Yasiel Puig Receives Two-Game Suspension

Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was slapped with a two-game suspension and a fine for his role in a recent dust-up with the Giants. Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times had the news (Twitter links). The primary San Francisco protagonist, catcher Nick Hundley, received only financial punishment.

Officially, Puig was suspended for “fighting and inciting a bench-clearing incident.”

More to come …

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Pirates Promote Kevin Newman, Place Jordy Mercer On DL, Designate Casey Sadler

The Pirates announced a series of roster moves Thursday, most notably placing shortstop Jordy Mercer on the 10-day disabled list due to a calf strain and selecting the contract of shortstop prospect Kevin Newman in his place. To open 40-man roster space, Pittsburgh designated right-hander Casey Sadler for assignment. The Pirates also recalled outfielder Jordan Luplow and optioned catcher Jacob Stallings to Triple-A.

More to come.

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Padres Release Phil Hughes

The Padres have released right-hander Phil Hughes following his recent DFA, tweets A.J. Cassavell of MLB.com. He’s now a free agent and can sign with any club for the pro-rated league minimum.

Hughes, who recently turned 32, was traded from the Twins to the Padres alongside a Competitive Balance draft pick in exchange for minor league catcher Janigson Villalobos earlier this season. As part of the trade, San Diego agreed to take on $7.25MM of Hughes’ $13.2MM salary for the 2019 season. In effect, the Padres were purchasing an extra draft pick (No. 74 overall) from the Twins, though San Diego did keep Hughes around to see if he could return to form in a new setting.

That, unfortunately for both team and player, did not prove to be the case. Hughes improved his strikeout and walk numbers substantially in his time with the Padres, but he remained alarmingly homer-prone and ultimately posted a 6.10 ERA in 20 2/3 innings there. It marked the continuation of a rapid, four-year decline for Hughes that is undoubtedly tied to significant injury issues.

Hughes originally signed a three-year, $24MM contract with Minnesota as a free agent prior to the 2014 season. He fell one third of an inning shy of reaching the final incentive threshold in his first season with the Twins and garnered quite a bit of attention when he declined to pitch in relief over the season’s final weekend as a means of crossing that 210-inning line. Hughes was rewarded for a terrific first season in Minnesota all the same — tearing up the remaining two years of his deal and inking a five-year, $58MM contract that offseason.

It was a significant show of faith from the Twins organization, though one could hardly argue with Hughes’ 2014 results. He pitched to a 3.52 ERA in 209 2/3 innings and set the all-time record for K/BB ratio that season (11.63) when he racked up 186 punchouts against a minuscule 16 walks. Hughes spent considerable time on the disabled list in each of the next two seasons, however, and he ultimately underwent surgery to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome in 2016.

Hughes returned to the Twins in 2017 with the hope that the surgery would correct the numbness he’d been experiencing in his pitching hand — a common side effect of TOS — but his symptoms persisted, and he underwent a revision of his TOS surgery later that summer.

In all, Hughes has pitched to a 5.18 ERA in 300 2/3 innings over the past four seasons. He’s tried to reinvent himself along the way, throwing a changeup more heavily at times and, in 2018, attempting to rely more on cutters and two-seamers than his diminished four-seamer. The results haven’t been there for Hughes, though, and he’ll now presumably look to latch on with another organization in hope of overcoming the injury woes that have plagued him in recent seasons.

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Royals Acquire International Bonus Pool Space From Rangers

The Royals announced on Thursday that they’ve traded minor league right-hander Kelvin Gonzalez to the Rangers in exchange for international bonus pool allotments.

The 20-year-old Gonzalez — not to be confused with third baseman Kelvin Gutierrez, who was acquired from the Nationals in exchange for Kelvin Herrera — has spent the 2018 season with Kansas City’s Rookie-level affiliate in the Appalachian League. Through 19 1/3 innings, he’s worked to a 4.19 ERA with a 17-to-7 K/BB ratio and a 50.8 percent ground-ball rate. Gonzalez split the 2017 season between the Royals’ Rookie-level Arizona League affiliate and their Dominican Summer League club, pitching to a combined 3.00 ERA with 7.1 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9. He’s made 36 appearances as a professional — all coming as a reliever. He was not ranked among the organization’s top 30 prospects.

It’s at least a moderate surprise to see the Rangers dealing away any international slot allocations, as Texas is not under any penalty for the 2018-19 signing period and is free to spend its pool as it wishes. The Rangers already catcher Jose Rodriguez and infielder Luisangel Acuna (the younger brother of Ronald Acuna) for a combined $2.45MM, and they’ve added at least 11 other international amateurs since the period opened, per Baseball America’s Ben Badler.

The Rangers opened the 2018-19 period with the standard bonus allotment of $4,983,500. The exact amounts of their signings to date haven’t all been reported, nor has the size of the allotment they’re sending to Kansas City, so it’s not known exactly how much Texas has remaining. Under the collective bargaining agreement, international allotments must be traded in $250K increments (though clubs can send under $250K to complete a deal if they have less than $250K remaining).

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AL East Notes: Rays, Pomeranz, Givens, O’s, Granderson

For the first time in several years, the Rays look to have the bulk of next season’s core already in place before the offseason begins, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. And while it’s obvious that nothing can ever be firmly ruled out with the Rays as pertains to the trade market, owner Stuart Sternberg tells Topkin that he believes much of the current talent will be in place for the foreseeable future. “It looks like a chunk of the infield is there,” says Sternberg. “It looks like the outfield is there. … If (Michael Perez) continues to show what he’s shown to this point, you’ve got your catchers in place.”

The Rays have seen well-regarded prospects like Jake Bauers and Willy Adames rise to the Majors this season, while they’ve added Tommy Pham, Austin Meadows and Christian Arroyo, among others, to the fold via the trade market over the past year. Sternberg notes that there’s some uncertainty on the pitching staff, at least in terms of the roles of individual pitchers, but he notes that the Rays have no intention of deviating from their experimental “opener” role and the blurring of the lines between starters and relievers. To the contrary — Sternberg believes that several other teams will adopt the strategy next season.

Here’s more from the AL East…

  • Barring a significant turnaround, Drew Pomeranz’s disastrous season will likely leave him on the outside looking in when the postseason arrives, writes Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston. But the 29-year-old lefty isn’t blaming his struggles on poor health in spite of some notably diminished fastball velocity (as pointed out by Drellich). Rather, Pomeranz feels the source of his struggles is “clear-cut,” explaining to Drellich that he’s worked with Red Sox VP of pitching development Brian Bannister and determined that his release point is “short of what it’s been the last two years.” That may seem an overly simplistic explanation for a pitcher with a 6.34 ERA on the season, and after last night’s poor relief outing it’s clear that even if Pomeranz is aware of the issue, he’s still been unable to correct the flaw on a consistent basis. The impending free agent will have just under seven weeks to get back on track in an effort to not only improve his chances of making the postseason roster but also to salvage some of his free-agent stock in an otherwise nightmarish season.
  • Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com runs through a number of topics still facing the Orioles as they enter the next phase of their rebuild. Notably, Kubatko writes that the O’s don’t view righty Mychal Givens as “untouchable” in trade talks — a departure from their previously reported line of thinking — though they’re still not keen on dealing the power-armed 28-year-old, who can be controlled through 2021. Givens’ 4.73 ERA through 59 innings isn’t much to look at, but fielding-independent metrics give him a more favorable review, and he’s averaging nearly 10 punchouts per nine innings. Kubatko also examines what could be an open competition for shortstop in 2019 and beyond, the team’s outfield mix moving forward and Austin Wynns’ potentially rising stock.
  • 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.

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Adam Jones Clears Revocable Trade Waivers

Orioles center fielder Adam Jones has cleared revocable trade waivers and is technically now eligible to be traded to any team, reports Fancred’s Jon Heyman. Of course, that distinction is largely a technicality, as Jones’ 10-and-5 rights (10 years of MLB service, the past five coming with one team) give him the ability to veto any trade scenario presented by the team.

Jones, 33, reportedly vetoed a trade that would’ve sent him to the Phillies prior to the non-waiver trade deadline and is said to prefer to remain in Baltimore to close out the season, despite the team’s awful results in 2018. Heyman adds a bit of context, writing that Jones had the chance to talk to one or both of Phillies execs Andy MacPhail and Matt Klentak, both of whom know him from their days with the Orioles. The Phils planned to play Jones around four times per week, Heyman continues, though it’s not clear whether that limited role impacted his decision to nix the deal.

The O’s also approached the Yankees about Jones recently, per the report, but it’s a known fact that remaining south of the $197MM luxury tax threshold his a priority for the Yankees. Adding the remainder of Jones’ $17MM salary — roughly $4.27MM as of this writing — wouldn’t do New York any favors in that regard. The Yankees, at present, are about $7MM shy of that barrier, per Cot’s Contracts. Furthermore, Marc Carig of The Athletic reported last night that in spite of a highly inaccurate initial estimate on Aaron Judge’s timetable for recovery from a chip fracture in his wrist, the Yankees don’t appear likely to add any outfield help.

The Indians were the other team who was most heavily linked to Jones prior to the non-waiver deadline, and there’s still plenty of reason to think they might have some interest. Cleveland picked up Leonys Martin in a deadline deal with the division-rival Tigers, but Martin developed a frightening and even life-threatening bacterial infection that landed him on the disabled list. While he is (thankfully) now said to be in stable condition and on the road to a full recovery, there’s no timeline for his return to baseball activity.

Paired with the litany of outfield injuries the Indians have sustained — Bradley Zimmer, Lonnie Chisenhall and Tyler Naquin are all out of action — that scenario at least creates a clear potential opening for Jones on the Cleveland roster. The money still owed to Jones wouldn’t be an easy pill for the Indians to swallow either, though, as they’re already well into franchise-record payroll territory.

Any team weighing a run at Jones would also need to consider just how much of an upgrade his bat would be through season’s end. He’s been swinging it quite well as of late, hitting at a .341/.398/.518 pace with three homers and six doubles over his past 93 plate appearances. However, that surge has only pushed his season-long batting line to a roughly league-average slash of .282/.317/.438. Given his poor defensive ratings in center field, some clubs may express trepidation over taking on some or all of the money he’s owed, surrendering minor league talent and giving him regular playing time in what has been a down season for the five-time All-Star.

And, again, all of that could largely be a moot point if Jones is indeed uninterested in green-lighting a trade. He’s spent nearly his entire MLB career in Baltimore and has a family there as well as numerous charity efforts in the Baltimore community — all of which is said to have played a significant role in his preference to remain with the O’s. If the allure of playing for a contender for the final month of the season and into October begins to hold increasing appeal for Jones as the Aug. 31 postseason eligibility deadline draws nearer, though, the O’s at least know they’re free to discuss him with any team in the game.

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Poll: How Should MLB Punish Jose Urena?

Marlins righty Jose Urena was the talk of the league last night, although not for reasons the organization would prefer. Urena was ejected after hitting red-hot Ronald Acuna on the elbow with a 97.5mph fastball — the hardest pitch he’s ever thrown, per Statcast — on the game’s first pitch. Yahoo’s Jeff Passan was among the many pundits who’ve excoriated Urena for his actions, calling them “cowardly” and imploring Major League Baseball to issue a suspension longer than the standard five games for Urena.

Intent, of course, is difficult to prove. However, it’s perhaps telling that Miami manager Don Mattingly seemed to acknowledge some disappointment in his right-hander. Via MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro:

“What we said with Jose is, ’I don’t want to see this kid get hit.’ He’s a great player,” said Mattingly of his talk with Urena after the ejection. “…For us, he’s beat us up, but this is not the way we want to handle that situation. Obviously, this is not something that we represent or believe in as an organization or myself, too. I would never want that kid getting hit and cause that kind of problem.”

Mattingly did tell reporters that Urena claimed to have only been trying to run a pitch inside on Acuna rather than hit him (per the Miami Herald’s Clark Spencer, whose column also has quotes from Urena), but the manager also spoke on multiple occasions about the need for Marlins players to be cognizant of how the organization wants to be represented moving forward.

Frankly, it’s difficult to side with or defend Urena. There’s a difference between throwing inside and uncoiling at max velocity with an intent to hit a batter, and it appears that Urena chose to do the latter in response to Acuna’s torrid series at the plate. There will always be traditionalists who extol the game’s “unwritten” (and outdated) rules and point to the fact that these incidents have been a part of baseball for decades. But “that’s the way it’s always been done” isn’t a good defense in most walks of life, and the game has clearly evolved.

Urena’s actions didn’t help his team; to the contrary, an already-overtaxed Marlins bullpen had to cover a complete game upon his ejection, and the Braves went on to complete a four-game sweep while Urena watched from the sidelines. And to those who might think that Urena’s teammates appreciate him making a statement, the Marlins’ best player, J.T. Realmuto, said after the game (via Frisaro) that hitting Acuna “worked out terrible for our team.” Realmuto pointed to Miami’s overworked relief corps and plainly suggested that the team could’ve used six or seven innings out of Urena.

Initial x-rays on Acuna, meanwhile, were thankfully negative (Twitter link via Gabe Burns of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution), but he’s still set to undergo a CT scan to further clarify the status of his elbow. Even if he avoids major injury, though, it seems quite likely that the league will bring forth a suspension against Urena, in accordance with previous situations where the intent of the pitcher has been fairly plain to see.

A five-game ban for a starting pitcher has been standard operating procedure in these instances, though it’s clear that such punishments haven’t completely dissuaded pitchers from intentionally plunking opponents. Perhaps they never will, but there’s an argument to be made that steeper penalties ought to be put into place in an effort to at least lessen the likelihood of a recurrence. Even if Acuna is back in the lineup tonight, he’ll be in there after perhaps avoiding a serious injury by a matter of millimeters. Should it really take a serious injury to one of MLB’s most exciting young players to invoke change, or have we reached the point where a more proactive approach should be taken? (Link to poll for Trade Rumors app users)

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Minor MLB Transactions: 8/15/18

Here are Wednesday’s minor moves from around the league…

  • The Mariners purchased the contract of former big league lefty David Rollins from the Sussex County Miners of the independent Can-Am League, reports Tacoma Rainiers broadcaster Mike Curto. He’ll join the Mariners’ top affiliate in Tacoma. Rollins was starting for the Miners, having notched a 2.79 ERA, 8.4 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 through 113 innings, though he worked exclusively as a reliever in 31 Major League appearances with the Mariners back in 2015-16. Rollins has a 7.60 ERA in 34 1/3 innings at the big league level and also owns a 4.03 ERA with 7.6 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9 in 102 2/3 innings of Triple-A work.
  • Catcher Dan Butler cleared waivers after being designated for assignment by the Red Sox and was outrighted to Triple-A Pawtucket, tweets Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston. Butler appeared in just two games for the Sox and went 1-for-6 with a single and a sac fly. Between that showing and a brief cameo with the Sox back in 2014, Butler has hit .200/.222/.320 in 27 MLB plate appearances. In 1715 plate appearances at Triple-A across parts of nine seasons, he’s posted a .246/.332/.383 batting line and thrown out 30 percent of would-be base thieves.

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Dodgers Activate Hyun-Jin Ryu, Place Ross Stripling On DL

The Dodgers have activated left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu from the 60-day disabled list after an absence of nearly three months, the team announced this afternoon. Roster space for Ryu was created by placing Ross Stripling on the 10-day DL due to inflammation in his lower back and by transferring Tony Cingrani from the 10-day DL to the 60-day DL. Manager Dave Roberts suggests to Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times (Twitter link) that it’s not clear whether Stripling will be ready for activation once his 10-day window is up, stating that that determination is “up for debate.”

Ryu has been out since early May after suffering a significant groin tear in which part of his muscle tore completely off the bone. Prior to incurring that gruesome injury, Ryu was in the midst of a strong start to the 2018 campaign, working to a pristine 2.12 ERA with 36 strikeouts against 10 walks through 29 2/3 frames. He’ll join Clayton Kershaw, recently activated lefty Alex Wood, Rich Hill and Walker Buehler in the Los Angeles rotation for the time being.

Stripling, like fellow righty Kenta Maeda, had recently been shifted to a bullpen role despite generally strong results in the rotation this season. The L.A. relief corps has been nothing short of disastrous lately, with multiple relievers struggling since Kenley Jansen hit the disabled list due to an irregular heartbeat. His absence will make Roberts’ job even more difficult as he tries to piece together the team’s late innings in light of the ongoing struggles throughout the ’pen.

As for Cingrani, while his transfer to the 60-day disabled list clouds the lefty’s timeline for a return, it does appear that the Dodgers expect him back at some point in 2018. Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register tweets that Roberts expressed optimism that Cingrani will be back next month, in time to help the team in the final push down the stretch. While Cingrani’s 4.84 ERA through 22 1/3 innings wasn’t particularly impressive, he did tally a brilliant 36-to-6 K/BB ratio with a 51.1 percent grounder rate in that time, prompting metrics like FIP (2.17), xFIP (2.34) and SIERA (1.90) to forecast a considerably better outlook.

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