- Royals southpaw Danny Duffy will begin a rehab stint at the Double-A level Sunday, Lynn Worthy of the Kansas City Star relays. A left hamstring strain has kept Duffy out of action since Aug. 3, when Minnesota lit him up for nine runs (eight earned) and four homers across 4 2/3 innings. This has been the second disappointing season in a row for Duffy, who has only managed a 4.93 ERA/5.13 FIP in 100 1/3 frames.
- Danny Duffy “felt good” after tossing a 65-pitch simulated game on Tuesday, the Royals southpaw told Lynn Worthy of the Kansas City Star and other reporters. Depending on how Duffy feels today, K.C. could activate him from the injured list or potentially get him into another sim game before he returns to the active roster. Since Duffy noted that he only started jogging on Monday and “probably the most I’ve ran was at 80 percent,” he and the team could decide to wait a bit longer before an activation. Duffy’s IL placement retroactively dates back to August 4, as the veteran left-hander is recovering from a left hamstring strain.
We’ll use this post to track the latest minor transactions from around baseball…
- The Royals have agreed to a deal with left-handed pitcher Jake Brentz, per Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com. After he was released by the Pirates, he’ll now be assigned to Double-A with his new organization. Brentz, 24, has had success at that level this season, with a solid 0.77 ERA while striking out 13 batters in 11 2/3 innings. However, the jump to Triple-A has given the former 11th-round draft choice this year, as he’s managed just a 5.55 ERA in 27 games. On the bright side, he has maintained good strikeout numbers, averaging 10.3 K’s per nine innings pitched.
Although the White Sox and first baseman Jose Abreu have made their affinity for one another known on many occasions, the club reportedly won’t offer the pending free agent a contract extension this season. Nevertheless, Abreu once again made it clear Monday his mission is to re-sign with the White Sox, as Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times relays. Asked if he’s confident a new deal will come together, Abreu declared: “Of course. Like I said before, if the team doesn’t sign me, I’m going to sign myself here.” Chicago’s on its way to its 11th straight season without a playoff berth, and the club has never even finished .500 since Abreu joined the fray entering 2014. But the 32-year-old explained to Van Schouwen the team’s capable of contending as early as 2020, expressing confidence that “the front office is going to make the move that will be the right move for us to move forward and to get to that final phase of this process.”
- As with Chicago and Abreu, there’s a great deal of fondness between the Royals and outfielder Alex Gordon. General manager Dayton Moore stated back in June he “couldn’t imagine” Gordon playing anywhere else. The soon-to-be 36-year-old took a similar tone over the weekend, telling Matt Ehalt of Yahoo Sports it’s KC or bust in 2020. “I’m not going to play anywhere else,” Gordon said. “If I play, it’s going to be for the Royals.” If Gordon does continue next season, he and the Royals will have to work out a new arrangement, as the team’s sure to decline its half of a $23MM mutual option in favor of a $4MM buyout.
- The Cardinals will recall center fielder Harrison Bader from Triple-A Memphis on Tuesday and option outfielder Randy Arozarena, per Stu Durando and Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Manager Mike Shildt noted the Cardinals are “super proud” of Bader for the way he handled himself in the wake of his July 29 demotion. Bader had been a staple in St. Louis’ lineup for most of the year until the club sent him down, but he’s coming back as a result of a dominant offensive showing in the minors. Meanwhile, fellow Cardinals outfielder Tyler O’Neill could start a rehab assignment with Memphis later in the week, according to Durando and Hummel. O’Neill has been on the IL since Aug. 3 with a left wrist strain.
- High-end Twins pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol leveled up over the weekend, moving from Double-A Pensacola to Triple-A Rochester. The 20-year-old right-hander is now on the doorstep of the majors, but that doesn’t mean he’ll get there this season, GM Thad Levine told Phil Miller of the Star Tribune. On the subject of a possible late-2019 major league call-up for Graterol, Levine said: “That idea may have been a little overstated. We’re not going to force anything. We would only promote someone if we thought he could genuinely contribute, [and that decision] has certainly not been made.” Graterol’s capable of pumping triple-digit heat, which ideally will help make him a prominent piece of the Twins’ bullpen into the fall.
The Braves have claimed outfielder Billy Hamilton off waivers from the Royals, per a club announcement. The Atlanta organization will be responsible for the remainder of Hamilton’s $4.25MM salary along with a $1MM buyout on a mutual option.
It’s a fairly significant price to pay, but understandable under the circumstances. The Braves have lost their two best left-handed-hitting outfield options, Nick Markakis and Ender Inciarte, to injuries that may not heal by the end of the season. Lacking the ability to strike a trade for a MLB contract, the club had limited avenues for acquiring a replacement. The
As we noted when Inciarte’s injury arose, Hamilton is in the same general sub-category of player. Both are speedy, defensive-oriented center fielders who hit from the left side. If Inciarte is something of an archetype, Hamilton is an extreme version of the class. Hamilton has been an exceedingly valuable fielder and baserunner, though he has minimal power and has rarely reached base at palatable rates.
This year, Hamilton’s bat has sunk even further. At the time of his departure from the K.C. roster, he had produced 305 plate appearances of 44 wRC+ output. He’s still valued as an excellent defender and baserunner, though there has been a bit of erosion in Hamilton’s most notable physical skill. By measure of Statcast, his sprint speed has fallen from a 99+ percentile placement in recent years to the 97.5th percentile this season.
While Hamilton hasn’t been at his best in 2019, he ought to help shore things up down the stretch. And he’s a fascinating postseason roster piece as a potential late-inning pinch runner and/or defensive replacement. That’s arguably worth a premium to a team that’s all but assured of a postseason appearance. As we discussed in profiling some August waiver claim candidates, the Braves can perhaps afford to splurge on a needed addition given that they were bailed out of the remainder of their obligations to Kevin Gausman.
Hamilton has long seemed a candidate to change uniforms — ever since he was signed over the offseason, in fact. The rebuilding Kansas City organization inked him for a guaranteed $5.25MM (including a $1MM buyout on a 2020 mutual option) after the Reds non-tendered Hamilton to send him onto the open market.
The 28-year-old Hamilton has never delivered much with the bat, but he’s finding new lows in 2019. Through 305 plate appearances, he’s slashing a meager .211/.275/.269. It’s hard to carry any player on the roster with that kind of offensive output, which is worse than half the league-average hitter (44 wRC+).
Baserunning and defense have long allowed Hamilton to make up for his shortcomings at the plate. But Hamilton isn’t running as often or as well when he does get aboard. The renowned base-stealer has only taken 18 bags, while being cut down five times. Statcast identifies a relatively small but still notable reduction in his sprint speed; Fangraphs’ BsR measure identifies him as a very good but not uniquely exceptional overall baserunner. Defensive metrics do remain quite positive, which remains a strong feather in Hamilton’s cap.
It will be interesting to see what happens with Hamilton. The contract is rather steep for a player that won’t likely feature as more than a 4th or 5th outfielder for a contender. But it’s also fascinating to contemplate what the speedster could do down the stretch and on a postseason roster. If some team decides it really wants to have him, and doesn’t want to risk Hamilton choosing another organization, it’s certainly possible we’ll see a claim.
Meanwhile, the move will open the door for the Royals to get their first look at Phillips in the majors this year. He is still swinging and missing quite a bit this season at Triple-A, as he has since landing with the Milwaukee organization, but he has ramped his walk rate up to 17.4% while delivering good power numbers (.264 ISO, .505 SLG).
Seven years after leaving Cuba for a $30MM guarantee with the Cubs, former star prospect Jorge Soler is enjoying his best major league season yet. Now a member of the Royals, Soler has smashed seven home runs in nine games this month, giving him 35 on the season. Soler, the owner of an overall .259/.344/.555 line in 498 plate appearances, spoke about his 2019 success Sunday, saying (via Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com): “The only thing I have thought about was I was traded for a big-time pitcher and I wanted to live up to those expectations. I didn’t do it at the beginning. But I want to thank the organization for believing in me, for trading for me with and giving up that caliber of a player [in Davis]. There’s a weight off my shoulders now because I’ve finally lived up to those expectations.”
Then-standout closer Wade Davis was the “big-time pitcher” the Royals traded to the Cubs for Soler in a December 2016 swap. Soler then endured a miserable first year with the Royals, who kept him in the minors most of the season, but has logged quality offensive production since. Consequently, as Flanagan notes, the 27-year-old is sure to opt into arbitration after the season. Doing so will enable Soler to collect a raise over the $4MM salary he’s currently slated to earn in 2020. That’ll be the ninth and final season of his contract.
- The Royals released 23-year-old first baseman Samir Duenez from their Triple-A club, Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com reports (via Twitter). Duenez ranked as Kansas City’s No. 13 prospect, per Baseball America, as recently as the 2017-18 offseason. However, he’s endured a miserable season at the plate in 2019, batting a combined .199/.261/.307 in 361 plate appearances between Double-A and Triple-A. BA’s 2017-18 report on him tabbed him as a potential “impact power bat” with average glovework at first base and below-average speed. That outlook has clearly become more clouded with Duenez’s recent struggles, though as a 23-year-old who posted solid Double-A numbers in 2018 (when he was still rather young for the Texas League), he’ll likely find another opportunity elsewhere.
Dini, who just turned 26, is a former 14th-round draft pick who stands at just 5’8. He has mostly flown under the prospect radar while steadily moving up the ladder. Dini has a history of strong batting averages (.288 career), low strikeout rates (13.6%), and even a bit of speed (29 career steals).
Given a shot this year at Triple-A, Dini has made the most of his opportunities this season. Even given the Pacific Coast League’s offensive context, he has impressed offensively with a .296/.370/.565 batting line (119 wRC+). Dini has swatted 13 home runs, swiped seven bags, and turned in a strong 29:21 K/BB ratio over 213 plate appearances.
It seems that Dini will have a chance to turn into a reasonably capable offensive backstop. His defensive acumen isn’t really evident from public reports, though there is video evidence of a nice back pick last spring.
For the Royals, this is the latest move in a season-long effort to fill in for injured stalwart Salvador Perez. Having traded away Martin Maldonado, the club is cycling through much less established options. Meibrys Viloria and Cam Gallagher have been handling the position of late, but the latter recently came down with an injury that may require a stint on the injured list. The club just acquired Adam Moore, bolstering an organizational depth chart that also includes another player with MLB experience in Andrew Susac.