Service time is often among the most important factors when determining when to promote a top prospect, a new analysis by Baseball Prospectus suggests (via FOX Sports). For followers of teams such as the Astros, who recently netted themselves an extra year of control of George Springer by waiting two weeks into the season to call him up, the findings don't come as a surprise. The study did produce an interesting data point, however. "Fourteen times in the last seven years, a player who ranked No. 1 on one of our Top 10 prospect lists debuted in April," BP's Zachary Levine writes. Among that group, eight were on their club's Opening Day roster, meaning the team valued that player's potential early-season contributions over the possibility of an extra year of control down the road. While the gaming of service time of top prospects is common, it's perhaps not as rampant as you might expect, the study suggests. Here's a look elsewhere around the majors:
- Being traded to the Pirates is an excellent opportunity for Ike Davis to maximize his considerable talent, Richard Justice writes for MLB.com, praising the clubhouse environment, management and fan support in Pittsburgh.
- The Brewers and Mets had several conversations about a potential Davis trade, but never got close, Brewers assistant GM Gord Ash tells Adam McCalvy of MLB.com. McCalvy reports that the Mets wanted young starting pitching, such as righty Tyler Thornburg, in return.
- Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan examined what might be fueling Edinson Volquez's early-season success for the Pirates. In addition to showing an improved ability to throw strikes, the right-hander is also throwing better-quality balls when he does miss the zone, Sullivan concludes. If Volquez can maintain these improvements, it'll be yet another successful reclamation project for Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage.
Mets manager Terry Collins says he expects Lucas Duda to settle in and produce now that the Ike Davis trade has opened up the club's full-time first base job, MLB.com's Spencer Fordin reports. Duda, however, says he doesn't feel much has changed. "If I don't produce, I'm not going to play. No matter what the situation is, if I don't get the job done, somebody else will," the slugger commented. More NL East links ...
- A competing GM told Andy Martino of the New York Daily News (via Twitter) that the Mets were right to choose Duda instead of Davis. "They're both platoon guys, but Duda [is] a little better against lefties," the GM said.
- One MLB executive speaking with Newsday's David Lennon (Twitter link) guesses that the Mets may receive either the Pirates' 2013 fifth- or sixth-rounder as the player to be named later in the Davis deal. That would be either fifth-round pick Trae Arbet, a shortstop drafted out of high school, or sixth-round draftee Adam Frazier, a college shortstop. Neither player was ranked among the Pirates' top 30 prospects by Baseball America this offseason.
- The Braves brought on Aaron Harang near the end of Spring Training to eat innings in the season's early going, but now that he's posted a Majors-leading 0.70 ERA in four starts, their plans have changed. In fact, Harang was removed after giving up zero hits through seven innings against the Mets yesterday to help preserve his arm. Manager Fredi Gonzalez says he wants 25-27 more starts from the veteran, according to David O'Brien of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Jason Lane, a 37-year-old converted outfielder pitching at the Padres' Triple-A affiliate, is turning heads early in the season after posting a 1.00 ERA in 18 innings. Jeff Sanders of U-T San Diego suggests that Lane could be an option for the big league club if the Padres need to add depth later in the year. "If you took away the age factor, I think people would be really fired up about him," Padres Farm Director Randy Smith said. "But for us, age is irrelevant because his arm is fresh." Here's more out of baseball's Western divisions ...
- Sean Doolittle's five-year deal with the Athletics is out of step with Billy Beane's traditional approach to relief pitching, SBNation's Steven Goldman says, adding that it's generally advisable not to go long-term with relievers. However, Doolittle does have his merits, Goldman says, noting his lack of a platoon split and relatively fresh arm. Ultimately, the move may be aimed at saving on arbitration costs if Doolittle starts racking up saves for the A's as the team's closer, his article notes. MLBTR's Jeff Todd offered the same theory in his writeup of the Doolittle deal.
- Albert Pujols doesn't want to distract his Angels teammates as he nears 500 career home runs, but tells MLB.com that he's "pretty sure I'm going to be pretty emotional about" reaching the milestone. As MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez notes, Pujols is at 498 total homers after adding his sixth of the season today.
SATURDAY: Lannan has accepted the assignment, ESPN's Adam Rubin tweets.
WEDNESDAY: The Mets have outrighted left-hander John Lannan to Triple-A Las Vegas and purchased the contract of right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka, tweets MLB.com's Anthony DiComo. Lannan will have the option to reject the outright assignment in favor of free agency. ESPN New York's Adam Rubin tweets that Matsuzaka will work out of the bullpen for now.
Lannan, 29, appeared in five games for the Mets this season, allowing seven earned runs on seven hits and a pair of walks in four innings of work. Of those seven hits, three cleared the fence for a home run. The veteran has never pitched outside of the NL East, but he's donned the uniform of three teams in that division: the Mets, the Phillies and the Nationals. After posting a 4.01 ERA in 783 2/3 innings with the Nationals from 2007-12, Lannan has struggled. With Philadelphia and New York, he's managed a combined 5.86 ERA with a 40-to-29 K:BB ratio in 78 1/3 frames.
Matsuzaka spent some time with the Mets in 2013 after signing a minor league deal midway through the season. He started slow but fared well down the stretch, yielding just four earned runs over his final 26 1/3 innings while striking out 21 and walking nine. Matsuzaka then signed another minor league deal with the Mets this winter. He's allowed two runs and punched out 12 hitters in 12 Triple-A innings this season. Matsuzaka's minor league deal calls for a $1.5MM base salary in the Major Leagues, and he also received a $100K retention bonus at the end of Spring Training after he did not make the Opening Day roster.
The Braves don't get as much attention as the Cardinals, Athletics or Rays for being well-run teams, but perhaps they should, the New York Post's Joel Sherman suggests. The Braves' relative lack of postseason success may be one factor, says Sherman, but they've made the postseason three times in the past five seasons. Consistency may be one secret to their success. "They have had strikingly little turnover on the baseball side and their philosophy has been consistent throughout," says one NL scout. "They are very clear about the type of player they are looking for and acquire those types." The Braves are off to a great start this season despite losing Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy to Tommy John surgery, and Sherman contrasts the Braves' decision-making heading into the season with that of the Mets. When Medlen and Beachy went down, the Braves acted decisively to replace them, quickly signing Ervin Santana even though he had declined a qualifying offer. The Mets, meanwhile, still have a need at shortstop, and Stephen Drew is still available on the free-agent market. Here are more notes from throughout the National League.
- Cubs GM Theo Epstein will watch NC State pitcher Carlos Rodon pitch on Friday, 670TheScore.com's Bruce Levine tweets. Rodon currently appears highly likely to be the first overall pick in the draft in June, and the Cubs pick fourth. Much can change between now and then, however, and it makes sense for the Cubs to do due diligence.
- Dontrelle Willis, who was recently released by the Giants, is considering becoming a pitching coach, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. That might seem a little surprising, given Willis' own unorthodox mechanics (as MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez joked), but coaching isn't merely teaching what one used to do, so there's no reason a pitcher with an idiosyncratic delivery couldn't teach pitchers whose deliveries are more typical.
SATURDAY: The White Sox have outrighted Veal to Triple-A Charlotte, MLB.com's Scott Merkin tweets.
FRIDAY: The White Sox placed Veal on outright waivers yesterday, meaning that he has 24 hours to be claimed or clear waivers from that point, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com.
THURSDAY: The White Sox have designated southpaw Donnie Veal for assignment, tweets MLB.com's Scott Merkin. Zach Putnam had his contract purchased to join the big club, which used every one of its relievers in last night's ballgame.
After a strong (albeit brief) 2012 campaign in which he posted a 1.38 ERA in 13 innings, Veal has struggled to repeat his success. In 35 1/3 innings since, Veal has worked to a 5.09 ERA in 35 1/3 frames. While he managed to carry an impressive 4.75 K:BB ratio in 2012, the lefty has averaged 8.9 K/9 against 5.9 BB/9 over 2013-14.
- Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson are both vulnerable if the team doesn't improve, Rosenthal says. Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick says he wants the team to rely more on data, and that isn't Towers' forte. (Kendrick says, in fact, that one reason the Diamondbacks haven't employed as many defensive shifts as other teams is that they haven't studied them as much.) Still, Kendrick is backing both Towers and Gibson right now, despite the D-Backs' 5-14 start.
- When the Braves lost Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy to Tommy John surgery, they acted decisively, Rosenthal says. They quickly signed Ervin Santana, and their scouting team identified Aaron Harang, who was released by the Indians, as another good target. Both pitchers have been terrific so far in the young season.
- Stephen Drew is still the most logical choice at shortstop for the Tigers, Rosenthal says. Drew, of course, remains in qualifying-offer limbo, and the Tigers will need to wait until June if they want to avoid giving up a draft pick to sign him.
Snyder played for ten seasons in the big leagues, collecting 2,459 at bats and finishing with a career line of .224/.328/.382. The Diamondbacks drafted Snyder in 2002, and for several years, he shared Arizona's catching duties with Miguel Montero. In 2010, the Pirates acquired Snyder (and Pedro Ciriaco) for D.J. Carrasco, Ryan Church and Bobby Crosby, and Snyder spent an injury-plagued season and a half with Pittsburgh.
Snyder played in 76 games with the Astros in 2012, and spent a short time with the Orioles in 2013, playing for much of the season in Triple-A. The Rangers signed him in March after losing Geovany Soto to injury, but have gone with J.P. Arencibia and Robinson Chirinos at the big-league level since then.
The Pirates have announced that they've designated Travis Ishikawa for assignment. The move comes as no surprise, after the Bucs' acquisition of another left-handed first baseman, Ike Davis, via a trade with the Mets yesterday. The move clears space for Davis on the Pirates' active roster.
Ishikawa, 30, hit .206/.263/.382 in 38 plate appearances with the Pirates this season after beating out fellow lefty Andrew Lambo to share first base with righty Gaby Sanchez. Ishikawa hit .290/.389/.465 at the Triple-A level in 2013. In addition to the Pirates, he has played for the Giants, Brewers, Orioles and Yankees.
Toolsy Pirates outfield prospect Gregory Polanco ought to be the next top prospect to win a promotion, MLB.com's Jim Callis writes. MLB.com ranked Polanco the No. 13 prospect in baseball heading into the season, and he's done nothing to diminish his reputation since then, hitting .439/.475/.667 in 61 plate appearances so far for Triple-A Indianapolis. "He's done a little bit of everything," says Pirates assistant GM Kyle Stark. "It's been fun to watch. The exciting thing about him is he's extremely driven and has very good feel for making adjustments, so it allows him to keep getting better." Here are more notes from around the National League.
- MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo, meanwhile, argues for Archie Bradley of the Diamondbacks to be the next top prospect to reach the big leagues. Bradley, who raced through the Class A+ and Double-A levels last season, has a 3.31 ERA with 12 strikeouts and six walks in 16 1/3 innings for Triple-A Reno. Mayo suggests that it's not impossible that Bradley's impact on the Diamondbacks could be similar to Jose Fernandez's impact on the Marlins last year.
- With Ike Davis heading to the Pirates veteran Bobby Abreu could be making his way back to the big leagues with the Mets, Tim Rohan of the New York Times writes. In March, the Mets signed Abreu to a minor-league deal, suggesting to him that they might promote him to serve as a lefty pinch-hitter once they figured out what they would do with Davis and Lucas Duda. For now, Abreu is hitting .412/.487/.529 in his first 39 plate appearances for Triple-A Las Vegas.
Outside of the first round, the Orioles might not get much out of their 2010 draft, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun writes. Of course, their first-rounder, third overall pick Manny Machado, has turned out quite well. It's not automatic that the third overall pick will be a success, as Connolly points out -- other recent third overall picks have included Philip Humber, Jeff Clement, and Donavan Tate. Connolly suggests fans should be happy with the 2010 draft, even if the Orioles don't end up getting anyone but Machado from it. Here are more notes from the American League.
- Free agent infielder Cesar Izturis has received offers to play at Triple-A, but he's holding out for a big-league opportunity, MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo tweets. Izturis opted out of his minor-league deal with the Astros last month.
- The Rangers join the long list of teams that have interest in free-agent reliever Joel Hanrahan, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman writes. Hanrahan is recovering from arm troubles that cost him most of last season. He lives near Dallas.
- Shortstop Jason Bartlett, who recently retired, is interested in coaching in the Twins organization, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets. There are not any openings right now, since the season has already started.
Here's a look back at this week at MLBTR:
- The Padres signed infielder Jedd Gyorko to a six-year extension that includes five new seasons, going through 2019.
- The Athletics signed closer Sean Doolittle to a five-year extension.
- The Pirates acquired 1B Ike Davis from the Mets for RP Zack Thornton and a PTBNL.
- The Cardinals extended GM John Mozeliak for two years, through 2018.
- Rangers -- acquired P Hector Noesi from Mariners for cash considerations
- Athletics -- acquired C Blake Forsythe from Mets for future considerations
Designated For Assignment
- Yankees -- RP Cesar Cabral (link)
- Diamondbacks -- P Ryan Rowland-Smith (link)
- White Sox -- RP Donnie Veal (link)
- Rangers -- IF Andy Parrino (link)
- Red Sox -- IF Ryan Roberts (link)
- Astros -- SP Lucas Harrell (link)
- Athletics -- OF Sam Fuld (link)
- Diamondbacks -- P Alex Sanabia (link)
- Rangers -- RP Daniel McCutchen (link)
- Mets -- P John Lannan (link)
- Phillies -- RP Brad Lincoln (link)
Key Minor-League Signings
SATURDAY: McCutchen has accepted the Rangers' outright assignment to Triple-A Round Rock, MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo tweets.
WEDNESDAY: McCutchen has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A, reports MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan. As McCutchen has been outrighted previously, he will have the option of electing free agency.
MONDAY: The Rangers have designated right-hander Daniel McCutchen for assignment in order to clear a 40-man roster spot for fellow righty Colby Lewis, Rangers executive VP of communications John Blake announced (on Twitter).
The 31-year-old McCutchen tossed 2 1/3 innings for the Rangers, allowing a pair of earned runs on four hits (one homer) and a pair of walks without a strikeout. McCutchen, who is of no relation to last year's National League MVP, has a career 4.81 ERA with 4.9 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 191 Major League innings between the Pirates and Rangers. The former 13th round pick has a sound minor league track record, with a 3.75 ERA, 6.9 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 in 441 frames.
Lewis, 34, will be on the hill tonight for the Rangers after a lengthy rehab process from multiple injuries. The longtime Ranger underwent surgery to repair a torn flexor mass tendon in July 2012 and looked to be on the mend in 2013 before a hip injury led to surgery and sidelined him for the entirety of that season. He last appeared on a Major League mound in 2012 and had pitched to a solid 3.93 ERA with 8.1 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 506 1/3 innings with the Rangers since returning to the big leagues from Japan in 2010.
Texas has seen its rotation devastated by injuries to Derek Holland, Matt Harrison and an early ailment to Yu Darvish (he's since returned), so a healthy Lewis could be a much-needed shot in the arm as they look to prevent the A's from a third consecutive AL West Division Championship.
Mike Trout's extension with the Angels was a compromise, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal writes. Trout wanted a contract that was either shorter (four years, which would not have delayed his free agency eligibility) or much longer (up to 13 years). The Angels wanted the deal to be between those two numbers, but wanted to sign Trout for longer than the six years they eventually got. Trout's deal still allows him to become a free agent at age 28. Here are more notes from around the West divisions.
- Scott Kazmir says he strongly considered signing with the Astros last offseason before ultimately signing with the Athletics, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports. Kazmir attended Cypress Falls High School in Houston. "Yeah, it was serious," Kazmir says. "This is a great group of guys that are going to come up together and be a solid organization, a solid team in the big leagues. Definitely had interest." Days after Kazmir picked Oakland instead, the Astros signed Scott Feldman to a three-year deal.
- The Padres were bidders for Cuban middle infielders Erisbel Arruebarrena and Aledmys Diaz, Jeff Sanders of the Union-Tribune writes. Now the Padres are close to a deal with another Cuban player, pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne. The Padres' money from their TV deal has allowed them now only to get involved on players like Arruebarrena and Diaz, but to sign, for example, Josh Johnson and Joaquin Benoit. The Padres also recently signed infielder Jedd Gyorko to a long-term deal.
SATURDAY: The PTBNL in the deal is likely to be a 2013 draft pick, Heyman tweets. He also notes that that player, and not Thornton, is the "key piece." 2013 picks will not be eligible to be traded until the summer.
FRIDAY 6:22pm: The PTBNL is "fairly significant," tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. It is worth bearing in mind, as Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com points out on Twitter, that 2013 draft picks still cannot technically be included in a deal.
5:45pm: A long-awaited deal has finally been struck, as the Mets officially dealt first baseman Ike Davis to the Pirates in exchange for minor league righty Zack Thornton and a player to be named later. A deal involving the struggling Davis has long been rumored, with the Pirates long said to be a likely trade partner.
For New York, the departure of Davis means that the club will move ahead with Lucas Duda as its regular first baseman, a role that he had taken on early in 2014. It also marks the end to an ultimately disappointing tenure in New York for the 27-year-old, left-handed hitting slugger.
Meanwhile, the Pirates will take on the $3.14MM left on Davis's 2014 salary, and will control his rights via arbitration through 2016. Davis will presumably work in some form of platoon with the right-handed hitting Gaby Sanchez, who the club picked up after he too took steps backward after a promising early career.
Once a top-100 prospect, Davis raised expectations with a strong rookie campaign in 2010, in which he hit .264/.351/.440 with 19 home runs over 601 plate appearances at age 23. He was off to a hot start the next year, hitting .302/.383/.543, before he was sidelined with ankle issues. Before the 2012 season, Davis reportedly contracted valley fever, but nevertheless managed to hit 32 long balls in 584 trips to the dish. But his OBP dropped to .308 that year, and he has not returned to form since. Over 407 MLB plate appearances in 2013-14, Davis has just a .205/.329/.337 line with 10 home runs and a rising strikeout problem (he reached a career-high 26.8% K% last year.)
Thornton is a 25-year-old reliever who was working in Triple-A this season after reaching that level late last year for the first time. He did not appear on Baseball America's list of the Bucs' top prospects this year or last year. Pittsburgh acquired Thornton in exchange for Chris Resop in May of last year. According to Thornton's profile on PiratesProspects.com, he has been much more effective against same-handed hitters in his minor league career.
As the profile also notes, Thornton was left unprotected in this year's Rule 5 draft but was not selected even after a good showing in the Arizona Fall League. While he should provide depth to a struggling Mets pen, he seems a disappointing return for a player of Davis's former promise. It remains to be seen, of course, whether the PTBNL can bring additional value to the Mets.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com first tweeted that a deal was in the works. Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com (Twitter links) first reported that the deal was done, and that one or two prospects would head back to New York.