Rafael Soriano’s struggles put the Cubs back in the market for veteran bullpen help and Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that they’ve acquired Orioles reliever Tommy Hunter in exchange for infielder/outfielder Junior Lake.
After years as an inconsistent mid-rotation starter Hunter moved to the bullpen full time in 2013 and found success, adding several miles per hour to his now mid-90s fastball and posting a 3.05 ERA and 145/37 K/BB ratio in 192 innings for the Orioles. That includes a 3.63 ERA and 32/11 K/BB ratio in 45 innings this season.
Lake has struggled in 193 games for the Cubs since debuting in 2013, hitting .241 with 16 homers, a .663 OPS, and a hideous 198/31 K/BB ratio. His numbers in the minors are a lot better and Lake has experience at every position except catcher defensively, so if nothing else the 25-year-old could develop into a useful bench player.
Phillies outfielder Jeff Francoeur has made a habit of racking up timely hits, as I noted at Crashburn Alley a few days ago. Coming into Friday’s action at Wrigley Field against the Cubs, Francoeur had six hits that improved the Phillies’ odds of winning by at least 15 percent, using the Win Probability Added statistic, found on FanGraphs and Baseball Reference.
He’s had three hits that were real game-changers: a walk-off two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth against the Marlins on Sunday (.696 WPA), a tie-breaking two-run double against the Giants in the seventh inning on June 7 (.317 WPA), and a go-ahead three-run home run to break a scoreless tie in the sixth inning against the Red Sox on April 8 (.297 WPA).
Francoeur hit a go-ahead home run in the top of the 10th inning against reliever Rafael Soriano on Friday to break a 3-3 tie, registering a WPA of .437 — ranking as his second-most important hit this season. Watch:
Francoeur, 31, is hitting .265/.298/.469 with nine home runs and 33 RBI on the season. He has reportedly drawn trade interest from the Pirates. The rebuilding Phillies are now 35-63 and still have a seven-game lead for the worst record in baseball, which would earn them the first overall pick in the 2016 draft.
After going unsigned two months into the season, veteran reliever Rafael Soriano agreed to a minor league contract with the Cubs earlier this week. However, it’s going to be a while before he joins the major league bullpen.
According to Carrie Muskat of MLB.com, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said today that he doesn’t expect Soriano to help until after the All-Star break. In other words, he’s about a month away. The 35-year-old is currently throwing at the team’s Dominican Republic academy and will almost certainly need to pitch in a handful of minor league games before being activated.
Soriano posted a 3.19 ERA and 59/19 K/BB ratio over 62 innings with the Nationals last season, but he lost his closer job down the stretch following a rough second half. Per James Wagner of the Washington Post, he’ll make a prorated $4.1 million salary with the Cubs and could earn an additional $4 million in bonuses for games finished and appearances.
Maddon recently pulled Hector Rondon from a save chance, which has led to all sorts of speculation about the team’s closer situation. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported yesterday that the Cubs and Blue Jays are among the teams who have had recent trade talks with the Phillies about Jonathan Papelbon.