- Ron Roenicke was Jonathan Lucroy’s manager with the Brewers for over four seasons, and with Roenicke now serving as the Red Sox interim manager, he was the motivating factor in convincing Jonathan Lucroy to sign with Boston. “He called me and he wanted me to come. It was a big one,” Lucroy told reporters, including MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo and MLB.com’s Ian Browne. “He’s like, you’ll get an opportunity to come here and make the team. Right now, that’s all you can ask for with a guy in my position.” Lucroy signed a minor league contract with the Sox after a pretty quiet stint in free agency, as Cotillo notes that Lucroy “negotiated with a few clubs who backed out of deals at the last minute.” This isn’t to say that Lucroy is surprised at how his trip through the free agent market went, given his struggles over the last three seasons: “Analytically, I’ve been terrible. Seriously. I’m not trying to make excuses. I’m not surprised I didn’t get a big league offer.” Now, Lucroy is reunited with his old skipper and will compete with Kevin Plawecki for the backup catching position.
- The Rays are known for cycling different players through a position rather than having a set everyday starter, and MLB.com’s Juan Toribio examines how the club will juggle its many third base options. Yandy Diaz, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, Joey Wendle, Daniel Robertson, Nate Lowe, and Mike Brosseau could all factor into Tampa Bay’s choices at the hot corner, while also being rotated around to other positions on the diamond. Diaz is expected to get the majority of playing time, while Tsutsugo’s readiness at third base is perhaps the biggest wild card in the mix, as he hasn’t played the position since 2014 as a member of the Yokohama BayStars.
- The Blue Jays face some interesting decisions with their bench mix, as the Toronto Star’s Gregor Chisholm observes that slugger Rowdy Tellez might not make the Opening Day roster. Since minor league signing Joe Panik “is almost a sure bet to be included on the roster” as a utilityman and outfielders Derek Fisher and Anthony Alford are both out of options, this trio might have the advantage over Tellez, who is defensively limited to only first base. Tellez has shown some strong power (25 homers, .475 slugging percentage) over 482 MLB plate appearances, though is somewhat one-dimensional at the plate, as evidenced by his .241 career average and .299 OBP. Fisher and Alford will both need to perform well this spring to block Tellez, however, and Chisholm notes that Brandon Drury also isn’t a lock for the roster, as the Blue Jays could opt to cut Drury and just go with Panik as the primary utility player. Since Drury was an arbitration-eligible player, releasing him before Opening Day would leave the Jays on the hook for just a small portion of his $2.05MM salary. If Drury was released, Chisholm speculates Toronto could potentially put those savings towards signing another veteran player who might become available as teams trim their rosters in advance of the season opener.
A day after suggesting that Rowdy Tellez was in line to receive more playing time down than Justin Smoak down the stretch, Blue Jays skipper Charlie Montoyo has walked that assertion back a bit. “Maybe it came out like he’s going to play more than Smoak, but it’s still the same way,” Montoyo told reporters, including Shi Davidi of Sportsnet. “Smoak will DH, play first. I don’t see that much of a difference.” Smoak himself was caught off guard by Montoyo’s initial comments, but the first baseman said Montoyo took him aside in an effort to sort things out. It seems that Smoak and Tellez will share first base/designated hitter duties down the stretch, though Montoyo has no shortage of other players he’ll need to try to work into the mix at DH. Davidi adds that the Blue Jays “seem to have no intention” of placing Smoak on outright waivers in the manner they did with Freddy Galvis, who was claimed by the Reds earlier this week.
More out of Toronto…
- The Blue Jays didn’t find much in the way of trade interest for Galvis prior to the trade deadline, writes The Toronto Sun’s Ryan Wolstat, but the arrival (and immediate success) of Bo Bichette prompted the club to give the veteran Galvis an opportunity to be claimed by a club that’d play him every day at his natural position. General manager Ross Atkins said the club and Galvis were open and honest with each other leading up to the move. Montoyo effused praise for Galvis’ professionalism and leadership, and teammates such as Lourdes Gurriel Jr. expressed some sadness in seeing Galvis depart. “He taught me a lot, not just to me, to the rest of the guys and I will always carry that with me,” said Gurriel of Galvis. “Freddy’s a huge mentor for any player.” The Reds will now have the ability to exercise Galvis’ $5.5MM club option for the 2020 season, though they’ll also be on the hook for the $1MM buyout should they not decide to bring him back.
- While Danny Jansen is still the favorite to serve as the Jays’ primary catcher in 2020, TSN’s Scott Mitchell writes that Reese McGuire will be given an opportunity to show he can be a significant piece of the catching puzzle in the season’s final six weeks. Both Jansen and McGuire drew heaps of praise for their defensive prowess from catching coordinator John Schneider, and Jansen indeed ranks among the game’s best backstops in terms of pitch framing, pitch blocking, Defensive Runs Saved and Baseball Prospectus’ fielding runs above average. Jansen has also salvaged what was shaping up to be a miserable season at the plate, hitting .252/.316/.484 dating back to June 1. As Mitchell points out, the Jays have a number of other catching options coming up through the system, giving them some potential trade commodities to address other holes on the club if the Jansen/McGuire pairing is indeed determined to be the long-term catching tandem.
A look around the majors’ East divisions…
- Nationals ace Max Scherzer came out of a 32-pitch sim game Tuesday feeling “really good,” Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com relays. If all goes well over the next few days, Scherzer could throw a bullpen session Thursday and then either make a rehab start or return to the Nationals’ rotation Sunday. The three-time Cy Young winner has started just twice for the team over the past month and a half – his most recent outing came on July 25 – because of back problems. Should he return this weekend, he’d be on a limited pitch count, according to manager Dave Martinez.
- Injured Yankees outfielder Giancarlo Stanton is “up to 75 or 85 percent,” according to manager Aaron Boone (via Bryan Hoch of MLB.com). It’s unclear how close Stanton is to returning, though. The former NL MVP has been on the shelf since late July with a knee injury, and he only took 38 plate appearances before then. Somehow, though, the Yankees have thrived this season with basically no contributions from Stanton. Just about every outfielder they’ve plugged in has succeeded, including formerly unspectacular-looking pickups Mike Tauchman and Cameron Maybin.
- The Blue Jays recalled first baseman Rowdy Tellez from Triple-A Buffalo on Tuesday. The 24-year-old forced his way back by mauling pitchers at the Triple-A level, where he slashed .366/.450/.688 with seven home runs in 109 plate appearances. Tellez wasn’t nearly that good this year in the majors before a mid-July demotion, as he hit .227/.280/.436 with 14 HRs over 286 PA. However, considering they’re looking toward the future, the rebuilding Blue Jays want to see if Tellez can continue his minor league brilliance in their uniform. His promotion could spell bad news for veteran first baseman Justin Smoak, who’s likely to lose playing time to Tellez, manager Charlie Montoyo said Tuesday (via Scott Mitchell of TSN). That doesn’t seem to bode well for the Toronto future of Smoak, a pending free agent.
- Mets righty Jacob Rhame has undergone ulnar nerve transposition surgery and will miss the rest of the season, Anthony DiComo of MLB.com tweets. The 26-year-old only threw 27 innings between the majors and minors this season, six of which came as a member of the Mets.
Following this afternoon’s game, the Blue Jays have optioned 1B/DH Rowdy Tellez to Triple-A Buffalo, per Gregor Chisholm of the Toronto Star. The move leaves the team without its everyday designated hitter. A corresponding roster move has yet to be announced, though Shi Davidi of Sportsnet suggests that outfielder Billy McKinney could be activated from the injured list.
Tellez has been an everyday player for the Blue Jays, toggling between first base and designated hitter alongside Justin Smoak. Despite an extended look, Tellez has failed to make good on the offensive potential he flashed in a brief big-league stint last season. The 24-year-old has managed just 17 walks this season, good for a 5.9% walk rate and a .281 OBP. He’s slugged 14 home runs, but the overall offensive output has not been enough to justify his presence in the lineup every day. On the bright side, he’ll receive consistent at-bats in the minors, hopefully making the necessary adjustments to vault himself back into a Major League batting order.
With Tellez no longer on the roster and a vacancy at DH, it seems as though the Blue Jays will have a few options as to how they construct their lineup. If McKinney is indeed the corresponding roster move, he could slot into a regular role in right field, while Teoscar Hernandez and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. looking like the most likely candidates to pick up the bulk of the DH reps—though it’s unlikely the Blue Jays would relegate Guerrero to playing just one side of the ball this early in his development. If not McKinney, Cavan Biggio, who has shown impressive versatility in his debut, could be in line for more regular playing time in the outfield.
The Blue Jays have announced their Opening Day roster. Reliever Javy Guerra will make the club, meaning his contract was selected to the 40-man roster.
Guerra, 33, has spent parts of eight seasons in the big leagues, most recently in 2017-18 with the Marlins. He has a career 3.42 ERA with averages of 7.2 strikeouts, 4.0 walks and 0.6 home runs allowed per nine innings pitched. The 2018 season was an ugly one for the former Dodgers closer (5.55 ERA in 35 2/3 innings), but he had a solid partial season with the Fish in 2017. Guerra also allowed just one run in 10 1/3 spring innings, notching a 10-to-4 K/BB ratio along the way.
Tellez, 24, mashed five spring homers and hit .280/.308/.600 in 52 plate appearances. That output came on the heels of an intriguing MLB debut in which Tellez batted .314/.329/.614 with four homers and nine doubles in just 73 plate appearances in 2018. Tellez hasn’t had anywhere near that type of success in Triple-A, but scouting reports have long touted his above-average power. He’s also fanned at a 17.7 percent clip in Triple-A — a lower rate than one might expect for a first baseman whose primary asset is his power.
Two of the most talented players in Triple-A will remain there throughout the month of September. Third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Eloy Jimenez will not receive a cup of coffee in the majors this month, per recent announcements from the Blue Jays and White Sox, respectively.
To those well-versed in MLB service time rules and practices, this news induces a reaction closer to a yawn than a surprise; teams have been using the service clock to manipulate team control for quite some time, and there was no reason to believe that would change in regards to Guerrero Jr. or Jimenez. Recent examples of players whose service time has been suppressed by their respective teams in order to yield them an additional year of team control include Kris Bryant, George Springer and Ronald Acuna Jr., and that list is far from complete. Others still, including the likes of Francisco Lindor, have been held in the minors long enough to reduce their earning power.
That doesn’t mean agents are quieting down about the issue, though. Both players’ representatives have been vocal in regards to their clients’ dearth of a promotion, as well they ought to be considering they’ll miss out on a significant amount of money. Jimenez’ agent in particular blasted with White Sox for service time manipulation. “Especially with elite players like Eloy and (Blue Jays top prospect) Vlad (Guerrero) Jr., that’s the nature of the business,” said Dan Kinzer. “It’s not about the money. It’s the extra year of control.” Similarly, the MLBPA has spoken out against Chicago and Toronto on the subject.
Perhaps J.J. Cooper of Baseball America put it best in his recent piece on the subject: it’s impossible to objectively argue that these players don’t deserve a call up based on performance. Guerrero Jr. has hit .336/.414/.564 with a microscopic 7.8% strikeout rate since his promotion to Triple-A this season, while Jimenez owns an even more excellent .355/.399/.597 line to go along with a 13.2% strikeout rate. Put simply, opposing pitchers aren’t fooling these prospects, and there’s no real reason development-wise that they ought not be exposed to major-league pitching. That’s particularly true in light of the fact that the White Sox promoted low-ceiling prospect Ryan Cordell, while the Blue Jays selected Triple-A veteran Rowdy Tellez. Whatever good there is to say of these young players, any attempt to argue that they’ve done more to earn a promotion than Guerrero Jr. or Jimenez would require a staggering amount of cognitive dissonance.
These teams are clearly planning to restrain their top prospects within the confines of Triple-A until the third week of April 2019, regardless of how well they hit. That’s the point at which they’ll be guaranteed an additional year of team control that allows them to keep those future superstars around through the 2026 season rather than hit free agency after 2025. It’s a distinction that could potentially cost them eight figures in earning power apiece depending on how they develop in the majors.
The question I want to pose is, how do you feel about the overt suppression of service time to manipulate a player’s team control? (Poll link for app users)
In other promotions, the club has called up outfielder Dwight Smith Jr., infielder Richard Urena, and first baseman Rowdy Tellez. All were already on the 40-man roster, so no further moves were needed.
Davis, a 15th-round pick in the 2013 draft, will get his first promotion after turning in mixed results in the upper minors. Though he had an impress showing at Double-A, Davis has only managed a .249/.308/.389 slash in his 202 plate appearances at the highest level of the minors. He did, however, turn in his third-straight minor-league season with at least ten home runs and twenty steals.
As for the 28-year-old Hauschild, he has seen limited MLB action over the past two seasons. At Triple-A this year, with the Houston and Toronto organizations, he has worked to a cumulative 4.90 ERA with 7.8 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 over 119 1/3 innings.
A few notes from the American League:
- The cost for the Red Sox to purchase right-hander Hector Velazquez from the Mexican League last week was just $30K, reports Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald. Velazquez’s pact with the Red Sox includes escalators based on consecutive days he spends on Boston’s roster, and one general manager told Drellich it’s the first such deal he has seen. Red Sox front office members Allard Baird, Jared Banner, Marcus Cuellar and Edgar Perez were all involved in the signing, per Drellich. Velazquez is familiar with Cuellar, notes Drellich, which helped the Sox beat out other teams (including the Yankees) for his services.
- Blue Jays first base prospect Rowdy Tellez is “knocking at the door” of the big league roster, manager John Gibbons said Saturday (via Paul Hagen of MLB.com). Continued Gibbons: “You just watch him more and more. There’s something there. Something special there.” Since going in the 30th round of the 2013 draft, Tellez has raked in the minors, including at the Double-A level last season. The 21-year-old slashed .297/.387/.530 with 23 home runs and 63 walks against 92 strikeouts. Now Baseball America’s 95th-ranked prospect, Tellez is likely to start the year with Triple-A Buffalo, relays Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.
- Righty Daniel Gossett made a surprise start for the Athletics on Sunday, leading Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle to wonder if he could be in the mix for the last spot in the team’s rotation. Manager Bob Melvin isn’t ruling it out. “He impressed everybody in the organization last year, so in talking about that fifth starter, who knows?” said Melvin. Gossett, 24, checks in at No. 8 on BA’s list of A’s prospects after pitching at all three levels last year. The 2014 second-round pick spent most of his time at Double-A, where he posted a 2.49 ERA, 9.00 K/9 and 2.39 BB/9 in 94 innings.
- Non-roster invitee Ronny Rodriguez has emerged as a serious candidate to earn a role as a utility infielder with the Indians, writes Jordan Bastian of MLB.com. Rodriguez, who’s competing against Michael Martinez and Erik Gonzalez (a potential trade chip), has won the favor of manager Terry Francona. “He’s got a lot of sock in his bat,” said the skipper. “He can play other positions. He’s really interesting. I don’t think you hold it against a guy, because he maybe spent more time in the Minor Leagues. Some guys figure it out later in life. He’s got all the tools.”