Draft Signings: 7/25/21

Today’s most notable signings from Day Two (and beyond) of the amateur draft.  As always, you can get more background on these players via the prospect rankings and scouting reports compiled by Baseball America, Fangraphs, MLB Pipeline, The Athletic’s Keith Law, and ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel.  As well, here is MLB Pipeline’s breakdown of the slot values assigned to each pick in the first 10 rounds, as well as the bonus pool money available to all 30 teams.

All signings reported by MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis, unless otherwise noted…

  • The Marlins signed second-round pick Cody Morrissette, with the Boston College shortstop agreeing to the assigned slot price of $1,403,200 for the 52nd overall pick.
  • The Diamondbacks went slightly above slot to sign Adrian Del Castillo, the draft’s 67th overall selection and Arizona’s pick in Competitive Balance Round B.  Del Castillo, a catcher from the University of Miami, signed for a $1MM bonus, topping the 67th pick’s slot price of $976.7K.
  • The Angels made a very notable signing outside the top 10 rounds, agreeing to a $1.25MM bonus with 12th-round pick Mason Albright.  As Callis notes, this is now the highest bonus given to a player beyond the first 10 rounds since MLB adopted the current draft format.  $1.125MM of Albright’s bonus will count against the Angels’ total $9,295,900 spending pool.  Albright is an 18-year-old southpaw who had received some rankings (107th from McDaniel, 122th from Pipeline, 134th from BA) far above his station as the 351st overall pick, and the Angels clearly had to go above and beyond to get Albright to break his commitment to Virginia Tech.

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AL Central Notes: Duffy, Dodgers, Ramirez, Twins

The Dodgers have interest in injured Royals southpaw Danny Duffy, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reports (via Twitter).  This completes the trio of NL West contenders looking at Duffy, since the Padres and Giants have also been linked to the veteran left-hander.  San Francisco is known to be interested despite Duffy’s injury, and it can be assumed that the Dodgers are in the same position, considering that Duffy has been on the 10-day injured list for five days now.

Duffy is out of action with his second left flexor strain of the season, so he might not be available until at least early September, based on the timeline of his last IL visit.  Since the NL West teams currently have a big lead on the rest of the National League for the two wild card positions, the Dodgers can be reasonably comfortable of reaching the postseason in one form or another, so Duffy could be saved as a late-season reinforcement.  While it can certainly be argued that Los Angeles should spend its prospect capital on a healthy pitcher, the Royals’ asking price for Duffy probably isn’t very high, considering his injured status.  Duffy controls his trade destiny thanks to 10-and-5 rights, and the California native might be willing to waive those rights to join a team in his home state.  (If this is the case, the Angels and Athletics would also seem like hypothetical fits for a Duffy trade.)

More from the AL Central…

  • It remains to be seen if the Indians will be buyers, sellers, or a bit of both at the trade deadline, but there don’t appear to be any plans to move Jose Ramirez.  MLB Network’s Jon Morosi (Twitter link) reports that Cleveland isn’t having “active talks” about a Ramirez deal with any rival team, which perhaps isn’t surprising considering the big-picture ramifications of such a trade.  Moving a star player with such an affordable contract would seemingly indicate a turn towards a rebuild for the Tribe, who haven’t given any indication they’re not planning to contend again in 2022.  Unsurprisingly, “the asking price is extremely high” for Ramirez, Morosi writes.
  • The Twins are considering all options as the trade deadline approaches, including the possibility of including two or more players together in a single trade.  In an interview on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM earlier today, Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey told Jon Morosi and company that such a package deal is “something we have talked about.”  Possibilities abound for such trades, though since the Twins are reportedly not keen to move players controlled beyond 2021, however, I would think a package deal might be more suited as a way of generating a greater return for rental players.  Someone like Andrelton Simmons or Michael Pineda alone might not bring back much in the way of prospects, but putting the two veterans into one deal might get a team to budge on a slightly higher-tier minor leaguer.  Conversely, the Twins could also look into packaging a rental player with someone with more control (i.e. Byron Buxton or Taylor Rogers).

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Mariners Interested In Whit Merrifield

With past Mariners trade target Adam Frazier now headed to the Padres, Seattle is looking into another contact-hitting infielder/outfielder.  MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand and Daniel Kramer (Twitter link) report that “the Mariners are making a push to” land the Royals’ Whit Merrifield.

The Royals have steadily resisted any trade overtures for Merrifield in the past, though recent reports suggest perhaps a small crack in Kansas City’s resolve, as the Royals are at least “more open” to the concept of a Merrifield deal.  That doesn’t mean K.C. isn’t still putting a huge asking price on Merrifield’s services, and with good cause.  Not only is Merrifield a quality hitter and major stolen-base threat who can play at multiple positions, he is also on a very affordable contract — Merrifield is owed only $3.5MM in guaranteed money through the 2022 season, including the buyout of a $6.5MM club option for 2023.

That option can rise to $10.5MM if Merrifield stays healthy, though that is still a very reasonable price considering everything he brings to the table.  That control through the 2023 season is perhaps the key factor for teams, especially a club like the Mariners that plans to contend not just in the near future, but in this very season.  Today’s 4-3 victory over the Athletics has put Seattle just 1.5 games behind Oakland for the second AL wild card position.

The 32-year-old Merrifield brings enough versatility to the table that the Mariners would likely deploy him as part of their outfield mix on occasion, but second base is the most obvious area of need.  Seattle hasn’t received even replacement-level production from the second base position all year, and Merrifield would solidify the position for at least 2021 and perhaps for years to come.  With Merrifield on board, Seattle GM Jerry Dipoto would have the freedom to explore adding other outfielders or second basemen, with Merrifield then moving around the diamond as required.

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Padres Acquire Adam Frazier From Pirates

The Padres have acquired one of the most sought-after players on the trade market, as ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan (Twitter link) reports that San Diego has picked up second baseman Adam Frazier in a swap with the Pirates.

Three players are headed to Pittsburgh in the deal, as per FanSided’s Robert Murray, with The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Dennis Lin reporting that utilityman Tucupita Marcano and outfielder Jack Suwinski are two of the players involved in the return.  Right-hander Michell Miliano is the third player, ESPN.com’s Kiley McDaniel reports (via Twitter).  Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune tweets that the Padres are getting both Frazier and some cash considerations back from the Bucs, with MLB Network’s Jon Heyman putting the total at $1.4MM.

It’s the first big move of deadline season for Padres general manager A.J. Preller, who is no stranger to splashy moves and is pushing to get his team first to the NL West title and then deeper into October.  While a number of pitching injuries would very well result in some arms being added between now and July 30, Preller recently indicated that a bat was also on his shopping list.

Frazier is enjoying the best season of his seven-year MLB career, hitting .324/.388/.448 with four home runs over 428 plate appearances for the Bucs in 2021.  There is some possibility for regression, as Frazier’s .359 BABIP has helped make up for some very low hard-contact numbers, and his .337 xwOBA is well below his .368 wOBA.  However, even that xwOBA is still above average, and Frazier somewhat makes up for that lack of hard contact by making a lot of contact in general — fitting the Padres’ model as a player who rarely strikes out.

Frazier is a left-handed hitter, and while the Padres generally lean more to the right side of the plate, Frazier might supplant another left-handed hitting regular in Eric Hosmer.  The hot-hitting Jake Cronenworth could slide from second base to take over from Hosmer as the regular first baseman, opening the door for Frazier to become the new everyday second baseman.  Since Frazier also has experience as a corner outfielder, he could move into the grass to spell Tommy Pham or Wil Myers, giving San Diego even more positional flexibility.

More to come…

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NL East Notes: Carrasco, Watson, Smyly

Carlos Carrasco pitched a rehab outing for Triple-A Syracuse today, with Mets manager Luis Rojas telling reporters (including The New York Post’s Mike Puma) that the veteran righty’s “stuff was great.”  It now seems like Carrasco is finally ready to make his Mets debut, as a source tells Puma that Carrasco is likely to be activated from the 60-day injured list for his next outing, which would seem to line up for next weekend’s series against the Reds.

Acquired along with Francisco Lindor in perhaps the biggest trade of the offseason, Carrasco suffered a torn right hamstring during Spring Training.  Initially expected to miss roughly six to eight weeks, Carrasco has now missed the majority of the season after his recovery took longer than expected.  Assuming Carrasco is healthy and able to return to his usual above-average form, he’ll be able to provide immediate help to a Mets rotation that has been shorthanded by injuries.

More from the NL East…

  • The Marlins have offered first-round draft pick Kahlil Watson a $4.5MM bonus, The Miami Herald’s Craig Mish reports (via Twitter).  This figure would put the Marlins in excess of their overall draft pool limit, but under the five percent penalty threshold with a bit of room to spare, according to MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis (Twitter link).  Any team that exceeds their draft spending pool by more than five percent would be penalized future picks, so in staying under the five percent line, the Marlins would only have to pay a 75 percent tax on the overage.  Miami’s offer is well above the $3,745,500 assigned slot price for the 16th overall pick, but extra money was likely to be necessary considering that many pundits expected Watson to be selected near the top of the draft board, before he surprisingly fell to the Marlins’ pick.
  • Drew Smyly left yesterday’s game after four innings due to soreness in his left knee, but testing today revealed no structural damage, The Athletic’s David O’Brien tweets.  Assuming no setbacks, the Braves left-hander should be able to take the ball for his next start.  Smyly didn’t pitch well over the season’s first two months but he has quietly regained his form, posting a 2.19 ERA over his last seven starts and 37 innings.

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Eloy Jimenez Expected To Be Activated From Injured List Monday

Eloy Jimenez’s season is finally ready to begin, as White Sox manager Tony La Russa told reporters (including The Athletic’s James Fegan) that he expects Jimenez will be activated from the 60-day injured list to appear in Monday’s lineup when the Sox begin a series with the Royals.

Jimenez required surgery after suffering a ruptured left pectoral tendon near the end of Spring Training, and he will now return at the shorter end of his initial four-to-five month recovery timetable.  He began a minor league rehab assignment earlier this month and has already banked 12 games in the minors to make up for all the lost time.  Luis Robert also began a rehab assignment this week, after Robert went on the injured list in May with a hip flexor strain.

Chicago has built a commanding lead in the AL Central even without Jimenez and mostly without Robert, as the White Sox have thrived due to excellent starting pitching and a lineup that is still one of the best in baseball.  A mix of somewhat unheralded veterans and youngsters have filled in admirably for Jimenez, Robert, and other injured White Sox like Nick Madrigal and (more recently) Yasmani Grandal.  Rookie Andrew Vaughn has become a fixture in left field, and La Russa said that Vaughn will remain in the lineup as either a left fielder or DH, possibly splitting time at the two positions with Jimenez.

Over his first two MLB seasons, the 24-year-old Jimenez did nothing but mash, hitting .276/.321/.527 with 45 home runs over 730 plate appearances.  Jimenez finished fourth in AL Rookie Of The Year voting in 2019 and he won a Silver Slugger last year as he helped lead the White Sox into the postseason.  With the AL Central title looking like a distinct possibility for 2021, Chicago’s chances of taking another step forward in the playoffs will look a lot better with Jimenez, Robert, and (eventually) Grandal all back in the mix, besides what other acquisitions might be in the works at the trade deadline.

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Twins, Byron Buxton Unable To Reach Extension

The Twins and franchise cornerstone Byron Buxton have been unable to come to terms on a contract extension, increasing the likelihood of a full-scale sell-off before Friday’s trade deadline. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Dan Hayes report that the Twins’ initial offer was for $73MM over seven years with an unspecified number of incentives. The Twins “increased the guarantee slightly,” but not enough to come to a long-term agreement. The final guarantee increased to $80MM, tweets The Athletic.

The end result here is not surprising, given the muddled valuation process for a talent like Buxton. When he’s at his best, he’s one of the best players in the game, a five-tool player capable of anchoring a first-division lineup on both sides of the ball from a premium position. The injury concerns, however, have limited his contributions and saddled him with a tricky long-term risk profile.

This season perfectly illustrated the dichotomy of Buxton as a team-building asset. In 27 games, he made 110 trips to the plate and accrued an insane 2.7 fWAR with a .369/.409/.767 line, good for a 217 wRC+. But 27 games of MVP-caliber production from Buxton wasn’t enough to keep the Twins anywhere near contention. They currently have a 0.0% chance to make the playoffs, per Fangraphs.

Buxton went on the injured list with a hip strain from May 7th to June 16th, by which point Minnesota’s shot at the playoffs was already slim to nil. He was back for less than a week before breaking his hand and returning to the injured list. Because he’s still out, there’s very little chance that the Twins might move Buxton now.

Instead, they’ll wait for the offseason and re-evaluate. Even just one season of a healthy Buxton ought to pique the interest of a few teams around the league who might be willing to take a chance on keeping him healthy.

The question now is whether Minnesota’s inability to lock up Buxton long-term will push them to be more aggressive in offloading assets like Jose Berrios and Taylor Rogers. Both are under team control through 2022, like Buxton. Both are key cogs in a potential contender in 2022, like Buxton.

With Nelson Cruz already gone and the rest of the present-day roster not looking much like a contender, the Twins may already doubt their chances to battle an increasingly indomitable White Sox team next season.

If Berrios ultimately gets moved in the next week, we’ll know the Twins’ thoughts about next season. If he stays, the Twins may be preparing for one final run with Berrios and Buxton under contract. Either way, it’s looking increasingly likely that Buxton’s long-term future resides somewhere other than Minnesota — where he can tantalize and frustrate a different fanbase.

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