MLB teams had until the end of the day Friday to set their 40-man rosters before the Rule 5 Draft, so the Pirates did a little bit of housecleaning. Zach Duke, Delwyn Young and Andy LaRoche were all designated for assignment, according to Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. All three were arbitration-eligible this fall, so these roster moves essentially serve as early non-tenders.
Duke posted a 5.72 ERA over 29 starts this past season, the highest ERA among NL starters with at least 150 innings pitched. The 27-year-old left-hander is 37-68 with a 4.80 ERA since he went 8-2 with a 1.81 ERA over his first 14 major league starts in 2005. It doesn’t help that he’s been on such an awful team, but no pitcher has lost more games since the start of the 2006 season.
Duke doesn’t strike out many batters (4.7 K/9), but he does induce a fair amount of groundballs (48.9 percent) and throws strikes (2.45 BB/9). With a better defense behind him, there’s no reason why he can’t be a decent No. 4 or 5 starter in the big leagues. Pirates general manager Neal Huntington told Langosch that he tried to negotiate a contract with Duke before cutting him loose, so it’s clear the Pirates still believe he has some value, just not at the near $5 million he would have made in arbitration.
LaRoche, who came over in the Jason Bay/Manny Ramirez deal in July of 2008, batted just .226/.296/.341 with 19 homers, 92 RBI and a 637 OPS over 1,044 plate appearances as a member of the Pirates. The former top prospect hit .258 with 12 homers, 68 RBI and a 731 OPS as the team’s full-time third baseman last season and moved into a utility role after Pedro Alvarez was called up to the major leagues this past June. Still, with a good glove and decent plate discipline, the 27-year-old shouldn’t have a problem finding another opportunity in the big leagues.
Young, 28, batted .236/.286/.414 with seven home runs, 28 RBI and a 700 OPS in 207 plate appearances this season, primarily off the bench. He led the Pirates with 16 pinch-hits, but batted just .232 (16-for-69) in pinch-hit situations. His ability to play second base, third base and the outfield will help him land another gig, but he is generally regarded as a poor defensive player.
With the White Sox losing Jeff Samardzija to free agency, Erik Johnson will likely get a shot to contribute out of the rotation to open up the 2016 season, GM Rick Hahn said in a conference call on Wednesday, per a report from MLB.com’s Scott Merkin.
“As we sit here today, I think it will be an opportunity for Erik Johnson to convert on sort of the return to form he showed back in 2015 when he was International League pitcher of the year for [Triple-A] Charlotte,” Hahn said. “Obviously, he got some starts in September and continued to show the progress in Chicago he had shown in the Minor Leagues over the course of the last season.
“So if Opening Day were today, then I think Johnson is penciled in to that spot in the rotation right now. In all probability, once we get closer to spring, there will be some competition for him to earn that spot. But if we were strictly looking at today, then I would think Johnson has the inside track on filling Samardzija’s innings.”
Johnson was called up from Triple-A Charlotte in September and made six starts, allowing 14 runs (13 earned) on 32 hits and 17 walks with 30 strikeouts in 35 innings. That followed up an impressive five months in the minors where he compiled a 2.37 ERA and a 136/41 K/BB ratio across 132 2/3 innings.
Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and MLB.com each included Johnson on their top-100 prospect lists, ranking him 63rd, 67th, and 70th, respectively. The right-hander was selected by the White Sox in the second round of the 2011 draft.
It was reported on Friday afternoon that Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was involved in a brawl at a Miami nightclub. Details were scant at the time, but he reportedly left with a bruise on his face.
Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that Major League Baseball plans to investigate Puig under the league’s new domestic violence policy for his role in the brawl. Citing a report from TMZ, Hernandez notes that Puig shoved his sister, “brutally sucker-punched” the manager of the bar, and instigated the brawl.
The Dodgers and Puig’s agent have thus far refused to comment on the situation.
Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes was the first player to be investigated under the league’s new domestic violence policy earlier this month, as he allegedly assaulted his wife. Reyes has pleaded not guilty after he was charged with domestic abuse in Hawaii.
As our own Craig Calcaterra pointed out, commissioner Rob Manfred does not need to wait for Puig to plead guilty or to be found guilty to levy a punishment.
Patrick Newman is reporting that the Chunichi Dragons of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and outfielder Dayan Viciedo are close to an agreement on a contract. Newman notes that the Dragons are close to signing pitcher Jordan Norberto as well.
Viciedo, 26, has struggled since making his major league debut in 2010 with the White Sox, batting an aggregate .254/.298/.424 with 66 home runs and 211 RBI in 1,798 plate appearances. He spent the 2015 season with Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox) and Nashville (Athletics), hitting a composite .287/.348/.450. While Viciedo can hit the occasional home run, he hasn’t shown the ability to do much else at the big league level. Given his age, he could prove himself in Japan and parlay that into a renewed shot in the majors in the future.
The White Sox signed Viciedo out of Cuba in December 2008, agreeing to a four-year, $10 million deal. The club re-signed him to one-year deals in 2013 and ’14 for $2.8 million each and $4.4 million ahead of the 2015 season.
Update (8:45 PM EST): Per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, Happ will get $10 million in 2016 and $13 million each in 2017 and ’18.
MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the Blue Jays have signed lefty J.A. Happ to a three-year deal worth $36 million.
Happ, 33, had a rebirth as a member of the Pirates last season after starting the season with 20 subpar starts with the Mariners. He made 11 starts for the Buccos, boasting a 1.85 ERA with a 69/13 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.
Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported this past August that Happ’s newfound success had to do with a delivery tweak suggested by Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage. The Blue Jays are certainly hoping that adjustment is the full explanation for his success.
The Jays’ signing of Happ most likely signifies they won’t be pursuing free agent lefty David Price.
This will be Happ’s second stint with the Blue Jays. The Astros dealt him to Toronto in a July 2012 trade. He posted a 4.39 ERA with a 256/113 K/BB ratio in 291 innings with the Jays, then went to the Mariners in a trade this past December that brought outfielder Michael Saunders to the Jays.