Los Angeles Dodgers – MLB Trade Rumors 2018-09-19T04:38:57Z https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/feed/atom WordPress Jason Martinez <![CDATA[The Top Minor League Performers Of 2018]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=132681 2018-09-19T01:00:00Z 2018-09-18T23:15:05Z Over at Roster Resource, I rank Minor Leaguers throughout the regular season using a formula that takes into account several statistics with age and level serving as important factors in how they are weighed. These are not prospect rankings!

This is how it works:

  • Hitters are mostly rated by total hits, outs, extra-base hits, walks, strikeouts and stolen bases.
  • Pitchers are mostly rated by strikeouts, walks, earned runs, home runs and hits allowed per inning.
  • A few counting stats are included (IP, plate appearances, runs, RBI) to ensure that the players atop the list played a majority of the season.
  • The younger the player and the higher the level, the more weight each category is given. Therefore, a 19-year-old with an identical stat line as a 25-year-old at the same level will be ranked much higher. If a 23-year-old in Triple-A puts up an identical stat line as a 23-year-old in High-A, the player in Triple-A would be ranked much higher.

A player’s potential does not factor in to where they are ranked. If you’re wondering why a certain prospect who is rated highly by experts isn’t on the list, it’s likely because they missed time due to injury (see Victor Robles or Nick Senzel), MLB promotion (Juan Soto) or just weren’t productive enough. While there are plenty of recognizable names throughout the MiLB Power Rankings Top 200 list, it’s also full of players who were relatively unknown prior to the season and have seen their stock rise significantly due to their performance. Here’s a closer look at the Top 20.

1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, Toronto Blue Jays Blue Jays Depth Chart

Guerrero probably deserved to start his MLB career sometime between the debuts of NL Rookie of the Year candidates Ronald Acuña Jr. (April 25th) and Juan Soto (May 20th). All things being equal, that would’ve been the case.

But his call-up was delayed, mostly because third baseman Josh Donaldson was healthy in May and designated hitter Kendrys Morales was being given every opportunity to break out of an early season slump. As Guerrero’s path to regular playing time was becoming clearer, he suffered a knee injury in early June that kept him out of action for a month. When he returned, the Jays’ playoff chances had dwindled. Instead of adding him to the 40-man roster and starting his service time clock, they chose to delay his MLB debut until 2019.

You can hate the rule, but I’m certain Jays fans would rather have Guerrero under team control in 2025 as opposed to having him on the team for a few meaningless months in 2018 and headed for free agency after the 2024 season. And maybe it’s just me, but I kind of enjoy seeing what kind of numbers a player can put up when he’s way too good for his competition. And all this 19-year-old kid did was slash .381/.437/.636 with 20 HR, 29 2B, 37 BB, 38 K in 408 plate appearances, mostly between Triple-A and Double-A (he had 14 PAs during a rehab stint in the low minors).  Thanks for providing us with that beautiful stat line, Vlad Jr.

2. Kyle Tucker, OF, Houston Astros Astros Depth Chart

Despite a slow start—he had 21 hits in his first 83 Triple-A at-bats with one homer and 20 strikeouts— the 21-year-old Tucker showed why the World Champions were willing to give him a chance to take their starting left field job and run with it in July.

Tucker wasn’t quite ready for the Big Leagues—he was 8-for-52 in two separate MLB stints prior to a recent third call-up—but his stock hasn’t dropped one bit after slashing .332/.400/.590 with 24 homers, 27 doubles and 20 stolen bases over 465 plate appearances in his first season at the Triple-A level.

3. Luis Rengifo, SS, Los Angeles Angels Angels Depth Chart

A 21-year-old shortstop just finished a Minor League season with 50 extra-base hits (7 HR, 30 2B, 13 3B), 41 stolen bases, as many walks as strikeouts (75 of each) and a .299/.399/.452 slash line. If the name Luis Rengifo doesn’t ring a bell, you’re probably not alone. He kind of came out of nowhere.

The Mariners traded him to the Rays last August in a deal for Mike Marjama and Ryan Garton. Nine months later, the Rays shipped him to the Angels as the PTBNL in the deal for C.J. Cron. Based on those two trades, I can say without hesitation that the Mariners and Rays did not think Rengifo was this good. Not even close.

4. Nathaniel Lowe, 1B, Tampa Bay Rays Rays Depth Chart

Lowe’s breakout season mirrors Juan Soto’s in one way: They both posted an OPS above 1.000 at two different levels before a promotion to a third. Soto’s third stop was in Double-A, and it was a very short stint before heading to the Majors. After destroying High-A and Double-A pitching, Lowe’s final stop of 2018 was Triple-A, where he finally cooled off.

Still, the 23-year-old has put himself squarely on the Rays’ radar. After homering just 11 times in his first 757 plate appearances, all in the low minors, Lowe broke out with 27 homers and 32 doubles in 555 plate appearances in 2018. His overall .330/.416/.568 slash was exceptional.

5. Alex Kirilloff, OF, Minnesota Twins | Twins Depth Chart

We’re four seasons into the Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano era—both debuted during the 2015 season—and we can’t say for certain whether either player will even be penciled into the regular lineup in 2019. They could be still turn out to be perennial All-Stars someday. But you can’t blame Twins fans if they temper their expectations for the next great hitting star to come up through their farm system. And yet, that might be difficult with Kirilloff, a first-round draft pick in ’16, and last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Royce Lewis, after the year each of them just had. Both are moving up the ladder quickly.

The 20-year-old Kirilloff, who missed all of last season recovering from Tommy John surgery, was a hitting machine in his first full professional season. After slashing .333/.391/.607 with 13 homers in 65 games with Low-A Cedar Rapids, he hit .362 with seven homers and 24 doubles in 65 games with High-A Fort Myers. He also had 11 hits in the playoffs, including a 5-hit performance on September 5th.

6. Bo Bichette, SS, Toronto Blue Jays Blue Jays Depth Chart

All Bichette did during his age-20 season was hit 43 doubles and steal 32 bases while manning shortstop for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, the 2018 Eastern League Champions. It’s unlikely that he’ll join Vlad Jr. in the Majors early next season, but he might not be too far behind.

7. Peter Alonso, 1B, New York Mets Mets Depth Chart

Alonso’s monster season (.975 OPS, 36 HR, 31 2B, 119 RBI between AAA/AA) ended in disappointment when he was passed over for a September promotion. As was the case with Vlad Jr., it didn’t make much sense to start his service time clock and fill a valuable 40-man spot during the offseason—neither Guerrero or Alonso have to be protected from the next Rule 5 draft—while the team is playing meaningless games. The 23-year-old Alonso did establish, however, that he is the Mets’ first baseman of the very near future, and they’ll plan accordingly during the upcoming offseason.

8. Touki Toussaint, SP, Atlanta Braves Braves Depth Chart

As tough as it will be to crack the Braves’ rotation in the coming years, the 22-year-old Toussaint has put himself in position to play a significant role in 2019 after posting a 2.38 ERA and 10.8 K/9 in 24 starts between Triple-A and Double-A. He’s also starting meaningful MLB games down the stretch as the Braves try to seal their first division title since 2013. After spending last October in the Arizona Fall League, where he followed up an underwhelming 2017 season by allowing 10 earned runs in 8 2/3 innings, he could find himself on the Braves’ playoff roster.

9. Vidal Brujan, 2B, Tampa Bay Rays Rays Depth Chart

The highest-ranked player to spend the entire season in Low-A, the 20-year-old Brujan slashed .320/.403/.459 while stealing 55 bases in his first crack at a full season league (27 games in High-A; 95 games in Low-A). He’ll still be overshadowed a bit in a deep Tampa Bay farm system that includes two of the best young prospects in the game, Wander Franco and Jesus Sanchez, but it’s hard to ignore such a rare combination of speed and on-base ability displayed by a switch-hitting middle infielder.

10. Michael King, SP, New York Yankees Yankees Depth Chart

The Yankees’ offseason trade that sent two MLB-ready players, Garrett Cooper and Caleb Smith, to the Marlins cleared a pair of 40-man roster spots prior to the Rule 5 draft and brought back $250K in international bonus pool money. They also received King, who—whether anyone expected it or not—was about to have a breakout season.

After posting a 3.14 ERA with a 6.4 K/9 over 149 innings in Low-A in his age-22 season, numbers that typically indicate “possible future back-of-the-rotation workhorse,”  he looks to be much more than that after his 2018 performance. In 161 1/3 innings across Triple-A, Double-A and High-A, King posted a 1.79 ERA, 0.911 WHIP and 8.5 K/9. He was at his best once he reached Triple-A, posting a 1.15 ERA with only 20 hits and six walks allowed over 39 innings.

11. Taylor Widener, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks Diamondbacks Depth Chart

Unlike the trade to acquire King, the Yankees appear to have gotten the short end of the stick in a three-team, seven-player offseason deal with Arizona and Tampa Bay. They traded away Nick Solak to the Rays and Widener to the Diamondbacks in exchange for Brandon Drury, who was supposed to fill a short-term need for infield depth.

While Drury was a bust in New York—he had nine hits in 51 at-bats before being traded to Toronto in a July deal for J.A. Happ—Solak, a second baseman/outfielder, put up terrific numbers in Double-A (.834 OPS, 19 HR, 21 SB) and Widener has emerged as one of the better pitching prospects in the game. The 23-year-old right-hander posted a 2.75 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 11.5 K/9 over 137 1/6 innings with Double-A Jackson.

12. Josh Naylor, 1B/OF, San Diego Padres Padres Depth Chart

The offseason signing of first baseman Eric Hosmer certainly didn’t bode well for Naylor’s future with the Padres. Whether he had an MLB future at all, however, was already in question. First base prospects can’t just be good hitters. They need to mash, which is far from what Naylor did in 2017 (.761 OPS, 10 HR between Double-A and High-A). But a 20-year-old holding his own in Double-A is still interesting, nevertheless. So it was worth paying attention when he hit .379 with seven homers, five doubles, 13 walks and 12 strikeouts in April. He also spent most of his time in left field in 2018, adding a bit of versatility to his game.

Although April was his best month, by far, he still finished with an impressive .297/.383/.447 slash line. He’ll enter 2019 as a 21-year-old in Triple-A who has flashed some power (17 HR, 22 2B in 574 plate appearances) and above-average plate discipline (64 BB, 69 K).

13. Eloy Jimenez, OF, Chicago White Sox White Sox Depth Chart

Unlike the Jays and Mets, who had multiple reasons to keep Guerrero and Alonso in the Minors until 2019, the Sox’s decision to bypass Jimenez for a September call-up was more questionable.

Already on the 40-man roster and without much to prove after slashing .337/.384/.577 with 22 homers and 28 doubles between Triple-A and Double-A, Jimenez’s MLB debut appeared imminent as September approached. But White Sox general manager Rick Hahn, citing Jimenez’s need to improve his defense, confirmed in early September that he would not be called up. Of course, the 21-year-old probably would’ve benefited greatly from playing left field in the Majors for 20-25 games in September. And, of course, Hahn is just doing a good job of not saying the quiet part out loud: Eloy under team control through 2025 > Eloy under team control through 2024.

14. Dean Kremer, SP, Baltimore Orioles Orioles Depth Chart

After posting a 5.18 ERA in 2017, mostly as a relief pitcher in High-A, Kremer’s stock rose quickly with a full-time move to the starting rotation in 2018. In 16 starts for High-A Rancho Cucamonga, the 22-year-old right-hander posted a 3.30 ERA with a 13.0 K/9. After tossing seven shutout innings in his Double-A debut, the Dodgers included him as a key piece in the July trade for Manny Machado. Kremer continued to pitch well with Double-A Bowie (2.58 ERA, 45 1/3 IP, 38 H, 17 BB, 53 K) and now finds himself on track to help a rebuilding Orioles’ team in 2019.

15. Nicky Lopez, SS, Kansas City Royals Royals Depth Chart

Lopez started to turn some heads during last offseason’s Arizona Fall League, and it carried over into 2018 as he slashed .308/.382/.417 with nine homers, 15 stolen bases and more walks (60) than strikeouts (52) between Triple-A and Double-A.  It’s a sign that the 23-year-0ld’s bat is catching up with his stellar defense and that he’s closing in on the Majors, where he could team with Adalberto Mondesi to form one of the better young middle infield duos in the game.

16. Royce Lewis, SS, Minnesota Twins Twins Depth Chart

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft didn’t disappoint in his first full professional season, posting an .853 OPS, nine homers, 23 doubles and 22 stolen bases in 75 Low-A games before a 2nd half promotion to High-A Fort Myers. He didn’t fare quite as well (.726 OPS, 5 HR, 6 SB in 46 games), but he did hit three homers in the playoffs to help his team win the Florida State League championship. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the if he reached Double-A early next season as a 19-year-old with a jump to the Majors in 2020 not out of the question.

17. Michael Kopech, SP, Chicago White Sox White Sox Depth Chart

Throwing a 100 MPH fastball isn’t as rare as it used to be, but Kopech has reportedly touched 105 MPH, putting him in a class of his own. Unfortunately, the 22-year-old right-hander is expected to join a long list of pitchers who have had their careers interrupted by Tommy John surgery after he was recently diagnosed with a torn UCL.

The timing isn’t great, as Kopech had just arrived in the Majors in late August and would’ve likely been a leading candidate for AL Rookie of the Year in 2019. Still, he’ll only have to prove that he’s back to full health before he returns to the Majors—he should be ready to return early in the 2020 season— after making a strong impression in Triple-A with a 3.70 ERA and 12.1 K/9 in 24 starts.

18. Kevin Smith, SS, Toronto Blue Jays Blue Jays Depth Chart

Not only do Guerrero, Bichette and Cavan Biggio likely form the best trio of infield prospects in the game, two are sons of Hall of Famers—Vladimir Guerrero Sr. and Craig Biggio, and Bichette’s dad, Dante, was also pretty good. And yet, another Blue Jays infield prospect with a very ordinary name and without MLB lineage managed to stand out. The 22-year-old finished the season with 25 homers, 31 doubles, 29 stolen bases and a cumulative .302/.358/.528 batting line between High-A and Low-A.

19. Gavin Lux, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers Dodgers Depth Chart

The former first-round pick wasn’t overly impressive in his first full Minor League season in 2017, slashing .244/.331/.362 with seven homers and 27 stolen bases for Low-A Great Lakes. A move to the hitter-friendly California League in 2018, however, seemed sure to give his offensive numbers a boost. It did. Lux had a .916 OPS and 41 extra-base hits in 404 plate appearances, but he also didn’t slow down once he reached the upper minors late in the year.

In 28 regular season games with Double-A Tulsa, the 20-year-old Lux slashed .324/.408/.495 with four homers in 120 plate appearances. It didn’t end there. Over an eight-game playoff run, the left-handed batter went 14-for-33 with five multi-hit games.

20. Patrick Sandoval, SP, Los Angeles Angels Angels Depth Chart

Acquiring the 21-year-old Sandoval from the Astros for free agent-to-be catcher Martin Maldonado could turn out to be the steal of the trade deadline. While the lefty didn’t stand out in Houston’s deep farm system, he was having a strong season at the High-A and Low-A levels at the time of the trade (2.56 ERA and 9.9 K/9 in 88 innings). The change of scenery didn’t affect him one bit as he tossed 14 2/3 shutout innings in the California League before finishing the season with four impressive Double-A starts (19 2/3 IP, 3 ER, 27 K).

Power Ranking Leaders By Level

Hitter: Kyle Tucker, OF, Houston Astros
Starting Pitcher: Michael Kopech, Chicago White Sox
Relief Pitcher: Ian Gibaut, Tampa Bay Rays

Hitter: Bo Bichette, Toronto Blue Jays
Starting Pitcher: Taylor Widener, Arizona Diamondbacks
Relief Pitcher: Matt Pierpont, Colorado Rockies

Hitter: Colton Welker, Colorado Rockies
Pitcher: Emilio Vargas, Arizona Diamondbacks

Hitter: Chavez Young, Toronto Blue Jays
Pitcher: Jhonathan Diaz, Boston Red Sox

Short-Season A
Hitter: Tyler Freeman, Cleveland Indians
Pitcher: Jaison Vilera, New York Mets

Hitter: Wander Franco, Tampa Bay Rays
Pitcher: Joey Cantillo, San Diego Padres

Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Dodgers Activate Trio Of Relievers]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=132981 2018-09-18T05:17:46Z 2018-09-18T00:03:34Z The Dodgers have activated a trio of relievers to augment their bullpen down the stretch. Lefty Tony Cingrani and righties John Axford and Yimi Garcia will all head onto the active roster, as Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times tweets.

Though the Los Angeles bullpen has actually been quite good of late as a unit, it had some notable struggles before that point and still features a fair bit of uncertainty. With work still to be done to reach the postseason, and playoff roster spots potentially at stake thereafter, the returnees will be most welcome.

In particular, Cingrani looks to be an intriguing (re-) addition to the relief unit. The southpaw has only a 4.84 ERA in his 22 1/3 innings, but has compiled an impressive 36:6 K/BB ratio. He also owns a career-high 13.9% swinging-strike rate, carrying over the leap he exhibited in 2017.

As for Axford, a summer trade pick-up, his first game with his new club was a complete mess but he came back for two effective appearances thereafter. Unfortunately, he has been on the shelf now for over a month. But there were obviously reasons that the Dodgers targeted him — his still-speedy heater and typically hefty groundball numbers perhaps chief among them — so the club still has cause to hope they’ll get some value.

As for Garcia, he had been on optional assignment after struggling with injuries and performance for much of the season. The 28-year-old has still not gotten back to the impressive form he showed as a rookie way back in 2015, with health problems — in particular, Tommy John surgery — limiting him to just 44 1/3 professional innings since that campaign. Garcia has thrown 17 2/3 minor-league frames without allowing a walk and while recording 18 strikeouts this year.

All of these hurlers will be pitching for their own benefit as well, of course. Cingrani and Garcia are both eligible for arbitration. For the former, padding his innings totals will help boost his payday; for the latter, it’s still unclear whether he’ll be tendered, though cost won’t be a factor since he’ll be extremely affordable. As for Axford, who’ll return to free agency at season’s end, his showing will be of particular importance.

Steve Adams <![CDATA[NL West Notes: Dozier, Belt, Diamondbacks, Black]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=132917 2018-09-16T14:56:57Z 2018-09-16T14:56:57Z Brian Dozier, mired in a dreadful slump after a hot first week with the Dodgers, spoke to Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register about those struggles. Dozier played through a bone bruise in his knee earlier this season, and while he said the knee “feels great” now, he acknowledged that he developed some bad habits at the plate while trying to compensate for it at the time. The 31-year-old Dozier added that he doesn’t believe playing primarily in a platoon capacity has had an adverse impact on him. (The Dodgers’ constant lineup fluctuations based on matchups has been a source of frustration for many of their fans.) Dozier will be a free agent at season’s end, but the .218/.306/.391 slash he’s carrying isn’t likely to do him any favors — particularly when he’ll be heading into his age-32 season next year.

More from the division…

  • Brandon Belt underwent an MRI on his ailing knee, but the Giants aren’t planning to shut him down for the remainder of the season, tweets Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. Belt is considered day-to-day for the time being, but he’ll start more games before season’s end. It’s been a disastrous summer for Belt — and, really, for most of the Giants’ offense — as his production has cratered after soaring to career-best levels in the season’s first half. Belt, 30, posted a ridiculous .307/.403/.547 batting line through June 1 before landing on the disabled list due to a bout of appendicitis. He never seemed to recover his footing after that, as he’s floundered at a miserable .203/.283/.290 pace since returning. Belt also missed a bit more than two weeks due to a hyperextended knee in late July and early August.
  • Clay Buchholz, whose season ended yesterday due to a flexor mass strain, tells Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic that he’d love to return to the Diamondbacks, but there have yet to be any discussions about a new contract between the two sides. Piecoro also chatted with Astros third baseman Alex Bregman, whom the Diamondbacks passed over in favor of Dansby Swanson back in the 2015 Draft. Bregman said he was thrilled to go to the Astros with the No. 2 overall pick but admitted that part of him was also “pissed,” because he’d hoped to be the top overall selection in the draft. He also relayed a story from the 2012 draft, when Arizona showed interest in him as a late first-rounder but instead drafted catcher Stryker Trahan. Arizona called him to see if he’d sign as a second-rounder, but Bregman informed the team he planned on attending college at Louisiana State University.
  • In a fun Sunday-morning read, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post walks through a typical day in the life of Rockies manager Bud Black during the team’s pennant race — covering everything from an early radio appearance to lineup planning, pre-game media sessions, in-game decisions and post-game work and rituals. Saunders also chats with catcher Chris Iannetta and lefty Kyle Freeland about Black’s managerial style and his teaching methods. “Buddy has a laid-back style, but even though it’s laid back, I wouldn’t say it’s relaxed,” says Iannetta of Black — his fifth big league manager. “…I think it’s the sign of a good manager when he knows when to be hands-on and when to take his hands off.” It’s obviously an extra-appealing read for Rox fans, though fans of any club will still appreciate the detailed look at the day-to-day operations of a big league skipper.
Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Rosenthal On Dave Roberts' Future]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=132872 2018-09-16T01:59:12Z 2018-09-16T01:59:12Z
  • Dodgers manager Dave Roberts will reportedly return next year, though Rosenthal cautions that the skipper’s future is uncertain. While the 46-year-old Roberts has a club option for 2019, the Dodgers haven’t made a decision on it yet, and Rosenthal reports they’d like to hold off discussing his contract until after the season. But if the Dodgers don’t make a call on Roberts’ fate soon, they could put themselves at risk of losing him in the coming weeks, suggests Rosenthal, who says that “a large number” of managerial jobs might open up around the league. If so, Roberts could bolt for one of those positions or use any of them for leverage in order to get a better offer from the Dodgers. Roberts, who’s in his third year in LA, has helped the team to a 276-196 record with two division titles and an NL pennant.

  • ]]>
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[X-Rays Negative On Justin Turner After HBP]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=132866 2018-09-15T22:22:29Z 2018-09-15T22:22:29Z Justin Turner and the Dodgers received a scare when the star third baseman was hit on his left hand and wrist area by a pitch in the third inning of today’s 17-4 win over the Cardinals.  Fortunately for all parties, Turner remained in the game until the eighth inning, when he was removed just because the Dodgers had their big lead.  Turner missed the first six weeks of the season after another hit-by-pitch fractured that same wrist during Spring Training, and he told Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register (Twitter links) and other media that today’s ball found the same spot on his body.  “Could have been worse if I wasn’t wearing the pad,” Turner said, referring to the protective gear he has worn since the initial injury.  X-rays were negative on Turner’s hand and wrist, so it looks like another injury has been avoided.  After a bit of a slow start that might well have been caused by his DL stint, Turner has been on fire over the last several weeks and is now hitting .318/.415/.531 over 366 PA on the season.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Dodgers Not Expected To Make Major Management Changes]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=132829 2018-09-15T16:35:59Z 2018-09-15T16:35:12Z
  • Even with the Dodgers in jeopardy of missing the postseason, it doesn’t appear that manager Dave Roberts, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, or GM Farhan Zaidi are in any danger of losing their jobs.  It seems as if this season could be seen as an aberration, given that L.A. has been beset by injuries yet still leads the National League in run-differential.  (The Baseball Reference standings page notes that the Dodgers are eight wins behind their expected Pythagorean win-loss record.)  While management changes don’t seem to be afoot, there will likely be some type of contract talks among Dodgers brass this offseason since Friedman is only under contract through the 2019 season.  Roberts is already in the last guaranteed year of his deal, though the Dodgers have a club option on his services for 2019.

  • ]]>
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[MLBTR Poll: Predicting Clayton Kershaw’s Next Contract]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=132646 2018-09-11T19:53:03Z 2018-09-11T19:53:03Z The 2018-19 free agent class doesn’t look quite as exciting now as it has promised to at points in the past. Still, it’s a notable assemblage of talent. And at the top of the list of pitchers sits future Hall-of-Famer Clayton Kershaw.

    Of course, that statement comes with some caveats. In particular, Kershaw will need to opt out of the remaining two years and $65MM on his deal. While that once seemed a foregone conclusion, Kershaw has not been quite his vintage self this season — or, in truth, in the campaign prior. With the backdrop of ongoing back problems, there are undeniably some cracks in the armor.

    If Kershaw’s recent form has betrayed his mortality, though, it has still also illuminated his ongoing excellence and value. After all, in his 312 1/3 innings since the start of the 2017 season, he has compiled a 2.36 ERA with 9.7 K/9 against 1.5 BB/9. Even with the reduction in his velocity and swinging-strike rate on display this year, Kershaw has been among the most effective starters in baseball. And the years of unquestioned dominance that came before still represent an important background factor.

    All things considered, there’s not much reason to think that Kershaw can’t beat 2/$65MM in free agency. Whether he reaches the open market could still be in question, to be sure. It’s not hard to imagine a new agreement of some kind with the Los Angeles organization coming together before Kershaw is forced to decide on the opt-out clause (or, if he does exercise it, before qualifying offer decisions are finalized). Then again, he and the team know much more about his medical situation than do the rest of us, so perhaps there’s still some possibility he’ll simply opt into the remainder of the deal.

    Regardless of how it comes to pass, Kershaw will presumably end up with a more-or-less market-driven rate of pay, even if a deal comes with the Dodgers before he’s formally a free agent. After all, Kershaw’s reps at Excel Sports Management no doubt have a good idea what they think he’s worth, as does the L.A. front office.

    For those of us on the outside looking in, it’s a bit more difficult to gauge. The Dodgers and others will surely be stingy, in particular, with the length of the commitment for a pitcher entering his age-31 season. But the focus here will be on the total cash posted rather than on how many seasons it’ll be spread over. Knowing what we know now, and presuming Kershaw finishes the season at his current trajectory and without any significant new injury issues, which level of total guarantee do you think he’ll sign at?

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Kenley Jansen Anticipates Offseason Surgery To Address Irregular Heartbeat]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=132623 2018-09-10T23:46:36Z 2018-09-10T23:46:36Z Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen firmly anticipates the need for an offseason heart procedure, MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick was among those to report on Twitter. It’ll be a repeat of the procedure he had in 2012 to deal with an irregular heartbeat.

    Jansen, of course, missed time recently when he experienced a recurrence of the symptoms that led to his original procedure. Indications at the time were that an offseason surgery would again be necessary, though it was not clear until his comments today that it was all but certain to take place.

    There has been no change to Jansen’s availability down the stretch and into the postseason (if the Dodgers qualify). After all, the issue was already known. And presumably the hope will remain that he’ll be ready for a full spring camp in 2019, though details remain unknown.

    Of course, Jansen’s cardiac health will remain the top priority. It’s certainly scary to hear of the ongoing issues, though certainly it’s promising that he has been able to continue his career and encouraging to know that he’s being watched closely by experts.

    Soon to turn 31, the outstanding right-hander has not been at his dominant best thus far in 2018. He struggled in particular for a stretch in late August after returning from his recent scare. But the veteran has righted the ship over his past several appearances and still owns a healthy 2.89 ERA, with 10.3 K/9 against 2.2 BB/9, over his 62 1/3 innings on the season.

    That’s still quite productive, but it’s nothing close to the typical version of Jansen. To take but one example: he currently carries a 2.98 SIERA (the ERA estimator that looks most favorably on his 2018 output). That means that this season will break a remarkable seven-year streak in which Jansen posted SIERA marks of 1.88 or lower.

    Whether Jansen can still deliver a vintage performance the rest of the way, and into the future, remains to be seen. He is under contract through 2020, with $56MM of earnings over the three seasons yet to come, so there’s plenty at stake for the Dodgers. Clearly, though, the most important thing is that Jansen remains healthy.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Dodgers Recall Julio Urias]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=132610 2018-09-10T19:31:56Z 2018-09-10T19:31:56Z After a rehab process that spanned more than 14 months, left-hander Julio Urias is back in the Majors. The Dodgers announced Monday that they’ve recalled the 22-year-old from Triple-A Oklahoma City — his first look in the big leagues since undergoing shoulder surgery last June.

    Urias’ rapid ascent to the Majors is among the most impressive we’ve seen out of a pitcher in recent memory. The still-young lefty arrived on the scene in May 2016 — well shy of his 20th birthday — and gave the Dodgers 77 innings of 3.39 ERA ball with 84 strikeouts against 31 walks across multiple big league stints over the remainder of that season. Urias was one of the game’s 10 best prospects before debuting in ’16 and was looked at as a potential building block for the Dodgers’ rotation before last summer’s surgery.

    That’s still the best-case scenario for Urias, of course, though surgery to repair the anterior capsule in his left shoulder at such a young age was a disheartening development that created a somewhat increased degree of uncertainty moving forward. For the time being, it’s likely he’ll be used out of the bullpen, as he’s only thrown 11 2/3 innings across three minor league levels since returning from that surgery. He’s racked up 19 strikeouts in that time but also issued six walks and been tagged for seven earned runs.

    Some rust is to be expected for Urias, but a healthy run in September and perhaps in October, even in a relief role, would be a significant step forward as the Dodgers map out his trajectory in 2019 and beyond. It seems likely that Urias will again be viewed as a starter in the future, though Los Angeles will keep a close eye on his workload as he distances himself from major shoulder surgery.

    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Quick Hits: Judge, Seager, Rays]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=132586 2018-09-10T01:28:27Z 2018-09-10T01:28:27Z Yankees sophomore sensation Aaron Judge is still feeling pain when he swings a bat, per a tweet from Marc Carig of The Athletic. Certainly there’s still time for him to regain his health and strength in advance of the postseason (we still have three weeks until October, after all), but the news has to be disconcerting both for the Yankees organization and for Judge himself. The outfielder has been out of commission since July 26th after sustaining a chip fracture in his wrist, and though it was reported as recently as yesterday that he could be nearing a return after he was able to participate in on-field drills, the news that his pain level (still describes as a “4” on a 1-10 scale) casts some doubt on the notion that he could be back on the field within the next week or so.

    • Corey Seager expects to play shortstop for the Dodgers next year, as he tells Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. Seager has had massive misfortune this year in regards to injuries; he suffered a UCL injury early on in the season that required the infamous Tommy John procedure, and had to undergo a second procedure on his hip soon thereafter. Recently, though, he’s expressed confidence in his recovery from these surgeries. Seager is already off of crutches, and he looks forward to resuming a throwing program next month. “Based to this point, I’ll be ready to go,” Seager said. I should, ’quote unquote,’ have a pretty normal spring. It will probably be a little slow in the beginning, but should be pretty normal.”
    • In light of the Rays’ success with creativity this season, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times details some of the most interesting aspects of the club’s strategy in 2018. Carig explores various aspects of the club’s advances back to contention, highlighted by the purging of veterans in order to bring focus to a new, young core. The coming out parties for players like Jake Bauers and Joey Wendle have been fun to watch, to be sure. But equally interesting has been their improvements in much broader aspects of the game: a few mentioned by Carig include the team’s improvement on the hard contact and line drive front, trimming of strikeouts, spike in batting average, and, of course, the adoption and implementation of the “opener” strategy.
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Latest On Kenley Jansen]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=132559 2018-09-09T18:33:45Z 2018-09-09T18:33:45Z Kenley Jansen’s latest bout with an irregular heartbeat left the Dodgers closer more irritated than scared, he tells ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne.  Jansen had dealt with similar heart issues in 2011 and 2012, the latter resulting in heart surgery.  After the problem arose again last month, his immediate reaction was that “I thought my season was over. I’m like, man, f— this. Not again. We’re trying to go back to the World Series. I have a chance to win another Trevor Hoffman award. Man!”  Shelburne’s piece details how Jansen dealt with the heart problem that evening, and how he has been trying to balance staying healthy while also making an earlier-than-expected return to the field.

    Interestingly, Jansen noted that he likely wouldn’t be playing if the Dodgers weren’t in contention.  “To tell you the truth, I wanted to have the second surgery right now so we could just fix it and I’d know everything was OK,” Jansen said. “But I know what an opportunity our team has this year and my responsibilities here.”  That second surgery could come after the season is over, though while Jansen continues to play, he is sitting out the Dodgers’ road series against the Rockies this weekend on doctors’ recommendation, as his last two irregular heartbeat episodes occurred while in Denver’s thin air.  Jansen is hopeful, however, that he would be cleared should the Dodgers end up facing the Rockies in a postseason series.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[2018-19 Opt-Out & Player Option Decisions]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=132418 2018-09-07T16:59:55Z 2018-09-07T16:53:25Z With Major League teams increasingly adding opt-out provisions to free-agent contracts as a means of incentivizing players to sign, there are now a handful of those decisions that impact the free-agent market every offseason. With nearly 90 percent of the season already in the books, many of the opt-out decisions/player option decisions look pretty clear cut.

    Things could change over the final month, but here’s a look at where things currently stand…

    Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers (Two years, $65MM remaining): Truthfully, Kershaw is the only player with an opt-out provision in 2018 who could be called likely to exercise the clause at present. While he hasn’t been quite as dominant as usual and has spent time on the DL for a third straight year (back issues, biceps tendinitis), it’s difficult to imagine him having to take less than that $65MM sum in free agency.

    In 131 1/3 innings this season, Kershaw is sporting a 2.40 ERA with 8.7 K/9, 1.4 BB/9, 0.89 HR/9 and a 48.9 percent ground-ball rate. He hasn’t topped 200 innings since 2015, but he’s still a clearly elite starter. If he does formally opt out, the Dodgers can issue a qualifying offer, though perhaps the easiest scenario would be for Los Angeles to simply extend Kershaw’s current contract to prolong his already historic Dodgers career.

    David Price, Red Sox (Four years, $127MM remaining): Price is having his best season with the Red Sox, having notched a 3.60 ERA with a strikeout per inning and 2.4 walks per nine innings pitched through 152 1/3 frames. His results have been solid, but it’s nearly impossible to imagine a scenario where he exceeds $127MM in free agency at the age of 33. Price’s Boston tenure has been rocky at times, but it seems likely that he’ll be back in the rotation next season.

    [Related: Club option decisions on starting pitchers, relievers and position players]

    Jason Heyward, Cubs (Five years, $106MM remaining): Declining to opt out is little more than a formality for Heyward at this point, as he hasn’t come close to living up to his $184MM contract in Chicago through the first three seasons. To his credit, though the 29-year-old has had a nice rebound effort, hitting .275/.342/.399 with above-average defense in right field. That might make the Cubs feel better about his contract moving forward, but it won’t be enough to prompt Heyward to test free agency. His contract contains a second opt-out clause following the 2019 season, at which point he’ll have four years and $86MM remaining, but that also seems like a long shot.

    Elvis Andrus, Rangers (Four years, $58MM): Andrus could be considered more of a borderline call than some on this list, but he seems likelier to stay with Texas than to opt out. The 30-year-old hasn’t had a bad season, hitting .270/.322/.396 with quality defense, but his bat hasn’t been as potent as it was in 2016-17 when he hit a combined .299/.348/.457. The downturn in offensive output might not be entirely Andrus’ fault; he did incur a broken elbow when he was hit by a pitch earlier this season — an injury that caused him to miss just over two months of action. It’s easy to imagine that injury having a lingering effect on Andrus’ swing, too.

    Like Heyward, Andrus has a second opt-out clause in his contract after the 2019 season. At that point, he’ll have three years and $43MM remaining on his contract. If his bat returns to its 2016-17 levels, surpassing that $43MM mark in free agency could be plausible. If Andrus opted out, he’d certainly be issued a qualifying offer — there’s no reason for the team to worry about him taking a one-year deal worth about $18MM when he just walked away from $58MM — which would only further hinder his earning power.

    Yasmany Tomas, D-backs (Two years, $32.5MM remaining): Tomas clubbed 31 homers with the 2016 Diamondbacks but did so with a .315 on-base percentage and some of the worst defensive ratings of any player in the Majors — regardless of position. He’s since been outrighted off the 40-man roster and, in 371 Triple-A plate appearances this season, has 101 strikeouts against 11 walks with a .280 OBP. Suffice it to say: he’s not going anywhere.

    Mark Melancon, Giants (Two years, $28MM remaining): Injuries have ruined Melancon’s first two seasons with the Giants, though he’s been excellent since returning in 2018: 2.64 ERA, 7.9K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 53.1 percent ground-ball rate in 30 2/3 innings. That performance is encouraging for the Giants as they look to 2019, but it won’t be enough to make Melancon’s camp think he can top $28MM heading into his age-34 season.

    Brandon Kintzler, Cubs ($5MM player option): Kintzler’s contract technically contains a $10MM club option or a $5MM player option, but it’s clear given his dismal performance since being traded to Chicago that the team won’t be opting for that $10MM sum. Kintzler was very good with the Twins and Nationals from 2016 through this past July, but his typically excellent control has evaporated in Chicago while his hard-contact rate has skyrocketed. It’s only a sample of 11 2/3 innings, but his struggles make the option seem a fairly straightforward decision.

    Eduardo Nunez, Red Sox ($5MM player option): Nunez’s deal comes with a $2MM buyout, making this effectively a $3MM decision for his camp. He’s struggled to the point that he may not even want to take that risk, though, hitting just .258/.282/.384 through 473 trips to the plate.

    Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reported this week that Nunez’s option increased from $4MM to $5MM once he reached 400 plate appearances. Bradford spoke to Nunez, who acknowledged that the knee that gave out on him in the postseason last year has been a problem for him throughout 2018, though he believes he’s finally “close” to 100 percent. Perhaps a strong month and a big postseason could prompt him to again test the open market, but his overall production to this point makes the player option seem a likelier outcome.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Dodgers Release Adam Liberatore]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=132368 2018-09-06T15:30:34Z 2018-09-06T15:30:34Z The Dodgers have released left-handed reliever Adam Liberatore, as first reflected on the MLB.com transactions page. Liberatore was designated for assignment last week after the Dodgers acquired Ryan Madson from the Nationals.

    Liberatore, 31, enjoyed an excellent season with the 2016 Dodgers but has since been slowed by injury troubles — most notably a forearm strain that cost him much of the 2017 season. He’s tallied 13 big league innings in 2018 with a quality 2.77 ERA and a dozen strikeouts, though he also issued eight walks in that time and had some struggles in Triple-A Oklahoma City (5.19 ERA, 17-to-6 K/BB ratio, two hit batters in 17 1/3 innings).

    At his best in 2016, Liberatore gave the Dodgers 42 2/3 frames of 3.38 ERA ball with 9.9 K/9, 3.6 BB/9 and a 38.9 percent ground-ball rate. Despite being more of a fly-ball pitcher, he yielded only two long balls that year. He’s lost a couple of ticks off his fastball since that ’16 season, averaging 90.9 mph on his heater in his limited sample of big league innings this year, but Liberatore was still characteristically tough on left-handed opponents. Throughout his career, lefties have batted just .204/.294/.311 against him through 188 plate appearances.

    Notably, Liberatore was on the minor league disabled list due to a knee issue at the time of his DFA, which explains the decision to release him rather than pass him through outright waivers. (Injured players cannot be passed through outright waivers during the season.) It’s common in these instances for the player to re-sign with his previous organization, though Liberatore will now have the ability to sign with any team.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Dodgers Pursued Adrian Beltre Before Revocable Waiver Deadline]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=132247 2018-09-04T01:06:25Z 2018-09-04T01:06:25Z The Dodgers pursued Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre in advance of the recent revocable waiver deadline, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports (and on Twitter). A lack of interest — on the part of both the Texas organization and its veteran star — evidently scuttled talks between the clubs.

    With full no-trade protection, Beltre controlled his own destiny. He was never formally presented with a deal for a yay or nay, though that simply isn’t how he and his long-time employer handled the matter. Rather, both GM Jon Daniels and Beltre labeled it a mutual decision not to pursue a trade.

    For Beltre, passing on the opportunity meant missing out on a chance to serve as a reserve for his former team in Los Angeles — a role that ultimately was filled through the acquisition of David Freese. That would have meant a shot at a deep postseason run, it still wasn’t enough to pique Beltre’s interest. He reiterated yet again that he wishes to wrap up his playing career with the Rangers.

    Where this situation is most interesting is in the evident regard both Beltre and the Rangers front office showed for one another. Beltre says he’d only have been interested in a deal if “it was a perfect situation for me and the organization.”

    Daniels said that the Rangers would not have stood to recoup much in the way of a return (in terms of prospects and/or cost savings). He explained: “If [Beltre] had wanted to push for a trade, we would have honored that; for him to not to have done so says a lot about his relationship with the fans and his teammates. That piece of it, I’m in awe of.”

    As Grant notes, it’s a rather unusual situation in several regards. While it’s still unclear whether Beltre will play another season, and if so whether it would be with the Rangers, this episode certainly makes it appear more likely that team and player will remain united from this point forward.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Dodgers Notes: Buehler, Stripling, Urias]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=132135 2018-09-03T02:11:57Z 2018-09-03T02:11:57Z
  • Walker Buehler will receive a precautionary x-ray on his left foot following today’s start, the Dodgers told reporters (including J.P. Hoonstra of the Southern California News Group).  It isn’t clear how or when Buehler suffered the apparent injury, though he did see some extra action on the basepaths after hitting two singles today.  The rookie right-hander has been outstanding in his first extended stint in the majors, posting a 2.92 ERA, 9.89 K/9, 2.41 BB/9, and a 48.5% grounder rate over 104 2/3 innings, including today’s quality start against the Diamondbacks.  It isn’t known how serious this injury could be, though losing Buehler would obviously be a blow to the Dodgers as they push for another NL West title.
  • The Dodgers should be getting another arm soon in Ross Stripling, who told the L.A. Times’ Bill Shaikin (Twitter link) and other media that he is targeting next weekend for his return from the disabled list.  Stripling has been sidelined since mid-August due to a sore back, and has been preparing for multiple roles, as he said the Dodgers want him to be capable of either starting or working as a multi-inning reliever.  Despite an outstanding first half as a starter that earned him an All-Star berth, Stripling had been moved to the bullpen just prior to his injury, as the Dodgers had a glut of rotation options and a need for help in their struggling relief corps.
  • The news isn’t as good for Julio Urias, as Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick and other reporters that “I don’t know when [Urias is] going to pitch again” this season.  Urias underwent anterior capsule surgery in June 2017 and hasn’t been back to the majors since, though Roberts and the team had hoped that he could potentially make a September return as a reliever.  In Urias’ most recent minor league rehab outing, however, he was removed after reaching his pitch count after just three batters faced.  “We said from the beginning that when he’s right physically and performance-wise, then he’ll come [back to the majors].  If either of those things doesn’t happen, then it doesn’t make sense for us or him,” Roberts said.
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