Jordan Lyles Rumors

NL West Notes: Lyles, Olivera, Shields, Myers

Rockies starter Jordan Lyles has apparently escaped last night’s injury scare with nothing more than a significant bruise on his right hand, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post tweets. Lyles says he hopes to make his next start, though it is probably too soon to tell whether he’ll miss some action. The 24-year-old was struck on his throwing hand by an Albert Pujols comebacker last night, with the subsequent swelling leading many to fear that he may have suffered a fracture. Lyles and Eddie Butler have arguably been the Rockies’ most consistent starters this season.

More from the NL West…

  • Hector Olivera is expected to arrive in Los Angeles tonight, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link).  The Cuban infielder will take his physical and, presuming all is well, his agreement with the Dodgers will finally be official.
  • James Shields is delivering on the mound and in the clubhouse for the Padres, leading USA Today’s Bob Nightengale to wonder if the several teams who passed on Shields this winter are now second-guessing their decision.
  • Wil Myers has tendinitis in his left wrist as the Padres hope that a few days of rest will help the outfielder avoid a DL stint, MLB.com’s Corey Brock tweets.  Myers underwent surgery on his right wrist last year, though he was dealing with an existing left wrist injury at that time as well.
  • Don Mattingly deserves credit for keeping the Dodgers in first place despite several key injuries and some underperforming stars, Joel Sherman of the New York Post opines.  There have been rumors that the team’s new front office could bring in their own manager after the season is over or if the Dodgers struggled, yet Sherman feels Mattingly is staking his claim as a long-term answer in the dugout.
  • Despite the growing buzz surrounding Troy Tulowitzki‘s name, a source tells the Record’s Matt Ehalt that the Mets haven’t changed their thoughts on acquiring the longtime star shortstop. Ehalt cites Tulowitzki’s injury history, the money remaining on his contract and a repeated unwillingness from the Mets to part with top-tier pitching prospects. Wilmer Flores, who homered today, has shown good pop but questionable on-base skills and defense in his first extended look at shortstop in the Majors.
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports discussed the Rockies in his latest piece, writing that it’s “obvious to everyone” but Rockies owner Dick Monfort that the time to trade Tulowitzki has come. However, rather than look to begin moving pieces in the wake of a 10-game losing streak, the Rockies are still actively searching for starting pitching in hopes of improving the club. Rosenthal notes that the second wild card spot in each league can often act as “fool’s gold,” leading teams without legitimate hopes of contending to delay, or in some cases, refuse to sell off pieces with an eye toward the future.

NL West Notes: Lyles, Rockies, Johnson, Corbin, Puig, Baez

Rockies right-hander Jordan Lyles was forced to exit Wednesday evening’s start against the Angels after taking an Albert Pujols line drive off his pitching hand. Twitter reactions indicated that Lyles’ hand became visibly swollen in nearly instantaneous fashion (image via Vic Lombardi of CBS Denver on Twitter). Clearly, the struggling Rockies can ill afford to lose a reliable rotation arm such as Lyles for a significant amount of time. To date, the 24-year-old Lyles has a 4.30 ERA with a somewhat troublesome 21-to-17 K/BB ratio in 37 2/3 innings with the Rockies. He’s notched a characteristically strong 49.6 percent ground-ball rate as well. A serious injury would mark the second consecutive season in which a freak injury shelved Lyles, as last year he suffered a fracture in his non-throwing hand while covering home plate.

Here’s more on the Rockies and the rest of the division in what is an injury-tinted look at the NL West…

  • Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post joined Sandy Clough and Scott Hastings of 104.3 The Fan in Denver (audio link) to discuss recent news in which Troy Tulowitzki‘s agent publicly mentioned that he and his client would consider requesting a trade. Saunders touches on the previous unwillingness of Rockies owner Dick Monfort to part with veteran players. Saunders offers a very candid take on his view of the state of the Rockies and how the team has handled Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez in the past, specifically wondering if the latter of the two has much of any trade value left. (At present, it would seem to me that he has very little, due to the remaining three years on his contract, his injury history and lack of productivity to begin the season.)
  • Josh Johnson‘s return from Tommy John surgery had recently been slowed by some soreness, but Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports tweets that the oft-injured righty has resumed throwing. The Padres are optimistic that Johnson can soon begin a rehab assignment, Morosi adds. Johnson returned to the Padres on a one-year, $1MM contract this winter after missing the entire 2014 season due to a torn UCL.
  • Via FOX Sports Arizona’s Jack Magruder (Twitter link), Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart said in a recent TV interview that the club is targeting a June 4 return for fallen ace Patrick Corbin, who, like Johnson, underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 2014 season.
  • Yasiel Puig has experienced a setback in his recovery from a strained hamstring and isn’t expected to join the Dodgers anytime soon, manager Don Mattingly told reporters, including MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick. An MRI taken Monday revealed that Puig’s hamstring strain has not yet healed, and Mattingly said that it would be “at least a couple weeks” that Puig will remain on the shelf. It seems fair to believe that Puig may be sidelined into June.
  • In other Dodgers injury news, righty reliever Pedro Baez was forced to leave tonight’s game after he felt something in his right pectoral muscle, tweets the L.A. News Group’s J.P. Hoornstra. Baez is slated to undergo an MRI tomorrow. He’s been a highly useful member of the Dodgers’ bullpen, entering play Wednesday with a 1.88 ERA and a 19-to-3 K/BB ratio in 14 1/3 innings.
  • Giants right-hander Matt Cain threw his first bullpen session since his elbow surgery yesterday, tweets John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle.  He’ll have another session on Friday and will need three to four in total before moving onto facing liver hitters, Shea adds.

Players Avoiding Arbitration: Wednesday

We’ll keep track of the day’s smaller arbitration deals in this post, with all projections mentioned referring to those of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz. Here’s the latest…

  • Kristie Rieken of the Associated Press tweets that the Astros have avoided arbitration with Chris Carter, settling on a one-year, $4.175MM pact. Carter, 28, cut back on his strikeout rate to an extent in 2014 (it still checked in at 31.8 percent), but the real improvement came in terms of his power production. The slugger finished with 37 home runs, trailing only Nelson Cruz and tying him with Giancarlo Stanton for second in the Majors in long balls. His elite power served him well, as Swartz’s projection model had him ticketed for $3.5MM.
  • In addition to avoiding arb with Drew Stubbs (link) and Tyler Chatwood (who inked a two-year deal), the Rockies have also avoided arb with right-hander Jordan Lyles, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Lyles will earn a salary of $2.475MM in 2015, per Heyman. A client of Palmetto Sports Group, Lyles enjoyed a nice season with the Rockies that was shortened, to an extent, by a fractured broken left hand (his non-throwing hand). Still, the 24-year-old worked 126 1/3 innings, posting a career-best 4.33 ERA with 6.4 K/9, 3.3 BB/9 and an excellent 51.7 percent ground-ball rate. Lyles’ performance prior to the injury — 3.52 ERA, 3.76 xFIP — was markedly better than his post-injury performance, though the discrepancy between his post-injury ERA  (5.31) and xFIP (4.23) indicates that there could be further improvement. He had been projected to receive $2.5MM.
  • The Yankees have announced a deal to avoid arbitration with righty Ivan Nova. He will earn $3.3MM, per a tweet from the New York Post’s Joel Sherman. That sum also matches Nova’s salary from 2014, unsurprisingly, as he missed most of the season due to Tommy John surgery after struggling out of the gate. Nova, who just turned 28, had a highly productive 2013 campaign (3.10 ERA in 139 1/3 frames). Though he posted significant innings totals in prior years, he had never put together a season like that in terms of both results and peripherals (3.47 FIP). All said, it was an easy call for New York to roll the dice on Nova’s rehabilitation.


NL West Notes: Lyles, Rockies, D’Backs, Headley

Offseason acquisition Jordan Lyles has forced the Rockies' hand with two strong starts early this season, writes the Denver Post's Nick Groke. Lyles was supposed to be ticketed for Triple-A to open the year, but an injury to Tyler Chatwood pushed him into the rotation. Colorado must now decide whether to stick to the plan or keep Lyles in the rotation. Indeed, the former Astro has a 3.86 ERA through his first two outings and is sporting a strong 55.9 percent ground-ball rate — a trait that I imagine is highly attractive to the Rockies, whose home field is known for home runs. Here's more on the Rockies' pitching staff and the NL West…

  • Groke's colleague, Patrick Saunders, writes that in the wake of last night's meltdown against the White Sox, the Rockies simply cannot afford to keep Wilton Lopez at the Major League level. Lopez, who struggled after coming over from the Astros before the 2013 season, was tagged for six runs on the strength of three homers while recording just two outs. Saunders writes that "it makes no sense to keep [Franklin Morales] in the rotation," suggesting that he should be jettisoned to the pen in favor of Lyles. Saunders also wonders how long the Rockies will wait to promote top prospect Eddie Butler, noting that the right-hander's hot start may tempt the Rox, but it likely won't happen until June.
  • Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers said on the Doug and Wolf radio show in Arizona that while his team is not panicking over his its slow start yet, he is not afraid to make changes should the club fail to improve (Twitter link via MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez)
  • Brandon Hicks has gone from non-roster invitee to manager Bruce Bochy's preferred option at second base while Marco Scutaro is on the shelf, writes MLB.com's Chris Haft. Bochy says Joaquin Arias will still see some time at the position, but he's sticking with Hicks' bat, feeling him to be a comparable defender to Arias.
  • Chase Headley expressed to MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince some skepticism about the "contract year" narrative in which players are able to elevate their game aprior to free agency. Headley adds that he considers every season a "contract year" in today's game, noting that unless a player has already signed an extension, he is "playing for [his] life every year." Castrovince examines the likelihood of a Headley trade this season with the Padres already reeling from another set of injuries to Cameron Maybin, Carlos Quentin and Josh Johnson.

NL West Notes: Wieland, Dodgers, Lyles

The Padres have already taken a hit to their starting pitching depth after losing Cory Luebke to a second Tommy John surgery, and now right-hander Joe Wieland could suffer the same fate. Wieland is scheduled to have an MRI on his sore right elbow today, and Yahoo's Jeff Passan tweeted late last night that there's "significant concern" throughout the organization, with a re-torn UCL being the worst-case scenario. Wieland, like Luebke, spent the 2013 season recovering from 2012 Tommy John surgery. A second Tommy John surgery has become a familiar refrain around MLB of late; Daniel Hudson underwent his second Tommy John last summer, and there's a strong likelihood that Braves hurlers Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy will do so as well. D'Backs lefty Patrick Corbin could be headed for his first Tommy John surgery as well.

Here are a couple of other NL-West-related items…

  • The Dodgers are currently on the lookout for bench help, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, who questions how the club could spent $225MM on payroll but enter the season with such a weak group of reserve players. Rival evaluators in Spring Training consider the Dodgers' bench to be the weakest in the division, says Rosenthal.
  • Within that piece, Rosenthal reports that the Dodgers indicated to Mark Ellis early in the offseason that another two-year deal was a possibility. However, Ellis eventually grew weary of the Dodgers' indecisiveness, as they offered a one-year deal after signing Alexander Guerrero. Rosenthal adds that one potential scenario last summer was for the Dodgers to flip Zach Lee to the Angels for Howie Kendrick, then move Ellis to Kansas City for Luke Hochevar, but ownership nixed the Kendrick-for-Lee swap.
  • Troy Renck of the Denver Post writes that while the Rockies initially thought right-hander Jordan Lyles would need some time in the minors when they acquired him in the Dexter Fowler trade, Lyles is forcing his way into immediate rotation consideration. He's competing with Franklin Morales for the fifth starter's role, and Lyles could benefit from the fact that Morales has bullpen experience. Manager Walt Weiss told Renck that Lyles is viewed strictly as a starter, so Morales could end up in relief with Lyles in the starting five.

Rosenthal On Red Sox, Butler, Rangers, Angels

Some say that the big-money closer is becoming extinct, but Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports argues that reports of the species' demise might be premature since the supply is overwhelming demand this offseason, depressing some free agent prices.  While Grant Balfour's two-year, $15MM was surprisingly low to some, Joe Nathan netted a two-year, $20MM deal at age 39.  Here's more from Rosenthal's latest column..

  • A trade remains possible for the Red Sox, who are checking in with teams that need starters, sources say.  Jake Peavy and Ryan Dempster appear the most expendable, but the Sox could get a bigger return if they moved John Lackey or Felix Doubront.
  • The Royals seem unlikely to trade designated hitter Billy Butler or any of their relievers after signing free-agent second baseman Omar Infante.  Royals GM Dayton Moore wants to pounce after adding Infante, left-hander Jason Vargas and outfielder Norichika Aoki and would love a shot at re-signing free agent Ervin Santana if his market somehow collapses.
  • The Rangers do not appear seriously involved in trade discussions for Rays ace David Price at the moment.  If they strike out on Shin-Soo Choo, Masahiro Tanaka, and Price, they simply would preserve their prospects and financial resources for later moves.
  • The Angels seem to be holding off on a DH like as Raul Ibanez until they know how much they will spend on a pitcher. That pitcher could be right-hander Matt Garza as they have heavy interest in him, sources say.  That pitcher could also be Tanaka.
  • The Rockies got more trade inquiries on Jordan Lyles than any player at the winter meetings and Brandon Barnes was a popular target, too, according to a source.

Astros Acquire Dexter Fowler

The Rockies announced that they have traded outfielder Dexter Fowler and a player to be named later to the Astros in exchange for right-hander Jordan Lyles and outfielder Brandon Barnes.

Fowler-Dexter

Fowler, 28 in March, wasn't able to replicate his brilliant offensive performance in 2012, but he still enjoyed a strong season. The switch-hitter batted .263/.369/.407 with 12 homers and 19 stolen bases as Colorado's primary center fielder. A sore right wrist and a left knee sprain limited Fowler to just 119 games, but he's only one year removed from a .300/.389/.474 batting line.

Fowler has a strong walk rate and rarely strikes out, but he's not without his warts. Fowler isn't regarded as a strong defensive center fielder, owning negative career marks in Ultimate Zone Rating and Derfensive Runs Saved. He's also done most of his damage at Coors Field, posting an .880 OPS at home in his career compared to a .694 mark on the road. He's owed $7.35MM in 2014 and will be arbitration eligible for the final time before free agency the following offseason.

Lyles, who recently turned 23, has a career 5.35 ERA with 6.2 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and 48.6 percent ground-ball rate. Those numbers certainly aren't impressive, but Lyles has consistently been one of the youngest pitchers in the Majors after debuting as a 20-year-old in 2011. The Astros selected him 38th overall in the 2008 draft, and he twice ranked on Baseball America's list of Top 100 prospects. Lyles appeared to be on the road to a solid breakout season, having posted a 4.02 ERA through July 10, but he faded down the stretch, posting a 7.67 ERA over his final 13 appearances. Lyles won't be eligible for arbitration until next offseason and is under team control through the 2017 season.

Barnes, 27, batted .240/.289/.346 with eight homers and 11 stolen bases. Though he offered little at the plate, Barnes played outstanding defense in the outfield. He was solid against left-handed pitching as well, batting .296/.354/.437. He's under control through the 2018 season and is not yet arbitration eligible.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Astros Notes: Wandy, Bourn, Lee, Pence, Myers

The Astros will likely be sellers at this year’s trade deadline, according to Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. Houston has an MLB-worst 29-57 record, so the front office figures to entertain offers for Wandy Rodriguez, Michael Bourn and others. Here are the details from Rosenthal and Morosi’s report, which is a must-read item for Astros fans:

  • Though owner Drayton McLane would like to complete the sale of his club to Jim Crane by the July 31st trade deadline, the deal may not become official until August. MLB isn’t close to approving the sale, partly because of its ongoing conflict with Dodgers owner Frank McCourt.
  • Crane will likely stay quiet until baseball’s owners approve him, but he’ll influence the team’s direction this summer.
  • MLB has not told Crane that he has to agree to move the Astros to the AL West for the sale to go through.
  • Carlos Lee, who earns $18.5MM this year and next year, wouldn’t be easy to trade even if Houston picked up significant salary.
  • The club doesn’t want to trade Hunter Pence, who is under control through 2013. Bud Norris and Jordan Lyles also figure into Houston’s long-term plans, but the Astros will likely listen to offers on most other players, including Brett Myers and Jeff Keppinger.
  • Most baseball people expect Crane to fire GM Ed Wade, but the new owner will likely take his time evaluating Wade’s leadership before conducting a search for a new GM.
  • Houston native and current Rays executive Andrew Friedman is “an almost certain target,” according to Rosenthal and Morosi. Another Tampa Bay exec, former Astros GM Gerry Hunsicker, is also a possibility for Crane. He led Houston to four division titles before joining the Rays.

Astros Notes: Reed, Minors, Hall

A few items of note on the club formerly known as the Colt .45s as Albert Pujols smacks a walkoff homer, his second jack of the day:

  • The Astros continue to deny any rumors that they've been trying to work out a pre-draft deal with Stanford pitcher Chris Reed with the intent of selecting him at No. 11 overall, tweets Stephen Goff of the Houston Examiner. Goff predicts the Astros will take Archie Bradley (Twitter link), and ESPN.com's Keith Law writes in his latest mock draft that they'll take prep shortstop Francisco Lindor or Bradley if he's still available.
  • The Astros have improved their farm system under GM Ed Wade and his stable of area scouts, according to Goff. Wade's first draft as Astros GM was in 2008, when Houston selected Jason Castro and Jordan Lyles, both of whom have reached the bigs.
  • In contrast to their relative improvements in drafting and developing minor league players, Wade admitted that releasing Bill Hall represented a failure in judgment, writes Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle.

NL Central Notes: Lyles, Reyes, Doumit

Here's the latest from around the NL Central, with an emphasis Jordan Lyles. The Astros' right-hander debuted against the Cubs tonight and pitched seven-plus innings, allowing one earned run on five hits with four strikeouts and no walks….

  • Astros manager Brad Mills pointed out that Lyles could be with Houston for two starts or 20 years, according to MLB.com's Brian McTaggart. Lyles' debut may be the most anticipated in Astros history since Hunter Pence's 2007 debut, according to McTaggart.
  • Lyles' promotion represents a victory for assistant GM and amateur scouting director Bobby Heck, according to Stephen Goff of the Houston Astros Examiner
  • I examined the service time implications for Lyles earlier tonight.
  • Reds GM Walt Jocketty told John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that he hasn’t had talks with the Mets. That means speculation linking the Reds to Jose Reyes is unfounded at this point (though the Reds could have had internal discussions about the shortstop). 
  • Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit has fractured his left ankle and will miss at least a month, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (on Twitter). Doumit, a potential trade target, would have a few weeks to re-establish his value before the trade deadline if he makes a speedy return. But his $5.1MM salary could clear waivers, which would enable the Pirates to deal him in August.