- While Rangers right-hander Andrew Cashner told Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and other reporters on Sunday that he’s open to re-signing with the team, an offseason trip to the open market looks inevitable. “It’s going to be fun. I’m looking forward to it. I can’t wait,” said the free agent-to-be. “I might strike early. I think there will be some good offers soon. I’ll take what’s best for me and where I want to go.” The Rangers’ $10MM investment in Cashner last winter has paid off this season, but they still haven’t approached the 31-year-old about a new deal. That’s understandable on Texas’ part, as even though Cashner has logged a 3.44 ERA over 157 innings, he’s second last among qualified starters in K/9 (4.7) and third from the bottom in swinging-strike percentage (6.1).
The Rangers could emerge as suitors for Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain if he reaches free agency in the offseason. Texas has “repeatedly” asked the Royals about Cain in the past, Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News reports. Still, considering the Rangers have pressing rotation issues that will require offseason spending, Fraley casts doubt on them forking over big money for Cain. While Rangers center fielder Carlos Gomez is also slated to hit the open market, they may have an in-house replacement lined up in Delino DeShields.
While it’s been a rough season for the Rangers, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports writes in this week’s AL Notes column that one source indicates to him that manager Jeff Banister is “100 percent” coming back. The third-year skipper could potentially turn in his third straight winning the season, but the Rangers’ 76 losses already guarantee that the 2017 season will be the team’s worst with Banister at the helm.
- Heyman also reports that top Rangers prospect — the centerpiece of their return for Yu Darvish — has hired Scott Boras to represent him. The 22-year-old Calhoun raised his profile as one of the best offensive prospects in the minors this season, hitting a combined .300/.355/.572 with 31 homers, 27 doubles and six triples between the Triple-A affiliates for the Rangers and Dodgers. While Calhoun is obviously quite a ways from reaching arbitration, the move is of some note, given that Boras clients typically forgo early-career extensions. Calhoun’s agency switch will be noted in MLBTR’s Agency Database, which features representation info on more than 2,500 Major League and Minor League players. If you see any notable errors or omissions, you can let us know via email: email@example.com.
Rockies outfielder/first baseman Ian Desmond has shown troubling signings in the first season of a five-year, $70MM contract, notes. Along with a .273/.319/.367 batting line that’s 35 percent worse than league average (per FanGraphs’ wRC+ metric), Desmond’s groundball rate and exit velocity have trended in the wrong direction. His 63.1 percent grounder mark is nearly 12 percent worse than his yearly average and of MLB.comranks last among hitters with at least 300 PAs. At the same time, Desmond’s exit velo has dropped from 90.5 mph last season to 87.4 mph this year. But health issues have likely contributed to Desmond’s drop-off, as the soon-to-be 32-year-old has been on the disabled list three different times. Indeed, Desmond told Randhawa that the injuries – including the fractured left hand he suffered in spring training – have made it difficult for him to establish himself this season. Based on his track record, Desmond expects to return to form. “Line drives and hard contact. For me, that’s my game,” Desmond said. “I’ve got to utilize my speed, and I think there’s complete validity in hitting the ball in the air and launch angle and all that stuff, but at the same time, my swing and the results I’ve been able to produce over the years is plenty for me. And I think that game plays anywhere. The thing is just a matter of getting the swings off and timing.”
More from the majors’ West divisions:
- The Diamondbacks are pleased with the progress shortstop Ketel Marte has made in his first year with the organization, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes. Since the Diamondbacks acquired him from the Mariners last winter in a blockbuster trade that also included Jean Segura, Taijuan Walker and Mitch Haniger, Marte has made plate discipline and defensive improvements, Piecoro points out. The 23-year-old is running a 10.7 percent walk rate, up from 3.9 percent in 2016, and has hit a playable .271/.350/.409 in 206 plate appearances (compared to .259/.287/.323 in 466 PAs last season). And after receiving negative marks as a defender a year ago (minus-two defensive runs saved, minus-10.3 Ultimate Zone Rating), Marte has been respectable in the field for the D-backs (five DRS, 0.3 UZR). “He’s done a great job, especially given that we’re in a pennant chase,” general manager Mike Hazen told Piecoro. “He’s handled the position, locked it down after we lost both guys (Nick Ahmed and Chris Owings) to injury in the middle of the year.”
- The bounce-back year Delino DeShields has enjoyed this season could put him in line for a starting spot in the Rangers’ outfield in 2018, per T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. DeShields impressed as a Rule 5 pick in his rookie year, 2015, but plummeted to earth last season. He has returned in 2017 to bat a solid .280/.352/.383 with 28 stolen bases in 388 plate appearances. The Rangers have also been impressed with the speedster’s work in center filling in for the injured Carlos Gomez, with manager Jeff Banister saying: “It starts with ownership of playing center field. If you watch, I see things between pitches, he’s moving the left fielder over because he’s moving, or he’s moving the right fielder toward the foul line because of what he is seeing. It starts with that preparation. You are the leader, you are the quarterback.” With Gomez scheduled to hit free agency over the winter, DeShields could take over center for good next season.
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 Rangers announced Tuesday that they’ve released right-hander Tyson Ross in order to clear a spot on the roster for Willie Calhoun, whose previously reported promotion to the Majors has now been formally announced. The Rangers also activated Adrian Beltre from the 10-day DL, though Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News tweets that he’s not yet ready to play. Calhoun is in the Rangers lineup tonight, playing left field and batting seventh in his MLB debut.
Ross, 30, was non-tendered by the Padres last offseason after shoulder troubles limited him to just one appearance in 2016. The right-hander spent much of the season attempting to rehab but was unable to get back to a big league mound after experiencing multiple setbacks. Ultimately, Ross was found to have the difficult-to-diagnosis thoracic outlet syndrome; he ultimately underwent surgery to alleviate the issue in October.
Texas signed both Ross and Andrew Cashner to one-year deals this past offseason, hoping that the pair of former Padres teammates could eventually solidify the final two spots in a contending rotation behind the likes of Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels and Martin Perez. Ross made his way back to the Majors early in the summer, right around the team’s projected timeline, but he’s looked like a shell of his former self through 49 innings in a Rangers uniform. In that time, Ross has more walks (37) than strikeouts (36), which has been the primary reason for his unsightly 7.71 earned run average.
The struggles of Ross and injuries elsewhere on the roster led the Texas front office to make the difficult decision to trade Darvish with just seconds to go as the non-waiver trade deadline loomed on July 31. That trade netted the Rangers Calhoun (in addition to minor leaguers A.J. Alexy and Brendon Davis), and Calhoun will now join a team that has somewhat improbably hung around the Wild Card race after trading away its ace back on July 31.
- Promoting top prospect Willie Calhoun may not have been an easy call for the Rangers, writes Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, as the team didn’t have to add him to the 40-man to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft this winter. And, as Grant points out, the Rangers will already be effectively operating with only 39 spots on their 40-man roster, as they’ll need to carry Prince Fielder throughout the offseason in order to place him back on the 60-day disabled list next spring and collect the insurance on his contract. Nonetheless, injuries to Adrian Beltre, Carlos Gomez, Rougned Odor and Mike Napoli as well — Grant tweets that he could be down for a bit after missing yesterday’s game with “lower body stiffness” — created a need for Calhoun. He’ll likely play left field, with Delino DeShields manning center while Gomez is down.
The Rangers have given notice to prospect Willie Calhoun that he will be called up, as his brother and girlfriend announced on Twitter and Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News confirms in a tweet. Calhoun came to Texas as the headliner in the deadline blockbuster that sent ace Yu Darvish to the Dodgers.
Calhoun, 22, entered the season as a top-100 prospect leaguewide and has steadily raised his stock throughout the year. He’s carrying a .300/.355/.572 batting line with 31 home runs over 534 plate appearances at Triple-A in his first attempt at the highest level of the minors. While he doesn’t draw all that many walks, Calhoun has struck out only 61 times all season.
Predominantly a second baseman in the Los Angeles system, Calhoun has shifted to the outfield since arriving at Round Rock. It seems reasonably likely that he’ll line up there at the MLB level both now and into the future, though that’ll be determined by his play on the field.
It’s not immediately clear how Calhoun will be used over the next couple of weeks, but he could provide instant offense with his potent left-handed bat. As Grant explains, the Rangers have recently lots several key players to injury. While there’s plenty of depth around with rosters having expanded, none of the team’s fill-in options possess Calhoun’s potential as a hitter.
Despite selling at the deadline, the Rangers have held on in a messy race race for the second AL Wild Card that still features seven clubs (including Texas) within three and a half games of the berth. Beyond the need to create room on the 40-man roster, there’s little downside to calling upon Calhoun, who likely would’ve forced his way into the MLB picture in 2018 regardless.
At this stage of the season, of course, the youngster won’t have much opportunity to build up MLB service time (just 18 days, in fact). But he could well find himself in a position to force his way into the team’s plans for early next season — and might well be a strong possibility to appear on a postseason roster if the Rangers can sneak in.
With the offseason looming, it’s easy to focus on the top free agents this winter will have to offer. We at MLBTR reinforce that line of thinking with monthly Free Agent Power Rankings that profile the top names slated to hit the open market and ranking them in terms of earning power.
Settling for a one-year contract isn’t an ideal route for most free agents, but that doesn’t mean that those (relative) bargain pickups can’t bring significant on-field impact to the teams with which they sign. While none of the players on this list received all that much fanfare when signing, they’ve all provided some notable benefit to the teams that made these commitments:
- Kurt Suzuki, $1.5MM, Braves: Suzuki languished in free agency for several months as players like Jason Castro, Matt Wieters and Welington Castillo all generated more attention from teams and fans. However, it might be Suzuki that has provided the most bang for buck on last winter’s catching market. The 33-year-old has had a surprising career year in Atlanta, hitting .266/.344/.507 with 15 homers to date. Some have been quick to suggest that Atlanta’s new homer-happy stadium has benefited Suzuki, and while that may be true to an extent, he’s hit for more power on the road than at home. He’s put himself in position for a possible two-year deal this winter, but if he has to settle for one yet again, it should come at a higher rate.
- Adam Lind, $1.5MM, Nationals: An awful 2016 season and an overcrowded market for corner bats created some questions about whether Lind would have to settle for a minor league contract late last winter. He ultimately secured a guaranteed deal, but it came with just a $1MM base and a $500K buyout of a mutual option. For that meager commitment, he’s given the Nats 267 plate appearances with a .297/.352/.490 slash to go along with 11 homers. Like Suzuki, that might not land him a starting role, but it could land him multiple years as a complementary bench piece.
- Chris Iannetta, $1.5MM, Diamondbacks: Iannetta has not only rediscovered his power stroke in 2017 — he’s made it better than ever. The 34-year-old’s .249 ISO is a career best, and he’s slugged 14 homers. While that’s still four shy of his career-best with the 2008 Rockies, Iannetta’s 14 big flies this year have come in just 272 PAs, whereas he needed 407 to reach 18 back in ’08. He’s also bounced back from a down year in the framing department and been above average in that regard, per Baseball Prospectus.
- Jhoulys Chacin and Clayton Richard, $1.75MM each, Padres: The Friars signed four starters for $3MM or less last winter — Jered Weaver and Trevor Cahill being the others — and have received a combined 345 innings out of this pair. Chacin’s run-prevention (4.06 ERA) and strikeout rate (7.44 K/9) have been better, while Richard has 13 more innings (179 total), superior control (2.6 BB/9) and superior ground-ball tendencies (59.1 percent). Neither is going to be mistaken for much more than a back-of-the-rotation stabilizer, but both have done enough to garner larger commitments on the upcoming open market.
- Brian Duensing, $2MM, Cubs: I doubt I was alone in being surprised to see Duensing, 34, land a Major League deal last winter on the heels of a lackluster season in the Orioles organization. Duensing, though, has quietly been outstanding for the Cubs. In 54 2/3 innings, he’s logged a career-high 9.05 K/9 rate with 2.30 BB/9 and a 47 percent ground-ball rate en route to a 2.63 ERA. He’s held lefties in check reasonably well, but the first time in his career he’s also striking out right-handed batters at a lofty rate. In fact, the .211/.276/.317 that righties have posted against him is actually weaker than the .256/.300/.388 slash to which he’s limited left-handed bats.
- Matt Belisle, $2.05MM, Twins: Belisle’s inclusion is arguable; he’s posted a pedestrian 4.36 ERA with 8.55 K/9, 3.69 BB/9 and a 42.2 percent ground-ball rate. Those numbers are largely skewed by a putrid month of May, however. Since June 3, Belisle has a 2.25 ERA with nearly a strikeout per inning and improved control and ground-ball tendencies — all while stepping into higher and higher leverage roles. He’s now serving as the Twins’ closer and has a 1.54 ERA with a 29-to-5 K/BB ratio since July 1. He’ll be 38 next season, so the earning power here isn’t sky-high, but he’s probably earned a raise, barring a late collapse.
- Logan Morrison, $2.5MM, Rays: Few players have benefited more from one-year, “pillow” contracts in recent memory than Morrison, who has parlayed his $2.5MM deal into a .248/.355/.529 batting line and a 36-homer season campaign to date. Morrison only just turned 30 years old, so he’ll have age on his side this winter as well. A three- or four-year deal seems plausible for Morrison even with the diminished recent market for corner bats.
- Alex Avila, $2.5MM, Tigers: Avila hasn’t been as excellent with the Cubs as he was with the Tigers, but he’s still among the league leaders in hard contact and exit velocity — both of which have beautifully complemented his always-terrific walk rate (15.9 percent in 2016). With 14 homers under his belt and a batting line that grades out roughly 25 percent better than the league average, per context-neutral metrics like OPS+ (124) and wRC+ (127), Avila could vie for a multi-year deal and/or a starting job this offseason.
- Joe Smith, $3MM, Blue Jays: Smith’s K/9 has nearly doubled, from 6.92 in 2016 to 11.86 in 2017, and he’s posted a dramatically improved 1.82 BB/9 this year as well. Smith has also served up just three homers in 49 1/3 innings of work, and his 3.10 ERA, while solid, is actually representative of some poor fortune in the estimation of fielding-independent metrics (1.97 FIP, 2.35 xFIP, 2.34 SIERA). He’ll be 34 next year but should top that $3MM mark and could net the second multi-year free-agent deal of his career.
- Andrew Cashner, $10MM, Rangers: MLBTR’s Jeff Todd recently took a more in-depth look at Cashner, noting that his strong 3.19 ERA isn’t backed up by his K/BB numbers. Cashner’s complete lack of missed bats — he has the lowest swinging-strike rate and second-lowest K/9 rate of qualified MLB starters — is going to limit his earning power. But, he’s undeniably been better than he was in 2016, his velocity is comparable to last season and he’s limited hard contact quite well. A multi-year deal is certainly a possibility this offseason.
- Carlos Gomez, $11.5MM, Rangers: Gomez’s production hasn’t reached the star levels it did in 2013-14, but he’s been a better performer at the plate this season. A spike in his OBP (from .298 to .337) is due largely to a massive increase in the number of pitches by which he’s been hit, which is less encouraging than if he’d upped his walk rate considerably. However, Gomez has also shown quite a bit more power in 2017 than he had in recent seasons (.208 ISO in ’17 vs. .153 in ’15-16 combined), and Defensive Runs Saved feels he’s improved in center field as well. Gomez won’t see the massive payday he looked to be on pace for after 2014, but he’s still young enough to notch a multi-year deal this winter.
Notable exceptions: Neither Welington Castillo nor Greg Holland is included on this list, though both have provided good value to their new teams (Castillo in particular). While their contracts are often referred to as one-year deals with a player option, that type of contract is no more a one-year deal than Jason Heyward’s eight-year, $184MM deal with a third-year opt-out is a three-year deal. Both players were guaranteed the possibility to be under contract for two years, and those agreements are considered two-year deals for the purposes of this list.
Jerry Blevins has also given the Mets terrific value on his one-year, $6.5MM deal, but the club option attached to that deal is a veritable lock to be exercised, so he’s unlikely to hit the free-agent market again following the season.