Daily Dose: Busy day in Atlanta

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Wednesday was a busy day for Atlanta, as the Braves released a Hall of
Famer, pulled off a big trade, and announced plans to call up their top
prospect over the weekend. Tom Glavine tossed six shutout innings in a
rehab start Tuesday and said afterward that he was ready to rejoin the
rotation, but instead the Braves cut the 305-game winner loose
Wednesday and prepped for the Tommy Hanson era.

Glavine would’ve been due a $1 million roster bonus and also could
have earned $2.5 million for 90 days on the team, but that money will
now go to Nate McLouth after Atlanta acquired him from Pittsburgh just
hours later for Gorkys Hernandez, Charlie Morton, and Jeff Locke. While
that package represents solid value for the Pirates, it’s odd that
they’d build the deal around a center fielder like Hernandez.

Hernandez projects as a possible leadoff man in time, but has
limited upside and the Pirates already have a long-term center fielder
in Andrew McCutchen. In fact, they called McCutchen up immediately
after trading McLouth and the 22-year-old will play every day. His bat
may not be an asset yet after hitting .291/.367/.424 at Triple-A, but
he swiped 48 bases in 210 games there and offers strong defense.

For the Braves, bringing in McLouth a day after demoting Jordan
Schafer back to Triple-A represents a huge upgrade offensively. His
glove is incredibly overrated, but McLouth has hit .268/.353/.482 while
going 52-for-56 swiping bases over the past three years. Adding him
without giving up one of the organization’s best 3-4 prospects is a
no-brainer move for the Braves given their weak outfield situation.

Meanwhile, the team’s top prospect and arguably the best pitching
prospect in all of baseball will be joining the rotation Saturday
instead of Glavine. While cutting Glavine when he was ready to pitch
again is likely tough for fans to take, Hanson is simply a better
pitcher right now after posting a 1.50 ERA with 90 strikeouts in 66.1
innings at Triple-A, and Atlanta still has lots of rotation depth to
fall back on.

While the Braves hog all the headlines for a day, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* In other prospect news, the White Sox are calling up 2008 first
rounder Gordon Beckham, which is interesting given that Ozzie Guillen
explained a few days ago that “if we have Beckham here, we’re in
trouble.” Apparently they’re in trouble, or at least tired of getting
horrible production from second and third base. Beckham has hit
.316/.371/.509 as a pro and went 10-for-23 in a brief stint at
Triple-A.

* Phil Hughes went 2-0 with a 3.50 ERA and 21/3 K/BB ratio during
his last three starts, but the Yankees demoted him to the bullpen
anyway Wednesday to make room in the rotation for Chien-Ming Wang. Wang
will be limited to 75-80 pitches in his Thursday start against the
Rangers after allowing two runs in eight innings of relief work since
coming back from the disabled list.

AL Quick Hits: Kevin Youkilis exited Wednesday’s game after Josh
Anderson ran over his ankle … Jeff Niemann tossed a two-hit shutout
Wednesday, striking out nine Royals … Asdrubal Cabrera is expected to
miss 2-4 weeks with a separated shoulder, moving Jhonny Peralta back to
shortstop … Cliff Lee turned in his 10th straight Quality Start with
eight innings of one-run ball Wednesday night … Jered Weaver racked up
a career-high 10 strikeouts while allowing one run over seven innings
Wednesday … Andy Pettitte lost Wednesday for the first time since April
26, giving up four runs and six walks in five innings … After being
bashed around for eight runs Wednesday, Brian Bannister is 1-3 with a
7.86 ERA since starting 3-0 … Josh Beckett had a no-hitter through 7.2
innings Wednesday, but failed to record the third out … Mark Teixeira
was scratched from the lineup Wednesday with a bruised ankle … Anthony
Swarzak predictably ran out of magic pixie dust Wednesday, coughing up six runs in four innings.

NL Quick Hits: Randy Johnson’s bid for victory No. 300 was
postponed by rain Wednesday … Brandon Webb (shoulder) threw from flat
ground Wednesday and reported no problems … Carlos Beltran (stomach
virus) was in the lineup before Wednesday’s game was postponed, but
Jose Reyes (calf) suffered a setback in his rehab and is no longer due
off the disabled list when eligible Friday … Jorge Cantu went deep
Wednesday for the first time in 25 games and Brandon Phillips stole his
first bases in over a month … Scott Hairston’s breakout was put on hold
Wednesday when a biceps strain sent him to the DL … Kyle Lohse exited
in the third inning Wednesday, aggravating his forearm problem … Hunter
Pence went 4-for-5 with a homer Wednesday, driving in his first runs
since May 21 … Sammy Sosa formally retired Wednesday by saying: “I will
calmly wait for my introduction to the Hall of Fame” and “will not
allow anyone to tarnish what I did on the field.”

Dallas Keuchel, Astros did talk long-term contract

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Dallas Keuchel‘s agent Darek Braunecker told MLB Network Radio in early January that he had not engaged in any long-term contract negotiations with the Astros’ front office. Two weeks later, the sides reached a one-year, $7.25 million agreement, avoiding a salary arbitration hearing. So was a bigger financial commitment ever discussed?

Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle has the answer, writing in his offseason review that the “Astros and Keuchel have had substantial talks about extensions [this winter] … but to no avail.”

Keuchel carries all the leverage in the world after winning the 2015 American League Cy Young Award with a 2.48 ERA, 1.017 WHIP, and 216/51 K/BB ratio in 232 innings. He also made three appearances in the postseason to a 2.57 ERA in 14 frames.

Keuchel’s $7.25 million salary for 2016 will be a record for a player in his first year of arbitration eligibility. Locking up some of his free agent years (2019, 2020, 2021, etc.) would likely take a commitment of $120 million or more.

Houston has the 28-year-old left-hander under contractual control through 2018, and it sounds like the plan is to go season-to-season with his salaries.

He’ll remain a huge value to a good-looking Astros team.

Yadier Molina gets cast removed from surgically-repaired thumb

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Yadier Molina underwent surgery to repair a ligament tear in his right thumb shortly after the Cardinals were eliminated from the NLDS by the Cubs, and then he needed a followup procedure two months later.

It’s been an offseason of rest and rehab for the seven-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glover, though he’s about ready to ramp up the intensity of workouts with the beginning of spring training approaching …

Brayan Pena was signed to a two-year, $5 million free agent contract this winter to provide more reliable depth behind the plate. He’ll be the Cardinals’ starter at catcher come Opening Day if Yadi isn’t quite ready.

Molina started a whopping 131 games behind the plate in 2015.

Jose Fernandez wants $30 million a year, Marlins don’t plan on paying

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You’ve heard the stories by now. Jose Fernandez does not get along with Marlins management and is doubtful to sign a long-term contract with the team.

There’s still time for those relationships to be repaired — Fernandez can’t become a free agent until after the 2018 season — but we also have a monetary issue at play.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes Sunday that the Marlins are “under the impression” Fernandez and his representatives want $30 million per year on a long-term deal, a figure the Marlins “have no plans to meet.”

If the Marlins won’t pay, Fernandez and his reps will seek that number when the ace right-hander reaches free agency. That could be the same offseason Bryce Harper tries for $500 million.

A friend of Fernandez told Jackson that the 23-year-old native of Cuba was upset about some of the trades the Marlins made last summer and the removal of pitching coach Chuck Hernandez. You probably heard talk of Miami shopping Fernandez this winter, but the asking price was predictably sky-high.

Fernandez has been limited to 19 starts over the last two years because of Tommy John surgery and a biceps injury, but he boasts a stellar 2.40 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 10.5 K/9 in 289 career major league frames. He will make $2.8 million in 2016 and carries two more years of arbitration eligibility.

If he can put together a run of 30-start, 200-inning seasons, Fernandez will get that $30 million per year and probably much more.

Michael Brantley’s timetable off shoulder surgery is “hazy”

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Paul Hoynes at the Cleveland Plain Dealer has an in-depth look at how the Indians will manage their outfield during the early part of the 2016 season, in the absence of star Michael Brantley.

Brantley underwent labrum surgery on his right shoulder this past November and has not picked up a bat all winter. “In the off-season people know I love to hit,” Brantley acknowledged to Hoynes late last week. ”I hit a lot. It’s just been a change in my timetable.”

Hoynes says the projected date for Brantley’s 2016 debut is “hazy,” guessing that it might happen around late April or early May if everything continues to go smoothly. Shoulders can be tricky, for hitters and pitchers.

Rajai Davis, Abraham Almonte, and Lonnie Chisenhall figure to make up Cleveland’s primary starting outfield while Brantley is finishing his rehabilitation. Collin Cowgill and Joey Butler could also be in the mix. It’s a lacking group, tasked with replacing one of the most productive players in baseball.

Brantley, 28, has slashed .319/.382/.494 over the last two seasons, tallying 35 home runs, 90 doubles, 181 RBI, and 38 stolen bases in 293 games.

Could the talented Tribe be in for another slow start?

Shouldn’t this club be spending more money?