One Roster Move Each MLB Team Must Make ASAP

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterMay 1, 2018

One Roster Move Each MLB Team Must Make ASAP

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    What to do with Matt Harvey...
    What to do with Matt Harvey...Kyusung Gong/Associated Press

    The games are what count the most in Major League Baseball, but not to be ignored are the never-ending contests of musical chairs that front offices must play with their rosters.

    On that note, we have ideas for moves that teams should make as soon as possible.

    This isn't about free-agent signings or trades. It's about how each of MLB's 30 teams can add (e.g., minor league promotions or disabled list activations) or subtract (e.g., demotions to the minors or designations for assignment) from within.

    We'll go in alphabetical order by city.

    Note: All stats are accurate through play on Sunday.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Activate Jake Lamb

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    Matt York/Associated Press

    What can you do for a 19-8 juggernaut that has yet to lose a series?

    Not much, really. The Arizona Diamondbacks' only real nit to pick is the lack of offense from their infield. Paul Goldschmidt is doing his thing with a .911 OPS, but nobody else has better than an .800 OPS.

    Without any impact MLB-ready prospects waiting in the wings, the best thing the D-backs can do is simply activate Jake Lamb.

    The 27-year-old third baseman played just four games before going on the disabled list with a shoulder sprain and subsequently running into elbow trouble. But according to Elliott Smith of, Lamb looked good in workouts Thursday and Friday. He should be ready to come off the DL soon.

    When he returns, Arizona will welcome back a guy who's put up an .843 OPS and 59 home runs over the last two seasons. Just what the proverbial doctor ordered.

Atlanta Braves: Promote Mike Soroka

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    Mark Cunningham/Getty Images

    The Atlanta Braves have already called up wunderkind outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. Next should be right-hander Mike Soroka.

    Soroka, who was the No. 28 pick in 2015, boosted his stock with a 2.75 ERA in 26 outings for Double-A Mississippi in 2017. Now he's pounding on the door to the majors with a 1.99 ERA through four outings for Triple-A Gwinnett, the most recent of which was his first professional shutout.

    Pretty good for a guy who's only 20 years old.

    As it is, Soroka's promotion may be imminent. The Braves scratched him from his scheduled start Sunday, as they may need him to fill in for Julio Teheran or Anibal Sanchez if minor injuries keep them from making their next starts.

    Whenever Soroka arrives, he has the goods to stick. While he may not have as powerful an arm as other top pitching prospects, he can throw strikes with four pitches.

Baltimore Orioles: Promote Austin Hays

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    Mark Cunningham/Getty Images

    The Baltimore Orioles are 8-20 with the second-worst run differential (minus-54) in MLB.

    This is a gateway into a rebuild that should eventually result in trades of Manny Machado and quite a few others. In the meantime, the Orioles can turn the team over to the kids and see what they can do.

    Starting with Austin Hays.

    The 22-year-old is struggling to live up to his 2017 season so far. He put up a .958 OPS and 32 homers last year, which earned him a call from Double-A Bowie to the majors in September. He's back with Bowie now, but he's managed just a .659 OPS through 20 games.

    All the same, Hays' powerful bat and strong throwing arm give him a perfect right field profile. With Orioles right fielders ranking dead-last in FanGraphs WAR, that's one position that could use a boost.

Boston Red Sox: Demote Carson Smith

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    Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

    The Boston Red Sox could use Dustin Pedroia back at second base, but his surgically repaired knee warrants a recovery that must not be rushed.

    In lieu of that, the best addition the Red Sox can make involves subtracting Carson Smith from their roster. At least temporarily.

    The 28-year-old righty is a weak link in a pitching staff that's otherwise been rock solid with a 3.24 ERA. Though he has a good strikeout rate (9.4 K/9) and rate of hard contact (9.1 percent), he's struggled with a 5.87 ERA in 10 appearances in part because he's walked six batters in only 7.2 innings.

    Because Smith has three minor league options left, the Red Sox have an excuse to send him down to see if he can work out his control problems and build his confidence at Triple-A Pawtucket. It could be what Smith needs to recapture his pre-Tommy John form as a shutdown reliever.

Chicago Cubs: DFA Justin Wilson

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    Matt Marton/Associated Press

    The Chicago Cubs bullpen has mostly been terrific in putting together a 2.65 ERA, but one guy who's been left out of the fun is Justin Wilson.

    The veteran left-hander has appeared in 10 games and struggled with a 5.59 ERA. He has struck out 13 in 9.2 innings, but he's also walked 11 and given up a pair of homers.

    Given Wilson's background, this should be forgivable in theory. But his slow start to 2018 is coming on the heels of an equally lousy introduction to Chicago in 2017. He had dominated as a Detroit Tiger but then put up a 5.09 ERA with 19 walks in 17.2 innings as a Cub.

    This partnership just isn't working out. Because Wilson can't simply be optioned to the minor leagues, the best thing the Cubs can do is designate him for assignment to see if they can spur interest in a trade.

Chicago White Sox: Promote Michael Kopech

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    Ron Vesely/Getty Images

    The Chicago White Sox could benefit from pick-me-ups all over the diamond but nowhere more so than on the mound.

    Michael Kopech is ready to help.

    The 22-year-old righty is known far and wide for a blazing fastball that has climbed as high as 105 mph. With the help of that heat and a similarly sizzling slider, he's struck out 11.6 batters per nine innings in his minor league career.

    Kopech's control has been his biggest problem, but he's turning a corner with Triple-A Charlotte. He's logged 21 innings, and he's walked only seven. None of his four starts featured more than two free passes.

    The Chicago rotation badly needs a pitcher with Kopech's upside. Reynaldo Lopez has been terrific with a 1.78 ERA, but everyone else has combined for a 6.24 ERA.

Cincinnati Reds: Promote Nick Senzel

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    Rob Tringali/Getty Images

    With a 7-21 record and minus-42 run differential, the Cincinnati Reds are in the same boat as the Orioles in that the best thing they can do is see what the kids can do.

    First up should be Nick Senzel...when he's ready.

    The "when he's ready" caveat is necessary not just because it applies to all prospects, but also because Senzel hurt his shoulder Saturday. There's no structural damage, according to C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic, and Senzel was back in action on Monday. Nonetheless, it's something for the Reds to monitor.

    Once they're certain that the 22-year-old is 100 percent healthy, a call-up should be imminent. His bat has produced a .310/.389/.506 slash line since the Reds picked him No. 2 overall in 2016, and he has a glove that can play at third base, second base or shortstop.

Cleveland Indians: Promote Yu Chang

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    Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

    The Cleveland Indians' two best prospects are catcher Francisco Mejia and right-hander Triston McKenzie. But the latter isn't nearly MLB-ready, and the former needs more time with a defensive versatility experiment.

    Carry on this process of elimination, and the search for the best candidate to jump from the minors into an important role in Cleveland comes down to Yu Chang.

    Though Chang isn't a name-brand prospect, he's intriguing because of his strong defense and developing power. He's also just a step from the majors with Triple-A Columbus, with whom he has a solid .773 OPS through 19 games.

    At the least, Chang could be a solid reserve infielder for the Indians. Even better, he could fit into a platoon with Jason Kipnis (one of MLB's worst hitters) at second base that could benefit them both.

Colorado Rockies: Demote Ryan McMahon

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The Colorado Rockies should be excited about Ryan McMahon's future, but he's being wasted in the present.

    There was a time when McMahon looked ticketed to be Colorado's starting first baseman in 2018. The re-signing of Carlos Gonzalez changed that, as it meant Ian Desmond would have to split time between the cold corner and outfield.

    As a result, McMahon has been reduced to a part-time player who's logged only 60 plate appearances in 27 games. He also has just a .517 OPS and zero homers, a far cry from the .986 OPS and 20 homers he produced at Double-A and Triple-A in 2017.

    Rather than continue to waste him in this capacity, the Rockies would be better served sending McMahon, 23, back to Triple-A for more regular playing time. They could be glad they did if and when an everyday role finally opens up for him.

Detroit Tigers: Promote Christin Stewart

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Though the Detroit Tigers are off to a surprisingly strong start, they're still in a transitional phase in which their main priority should be planning for the future.

    It shouldn't be long before they grant themselves and up-close look at Christin Stewart.

    The 24-year-old proved with 30 homers in 2016 and 28 in 2017 that his power plays. Now he's showing he can handle a major league approach. Along with a .902 OPS, he's racked up nearly as many walks (10) as strikeouts (13) in 20 games for Triple-A Toledo.

    "He's been having good at-bats and good swings all season," Toledo hitting coach Brian Harper said.

    Because of their functioning outfield and Victor Martinez's presence at designated hitter, the Tigers lack a place to give Stewart regular action. That's unlikely to be a permanent state of affairs, however, so all he needs to do is stay patient.

Houston Astros: Recall J.D. Davis

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    Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

    J.D. Davis made his major league debut in 2017, and he's played nine games with the Houston Astros this season.

    But at least until top prospect Kyle Tucker is ready, Davis deserves a shot at another, more extended look.

    Though the 25-year-old failed to make an impression with the Astros in his first stint with the team in 2018, that shouldn't blind anyone to what else he's done this year. He was terrific with a 1.067 OPS and five homers in spring training, and he's since given Triple-A Fresno a .926 OPS and two homers in 15 games.

    Davis is a third baseman by trade, but he can also play first base and left field or just fill in at DH.

    These happen to be positions where the Astros could use a little more offense, as Yuli Gurriel, Derek Fisher and Evan Gattis have each had their struggles.

Kansas City Royals: Promote Josh Staumont

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    At 7-20 and with an MLB-worst minus-61 run differential, the Kansas City Royals are yet another team for the "Let the Kids Play" file.

    Their problem is they don't have much in the farm system worth getting excited about. But one guy who's establishing himself as an exception to the rule is Josh Staumont.

    The 24-year-old righty has a fastball that's reached as high as 102 mph, and he's finally in a role in which he can get the most out of it. He's made eight relief appearances for Triple-A Omaha, and he's struck out 22 of the 48 batters he's faced.

    The catch is that walks are still an issue for Staumont, who's racked up seven of them in 10.1 innings. But as long as he's whiffing 45.8 percent of the batters he's facing, he can keep that issue from becoming a full-blown crisis.

Los Angeles Angels: Demote Kole Calhoun

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Kole Calhoun has been one of the Los Angeles Angels' best non-Mike Trout players in recent years, so an idea like this wouldn't be on the table unless things were really bad.

    Well, they're really bad.

    Calhoun is still playing a terrific right field, but he's managed just a .418 OPS in 102 trips to the plate. That's the worst of any qualified hitter by a significant margin.

    The 30-year-old's 39.1 percent hard-hit rate is one reason for optimism, but it doesn't overrule the other facets of his slump. As long as his walk rate is in the toilet and his ground-ball rate is through the roof, hard contact is only worth so much.

    Calhoun has one minor league option left. The Angels can take advantage of that and hope some time at Triple-A is what's needed for his bat and, by extension, his confidence.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Activate Justin Turner

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    The promotion of outfielder Alex Verdugo would have been an obvious choice for the Los Angeles Dodgers' spot on this list a few days ago. But then they went and actually did it.

    What the Dodgers need most now is some good injury news to counteract losing Corey Seager for the rest of the season. Acitivating Justin Turner would do the trick.

    His return doesn't appear to be as imminent as that of Lamb, his fellow National League West star third baseman. But Turner is progressing from the broken wrist he suffered in spring training. According to Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times, Turner is swinging a bat and could soon embark on a rehab assignment.

    The Dodgers aren't without issues elsewhere, but their problem at third base is difficult to overstate. Without Turner, who owns an .881 OPS since 2014, the position has produced just a .568 OPS. That's the worst in MLB.

Miami Marlins: Demote Lewis Brinson

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    Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    Lewis Brinson was the biggest prize of the Miami Marlins' offseason sell-off, and they made the right call in throwing him right into the action.

    But at this point, the harm is far outweighing the good for the 23-year-old.

    Brinson has managed just a .513 OPS in 101 trips to the plate. That's one of the worst marks among qualified hitters, and it comes with an ugly 35.6 strikeout percentage.

    The Marlins have already tried benching Brinson in hopes that a few days off would help get him going. He initially responded with a two-homer game, but he's since gone back to struggling.

    The fear now should be that a prolonged slump will do irreparable damage to Brinson's confidence. Rather than risk that, the Marlins should send him down and hope he can get back on track against lesser foes.

Milwaukee Brewers: Promote Mauricio Dubon

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    Rob Tringali/Getty Images

    The Milwaukee Brewers rank 13th in the National League in both OPS and runs. They clearly need offense and nowhere more so than in the middle of their infield.

    Mauricio Dubon can help.

    The 23-year-old has typically been a high-contact, low-power style of hitter throughout his minor league career. He's flipping the script through 21 games with Triple-A Colorado Springs, though, as 39.3 percent (11 of 28) of his hits have gone for extra bases.

    With Orlando Arcia entrenched at shortstop, Dubon would have to settle for a role at second base with the Brewers. But that's where he could easily be an upgrade over Eric Sogard, Jonathan Villar and Hernan Perez, who've combined for just a .620 OPS at the position.

Minnesota Twins: Activate Ervin Santana

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    It must be a year ending in a number, because the Minnesota Twins are once again struggling with their pitching. Their 5.26 ERA is the worst in the American League.

    While the Twins could chip away at the problem by subtracting problematic pitchers, they need to add talent. Among their in-house options, getting Ervin Santana back off the DL is their best hope.

    The veteran righty has yet to pitch in 2018 after undergoing surgery on his right middle finger, but he shouldn't be sidelined for much longer. Twins manager Paul Molitor said April 23 that Santana is "getting close" to throwing off a mound. The next step would be a rehab assignment.

    That puts Santana's possible return somewhere in the middle of May. If he can return to be anything like the pitcher who put up a 3.28 ERA over 211.1 innings in 2017, the Twins will be very glad to have him back.

New York Mets: DFA Matt Harvey

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    Kyusung Gong/Associated Press

    Frankly, it sucks that it's come to this.

    Memories of Matt Harvey's explosive 2013 breakout are still fresh, as are the memories of his triumphant return from Tommy John surgery in 2015. But injuries have refused to leave him alone, and it's clear by now they've broken him.

    Harvey owns a 5.78 ERA across just 43 appearances since 2016. He's become a well-below-average strikeout artist, in no small part thanks to drastically diminished fastball velocity.

    The New York Mets were surely hoping that moving Harvey from their rotation to their bullpen would spark a revival, but the early returns suggest not to count on it. The 29-year-old's fastball isn't playing up, and he's struck out only two of the 17 batters he's faced. Meanwhile, he doesn't seem too happy with his new role.

    This sure looks like the end of the line for Harvey and the Mets. The best they can do is designate him for assignment and hope someone's willing to chance a trade.

New York Yankees: Promote Justus Sheffield

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    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    The New York Yankees have won nine games in a row, and their 18-9 record is the product of the best lineup and one of the best pitching staffs in MLB.

    As tempting as it is to suggest they don't need Sonny Gray and his 7.71 ERA, he's a former Cy Young Award contender who's just 28 and in good health. He deserves the benefit of the doubt.

    So at this point, the most sensible person on which to put the Yankees' roster move spotlight is Justus Sheffield.

    After Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres, he's next in the march of top prospects to the club's major league roster. The 21-year-old has dominated with a 2.86 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 22 innings for Double-A Trenton.

    There's a chance Sheffield could be called up straight from Double-A. If the Yankees would rather be patient and give him time with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, that's fine too. They have enough firepower to last a while.

Oakland Athletics: Promote Sean Murphy

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    Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

    The Oakland Athletics have one of the best lineups in MLB, but it could use a boost at catcher.

    Jonathan Lucroy and Bruce Maxwell have combined for just a .611 OPS and, thus far, minus-one defensive runs saved. This is a situation that's practically begging for Sean Murphy.

    Though the 23-year-old is less than two years removed from being picked in the third round of the 2016 draft, he's already put himself on a fast track to the majors. He's long impressed scouts with his defensive chops, and now he's breaking out on offense in a big way for Double-A Midland. He has a .989 OPS in 20 games, and 15 of his 28 hits have gone for extra bases.

    Given his relative lack of experience, the A's shouldn't be too quick to pull the trigger on Murphy. But he should be up at some point in 2018—and preferably sooner than later.

Philadelphia Phillies: Recall Roman Quinn

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    The Philadelphia Phillies' right field platoon of Aaron Altherr and Nick Williams has produced just a .564 OPS. That's among the worst marks in the majors.

    Sounds like an excuse to give Roman Quinn another shot.

    The 24-year-old speedster's health and production have been up and down throughout his seven-year professional career. But he's doing quite well in both aspects right now for Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

    Quinn has played 17 games and compiled a .318 average with a .384 on-base percentage and nine steals. This on the heels of a solid spring in which he had a .375 OBP.

    Quinn wouldn't bring much power to the Phillies, but his elite speed and solid on-base talent are two things their offense could use. With good pitching already in place, they'd have little else to ask for.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Activate Joe Musgrove

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    It may be his only major league start, but Nick Kingham's debut was impressive enough for the Pittsburgh Pirates to give him another. Presumably, he'll get another after that and another after that.

    But that may be it, because Joe Musgrove should soon be back.

    Along with third baseman Colin Moran, Musgrove was one of the prizes that the Pirates got back in the trade that sent Gerrit Cole to the Houston Astros. A shoulder injury has kept him from pitching this season, yet he's going to start a rehab assignment on Tuesday and he's on target to return later in May.

    Although Musgrove's career 4.52 ERA isn't going to impress anyone, the Pirates can hope that he can carry over the magic from his late-2017 run as a reliever (1.44 ERA in 23 appearances) into a fresh start as a starter. That would be a big help to a Pirates rotation that could use some stability.

San Diego Padres: Promote Luis Urias

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    The San Diego Padres may be 10-19, but at least they're loaded with talented rookies. And they have more of those on the way, ideally starting with Luis Urias.

    Once Scott Kingery bypasses rookie eligibility in Philadelphia, Urias will take over the top spot in's second base prospect rankings. He's well regarded in part because of his capable defense but more so because of his excellent hit tool.

    It's sure looking the part through 18 games with Triple-A El Paso, as he's hitting .296 with a .405 OBP. That ought to intrigue the Padres, who've gotten just a .276 OBP out of Carlos Asuaje.

    Urias did suffer a minor leg injury Wednesday, but he returned Sunday and went 3-for-3 with two walks. So, as long as he keeps doing what he does, he should get the call to San Diego any day now.

San Francisco Giants: Promote Steven Duggar

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    The San Francisco Giants badly need Madison Bumgarner back in their starting rotation, but his return won't fix a position that's been a problem area for far too long: center field.

    Only Steven Duggar can do that.

    The 24-year-old has always been well regarded as a speedster and defender, but reports on his bat have tended to come down on the side of "meh." He's pushing back against those with a .300/.398/.438 slash line with two homers through 20 games with Triple-A Sacramento.

    Calling up Duggar could spell the end of regular action for Austin Jackson, Gregor Blanco and Gorkys Hernandez. But given that they've teamed up for an NL-worst minus-0.3 fWAR in center field, that would be no great loss.

Seattle Mariners: Recall Max Povse

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    Rob Leiter/Getty Images

    It's something of a miracle that the Seattle Mariners have a 16-11 record, as they've achieved that despite getting an MLB-worst 5.62 ERA out of their starting pitchers.

    Alas, the Seattle farm system doesn't offer any easy solutions to this problem. Indeed, even suggesting that Max Povse might be a solution is a stretch. He owns a 7.71 career ERA at Triple-A, and he didn't fare much better in three outings with the Mariners in 2017.

    Povse does have the ability to strike batters out and induce ground balls, however. Given that their starters rank 12th in strikeout rate and 26th in ground-ball rate, that ought to appeal to the Mariners. To boot, it bodes well that they've allowed just a .238 average on grounders.

    Maybe Povse, 24, won't be a panacea for the Seattle rotation. But he's at least worth a shot.

St. Louis Cardinals: Recall Jack Flaherty

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    Joe Sargent/Getty Images

    The St. Louis Cardinals need offense more than they need pitching. But for that, they should remain patient for Marcell Ozuna and Dexter Fowler to come around.

    As such, the best roster move they can make in the near future is one that's probably already inevitable: recalling Jack Flaherty.

    The 22-year-old righty showed why he's considered one of baseball's best pitching prospects when he made his 2018 debut for the Cardinals on April 3. He struck out nine and allowed only one earned run in five innings.

    Flaherty's second outing Saturday didn't go as well, and he got sent back down to Triple-A Memphis the very next day. But indications are he'll stay there only as long as the Cardinals cease to have off days as an excuse to use a four-man rotation. Next time, he may be in the majors for good.

Tampa Bay Rays: Promote Willy Adames

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    Mark Cunningham/Getty Images

    Though the Tampa Bay Rays have quickly transformed from an embarrassment to a surprisingly competitive team, they're still in a position to play the long game with a proper return to contention.

    This will involve harvesting the best fruits from one of the better farm systems in MLB. The best of the best is also one who should be up sooner than later: Willy Adames.

    The 22-year-old has the goods to stick at shortstop. And following a down year at the plate in 2017, he's showing he has more than enough bat for the position with a .966 OPS through 20 games with Triple-A Durham.

    It's unrealistic to expect the penny-pinching Rays to call on Adames before the Super Two deadline (which is always nebulous). But whenever they're ready for him, they shouldn't have any reservations about pushing Adeiny Hechavarria aside.

Texas Rangers: Recall Yohander Mendez

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    The Texas Rangers are 11-18, and their best MLB-ready prospect (Willie Calhoun) doesn't have an obvious position. He's also mired in a slump at Triple-A Round Rock.

    This makes it hard to do anything besides shrug at how the Rangers might fix their predicament. But for lack of a better idea, recalling Yohander Mendez from the minors makes sense.

    Mendez still ranks as one of the Rangers' better prospects despite spending time with the team in both 2016 and 2017. And while he's not exactly making a strong case for a promotion with a 6.66 ERA through five starts with Triple-A Round Rock, the Rangers are better off giving him innings than they are Matt Moore, Martin Perez and even Bartolo Colon.

    Mendez has a chance to claim a place in the club's future plans. Might as well see what he can do.

Toronto Blue Jays: Activate Josh Donaldson

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    The Toronto Blue Jays' 15-12 record is plenty good, and it looks all the more impressive in light of the fact that Josh Donaldson has been on the DL since April 10 due to shoulder inflammation.

    It shouldn't be long before the Blue Jays welcome back their best player. 

    Donaldson began a rehab assignment on Saturday, and manager John Gibbons told reporters that the third baseman may be back with the team this coming weekend.

    The Blue Jays do need to exercise some caution with Donaldson, as they don't want to risk a repeat of the weak throws that first called attention to his health woes back on Opening Day. But they do need his bat, which has produced a .942 OPS and 114 homers in three-plus seasons in Toronto.

Washington Nationals: Activate Daniel Murphy

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    Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

    It's no wonder the Washington Nationals are just 12-16. Their roster is littered with underperfoming players, and their disabled list is littered with stars.

    No single move is going to fix all that ails them, but activating Daniel Murphy off the DL might come the closest.

    Nobody should be holding their breath for this. Though there's been talk of Murphy, 33, skipping a rehab assignment and simply rejoining the Nats when he's fully recovered from knee surgery, general manager Mike Rizzo told reporters, "We are not there yet."

    On the plus side, that Murphy has at least played simulated games indicates he's getting there. The sooner the Nats can have his bat (which has produced a .956 OPS over the last two seasons) back in their lineup, the better.


    Special thanks to Roster Resource for roster breakdowns. Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Brooks Baseball.


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