Wednesday was something of a slower news day in baseball, but that doesn’t mean it was without its surprises.
The most notable piece of news that was announced was that the Chicago Cubs agreed to a five-year extension with utility player David Bote that is worth $15.003 million with two option years. He will earn a $50,000 signing bonus, $950,000 in 2020, $1 million in 2021, $2.5 million in 2022, $4 million in 2023 and $5.5 million in 2024. The first option will be worth $7 million and contain a $1 million buyout, and the second option will be $7.6 million with a $500,000 buyout. All-in-all, Bote can now be controlled through his age-33 season.
When you think of extension candidates, a 25-year-old utility guy with 223 career major league plate appearances and a .246/.327/.410 batting line isn’t typically the first thing to come to your mind, but evidently the Cubs were bullish enough on Bote to act on his initiation of talks. While the Bote’s numbers don’t blow anyone away, he offers defensive versatility and the potential for some solid plate discipline and power. Certain advanced metrics such as Hard% have also given reason to be encouraged, but it hasn’t really translated to the majors yet. The Cubs’ coaching staff is going to need to make sure that he can get his ground ball rate down. Last season, in his first major league stint, 57.5% of his contact was made on the ground.
There’s not a ton of risk with this deal, as an average annual salary coming in at a shade over $3 million is a relative pittance to a big market team like the Cubs. The 26-year-old represents a nice Cinderella story, as he was a day three pick back in 2012 who never received a ton of attention in the minors, where he slashed a career .263/.350/.411 over 2399 plate appearances. His combination of power, plate discipline and defensive versatility are certainly encouraging, and create something of a nice ceiling for the deal, but for a franchise that essentially stood pat last offseason based on a lack of money, I’m not sure if an extension with a utility guy is the best place to invest when the bullpen is in the shape that it’s in.
Speaking of Cubs’ relievers, they appear likely to have the opportunity to reclaim right-handed pitcher Pedro Araujo after he was designated for assignment by the Orioles. Pedro Araujo is a 25-year-old righty reliever who was plucked out of the Cubs’ Class A Advanced affiliate by the Orioles in the 2017 Rule Five Draft. He struggled mightily to a 7.71 ERA over 28 innings in 2018 and finished the season on the disabled list, meaning that he didn’t fulfill his roster requirement. With this in mind, the O’s would have needed to carry him until April 15th in order to retain his rights. Instead, however, Matt Wotherspoon joined the O’s for a day in advance of Alex Cobb‘s activation from the disabled list. In his major league debut, Wotherspoon allowed three runs over two innings, punching his ticket back to Norfolk. He should be back up at some point in the near future. As for Cobb, he will re-join the O’s rotation looking to rebound from a poor 2018 that saw him post a 4.90 ERA and a 4.80 FIP over 152.1 innings. Prior to getting hurt, he struggled in camp, posting a 7.45 ERA over 9.2 innings.
Regardless of how much Araujo struggled, what’s 11 days of running with a 24-man roster when the only thing you’re playing for is the first overall pick of the 2020 draft? While one could argue that he wasn’t worth the 40-man roster spot, I can’t see too many teams eager to place a waiver claim on a 25-year-old who has a career 8.16 ERA and 7.87 FIP in the major leagues, meaning he seems as though he could be sent outright relatively easily. The O’s could send him to Double-A to continue his development and hope that he learns to harness his stuff a bit better for use in 2020 and beyond. Based on the fact that he only has just under two weeks to go until he can be retained completely, I wouldn’t be shocked to see another team swoop in at the last second and place a claim on him. At the very least, he’s some high upside relief depth, which is always in demand.
Another Rule Five selection hit DFA Limbo on Wednesday, as the Royals designated right-handed pitcher Chris Ellis for assignment to make room for Homer Bailey. The 26-year-old Ellis was a third round pick out of the University of Mississippi by the Angels in 2014 and has been included in two rather high-profile trades over his career. The first of which saw him shipped from L.A. to Atlanta in the Andeltron Simmons deal, and then to St. Louis for Jaime Garcia.
Ellis has a low-90s sinker and a decent enough slider, but has been plagued by inconsistent control and an inability to induce a significant amount of ground balls. Long-term, I would consider him to be a swing, but would be an interesting guy to see pitch strictly in relief, as his slider could play up. Regardless, he seems likely to head back to St. Louis’ system where he will probably be assigned to Triple-A Memphis.
As for Bailey, the 32-year-old starter was traded by the Reds to the Dodgers over the offseason in the blockbuster that saw Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood and Matt Kemp sent to Cincinnati. His inclusion, however, was financial only, as the Dodgers cut him loose immediately, allowing him to ink a minor league deal with Kansas City. He pitched reasonably well in camp, posting a 4.05 ERA over 13.1 innings while walking just three to 11 strikeouts. His first major league start wasn’t horrible either, as he allowed three runs over five innings while striking out eight to just two walks. He picked a good landing spot in Kansas City, where he should be able to be given regular opportunity. Seeing as how he’s making just the pro-rated version of the league minimum, he could be a guy who is seen as a trade chip for the Royals.
Former Royal Jack Lopez reached a minor league agreement with the Braves and will begin the 2019 season in Triple-A Gwinnett. The infielder spent the 2018 season in Triple-A Omaha where he posted a .251/.279/.352 batting line. He offers very solid speed and average to below average power, but almost never walks, limiting his upside to a utility guy. Defensively, he’s excellent at both middle infield positions, while playing an average third base. He can also play all three outfield spots in a pinch, but lacks experience.
Also finding a home yesterday was former top prospect Sean Nolin, who latched on with the White Sox organization. The 29-year-old lefty had been out of affiliated ball since 105 before signing last season with the Rockies. Over 40.1 innings (mainly in relief), he posted a 4.24 ERA with a 3.65 FIP while striking out 10.04 per nine to just 3.35 walks. One thing that Nolin has always struggled with is fly balls. Last year, 45.5% of balls put in play off of him were fly balls, with just 36.6% as grounders. He doesn’t have great stuff and lost some velocity after all of his injuries, therefore I would place his ceiling as a swing, but he could very well be given a shot with the White Sox.
In other White Sox news, shortstop Tim Anderson was placed on the Paternity Leave List and replaced with righty reliever Jose Ruiz. Anderson is only expected to be away for a day or so, meaning Ruiz may not even get into a game this time around.
The Mariners announced on Wendesday that reliever Nick Rumbelow was optioned to Triple-A to make room for the newly acquired Connor Sadzeck. Rumbelow was acquired by the Mariners in November of 2017 from the Yankees in, what I would not consider to be, one of DiPoto’s finer deals. At the time of the deal, the Yankees were doing everything that they could have to clear 40-man roster spots in advance of the deadline to protect players from the Rule V Draft, losing other promising players such as Caleb Smith, Garrett Cooper and Ronald Herrera in the process. Regardless of their relative lack of leverage, they were able to pry a pair of very promising arms from Seattle in Juan Then and JP Sears. Then is a high-upside 19-year-old starter who made it to stateside rookie ball last season, posting a 2.70 ERA over 50 innings, serving as a solid follow-up to his 2.64 ERA over 61.1 innings in the Dominican Summer League, and Sears is a control artist who was among my favorite players in the 2017 draft. Coming out of the Citadel, he was among the league leaders in walks allowed, carrying that success to pro-ball. In an injury-shortened 2018, the 23-year-old posted a 3.17 ERA over 54 innings while walking just 1.8 guys per nine innings to nine strikeouts. He could reach the majors by 2020.
The Mariners’ have not gotten what they wanted out of the deal, as Rumbelow has been rough over a limited sample size in the majors. Over 19 innings pitched, he has a 7.58 ERA with a 7.99 FIP. His Pacific Coast League numbers, however, are a bit more encouraging, as he posted a 1.83 ERA over 19.2 innings pitched last season in Tacoma. He has a big arm, but based on his age (27), may have something of a limited ceiling.
Speaking of the Yankees, they received some more bad news as infielder Troy Tulowitzki will land on the disabled list with a strained calf and will be replaced by top prospect Thairo Estrada. It’s considered to be a low-grade strain, meaning Tulo may not be out for a very long time, but the timing isn’t great, as the Yanks have also lost Giancarlo Stanton and Miguel Andujar this week. The 34-year-old infielder hit .182/.308/.545 with a home run in his first 13 plate appearances this season, after slashing .242/.333/.636 with four homers over 39 plate appearances in camp.
The 23-year-old Estrada slashed .286/.394/.464 in camp over 33 plate appearances. He missed most of last season after sustaining a gunshot wound in the offseason, but had been excellent in his first Double-A stint in 2017, slashing .301/.353/.392. Overall, Estrada profiles as a second division starter/platoon infielder based on his excellent glove and speed, but relative lack of offensive potential. He’s a contact-oriented hitter who lacks power and doesn’t walk very much. While I would expect Gleyber Torres to see the majority of the reps at short, Estrada should see some innings off of the bench.
The Yankees weren’t the only ones to undergo some shuffling in the infield, however, as the Nationals placed Trea Turner on the disabled list and sent Jake Noll down to Triple-A to accommodate the activation of Howie Kendrick and the call-up of Adrian Sanchez. Turner had sustained the injury on Tuesday after being hit by a pitch in the hand. It’s unknown how long he’s expected to be out, but he represents a huge loss for the Nationals. The 23-year-old had been hitting .357/.400/.857 for the Nats with two homers and four stolen bases prior to going down.
While Wilmer Difo should get the majority of reps at short in Turner’s absence, Adrian Sanchez should see some time as well. The 28-year-old utility player has seen time with the Nationals in both 2017 and 2018 slashing a cumulative .271/.288/.357 while playing excellent defense at short, and below average defense at third and second. Overall, he’s your standard utility infielder, as he can play a few different defensive positions and hit for a decent average, but never walks and offers little in terms of additional offensive tools. He seems likely to be up and down from Triple-A for the majority of the season. He is currently on his final option year.
Noll, 25, had made his major league debut last week, but has gone 0-2 with a walk overall. He’s coming off of a nice .291/.341/.412 batting line with 11 homers between Class A Advanced and Double-A, last season, but is limited to the corner infield spots defensively. I think he’s a major leaguer in the long-run, but I don’t believe his future is in Washington. He would make sense for a rebuilding American League club who could utilize his power in the DH position. He should be back up in the majors in relatively short order.
Howie Kendrick missed the vast majority of the 2018 season to injury, playing just 40 games. That being said, however, when he was playing, he was hitting the ball well, slashing .303/.331/.474 over 160 plate appearances. While Kendrick has always lacked legitimate plate discipline, he has always offered strong doubles power and an excellent contact ability. He struggled defensively at second base last season, but was excellent over short sample sizes in the outfield corners. I would imagine that he mainly serves as a pinch hitter for the time being, especially with the presence of Brian Dozier.