Cubs trade James Russell and Emilio Bonifacio to the Braves for a catching prospect.

17 Comments

Another at-the-deadline trade has come in: the Braves have acquired reliever James Russell and Emilio Bonifacio from the Cubs for minor league catcher Minor league catcher Victor Caratini.

Russell is the lefty in the pen the Braves had been rumored to be looking for. Overall he’s 0-2 with a 3.51 ERA and 26 strikeouts against 16 walks in 44 innings this year. In 2014 lefties have actually tattooed him compared to righties, which he has handled quite well, though that’s obviously on a small sample. For his career his splits are what you would expect — better against lefties than righties — but not such a pronounced split that he’s DEATH TO ALL LEFTIES or anything.

Bonifacio has been a super sub for ages. He can play three infield positions and has covered center field. His bat is no great shakes, but he has his moments. He’s good injury protection and a nice guy to have on the bench.

Caratini is the Braves’ #6 overall prospect. He’s 20, is playing at Rome in the Sally League, but he’s essentially blocked by Christian Bethancourt and Evan Gattis (and others) in the system. He could be a good one one day, however. In 611 minor league plate appearances he has a .377 OBP.

Indians trade Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers

Getty Images
1 Comment

The Cleveland Indians have traded two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers. In exchange, Texas is sending center fielder Delino DeShields and pitcher Emmanuel Clase to the Indians. There are reports that the Indians will be getting more than just those two players, but no word yet. The deal is pending physical.

Kluber made only seven starts this past year thanks to a broken arm and a strained oblique muscle. When he did pitch he was no great shakes, posting a 5.80 ERA and 44 hits in 35.2 innings. Those were freak injuries that do not suggest long-term problems, however, so there’s a good reason to think he’ll bounce back to useful form, even if it’s a tough ask for him to return to the form that won him the 2014 and 2017 Cy Young Award.

Before his injury-wracked 2019 campaign, Kluber pitched over 200 innings in each of his previous five seasons so mileage could be an issue. For his career he’s 98-58 with a 3.16 ERA (134 ERA+), a 2.99 FIP, and a K/BB ratio of 1,461/292 over 1,341.2 innings in nine big league seasons.

Unless there is cash coming from Cleveland in the deal, the Rangers will be paying him $17.5 million this year and a 2021 option of $14 million pursuant to the five-year, $38.5 million contract he inked with Cleveland before the 2015 season.

DeShields, 27, is a career .246/.326/.342 hitter (76 OPS+) and that’s about how he performed in 2019 as well. He was demoted to Triple-A Nashville in May. Clase, who will turn 22 before next season, pitched 21 games, all but one in relief, for the Rangers in 2019 and will still be considered a rookie in 2020. He has been used mostly as a reliever in the minors as well.

Pending what else the Tribe is going to be getting, this appears to be a light return for a pitcher who, despite his 2019 injuries, should be expected to come back and be a workhorse. Unless there is some real talent coming back, in addition to DeShields and Clase, it would seem to be a salary dump for Cleveland and a steal for Texas. It is likewise perplexing how any of the many, many teams who could use starting pitching — the Angels and the Mets, among others, come to mind — could not top the package Texas offered.

As for the Indians, the commitment to Kluber for 2020-21 is $31.5 million if you exercise next year’s option, $18.5 million if you don’t. He’s one year and a freak injury removed from goin 20-7 with a 2.89 (150 ERA+), 0.991 WHIP, and 215 innings pitched. Cleveland is coming off 93 wins and should contend. Why you trade Kluber in that situation, regardless of the return, is a question they should have to answer to fans who expect to see winning baseball.