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Hunter Pence Rumors
Giants right fielder Hunter Pence is DL-bound after an MRI revealed an oblique strain, reports Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area (Twitter links). The team’s hope is that Pence will only be sidelined for a couple of weeks (though that’d make a very quick recovery from an oblique injury). For Wednesday’s game, they’ll play a man short, with Nori Aoki slated to return from the seven-day DL on Thursday.
The loss of Pence is the latest addition to a long list of injuries incurred by the Giants in 2015 as they strive to keep pace with the Dodgers, who currently lead the NL West by two and a half games. The Giants have been without Aoki since last week after he was diagnosed with a concussion — marking the second DL stint of the season for Aoki, who missed more than a month with a fractured fibula. Joe Panik is also on the shelf and isn’t expected back until September, which has prompted some interest in Philadelphia’s Chase Utley (though it looks like Utley will be staying put).
For Pence, this marks the third DL stint of an otherwise productive season. He’s slashing .275/.327/.478 with nine homers in 223 plate appearances this season, but the absence of his bat has sapped the Giants’ lineup of some notable punch. San Francisco has been tied to outfield bats on and off over the past month or so, and given the thin state of the club’s outfield depth — Angel Pagan is also presently on the disabled list — some form of move to fortify that area of the roster wouldn’t be all that surprising.
There’s been quite a bit of news on the injury front today, with Maikel Franco landing on the disabled list due to a fractured left wrist, and Michael Saunders being shut down for the season by the Blue Jays. That’s only the tip of the iceberg today, though, as a number of players have either been shut down or are heading for MRIs today. Here’s a look around the league…
- Twins right-hander Ryan Pressly has been shut down for the season after suffering a setback in his recovery from a lat strain, GM Terry Ryan told reporters, including MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger (Twitter link). The 26-year-old Pressly, a former Rule 5 pick by the Twins, was a bright spot in the ‘pen for Minnesota this season when healthy. In 27 2/3 innings, he notched a 2.93 ERA with 7.2 K/9, 3.9 BB/9 and a 47 percent ground-ball rate to go along with a career-best 94.2 mph average fastball. He’ll accrue enough service time to clear two years of service but will fall shy of Super Two status.
- That’s not the only potential blow facing the Twins‘ bullpen, as the team announced after tonight’s loss that Glen Perkins will return to the Twin Cities to undergo an MRI on his ailing neck. As Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes, Perkins’ symptoms are similar to the ones he experienced late in 2014 when a nerve injury ended his season prematurely. La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune tweets that Perkins will receive a cortisone shot as well. The Twins, who have one of the worst bullpens in all of baseball, can scarcely afford to lose their best reliever for an extended period of time. Perkins has followed up a 1.21 first-half ERA with an 8.10 mark since the All-Star break.
- Hunter Pence underwent an MRI on his left oblique, per Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area (all Twitter links). Pence will miss a least a few games, and the Giants hope to have his results in the near future. As Pavlovic points out, Pence appeared to suffer an injury in his final swing of last night’s game, as he clutched his side following the plate appearance.
- The Marlins announced that right-hander David Phelps is out for the season with a stress fracture in the radius of his right forearm. Injuries have caused the Fish to lean on Phelps perhaps more than they’d expected, but in 23 appearances (19 starts) he’s posted a 4.50 ERA with 6.2 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 across 112 innings — just one shy of his career-high.
- Shane Greene has hit the minor league disabled list with the Tigers, per John Wagner of the Toledo Blade (Twitter link). Greene is getting checked out by team doctors after reportedly experiencing numbness in his fingers — a potential indicator of nerve damage, among other injuries.
- There’s continued bad news on the injury front for former Mariners top prospect Danny Hultzen, who will be shut down until Spring Training, tweets Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times. As Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune points out (via Twitter), Hultzen will be out of minor league options next season, meaning the former No. 2 overall pick will need to either make the club or be exposed to waivers. Injuries have completely derailed Hultzen’s career thus far, as the Virginia product has thrown just 43 2/3 innings over the past three seasons combined.
The Brewers have placed righty Matt Garza on the 15-day DL with what the team is calling right shoulder tendinitis, Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports. It appears as though the plan is to maximize Garza’s rest with the All-Star break, but one wonders whether the move also removes him from serious consideration as a trade piece this summer. Garza indicated that the issue was not terribly significant, but he has a long and growing list of medical ailments that have cropped up in his career. And then there’s the fact that Garza will not have much opportunity to improve his value after a rough first half. He is sporting a 5.55 ERA in 99 frames on the year, with ERA estimators not painting a much rosier picture, and his strikeout rate continues to fall. Garza is owed $12.5MM annually from 2014-17 under the deal he signed to join the Brewers, and also has a fairly achievable $13MM vesting clause tacked on at the end of his contract.
- Giants outfielder Hunter Pence appears to be nearing a return from the DL in the fairly near future, possibly before the All-Star break, MLB.com’s Oliver Macklin writes. San Francisco has dropped back to .500 and could certainly use a jolt from the dynamic Pence, not least of which because the club is also missing fellow corner outfielder Norichika Aoki. Assuming Pence can avoid another setback with his wrist and re-entrench himself in right field, the club would have a much less pressing need for an additional outfielder.
- Padres lefty Cory Luebke has suffered a setback in his bid to return from a second successive Tommy John procedure, Corey Brock of MLB.com reports. For now, it’s just elbow discomfort, but the team was concerned enough to bring the 30-year-old back to San Diego from his rehab assignment in Triple-A. Luebke has not pitched in the big leagues in over three years, though he has finally seen competitive action in the minors for the first time since originally blowing out his UCL.
- Another once-promising player who is on a long road back is Rangers infielder Jurickson Profar, who was once one of the game’s very best prospects. As Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News writes, Profar remains staggeringly young given how long he’s been on the scene and out with shoulder issues. He’ll still only be 23 come next spring. Profar remains a long way from returning to the big leagues, says Fraley, who notes that he is progressing through daily rehab sessions and monthly MRI tests.
Months ago, the Angels exercised their 2016 option on GM Jerry Dipoto’s contract, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register tweets. That news had not been reported until now. The option is the last one on Dipoto’s original contract, a three-year deal that included two options. That the organization has not extended Dipoto to this point might or might not be notable. The Angels have not always quite lived up to lofty expectations in the last few seasons, and Dipoto’s tenure has been shaped in part by an unfortunate contract and ugly dispute with Josh Hamilton (which, to be fair, were both at least partially the fault of owner Arte Moreno), but the team is coming off a 98-win 2014 campaign. Here are more notes from the West Coast.
- Outfielder Andre Ethier has reestablished himself this year after a winter in which the Dodgers couldn’t trade him, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register writes. “I don’t think anybody wanted me either,” says Ethier. “It takes two to tango like in a lot of things. … At the same time, maybe they knew what they were doing. Maybe the reason it didn’t happen was because they were asking more than other teams were willing to give.” Now, Ethier is in the midst of a resurgent .287/.369/.506 season, and Plunkett points out that, as the dollars remaining on Ethier’s contract continue to shrink (he’s currently owed about $49MM more through 2017, including a buyout for 2018), it might become a lot easier for the Dodgers to trade him than it was last winter.
- Giants executives Brian Sabean and Lee Elder were on hand to watch today’s Reds/Cubs game in Chicago, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal writes (all Twitter links). As Rosenthal points out, the natural conclusion is that Sabean and Elder were in town to watch Reds starter Johnny Cueto — Cueto will be a sought-after trade target this summer, and the Giants need rotation help. It could be, though, that the pair were at Wrigley for other reasons.
- Giants outfielder Hunter Pence is headed to the disabled list with wrist tendinitis, as Rosenthal tweets. Pence has not played since June 2, so he should be able to return within a week if he’s ready. To take Pence’s place on the active roster, the Giants selected the contract of righty Mike Broadway today after promoting an outfielder, Jarrett Parker, earlier this week.
Giants outfielder Hunter Pence is returning to active duty tomorrow, Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News reports on Twitter. Pence has yet to see MLB action this year since suffering a fractured forearm in the spring. The 32-year-old figures to provide a nice boost to the club, which has produced middling results thus far.
Here are some more injury notes from around the game:
- Another important player who received promising injury news is Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka. As Bryan Hoch of MLB.com tweets, Tanaka threw 35 pitches in a BP session today and seems to be nearing the start of a rehab stint. Tanaka’s continued progress is obviously welcome, particularly given that swingman Chase Whitley may be headed for season-ending surgery.
- The Blue Jays also have some notable situations to watch, with Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca providing several updates. Outfielder Michael Saunders will miss four to six weeks to rest his knee. And catcher Dioner Navarro still does not have a timetable for a rehab assignment as he rests his hamstring. More positively, shortstop Jose Reyes is nearing his own build-up through the minors. While Saunders and Reyes are important for the team, the Navarro news is most notable from a transactional perspective. Though he has not done much offensively this year, Navarro could be a useful trade piece for a Toronto club that has other needs — if he can reestablish his health and show more promise at the plate.
- The Nationals made the surprising announcement today that righty Doug Fister is heading to the DL with right forearm tightness (via Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com, on Twitter). Young starter A.J. Cole, one of the team’s top prospects, will return to take his spot on the active roster. While hidden somewhat due to the attention given to Stephen Strasburg, there is cause for concern with Fister, whose velocity (86.1 mph average two-seam fastball), K:BB ratio (4.1 K/9 vs. 2.3 BB/9), and groundball rate (40.9%) have suffered in comparison to his usual numbers. Of course, the Nationals are somewhat uniquely suited to weather any extended absence, should that prove necessary. But for the 31-year-old free agent-to-be, the first two months of the season have left him with plenty to prove the rest of the way.
- Hyun-jin Ryu of the Dodgers is still not even scheduled to resume throwing, J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles News Group reports on Twitter. The health of the 28-year-old lefty remains a key sub-plot in the development of the summer trade market: L.A. already profiles as a strong buyer for starting pitching, and its needs would be enhanced greatly if Ryu isn’t able to develop an upward trajectory.
The Padres could be facing an extended absence for first baseman Yonder Alonso following a shoulder injury sustained in last night’s contest, reports MLB.com’s Barry M. Bloom. Alonso is slated to have an MRI today after jamming his shoulder while diving to field a grounder. The 28-year-old was already scheduled for an x-ray on the shoulder today as well, Bloom notes, having been hit by a pitch there over the weekend — an incident which led to soreness that cost him two games in this week’s series against the Giants. Losing Alonso would be a difficult setback for the Padres for a number of reasons. The former top prospect is hitting well this season, with a .333/.427/.437 batting line in 103 plate appearances. He’s also the only true first baseman on the 25-man roster, and he’s been the most productive left-handed bat on an exceptionally right-leaning Padres roster.
In other news from the NL West…
- The D-Backs made no promises to Jarrod Saltalamacchia upon signing him to a Minor League deal, writes Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic. In fact, chief baseball officer Tony La Russa tells Buchanan that the team wouldn’t have signed Saltalamacchia had he and agent Jim Munsey insisted on being added to the 25-man roster. The club has received virtually no offense from Tuffy Gosewisch thus far — though Gosewisch did respond to Salty’s signing by lacing three doubles on Thursday — but manager Chip Hale said they knew they’d likely be sacrificing some offense for Gosewisch’s glove. The D-Backs were hoping to have more offense from the rest of the order, making the need for production from catcher a bit less glaring. “It depends on how much our shortstop hits, how much our second baseman hits,” said Hale. “You can’t have it be really tough on you after the fifth hitter.”
- Hunter Pence has yet to play in the second season of his five-year, $90MM contract with the Giants, but the right fielder is set to begin a rehab assignment at Triple-A Sacramento on Friday, reports Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. Pence is in line for a relatively long rehab assignment, possibly as many as 10 games according to Schulman, in order to make up some of the lost ground from missing Spring Training. Justin Maxwell and Gregor Blanco have shouldered the load in Pence’s absence, but the Giants’ collective .229/.305/.400 line from right fielders clearly isn’t equal to what Pence can provide.
- Dodgers righty Brandon Beachy is traveling with the Dodgers and working with VP of medical services Stan Conte and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt on changing his mechanics, writes Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. The changes, made in an effort to prevent further elbow injury once he’s healed from his second Tommy John surgery, were Beachy’s idea. Conte immediately supported the pitcher’s interest in pitching mechanics and biomechanics. Beachy admitted that he’s having trouble commanding his pitches thus far in bullpen sessions, perhaps in part due to the new mechanics. While he has plenty of time to iron out the kinks, reduced control would be a trade-off Beachy would happily make if it meant avoiding another surgery. “I think I’d rather be less effective and be able to stay healthy for longer than one or two months.”
Shortstop Trea Turner, the reported player to be named later in the Wil Myers deal, will be headed to the Nationals organization in June, but for right now, he’s enjoying his time in Padres big-league camp, MLB.com’s Corey Brock writes. “It’s been great. It’s been everything I’ve hoped for and more,” says Turner, who adds that he’s liked working with Padres third base coach Glenn Hoffman. Turner’s situation is unusual, though it sounds like he and the Padres are making the best of it. The team can’t simply trade the 2014 first-rounder now because they’re not allowed to deal him until a year after he signed his first pro contract. At the same time, it’s widely known that he’s in the trade and will be with the Nationals in June. Here’s more from the National League.
- Free-agent-to-be Jason Heyward doesn’t know what his future holds, but he’s happy to have a new start with the Cardinals, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. “I spent five years at this level with one organization and I still don’t know if I’ve seen the best of myself,” Heyward says. “I do feel that this is the best thing that could have happened to me as far as playing this game, getting a new start somewhere else. Absolutely.” Heyward adds that money will be part of the equation in his search for a new team, but that it will be secondary. “Who is going to provide that environment on a daily basis that says you have a great opportunity to be great for as long as you can play? That’s the biggest thing for me,” he says.
- The Pirates signed reliever John Holdzkom out of independent ball last season with the idea that he would be an extra arm for Double-A who might turn out to be something more, Bucs special assistant Jim Benedict tells ESPN 970’s David Todd in an interview Todd transcribed for Bucs Dugout (a website for which I also write, in the interest of full disclosure). Benedict saw Holdzkom pitch last summer at Triple-A Indianapolis. “I remember telling Clint (Hurdle) like a lot of other guys, ‘There’s a guy down there that can help us. He’s downhill, he’s 98 and it cuts. And I know that’s hard to hit, so let’s keep our eyes on this one,‘” Benedict says. “And all of a sudden he’s on the Pirates pitching meaningful games.” Holdzkom, who began the season pitching for independent teams in San Angelo and Amarillo, wound up striking out 14 batters in nine innings down the stretch with the Pirates.
- Giants outfielder Hunter Pence is out six to eight weeks with a fractured forearm, but assistant GM Bobby Evans says that injury is short-term enough that the Giants will simply replace him internally, MLB Network Radio tweets.
Giants outfielder Hunter Pence has suffered a non-displaced ulnar fracture and will be sidelined for 6-8 weeks, the team announced. Pence suffered the injury earlier today when he was hit by a pitch from Cubs righty Corey Black during a Spring Training game. The fracture occurred just above Pence’s left wrist, so he was at least fortunate to avoid what could’ve been a more serious injury.
That said, Pence’s absence for some or all of April is clearly a setback for the Giants lineup. Given how Pence’s time on the DL is expected to be relatively short, San Francisco will likely just use internal options like Gregor Blanco, Gary Brown or Justin Maxwell to fill Pence’s spot in right field. (Or, one of those players could play in left, shifting Nori Aoki to RF.)
On the other hand, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets that the Giants are “now looking for outfielders” and, in an earlier tweet, suggested that Allen Craig of the Red Sox could be “the perfect fit.” I’m not sure if Craig, in particular, is a fit given his high salary and the fact that the Giants wouldn’t have a regular role for him once Pence returned. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the team add a veteran outfielder on a minor league deal just for the sake of a bit more depth, yet a major acquisition like Craig would seem unnecessary unless there are setbacks in Pence’s recovery.
The durable Pence has played in at least 154 games in each of the last seven seasons. His DL stint will snap his streak of 383 consecutive games played, which has been the longest active iron-man streak of any MLB player.
SUNDAY: The Giants officially announced the extension, which, according to Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle, will pay Pence $16MM in 2014 and $18.5MM in each of the remaining four years with no signing bonus.
SATURDAY: The Giants have signed Hunter Pence to a five-year extension, reports John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle (on Twitter). San Francisco has guaranteed $90MM and granted a no-trade clause to keep its right fielder from reaching free agency, CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman reports, confirming his earlier tweet. Pence is represented by the Beverly Hills Sports Council.
The 30-year-old Pence was set to hit the market as one of the top available free agents, but will instead stay in San Francisco for the foreseeable future. With just two games left to play, Pence sports a .282/.339/.481 line to go with 26 long balls and 22 steals. The durable Pence has yet to miss a contest this year, and has never played less than 154 games in a season since establishing himself as a full-timer. In the aggregate, he was worth a career-best 4.2 bWAR and 5.3 fWAR on the season.
With an $18MM average annual value over five years, Pence slots in between two fellow California right-fielders that recently signed up for half-decade stints. Pence's contract bests the extension signed by the Dodgers' Andre Ethier by a mil a year, but falls $5MM per year short of Josh Hamilton's free agent contract with the Angels.
Coming just one day before the end of the regular season, the Pence contract should function as an important marker on the upcoming free agent market. In particular, with Pence being taken out of the picture for $90MM, Shin-Soo Choo's case for a $100MM+ deal sounds a lot more plausible. Some questioned Scott Boras' proclamation that Choo, who has never been an All-Star, would be a nine-figure player, but you won't find many people laughing at that notion today. The deal should also help out Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who is currently ranked No. 2 on Tim Dierkes' power rankings for 2014 free agents.
For his career, Pence owns a .285/.339/.475 slash line over the course of seven seasons with the Astros, Phillies, and Giants.
Zach Links and Edward Creech contributed to this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
12:31pm: The Giants have agreed on a five-year deal with Pence, tweets John Fay of the San Francisco Chronicle.
12:27pm: The deal would cover five years, tweets FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal. In a short piece, Heyman also says that a five-year term is expected and notes that an announcement could come as soon as today.
12:18pm: The Giants are nearing a $90MM deal with Pence, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
8:44am: The Giants' extension discussions with outfielder Hunter Pence took on increasing urgency yesterday, according to reports from the San Francisco Chronicle's Henry Schulman and CSNBayArea.com's Andrew Baggarly. Pence was seen huddling in conversation with team president Larry Baer in the reporter-filled clubhouse.
Conveniently-placed ears managed to overhear some of the discussion, according to MLB.com's Chris Haft, and among the things that passed between them was the phrase "I'm sure we'll get something done." Afterward, the 30-year-old outfielder confirmed what everyone suspected and acknowledged that talks were picking up steam. “They’re about to get back to me, seriously,” said Pence. “So we’re either really close or really far away.” When asked whether that could mean a deal by the end of the weekend, Pence said: "Yeah. I’ll know shortly. We’ll just say we’re talking, I guess.”
Baer's surprisingly public negotiation maneuver came after a night that the organization had already dedicated to Pence, who received the Willie Mac award as the club's most inspirational player. To make the night extra special, the club even conned Pence into giving up his mother's phone numbers so it could secretly arrange for her to attend.