- The Rockies have outrighted reliever Brooks Pounders to Triple-A and reinstated fellow reliever Carlos Estevez from the 60-day disabled list, per a team announcement. The club subsequently optioned Estevez to Triple-A. Given that he has been outrighted in the past, Pounders has the ability to elect free agency. It’s unclear if that will happen, however. The 27-year-old has been a Rockie since January, when he signed a minor league deal with the team, and earned a major league call-up in late April. Pounders then struggled to prevent runs over 15 1/3 innings, recording a 7.63 ERA on a whopping 25 hits. However, he did post tremendous strikeout and walk rates (9.98 K/9, 1.17 BB/9). The former Rockie and Angel offered similar production with those two teams, as his 8.92 ERA, 9.86 K/9 and 2.35 BB/9 over 38 1/3 frames demonstrate. He owns a 2.93 Triple-A ERA, though, with 9.5 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 147 1/3 innings.
The Rockies recalled Jon Gray tonight to start tonight’s game against the Mariners. Gray’s 5.77 ERA across 17 starts this season seemed like reasonable cause for a demotion, but it always seemed as though he wouldn’t spend too long in the minors. After all, he was striking out 29% of opposing hitters, and by measures of FIP (3.12), xFIP (2.82) and SIERA (3.19), he was having an absolutely fantastic season. As MLBTR’s Connor Byrne mentioned at the time, his .386 BABIP and 63.1% strand rate pointed to a horrific amount of bad luck. In two starts at the Triple-A level, Gray managed to strike out 13 batters in 10 2/3 innings while allowing four runs.
In a corresponding move, the Rockies optioned fellow young right-hander Jeff Hoffman to Triple-A. Also a former top prospect, Hoffman hasn’t managed to find his footing in the majors yet, and has allowed more than a run per inning on average while pitching out of the Rockies’ bullpen. He’s also walked more batters than he’s struck out, and spent time on the DL with a shoulder injury.
Here are some notable developments from around MLB…
- The Indians have recalled Francisco Mejia to make a start at DH tonight against the Yankees; it’s his 2018 MLB debut. The young switch-hitter is not only universally believed to be the Tribe’s top prospect, but he’s also considered the best catching prospect in all of baseball. Unfortunately for him, he’s been blocked in the majors by a solid defensive tandem of Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez, both of whom are signed to contracts that stretch a couple of years beyond 2018.
- Another former top prospect, Twins outfielder Byron Buxton, can’t seem to catch a break this season. He’s apparently suffered a left wrist strain at Triple-A, and will head to the 7-day minor league disabled list (hat tip to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com). After posting a horrific wRC+ of -3 (yes, negative), Buxton has put up a .219/.288/.356 batting line at Triple-A and will now have to wait at least another week before he has a chance to get on track.
Rosscup, 30, racked up ten strikeouts without a walk in seven frames last year in Colorado, but had yet to reach the majors this year while working back from finger troubles. He has been effective in limited action at Triple-A, allowing just one earned run on four hits while registering nine strikeouts against three walks in 8 1/3 innings.
The 31-year-old Paredes, meanwhile, managed an 8:2 K/BB ratio but also allowed five runs in his 7 2/3 frames in the majors this year. He has also experienced some walk problems at the Triple-A level, however, issuing 15 free passes in 18 frames.
As they look to improve a roster that has performed at a high level this year, the Red Sox are interested in adding impact in their late-inning relief mix, according to a report from Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com. We heard yesterday that the team has interest in Orioles southpaw Zach Britton (see here and here), but he’s certainly not the only potential target.
At the moment, it is not clear if the Boston organization has any particular pitcher in mind. Crasnick indicates that the team is “blanketing the relief market,” so it appears that there are still quite a few possibilities.
It’s not surprising, of course, to learn that a clear contender wants to improve its bullpen. That’s almost a given in this day and age, when the ability to deploy a variety of quality relief arms in optimal fashion can make all the difference in high-leverage situations in critical games.
The key takeaway, though, is that the Sox aren’t just looking to add another solid set-up option. Rather, the report indicates that the organization wishes to obtain a high-end, difference-making arm. Notably, Crasnick suggests that the pending free agency of elite closer Craig Kimbrel is a factor, perhaps indicating that the Red Sox will be particularly interested in a controllable player.
The Red Sox did just welcome Tyler Thornburg into the fold after a lengthy rehab process. He has worked in the 93 to 94 mph range in his first two outings, below but also in sight of his most recent levels. But the club really can’t know quite what to expect yet from him.
One interesting element to consider here is the fact that the Red Sox depth chart exhibits an obvious weakness from the left side. The just-recalled Jalen Beeks is currently the only southpaw in the pen, though perhaps Drew Pomeranz could ultimately be utilized in relief once he’s back to health.
Clearly, a power lefty would make particular sense, which helps explain the look at Britton. And there are other premium late-inning southpaws that could be available — though none at a low price. Brad Hand of the Padres and Felipe Vazquez of the Pirates are perhaps intriguing speculative targets, but they will require a massive haul to pry loose given that both recently inked high-value extensions.
There ought to be other potential hurlers to consider on the left side, of course. Zach Duke of the Twins has been excellent and is an affordable rental player. The Marlins’ Adam Conley is showing that his stuff can play up from the pen. Despite a thin track record of late, he comes with cheap control, meaning the ask will likely be fairly high. Other possible options include Jake Diekman (Rangers), Jerry Blevins (Mets), Aaron Loup (Blue Jays), and Luis Avilan (White Sox).
It seems, though, that the need for a southpaw will not necessarily drive the team’s approach when it comes to installing a high-end arm. Per Crasnick, the Red Sox have taken a scouting look at Kyle Barraclough of the Marlins and even “checked in” to see if the Rockies might be interested in parting with veterans Wade Davis or Adam Ottavino. (Crasnick added mention of Ottavino in a follow-up tweet.) All of those hurlers throw from the right side, of course. And they are in quite different contract situations, with Barraclough on the cusp of arbitration eligibility, Ottavino set to hit the open market, and Davis still in the first season of his three-year, $52MM contract.
Davis, in particular, appears to be rather an unlikely player to move, as Crasnick notes. But the fact that the team has even considered that pursuit seems telling. There really aren’t all that many excellent late-inning rental relievers likely to be made available — Jeurys Familia is probably the best among them — but there are quite a few quality pitchers with lengthy control rights that could perhaps be had. Raisel Iglesias of the Reds, Kirby Yates of the Padres, Nate Jones of the White Sox, and Keone Kela of the Rangers are all pitchers that could at least conceivably interest the Red Sox. All are in the same essential situation as that of Barraclough, though: with multiple seasons of affordable control remaining, their teams don’t have to make a move.
As things stand, then, the possibilities still seem rather open-ended. That only makes it all the more interesting to see how talks shape up over the next twenty days.
Carlos Gonzalez will achieve his 10-and-5 rights (and thus full no-trade protection) on July 19, MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi writes, so the Rockies may need to move quickly if they want to freely move the veteran outfielder. The Rockies aren’t really deadline sellers at this point, as their modest 44-43 record is still keeping them 4.5 games back in both the NL West and NL wild card races, though Gonzalez is providing only moderate value and could be expendable. The 32-year-old hasn’t done much to bounce back from a mediocre 2017 season, as CarGo is hitting just .267/.316/.427 with seven homers in 244 PA. Those numbers contain some lopsided splits, as he hasn’t been at all productive against left-handed pitching or away from Coors Fields, making him a pretty limited asset for potential trade partners. Gonzalez is only under contract through this season via a one-year, $5MM deal, and he is enough of a respected figure in Colorado that the Rox may want to keep him for their pennant push rather than arrange a trade.
With the 2018-19 international signing period kicking off today, there will be dozens of six- and seven-figure bonuses handed out to teenage prospects, primarily out of Latin America, filtering in throughout the day today. Many of these have been in the works for quite some time, as is reflected by the fact that most of the top players’ destinations and signing bonuses have been previously reported/projected (and by the fact that the top agreements will all be reported in one swift avalanche today).
We’ll keep track of the notable National League signings here and the notable American League signings in a separate post. Note that you can read up on each of these players with the dedicated international coverage available from Ben Badler of Baseball America (subscription required), Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com and Kiley McDaniel & Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs, each of whom has scouting info on the top echelon of international amateurs. Badler is also tracking the all of the signings from all 30 teams.
Onto some of the more notable signings…
With Nolan Arenado scheduled to hit free agency after next season, the Rockies third baseman is sure to sign a massive contract in the near future. But Arenado tells Bob Nightengale of USA Today that winning – not money – will be his top priority as he determines his future. “I don’t want to lose anymore. I just hate it,’’ said Arenado, who has only played in one playoff game since debuting in 2013 and is “jealous” of the success the NL West rival Dodgers and Giants have enjoyed in recent years. Before Arenado potentially hits free agency, he’ll be watching with interest as fellow superstars Bryce Harper and Manny Machado test the open market during the upcoming winter. However, given that Arenado is older than both Harper and Machado (he’ll play his age-29 season in 2020), he doesn’t expect to rake in as much money on his next contract as they will on theirs. “I’m not here to say that whatever they get, I’m going to get,” he said. “Those guys are younger. I don’t expect to get the numbers they get. But as a fan of baseball, it will be cool to see what happens. I’ll sit back this winter and watch like everybody else.’’ While the Rockies could prevent Arenado from hitting the market via an extension, he’s not going “to start the dialogue.’’ Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich seems optimistic, though, telling Nightengale “there’s no rush to force anything now” and suggesting the team and Arenado have a good relationship.
Now for the latest on a pair of NL Central teams:
- As the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches, the Brewers are “open to every possibility,” according to GM David Stearns (via Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). With his team in first place in the NL Central by 1 1/2 games, Stearns is “highly motivated” to make improvements, writes Haudricourt, who notes that the Brewers could opt for a high-profile addition to their lineup instead of their rotation. That could be Machado, who’d be a massive upgrade for a Brewers team that hasn’t gotten much from the shortstop position this year and sent Orlando Arcia to the minors Sunday. Machado’s not under contract beyond this season, though, and as a result, Haudricourt doesn’t expect the Brewers to end up with him.
- The Cubs announced that they’ve placed reliever Brian Duensing on the 10-day disabled list and recalled right-hander Dillon Maples from Triple-A Iowa. The left-handed Duensing is dealing with fatigue in his pitching shoulder, which continues a less-than-ideal season for the 35-year-old. After Duensing posted an outstanding 2017 with the Cubs, they re-signed him to a two-year, $7MM deal in the offseason. The investment hasn’t paid off so far, though, as Duensing has logged a bloated 6.92 ERA with horrid strikeout and walk rates (5.88 K/9, 6.92 BB/9) in 26 innings.
The Rockies optioned right-hander Jon Gray to Triple-A Albuquerque today, as noted as MLB.com’s Thomas Harding (Twitter link) and other reporters. Outfielder Raimel Tapia was promoted in the corresponding move.
Though Gray has struggled this season, the demotion still counts as a surprise on a number of levels. Formerly one of the game’s top prospects, Gray posted solid numbers in 2016 and then took another positive step with an even better performance (3.67 ERA, 9.1 K/9, 3.73 K/BB) over 110 1/3 innings in an injury-shortened 2017.
The hope in Colorado was that Gray would further establish himself as the front-of-the-rotation arm that the franchise has long sought after, though instead, Gray ran into some rough waters. Over 92 innings, Gray leads the league in both hits and earned runs allowed, to go along with an ugly 5.77 ERA. He is allowing more hard contact (34.4%) than in either of the past two seasons, while his home run rate is a career-high 15.5%. One can’t blame Coors Field for Gray’s issue, as his home and road ERAs are basically identical.
These numbers notwithstanding, there is a lot more evidence that Gray’s 5.77 ERA is the product of terrible luck. Looking at his ERA predictors (3.07 FIP, 2.77 xFIP, 3.14 SIERA), one would think that Gray was enjoying a breakout season. He owns a 11.6 K/9 and a 4.1 K/BB rate, and while his hard contact percentage is up, the quality of that contact translates to only a .301 xwOBA. His xOBA is .342, however, and Gray has been similarly snake-bitten by a whopping .386 BABIP as well as a low 63.1% strand rate.
The Rockies are hoping Gray will be back sometime in July, as MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi tweets that the “team views this as a reset” in the midst of what surely must be a frustrating stretch for the 26-year-old. Antonio Senzatela and Jeff Hoffman are the likeliest Triple-A candidates to fill Gray’s place in the short term, with rookies Sam Howard and Harrison Musgrave also longer shot options.
We’ll use this post to track the day’s most notable signings from the first few rounds of the draft. Scouting reports and pre-draft rankings can be found courtesy of MLB.com, Fangraphs, Baseball America and ESPN’s Keith Law (the latter two available to subscribers only) …
- Marlins second-round pick Osiris Johnson has agreed to take the exact value assigned to the 53rd overall choice, Jim Callis of MLB.com tweets. Johnson, a shortstop from California, will forego his commitment to Cal State Fullerton for a $1,318,500 bonus. A consensus top-100 talent, he received his highest ranking from Law, who placed the youngster 58th on his board. A cousin of both Jimmy Rollins and Tony Tarasco, Johnson is viewed as a future infielder but isn’t seen as being particularly likely to remain at short for the long haul. Still, he is said to possess great hands with excellent bat speed and projectable power at the plate. The Fish have also agreed to a just-over-slot ($645K) deal with third-rounder Tristan Pompey, per Callis (on Twitter), which would give the team agreements with all of its selections from the first ten rounds.
- The Rockies have agreed to a below-slot bonus with 76th overall selection Mitchell Kilkenny, Callis also tweets. That choice, a supplemental second-round pick that the Colorado organization received as compensation when Greg Holland departed via free agency, came with a $787,200 allocation. After his physical showed that he’d require Tommy John surgery, though, the Texas A&M righty will settle with the Rox for $550K. MLB.com had the highest grade (83rd) on Kilkenny among outlets, calling him a high-floor hurler with a good chance of making it into a MLB rotation. Having just undergone a TJ procedure, of course, Kilkenny will get a delayed start to his professional career and may not even be able to join a Rockies affiliate until the 2020 campaign. With this move, the Colorado organization has also completed its dealmaking with the eleven players it picked in the first ten rounds of the draft.
- The Rockies announced that they’ve placed reliever Bryan Shaw on the 10-day disabled list with a right calf strain and recalled righty Yency Almonte from Triple-A Albuquerque. The DL placement continues a season to forget for Shaw, who’s in the first of a three-year, $27MM deal. Shaw has disappointed with his new club thus far, having recorded a 7.57 ERA with career-worst walk and home run rates (5.05 BB/9, 2.02 HR/9) over 35 2/3 innings.