- Padres outfielder Matt Szczur will also remain with his organization after clearing waivers, the team announced. The Padres designated Szczur last weekend, after the 28-year-old began 2018 with a .187/.265/.267 line in 84 trips to the plate.
The Yankees already possess perhaps the game’s premier bullpen, but they could nonetheless add to their relief corps in the coming weeks. The club’s among the teams interested in a pair of established lefty relievers – the Padres’ Brad Hand and the Orioles’ Zach Britton – Jon Heyman of Fancred tweets.
While Britton is the better known of the two, Hand has eclipsed him in value since his breakout 2016. Hand previously landed on the Yankees’ radar last July and looked like a strong bet to leave San Diego via trade, considering the Padres were nowhere near playoff contention. Instead, the Padres kept Hand and then inked him to an extension worth a guaranteed three years and $19.75MM over the winter. The deal also features a $10MM club option, which Hand’s employer will pick up if he continues at anything resembling his current pace.
Since 2016, Hand leads qualified relievers in innings (210) and has posted a 2.66 ERA with 11.83 K/9, 3.04 BB/9 and a 46.8 percent groundball rate. The 28-year-old is now in his second season a full-time closer, during which he has converted 24 of 28 save chances, but he’d work in a setup role with the Yankees because of closer Aroldis Chapman’s presence (though Chapman has battled left knee tendinitis since early May, Bryan Hoch of MLB.com tweets). He’d accompany Chapman to give the Yankees two lights-out southpaws and yet another tremendous option alongside setup men Chad Green, Dellin Betances, David Robertson and Jonathan Holder.
In addition to Chapman, Green, Betances, Robertson and Holder, New York has gotten terrific results from relievers Adam Warren and A.J. Cole this season. The team also has 2017 standout Tommy Kahnle on hand in the minors. It may not behoove the World Series-contending Yankees to meet the still-rebuilding Padres’ reportedly high asking price for Hand, then, especially given New York’s need to address its rotation and maybe even its first base situation during the next few weeks.
Contrary to Hand, Britton does not look like a top-end reliever at this point, nor is he controllable beyond this season. Since an incredible 2016 in which he compiled a .54 ERA in 67 innings, Britton has dealt with a decline in output and a ruptured Achilles. He returned from that injury, which he suffered over the winter, last month and has since allowed six earned runs (with just eight strikeouts against seven walks) in 10 1/2 frames and experienced a dip in velocity.
Along with his newfound performance issues, Britton comes with a high salary. He’s owed the balance of $12MM, and the Yankees could be wary of that given their desire to stay south of the $197MM competitive-balance tax threshold. They’re plenty familiar with the 30-year-old Britton, though, as he has spent his entire career with AL East rival Baltimore. The Orioles are far out of playoff contention and figure to sell off as many pending free agents as possible, including Britton, in the coming weeks.
The Padres have signed left-hander Ryan Weathers, the number seven overall pick in this year’s amateur draft. AJ Cassavell of MLB.com was first to tweet news of the signing; Jim Callis of MLB.com reports that he’ll receive the full slot amount of $5,226.500 as his signing bonus.
Though the Loretto (Tennessee) High School product was a consensus first-round talent according to MLB.com, Baseball America and Fangraphs, all three of those publications ranked him outside of their top ten draft prospects; MLB.com in particular cited his lack of a “true out pitch” as reason to doubt he’d be taken so high in the draft. As such, it was a bit of a surprise to see the Padres take him with the seventh overall selection, though it’s worth noting that 2018 marks the second consecutive year that the Friars selected a high school lefty with their first round pick (they took MacKenzie Gore third overall last year).
Weathers is well-known for his overall athleticism, having led his high school to their first-ever state championship in basketball prior to pitching for them this spring. Weathers also has a fair amount of pedigree; his father is Dave Weathers, who enjoyed a major-league career spanning a remarkable 19 seasons. The younger Weathers gives a lot of credit for his development to his dad.
It’s generally believed that Weathers has a high floor for a high school selection. His fastball sat in the low nineties this past spring, clocking in at up to 95 MPH on a few occasions. Some scouts believe his big curveball might be an even better pitch than his fastball. Weathers has a good change-up as well, which he utilized often. MLB.com notes that Weathers does a good job of repeating his delivery; as such, many evaluators believe he could develop future plus command, albeit with pitches that largely grade as average or slightly above for the time being.
The Padres have designated outfielder Matt Szczur for assignment, per a team announcement. Additionally, San Diego reinstated infielder Allen Cordoba from the 60-day disabled list and optioned him to Single-A, and recalled infielder Carlos Asuaje from Triple-A.
The 28-year-old Szczur’s in his second season with the Padres, who acquired him in a trade with the Cubs in 2017. Szczur has struggled over 84 plate appearances this year in San Diego, where he has hit .187/.265/.267. Overall, the right-handed hitter’s a .231/.312/.355 in 667 major league PAs.
The Padres plucked Cordoba from the Cardinals in the December 2016 Rule 5 draft. Cordoba managed to hang with the Padres despite slashing just .208/.282/.297 in 227 PAs last season, his age-22 campaign. He has totaled just 49 PAs this year – all at the Single-A level – on account of a concussion.
- Tigers right-hander Michael Fulmer is drawing a lot of interest from not just contenders like the Phillies, Dodgers and Yankees, but also from rebuilding teams like the Padres. Clearly Fulmer would be a fit for a lot of teams considering both his ability and his years of control; he isn’t arbitration-eligible until this winter, and he has four years of arbitration coming as a Super Two player. Fancred Sports’ Jon Heyman wrote earlier this week that it could be unlikely that Fulmer is actually dealt, as Detroit has naturally put a big price tag on the righty in trade talks. San Diego is deep in prospects, however, so the Friars could be one of the few teams who wouldn’t immediately balk at the Tigers’ demands.
With ongoing uncertainty leading to some real worry, it came as something of a relief when the Cubs announced that Yu Darvish has been diagnosed with a right elbow impingement, as Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic was among those to cover on Twitter. Already on the DL, Darvish will receive a cortisone shot before being examined again next week. It’s not yet known what the course will be from that point, but the club is no doubt pleased that there’s not a more significant underlying issue plaguing the high-priced hurler.
Let’s run through some other health updates of note …
- The Brewers are still unsure when they’ll welcome back righty Jimmy Nelson, GM David Stearns tells reporters including MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy (via Twitter). “We still think Jimmy is going to pitch for us this year,” Stearns stressed. But the shoulder surgery that knocked Nelson out has required a “slower process,” says Stearns, with Nelson still “yet to pitch off a mound.” It seems there’s no chance that the Brewers will welcome back their staff ace in advance of the trade deadline, meaning they’ll need to assess their rotation without full knowledge of his ability to contribute down the stretch.
- Padres outfielder Franchy Cordero appears quite likely to elect season-ending surgery, MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell tweets. It’s still not a certainty, and the lack of urgency in making the final call — it has been under consideration for at least ten days — speaks to the general timeline. Though Cordero would miss the rest of the MLB campaign, he’d likely be ready to participate in winter ball and certainly be at full health for Spring Training next year.
- Athletics third baseman Matt Chapman has progressed to taking swings, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets. He has already been out for about two weeks with a hand injury.
- It seems there’s some cause for optimism for the Indians regarding reliever Tyler Olson. MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian tweets that Olson has been able to throw a bullpen session, which certainly indicates he’s progressing rather well from a lat injury that perhaps could have been worse.
- Likewise, Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg turned in a surprise bullpen session, as Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com was among those to tweet. That’s the first real indication that Strasburg is ready to begin working back toward a return from shoulder inflammation in earnest.
- In other NL East news, the Mets increasingly have a confounding situation on their hands with regard to star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News writes. Cespedes went on the DL in the middle of May with what seemed to be a minor injury, but still has not resumed running. Skipper Mickey Callaway says the veteran is “feeling a lot better,” but there’s no real sense of a timeline.
- Righty Wilmer Font left today’s game with a lat injury, with Rays skipper Kevin Cash saying it’s probably a serious one, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports on Twitter. The recently claimed righty “in all likelihood will miss significant time,” says Cash, which is quite a disappointment for all involved. Entering play today, the 28-year-old had found his groove with the Rays, turning in 22 innings of 1.64 ERA ball with 7.0 K/9 against 3.7 BB/9.
- In news of longer-term consequence, the White Sox are still holding their breath with regard to well-regarded pitching prospect Dane Dunning. The team announced that he has been diagnosed with a “moderate elbow sprain that presently will not require surgery.” For the time being, he’ll rest for a while and resume throwing in about two months’ time if he’s deemed ready. That’s hardly good news, but is certainly better than the worst-case that may have been feared.
The Cardinals have claimed lefty Tyler Webb off waivers from the Padres. The San Diego organization, which announced the move, had designated Webb for assignment recently.
A tenth-round pick in the 2013 draft, Webb moved quickly to the upper reaches of the Yankees system and has always produced quality K/BB numbers. But the 27-year-old has received limited opportunities in the majors. He has just 13 total MLB innings on his ledger, with those coming with three different teams over the past two seasons.
This season, Webb has thrived at Triple-A. Through 22 innings, he has allowed just five earned runs while recording 28 strikeouts against eight walks. But in his time in the bigs, he has shown only a low-nineties fastball and swinging-strike rate of just over eight percent.
Here are today’s most notable signings from the first few rounds of the draft. Scouting reports and pre-draft rankings can be found courtesy of MLB.com, Fangraphs, Baseball America and ESPN’s Keith Law (the latter two available to subscribers only)…
- The Padres signed Texas Tech outfielder Grant Little to an $800K bonus, MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis reports (Twitter link). The bonus falls just a bit shy of the $812.2K slot price for the 74th overall pick. Of note, this was the pick in Competitive Balance Round B that San Diego acquired from the Twins last month in the Phil Hughes trade. Fangraphs ranked Little 65th in their rankings, though the other outlets (MLB.com 128th, BA 158th, outside Law’s top 100) weren’t nearly as bullish. Scouts believe Little (a left fielder in college) could handle second base, third base, or even center field as a pro. Little is considered to have strong contact skills at the plate, though he lacks power.
This is the second time a team has designated Webb this season. The Brewers jettisoned Webb on April 7, leading the Padres to claim him off waivers a week later. The 27-year-old went on to throw five innings with San Diego prior to his latest designation, allowing seven earned runs on six hits and three walks (with four strikeouts). He has been far better as a member of the Padres’ Triple-A affiliate in El Paso, where he has logged a 2.05 ERA with 11.45 K/9 and 3.27 BB/9 in 22 innings.
The Padres announced a slew of roster moves Sunday, including the reinstatement of catcher Austin Hedges from the disabled list and the selection of right-hander Robert Stock from Triple-A. The club also placed righty Jordan Lyles on the DL with right elbow inflammation, recalled reliever Kazuhisa Makita and optioned both reliever Phil Maton and catcher Rafael Lopez. With a full 40-man roster, the Padres will need to create an opening for Stock.
Hedges is back after going on the DL on May 1 because of tendinitis in his right elbow. The 25-year-old struggled at the plate before then, hitting .173/.235/.293 in 81 trips. On the other hand, the defensively gifted Hedges shined as a pitch framer, per Baseball Prospectus. He’ll rejoin A.J. Ellis to comprise the Padres’ top two catchers, pushing Lopez out of the mix. Lopez didn’t take advantage of Hedges’ absence, as he has batted a meager .180/.263/.290 in 114 PAs and offered subpar pitch-framing work this season.
Stock, 28, is finally in position to make his major league debut nine years after the Cardinals chose him in the second round of the 2009 draft. A two-way player at USC, where he was also a catcher, Stock converted to pitching on a full-time basis after the 2011 season. Also a former Pirate and Red (not to mention an indy league participant), Stock joined the Padres prior to 2018 and has since fared well in the minors, including a 23 1/3-inning run at Triple-A, where he has logged a 1.93 ERA with 9.26 K/9, 3.86 BB/9 and a 55.6 percent groundball rate.
Lyles’ issue isn’t expected to require surgery, but he’ll see a doctor Monday, Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. The 27-year-old has collected 21 appearances (eight starts) this year and recorded a 4.46 ERA with 7.56 K/9, 2.43 BB/9 and a 46.8 percent grounder rate over 66 2/3 innings.
Given the numbers Maton has posted this year out of San Diego’s impressive bullpen, his demotion comes as a surprise. The 25-year-old has recorded a 1.53 ERA with 9.17 K/9 and 4.08 BB/9, though he went on the DL with a right lat strain on May 13 and hasn’t been effective in his two outings since returning this week. Over a total of 1 2/3 innings in those appearances, Maton allowed three runs (two earned) on four hits and a walk.