- The Twins announced that they’ve selected the contract of right-hander Michael Tonkin and created space by recalling righty J.T. Chargois from Triple-A and placing him on the Major League 60-day disabled list. The 27-year-old Tonkin was once one of the more promising bullpen prospects in the Twins’ system, but he’s underwhelmed in numerous auditions over the past few years. Minnesota outrighted him earlier this year, but he’s back after pitching to a brilliant 1.73 ERA with 13.2 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a 45.5 percent ground-ball rate in 41 2/3 innings with Triple-A Rochester. Chargois posted video game numbers between Double-A and Triple-A last year and was viewed as a potential option in 2017, but he’s missed most of the year with a right elbow impingement.
- Twins GM Derek Falvey spoke with Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic about his team’s interesting summer (subscription required and recommended). The rookie front-office man says that the club’s mid-July pivot, in which it acquired and then traded away Jaime Garcia and also shipped out Brandon Kintzler, led to some clubhouse disappointment. But, he says, “the front office had a plan for the long term.” Of course, Minnesota’s players have made a pivot of their own ever since, surging into Wild Card position.
Though he is now dealing with yet another setback and has not appeared in the majors since May of last year, Mets third baseman David Wright is not considering retiring, a source tells Mike Puma of the New York Post. A lingering shoulder injury is the most immediate problem limiting Wright, though he has also dealt with significant neck and back issues that he’ll continue to battle in the future. With three years and $47MM left on his contract, Wright will evidently keep trying to make it back to the majors, though at present it is unclear what course he’ll take in trying to overcome his maladies.
Here’s more on some other injury situations from around the game:
- Giants righty Johnny Cueto said he feels ready to return to the majors, as Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area writes. He has taken two rehab starts in his bid to return from a flexor strain that has kept him out of action since mid-July. That injury seemingly makes it quite likely that Cueto will elect not to opt out of the remaining four years and $84MM of his contract this fall. Cueto seemingly acknowledged that, saying that his “whole mentality has been for me to stay here,” though he also noted that’ll be a decision that’s made in consultation with his agent at season’s end.
- The Dodgers are set to welcome back a pair of key southpaws later this week, as Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times reports (Twitter links). Clayton Kershaw is scheduled to pitch Friday, with Alex Wood taking the ball on Sunday. Kershaw has been out since late July, making for the second-straight year in which he has missed significant time due to back issues. Wood’s DL stint has been of a shorter duration, with the belief being that his SC joint inflammation is something that can be managed rather than a symptom of a more significant problem. Needless to say, both are critical to the team’s ever-rising postseason expectations. The Dodgers are also awaiting a return from yet another starter, righty Brandon McCarthy, who has been out with a finger blister. As Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register tweets, the right-hander’s scheduled rehab start this week has been bumped, so his status is unclear at the moment.
- Also nearing his return to the Dodgers is veteran outfielder Andre Ethier, as Plunkett further reports on Twitter. The club will make a move after rosters expand at the start of September. The 35-year-old faces an uncertain playing-time situation, to be sure. Los Angeles just added a left-handed-hitting veteran outfielder in Curtis Granderson and now features Adrian Gonzalez as a southpaw-swinging bench bat. Ethier has missed the entire season to date with a herniated disc in his back. He’ll almost certainly hit the open market after this year, receiving a $2.5MM buyout if (likely, when) the team declines a $17.5MM club option. Despite his many recent medical problems, there ought to be some market if Ethier can show he’s healthy in September; after all, as recently as 2015 he was a productive hitter (.294/.366/.486 over 445 plate appearances).
- While the Twins are currently pacing the pack for the second American League Wild Card spot, the team has gone without key slugger Miguel Sano. While he does seem to be improving from what has been called a “stress reaction” to his left shin, writes MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger, Sano still hasn’t begun running or fielding. Manager Paul Molitor says things are “moving rather slowly” for the third baseman. Sano, 24, has turned in 475 plate appearances of .267/.356/.514 hitting with 28 home runs on the year, meaning the team is going without a middle-of-the-order bat that isn’t really replaceable. Given the nature of his injury, though, there’s likely not much that can be done but hope that he responds to treatment.
- The Angels are awaiting news from a re-examination of right-hander J.C. Ramirez after he underwent a platelet-rich plasma injection in his right elbow, Pedro Moura of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Ramirez, 29, had settled into a starting role for the club, providing 147 1/3 innings of 4.15 ERA ball to a rotation that badly needed it. That sets him up fairly well as a possible Super Two candidate; it remains to be seen whether Ramirez will qualify for arbitration after entering the year with 1.139 years of service. Given that he only just underwent that injection, though, it seems optimistic to expect that he’ll make it back to the mound in 2017.
- Meanwhile, fellow Angels righty Andrew Bailey is giving up any attempts to return in the present season, Moura further reports on Twitter. He will, however, attempt to get his shoulder back to health in order to return in 2018. Bailey had shown well for the Halos in a late-season stint last year and re-signed with the club for $1MM over the winter, but has managed only four major-league frames on the year. He’s set to return to the open market at the end of the season.
Six-time All-Star Joe Nathan will formally announce his retirement in a press conference at Target Field on Friday, the Twins announced. The Twins will not only host Nathan’s press conference, they’ll honor arguably the best reliever in franchise history in a pregame ceremony prior to Friday’s game against the Royals.
Nathan, 42, broke into the Majors as a 24-year-old with the Giants in 1999, but he didn’t establish himself as a quality big league reliever until his age-28 season in San Francisco. Few would’ve predicted that he’d go on to solidify himself as one of the best relievers on the planet in the years to come, but the Twins were the beneficiary of Nathan’s late-blooming right arm. Minnesota acquired Nathan, Francisco Liriano and right-hander Boof Bonser from the Giants in exchange for the final year of A.J. Pierzynski’s contract in a swap that would help to serve as a foundational move for a sustained run of division contenders in the final years of the Metrodome in Minneapolis.
Nathan spent eight years in a Twins uniform (though his 2010 season was lost to Tommy John surgery), during which time he posted a sensational 2.16 ERA with averages of 10.9 strikeouts and 2.6 walks per nine innings pitched. From 2004-09, in particular, Nathan dominated to the tune of a 1.87 ERA with an average of 41 saves per season. Overall, Nathan saved 260 games for the Twins from 2004-11, helping Minnesota to the postseason in 2004, 2006 and 2009 (in addition to a Game 163 playoff against the White Sox in 2008).
Following his time in Minnesota, he enjoyed two excellent seasons with the Rangers before signing one last significant contract: a two-year deal with the Tigers. Nathan struggled in his first season in Detroit, then missed nearly the entire second season of that pact due to another Tommy John surgery.
Undeterred by another UCL tear at the age of 40, Nathan rehabbed his elbow and worked his way back to the big leagues at the tail end of the 2016 season, tossing a combined 6 1/3 scoreless innings for the Cubs and the Giants. He inked a minor league deal with the Nationals this winter but wasn’t able to crack the team’s big league roster in Spring Training. After two months pitching for Washington’s Triple-A affiliate, Nathan requested his release.
Nathan’s career will officially come to a close with a 64-34 record and 377 saves. He’ll retire with a lifetime 2.87 ERA, 9.5 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, roughly 27 wins above replacement under his belt (per rWAR and RA9-WAR) and more than $86MM in career earnings. Twins fans will remember Nathan for his quirks on the mound, his leadership on the pitching staff and one of the most prolonged stretches of dominance of any pitcher in Twins history. Congratulations to Joe on an outstanding career.
This is the third installment from Twins right-hander Trevor May in MLBTR’s Player’s Perspective series. We at MLBTR are fortunate to have him share his thoughts and experiences as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery. You can check out his first two posts and also submit questions for an upcoming Mailbag hosted by Trevor: email@example.com.
It’s been a hot minute since my last post (writing is hard!), so let’s dive right into entry #3, which covers a topic that unites you (reader) and me (writer), while also providing the very foundation for a cool website like MLB Trade Rumors: Fandom.
Do you remember in my first post when I mentioned that every single situation in life has a silver lining? I not only believe this — I actually spend considerable time in my day-to-day life making sure I seek out, identify and appreciate these silver linings. This rehab process has provided me with a whole bunch of silver linings, the most impactful of which might just be the rediscovery of my own personal fandom for the game of baseball.
There is a perception across the baseball community that a thick, bold line divides players and fans…and that is mostly (and unfortunately) true. That said, while all fans will not have the opportunity to take the Target Field mound in front of 40,000 screaming people, I think it’s important for you guys to know that every single player carries his own unique memories of when he first felt love for this wonderful game. And we all — players, fans, kids, adults alike — still have moments that bring us back to our sacred baseball roots. I had one recently.
Screen goes all wavy, flashback style. “Several weeks ago…” comes into view… then fades.
It really hit me unexpectedly. I was streaming “MLB the Show” on Twitch, a game that, as you can imagine, brings a majority of baseball fans into the channel. I use this time as opportunity to focus discussion around baseball, to make myself available to questions and answer them en masse. It was the day of the Home Run Derby, my teammate Miguel Sano was participating, and I decided that I could extend the stream a little and watch the competition with the viewers.
Man, was it a blast.
In the last few years, I’ve not watched the All-Star festivities much at all. Those four days were for mental and physical rest, a complete removal from baseball. This year, having been benched by Tommy John surgery, I wanted to watch. I wanted to feel excitement, root for my guy, my teammate, as a FAN.
It’s a crazy thing, the difference between rooting as a fan and and rooting as member of the team. It takes you back to the times as a wide-eyed 10-year-old watching Griffey go deep over and over again toward his eventual 1999 Home Run Derby triumph. I even got to interact, in real-time, with a bunch of baseball fans rooting for their own heroes. I had a perspective that I hadn’t had in quite a while.
I have so much gratitude for the opportunities I’ve had, for everything I’ve learned and overcome in my journey from a small town in southwest Washington to the Big Leagues. It’s easy to lose that perspective, especially when baseball has been your job for 10 years. But, as I keep saying, there are always silver linings (I’m probably at the point that this sentence should be tattooed on me somewhere). Surgery has allowed me to see the game through fans’ eyes with clarity once again. I just want to go into the back yard like I used to on those warm summer nights of my youth, and practice my windup. Bottom of the ninth, two outs, perfect game on the line. I cannot wait to get back on that field.
Trevor will be opening up the mailbag for his next post at MLB Trade Rumors. If you’ve got a question for him, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org!
“Knocking Down the Door” is a regular feature that identifies minor leaguers who are making a case for a big league promotion.
Since a mid-July promotion to Triple-A New Orleans, the 24-year-old Anderson has been hitting like someone who knows he’s auditioning for a Major League job. In 29 Pacific Coast League games, the right-handed hitting third baseman is slashing .350/.420/.631 with eight home runs and 12 multi-hit games.
Dee Gordon and Martin Prado will presumably be on the trade block this offseason, and the Marlins wouldn’t pull the trigger on dealing either player without knowing if they have a potential in-house replacement (Prado could move to second base if Gordon is traded). If there is a Marlins prospect who is a candidate to step into a starting role in 2018, it would be Anderson, a former third-round draft pick. Calling him up in the near future and giving him 100+ plate appearances would give the Marlins a much better idea of how capable he is of becoming their starting third baseman next season.
A shoulder injury that pushed Gonsalves’ season debut to mid-May could be a blessing in disguise for him and the Twins. While most starting pitching prospects are usually close to their innings limit in August and not expected to contribute much at the Major League level in September and beyond, Gonsalves is at 109 2/3 innings after his latest start. Considering that he threw 140 innings during a breakout 2016 in which he appeared very much on the fast track to the Major Leagues, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he’s pitching for the playoff-contending Twins late this season.
The 23-year-old lefty was recently promoted to Triple-A following a dominant 28-start stint in Double-A (161 2/3 IP, 2.28 ERA, 6.1 H/9, 3.3 BB/9, 10.3 K/9) over the past two seasons. After posting back-to-back quality starts, Gonsalves struggled in his third Triple-A outing before bouncing back with another stellar effort over the weekend (6 IP, ER, 7 H, BB, 6 K). The Twins are currently in possession of a Wild Card berth with Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee serving as their fourth and fifth starters, respectively. If they’re going to hold on, they might need to turn to their farm system one more time. Gonsalves could be the difference maker.
The 23-year-old Lopez is only three months removed from pitching in the High-A Florida State League, but there are already several reasons to believe that he’s not far away from the Majors. After allowing 15 earned runs in his first 27 innings with Double-A Pensacola, the right-hander has been one of the best pitchers in the Minor Leagues. In his last 10 starts, he has a 1.24 ERA with 4.8 H/9, 1.6 BB/9 and 8.0 K/9. He’s completed at least six innings and hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs or five hits over that span.
During Lopez’s first crack at the upper minors, he’s shown an ability to make adjustments, miss bats, throw strikes and pitch deep into games—he has a 68.5% strike rate and hasn’t thrown more than 96 pitches in any of his 10 consecutive quality starts. Tyler Mahle, who made this list on May 1st and June 27th, became the 15th Reds’ pitcher to make a start in 2017 when he made his MLB debut yesterday. Lopez deserves to be the 16th.
The Cubs appeared to solidify what was already a deep and talented bullpen by acquiring lefty Justin Wilson at the trade deadline. Wilson has been mostly ineffective, however, while the team’s other key relievers have been unreliable, to put it kindly, over the past few weeks. It’s not quite a major area of concern at this point, considering the track record of the group, but it’s probably alarming enough to at least take a look at adding a reinforcement from the Minors, even one that began the season in High-A.
Maples’ rise didn’t begin immediately after the team converted him to a reliever a few years back. His numbers out of the ’pen were unimpressive in 46 appearances in the low minors from 2015-16, but something has apparently clicked in 2017. In 51 appearances across three levels, including his last 16 with Triple-A Iowa, the 25-year-old has a 2.74 ERA, 6.2 H/9 and 14.3 K/9. The walks are a concern (5.3 BB/9), but he’s only walked more than one batter in three of his combined 30 appearances in the upper minors. It’s also worth noting that Carl Edwards Jr. had a 6.0 BB/9 in 24 Triple-A appearances last season but went on to finish the year as one of the best relievers on the World Series champs.
Walker’s already difficult path to the Majors could not have taken a worse turn during the past offseason. With limited at-bats available in Baltimore behind Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo, the right-handed hitting first baseman was designated for assignment in February. The likelihood of a better opportunity lied ahead. But it never came. By the time the regular season started, he had been claimed on waivers by three different teams—Braves, Reds and Diamondbacks—that employed superstar first basemen who rarely miss a game. In late March, he was designated for assignment a fourth time, only to clear waivers and remain with the Diamondbacks.
To his credit, the 26-year-old did not let the limited opportunity and removal from the 40-man roster affect him at the plate. After putting up what would be slightly below-average numbers for a first baseman in Triple-A during parts of the previous three seasons, Walker has taken his game to another level in 2017. In 565 plate appearances, he’s been the Diamondbacks’ Triple-A version of Paul Goldschmidt, slashing .312/.384/.609 with 32 homers and 34 doubles. While the Pacific Coast League is more hitter-friendly than the International League, where Walker played previously, his improved walk and strikeout rates (145 BB, 406 K from ’14-16; 58 BB, 97 K in ’17) are indications that a better approach at the plate has helped lead to his success.
A September call-up is in the cards as the D-backs have gotten very little from their pinch-hitters in ’17 (.636 OPS), but they’d also do Walker a huge favor by either trading him in the offseason to a team where he has a chance to play or removing him from the 40-man roster—assuming he’s added in September—so he can opt for free agency.
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Padres have claimed right-hander Tim Melville off waivers from the Twins, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports (Twitter link). Righty Miguel Diaz was moved to the 60-day DL in a corresponding move.
Melville signed a minor league deal with Minnesota in June and he made one single appearance on the big league roster, a spot start last Monday that saw him surrender five runs over 3 1/3 innings. The Twins designated Melville for assignment the next day.
Given Melville’s good numbers at both the Triple-A level and for the independent Long Island Ducks this season, he is worth a flier for a Padres team that is looking to find some hidden gems in their rebuilding process. Melville has improved his strikeout rate this season and cut down on the walks that plagued him earlier in his nine-year minor league career. As Berardino tweets, the Padres have had some good recent success on waiver wire pickups, adding both Brad Hand and Kirby Yates on claims.
- Miguel Sano has yet to begin fielding or hitting drills and he is still unable to run on his injured left shin, Twins manager Paul Molitor told the Star Tribune’s Phil Miller and other reporters. Sano is eligible to come off the 10-day DL on Wednesday but it seems like he’ll miss more than the minimum amount of time.
- Jason Castro was forced to exit last night’s game with concussion symptoms after taking a pair of foul balls off his mask, writes Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Twins skipper Paul Molitor described the first as more of a “glancing blow” but said the second was a “direct shot.” Castro began experiencing dizziness as the game went on and demonstrated “some of the symptoms that concern you,” said Molitor, without delving too far into specifics. The Twins already have three catchers on the roster, having recently called up prospect Mitch Garver for his first big league look. Garver, who can also play first base and left field, as yet to start a game behind the dish, but he’d share catching duties with veteran Chris Gimenez should Castro fail to pass concussion protocol and land on the 7-day DL.
The 24-year-old Curtiss currently ranks as Minnesota’s No. 19 prospect, per Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis of MLB.com. Curtiss has laid waste to minor league opponents this season, posting a sparkling 1.28 ERA with 12.4 K/9 with a 48 percent ground-ball rate in 49 1/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. Control is a bit of an issue, though, as he’s averaged 4.0 walks per nine innings and snapped off six wild pitches on the year.
Callis and Mayo praise his 94-98 mph fastball, his “considerably” improved slider and his “intense and serious personality” on the mound in suggesting that Curtiss could eventually close games at the big league level.
10:25pm: The Twins have designated right-hander Tim Melville for assignment, manager Paul Molitor told reporters after the game Tuesday night (Twitter link via MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger). He’d been an option to start on Saturday, but that outing will go to fellow righty Dillon Gee, who shined in Game 2 of yesterday’s doubleheader. A corresponding roster move for Melville will be announced tomorrow.
Melville, who signed a minors pact with the Twins earlier this summer after a solid season with the independent Long Island Ducks, earned a spot start with Minnesota on the heels of a terrific 2.70 ERA with 8.6 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 and a 33.7 percent ground-ball rate in 66 2/3 innings with the Twins’ Triple-A affiliate in Rochester. That spot start didn’t go well, however, as Melville was tagged for five runs on four hits and three walks with three strikeouts in 3 1/3 frames against the White Sox in Game 1 of yesterday’s doubleheader.
Unfortunately for Melville, the Twins need roster flexibility at the moment, so he’ll lose his 40-man roster spot and a potential September call-up. If he clears waivers, he’ll likely head back to Triple-A, though, and could reemerge to provide some depth for a fairly thin Twins pitching staff next month after rosters expand.