 16th birthday, which took place on August 28.  “Several late suitors” besides the Twins were also vying for Aguiar’s services, Berardino writes, though Aguiar had been linked to Minnesota since well before the 2017-18 international signing period opened on July 2.

Aguiar ranked 30th on Baseball America’s list of the top 50 (non-Cuban) prospects in the 2017-18 international class.  A left-handed hitter, Aguiar is already 6’3″ and 190 pounds at his young age.

The Twins already made one big splash in this year’s int’l market with their $3MM signing of Dominican shortstop Jelfry Marte, one of the priciest bonuses handed out to any player in this year’s class.  Minnesota entered July 2 with a total bonus pool of $5.25MM and acquired another $500K in international spending money from the Nationals as part of the Brandon Kintzler trade.  $4.3MM of that $5.75MM total has been accounted for between the bonuses for Marte, Aguiar and Dominican outfielder Luis Baez, who signed for $300K.

Berardino also reports that Mauro Bonifacio, a Dominican outfielder long linked to the Twins, has been drawing attention from other teams and now won’t be signing with Minnesota.

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Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[NL East Notes: Kelley, Ausmus, Mets, Teheran, Braves]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103240 2017-09-23T14:11:43Z 2017-09-23T14:10:19Z Shawn Kelley left during the eighth inning of last night’s Nationals game due to an arm injury that left him with a badly-swollen right hand.  “Just on that last pitch I felt something go down through my arm and my hand swelled up a bit,” Kelley told media, including Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post.  “I just didn’t feel like I could pitch another pitch honestly. I couldn’t really grip the ball. I motioned for somebody to come out because I knew it wasn’t good.”  Kelley will meet with doctors today to evaluate the problem, which is particularly ominous given that Kelley has twice undergone Tommy John surgery.  The veteran right-hander has had two separate DL stints due to a bad back and a trap strain, and these injury issues have very likely impacted Kelley’s subpar performance.  Kelley has a 7.27 ERA over 26 innings this season, with huge spikes in his homer rate and hard-hit ball rate.  As Janes notes, Kelley may not have made the Nats’ playoff roster even if healthy, though the team will have one less bullpen option to choose from if Kelley is indeed hurt.

Here’s more from around the NL East…

  • Brad Ausmus won’t be returning as the Tigers’ manager next year, though Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com reports that some in the Mets front office are interested in speaking with Ausmus.  New York has also been rumored to be making a managerial change, and will likely look into several different candidates if it does indeed move on from the Terry Collins era.  It’s also possible that the Mets’ interest in Ausmus may not necessarily involve managing; Ausmus also worked as a special assistant in the Padres’ baseball ops department before taking the Tigers job.
  • Also from Gammons’ piece, he expects the Braves to be listening to offers for Julio Teheran during the GM Meetings in November.  Teheran drew some trade buzz this past summer, with Atlanta reportedly holding onto Teheran since it was unable to land another top-tier arm to replace the right-hander as the rotation’s ace.  Teheran has struggled to a 4.52 ERA over 175 1/3 IP this season, though that inflated number has been due to a lack of success at SunTrust Park — Teheran has a 6.23 ERA at home this season and a 2.84 ERA on the road.  While Teheran’s swinging-strike and contact rates have also gone in the wrong direction, between his controllable contract and the idea that he would rebound in another ballpark, the Braves would certainly garner quite a bit of interest in trade talks.
  • Braves CEO and chairman Terry McGuirk told MLB.com’s Mark Bowman and other media that the team won’t make any management decisions until after the season is over, though McGuirk did praise manager Brian Snitker and president of baseball operations John Hart.  McGuirk expects Hart, whose deal is up after the season, to return in 2018.  The Braves hold a club option on Snitker’s services for next year, though there has been speculation that the team could be exploring a change in the dugout, with FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman hearing from a source that the Braves are currently “leaning toward” hiring a new manager.  Snitker will meet with the front office to learn about his future, and USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets that this meeting could take place as soon as today.
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Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Ned Yost Says He’ll Stay With Royals For 2018]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103237 2017-09-23T06:52:27Z 2017-09-23T03:57:43Z Royals skipper Ned Yost stamped out any doubt that may have arisen as to his status for 2018, telling reporters including MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan that he is going to return.

Yost’s deal runs through next year, so the news isn’t much of a surprise. But from the outside, at least, there was perhaps at least some cause to wonder whether the 63-year-old would desire to keep grinding. Kansas City is going to miss the postseason for the second consecutive year, after all, and will see several core players hit the open market at season’s end.

No matter to Yost, who says he’s well-positioned to “take the flack” for overseeing a roster transition that could come with some frustrations. He seems inclined to take things one year at a time moving forward, but also didn’t exactly commit to retiring at the end of his current contract.

“Am I going to see this thing through? No. But I want to get a firm footing and firm foundation on the ground so someone else … in two years, whatever it is …[can step in] and get back to where we feel we can compete again.”

While the team could always decide to go with another manager, that seems quite unlikely. Yost took over the Royals’ dugout in the middle of a dreadful 2010 season, then oversaw two more losing campaigns while the organization transitioned. But Kansas City went on to reel off three consecutive winning seasons from that point, culminating in a 2015 World Series title.

The K.C. skipper signed his most recent deal after that moment of glory, marking the latest in a string of short-term extensions that have kept him on board for eight seasons thus far. Overall, Yost has led the team to a 624-628 record. While it’s hard to know just what the roster will look like next year, it seems as if the Royals will have a familiar hand writing out the lineup cards and guiding the ship.

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Jason Martinez <![CDATA[MLB Weekly Roster Roundup: Hamilton, Renfroe, Wainwright]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103210 2017-09-23T02:39:49Z 2017-09-23T02:39:49Z ROSTER MOVES BY TEAM (9/18-9/22)

NATIONAL LEAGUE

  • CHICAGO CUBS Depth Chart
      • Back In Action: SP Jake Arrieta (hamstring) made his first start in 17 days on Thursday (5 IP, ER, 5 H, BB, 2 K)
  • MIAMI MARLINS Depth Chart
    • Activated from DL: P Chris O’Grady
      • O’Grady is pitching out of the bullpen (IP, 0 R on Wednesday) after starting six games prior to his injury.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

  • BALTIMORE ORIOLES | Depth Chart  
    • Injuries: RP Zach Britton (knee discomfort) is expected to miss the remainder of the season. Brad Brach is the team’s closer with Britton out of action.
  • DETROIT TIGERS Depth Chart
      • Back In Action: SP Jordan Zimmermann (neck) made his first start in 19 days on Thursday (4 IP, 3 ER, 5 H, BB, 4 K)
  • HOUSTON ASTROS Depth Chart
      • Back In Action: SP Lance McCullers (arm fatigue) will make his first start in 18 days on Sunday.

 

FUTURE EXPECTED MOVES

 

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Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Prospective Marlins Owners To Fire Four Special Assistants]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103231 2017-09-23T01:36:25Z 2017-09-23T01:36:25Z In an evident bid for a fresh start, the prospective Marlins ownership group has notified a series of high-profile special assistants that they will not be retained once the sale is completed, according to an eye-opening report from Barry Jackson and Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald. Specifically, the Marlins will no longer employ former manager Jack McKeon, notable player Jeff Conine, and Hall of Famers Andre Dawson and Tony Perez.

The move may not have dramatic implications for the day-to-day operations of the team, as these four prominent baseball men were not among the core leadership. But they all have deep roots with the organization and did provide notable contributions. Many teams retain such respected figures on similar arrangements.

In this case, salary details are not known. The move seems to represent yet another sign that the new ownership group will be looking to make some significant reductions in operating expenses. Just how that’ll translate into an offseason roster strategy isn’t yet known, but it seems more and more likely that the Miami organization will try to sell some veteran assets than that it will look to add MLB talent around its current core.

The move to cut out such prominent figures seemingly suggests, too, that not much will be seen as sacred when Derek Jeter and Bruce Sherman take charge. That may well extend to current players and will no doubt apply to front-office employees. Some baseball operations personnel will likely be sent packing, per the report, though it’s not clear just who or when.

The way that this move went down has sparked a bit of controversy, too. Jeter is said to have asked outgoing president David Samson to deliver the news rather than doing so himself — after informing Samson that he would not be a part of the organization (as was already widely expected). Needless to say, it’s an interesting opening salvo for Jeter and co.

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Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Latest On Mets’ Plans For Sandy Alderson, Terry Collins]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103226 2017-09-22T23:13:07Z 2017-09-22T23:13:07Z The Mets will attempt to work out a new contract with general manager Sandy Alderson to keep him for 2018 and (presumably) beyond, according to a report from Kristie Ackert. The fate of manager Terry Collins, though, is less clear — with signs suggesting it’s not expected he’ll be back.

Contracts for both organizational leaders are up at the end of the year. The pair has been in charge since the start of the 2011 campaign, overseeing a rise and then sudden collapse in the team’s competitiveness. While the hope remains that the roster will spring back to life in 2018, it seems that Alderson will be looking for a new manager to lead the troops.

Alderson himself declined to comment on the managerial situation. But Ackert cites team sources that suggest there’s an internal expectation that Collins will retire. Per the report, the Mets have already begun thinking of alternatives to the veteran skipper — Ackert runs through a few notable names at the link — even if Collins himself may not quite be ready to hang ’em up on his own volition.

Many have speculated that 2017 could be the last run for Collins, who is 68 years of age, though few saw the season going the way it has. The Mets went to the World Series in 2015 and overcame challenges to reach the postseason last year as well. But a series of devastating injuries robbed the 2017 team of any hopes of repeating.

There’s no reasonable way that Collins could have reversed that course by himself, though (like all managers) he has had his share of detractors over the years. The organization may well prefer an alternative, though, regardless of Collins’s own intentions. Ackert says that the club would like to find a newcomer that is “more technologically savvy and more fluent in analytics and sabermetrics.”

While the Mets will no doubt focus in on this important decision, it’s just one of many facing the organization. Soon after the end of the season, decisions are due on Asdrubal Cabrera and Jerry Blevins. The Mets have a lot of payroll space but also quite a few roster needs — along with a long list of medical unknowns in the rotation.

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Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Tigers Will Not Retain Brad Ausmus]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103219 2017-09-22T21:00:08Z 2017-09-22T20:17:31Z The Tigers and Brad Ausmus will part ways after the end of the current season, as Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports on Twitter that the club won’t extend his contract. Ausmus, 48, has been at the helm of the Detroit dugout for the last four seasons.

Detroit had exercised a club option to retain Ausmus for the current campaign. But it did not further address his contract situation last winter, leaving the skipper facing an uncertain future. Now, his tenure will end as the ballclub itself faces its own uncertainty as it carries out a rebuilding effort.

GM Al Avila says he’s looking for a “new approach and a fresh start” in that leadership role (via ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick, on Twitter). It’s not yet known, though, just what candidates the club will consider. The Tigers will have a head start on the rest of the managerial market, though, as they are the first organization to announce a chance.

Ausmus, a long-time big league catcher, was hired when the organization was pushing hard to contend. The Tigers won ninety games in his first year at the helm, but were swept out of the postseason and haven’t made it back since. Then-GM Dave Dombrowski was cut loose in the midst of a disappointing 2015 season, giving way to Avila. Detroit managed 86 wins last year, but the outlook wasn’t all that optimistic heading into the current campaign and the club has staggered to a 62-91 record to this point.

Notable change has come at many levels of the Tigers organization of late. That includes player turnover, of course, with J.D. Martinez and longtime star Justin Verlander departing via trade over the summer. Long-time owner Mike Ilitch passed away in February, leaving the team to his son, Chris. Of course, there’s also continuity in that transition; the younger Ilitch says his family plans to continue to own the ballclub for a long time to come (via MLB.com’s Jason Beck, on Twitter).

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Steve Adams <![CDATA[Three Needs: Chicago White Sox]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103209 2017-09-22T20:03:47Z 2017-09-22T20:03:47Z The White Sox have made a staggering amount of progress on the rebuild of their franchise in less than a year’s time. It’s almost incredible to think that last year, when doing a “Three Needs” look at the Sox, one need that Tim Dierkes listed was to make a decision on whether they should embark on a fire sale or take one more shot with a group led by Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton, David Robertson, Carlos Rodon, Tim Anderson and Todd Frazier.

The Sox have traded almost everything that isn’t nailed down over the past year, bringing in high-profile talent like Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Michael Kopech, Eloy Jimenez, Blake Rutherford and roughly a dozen other prospects of varying levels of upside. Certainly, though, there’s still work for the team to do. We’ll take a longer look at their offseason in next month’s Offseason Outlook series, but here’s a higher-level overview of the Sox’ remaining needs.

1. Make a decision on Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia.

Abreu has been one of the best hitters in the American League over his four Major League campaigns, and he’s enjoying his best year since his rookie season in 2017. Thus far, he’s hitting .303/.356/.549 with 31 homers and a career-low 17.5 percent strikeout rate. His 40.1 percent hard-hit rate is easily a career-high, while his 6.9 percent infield-fly rate is the lowest of his career. Abreu is due a raise on this year’s $10.8MM salary, and he’s controllable only through 2019, so the end of his contract will coincide with the arrival of much of the team’s young talent.

Jose Abreu | Matt Marton-USA TODAY SportsGarcia, 26, is in somewhat of a similar position (which is not something that anyone really expected to be the case this time last year). While his deeper track record is unsightly, the right fielder/designated hitter has long been seen as having a healthy offensive ceiling, and this year he’s come through and delivered on that hype. In 524 plate appearances, he’s hitting .333/.382/.502 with new career-bests in home runs (17), doubles (23), triples (four) and strikeout rate (19.8 percent). There’s no way Garcia can sustain a .396 BABIP, and his exit velocity is actually down from the 2016 season, but some of the strides he’s made appear legitimate. Like Abreu, though, he’s controlled only through 2019 and could be viewed by the organization as either an extension or a trade candidate.

The White Sox don’t technically have to make a call on either this winter, but the more time that goes by, the less team control they can shop to interested suitors and the closer each gets to free agency (thus reducing some of Chicago’s leverage in talks). Chicago also doesn’t have much else in the way of marketable veteran pieces to shop this winter, making a trade of at least one of the two the most realistic avenue to accruing more prospect capital. Garcia’s breakout has some potential red flags, but his price tag is lower than that of Abreu and he’s four years younger.

2. Add some veteran arms to support/mentor the kids (and to flip in summer trades).

White Sox fans can dream on a rotation consisting of Michael Kopech, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Carlos Rodon as soon as late 2018 or early 2019, but there are a lot of innings to be covered while Kopech finishes his development in Triple-A and the team monitors the workloads of the other three (Giolito and Lopez due to youth, Rodon due to 2017 injuries and durability concerns). Adding Derek Holland for the 2017 season may not have netted a trade piece for the Sox — Holland was released in August after struggling for most of the season — but he soaked up plenty of innings for an inexperienced staff.

Grabbing at least one veteran, if not two, to step into a similar role next season would be prudent. There should be no shortage of names available for the Sox to pursue, with hurlers such as Jeremy Hellickson, Scott Feldman, Tyson Ross, Anibal Sanchez and old friend Hector Santiago among the free agents likely looking at one-year rebound scenarios. Pitching coach Don Cooper’s reputation will likely be a point in the team’s favor in luring such veterans, as will be an easier promise to guaranteed innings than most contending clubs would be willing to offer.

Also on the docket, of course, should be a veteran reliever or two. Just as the Sox can offer guaranteed innings to rebound candidates, the team can also offer high-leverage roles to relievers looking for rebound seasons. Huston Street, Tyler Clippard, Fernando Salas and Neftali Feliz are among the bounceback candidates on the free-agent bullpen market.

3. Take advantage of a nearly blank payroll slate.

The fact that the Sox don’t have much in the way of marketable veterans to pitch to other teams doesn’t mean that they simply can’t acquire further talent this offseason. The White Sox only have about $15MM committed to next year’s payroll: the $10MM portion of James Shields’ salary they must pay, $3.95MM for Nate Jones and $1MM for Tim Anderson. Beyond that, the only notable arbitration raises they’ll face belong to Abreu, Rodon and Yolmer Sanchez. As it stands, the White Sox could easily field a team for under $40MM in player salaries next season, though they’ll surely spend more to fill out the roster and invest in some potential trade chips.

But, the Sox are also extremely well positioned to take on some or all of a veteran player’s contract in order to persuade a rival club to part with some meaningful young talent. When teams like the Braves (Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis), Diamondbacks (Yasmany Tomas), Yankees (Jacoby Ellsbury), Marlins (Wei-Yin Chen) and others are looking to shed some unfavorable contracts, the White Sox will no doubt be involved in exploring scenarios that allow them effectively to purchase the rights to prospects — while also filling out the MLB roster with players that can perhaps be flipped again later, as occurred with Clippard this summer.

As recently as 2016, the White Sox opened the year with a near-$115MM payroll, and they opened with payrolls north of $118MM in 2015 and 2013 as well. The team can afford to spend — especially on players with only a year or two remaining on their contracts — and taking on those burdensome commitments could allow them to pry another few prospects away from rival clubs. As a bonus, the lack of veteran commitments on the current White Sox roster should also allow the Pale Hose to nab at least one player (if not multiple players) in this year’s Rule 5 Draft.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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Steve Adams <![CDATA[NL Notes: Goldschmidt, Cozart, Snitker, Panik]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103204 2017-09-22T17:36:06Z 2017-09-22T17:36:06Z There are “hints” that the D-backs plan to try locking up MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt to a longer-term deal, writes Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports in his latest NL Notes column. However, the team’s below-average revenues (in part due to the league’s lowest ticket prices) could make it difficult. Goldschmidt will earn $11MM in 2018 and has an easy-call $14.5MM club option ($2MM buyout) for the 2019 campaign on his contract as well. He’ll turn 32 years old at the end of that 2019 campaign, though he’s shown no signs of slowing down to this point in his career; Goldschmidt is hitting .305/.410/.576 with 35 homers and 18 steals in what has been a roughly 6-WAR season thus far. Of course, any long-term deal with Goldschmidt would have to be able to mesh with Zack Greinke’s considerable contract and could also impact the team’s ability to re-sign slugger J.D. Martinez.

Elsewhere in the National League…

  • Heyman also reports that the Reds may try to retain Zack Cozart in 2018 and beyond after holding onto him in July and August. Per Heyman, the Reds set an extremely high asking price on Cozart, asking the Orioles at one point for top outfield prospect Austin Hays in return. That’s a steep ask for a Cozart rental, considering Hays broke out with a .329/.365/.593 slash and 32 homers in 128 games between Double-A and Triple-A this season before making his MLB debut in September.
  • The Braves are still weighing whether to retain manager Brian Snitker beyond the 2017 season, as Heyman notes in his column and as Ken Rosenthal details at greater length for The Athletic (subscription required and strongly recommended). Per Rosenthal, the Braves don’t need to make a decision on Snitker’s 2018 option until five days after the World Series, so they still have some time to mull things over. Snitker tells Rosenthal that he’d like to continue managing for “a while,” though he says he’s not sweating the decision as it’s largely out of his control. Heyman cites a source in reporting that Atlanta is “leaning toward” making a change, though nothing’s been set in stone yet, and it’s possibly that Snitker’s option is simply exercised without any extension being issued. Rosenthal, meanwhile, takes a deeper dive into some of the reported tensions in the Braves organization and how they impact the managerial decision.
  • Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News wonders whether Giants second baseman Joe Panik is part of the team’s future or will instead be an offseason trade chip. Panik, Baggarly reasons, is one of the Giants’ most desirable big league pieces given his lack of a long-term contract and the fact that he’s only just reaching arbitration eligibility. However, the Giants also didn’t see Christian Arroyo take the step forward that they hoped, making it perhaps tougher to deal from their more proven infield depth. Giants fans and those interested in the offseason trade market are encouraged to check out Baggarly’s well-reasoned take on the situation in full.
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Steve Adams <![CDATA[Orioles Looking To Add Two Starters In Offseason]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103189 2017-09-22T14:46:28Z 2017-09-22T14:46:28Z Yesterday, FanRag’s Jon Heyman wrote that the Orioles have “no intention” of shopping Manny Machado with just a year on his contract before free agency and a potential record-setting deal, and today MLB.com’s Jon Morosi reports that Baltimore is aiming to add two starting pitchers from outside the organization. (Morosi, like Heyman, hears that shopping Machado is not in the cards for the O’s this winter.)

Starting pitching was always likely to be a need for the Orioles, though depending on the caliber of arms that is targeted, adding two starters from outside the organization would be the Orioles’ most aggressive pursuit of starting pitching in recent history.

Despite the longstanding need, the Orioles’ rotation additions last offseason consisted of depth pickups Gabriel Ynoa, Alec Asher, Logan Verrett, Richard Bleier and Vidal Nuno (many of whom have wound up working in relief this year). One winter prior, the O’s additions via both trade and free agency included Yovani Gallardo and Odrisamer Despaigne. A year prior, Eddie Gamboa was the most notable rotation possibility added, and Ubaldo Jimenez was the most noteworthy add in the 2013-14 offseason. The O’s did also add multiple years of Wade Miley at the 2016 trade deadline, though that swap hasn’t paid dividends.

Orioles GM Dan Duquette and his staff will have no shortage of options on the free-agent market this winter. While a pursuit of the market’s top-tier arms may not be likely, the second tier of free agency will feature names like Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn, Tyler Chatwood, Andrew Cashner, Jason Vargas and Jaime Garcia.

Starting pitching is an acute need for the Orioles, to say the least, as the team’s 5.60 ERA, 5.18 FIP and total of just 811 2/3 innings from its rotation all rank among the bottom three in Major League Baseball. While a struggling rotation isn’t exactly new for Baltimore, the Orioles have been more in the bottom third of the league in each of those categories over the past few years than the bottom tenth as they are in 2017.

Chris Tillman has endured a stunningly precipitous decline this year, while Ubaldo Jimenez is having the worst season of his ill-fated four-year deal. Miley, too, is having a career-worst year, and Jeremy Hellickson has a 7.29 ERA with peripherals to match through nine starts since being traded. Most puzzling of all, righty Kevin Gausman was one of baseball’s least-effective starters in the first half.

The Orioles will no doubt show continued faith in Gausman, given his much-improved second half and relative youth (27 in January). Right-hander Dylan Bundy, too, figures to factor prominently into the Baltimore starting five next year. However, beyond that duo, there’s little in the way of certainty. It’s possible that the O’s could look to bring back either Tillman or Miley at a reduced rate, and aforementioned depth options like Ynoa, Asher and Bleier are all still on the 40-man roster. The Orioles are typically active in the Rule 5 Draft and could certainly look to add another option there as well.

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Steve Adams <![CDATA[Reds Sign Tucker Barnhart To Four-Year Extension]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103191 2017-09-23T00:27:54Z 2017-09-22T13:07:11Z The Reds announced on Friday morning that they’ve signed catcher Tucker Barnhart to a four-year contract extension that will keep him around through at least the 2021 season. Barnhart’s new contract also contains a club option for the 2022 season.

Tucker Barnhart | Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY SportsZach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Barnhart will be guaranteed $16MM (Twitter link). That sum will paid out in the form of a $1.75MM signing bonus and annual salaries of $4MM (2018), $2.5MM (2019), $3.5MM (2020) and $3.75MM (2021). The 2022 option is valued at $7.5MM and comes with a $500K buyout, per Buchanan.

If the option is exercised, Barnhart would reach the open market in advance of his age-32 season having earned at least $23MM over the life of his new contract. Escalators could push the maximum value of the deal to as much as $24.5MM over five seasons.

“Tucker has made us proud on the field with his play and off the field with his community involvement,” said Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams in a statement announcing the contract. “He worked his way up through our system, improving every step of the way, and has established himself as an elite defensive catcher and a productive offensive player. Switch-hitting catchers who can impact the game defensively are tough to find.”

Barnhart, a client of the Ballengee Group, was slated to reach free agency upon completion of the 2020 campaign, so this deal will lock in one of his free-agent seasons and give the Reds control over a second would-be free-agent year. He’d have been eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter, so Barnhart’s contract will also allow him to ever avoid needing to deal with said process.

While Barnhart is far from a household name, he’s quietly produced a quality 2017 season after emerging as the Reds’ primary catcher in 2016 due to Devin Mesoraco’s persistent injury issues. Barnhart batted a respectable .257/.323/.379 for the Reds in a career-high 115 games/420 plate appearances last season, and he’s elevated his offensive profile in 2017 with a .272/.349/.399 slash. While some of his OBP is undoubtedly a product of batting eighth in a National League lineup, Barnhart typically demonstrated keen plate discipline throughout his minor league career (10.7 percent minor league walk rate) and has struck out in just 16.4 percent of his plate appearances this season.

Looking at the defensive side of his game, Barnhart has been nothing short of sensational when it comes to controlling the running game. He caught a well-above-average 33 percent of potential base thieves in the 2016 campaign and currently leads the National League with a gaudy 44 percent caught-stealing rate in 2017. Baseball Prospectus feels that he’s been the most valuable catcher in terms of throwing arm and one of the three best in terms of blocking pitches in the dirt this season. However, both B-Pro and Statcorner.com peg Barnhart’s pitch framing as well below the league average.

The Barnhart extension gives the Reds four players under contract through at least the 2019 season, although Raisel Iglesias figures to opt into arbitration this winter and, in doing so, forgo his guaranteed salaries for more sizable year-to-year paydays. Cincinnati also has Joey Votto and Homer Bailey earning a combined $48MM in 2019, and Barnhart will now join Votto as the only Reds player signed to a guaranteed deal in 2020 and in 2021.

While there’s very limited financial risk for the team in the first place, the front-loaded nature of the contract further reduces some of that risk. Barnhart seems likely to handle the bulk of catching duties next year, given the uncertainty surrounding Mesoraco’s health, or at the very least split the load in a fairly even timeshare. But, he’ll earn closer to backup catcher salaries as the contract wears on, should the Reds look to augment their catching situation with a more formidable offensive backstop.

As for Barnhart himself, he’ll lock in the first significant payday of his professional career. The former 10th-round pick signed a $250K bonus out of the draft and has earned at scarcely more than a pro-rated league-minimum rate to this point in the Majors. That his value comes more from controlling the running game and getting on base than accruing counting stats (homers, RBIs, etc.) would also likely have suppressed his earning potential in arbitration, giving Barnhart extra incentive to lock in his first fortune as a big leaguer.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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Steve Adams <![CDATA[Submit Your Questions For The MLBTR Mailbag]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103178 2017-09-22T04:16:21Z 2017-09-22T04:59:58Z The most recent edition of the MLBTR Mailbag featured questions on J.D. Martinez and the Diamondbacks, the Orioles’ rotation, the Cardinals’ offseason, Juan Nicasio’s free agency and potential trades for the Phillies.

If you have a question pertaining to the 2017-18 free agent market, offseason trades, or any other topic we’d typically cover here on MLBTR, let us know via email: mlbtrmailbag@gmail.com. We’ll be running a bit of a different format next week, though as usual, we can only get to a fraction of the submissions. Remember that you’re always welcome to get our take on topics of your choosing in the three weekly chats hosted at MLBTR (Tuesdays at 2pm CT with me, Wednesdays at 6:30pm CT with Jason Martinez and Thursdays at 2pm CT with Jeff Todd).

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Steve Adams <![CDATA[AL East Notes: Yankees, Tillman, Hernandez]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103186 2017-09-22T03:30:32Z 2017-09-22T03:30:32Z The Yankees are once again striving to get under the luxury tax threshold, though there’s added incentive for them to do so this time around, writes Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. Getting under the luxury tax barrier (which is set to rise to $197MM next year) will reset the Yankees’ luxury tax hit just in time for the 2018-19 mega-class of free agents that features the likes of Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Clayton Kershaw (assuming he opts out of the final two years on his deal), Dallas Keuchel, Josh Donaldson and Charlie Blackmon, among many others. As Heyman notes, achieving the goal is more realistic than ever for the Yankees as well, with commitments to CC Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez and quite possibly Masahiro Tanaka coming off the books (in addition to recent veteran pickups Matt Holliday, Todd Frazier and Jaime Garcia).

More from the division…

  • Chris Tillman isn’t making excuses about his poor season and is maintaining that he’s 100 percent healthy, writes Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun. Schmuck spoke with Tillman for a lengthy and candid interview that readers will want to check out in full, as it’s rife with frank, harsh self analysis from Tillman, who is his perhaps his own biggest critic. “I’ve been here before,” said the longtime Orioles right-hander. “Before 2012, I was god-awful. I was just as bad as I was this year, if not worse. We were able to figure it out.” Tillman attributes his early-career struggles to a “horrible” delivery and states that he’s had significant difficulty in repeating his delivery in 2017 as well. He also speaks fondly of the Orioles’ clubhouse and suggests that he’d be open to a return, though as Schmuck notes, the Orioles figure to be seeking some certainty in their rotation this winter.
  • Teoscar Hernandez’s trade from the Astros to the Blue Jays gives him the opportunity to become a potential replacement for a player he grew up idolizing, writes Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star. Jose Bautista’s 54-homer breakout came the year before Hernandez signed as an amateur with Houston, and the 24-year-old tells Griffin that his countryman and childhood idol has already been an invaluable mentor. “The day that I got here (Sept. 2), Bautista came to me and told me a lot of things,” says Hernandez, who credits Bautista with giving him advice on his hitting as well as his off-field routine. “For me, he’s one of the awesome guys that I ever met. He’s every day telling me something new.” Per Griffin, the Jays plan to give Hernandez “every opportunity to earn an everyday role” in 2018 and beyond.
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Steve Adams <![CDATA[AL West Notes: Banister, Calhoun, Mariners, Heaney]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103180 2017-09-22T02:01:59Z 2017-09-22T01:19:35Z While it’s been a rough season for the Rangers, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports writes in this week’s AL Notes column that one source indicates to him that manager Jeff Banister is “100 percent” coming back. The third-year skipper could potentially turn in his third straight winning the season, but the Rangers’ 76 losses already guarantee that the 2017 season will be the team’s worst with Banister at the helm.

A bit more from the AL West…

  • Heyman also reports that top Rangers prospect — the centerpiece of their return for Yu Darvish — has hired Scott Boras to represent him. The 22-year-old Calhoun raised his profile as one of the best offensive prospects in the minors this season, hitting a combined .300/.355/.572 with 31 homers, 27 doubles and six triples between the Triple-A affiliates for the Rangers and Dodgers. While Calhoun is obviously quite a ways from reaching arbitration, the move is of some note, given that Boras clients typically forgo early-career extensions. Calhoun’s agency switch will be noted in MLBTR’s Agency Database, which features representation info on more than 2,500 Major League and Minor League players. If you see any notable errors or omissions, you can let us know via email: mlbtrdatabase@gmail.com.
  • The Mariners “are thought” to have some interest in Mitch Moreland and Lucas Duda as first base options this offseason, per Heyman. Seattle is currently deploying Yonder Alonso and Danny Valencia as its primary first basemen, though both are eligible for free agency at season’s end. Prospect Dan Vogelbach serves as an in-house option, though he comes with fewer than 40 plate appearances of experience in the Majors.
  • While the Mariners have endured plenty of struggles in the rotation this season, club executives are pleased with the depth that comes with the additions of veteran Mike Leake and controllable young Marco Gonzales, writes Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. Gonzales has struggled in the Majors thus far, but he’s had a generally solid year in Triple-A in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. Leake, meanwhile, has bounced back terrifically in Seattle following a trade from the Cardinals. General manager Jerry Dipoto explained to Dutton that Leake has been worth two or more wins above replacement on a yearly basis and hasn’t seen his skill set significantly diminish, even through a rough stretch toward the end of his Cardinals tenure. Skipper Scott Servais spoke highly of right-hander Andrew Moore as well when chatting with Dutton. Dutton notes that the trio of Leake, Gonzales and Moore will pair with Felix Hernandez, James Paxton, Erasmo Ramirez and Ariel Hernandez to once again give the club its fair share of depth next year.
  • Angels lefty Andrew Heaney played catch Thursday and is still hopeful that he can start again this season, writes Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. Heaney has been sidelined by a shoulder impingement recently, and with the young southpaw unable to start, the Halos will again turn to Bud Norris to start a bullpen game this weekend, per Fletcher. Norris tossed two innings the last time he did so and was one of three pitchers (joining Yusmeiro Petit and Blake Wood) to throw two innings that day.
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Steve Adams <![CDATA[Phillies’ Jesen Therrien Undergoes Tommy John Surgery]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103175 2017-09-21T22:19:56Z 2017-09-21T22:19:56Z Phillies right-hander Jesen Therrien underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this week and could miss the entire 2018 campaign as a result, as Jeremy Filosa of 98.5 FM Sports in Montreal (Therrien’s hometown) first reported, on Twitter.

[Related: Philadelphia Phillies depth chart]

The 24-year-old Therrien made his Major League debut this season, appearing in in 15 games and totaling 18 1/3 innings. As Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer notes, his 92.6 mph average fastball in the bigs was diminished from his minor league velocity, and Therrien’s results were nowhere near the promising output he showed in the minors. Therrien obliterated minor league opponents, posting a ridiculous 1.41 ERA with 10.2 K/9 against 1.4 BB/9 in 57 1/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. In the Majors, he logged an 8.35 ERA on 24 hits and seven walks with just 10 strikeouts.

The loss of Therrien for the 2018 campaign will deprive the Phils of one of their more promising relief prospects next season, though Therrien is certainly young enough to bounce back and make meaningful contributions when the Phils are closer to contention in 2019 and beyond.

In the meantime, the Phillies will turn to a bullpen group that is likely to feature Hector Neris, Luis Garcia, Edubray Ramos, Kevin Siegrist and Adam Morgan next year. Other candidates will include young arms such as Victor Arano, Hoby Milner, Ricardo Pinto, Yacksel Rios and Zac Curtis, though the Philadelphia front office could certainly look to augment its internal options with some veterans on the free-agent and/or trade markets this winter. President Andy MacPhail, GM Matt Klentak and the rest of the Phils’ front office brought in veterans Pat Neshek and Joaquin Benoit last winter, both to help stabilize a group of inexperienced relievers and for the potential to emerge as summer trade chips.

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Steve Adams <![CDATA[Minor MLB Transactions: 9/21/17]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103173 2017-09-21T20:47:19Z 2017-09-21T20:47:19Z Here are Thursday’s minor moves from around the league…

  • The Padres announced that shortstop Dusty Coleman and right-hander Jose Valdez have cleared waivers after being designated for assignment earlier this week. Both players have subsequently been sent outright to Triple-A El Paso. Coleman, 30, saw his most extensive big league stint to date this season, appearing in 27 games for the Friars and hitting .227/.268/.455 with four homers in 71 plate appearances. He’s only appeared in two Major League seasons, though he’s a veteran of five Triple-A campaigns, where he’s compiled a .239/.296/.414 batting line. Valdez, 27, has seen limited Major League action in each of the past three seasons, though he’s struggled to a 5.72 ERA through 50 1/3 innings in that time. The hard-throwing Valdez has averaged better than a strikeout per inning in the minors but has also averaged more than five walks per inning in that time. Valdez owns a 3.43 ERA with 8.3 K/9 against 4.7 BB/9 through 133 2/3 Triple-A frames.
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Jeff Todd <![CDATA[MLBTR Chat Transcript: 9/21/17]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103170 2017-09-22T19:13:31Z 2017-09-21T19:04:00Z Click here to read a transcript of today’s chat with host Jeff Todd.

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Jeff Todd <![CDATA[AL Notes: Britton, Miley, Barreto, Twins, Moylan]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103168 2017-09-22T23:19:24Z 2017-09-21T18:58:42Z Over at Fangraphs, David Laurila provides an interesting look at the concept of African-American ballplayers serving as role models. Angels prospect Jo Adell has expressed an inclination to be just that; Laurila asked a variety of professionals what advice they have for the recent draftee. The post is well worth a full read.

Here’s more from the American League:

  • It’s not clear whether Zach Britton will pitch again for the Orioles this year. He’ll sit for at least three to five days after receiving an injection in his balky knee, as Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com was among those to tweet. With the O’s all but mathematically eliminated from the postseason race, there’s little reason to push a pitcher who has struggled all year long to gain traction. Instead, it seems likely the club will allow Britton to begin the healing process in hopes of a healthier and more productive 2018 season.
  • While the Orioles can control lefty Wade Miley through a club option, and certainly need arms in the rotation, Dan Connolly of BaltimoreBaseball.com writes that it’s time to bid adieu. The 30-year-old has struggled for the bulk of the season, making the $12MM price tag seem steep. Instead, Connolly urges, the O’s ought to pay him a $500K buyout and go looking for alternatives.
  • As the Athletics sort through their young position-player options, Joe Stiglich of CSN Bay Area writes, the club could consider giving Franklin Barreto some time in center field. Oakland seems to have a rather wide-open situation up the middle in the outfield grass. In the infield, though, there are several options at second base — including veteran Jed Lowrie, assuming he isn’t traded (and that his option is picked up, as appears likely). Stiglich runs through some other options; while there are a few internal players that may warrant consideration, it’s also conceivable that the team could use the opening to try an outside acquisition. (As I noted recently, Oakland could have a chance to take advantage of some outfield gluts in other organizations.) Regardless, as regards the 21-year-old Barreto, the key consideration is likely whether the team feels he’s best served taking on major league pitching or going back to Triple-A to iron out his strikeout issues.
  • The Twins have been making some scouting and development changes, as do many teams this time of year. International scouting coordinator Howard Norsetter was fired, La Velle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune reports. Norsetter had run the team’s efforts to find amateur talent abroad, excepting Latin America. The club also added a new part-time scout in Japan, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets.
  • Royals righty Peter Moylan tells Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star that he hopes to return to the organization next year. As Dodd explains, Moylan has been quite dominant against opposing right-handed hitters. He still generates tons of groundballs and throws his sidearm sinker at the same velocity. Given the seeming comfort level between player and team, and K.C.’s need for affordable roster pieces with a challenging offseason coming, a reunion wouldn’t be terribly surprising.
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Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Orioles Do Not Intend To Trade Manny Machado This Offseason]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103164 2017-09-21T16:45:39Z 2017-09-21T16:45:39Z It has long been wondered just how long the Orioles would manage to keep their best player, superstar third baseman Manny Machado. As the team begins looking ahead to the offseason, his long-term status in Baltimore remains an open question. What’s clear, though, according to a report from Jon Heyman of Fan Rag, is that the O’s won’t look to deal Machado in advance of the 2018 season.

That’s not all that surprising to hear at this point, as all signs from Baltimore have been that the organization will try to regroup and contend next year. But it’s nevertheless notable, as it would appear to take Machado out of serious trade consideration and also position the Orioles as a team that will look to add veteran talent over the offseason.

The Orioles will face quite a few roster questions. In particular, a dreadful performance from the bulk of the rotation will leave the club scrambling to fill a few openings. Doing so in a financially feasible way looks like quite the challenge.

While the organization has only $64MM or so in dedicated payroll for the coming season, that doesn’t include the massive arbitration outlay — Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Kevin Gausman, Zach Britton, and Brad Brach will be expensive — that will surely push the club past $100MM. That probably leaves room to add some salary for starters, but the team will surely be wary of commitments that extend past 2018. Machado, Britton, Brach, and Adam Jones will be free agents and the O’s have already committed quite a lot of cash to underperforming sluggers Mark Trumbo and Chris Davis.

So, could the club look to keep its core intact for a longer stretch by pursuing a new deal with Machado? Per Heyman, it’s not yet clear whether the Orioles will make such an attempt in earnest. The sides were fairly close in prior extension talks, though clearly the situation is quite a bit different now. Machado, who only just turned 25, is one of the game’s very best players and will be just one year away from a potential open-market bonanza. From an outside perspective, it remains difficult to imagine a deal coming together.

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Jeff Todd <![CDATA[NL Central Notes: Kang, Pirates, Lester, Arrieta, Diaz]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103159 2017-09-21T15:53:24Z 2017-09-21T15:23:13Z Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang discussed his attempt to return to the majors with Jee-ho Yoo of Yonhap (here and here). Kang derailed his career when he drove under the influence of alcohol in his native Korea — the third time he has been arrested for a DUI — with a subsequent conviction leaving him unable to obtain a visa to work in the United States. Now, as he prepares to play in the Dominican Winter League, Kang says he hopes “to become a better person and a better player.” Whether or not he’ll be able to return to action in the majors — in 2018 or beyond — will ultimately depend upon the U.S. government.

  • In a piece that’s not altogether unrelated to Kang’s situation, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette analyzes the thin margin of error the Pirates front office has to work with in light of the team’s still-limited payroll. GM Neal Huntington notes the need to find “significant value outside of the free-agent market” as well as the imperative to “get more than just a dollar-for-dollar value” in free agency. The piece highlights the challenges facing the just-extended executive as he seeks to position the Bucs for contention once again.
  • Needless to say, the Cubs have seen some ups and downs from their rotation this year. Now, it’s key lefty Jon Lester who is struggling to find answers, as Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com writes. The battle-tested veteran has not been very effective since returning from the DL at the start of September; things came to a head last night, as he allowed seven earned runs on eight hits and three hits without recording a strikeout. Lester declined to blame any physical limitations and says he’s “not worried about” the middling results, noting that he simply needs to make adjustments as he has over the course of his successful career.
  • The Cubs will hope that Jake Arrieta is sharper when he makes his own return from the DL. Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes that the veteran righty, who went on the shelf right as Lester came back, feels his arm strength may actually have improved after getting some rest due to a hamstring injury. Arrieta is scheduled for two more regular-season outings, though Chicago will wait to make any final calls on the last few games of the year.
  • Shortstop Aledmys Diaz is back with the Cardinals after an extended run at Triple-A, but as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes, his role with the organization — now and in the future — is quite uncertain. Diaz has moved around the infield a bit at Triple-A, perhaps creating some new versatility, though he continued to struggle at the plate. With Paul DeJong now seemingly ensconced at short, Diaz will need to carve out a new role or wait for an opportunity to open with the Cards or, perhaps, some other organization.
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Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Giants Notes: Otani, Sabean, Belt]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103157 2017-09-21T13:15:08Z 2017-09-21T13:15:08Z The Giants have seemingly signaled their intentions to partake in the Shohei Otani sweepstakes. As Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle writes, GM Bobby Evans and AGM Jeremy Shelley each went to watch the 23-year-old Japanese star. While the Giants, like several other teams, would be limited to offering only a miserly $300K bonus to Otani, the organization does have a winning history and the city of San Francisco on offer. In any event, to the extent Otani does consider earnings, he’ll likely be more motivated by his second contract than his first — with increasing speculation focusing on the possibility that teams will discuss early-career extension scenarios in wooing the two-way player.

More from San Francisco:

  • President of baseball operations Brian Sabean tells the Chronicle’s Bruce Jenkins that he began having some concerns with the team’s 2017 outlook in Spring Training. Needless to say, it became apparent rather early on in the season that things weren’t headed in a positive direction. Now, says the veteran executive, the club needs to “put a fresh look on things.” Among the needs: “to get younger, more athletic, and improve our defense.” That will be easier said than done, but Sabean says the organization will “have to be very open-minded and aggressive on the trade front” and will “have to be creative, and in some cases, bold.”
  • Turning this general approach into specific moves figures to be the real challenge, of course. As Jenkins explains, the club has a variety of difficult player/contract situations on the roster. Interestingly, he reports that skipper Bruce Bochy “would welcome a new look” at first base. While Brandon Belt has never been a major source of home runs and has been limited by unfortunate concussion problems, he has also been a steadily productive batter — posting a 128 wRC+ in over three thousand career plate appearances. Indeed, just last winter the club awarded him with an extension that Jenkins now labels as “burdensome.” Attempting to upgrade, though, may well cost yet more and the likelihood of even achieving improved production seems rather dubious.
  • If the Giants really decided they needed to move Belt, he’d draw plenty of interest due to his well-rounded offensive profile, though surely other organizations would be wary of the health concerns. Though he did just go on the 60-day DL — effectively ending his season — Belt was able to do some running on the field yesterday. He tells Janie McCauley of the Associated Press (Twitter link) that he has finally “turned a corner” and “just started feeling good,” which is certainly good to hear given the nature of his injury. Hopefully, Belt will be able to recover fully over the offseason.
  • Sabean also chatted about some other topics of interest with Jenkins. He had kind words for Evans, calling him “driven and patient” while also acknowledging that his successor has overseen a difficult turn in the team’s competitiveness. And the veteran exec also touched upon the always interesting matter of weighing statistical analysis and scouting, crediting the importance of numbers while also offering a colorful explication of his belief in the importance of performing in key situations.
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Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Sandy Alderson Suggests Mets Will Likely Retain Matt Harvey For 2018]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103155 2017-09-21T05:27:17Z 2017-09-21T05:27:17Z Despite the increasingly worrying health issues and pitching struggles of former Mets ace Matt Harvey, the club isn’t ready to give up on his talent. As GM Sandy Alderson tells Mike Puma of the New York Post, “it’s high unlikely that we’re not going to bring [Harvey] back next year.”

Harvey is still just 28 years old and isn’t far removed from being one of the game’s most dominant starters. If there was concern when he limped to a 4.86 ERA in 17 starts last year, though, it’s all the more pressing now that he has surrendered 6.59 earned per nine through the same number of outings in the current season.

The enigmatic righty has averaged less than five frames per start while managing only 6.6 K/9 against an uncharacteristic 4.5 BB/9. He has seen his velocity waver over the course of the season (with an average that’s down one mph from last year and two mph from the prior season). And his swinging-strike rate has plummeted to 7.5% and yet more arm problems have arisen during the year.

Despite all that, New York evidently sees value in tendering Harvey a contract in his final year of arbitration eligibility. And that’s really not surprising. Harvey will get at least a marginal raise on this year’s $5.125MM arb salary, but the bill will remain well within range of the one-year guarantees that other interesting bounceback type pitchers command in free agency.

While there’s some risk in paying Harvey, notes Puma, there’s probably even greater risk to the front office if it lets him find his form elsewhere. And it isn’t as if the team can’t use the possible innings that Harvey will be expected to provide; talent and uncertainty abound in the rest of the staff, too.

For now, Alderson says, the club will “keep running him out there and see what happens.” It seems that’ll be the approach in 2018 as well — so long as the Mets don’t find a surprise trade and Harvey shows enough promise in camp that he isn’t cut loose to avoid fully guaranteeing his arb payout.

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Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Rays Outright Danny Espinosa]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103150 2017-09-21T02:47:42Z 2017-09-21T02:34:39Z The Rays have outrighted infielder Danny Espinosa, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (via Twitter). His 40-man roster spot will go to lefty Xavier Cedeno, who is set to be activated from the 60-day DL.

Espinosa, 30, saw limited action in Tampa Bay late in the season after a brief stop with the Mariners. He spent the first half of the year receiving regular time with the Angels — who acquired him from the Nationals over the offseason — but never came around at the plate. All told, the eight-year MLB veteran has stumbled to a .173/.245/.278 batting line this year.

The switch-hitting Espinosa has never consistently produced at the plate, though he delivers a good bit of home run power for a middle infielder and has posted several seasons of near-average hitting despite his swing-and-miss proclivities. He’s a gifted up-the-middle defender and good baserunner, though, so he doesn’t have to hit all that much to be useful.

Clearly, though, the offensive struggles this year were so significant that it was hard for Espinosa to hold down a roster spot. It’s perhaps still conceivable he could land a guaranteed deal for 2018, though odds are he’ll have to settle for a minor-league deal and a chance to earn a job with an infield-needy team in camp.

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Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Blue Jays Still Looking To Add Starters This Winter]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103147 2017-09-21T00:54:59Z 2017-09-21T00:54:59Z Even after locking up righty Marco Estrada to a one-year extension, the Blue Jays are planning to pursue starters over the offseason, GM Ross Atkins tells Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca (via Twitter). Toronto aims to line up eight or nine hurlers capable of taking the ball in the majors, Atkins says.

If it wasn’t clear already that the Jays won’t be entering a rebuilding phase, the move yesterday to re-up Estrada for $13MM seemingly decides the matter. Toronto already has about $90MM committed after that contract hit the books, and will zoom quickly past $100MM as it settles out some significant arbitration cases — including Josh Donaldson, Marcus Stroman, Kevin Pillar, and Roberto Osuna.

Given the array of commitments, it makes sense that the Jays won’t stop with the return of Estrada. Four rotation jobs are locked up already, presuming health, with Estrada re-joining Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, and J.A. Happ. Beyond that, though, there are some questions.

Joe Biagini failed to run with his rotation opportunity this year but remains an option. Toronto has received good innings of from summer acquisition Tom Koehler in a relief role, but he’d be a risky tender given his $5.75MM salary this year and struggles from the Marlins’ rotation. Brett Anderson has had some quality outings down the stretch, though he’ll be a free agent (and was bombed tonight). As Steve Adams noted in discussing the Sanchez signing, youngster Ryan Borucki has flown up the system this year, though it might be optimistic to expect him to take a job out of camp.

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of hurler the Jays end up pursuing. The club could compete the job between in-house options and some non-guaranteed or cheaper veterans. Alternatively, it might promise the fifth slot as a means of drawing in a preferred player. If there’s more willingness to spend, perhaps Toronto could go somewhat bigger for a mid-range starter, as it did in its most recent contracts with Estrada and Happ.

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Jason Martinez <![CDATA[MLBTR Chat Transcript: Angels, Reds, Giants, Phillies]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103143 2017-09-21T00:34:34Z 2017-09-20T23:28:32Z Click here to read the transcript for MLBTR Chat With Jason Martinez: September 20, 2017

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Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Padres Extend Clayton Richard]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103131 2017-09-20T23:28:52Z 2017-09-20T22:32:39Z The Padres have announced an extension with lefty Clayton Richard, who had been slated to return to free agency. It’s a two-year deal with a $6MM guarantee and “minor” incentives, MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell reports on Twitter.

Sep 7, 2017; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres starting pitcher Clayton Richard (3) pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals during the first inning at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Since signing a one-year, $1.75MM deal over the winter, the 34-year-old Richard has operated as a full-time starter for the first time since 2012. While he carries only a 4.82 ERA, some underlying metrics suggest he has deserved better. Richard has recorded 6.6 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 to go with a stellar 59.1% groundball rate. He has likely been at least a bit unfortunate to surrender a .348 batting average on balls put in play against him. And while Richard has been hurt by the long ball — he’s coughing up dingers on 19.7% of the flyballs hit against him — he has typically fared much better in that regard.

It’s uncertain whether Richard can sustain his promising showing, but he seems like a pretty reasonable pitcher to take a slight risk on. Richard’s two-seamer has averaged 90.7 mph, not far off his career average. And he has maintained last year’s surge in swinging-strike rate despite becoming a full-time starter; his 8.3% mark sits well above his 7.2% career level. Richard was quite productive while working mostly as a reliever in 2016 and certainly has shown an ability to succeed as a starter in the past; he posted sub-4.00 earned run averages for the Pads in that role in the 2010-12 seasons. Of course, Richard also has a history of shoulder problems that required surgical treatment.

For the Pads, locking up Richard now accounts for another rotation spot heading into the 2018 season. Youngsters Luis Perdomo and Dinelson Lamet seem quite likely to remain in the MLB staff and Travis Wood could still be an option despite his struggles. But with Jhoulys Chacin heading back to free agency, the Pads were looking at filling at least two openings.

Even with today’s move, the team could still add two rotation pieces over the offseason. Last year’s pursuit of budget-friendly veterans could be reprised; really, the Friars did quite well with Richard, Chacin, and Trevor Cahill, even if Jered Weaver proved to be a miss.

Whether or not it’ll make sense for the Padres to keep Richard in the rotation throughout the life of the deal will have to be seen. But he could have plenty of function regardless. The veteran southpaw could always slide back into a long relief or situational lefty role if others ultimately prove to be better starting options.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Jimmy Nelson Underwent Labrum Procedure, Will Miss Time In 2018]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103125 2017-09-20T21:49:21Z 2017-09-20T20:57:15Z The shoulder procedure performed today on Brewers righty Jimmy Nelson ended up being somewhat more extensive than had been hoped. While there was optimism that surgeons would not find a need to repair Nelson’s labrum, they did end up needing to do some tissue work, GM David Stearns told reporters including MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy (via Twitter).

As a result, it is now expected that Nelson will miss “a chunk” of the 2018 season, per Stearns. Just how long the key righty will be sidelined isn’t yet known and will surely depend upon his rehab progress. Regardless, Milwaukee will need to plan on alternatives to fill the rotation to start the year.

Losing Nelson for any chunk of time constitutes a blow for the Brewers, putting a damper on an otherwise exciting season. The club has plenty of intriguing young pitchers, and could still decide to retain Matt Garza for depth, but Nelson had emerged as a force and can’t realistically be replaced. It’s possible that the Brewers will still mostly look to internal options to fill out the staff early next season, though it’s also conceivable that the injury could spur Stearns to look into ways to bolster the rotation over the offseason.

Unfortunately, the news also clouds Nelson’s long-term outlook. Labrum tears are among the most worrying injuries that a pitcher can suffer, as we discussed recently with regard to Angels right-hander Alex Meyer — who is expected to miss a full year of action. There is perhaps some added optimism here, McCalvy notes on Twitter, because the injury occurred to a different area of the labrum than is typically the case for tears caused by throwing.

Despite the unfortunate news, Nelson should take home a significant first-time arbitration salary after topping 170 innings in each of the past three seasons — and carrying a 3.49 ERA with 199 strikeouts in 2017. Of course, time missed in the season to come will reduce his ability to earn in the future, though at this point the focus will be on simply getting the 28-year-old back to full health.

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Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Latest On Michael Brantley]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103123 2017-09-20T20:22:04Z 2017-09-20T20:22:04Z The Indians have updated the medical situation of key outfielder Michael Brantley in a team announcement (via Jordan Bastian of MLB.com, on Twitter). While the door still seems at least theoretically open to a return at some point in the postseason, it’s now apparent that Brantley won’t make it back before the end of the regular season.

A recent examination revealed that Brantley has both a “deltoid ligament sprain” and “right ankle synovitis” — injuries which have kept him out since early August. He has been running on a specialized treadmill that keeps weight off of the lower extremities, but has yet to run on flat ground. Now, Brantley will rest for seven to ten days before he’s looked at again to see if he can begin to run.

Clearly, there’s no way Brantley will be cleared to play in a baseball game over the next ten days, meaning he’s not going to appear before the postseason. Presumably, he’ll require at least some ramp up time before the club would trust a postseason roster spot to him, too, making it seem quite unlikely that he’d be prepared to appear in the ALDS. Beyond that, should the club advance, it’s anyone’s guess.

The news means that the Indians won’t welcome back a key contributor as soon as had been hoped. Cleveland has played well without him — and that’s quite the understatement — but would no doubt prefer to plug in Brantley’s quality bat in left field. The loss stings all the more with youngster Bradley Zimmer also on the shelf.

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Steve Adams <![CDATA[AL Central Notes: Kinsler, Royals, Twins, Avisail]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103116 2017-09-20T19:52:58Z 2017-09-20T19:52:58Z Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler tells MLB.com’s Jon Morosi that he intends to sit down the general manager Al Avila in the next couple of days to discuss his future with the team (all Twitter links). The 35-year-old Kinsler says his willingness to waive his partial no-trade clause will be dependent on what Avila tells about the team’s planned offseason direction, as a return to the postseason is his priority. The Tigers appear to be dead-set on rebuilding, having traded the likes of Justin Verlander, Justin Upton, Justin Wilson, Alex Avila and Cameron Maybin in the past 10 months. Kinsler, then, stands out as one of the most obvious trade candidates of the offseason as he heads into the final year of his contract.

More from the American League Central…

  • Royals general manager Dayton Moore tells MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan that he’s prepared for many to second-guess the front office’s decision not to sell off short-term pieces at the trade deadline. “It’s a fair question,” said Moore, though he pointed to the Royals’ July surge as rationale for the moves. Indeed, as Flanagan points out, Kansas City was 2.5 games out of the division lead and was in possession of a Wild Card spot on July 30. Moore tells Flanagan that following the current season, the Royals will “do everything we can” to compete for wins in 2018 and for player acquisitions in the offseason. That doesn’t sound like the Royals are planning on any sort of rebuild with much of its core hitting the open market, though Moore likely wouldn’t tip his hand at this point even if that were the direction in which the Royals are leaning.
  • With the Twins in the thick of a Wild Card race, Michael Rand of the Minneapolis Star Tribune takes a look at the first season of work from new front-office tandem Derek Falvey and Thad Levine. Rand notes that the team’s show of faith in in-house young talent like Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler and Jose Berrios has proven to be shrewd, as as their emphasis on improving catcher defense and adding high-character veterans. The Twins, however, failed to sufficiently address the bullpen despite it being a clear point of need this winter, Rand opines, and the decision to tender lefty Hector Santiago for $8MM looks especially questionable with the benefit of hindsight.
  • White Sox outfielder/DH Avisail Garcia tells Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times that he hopes to remain with the club even through the rebuilding phase. The 26-year-old can become a free agent following the 2019 season and is in the midst of a breakout campaign, however, making him a fairly logical offseason trade candidate. Van Schouwen also spoke with ChiSox hitting coach Todd Steverson about Garcia’s improvements this season, getting his take on what has helped Garcia break out. Through 519 plate appearances, Garcia is hitting .333/.382/.504 with 17 homers, 23 doubles and four triples.
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Steve Adams <![CDATA[Blue Jays Extend Marco Estrada Through 2018]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103099 2017-09-20T18:32:25Z 2017-09-20T17:57:52Z It’s been previously reported on multiple occasions that the Blue Jays and right-hander Marco Estrada had mutual interest in a reunion, and that interest came to fruition on Wednesday. The 34-year-old Estrada, who was slated to hit free agency at season’s end, will instead forgo that opportunity in order to return to the Jays on a one-year, $13MM extension, the team announced. Estrada is represented by TWC Sports.

Marco Estrada | Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY SportsIt’s been an up-and-down season for Estrada, who stormed out of the gates with a 3.15 ERA, 10.2 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 through his first 11 starts before falling into a prolonged slump. Estrada would go on to yield 43 earned runs over his next 40 2/3 innings (nine starts) before once again largely righting the ship. In his past 11 outings, Estrada has turned in 3.74 ERA with 7.0 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9.

On the whole, Estrada’s ERA hasn’t fully recovered from the brutal stretch of starts spanning June to mid-July. He’s sitting on a 4.84 ERA with 8.7 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 1.48 HR/9 and a 29.7 percent ground-ball rate. That grounder rate is the lowest of his career — a dangerous pairing with his lofty HR/9 rate. However, Estrada’s 31 starts are already a career-high, and he seems likely to top his previous career-high of 181 innings in 2017 as well. That’s no small feat for a player that was slowed tremendously in 2016 by a herniated disk in his back.

Estrada will slot back into the starting five behind Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and J.A. Happ next season, as the Jays hope for better health from their rotation (specifically, Sanchez and Happ). There’s no clear in-house option for the fifth slot in the rotation, as righty Joe Biagini has struggled in his first chance as a big league starter. Prospect Ryan Borucki posted quality numbers across three minor league levels, and veteran Brett Anderson has looked sharp in four starts as he auditions for a 2018 job. If none of those options entice president Mark Shapiro and GM Ross Atkins, the Jays will have myriad options from which to choose on the offseason free-agent market and trade market.

It’s been a disappointing overall year for the Jays, who opened the season with just one win in their first 10 games and never fully recovered. However, despite their poor performance, the Blue Jays never seemed intent to listen to trade offers for anyone controlled beyond the 2017 season. While Josh Donaldson and J.A. Happ drew plenty of trade speculation, the Blue Jays indicated that their intent is to field a contending team in 2018. Their lone trades involved Francisco Liriano (whose contract they ate, along with that of Nori Aoki, in order to effectively purchase young outfielder Teoscar Hernandez from the Astros) and setup man Joe Smith — both impending free agents.

Estrada, like Liriano and Smith, was set to be a free agent following the season and was a speculative August trade candidate. However, the Jays were only three games out of the AL Wild Card race when Estrada was claimed off revocable trade waivers, and they ultimately pulled the righty back after the claiming team (reportedly the Yankees) was more interested in blocking other contending clubs from getting their hands on Estrada.

Certainly, the team may alter its contention-oriented trajectory in 2018 if it stumbles out of the gates and finds itself similarly out of the postseason picture come July. At that point, there’d be plenty of sense in aggressively shopping Donaldson, Happ and Estrada as well, assuming each is healthy and performing reasonably well. For the time being, however, the Estrada extension serves as further proof that Toronto won’t be looking to market Donaldson this offseason and will instead try to supplement its core with an eye toward returning to the postseason for the third time in four years.

Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported that the two sides were nearing the deal and then that an agreement had been reached, as well as the terms of the contract (all links via Twitter).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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Steve Adams <![CDATA[Giants Claim Pierce Johnson Off Waivers, Transfer Brandon Belt To 60-Day DL]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103117 2017-09-20T17:51:56Z 2017-09-20T17:51:56Z The Cubs announced to reporters that right-hander Pierce Johnson, who was designated for assignment last week, has been claimed off waivers by the Giants. The Giants have transferred first baseman Brandon Belt to the 60-day DL to clear a spot for Johnson, per Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area (Twitter link), which definitively puts an end to Belt’s 2017 season.

Now 26 years of age, Johnson once ranked as one of the Cubs’ very best pitching prospects and was considered the game’s No. 87 overall prospect by Baseball America in the 2013-14 offseason. The former No. 43 overall pick turned in a very strong 2.74 ERA with 9.4 K/9 against 3.3 BB/9 across two A-ball levels in 2013 in order to earn that distinction, but his star has faded since that time.

Johnson posted similarly strong ERA marks in both 2014 and 2015, but he struggled with control in ’14 and saw his strikeout rate drop drastically in ’15. The Cubs shifted him to the bullpen for much of the 2016 season in Triple-A Iowa, but Johnson responded with a 6.14 ERA and 6.1 BB/9 through 63 innings that year (albeit with a gaudy 10.7 K/9 rate).

The 2017 season was better, as Johnson pitched almost exclusively in a relief role and posted improvements in ERA (4.34 ERA), strikeout rate (12.3 K/9) and walk rate (4.5 BB/9). He has an option remaining beyond the 2017 season, so if the Giants carry him on the 40-man roster through the offseason, they’ll have the luxury of sending him to the minors during or after Spring Training without first needing to expose him to waivers.

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Steve Adams <![CDATA[Nationals Notes: Harper, Vuckovich, Romero]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103098 2017-09-20T13:44:48Z 2017-09-20T13:44:48Z Bryce Harper is slowly progressing toward a return to the Nationals, writes Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. Harper ran the bases lightly on Tuesday, fielded some grounders and also hit in a simulated game against Nationals minor leaguers Brigham Hill and Sterling Sharp (no, not that Sterling Sharpe). Both manager Dusty Baker and GM Mike Rizzo were cautiously optimistic about Harper’s progress, with the latter stating that it’s “conceivable” that the former NL MVP could return to the team before the conclusion of the regular season. Baker suggested that another simulated game could be in store for Harper this week, though the Nats will closely monitor how Harper responds to yesterday’s workout today. Janes also provides updates on Stephen Drew and Brian Goodwin, though neither appears as close to returning as Harper.

More on the Nats…

  • The Post’s Jorge Castillo, meanwhile, reports that the Nationals have hired former American League Cy Young winner Pete Vuckovich as a special assistant to general manager Mike Rizzo (Twitter link). Vuckovich has previously held special assistant roles in the Pirates’ front office and the Mariners’ front office, and Castillo notes that he’s spent the past couple of seasons working as a pro scout in the Diamondbacks organization. Vuckovich spent parts of 11 seasons pitching for the Brewers, Cardinals, White Sox and Blue Jays.
  • In a second column, Janes examines the Nationals’ selection of left-hander Seth Romero with the 25th overall pick in this year’s draft, noting that his off-field issues make the selection a departure from the norm for the team. Washington typically stays away from players with off-field issues, and Romero had plenty heading into the draft, having been kicked off the University of Houston team after receiving a pair of suspensions (the latter of the two, reportedly, for failing a drug test and being photographed in uniform holding a bong). Assistant GM Doug Harris, though, tells Janes that the Nats aren’t treating Romero any differently than the rest of their prospects. “He’s going to be given a chance like any other player to come in here and let us know who he is,” says Harris, later adding that Romero hasn’t had any issues in his first few months with the club. Romero himself tells Janes that he considers those problems to be behind him and is working to distance himself from that perception.
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Steve Adams <![CDATA[Cardinals Notes: Wainwright, Weaver, Wisdom]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103096 2017-09-20T01:59:08Z 2017-09-20T01:59:08Z The Cardinals announced on Tuesday that they’ve activated right-hander Adam Wainwright from the disabled list. The longtime St. Louis ace has been out since Aug. 17 due to an impingement in his right elbow. Wainwright is reportedly ticketed for a bullpen role upon his return from the disabled list, as the Cards will roll with Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn and young starters Luke Weaver and Jack Flaherty as their starting five through season’s end. The 36-year-old Wainwright has struggled for a consecutive season, following up last year’s 4.62 ERA with a 5.12 mark in just 121 1/3 innings. He’s signed through next season and will earn $19.5MM next year.

A bit more on the Cards…

  • Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch takes a lengthy look at the Cardinals’ use of cut fastballs over the past several years, dating back to Chris Carpenter’s emergence with an explosive cutter that transformed him into one of baseball’s best pitchers. Goold speaks with Wainwright, pitching coach Derek Lilliquist, manager Mike Matheny and others about the organization’s use of the cutter. Notably, Weaver tells Goold that he’s begun to experiment with the pitch and ultimately believes that a cutter will be an important part of his arsenal, but he’s not yet fully comfortable with the pitch. It’s an interesting look not only at the Cardinals’ usage of the pitch but also at the more general strengths and weaknesses of the pitch as well as its its usage rate throughout the years.
  • MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch tackles several Cardinals-related topics in her latest Inbox column, beginning with the omission of Triple-A slugger Patrick Wisdom from the team’s group of September call-ups. The 52nd overall pick in the 2012 draft, Wisdom showed significant power in Triple-A this year, hitting .243/.310/.507 with 31 homers and 25 doubles in 506 plate appearances. As Langosch points out, Wisdom will be Rule 5 eligible this offseason if the Cardinals don’t add him to the 40-man roster, thus making him available to 29 other clubs. The Cardinals haven’t had a significant need at the infield corners this year, however, limiting chances for Wisdom to get a look in the Majors. The Cardinals could, however, still include Wisdom among their final wave of September promotions now that the minor league season has come to a close.

[Related: St. Louis Cardinals depth chart and payroll outlook]

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Steve Adams <![CDATA[David Phelps Undergoes Elbow Surgery; Hisashi Iwakuma Has Structural Damage In Shoulder]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103093 2017-09-20T00:15:42Z 2017-09-20T00:15:42Z Mariners right-hander David Phelps recently underwent surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow, reports Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times (Twitter links). That procedure will come with a recovery time of six to eight weeks, per Divish, but he’s expected to be ready to go for Spring Training in 2018.

Unfortunately for the Mariners, there’s far more troublesome news surrounding the health of right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma. Evaluations on Iwakuma’s right shoulder have revealed some form of structural damage (more Twitter links from Divish), though the extent of the injury remains unclear at this time, as Iwakuma declined to specify the precise nature of his ailment. Iwakuma hopes to continue playing, but the 36-year-old will first need to ascertain the best course of treatment for his yet-unspecified injury.

Phelps, 31 next month, was acquired from the Mariners earlier this summer in exchange for a package of four prospects headlined with outfielder Brayan Hernandez. The former Yankees swingman broke out with the Marlins in a high-leverage, late-inning role in 2016 and carried that success over into his brief tenure in the Seattle bullpen this year. Phelps worked to a 3.12 ERA with 11 strikeouts against four unintentional walks through 8 2/3 innings in the Mariners’ pen before ultimately being shut down for the year. He’s arbitration-eligible this winter, so he should be a key piece for the 2018 Mariners.

Iwakuma’s future, obviously, is far murkier. The Mariners hold a $10MM club option over former All-Star, though with structural damage in his right shoulder it seems all but certain that Iwakuma will instead be bought out for $1MM. Iwakuma has spent his entire Major League career in a Mariners uniform and returned to the team as a free agent following the 2015 season. While his first year back with the club resulted in 199 innings of solid 4.12 ERA ball, he’s been limited to just 31 innings in 2017 and hasn’t pitched since May 3.

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Jeff Todd <![CDATA[AL East Notes: Orioles, Bundy, Blue Jays, Red Sox]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=103081 2017-09-19T22:02:44Z 2017-09-19T22:02:44Z Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com analyzes the Orioles’ use of their minor-league system in recent years. The club has increasingly drawn upon players right out of Double-A Bowie, notes Kubatko, and it seems that’s somewhat by design. Skipper Buck Showalter says that top affiliates are increasingly utilized “almost like major-league taxi squads,” not as steps on the ladder to the majors. While every player’s situation must be handled on its own merits, says Showalter, the club is obviously generally comfortable with moving talented players right past the Triple-A level.

Here’s more on the O’s and their division…

  • The Orioles, like other teams, have plenty of players on hand. But the club doesn’t seem to have much inclination to back off of righty Dylan Bundy, as Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun reports. Though he has had significant past health problems and is already 60 innings past his prior career-high from a year ago, Showalter says the key hurler is feeling good and throwing well. Though Bundy’s last two starts have ended poorly and the O’s are all but buried in the postseason race, the skipper says it’s “not at that point yet” where Bundy needs to be shut down for the rest of the year.
  • There’ll be plenty of roster needs for the Blue Jays to address this offseason. As Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca writes, the bullpen will be no exception, though manager John Gibbons says he feels good about the unit as a whole with the season winding down. That includes some optionable arms, as Nicholson-Smith explains in ticking through the hurlers on hand. Among them is Dominic Leone, who spent fewer than 20 days in the minors this year (despite being optioned on four separate occasions) and therefore will come with another option season for the 2018 season.
  • The Red Sox don’t have many important players slated to hit free agency next year, but veterans Eduardo Nunez and Mitch Moreland are among those on the cusp of the open market. Both say they’d like to return to Boston, however. For Nunez, as Rob Bradford of WEEI.com writes, settling in with the Sox has been easy. It’s not clear, though, whether there’ll be enough playing time to warrant pursuit of a player who’ll be in some demand. Chris Mason of CNHI Sports Boston writes about Moreland’s case. The first bagger says he has “loved it” with the Red Sox, though he’s focused on the season at the moment. Unsurprisingly, the sides haven’t discussed a new contract.
  • While bullpens have long plagued teams constructed by president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, it seems he has built a compelling unit this year with the Red Sox, as Evan Drellich of CSNNE.com writes. While everything hasn’t worked out as hoped, at least not initially, the Sox have kept moving forward and have now compiled a strong group as the club nears an AL East crown.
  • One possible piece of the Red Sox relief core, long-time starter David Price, figures to be one of the most closely watched players of the postseason. As Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes, while there have been some issues during Price’s tenure, he still has the support of the clubhouse. The veteran hurler could play a fascinating role in Boston’s hopeful march through the postseason.
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