- Morosi also tweets that Blue Jays righty Ryan Tepera is generating trade interest. It stands to reason that virtually every player of even modest value on Toronto’s roster will draw inquiries, of course, considering that the team is 16 games out of first place in the AL East and is facing a similarly bleak outlook in the Wild Card standings. Morosi notes Tepera’s career-best K/9 rate in 2018, though in this instance, that hardly seems like a reason to expect his value to increase; Tepera’s 9.5 K/9 mark is only nominally higher than last year’s 9.4 K/9, and his overall 26.8 strikeout percentage compares favorably to last year’s 25.4 percent mark. Tepera has made modest gains across the board in terms of fastball velocity (95.3 mph), swinging-strike rate (13.9 percent) and chase rate (34.2 percent), but his greater appeal is simply one of club control. He’s arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason and controlled cheaply through the 2021 season. Tepera will turn 31 this winter, which won’t enhance his appeal, but he’s a hard-thrower with a 3.27 ERA and 137 strikeouts against 51 walks in his past 132 MLB innings.
Blue Jays Rumors
Previously reported near-agreements for Angels first-rounder Jordyn Adams and Cubs first-rounder Nico Hoerner have now become official, according to a pair of reports from Jim Callis of MLB.com and Jon Heyman of FanRag Sport (Twitter links). Adams will take home a $4.1MM bonus that tops his slot value by roughly $700K, while Hoerner receives the full-slot value of $2.724MM, as The Athletic’s Patrick Mooney said was likely when reporting the deal to be close.
Here’s an update on some notable signings from the top few rounds of the draft (rankings referenced are courtesy of Fangraphs, MLB.com, Baseball America and ESPN’s Keith Law; Fangraphs and MLB.com scouting reports are available to the public free of charge, while the others require subscriptions):
- The Indians have signed supplemental first-rounder Lenny Torres, reports Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Callis adds that he’ll receive a $1.35MM signing bonus, which falls just under $400K shy of his overall slot value at No. 41 overall. Fangraphs (39) and Law (40) ranked Torres most aggressively, praising a fastball that touches 97 mph but both also acknowledging that his current lack of command and his size lead to some risk that he’s bullpen-bound and won’t last as a starter. Fangraphs notes that he’s flashed an above-average to plus changeup in the past, while Law writes that he could eventually have an above-average curve as well. He’d been committed to St. John’s but will enter pro ball instead.
- Callis also tweets that the Rockies agreed to terms on a $2MM bonus with supplemental pick Grant Lavigne. That comes in $296K above his $1.704MM slot value at No. 42 overall. A high school first baseman out of New Hampshire, Lavigne is listed at 6’4″ and 230 pounds already at the age of 18. Law ranked him 60th and praised his feel to hit and plus raw power, wondering if he’d have gone higher in the draft had he played in warmer weather where he’d face better competition. Callis and colleague Jonathan Mayo write in their report that he’s a better runner than would be expected, though his speed is still a bit below average.
- The Blue Jays announced that they’ve signed second-rounder Griffin Conine, and Callis adds that he’ll receive the full $1.35MM slot value of his No. 52 overall selection. Somewhat remarkably, Conine ranked 50th on all of the pre-draft rankings listed in the intro above. The son of former Major League All-Star Jeff Conine, Griffin starred as an outfielder at Duke, where he hit .286/.410/.608 with 18 homers, 15 doubles and a pair of triples and walked in 15.5 percent of his 278 plate appearances. Conine had first-round potential (top 10, per Law) heading into the season but struck out at the worst rate of his college career (26.6 percent) and dropped accordingly. He’s limited to the outfield corners and has plenty of raw power and a strong arm but concerns about his hit tool.
The Yankees and Mariners are among the clubs interested in Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ, tweets Jon Morosi of MLB.com. Happ figures to be one of the top rentals available on the starting pitching market this summer, if not the top rental, so it’s hardly a surprise to see a pair of contending clubs with some rotation question marks eyeing the 35-year-old southpaw. Presumably, most contending clubs have at least considered making a run.
Happ is in the final season of a three-year, $36MM contract that has proven to be a bargain for the Jays. In 423 innings since signing that deal, he’s worked to a 3.36 ERA, averaging 8.5 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and 1.1 HR/9 with slightly above-average ground-ball tendencies. Happ’s 2018 season is among his best yet, as he’s sporting a career-best 10.2 K/9 mark and a 10.4 percent swinging-strike rate. Lefties haven’t stood a chance against him (.159/.188/.246), while the efforts of right-handed opponents have been relatively futile in their own right (.217/.294/.346). Cole Hamels may have Happ topped in name value, but Happ is the better pitcher and this point and looks like one of the clear prizes of the summer trade market.
Happ is earning $13MM this season, and there’s still about $7.3MM of that sum remaining to be paid out before season’s end. That’s hardly an insignificant sum, but it’s not a backbreaking total for most contending clubs, either. And, of course, the Blue Jays could help to facilitate the trade by agreeing to pay down a portion of Happ’s remaining salary as a means of helping to extract the best possible return.
Both New York and Seattle have had some issues in their rotation, even though both clubs have received above-average results from their starting pitching. The Yankees, for instance, recently lost left-hander Jordan Montgomery to Tommy John surgery and have received inconsistent contributions from Sonny Gray and Masahiro Tanaka. Domingo German has not seized the fifth spot in the rotation in Montgomery’s absence.
The Mariners, meanwhile, have received just 9 2/3 innings from Erasmo Ramirez in 2018. Felix Hernandez has been hammered for a 5.44 ERA, and while Wade LeBlanc has been terrific in the fifth starter’s role, there are questions about the 33-year-old’s ability to sustain his current level of production.
As for the Blue Jays, despite the fact that they just completed sweeps of the Nationals and Orioles, it still seems likely that they’ll be open to selling off veteran assets this summer. Even after going 7-3 in their past 10 games, the Jays are sitting at 33-38 on the season, placing them 15 games out of first place in the American League East and a similarly daunting 12.5 games back of a Wild Card spot in the American League. Toronto also has just six games against sub-.500 teams remaining between now and the All-Star break, so their upcoming schedule doesn’t present an easy road back to contention.
- Between third baseman Josh Donaldson and left-hander J.A. Happ, the Blue Jays’ top two impending free agents, the latter is likely to bring back the greater return at the trade deadline, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal says (video link). Unlike Happ, Donaldson has been a superstar at his best, but the onetime MVP is now amid an underwhelming season at an inopportune time. As Rosenthal points out, not only is the 32-year-old Donaldson on the disabled list for the second time this season, but he has posted his worst numbers since 2012 – the year before he broke out – and will still have about $7MM coming his way at the July 31 deadline. Further, there could be other established third base options on the market in Manny Machado, Mike Moustakas and Adrian Beltre. The 35-year-old Happ, meanwhile, is enjoying a fourth straight above-average season and has logged a career-best strikeout rate (10.23 K/9) over 82 2/3 innings. He may end up as the most appealing starter on the block in the next month and a half.
Former AL MVP Josh Donaldson is expected to miss “at least a few more days” before getting a chance to return to the Blue Jays’ lineup. A report from Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com indicates that Donaldson still hasn’t felt comfortable running at full speed, or as manager John Gibbons puts it, “he still couldn’t cut it loose,” during a series of running drills on Thursday. The third baseman has been out since May 28th with a sore calf muscle. Coupled with the shoulder injury he dealt with earlier this season, one has to wonder just how much these injury concerns will impact the 32-year-old Donaldson’s free agent stock headed into the 2018-2019 offseason. It’s not as though he’s produced while on the field, either: his .234/.333/.423 slash line (despite a .303 BABIP) is a far cry from his typical production, while his strikeout rate sits at a career-high 27.7%.
Let’s take a look at some other injury situations around baseball…
- Nate Rowan, beat reporter for the Twins’ Triple-A affiliate, tweets that Trevor May is headed to the DL with shoulder inflammation. The move is retroactive to June 14th. May’s only recently made his way back from Tommy John surgery, a recovery he wrote about for MLBTR; he was optioned to Triple-A immediately following his activation. There’s no word yet on the severity of the shoulder situation or how long May is expected to be out. In his most recent major league action, May pitched to a 5.27 ERA across 44 relief appearances for the Twins.
- Another AL Central reliever received unfortunate news today as well. Nick Goody of the Indians visited Dr. James Andrews after feeling soreness during his throwing program. The diagnosis remains elbow hyperextension and posterior elbow inflammation, and though that’s far from the worst-case scenario, he’ll be shut down for at least three weeks after receiving a PRP injection. It’s bad news for an Indians club that has seen its bullpen go from the upper echelon in the league in 2017 to a bottom-dweller in 2018.
- Braves reliever Josh Ravin (currently pitching for Triple-A Gwinnett) experienced a scare yesterday when he was struck in the face by a line drive. Ravin’s stable, however (at least enough so to tweet), and is set to be further evaluated on Sunday in Atlanta when the swelling goes down. The current diagnosis is five facial fractures and a concussion. Ravin has yet to allow a run in Gwinnett across 18 innings, during which time he’s struck out 30 batters and walked nine.
The Rangers have claimed righty Deck McGuire off waivers from the Blue Jays, per a club announcement. He’ll be optioned to Triple-A.
The Texas organization has also shifted righty Matt Bush to the 10-day DL with what is being called a right elbow strain. Southpaws Yohander Mendez and Brandon Mann have been called up to the MLB roster from Round Rock.
McGuire was designated for assignment recently after throwing 9 1/3 middling innings for the Jays. But he produced solid results last year in his first, brief MLB action and has been effective at Triple-A over the past two seasons.
Bush just hasn’t pitched to his prior standard thus far in 2018. His upper-nineties heater is down about a tick on average, his swinging-strike rate has dropped to 9.4%, and he’s averaging just 7.4 K/9 with 5.5 BB/9 along with a 4.70 ERA that may understate his struggles somewhat.
12:24pm: Groshans will receive $3.4MM, per MLB.com’s Jim Callis (on Twitter), leaving just over $800K of the extra pool space needed to fit Kloffenstein. The latter’s precise bonus amount is $2.45MM, Callis adds on Twitter.
10:50am: The Blue Jays have reportedly agreed to terms with top draft choice Jordan Groshans and third-rounder Adam Kloffenstein. The duo is expected to command a major portion of the team’s overall draft pool.
Stefan Stevenson of the Star-Telegram reported Kloffenstein’s agreement to a bonus in the $2.5MM range, though the exact number is not yet known. Meanwhile, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca reported that the team had sorted bonus values out on draft night with both players. It’s still unknown just what Groshans will sign for, but Jon Heyman of Fan Rag tweets that there is now a deal in place with the first-rounder.
Making this pair of additions work was clearly the key to the Toronto draft strategy. Groshans was taken with the 12th overall pick, which comes with a $4,200,900 allocation. Kloffenstein went 88th, at a $652,900 slot, meaning the team needed to set aside close to $2MM of pool availability from other picks in order to sort the money out.
Groshans, a Kansas commit who plays on the left side of the infield, topped out at 28th in pre-draft rankings. Fangraphs put him there, but was the only outlet to tab him as among the top thirty players eligible for selection. Groshans is said to have interesting power upside and an “electric” overall set of tools, but also still a few things to iron out as a pro.
As for Kloffenstein, he’s a righty who had been committed to play his college ball at TCU. As Davidi details in his story, Kloffenstein had an interesting draft experience amidst uncertainty as to whether any team would meet his bonus request. In the end, he’ll take a deal to join the same organization as his neighbor and friend. Kloffenstein’s highest grade came from Baseball America, which cited the big-framed hurler’s recent strides and remaining projectability.
- Forget about seeing Blue Jays super prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the majors in the immediate future. The 19-year-old third baseman, who went on the Double-A disabled list this week, has a strained patellar tendon in his left knee, Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com tweets. The Jays will bring Guerrero along slowly in his recovery and re-evaluate him in four weeks, Chisholm adds. The injury has derailed an incredible year for Guerrero, who pushed for a major league promotion with a .407/.457/.667 line and 11 home runs in his first 235 Double-A plate appearances.
The Blue Jays have claimed right-hander Preston Guilmet off waivers from the Cardinals, per an announcement from Toronto. To make room for Guilmet, the Jays designated righty Deck McGuire for assignment.
This will be Guilmet’s second stint with the Toronto organization, as he previously tossed 14 1/3 innings with its Triple-A affiliate in 2015. The 30-year-old has combined for 260 1/3 innings at Triple-A with multiple franchises and logged a 2.39 ERA with 10.0 K/9 against 1.9 BB/9. However, Guilmet hasn’t been anywhere near that successful across 25 major league frames (9.36 ERA, 7.92 K/9, 3.24 BB/9) with the Indians, Orioles, Brewers, Rays and Cardinals. He made a pair of appearances with St. Louis this week and yielded five earned runs in two innings, leading the Redbirds to designate him on Thursday.
The Jays selected McGuire 10th overall in the 2010 draft, and he has finally seen his first action with the club this season, allowing six earned runs in 8 1/3 innings. The 28-year-old – who, like Guilmet, is in his second stint with the Jays – also garnered a bit of experience in the majors with the Reds last season. Most of his work has come in the upper levels of the minors, including 334 frames at Triple-A, where he has registered a 4.99 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9.
Blue Jays fans have been anxiously anticipating the arrival of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., but they’ll have to wait a bit longer, as the 19-year-old phenom was placed on the minor league disabled list today after incurring a leg injury (link via Chris Bumbaca of MiLB.com). Guerrero went from first to second on a single, slid into the bag and immediately signaled for a trainer’s assistance before exiting the contest, though Fisher Cats manager John Schneider called the placement “cautious.” The team didn’t disclose further details on Guerrero’s injury, though all indications from the organization to this point seem to be that it’s minor.
Here’s more out of Toronto…
- While the Jays have played Teoscar Hernandez more in right field than it left, it seems that he’ll move to left field on a largely permanent basis moving forward. As MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm writes, the team feels that Hernandez has the arm for right field but that his range and instincts are better suited for the other corner slot. Randal Grichuk will likely get another shot to take the reins in right field, where he comes with a history of strong defensive ratings (career +9.1 UZR/150). Grichuk has gotten off to a disastrous start to his Blue Jays career, hitting .115/.202/.269 in 89 plate appearances, though Statcast gives some reason to be optimistic; Grichuk’s 99.1 mph average exit velocity on balls in the air and knack for barreling the ball have translated to a .318 xwOBA that dwarfs his current .209 wOBA.
- Right-hander Sam Gaviglio has been a rare bright spot in an otherwise dreadful season for the Jays, writes Arden Zwelling of Sportsnet. Acquired in a forgettable spring trade in which the Jays sent only cash considerations to the Royals, Gaviglio has stepped up as one of the club’s most consistent starters and has earned a longer look in the rotation. Through 28 2/3 innings thus far, he’s pitched to a 2.51 ERA with 8.2 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 1.26 HR/9 and a 54.4 percent ground-ball rate. While it’s obviously a small sample and Gaviglio shouldn’t be expected to continue sporting a sub-3.00 ERA, fielding-independent metrics in that small sample are encouraging. Zwelling takes a look at the manner in which Gaviglio has found his early success. Of course, he also notes that the very fact that Gaviglio is poised to get any type of notable look in the rotation is a testament to the team’s struggles this season and the fact that things have hardly gone as planned. As the Jays struggle, trade chatter surrounding veterans on the club will only increase. J.A. Happ’s name has already begun to pop up on the rumor mill (FanRag’s Jon Heyman took a look at that earlier today), and if the Jays do deal from their rotation it could open the door for Gaviglio to get an even lengthier audition.