- The Brewers and Blue Jays were previously known to have interest in Grandal this offseason, though The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (subscription required) adds that the Reds, Angels, and Braves were also among the top suitors, though Atlanta may have just “checked in” on Grandal’s status. Cincinnati was MLBTR’s predicted landing spot for Grandal, as the Reds as known to be willing to spend in pursuit of a postseason berth in 2020 and Grandal represented a clear upgrade over Tucker Barnhart. Catcher was also a glaring area of need for the Angels, while the Braves have one capable regular in Tyler Flowers but are in need of a complement after Brian McCann’s retirement.
The Reds have acquired right-hander Jose De Leon from the Rays for cash and a player to be named later, Cincinnati announced. The move leaves the Reds with a full 40-man roster.
Now 27, De Leon was once one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. He joined the Rays in January 2017 in a straight-up swap with the Dodgers for second baseman Logan Forsythe, though De Leon’s stock has dropped since then. He underwent Tommy John surgery in March 2018, causing him to miss that entire year, and only threw four innings at the major league level this past season. However, De Leon did toss 51 1/3 frames (17 starts, 13 appearances) of 3.51 ERA/3.72 FIP ball with 12.8 K/9 and 4.73 BB/9 with Triple-A Durham.
We’re going to see a whole lot of players added to 40-man rosters in advance of tonight’s deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 draft. We will use this post to track those contract selections from National League teams that are not otherwise covered on the site.
- The Dodgers announced that they’ve selected the contracts of right-hander Mitchell White, infielder/outfielder Zach McKinstry and outfielder DJ Peters. Both White and Peters are considered to be among the club’s top 15 prospects. McKinstry isn’t generally ranked inside L.A.’s top 30, but the 24-year-old had a big season between Double-A and Triple-A in 2019 while appearing at six defensive positions (shortstop, second base, third base and all three outfield slots).
- The Diamondbacks announced that they’ve selected the contracts of right-handers Taylor Widener and Riley Smith as well as the contracts of infielders Andy Young and Wyatt Mathisen. Widener, 24, was one of the organization’s best pitching prospects coming into the season but was blown up for an eye-popping 8.10 ERA in 100 innings. He’s only a year removed from 137 1/3 innings of 2.75 ERA ball and an 11.5 K/9 mark in Double-A, however. Smith, 24, was sharp in Double-A before struggling in Triple-A — like many pitching prospects throughout the league (and with the D-backs in particular). Young, acquired in the Paul Goldschmidt trade last winter, hit 29 homers while playing three infield positions between Double-A and Triple-A. Mathisen, 26 in December, hit .283/.403/.601 in 345 Triple-A plate appearances.
- The Giants, surprisingly, did not add anyone to their 40-man roster prior to tonight’s deadline.
- The Rockies selected the contracts of infielder Tyler Nevin, left-hander Ben Bowden and right-handers Ashton Goudeau and Antonio Santos (Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post first reported the news on Twitter). Those four moves will fill the team’s 40-man roster. Of the four, Bowden and Nevin draw the most fanfare. Nevin, the No. 38 pick in the 2015 draft and son of former MLB slugger Phil Nevin, posted deceptively solid numbers in an extremely pitcher-friendly Double-A environment in 2019 (.251/.345/.399 — good for a 122 wRC+). Bowden, a second-round pick in ’16, posted gaudy strikeout numbers but struggled in Triple-A after dominating in Double-A in 2019.
- The Padres selected outfielder Jorge Ona’s contract and designated outfielder Nick Martini for assignment, as outlined here.
- The Cardinals announced the additions of Jake Woodford, Elehuris Montero and Alvaro Seijas while designating righty Dominic Leone for assignment (as detailed here at greater length).
- Outfielder Corey Ray and right-hander J.P. Feyereisen will head onto the Brewers 40-man, per Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (via Twitter). It’s not yet known if the team will make further roster additions, but it would have five additional spots to work with to do so. Ray was the fifth overall pick in the 2016 draft but is coming off of a rough season. Feyereisen, who was added in a quiet September swap, will have a chance to challenge for MLB relief opportunities. Milwaukee also added infielder Mark Mathias to the 40-man roster after acquiring him in a trade with the Indians tonight.
- The Cubs announced that they’ve added catcher Miguel Amaya, infielder Zack Short and right-handers Tyson Miller and Manuel Rodriguez to the 40-man roster. Amaya is the most highly regarded of the bunch, ranking second among Chicago farmhands and drawing some top 100 consideration at MLB.com.
- Four additions to the 40-man were announced by the Reds, who have selected the contracts of catcher Tyler Stephenson and right-handers Tony Santillan, Ryan Hendrix and Tejay Antone. All four rank within the club’s top 30 at MLB.com, headlined by Santillan at No. 4 and ranging all the way to Antone at No. 30. Santillan thrived in a brief Double-A debut in 2018 but struggled there in a larger 2019 sample (4.84 ERA, 8.1 K/9, 4.8 BB/9 in 102 1/3 innings). He’s still just 22, though, and is regarded as a potential big league starter. Stephenson is a former first-round pick who hit well in a highly pitcher-friendly Double-A setting (.285/.372/.410; 130 wRC+). Hendrix posted big strikeout numbers as a reliever in 2019, while Antone displayed sharp ground-ball skills as a starter and reached Triple-A for the first time.
- The Pirates added prospects Ke’Bryan Hayes, Oneil Cruz, Will Craig, Blake Cederlind and Cody Ponce to the 40-man roster while also designating four pitchers for assignment (as explored in greater length here). Lefty Williams Jerez and right-handers Dario Agrazal, Montana DuRapau and Luis Escobar were cut loose.
- Yesterday, the Braves announced the addition of five prospects to their 40-man roster: outfielder Cristian Pache, catcher William Contreras, right-hander Jasseel De La Cruz and lefties Tucker Davidson and Phil Pfeifer. (More about those moves here.)
- The Nationals announced that they have selected the contract of southpaw Ben Braymer. They still have a huge amount of 40-man flexibility to work with. Even after this move, the Nats have nine openings. The organization also surely expects to fill many of those slots with free agents and/or trade acquisitions after losing quite a few significant players to the open market. Braymer is a former 18th rounder out of Auburn who had a nice run last year at Double-A before being hit hard in the batter-friendly International League.
- The Phillies picked up lefty Cristopher Sanchez in a trade with the Rays and added him to the 40-man roster. Philadelphia also selected the contracts of lefties JoJo Romero and Garrett Cleavinger and right-hander Mauricio Llovera. (Details on those moves here.)
- The Mets announced the additions of Andres Gimenez, Thomas Szapucki, Ali Sanchez and Jordan Humphreys to the 40-man roster and designated righty Drew Gagnon for assignment. (More on those moves here).
- The Marlins opened some eyes by eating the remaining $22MM on Wei-Yin Chen’s contract and adding six prospects to the 40-man roster: Sixto Sanchez, Lewin Diaz, Nick Neidert, Jazz Chisholm, Humberto Mejia and Edward Cabrera. (More details here.)
Nov. 20: In addition to the Mets, Chirinos has also received interest from the Astros, the Reds and the Rangers, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand tweets. A deal with either Texas-based club would of course represent a reunion scenario, whereas the Reds would be the veteran backstop’s fourth MLB club (and third in the past eight seasons). Both the Astros and Rangers are thin in terms of MLB catching depth. The Reds have Tucker Barnhart signed through 2021 (plus a 2022 option) and Curt Casali on hand as a backup, though there’s certainly room for an upgrade — particularly an offensive upgrade — in Cincinnati.
Nov. 19: The Mets have reached out to veteran catcher Robinson Chirinos in the early stages of the offseason, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post reports. They’ve also been in contact with well-traveled backup catcher Drew Butera.
New York already has one well-paid catcher on the roster in Wilson Ramos, who is owed $10.75MM through the end of the 2020 season (including a $1.5MM buyout on a $10MM club option for the 2021 season). General manger Brodie Van Wagenen has previously indicated he’s in the market for a backup catcher, but Chirinos profiles as more as a starter than a reserve. The 35-year-old hit .238/.347/.443 with 17 homers, 22 doubles and a triple in 114 games (437 plate appearances) with the Astros in 2019 and logged 113 games with the Rangers in 2018.
Barring a move involving Ramos, it could be hard to entice the 35-year-old Chirinos to sign on for what would surely be reduced playing time, and he’ll likely command interest from other clubs looking to feature him in a larger role than the Mets can offer. Plus, if the Mets are interested in him as a backup — even one who plays a bit more than a traditional second catcher — it seems unlikely that they’d offer more than last year’s $5.75MM salary. New York’s interest isn’t necessarily a surprise, though, given Chirinos’ quality results in 2019 and, to a lesser extent, the fact that he and newly hired skipper Carlos Beltran were brief teammates with the Rangers in 2016.
Chirinos performed well on the whole in Houston and caught every single inning thrown by Justin Verlander in 2019, so there’s certainly reason for the Astros, who have minimal catching depth, to pursue a reunion. The Braves, Brewers, Reds, Angels, Pirates and Rockies are among the many teams that could look at adding some help behind the plate this winter, too, so there should be interest elsewhere.
As for Butera, he’s a candidate to receive a minor league deal and an invite to Spring Training either from the Mets or another club. The 36-year-old wouldn’t be a clear upgrade over currently projected backup Tomas Nido, as Butera has batted just .203/.268/.301 in 408 plate appearances between the Royals and Rockies dating back to the 2017 season. Butera doesn’t have a strong statistical profile in terms of his glovework, either, though he carries a reputation as a backup who works well with pitchers.
The Braves “have some interest” in free agent outfielder Marcell Ozuna, hears Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Atlanta joins the previously-known Cardinals, Reds, White Sox, Rangers, and Marlins in the early sweepstakes for the corner outfielder. Atlanta already re-signed Nick Markakis, but he could be in line for a lesser role after a subpar age-36 season. Alternatively, Atlanta could move Ronald Acuña to center field full-time should they acquire another corner outfielder, be it Ozuna or someone else. Signing the 29-year-old Ozuna, a qualifying offer recipient, would cost the Braves their second-highest draft choice and $500K of international bonus pool space.
- The Reds plan to bolster their pitching depth this offseason, reports Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer. While the club’s main focus figures to be offensive upgrades, GM Nick Krall stressed to Nightengale the importance of stockpiling arms. “Every year, most teams use seven or eight starters,” Krall said. “Most teams use 12 relievers that have significant time. You can’t overlook that.” To that end, Nightengale expects Cincinnati to add a starter and a reliever or two, although it isn’t clear if those additions will be via MLB free agency, trade, or a handful of minor-league free agent signings.
Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen made waves last offseason with his aggression in the trade market, dealing from the Mets’ minor leagues to bolster the Major League roster with the likes of Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz. However, Van Wagenen suggested at the GM meetings that his club will be hesitant to once again dip into the farm system to facilitate trades, reports Tim Healey of Newsday. The Mets’ crop of prospects isn’t an especially deep one—FanGraphs ranks them as having the 22nd-best minor-league system in baseball—and particularly lacks players who are close to the Majors and could contribute in 2020. That said, Healey believes that high-ceiling prospects in the lower minors—a group that includes the likes of Ronny Mauricio, Mark Vientos, and Matthew Allan, among others—will be hard to pry from Van Wagenen’s hands. After an 86-win season last year, it seems that the Mets feel they can make the jump to contention while still hanging onto their young prospects in hopes of maximizing their competitive window.
Here’s more from around the Senior Circuit…
- Following the Reds’ hire of Driveline founder Kyle Boddy to serve as the organization’s pitching coordinator, Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer offers a glimpse into the Reds’ motivation for targeting Boddy, who had previously never been a full-time employee of an MLB club. In tasking Boddy with developing minor league pitchers, the Reds hope to foster a greater continuity between the philosophies implemented in the Majors and minors. With pitching coach Derek Johnson and staff communicating their message to Boddy, the goal is for the pitching corps to be aligned across all levels of the organization. The addition of Boddy represents a continuation of the Reds’ effort to become more forward-thinking in their player development processes under manager David Bell. And the early returns have been promising: in 2019, the Reds ranked among the top five National League teams in ERA, FIP, and xFIP—a drastic improvement over the prior year, in which Cincy was bottom-three in all three categories.
- Shortstop Brendan Rodgers, the Rockies’ first-round draft choice in 2015, hasn’t enjoyed quite as much success as the only two players drafted before him—Dansby Swanson and Alex Bregman—but after an injury-shortened debut campaign, Rodgers is recovering well from shoulder surgery and is setting his sights high for 2020, writes Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. Rodgers landed on the injured list in June with a shoulder impingement, but he ultimately opted for surgery after nagging discomfort throughout his minor-league career. He’s expected to be fully healthy ahead of spring training, and Rodgers feels he’s past the initial adjustment period, during which he admits shoulder pain and self-imposed pressure affected his performance. A natural shortstop, Rodgers is obviously blocked by teammate Trevor Story at that position, and he’ll have to overtake Ryan McMahon for regular playing time at second base. But given Rodgers’s pedigree and minor-league track record, there’s no doubt that he has the talent to bounce back in 2020.
Following a 2018-2019 offseason that saw the club focus primarily on pitching additions, offensive improvement is expected to be a chief initiative for the Reds this winter. With that goal in mind, the club will not rule out signing free agents attached to a qualifying offer this offseason, as team president of baseball operations Dick Williams indicated at this week’s GM Meetings (link via Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer).
Although signing a QO-laden free agent would require the Reds to forfeit their third-highest pick in the 2020 First-Year Player Draft, the club does not apparently view that cost as strictly prohibitive:
“We’re very aware of the guys who will have rejected qualifying offers and what that means for the economics of what we’re willing to pay,” Williams said. “I think that’s how the system is set up. That is something we’ll definitely factor in. It doesn’t prevent us from talking to any player. We don’t look at it that way.”
This public stance is especially pertinent considering today marks the deadline for qualifying offer recipients to accept or decline their QO. Four of the ten players who received offers are position players, including first baseman Jose Abreu, third baseman Josh Donaldson, outfielder Marcell Ozuna, and third baseman Anthony Rendon. Given that Cincinnatti’s needs at first and third are likely to be handled by Eugenio Suarez and Joey Votto for the next several years, Ozuna may be left as the presumptive reference point to Williams’ comments.
The early market for Ozuna, in particular, has been said to potentially feature as many as a quarter of MLB teams, perhaps revealing that, like the Reds, clubs are feeling slightly less gunshy about this year’s crop of QO-attached free agents overall. Cincinnati has a wide array of potential avenues to explore in improving their cast of position players, with the outfield, catcher, and second base spots all likely to receive some level of attention this winter.
There is little doubt that Nicholas Castellanos and Marcell Ozuna have the most earning power among free-agent outfielders. In MLBTR’s estimation, they’re the only outfielders who look like strong bets to even land $20MM guarantees this winter. We have Castellanos signing for $58MM over four years and Ozuna receiving a three-year, $45MM contract.
Compared to Ozuna, Castellanos has two obvious factors working in his favor: He’s younger (Castellanos will turn 28 in March, while Ozuna’s 29th birthday was on Tuesday) and there’s no qualifying offer weighing him down. The Cardinals, Ozuna’s most recent team, hit him with a $17.8MM QO aftter the season. Assuming he rejects it by Thursday’s deadline, which looks likely, Ozuna’s next club would have to surrender draft compensation to sign him. As for Castellanos, he was part of a trade during the 2019 campaign, going from the Tigers to the Cubs, so he was ineligible to receive a QO this offseason.
Regardless of whom you prefer, both Castellanos and Ozuna figure to draw plenty of interest now that the offseason is underway. The Reds are one team that seems to like both: Already known to have Ozuna on their radar, they’re also eyeing Castellanos, Jon Morosi of MLB.com reports. Either would give the playoff-desperate Reds a much-needed established option in the corner outfield, where the talented but largely unproven Jesse Winker and Aristides Aquino look like their best choices at the moment.
The Reds and Cardinals are two of at least a half-dozen teams open to a deal with Ozuna, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Derrick Goold, who also names the White Sox and Rangers among the intrigued clubs. The White Sox’s interest isn’t remotely surprising. After all, they’re trying to transition from rebuilding to contending, but doing so will be difficult without significantly improving an outfield that finished dead last in the majors in fWAR (0.9) in 2019, when rookie Eloy Jimenez was their lone bright spot in the grass.
Likewise, the Rangers have one immensely valuable outfield building block (Joey Gallo), but it’s otherwise up in the air who will comprise the unit with him in 2020. Hunter Pence is a free agent (and more of.a designated hitter nowadays); Shin-Soo Choo’s more cut out for a DH role; Nomar Mazara has disappointed and may not even be a Ranger in 2020; Willie Calhoun and Danny Santana don’t have set positions; and Delino DeShields is coming off yet another rough offensive season. All that said, there’s room for Texas to make at least one notable addition in the outfield, and with the team set to christen a new stadium in 2020, perhaps Ozuna will end up as one of its buzzworthy pickups.
Free-agent infielder Howe Kendrick may be close to parlaying a brilliant 2019 campaign with the World Series-winning Nationals into a contract with a different club. The Rays are the front-runners to sign Kendrick, Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Meanwhile, Cincinnati – another team that has been connected to Kendrick early this offseason – doesn’t seem likely to sign him, a source told Nightengale.
The 36-year-old Kendrick is well-equipped for an American League team like the Rays, with whom he’d be able to primarily serve as a first baseman/designated hitter. He’s also still versatile enough defensively to see time at second and third base. Beyond that, Kendrick’s ability to rake adds to his appeal as a free agent – one who MLBTR predicts will land a two-year, $12MM contract.
Kendrick has been a quality hitter since his career began in 2006, but he’s now on the heels of his best offensive campaign yet. While Kendrick was only a part-time player with the Nationals in 2019, he hit a jaw-dropping .344/.395/.572 with 17 home runs over 370 plate appearances. And Statcast was even more impressed with Kendrick, evidenced by an expected weighted on-base average (.419) that ranked fourth in the majors and outdid a fantastic .400 real wOBA. Once the regular season ended, Kendrick’s heroics carried into the playoffs, where he swatted a pair of home runs (one versus the Dodgers and another against the Astros) that helped the Cinderella Nationals to a championship.
While Kendrick is still clearly capable of helping just about anyone’s offense, Cincy doesn’t look like the best fit for him. The majority of Kendrick’s playing time this season came at first base, where the Reds already have Joey Votto entrenched as their starter. He also saw a decent amount of time at third base, but the Reds are committed to the big-hitting Eugenio Suarez there. Kendrick can also play second, where the Reds don’t have an established starter, though it doesn’t seem he’s a consistent option there at this point in his career. He logged just 23 games at the keystone in 2019.
It’s been six years since the Reds have made the playoffs or even finished .500 in a season. President Dick Williams has made it no secret the team’s aiming to turn it around ASAP, though, which could set up for an active Reds winter. Improving a weak offense figures to be Cincinnati’s main focus over the coming months. The Reds’ outfield is one of multiple areas of concern, so it’s no surprise they seem to be looking to bolster that area of their roster. They’re among the teams interested in free agent Marcell Ozuna – arguably the top outfielder available – Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports.
For Ozuna to actually reach free agency, he’ll first have to reject the Cardinals’ $17.8MM qualifying offer by Thursday. That looks like a near certainty, however, and if it does happen and the Reds do sign Ozuna, they’d have to surrender their third-highest draft pick along with however much it could cost to win the bidding for him. MLBTR forecasts a three-year, $45MM contract for Ozuna, who has an extensive track record of quality production and, along with Nicholas Castellanos, looks like the best free-agent outfielder in this winter’s class. The 29-year-old Ozuna slashed .243/.330/.474 with 29 home runs, 12 steals and 2.6 fWAR across 549 plate appearances in 2019, during which he graded as a Statcast darling.
Whether the Reds get Ozuna or someone else, it’ll be an eye-opener if they don’t land at least one somewhat prominent outfielder this offseason. They’re stuck with a largely unproven group at the moment, as no one from the Nick Senzel–Aristides Aquino–Jesse Winker trio has established himself as a truly capable big league starter yet. Speculatively, if the Reds were to sign Ozuna, he could take over left field, leaving RF to a platoon consisting of the lefty-swinging Winker and the righty-hitting Aquino.