- Clayton Kershaw is still at least a week away from throwing off a mound, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told reporters (including MLB.com’s Jack Baer), though the Dodgers superstar has thrown off flat ground multiple times within the last week. Kershaw is still on track to return in September from the back problem that has sidelined him since late June.
- The Dodgers activated southpaw Brett Anderson from the DL today but the lefty lasted just one inning (allowing five ER) and he suffered a mild sprain of his left wrist while trying to field a grounder. Anderson is day-to-day and it’s unknown if he’ll make his next start. “It feels like I’m kind of snakebit…it’s like a nightmare you hopefully wake up from,” Anderson told reporters, including Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times. The injury-plagued veteran was making his first appearance of the 2016 season today after undergoing back surgery in March. Anderson is a free agent this winter and is running out of time to get some healthy and effective outings under his belt, especially since the Dodgers can’t afford to give him much time to find himself with the club in a pennant race.
- Colby Lewis threw a 30-pitch bullpen session today and told reporters (including T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com) that “everything felt great.” Lewis has been on the DL since June recovering from a strained lat muscle, and the Rangers are aiming for a return in the first week of September if the rest of his recovery schedule goes as planned. Lewis will toss another bullpen session and live batting practice this week, then a minimum of two rehab starts in the minors. The Texas rotation will get a big boost if Lewis is able to continue his early-season form — a 3.21 ERA and identical 3.21 K/BB rate over his first 98 innings of 2016.
- Sonny Gray may not pitch again in 2016, Athletics manager Bob Melvin told reporters (including MLB.com’s Jane Lee). While Melvin would ideally like to see Gray on the mound again, “it’s not like we’re going to push him to try to get him out there just to get him out there.” Gray is recovering from a strained forearm and since he has to wait until the inflammation subsides, there isn’t currently any timetable for him to begin a proper rehab process. A season-ending injury would be par for the course for Gray in what has been a lost season for the Oakland ace, as he has battled injuries and posted a career-worst 5.74 ERA over 21 starts.
The Rangers will be without right-hander Colby Lewis for at least the next two months due to a strained lat muscle that was revealed by an MRI today, tweets Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Wilson adds that Lewis won’t throw for the next four weeks, at which point he’ll undergo another MRI to determine the progress he’s made before being cleared to begin a throwing program. Via MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan (Twitter link), Rangers GM Jon Daniels didn’t specify an immediate replacement for Lewis, but he called the loss a “kick in the gut.”
The loss of Lewis, 36, is indeed a significant blow to the Rangers. Texas saw Yu Darvish head back to the disabled list last week, and earlier today they placed lefty Derek Holland on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation. That’s sixty percent of the team’s rotation hitting the DL in the span of 10 days, leaving the club with a rotation consisting of Cole Hamels, Martin Perez, Nick Martinez and A.J. Griffin. As can be seen on their newly depth chart (reflecting today’s Lewis/Holland injuries), former first-round pick Chi Chi Gonzalez is already on the 40-man roster and just a phone call away at Triple-A Round Rock, so he could step into the big league rotation in short order.
That said, it certainly seems plausible that the Rangers will explore outside additions for the rotation. The Rangers have yet to announce any form of timeline for the returns of Darvish or Holland as they did with Lewis, so there’s some degree of hope that they can return sooner rather than later. However, replacing Lewis’ production will be no small feat for the Rangers. To this point in the season, he’s enjoyed an outstanding rebound, totaling a team-leading 98 innings and posting a 3.21 ERA with 5.6 K/9, 1.7 BB/9 and a 36 percent ground-ball rate. Metrics like FIP, xFIP and SIERA all call for a fair amount of regression, but Lewis has nonetheless been a rock in manager Jeff Banister’s rotation through the first 10 weeks of the season.
While the Rangers did part with a good deal of talent in the July trade that netted Hamels and dominant setup man Jake Diekman, Texas still has a well-regarded farm system that has plenty of upper-level bats if the team wishes to seek outside assistance for its contingent of starting pitchers. Daniels has never been shy about pursuing help on the summer trade market, and recent deals for Hamels, Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster exemplify that aggressive nature. Texas is 20 games above .500 and holds a 9.5 game lead in the American League West, so there might not be an immediate or urgent need to supplement the starting staff, but adding some established talent that could contribute in a playoff setting sometime between now and the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline seems like a logical play for Daniels and his staff.
The Rangers have announced the signing of righty Colby Lewis to a one-year deal. He reportedly agreed to terms for a guaranteed $6MM back in mid-December, but the sides took their time completing a physical and finalizing the arrangement.
The 36-year-old Lewis has been with Texas since the 2010 campaign, when he came back to the majors after a strong two-year run in Japan. While he only managed a 4.66 ERA last year, he contributed better than 200 frames.
Despite an absence of strikeouts and grounders in Lewis’s game, there are some positives. He still carried an 11.6% K%-BB% that lands just below league average. And, as Eno Sarris of Fangraphs has explored, it seems Lewis may have figured out a way to generate results by managing contact.
The Rangers won’t be expecting a world-beating effort from Lewis, anyway, so much as continued durability and a solid, veteran presence. Texas’s staff has certainly settled down quite a bit after an injury-riddled recent past, but still carries sufficient uncertainty to make such an investment a clear need entering the winter.
Free agent left-hander Mark Buehrle is not planning on playing in 2016 at this time, though the veteran isn’t yet prepared to announce his retirement from baseball, either, according to SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (Twitter link). The soon-to-be 37-year-old’s future has been a debated topic in the past, as some reports indicated that he was planning to retire before Buehrle himself told ESPN Chicago’s Doug Padilla back in October that he’d yet to make a decision on the matter. Another report indicated that if Buehrle were to pitch in 2016, it’d most likely happen if St. Louis showed interest in the Missouri native. Buehrle’s 2015 season wasn’t as strong as his 2014 season, but he nonetheless recorded a solid 3.81 ERA across 198 2/3 innings. That final innings tally left him just four outs shy of recording his remarkable 15th consecutive season of 200+ innings.
A few more notes from around the league…
- Cotillo also tweets that right-hander Fernando Rodney is in “active talks” with multiple clubs, noting that the Padres, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks and Cubs are all in the mix at this time. San Diego, Chicago and Toronto have previously been linked to Rodney, though Arizona would seem to represent a fairly new entrant into his market. Rodney had a dreadful season with the Mariners in 2015 but turned it around following a trade to the Cubs, yielding just one earned run in 12 innings with a 15-to-4 K/BB ratio down the stretch (Rodney did, however, also plunk three batters in his brief Cubs tenure).
- We’ve heard about the Nationals’ interest in Gerardo Parra before, and James Wagner of the Washington Post writes that it’s still alive. GM Mike Rizzo was Arizona’s scouting director when the club signed Parra, and the Nats also tried to acquire him from the Brewers this summer, Wagner reminds. Wagner notes that Parra’s so-so OBP and declining defensive ratings make him a questionable fit in Washington, but the team’s goal remains adding some outfield depth to protect against injuries to Jayson Werth and uncertainty surrounding the talented but raw Michael A. Taylor. Wagner opines that from a purely speculative standpoint, Shane Victorino makes some sense for the Nationals as a player who can cover the outfield corners and play center in a pinch if need be.
- Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram writes that Rangers fans shouldn’t expect to see Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes or Yovani Gallardo in a Rangers uniform next season, as the team doesn’t have the payroll capacity to add any of the three. A trade for Marcell Ozuna is also unlikely, per Wilson, though the Rangers do still hope to add some rotation depth before the offseason is up. GM Jon Daniels tells Wilson that there are still some affordable names on the open market that have piqued the Rangers’ interest. Wilson also notes that Colby Lewis’ physical — the final step before his reported one-year, $6MM contract becomes official — is slated for next Monday.
- The White Sox aren’t in a rush to add a big-ticket outfielder to the mix, writes MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. The Sox “seem content to wait and ensure that any free-agent deal would fit their need and parameters,” he continues, writing that it’s likely that Upton and Cespedes will eventually be offered more years and dollars than the ChiSox care to place on the table.
- Dan Uggla has spoken to three or four teams that are eyeing infield depth, Cotillo tweets. Uggla is set to turn 36 this March and is coming off a season in which he batted just .183/.298/.300 in 141 plate appearances with the Nationals, so any contract to which he agrees figures to be of the minor league variety.
- Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic spoke to executives and scouts from each league to ask which NL West division rival has the better pitching staff heading into the 2016 season: the D-backs or the Giants. While the officials to whom Buchanan spoke seemed to agree that, in a vacuum, the D-backs made more impactful acquisitions this offseason (referring to Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller in comparison to Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija), when factoring in the cost of said acquisitions, there’s an argument to be made for the Giants’ side of the equation. Buchanan also polled officials on which club’s top three starters were more impressive, adding lefties Patrick Corbin and Madison Bumgarner to the mix, which generated mixed responses.
The Rangers have a deal in place with righty Colby Lewis that will bring him back to Texas for one year and $6MM, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.
A return had long been rumored to be in the works. The physical and official announcement may not occur until the new year, Wilson adds.
Lewis, 36, has recently dealt with a torn meniscus in his knee. But he expects to be ready for the start of Spring Training.
Presumably, Texas will slot Lewis right back into its rotation. He ended the 2015 campaign with a 4.66 ERA, which is hardly exciting. But Lewis logged over two hundred innings and ended with 6.2 K/9 versus 1.8 BB/9.
The total contribution was valued at 2.6 fWAR, based on his more promising 4.17 FIP. On the other hand, he only accrued 1.0 rWAR and both xFIP (4.62) and SIERA (4.43) were less enthused about his efforts.
As Wilson notes, though, both sides were clearly interested in a return. Lewis is a well-known commodity and has shown the ability to rack up solid innings tallies. With the team unsure of what to expect from a struggling Derek Holland, the rehabbing Yu Darvish, and youngsters like Chi Chi Gonzalez and Nick Martinez, it certainly makes sense to re-unite with the steady veteran.
The Angels are telling clubs they’ll listen to offers on lefty C.J. Wilson, Scott Miller of Bleacher Report reports on Twitter. It seems that Los Angeles would be interested in clearing some payroll in a bid to address the multiple areas of need on the position-player side of the equation.
More from L.A. and the AL West:
- Angels GM Billy Eppler told reporters that he’s looked into deals for a short-term option in the corner outfield, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register tweets. As Fletcher notes, Jay Bruce of the Reds is one player who could meet that description, though it’s not clear that he’s a target for the Halos.
- Free agent second baseman Howie Kendrick is “definitely open” to returning to his long-time club, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times tweets. While Eppler and co. have reached out to the veteran, that isn’t “on the front burner” for the team at present.
- The Rangers have had internal discussions about adding free agent first baseman/outfielder Steve Pearce, T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com reports via Twitter. Pearce has long seemed a good match on paper for Texas, which has a heavily left-handed lineup.
- Meanwhile, the Rangers are looking at bringing Colby Lewis back and want to add at least two starters, Sullivan tweets. Texas would be looking for a rotation piece in any theoretical deal of first baseman Mitch Moreland.
- While the Rangers’ interest in righty Joe Kelly now seems dead in the water after Boston dealt Wade Miley, Texas could also look to chat with the Red Sox about a possible deal for a catcher, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets. Tigers backstop Bryan Holaday could draw some attention from Texas as well, Sullivan adds on Twitter. As MLB.com’s Jason Beck notes on Twitter, Holaday is out of options and could hit the waiver wire if he loses the team’s reserve catching job to the just-signed Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
- In other Rangers-related backstop news, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel tweets that he’s told the team “covets” Brewers receiver Jonathan Lucroy. Of course, as he adds, Milwaukee likely won’t move Lucroy unless it can achieve a “huge return.”
- The Mariners are not looking at any major rotation upgrades after acquiring Miley, GM Jerry Dipoto tells Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News-Tribune (via Twitter). Dipoto also noted that he wasn’t willing to guarantee Hisashi Iwakuma a third year, which is why the club reportedly lost out on him to the Dodgers, MLB.com’s Greg Johns tweets. Miley was the M’s “Plan A” after missing on Iwakuma, added Dipoto.
Both the Angels and Dodgers have ongoing interest in free agent Chase Utley, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com tweets. A source tells Stark that the veteran would like to play in his native California, and it seems he’ll have options to do just that. Utley has been consistently linked to the Dodgers since they declined his $15MM option, and agent Joel Wolfe recently went on-record to state that five or six teams have expressed interest in Utley as a “mostly everyday infielder.” From my vantage point, the Angels have a clearer path to regular (or near-regular) at-bats for Utley. The Dodgers have multiple infield options, including Enrique Hernandez and Jose Peraza.
A few more notes on the free-agent market…
- Another former Phillies stalwart, Shane Victorino, is telling clubs that he intends to return to switch hitting in advance of the 2016 season, per Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. “I am finding out that not switch-hitting and not doing things from both sides of the plate had lots to do with the way my body has felt,” Victorino told Rosenthal. “Going back and doing things from both sides is such a good thing for my body now that I can physically do it again.”
- Within that same piece, Rosenthal notes that the Cubs are “busy” looking for a center fielder but are faced with relatively limited options. Dexter Fowler is a possibility for the Cubs but is currently exploring the open market. Signing Jason Heyward to play center field is an option, but the team would then need to address its rotation in a cost-effective manner by trading a young bat such as Jorge Soler or Javier Baez. If Soler ends up being the price to bolster the rotation, then the outfield would, of course, remain an issue.
- The Rangers still love Mike Napoli, tweets MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan, but general manager Jon Daniels indicated today that his club may not have the “right spot” to fit Napoli into the mix next season. Sullivan’s Seattle counterpart, Greg Johns, however, tweets that Napoli could potentially be of interest to the Mariners, who have a need at first base after trading both Logan Morrison and Mark Trumbo this offseason. Napoli struggled for much of the season in Boston but was reinvigorated by a return to the Lone Star State, hitting .295/.396/.513 in 91 plate appearances with the Rangers. His cumulative .278/.391/.563 line against lefties last year indicates that Napoli, at the very least, is still a highly potent platoon option.
- Sticking with former Rangers, right-hander Colby Lewis tells Jeff Wilson of the Forth Worth Star-Telegram that Dr. Keith Meister gave him a “thumbs up” on his left knee (links to Twitter). Lewis has been working out and expects to be 100 percent for Spring Training. Many teams have contacted his agents at Octagon, says Lewis, though he remains hopeful that the Rangers will be interested after his latest knee exam. There’s some interest on both sides, according to Wilson.
- The Giants consider Jeff Samardzija and Mike Leake fallback plans in the event that they’re unable to lure Zack Greinke away from L.A., tweets Rosenthal. John Lackey, too, is a consideration for San Francisco. There’s no word yet on a decision from Greinke, who is said to be choosing between the Dodgers and Giants.
- In the wake of yesterday’s tender deadline, MLB.com’s Zachary Finkelstein identified five non-tendered players that are still worthy of roster spots and can be potential bargains for clubs in 2016 (and, in some cases, beyond). Henderson Alvarez tops the list and is followed by Pedro Alvarez, Chris Carter, Tyler Flowers and Neftali Feliz. Alvarez’s youth and track record, the power of Alvarez and Carter, the pitch-framing abilities of Flowers and still-strong velocity plus a nice finish for Feliz give some elements of value to each, he writes.
Here are some items about some notable pitchers on the open market…
- David Price and Jordan Zimmermann have both been cited as Cubs targets this winter, and ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers looks at the pros and cons for signing each starter for the Northsiders.
- A reunion between Mark Buehrle and the White Sox is probably unlikely, MLB.com’s Scott Merkin writes as part of a reader mailbag, since adding Buehrle would give the Sox five left-handers in the rotation. It isn’t yet clear if Buehrle plans to pitch in 2016 but at least 10 teams have shown interest if he did come back for another season.
- Colby Lewis underwent meniscus surgery after the season and will have a checkup on his progress around Thanksgiving, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan reports. The Rangers are interested in re-signing Lewis but they’ll wait to see the results of the checkup before they revisit negotiations.
- The Rangers have been aggressive in checking out the trade and free agent markets for a pitching upgrade, but Sullivan notes that the most expensive pitchers (i.e. Price, Zack Greinke) aren’t being targeted. Beyond finding a new starter, the biggest help to the Texas rotation will be if Yu Darvish, Martin Perez, Derek Holland are all healthy next season.
In his latest notes column, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports begins by classifying the Angels, Giants, Tigers, Red Sox, Cubs, Cardinals and Dodgers as the expected “big spenders” of the offseason, breaking down some targets that each club could pursue. Heyman goes on to call the Orioles, Blue Jays, Yankees, D-Backs, Mets, Royals and Padres as “medium spenders,” noting that each has needs and could make one significant addition or a series of mid-range moves in order to address multiple areas around the roster. As he did with the big-spending clubs, Heyman examines a few plausible scenarios for each, noting that the Royals are still in the three- or four-year range on Alex Gordon, thereby casting some doubt on a potential reunion.
A few highlights from his column…
- While Andrelton Simmons’ name has been a hot topic over the past 15 hours or so, there’s a “good chance” that the Braves will make Julio Teheran available at some point this winter. Teheran’s value isn’t as high as that of Simmons at the moment, I wouldn’t think, due to a down year for Teheran in 2015. Moving him would be selling low, which makes it more difficult to envision a deal, from my vantage point.
- The White Sox were one of “many teams” to which agent Brodie Van Wagenen made a presentation regarding Yoenis Cespedes, though the greater needs for the ChiSox come at catcher, third base, second base and shortstop.
- The Rockies have again made Carlos Gonzalez available in trades, as many expected would be the case following the summer trade of Troy Tulowitzki. CarGo dominated the National League from June through season’s end after struggling with injuries in 2014 and early 2015 and undoubtedly restored an exceptional amount of trade value. Heyman speculatively listed the Orioles as a potential match when discussing Baltimore in his intro section.
- Pittsburgh has fielded offers on all seven of its players that are a year removed from free agency. That includes Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker, Mark Melancon, Mike Morse, Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli. However, the Pirates are also said to be considering an attempt at locking Cervelli up on a multi-year deal.
- Ian Kennedy is planning to decline the Padres’ qualifying offer, per Heyman. Both Tim Dierkes and I have noted that there’s little sense in Kennedy accepting the offer. The right-hander is fourth in innings pitched in the NL over the past five seasons and has averaged 8.5 K/9 against 2.1 BB/9 in that time while posting a 3.89 ERA, 3.87 FIP and 3.78 xFIP. Homer struggles in 2015 aside, Kennedy finished strong and should get paid somewhere. It’s hard to envision a Scott Boras client being the first to accept a qualifying offer, and if all else fails, Kennedy can go the Ervin Santana route and sign a one-year deal near the value of the QO late in the offseason.
- Similarly, Yovani Gallardo plans to turn down the Rangers’ QO. Heyman hears he’s expected to sign elsewhere despite being a Fort Worth area native. The Rangers will again attempt to re-sign Colby Lewis, he adds.
Former Red Sox southpaw Craig Breslow is planning to ask prospective future employers for a chance to start, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford reports. The 35-year-old had functioned exclusively as a reliever in his ten-year MLB career until late last season. In two September starts for Boston, Breslow allowed just two earned runs in a combined 9 1/3 innings of work. Breslow ended the season with a 4.15 ERA over 65 total innings, with 6.4 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9. It’s not implausible to imagine that a club might give the veteran a chance to work as a starter in the spring, perhaps expecting that he could become a swingman option, though securing a rotation job will certainly be a tall order. In Breslow’s favor, he’s posted very minimal platoon splits over his career, allowing a .240/.308/.378 career batting line to lefties and a .238/.326/.376 slash to opposing right-handers.
Here are some more free agent notes from the ongoing GM Meetings:
- At least two other teams bid north of $11MM in the posting of Korean first baseman Byung-ho Park, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Park, who saw his negotiation rights go to the Twins for $12.85MM, drew praise from a pair of clubs that pursued him when asked by Rosenthal, because his batted-ball exit velocity rivaled that of the top Major Leaguers. However, some clubs are concerned with his long swing and penchant for strikeouts. (While not strictly a free agent, Park was available to all clubs during the offseason period, so he is a part of MLBTR’s top fifty free agent list.)
- The Diamondbacks are looking to add two starters this winter, per Rosenthal. The club prefers not to commit more than $15MM to $18MM annually on a free agent addition, which obviously might not be enough to land one of the four best arms available. But that is probably sufficient to make Arizona competitive on any other starters, depending on what length of the commit the team can offer. And the D’Backs also seem prepared to explore the trade market for arms, with Rosenthal noting that other teams have keen interest in Arizona’s surplus of controllable outfilders.
- Rosenthal added a few other notes of interest on several pending free agents, in both the above-linked piece and his notes column from this morning. The Angels have interest in re-signing David Freese at a lower annual rate than that of the $15.8MM qualifying offer they declined to make, writes Rosenthal. Likewise, the Dodgers are considering bringing back Chase Utley to provide a southpaw-swinging option at second and third base, per Rosenthal, after previously declining his option.
- Lefty Rich Hill is in surprisingly high demand and looks to be in line for a Major League deal this winter, says Rosenthal. He has apparently provided a model that the aforementioned Breslow hopes to follow in his own free agency, as Bradford writes.
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow declined to rule out the possibility that his club could pursue a top-end free agent arm, as Rosenthal further reports. “I think so,” Luhnow said when asked whether that was plausible. “It would have to be the right type of deal for us, but yeah, we’re not ruling anything out at this point.” As of right now, Houston is not pursuing free agent infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist, Evan Drellich of The Houston Chronicle writes. (That crosses at least one team off of a lengthy list.)
- The Marlins have at least some degree of interest in free agent starters Scott Kazmir, Colby Lewis, and Tim Lincecum, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. All three enter the winter in rather different situations and carrying quite different market expectations, of course, but Miami seems to be taking a flexible approach to building out its rotation.