- Right-hander Alex Cobb’s start on Saturday may have been his last at Tropicana Field as a member of the Rays, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. As a member of the Rays since they selected him in the fourth round of the 2006 draft, the soon-to-be free agent isn’t ready to close the door on his tenure with the organization. “If it is, man, it would be sad,” Cobb said. “There’s been a lot of memories in this building and through this organization. I don’t really want to think about it yet. There is too much season left to go down that road yet. But it would be a tough thought if that’s it.” One of the most accomplished starters scheduled to hit the market in the offseason, the 29-year-old Cobb will likely price himself out of Tampa Bay. After undergoing Tommy John surgery that shelved him in 2015 and limited him to 22 innings last season, Cobb has revived his career this year with a 3.63 ERA, 6.44 K/9 against 2.23 BB/9, and a 47.7 percent groundball rate in 173 1/3 frames.
- The Orioles, Yankees and Blue Jays have seen Rays righty Alex Cobb up close in recent seasons, and they’ll be interested when he hits the market this winter, writes Cafardo. Cobb will also attract plenty of interest from outside the AL East as well, as he’ll be a good and more affordable alternative to a free agent ace.
With just a few weeks left in the season, we have a pretty clear idea of which Rule 5 draft picks will stick with their drafting teams. At this point, having already carried the player this far and with expanded rosters easing any pressures, teams are quite likely to stay the course. Here’s how this season’s Rule 5 group has shaken out thus far:
It isn’t official yet, but these
- Miguel Diaz, RHP, kept by Padres (via Twins) from Brewers: As part of the Pads’ unusually bold Rule 5 strategy, the club kept three youngsters this year. Diaz, 22, has managed only a 6.21 ERA with a 31:22 K/BB ratio over 37 2/3 innings. But he is showing a 96 mph heater and will remain with the organization, quite likely heading back to the minors next season to continue his development.
- Luis Torrens, C, kept by Padres (via Reds) from Yankees: The youthful backstop — he’s just 21 — has struggled badly on offense in limited action. Through 133 plate appearances, he’s slashing just.169/.246/.212 — with just four extra-base hits, none of them home runs.
- Allen Cordoba, INF, kept by Padres from Cardinals: And then there’s Cordoba, who’s also just 21 years of age. He faded after a hot start at the plate, but on the whole his output — a .209/.284/.304 batting line and four home runs over 215 plate appearances — is fairly impressive given that he had never before played above Rookie ball.
- Dylan Covey, RHP, kept by White Sox from Athletics: Technically, owing to a DL stint, Covey has only compiled 83 of the minimum 90 days of active roster time required to be kept. But he’s going to make it there before the season is up, meaning that the Sox will be able to hold onto his rights and option him back to the minors in 2018. Covey, 26, has struggled to a 7.90 ERA with 4.9 K/9 against 4.4 BB/9 over 54 2/3 innings, allowing 18 long balls in that span.
- Stuart Turner, C, kept by Reds from Twins: Turner has seen minimal action, appearing in just 33 games and taking only 77 trips to the plate. And he’s hitting just .141/.184/.268 in that sporadic action. Clearly, though, the Reds have seen enough to believe he’s worth the trouble to hang onto.
Still In Limbo
- Kevin Gadea, RHP, selected by Rays from Mariners: Gadea has not pitched at any level this year owing to an elbow injury. He’ll remain with the Tampa Bay organization for the time being, but will still need to be carried on the 40-man roster over the offseason and then on the active roster for at least ninety days for his rights to permanently transfer.
- Armando Rivero, RHP, selected by Braves from Cubs: It’s the exact same situation for Rivero as for Gadea, though he has had shoulder problems.
- Josh Rutledge, INF, selected by Red Sox from Rockies: This was not your typical Rule 5 move. Boston snagged the veteran infielder after he signed a minors deal with Colorado. He ended up seeing minimal MLB time owing to injuries and his season ended recently with hip surgery. Rutledge is eligible for arbitration this fall and isn’t likely to be kept on the 40-man roster regardless.
- Anthony Santander, OF, selected by Orioles from Indians: Since he only made it off of the DL late in the summer, Santander can accrue only 45 days on the active roster. If Baltimore wants to keep him, then, it’ll need to put him on the Opening Day roster next year. Santander has seen minimal playing time thus far, recording two hits in twelve trips to the plate, though he put up impressive numbers on his rehab assignment.
Kept By Other Means
- Daniel Stumpf, LHP, signed with Tigers after electing free agency upon return to Royals: This is another unusual situation. As a previous Rule 5 returnee, Stumpf was eligible to elect free agency upon being returned to his original organization. That’s just what happened when Detroit sent him back to Kansas City; the southpaw then turned around and re-signed a MLB deal with the Tigers. He has ended up turning in a rather productive year, posting 32 1/3 innings of 2.78 ERA ball with 8.6 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 at the major-league level and showing even more impressive numbers during his time at Triple-A.
- Tyler Jones, RHP, returned to Yankees by Diamondbacks: Jones has thrown rather well at Triple-A since going back to the New York organization, posting 10.7 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9 in 63 2/3 innings, though he has also allowed 4.38 earned per nine.
- Caleb Smith, LHP, returned to Yankees by Brewers: Smith ended up earning a 40-man roster spot and spending some time in the majors after showing quite well as a starter in the minors. But he has been knocked around in his 18 2/3 MLB frames on the year.
- Justin Haley, RHP, returned to Red Sox by Twins (via Angels): The 26-year-old didn’t stick with Minnesota, allowing a dozen earned runs in 18 innings before being returned to Boston. But he has thrown well since landing back at Triple-A Pawtucket, posting a 2.66 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 in 44 innings over seven starts.
- Tyler Webb, LHP, returned to Yankees by Pirates: Webb also gained a 40-man spot with the Yankees after showing some intriguing K/BB numbers at Triple-A. He was ultimately dealt to the Brewers.
- Aneury Tavarez, OF, returned to Red Sox by Orioles: Tavarez played his way back up to Triple-A upon his return to his former organization, but has hit just .244/.292/.400 in 145 plate appearances there.
- Glenn Sparkman, RHP, returned to Royals by Blue Jays: Sparkman was bombed in his one MLB appearance and has been limited to just 30 1/3 minor-league frames due to injury.
- Hoby Milner, LHP, returned to Phillies by Indians: Another player who has risen to the majors with the organization that originally let them leave via the Rule 5, Milner has turned in 24 1/3 frames of 1.85 ERA ball in Philadelphia. Of course, he has also managed just 15 strikeouts against ten walks in that span.
- Mike Hauschild, RHP, returned to Astros by Rangers: The 27-year-old righty struggled badly in his eight MLB frames. Upon returning to the rotation for Houston’s top affiliate, Hauschild has uncharacteristically struggled with free passes (5.3 per nine).
Red Sox utilityman Eduardo Nunez feels he has dodged a bullet with his right knee injury, as Evan Drellich of CSSNE.com reports on Twitter. Nunez sprained his posterior cruciate ligament, but he says he anticipates returning before the year is up. That said, he’ll understandably also take his time to ensure he makes it back to full health. While Boston hasn’t yet nailed down a postseason spot, it is in excellent position and (at this point, at least) doesn’t seem in need of rushing back an important player.
Here’s the latest on some other health issues from around the game:
- The Brewers are still waiting to learn more on the status of key righty Jimmy Nelson, as Adam McCalvy of MLB.com reports on Twitter. He received a second opinion on his shoulder injury today, though the outcome isn’t yet known. Nelson is expected to miss the rest of the season regardless, but the precise course of treatment hasn’t been determined.
- Diamondbacks righty Randall Delgado is indeed dealing with a flexor strain, Jack Magruder of Fan Rag tweets. That initial diagnosis has now been confirmed; while that seemingly takes some worst-case scenarios out of play, he’s already slated to miss the remainder of the year. Delgado had thrown 62 2/3 frames of 3.59 ERA ball, posting 8.6 K/9 and an uncharacteristically low 2.0 BB/9, before going down. That should set him up for a decent raise on his $1.775MM salary for his final year of arbitration, though the price will still likely be low enough for Arizona to pick up the tab unless there’s real concern he won’t bounce back.
- The Rangers announced that they’ve activated righty Keone Kela from the DL. The 24-year-old has been dealing with a shoulder injury, but could represent a nice boon to the club’s relief corps if he can get back in the swing of things late this year. Kela had pitched to a 2.36 ERA over 34 1/3 innings before hitting the DL.
- Padres righty Carter Capps has been diagnosed with a blood clot, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union Tribune reports (Twitter links). He’s heading to the 60-day DL, ending his season and allowing the club to select the contract of Cory Mazzoni. The broader outlook for Capps isn’t clear. San Diego will have to decide whether to tender him a contract this winter. He hasn’t been all that inspiring thus far since returning from Tommy John surgery, allowing nine earned runs with a 7:2 K/BB ratio in 12 1/3 innings while averaging just 93.2 mph with his fastball (over five mph off of his most recent readings from 2015). That said, Capps will likely command only around $1MM; the club could at least take him into camp and cut bait before that full amount is guaranteed if he can’t turn the corner.
- Recent Rays draft pick Drew Rasmussen has undergone his second Tommy John procedure, Danny Moran of the Oregonian reports on Twitter. Rasmussen, an Oregon State hurler, went to Tampa Bay with the 31st overall pick in this summer’s draft but did not sign with the team. The Rays evidently found some reason to be concerned with the medicals from the talented youngster, who had returned from his first TJ procedure only months before the draft.
- The Rays have made multiple attempts to lock up right-hander Alex Cobb on a long-term deal in the past, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports in his latest AL Notes rundown. Tampa Bay tried to lock up Cobb on an extension worth about $30MM after his second big league season and another worth about $40MM after his third year, though the team wanted a pair of favorable club options added to each iteration of that deal (as they’ve secured in previous extensions for pitchers such as Matt Moore, Wade Davis and Chris Archer). Obviously, those attempts fell short, and Cobb looks fairly well positioned as he sits on the cusp of free agency.
- The Rays selected right-hander Chaz Roe’s contract from the minors in advance of tonight’s game. Tampa Bay picked up Roe in a minor trade with the Braves earlier this year. The 30-year-old pitched 21 innings with Tampa’s Triple-A affiliate in Durham and worked to an even 3.00 ERA with a ridiculous 35-to-5 K/BB ratio. In parts of five big league seasons, Roe has a 4.16 ERA with 9.6 K/9, 4.5 BB/9 and a 54.4 percent ground-ball rate.
Shortly after being designated for assignment and outrighted off the 40-man roster, Trevor Plouffe is set to rejoin the Rays, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter link). Tampa Bay will bring the veteran back to the Majors as a depth option with expanded September rosters now in place. Tampa Bay has an open 40-man spot, so a corresponding move isn’t needed.
Regular playing time won’t be there for Plouffe, barring injuries elsewhere on the roster, but he’ll get another chance to finish the year on a good note after struggling for much of the 2017 campaign. The former Twins third baseman signed a one-year, $5MM deal with the A’s last winter after being non-tendered and found himself traded to Tampa Bay after being designated in Oakland.
Plouffe has appeared in 89 games this season (281 plate appearances) and has posted a .204/.274/.325 slash that represents a considerable departure from the generally useful offensive output he tallied from 2012-16 in Minnesota. Plouffe’s strikeout rate has soared to 29.5 percent this season after checking in under 20 percent from 2014-16. His hard-hit rate, line-drive rate and homer-to-flyball ratio are all in line with the levels he posted in his final few years in Minneapolis, but he’s also hitting the ball on ground more than ever (49.7 percent) and lifting fly-balls at a career-low pace (30.1 percent).
Plouffe has batted .276 with a .344 OBP against left-handed pitching this year, but the power he typically has in platoon situations has evaporated (.333 slugging, .057 ISO). He’ll be a free agent once again at season’s end.
Chris Archer was removed from his start on Saturday after just eight pitches due to forearm tightness, though the Rays ace told reporters (including Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times) that he feels better today, despite some lingering tightness on the outside of his right forearm. While Archer doesn’t feel the injury is particularly serious and he hopes to make his next start, more will be known on Monday when he is examined by the Rays’ team doctor. Losing Archer for any stretch of time would be a big blow to Tampa Bay club that is trying to stay in the wild card race, though obviously Archer’s overall health is of larger concern to the team, given the ominous nature of forearm injuries. Here’s more from around baseball…
The Rays have designated left-hander Adam Kolarek for assignment, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports (on Twitter). Topkin suggests that Kolarek’s vacated 40-man spot will go to infielder Trevor Plouffe, whom the Rays designated Aug. 22 and then outrighted to Triple-A Durham on Aug. 26.
The 28-year-old Kolarek, an 11th-round pick of the Mets in 2010, joined the Rays organization prior to the 2016 campaign and made his major league debut this season. Kolarek struggled over 8 1/3 innings before his designation, giving up six earned runs on nine hits and four walks, with four strikeouts. He made his 12th appearance with Tampa Bay on Sunday and surrendered an earned run on two hits and a walk over two-thirds of an inning. That was enough for the Rays to remove him from their 40-man roster.
While Kolarek’s time in the majors has been a struggle thus far, he has turned in excellent work in the minors. Kolarek has posted a 2.73 ERA and logged 9.4 K/9 against 4.2 BB/9 in 89 Triple-A innings. Across 43 2/3 frames with Durham this year, he has ridden an incredible 72.6 percent groundball rate and 9.4 K/9 against 3.3 BB/9 to a microscopic 1.65 ERA.
- The Rays sent representatives to Japan to watch Nippon Ham Fighters ace Shohei Otani’s start last week, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Along with the Rays and the Yankees, there were around a dozen other teams in attendance to watch Otani, whose fastball hit 100 mph, Buster Olney of ESPN reports. The changes in the collective bargaining agreement could theoretically give low-payroll teams like Tampa Bay a better chance to land the two-way phenom, though the Rays already spent $3.825MM of their available international money ($5.25MM) on Dominican shortstop Wander Franco on July 2.