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NL Central Transaction Sunday: 8/2

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

BREWERS

7/28/20: Noted the loss of RHP Mike Morin to the Miami Marlins on an outright assignment waiver claim.

7/29/20: Optioned RHP Bobby Wahl to the ATS. Recalled C Jacob Nottingham from the ATS.

This move brings the Brewers to 15 pitchers and 15 position players. Wahl pitched in 2.1 IP over 3 games, faced 11 batters and allowed 4 hits, 2 of which were home runs. The only other 40-man roster pitcher the Brewers had available at the ATS was RHP Trey Supak, who is a starter with only 7 games above the AA level.

The club had 7 position players to choose from at the ATS that are on the 40-man roster, and opted for third catcher Nottingham over catcher David Freitas. The club went with Nottingham because he was already traveling with the club on the 3-person taxi squad, and they picked a catcher because Manny Pina was banged up by a foul ball in last night’s game.

Although Frietas is older, more experienced and known more for his glove, Nottingham is supposed to have a better bat. The funny thing is that Nottingham’s bat went into the tank last season, posting a .231/.313/.355 line and a 74 DRC+ over 332 PA in the Pacific Coast League, while everybody else seemed to be raking in that circuit. Although he has not been known for his defense, he did post a career-high 11.7 FRAA with AAA San Antonio last year. Nottingham probably won’t see much time with Narvaez and Pina ahead of him, and you can expect him to get sent down once rosters are trimmed to 28, if not before.

8/1/20: Placed CF Lorenzo Cain on the Restricted List. Active roster at 29. 40-man roster at 39. CPP at 54.

With the Cardinals quarantined in Milwaukee amidst a clubhouse outbreak, the 34-year old Cain with 3 young sons decided not to play the rest of the season. He is not considered in the high-risk category, and will therefore forfeit the rest of his salary and service time for this year. This was the 3rd year of a 5-year deal, and he was set to make a pro-rated $16 million. With the games against the Cardinals postponed so far, the Brewers have not made another roster move. As far as center field goes, Ben Gamel and Avisail Garcia would look to get most of the time, and they are already on the active roster. If the club is looking for another outfielder from the ATS, they have Corey Ray and Tyrone Taylor available. Ray is a lefty like Cain, but Taylor is an organizational soldier that got a little MLB experience last season.

8/2/20: Placed 1B/OF Ryan Braun on the 10-day IL, retroactive to July 30th (infected right index finger). Active roster at 28.

There has been no corresponding roster moves for either the Cain or Braun transactions, simply because one is not required yet. The Brewers haven’t played since July 29th at Pittsburgh. Thursday, August 30th was an off day, and the entire weekend series at home against the Cardinals was cancelled. The Brewers have a 2-game series at home against the White Sox starting tomorrow, and you can expect two transactions then. One of them will certainly be to activate LHP Brett Anderson from the 10-day IL. He is going back into the rotation, and was set to start the July 31st game against the Cardinals that ended up being cancelled. One could understand leaning towards outfielders Corey Ray or Tyrone Taylor to potentially play some center field.

CUBS

7/30/20: Optioned RHP Dillon Maples to the ATS. Recalled RHP Colin Rea from the ATS.

Maples has only pitched 2 games, but walked 4 batters out of 9 batters faced with only 1 strikeout. He came in on July 25th in mop-up duty in the 9th inning with the Cubs already losing 8-3 to the Brewers and retired the side in order with 1 strikeout. His performance on July 29th against the Reds was another story. Coming into the bottom of the 7th, with the Cubs down 9-5, this was his sequence: walk, walk, batter reached on E5, double, walk, walk. At that point, the score was 12-5. When the Cubs removed Maples for Duane Underwood, Underwood immediately got Shogo Akiyama to line into the fake triple play.

The Cubs’ bullpen is a dumpster fire, having walked 17.5% of the batters it has faced this season. Rex Brothers is going to be next if he doesn’t shape up. He’s already given up 2 HR and 3 BB in 2.1 IP. Craig Kimbrel is in danger of losing his closer’s job, and has 4 BB, 1 HBP, 2 HR, and 0 SO in 11 batters faced over 1.1 IP. Duane Underwood, Jr. has allowed 2 HR in 3.2 IP. James Norwood has allowed hits to 4 out of 9 batters faced over 1.2 IP, with 1 BB and 0 SO.

Rea just turned 30 years old, was initially drafted in the 12th round of the 2011 draft. The Padres called him up in August 2015, and he was initially in their 2016 starting rotation. He was then traded to the Marlins near the 2016 trade deadline as part of the Andrew Cashner package. The day after the trade, Rea made a start against the Cardinals on July 30th, but had to leave the game with one out in the 4th inning. Rea was placed on the disabled list the next day, and the day after that, he was traded back to the Padres for Luis Castillo, who was another player in the original deal, and is now in the Reds’ rotation. Miami felt like it had been dealt damaged goods.

That July 2016 start against the Cardinals was the last game Rea pitched in the majors. It turned out that he needed Tommy John surgery and missed all of 2017. He missed almost the entire first half of the 2018 season with a shoulder strain, then was optioned to the minors in late June after being activated. The Padres released him after the 2018 season, and he signed a minor league deal with the Cubs for 2019. Rea was one of the main starters last season for AAA Iowa, where he kept the ball on the ground at a decent clip, and had a 14-4 record. Despite his middling peripherals, 4.93 FIP and 5.49 xFIP, he was named Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year. Although Rea has only 26 career games in the majors, he has accrued 2 years and 140 days of MLB service time because of all that time spent on various injured lists. If he’s on the active roster for 31 days this season, he will be eligible for arbitration in the offseason. Rea has two minor league options left.

7/31/20: Signed RHP Cody Allen to a minor league deal, added him to the CPP and assigned him to the ATS. CPP at 58.

Allen was the Indians’ former closer who signed a free agent deal with the Angels for 2019 for $8.5 million guaranteed. After walking 20 batters in 23 IP, the Angels released him, and he’s been on minor league deals with the Twins and Rangers ever since. The Rangers released him on July 24th, and the Cubs have picked him up for bullpen depth.

8/1/20: AAA Iowa Cubs purchased the contract of LHP Matt Dermody of the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League. Cubs added him to the CPP and assigned him to the ATS. CPP at 59.

Dermody was a 9th round pick by the Blue Jays in the 2013 draft and had spent 7 years in that organization. He pitched 5 games for the Blue Jays in 2016 and 23 in 2017, all out of the bullpen. He had home run issues, was outrighted in March of 2018 and became an automatic Rule 55 minor league free agent this past November. In 4 games and 3 starts (only 11.1 IP) with Sugar Land, he had 17 SO and 6 BB. Dermody will serve as left-handed depth, as none of their lefties at the ATS have experience above the AA level.

8/2/20: Placed RHP James Norwood on the 10-day IL, retroactive to July 30th (right shoulder inflammation. Recalled LHP Justin Steele from the ATS.

Steele was an interesting choice here. He was the Cubs’ 4th round draft choice in 2014, but other than a handful of games in rookie ball, has been a starter only. It’s not too unusual to take a minor league starter and put him in the major league bullpen for a spin, but Steele has never pitched above the AA level. He was shut down in August of 2017 for Tommy John surgery, and only pitched 11 games in 2018. His 2019 season was shut down in June, he again pitched in only 11 games and he had the worst walk rate of his career. The other 40-man roster pitchers at the ATS all have experience at higher levels. Tyson Miller has 11 AAA starts under his belt. Adbert Alzolay has started 15 AAA games, and pitched 4 games in the majors last year, with 2 in relief. Jharel Cotton has MLB experience going back to 2016. The Cubs may have picked Steele because he’s a lefty, as the only lefties in the Cubs’ pen currently are Rex Brothers and Kyle Ryan. Steele has 2 minor league options left.

PIRATES

7/28/20: Placed RHP Clay Holmes on the 10-day IL (right forearm strain). Placed RHP Kyle Crick on the 10-day IL (right shoulder strain). Recalled RHP Geoff Hartlieb from the ATS. Purchased the contract of LHP Miguel Del Pozo from the ATS. 40-man roster now full.

We don’t know at this point how serious the injuries are, but Crick’s velocity has been down remarkably compared to last season. The club went with Del Pozo over other 40-man roster options at the ATS, including Blake Cederlind, Sam Howard and Cody Ponce. Ponce only has 4 career games above the AA level, and Cederlind was slowed in camp by a positive test for COVID-19. Thus, the real choice seemed to be between Del Pozo and Sam Howard, both lefties. James Marvel has been a starter, and both he and Yacksel Rios were both outrighted by the club this past offseason.

Del Pozo was originally signed by the Marlins as an 18-year old undrafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in November 2010. The Marlins purchased his contract in November of 2017 to stop him from becoming an automatic Rule 55 minor league free agent. He was optioned for the whole season, then outrighted and became a Rule 55 minor league free agent in November of 2018. He then signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, who traded him to the Angels organization in August of 2019.

The Angels purchased Del Pozo’s contract and he pitched 9.1 IP over 17 games with poor results. He walked 8 batters to only 11 strikeouts and allowed 3 home runs. The Angels outrighted him at the end of the season, and Del Pozo elected free agency in lieu of accepting the outright assignment. He was in the Pirates’ camp as a non-roster invitee on a minor league deal. Del Pozo is 29 years old, will turn 30 in October, and has 2 minor league options left.

Sam Howard, who the club claimed off waivers from the Rockies, was another option actually on the 40-man roster, and has 7 games more experience than Del Pozo. He also showed home runs issues with the Rockies, but with less control problems. The Pirates must have made this decision based on how both pitchers were throwing in Pirates’ camp.

8/2/20: Placed RHP Michael Feliz on the 10-day IL (right forearm discomfort). Placed RHP Mitch Keller on the 10-day IL (left side discomfort). Recalled LHP Sam Howard and RHP Cody Ponce from the ATS. Traded cash considerations to the New York Mets for RHP Tyler Bashlor. Optioned Bashlor to the ATS. To make room on the 40-man roster, designated LHP Robbie Erlin for assignment. Active roster at only 29. 40-man still full. CPP still at 58.

The Pirates are quickly running out of pitchers. Both Feliz and Keller had to leave yesterday’s game against the Cubs with injuries. Keller was yesterday’s starter and asked the staff to come out to the mound after he bounced a curveball far in front of the plate with 2 outs in the 3rd inning. Feliz left in the 8th when catcher Jacob Stallings called for the dugout after Feliz threw a changeup. The Bucs’ bullpen is in complete disarray, with several of the club’s preferred players on the shelf or suspended. The favorite to replace Keller in the rotation is JT Brubaker, who has 7 SO out of 20 batters faced over 2 games and 5 IP. Ponce and Howard were on the 3-man taxi squad, so they were convenient recalls. They were also the only real options the Pirates had. The only other 40-man roster pitcher the Pirates had at the ATS was Blake Cederlind, and due to his earlier exposure to COVID-19, he is behind the other pitchers in terms of his readiness to contribute.

Erlin was just added to the Pirates’ 40-man before the season started. He had only pitched in 2 games so far. He finished the game on July 25th, which was a 9-1 loss to the Cardinals, giving up a double, a triple, a single, hitting a batter, and allowing both of the runners he inherited to score. He also gave up 2 earned runs of his own. He performed much better on July 29th, pitching 2 innings with 2 hits allowed, but 3 strikeouts. Erlin is out of options, and has enough major league service to flat out refuse a minor league assignment without electing free agency. You can expect Erlin to be released if the Pirates can’t find a team like the Marlins to take him off their hands.

The club must feel that Bashlor has a better chance to help the club. Bashlor was an 11th round draft choice by the Mets in 2013, and has spent his entire career with that organization. The Mets purchased his contract in November of 2017. After being optioned to start the 2018 season, he was recalled on June 25th and spent the rest of the year with the big club. He went back and forth between the big club and AAA last season. Bashlor pitched 24 games in the majors in each of the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Last season was much worse than 2018 for Bashlor, as his walk rate spiked from about 9% to 16.5%. He also gave up 6 home runs in only 22 IP. The Mets had designated Bashlor for assignment to make room for David Peterson. He has not yet reported to the club, and the organization has decided to option Bashlor to the ATS, so he can get acclimated to a new club. The Pirates are currently playing short one man.

REDS

7/28/20: Placed RHP Robert Stephenson on the 10-day IL (mid-back strain). Activated C Tucker Barnhart from the paternity list

It was expected that Robert’s brother from another mother, catcher Tyler Stephenson, would be optioned once Barnhart came back, but Robert has gone down with a back injury. Robert’s injury is not expected to be serious. Tyler homered in his first ever plate appearance, the first Reds player to do so since 1950. The Reds now have 4 catching options, and this move takes the Reds back to only 14 pitchers.

Congratulations to Tucker Barnhart and his wife, who are now parents of a healthy baby boy, the second child for the couple. Barnhart has yet to play this season, and it is unclear to me if Casali has won the starting job, or if the catchers will be platooned.

7/29/20: Optioned C Tyler Stephenson to the ATS. Activated 2B Mike Moustakas from the COVID-19 Related IL. 40-man roster is full, CPP at 55.

In the absence of Moustakas, the reds went with a Josh VanMeter/Kyle Farmer platoon at second base. That combo went 0 for 11 in Moose’s absence. Stephenson is one of the top prospects in the Reds organization, so he is one to keep an eye on. With the Cubs losing 7-1 in the top of the 7th in the July 27th game against the Cubs, David Bell brought Stephenson in to catch in relief of Curt Casali, who had caught every inning of the season up to that point. He hit a solo HR in his first ever MLB plate appearance, got a 2-out single the next inning, then walked with the bases loaded for an RBI in the 9th.

7/30/20: Voided RHP Matt Bowman’s option to the ATS and converted it to a placement on the 10-day IL (sprained right elbow).

Bowman has one minor league option remaining, but it was determined that Bowman actually hurt himself prior to July 17th, when the option was made. The Reds could use some bullpen help, as they have already allowed 9 HR in 23.1 IP, but it is unknown when Bowman might be available. With Bowman and Robert Stephenson on the IL, the Reds only have 4 other 40-man roster pitchers theoretically available at the ATS. Of the four, Ryan Hendrix and Tony Santillan have never pitched above the AA level, and Santillan has never pitched in relief in the minors. Jose De Leon has 8 games of MLB experience and has been mostly a starter in his career, and Joel Kuhnel has 11 games of MLB experience, all from last year, and apparently has some type of shoulder issue.

7/31/20: Placed LHP Wade Miley on the 10-day IL (strained left groin), retroactive to July 28th. Activated 1B Matt Davidson from the COVID-19 Related IL. To make room on the 40-man roster, transferred RHP Matt Bowman from the 10-day IL to the 45-day IL. 40-man roster full.

Miley started the July 27th game against the Cubs and only lasted 1.2 IP and 57 pitches. He gave up 4 HR, 6 R, 5 ER, 2 BB and 2 HBP. He did strike out 3 batters. Tyler Mahle took the extra spot in the rotation and lasted 4 IP in his start. He will stay in the rotation until Miley can come back. For Miley to miss the minimum amount of time, the IL moved had to be made today, because the clubs can make an IL move retroactive for 3 days at the most.

Davidson started the 1st game at DH before being put on the COVID-19 Related IL. He has not been in quarantine for 14 days, and it appears because he didn’t test positive on an MLB approved test. It has been reported, however, that he was put on the COVID-19 Related IL because of some kind of a positive test. So I’m not sure what the grounds were, and if he did test positive, why he wasn’t in quarantine. Since Davidson’s absence, the Reds have gone with Jesse Winker at DH, with Christian Colon starting there when they faced the one lefty. Shutting Bowman down for a while saved the club from having to DFA a player to make room for Davidson.

This moves the club down to just 13 pitchers on the active roster with 17 position players. Projected 5th starter Anthony DeSclafani is expected to be activated on Sunday August 2nd to make a start, and you would think the club would make some kind of a move with a position player.

8/2/20: Placed 1B Joey Votto on the COVID-19 Related IL. Activated RHP Anthony DeSclafani from the 10-day IL. 40-man roster at 39. CPP at 54.

DeSclafani was set to be the 5th starter to open the season, but was placed on the shelf before the season opener due to a mile right teres muscle strain. He is being activated to start the 1st game of a doubleheader today against the Tigers. Votto told the Reds management that he was experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, although he has not yet tested positive.