Archive for the ‘ Transactions ’ Category

Breaking News: Return of the K-Rod

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Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com broke the news via Twitter, so you know it’s good.

Francisco Rodriguez has agreed to a two-year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers with a team option for a third year. (Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that Scott Boras agreed to a deal with Mark Attanasio, but that’s an argument for a different time.)

Rodriguez closed games for the Brewers last year, stepping in (after stepping on a cactus) for the injured Jim Henderson. He posted 44 saves and pitched mostly effectively, but he was hammered by the long ball at a frightening clip. He was a streaky performer, with his struggles coming in bunches for the most part (confirmation bias alert!), but still can be an effective pitcher. He needs to maintain his fastball command more consistently though to aid him in avoiding posting another career-worst home runs allowed total. For the record, it was 14 last year in just 68.0 innings pitched. That’s a 1.9 HR/9, math majors.

The ISO against his fastball in 2014 was .301. That’s terrifying. Still, Rodriguez did post a career best WHIP at 0.985 and struck out more than a batter an inning en route to a 3.04 ERA across 69 games.

But for this multi-year marriage to work out, the home run ball needs to exit from Rodriguez’s repertoire.

***UPDATE***

Tom Haudricourt tweeted full contract details.

Broken News: Cotts Contracts With Crew

OFFICIAL RELEASE

The Milwaukee Brewers have signed free agent left-handed reliever Neal Cotts to a one-year contract. The announcement was made by President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Doug Melvin.

To make room for Cotts on the 40-man roster, the team designated infielder/outfielder Elian Herrera for assignment.

Cotts, 34, went 2-9 with a 4.32 ERA and 2 saves in a career-high 73 relief appearances last season with the Texas Rangers. He owns a career record of 20-24 with a 4.05 ERA and 4 saves in 415 games (5 starts) with the White Sox (2003-06), Cubs (2007-09) and Rangers (2013-14).

Over the past two seasons, he is holding opponents to a .223 batting average with 128 strikeouts in just 123.2 innings pitched.

Cotts enjoyed his best Major League season just two years ago as he went 8-3 with a 1.11 ERA and 1 save in 58 relief appearances with Texas. His ERA in 2013 was the second lowest in the Major Leagues among relievers and marked the lowest by a reliever in Rangers franchise history. His win total that season tied for the most among Major League relievers, and opponents batted just .180.

A member of the 2005 world champion Chicago White Sox, Cotts appeared in each game of the 2005 World Series (4 games), earning the
victory Game 2 against Houston.

Rumor: Brewers In Agreement With Free Agent Left-Hander

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Not one to break many free agent signings, Tom Haudricourt just tweeted the following…

Neal Cotts is a left-handed reliever, and has pitched parts of nine seasons in the big leagues for both Chicago teams and, most recently, the Texas Rangers. He missed significant time following Tommy John surgery in 2009 and four hip surgeries which started in 2010.

Cotts will be 35 by Opening Day. As recently as 2013, he pitched to a 1.11 ERA in 57.0 IP. He struck out 65 that year. Last year was harder for Cotts. In 66.2 IP, Cotts wound up with a 4.32 ERA in 73 (!) appearances. He struck out 63 but tripled his home runs allowed from two to six.

Cotts reportedly made $2.2 million in 2014. If he signs a major league deal, you’d have to think he would come in right around there, hopefully lighter given his most recent campaign.

Notably, Cotts struggled against left-handed hitters in 2014, allowing a slash of .270/.337/.438, but he’s carried a reverse platoon split overall in his career anyway.

***UPDATE***

Haudricourt and Ken Rosenthal are now concurring that Cotts has passed his physical with the Brewers and that a deal is done.

***UPDATE***

Rosenthal checks back in with the money.

More than I would have liked to commit given the specifics, but not outlandish given the marketplace.

It us a major league deal which means that the Brewers will have to make a corresponding move to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.

Rumor: Brewers Sign MLB Veteran Willis to MiLB Deal

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ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick tweeted this a few minutes ago…

Willis, 33, hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2011 as a member of the Cincinnati Reds, though he has spent time in the minor leagues of the Orioles, Angels, and Giants over the past three years. He infamously lost his control at a relatively young age after being dynamic and electric early in his career with the Florida Marlins.

This brings the group of Brewers non-roster invitees up to six when camp opens in February.

Gallardo Trade Details

 

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As first reported by Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (and since confirmed by several respected writers), the Milwaukee Brewers are receiving three players in return for Yovani Gallardo who was traded to the Texas Rangers.

The three players are a shortstop, a relief pitcher and an 18-year-old starting pitching prospect.

The shortstop is 21-year-old Luis Sardiñas who was suggested by Ken Rosenthal as potentially being involved as the Rangers had offered the Venezuelan in other trade ideas this off-season. He’s a guy who some still regard highly (7th overall Rangers prospect according to Baseball America) while others (MLB Pipeline, unranked) don’t have him nearly as high anymore. He’s considered a true shortstop defensively which is never a bad thing to have in the system.

The relief pitcher is Corey Knebel, a 23-year-old former 1st round pick (2013, 39th overall) of the Detroit Tigers. Knebel made his MLB debut in May of 2014, appearing in a total of eight games for the Tigers. He was later traded to the Rangers in the Joakim Soria deal. Knebel was listed as the Rangers’ eighth-best prospect prior to the deal. Of Knebel’s abilities, the website says:

Knebel definitely has the weapons and competitive makeup with which to close games. His fastball ranges from 91-98 mph with tailing action, and he uses his height to throw it on a downhill plane. When he stays on top of his curveball, it can be just as nasty as his heater, arriving in the low 80s with sharp downward break.

There’s some funkiness to Knebel’s delivery, but it adds more deception than it detracts from his ability to throw strikes. He flashes a decent changeup, which had the Tigers initially considering trying him as a starter, but his future definitely is as a reliever.

Knebel is 6’3″, was a closer at the University of Texas, and quite clearly skyrocketed through the minors and into The Show. If healthy (he was shut down in August with a UCL injury), he joins a murky if somewhat crowded Brewers bullpen situation.

The youngster of the trio is Marcos Diplan, (20th Rangers prospect, MLBPipeline). He can reportedly touch 98 MPH and sits in the low 90s but has room to add power onto his young frame. Diplan was the consensus top pitcher in the 2013 international class coming out of the Dominican Republic, that coming from MLBPipeline.com.

All told, this is a quality return for the Brewers. There is no surefire superstar in the group, but for one guaranteed season of Gallardo, and a chance to sign him to an extension or at least extend a qualifying offer, this was probably about as strong a return as could have been hoped. Oh, and as I reported yesterday, the Brewers kicked in some money to Texas. Reports have it as $4 million. That could explain some of the delay as a dollar amount of that size would need approval from the commissioner’s office.

Both Sardinas and Knebel were on the Rangers 40-man roster. Gallardo leaving opens one spot.

***UPDATE: To clear the other needed spot, former organizational player of the year Hunter Morris was designated for assignment.***

Rumor: Yovani Gallardo Headed to Rangers In Trade

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As first pinpointed by FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi, the Brewers followed through on my report from early last week and are reportedly on the verge of trading away homegrown starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo to the Texas Rangers.

Gallardo, as you may recall, became the Brewers’ career strikeout leader late in 2014 and was on pace to overtake several statistical categories in Brewers history in the near future. It now appears as though the man we call “Yo” will finish where he currently sits.

I’m writing to discuss why I think this trade went down, some of the logistics without yet knowing all the names involved for sure, as well as my generalized thoughts about trading Gallardo from a macro level.

First, the Brewers are basically maxed out on their payroll as the day begins. Principal owner Mark Attanasio has been flexible over the years in adding payroll in season when the chance to compete is there. Just look at 2014. He authorized acquiring Jonathan Broxton (the likely closer to begin 2015) and Gerardo Parra (a pricey current 4th outfielder) after all. But entering a season where they sit after avoiding arbitration with all three of their eligible players (~$97 million committed to 12 players per Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel beat writer Tom Haudricourt), it’s not that far of a stretch to understand why Attanasio might want to trim a little payroll fat. Gallardo is set to make $13 million in the final season of a six-year, $42.5 million contract he signed before the 2010 season. This is also pretty strong evidentiary support of the idea that the Brewers had no plans to offer Gallardo another long-term contract or even a qualifying offer after the season.

That’s just one of the logistical points of this situation. Another that I’ve been told is that the Brewers might not be moving all of Gallardo’s $13 million. There is chatter that they’ll be paying a portion of his deal. That’s normally done to offset the cost to the acquiring team, thereby increasing the return in quality and/or quantity of players.

But why now? Why move Gallardo at all? He was drafted by the Brewers, after all. I’ve heard all this and more since the trade rumor was first floated out. To those questions, I answer thusly.

Gallardo rebounded a bit in 2014 and actually had a better overall season than many give him credit for. He still struggled against St. Louis, had a poor May after an excellent April and limped through September when everything around the team seemed to be collapsing together, but his season was strong as a sum of its parts. Gallardo’s fastball came back to life and he posted a career-best BB/9 ratio of 2.5 overall. With a full season of control, Gallardo is more valuable to the Brewers to move now than he would be at any other point in 2015. And outside of the money issues, Gallardo is the most moveable piece among the pitchers. He’s the best combination of return, savings, and striking while the iron is hot on the team.

You aren’t moving the cheap Wily Peralta, Mike Fiers or Jimmy Nelson. Kyle Lohse is the oldest of the group and wouldn’t bring as much in return since there’s less projectability left on his arm than that of Gallardo. And after bringing in Matt Garza on an expensive deal, that’s not changing yet, plus the fact that Garza is already on pace to providing an extremely inexpensive contract option.

You also can’t let yourself worry about the fact that he was drafted and developed by the Brewers. So was Rickie Weeks. So was Prince Fielder. So was Corey Hart. There is a time for the vast majority of players in the era of free agency to move on from their original teams. If Gallardo isn’t in the long-term plan and he can bring you back someone who is, you move him. It can be a hard thing for a franchise like Milwaukee to do when homegrown talent under team control is a necessity to win, but when that talent prices themselves out of town decisions must be made regardless of the potential public relations hit. In a perfect world every Brewer is Robin Yount, but a perfect world this ain’t.

As for the return, well that just might be another column once we learn the particulars. Rosenthal speculates that Luis Sardiñas might be involved, but as of Sunday afternoon Gallardo hadn’t even been informed that he’d been traded. A principal agreement could be in place without all the details sorted out. I’m told that Gallardo’s agent leaked the report though so somebody knows something. Understandably, both front offices are upset as the track record exists for both to operate quietly.

In regards to the next step that so many people wanted to jump to on social media already, the agent for James Shields wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t reach out to the Brewers to discern their plan and see if his client might fit. After all, the talk for a bit now is how nobody is in on Shields at the number he wanted. Engaging the Brewers could get things a bit more towards where Shields would like them to be. Then again, the conspiracy theorists point to how shortly after the Gallardo news broke, the Nationals agreeing to a contract with free agent pitcher Max Scherzer came out. They are pointing to the coincidence to indicate that maybe the Brewers desiring to trade for Wisconsin-native starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann and needed to free up a rotation spot and some money to do it and that now that the Nationals feel confident in trading Zimmermann, they could fully engage on Scherzer. While that’s all plausible, it certainly feels like a couple of steps past where things stand as the sun comes up on Monday, January 19th.

Stay tuned. I have a feeling that things could get fun today.

Brewers Extend Class-A Affiliation

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Official Release:

The Milwaukee Brewers have announced a four-year player development contract extension with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers of the Midwest League through the 2020 season. The announcement was made jointly by Brewers President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Doug Melvin and Timber Rattlers President Rob Zerjav.

“We thoroughly enjoy the professional working relationship that President Rob Zerjav and the Timber Rattlers provide to the Milwaukee Brewers,” said Melvin. “This long-term relationship continues to show the trust and confidence that we have in working together as we continue to develop future Major League players.”

The 2015 season will mark the seventh season of affiliation between the Brewers and Timber Rattlers. The partnership officially began on October 1, 2008 as part of a four-year agreement. The organizations announced a four-year extension through the 2016 season on June 29, 2011.

This past season, the Timber Rattlers went 72-67 during the regular season and qualified for the postseason after clinching a second-half Wild Card berth in the Midwest League’s Western Division. It marked Wisconsin’s second postseason appearance over the past three seasons (also 2012 when they won the Midwest League championship).

“Our relationship with the entire Brewers organization has been a special one for the Timber Rattlers, for the local business community in the Fox Valley and, most importantly, for our fans,” said Zerjav. “The Brewers provided us the team that brought home the first Midwest League championship in Timber Rattlers history and it has been great to see the success of former Rattlers now making an impact at the big league level in Milwaukee. We look forward to many more years of this great partnership both on and off the field.”

The Timber Rattlers play their home games at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Brewers “Go” Ahead, Add “Forth” Player to 40-Man

(Because sometimes, puns can’t be helped.)

Following this morning’s announcement of three additions to the Brewers’ 40-man roster, there remained one open spot. I opined to one of my followers on Twitter that I was surprised David Goforth was not among those chosen.

Tom Haudricourt first told us that David Goforth was being considered for a the last remaining open slot on the 40-man roster, and the Rule 5 draft protection that comes along with it. Adam McCalvy then tweeted that Goforth was going to be added to the 40-man roster, according to a source. Naturally, I think it’s a wise move.

Goforth is a right-handed pitcher who seems to have found a home in the back of the bullpen after serving for the majority of 2014 as the closer as Double-A Huntsville. He recorded 27 saves in 44 games finished across 54 appearances. He posted a 3.78 ERA as he was prone to the occasional blow up outing (six games of multiple runs allowed), but far more often than not, Goforth was nails (39 scoreless outings of his 54). He struck out 46 in 64.2 innings, leading one to understand that his forte is generating ground balls. While not elite, Goforth posted a 1.76 ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio. He throws a heavy ball though that stays in the park though, with a 2014 HR/9 of just 0.28 and a HR-to-fly ball ratio of 4.3%.

The other major calling card that brings Goforth attention as a prospect is that his heavy fastball also sits in the mid-90s and touches 98 MPH. But heat isn’t all he brings. Goforth features a strong cut fastball and is developing potentially above average offerings in a curveball and changeup. As is often cited on prospect reports, and backed up in the numbers, Goforth’s biggest obstacle to a full-time back-end bullpen job in Milwaukee is himself. He needs to improve his command. Many bullpen guys breakthrough “late” according to standard progression, but Goforth just having turned 26 shouldn’t worry anybody from projecting his possible ceiling, in my opinion.

Brewers Add Three to 40-Man Roster

Today the Brewers announced the additions of three players to the 40-man roster, a move that comes ahead of today’s deadline to protect those players from the Rule 5 Draft. The Rule 5 Draft takes places each December on the last day of baseball’s annual Winter Meetings.

Last year the Brewers protected four players: infielders Hunter Morris and Jason Rogers, and pitchers Kevin Shackelford (since removed) and Brooks Hall.

Morris and Hall were hurt for a stretch of time in 2014, though Hall pitched well making up time in the Arizona Fall League following surgery. Jason Rogers was among Milwaukee’s September call-ups in 2014.

The Brewers had nearly a full 40-man roster of players to consider for protection (38), including 22 who were eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time.

Here are the three prospects who were protected with a little bit more information about each of them.

JungmannTaylor Jungmann is a big (6’6″) right-handed pitcher who was the team’s top overall draft pick (12th overall) in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Texas. He split time this season between Double-A Huntsville and, after an earned promotion, Triple-A Nashville. He posted a combined 12-10 record in 27 starts and one appearance out of the bullpen right after his promotion to Triple-A. Jungmann, who turns 25 next month, posted a composite 3.57 ERA in 153.2 innings. He struck out 147 hitters overall, 101 of which came in his 101.2 innings at Nashville.

MikeStrongMike Strong, who turned 26 three days ago, earned protection after a long and successful 2014. The southpaw pitcher played for three different teams this year, making all but one regular season appearance with High-A Brevard County before a one-game season-ender with Huntsville (where he pitched 4.0 scoreless in relief) and then participating in the Arizona Fall League as a member of the Glendale Desert Dogs. In the Florida State League, Strong was 2-2 with a 2.50 ERA in 75.2 innings pitched across 30 games (six starts). He struck out 78 batters as a Manatee, saved four games, and posted a 1.044 WHIP. In Arizona, his 1.98 ERA in 11 games, two saves, and 14 punchies in 13.2 innings were a cherry on top of his case to make the 40-man roster.

 

YadielRiveraYadiel Rivera is the third player protected this year and is considered to be nearly ready defensively for the Major Leagues. Before 2014, however, Rivera’s bat was lagging significantly behind. Still just 22 years old, Rivera slashed .258/.309/.374 combined in 2014, with a line of .262/.304/.410 at Double-A following his late-June promotion from High-A. He still needs development at the plate, and Orlando Arcia will be nipping at his heels at shortstop in the system, but with his defensive profile and step forward as a hitter, Rivera deserved protection.

With these three additions, the Brewers 40-man roster currently stands at 39 players.

Of note is that the Brewers are still considering the addition of a fourth player to the 40-man roster in advance of today’s 11pm CT deadline. That report came via a tweet from beat writer Tom Haudricourt who called GM Doug Melvin for comments on Jungmann, Strong, and Rivera.

David Goforth was the surprise to me this morning as having been left off of the 40-man roster, but to hear that the Brewers are still considering him is encouraging.

Trade News: Brewers Trade Marco Estrada

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Multiple reports and confirmations (including one by the Brewers) have come out this early Sunday afternoon which have the Milwaukee Brewers trading RHP Marco Estrada away.

Estrada, 31, gave up a league high 29 home runs in 2014 splitting time between the starting rotation and bullpen. He was much more effective as a relief pitcher in 2014, something that’s a bit of a disconnect from earlier in his career. Estrada was originally acquired by the Brewers off of waivers from the Washington Nationals after the 2009 season. Estrada made $3.325 million in 2014 and in his upcoming third time being arbitration eligible, he was set to receive a significant enough raise that he may have ended up as a non-tender candidate. That’s because the Brewers didn’t have a spot for him in the starting rotation where he’s a bargain. He’s quite pricey as a long-reliever.

He will finish his Brewers career with a 23-25 record in 139 games (70 starts). He’s amassed a 4.11 ERA in 521.0 innings pitched.

Doug Melvin struck a deal with the Toronto Blue Jays, who he has dealt with in the past. In return, the Brewers have acquired 1B Adam Lind.

Lind, also 31, has had an up-and-down career in Toronto, the only organization he’s known as a professional since being drafted in the 3rd round of 2004. Lind debuted as a 22-year-old in 2006.

In 2014, Lind spent some time in the  minor leagues to get his groove back, more or less. In his 96 games on Toronto’s roster, Lind slashed .321/.381/.479 in 318 plate appearances. That includes an incredibly hefty platoon split though. In 2014 he his .354/.409/.533 against right-handed pitching (which is the majority as we all know) but an incredibly different .061/.161/.061 in 37 plate appearances. That’s four walks, just two hits (both singles), and 11 strikeouts.

The Brewers are hardly strangers to platooning. They carried season-long platoon at both first and second base last season and due to some injury concerns, they basically played with one in left field down the stretch as well. They might be committing to Scooter Gennett full-time at the keystone in 2015 (though I think they’ll wind up in a soft platoon at best), so it would allow them room to have another first base platoon next season. Looking at the numbers, they almost have to. New hitting coach Darnell Coles can only do so much, after all.

Lind will makes $7.5 million in 2015. His contract carries a 2016 option as well valued at $8 million with a $500 thousand buyout.

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