- The Indians’ homegrown pitching has been the backbone of the team’s success in recent years, and The Athletic’s Zack Meisel (subscription link) looks at how the organization has been able to turn the likes of Corey Kluber, Mike Clevinger, Shane Bieber, Aaron Civale, and other relatively unheralded — none were drafted before the third round by the Tribe or other teams — arms into top-flight hurlers. Ruben Niebla, formerly the minor league pitching coordinator and now the big league team’s assistant pitching coach, has been a key figure in the system of finding what works for each pitcher, getting the pitcher to buy into the strategy, and then tailoring that development through all levels of the pitcher’s trip up the organizational ladder. “That communication is vitally important to us, that we make sure we have continuity and the same message as he goes through. There’s no confusion. It’s clear,” Niebla said.
After being dropped from the Indians’ 40-man roster in advance of the non-tender deadline, righty James Hoyt has landed back with the Cleveland organization. Full terms aren’t known, but the contract does come with a MLB roster spot.
The 33-year-old Hoyt hasn’t yet proven he can deliver results in the majors, but has had no trouble getting swings and misses from big-league hitters. He has averaged a 16.8% swinging-strike rate at the game’s highest level, allowing him to carry an excellent 104:26 K/BB ratio over eighty frames. Hoyt has also allowed 14 long balls in that span.
It’ll be interesting to see whether the Indians can coax some quality MLB frames out of the slider-heavy hurler. He spent the 2019 season shifting from a four-seam to a two-seam heater — at least, as identified by pitch-tracking software — which may have helped him to limit International League hitters to three home runs in 42 Triple-A frames. But Hoyt did go on to surrender a pair of dingers in his 8 1/3 September innings in the majors.
- We’ve heard a lot of chatter surrounding a certain Indians star shortstop, but relatively little on the club’s former (and future?) ace starter. That may not reflect the real state of play within and among front offices. ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan cites multiple executives for the proposition that the Cleveland organization is working harder on structuring deals for Corey Kluber than in sorting out a blockbuster involving Francisco Lindor. As we explained in ranking Kluber 17th among the winter’s trade candidates, it’s all but impossible to know what to expect from the former Cy Young winner. Kluber ought to be well rested after a freak arm fracture ruined his 2019 season, but he had struggled in early action before the injury. He’s not cheap — $17.5MM in 2020 and $18MM via club option for one more year — but would be an outright steal at those rates if he’s anything like his usual self upon his return.
- Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor is a prominent trade candidate, at least speculatively. However, as you’d expect, it’s going to be extremely difficult to pry the superstar out of Cleveland. The Indians would have to be “overwhelmed” by an offer in order to part with the 26-year-old four-time All-Star this offseason, Paul Hoynes of cleveland.com writes. Lindor has just two years of control left and doesn’t seem likely to sign an extension, meaning there’s a case the Indians should strongly consider trading him before next season. However, the perennial contenders apparently want to see how they fare coming out of the gate next season before deciding Lindor’s future, Hoynes suggests. If that’s the case, we may not see a Lindor trade until at least around next July’s trade deadline.
9:18pm: Leon’s deal with the Indians comes with a $2MM salary with performance bonuses of $25K each for 75 and 100 games started at catcher, Zack Meisel of The Athletic tweets.
7:20pm: The Indians announced Monday that they’ve acquired catcher Sandy Leon from the Red Sox in exchange for minor league right-hander Adenys Bautista. In order to open a spot for Leon on the 40-man roster, Cleveland has designated right-hander James Hoyt for assignment.
Leon, 30, would’ve likely been non-tendered by the Red Sox but now seems likely to be tendered a contract by his new organization. The swap doesn’t exactly bode well for Kevin Plawecki, who’d previously been in line to serve as the primary backup to 2019 breakout catcher Roberto Perez. Leon is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $2.8MM in 2020, whereas Plawecki is projected to earn $1.5MM.
In Leon, the Indians are acquiring a switch-hitting veteran, although his value lies in his glove as opposed to his bat. Leon did have one standout season at the plate back in 2016, when he hit .310/.369/.476 in 283 plate appearances, but that output looks like an anomaly; in three years since that strong showing, he’s managed only a .199/.259/.312 batting line in 780 trips to the plate.
Leon has generally rated as an above-average framer and, with the exception of a 21 percent caught-stealing rate in 2019, has been excellent at controlling the running game throughout his MLB tenure (career 34 percent caught-stealing rate). Still, it’s at least somewhat of a surprise to see the Indians ostensibly swap out Plawecki for Leon, as Plawecki rated as the better defender in 2019, hit better than Leon over the past several seasons and was the cheaper option with two additional seasons of club control. Leon will be a free agent at season’s end.
Boston’s return isn’t particularly exciting — as one would expect when trading a backup catcher who was in line to be non-tendered. The 21-year-old Bautista has yet to advance beyond the Rookie-level Arizona League and has only pitched 43 2/3 innings of pro ball in total. He’s posted an ugly 5.98 ERA with nearly as many walks (31) as strikeouts (32) in that time and has demonstrated below-average ground-ball tendencies.
Hoyt, 33, has displayed huge strikeout numbers and passable control in his limited MLB chances. Through 80 innings between the Astros and Indians, he’s worked to a 4.16 ERA with 11.7 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 and a 45.5 percent ground-ball rate. He’s been quite homer-prone, however, which has limited his results a bit. Still, a pitcher with those strikeout totals, a 16.8 percent swinging-strike rate, a 36.8 percent opponents’ chase rate and a fastball that has averaged 93.9 mph feels like he should be a more interesting commodity than he’s been to either the Houston or the Cleveland organization. Hoyt still has a minor league option remaining, which should only enhance his appeal to another club.
The Indians have non-tendered catcher Kevin Plawecki and reliever James Hoyt, tweets Zack Meisel of the Athletic. Plawecki had been projected for a $1.5MM salary, while Hoyt was not yet arbitration-eligible.
The end of Plawecki’s tenure with the Indians looked like a formality after they acquired fellow backstop Sandy Leon from the Red Sox earlier Monday. Of course, it wasn’t what Cleveland had in mind when it acquired Plawecki, a former top 100 prospect, from the Mets last offseason. But the 28-year-old Plawecki wound up making for an unproductive backup to Roberto Perez in 2019, as he hit a subpar .222/.287/.342 with three home runs in 174 trips to the plate.
The Indians designated Hoyt when they traded for Leon, making it no surprise he’s on their non-tendered list. The former Astro fared well over an 8 1/3-inning sample size with the Indians in 2019, but the majority of the right-hander’s work came with Cleveland’s Triple-A affiliate. Hoyt posted a 3.43 ERA/3.98 FIP with 10.29 K/9, 4.29 BB/9 and a 53.4 percent groundball rate in 42 innings at the minors’ highest level this year.
Dec. 2: Goody has accepted the assignment and been added to the Rangers’ 40-man roster, per a club announcement. The team’s 40-man roster is now full.
Nov. 26: Indians right-hander Nick Goody has been claimed off waivers by the Rangers, per an announcement from the Texas organization. (MLBTR reported that he’d been claimed by an unknown team this afternoon.) Players claimed off release waivers have five days to accept the assignment to their new club or reject in favor of free agency.
Goody, 28, is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to receive a $1.1MM salary via arbitration this winter. The right-hander had a terrific 2017 season for the Indians, compiling a 2.80 ERA with 11.9 K/9, 3.3 BB/9 and 1.2 HR/9 in 54 innings out of the bullpen. Goody logged an eye-popping 16.1 percent swinging-strike rate that season and whiffed nearly a third of the hitters he faced. His slider, in particular, gave opponents fits, as evidenced by a 24.2 percent swinging-strike mark and an awful .147 opponents’ average against the pitch.
An elbow strain caused Goody to miss most of the 2018 season, however, limiting him to 11 2/3 innings of 6.94 ERA ball. He was healthy again for most of the 2019 season and turned out a solid 3.54 ERA with a 50-to-22 K/BB ratio in 40 2/3 innings. Control was an issue for Goody this past season, and his 25.7 percent fly-ball rate was a career-low. But the right-hander’s 92.8 mph average fastball was a career-high, and his slider, which was hammered in 2018, appeared to be back into good form in 2019 (.123 average against; 23.2 percent swinging-strike rate).
If Goody does indeed accept his assignment to the Rangers and go through the arbitration process, he’d be controllable for not only the 2020 season but also the 2021-22 seasons.
The Indians announced Wednesday that they’ve designated right-hander Nick Goody for assignment and selected the contracts of outfielder Daniel Johnson, right-hander Triston McKenzie and left-hander Scott Moss.
The 28-year-old Goody had a terrific 2017 season in Cleveland, pitching to a 2.80 ERA with 11.9 K/9, 3.3 BB/9 and 1.2 HR/9 in 54 innings of relief. He was a Statcast darling that season, ranking among the game’s best in terms of expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA), but he missed much of the 2018 season due to an elbow strain. Goody was seemingly back in solid form in 2019 when notched a 3.54 ERA with a 50-to-22 K/BB ratio in 40 2/3 innings (plus another strong .253 xwOBA), but Cleveland apparently didn’t have interest in paying him a projected $1.1MM arbitration salary.
Moss was acquired in the three-team deal that sent Trevor Bauer to Cincinnati this past summer and only allowed four runs in 28 2/3 minor league innings with the Indians. McKenzie, long one of the Indians’ best prospects, didn’t pitch in 2019 due to a back injury but enjoyed an excellent 2018 season in Double-A despite pitching most of the year at the age of 20. The Indians understandably weren’t willing to risk losing the former No. 42 pick, who has been a top-100 prospect three years running. Johnson, meanwhile, reached Triple-A for the first time in 2019 and posted a combined .290/.361/.507 batting line across the Indians’ top two affiliates.
The Brewers and Indians announced a minor trade Wednesday, with Cleveland sending minor league infielder Mark Mathias to Milwaukee in exchange for minor league catcher Andres Melendez. Milwaukee has selected the contract of Mathias.
Mathias, 25, needed to be added to the 40-man roster in order to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft. The Indians apparently preferred not to commit that 40-man spot to Mathias, prompting today’s swap with the Brewers, who’ll now pick up some new infield depth. The 2015 third-rounder hit .269/.355/.442 with a dozen home runs, 31 doubles, two triples and 13 stolen bases at Triple-A this past season. Mathias is primarily a second baseman and third baseman, but he’s also logged 203 innings at shortstop since being drafted.
Milwaukee signed the now-18-year-old Melendez out of Venezuela back in 2017. He played 36 games with the Brewers’ Rookie-level Arizona affiliate in 2019, hitting .250/.340/.352 with a 30 percent caught-stealing rate behind the plate. Despite being years from the Majors, Melendez was ranked 16th among Brewers farmhands by Kiley McDaniel and Eric Longenhagen on their midsesason update of the team’s prospect rankings.
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.)