MLB rosters are ever-changing, mostly due to the fragility of players—there are currently over 170 players on the disabled list. Baseball players also go through ups and downs and a coaching staff/front office must decide at which point to shake things up and make a change.
This keeps me very busy over at Roster Resource, where I spend my day moving roster pieces around as news is reported. This past week was no exception, although there were more big names than usual in the transactions. Here are the five most important moves from the past seven days …
1. Blue Jays RF Jose Bautista (Turf Toe) Placed On 15-Day DL
Despite a nagging quad injury, the 35-year-old Bautista was settling in nicely as Toronto’s leadoff man when he injured his toe on June 16th. The Jays were also playing their best baseball of the season, about to win for the 15th time in 22 games to push their record to 37-31.
Without their superstar right fielder, who was placed on the disabled the list the following day and expected to be in a walking boot for two weeks, the Jays have now lost 3 of 5. Bautista’s replacement in the starting lineup is veteran journeyman Ezequiel Carrera, who is having a terrific season (.827 OPS in 114 plate appearances), but only 3-for-14 with a homer in his absence.
While he’s earned the opportunity with his performance as a part-time player this season, the 29-year-old Carrera would likely have a short leash if Dalton Pompey was having a more eye-popping season down in Triple-A.
Although Pompey does have a .280 batting average and .351 on-base percentage, the former top prospect has shown very little power and doesn’t appear to be an upgrade at this moment. But if Carrera and the Jays are struggling 7-10 days from now and Pompey has heated up, this scenario could change.
2. Tigers RF J.D. Martinez (Non-Displaced Elbow Fracture) Placed On 15-Day DL
Like fellow slugger Bautista, Martinez suffered his injury while playing in the outfield last Thursday. The 2015 All-Star, who was on a similar pace to last season (.879 OPS, 38 HR in 158 games ’15; .878 OPS, 12 HR in 65 games in ’16), is expected to miss at least 4-6 weeks and possibly much more. And yet, the Tigers’ lineup hasn’t missed a beat.
Not only did Justin Upton pick a good time to finally get going at the plate—8-for-27 with four homers since Martinez’s injury—Steven Moya has 9 hits in 24 at-bats, including three homers and two doubles, since replacing Martinez on the 25-man roster and in the starting lineup.
The 24-year-old rookie has huge power potential, but has been strikeout prone throughout his minor league career. So maybe this is a case of small sample size success before teams figure out the best way to attack the young hitter. Until then, he’s giving the Tigers some much-needed lefty power to help balance out a right-handed heavy lineup.
3. Dodgers OF Yasiel Puig Activated From Disabled List
Puig is having a terrible season. On the day he was placed on the disabled list in early June, he had a .643 OPS with nine walks, 43 strikeouts and only 11 extra-base hits. Trayce Thompson, who had already worked his way into the outfield mix, had an .872 OPS with eight homers at the time. No Puig. No problem.
Fast forward almost three weeks and the Dodgers have a slight dilemma. Puig is ready to return. Howie Kendrick is getting most of his at-bats in left field and, coincidentally, hit over .300 during Puig’s absence. Thompson wasn’t bad, but his production had fallen with Puig on the disabled list (.740 OPS).
So who sits? The answer is “not the guy who became a star after posting an .888 OPS in his first two big league seasons.” Since returning from the disabled list on Tuesday, the 25-year-old Puig has started both games in right field and collected three singled in seven at-bats, while Thompson and Kendrick have each started one game in left field.
Of course, Kendrick’s versatility makes this much less complicated—he’s made starts at first base, second base, third base and left field—as does Thompson’s ability to play all three outfield spots. There are plenty of at-bats for all three, at least until Andre Ethier returns later in the season. But if Puig reverts to his poor pre-injury form, the Dodgers could have a “starting right field controversy” on their hands.
4. Angels SP Tim Lincecum Recalled From Triple-A
It’s probably a case of “too little, too late” for the Angels, who haven’t had much of a chance to compete since losing staff ace Garrett Richards and Andrew Heaney to elbow injuries. But the signing and subsequent call-up of former Giants ace Lincecum was supposed to give the team a shot in the arm.
But between the time Lincecum agreed to the deal on May 20th and the day of his call-up on June 18th, the Angels went from 19-23 and 5.5 games out in the AL West to 29-38 and 13.5 games out.
The 32-year-old Lincecum is now likely auditioning for those playoff contenders looking to bolster their starting rotation next month. The results are mixed, thus far, with a solid debut against Oakland (6 IP, ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 2 K) and a clunker against the same A’s team yesterday (3 IP, 4 ER, 7 H, 2 BB, 2 K).
5. Blue Jays SS Troy Tulowitzki Activated From 15-Day Disabled List
When Tulowitzki was placed on the disabled list in late May, he was hitting just over the Mendoza Line and the Blue Jays were a .500 ball club. When he returned three weeks later on June 18th, they were eight games over .500 and Darwin Barney was headed back to the bench after an impressive stint as Tulo’s replacement (.309/.356/.397 in 73 plate appearances).
Not that there was any question whether the 31-year-old Tulowitzki should be playing over the light-hitting Barney. We learned, however, that the Jays are still a good team without him. If he can ever return to his pre-trade form when he starred with the Rockies—he has a career OPS of .809 outside of Coors Field so this is unlikely to be the cause of his mediocre numbers—the Jays can be a great team.
So far, so good. In four games since returning, Tulowitzki is 5-for-14 with a double and two homers. If he’s hitting like this when Bautista returns, likely sometime next month, this Jays offense will be as scary as we all thought it would be.