The Blue Jays and veteran catcher Erik Kratz have agreed to a minor league pact, according to Ben Nicholson-Smith and Shi Davidi of Sportsnet. He’ll join Triple-A Buffalo and provide the organization with some depth behind the plate. Kratz was designated for assignment by Pittsburgh last week and elected free agency rather than accepting an outright assignment to the Pirates’ Triple-A affiliate. Kratz, 36, has spent time with the Astros and Pirates at the big league level this season but struggled to a .094/.105/.153 batting line in 87 plate appearances. He entered the season with 23 home runs and a .218/.270/.397 batting line as a Major Leaguer though, demonstrating solid pop for a catcher even if his average and OBP skills are typically lacking. He’s also halted an above-average 34 percent of stolen base attempts against him over the life of his career and drawn consistently strong marks in the pitch-framing department from Baseball Prospectus. This will be the second stint with the Blue Jays for the Jackson Management Group client, who appeared in 34 games with Toronto back in 2014. Kratz will join Tony Sanchez and A.J.
The Rangers have added some depth to their rotation and bullpen, announcing the acquisition of right-handed starter Lucas Harrell and left-hander reliever Dario Alvarez from the Braves in exchange for minor league second baseman Travis Demeritte. Texas has designated infielder Matt Duffy for assignment to clear room on the 40-man roster. Both Harrell and Alvarez will join the big league club right away, per the Rangers’ announcement. [Related: Updated Texas Rangers Depth Chart] Harrell, 31, signed a minor league contract with the Tigers this offseason and opened the year pitching with Detroit’s Triple-A affiliate. After hitting the open market in late May, Harrell inked another minors pact, this time with the Braves, and worked his way up into Atlanta’s big league rotation, where he’s posted a 3.38 ERA with 6.4 K/9, 3.7 BB/9 and a 44.2 percent ground-ball rate in 29 1/3 innings spanning five starts
The Orioles announced today that they’ve designated outfielder Julio Borbon for assignment and reinstated Hyun Soo Kim from the 15-day disabled list. The club has also reinstated right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez from the paternity list, and he’ll take the spot of Dariel Alvarez, who was optioned out last night. Borbon, 30, appeared in five games for the Orioles and totaled 11 plate appearances, going 2-for-9 with a pair of sacrifices. The former Rangers outfielder has spent the bulk of the season with Double-A Bowie, where he’s batted .289/.353/.373 with 20 stolen bases in 29 attempts. The brief big league stop with the O’s was the first taste of the Majors for Borbon since 2013, but he does have a fair amount of experience; in 874 Major League plate appearances, Borbon is a .272/.317/.346 hitter with 47 steals in 61 attempts
The Angels have designated outfielder Todd Cunningham for assignment in order to clear a spot on the roster for left-hander Tyler Skaggs, who will return to a big league mound for the first time in nearly two years tonight, per Pedro Moura of the L.A. Times (Twitter link). Skaggs, 25, looked to be establishing himself as a long-term cog in the Halos’ rotation back in 2014 before a torn UCL presented him with the dreaded Tommy John roadblock. He underwent the procedure late in the 2014 season and spent all of 2015 rehabbing. While the team clearly hoped that Skaggs would return sooner than late July, his rehabilitation was slowed by tendinitis in his biceps, among other minor maladies. He’s been dominant since rebooting his rehab assignment in Triple-A, though, logging a 1.19 ERA with an eye-popping 35-to-3 K/BB ratio across 22 2/3 innings that spanned four starts. In his final pair of rehab starts — a total of 12 2/3 innings — Skaggs punched out 26 batters. He’ll give the Angels a much-needed option in the rotation, as the club has lost three pitchers — Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano — to torn UCLs this season and also lost C.J.
The Rangers announced this afternoon that they’ve recalled top infield prospect Joey Gallo from Triple-A Round Rock and optioned outfielder Jared Hoying back to Triple-A in his place. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reported shortly before the announcement that Gallo was being recalled (Twitter link). Gallo, 22, made his big league debut with the Rangers last season but struggled in the Majors, posting a .204/.301/.417 batting line. Strikeouts have long been an Achilles heel for Gallo, and that proved especially true in last season’s brief MLB tenure, as he whiffed an astounding 57 times in 123 plate appearances. Gallo, though, receives 80 grades for his power (on the 20-80 scouting scale) and did homer six times while drawing 15 walks in that stretch as well. This year, he’s dropped his strikeout rate at the Triple-A level by nearly 10 percent.
The Cubs have designated left-hander Clayton Richard for assignment in order to clear a spot on the roster for the newly acquired Aroldis Chapman, per ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers (Twitter link). The organization’s hope, according to Rogers, is that Richards will clear waivers and remain in the organization to be further stretched out at the Triple-A level. Richard, 32, enjoyed a solid comeback season with the 2015 Cubs, working to a 3.83 ERA with 4.7 K/9, 1.5 BB/9 and a 59.3 percent ground-ball rate in 47 2/3 innings out of the bullpen after inking a minor league contract. He was especially tough on opposing lefties, limiting same-handed batters to a .234/.269/.266 slash in 67 plate appearances. However, he’s struggled in 14 innings since re-signing with the Cubs, surrendering 10 earned runs (6.43 ERA) on 23 hits and seven walks with seven strikeouts in that time. The additions of Chapman and Mike Montgomery, in conjunction with the presence of Travis Wood on the roster, have made Richards an expendable fourth lefty in the ’pen for the time being. Richard is earning $2MM this season and has about $951K of that sum remaining through year’s end, so there’s a good chance that he will indeed clear waivers. Of course, he also has enough service time to refuse an outright assignment and test the open market without forfeiting the remainder of that salary, so it’s not a given that he’ll elect to stay in the Cubs organization.
The Rangers announced today that they’ve designated veteran right-hander Kyle Lohse for assignment and recalled right-hander Nick Martinez from Triple-A Round Rock to make tonight’s start. The 37-year-old Lohse made just two starts for the Rangers after signing a minor league deal, surrendering 13 runs on 15 hits and five walks with three strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings against the Twins and Angels. His minor league deal came with a base salary of $2MM, so he’ll receive the pro-rated version of that for his work with Texas, amounting to about $951K. Lohse struggled not only in his brief big league stint but also at Triple-A this season, where he posted a 5.06 ERA in 10 starts with Round Rock. Lohse’s 6.3 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and a 36.2 percent ground-ball rate. Lohse was quite effective into his mid-30s, logging a 3.28 ERA over four seasons from 2011-14 as a member of the Cardinals and Brewers, but he hit a wall in 2015 — the final season of a three-year, $33MM pact with Milwaukee — and limped to a 5.85 ERA in 152 1/3 innings of work. The Rangers could try to outright him to Triple-A to keep him in the organization for depth purposes, though the well-seasoned veteran has the service time to reject and retain the remainder of his salary while searching for an opportunity elsewhere.
The Blue Jays have agreed to a deal to acquire outfielder Melvin Upton from the Padres in exchange for an A-ball prospect, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). While financial details aren’t yet known, a “very substantial sum” of Upton’s contract will remain on San Diego’s books, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca tweets. The swap is likely to be finalized today, says Rosenthal, who had reported last night that Toronto was in the lead to add Upton. Among the other teams said to have had real interest were the Orioles and Indians, each of whom will need to look elsewhere to bolster their outfield reserves. Upton brings a versatile, right-handed-hitting bat to the Jays’ alignment. He is only checking in with a league-average batting line on the year — with a .256/.304/.439 slash that reflects the fact that he has struck out in nearly one-third of his plate appearances — but has had a bigger impact than that. Upton has also swatted 16 home runs and swiped twenty bags, both of which are more reminiscent of his top-level output in those departments from his days with the Rays. With a quality glove that is plenty capable of handling center field, Upton figures to be a frequently-used semi-regular for Toronto. The team hasn’t received much with the bat from center fielder Kevin Pillar this year, though he is a top-flight defender. Left fielder Michael Saunders has been a revelation, but despite his quality numbers this season against lefties could probably stand to take a rest from time to time when a southpaw is on the hill
2:37pm: The Cubs and Yankees have each formally announced the trade. Warren will join the Yankees’ Major League roster, while McKinney will head to Double-A Trenton. Torres and Crawford are each bound for Class-A Tampa. 11:03am: After months of being linked to a hard-throwing left-hander for their bullpen, the Cubs have reportedly acquired the hardest-throwing pitcher in all of Major League Baseball, reaching an agreement with the Yankees that will send Aroldis Chapman from New York to Chicago in exchange for shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres, right-hander Adam Warren and minor league outfielders Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford. The Cubs have been linked to Chapman and fellow lefty Andrew Miller for months, but the Yankees seemingly never wavered from their asking price of Kyle Schwarber in exchange for Miller, and the Cubs never budged on their refusal to discuss the injured slugger
The Blue Jays have designated outfielder Junior Lake for assignment in order to clear a spot on the roster for right fielder Jose Bautista, who has been activated from the disabled list, tweets Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star. Lake, 26, appeared in 19 games with the Jays this season, though he totaled just 38 plate appearances and batted a paltry .206/.289/.382 in his short stay north of the border. Lake first debuted with the Cubs back in 2013 at the age of 23 and posted an impressive .284/.332/.428 batting line with six homers in 254 plate appearances. That production, though, was buoyed by a .377 BABIP that he’s never since come close to replicating. Lake has also demonstrated a prolonged susceptibility to strikeouts in the Majors, having punched out in 31.1 percent of his plate appearances as a big leaguer. All told, he’s a career .236/.279/.377 hitter in the Majors. Bautista returns to the Blue Jays from a foot injury that has sidelined him since mid-June. Bautista is getting on base at a strong clip and hitting for power, but his .230/.360/.455 slash line is a departure from his recent seasons of excellence. He’ll hope for better results over the season’s final two and a half months as looks to bolster his stock heading into the free agent market.