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NL Central Transaction Sunday Night: 8/30

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Cleveland Indians v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

BREWERS

8/26/20: Released UT Brock Holt.

The Brewers owe Holt the remainder of his prorated $2.5 million salary, plus a $750,000 buyout for not picking his 2021 option.

8/27/20: Activated RHP Justin Grimm from the 10-day IL and designated him as the 29th man for the doubleheader.

8/28/20: Designated RHP Justin Grimm for assignment. Placed C Manny Pina on the 10-day IL (torn meniscus in right knee). Recalled C Jacob Nottingham from the ATS. 40-man roster at 39, CPP at 56.

Grimm was activated yesterday from the injured list and designated as the 29th man for yesterday’s doubleheader with the Reds. Because Grimm couldn’t be optioned to the minor leagues without his consent, you could almost see this move coming. The only way to get him off off the active roster immediately would be to DFA him, and that’s what the Brewers did. He actually pitched in Game 2 of the doubleheader, coming into the game in the 7th inning with the Brewers down 4-0. He promptly gave up a single and a 2-run HR. Grimm’s time in Milwaukee didn’t work out, as he had an injured list stint and was charged with 9 ER on 9 hits and gave up 4 HR in 4.2 IP over 4 games pitched with 4 walks, although he did strike out 6.

Pina injured himself on a pickoff play last night. Reds starter Wade Miley balked by stepping towards home plate then making a surprise throw to first. Pina was on first base, planted his right foot and dove awkwardly back to the bag, and tore up his knee in the process. Pina started 12 out of the Brewers’ 30 games as the short side of a platoon at catcher, and in 45 PA, slashed .233/.333/.410 with 2 homers and a 104 wRC+. He will have surgery on his knee and he’s likely out for the season. Nottingham has only 14 career games in the majors at catcher with 6 starts, and no starts since 2018. He’s on his final option year, so the club would do well to get a look at him before they have to make a decision on his future. He hit very poorly in AAA last year.

CUBS

8/25/20: Optioned RHP Jason Adam and OF Ian Miller to the ATS. Activated RHP Tyler Chatwood and LHP Jose Quintana from the 10-day IL.

Chatwood made 3 starts for the club before going on the IL with a mid-back strain. He got BABIPd around the yard a little bit, but had a SO/BB ratio of almost 6. He will get the start tonight at Detroit. Quintana was supposed to be the #5 starter to begin the season, but injured a nerve in his hand while washing dishes. The club is going to use him in the bullpen to start with and keep Alec Mills in the rotation. Quintana will join Kyle Ryan as the only lefties in the Cubs’ pen.

Adam only pitched 3 games in relief for the club, but struck out half the batters he faced. The one time he inherited runners, he allowed both of them to score. Plus he allowed 3 earned runs of his own in 3.1 IP. His .667 BABIP allowed indicates he’s been a tad unlucky, to say the least. Miller was only on the active roster for 2 days, and he only appeared once, to pinch run for Jason Kipnis in the club’s August 23rd victory over the White Sox. These moves give the Cubs 15 pitchers and 13 position players.

8/26/20: Released RHP Kelvin Herrera from his minor league deal. CPP at 57.

8/29/20: Recalled RHP Adbert Alzolay as the 29th man for the doubleheader and returned him to the ATS after the 2nd game.

8/30/20: Designated C Josh Phegley for assignment. Traded 2 players to be named later or cash considerations to the Tampa Bay Rays for 1B/DH Jose Martinez. Active roster at 27. 40-man roster still full. Signed RHP AJ Ramos to a minor league deal, added him to the Club Player Pool, and assigned him to the ATS. CPP at 58.

The Cubs are trying to upgrade at DH, apparently because they’ve only gotten a .204/.304/.344 slash line and a 77 wRC+ out of the spot, which would put them near the bottom of the National League. For 22 out of the club’s 33 games, the Cubs have used one of their catchers to DH, either the switch-hitting Victor Caratini (12) or Willson Contreras (10). This required the club to carry Phegley, a third catcher, who basically has rotted on the bench doing nothing. He has no starts at catcher, 2 starts at DH and only 18 PA for the season. He had 1 hit, which was a homer, 1 walk, got hit once and struck out 3 times.

Jose Martinez had been known as a lefty-masher when he was with the Cardinals, and his numbers regressed across the board last year because he had trouble hitting cutters and sliders. He’s not hitting incredibly well right now either, slashing .239/.329/.388 in 13 starts at DH and 6 at 1B for the Rays over 76 PA. Putting him in the field is not advised, but he could be useful as a DH against left-handed pitching. The Cubs are playing short one man until he reports. Martinez is playing this year on the 2nd year of a 2-year deal, with a prorated $2 million salary plus incentives. After this season, he has 2 more arbitration years and still has 2 minor league options left.

Ramos pitched parts of 6 seasons with the Marlins, and parts of two seasons with the Mets. He was the Marlins closer from 2015 until he was traded to the Mets at the 2017 trade deadline. He got shut down for the 2018 season in May of 2018 with a torn labrum and hasn’t pitched in MLB since. Ramos spent all of last season rehabbing, then signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers for 2020, from which he was just released. He survived concerning double digit walk rates by striking out close to 30% of the batters he faced and keeping the ball in the ball park. But his walk issues got worse over time and he hasn’t really been good since 2016. Ramos will turn 34 on September 20th. If he can get close to his earlier form, he could help the Cubs bullpen this year.

PIRATES

8/24/20: Designated OF Guillermo Heredia for assignment. Claimed RHP Carson Fulmer on outright assignment waivers from the Detroit Tigers. 40-man roster still full. CPP still at 58.

Fulmer was drafted 8th overall by the White Sox out of Vanderbilt in 2015, and was called up in 2016 after only 17 starts as high as the AA level and only 26 total professional starts. Highly touted for his upper 90s fastball and power curve, he struggled to develop a 3rd pitch, and had massive control problems. The White Sox gave him a shot at various times over 3 seasons in the rotation before finally deciding to convert him to relief to see if his hard stuff would play. It didn’t work out. Fulmer has a career 18.6% K rate, about a 14% career walk rate and a career HR/9 rate of 1.79. The White Sox designated him for assignment on opening day to set their 2020 roster and after the Tigers claimed him 7 days later, they designated him as well. Fulmer did not necessarily perform poorly in his 7-game stint with the Tigers, as he didn’t allow any inherited runners to score, but he did allow 5 ER and 8 hits in only 6.2 IP.

The Pirates are fresh out of 45-day IL moves at the moment and decided to trim Heredia. With Gregory Polanco back, and the club’s insistence on turning Cole Tucker into an outfielder, the Pirates decided to dump Heredia. It was an interesting choice as Heredia still had one additional minor league option remaining even if the option this year had been burned. It hasn’t been burned, because he only spent 18 days on option before the DFA today. Heredia was always considered to be an excellent defender at all 3 of the outfield positions, but he hadn’t been able to hit in very brief trials in the majors. The club doesn’t seem to care much about defense, because they won’t even play Jarrod Dyson in center field on a regular basis, instead benching him at various times for Tucker and even JT Riddle. Heredia started the year with the club while Polanco was on the COVID-19 Related IL, but was optioned after 18 PA when the club had to go down from 30 players to 28. In 8 games, he had 3 singles, 2 walks and 4 strikeouts, and all it cost them was $1 million.

The Pirates have an off day today and Fulmer has yet to report to the club. Fulmer, who will turn 27 in December, is out of options and Heredia had already been optioned, thus the club will have to make another roster move to add Fulmer to the active roster whenever he reports.

8/26/20: Traded a player to be named later and cash considerations to the Philadelphia Phillies for LHP Austin Davis.

This transaction was announced this afternoon in the middle of the club’s game with the White Sox. Davis was a 7th round draft choice by the Phillies in 2014. The Phillies added him to the 40-man roster on June 18th, 2018 and he pitched 32 games out of the bullpen in 2018. He wasn’t that bad that season, but missed a couple of weeks with a back injury after he was used 3 days in a row in late July. Davis had always been a strikeout machine in the higher minors, but he was up and down from the minors all last year, and in the majors, both his walk and home run rates spiked dramatically, while his strikeout rate dropped. He only pitched 14 games and 20.2 IP, but allowed 6 HRs and 14 walks. His HR/FB rate was unlike anything he had ever posted in the past. Although on the opening day roster, the Phillies optioned him on August 14th after only 4 games pitched, in which he threw 3 innings, and allowed 10 hits and 7 earned runs. He was DFAd a week later.

Davis was 6 days shy of 1 year of MLB service before this season started and had 2 minor league options remaining. Because he was on the Phillies’ 40-man roster, he must be added to the Pirates’ 40-man. The Pirates’ 40-man roster is full, and the club has not announced a corresponding roster move, which is strange. Although the club would not have to clear space on the active roster until he reports, the rules require a 40-man roster spot to be cleared at the time of a trade or waiver claim. Perhaps that rule is being relaxed because of this year’s pandemic.

8/27/20: Placed RHP Keone Kela on the 10-day IL, retroactive to August 24th (right forearm tightness). Placed IF Colin Moran on the 7-day IL (concussion), retroactive to August 24th. Recalled RHP Nick Mears and 1B Will Craig from the ATS. Added RHP Cody Ponce to the active roster as the 29th man for the doubleheader and returned him to the ATS after the 2nd game. Claimed OF Anthony Alford on outright assignment waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays. Placed LHP Austin Davis on the COVID-19 Related IL.

There’s a lot to unpack here. Kela hadn’t been able to pitch for a while because of the pain in his forearm, and the club finally decided that an IL move would be needed. Colin Moran was taken out of an August 23rd game against the Brewers after colliding at 1st base with 6’4”, 250 pounder Avisail Garcia. Ponce was added to start the 2nd game of the doubleheader against the Cardinals. The club recalled Craig to replace Moran on the roster for the time being instead of prospect Ke’Bryan Hayes because they are comfortable with Erik Gonzalez, JT Riddle and even Jose Osuna at 3rd base.

Apparently, Austin Davis was never added to the 40-man roster after yesterday’s trade, and in a quiet move, he has been allowed to be placed on the COVID-19 Related IL, despite never being added to the Pirates’ 40-man roster to begin with. There is no other way to describe a 10-day IL placement without a reason. This was not mentioned by the Pirates on their Twitter account or in any other source I could find except the transaction pages. It’s very odd. There are other players that have come from other clubs that have had to go through the COVID protocol with the new club without being placed on the IL. Davis’s roster spot appears to be in limbo, and a 40-man roster move will have to be made whenever he is activated.

Alford was taken in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft by the Blue Jays when he was a month shy of his 17th birthday. For the first few years after he was drafted, Alford played both minor league baseball and college football. He was a quarterback for Southern Mississippi in 2012 and after he transferred to Ole Miss, played safety for that school in 2014. In the middle of the 2014 football season (while Ole Miss was ranked #1 in the country) he announced he was leaving Ole Miss to play baseball full time. Prior to that, his contract allowed him to play baseball only in the summer.

At first, he was noted for his on base percentage and speed, with his OBP hovering around .400 in 2015 and 2017. But when he got to AAA, his patience disappeared with his walk rate down to the single digits, and his strikeout rate approached 30% with no power to compensate. The Blue Jays added him to the 40-man roster after the 2016 season to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, and called him up for short stints in every season from 2017 through 2019. After only 8 trips to the plate in the majors in 2017, he broke his hamate bone. Before this season, in 59 career PA, he had slashed .179/.233/.286 with 3 walks and 23 strikeouts, and 13 starts in the field. Now out of options, he started this season on the Blue Jays’ active roster and got 4 starts in LF and 2 starts in CF, slashing .188/.188/.375 with no walks, 1 homer and 7 strikeouts in 16 PA.

Alford has always had a lot of tools, but his injury history, strikeout issues and the fact that the raw power many believe he had has yet to manifest itself have all combined to prevent Alford from getting traction in the majors. Now 26 years old, he’ll try to stick with the Pirates as a fourth outfielder and defensive replacement.

8/28/20: Traded CF Jarrod Dyson to the Chicago White Sox for $243,300 in International Slot Bonus Pool money. Recalled OF Jason Martin from the ATS. Noted the loss of OF Guillermo Heredia to the New York Mets on an outright assignment waiver claim. 40-man roster full with the addition of Alford, CPP at 58 with the addition of Alford.

Dyson was not getting much playing time lately even against right-handed pitching as the organization continued with its plan to make infielder Cole Tucker an outfielder, specifically a center fielder. Dyson got 15 total starts in CF this season, and slashed .157/.218/.157 in 55 PA, with 8 singles, 4 walks and 10 strikeouts. Typically international slot bonus pool money must be traded in $250,000 chunks, but the White Sox only had $243,400 left, and for that reason it was allowed by the rules. The 2019-2020 international signing period has been extended from July 2nd to October 15th. Martin, although impressing the manager in camp, will likely be a temporary option until Alford clears the protocols and joins the club. Dyson’s removal from the 40-man roster cleared the required spot for Alford, although it was strange that the club was not required to make a 40-man roster move on the day that Alford was claimed.

8/29/20: Optioned 1B Will Craig and RHP Nick Mears to the ATS. Activated RHP Kyle Crick from the 10-day IL. Activated RHP Carson Fulmer to the active roster.

The club wanted to get Crick back from the injured list, because he’s one of their more experienced relievers and Fulmer had to be added to the active roster because he was out of options. This series of moves takes the Pirates to 16 pitchers and 12 position players. The club could always use the additional pitching, as they only have 2 days off the rest of the year, and will have to play 15 games in this 13-day stretch.

8/30/20: Placed OF Bryan Reynolds on the paternity list. Recalled 1B Will Craig from the ATS.

REDS

8/24/20: Designated LHP Cody Reed for assignment. Activated RHP Robert Stephenson from the 10-day IL. 40-man roster at 39, CPP at 57.

Reed was the centerpiece the Reds got in the Johnny Cueto trade with the Royals, but he never panned out. He got crushed in his time in the rotation, and although he did a fine job at keeping the ball on the ground, he had major control problems. The Reds converted him to relief, but left him in AAA for all but 3 games last year. He had 8 walks against only 10 strikeouts in 9.1 IP over 8 games this year. He was out of options, which limited what the Reds could do with him. The Reds hope Stephenson’s return will help their bullpen woes.

8/25/20: Placed RHP Anthony DeSclafani on the paternity list. Purchased the contract of LHP Jesse Biddle from the ATS. 40-man roster full.

Biddle was drafted #27 overall by the Phillies out of high school in 2010. He had a hard time in the Phillies system, first being troubled by control issues, then sustaining a weird head injury while driving in a hailstorm that shut his 2014 season down early, then missing the entire 2016 season with Tommy John surgery. The Phillies had added him to the 40-man roster after the 2014 season to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, but he’s bounced around a lot since then. The Phiillies traded him to the Pirates in February of 2016, who then lost him to the Braves on an outright assignment waiver claim.

Biddle rehabbed all of 2016 in the Braves organization, then resurfaced as a reliever in AA in 2017, where he did well. But his control issues resurfaced in the majors. The Braves had him in the bullpen for 60 games in 2018, and he actually performed decent, striking out 25% of batters, but still had a double digit walk rate. Everything went off the rails in 2019. Injuries and ineffectiveness led the Braves to flip Biddle to the Mariners, who then lost him to the Rangers on an outright assignment waiver claim about a month later. After the Rangers had him for about a month, Biddle was shut down for the season with left shoulder fatigue. The Rangers outrighted Biddle to the minors after the 2019 season, but Biddle elected free agency immediately, as he had the right to do, because he would have qualified for Super Two status. He then signed a minor league deal with the Reds with an invite to spring training. Biddle has been with the club in both spring training 1.0, and was assigned to the ATS when it was first formed.

Biddle has 2 years and 166 days of major league service, meaning if he is not non-tendered after this season, he will be eligible for arbitration in the offseason if he sticks around for just a few days. He is also out of minor league options.

8/26: Optioned OF Travis Jankowski to the ATS. Activated RHP Pedro Strop from the 10-day IL and designated him for assignment. Purchased the contract of IF Jose Garcia from the ATS. 40-man roster still full. CPP at 56.

This was Jankowski’s fourth minor league option. From 2012 through 2019, he had 8 professional seasons, but in only 4 of them did he spend at least 90 days on an active roster for purposes of the 4th option rule. 2012 didn’t count because it was a short-season club, and he spent too much time on various injured lists in 2014, 2017 and 2019 for those years to count. Because he burned his last option year last year before he had spent 5 seasons on an active list for purposes of the rule, he was eligible for a 4th option. So far this year, he got 3 starts in CF, but in 17 PA, he struck out 7 times and had only 1 single.

To take Jankowski’s place on the active roster, the club decided to call up it’s stud shortstop prospect. Garcia defected from Cuba, signing a $5 million contract with the Reds in June of 2017. But he wasn’t able to play until 2018, being assigned to Class A as a 20-year old. He struggled that season after all it took him to get to the states, but improved in High-A ball last season, slashing .280/.343/.436 with 8 HR. The Reds have put him in the starting lineup tonight, skipping him past the AA and AAA levels entirely. Their regular shorstop Freddy Galvis has 5 homers, but otherwise has a .218 AVG and a .299 OBP. Perhaps they want to see if the kid can give the club an offensive spark.

To make room for Garcia on the 40-man, the club decided to designate Stop for assignment. Strop missed 18 days with a groin strain, and had only pitched 4 games out of the bullpen so far. He only gave up 1 hit, but walked 6 out of the 15 batters he faced over 2.1 IP and threw a wild pitch. The club must have thought he wasn’t going to be effective enough to stick.

8/27/20: Added RHP Jose De Leon as the 29th man for the doubleheader, and returned him to the ATS after the game.

DeLeon did not pitch, and without an IL move being made, DeLeon had to be returned immediately after the game because he had not yet spent 10 days on option.

8/28/20: Designated OF Phillip Ervin for assignment. Placed LHP Wade Miley on the 10-day IL (left shoulder sprain). Activated RHP Anthony DeSclafani from the paternity list. Recalled RHP Jose De Leon from the ATS. Signed RHP Jay Jackson to a minor league deal, added him to the CPP and assigned him to the ATS. Traded LHP Cody Reed to the Tampa Bay Rays for RHP Riley O’Brien, added him to the CPP and assigned him to the ATS. 40-man roster at 39, CPP at 57.

Ervin was only starting against left-handed pitching, most often replacing Shogo Akiyama in the lineup. At all other times, the club has preferred to play either Jesse Winker or Mark Payton in left. He got 3 starts in left and 2 in center, and in 42 PA only got 3 singles, slashing .086/.238/.086, although he did have a 14.3% walk rate. His being out of options is a factor, and perhaps the club didn’t think he would be able to stick long-term, even if he can play center field, hit at an average level last year, and has a career .490 SLG against left-handed pitching. The club might be looking for a trade partner.

Miley just can’t catch a break, as he looked good last night in game 2 of a doubleheader against the Brewers after struggling mightily in his first 2 starts and already spending time on the injured list. Tyler Mahle will still shore up the rotation with DeSclafani back from the paternity list. The Miley IL move allowed the club to recall De Leon despite the fact that he was one day short of the required 10 days spend on option. These series of moves gives the Reds 15 pitchers on the active roster.

Jackson is now 32 years old and was drafted all the way back in 2008 in the 9th round by the Cubs. The Cubs released him before the 2013 season started and after he bounced from the Cubs to the Marlins and Pirates on minor league deals, the Padres added him to their 40-man roster and called him up on September 14th, 2015. He was released after the season after throwing only 6 games in relief, then spent the 2016-2018 seasons with Hiroshima in Japan.

Jackson resurfaced in 2019 on a minor league deal with the Brewers, where he pitched 28 games out of the bullpen with a 35.6% strikeout rate, but a 13.6% walk rate. He was outrighted to AAA in May, but the Brewers brought him back. When the club tried to outright him again, he elected free agency in lieu of the assignment and took his talents back to Japan this season, signing with Chiba. But after 7 innings pitched, he’s now back in the states. He has 2 options remaining, and for now projects as possible bullpen depth.

O’Brien was an 8th round choice of the Rays in 2017, who has been mostly a starter and had a double digit walk rate at pretty much every stop. He throws in in the mid 90s, has 3 decent pitches and split last year between Class A-Advanced and AA.

8/29/20: Added OF Aristides Aquino as the 29th man for the doubleheader, and returned him to the ATS after the 2nd game. Between games of the doubleheader, placed LHP Jesse Biddle on the 10-day IL (left shoulder impingement). Recalled RHP Joel Kuhnel from the ATS.

Biddle has only pitched in 1 game so far, in game 1 of a doubleheader against the Brewers on August 27th. He faced 4 batters, striking out one, walking one, and allowing one hit. He must have felt sore after that appearance. This doubleheader was in Cincinnati, and it’s a good thing their Alternate Training Site is only about 20 or so minutes away from the major league stadium.