- The Mets were considering Dodgers first base coach Clayton McCullough for bench coach after he impressed in his managerial interview with New York, but a hiring doesn’t seem likely to come to fruition. Jon Heyman of the MLB Network tweets that New York brass doesn’t believe McCullough would leave Los Angeles for a coaching position elsewhere. Instead, it seems he’s lined up to return for a second season on Dave Roberts’ staff. Deesha Thosar of the New York Daily News reported yesterday that the Mets were looking into a potential “headline-grabbing hire” for bench coach.
- The Mets already made a notable coaching move this morning, tabbing longtime big league third baseman Eric Chávez as hitting coach. Chávez had accepted a position as one of two Yankees assistant hitting coaches just a few weeks ago, leaving the Bronx club with an unanticipated vacancy on staff. Lindsey Adler of the Athletic reports (on Twitter) that the Yankees do plan to replace Chávez this offseason. That aligns with general manager Brian Cashman’s stated wish to enter the season with three hitting instructors on staff. Dillon Lawson is slated to be the team’s lead hitting coach, with Casey Dykes lined up for an assistant role.
- Though the club has confirmed that Ray Montgomery will make the unusual transition from front office to bench coach on Joe Maddon’s staff, the Angels have not yet announced assignments for either former bench coach Mike Gallego (who will remain on the staff) or newcomers Phil Nevin, Benji Gil, and Bill Haselman (per Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register). This may be due to the club’s pursuit of Adam Eaton for its staff should he choose to retire — which, given that he remains an active member of the MLBPA, cannot be completed during the lockout.
- The Mets announced their full slate of minor league coaches Thursday, including new managers at all four affiliates: former Cubs farmhand Kevin Boles at Triple-A Syracuse; journeyman infielder Reid Brignac at Double-A Binghamton; former Expos, Red Sox, and (briefly) Mets shortstop Luis Rivera at High-A Brooklyn; and former Mets catching instructor Robbie Robinson at Low-A St. Lucie. A full list of Mets minor league coaches, compiled by SNY contributor Jacob Resnick, can be found here.
- The Reds have hired sixteen-year big-league veteran Juan Samuel as a minor league hitting instructor, per Jon Heyman of MLB Network, though his precise role has not yet been announced. Since retiring, the three-time All-Star has held a number of positions, including as a major league base coach and, briefly, as interim manager of the Orioles following the 2010 mid-season firing of Dave Trembley. In addition to his long and productive playing career, Samuel is remembered as the Mets’ return in the 1989 deal that sent Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell, cornerstones of the 1986 World Series champs, to the Phillies.
- The Rangers announced two members of their 2022 big-league coaching staff, including the promotion of former journeyman catcher, advanced scout, and so-called “coordinator of run prevention” Brett Hayes to bullpen coach and the hiring of former Jays farmhand and Dodgers minor league hitting instructor Seth Conner as assistant hitting coach. Both will join Chris Woodward’s staff for a season the Rangers hope will represent a major step forward in the rebuilding process following the club’s recent big-ticket signings of Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, and Jon Gray.
There hasn’t been many rumblings linking Nicholas Castellanos to the Cardinals this offseason, though one rival executive suggests to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (Twitter link) that Castellanos would be a better answer to the Cards’ outfield needs than Marcell Ozuna. We’ve addressed the Castellanos/Ozuna debate ourselves in a recent Free Agent Faceoff, though from the executive’s standpoint, Castellanos is preferable for St. Louis since he isn’t attached to any draft pick compensation. If the Cards were to re-sign Ozuna, they’d miss out on the compensatory draft pick they are slated to receive if he signed elsewhere, since Ozuna rejected the qualifying offer. Signing Castellanos, however, would both upgrade the St. Louis outfield and still leave the Cardinals in line for the extra pick.
On the flip side, the Cards’ apparent lack of interest in Castellanos may signal that they simply prefer Ozuna, who is both a comparable talent and is a more known quantity to the Cardinals’ staff and front office. Recent reports suggest that the Cards, Reds, and Rangers are all still in the mix for Ozuna, while Texas also has some interest in Castellanos, but perhaps only as a first baseman. Along with Josh Donaldson, Castellanos and Ozuna are the headliners of a rapidly-depleted free agent crop as we approach the middle of January, and it will be interesting to see which clubs (perhaps a known suitor or a mystery team) wind up with these big bats.
Some more from around baseball…
- Richard Urena was recently acquired by the Orioles on a waiver claim, though the infielder could have theoretically ended up in the black and orange five years ago, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko writes. When the Blue Jays considered the possibility of trading prospects to Baltimore as compensation for hiring Dan Duquette out of his contract as the O’s executive VP of baseball operations, Kubatko notes that Urena was one of the names the Jays offered. Talks never went anywhere, however, and Toronto instead hired Mark Shapiro as its new president and CEO in mid-2015. As for Urena, he stands a good chance at winning a bench job in Baltimore, as the Orioles were in need of a backup shortstop option behind Jose Iglesias.
- Another Orioles move could also be on the way, as Kubatko reports that the team is close to adding an experienced catcher. It’s probably safe to assume that this will be a minor league signing, as the Orioles already have a fair amount of catching depth with Chance Sisco, Pedro Severino, and Austin Wynns lined up behind the plate.
- The Mets announced earlier this week that former infielder Reid Brignac will manage the single-A Columbia Fireflies in 2020. This will mark the first managerial or coaching gig for Brignac, who retired in mid-2018 following a 15-year playing career. Brignac appeared in 369 Major League games over parts of nine seasons, suiting up for six different teams but seeing most of his action (256 games) with the Rays from 2008-12. Brignac will have a couple of other familiar names joining him on Columbia’s staff, as Jerome Williams was named the new pitching coach and Mariano Duncan will be the Fireflies’ new hitting coach.
Along with the previously reported Ryan Raburn, the Nationals have released infielder Reid Brignac and outfielder Alejandro De Aza, Chris Cotillo of SB Nation tweets. Both Brignac and De Aza signed minor league contracts with the organization during the offseason.
The 32-year-old Brignac hasn’t even cracked the 100-plate appearance plateau at the game’s highest level since 2011, when he was a member of the Rays. He has since seen limited action with the Yankees, Rockies, Phillies, Marlins and Braves. Brignac has batted a paltry .219/.264/.309 in 951 major league PAs, thus offsetting his ability to line up at second, third and shortstop. He perhaps could have been an early season factor in Washington, which will open the year without injured second baseman David Murphy, but the team will instead roll with Howie Kendrick and Wilmer Difo.
De Aza, 33, is a more accomplished major leaguer than Brignac, though he hit a meager .194/.223/.222 in 70 PAs with the Nationals last year. While De Aza fared well with their Triple-A affiliate (.280/.368/.403 in 212 PAs), he faced long odds of landing a spot with the Nats to begin the 2018 season. They’re loaded in the outfield, after all, with starters Bryce Harper, Adam Eaton and Michael A. Taylor, not to mention reserves Brian Goodwin and Matt Adams.
We’ll collect the minor league transactions from today in this post…
- The Cardinals have added right-handed starter Nestor Molina (no relation) on a minor-league contract, says Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. Formerly a top prospect in the Blue Jays’ system, Molina is perhaps best known for being traded to the White Sox in exchange for Sergio Santos during the 2011-2012 offseason. The 29-year-old has never pitched at the MLB level, and has spent the bulk of the past two years pitching in the Mexican league. During the 2017 campaign, he pitched 152 2/3 innings across 23 starts to the tune of a 1.89 ERA. He’ll serve as an interesting depth piece for a Cardinals organization that has some question marks in its rotation, though it should be noted that Molina has only ever pitched four innings above the Double-A level.
- The Brewers have re-signed 27-year-old second baseman Gabriel Noriega to a minors pact, the team’s player development account announced today on Twitter. Noriega’s spent ten years in the minors, shuffling between the Royals, Mariners, Brewers and Diamondbacks organizations. He’s hovered around a 50 wRC+ over the past two seasons in the upper minors. Noriega was originally signed out of Venezuela by the Mariners, and remained in the club’s farm system through the 2014 season.
- The Nationals inked Reid Brignac to a minors pact that includes a spring training invite, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports on Twitter. Brignac, 32, has seen time at the major league level with the Braves, Marlins, Phillies, Rockies, Yankees and Rays while playing mostly at shortstop. Though he’s played below replacement level in each of the past seven seasons, Brignac has generally been an above-average defender. Perhaps that could be reason enough for Washington to look past his career .219/.264/.309 slash line and give him a shot at a utility infielder role.
Here are the day’s minor moves:
- The Astros added infielder Reid Brignac on a minor-league deal, Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle reports on Twitter. His contract includes a spring invite. Brignac, 30, has bounced around quite a bit since his days as a frequent contributor to the Rays earlier in his career, appearing most recently with the Braves. The former top prospect has appeared in each of the last nine major league seasons, but hasn’t cracked 100 plate appearances in a single year since 2011. All told, Brignac owns a .219/.264/.309 batting line over 951 trips to the plate in the majors.
- Southpaw Sean Burnett will head to camp with the Phillies, according to SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (via Twitter). If he can crack the roster, Burnett will receive a $1.25MM salary if and when he pitches in the majors, per Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter links). The deal also includes $1.75MM in available incentives along with a March 26 opt-out date, per Nicholson-Smith. Burnett, 34, returned to the majors in 2016 with the Nationals after missing time due to injury. He posted a 3.18 ERA with three strikeouts and a walk over 5 2/3 innings across ten appearances in his return to D.C., and figures to have a shot at earning a lefty specialist role in Philadelphia.
- The Braves have a minor-league deal in place to bring back infielder Emilio Bonifacio, Cotillo tweets. Now 31, Bonifacio has played in the majors in ten consecutive seasons. But his opportunities have dwindled of late, and he spent most of 2016 at Triple-A. In his 471 plate appearances at Gwinnett, Bonifacio slashed a solid .298/.356/.369. He could conceivably challenge for a utility role next spring.
- Outfielder Junior Lake will join the Red Sox on a minor-league pact, per Cotillo (via Twitter). The 26-year-old, a right-handed hitter, cracked the majors briefly this past season with the Blue Jays and has appeared in each of the past four MLB campaigns. But Lake has seen only 51 games of action since playing an active reserve role for the Cubs in 2013-14. He hit .231/.314/.352 over 318 plate appearances last year at Triple-A.
- Righty Logan Bawcom is headed to the Padres on a minor-league deal, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets. Bawcom has yet to crack the big leagues, but showed well in the upper minors last year in the Dodgers organization. Spending most of his time at Triple-A, the 28-year-old posted 98 innings of 1.93 ERA ball over a dozen starts and 24 relief appearances, with 7.3 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9.
- The Mariners outrighted lefty Dean Kiekhefer, the club announced. He had recently been designated for assignment. A 22-inning MLB debut in 2016 didn’t go very well, as Kiekhefer pitched to a 5.32 ERA for the Cardinals, but he has posted sub-3.00 earned run averages in each of the past three seasons in the upper minors.
- Catcher Johnny Monell is heading to Korea, but it’s the KT Wiz and not the NC Dinos who’ll sign him. Cotillo had reported a connection to the Changwon-based Dinos yesterday, but says that the destination changed after that arrangement fell through. (Twitter link.)
Here are the latest minor moves from around baseball, with the newest transactions at the top of the post…
- Infielder Reid Brignac has been outrighted to Triple-A by the Braves after clearing waivers, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports on Twitter. The 30-year-old has seen only scattered action in recent seasons, but appeared in over 200 games over 2010 and 2011 with the Rays. All told, Brignac owns a .219/.264/.309 slash line in 951 plate appearances over parts of nine seasons in the big leagues.
- The Diamondbacks optioned slugging outfield prospect Peter O’Brien back to Triple-A, the club announced. Left-hander Edwin Escobar will be called up to start today’s game. O’Brien’s latest stint with the D’Backs ended up lasting just a few days and consisted of a single pinch-hit appearance on Friday. Ranked as the No. 7 prospect in Arizona’s system, O’Brien has put up big numbers at Triple-A Reno over the last two seasons, and he already has 12 homers in 182 Triple-A plate appearance this year. Escobar was claimed off waivers from the Red Sox last month and will be making his first Major League start. His previous experience in the bigs consists of two relief innings with Boston in 2014.
- The Giants released southpaw Mike Kickham, Baseball America’s Matt Eddy reports. Kickham was originally drafted by San Francisco in 2010 and appeared in 14 games with the Giants in 2013-14, which were thus far his only tastes of the major leagues. The lefty spent 2015 bouncing between the Cubs, Mariners and Rangers organizations before signing a minor league deal with the Giants this past winter. Kickham has a 4.17 ERA, 7.8 K/9 and 1.83 K/BB over 561 1/3 innings in the minors, with 100 of his 117 career games coming as a starting pitcher.
- Earlier this week, the Tigers released outfielder Nate Schierholtz. The veteran signed a minor league contract with Detroit last winter. Schierholtz has a .253/.302/.405 slash line over 2275 career PA with the Giants, Phillies, Cubs and Nationals from 2007-14. He spent the 2015 season playing in Japan, an experience Schierholtz discussed with MLBTR’s Zach Links during Spring Training.
Brignac, 30, has seen action in every major league season dating back to 2008, though he’s still yet to accumulate over 1,000 total plate appearances and has only cracked 100 in a single season twice. He’s a lifetime .219/.264/.309 hitter and has fallen below even that line in his 13 games this year with Atlanta. Of course, the utilityman is valued more as a depth option with a reliable glove.
The Braves has designated outfielder Drew Stubbs for assignment, reports Mark Bowman of MLB.com (Twitter link). That DFA comes as part of a flurry of roster moves; the Braves have selected the contracts of veterans Reid Brignac, Chase d’Arnaud and Matt Tuiasosopo (David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported the Tuiasosopo news earlier today) and also recalled right-hander Mike Foltynewicz from Triple-A Gwinnett. Infielder Jace Peterson and right-hander John Gant have been optioned to Gwinnett as well. Atlanta has since announced the moves (also via Twitter).
Stubbs, 31, batted .237/.310/.316 with a homer and four steals in 20 games/42 plate appearances for the Braves prior to being jettisoned from the 40-man roster. He picked up his fair share of at-bats with Ender Inciarte on the disabled list while serving as part of a timeshare in center field with rookie Mallex Smith. However, with Inciarte set to return from the disabled list in the near future, his presence on the roster was perhaps deemed superfluous for Atlanta.
Peterson, 25, saw regular at-bats with the Braves for much of last season but cooled considerably down the stretch and has posted a woeful .182/.260/.205 batting line in 50 plate appearances this season. The infielder will hope to get back on track and return to the form that allowed him to bat .284/.363/.389 through his first 65 games last season. That production, though, was bolstered by a .339 batting average on balls in play, and the fact that his strikeout rate climbed in the second half of the 2015 campaign as well as early in the 2016 season (26 percent this year) suggests that returning to those heights could be a difficult task.
Brignac, d’Arnaud (the older brother of Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud) and Tuiasosopo all come with their fair share of MLB experience, though none of the bunch has enjoyed prolong success a the big league level. Given the high volume of roster turnover we’ve seen from the Braves across the past seven months of regular-season play, it seems highly plausible that none of the three will be a long-term addition to the big league roster. Foltynewicz, however, should have a chance to stick in the rotation now that fellow right-hander Bud Norris has seemingly been dropped from the rotation.
The Braves have announced the signings of ten players to minor league contracts, each of which includes an invitation to major league camp. Righty David Carpenter is perhaps the most notable, but the list includes several other recognizable names.
Joining Carpenter in Atlanta’s camp this spring will be fellow righties Chris Volstad and Madison Younginer. Also reporting early for camp will be four catchers: former big leaguer Ryan Lavarnway, along with Willians Astudillo, Matt Kennelly, and Braeden Schlehuber. Veteran infielders Reid Brignac and Chase d’Arnaud, as well as outfielder Matt Tuiasosopo, are also joining the Braves.
Carpenter, 30, had an up-and-down 2015 after being sent from Atlanta to the Yankees in a deal that netted Manny Banuelos. He struggled in New York, generated good results in a short stint with the Nationals, and then ended the season with shoulder issues. Carpenter will look to recover the form he showed over is two years with the Braves, when he worked to a 2.63 ERA over 126 2/3 innings, with an impressive 10.0 K/9 against 2.6 BB/9.
There’s plenty of big league experience in the remainder of that group, too. Volstad threw well at Triple-A last year for the Pirates and could compete for a job in the rotation or the pen. Lavarnway spent time in the majors with Atlanta last season and might well end up the backup catcher if Christian Bethancourt isn’t deemed worthy of a roster spot. And Brignac and d’Arnaud might battle for a utility role.
Here are today’s minor moves:
- Infielder Reid Brignac has accepted the Marlins’ assignment to Triple-A, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets. Brignac could instead have elected free agency upon being outrighted. The 29-year-old produced a hit and three walks in 17 MLB turns at bat this year. He owns a .219/.266/.310 slash over 922 career plate appearances at the major league level.
- Righty Logan Kensing has signed a minor league deal with the Mariners, the club announced. Kensing, 32, worked to a 3.58 ERA last year in 88 frames at Triple-A Tacoma, registering 8.1 K/9 against 3.4 BB/9. Despite a single appearance with the Rockies in 2013, Kensing has not seen regular big league action since back in 2009. All said, he owns a 5.79 earned run average over his 161 2/3 innings in the majors.
- Catcher Blake Forsythe is headed from the Athletics to the Phillies via trade, per Nashville Sounds broadcaster Jeff Hem (via Twitter; h/t Matt Rappa of Philliedelphia.com). The 25-year-old reached the Triple-A level for the first time this year after spending each of the last two seasons at the Double-A level with the Mets and then A’s organizations. He figures to provide organizational depth behind the dish for a club that is proceeding cautiously with former top prospect Tommy Joseph, who is being monitored for concussion symptoms.
- The White Sox have released outfielder Engel Beltre, according to a tweet from Triple-A Charlotte. Beltre, 25, signed a minor league deal with Chicago over the winter. He had risen to the major league level in 2013, earning 42 plate appearances after putting up solid-enough numbers (for a speedy center fielder) in the upper minors in 2012-13. But Beltre was sidetracked by a broken leg last year, and was off to a slow start (.234/.268/.312) at Charlotte.