Slumping Brewers make sweeping changes

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Last night’s loss left the Brewers at 13-22 since July 1, dropping them two games below .500 and 6.5 games behind the Cardinals in the NL Central. This afternoon general manager Doug Melvin made sweeping changes to both the roster and coaching staff, demoting starting shortstop J.J. Hardy to Triple-A while calling up prospect Alcides Escobar to replace him, designating longtime regular Bill Hall for assignment, and firing pitching coach Bill Castro.
Hardy was an All-Star in 2007 and was even better last season while hitting .283/.343/.478 with 24 homers, but fell to .229/.300/.367 in 102 games this year and has hit just .218/.281/.338 over his last 250 plate appearances dating back to late May. Despite his struggles Hardy is still just 27 years old and there are plenty of teams that would love to take a chance on him with some arbitration eligibility remaining before he becomes a free agent.
Escobar was always expected to replace Hardy at shortstop and the slick-fielding 22-year-old hit .298/.353/.409 with 42 steals in 109 games at Triple-A to convince the Brewers that his bat is somewhat ready, but this isn’t quite how the switch was supposed to work. Much like 20-year-old Elvis Andrus in Texas, Escobar figures to be an impact defender immediately and has a ton of speed, but doesn’t project as much of a hitter right now and may only develop into adequate with the bat long term.
Hardy still has plenty of trade value, but Hall is a much different story. He signed a four-year, $24 million extension after hitting .270/.345/.553 with 35 homers in 2006, but dropped to .254/.315/.425 the next year and has produced a measly .217/.283/.377 line over the past two seasons while being relegated to a part-time role. Hall has certainly earned his walking papers, but the Brewers still owe him $8.4 million next season and will have to spend another $500,000 buying out his $9.25 million option for 2011.
Castro spent nearly two decades as the Brewers’ bullpen coach before getting a promotion this offseason, but the staff ranks second-worst in the NL with a 4.84 ERA and has served up the most homers in baseball. “A move like this is never easy to make, especially given Bill’s longevity with the organization and considering how hard he worked to reach this position,” said Melvin, who named Triple-A pitching coach and former big-league starter Chris Bosio to replace him on an interim basis.
While today’s shakeup likely comes too late for the Brewers’ dwindling playoff hopes, turning the page on Hall and perhaps Hardy while letting Escobar get his feet wet makes plenty of sense. If nothing else Melvin continues to show that he’s willing to make extremely bold moves whether that means dealing for CC Sabathia and firing Ned Yost with a dozen games remaining last season or cutting some expensive dead weight while turning shortstop over to a 22-year-old now.

Athletics acquire Ryan LaMarre from Angels

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The Athletics acquired outfielder Ryan LaMarre from the Angels for cash considerations or a player to be named later, per a team announcement on Sunday. In a corresponding move, they placed right-hander Chris Bassitt on the 60-day disabled list and assigned the outfielder to Triple-A Nashville.

LaMarre, 28, signed a one-year contract with the Angels in November, but was designated for assignment last Tuesday in order to clear roster space for veteran catcher Juan Graterol. He batted .268/.375/.341 with two extra base hits and four stolen bases through 10 games in Triple-A Salt Lake.

The outfielder has not seen a major league assignment since 2016, when he appeared in six games with the Red Sox (three times in the outfield and once on the mound) and went 0-for-5 with a walk. He’s expected to give the A’s some depth in the minors and will join Andrew Lambo, Matt McBride, Kenny Wilson and Jaycob Brugman in Nashville’s outfield.

Blue Jays place Troy Tulowitzki on 10-day disabled list with strained hamstring

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Blue Jays’ shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is headed to the 10-day disabled list, club manager John Gibbons announced on Saturday. Tulowitzki left the eighth inning of Friday’s series opener when he injured his right hamstring in an attempt to steal third. Gibbons doesn’t have a concrete timetable for the infielder’s return, but told reporters that he doesn’t anticipate a lengthy recovery period.

Tulowitzki has battled numerous injuries before, from a serious quad strain to a chip fracture in his thumb, but this appears to be the first hamstring issue that has cropped up in his 12-year career. He’s the latest casualty on Toronto’s roster, which has lost Josh Donaldson, J.A. Happ, J.P. Howell, Dalton Pompey, Aaron Sanchez, Bo Schultz and Glenn Sparkman to various injuries in the last month. No official replacement has been named yet, though MLB.com’s Austin Laymance suggests that infielder Ryan Goins is ready to step in for Tulowitzki going forward.

Prior to his injury, Tulowitzki slashed .263/.295/.386 with one home run and a .681 OPS in 16 games with the Blue Jays. He went 1-for-3 on Friday with a base hit and a walk.