- The Athletics are still hopeful that Trevor Rosenthal will be able to pitch for the team this season, writes Martin Gallegos of MLB.com. Oakland currently has a mid-August target for Rosenthal, who developed thoracic outlet symptoms this spring after signing a surprising one-year, $11MM deal with the A’s. He underwent surgery prior to Opening Day, and while he’s not yet throwing, Rosenthal is progressing through a strength program. The Oakland bullpen has been a middle-of-the-pack unit so far in 2021, pitching to a 3.87 ERA with a 3.79 FIP. A’s relievers have the game’s lowest collective strikeout rate (20.5 percent) but also have one of the best walk rates (8.6 percent). Prior to their deal with Rosenthal, the A’s seemed to target relievers who were underpriced due to sub-par strikeout rates but also thrived in terms of limiting hard contact. To this point, the bullpen’s 34.5 percent hard-hit rate is the third-lowest in MLB.
The Athletics have assigned lefty Reymin Guduan to Triple-A Las Vegas after he cleared outright waivers, per the team’s transactions log. Oakland had designated Guduan for assignment earlier in the week upon activating him from the injured list.
Guduan, 29, missed several weeks due to a groin strain and struggled in 14 1/3 innings on the mound prior to that injury, pitching to a 6.28 ERA with as many walks as strikeouts (five). His stint with the A’s bumped his career innings total up to 39, but the southpaw carries an unsightly 7.38 ERA in that span. He’s been better in parts of six Triple-A campaigns — most spent with the Astros — having pitched to a 4.45 ERA with a solid 26.1 percent strikeout rate but a bloated 12.7 percent walk rate.
This is the first time Guduan has been passed through waivers, so he doesn’t have the option to reject the outright assignment. He’ll stick with the A’s for now as a depth piece in Las Vegas and hope to work his way back to the Majors as a third left-hander to complement Jake Diekman and Jesus Luzardo — the latter of whom could eventually move back into the rotation.
Trevor Story is widely seen as one of the top trade candidates in baseball, and if the Rockies don’t move him prior to the July 30 trade deadline, they reportedly can’t count on him returning as a free agent for 2022 and beyond. Story doesn’t plans to re-sign with the Rox when he hits the open market this winter, sources tell Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post.
The two sides hadn’t discussed an extension as of February 23, according to Story, though it isn’t known if any negotiations took place during March or even beyond Opening Day. That said, given the amount of discussion that would go into working out a long-term deal worth well north of $200MM, the fact that the Rockies had yet to broach the subject even by late February of Story’s walk year could be seen as a sign that the team wasn’t counting on Story sticking around.
Frankly, it would be more surprising if Story did have designs on a return to Denver, considering that the Rockies are struggling through another losing season and seem closer to a rebuild than a return to contention. Interim GM Bill Schmidt told Saunders and other reporters that the team has been showing some improvement on the field, and felt that the Rockies were just a few clutch hits away from having a much better record than their current 24-36 mark. Even if Colorado was a few games closer to the second NL wild card slot than its current 10.5-game deficit, however, that still shouldn’t change the equation about how the Rockies seem overdue to reshuffle their roster.
Regardless, it’s clear that the Rockies haven’t publicly thrown in the towel on the 2021 season just yet, as Schmidt said that it’s “not necessarily” the case that Story or Jon Gray would be dealt. Trade discussion has yet to pick up in general, as Schmidt said that “some clubs have reached out and expressed (interest), if we get to that point. But there has not really been anything to talk about…There is nothing really to follow up on.”
Saunders doesn’t feel the team would move Story prior to the All-Star Game in Denver, so it will likely be over a month before trade speculation can really begin in earnest on Story, Gray, or any other Rockies. Plus, Story has to take the first step of just getting back on the field, as the shortstop has been on the 10-day injured list since May 28 (retroactively) due to right elbow inflammation. Colorado manager Bud Black told MLB.com’s Thomas Harding and other reporters that Story is expected to be ready for the start of the Rockies’ series with the Marlins on Tuesday.
When and if Story’s trade market picks up, both MLB Network’s Jon Morosi and USA Today’s Bob Nightengale expect the Athletics to be involved. Oakland is leading the AL West despite getting sub-replacement player value from Elvis Andrus at shortstop, as Andrus is hitting only .214/.259/.273 through 201 plate appearances. Most of those struggles were contained to the first month of the season, as Andrus has hit a more respectable .295/.337/.385 over 83 PA from May 7 to June 5, but there is little doubt Story would be a much bigger upgrade for an A’s team that has postseason aspirations.
Payroll would be a major factor in any potential Story/Oakland deal, as the shortstop is owed $17.5MM for the 2021 season and will still have approximately $5.92MM in remaining salary by late July. While it doesn’t seem like a huge splurge for an All-Star shortstop, it remains to be seen what the budget-conscious A’s have available to spend, or if they feel the value of having Story for a World Series push is worth both the salary outlay and the prospects the A’s would be sending to Colorado in a trade.
Ben Zobrist’s name surfaced in the news over the last few days, as a tweet from Heritage Auction Sports claimed that Zobrist’s World Series ring from the 2016 Cubs was going to be up for bids in August. However, Zobrist’s agent Scott Pucino told Paul Sullivan of The Chicago Tribune that the ring wasn’t going to be sold, and that Zobrist told him that ” ’Why would I sell this ring? It makes no sense. I’m never going to get rid of this ring — never, never, ever.’ ”
That would seem to put that curious matter to rest, and Pucino also confirmed what has seemed increasingly obvious over the last two years: Zobrist has ended his playing career. Though Zobrist has not officially retired, Pucino said that Zobrist is focusing on taking care of his children while going through a divorce. “He’s a devoted dad and grabbing the bull by the horns and taking hold of the situation,” Pucino said.
Zobrist last played in 2019, his 14th Major League season. He only played in 47 games during that final year, as his divorce led him to spend much of the season on personal leave — the money surrendered by Zobrist for his time on the restricted list allowed the Cubs enough luxury tax wiggle room to sign Craig Kimbrel, so Zobrist’s impact is still being felt on the Cubs to this day.
Of course, Zobrist had already long since made his mark on Chicago baseball history due to his role in the Cubs’ curse-breaking 2016 championship run. Signed to a four-year, $56MM free agent deal in the 2015-16 offseason, Zobrist hit .272/.386/.446 over 631 PA during the regular season, and then won World Series MVP honors by batting .357/.419/.500 over 31 PA during the Fall Classic. That came on the heels of another big performance for Zobrist in the previous year’s World Series, as Zobrist was acquired by the Royals before the trade deadline in 2015 and then helped Kansas City capture the title.
Over 14 MLB seasons, the switch-hitting Zobrist batted .266/.357/.426 over 6836 PA for the Rays, Athletics, Royals, and Cubs. The Astros initially drafted Zobrist in the sixth round in 2004, and after being dealt to Tampa in July 2006, Zobrist went from being mostly a full-time shortstop into the super-utilityman position that defined his career.
Through far from the only “Swiss Army Knife” of a player in history (Jose Oquendo and Tony Phillips stand out for fans of 80’s and 90’s baseball), Zobrist’s name became synonymous with on-field versatility in this generation. He made 794 of his 1503 career starts as a second baseman, but also 363 starts in right field, 196 starts at shortstop, 107 starts in left field, as well as time as a center fielder and at both corner infield slots. Between his multi-position ability and productive switch-hitting bat, Zobrist could be moved around the diamond and utilized in a number of different fashions by Rays manager Joe Maddon and future skippers throughout Zobrist’s career.
While Zobrist ranks third in fWAR (behind Evan Longoria and Carl Crawford) on the Rays’ all-time franchise list, it can be argued that Zobrist might be the “greatest Ray ever” for both on-field value and symbolic reasons, as he exemplifies how the Rays have looked to mold a seemingly endless array of multi-positional players since Zobrist’s time with the franchise. Beyond just Tampa Bay, teams all over baseball in recent years have looked to maximize bench depth by having super-utility types on the roster.
From 2009-16, Zobrist generated 40.5 fWAR, a total surpassed by only eight players in baseball during that eight-season span. These prime years saw him reach three All-Star teams, finish as high as eighth place in AL MVP voting (2009), and capture those two World Series titles with the Royals and Cubs in consecutive years.
MLBTR wishes all the best to Zobrist in his post-playing days, and congratulates him on an outstanding career.
The Athletics have placed outfielder Ramon Laureano on the 10-day injured list with a strained right hip, retroactive to May 28th. Skye Bolt has been recalled from Triple-A, per Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter links). The A’s have confirmed the move.
Laureano hasn’t played since last Thursday because of the injury, which was originally termed “right groin tightness,” per Kawara. It’s been a strong season for Laureano, who has already posted 1.9 bWAR/2.1 fWAR through 48 games. Mark Canha figured to continue to see time in centerfield in Laureano’s absence.
As for Bolt, he was claimed off waivers by the Giants on April 5th, but he managed just one plate appearance across the bay. The A’s re-acquired him exactly a month later for cash considerations. He has mashed at Triple-A this season for Oakland, slashing .375/.488/.625 over 80 plate appearances with the Las Vegas Aviators.
The A’s will activate left-hander Jesus Luzardo prior to tomorrow’s game with the Angels, Oakland manager Bob Melvin told MLB.com’s Martin Gallegos (Twitter links) and other reporters. Luzardo started his first six games of the season for the Athletics, but Melvin said that Luzardo will be used out of the bullpen for now.
Luzardo will return after missing almost a full month of action, as he was placed on the 10-day injured list on May 2 after suffering a hairline fracture in his left pinkie finger. The injury actually occurred prior to Luzardo’s start on May 1, which could explain his rough numbers (three earned runs on two walks and five hits in three IP) against the Orioles in that outing, though Luzardo had struggled to a 5.40 ERA in his previous 25 innings of the season.
The southpaw’s advanced metrics are a mixed bag. Luzardo’s Statcast numbers are nothing special, though his strikeout and walk rates are slightly above average and his .306 xwOBA far outpaces his .356 wOBA. Luzardo’s 4.27 SIERA, .350 BABIP and 63.2% strand rate provide further evidence that he has been a little unlucky to have a 5.79 ERA over his 28 innings.
Luzardo’s bullpen assignment may not be permanent, as Melvin said the Athletics plan to “play it by ear” with Luzardo’s role. Ideally, Melvin said Luzardo would be able to build up his pitch count and get stretched out while pitching as a reliever, which hints at a long relief role for the left-hander. The other issue could be that the A’s want to see what they have in James Kaprielian, who has an impressive 1.53 ERA over his first 17 2/3 innings and three starts for Oakland. If Kaprielian falters or another starter gets injured, it could open the door for a relatively quick return to starting duty for Luzardo.
We took a look last week at some of the minor league pacts that have paid the most dividends, focusing in on position players in both leagues. Unsurprisingly, given the lack of offense throughout baseball as a whole at the moment, there are even more success stories on the pitching side of the coin. Some of these are products of small sample size, particularly for the many relievers on the list, but at least for our initial check-in on this subject, the early returns have been strong.
- Ian Kennedy, RHP, Rangers: We’re nearing Memorial Day weekend, and Kennedy is tied for the American League lead in saves — just as everyone expected! The 36-year-old righty isn’t just scraping by and narrowly escaping in a bunch of three-run leads, though. He’s tallied 19 1/3 innings and allowed just four runs, all while recording a terrific 31.1 percent strikeout rate and a tiny 5.4 percent walk rate. If Texas remains near the bottom of the AL West standings, he’ll be an appealing trade target for bullpen-needy clubs.
- Drew Steckenrider, RHP, Mariners: A quality setup man with the 2017-18 Marlins, Steckenrider’s time in Miami was derailed by injuries — most notably a 2019 flexor strain. He looks to be back on track in his new surroundings, however, having tossed 18 1/3 innings of 2.45 ERA ball with a 29.2 percent strikeout rate and an 11.1 percent walk rate. The walks are a bit elevated, but he’s helped to combat that with a career-best 54 percent ground-ball mark. The Mariners (or another club) could control Steckenrider through 2023 via arbitration as well, which only adds to the value.
- Jimmy Nelson, RHP, Dodgers: The Dodgers just placed Nelson on the injured list due to a forearm issue, so there are (once again) some obvious health question marks with Nelson. There’s no ignoring how effective he’s been thus far, however. Nelson’s 39.1 percent strikeout rate is the ninth-best among all MLB relievers, and he’s paired that with a pristine 2.41 ERA. Like Shaw, he’s walked too many batters (13 percent), but the former Brewers ace has shown high-leverage, late-inning potential with L.A.
- Bryan Shaw, RHP, Indians: Shaw was an iron man in the Cleveland ’pen but flopped in Colorado after signing a three-year, $27MM contract going into 2018. Back in his old stomping grounds, he’s tallied 19 innings with a pristine 1.42 ERA. The 33-year-old has issued 13 walks, so he’ll need to cut back on the free passes if he hopes to continue this success, but Shaw’s strikeout and ground-ball percentages are among the best of his career (29.3 percent, 57.5 percent, respectively).
- Lucas Luetge, LHP, Yankees: Luetge’s last MLB appearance prior to his Yankees debut came with the 2015 Mariners. The now-34-year-old southpaw signed minor league deals with five organizations before making it back to the show, which is remarkable in and of itself. That he’s been one of the Yankees’ best relievers, however, makes his story all the more incredible. Luetge, who entered 2021 with all of 89 MLB frames under his belt, has a 2.95 ERA and a 19-to-3 K/BB ratio in 21 1/3 innings for the Yankees thus far. Considering the injuries to Zack Britton and Darren O’Day, Luetge’s unexpected contributions have been a godsend. If he can keep this up, he’ll be arbitration-eligible this winter and controllable through the 2024 season.
- Hyeon-jong Yang, LHP, Rangers: Yang, a former KBO MVP, could’ve returned to that league on a guaranteed deal but refused to give up on his aspirations of playing in the Majors, even if it meant taking a non-guaranteed pact. He’s 21 1/3 innings into the realization of that lifelong goal, and the Rangers are no doubt pleased with their decision. Yang, 33, opened the season with the Rangers’ alternate site group but had his contract selected in late April. He now owns a 3.38 ERA, and while his pedestrian strikeout and walk rates might point to some possible regression, he’s induced plenty of weak contact (average 87.4 mph exit velocity, just a 13.1 percent line-drive rate). An 11.2 percent swinging-strike rate suggests there could be more K’s to come, as well.
- Chi Chi Gonzalez, RHP, Rockies: Gonzalez’s numbers don’t stand out that much, but he’s eating innings and delivering roughly league-average run-prevention numbers when adjusting for his home park (102 ERA+, 99 ERA-). Through nine appearances, seven of them starts, Gonzalez is carrying a 4.54 ERA. He’s totaled 41 2/3 innings for a Rockies club that has gone the whole season without lefty Kyle Freeland. Gonzalez has rattled off consecutive quality starts and helped the Rox get through the first two months of the season. The secondary marks aren’t great, but average innings have value — especially in 2021 when teams are so conscientious about their pitchers’ workloads.
- Nabil Crismatt, RHP, Padres: Crismatt had just 8 1/3 innings of MLB experience (all with the 2020 Cardinals) when he arrived in Padres camp this spring. He’s more than doubled that total in 2021 already, pitching 17 2/3 innings of 2.55 ERA ball with a hefty 52.2 percent grounder rate. Crismatt is an oddity in today’s game, sitting under 89 mph with a fastball that is only seldom used due to the fact that he throws his changeup at a whopping 46.5 percent clip. It’s weird, but so far — it’s worked.
- Anthony Bender, RHP, Marlins: A 26-year-old rookie who never pitched above Double-A with the Royals or Brewers before joining the Marlins on a minor league deal this winter, Bender is sitting 97.4 mph with his heater and has tossed 8 2/3 shutout innings to open his career. He’s whiffed 36.7 percent of his opponents against a 3.3 percent walk rate. Small sample? Sure, but Bender also rattled off 8 1/3 shutout frames during Spring Training, too. Not bad for a guy who posted a 5.48 ERA with the independent American Association’s Milwaukee Milkmen in 2020.
- Heath Hembree, RHP, Reds: After a rough 2020 season, Hembree has bounced back early in 2021. His 4.15 ERA through 13 frames is nothing special, but his strikeout rate is sitting at a career-high 33.3 percent after plummeting in 2020. His 6.3 percent walk rate is a career-best, and his 13.1 percent swinging-strike rate isn’t far off from his peak years in Boston. Hembree’s velocity is also up to 95.2 mph after dipping to 93.9 mph in 2019-20. It’s early, but those are some encouraging indicators.
- Zack Littell, RHP, Giants: Littell hasn’t spent much time with the Giants yet, but he’s chucked 10 2/3 innings and held opponents to just one run on eight hits and three walks with nine punchouts. His 94.8 mph average fastball velocity is a career-high, as is his 48.3 percent grounder rate. The former Twins righty only has a year of big league service and could be controllable for several years if he figures it out in San Francisco.
- Deolis Guerra, RHP, Athletics: It’s hard to believe Guerra just turned 32, given that he was one of the pieces traded from the Mets to the Twins way back in 2008’s Johan Santana trade. He’s bounced around the league in journeyman style but is enjoying a nice run with the A’s to kick off the ’21 season. In 20 2/3 frames, Guerra has a 3.92 ERA with a pedestrian K-BB% but intriguing levels of weak contact induced.
- JT Chargois, RHP, Mariners: Like Littell, Chargois hasn’t seen much time in the bigs yet, but he’s sporting a 9-to-1 K/BB ratio in 8 2/3 innings for Seattle. He’s had multiple chances with the Twins and Dodgers in recent years but never found much consistency. Chargois also mustered only a 5.81 ERA pitching for Japan’s Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2020. Still, it’s a nice start to his 2021 season.
- Brad Boxberger, RHP, Brewers: The right-hander, who’ll turn 33 this week, has hurled 17 1/3 innings so far in Milwaukee and pitched to a 4.15 ERA but with a more impressive 17-to-3 K/BB mark. As with many relievers early in a given season, the bulk of the damage against Boxberger came in one appearance (against the Cardinals). He’s been unscored upon in 16 of his 19 outings so far in 2021.
- Ervin Santana, RHP, Royals: The Royals love their reunions more than any team in baseball, and Santana is somewhat improbably back to “smelling baseball,” as he likes to say, for a second stint in Kansas City. He’s only allowed four runs in 15 1/3 innings (2.35 ERA), but he’s also only picked up eight strikeouts against four walks. His fastball is sitting 93 mph again after living at 89-90 in 2018-19, but the red flags are plentiful: 13.1 percent strikeout rate, 91 percent strand rate, .213 BABIP, 45 percent opponents’ hard-hit rate.
- Paolo Espino, RHP, Nationals: The Nats quietly re-signed the now 34-year-old Espino before the calendar even flipped to November last year. So far, it’s been a worthwhile reunion, as he’s held opponents to four runs on nine hits and a walk with eight strikeouts in 14 innings (2.57 ERA). Espino won’t keep this up if he can’t miss some more bats and/or induce far more grounders, however. He’s currently benefiting from a .175 BABIP and an 83.3 percent strand rate, while his 26.6 percent grounder rate will make it to limit home runs. Still, the Nats have 14 innings of decent results to show for the deal.
As with the position players, some of these strong starts will fade. There are a few at the back of the list that look particularly difficult to sustain, but there also look to be some genuine bargains unearthed among this group. Some will likely result in trades (Kennedy), but it’d make for a fun story to follow should any of the controllable arms (e.g. Bender, Crismatt) ultimately emerge as long-term pieces for the clubs who gave them their best career opportunities to date.
- Athletics left-hander Jesus Luzardo is going on a Triple-A rehab start Thursday and looks to be closing in on a return to the big league club, per Martin Gallegos of MLB.com. The question is whether Luzardo, who fractured his left hand in a video game-related accident at the beginning of the month, will start or relieve when he returns. The promising 23-year-old got off to a rocky start this season with a 5.79 ERA in 28 innings prior to landing on the IL.
MAY 22: Dugger and Misiewicz were each reinstated from the IL before this evening’s game against the Padres, per a team announcement. Fletcher and Mills were optioned back to Tacoma.
MAY 21, 6:17pm: The Mariners announced a series of roster moves related to the positive test. Right-handers Robert Dugger, Drew Steckenrider and Will Vest were all placed on the IL, as was lefty Anthony Misiewicz. The Mariners did not indicate that a player tested positive but rather that the moves were made “out of an abundance of caution” due to a “potential” positive. Further testing and contact tracing is being conducted.
In a slate of corresponding moves, the Mariners reinstated right-hander Keynan Middleton from the injured list, selected the contract of journeyman infielder Eric Campbell and recalled three relievers from Triple-A Tacoma: lefty Aaron Fletcher and righties Wyatt Mills and Yohan Ramirez.
MAY 21, 2:08pm: The Mariners are dealing with a COVID-19 situation, as reported by both The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan. At least one player has tested positive for the virus, Passan reports, “and there is concern within the organization that the relatively low level of vaccination within the clubhouse could be problematic.” Not only are the Mariners under the league-mandated 85% vaccination threshold for the lessening of COVID protocols, but the M’s “are among the least-vaccinated teams in” the entire league.
The Mariners are in San Diego tonight to begin a three-game series with the Padres. Any of those games or perhaps even the three-game set with the Athletics from May 24-26 could perhaps face postponement in the event of a widespread outbreak amongst the team, though there isn’t yet any word that the M’s have anything beyond just the one positive test.
The Athletics announced Friday that they’ve selected the contract of right-hander Cam Bedrosian from Triple-A Las Vegas. Righty Mike Fiers was moved from the 10-day IL to the 60-day IL in order to open a spot on the 40-man roster, while southpaw Adam Kolarek was optioned to Vegas to open a spot on the 26-man roster. Bedrosian, who began the year with the Reds, was signed to a minor league deal earlier this month. Fiers was placed on the injured list back on May 8 due to a sprained right elbow, and he’ll now be out until at least early July.
Bedrosian, 29, was clobbered for seven runs in just 5 2/3 innings with Cincinnati earlier this season, but he has a strong track record that spans several years with his now-division-rival Angels. From 2016-20, he gave them 225 innings of 3.20 ERA ball with a 3.74 SIERA, a 25.1 percent strikeout rate and a 9.1 percent walk rate. He’s missed fewer bats in recent years after seeing his strikeout rate peak in 2016-17, but Bedrosian has been a largely reliable bullpen option who even saw a bit of an uptick in fastball velocity this year in Cincinnati.
The A’s haven’t provided any sort of update on Fiers’ elbow injury other than the transfer to the 60-day injured list. Oakland brought the righty back on a one-year, $3.5MM deal back in February. He surrendered eight runs on 14 hits, including four homers, and four walks through 9 1/3 innings before landing on the IL earlier this month.