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NL Central Transaction Thursday 4/15/21

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BREWERS

4/6/21: Traded IF Orlando Arcia to the Atlanta Braves for RHP Chad Sobotka and RHP Patrick Weigel, and optioned Sobotka and Weigel to the ATS. Purchased the contract of RHP Brad Boxberger from the ATS. To make room on the 40-man, transferred RHP Justin Topa from the 10-day IL to the 60-day IL. 40-man roster full.

The Brewers only faced right-handed starters in their first four games, and Arcia started three of the four, one at short and two at third, with the club even sitting Travis Shaw twice. The club has tried to force Luis Urias into the shortstop job ever since the Trent Grisham trade, and now they’ve gone all the way with it. Arcia would be a useful utility guy and spot starter in the infield, but apparently being pot-committed to Urias, the club decided to get some value for him. He was the primary starter at short and showed flashes of decency on both sides of the ball, but never did put it all together to Milwaukee’s liking. Over the four years, the total package amounted to a replacement level player, with his atrocious offense overall negating his defense. With Dansby Swanson at short and Austin Riley at third, there’s no every day job available for Arcia on the Braves either, but they might look at him as a utility infielder upgrade. In the meantime, they’ve optioned Arcia to the ATS so he can clear COVID protocols. Arcia is on his final option year.

Sobotka, who is 27 years old and 6’7” has 50 career games pitched for the Braves out the bullpen, but only 4 in 2020. He’s had high strikeout stuff in the past with his upper 90s heat, but he’s had serious control problems and his strikeout rate dropped significantly between 2018 and 2019. One of his four games last year was a disaster in which he allowed 5 earned runs in just .2 IP. This is his final option year. Weigel will also turn 27 this year and is also on his final option year. He reached the AAA level at age 22 in 2017, but he had Tommy John surgery in June of that year and was only able to make four rehab starts in 2018. When Weigel came back in 2019, his walk rate spiked at both the AA and AAA level, and when the Braves used him in one game last year, he walked three out of the seven batters he faced. He might be a long relief candidate at some point, but he’s running out of time.

With the selection of Boxberger to take Arcia’s place on the active roster, the Brewers go back to a normal configuration of 13 pitchers. Boxberger signed a minor league deal with the club but pitched poorly in spring. The only problem now is that Daniel Robertson is the only back-up infielder on the active roster, and I’m not sure how comfortable the Brewers should be with him playing short.

4/10/21: Placed 2B Kolten Wong on the 10-day IL (left oblique strain). Purchased the contract of IF Jace Peterson from the ATS. To make room on the 40-man, transferred RHP Bobby Wahl from the 10-day IL to the 60-day IL. 40-man roster still full.

Wong had to leave the April 9th game against the Cardinals when his side started hurting. With Tim Lopes and Mark Mathias already on the 60-day IL, the club really had no choice but to add Peterson, who was invited to camp as a non-roster invitee, but not expected to make the club. Peterson was a non-roster invitee to last year’s camp as well, then was brought to the majors last August 22nd, when the club DFAd Brock Holt. I covered his August 2020 addition to the roster here. Although he struck out over 32% of the time, he got time at 5 different defensive positions over 15 games, and had a preposterous 24.6% walk rate. It will be interesting to see if the club goes for offense by sliding Keston Hiura to second and putting Daniel Vogelbach gets starts at first, or whether they hold down the fort at second with Peterson and Daniel Robertson. Either way, Peterson and Vogelbach are both out of options and are at serious risk of a DFA at some point, Peterson sooner than Vogelbach.

4/12/21: Optioned RHP Eric Yardley to the ATS. Recalled LHP Angel Perdomo from the ATS.

In five appearances, the submariner Yardley has unintentionally walked two batters and hit two batters against only two strikeouts. Manager Craig Counsell tried to bring Perdomo out of the bullpen in the game on the day of his callup, but wasn’t allowed to because Perdomo wasn’t on the lineup card handed to the umpires. Counsell failed to make sure that the software the club uses that is designed to auto-populate the lineup card after roster moves, included Perdomo on the card the umpires received at the start of the game.

4/14/21: Placed OF Lorenzo Cain on the 10-day IL (strained left quad). Recalled OF Tyrone Taylor from the ATS.

Cain injured his right quad to get off to a slow start in spring, and now has an issue with his left quad. The club has also been without the services of Christian Yelich for the past 3 games with a sore back. Because Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Avisail Garcia can both play all three outfield positions, the Brewers have some coverage, but this has tested even the Brewers’ outfield depth and required the assistance of Billy McKinney.

CUBS

4/5/21: Traded RHP James Norwood to the San Diego Padres for RHP Dauris Valdez.

Norwood was DFAd to make room for catcher Tony Wolters on the 40-man roster. Valdez, 25, signed with the Padres as a 20-year old international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in February of 2016, and was a non-roster invitee to the Padres’ spring training. He’s been assigned to AA Tennessee.

4/12/21: Placed RHP Jason Adam, RHP Dan Winkler and RHP Brandon Workman on the COVID-19 Related IL. Recalled LHP Justin Steele and LHP Brad Wieck from the ATS. Purchased the contract of RHP Pedro Strop as a replacement player from the ATS. 40-man roster at 38.

4/13/21: Placed IF Matt Duffy on the COVID-19 Related IL. Purchased the contract of IF Ildemaro Vargas from the ATS. 40-man roster still at 38.

After not having a single player test positive for COVID last season, the Cubs now have a COVID problem. First base coach Craig Driver didn’t travel with the club to Pittsburgh last weekend after he tested positive, and then bullpen coach Chris Young stayed out of Milwaukee after he tested positive. We don’t know whether Adam, Winkler, Workman or Duffy tested positive, but it would stand to reason that at least there would have been a contact tracing issue with respect to the three relievers. The best of the lot that went on the shelf is probably Adam, who walked two and struck out seven in 3.2 innings pitched over four appearances, although he has allowed four hits, including a homer. Winkler has only allowed 2 hits, but he had a game against the Pirates where he walked all 3 batters he faced. Vargas was outrighted before opening day because Duffy won the final bench job, and he gets the call, because the club would prefer Nico Hoerner to get regular plate appearances at the ATS with the Cubs’ ATS squad actually playing games against other squads. So far Duffy has had 9 trips to the plate without a strikeout, and has hit one double, walked once, and grounded into two double plays.

The selection of Strop as a replacement player is a device available under the new rules this year when a club has a COVID outbreak. The word outbreak is undefined, but it means that the club can remove Strop from the 40-man roster if they so choose when players on the COVID-19 Related IL come back without exposing Strop to waivers.

The Cubs’ biggest problem is actually their offense. According to Bleed Cubbie Blue commenter and historian extraordinaire JohnW53 (he’s their PugetSound), the Cubs’ 49 hits through the first 10 games of the season is the fewest hits the club has ever had through the first 10 games, and is 12 fewer than any other club in the majors who has played at least 10 games this season so far. They would need 14 hits in their 11th game just to tie the 1997 Cubs for the franchise’s fewest hits through 11 games with 63. At .164/.264/.321, the Cubs have the worst triple slash stats in the majors through 10 games.

4/14/21: Optioned RHP Adbert Alzolay and LHP Brad Wieck to the ATS. Designated C Tony Wolters for assignment. Activated RHP Jason Adam from the COVID-19 Related IL. Purchased the contract of RHP Shelby Miller from the ATS. Activated C Austine Romine from the 10-day IL. 40-man roster at 39.

Wolters was just a stopgap until Romine could come back. He pinch-hit once, got one start, and came in for the end of one inning in a double switch in a game the club had a large lead. He got 5 trips to the plate with no hits, one walk and one strikeout. Adam and Wieck was basically a one-for-one trade and restored the status quo. The interesting transaction is the option of Alzolay and the addition of Miller. Miller, who hasn’t pitched in the majors since June 25th, 2019, was a non-roster invitee to camp, and came close to making the club.

There were several factors in play here. First, Miller had a clause in his minor league deal that allowed him to notify the club of his intent to opt out by April 10th. He so notified the club, and the Cubs had five days to respond. Rather than losing him, the club decided to bring him to the majors. Also relevant is the fact that Kyle Hendricks was scratched from his April 13th start in favor of Alec Mills about 30 minutes prior to first pitch because he wasn’t feeling well. Although he tested negative for COVID, the club had him to return to Chicago on his own just as a precaution. Alozlay just started on April 12th, and Hendricks will come back to make a start soon. With off days on April 15th and April 19th, the club doesn’t need a 5th starter until April 24th, which will be the date Alzolay is eligible to be recalled. The Cubs’ ATS squad is actually playing games, Alzolay will be able to get a start down there, and in the meantime, the club will get an extra long man. Every other starter will be able to pitch in the meantime with either four or five days of rest.

PIRATES

4/4/21: Activated RHP Kyle Crick from the COVID-19 Related IL. Optioned RHP Wil Crowe to the ATS. Placed 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes on the 10-day IL (left wrist strain). Purchased the contract of IF Wilmer Difo from the ATS. To make room for Difo on the 40-man roster, designated RHP Tyler Bashlor for assignment. 40-man roster still full.

This is a bummer for the Pirates, as Hayes is the favorite for Rookie of the Year, and he hit a 2-run homer in his first plate appearance of the season. When swinging the bat in the 2nd game of the season, he felt something in his wrist. It was initially thought Hayes could go day-to-day, but he had a little more discomfort that they thought at first. Difo spent parts of 6 major league seasons as a middle infielder with the Washington Nationals, and was outrighted by that club last September, but elected free agency in lieu of the assignment in October. He was in camp as a non-roster invitee. He switch-hits, and can stand in the middle infield and outfield, but is a contact oriented guy with neither patience or power and hasn’t shown much. Difo is not only out of options, but eligible for arbitration, which means he’s probably not long for the roster. Phillip Evans will probably get most of the time at third base, followed by Erik Gonzalez.

The option of Crowe is mildly surprising, but the club seems to want to see what it has in Rule 5 pick Luis Oviedo for the time being.

4/5/21: Traded cash considerations to the Los Angeles Angels for RHP Kyle Keller and optioned him to the ATS. To make room on the 40-man roster, designated RHP Edgar Santana for assignment. 40-man roster still full.

Santana was expected to be a major contributor to the Pirates’ bullpen in both 2019 and 2020 after he pitched 69 games for the club in 2018. But he lost 2019 to Tommy John surgery and 2020 to an 80-game PED suspension, and was optioned to minor league camp about a week before this season started. Contrary to at least one report, Santana will not have to serve 20 days at the beginning of this season on suspension. His suspension is over because Santana was on the Pirates’ 40-man roster at the time of the suspension (and was thus suspended under the major league policy), and the union agreed with MLB that players in that situation could serve an 80-game suspension in full by sitting out the entire 60-game 2020 MLB regular season. Santana gave up quite a few runs over seven games in spring, but had only one walk to eight strikeouts.

Keller was an 18th round draft choice by the Marlins in 2015, and was added to their 40-man roster in November of 2018. Miami called him up in August of 2019 after a decent AAA season but designated him for assignment in the offseason after he allowed 3 homers in 10.2 IP over 10 games, and walked eight batters and hit two guys against only 11 strikeouts. The Marlins ended up trading him to the Angels straight up for a teenage catcher. Keller was part of the Angels’ ATS and was on the major league roster for only a handful of days in 2020 and only pitched 2.1 innings over 2 games. Like a lot of people involved in these transactions, he’s shown good strikeout stuff in the minors, but control issues to go with it and hasn’t performed well when given his short in the majors. He’s got one minor league option left.

4/9/21: Traded RHP Edgar Santana to the Atlanta Braves for cash considerations.

4/10/21: Outrighted RHP Tyler Bashlor to the ATS.

REDS

4/3/21: Claimed C Beau Taylor on outright assignment waivers from the Cleveland Indians and optioned him to the ATS. Designated C Deivy Grullon for assignment. 40-man roster still full. Outrighted RHP Edgar Garcia to the ATS.

4/6/21: Noted the loss of C Deivy Grullon to the Tampa Bay Rays on an outright assignment waiver claim.

Just a swap of 3rd string catchers here. I covered the Reds’ initial waiver claim of Grullon here. The 31-year old Beau Taylor was a long time organizational solider with the Oakland Athletics, having been drafted by that club in the 5th round of the 2011 draft. He spent parts of six seasons with AA Midland, didn’t crack AAA until 2017, and didn’t make the majors until he became a September callup in September of 2018, and the club outrighted him in the offseason without burning an option. The A’s re-signed him to a minor league deal for 2019 and put him back in the majors in June of 2019 when Nick Hundley went down with back spasms. In that 2019 season alone, he was added to the A’s 40-man roster, optioned, DFAd, claimed on waivers by the Blue Jays, recalled, DFAd again, claimed back on waivers by the A’s, and outrighted again after the season. Taylor then signed a minor league seal with the Indians, and five days into the season, was added to the 40-man and active rosters when starting catcher Roberto Perez went down temporarily with a shoulder injury. At all times, Taylor was really the #3 option behind Perez and Sandy Leon, and only got 7 starts all year. He was optioned on August 26th, and was DFAd five days before 2021 Opening Day.

Taylor only has 60 career trips to the plate and 16 career starts behind the plate. He’s got one minor league option left, which will certainly be burned. With prospect Tyler Stephenson entrenched as the #2 man behind Tucker Barnhart, any other catching option is just AAA depth. The best thing about him is probably his batting eye in the minors (career 12.7% BB rate).

4/14/21: Claimed LHP Phillip Diehl on outright assignment waivers from the Colorado Rockies and optioned him to the ATS. To make room on the 40-man, transferred RHP Michael Lorenzen from the 10-day IL to the 60-day IL. 40-man still full.

Diehl was a 27th round draft choice by the Yankees in 2016, and was traded to the Rockies straight up for OF Mike Tauchman in 2019 spring training. A lefty control specialist, Diehl had outstanding peripheral numbers until he hit AA in 2018, when his walk rate spiked. When he repeated the level in 2019 in the Rockies system, he didn’t allow a run in 13.1 innings, and was promoted to AAA and then the majors that year. His peripherals were okay, but he gave up 16 homers in only 45.1 IP for AAA Albuquerque, which has a launching pad for a ballpark. He gave up another 2 homers in 6 IP last season with Colorado. Maybe a system that has parks a little closer to sea level will make him more comfortable, but he will be out of options after this season.