The White Sox have agreed to a minor league contract with left-hander Cory Luebke, reports Matt Eddy of Baseball America (on Twitter). Eddy also notes that the Sox have a minors deal with catcher Carson Blair and have re-signed fleet-footed outfielder Jason Bourgeois.

The 31-year-old Luebke has undergone two Tommy John surgeries in the past half-decade but made his first big league appearance since 2012 this past season. Luebke broke camp with the Pirates after signing a minor league deal with Pittsburgh last winter, though he didn’t fare well in his return to a Major League mound. Luebke tossed just 8 2/3 innings with Pittsburgh and yielded nine runs on 15 hits and 11 walks with nine strikeouts. He did fare better in 24 1/3 minor league innings, tallying a 1.85 ERA and a 35-to-3 K/BB ratio between the Pirates and Marlins organizations.

Luebke once looked like a potential long-term cog in the Padres’ rotation, debuting with the team in 2010 and seemingly blossoming a year later. The southpaw turned in 139 2/3 innings of 3.29 ERA ball with 9.9 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9 in 2011, which earned him a four-year, $12MM extension. While many such deals are panned when they’re signed, Luebke’s decision to accept that then-modest sum now appears wise in light of his arm troubles.

A return to a starting role doesn’t appear likely for Luebke following a pair of Tommy John operations, but he could get an opportunity to compete for a bullpen gig with the rebuilding ChiSox in 2017. Dan Jennings currently stands as the top lefty option in new manager Rick Renteria’s bullpen, with less-proven southpaws Juan Minaya and Giovanni Soto (not to be confused with the catcher of the same, albeit differently spelled name) also in line to get a look this spring.

As for Blair, the 27-year-old is a longtime Red Sox farmhand that made his big league debut with the A’s in 2015 after signing a minor league deal there. Blair received just 35 plate appearances and didn’t hit well, but he’s coming off a more productive .250/.339/.372 batting line split between the A’s and Rangers organizations in 2016 (all in the minor leagues). He’s not likely to factor into the Sox’ plans out of Spring Training but could head the minors and serve as a depth piece in either Double-A or Triple-A.

Bourgeois, 35, made his Major League debut with the 2008 White Sox (though he played in just six games) and would go on to appear for five teams over the next seven seasons. He’s a career .253/.300/.326 hitter in the Majors and delivered a solid .292/.333/.385 batting line in 122 Triple-A contests with the Sox and D-backs last year.

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We at MLBTR would like to extend our most heartfelt condolences to Marlins right-hander Edinson Volquez, whose 25-year-old brother, Brandy, was stabbed and killed earlier today in Volquez’s native Dominican Republic, per a report from Emmanuel Rosario of QuisqueyanoSports.com and this one from ESPN. A suspect is reportedly in custody. It’s been a rough couple of years for Volquez and his family, as Volquez’s father passed away just prior to his son’s start for the Royals in Game 1 of the 2015 World Series.

As we keep Volquez and his family in our thoughts, here are a few more notes from the NL East…

  • Recent agreements by the Blue Jays (Jose Bautista) and Phillies (Michael Saunders) have caused the Mets’ potential trade options for right fielder Jay Bruce to dwindle, writes Mike Puma of the New York Post. (I’d also note the Orioles’ acquisition of Seth Smith in that list of deterrents to a Bruce swap.) The Giants and Rangers could be the only two remaining plausible landing spots for Bruce, Puma continues, noting that each team has had previous interest in Bruce. However, according to Puma, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson has not yet shown a willingness to absorb any of Bruce’s $13MM salary in a trade, which only further exacerbates the difficulty of trading him in a market flooded with cheaper corner options. Puma speculates that the Mets may be forced to open the season with Bruce on the roster and look to move him early in the regular season, as they did with Ike Davis back in 2014.
  • Braves general manager John Coppolella spoke to David Laurila of Fangraphs about his slew of trades this offseason, discussing topics such as longstanding interest in the prospects acquired by Atlanta, moving Alex Jackson back to catcher, and negotiating trades with Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto. Coppolella says that the Braves had a folder on left-hander Thomas Burrows, acquired in last week’s Mallex Smith trade, on their table on draft day before he was selected by the Mariners in the fourth round. “…[W]e literally had our pockets picked by Seattle,” Coppolella said. He also acknowledged interest in lefty Luiz Gohara dating back to his amateur days in 2012 before Gohara agreed to sign in Seattle. Of Dipoto, Coppolella offered high praise. “It’s worth noting that Jerry is extremely professional about returning calls and texts, open to ideas, and not afraid to make moves, particularly in terms of trading prospects,” he said. “It’s amazing how many conversations get shot down almost immediately, but Jerry will listen and engage.” I’d highly recommend a full read-through not just for Braves and Mariners fans but for any fans that want a bit of a behind-the-scenes look on the player movement.
  • Right-hander Aaron Nola tells MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki that he’s healthy and ready to go for Spring Training (Twitter link). The Phillies aren’t placing any restrictions on the former No. 7 overall pick, Zolecki adds, which is certainly good news for Phils fans after Nola’s season ended prematurely due to a “low grade” UCL and flexor strain. Nola, 23, was in the midst of an excellent year before his performance rapidly declined in early June. Through June 5, Nola had turned in a 2.65 ERA with 9.8 K/9, 1.7 BB/9 and a 53.9 percent ground-ball rate in 78 innings (12 starts). Over his next (and final) eight starts, though, Nola logged a ghastly 9.82 ERA in just 33 innings. His walk rate more than doubled over those eight starts (3.8 BB/9), and Nola also hit five batters in that short time frame as well. If healthy in 2017, he figures to be a critical component to a Phillies rotation that’ll also feature Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, the returning Jeremy Hellickson and the newly acquired Clay Buchholz.

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Longtime Giants outfielder Gregor Blanco has agreed to a minor league contract with an invitation to Major League Spring Training, Blanco’s agent, Wil Polidor, tells Manolo Hernandez of BeisbolPorGotas.com (Twitter link). SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets that Blanco would receive a $1MM base salary upon making the Major League roster.

Just this afternoon, Blanco had been linked to the Tigers, but it instead appears that he’ll remain in the NL West and compete for a backup job with the D-backs. Arizona is slated to deploy David Peralta, A.J. Pollock and Yasmany Tomas in the outfield. Jeremy Hazelbaker is the current favorite to open the season as the fourth outfielder under new manager Torey Lovullo, though the veteran Blanco could certainly give him a run for that roster spot in Spring Training.

Blanco, who turned 32 last month, has spent the past five season in San Francisco. Though he struggled to a .224/.309/.311 batting line last season, he’s been a largely productive reserve outfielder with the Giants. From 2012-15, Blanco slashed .264/.343/.367 with 18 homers and 69 stolen bases across 1780 plate appearances while spending time at all three outfield spots. The bulk of his outfield work in the Majors has come in center field, where he’s graded out as a roughly average defender, but Blanco has more than 2000 innings in left field and another 900+ in right field as well.

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The Braves have agreed to a minor league contract with right-hander Blaine Boyer, reports Mark Bowman of MLB.com (Twitter link).

The 35-year-old Boyer was originally drafted by the Braves back in 2000 and spent the first five seasons of his career in Atlanta. After a two-year absence from the Majors from 2012-13, during which Boyer has previously said he believed his career to be over, the right-hander returned to MLB on a minors pact with the Padres. Since that time, he’s posted a very strong 3.31 ERA in 171 1/3 innings with the Padres, Twins and Brewers. Boyer misses fewer bats than just about any reliever in the game — he’s averaged just 4.6 K/9 since returning the bigs — but demonstrates strong control and induces plenty of weak contact, which helps his cause. Bowman notes that he’ll have a strong chance to make the Atlanta bullpen.

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The Rays are close to an agreement with former Rangers closer Shawn Tolleson, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

The soon-to-be 29-year-old right-hander was non-tendered by Texas last month after a poor 2016 campaign but was excellent as recently as 2014-15. In that two-year run of success, Tolleson logged a 2.88 ERA with 9.1 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9 across 144 innings of relief. Tolleson’s strong performance earned him a ninth-inning role with the Rangers for most of the 2015 campaign, and he racked up 35 saves that season as the primary closer in Texas.

However, the 2016 campaign was disastrous for Tolleson, who saw his ERA spike to an outlandish 7.68 mark over the life of 36 1/3 innings. Tolleson did pick up 11 saves, but he eventually ceded his ninth-inning job to teammate Sam Dyson, who enters the season as the projected closer in Texas once again. Tolleson was eventually outrighted by the Rangers and elected free agency in search of a better opportunity. Topkin notes that while Tolleson missed time with a back injury in 2016, he’s now said to be healthy, which one would think gives him a decent shot at cracking the Rays’ big league bullpen, even if the deal proves to be of the minor league variety.

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JAN. 17: The Rockies have announced the signing.

JAN. 9: Amarista will receive a $1.25MM guarantee in the deal, Heyman tweets. That includes a $1.1MM salary for the coming season as well as a $150K buyout on the 2018 option, which is valued at $2.5MM.

DEC. 26: The Rockies have agreed to a one-year major league contract with utilityman Alexi Amarista, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports (via Twitter).  The deal also contains a club option for another season in 2018.

[Related: updated Colorado roster via Roster Resource]

Amarista, 27, has never provided much at the plate over his six MLB seasons with the Angels and Padres, though he adds some versatile depth to the Rockies bench.  The majority of Amarista’s 398 career starts have some at shortstop, though he has also seen quite a bit of action as a center fielder and second baseman and some time at third base and in both corner outfield slots.  The Rockies have a much-publicized glut of outfielders though relatively little infield depth, and Amarista can be a backup all across the diamond.  New Rockies manager Bud Black knows Amarista quite well, as Black previously managed Amarista in San Diego from 2012-15.

The Padres non-tendered Amarista earlier this month following a season that saw the 27-year-old hit .257/.295/.271 over 150 PA.  Amarista was projected by MLBTR to earn $1.6MM in his third and final year of arbitration.

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MLBTR Live Chat

Posted: January 17, 2017 in Uncategorized
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Click here to join today’s chat with MLBTR’s Steve Adams.

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