- Tigers third baseman Nick Castellanos is ready for an intrasquad game as he continues to work back from a broken bone in his hand, as MLB.com’s Kyle Beery reports. The 24-year-old may yet make it back by the end of the regular season, skipper Brad Ausmus said, which would represent a nice addition if the team is still pushing for a Wild Card spot. Castellanos has broken out this year with a .286/.331/.500 batting line and 18 home runs over 432 plate appearances, which has not only firmly planted him in the team’s plans for the coming seasons but has also set him up nicely for his first season of arbitration eligibility.
The Tigers discussed a long-term contract with J.D. Martinez last offseason before settling on a shorter multi-year pact. Martinez’s two-year, $18.5MM deal allowed the two sides to avoid arbitration, settling the outfielder’s salaries for both his second and third years of arbitration eligibility. With Martinez now just over a year removed from free agency in the 2017-18 offseason, Tigers GM Al Avila will surely re-engage Martinez’s agents at RMG Baseball about an extension that will keep the slugger in the Motor City for years to come.
Martinez missed just under seven weeks due to a fracture in his right elbow, a somewhat fluky injury that interrupted an otherwise outstanding season. He entered Wednesday’s action hitting .317/.384/.556 (all of which would be career highs) with 21 homers over 469 plate appearances, plus his 151 wRC+ ranks among the top ten hitters in the sport in that metric of total batting productivity. He is also on pace for a career-best walk rate, as well as his lowest strikeout rate in four years. Since joining the Tigers as an unheralded minor league signing during Spring Training 2014, Martinez has done nothing but rake, delivering a .907 OPS over 1606 PA in a Detroit uniform.
Martinez expressed an interest in being “a Tiger for life” last winter, though his asking price has surely gone up in the wake of his third straight huge season. He has extra leverage in the form of financial security (over $21.5MM in career earnings by the end of next season) and the fact that he’d be in line for a monster contract in the 2017-18 free agent market. If he duplicates his 2014-16 numbers, JDM will have the most earning potential of any hitter in that year’s free agent class. Carlos Gonzalez has a longer track record but he is two years older than Martinez and hasn’t been as impressive of late; the Royals trio of Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas can’t be considered locks for huge money based on their problems in 2016; Justin Upton has also struggled this season and may not choose to opt out of his own contract with the Tigers next winter.
Upton’s situation looms as a major factor in the talks between Martinez and the Tigers. Upton has only recently started to hit after a dreadful first half, so he’d need a big rebound year in 2017 to consider opting out. If he chooses to remain in his contract, the Tigers will owe Upton $88.5MM through the 2021 season. That is a sizeable chunk of payroll that, based on this year’s numbers, Detroit would surely prefer to allocate towards keeping Martinez in the fold.
Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler has been diagnosed with a concussion and will have to clear concussion protocols before he is cleared to return to the playing field, head athletic trainer Kevin Rand told reporters, including Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press (links to Twitter). Kinsler suffered the concussion over the weekend when he was hit in the head by a Trevor Bauer fastball (via MLB.com’s Jason Beck).
[Related: Detroit Tigers Depth Chart]
While the injury could certainly prove to be short-term in nature — Kinsler will be tested daily — history has shown that even mild concussions can linger for lengthy periods of time. With the Tigers currently two and a half games out of a Wild Card spot as 13 games remain in the season, though, Kinsler’s absence will be a notable detriment to the team’s postseason hopes. Detroit does have the luxury of lining up against baseball’s two worst teams — the Twins and Braves — for six of those 13 remaining games, but swapping out Kinsler for Andrew Romine weakens the team’s day-to-day chances of narrowing the gap that separates them from the Orioles. Trade acquisition Erick Aybar also represents an option for manager Brad Ausmus while Kinsler is sidelined.
Kinsler is in the midst of his best offensive season since 2011, as he’s hitting .277/.335/.469 with 26 homers, 26 doubles and four triples to go along with 14 steals. He’s also playing his typical brand of elite defense at second base, as Defensive Runs Saved pegs him at +12 runs while Ultimate Zone Rating pegs him at 10 runs above average. Kinsler, 34, has one year remaining on his five-year, $85MM deal and is slated to earn $11MM next season. Detroit also holds a $10MM option on him for the 2018 campaign.
The return of catcher Yan Gomes to the Indians’ roster looks to have hit a snag, as Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Gomes was hit on the right wrist by a pitch in the fifth inning of his final rehab game at Double-A Akron last night. Hoynes further reports that Gomes will receive an MRI today to determine the extent of the damage done, though the team won’t have definitive results on the testing until tomorrow (links to Twitter). If he’s unable to return, the Indians will continue to rely on Roberto Perez and veteran Chris Gimenez behind the dish. That pairing has produced little in the way of offensive value on the season as a whole, but Perez’s bat has caught fire since late August; he’s slashing .306/.358/.531 with a pair of homers, three doubles and a triple in his past 55 plate appearances.
More from the AL Central…
- Twins slugger Miguel Sano won’t travel with the team to New York and will instead undergo testing on his ailing back in Minneapolis, according to Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Sano took some swings in the batting cage yesterday, but Berardino writes that the cage work “didn’t go well,” adding that there’s no certainty that Sano will be able to return to the lineup before the end of the 2016 season. The loss of Sano can’t hurt the Twins much more in terms of their overall performance, as Minnesota is currently poised to land the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s draft after a disastrous 2016 campaign, but Sano remains a work in progress at the hot corner, so the remaining 16 games could prove beneficial from a development standpoint.
- The struggles of Joakim Soria could make the bullpen an offseason priority for the Royals, writes Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star. Soria’s 4.19 ERA is the worst mark of his career, and the seven blown saves he’s suffered this season are also a career-worst. Manager Ned Yost attributes much of his team’s 2016 struggle to the fact that, “we’re not the same bullpen we were last year.” Indeed, Yost noted that the club knew what it could expect on a nightly basis from the likes of Greg Holland, Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera. The 2016 season is another story entirely. Holland underwent Tommy John surgery late last year and had to be non-tendered, while Davis has missed time on the DL due to a pair of forearm injuries and Luke Hochevar has been shut down due to thoracic outlet syndrome. The signing of Soria was supposed to deepen the ’pen, but the right-hander’s return to the Royals organization has gone poorly, making his three-year, $25MM contract look even more questionable than it did at the time of the signing.
- The Tigers are knowingly taking a risk with right-hander Michael Fulmer, writes Tony Paul of the Detroit News. Tigers management had hoped to cap Fulmer’s innings at 160 this season, but he’ll pass that mark in tomorrow’s start and figures to surpass it by a considerable amount when all is said and done — especially if the Tigers can secure a postseason berth. However, as Paul points out, the Tigers would be in no position to even compete for a postseason spot at this juncture were it not for Fulmer’s remarkable breakout. Manager Brad Ausmus spoke to Paul about the handling of the Rookie of the Year front-runner, acknowledging the risk but also highlighting that the protection of young arms is at best an inexact science. “Guys are getting Tommy John surgeries at an unbelievable rate, even with the protection,” said Ausmus. “…The 25-percent (innings bump), maybe there’s proof out there that it protects pitchers. I haven’t seen it.”
- Jordan Zimmermann will throw a simulated game rather than make his next scheduled start for the Tigers, manager Brad Ausmus told reporters (including George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press). Two separate DL stints due to a neck strain have limited Zimmermann to just two starts since the end of June, and the righty didn’t look good in either outing, allowing a combined 10 earned runs over just 2 2/3 innings. The 80-pitch sim game isn’t due to another injury, however, but rather simply give Zimmermann a chance to build up arm speed and regain his mechanics. Zimmerman had no issue with the Tigers’ decision, saying “I can’t be going out there pitching like dog crap, not giving our team a chance to win. We need to win now.”
- Tigers righty Jordan Zimmermann returned Saturday from a month-plus absence stemming from a neck strain, but the 30-year-old put up a disastrous showing in an 11-3 loss to Baltimore. Zimmermann allowed six earned runs on four hits, including three home runs, and three walks in an inning of work. After the game, manager Brad Ausmus wasn’t willing to commit to Zimmermann for another start, relays Katie Strang of ESPN.com. Fellow righty Michael Fulmer’s status complicates matters, though, as Evan Woodbery of MLive.com details. With the Tigers monitoring the AL Rookie of the Year front-runner’s workload, they might not be able to pull Zimmermann from their rotation. If Detroit elects to send Zimmermann to the bullpen and skip at least one Fulmer start, it could open the door for veteran Mike Pelfrey, but he has been out for over a month and isn’t stretched out. Whatever the Tigers ultimately decide, the production they have gotten from Zimmermann (4.94 ERA, 5.49 K/9 in 94 1/3 innings) clearly isn’t what they had in mind when they signed the ex-National to a five-year, $110MM deal in the offseason.
- Tigers third baseman Nick Castellanos, out DL since Aug. 6 after fracturing his left hand on a hit by pitch, hopes to return next week. “My goal is to be back before the 18th,” he stated (via Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press). Castellanos, who has been taking ground balls and hitting in cages, will take batting practice Monday. If that goes well, the Tigers will set up a simulated game, per Ausmus. At the time of his injury, Castellanos was in the midst of a career year, having hit .286/.331/.500 with 18 home runs in 432 plate appearances. Replacements Casey McGehee and Erick Aybar haven’t come close to matching those numbers for the Tigers, who are a game out of of a wild-card spot.
In his latest column, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan chronicles Justin Verlander’s return to prominence as one of the game’s most dominant pitchers. Passan spoke to a very candid Verlander, who explained that during the 2014 season — the worst of his career — he felt pain in his shoulder through virtually every pitch he delivered. However, as Passan notes, Verlander was keenly aware of the expectations that came along with signing a $180MM contract and was resolved to pitch so long as he was physically capable. Verlander admitted to Passan that for awhile, baseball was no longer fun for him. The Detroit ace walked Passan through his recovery, beginning with recovery from surgery to repair a torn abdominal muscle (which was, perhaps the root of all of his problems, as his mechanics were drastically altered to compensate). As Passan points out, Verlander’s velocity is sitting around 93 mph, and he’s now throwing his slider harder than in the past as a means of differentiating it from his curve. The result is one of the finest stretches of Verlander’s career: a 2.09 ERA and a 102-to-19 K/BB ratio over his past 90 1/3 innings that has firmly inserted Verlander into the mix for the AL Cy Young Award.
More from the AL Central…
- Manager Paul Molitor has given the Twins every indication that he intends to return in 2017, tweets Charley Walters of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. While that in and of itself may not be overly newsworthy — owner Jim Pohlad has gone on record as stating that he wants Molitor to remain the team’s skipper even after hiring a new president of baseball ops — Walters does report that Molitor is slated to earn $2.5MM in the final season of the three-year deal he signed with Minnesota prior to the 2015 campaign.
- Earlier today, the Twins activated righty Trevor May and lefty Tommy Milone from the DL, per a club announcement. The 26-year-old May has had an interesting season, racking up 12.5 K/9 against 3.4 BB/9 but compiling only a 4.89 ERA in his 42 1/3 innings. Milone, meanwhile, seems headed for a non-tender barring a stirring performance over the last several weeks of the year. He has posted a rough 5.68 earned run average in his 65 frames thus far.
- The Indians pulled Danny Salazar from tonight’s contest due to forearm tightness, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian was among those to tweet. The club emphasized that it was a precautionary move, but this isn’t the first time this year that forearm/elbow issues have sidelined the prized righty. He declined to speak to reporters after the game, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer tweets, with manager Terry Francona saying that the team hopes to “know more tomorrow when he comes to the park.” Salazar lasted only four frames in his latest outing, and hasn’t reached six innings in a start since mid-July. The 26-year-old did manage to rack up 11 strikeouts in his prior appearance, but it has been quite an uneven second half for a pitcher who could be a key part of the club’s hopeful postseason run. Entering his first year of arbitration eligibility — he’ll qualify as a Super Two — Salazar has thrown 137 1/3 innings of 3.87 ERA ball, with 161 strikeouts but also 63 walks on his ledger.
- Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain was back in the lineup this evening after sitting out several contests due to a sprained hand, as Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star reports (Twitter links). It “doesn’t feel good” to swing, said Cain, who nevertheless managed to reach three times on a hit and two walks. Per skipper Ned Yost, the club will keep running Cain out so long as he can tolerate playing, with hopes that his glove, legs, and savvy at the plate will make up for any limitations with the bat. Asked by MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan (Twitter link) whether he had caused any further damage by playing with the injury, Cain offered a somewhat resigned response: “It’s already torn. So I don’t know if it made it worse, unless I get another MRI.”
- Despite the Tigers’ need for bullpen help, the club has decided not to promote intriguing righty Joe Jimenez, as Evan Woodberry of MLive.com reports. It seems the club isn’t sure that the 21-year-old yet possesses the secondary offerings needed to succeed in the majors, as he certainly has the numbers to support a promotion. After opening the 2016 season at the High-A level, the Puerto Rican hurler pushed his way to Triple-A. He didn’t maintain his gaudy 14+ K/9 strikeout rate there, but the overall results were quite promising for a pitching of his age. In his 15 2/3 frames at the highest level of the minors, Jimenez allowed four earned runs on just nine hits and four walks while retiring 16 opposing hitters via the K.
The Tigers announced this afternoon that right-hander Donn Roach, whom they had designated for assignment over the weekend, has been claimed off waivers by the Athletics.
Roach, 26, has a 5.77 ERA with 20 strikeouts against 18 walks in 39 career innings at the Major League level, but his massive ground-ball tendencies continue to intrigue teams enough to land on 40-man rosters. Roach posted a 3.03 ERA in his Triple-A run with the Tigers, fanning 21 batters against just five walks in 29 innings of work. He’s posted a gaudy 67.1 percent ground-ball rate in his big league career and has a 59 percent ground-ball rate in Triple-A this year. He’ll add some depth to the Athletics’ Triple-A team on the eve of the playoffs, per Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter), who points out that recent promotions have depleted the Athletics’ Triple-A roster.
Roach has bounced all over the league in the past two years, spending time on the 40-man roster with the Padres, Cubs, Blue Jays, Reds, Mariners, Tigers and now Athletics.
The Tigers have announced that they’ve designated righty Donn Roach for assignment. The move clears space on the team’s roster for lefty Joe Mantiply, whose contract the team has selected from Double-A Erie.
The Tigers claimed Roach from the Mariners last month, and he made five starts for Triple-A Toledo. Between Toledo and the Mariners’ affiliate in Tacoma, Roach has posted a 3.86 ERA, 5.4 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9 over 137 2/3 innings at the Triple-A level this season. The 26-year-old has appeared in the big leagues in each of the last three seasons, including in 5 1/3 innings in the Mariners’ bullpen this season.
The 25-year-old Mantiply was a 27th-round draft pick in 2013, but he made quick work of the lower levels of the Tigers’ system and has fared well in the high minors this season, with a 2.73 ERA, 10.5 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in 59 1/3 innings split between Double-A and Triple-A. He likely would have been a potential Rule 5 Draft selection this winter, but his addition to the Tigers’ 40-man roster protects the team from that possibility. He’ll join Justin Wilson, Kyle Ryan and Blaine Hardy as lefties in the Tigers’ bullpen.