- One team is looking to add controllable pieces both its bullpen and in general is the Rangers, in a return to their strategy from the 2015 deadline. One AL official feels Texas will add one or two relievers, and whomever the Rangers may add, “I would be shocked if that player did not have control through at least next season.”
- Right-hander Ernesto Frieri has accepted an outright assignment to the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate, the team announced. Frieri cleared waivers after being designated for assignment last week. The veteran righty signed a minor league deal with Texas a month ago and he pitched seven innings out of the Rangers bullpen, his first taste of MLB action since 2015. Frieri issued six walks against just five strikeouts in that brief stint, continuing to display the control problems that have plagued him in recent years. In 22 combined Triple-A innings in the Rangers and Yankees farm systems this year, Frieri has a 2.86 ERA, 10.6 K/9 and 2.89 K/BB rate.
- There’s a similar sentiment in Texas, it seems. It would take “unique circumstances” for the Rangers to sell veteran players at the deadline, GM Jon Daniels tells Jeff Wilson of the Forth Worth Star-Telegram. While Texas is likely only competing for a Wild Card at this point, neither is the organization facing any need to trim salary, per the report. With confidence within the organization seemingly still running high, it appears the likeliest scenario is that the team will mostly look to maintain its roster through the non-waiver trade period.
- Meanwhile, it’s still unclear what will happen with Rangers infielder/outfielder Jurickson Profar, as Wilson writes. Presumably, the still youthful former top prospect could end up playing a significant role with Texas or be utilized as a trade chip over the summer. For the time being, he’s receiving only brief stints in the majors. Regardless of how things turn out, Profar says that he’s dealing with things by playing his hardest wherever that may be — mostly, this year, at Triple-A. He has hit well at Round Rock, slashing .303/.376/.444 in 223 plate appearances this year, and would still be an interesting trade candidate to dangle this summer.
- Rangers righty Preston Claiborne accepted an outright assignment after clearing waivers, per a club announcement. He was designated recently following a single appearance out of the Texas pen. That was Claiborne’s first MLB action since 2014; he missed all of the ensuing season with a rotator cuff injury. Claiborne, 29, showed well at the Double-A level last year with the Giants and opened the 2017 season at the Rangers’ top affiliate. Over 26 1/3 Triple-A innings, he owns a 1.37 ERA with 10.6 /9 against 3.8 BB/9. He’ll look to maintain that productivity upon his return while waiting for a new opportunity to open at the major league level.
The Rangers have activated righty Jeremy Jeffress from the 10-day DL, per an announcement from executive VP of communications John Blake. Texas designated veteran righty Ernesto Frieri to create roster space.
Jeffress, 29, has struggled to a 5.46 ERA through 29 2/3 innings on the year. While he’s still generating a healthy 56.6% groundball rate, Jeffress has managed only 5.2 K/9 against 4.3 BB/9 on the season while allowing homers at a career-high 1.21 HR/9 clip.
Still, his quick return from a lower back strain is a positive development for the Rangers’ beleaguered pen. After all, he carried a 2.46 ERA over the preceding four seasons. Getting back to that level of performance may not be easy, though. Jeffress’s go-to sinker is clocking in nearly two miles per hour lower than his career average.
As for Frieri, his six-game stint in Texas represented his first MLB action since 2015. The former Angels closer’s control issues reemerged — he allowed six in seven innings — but he did show a 94.4 mph average fastball in his brief stint. Frieri has also thrown quite well at Triple-A, posting a 2.86 ERA with 10.6 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 in 22 frames (most with the Yankees’ top affiliate) on the year.
The Rangers have placed righty Keone Kela on the 10-day DL, according to an announcement from VP of communications John Blake. He is said to be dealing with soreness in his pitching shoulder, though further indication of the seriousness of the injury is not yet known.
Kela, 24, opened the season in the minors as a disciplinary measure. But he has swiftly reestablished himself as a critical component of the late-inning relief corps. Through 30 2/3 innings on the year, he owns a 2.64 ERA with 12.3 K/9 against 3.8 BB/9.
Indeed, Kela’s importance has only increased as the season has progressed. Sam Dyson was shipped out after opening the year as the closer, while Matt Bush has since struggled in that role. While the team’s near-term intentions weren’t yet clear, Kela seemed the odds-on favorite to seize the reins in the 9th.
Without Kela as an option for at least some stretch, the Rangers’ struggling pen will be stretched yet further. On the positive side, the team has activated starter Martin Perez. To create space for just-added reliever Jason Grilli, the club optioned southpaw Dario Alvarez.
- It’s possible Marte will head back to center if the Pirates trade McCutchen before this month’s deadline, and Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette observes that the value of both McCutchen and right-hander Gerrit Cole is increasing. Rival evaluators have pointed to Texas as a fit for the two, with one evaluator suggesting that the Rangers would have to give up outfielder Leody Taveras or left-hander Yohander Mendez just for McCutchen, according to Brink. Both Taveras (No. 45) and Mendez (No. 46) rank among MLB Pipeline’s top 50 prospects.
3:06pm: The Rangers have discussed Lucroy with other teams, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News (on Twitter).
1:56pm: The Rangers are open to trading catcher Jonathan Lucroy, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter links). Lucroy is a free agent this winter and Texas is “highly unlikely” to make a qualifying offer to the catcher, Rosenthal writes, so the team could use Lucroy as a trade chip to address its struggling bullpen. The Rangers would go with Robinson Chirinos and Brett Nicholas as its catching tandem if Lucroy was dealt.
It was just under 11 months ago, of course, that Lucroy came to Texas in a blockbuster deadline deal that saw the Rangers give up a hefty prospect package (Lewis Brinson, Luis Ortiz, Ryan Cordell) to acquire Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress from the Brewers. It was a stiff price but seemingly a fair one for one of the game’s best catchers, especially since Lucroy hit well and helped Texas win the AL West last season, while still being controllable in 2017 at a team-friendly price. The two sides had some talks about a contract extension last offseason, though a new deal ultimately didn’t materialize.
This year, however, has been a struggle for Lucroy. He entered today’s action hitting just .263/.311/.375 with four homers over 241 PA, with a career-low walk rate (5.4%) and hard-hit ball rate (22.9%). That latter number is the seventh-lowest hard-hit ball rat of any player in baseball this season with at least 240 PA. On the defensive side, Lucroy’s pitch-framing numbers have also declined, making his overall production for the season barely above replacement-level.
The Rangers entered today with only a 40-41 record, though that is still good enough to put them just two games out of a wild card spot in the crowded American League. Since the Astros are running away with the AL West, however, it isn’t clear whether Texas would make a big trade deadline push just for the sake of reaching the one-game wild card playoff. Yahoo’s Jeff Passan recently speculated that Lucroy could be a trade candidate if the Rangers fell out of the race, though given Lucroy’s lackluster performance, a deal wouldn’t necessarily mean Texas is throwing in the towel on the season. Chirinos has been on fire this season with a .918 OPS in 123 PA, so giving him more playing time could boost the lineup.
Chirinos was given a modest contract extension of his own last winter as the Rangers were seemingly preparing themselves if Lucroy left, though it is still somewhat remarkable that Lucroy has gone from a potential top-five free agent this winter to a player who seemingly won’t even get a qualifying offer. The Rangers obviously wouldn’t get anything for Lucroy close to what they gave Milwaukee last summer, though given Lucroy’s track record, Texas could still get something of value back. This is just my speculation, but the Rockies, Cubs and Angels stand out as contenders that could be looking for a catching upgrade at the deadline.
The Rangers acquired veteran righty Jason Grilli and cash considerations from the Blue Jays in exchange for minor league outfielder Eduard Pinto, according to a Rangers media release. In corresponding moves, right-hander Preston Claiborne was designated for assignment, righty Tanner Scheppers was optioned to Triple-A and right-hander Tony Barnette was activated from the disabled list.
All of these moves will address a Texas bullpen that ranks near the bottom of the league in most categories, and is particularly in flux after the demotion of closer Matt Bush. It may be unlikely to expect Grilli to factor into the Rangers’ closer-by-committee situation given the veteran’s rough start to the 2017 season. The 40-year-old has a 6.97 ERA over 20 2/3 IP, and despite some decent peripherals (10.02 K/9, 2.56 K/BB rate), Grilli has simply been unable to keep the ball in the park, surrendering a whopping nine home runs in his brief time on the mound this year.
It’s worth noting that Grilli also pitched poorly at the beginning of the 2016 season, though he improved greatly after being dealt to the Blue Jays in May 2016 and was a key cog in Toronto’s run to the postseason. The Rangers are obviously hoping for a similar uptick in performance from a change in scenery for Grilli, who is making his second stint in the organization (he pitched in 30 games for Texas in 2009).
Grilli was still owed roughly $1.4MM for the rest of 2017, so the money Toronto is sending along in the deal likely makes up a good chunk of that remaining salary. In exchange, the Jays add a 22-year-old outfielder in Pinto who has a .309/.367/.390 slash line over 1683 career PA in six pro seasons. Pinto played 22 games at Double-A last season, his highest level achieved, and this year has a .311/.358/.446 slash line over 191 PA at high A-ball.
Claiborne had his contract purchased by the Rangers two weeks ago and he appeared in one game for the team, which marked Claiborne’s first taste of MLB action since 2014. The right-hander missed all of 2015 due to a shoulder injury and spent 2016 pitching in the Giants’ minor league system.
Here are some notable American League international signings not yet covered elsewhere on MLB Trade Rumors. All signing information can be found in these invaluable compilations of the initial flurry of July 2 action from Baseball America’s Ben Badler and MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez; the information here is from those sources unless otherwise credited…
- The Yankees have agreed to sign Venezuelan outfielder Everson Pereira and shortstop Roberto Chirinos. Pereira will receive a $1.5MM bonus, while Chirinos gets $900K. The Yankees are also seen as the favorites to sign Dominican shortstop Ronny Rojas, with Sanchez projecting a $1.05MM bonus. Badler tweets that Rojas isn’t eligible to officially sign until August, when he turns 16 years old.
- The Blue Jays have reached agreement with Brazilian right-hander Eric Pardinho on a $1.4MM bonus, as well as signing Dominican shortstop Miguel Hiraldo to a $750K deal.
- The Tigers agreed to sign Venezuelan shortstop Alvaro Gonzalez for a $1MM bonus.
- The Indians have reached deals with Venezuelan shortstop Aaron Bracho ($1.5MM) and Dominican outfielder George Valera ($1.3MM according to Sanchez, $1.2MM according to Badler).
- The Angels signed Bahamanian outfielder Trent Deveaux, with Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reporting that Deveaux will receive a $1.2MM bonus.
- The Mariners have a $1.75MM agreement with Dominican outfielder Julio Rodriguez, as well as a $1.225MM agreement with Venezuelan shortstop Juan Querecuto.
- The Rangers agreed to nine-figure deals with a trio of prospects. Venezuelan outfielder Wilderd Patino will receive a $1.3MM bonus, while Venezuelan shortstop Keyber Rodriguez and Mexican right-hander Damian Mendoza each get bonuses worth $1MM.