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NL Central Transaction Sunday: 8/16

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MLB: St Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

BREWERS

8/10/20: Designated 1B/OF Logan Morrison for assignment. Activated IF Luis Urias from the COVID-19 Related IL. 40-man roster still at 39. CPP still at 56.

Starting with the club’s 3rd game, the Brewers used Morrison as the DH against right-handed pitching, with the exception of one game where he started at 1st base. In 28 PA over 9 games, Morrison went 3 for 25, with 1 HR, 3 BB and 8 SO with a .120/.214/.280 slash line. Morrison’s BABIP was .125, it’s a small sample, and the club has 7 other infielders, but clubs have less patience this year with fringe roster guys. The Brewers are determined to find out if Urias can contribute. He missed all of summer camp with an aysymptomatic COVID case. I had thought the club would just option Mark Mathias instead of dumping Morrison, but the Brewers are screwing around with playing Mathias in the outfield.

The Brewers are throwing Urias right into the fire tonight, starting him at 2B and putting Keston Hiura at DH, even though both are right-handed batters facing a right-handed pitcher. Urias was supposed to take over for Orlando Arcia at shortstop this season, but he missed the entire spring training 1.0 while recovering from surgery for a broken left hamate bone in his hand. He then missed the entire summer camp due to an asymptomatic case of COVID-19.

8/11/20: Optioned IF Mark Mathias to the ATS. Activated 1B/OF Ryan Braun from the 10-day IL.

Mathias was expected to be optioned once Braun was ready to go. Despite never playing the outfield before (he might have played it in college as long ago as 5 years, but never played it in his 5 year minor league career, Mathias got 3 starts in RF and 1 start in LF during his time with the club. He went 5 for 16 with no extra base hits, 1 stolen base, no walks and 4 strikeouts. Braun figures at least to DH against left-handed pitching, and maybe against all pitching now that Morrison is gone.

8/13/20: Optioned LHP Eric Lauer to the ATS. Placed RHP Justin Grimm on the 10-day IL (callus laceration on right index finger). Activated LHP Angel Perdomo from the COVID-19 Related IL and recalled him from the ATS. Purchased the contract of RHP Drew Rasmussen from the ATS. To make room for Rasmussen on the 40-man roster, transferred RHP Ray Black from the 10-day IL to the 45-day IL. 40-man full. CPP still at 56.

Lauer did well in his one relief appearance on July 26th, when he struck out 6 batters, only walked 1 and only allowed 1 hit over 2.2 IP. But his 2 starts were another story. Partly because the Brewers had a 3-game series with the Cardinals postponed after that appearance, Lauer had 11 days of rest before his August 7th start. Across his 2 starts, he only went 6.2 IP, but allowed 14 hits, and gave up 13 ER, 5 BB, 2 HR and 2 HBP, all against only 4 SO. The Brewers were down by 6 or more runs when Lauer left each game. Lauer wouldn’t have been available until several days and his rotation spot will not come up again until August 17th, which is an off day. The club is just starting a 10-game, 3-city road trip over 11 days, and figured they could use an additional relief arm in the meantime. It is unknown who will Lauer’s rotation spot when it comes back up, but the Brewers have a few relievers on the roster that could be considered starters.

Grimm does not figure to be on the IL for long, but he hasn’t pitched well anyway. Neither Rasmussen nor Perdomo has pitched in the majors before. Rasmussen is an especially interesting story because he has only 1 year of professional baseball experience, has never pitched at the AAA level and had 2 Tommy John surgeries before he was drafted by the Brewers in the 6th round of the 2018 draft. He was first drafted #31 overall by the Rays in the 2017 draft, but he was never signed because a pre-signing MRI revealed he had to have a second Tommy John surgery. He was in the middle of the comeback from the second surgery when the Brewers drafted him. Now 25-years old, Rasmussen rocketed through 3 levels of the Brewers system in 2019 (A, A-Advanced and AA), almost exclusively as a starter, and finished the season with 22 games and 18 starts with AA Biloxi. Overall, he pitched 27 games with 23 starts. His calling card is that he throws about 100 mph, and posted at least a 30% strikeout rate at every stop. Rasmussen’s walk rate spiked in AA to 11.4%, but it was still an impressive season, given all of the adversity he had to overcome.

Perdomo was signed by the Blue Jays back in November of 2011, spent 7 years in the organization, never advanced past Class A-Advanced and became an automatic Rule 55 minor league free agent. He had always been a high strikeout pitcher, but had control issues. He signed a minor league deal with the Brewers for 2019, where he was converted to full-time relief. After 7 games with AA, he pitched 40 games for AAA San Antonio. Perdomo posted a 35% strikeout rate at AAA, but his control issues remained, as he paired it with a 15.5% walk rate. He was added to the 40-man roster this past November, but missed all of summer camp after testing positive for COVID-19.

8/14/20: Announced that 1B/OF Logan Morrison elected free agency in lieu of accepting an outright assignment.

CUBS

8/16/20: Placed RHP Tyler Chatwood on the 10-day IL, retroactive to August 13th (mid-back strain). Purchased the contract of RHP Jason Adam from the ATS. To make room on the 40-man roster, designated RHP Jharel Cotton for assignment. CPP at 58.

Chatwood was scratched from his start two nights ago with mid-back tightness. He was replaced by Alec Mills, which required Colin Rea to make a spot start yesterday. Although manager David Ross had said Chatwood was supposed to be good to go tomorrow, the situation changed this morning.

Adam, who just turned 29, was originally drafted in the 5th round of the 2010 draft by the Royals, who signed him for over-slot money to stop him from taking a scholarship to the University of Missouri. He didn’t sign until mid-August, so his first professional season was 2011. A starting pitching prospect at the time, the Royals traded Adam to the Twins in August of 2014. Adam would pitch only two games for the Twins organization, as he would miss the next 2 seasons with a stress fracture in his elbow and have 4 surgeries. The first was to stabilize the stress fracture. The second was due to an infection, and the screws had to be removed. The third was a scope to clean up the insides of the elbow, and the fourth put a screw back in, along with stem cells from his hip.

With his arm held together by baling wire, Adam became an automatic Rule 55 minor league free agent after the 2016 season and signed a minor league deal with the Padres for 2017. But another setback with his arm limited him to only 8 games pitched and 8.2 IP, and the Padres released him in mid-August. The Royals signed him back to a minor league deal a few days later. After posting an impressive strikeout rate in the minors, the Royals called him up to the big club in May of 2018, where he pitched 31 games out of the bullpen. He had decent peripherals, but had issues with homers, as he allowed 9 in 32.1 IP. The Royals optioned Adam in August, and never returned. After being non-tendered in the offseason and signed to another minor league deal with the Royals, Adam was traded to the Blue Jays for cash in spring training of 2019.

Adam suffered a lat strain which put him out of action until July. But after 11 mostly 1-inning minor league outings where he struck out 20 batters, the Blue Jays purchased his contract on August 1st. After pitching 23 games for the Blue Jays with unimpressive peripherals, including the lowest strikeout rate he has posted in some time, the Blue Jays non-tendered him in the offseason, and he signed a minor league deal with the Cubs for 2020. He features a low-90s fastball, a power curve and an average change. The DFA of Cotton to make room for Adam is a little surprising, because the Cubs could use another starter with Chatwood on the shelf and a few doubleheaders coming up. Cotton has actual MLB starting experience, even if the last of it was in 2017.

PIRATES

8/11/20: Placed RHP Joe Musgrove on the 10-day IL (right tricep inflammation). Claimed RHP Nick Tropeano on outright assignment waivers from the New York Yankees and optioned him to the ATS. To make room for Tropeano on the 40-man roster, transferred RHP Clay Holmes from the 10-day IL to the 45-day IL. 40-man roster full. Active roster at 27. CPP at 57.

The Pirates can’t catch a break at all. The club used the Steven Brault/Chad Kuhl starting combination on Friday, August 7th, starting Kuhl this time instead of Brault. After 4 innings, Brault came on in the top of the 5th, and faced 6 batters, giving up 3 hits and 3 walks without retiring a batter. Brault started the game on August 9th, on what would have been Musgrove’s turn, pitching 2 innings before being relieved by Chris Stratton. Musgrove was supposedly scratched from that August 9th start because of right ankle soreness. Now we’re told that the club’s #1 starter has a triceps problem in addition to that. The Pirates have 9 pitchers on the injured list, 5 of whom are on the 45-day variety.

Tropeano was initially drafted in the 5th round of the 2011 draft by the Astros. He’s been a starter almost exclusively in his career, relying on a slow fastball paired with deception and a good changeup. The Astros purchased his contract on September 2nd, 2014, and he pitched 4 games in the rotation. In the offseason, the Astros flipped Tropeano and catcher Carlos Perez to the Angels for catcher Hank Conger. After 20 starts across the 2015 and 2016 seasons, Tropeano had Tommy John surgery late in the 2016 season and missed all of 2017. Home runs and walks continued to be an issue for Tropeano in 2018 and between 3 injured list stints for shoulder inflammation, he could only make 14 starts that season before he was shut down for good in August. Tropeano returned to the Angels last season, but gave up 6 homers and 6 walks in 13.2 IP in the majors, and spent most of the season in AAA before being the Angles tried to outright him to the minors.

After electing free agency in lieu of accepting an outright assignment, Tropeano signed a minor league deal with the Yankees for 2020. The club purchased his contract on August 6th, but designated him for assignment two days later and before he got in a game. It’s unknown what the Pirates plan to do with the rotation at this point. They have had a couple of days to reset because their 3-game series with the Cardinals from August 10th to August 12th was postponed due to the COVID-19 issues with the Cardinals. One option is to split up the Brault/Kuhl combination. Tropeano has been optioned to the ATS, so they don’t immediately expect him to make a start. If the club splits up the Brault/Kuhl combo, that would leave the club with a rotation of Williams, Holland, Brubaker, Brault and Kuhl. The Pirates have a 4-game series with the Reds starting on August 13th, so they don’t have to make a corresponding roster move until then. They could get through this series with a 4-man rotation because they have a scheduled off day on the Monday following the conclusion of the series with the Reds. Tropeano is arbitration-eligible and has 1 minor league option left.

8/13/20: Activated RHP Keone Kela from the COVID-19 Related IL. To make room on the 40-man roster, designated LHP Miguel Del Pozo for assignment. Active roster at 28. 40-man roster still full. CPP still at 57.

Kela takes the roster spot of Joe Musgrove, who was placed on the IL during the postponed series with the Cardinals, and his addition brings the club back to a full 28-man active roster for its series with the Reds. After the club lost Felipe Vazquez to sex offense charges and Edgar Santana to a PED suspension, Kela was set to be the closer, but he missed all of summer camp after testing positive for COVID-19. This is a big boost for the club, as four of the club’s other top relievers have all landed on the injured list, with 3 of them being out for the season. Del Pozo had control problems and in general couldn’t get anybody out. He probably would not have been in the majors with the club in a normal season.

8/15/20: Announced the LHP Miguel Del Pozo had cleared outright assignment waivers and has been outrighted to the ATS. CPP at 58?

The Pirates have not specified whether Del Pozo is off of the Club Player Pool completely or whether the fact that he went unclaimed on waivers means he is still part of the Pirates’ CPP.

REDS

8/9/20: Traded LHP Brooks Raley to the Houston Astros for a player to be named later.

Raley had been designated for assignment by the club on August 6th as part of a series of moves to get the Reds’ roster down to 28 players.

8/11/20: Placed RHP Pedro Strop on the 10-day IL, retroactive to August 8th (strained right groin). Recalled IF Josh VanMeter from the ATS.

Strop had to leave the August 7th game with a groin injury, and after further evaluation, it was determined that it was bad enough that he would have to go on the injured list. He has pitched in 4 games and has walked 6 of the 15 batters he has faced over 3.1 IP. VanMeter was demoted on August 6th when the team had to go down to 28 players. Before that he had made 3 starts at 2B, 1 start at 1B, and in 17 PA, went 0 for 14 with 2 BB, 7 SO, and 1 HBP. This move takes the Reds down to only 13 pitchers again.

8/12/20: Optioned RHP Joel Kuhnel to the ATS. Activated LHP Wade Miley from the 10-day IL.

The Reds activated Miley from the 10-day IL to start today against the Royals. Kuhnel only appeared once on August 9th, and gave up 2 solo homers to the Brewers out of 5 batters faced over 1 IP. Tyler Mahle figures to go back to the bullpen.

8/14/20: Designated IF Christian Colon for assignment. Purchased the contract of RHP Tyler Thornburg. 40-man roster still at 39. Confirmed that the club added OF Mark Payton to the CPP. CPP at 57.

The club only had 13 pitchers on hand, and was in sore need of another relief arm after starters Anthony DeSclafani and Wade Miley lasted only 2 IP and 1.2 IP, respectively, in the club’s last 2 games. The club pretty much had to get rid of a position player somehow. Since 2B Mike Moustakas went on the shelf on August 9th, Colon has started two games there, with Kyle Farmer and Josh VanMeter starting one game each. He started 4 total games at 2B, 2 at DH, with another handful of innings thrown in at 2B and 1B. In 24 PA, Colon slashed .130/.167/.174. Of the position players with available options, Nick Senzel is the starting CF, and Jesse Winker has been the starting DH. The other two are Kyle Farmer and Josh VanMeter. Farmer has filled in nicely in the middle infield on defense and is also a potential 3rd catcher. VanMeter hasn’t hit at all, slashing only .048/.200/.190 over 25 PA, but the club must feel that the 25-year old VanMeter has a much more projectable future than the 31-year old Colon and is a more valuable player going forward.

Thornburg, now 31 years old, was originally drafted by the Brewers in the 3rd round of the 2010 draft, and made his major league debut in June of 2012. For the first two years of his career, he started a handful of games, but has remained in the bullpen ever since. Thornburg lost a little over half of the 2014 season to a sore elbow, and was traded to the Red Sox in a multi-player deal in December of 2016. He missed all of 2017 with a right shoulder injury and half of the 2018 season while recovering from thoracic outlet surgery on that same right shoulder. He pitched his last major league game on May 21st of 2019 because he went on the injured list with a right hip impingement and was then released by the Red Sox the following July after refusing a minor league assignment. Thornburg signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers for the rest of the season, but never made it back to the majors and became an automatic Rule 55 minor league free agent after the season was over. He signed a minor league deal for 2020 with the Reds. His walk rate has steadily increased over the past few years, and he has not pitched well since 2016, when he posted a 1.9 fWAR.

8/15/20: Claimed OF Nick Williams on outright assignment waivers from the Philadelphia Phillies and optioned him to the ATS. 40-man roster full. CPP at 58.

Williams was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft by the Rangers as an 18-year old. At the 2015 trade deadline, he was part of a package of players the Phillies received from the Rangers in the Cole Hamels trade. The Phillies purchased his contract in November of 2016 to avoid losing him in the Rule 5 draft. The Phillies optioned him to start the 2017 season, but recalled him on June 30th, and he stayed in the majors until riding the AAA shuttle for most of the 2019 season. He was noted as having some of the best overall tools in the Phillies’ organization, but was prone to poor plate discipline, pitch recognition, baserunning and defense at different times. Williams started in the outfield for over half of the season in each of the 2017 and 2018 seasons, and flashed some power, but his on-base, strikeout and defense issues combined to give him negative WARP seasons. Everything went in the tank for Williams in 2019 when the Phillies got Bryce Harper and Williams was passed over for playing time in favor of other candidates. When he did get in the games, he posted a walk rate of less than 4% and a strikeout rate of almost 40%. This is his final option year, and I’m not sure where he could fit into the Reds’ crowded outfield mix. If he ends up spending significant time on the active roster, Williams could creep into Super Two territory.