- The Orioles announced today that they’ve signed outfielder Isaac Bellony. He’ll receive a $220K bonus, per Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com (via Twitter). Bellony, originally born in the U.S. Virgin Islands, was signed out of the Dominican Republic. Baltimore GM Dan Duquette describes him as “a young, switch-hitting center fielder with power, speed, and a strong arm, who was recruited by several clubs.” Bellony didn’t rank among the top 50 international prospects from Baseball America, though the very fact that the Orioles are signing him at all is of note. Baltimore has refrained from participating in international free agency for years, reportedly as a directive under owner Peter Angelos, but Duquette plainly stated last month that the organization plans to change that philosophy as it embarks upon a lengthy rebuild.
- Indeed, the Orioles have even added additional spending capacity via trades. That has allowed them to make a volume of signings while also perhaps lining up bigger targets. (Rumors have focused on Cuban prospect Victor Victor Mesa.) Per Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun (via Twitter), the Baltimore organization has also recently inked infielder Moises Ramirez ($225K) and outfielders Damien Valdez ($200K) and J’Rudjeanon Isenia ($125K) to notable contracts.
- Likewise, the Orioles say that they’ve placed Mark Trumbo on the disabled list due to inflammation in his right knee. In a pair of corresponding moves, Baltimore reinstated Adam Jones from the bereavement list and also recalled outfielder John Andreoli from Triple-A Norfolk after claiming him off outright waivers from the Mariners organization over the weekend. The rebuilding O’s owe Trumbo another $13.5MM next year and they’d no doubt like to find a way to trim back that commitment. This injury could take him out of any consideration for a late-August swap — not that a deal ever seemed particularly likely in the first place. While the 32-year-old is posting a solid .261/.313/.452 slash with 17 homers in 358 plate appearances, his defensive limitations will severely limit interest from contenders (whether now or in the offseason to come).
At this point of the season, it’s reasonable to expect the remaining Rule 5 players who are on big league rosters to hold those spots for the remainder of the season. That doesn’t mean that each has necessarily impressed to the point where he’s viewed as a viable long-term option, but with rosters set to expand in a couple of weeks and this much time already invested in each player, the remaining prospects who are clinging to eligibility have likely secured themselves a look in 2019 — even if it means opening the season in the minors.
When I last checked in on this year’s Rule 5-ers back in June, there were nine players either on active MLB rosters or on the big league disabled list, with the rest of this year’s class having been returned to their original organizations. That number hasn’t changed, though the complexion of the list is a bit different, and there have been some encouraging strides among the bunch. Here’s how the class looks at present:
Active Big Leaguers
- Victor Reyes, OF, Tigers (from D-backs): Reyes still isn’t hitting much, but the Tigers have given him much more time in the outfield as the season wears on. The 23-year-old played just nine complete games through the end of June, but since July 1, he’s logged 22 full games of action in addition to numerous partial appearances where he’s either been pinch-hit for or entered the game as a pinch-runner or defensive replacement. Reyes is hitting just .244/.279/.256 through 86 PAs in July and August, so he’s not impressing at the plate in spite of the recent uptick in playing time. He is 7-for-8 in stolen base attempts and has registered solid defensive marks in the outfield. It still seems likely that he’ll be ticketed for regular work in Triple-A next season once he can be optioned.
- Brad Keller, RHP, Royals (from D-backs): As the Kansas City Star’s Maria Torres noted over the weekend, Keller has been a rare bright spot in a largely abysmal season for the Royals. Keller posted underwhelming numbers in Double-A last season and skipped Triple-A entirely, but the Royals deserve some credit for nabbing him anyway last December. In 100 1/3 innings this year, Keller has posted a terrific 3.32 ERA. And while his 6.0 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 marks are underwhelming, he’s notched a strong 54.8 percent ground-ball rate. It remains to be seen if Keller can sustain his minuscule 0.45 HR/9 rate, though he’s never averaged even a homer per nine frames in the minors. Fielding-independent pitching metrics are fairly spread out on him, due in no small part to that low homer rate, but if he can settle in even as a pitcher capable of delivering an ERA in the low 4.00s over a season’s worth of starts, that’d make him a very successful pick.
- Burch Smith, RHP, Royals (from Rays, via trade w/ Mets): Kansas City hasn’t been as successful with Smith, whose ERA sits at an ugly 6.54 through 64 2/3 innings — mostly out of the bullpen. He’s averaged 8.6 K/9 against 4.5 BB/9, and in addition to issuing too many walks, he’s been far too homer-prone (1.95 HR/9). More than 18 percent of the fly-balls against Smith have left the yard — a troubling trend for a pitcher with just a 39.4 percent ground-ball rate. Smith barely pitched from 2014-17 due to injuries, including Tommy John surgery, so the Royals may not want to give up on him in spite of the poor results. At this point, they’ve come far enough along that it could make sense to keep him around and see how he fares in the upper minors next season. He’ll be 29 in April, but he has minor league options remaining.
- Carlos Tocci, OF, Rangers (from Phillies, via trade w/ White Sox): Tocci has been the most seldom-used player in the Majors, functioning almost exclusively as a defensive replacement for much of the season. He’s appeared in 51 games and totaled just 103 plate appearances, but the Rangers have given him a slight increase in playing time in August. This month, he’s started nine games and shown a bit of promise in that tiny sample, hitting .300/.323/.367 in 33 plate appearances — albeit with nine punchouts and just one walk. Tocci is hitting .207/.255/.250 overall, though, and appears ticketed for minor league work in 2019 even if his glove has been solid in limited work to date.
- Elieser Hernandez, RHP, Marlins (from Astros): Hernandez, who turned 23 back in May, made the jump from High-A to the Majors and, unsurprisingly, has posted less-than-stellar results. He’s tossed 56 2/3 innings for Miami, including five starts, while working to a 5.08 ERA with 6.2 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 1.27 HR/9 and an extremely low 26.3 percent ground-ball rate. Some struggles were to be expected given the considerable jump he faced, however, and it’d be fair to say he’s at least held his own, given that he skipped both Double-A and Triple-A. He should survive the season with the rebuilding Marlins, and he’ll likely be ticketed for upper-minors work in 2019.
- Brett Graves, RHP, Marlins (from Athletics): Graves was on the DL back in June, having missed the first two-plus months of the season with an oblique injury. Since making his big league debut, he’s posted a 6.23 ERA with 10 strikeouts against seven walks (two intentional) and three hit batters in 17 1/3 innings. The 25-year-old has primarily been a starter in the minors but has been used out of the bullpen in Miami to this point. He’s displayed good ground-ball tendencies thus far (53.6 percent) and has yet to allow a homer. Though he missed notable time this year, Graves was activated early enough that he’ll accrue the requisite 90 days on the active roster to shed his Rule 5 status this season — provided he doesn’t incur an injury before rosters expand.
On the Major League Disabled List
- Julian Fernandez, RHP, Giants (from Rockies): Fernandez underwent Tommy John surgery back in April. He’ll accrue MLB service time while spending the season on the 60-day disabled list and will retain his Rule 5 status heading into 2019, if the Giants wish to hang onto him all offseason.
- Pedro Araujo, RHP, Orioles (from Cubs): Araujo is the last of three Orioles picks from the 2017 Rule 5 Draft remaining on the big league roster, but he’s been on the DL since June 11 due to an elbow sprain. When he was active, he showed plenty of ability to miss bats (13.9 percent swinging-strike rate, 9.3 K/9) but also averaged 5.8 walks and a staggering 2.89 homers per nine innings pitched. It’s not clear if he’ll return this season, but if he doesn’t, he’ll retain his Rule 5 eligibility into 2019. The Orioles won’t be able to option him until he spends 90 days on the active MLB roster, and he’s a bit more than two weeks shy of that right now.
- Nick Burdi, RHP, Pirates (from Twins via trade w/ Phillies): The flame-throwing Burdi missed nearly all of 2016 due to injury and underwent Tommy John surgery in 2017, but he’s finally on the comeback trail in a new organization. Pittsburgh sent the former Louisville standout on a rehab assignment earlier this month, and he’s pitched seven innings with an 11-to-4 K/BB ratio across three levels so far. He’s yielded five earned runs in that time, though the Bucs likely aren’t focusing heavily on bottom-line results at this point of his recovery. Burdi will have to carry over his Rule 5 eligibility into the 2019 season if the Pirates wish to retain him, but he’s a highly intriguing bullpen piece who could be worth the investment. Burdi’s heater received 80 grades on the 20-80 scale prior to surgery, and he’s been touted as a potential big league closer since his college days.
Returned to Original Organization
- Anyelo Gomez, RHP: Returned to Yankees by the Braves
- Nestor Cortes Jr., LHP: Returned to Yankees by the Orioles
- Jordan Milbrath, RHP: Returned to Indians by the Pirates
- Mike Ford, 1B: Returned to Yankees by the Mariners
- Anthony Gose, LHP: Returned to Rangers by the Astros
- Jose Mesa Jr., RHP: Returned to Yankees by the Orioles
- Tyler Kinley, RHP: Returned to Marlins by the Twins
- Luke Bard, RHP: Returned to Twins by the Angels
- Orioles designated hitter Mark Trumbo is “likely” going to the DL on account of right knee inflammation, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets. Trumbo revealed in May that he has arthritis in that knee, though it hasn’t stopped him from posting fairly typical numbers in 2018. The 32-year-old has recorded a 106 wRC+, matching his career figure, across 355 PAs. That’s not an inspiring mark, however, and combining Trumbo’s so-so production with his knee problems and remaining salary may make it all but impossible for the rebuilding Orioles to trade him. Trumbo will earn $13.5MM in 2019, the final season of a three-year, $37.5MM contract that hasn’t worked out for Baltimore thus far.
In a lengthy interview with Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Dusty Baker lends some of his thoughts on managing, the state of the game, labor relations, racism and a number of other topics. Some of the highlights are his explanation as to what he meant by “Dusty don’t like walks”, his thoughts on the racist Trea Turner tweets, and most notably, and his relative disinterest in returning to a management position at any point down the line. Baker feels as though the fans and Chicago ownership turned on him at the end of his tenure there, and he also felt as though he couldn’t make the fans in Cincinnati happy, claiming that even when he won, his “mode of thinking” was criticized. The interview lends some great insight into Baker’s career and his personality.
A pair of other management-related notes…
- In a scathing critique of his players, manager Don Mattingly called the Marlins’ latest loss “unacceptable” while accusing his team of “playing scared.” Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald has the full details on Mattingly’s outburst, which seems extreme on the surface but is understandable considering the sloppy play of his players during last night’s 8-2 loss to the Nationals. Spencer lists Jarlin Garcia’s errant pickoff throw, Magneuris Sierra’s lazy chase-down of a Bryce Harper single that he allowed to become a double, and a pathetic offensive showing against Max Scherzer. “You just can’t play like that here. When you’re playing non-aggressive and always being on your heels, it’s just not a way to play. And it’s one of the things we won’t keep watching.”
- While the GM-manager tandem of Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter has been a reasonably successful staple of the Orioles franchise for a number of years, Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports believes it unlikely that ownership will keep both for the 2019 season. Heyman further speculates that Duquette is the likelier of the two to stick around beyond this year, citing the sheer number of dollars Duquette saved the club with this season’s deadline trades (and the fifteen players acquired). That means Heyman sees the end of the Buck Showalter era as a likelihood this coming winter.
The Orioles claimed outfielder John Andreoli off waivers from the Mariners, the club has announced. Andreoli had been designated for assignment yesterday. Baltimore has sent him to Triple-A Norfolk.
Andreoli is quite an interesting player. The 28-year-old enjoyed a solid season with the Mariners’ Triple-A affiliate, hitting .287 with a .397 on-base percentage across 388 plate appearances. The disclaimer is that an unsustainable .381 BABIP is largely to thank for that, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see those figures drop by 50 points apiece if he regresses to the mean. In addition, the former 17th-rounder has exhibited very little power; he sports an ISO of just .114. He made his major league debut this season, notching a hit and a walk in six plate appearances prior to being designated for assignment yesterday.
Andreoli is capable of playing all three outfield positions, meaning he stands a chance of working his way into Baltimore’s outfield mix next season should be perform well in September. The Orioles will lose long-time franchise icon Adam Jones to free agency this winter, and as such there’ll be a large opening in the outfield for which Andreoli could throw his hat into the ring.
Somewhat overlooked in last night’s rain-shortened 7-5 loss to the Yankees was the fact that Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman experienced a resurfacing of his blister issues. Though Stroman himself didn’t speak to reporters after the game, manager John Gibbons told reporters that Stroman’s blister tore in the seventh inning of a recent dominant start against the Red Sox (h/t Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca). Gibbons also admitted that the club is considering a DL stint in order to get Stroman right again after he took 88 pitches to get through four innings last night (while giving up five earned runs).
More notes on a few pitchers around the league…
- Packed deep in a piece by Laura Albanese of Newsday are a few notable quotes by Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard that shed some (admittedly vague) light on his struggles and seeming fall from “ace” status. Not only is Thor upset about his inability to hold baserunners (the Phillies swiped five bags off him and batterymate Kevin Plawecki last night), but he also hinted at some wider mechanical issues he’s trying to work through. “It’s something I battle every day when I go out there,” said Syndergaard. “I’m just trying to correct a lot of things that I’ve been doing wrong for a long time.”
- Elsewhere in the National League, Diamondbacks lefty Robbie Ray still hasn’t been able to get back on track, as Nick Piecoro details in a piece for the Arizona Republic. After a breakout 2017 campaign, Ray’s been unable to deliver any semblance of a repeat performance this season after starting the year with diminished velocity and succumbing to an oblique injury. After walking five batters last night, Ray had the following to say about his command issues. “I just need to get back to what I do best and that’s pound the zone. I’ve got too good of stuff to be pitching around the zone. I’ve just got to attack guys and then my off-speed stuff gets better.” Interestingly, Ray felt confident while warming up yesterday and felt in complete command of his pitches. He wonders whether a “lack of focus” could be to blame.
- Though the early returns of the Alex Cobb signing didn’t look good for the Orioles, the return to effectiveness of his change-up seems to have vaulted the right-hander back to his previous form, as Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun details in this piece. He notes that Cobb’s given up just nine hits on 184 change-ups since the All-Star break. His confidence in the pitch has led to him almost doubling its usage lately, and the results have spoken for themselves. Cobb’s strung together four consecutive quality starts of late, posting a 2.08 ERA with a 54.9% ground ball rate during that span.
It’s been somewhat quiet on this front in 2018, but we’ll use this post to keep track of the names of all of the players who’ve reportedly cleared revocable trade waivers. As is the case every year, there are a few things that should be re-emphasized before diving into names.
First and foremost, the vast majority of Major League players will be placed on revocable trade waivers this month — many assuredly already have been — with most instances going unreported. By month’s end, there will likely be dozens of players who have cleared waivers without garnering any sort of headlines. It also bears repeating that players can still be traded in September, but Aug. 31 serves as the deadline for postseason eligibility, making it a sort of soft trade deadline. Deals of note are rarely consummated in September, though Juan Nicasio did change hands after Aug. 31 in 2017.
Lastly, for those who aren’t familiar with the inner-workings of waiver trades or simply need a quick refresher, MLBTR published a full explanation of how August trades work to kick off the month. We’ll keep this post updated throughout the remainder of the month for those who wish to bookmark it.
Onto the names…
- Logan Forsythe, 2B, Twins (link): Forsythe, acquired in the Brian Dozier trade largely as a means of offsetting the duo’s identical $9MM salaries, wasn’t even a lock to stick around with Minnesota after being acquired, but he’s batted .361/.418/.426 through his first 67 PAs in Minnesota, helping to rebuild some stock after a miserable season in L.A. He won’t net the Twins much of anything in a trade if he’s moved, but the Twins might not mind simply shedding the remaining $2.1MM on his salary (as of Aug. 19).
- Adam Jones, Orioles (link): Jones was reported to have cleared waivers on Aug. 16 and was owed $4.27MM of his $17MM salary at the time. While he’s eligible to be traded to any team, it’s entirely up to Jones whether he moves. The five-time All-Star has 10-and-5 rights (10 years of MLB service, the past five with one team), meaning he can veto any trade. Jones reportedly already exercised those rights rather than approving a trade to the Phillies. He’s hitting .285/.317/.438 as of this writing and is in the midst of a torrid hot streak, but he has family and charity reasons (among others) for wanting to remain in Baltimore.
- Curtis Granderson, Blue Jays (link): Now 37 years of age, the Grandy Man isn’t the star that he once was, but he remains a reasonably productive bat against right-handed pitching. He’s playing the season on a one-year, $5MM deal and is still owed about $1.23MM of that salary as of this morning. While Granderson is largely limited to the outfield corners, he could be a useful bench piece for contending clubs down the stretch.
- Francisco Liriano, Jose Iglesias & Jordan Zimmermann, Tigers (link): It was a 100 percent certainty that Zimmermann, still owed $55.9MM through 2020 (including the remainder of this year’s salary) would clear waivers. Even with improved results this season (4.36 ERA, 7.9 K/9, 1.6 BB/9 in 88 2/3 innings), there’s virtually no hope of the Tigers shedding that salary this month. It was less certain that rentals like Liriano or Iglesias would clear, however. Liriano’s ERA ballooned to 4.72 last night after he was roughed up by the Twins, but he’s held left-handed pitching to a terrible .141/.247/.239 slash through 81 plate appearances. With $984K still owed to him through the end of the year, he’d be a reasonably affordable lefty specialist for a contending team’s bullpen. As for Iglesias, it seems quite likely that he’ll be moved to a contender. He’s hitting a respectable, albeit unspectacular .264/.306/.389 while playing terrific defense at shortstop. He’s owed $1.54MM of his $6.275MM salary through season’s end.
- Joe Mauer & Logan Morrison, Twins (link): Morrison won’t be going anywhere after having season-ending hip surgery last week, and it seems likely that the Twins will buy out his 2019 option after a disappointing all-around season. Mauer, like Jones, has the right to veto any trade and wouldn’t be in much demand anyhow. After a strong .305/.384/.417 slash in 2017, he’s posted a more pedestrian .272/.352/.358 line in 2018 — the final season of his eight-year, $184MM contract.
- Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com runs through a number of topics still facing the Orioles as they enter the next phase of their rebuild. Notably, Kubatko writes that the O’s don’t view righty Mychal Givens as “untouchable” in trade talks — a departure from their previously reported line of thinking — though they’re still not keen on dealing the power-armed 28-year-old, who can be controlled through 2021. Givens’ 4.73 ERA through 59 innings isn’t much to look at, but fielding-independent metrics give him a more favorable review, and he’s averaging nearly 10 punchouts per nine innings. Kubatko also examines what could be an open competition for shortstop in 2019 and beyond, the team’s outfield mix moving forward and Austin Wynns’ potentially rising stock.
Orioles center fielder Adam Jones has cleared revocable trade waivers and is technically now eligible to be traded to any team, reports Fancred’s Jon Heyman. Of course, that distinction is largely a technicality, as Jones’ 10-and-5 rights (10 years of MLB service, the past five coming with one team) give him the ability to veto any trade scenario presented by the team.
Jones, 33, reportedly vetoed a trade that would’ve sent him to the Phillies prior to the non-waiver trade deadline and is said to prefer to remain in Baltimore to close out the season, despite the team’s awful results in 2018. Heyman adds a bit of context, writing that Jones had the chance to talk to one or both of Phillies execs Andy MacPhail and Matt Klentak, both of whom know him from their days with the Orioles. The Phils planned to play Jones around four times per week, Heyman continues, though it’s not clear whether that limited role impacted his decision to nix the deal.
The O’s also approached the Yankees about Jones recently, per the report, but it’s a known fact that remaining south of the $197MM luxury tax threshold his a priority for the Yankees. Adding the remainder of Jones’ $17MM salary — roughly $4.27MM as of this writing — wouldn’t do New York any favors in that regard. The Yankees, at present, are about $7MM shy of that barrier, per Cot’s Contracts. Furthermore, Marc Carig of The Athletic reported last night that in spite of a highly inaccurate initial estimate on Aaron Judge’s timetable for recovery from a chip fracture in his wrist, the Yankees don’t appear likely to add any outfield help.
The Indians were the other team who was most heavily linked to Jones prior to the non-waiver deadline, and there’s still plenty of reason to think they might have some interest. Cleveland picked up Leonys Martin in a deadline deal with the division-rival Tigers, but Martin developed a frightening and even life-threatening bacterial infection that landed him on the disabled list. While he is (thankfully) now said to be in stable condition and on the road to a full recovery, there’s no timeline for his return to baseball activity.
Paired with the litany of outfield injuries the Indians have sustained — Bradley Zimmer, Lonnie Chisenhall and Tyler Naquin are all out of action — that scenario at least creates a clear potential opening for Jones on the Cleveland roster. The money still owed to Jones wouldn’t be an easy pill for the Indians to swallow either, though, as they’re already well into franchise-record payroll territory.
Any team weighing a run at Jones would also need to consider just how much of an upgrade his bat would be through season’s end. He’s been swinging it quite well as of late, hitting at a .341/.398/.518 pace with three homers and six doubles over his past 93 plate appearances. However, that surge has only pushed his season-long batting line to a roughly league-average slash of .282/.317/.438. Given his poor defensive ratings in center field, some clubs may express trepidation over taking on some or all of the money he’s owed, surrendering minor league talent and giving him regular playing time in what has been a down season for the five-time All-Star.
And, again, all of that could largely be a moot point if Jones is indeed uninterested in green-lighting a trade. He’s spent nearly his entire MLB career in Baltimore and has a family there as well as numerous charity efforts in the Baltimore community — all of which is said to have played a significant role in his preference to remain with the O’s. If the allure of playing for a contender for the final month of the season and into October begins to hold increasing appeal for Jones as the Aug. 31 postseason eligibility deadline draws nearer, though, the O’s at least know they’re free to discuss him with any team in the game.