St. Louis Cardinals – MLB Trade Rumors 2019-06-20T21:11:10Z WordPress Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Carlos Martinez To Stay In Current Role]]> 2019-06-20T14:48:45Z 2019-06-20T14:47:06Z Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez has been a highly capable starter for most of tenure with the club, which dates back to 2013. But the Cardinals moved the then-injured Martinez to their bullpen in late April, and that’s where he’s going to stay for the time being, per manager Mike Shildt (via Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch). Shildt suggested the Cardinals don’t have time to build up Martinez, who opened the season on the injured list with shoulder problems. “To put him back in that cycle again doesn’t make a lot of sense when he’s in a spot where he’s had success and he’s recovering,” Shildt said of Martinez, who has totaled 12 appearances and 13 1/3 innings with a 3.38 ERA/3.47 FIP, 8.1 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and a 58.3 percent groundball rate since he made his season debut May 18. Even though Martinez has posted good numbers as a reliever, the Cardinals’ rotation has missed the 27-year-old. Their starting staff has been mediocre or worse this season.

Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Jedd Gyorko Suffers Setback]]> 2019-06-19T22:02:34Z 2019-06-19T22:02:34Z Injured Cardinals infielder Jedd Gyorko suffered a setback this week and won’t return “for a while,” Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes.

Gyorko went to the injured list June 8 with a lower back strain, but he may now be dealing with a left calf strain. It’s the latest significant lower body issue for Gyorko, who thrice went on the IL with hamstring and groin strains from 2017-18.

Gyorko’s injury woes add to what has been a contract season to forget for the 30-year-old. Although the former Padre combined to hit .259/.331/.463 (111 wRC+) with 61 home runs and 6.1 fWAR in 1,321 plate appearances from 2016-18, his first three seasons as a Cardinal, playing time has been scarce for Gyorko this year. Stuck behind third baseman Matt Carpenter, second baseman Kolten Wong and shortstop Paul DeJong on the Cardinals’ depth chart, Gyorko has totaled just 62 PA in 2019 and batted a poor .196/.274/.304 (57 wRC+) with a pair of HRs.

Between his injuries and weak production, Gyorko looks as if he’s on track to settle for a much lower salary than his current $13MM when he reaches free agency in the offseason.  The Cardinals will have a chance to keep Gyorko for another $13MM then, but they’re sure to decline his option in favor of a $1MM buyout.

Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Adam Wainwright To Return Thursday]]> 2019-06-19T03:29:33Z 2019-06-19T03:29:33Z
  • Cardinals righty Adam Wainwright will come off the IL to start Thursday, Jenifer Langosch of relays. Wainwright has been on the shelf since he departed a June 9 start with left hamstring tightness. Like most of St. Louis’ other starters, the 37-year-old Cardinals icon has registered unspectacular numbers this season. Wainwright owns a 4.46 ERA/4.59 FIP with 7.77 K/9 and 3.95 BB/9 in 70 2/3 innings.
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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Cardinals Select Rangel Ravelo’s Contract]]> 2019-06-17T17:06:55Z 2019-06-17T17:06:45Z 12:05pm: The move is now official. Righty Mike Mayers was moved to the 60-day IL to create 40-man space.

    1:06am: The Cardinals are set to add minor league infielder Rangel Ravelo to their big league roster, The Athletic’s Robert Murray reports (Twitter link).  Ravelo’s contract should be selected prior to the Cards’ game with the Marlins on Monday night.  Yairo Munoz is headed to the paternity list, which will create a spot for Ravelo on the Cards’ 25-man roster, though a 40-man spot will still need to be created. doesn’t rank Ravelo as one of the Cardinals’ top 30 prospects, though the 27-year-old put up strong numbers during Spring Training this year, and then rebounded from an oblique injury to hit .333/.414/.543 with nine home runs over 249 PA for Triple-A Memphis.  Speaking to Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last week, Cards president of baseball operations John Mozeliak cited Ravelo as “not a name I’d rule out” in regards to a promotion.

    Ravelo has played mostly first base and left field in recent years, with some work as as right fielder as well.  Since Paul Goldschmidt has first base spoken for in St. Louis, Ravelo seems likely to step into the corner outfield mix, though he is something of an imperfect fit on a roster already overloaded with right-handed bats.  Of course, this assumes that Ravelo will be up in the majors for anything beyond a cup of coffee, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch notes that Jedd Gyorko is expected back from the 10-day injured list on Tuesday.  Ravelo could very well find himself back in Memphis in 24 hours’ time, without having officially made his Major League debut.

    A sixth-round pick for the White Sox in the 2010 draft, Ravelo has consistently hit for high averages and shown a lot of on-base skills in amassing a .301/.372/.444 slash line over 3383 career plate appearances in the minors.  After spending his first five pro seasons in Chicago’s farm system, he was part of a notable trade in December 2014, going along with Marcus Semien, Josh Phegley and Chris Bassitt to the Athletics in exchange for Jeff Samardzija and Michael Ynoa.  Ravelo originally came to the Cards on a minors contract in April 2017.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Cardinals Sign 14th-Rounder To Above-Slot Deal]]> 2019-06-15T22:53:01Z 2019-06-15T22:45:30Z
  • Two teams made significant signings beyond the 10th round that will have hefty impacts on their draft bonus pools, as every post-10th round draft pick who signs for more than $125K will have the extra money counted against the pool.  The Braves signed 13th-round pick Tyler Owens to a $547.5K bonus, as per’s Jonathan Mayo, while’s Jim Callis reports that the Cardinals have signed 14th-rounder Tyler Statler to a $300K bonus.  Both Owens and Statler are right-handed pitchers out of high school, who had respectively committed to attend Florida and Southeast Missouri State.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Miles Mikolas Has Fallen Off]]> 2019-06-14T02:40:59Z 2019-06-14T02:40:59Z The Cardinals signed free-agent right-hander Miles Mikolas to a two-year, $15.5MM guarantee in what became one of the wisest moves of the 2017-18 offseason. Although hardly a bank-breaking commitment, it was somewhat of a gamble for St. Louis. After all, Mikolas was an unspectacular major leaguer with the Padres and Rangers from 2012-14 who then spent three years pitching in Japan. Mikolas was dominant overseas, though, and he carried that excellence into 2018 in St. Louis.

    During his first year with the Cardinals, Mikolas pitched to an outstanding 2.83 ERA/3.28 FIP in 200 2/3 innings. While Mikolas only struck out 6.55 batters per nine, he walked a mere 1.3 and induced ground balls at a 49.3 percent clip. Mikolas’ stinginess in the walk and fly ball departments helped lead to a 4.3 fWAR, which ranked 12th among major league starters.

    Sold on Mikolas’ output last season, the Cardinals signed him to an extension worth a guaranteed $68MM for four years back in February. That deal will keep Mikolas under wraps through 2023, but unfortunately for the Cardinals, it’s not looking like a great move so far. Facing the lowly Marlins on Wednesday, Mikolas allowed five earned runs on eight hits in five innings, thereby raising his ERA to 4.83 in 78 1/3 frames this season. His 4.74 FIP isn’t much better.

    Mikolas’ 2019 woes haven’t come because of significant declines in the strikeout, walk, groundball or BABIP categories. Those numbers look almost the same compared to last season, though there has been a noticeable drop in his strike rate. Nobody posted a higher strike percentage than Mikolas’ 69.3 a year ago, but the figure has fallen to 65.8 in 2019. Meanwhile, Mikolas’ strand rate has decreased by a large margin (from 76.2 percent to 70.9), and he has been far more prone to surrendering long balls.

    After yielding home runs on a meager 9.2 percent of fly balls in 2018, Mikolas is all the way up to 19.7 this season. It hasn’t helped that Mikolas’ infield fly rate has plummeted from 9.8 percent to 4.2. At the same time, his hard-hit rate has climbed by greater than 5 percent, according to FanGraphs, while Statcast indicates his average exit velocity against has hopped from 85.4 mph to 88.2. Consequently, Mikolas’ weighted on-base average/expected wOBA against has shot from .271/.286 to .339/.347.

    So why the newfound contact management issues? For one, Mikolas isn’t fooling as many hitters this year, as they’ve chased 5 percent fewer pitches than they did last season. And left-handed hitters have been especially tough on Mikolas, who held them to a .309 wOBA last season but has seen the number jump to .396 this year. As seen in these FanGraphs heatmaps (2018, ’19), he’s not staying away against lefties as well he did last season.

    Worsening matters, Mikolas’ once-elite slider has been ineffective, and he has leaned on it less as a result. While Mikolas’ slider was one of the most valuable pitches of its kind a year ago, per FanGraphs, it has taken colossal steps backward this season. Batters posted a measly .201/.231 wOBA/xwOBA versus the offering in his first year in St. Louis, but they’re up to .395/.329 in the current campaign. If we’re to take that 66-point gap in face value, there has been some poor fortune involved. However, it simply hasn’t been close to as lethal as it was in 2018, perhaps owing to a 1 mph drop in velocity and somewhat of a change in typical location (heatmaps via FanGraphs: ’18, ’19).

    Contrary to last season, when Mikolas’ slider helped him perform like one of the majors’ top starters, troubling signs abound for the 2019 version of the righty. His struggles are a key reason why the Cardinals have gotten off to a mediocre start and are on track to miss the playoffs for a fourth straight season. That’s not what the Redbirds had in mind when they bought high on Mikolas over the winter.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Who Will Win The NL Central?]]> 2019-06-14T01:20:34Z 2019-06-14T01:20:34Z The National League Central looked like a three-team race at the beginning of the season, and not much has changed two months into the campaign. The Brewers, Cubs and Cardinals – the most hyped clubs in the division coming into the year – are at the top. After winning the division a year ago, the Brewers are 39-29, a half-game better than the Cubs. The Cardinals are a less impressive 33-33, five games back, though they’re certainly not out of the race. Meanwhile, the Reds and Pirates are eight and nine games behind, respectively. Neither looked likely to challenge for the NL Central at the outset of the season. They haven’t done anything to change anyone’s mind yet.

    Led by reigning MVP right fielder Christian Yelich, brilliant free-agent acquisition Yasmani Grandal and offseason re-signing Mike Moustakas, the Brewers boast one of the majors’ most valuable groups of position players.  Their pitching hasn’t been as useful, on the other hand, as a rotation that was devoid of an ace entering the season has dealt with ineffectiveness and injuries throughout the year. However, the team still features elite reliever Josh Hader, with Jeremy Jeffress and Adrian Houser among those supporting him.

    The Cubs’ position player mix has been even better than the Brewers’ this year, largely because Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Willson Contreras and David Bote have each offered strong production. Chicago’s rotation is probably better equipped, too, as Kyle Hendricks, Cole Hamels, Jose Quintana and Jon Lester are all proven commodities. Although, Yu Darvish hasn’t rebounded as hoped in his second year as a Cub. Darvish & Co. have handed off to a bullpen that hasn’t been lights-out this year, but it’s about to welcome all-time great closer Craig Kimbrel, whom the Cubs signed to a three-year, $43MM contract last week. Kimbrel would have been a match for the Brewers, making it all the more beneficial for the Cubs that they landed him (on paper, at least).

    As for the Cardinals, they’ve fallen short of expectations after trading for ex-Diamondback Paul Goldschmidt, one of the premier position players in recent memory, and signing reliever Andrew Miller in the offseason. Both players have logged somewhat disappointing production to date, though Goldschmidt’s still an imposing presence and Miller has improved after a rocky start. Regardless, neither the Cardinals’ cast of hitters nor their relief corps is their most pressing issue. It’s their rotation, which hasn’t gotten high-end numbers from anyone. Jack Flaherty and Miles Mikolas have gone backward after impressive showings in 2018, while Dakota Hudson’s peripherals portend trouble. Adam Wainwright’s much closer to average than ace-like these days (and he’s now on the injured list with a hamstring issue), and nobody has nailed down the fifth spot in the Redbirds’ starting staff.

    Considering the talent peppered throughout the Cardinals’ roster, it would be foolhardy to rule them out as potential division winners this season. Furthermore, with the trade deadline still yet to occur, St. Louis or anyone else in the division could put itself over the top with a shrewd acquisition(s) leading up to July 31. For now, though, the edge clearly belongs to the Cubs and the Brewers. FanGraphs currently projects the NL Central to finish in this order: Cubs (91-71), Brewers (87-75), Cardinals (83-79), Reds (78-84), Pirates (75-87). How do you expect it to shake out?

    (Poll link for app users)

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Cardinals Sign 2nd-Rounder Trejyn Fletcher]]> 2019-06-13T21:34:55Z 2019-06-13T21:08:08Z
  • The Cardinals have inked second-rounder Trejyn Fletcher to an above-slot deal, Callis reports. Fletcher’s pick (No. 58) had a $1.22MM slot value, but the Redbirds gave the high school outfielder $1.5MM. Callis and Mayo ranked Fletcher as the 87th-best player available entering the draft, owing to the 18-year-old’s “tantalizing combination of plus raw power, speed and arm strength.” If all goes well, Fletcher could evolve into a 20-20 center fielder in the majors, Callis and Mayo write, though they note his development will require a large amount of patience.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Latest On Brett Cecil]]> 2019-06-12T12:44:00Z 2019-06-12T12:44:00Z Cardinals reliever Brett Cecil says he’s pleased thus far with the results of his carpal tunnel surgery, as Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. The southpaw is preparing to throw from a mound for the first time since his procedure in early April.

    Cecil ended up going under the knife when he experienced a loss of sensation in his fingers this spring. That was only the latest in a line of woes for the veteran hurler, whose tenure in St. Louis has not gone as hoped when the team gave him a rare four-year deal in advance of the 2017 campaign. He’s earning $7.5MM this year and $7MM next, with full no-trade rights.

    Last season, Cecil experienced shoulder and foot problems — along with notable declines in velocity, swinging-strike rate, and chase rate (among other things). Simply put, he wasn’t fooling opposing hitters. Cecil walked more of them than he struck out en route to 32 2/3 innings of 6.89 ERA pitching.

    It’s anyone’s guess whether Cecil will ever be anything close to the stud setup man the Cards thought they were getting. But they’ll soon get a sense of his post-surgical form. If all goes well, Cecil could launch a rehab assignment not long after his 33rd birthday in early July and perhaps even make it back to the MLB mound by the end of the month.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Cardinals Sign First-Rounder Zack Thompson]]> 2019-06-11T22:01:22Z 2019-06-11T22:01:22Z The Cardinals announced Tuesday that they’ve signed first-rounder Zack Thompson. The Athletic’s Mark Saxon reported minutes prior to the announcement that Thompson had agreed to terms and would receive a $3MM signing bonus, which checks in $359K south of his No. 19 overall slot value (Twitter link).

    A left-handed pitcher out of the University of Kentucky, Thompson made 14 starts in 2019 and logged a 2.40 ERA with a 130-to-34 K/BB ratio over 90 innings as a junior. Scouting reports from Baseball America (No. 11), (No. 14), Fangraphs (No. 18) and ESPN (No. 22) all agreed on two things: Thompson is a consensus first-round talent, and he might’ve gone higher in the draft had an elbow issue not held him out for much of his sophomore season in 2018.

    Reports on Thompson praise him for a low-90s heater that can touch 96 mph and a slider, changeup and curveball that all have the potential to be anywhere from average to above-average offerings in pro ball. The 6’3″, 225-pound Thompson didn’t miss a start in 2019 and averaged a bit better than 6 1/3 innings per outing, which helped to quell some concerns about his previous elbow troubles.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Adam Wainwright Leaves Start Due To Hamstring Tightness]]> 2019-06-10T05:14:40Z 2019-06-10T05:14:40Z Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright left Sunday night’s start after 4 1/3 innings due to an injury later diagnosed by the team as tightness in his left hamstring.  The injury occurred when Wainwright was running the bases after doubling in the previous inning, as per Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Twitter links).  Manager Mike Shildt told Goold and other media that Wainwright will miss at least one start, and the veteran righty will go to St. Louis on Monday for further tests to determine the severity of the injury.

    Wainwright ended up allowing three runs to the Cubs during his abbreviated start on Sunday, giving the 37-year-old a 4.46 ERA, 7.77 K/9, and 48.8% grounder rate over 70 2/3 frames this season.  He has already far surpassed the 40 1/3 innings he tossed in an injury-marred 2018 season, and while his one-year contract to return to the Cards carried a number of incentives related to relief pitching, Wainwright has been deployed solely out of the rotation.

    Never a particularly hard-thrower, Wainwright’s 89.5mph average fastball velocity this season is a new career low, and his 42.1% hard-hit ball rate is far and away the highest of his 14 MLB seasons.  Still, all that hard contact hasn’t hurt Wainwright to any huge extent, as his .327 xwOBA is actually lower than his .333 wOBA.

    All told, Wainwright is on pace for a decent bounce-back season, though his overall unspectacular numbers are par for the course within a Cards rotation that has been pretty average across the board.  If an IL stint is required, all eyes will turn to top pitching prospect Alex Reyes as a potential fill-in candidate, as Reyes is reportedly close to a return to the big leagues even though his Triple-A numbers this season leave a lot to be desired.

    Genesis Cabrera or Daniel Ponce de Leon could also make spot starts, or the Cardinals could experiment with bullpen games or an opener.  A decision will have to be made quickly, however, as the Cards are in the midst of a tough stretch of schedule that sees them play 18 games in as many days.

    Ty Bradley <![CDATA[Cardinals Select Tommy Edman, Designate Merandy Gonzalez]]> 2019-06-08T19:52:11Z 2019-06-08T19:52:11Z The Cardinals have selected the contract of infielder Tommy Edman, the team reported. He’ll replace Jedd Gyorko, who was placed on the 10-Day IL with a lower back strain. Righty Merandy Gonzalez was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man.

    Edman, a 24-year-old Stanford product, is a switch-hitter who’d slashed .305/.356/.513 in over 200 plate appearances for Triple-A Memphis this season. The 5’10 utilityman didn’t crack the team’s top ten prospects on most major outlets, though the organization certainly has a history of turning players of this ilk into valuable contributors.

    This’ll be the third designation this season for Gonzalez, 23, who was also cut loose by the Giants and Marlins. The six-foot righty threw 25 innings for AA-Springfield this season, striking out 21 and walking an unsightly 20 more. He’ll have to sharpen his command to work his way back to the big leagues, though his upside does remain high.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[The Offseason’s Best Minor League Signings (So Far)]]> 2019-06-07T19:19:45Z 2019-06-07T17:15:40Z The final two top-tier free agents are finally off the board — it only took until June! — but most clubs have long since begun to reap the benefits of their offseason additions from the open market. That includes those who partook in the annual grab bag of minor league contracts.

    Each year, there are dozens upon dozens of recognizable names who settle for non-guaranteed pacts — perhaps more in this past winter’s frigid free-agent climate — and while most fail to yield dividends, there’s always a handful of gems unearthed. The Rangers, Reds and Pirates did particularly well in terms of signing players on minor league contracts this offseason, but there have certainly been other deals of note. It’ll merit revisiting this bunch after the season is over to see who maintained their pace and who stepped up in the final two thirds of the 2019 campaign, but to this point in the year, here’s a look at the most productive minor league signees of the winter.

    Rangers: Hunter Pence, Logan Forsythe, Danny Santana

    Hunter Pence | Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    Much was made of Hunter Pence’s efforts to revamp his swing while playing winter ball in the offseason. Frankly, it’s not uncommon to hear of veteran players perhaps in the twilight of their career making alterations in an effort to stick around a bit longer. What is uncommon is for the results to be this eye-opening.

    Pence hasn’t simply bounced back from a pair of awful seasons to close out his Giants tenure — he’s given the Rangers one of the best offensive performances of his 13-year Major League career. The 36-year-old has posted a resplendent .288/.341/.583 batting line with a dozen home runs, 10 doubles and a triple through 179 plate appearances. His 47.6 percent hard contact rate lands in the 91st percentile of big league hitters, per Statcast, and his average exit velocity of 92.6 mph is in the 96th percentile. Defensive metrics are down on Pence, which isn’t a huge surprise for a 36-year-old corner outfielder, but he’s hitting at a star level without benefiting from a gaudy BABIP (.299). If he can maintain this pace, he’ll have no trouble landing not just a 40-man roster spot this winter — but a solid salary to go along with it.

    Pence alone would make for a terrific minor league add, but the Rangers are also getting the best form of Logan Forsythe we’ve ever seen (.299/.404/.472 through 172 PAs) and a strong showing from Danny Santana (.291/.333/.465 in 139 PAs). Those performances are a bit more dubious, as the pair improbably sports matching .388 averages on balls in play. But, Forsythe is walking at a 14 percent clip that he’s never previously approached outside of a 2017 season in Los Angeles where he logged ample time hitting eighth in front of the pitcher (with a 21 percent walk rate in such plate appearances). Santana can’t boast that same plate discipline — to the contrary, his longstanding inability to draw a walk is as pronounced as ever — but he’s making hard contact more than ever before while also stealing bases with great efficiency (7-for-8). Both Forsythe and Santana can move all over the diamond as well.

    Reds: Derek Dietrich, Jose Iglesias

    Derek Dietrich | David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

    Cincinnati has gotten even more production out of its minor league deals than Texas, although the two player the Reds landed on non-guaranteed contracts both came as a surprise. Even after Dietrich was effectively non-tendered by the Marlins, he was expected to get a big league deal. Iglesias enjoyed a solid season at the plate and has long been regarded as a stellar defender at shortstop. The Tigers jumped on a one-year deal with Jordy Mercer worth $5MM in early December, seemingly believing Iglesias would command more.

    That neither player found his asking price met by the time mid-February rolled around has been nothing short of a godsend for the Reds, who scooped up both on minor league pacts. Cincinnati couldn’t have known that a spring injury to Scooter Gennett would create even more at-bats for this pair early in the season, but Dietrich and Iglesias have each been sensational in capitalizing on the opportunity for unexpected levels of playing time.

    Dietrich has already pounded a career-high 17 home runs despite accruing only 157 plate appearances. Detractors will point to his new hitter-friendly home park, but Dietrich has a .377 on-base percentage, .541 slugging percentage and six home runs on the road this year. Besides, it’s not as if every member of the Reds has belted 17 home runs simply by virtue of playing games at Great American Ball Park. Dietrich has a career-best 9.4 percent walk rate and career-low 20.4 percent strikeout rate as well.

    Iglesias, meanwhile, has batted .294/.335/.421 with four homers and a characteristically low strikeout rate (13.5 percent) in 2019 plate appearances. He’s already tallied seven Defensive Runs Saved with a +3.3 Ultimate Zone Rating in 477 innings at shortstop, making Detroit’s decision to move on from look all the more egregious, considering they went out and signed a different veteran to man the position anyhow. He’s not running like he did in 2018, but Iglesias has been a flat-out steal.

    Pirates: Melky Cabrera, Francisco Liriano

    Cabrera has been forced into minor league deals in each of the past two offseasons and will turn 35 later this summer, but the Melk Man just keeps on hitting. Injuries to Corey Dickerson, Gregory Polanco and Lonnie Chisenhall created an opening for Cabrera, and he’s responded with a .335/.376/.467 line through 179 plate appearances. It’s true that he’s benefited from a .366 average on balls in play, but Cabrera’s 11.7 percent strikeout rate is excellent and represents a continuation of the elite bat-to-ball skills he’s demonstrated throughout his career. The defense isn’t pretty — it never really has been — but Cabrera’s bat has been a huge plus for the Bucs.

    The Astros tried Liriano in the bullpen down the stretch in 2017 and weren’t able to get the results they’d hoped. Liriano returned to a starting role with the Tigers in 2018 and found middling results, but he’s been reborn in the Pittsburgh bullpen in his second go-around at PNC Park. In 29 1/3 innings, Liriano has a 1.21 ERA with 32 punchouts, 12 walks and a 47.3 percent grounder rate. He won’t maintain a 96 percent strand rate or a .233 BABIP, but Liriano’s 14.7 percent swinging-strike rate is the best of his career. Even if he takes what seems like an inevitable step back, FIP pegs him at 3.08 while SIERA checks in at 3.82. While the game’s highest-paid free-agent relievers have largely flopped, Liriano looks every bit the part of a viable bullpen option.

    Others of Note

    There have been successful minor league signings outside of Arlington, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, of course. Eric Sogard, he of the former #FaceOfMLB and #NerdPower hashtag fame, has been a superlative pickup for the Blue Jays, hitting at a .290/.365/.481 pace with a career-high five homers in just 151 plate appearances. With several injuries and poor performances around the Toronto infield, his presence has been a boon to an otherwise disappointing lineup.

    Sogard’s former teammate and fellow Oakland cult hero, Stephen Vogt, thought his career could be over at this time a year ago. Instead, he’s back in the Majors and enjoying a solid showing at the plate with the Giants. In 66 plate appearances, Vogt has hit .250/.318/.417, and Buster Posey’s recent placement on the injured list will only create more opportunity for playing time. The Giants cycled through an all-you-can-sign buffet of veteran catchers earlier this spring, and Vogt is the last man standing.

    As far as other catchers go, Matt Wieters landed the role of baseball’s most seldom-used backup: the Cardinals’ second option to iron man Yadier Molina. Wieters has just 50 plate appearances on the year through June 6, but he’s going to see an uptick in playing time with Molina on the injured list for a bit. In his 50 trips to the dish, Wieters has connected with three long balls and slashed a very solid .277/.300/.511. His 15 strikeouts against just one walk could very well be a portent for struggles to come, but some more frequent playing time could also help the veteran find his rhythm.

    Speaking of players who’ve succeeded in minimal playing time, right-hander Mike Morin has given the Twins 10 1/3 innings of terrific relief since having his contract selected in early May. He’s punched out seven hitters, hasn’t allowed a walk, is sitting on a career-high 56.7 percent ground-ball rate and has limited opponents to just one run (a solo home run). He’ll need to miss more bats, as he’s not going to maintain a .172 BABIP and will eventually walk a batter, but Morin’s newfound knack for keeping the ball on the ground is encouraging. (For those wondering where Ryne Harper is, he was technically signed in the 2017-18 offseason and is in his second year with the organization.)

    In a similarly small sample of work — four games, 20 1/3 innings — left-hander Tommy Milone has given the Mariners some competitive starts to help out in their beleaguered rotation. Milone is sitting on a 3.10 ERA and 3.84 FIP, and while he’s never been one to miss bats in the past, he’s punched out 20 hitters against only five walks. His velocity hasn’t changed, but Milone is throwing more sliders at the expense of his four-seamer and changeup.

    Over in Atlanta, the Braves have enjoyed their own bullpen find, as Josh Tomlin has pitched a team-high 32 innings of relief. Tomlin’s 3.94 ERA doesn’t exactly stand out, and fielding-independent metrics all suggest a mid-4.00s mark is more realistic, but he’s been a relief workhorse for a team whose rotation and bullpen have struggled mightily for much of the year. The 32 innings Tomlin has already soaked up have been vital for the Braves.

    Elsewhere in the NL East, former Pirates and Blue Jays prospect Harold Ramirez is doing his best to continue earning playing time with the Marlins. He’s hit .329/.368/.427 through 87 plate appearances, and while that line has been buoyed by a .394 average on balls in play, Ramirez is making solid contact and isn’t striking out much. He batted .320/.365/.471 in 120 games with Toronto’s Double-A affiliate last season and .355/.408/.591 in 31 Triple-A games with the Marlins in 2019, so he’s earned a look at the game’s top level.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Progress Report: Last Winter’s 6 Highest-Paid Relievers]]> 2019-06-07T04:59:04Z 2019-06-07T04:56:54Z The Cubs made a rare June free-agent splash Wednesday when they agreed to a three-year, $43MM contract with potential Hall of Fame closer Craig Kimbrel. The 31-year-old entered the offseason as the premier reliever available, but interest in Kimbrel was surprisingly tepid and he wound up having to wait seven months for a contract. Kimbrel still hauled in the richest deal of any reliever going back to the opening of free agency last offseason, though that doesn’t make him a lock to thrive as a Cub.

    As you’ll see below, all six accomplished relievers who collected at least $20MM over the winter have shown some troubling signs a couple months into the 2019 campaign. Although it’s way too early to pass judgment in any of these cases, it doesn’t augur well when a player’s not performing as expected at the start of his deal. After all, that’s when he’s supposed to be providing his team maximum value.

    Zack Britton, LHP, Yankees (three years, $39MM):

    Arguably the game’s foremost reliever with the Orioles from 2014-16, injuries helped lead to a bit of a drop-off for Britton over the ensuing two seasons with the O’s and Yankees. That didn’t stop New York from re-signing Britton on the costliest pact any reliever received in the offseason, though, and he has handed them solid results in Year 1 of the contract. The 31-year-old owns a 2.96 ERA/3.60 FIP in 27 1/3 innings thus far. The sinker-throwing Britton’s tremendous groundball rate (75 percent) is right in line with his recent totals, and he’s generating more strikeouts and issuing fewer walks than he did a year ago. On the negative side, the home run woes that began plaguing Britton in 2018 have stuck around. He’s yielding HRs on 25 percent of fly balls for the second straight season.

    Jeurys Familia, RHP, Mets (three years, $30MM):

    Familia surrendered three earned runs in 2/3 of an inning last Saturday and then sat for almost a week before taking the mound again Thursday. The previously reliable righty, who dealt with shoulder troubles earlier in the season, has now logged a horrid 6.29 ERA/5.26 FIP in 23 1/3 frames. A significant drop in strikeouts and swinging strikes and a sizable spike in walks and homers haven’t helped, though Familia’s inducing plenty of grounders and continuing to throw in the 96 mph range. The 29-year-old’s batting average on balls in play against (.338), strand rate (66.2), and enormous gap between his weighted on-base average/xwOBA against (.383/.321) indicate he has deserved better. However, it’s doubtful any of that is of much consolation to him or the Mets at this point.

    Andrew Miller, LHP, Cardinals (two years, $25MM):

    While Miller was a dominant force with the Red Sox, Orioles, Yankees and Indians from 2012-17, he endured an injury-limited, down year with the Tribe in ’18 and still hasn’t returned to form. The towering southpaw has given the Cardinals 20 2/3 innings of 3.92 ERA/5.48 FIP since scoring his contract. Miller is striking out upward of 12 hitters per nine, but he’s walking more than four at the same time (remember, his BB/9 was barely over 1.00 as recently as 2016). The 34-year-old has also already yielded almost as many HRs (five) as he did in 2017-18 combined (six). The good news is that Miller has allowed a mere two earned runs since April 27.

    Adam Ottavino, RHP, Yankees (three years, $25MM):

    Ottavino’s preventing runs at an elite clip through 28 1/3 frames as a Yankee, having posted a 1.27 ERA so far. However, there are some red flags with the ex-Rockie’s performance. Ottavino’s strikeout, swinging-strike, walk, chase and contact rates have gone in discouraging directions since last season, while his 96.4 percent strand rate isn’t going to hold. There’s not a huge difference between the wOBA (.264) and xwOBA (.276) hitters have mustered against the slider-reliant 33-year-old this season, but both numbers fall short of Ottavino’s .231/.233 combo from 2018.

    Joe Kelly, RHP, Dodgers (three years, $25MM):

    The flamethrowing Kelly has allowed at least two earned runs in five of 20 appearances, giving him an unsightly 7.91 ERA/5.18 FIP across 19 1/3 innings this season. Kelly’s walks and grounders have trended well thus far, but he has already allowed as many home runs (four) as he did last season – his final year with the Red Sox. The 30-year-old has also seen his swinging-strike rate fall by more than 3 percent and his contact rate climb by a hefty 8 percent since 2018.

    David Robertson, RHP, Phillies (two years, $23MM):

    Robertson entered 2019 as one of the best, most durable relievers in recent memory, yet he has been neither effective nor healthy in the first season of his contract. The 34-year-old coughed up four earned runs on eight hits and six walks (against six strikeouts) in 6 2/3 innings before going to the 10-day injured list April 16 with a flexor strain in his right elbow. Robertson moved to the 60-day IL on May 25, meaning he won’t return until at least midway through this month.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Braves Reportedly Emerge As Favorites For Dallas Keuchel]]> 2019-06-10T05:06:10Z 2019-06-07T00:05:42Z 7:05pm: The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal tweets that the Braves and Keuchel are in “serious talks.” There’s “some thought” that the Braves are willing to offer multiple years to Keuchel, tweets MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. Earlier this morning, the New York Post’s George A. King III reported that Keuchel did indeed have teams willing to push their offer to the multi-year deal range, whereas the Yankees were still set on limiting any offer to one year.

    2:18pm: The Braves have emerged as the “frontrunners” to sign free-agent lefty Dallas Keuchel, reports Mark Feinsand of (via Twitter). The Yankees have been prominently connected to the southpaw since the draft-pick compensation tied to him expired on Monday, but Atlanta has long been mentioned as a potential landing spot as well. Feinsand notes that the Yankees are still in the mix, but Atlanta has recently stepped up its efforts.

    Earlier today, SNY’s Andy Martino reported that the Yankees were also facing some degree of competition from the Cardinals. He, too, listed the Braves as a potential factor in the Keuchel market, along with the Twins, though Minnesota’s interest has yet to be characterized as particularly serious.

    For the Braves, Keuchel would help to stabilize a rotation that is enjoying strong performances from high-upside young pitchers who are likely to eventually face some type of workload restrictions (e.g. Mike Soroka, Max Fried). Beyond that excellent pairing, the starting pitching hasn’t panned out as hoped in Atlanta so far this season. Mike Foltynewicz missed the first month of the season and hasn’t performed well since returning (today’s quality outing notwithstanding). Lefty Sean Newcomb was demoted to Triple-A early in the season due to significant control issues, and he’s come back as a reliever. Righty Kevin Gausman has an ERA north of 6.00 through a dozen starts. Of the Braves’ starters, Julio Teheran has been the most effective holdover, but there’s certainly room to add another veteran to the mix to help smooth things over.

    Unlike fellow free agent Craig Kimbrel, Keuchel has been reported to be more amenable to the concept of a one-year contract. The New York Post’s Joel Sherman wrote earlier this week that agent Scott Boras has discussed some multi-year scenarios that would contain an opt-out after the current season, but a straight one-year pact would be less complicated and more palatable for a signing team. Braves leadership has previously spoken about payroll flexibility, though the exact level of financial resources Liberty Media is willing to provide to general manager Alex Anthopoulos is, of course, anyone’s guess.

    Any one-year deal signed by Keuchel would come with a prorated salary; inking him for the same rate as the $17.9MM qualifying offer he rejected back in November, then, would cost a team just north of $11MM from today through season’s end. Atlanta has a payroll of about $121MM at present, and their previous franchise-record Opening Day payroll total was $122MM. Signing Keuchel would push the Braves into uncharted territory, financially speaking — particularly when considering the fact that they’ll likely still make some additions on the trade market in an effort to bolster the bullpen.

    That said, the National League East is among the game’s more tightly contested divisions. The Braves are currently 1.5 games behind the division-leading Phillies, 3.5 games ahead of the Mets and five games ahead of the suddenly surging Nationals. Given the competitive nature of the division, it’s understandable that they’re perhaps willing to push beyond previous comfort zones as they vie for a second consecutive playoff berth. Atlanta is currently in possession of the second National League Wild Card spot, but the difference between a guaranteed ticket to the NLDS and a winner-take-all, one-game coinflip is significant for any club.