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The Independence Day trade that sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Athletics is definitely the top story of the day. When we polled MLBTR readers last week over which pitcher would be traded first, Hammel was the resounding top choice with 31.05% of readers picking the right-hander. Samardzija came in third with 16.19% of the vote. David Price (24.07%) was the only other pitcher to finish with over 10% of the vote, and it very well could have been Price headed to Oakland. Let’s focus our attention on some of the other rumors and notes of the day.
- Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports the Tigers are interested in re-acquiring Joaquin Benoit (via Twitter). Of course, Benoit is in the midst of a fantastic season with the Padres. He’s pitched to a 1.26 ERA with 10.09 K/9 and 1.77 BB/9.
- The Angels are also interested in Benoit according to Morosi (Twitter). It’s unclear if that interest remains after the acquisitions of Jason Grilli and Joe Thatcher.
- Morosi (also on Twitter) notes that the Cardinals, Blue Jays, and Giants are interested in Diamondbacks infielders. Veterans Aaron Hill and Martin Prado have been frequently connected to rumors, although the club does have additional shortstop depth too.
- Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com writes that the Twins are expected to make Josh Willingham and Kevin Correia available barring a sudden turnaround. Both players will be free agents after the season and aren’t good candidates for a qualifying offer. Willingham has been productive when healthy including a .228/.377/.441 batting line in 162 plate appearances this season. Heyman mentions the Red Sox and Mariners as two clubs in need of offense. To me, Correia looks more like a roster patch for a contender with his 4.95 ERA and 4.11 FIP.
- The Marlins made a club record number of moves in June writes MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. A total of 45 transactions were made in June. The previous one-month record was 30 moves. July could bring more of the same for the Fish with Tom Koehler and Adeiny Hechavarria scheduled to return soon.
- Oft-injured Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia will undergo season ending surgery to address his thoracic outlet syndrome according to Derrick Goold and Joe Trezza of the St. Louis Post Dispatch. The club wasn’t counting on a return by Garcia, who has been on the disabled list since late June. The news provides additional incentive for the club to explore the trade market.
The Cardinals are down not one but two pitchers, Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia, after losing them both to shoulder injuries, MLB.com’s Jen Langosch writes. Wacha has what GM John Mozeliak called a “stress reaction,” and will miss several weeks. “He has been dealing with a little bit of shoulder irritation going back [four to five starts],” said Mozeliak. “Up to this point, we always thought it was manageable.” Garcia could not complete his regular bullpen session Sunday. The Cardinals are placing both pitchers on the disabled list, and they will announce corresponding moves on Monday. Here are more notes from throughout the big leagues.
- Grady Sizemore is likely to decide on a new team early this week, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe tweets. Sizemore became a free agent Friday after the Red Sox designated him for assignment. In his first big-league action since 2011, Sizemore hit .216/.288/.324 in 205 plate appearances in Boston.
- The Blue Jays and Giants have had interest in Daniel Murphy, but the most likely outcome is that the Mets keep him, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes. In a “mediocre” NL East division, Martino writes, the Mets do not seem to view themselves as sellers. That doesn’t mean the Mets won’t deal Murphy, of course — GM Sandy Alderson sent Marlon Byrd to the Pirates last year soon after indicating the Mets wouldn’t deal him, so his actions can be hard to predict.
- The Yankees need a starting pitcher, but they probably won’t be able to get top trade possibilities like David Price or Jeff Samardzija, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. The Rays won’t want to trade Price to a divisional opponent. For Samardzija, the Cubs want a highly-rated young pitcher who’s close to being ready for the big leagues, and the Yankees don’t have that type of player. That means the Yankees could get someone like John Danks of the White Sox, Jason Hammel of the Cubs or Ian Kennedy of the Padres.
- As the trade deadline approaches, the Dodgers‘ greatest need is in their bullpen, but that doesn’t mean they can’t count on improvements from relievers they already have, ESPN Los Angeles’ Mark Saxon writes. Kenley Jansen, in particular, has been working on his mechanics, and he pitched very well on Saturday and Sunday. In any case, Saxon notes that the Dodgers likely won’t let guaranteed contracts for relievers they already have (presumbably, players like Brian Wilson and Chris Perez, who have struggled) prevent them from adding talent on the trade market.
- The Tigers‘ bullpen has an unexpected look recently, with the additions of minor league veterans Pat McCoy, Chad Smith and Blaine Hardy. Hardy, 27, has pitched well in four appearances so far even though he hadn’t pitched in the big leagues before last week. “You’ve got to stick with it, and that’s exactly what I tried to do. Just keep playing, hopefully get the opportunity, and here I am,” the lefty told MLive.com’s Chris Iott. The Royals drafted Hardy in the 22nd round out of college, then released him during spring training in 2013. He pitched three scoreless innings against them in his first two big-league appearances last week.
Injuries continue to dominate the headlines around the league, led of course by the most impactful UCL tear in a year already full of them. The news that star Marlins hurler Jose Fernandez is likely to undergo Tommy John surgery has capped off a difficult stretch of pitching injuries, leading to reactions from around the game. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports says that understanding and addressing the rash of elbow injuries is in its infancy, and could be decades away from any kind of satisfying resolution. Buster Olney of ESPN.com (Insider link) writes that the club did not mishandle Fernandez, and that the lesson teams have drawn from the rash of TJ procedures is to maximize the innings of young arms before they hit the open market. And Tom Verducci of SI.com argues that the issue is not use at the major league level so much as years of added stress before players become professionals, and explores various possible solutions.
Let’s run through the latest injury news that carries potential hot stove implications:
- A beleaguered Astros bullpen (collective 5.91 ERA) will be without young righty Jose Cisnero for the rest of the year as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, tweets MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart. The 25-year-old threw just 4 2/3 ineffective innings in 2014, but tossed 43 2/3 frames of 4.12 ERA ball in his debut season last year. Entering 2013, Cisnero was rated Houston’s 15th-best prospect by Baseball America, which noted that he could become an innings-eating starter.
- Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia has seemingly defied the odds and worked himself back to the point that he is now a candidate to receive a big league start this weekend, tweets Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. Garcia’s most recent problems have been in the shoulder, though he has previously undergone TJ surgery. Garcia, still just 27, has logged just 177 innings under his four-year, $27MM contract, which runs through 2015 and includes club options for the two following seasons ($11.5MM and $12MM, respectively, each with a $500K buyout).
- The Giants will be without first baseman Brandon Belt for at least six weeks after successful thumb surgery, reports Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com (on Twitter). It appears that the team will utilize a mix of Michael Morse and Hector Sanchez at first while Belt recovers.
- Twins minor leaguer Byron Buxton — the game’s consensus top overall prospect — learned today that he has re-aggravated the wrist injury that cost him most of the early portion of the season, reports MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger (Twitter links). Though the team does not believe the wrist is any worse than when it was first injured, but another extended absence would obviously further delay the 20-year-old’s final development push.
- Outfielder Carlos Beltran, one of the major offseason signings by the Yankees, has been diagnosed with a bone spur in his right elbow. As MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports, the club will see if a cortisone show can allow Beltran to avoid surgery. “They believe it’s an old bone spur,” said manager Joe Girardi. “It’s aggravating his elbow now. If in a couple of days he doesn’t feel better, then my level of concern would be pretty high.”
Here are a few notes out of the game’s central divisions:
- Twins right-hander Matt Guerrier has a May 8 opt-out clause in his minor league contract and isn’t willing to push that date back to wait for a future opportunity, agent Joe Bick tells Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Guerrier has thrown well in the minors as he rehabs from flexor mass repair surgery last August, allowing just one earned run on eight hits and four walks with eight strikeouts in eight innings between Double-A and Triple-A (four at each level). Guerrier, who is earning $90K in the minors, would earn a $1MM base salary and earn an additional $250K for reaching 45, 50, 55 and 60 appearances, Berardino writes.
- John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press breaks down the challenges behind the Tigers potentially jettisoning left-hander Phil Coke. For starters, the 31-year-old Coke is earning $1.9MM this season, all of which is guaranteed after he broke camp with the club. Additionally, there are no left-handed relievers in the minors who have stood out in a meaningful way. Detroit would like to keep two lefty relievers if possible, and Lowe wonders if Robbie Ray could take Coke’s bullpen spot when Anibal Sanchez returns from the DL. The team has already cleared a roster spot for Ray by outrighting Jordan Lennerton off the 40-man roster.
- While plenty have argued that the time is now for the Cardinals to call up top prospect Oscar Taveras, GM John Mozeliak plans to keep him in the minors for the time being, reports Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I know a lot’s being made out of Oscar … coming to St. Louis,” Mozeliak said, “but right now I don’t even think it’s a logical thing to do. There are a lot of question marks going on in the outfield to begin with, and I think that would muddy it up.” Looking ahead, Mozeliak said that if Taveras continues at his present level of play, “that will make it a very difficult decision at some point.” As I documented a few weeks back, Taveras is one of those prospects with no MLB service time for whom Super Two status has now become the primary consideration (apart from development and team need, of course).
- Also in that piece, Hummel provides injury updates on two once-key cogs of the St. Louis pitching corps. Former closer Jason Motte has upped his heater into the mid-90s, while starter Jaime Garcia is still battling through injury issues but is nevertheless progressing through a rehab assignment. Needless to say, either or both of these two arms could give a real boost to a Cardinals club that is off to a somewhat sluggish start. While the team’s issues have generally not been on the pitching side of the ledger, added depth always opens up new possibilities.
The Cardinals have announced that they are cutting ties with Dr. George Paletta, an orthopedic surgeon who had served as the club's medical director since 1998, in favor of a relationship with Mercy Sports Medicine, Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. GM John Mozeliak made it clear that the team expects to reap dividends from the move. "The Mercy Sports Medicine model allows us to improve the level of innovative care available to our team by tapping into a remarkable team of physicians who are leaders in sports medicine," explained Mozeliak. "The biggest change I see with the approach is that it is truly a team model — a model that leverages the strengths of multiple physicians within the Mercy Sports Medicine group. This is a strategic plan that will handle our short-term needs, but also focus on long-term goals." As Strauss notes, St. Louis has undergone a series of changes in its medical and training departments.
- One notable injury situation for the Cards is that of starter Jaime Garcia. As Strauss reports, Garcia says he has "never" been able to pitch with complete freedom due to ongoing elbow and then shoulder issues, but is ready to move forward as best he is able. "What I have to learn now is that fine line where you can go out and compete and the point where you can't," said the 27-year-old. "It's not about feeling 100 percent. It's not about feeling great. That's not the case. It never will be. It's a matter of finding something that allows you go compete."
- We learned earlier today that the Pirates could be looking to deal outfielder Jose Tabata and are willing to listen on reliever Vin Mazzaro. Also potentially available is outfielder Travis Snider, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review further reports. Though Biertempfel says that the willingness to deal Snider is somewhat surprising since he has looked good, dropped some weight, and brings some upside to the table, he notes that those factors also potentially increase his trade value. While clearing out corner outfield inventory would ultimately make way for the call-up of top prospect Gregory Polanco, Biertempfel says that the team is still likely to let Polanco spend some time at Triple-A and avoid starting his service clock soon enough for him to become a Super Two.
Jonah Keri of Grantland lists out the National League non-roster invitees who could have the greatest impact. In addition to a series of highly-touted prospects with a chance to break out this year, Keri says to keep an eye on Roger Bernadina (Reds), Mark Reynolds (Brewers), Bobby Abreu (Phillies), and Jamey Carroll (Nationals). Here's more from the National League:
- Jaime Garcia of the Cardinals is set to receive a second opinion on his ailing left shoulder after undergoing an MRI on Monday, reports Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. Though declining further comment, GM John Mozeliak said that the preliminary review by the Cards' team doctor showed that "early indications have been encouraging." Nevertheless, any visit to Dr. James Andrews causes alarm bells to go off, and that is particularly so in the case of the 27-year-old Garcia, who missed most of last year due to a labrum tear.
- Reliever Clay Hensley, 34, is looking to make an improbable comeback with the Nationals after a series of injuries derailed his career, reports MASNsports.com's Dan Kolko. Though he could barely crack 80 mph just half a year ago, a weighted ball program commended to him by former big leaguer Tom House has allowed Hensley to regain the low-90s heat that he carried earlier in his career. Of course, Hensley faces quite another uphill battle in gaining a place in a Nats bullpen that has several arms competing for few openings.
- Much has been written about the Phillies' controversial involvement with the collegiate career of former draft choice Ben Wetzler, but Tony Blengino of Fangraphs provides an excellent new perspective on the issue. The former scout explains that the role of the scout is to eliminate as many variable as possible, making things as black and white as possible. But uncertainty will never be removed from the equation entirely, and Blengino opines that players should be permitted to utilize an agent/advisor without fear of repercussions.
- Justin Turner, who was designated for assignment by the Mets this offseason before landing with the Dodgers, talked about the shock of the DFA with Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. Turner says he has nothing but fond memories of New York, though he was particularly stunned to hear that the team had concerns with his level of hustle.
White Sox great Frank Thomas will appear as a studio baseball analyst this season for Los Angeles-based Fox Sports 1, The Associated Press reports. While Thomas has done pregame and postgame analysis locally in Chicago for the last three years, he describes the new position as "more a call to the big leagues." The slugger also offered his thoughts on how deciding not to use PEDs may have impacted his career. "I probably lost another two MVPs. I lost probably another 150 home runs or so, if you think about it," Thomas assessed. Here's more late-night central notes:
- The Twins made Matt Garza a three-year, $42MM offer this offseason and were willing to add a fourth year as a vesting option, a club source tells 1500ESPN.com's Darren Wolfson. ESPN's Jerry Crasnick was the first to report the terms (via Twitter).
- Jaime Garcia of the Cardinals is scheduled for an examination of his throwing shoulder after experiencing pain this week, The Associated Press reports. GM John Mozeliak confirmed the development means Garcia is unlikely to be ready for the start of the season. The starter went down for surgery in May after doctors discovered a labrum tear in his left shoulder.
Jaime Garcia will undergo season-ending shoulder surgery on Friday, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Heyman goes on to write that Dr. James Andrews was amazed that Garcia was able to pitch anywhere near as well as he did, as the left-hander has a "30-40 percent tear" of the labrum in his left shoulder. Garcia is in the second year of a four-year, $27.5MM contract that he signed in June 2011. His deal contains a pair of club options as well. Here's more on the Cardinals and the NL Central…
- While Garcia is done for the year, the Cardinals are hopeful that Chris Carpenter can return in July, according to Scott Miller of CBS Sports. Carpenter, who looked all but certain to retire just two months ago, is up to 80 pitches in his intense bullpen sessions. He's yet to face hitters, writes Miller, but there's an outside chance that he could be in the rotation prior to the All-Star break.
- "Let the debate begin," writes ESPN Chicago's Jesse Rogers, referring to the split opinion among fans on whether or not the Cubs should sign or trade Matt Garza. It's not immediately clear whether or not the Cubs will try to retain Garza, Rogers adds.
- One NL scout who was watching Garza's start against the Pirates last night texted Danny Knobler of CBS Sports and said, "I'd take him NOW." Knobler notes that the scout was half-kidding, as Garza hasn't proven his durability yet, but the right-hander carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning against the Buccos last night.
With one-fourth of the season in the books, let's have a look around some injury situations and how they might impact the developing trade market.
- The Cardinals and Yankees provide an interesting case study as we enter the second quarter of the season. Both have excellent records and lead their division. Both have sizeable payrolls as well as large portions of those payrolls sitting idle on the DL. Both have had to insert players onto their active roster that they did not anticipate. But, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch well explains, the source of those substitute bodies has been drastically different. While the Yankees spent well over $20MM to bring in players like Lyle Overbay, Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner, and Vernon Wells — all of whom are 34 or older — the Cards reached into their minor league system. Remarkably, St. Louis has plugged all of its holes with players making league minimum, including young pitchers John Gast, Shelby Miller, and Seth Maness.
- The Goold piece also includes some valuable insight from GM John Mozeliak. According to Mozeliak, amongst the team's Double-A and Triple-A rosters, "there is almost at any one position, if we needed help at the big leagues, someone we could call on from there." He acknowledges that such cheap, youthful depth cannot always be achieved, and says the team is prepared to pursue other markets as necessary. "I don't want us to go down the path where we feel like we've created this functional model and don't utilize a really robust pro scouting model that makes sure we understand the trade market and understand the free agent market. We can't be scared of those." Yet, by looking internally first, the team has managed to retain salary flexibility to add outside impact down the line. "This organization's way now of staying healthy is not being tied to those outside markets to fill needs," says Mozeliak. "Having some young players step up like they are now gives us additional flexibility when we're going to need it."
- The Cards' internal depth will once again be put to use with starter Jaime Garcia now staring at a strong possibility of season-ending shoulder surgery, writes Goold. Even with fellow starter Jake Westbrook also stuck on the DL, the team has multiple options among its current relief corps and Triple-A rotation that make a look outside the organization unlikely. Of course, it remains to be seen whether Garcia's replacement(s) can match his strong start to the year. He had thrown 55 1/3 innings of 3.58 ERA baseball to open the season. Veteran starter Chris Carpenter is increasingly shaping up as a viable mid-season option for the club. But any setback in his surprising recovery, or hiccups among the team's young hurlers, could lead St. Louis to consider eventually utilizing some of its salary reserves and young minor league depth in a trade.
- The Braves are another National League contender dealing with injured arms. As Matt Snyder of CBSSports.com's Matt Snyder writes, Eric O'Flaherty appears likely to join fellow setup man Jonny Venters as a season-ending Tommy John patient. While the team seems likely to utilize internal options to fill in for the present, the loss of its two late-inning lefties leaves the team with just one southpaw in the pen, Luis Avilan. Ultimately, then, Atlanta could be forced to explore the trade market to re-establish its depth as the season wears on.
- Teams shopping for starters at the trade deadline appear likely to find a limited supply of attractive arms, says ESPN.com's Buster Olney (Insider subscription required). Two Cubs pitchers headline the developing market, with Scott Feldman shaping up as the surprise top option at the moment. (Matt Garza, of course, will begin his potential audition on Tuesday.) In addition to several other well-documented trade candidates in Ricky Nolasco of the Marlins and the Astros' Bud Norris and Lucas Harrell, Olney pegs the Padres' Jason Marquis and Edinson Volquez as likely available. Meanwhile, Bartolo Colon of the Athletics and Cliff Lee of the Phillies could also be dealt, writes Olney, with the A's having other internal options and the Phils still weighing how to proceed with their excellent (but expensive) 35-year-old co-ace.
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Hall of Fame and Cardinal icon Stan Musial passed away yesterday at the age of 92. Today, tributes are pouring in ranging from fans outside the Stan the Man statue at Busch Stadium (St. Louis Post-Dispatch video) to the White House (h/t MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch). Daniel Solzman of Redbirdrants.com even suggests the Cardinals name the playing field at Busch Stadium in honor of Musial. The Cardinals are holding their 17th annual fanfest this weekend and, while the Musial official memorabilia booth was closed today in tribute to the St. Louis legend, players still made their appearances and made some news.
- Chairman Bill DeWitt, Jr. says the club is prepared to increase payroll in the coming years, tweets Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Goold adds the 2013 payroll is around $115MM.
- Adam Wainwright, who is entering the final year of his contract, admitted the Cardinals approached him about a contract extension during the final month of this past regular season, Goold reports. Wainwright said he wanted to focus on the playoff stretch and "it wasn’t going to hurt my case to just wait it out and see where some of these guys signed."
- On the upcoming Wainwright extension talks, Goold, within the same piece, quoted GM John Mozeliak as saying, "It’s going to be long. It’s going to be expensive."
- Wainwright has become a mentor to pitching prospect Shelby Miller, Goold writes in a separate article. Miller, who will compete for the fifth spot in the starting rotation, says he doesn't know what he was thinking last offseason when he "was trying to be a beach bod" with his workout regimen. Miller's performance suffered and the club questioned the right-hander's conditioning. Enter Wainwright who exchanged texts with Miller throughout the season and challenged him to reach training camp at a weight that would help his strength and durability.
- While Miller has gained enough pounds to reach his playing weight, Jake Westbrook's outlook on the offseason is to copy last year's regimen in hopes of slimming down, writes Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. "It worked out so well last year that I thought I would just do it again," Westbrook said.
- The injury reports on Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, and Rafael Furcal are positive, according to Langosch.
- Mozeliak says second base is Daniel Descalso's "job to lose," but he is open-minded about Matt Carpenter making a push for playing time there, writes Langosch.
- Mike Matheny told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he only became the Cardinals' manager because of losses he sustained in a failed real estate venture. A Missouri judge recently ruled Matheny and his wife owe more than $4MM from that deal plus interest and court costs. Matheny will earn $750K in the final guaranteed year of his contract.
Daniel Seco contributed to this post.