The past few days brought with them a relatively steady flow of news involving roster movement. The Orioles were perhaps the most active team since our last update. The Baltimore brass inked former Marlins’ starter Dan Straily on a one year deal worth $575k with a $250k trade bonus attached. While his first inning with the O’s didn’t go very well, as he allowed five runs over 1.1 innings, he will serve as the long reliever in Baltimore at an inexpensive rate.
The hope is that he can right the ship, to an extent, and become something of a trade chip over the coming months. Based on his name, and his recent success, there is certainly a reason to have hope, but it should be noted that the American League East has some very strong offensive players, and Straily’s fly ball tendencies will not help him. That being said, I would imagine Straily gets himself together in the long run, and winds up bringing his ERA down in the mid-4’s allowing the Orioles to get, at least a lottery ticket minor-leaguer at the deadline in a lower profile move come July.
If that’s the case, then this can be looked at as a positive move, but one aspect of this transaction that does not sit well with me, is the fact that Drew Jackson was designated for assignment. I’ve been rather outspoken regarding my belief that Jackson is ready to be a great major leaguer, namely in my article surrounding he and Richie Martin. Under the assumption that he clears waivers or is traded, then he will be offered back to the Dodgers for half the drafting fee. Personally, I see a bunch of teams that could use Jackson at the moment including the New York Yankees, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Tampa Bay Rays. If he is, in fact, offered back, my expectation would be for him to begin the season in Triple-A and make it up by around mid-season once injuries really begin kicking in. As long as he hits as well as he has hit thus far since the beginning of the spring, we should see him in some capacity this season and I believe that he could push himself into a starting role.
Another potential option for the Orioles would be to send something to the Dodgers to acquire Jackson’s complete rights, as they did with the Cubs’ and Pedro Araujo last week. The Chicago Cubs acquired $750k in international bonus space in exchange for the exclusive rights of Araujo, who had just been designated for assignment. He will head down to Triple-A and work out of the Norfolk Tides’ bullpen. Long-term, the kid could have a future based on a very nice fastball, but he needs to get his control in order.
That wasn’t it for the Cubs, as they made a major shuffle to their bullpen. Closer C.J. Edwards was optioned to Triple-A Iowa after struggling mightily in the early going, twice being yanked before recording an out. He’s going to go down to Triple-A to get his mechanics tweaked for a while, and should return in relatively short order. Otherwise, Mike Montgomery, who made the roster despite not being 100%, was rightfully placed on the injured list with a lat strain, and Kyle Ryan and Allen Webster were called up. Furthermore, righty starter Jen-Ho Tseng was designated for assignment.
Ryan, 27, was signed as a major league free agent after the season. He didn’t make it to the majors in 2018, despite a 2.86 ERA over 66 innings in Triple-A, but should serve as something of a taxi guy. The veteran reliever has one minor league option remaining and should be up and down.
As for Webster, 29, the former top prospect had signed with the Cubs after the 2017 season, and earned a brief cameo after posting 17 innings of 2.65 ERA ball in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League. He looked excellent in camp, posting a 1.50 ERA over 12 innings. Over his first inning with the Cubs, while he gave up a run over a third of an inning, he averaged 96.3 on his fastball, which is 0.9 miles per hour faster than in 2018 and a whopping 3.6 miles per hour from 2015. Both guys will spend time in middle relief to try to stop the bleeding for the struggling Cubs.
While Ryan was on the 40-man roster, making the call-up much more seamless, the Cubs needed to make a corresponding move to accommodate Webster. Righty starter Jen-Ho Tseng was designated for assignment. I, personally, don’t like this move for the Cubs, as I still consider Tseng a back-end starter in the long run, despite his 2018 struggles. He’s an excellent control oriented pitcher who should start the season in Double-A to help him rebuild his confidence, and eventually work his way up. He should be picked up elsewhere based on his recent prospect status (top ten in the Cubs system as recently as last season), the fact that he can go multiple innings, and the fact that he has minor league options remaining. He’s not a bad option for a team looking for some rotation depth.
The Los Angeles Dodgers recalled right-handed pitcher Dennis Santana from Triple-A and optioned Brock Stewart, who struggled over four innings while posting an 18.00 ERA. Santana is a very solid prospect who has a big fastball and a crazy slider, despite durability concerns. I would imagine that he winds up as a set-up man in the long run, but for now, he will serve in long relief.
Leaving the Dodgers is 28-year-old lefty Donnie Hart, who was claimed off of waivers by the Milwaukee Brewers. Hart is a great lefty specialist, who simply needs to be used correctly. Through his career, he has allowed righty batters to hit .313/.362/.425 vs. a .256/.342/.381 line against lefties. With the considerable amount of problems that the Brewers have had with their bullpen, including injury to Corey Knebel and Jeremy Jeffress, as well as poor play from Alex Wilson, could mean that Donnie Hart could see the major leagues sooner rather than later. I am reasonably high on Hart and believe that we’re looking at a solid lefty specialist for the Brewers. Assuming he remains on the 40-man roster, he remains under team control through 2023. Bobby Wahl was placed on the 60-day injured list, as he heals from ACL surgery, to accommodate the move.
Hart was assigned to Triple-A San Antonio, and was joined by fellow reliever Taylor Williams, who got the boot after posting a 10.38 ERA over his first four appearances. The 27-year-old earned a spot on the Opening Day roster after posting 11.1 innings of 0.79 ERA ball, while striking out 13. I would imagine that he’s back up once the bullpen needs something of a shuffle. His average fastball falls in the mid-90’s and he brings a plus slider. His control is his least developed tool but if he can handle it, we could be looking at a closer. Otherwise, I’d consider him a taxi middle reliever.
As for the 30-year-old Jake Petricka, he will serve as some extra right-handed relief depth for the Brewers as they look to stay hot. Petricka signed with the Brewers in January after spending last season in Toronto. He’s not the type of guy who’s going to blow you away with his stuff, but he’s typically been a decent source of innings in relief posting a career 3.98 ERA and a 4.00 FIP over 223.2 innings in the majors. The Brewers needed a move in the bullpen after Alex Wilson allowed six runs in a slug fest against the Cubs.
The Yankees were also quite busy late last week. The first move that they made was claiming Jake Barrett off of waivers from the Pirates and placing Ben Heller on the disabled list to accommodate the move. Barrett is a 27-year-old reliever who is known for a big fastball and an ability to induce a considerable amount of ground balls, but lost 1.4 mph on it last season. He was optioned to Triple-A Scranton out of the gate, but should be up in short order, as the Yankees’ only other 40-man roster relief option that is not currently on the 40-man roster is Joe Harvey.
The other moves made by the Yankees had more to do with dealing with their litany of infield injuries, as they called-up Gio Urshela from Triple-A and signed Cliff Pennington to a minor league contract. Urshela has been with the Yankees since he was purchased from the Blue Jays last August. He’s known for having a very versatile glove that can play throughout the infield, with third base being his specialty. He will take the place of Thairo Estrada on the active roster, and Didi Gregorius on the 40-man roster, as he was placed on the 60-day disabled list.
As for Pennington, he will head to Triple-A Scranton to serve as depth for the time being. The veteran utility player spent the spring with the Oakland A’s, with whom he slashed a decent, although unspectacular .296/.333/.333. Over his career, Pennington has been an excellent and versatile fielder, which has carried him through his 11 year career. For his career, he has slashed .242/.309/.339, and has posted well-above average numbers at second base, shortstop, third base and left field (in a smaller sample size). He also pitched an inning in 2018 for the Reds. To accommodate the move, infield prospect Wendell Rijo was assigned to Double-A Trenton.
The A’s cut ties with another player who they had in camp, as Parker Bridwell has been dropped onto the open market. The former Angels’ starter was horrible in camp, posting a 31.50 ERA over 2.0 innings pitched. He walked three guys to just two strikeouts. These numbers simply represent a continuation of a poor 2018 in which he posted a 17.55 ERA (with a 12.91 FIP) over 6.1 innings in the majors with the Angels, as well as an 8.68 ERA and a 5.32 FIP over 28 innings in the Pacific Coast League. He’ll look to latch on with another organization.
The Rockies lost a few guys to injury last week, as Ryan McMahon and Tyler Anderson both landed on the injured list. McMahon has a hyper-extended elbow and was replaced by infield prospect Josh Fuentes, who will serve as a versatile piece off of the bench. Mark Reynolds should serve as the everyday first baseman in his absence. As for Anderson, he went down with knee inflammation, and was replaced on the active roster by prospect Yency Almonte. Neither of these injuries are expected to be long-term issues, but will give the Rockies a look at two guys who could be solid options for them down the line. Fuentes looks like a very solid utility guy, similar to a Tommy La Stella, while Almonte could become one of the Rockies better bullpen arms for the foreseeable future. I’m a bit higher on him than most, as I love the potential for his slider, but he needs to be moved to the bullpen full-time in order to effectively reach his ceiling.
The Rockies also brought back Jorge De La Rosa on a minor league deal, for the purpose of serving as some left-handed relief depth. There’s a lot of upside in this signing. First of all, obviously, Coors isn’t a great place for pitchers, but De La Rosa did a nice job over his career pitching in this environment, posting a 4.35 ERA over 1141.1 innings for the Rockies and similar numbers with the division rival Diamondbacks. He has a 4.38 ERA at Coors, which is the highest out of all of the divisional parks. Between his familiarity with the environment as well as his veteran leadership and durability, he should serve as a perfect depth addition who should see the majors within the next month or so.
Sticking in the NL-West, the Giants announced that a pair of outfielders, Michael Reed and Mac Williamson, both cleared waivers and were sent outright to Triple-A Sacramento. While Reed originally elected to become a free agent, he re-signed with the organization, and was assigned to Triple-A, moving Levi Michael to Double-A. I was surprised that Williamson cleared waivers based on his solid, albeit unspectacular, results when given the opportunity, but I guess the fact that he was out of options was something of a deal breaker for other teams. Reed was also out of options, but seeing as how he looked completely over-matched, it’s far less surprising that he cleared. Both will serve as minor league outfield depth and could very well see a rather significant amount of time off of the bench assuming the Giants wind up selling this season. Kevin Pillar, Yangervis Solarte and Gerardo Parra could all be candidates to be moved, thus clearing up at-bats.
Connor Joe was also sent packing, but this time to make room for first baseman/outfielder Tyler Austin, who was acquired from the Twins for minor league outfielder Malique Ziegler. Austin had been designated for assignment by the Twins to open up a roster spot for Chase De Jong. As a Rule Five pick, Joe will have to clear waivers and then can be offered back to his former team, the Dodgers, for half the price of the selection fee. He struggled over the first week of the season, logging one hit and one walk in 16 plate appearances. Austin, 27, is under team control for the Giants through the 2023 season, but will need to remain on the active roster, as he’s out of minor league options. He has 30 homer potential, but struggles to get on base and strikes out a considerable amount. He should see semi-regular plate appearances in the corners, and as a pinch hitter. He didn’t have much of a place in Minnesota, as he was behind Nelson Cruz and C.J. Cron ahead of him on the depth chart at DH and at first, and his power bat would have been made superfluous when Miguel Sano inevitably returns, therefore, it was good to get something for him.
Ziegler, 22, is a day three pick from 2016 out of Iowa. His skill set is that of a fourth outfield type, as he brings excellent speed, with an above average glove in center field, but lacks much of a hit tool. He should be assigned to Class A Advanced out of the gate, and seems likely to be used as depth for the time being. His ceiling is that of a second division starter, with the most likely scenario being that of an organization depth guy who could swing it as an emergency call-up. I would place his ETA at 2021.
Chase De Jong was a second round pick of the Blue Jays back in 2012 and was acquired last summer in the Zach Duke trade. He profiles as a back-end starter, as he brings with him a solid low-90’s fastball with excellent control. He also induces grounders at a decent rate. He will serve as a long relief arm for the time being, but could eventually be moved into the rotation assuming he pitches well when given the opportunity. He cleared waivers back in February, therefore, if he is sent outright off of the 40-man roster again, he an elect to become a free agent.
A few other former fringe Giants were in the news as well, as the Jays activated Alen Hanson as well as Socrates Brito resulting in Anthony Alford and Sean Reid-Foley headed back to the minor leagues. Hanson was sent with Derek Law and Juan De Paula to the Blue Jays from the Giants for outfielder Kevin Pillar, and Brito was acquired from the Padres in exchange for Rodrigo Orozco.
The Padres also activated a trade acquisition, Matt Wisler, who was acquired from the Cincinnati Reds. This resulted in righty reliever Phil Maton being sent down to Triple-A. Unfortunately, the Padres lost lefty reliever Aaron Loup (left-elbow strain) and outfielder Franchy Cordero (right-elbow strain) later in the week. In their place, infielder Luis Urias and lefty Brad Wieck were recalled from Triple-A. Urias will serve as a utility infielder while Wieck gives the Padres another lefty in the pen with Robbie Erlin.
The Reds announced a minor trade as they grabbed utility player Rob Refsnyder from the Diamondbacks’ organization for future considerations. The former top Yankee prospect struggled in camp with the Diamondbacks slashing .143/.250/.143 over 24 plate appearances. He offers value with defensive versatility, but won’t bring you much with the bat. It seems as though this is just a depth pick-up, that could help if the Reds begin dealing with a significant amount of injuries.
The D-Backs had to deal with a pair of rather significant injuries, as left quad strains took out catcher Alex Avila, after he got off to a very nice .333/.525/.800 line over 21 plate appearances with two homers, and first baseman Jake Lamb, who had been hitting .267/.389/.333 over 18 plate appearances. Utility players Tim Locastro and Ildemaro Vargas were called up to take their places. It makes sense that the Diamondbacks opted to go with versatility as they already had J.R. Murphy and Carson Kelly as options for behind the plate. We’ve seen Vargas this season, as he was just optioned back to Triple-A last week to make room for Jon Duplantier, but Tim Locastro is a new face in Phoenix. The 26-year-old utility guy was acquired from the Yankees in a DFA deal that sent foreign rookie baller Roman Ruiz to the Bronx. Overall, Locastro is a glove first guy who has flashed solid tools on offense, but has not been able to show them consistently. His best tool is his speed followed closely by his plate discipline. His hit tool and power have been up and down over his career.
Moving to the NL-Central, the Pittsburgh Pirates had to accommodate a pair of injuries, as Corey Dickerson hit the shelf with a shoulder injury, and lefty reliever Kyle Crick went down with a triceps issue. Dickerson isn’t expected to be out for very long, as mlb.com considers him likely to be back by the end of the month, but the situation is less clear with Crick. For the time being, JB Shuck will see the vast majority of innings in left, with Jason Martin being called up to spell him off of the bench from time to time. The 23-year-old outfielder was acquired in the Gerrit Cole deal. He could very well become an everyday guy within the next year or so.
To replace Crick on the roster, Jordan Lyles was activated from the disabled list. The 28-year-old was signed to a one-year deal worth $2.05 million over the offseason, and looked rather solid in his first start, pitching five innings of three hit ball, although he walked three to just two strikeouts. He will come out of the rotation for the Buccos, and look to build off of a solid 2018 spent between the Padres and Brewers in which he posted a 4.11 ERA and a 4.08 FIP over 87.2 innings.
The division rival Cardinals welcomed infielder Jedd Gyorko back from the disabled list, and sent Drew Robinson down to accommodate the move. Top pitching prospect Alex Reyes and infielder Yairo Munoz were sent back down to Triple-A to make room for a pair of relievers in Giovanny Gallegos and Tyler Webb.
Munoz and Reyes will benefit from the move, as they will be able to get more consistent playing time in Memphis. Munoz got just five plate appearances and one at bat, registering one hit and one walk to just two strikeouts, while Reyes pitched three innings of relief allowing five runs. Based on his ceiling, it makes no sense for the Cardinals to stunt his development and continue racking up his major league service time. He will get consistent innings on Memphis as he continues to get himself completely back from Tommy John surgery.
Webb and Gallegos should ride the taxi-squad for the Cardinals for the majority of the season. Webb is a lefty specialist, while Gallegos has the ceiling of a set-up man based on his big fastball. For the time being, however, my expectation is for both to serve as middle relief options.
Drew Robinson should be back up in the majors in relatively short order. The ceiling isn’t the same here as it is for Munoz or Reyes, meaning there’s less risk of having him going back and forth. He brings with him excellent defensive versatility.
Outfielder Johan Mieses was assigned to Double-A to accommodate Robinson’s assignment to Triple-A. The 23-year-old outfielder was acquired from the Dodgers for Breyvic Valera before the 2018 season. He struggled offensively between Class A Advanced and Double-A, slashing a combined .229/.283/.400 over 503 plate appearances. He brings with him an excellent glove in center, though, and could eventually be an option as a reserve outfielder. To make room for him in Double-A, 24-year-old outfielder Shane Billings was assigned to Class A Short Season State College, which is just a procedural move, as they have not began their season yet. Billings is a depth piece who has a decent hit tool and reasonable speed, but is old for his level and doesn’t get on base enough to stick as a fourth outfielder.
The Rangers’ side of the Robinson trade, Patrick Wisdom, was recalled from Triple-A alongside left-handed pitcher Kyle Bird after the Rangers saw a pair of notable injuries. First baseman Ronald Guzman went down with a hamstring strain that is expected to keep him out for three to four weeks, while Edinson Volquez went down with a sprained elbow, and is reportedly weighing retirement.
For the time being, Logan Forsythe will start the majority of the games at first, while Wisdom can help out off of the bench. Bird gives the Rangers some left-handed relief depth for the time being, but it has not yet been announced who will step into the rotation in the place of Edinson Volquez. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Adrian Sampson get the nod, but Ariel Jurado, who is one of my favorite pitching prospects in the game, is also an option.
The Tigers placed starter Matt Moore on the 10-day injured list, after he strained his knee. This is a tough break for the Tigers, as he looked excellent through his first two starts going ten scoreless innings with a single walk and three hits allowed next to nine strikeouts. Drew Ver Hagen was called up to replace him on the active roster and should serve as some long relief depth.
The division rival White Sox have announced that Ervin Santana‘s contract will be purchased tomorrow to start. Ryan Cordell was originally optioned for Carson Fulmer, who served as a place holder on Monday, and was optioned down the same day. This will be interesting,as Santana has been hurt a lot over the past season, and when he has pitched, he has been rough. That said, Santana has been great over his 14-year career, earning two all-star appearances and two top-ten finishes in Cy Young voting. The hope is for Santana to pitch well enough to serve as a solid trade chip come the summer time, which is certainly a strong possibility based on his relatively low salary that checks in right above $4 million.
That wasn’t the only White Sox news, however, as Tim Anderson‘s wife had a baby (congrats to the Anderson family) and was away from the team for a day or so. He was activated on Thursday, and Dylan Covey was optioned to the minor leagues. Reliever Ian Hamilton was activated from the disabled list and optioned to Triple-A. He will be up at some point as a taxi-squad reliever.
The Red Sox have struggled in the early going, and recently lost a pair of rather key pieces, as Brian Johnson went down to elbow inflammation while Brock Holt scratched his cornea. Utility guy Tzu-Wei Lin was recalled in the place of Holt, while Marcus Walden replaced Johnson. Holt’s injury isn’t expected to keep him out for an extended period of time, but there’s no word on Johnson’s timeline yet. Inflammation is always scary, therefore this is one that should be monitored. The Sox are one of quite a few teams that need relief help as soon as possible. There are some reasonably solid options still on the market, including Craig Kimbrel, who wouldn’t even cost the Sox a draft pick. Other possibilities include Ryan Madson, AJ Ramos, Erik Goeddell, Dan Jennings, Jim Johnson and Santiago Casilla.
Luckily, it wasn’t all bad news for the BoSox as Steve Pearce returned from the disabled list, and Sam Travis was sent down. He should provide something of a boost to the Sox’ line-up in the short-term.
Another one of those relief-needy teams, the Atlanta Braves, were able to get some, as A.J. Minter returned from the disabled list, along with starting pitcher Kevin Gausman. The corresponding moves saw Shane Carle and Bryse Wilson sent back down to the minor leagues. Wilson is a top-prospect who had just one career start under his belt prior to making the Braves’ Opening Day roster. He struggled over his only start, and will go back to the minors to get regular innings. I would imagine he will be ready to go, full-time, by mid-season.
As for Carle, he should simply ride the taxi-squad for the Braves this season. He was excellent last season, posting a 2.86 ERA over 63 innings, but regression was expected to an extent, as he posted a 3.54 FIP. His 2019 numbers, including a 12.27 ERA and a 14.71 FIP, aren’t indicative of his actual ability, though, and I would imagine that he returns by the end of the month. Elian Leyva was placed on the disabled list in the minor leagues to accommodate Carle’s assignment to Triple-A.
The Braves did, however, lose catcher Brian McCann to a knee sprain. He was replaced by catching prospect Alex Jackson and is expected to be out for about a month. As for Jackson, he was once a top-prospect for the Mariners, but he struggled over time both offensively and defensively. The biggest question mark with Jackson is his strikeout rate.
The division rival Mets, however welcomed their catcher, Travis d’Arnaud, back from the injured list, resulting in Tomas Nido being optioned to the minor leagues. d’Arnaud will serve as the Mets’ primary back-up for Wilson Ramos for the time being.