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News and Notes: Ross Stripling traded to A’s, Red Sox acquire Tyler Heineman, Tommy Pham’s market heating up, and more
By Thomas Hall25 days ago
February has gotten off to quite the explosion in Major League Baseball, and we’re only two days in.
First, it was Thursday night’s blockbuster between the Baltimore Orioles and Milwaukee Brewers, inserting former National League Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes into the meat grinder that is the AL East Division.
Oh, but the action hasn’t stopped there.
As it turns out, Friday has also been an action-packed event for the news cycle, with trades and signings flying around the room. So, let’s examine the latest transactions and rumblings from around the league.
Ross Stripling headed to rebuilding Athletics
Say it ain’t so, Ross.
The San Francisco Giants have sent Stripling and cash considerations to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for right-handed-hitting outfield prospect Jonah Cox. As part of the trade, the Giants are paying $3.25 million of the former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher’s $12.5 million salary in 2024, per The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly.
That clears $9.25 million off San Francisco’s books for next season, savings they’ll almost certainly reallocate elsewhere – like potentially at third base or on their starting rotation.
It’s a less-than-ideal situation for Stripling, who’s coming off a poor 2023 season and now heads to a fully torn-down Athletics roster. The only saving grace is there should be plenty of reps available next season, either as a starter or multi-inning reliever, allowing the 34-year-old righty to overcome last season’s woes.
If he bounces back from his disappointing first – and only – season in San Francisco, which included a 5.36 ERA and 2.02 HR/9 over 22 appearances (11 starts), Stripling could emerge as an appealing mid-season trade target as he’s a free agent after the 2024 campaign.
Tyler Heineman traded to Red Sox, Max Castillo DFA’d
Another day, another move for former Blue Jays catcher Tyler Heineman.
It has been an extremely busy off-season for the 32-year-old backstop, who was claimed off waivers from Toronto by the New York Mets in December before returning to the waiver wire last month, with the Boston Red Sox jumping the line and necessitating a trade for cash considerations.
As a corresponding move, another former Blue Jay was placed on waivers: right-hander Max Castillo, whom the club designated for assignment to open a 40-man roster spot for Heineman.
Heineman spent last season as Toronto’s third-string catcher, adding a layer of protection behind Alejandro Kirk and Danny Jansen. He ended up playing 19 games with the Blue Jays, slashing .276/.432/.379 while logging 100.0 innings behind the plate.
Castillo, who made his MLB debut with Toronto in 2022, made three starts (five appearances) with the organization that season, pitching to a 0.66 ERA and 3.54 FIP with 29 strikeouts over 27.1 innings. He was sent to the Kansas City Royals as part of a package in the Whit Merrifield trade.
The Red Sox now roster two former Blue Jay catchers: Heineman and Reese McGuire.
Tommy Pham’s free-agent market intensifying
At least eight clubs have expressed “significant interest” in Pham, reports MLB.com’s Juan Toribio, as the free-agent outfielder’s market gains further clarity.
The Blue Jays could be one of those teams, given their need for a right-handed corner outfielder and additional middle-of-the-order slugging. They contacted the Mets regarding his availability prior to last season’s trade deadline, multiple sources close to the situation said.
Pham, who’s excelled versus left-handed pitching in his career and hit .245/.322/.465 with a 111 wRC+ in lefty matchups last season, appears better suited for a platoon role in 2024. But the 35-year-old could be seeking an opportunity where more consistent at-bats exist.
Cardinals sign RP Keynan Middleton
The St. Louis Cardinals entered this off-season determined to add a boatload of swing-and-miss to their pitching staff for the 2024 season, and it’s fair to say they’ve done precisely that.
That overhaul continued on Friday, with the Red Birds acquiring Middleton in free agency, supplying manager Oliver Marmol with another high-powered reliever in his bullpen. The exact details of the deal, which is pending a physical, remain unknown at this time.
Middleton, a 30-year-old righty set to join the likes of closer Ryan Helsley, Giovanny Gallegos, JoJo Romero and Andrew Kittredge, to name a few, was among the sport’s most impactful strikeout arms in 2023.
The former Chicago White Sox ranked in the 89th percentile or higher in chase (33.1%), strikeout (30.2%) and whiff rate (36.0%). On top of that, his hard-hit (31.5%) and ground-ball rates (56.5%) placed in the 92nd and 93rd percentiles, respectively.
This is excellent news for the Cardinals, but so, too, for the Blue Jays, as it eliminates a potential bullpen arm for the New York Yankees, whom the White Sox traded him to before last season’s deadline.
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