- Blue Jays first baseman Justin Smoak went through without a claim. While that’s perhaps surprising at first glance, other organizations are surely aware that the Jays won’t be allowing the 31-year-old to walk for nothing. Accordingly, a claim isn’t likely to do much to facilitate an agreement. The switch-hitting slugger has largely carried forward his surprising 2017 output, turning in 487 plate appearances of .257/.363/.465 hitting on the current season. But he’s cheap this year ($4.125MM) and controllable for an affordable rate ($6MM) for 2019. While there’s obviously no reason to believe that Smoak is particularly likely to be dealt, he could still be an interesting chip for the Toronto organization — particularly if other quality hitters don’t make it through the wire.
Blue Jays Rumors
The Blue Jays announced that right-hander Marcus Stroman has been placed on the 10-day disabled list due to a blister on his right middle finger. Right-hander Justin Shafer had his contract selected from Triple-A while Aaron Sanchez was shifted to the 60-day DL (retroactive to June 22) to create a 40-man spot for Shafer. Left-hander Thomas Pannone was also recalled from Triple-A Buffalo, with righty Luis Santos going down to Buffalo in a corresponding move.
Though this is the first time the problem has forced Stroman to the DL, he has been bothered by blister issues dating back to last season, and Stroman had been particularly hampered by the blister over his last few starts. His outing against the Yankees yesterday was cut short after just four innings, and finally necessitated a DL stint to fully rest and treat the bothersome finger.
The blister is the latest setback in what has become a lost season for Stroman (and the Jays as a whole). The righty looked to have emerged as a frontline starter after an outstanding 2017 campaign, but Stroman battled shoulder problems in Spring Training and got off to a rough start in 2018 before eventually landing on the disabled list to address his shoulder issues. He has been decent, if inconsistent, since returning from the DL, posting a 3.84 ERA over 63 1/3 innings.
All told, Stroman has delivered just a 5.27 ERA, 6.8 K/9, and 2.11 K/BB rate over 100 2/3 frames this season. ERA predictors (3.92 FIP, 3.80 xFIP, 4.02 SIERA) paint a more favorable view of his performance, and it’s worth noting that the Jays’ poor infield defense is a particular impediment to a groundball-inducing pitcher like Stroman, who has a 62.4% grounder rate this season. Stroman’s contact rates are up, however, from his 2017 totals, and his .324 wOBA is actually outperforming his .332 xwOBA, so it’s more than just bad luck that has led to his struggles.
Pannone will take Stroman’s spot in the rotation and will start for Toronto on Wednesday against Baltimore. The 24-year-old made his big league debut earlier this season out of the Blue Jays’ bullpen, tossing three innings over three games. Shafer will also be getting his first taste of MLB action, after tossing 358 2/3 innings in the minors since being taken by the Jays in the eighth round of the 2014 draft. Shafer has pitched exclusively as a reliever over the last two seasons, and he has posted a 1.55 ERA, 1.94 K/BB rate, 7.3 K/9 and zero home runs allowed over 40 2/3 IP at the Triple-A level.
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.
We’ll house the day’s minor moves in this post:
- The Blue Jays announced that right-hander Brandon Cumpton was outrighted after clearing waivers. He had been designated for assignment recently. The 29-year-old has previously been removed from a 40-man roster in such a fashion, meaning he’ll be eligible to elect free agency now or at season’s end. Cumpton, a former ninth-round draft pick, made it back to the majors this year with Toronto after a three-year absence. He only received one appearance, but that still marks a notable rebound for a player who was sidelined for all of 2015 and 2016 due to injuries. In his 26 2/3 innings at Triple-A this year, Cumpton owns a 5.40 ERA with 7.4 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9.
- Curtis Granderson tells Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet that clearing revocable trade waivers — as he reportedly did earlier this week — doesn’t mean much “except that there are possibilities,” all of which are out of his control. Nicholson-Smith speculates that the Indians could look into a Granderson pickup now that July acquisition Leonys Martin is sidelined with no timetable for a return. Granderson has a superlative clubhouse reputation, and Blue Jays manager John Gibbons tells Nicholson-Smith that “everything is true, and maybe more” regarding the veteran outfielder’s impact in that regard. Granderson, who clubbed his 10th career grand slam last night, is hitting .242/.339/.436 with 11 homers, 16 doubles and a triple against right-handed pitching in 2018. The return in a trade would be modest, at best, but he’d be a nice bench option for a contending club.
Granderson, 37, is batting .234/.333/.414 with 10 home runs, 18 doubles and a triple through 322 plate appearances this season. He’s only been allowed to face a left-handed pitcher on 26 occasions and, unsurprisingly, has performed poorly in those appearances. But the well-respected veteran has still managed a plenty serviceable .241/.338/.428 slash against right-handed opponents and could bolster a contending club’s bench and serve as a late-game pinch-running option even if he doesn’t possess the speed he once did.
Granderson is playing the 2018 season on a one-year, $5MM contract and is still owed about $1.28MM of that contract over the final six-plus weeks of the regular season. He’ll likely be shopped around between now and the Aug. 31 deadline for postseason roster eligibility, as the Jays have been aggressive in shedding veteran assets on the cusp of free agency this summer. Toronto has already shipped out J.A. Happ, John Axford, Aaron Loup and Seunghwan Oh, and further trades are likely to occur between now and the end of the month.
The Blue Jays have acquired young righty Bryan Baker from the Rockies, according to Robert Murray of The Athletic (via Twitter). Baker represents the player to be named later from the pre-deadline deal that sent reliever Seunghwan Oh to Colorado, Jon Heyman of Fancred tweets.
That swap has already paid dividends for the Rox, who have received 8 2/3 innings of 2.08 ERA ball from Oh. On the other side, the Jays had already welcomed youngsters Chad Spanberger and Forrest Wall into their system under the pact.
Baker becomes the third and final piece of the trade. Now 23, he came to the professional ranks as an 11th-round pick in the 2016 draft. Baker has worked as a reliever for the past two seasons, so it seems likely he’ll be developed as a potential future bullpen asset.
Though he showed quite well in 2017, Baker has had some struggles this season. He has allowed a palatable tally of 19 earned runs through 45 innings, and compiled a healthy 11.6 K/9, but has seen a whopping 17 unearned runs cross the plate as well. There are obviously a variety contributing factors to that, but one of them is surely the fact that he’s exhibiting newfound command issues (6.8 BB/9).
The Blue Jays announced Monday that they’ve designated right-hander Brandon Cumpton for assignment. His spot on the roster will go to pitching prospect Sean Reid-Foley, whose contract has been formally selected from Triple-A Buffalo. Right-hander Danny Barnes was optioned to Buffalo to open a spot on the active roster.
Cumpton, 29, made just one appearance for the Jays at the big league level this year, allowing a run on three hits and two walks with two strikeouts in 1 2/3 innings back on July 31. He joined the Jays organization as a minor league free agent six weeks ago after previously having been cut loose by the Rangers. Formerly a ninth-round pick by the Pirates, Cumpton showed some promise with a 2.05 ERA and a 22-to-5 K/BB ratio through 30 2/3 innings in his MLB debut back in 2013, but his career has been slowed substantially by both Tommy John surgery and right shoulder surgery, which combined to keep him out of the big leagues entirely from 2015-17.
Reid-Foley’s promotion was reported yesterday. He’ll be one of two intriguing young prospects joining the Jays for his MLB debut, and he’ll take the mound tonight to start for Toronto against the Royals. Ranked by Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com as the No. 10 prospect in a deep Blue Jays farm system, Reid-Foley has cut through both Double-A and Triple-A lineups in 2018, averaging better than 10 strikeouts per nine innings with impressive secondary statistics to back up his already-strong 2.98 ERA.
The emergence of Brandon Nimmo has left Jay Bruce as something of an odd man out with the Mets, opines Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Sherman notes that the Mets’ outfield in 2019 and beyond is likely to include Nimmo, Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes, making it more difficult for Bruce to secure regular at-bats (barring a move to first base, which would come at the expense of the younger Dominic Smith). According to Sherman, Bruce can block trades to the Orioles, Mariners, Blue Jays, Rays and Athletics, but he can be shipped anywhere else without his consent. Sherman runs through some speculative possibilities in which Bruce, who is owed $28MM from 2019-20, could be swapped out for a player earning at a comparable rate. Of course, it’s also worth noting that Nimmo’s bat has declined in each month of the season since a torrid start, while Cespedes and (to a lesser extent) Conforto come with injury question marks.