The Diamondbacks found a way to kill two birds with one stone Thursday.
Despite having named their starting rotation, the club began trying to find ways to get top prospect Archie Bradley into the mix after a strong spring showing. With a rotation full of young, cost-controlled arms, the team also had reason to want to unload starter Trevor Cahill and his $12 million salary this year.
Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart accomplished both when he agreed to trade Cahill to the Braves for minor league outfielder Josh Elander. The Diamondbacks will pay $6.5 million of Cahill's salary this season as part of the deal.
The deal opens up a spot for Bradley, the 22-year-old former first-round pick who was rated as the No. 11 prospect coming into the season by Baseball Prospectus. Bradley struggled a bit last season, posting a 4.45 ERA over 18 starts between three minor league levels, but he owned a 1.61 ERA in 22 1/3 Cactus League innings this spring.
The deal also benefits the Braves and Cahill. The right-hander moves out of a hitter's park and into a park more friendly to pitchers. And while it may be negligible, Cahill, a ground-ball pitcher, should also enjoy being backed by defensive whiz Andrelton Simmons in Atlanta. Cahill wasn't as impressive as Bradley this spring, but he posted a 3.60 ERA and struck out 10 over 10 innings to draw the interest of the Braves.
Bradley and Cahill both move onto the fantasy radar with the move, but Bradley has the higher upside of the two. Still, neither is an option outside of deep mixed and standard NL-only leagues.
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Verlander On The Shelf
After a down year in 2014, plenty of people have higher hopes for Justin Verlander this year.
Those hopes will have to wait, though, as the Tigers placed Verlander on the 15-day disabled list Thursday. The right-hander is fighting a right triceps injury, and the situation was serious enough that the club deemed he wouldn't be ready for the start of the season.
The move was retroactive to March 28, meaning Verlander will be eligible to return on April 12 at the earliest. That timetable would allow Verlander to start the team's sixth game, meaning he virtually wouldn't miss a start if he missed the minimum.
"Me speculating wouldn't change the facts," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said regarding Verlander's prognosis, "and the facts are his arm will let us know when he is going to be able to pitch. I will say, and I've said it from the get-go, I don't think this is an injury that is going to be a long-term issue. He said after throwing pretty firm yesterday that he felt better today. So that's a good sign."
Verlander struggled to a 4.54 ERA over 32 starts last season, allowing a league-high 104 earned runs. His strikeout and swinging strike rates dropped demonstrably, due in large part to a drop in velocity. Things weren't much better this spring, as Verlander allowed 10 runs while striking out 10 over 16 innings.
Now we'll have to wait a little longer to see if he can turn things around in the regular season.
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Lagares Cashes In
Chicks still dig the longball, but Juan Lagares is proving that defense pays, too.
The 2014 Gold Glove winner was rewarded for his abilities Thursday when he signed a four-year, $23 million contract extension with the Mets. The deal also has a club option for the 2020 season.
“We’re very happy to have it done,” Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said. “He’s been an excellent player for us. I think he’s got tremendous upside and we’re happy we’ve found some common ground.”
Lagares is still primarily a glove-first outfielder, but he showed signs of life on offense last year along with his gold-caliber defense. Lagares batted .281/.321/.382 with 13 steals, passable numbers for a player in his second full season in the majors who earns his keep as a defender. The 26-year-old posted similar numbers over nine seasons in the minors, so it's not hard to believe he can continue to produce at that level going forward. If this spring is any indication, he could even continue to improve -- Lagares batted .345/.397/.638 with three homers in 19 spring games.
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Rusney Sent Down
Another big-money outfielder will have to wait to show off his game at the major league level.
Despite signing a $72.5 million contract last year, outfielder Rusney Castillo was sent to Triple-A Pawtucket by the Red Sox Thursday. The move came despite Castillo posting a .310/.310/.621 line with two home runs in nine games during Grapefruit League play.
The 27-year-old played in only a handful of games near the end of the regular season in 2014, and an oblique injury sidelined him for most of spring. Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said those issues, and an outfield numbers crunch, led to Castillo's demotion.
"The only thing he hasn't done as a professional baseball player in the United States is play every day for a stretch of time,” Cherington said. “That's the only thing he hasn't been able to do, through no fault of his own, just through circumstance, and then he misses some time in the spring. He'll have an opportunity to do that. We're making a decision to give an opportunity to some other guys to start the season. He'll have the benefit of being able to get into the season and play every day and hopefully get on a roll, and then we'll see where it goes."
The club will roll with Hanley Ramirez, Mookie Betts and Shane Victorino in the outfield to open the year, but HanRam is trying the outfield for the first time and Victorino isn't a pillar of health at his age. It could just be a matter of time before we see the dynamic Cuban starting every day in Fenway Park.