Recalled 3B-L Kyle Kubitza from Triple-A Salt Lake; designated OF-L Kirk Nieuwenhuis for assignment. [6/10]
A third-round selection out of Texas State in 2011, Kubitza was acquired in a rare prospect-for-prospect deal this winter, with the Angels sending talented left-hander Ricardo Rodriguez and reliever Nate Hyatt to Atlanta.
At the plate, Kubitza's calling-card is his patience, as the left-handed hitter works counts into his favor and shows a propensity for drawing walks. The swing shows good balance with little wasted movement, and there's enough extension and wrist strength to allow him to shoot the ball to any part of the field. There's not much loft and he doesn't incorporate his lower half much, so the power tool is only fringe-average. Because he's willing to take strikes and has some length in his swing, he'll put up his share of strikeouts.
Kubitza has improved defensively each year, and now looks like he'll become a competent third baseman. He's a fringe-average runner with average hands, but he makes the plays in front of him and the arm strength is plus. There isn't much upside here, but there's a non-zero chance he's a starting third baseman, with competent corner bench bat as a useful—if uninspiring—floor. —Christopher Crawford
Signed RHP Rafael Soriano to a minor-league deal worth a prorated $4.1 million with an additional $4 million available in incentives. [6/9]
At last, Soriano finds a home.
He had a better 2014 than folks remember: 62 innings, 117 ERA+, 3.11 strikeout-to-walk ratio; it was practically his 2013 season all over again. So where does the negativity surrounding his efforts come from? Likely Soriano 's poor finish, when he allowed 14 of his 23 runs during his final 18 appearances. That stretch convinced the Nationals to remove Soriano from their closer position and to turn down his $14 million club option; now there's a rough few weeks.
Nonetheless, Cubs fans should be optimistic, and not just because the Chicago bullpen ranks 17th in ERA, setting a low bar for upgrades. Soriano's larger body of work in 2014 suggests he can still go: He missed bats and threw strikes with his low-90s fastball and slider/cutter, and kept the ball in the yard to his recent norms. Let's play devil's advocate for a second. Say Soriano is done, and those late-season meltdowns were more than hiccups. What do the Cubs lose: some cash and a roster spot for a few weeks? No biggie; the plausible reward of gaining another late-inning reliever is worth the risk of having another finished veteran on the payroll, especially for a budding big-market contender. —R.J. Anderson
Recalled RHP Taylor Jungmann from Triple-A Colorado Springs; optioned 2B-S Luis Sardinas to Triple-A Colorado Springs. [6/9]
The Brewers' fifth-starter carousel paused earlier in the week, allowing Jungmann to climb aboard for a few spins. If Jungmann's name sounds familiar, it's because he was the 12th-overall pick in the 2011 draft. He remains tall and Texan—both fine qualities for a starting pitcher—but he's unlikely to live up to his draft-day expectations. Instead Jungmann's aspirations are considerably lower. His delivery will remind you of Jered Weaver—as is the case whenever a long-bodied righty steps directly across from the batter's box—and the rest of his game will inform you on why he's posted some ugly ERAs in Triple-A.
Jungmann's issues are myriad. His average-at-best arsenal is led by a low-90s sinker that has lost mileage since college. Because he lacks a true out pitch and good command, he's unlikely to miss many bats in the majors. As such, he'll need to continue to generate upward of 60 percent groundballs in order to have a shot at sustained success. The best-case scenario sees him do just that en route to becoming your stereotypical, innings-munching back-end starter. Otherwise, maybe he's the new Kameron Loe. —R.J. Anderson
Recalled RHP Nick Vincent from Triple-A El Paso; optioned 2B-R Jedd Gyorko to Triple-A El Paso. [6/10]
With due respect to Vincent, the greater concern here is Gyorko, who has become the latest evidence that not all pre-arbitration extensions work out, not even those signed by former top prospects.
Gyorko has not performed well since signing that pact last April. Through 46 games he had followed up last season's .245 True Average with a .223 mark. Lovely. His power production has dipped, his strikeout rate has increased, and so on. Basically, there is no positive to point to from Gyorko's last 574 plate appearances, not for a bat-only second baseman due another, oh, $33 million through 2019.
Figuring out what led to Gyorko's downfall is next to impossible. There's been talk about mechanical issues and a long swing, but there's always talk about mechanical issues and a long swing when a player struggles. Ditto for failing to make adjustments. The more interesting task is figuring out what's next. Getting Gyorko away from extensive media and fan attention should allow him to tweak and experiment and perhaps even play a little looser. Will any of that matter? Who can say.
What can be said is the Padres will roll with Cory Spangenberg and Yangervis Solarte at the keystone. If nothing else, San Diego leads the majors in great names at second base. —R.J. Anderson
Acquired RHP David Carpenter from the Yankees in exchange for 2B-R Tony Renda. [6/11]
A straightforward deal for the Nationals. Washington needs the bullpen help (they rank 19th in ERA) and Carpenter is a decent bet to provide it. His poor efforts with the Yankees have been blamed on his mechanics and role. The latter won't change until the former does, but the Nationals will try to get Carpenter back to his Brave ways, when he was throwing his power fastball-slider combination for strikes and generally providing good relief in the late innings. Maybe Carpenter isn't fixable, at least not on the fly, but the cost is low enough to like this one for D.C.'s team.
About the cost: Renda is a 5-foot-8 second baseman who hasn't hit well during his first stint in Double-A. Provided he settles in, his line-drive swing and get-rich-or-die-trying approach gives him a chance to crack the majors in due time. —R.J. Anderson