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NL Central Transactions and News 7/18

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MLB: Spring Training-Washington Nationals at St. Louis Cardinals Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

We’re just five days away from MLB opening day, and 6 days away from the Cardinals’ first game. The clubs are starting to shake out their rosters and make some moves, a flurry of activity that will likely continue through Thursday. I’ll be keeping you updated on the NL Central moves throughout the season, likely in a weekend piece, together with other interesting tidbits around MLB.

CARDINALS

Derrick Goold tweeted yesterday that Giovanny Gallegos was on his way to St. Louis from Mexico and that he would try to be part of workouts that will take place today. Gallegos, Alex Reyes and Genesis Cabrera could all return to full workouts by Monday. Reyes has now confirmed that the delay in his activity was due to his testing positive for COVID, although he was asymptomatic. Although Gallegos is now back in St. Louis, manager Mike Shildt doubts that he will be the opening day closer. Right now, Ryan Helsley looks like the favorite for that job, but nothing is set in stone. The availability of Gallegos, Reyes and Cabrera are critical considerations in shaping the opening day roster, but I would doubt they would make the squad with only a handful of days pitched in camp.

The Cards will have an intrasquad game tomorrow, and then are set to have an exhibition against the Kansas City Royals at Busch Stadium on Wednesday, July 22nd, at 3:05 p.m.

CUBS

7/14/20: Added LHP Jack Patterson, LHP Justin Steele and RHP Keegan Thompson to the Club Player Pool and assigned them to the ATS. Signed C Jose Lobaton to a minor league deal, added him to the Club Player Pool and assigned him to the ATS. Club Player Pool at 55.

Steele is a 40-man roster player that was optioned during the first spring training. Thompson was a starter that finished the 2018 season in AA, but was hurt all last year. Patterson started 2019 as a reliever in A ball, but started in both Class A-Advanced and AA. Lobaton is a 35-year old switch-hitting catcher with over 7 years of MLB service, most recently with the 2018 Mets. He’s a depth signing. All except Steele are NRIs who were not invited to the first spring training.

7/16/20: Added RHP Cory Abbott and RHP Tyson Miller to the Club Player Pool and assigned them to the ATS. Club Player Pool at 57.

Miller is a 40-man roster player. Abbott was a starter in AA last year, and he was not invited to the first spring training. RHP Manuel Rodriguez and IF Zack Short are the only Cubs’ 40-man roster players that are not currently on the CPP.

7/17/20: Purchased the contract of IF Jason Kipnis from AAA Iowa. Outrighted RHP Trevor Megill to AAA Iowa, and assigned him to the ATS. 40-man roster still full, CPP still at 57.

The Cubs took Megill from the San Diego Padres in the major league portion of the December 2019 Rule 5 draft. To be able to send Megill to the minor leagues, the Cubs had to clear him through outright assignment waivers. The Padres then had the right to buy Megill back for $50,000 (half of the $100,000 Rule 5 draft price), but the Cubs sent the Padres a cash payment of an undisclosed amount to retain Megill’s rights.

Kipnis has over 8 years of MLB service, all of them with the Cleveland Indians. He had his 2020 option declined, then signed with the Cubs on a minor league deal. He will make a $1 million salary in the majors and is in the mix for the 2nd base starting job. Manager David Ross has not yet named a starter, but it looks like now it’s between Kipnis and rookie Nico Hoerner, with David Bote serving as a utility man. With this move, I don’t see how Daniel Descalso fits onto the Cubs’ roster, because Kipnis is also a lefty and essentially took his spot. Although he might stick at first with a 30-man squad, I would expect Descalso to be released at any time.

Anthony Rizzo still has lower back issues and is listed as day-to-day.

REDS

7/15/20: Added UT Derek Dietrich to the Club Player Pool. Club Player Pool now at 58.

Dietrich managed to post right around a league average wRC+ despite batting only .187 last year. Although he had 19 home runs in 306 PA and got unlucky with a .176 BABIP, there were no takers when the Reds outrighted him off of the 40-man roster. He was not named to the initial CPP because he tested positive for COVID at the intake screening.

7/17/20: Optioned OF Aristides Aquino, RHP Matt Bowman, RHP Joel Kuhnel and RHP Justin Shafer to the ATS. Re-assigned IF Jose Garcia and RHP Tyler Thornburg to the ATS.

Last August Aquino became the first major leaguer in the modern era to hit 13 home runs in 100 career plate appearances. He was also the first to hit 13 homers in 27 career games, and set a National League rookie record for home runs in a month with 14. It’s mildly surprising that they can’t find room for his bat with the DH in play, but the Reds have a truckload of outfielders.

7/18/20: Re-assigned LHP Jesse Biddle, UT Derek Dietrich, RHP Alex Powers, RHP Ruben Alaniz and IF Alfredo Rodriguez to the ATS.

The club also announced that NRI RHP Nate Jones, a reliever with 8 years of MLB service time with the Chicago White Sox, will make the opening day roster. The Reds’ 40-man roster is full, so a roster move will be required to make room. Jones has been plagued by injuries, and has only been able to pitch as many as 30 innings once since 2013. He’s set to make a pro-rated $1.5 million salary with incentives available.

BREWERS

The club has named RHP Brandon Woodruff to be the opening day starter. Non-roster invitee Logan Morrison figures to make a club as a 1B/DH option, but the 40-man roster is full and the club will have to clear a spot.

PIRATES

7/9/20: Placed RHP Hector Noesi on the minor league restricted list (opt out). Club Player Pool at 58.

Noesi was a non-roster invitee on a minor league deal that opted out of the season.

7/16/20: Placed RHP Keone Kela on the COVID-19 related injury list. 40-man roster at 35. CPP at 57. Re-assigned RHP Geoff Hartlieb (who had been optioned earlier but was in Summer Camp) to the Alternate Training Site. Re-assigned LHP Miguel Del Pozo to the Alternate Training Site.

The hits just keep on coming for the Pirates. Kela was announced as the club’s closer after the first spring training workout back in February, based on the strength of his performance in an injury-shortened 2019 season. The club will not name a designated closer and will just play the matchups. Kyle Crick probably has the most relevant experience.

The Pirates have not officially called this a placement on the COVID-19 related injured list, but the club has stated they can’t share anything about his status. It has not been confirmed one way or another whether he has tested positive for the virus. It is only known that both Kela and Ke’Bryan Hayes have not been able to participate in camp without an explantion.

If Kela’s unfortunate status is not enough, the club will surely announce more injured list moves in the next couple of days. OF Gregory Polanco’s positive test for COVID was disclosed on Friday, although no move for him has been announced. Polanco deserves recognition for behaving like a model citizen. He did not necessarily feel sick, but noticed a tickle in his throat, and he decided it would be a smart move to take a COVID test. He ended up testing positive, and there’s no telling how many other people he saved from catching it.

To top it off, the Pirates just tweeted that C Luke Maile will be out for the season. He broke his finger Thursday in an intrasquad game when he was hit by a pitch, and had surgery yesterday. He won’t be able to do anything baseball-related for 10-12 weeks. This leaves the Pirates with only one 40-man roster catcher, presumptive starter Jacob Stallings.

FORMER CARD NEWS

The Phillies released NRI Bud Norris on Thursday. The Orioles added 40-man infielder Ramon Urias to their CPP and assigned him to the club’s ATS. The Diamonbacks announced that NRI Jon Jay will make the club’s 30-man opening day roster as a back-up outfielder. He will make a pro-rated $1.5 million salary in the majors. Matt Adams elected to opt out of his minor league deal with the Mets and is now a free agent. Jose Martinez showed up to the Rays camp for the first time today because he had earlier tested positive for COVID.

BLUE JAYS NEED TO FIND A HOME FIELD

The Blue Jays were informed today by the Canadian government that they have been denied permission to play in Toronto this season. The primary issue was the government’s concern about players travelling to COVID-19 hotspots like Florida and having clubs that had been in COVID hotspots travelling to Canada. I’m not familiar with the ongoing discussions, but wouldn’t you think the club would had an answer before now? The Blue Jays now have 11 days until their scheduled home opener to scramble and find a place to play. The club’s AAA facility in Buffalo, New York looks to be a tentative front runner.

TELEVISED EXHIBITION TONIGHT

If you want to watch a real baseball game, it looks like tonight’s exhibition between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cleveland Indians at PNC park at 6:00 central time on MLB Network will be the first televised sporting event between two teams in the major sports since March 12th. You might want to check it out, as the Pirates are of course in our division, and all NL Central clubs will play the Indians this year. Joe Musgrove is starting the game for the Pirates, and he will get the nod for Opening Day between the Cards and the Pirates.