- Blue Jays closer Ken Giles went to the IL on June 12 with right elbow inflammation, an ominous-sounding injury for a pitcher. However, the Blue Jays don’t expect him to stay on the IL past the 10-day mark, manager Charlie Montoyo said Monday (via Scott Mitchell of TSN). That’s especially good news for Toronto considering Giles could be one of the game’s top trade chips leading up to the July 31 deadline. The hard-throwing 28-year-old has upped his stock this season with a brilliant 1.08 ERA/1.18 FIP, 15.12 K/9 against 2.52 BB/9, and 11 saves on 12 chances across 25 innings.
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Luciano went to the 10-day IL with a sprained elbow on June 12. His 60-day placement means he won’t be back until around mid-August at the earliest. However, as a Rule 5 pick, it’s unlikely to jeopardize Luciano’s place in the organization. Luciano has about two weeks left before he officially becomes Blue Jays property, notes Nicholson-Smith, who suggests that’s a formality.
The Blue Jays plucked Luciano from the Royals last December, and he made Toronto’s roster even though he won’t turn 20 until February 2020. The youngest player in the majors, Luciano has pitched to a 6.51 ERA/6.29 FIP with more unintentional walks (23) than strikeouts (22) in 27 2/3 innings. Luciano has also allowed 33 hits, including four home runs, but the rebuilding Blue Jays have ridden out his struggles thus far and appear likely to keep him around going forward.
Phelps is back in the majors following a lengthy rehab process after Tommy John surgery. He made four scoreless minor-league appearances, compiling four strikeouts without a walk, and was finally deemed ready to get back to the MLB mound for the first time since 2017.
If all goes well, the Toronto org could have another trade chip on its hands. Phelps inked a one-year, $2.5MM deal that includes a floating-value option. His earning power will depend quite a bit on how frequently he throws, as he can tap incentives and boost the option value based upon the number of appearances he makes this year.
At his best, Phelps was a quality relief arm, who ran up 142 1/3 innings of 2.72 ERA pitching from 2016 to 2017. That track record earned him this contract in spite of the TJ procedure, but his showing from this point forward will determine his trade value and future in the majors.
- The Blue Jays signed Cuban right-hander Yosver Zulueta and Dutch right-handers Jiorgeny Casimiri and Sem Robberse in some late additions before the end of the 2018-19 international signing period, Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi writes. Toronto acquired an extra $1.5MM of bonus pool funds in spring trades of Kendrys Morales to the A’s and Dwight Smith Jr. to the Orioles, which accounted for these three Jays signing (Zulueta received “the majority of their spending room,” as per Davidi).
The Blue Jays have acquired right-hander Nick Kingham from the Pirates for cash considerations, as announced by both teams. Ryan Tepera has been shifted to the 60-day injured list to create room on Toronto’s roster.
Kingham was designated for assignment this week, effectively ending almost a full decade in Pittsburgh’s organization for the righty. Kingham was a fourth-round pick in the 2010 draft and has long been considered one of the more promising arms both in the Bucs’ farm system and in baseball as a whole, appearing on top-100 prospect lists prior to both the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Tommy John surgery in 2015 delayed his progress, though he still amassed a 3.46 ERA, 3.17 K/BB rate, and 7.7 K/9 over 766 1/3 career innings in the minors, starting 142 of his 147 games.
As a big-leaguer, Kingham flirted with history when he carried a perfect game into the seventh inning during his MLB debut back on April 29, 2018. Overall, however, Kingham has struggled to find consistency in the Show, posting a 6.67 ERA that has been boosted by 25 homers allowed over 110 2/3 innings, though he has a higher strikeout rate (8.2 K/9) in the majors than in the minors, albeit over a much smaller sample size.
Though the Pirates are far from deep in starting pitching options, it seems like they were simply ready to move on from the 27-year-old Kingham, who now gets a chance on a Blue Jays team that is in even more desperate need of rotation help. The Jays rank at or near the bottom of the league in most starting pitching categories, and will need even more starters on hand to fill the void if/when Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez are both moved before the July 31st trade deadline. Kingham could get a shot in the rotation immediately (which could mean the end of struggling veteran Edwin Jackson’s time in Toronto) or he could throw out of the bullpen as a long man until a trade or until the Jays decide a change needs to be made.
4:50pm: Giles doesn’t expect to miss more than the 10-day minimum, tweets Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.
3:24pm: Blue Jays closer Ken Giles is headed to the 10-day injured list due to inflammation in his right elbow, per a team announcement. The Jays also announced that right-hander Clay Buchholz was moved to the 60-day IL to clear a 40-man roster spot for righty Jordan Romano, whose previously reported promotion from Triple-A is now official.
It’s a blow to the Blue Jays on the field but also an unwelcome development given that Giles is among the team’s best trade chips as the July 31 trade deadline looms. There’s no indication that Giles will require an especially lengthy absence at this point, but any sort of recent elbow issue will be cause for some degree of concern when teams are discussing Giles as a trade candidate next month.
The 28-year-old Giles has been nearly automatic in 2019, pitching 25 innings with a 1.08 ERA and a gaudy 42-to-7 K/BB ratio. He’s earning $6.3MM in 2019 and is all the more appealing to contending teams due to the fact that he’s controlled through the 2020 season.
In Giles’ absence, the Jays seem likely to turn to Joe Biagini in save opportunities. He’s worked the eighth inning on 17 occasions in 2019 and is tied for the team lead in holds (seven). Daniel Hudson would be another option should the club prefer a more veteran alternative, but he’s averaging nearly five walks per nine innings pitched.
The Blue Jays will select the contract of righty Jordan Romano, according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. It’s not yet clear how the team will create the necessary roster space, which includes a 40-man spot.
Romano, 26, is a 2014 tenth-rounder who hasn’t yet cracked the majors. That’s not to say he wasn’t on the MLB radar. The Canadian hurler was selected in the Rule 5 draft last winter, with the Rangers (who had acquired his rights from the White Sox) ultimately deciding to send him back to Toronto.
Through 31 frames at Triple-A this year, Romano carries only a 6.10 ERA. But most of the damage came during his early work as a starter and in one abysmal performance in mid-May. More importantly, Romano has trended up in the strikeout department, posting 12.5 K/9 against 3.8 BB/9 on the year.
- The Blue Jays have signed 20 picks, including second-rounder Kendall Williams (No. 52), Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet reports. The high school right-hander from Florida will get $1,547,500, which is more than the recommended slot value of his selection ($1,403,200), per Jim Callis of MLB.com. Callis and colleague Jonathan Mayo ranked Williams as the draft’s 54th-best prospect entering the proceedings, calling the 6-foot-6 hurler “the quintessential projectable high school right-hander.” Despite Williams’ size, he doesn’t have much trouble throwing strikes, according to Callis and Mayo, who note the hurler’s able to touch 94 mph with regularity and suggest he has serious upside. Williams had committed to Vanderbilt before the draft, but his signing will take him out of the Commodores’ plans.
7:56pm: “The Yankees might not be enamored enough with Bumgarner to pay the necessary price,” MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand writes. The potential return of Severino could also impact the Yankees’ deadline plans, though as one executive points out, it wouldn’t be surprising if Severino has some rust after his long layoff, so the Yankees might not have enough time before the deadline to evaluate if they can rely on him to be the rotation help they need.
11:28am: The Yankees are known to be looking into starting pitching options, and their explorations have included two of the arms most likely to be moved before the July 31st trade deadline. According to the New York Post’s Ken Davidoff, the Yankees have been in touch with the Blue Jays about right-hander Marcus Stroman, and have also had scouts watching Madison Bumgarner’s outings for the Giants.
Virtually every aspect of the Yankees’ roster has been hit hard with injuries this season, with the rotation being no exception. Luis Severino has yet to pitch this season and won’t be back until after the All-Star break, while James Paxton, C.C. Sabathia, and (just today) Domingo German have all spent time on the injured list. Between these issues and some struggles at the back of their bullpen, Davidoff figures that the Yankees will prioritize pitching upgrades as the deadline approaches.
To this end, New York has undoubtedly done some preliminary evaluation (whether it’s scouting or direct conversations with rival front offices) about many pitchers beyond just Stroman and Bumgarner. It remains to be seen if the Yankees’ inquiries represent due diligence or a genuinely strong interest, though these two pitchers naturally stand out due to their high-profile nature, and each would come with some interesting factors to consider before any deal is completed.
Stroman has bounced back nicely this season following an injury-plagued down year in 2018, and isn’t a rental piece, as he is under team control through the 2020 season. While he’ll be in line for an arbitration raise on his $7.4MM salary for this season, Stroman will still bring a ton of value to any rotation if he keeps pitching at his current level. If Stroman did end up in the pinstripes, this extra year of control would make him a natural candidate to replace the retiring Sabathia in next season’s rotation, and thus the Yankees would have one less item to address on their offseason to-do list.
That said, Toronto will demand a big return for Stroman’s services. MLBTR’s Connor Byrne recently explored the Stroman trade market, with the Yankees cited as one of a whopping 22 teams who could be plausible fits for the right-hander — Stroman’s extra year of control makes him a target even for clubs like the White Sox, Diamondbacks, or Reds, who might not be contenders this season but are looking ahead to 2020.
Though the Blue Jays and Yankees are division rivals, the two teams combined for a high-profile pitching swap last summer when J.A. Happ was dealt to New York for Brandon Drury and Billy McKinney. Since Happ was a pending free agent at the time of that trade, and is over eight and a half years older than Stroman, the Jays figure to ask for quite a bit more from the Yankees in trade talks this summer.
Bumgarner’s situation is quite a bit different, as the former World Series MVP is a pure rental, headed to free agency after the season. Many of the same teams looking to acquire Stroman will also be in the hunt for Bumgarner (as Connor outlined in another post), though even with only two-plus months and potential postseason innings on offer, the Giants are likely to aim high in their trade demands. With so many of their other high-priced veterans struggling, battling injuries, or limited by full or partial no-trade clauses, Bumgarner represents San Francisco’s best chance of adding some solid prospects as the team looks to get younger.
Bumgarner himself has some no-trade protection, with the ability to block trades to eight teams. The Yankees are one of the teams on that list, though this doesn’t mean that the southpaw would necessarily reject a potential trade to the Bronx, but rather that Bumgarner was simply giving himself some extra leverage (perhaps in the form of a cash bonus to waive his clause) in the event that a trade offer emerged from one of those eight clubs.
- The Blue Jays have agreed to a deal with second-round pick Kendall Williams, as per MLB.com’s Jim Callis (via Twitter). The high school right-hander will receive a bonus of $1,547,500, a bit above the $1,403,200 recommended price attached to the 52nd overall pick and perhaps some necessary extra incentive to get Williams to break his commitment to Vanderbilt. MLB.com was most bullish on the 6’6″ Williams, ranking him 54th on their top 200 prospects list and describing him as “the quintessential projectable high school right-hander,” with a promising and still-developing arsenal of four pitches.