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Cincinnati Reds Rumors
After missing his start on Sunday, Reds ace Johnny Cueto underwent an MRI on the injured joint today (as FOX’s Jon Morosi tweeted he would earlier this morning), but agent Bryce Dixon said after the fact that the test revealed no tears or structural damage (Twitter link via C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer). The news is a sigh of relief for all parties involved, as a serious arm injury for Cueto would hurt his standing as one of the top free agents on the upcoming open market, whereas an injury would hurt the Reds’ chance of righting the ship and potentially eliminate their best trade chip should they sell off veteran pieces this summer.
Here’s more from the NL Central…
- Another NL Central hurler got somewhat worse news than Cueto, as Cardinals left-hander Marco Gonzales has been diagnosed with a shoulder impingement that will sideline him for three weeks, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Gonzales will receive an anti-inflammatory injection in the coming days and has otherwise been prescribed rest to allow the injury to heal. Gonzales will need to alter his workouts and preparation tactics, Goold notes, as they may have had a part in the injury. Gonzales and the training staff will look for areas of weakness in the shoulder that can be improved — a similar endeavor to the one undertaken by Michael Wacha last summer (though the two have different shoulder injuries).
- Kyle Schwarber‘s name doesn’t get bandied about as much as other promising young Cubs bats such as Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Javier Baez, but VP of scouting and player development Jason McLeod feels that Schwarber has a chance to impact the team in 2015, if necessary (via MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat). Selected fourth overall in last year’s draft, Schwarber entered the year as a consensus Top 100 prospect (Baseball America ranked him as highly as 19th), and he’s demolished Double-A pitching this year, batting .305/.440/.595 with 10 homers in 166 plate appearances. Said McLeod of the catcher/outfielder: “If there was a need for [Schwarber] to come up here and help this team win later this year, I think he could do it.” Of course, I should note that while I listed Schwarber as a catcher (in at least a part-time capacity), the belief of many scouts is that the lefty slugger will have to move off the position for defensive purposes. The Cubs have continued to give him reps behind the plate in an attempt to maximize the value of his bat.
- Also within Muskat’s piece, McLeod notes that the team feels that Baez is athletic enough to play in the outfield, though there are no plans to move him there in the works. He also likens righty Yoervis Medina, acquired in the Welington Castillo trade, to Pedro Strop before Strop gained the consistency he’s shown with the Cubs over the past two seasons.
The Reds are suffering through an eight-game losing streak and, as you’ll read here, dealing with a number of key injuries as well. Here’s the latest from Cincinnati…
- Johnny Cueto will have his right elbow examined today, Joe Kay of the Associated Press tweets. Cueto missed his scheduled start on Sunday due to what manager Bryan Price described to reporters yesterday (including MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon) as “more than his usual elbow stiffness,” which prompted the Reds to be cautious with their ace, though Price felt Cueto probably could have pitched if absolutely necessary. “I don’t think it’s anything anybody is concerned with….If he needs a little extra time, he’s certainly earned it,” Price said. It should be noted that an elbow exam is a pretty routine step whenever a pitcher is experiencing any discomfort, so the fact that Cueto is undergoing an examination is not necessarily a bad sign. Still, Price said today that Cueto “hasn’t had total relief. I’d have thought by now, he would.” Any type of health issue for Cueto is worth monitoring given his status as both one of the top free agents of the 2015-16 offseason and potentially a big deadline trade chip for the struggling Reds.
- In a welcome turn of events for Reds reliever Sean Marshall, the left-hander could be back pitching this season, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Last week, Marshall went in for anterior capsule surgery on his left shoulder, which was expected to end his season and potentially threaten his career. Instead, doctors discovered that full surgery wasn’t needed and instead just removed some scar tissue, so Marshall could be back on the mound this year if all goes well in his recovery. The southpaw has thrown just 25 1/3 innings over the last two seasons due to a variety of injury problems, including rotator cuff surgery last June.
- Devin Mesoraco has been placed on the 15-day DL (retroactive to last Thursday) with a left hip injury, the team announced via Twitter. Mesoraco has been limited to 51 plate appearances this season due to his hip impingement, and he’s appeared as a catcher in only six of his 23 games; the Reds have been trying to keep him healthy by using him as a pinch-hitter and interleague DH. Both the player and team were looking to exhaust all possibilities before turning to surgery, though a season-ending hip operation may now be the only option.
- The Reds are looking more and more like trade deadline sellers, and though Jay Bruce is only hitting .211/.311/.408 in 164 PA, he could be a trade chip, John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes. “I’d take a flyer on him and see if our on-the-field people could fix him,” an AL scout told Fay. “He looks healthy. His home runs and walks still grade out at 60 to 65 (on the 80-point scale). It’s just that his hit-ability is at 25 right now.”
The struggling Reds are hosting this year’s All-Star Game, but the possibility of bad P.R. shouldn’t prevent them from dismissing manager Bryan Price, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. Rosenthal notes that owner Bob Castellini likes Price and Jocketty and is wary of an upheaval before the break. But the Reds have played poorly lately, and Price’s occasional bursts of odd behavior (including an infamous profane tirade against the media a few weeks ago) raise questions about whether he’s well suited for the job. The organization has third base coach Jim Riggleman, Triple-A manager Delino DeShields and perhaps roving instructor Barry Larkin as potential replacements. Here’s more from the National League.
- The Mets have lots of talented young pitching and the Cubs have terrific young position players, and MLB.com’s Jim Duquette proposes several trades the two clubs might make. By far the wildest one (and one Duquette fully acknowledges is vanishingly unlikely) is Matt Harvey for Kris Bryant. The Mets and Cubs’ respective fan bases have pinned their hopes heavily on those two players, so such a trade would be nearly impossible, but it’s fun to think about. The sense here is that the Mets would easily be getting the better of such a deal — Bryant’s bat is rare, to put it mildly, and Harvey is three years closer to free agency and probably also more of an injury risk.
- Carlos Frias‘ poor performance Sunday shows why the Dodgers are likely to pursue outside starting pitching help, Anthony Witrado of ESPN Los Angeles writes. Frias gave up ten runs, including two homers, over four innings against the Padres, more than doubling his ERA. Frias did pitch reasonably well in four starts before that, but there’s no doubt the Dodgers’ rotation situation is somewhat uncomfortable, due to injuries to Hyun-jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy.
- The Padres haven’t performed as well as they’ve hoped, but Justin Upton has been terrific, and the team needs to do everything it can to keep him, Matt Calkins of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. The Padres’ new ownership did well to open its wallet last winter, but it must continue to show it’s serious about winning. Of course, keeping Upton won’t be easy to do — Upton currently tops MLBTR’s 2015-2016 Free Agent Power Rankings.
- Cardinals lefty Marco Gonzales will miss a start with Triple-A Memphis on Monday with pectoral muscle tightness, Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com writes. Gonzales dealt with the same injury earlier this season. Gonzales hasn’t yet pitched in the big-leagues this season, but as Langosch points out, he’s a key part of the Cardinals’ rotation depth, especially given Adam Wainwright‘s absence.
When you think of the lifestyle of a professional baseball player, you think of big houses and Olympic-sized swimming pools. You rarely think of those players building pools in someone’s backyard. Reds pitcher Josh Smith has had to do just that to make ends meet as he chases his big league dream.
Players taken in the early rounds of the draft typically get sizable signing bonuses and don’t have to moonlight at a second job. Smith’s journey to the minors, however, was decidedly different.
The right-hander cut his teeth at Lipscomb University as the No. 2 pitcher in the rotation next to ace Rex Brothers. Brothers, the Friday night pitcher, would go out and throw in front of scores of major league scouts. By Saturday, when Smith would take the mound, the scouts were off to check out their next prospect. Smith may not have had the same upside as Brothers, but he was a very strong pitcher in his own right and deserved far more attention from scouts, in the estimation of agent Alex Esteban. Brothers became a first round selection of the Rockies while Smith wound being selected in the 21st round by Cincinnati in 2010. Brothers got a signing bonus just shy of seven figures upon signing his deal. Smith got roughly $1K.
Bonuses for later round picks are extremely low and the minors don’t pay very well from year-to-year either. Smith, who earns less than $10K per year in salary, quickly figured out that he needed to take on a full-time job in the offseason. Longtime pitching coach Tracy Valentine, a former minor leaguer himself, also ran a pool construction business and had a need for a physically strong employee who could haul bulky, cumbersome bags of cement from the truck to backyards. That position, while greatly appreciated by the pitcher, didn’t give Smith the hours or pay that he needed to make ends meet.
“I don’t need side cash,” Smith told Valentine. “I need a job.”
With that, Smith began actually building the pools and earning a bit more cash. To line his pockets further, Smith also helped coach some of Valentine’s pupils, including Diamondbacks 2014 first-round choice Touki Toussaint.
“He came to us when he was like 14 or 15 and I was like, ‘Who is this kid?,‘” Smith said. “Back then he was a shortstop and I asked him if he ever thought about pitching and he said no. I told him, if you ever change your mind, let me know. I told him that he needed to be a pitcher because he had a cannon.”
Smith still helps to guide young arms and build pools in the offseason, even though he has reached Triple-A and is knocking on the door of the Reds’ major league roster. His particular offseason job might be unique, but it’s a lifestyle that is not at all uncommon for minor leaguers, Smith says.
“My old college teammate Caleb Joseph is in the bigs now with the Orioles, but when he was in the minors, he would come home and work at the local country club as a caddy and a waiter. Some guys do construction, some work in restaurants. Everyone does what they need to do in the offseason to make ends meet,” Smith explained.
In April, it became evident that Smith’s hard work both on and off the field was paying off as the Reds called him up to the majors.
“My manager, Delino DeShields, called me and said, ‘Pack your stuff, you’re meeting the Reds in Chicago.’ I didn’t believe him, but he told me he’d never pull a joke like that and that he wished he could see my face when I heard the news,” Smith said. “I was actually playing Call Of Duty with a bunch of my Louisville teammates and I told them on the headsets that I had to go and get myself packed.”
“The funny thing is,” Esteban added. “He was playing with like 100 other teenagers who had no idea what any of them were talking about.”
When Smith landed in Chicago, Esteban was there to pick him up from the airport and drive him to meet the team. The right-hander had a million things going through his mind on his way to the hotel. What’s it going to be like to pitch in a big league game? How will I adjust to playing in front of tens of thousands of people in the stands? But, there was one pressing concern that stood out above the others.
“I was wondering,” Smith said to Esteban. “Do you think they’ll put me in the video game?”
Unfortunately, Smith didn’t make it into the video game or the actual game during that stint. The Reds sent Smith back down to the minors after the three-game set in Chicago without having thrown a pitch. Still, the experience was a milestone for the 27-year-old and he knows that he’ll get another opportunity when the Reds are in need of a long reliever or spot starter. Once he gets to the majors and sticks on the roster, he could wind up with a big swimming pool to call his own.
Veteran right-hander Aaron Harang may soon join his ninth major league franchise, writes Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. Harang’s career trajectory includes a dominant, stable peak with the Reds followed by a multi-season reinvention with a handful of clubs. With the Phillies in rebuild mode, Harang is a prime trade candidate. His 1.82 ERA, 6.67 K/9, and 1.97 BB/9 would represent an upgrade for any club. However, it’s worth noting his 4.12 xFIP. Harang has allowed just two home runs despite a high fly ball rate. Kepner offers more detail about Harang’s transformation from power pitcher to crafty veteran.
- Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco has experienced a setback with his left hip impingement, reports Mark Sheldon of MLB.com. Mesoraco indicated that this week would be “pivotal” in deciding if the condition required surgery. He hasn’t been in the lineup the last two days, but he might be available to pinch hit tomorrow. To this point, club and player have attempted to avoid the surgical option.
- Dodgers catcher Yasmany Grandal has a “mild concussion,” writes Anthony Witrado of MLB.com. Last night, Grandal was hit in the jaw by a Yangervis Solarte backswing, and he took a Matt Kemp foul ball off the mask. The club expects him to be ready to resume baseball activities in a few days. He may only require the minimum seven day stay on the disabled list.
- Shelby Miller has done well to make the Braves look good for trading Jason Heyward. However, Tyrell Jenkins is doing his best to improve the return for the Braves. The 22-year-old righty has performed strongly in Double-A. Scouts and players credit him with excellent makeup. He tore his lat in 2012 and 2013 which has delayed his development as a prospect. He’s now fully healthy for the first time in years and reaching 96 mph on the gun. Although he has a shiny 2.94 ERA, his 5.71 K/9 and 3.81 BB/9 could stand to improve.
Reds ace Johnny Cueto will miss his start Sunday with elbow soreness, John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes. Raisel Iglesias will start in his place. The Reds say Cueto’s soreness is not serious. “He pitched in Kansas City without any trouble,” says Reds manager Bryan Price. “In the days following … his [soreness has] been lingering a little longer. He’s our workhorse. He probably could pitch tomorrow if we had to have him.” An extended absence would, obviously, be a serious blow to the Reds. Cueto came in second in NL Cy Young balloting in 2014 while leading the NL in innings pitched (243 2/3), batters faced (961) and pitches thrown (3,659). Those are very crude measures of a pitcher’s injury risk, but an elbow issue is surely at least worth watching for a pitcher coming off such a high-impact year. Cueto is, of course, a free agent after the season. Here are more notes from the National League.
- After a poor first month of his $155MM contract with the Cubs, Jon Lester is feeling more comfortable, Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com writes. “You definitely don’t want to be one of those guys that at the end of it you look at it as a bust,” Lester says. “You want everything to just fall into place. But sometimes that’s not the case. Sometimes you have take a few beatings to get back to doing the things that you’re used to.” After posting a 6.23 ERA in April, Lester now has a 1.85 ERA in May after pitching seven strong innings against the Diamondbacks yesterday.
- The Mets are still seeking to trade outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York tweets. They designated Nieuwenhuis for assignment earlier this week, and his situation should be resolved by next weekend. Getting anything of value will likely be difficult — Nieuwenhuis had a terrible time in 40 plate appearances this season, hitting .079/.125/.132, and he’s out of options.
The game is in need of greater minority representation in its most visible non-playing role, that of manager, says Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Heyman lists twenty excellent candidates who ought to receive strong consideration from those clubs that are in need of new dugout leaders after the season.
- It’s no secret, of course, that Reds pitchers Johnny Cueto and Aroldis Chapman would draw intense interest on the trade market if they are made available. Writing for FOX Sports, Jeff Sullivan analyzes just how much they could bring back this summer. In spite of his excellence, Cueto might most realistically be expected to bring back a very good prospect rather than a great one, says Sullivan, while Chapman probably has somewhat more value given his nearly-unmatched dominance and extra year of control. As Sullivan notes, the possibility of jointly marketing the two in search of more premium talent in less player seems interesting, though perhaps something of a long shot.
- The Twins have decided to move top-100 pitching prospect Alex Meyer into the Triple-A bullpen, as Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press reports. It appears that the team is doing so more with the idea of getting him back on track than preparing him for MLB bullpen work — Meyer has struggled mightily, especially with his control — but it would not be surprising to see him appear as a late-inning arm if he can turn things around and Minnesota can stay in the hunt.
- Dodgers lefty Hyun-jin Ryu, who is set to miss the rest of the year with shoulder surgery, told reporters that he has been pitching with a labrum tear at least since he signed with the club, as J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles News Group tweets. Ryu says that his MRI back in 2013 revealed the slight tear, which has not worsened — but is apparently now a much greater problem — since that time.
- Meanwhile, the Dodgers will not attempt to void the contract of infielder Erisbel Arruebarrena, Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com tweets. While the club felt justified in suspending Arruebarrena for the entire rest of the year for disciplinary reasons, Saxon says that the still-unreported transgressions were not considered significant enough to warrant yet more drastic action.
Angels closer Huston Street spoke with Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca about his decision to ink a mid-season extension. Though he ultimately handed off the job of negotiating that deal to agent Alan Hendricks, much of the groundwork was laid by Street himself. He says the process was enjoyable, but noted that he learned from mistakes in how things were relayed to the media this spring. Street spoke at length about the compromises struck to reach the deal, explaining the “interesting crossroad to be fascinated by the money but also to not be driven by it at all.”
- Athletics outfielder Coco Crisp is still struggling with the same neck issues that bothered him last year, but Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports (links to Twitter) that surgery is off the table. Normally, that’s a good thing, but in this case the issue is that a surgical solution would very likely end Crisp’s playing career. Ultimately, Crisp may need another DL stint but is expected to be able to play with the injury.
- The Athletics are not interested in dealing catcher Stephen Vogt and are not moving now on pitcher Scott Kazmir, Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com reports. “I’m not trading Vogt,” said GM Billy Beane. “Period.” As for the veteran lefty Kazmir, Gammons writes that Beane and co. had intended to make him a qualifying offer but could ultimately consider a deal — though they’ve not yet had any action in that area.
- From the same report, Gammons says that the Dodgers are generating plenty of interest in their younger players from clubs that have pitching to deal. The Phillies, Reds, and Athletics, among other teams, are “scouring” the Los Angeles farm, per Gammons. The veteran journalist also adds that some other executives think that L.A. could potentially make a run at Cole Hamels by dangling interesting utilityman Enrique Hernandez, pitchers Zach Lee and Chris Anderson, and catcher Julian Leon to Philadelphia. While Gammons does not make clear whether his sources suggest that package would be enough, it certainly seems at face value that Philly would demand a headliner to top things off.
Here are a few highlights from Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe’s latest rumors roundup:
- The Phillies have scouted the Red Sox‘ Double-A Portland team the past six days, Cafardo writes. The Red Sox have, of course, repeatedly been connected to Cole Hamels, although the Phillies have several other veterans who could also be trade candidates. Portland isn’t a particularly prospect-rich team right now, with many of the Red Sox’ best minor-leaguers at Triple-A Pawtucket or Class A Greenville. So it’s hard to say who the Phillies might be scouting, and it’s likely they aren’t scouting a potential centerpiece for a Hamels deal.
- The Brewers are already prepared to trade starters Matt Garza and Kyle Lohse. At least one scout tells Cafardo that Lohse (who has allowed ten homers in his first 47 2/3 innings this season, although his strikeout and walk numbers have been fine) is in need of a “change of scenery.”
- The Royals‘ bullpen this year has been terrific, but their rotation hasn’t. The Royals are looking for cheap starting pitching to help ease the burden on their bullpen caused by short outings from their starters (although any acquisition they might make right now would likely be minor, since they aren’t yet willing to trade for a starter).
- Teams could see Reds starter Mike Leake as a very viable trade candidate. Leake is having a strong season so far, and it would likely be easier to sign him long-term than to sign his rotation-mate Johnny Cueto, so Leake could attract plenty of interest. Like Cueto, he’s eligible for free agency after the season.
- If the Marlins‘ season doesn’t improve, they could easily trade Dan Haren to a team on his preferred coast, Cafardo writes. Haren’s desire to play in California is well known. He’s in the midst of a good season (3.70 ERA, 6.1 K/9, 1.7 BB/9), and any number of teams out west could have interest.
Doug Fister received good news regarding his forearm flexor strain, tweets Dan Kolko of MASN Sports. An MRI revealed no issues with Fister’s elbow, according to Nationals manager Matt Williams. The right-hander may resume throwing in a few days. Fister is a free agent after the season so the MRI results are especially welcome. He’s off to a slow start with a 4.31 ERA, 4.08 K/9, and 2.27 BB/9.
Here’s more injury news from around the league:
- Rehabbing Reds reliever Sean Marshall will need a second shoulder surgery, reports Mark Sheldon of MLB.com. Marshall is suffering from a torn anterior capsule and will be out for the remainder of the season. His previous shoulder surgery was to repair his rotator cuff. Marshall is in the final season of a three-year, $16.5MM contract. He’ll earn $6.5MM in 2015. His last full season was in 2012 when he picked up nine saves to go with a 2.51 ERA, 10.92 K/9, and 2.36 BB/9.
- Tigers righty Shane Greene also received good news via MRI, writes Chris Iott of MLive.com. The preliminary results of the MRI revealed that the tingling Greene felt in his throwing hand on Friday night was the result of ulnar neuritis. There was some concern that the discomfort could signal a problem with his elbow. Greene underwent Tommy John surgery in 2008. He has a 4.21 ERA, 5.36 K/9, and 2.49 BB/9 in 47 innings.