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Jose Fernandez Rumors
Injuries remain perhaps the largest driver of needs in the early part of the season — a topic that MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes and I explored in today’s podcast with respect to starting pitching. Let’s have a look at some key injury situations around the game:
- Rehabbing Royals starter Kris Medlen is headed to extended Spring Training to begin throwing against live batters, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan reports. That leaves him on track for a rehab assignment in May. Kansas City has $8.5MM riding on the righty’s ability to return to form after his second Tommy John surgery.
- The Reds are missing two key cogs in backstop Devin Mesoraco and righty Homer Bailey. As Michael Hunt reports for MLB.com, manager Bryan Price says that Mesoraco — still not on the DL despite a 17-game absence from his usual catching duties — is still not ready “to try it out just yet,” adding that Mesoraco is “coming along slowly.” There are longer-term concerns with regard to Bailey, of course, and surgery is said to be on the table. “We’re probably going to know in the next one-to-two days what our plans are with Homer,” Price said. “You spend a lot of time when you make a diagnosis, fact-finding and making sure everything you see is as it appears. That’s been the time consumer, making sure it is what we think it is and finding the best way to treat it.”
- Marlins starter Jose Fernandez is working his way back from Tommy John surgery, of course, and recently faced hitters in a live BP session for the first time. You can check out the video of his outing, courtesy of FOX Sports Florida.
- After a pause in his rehab, Nationals infielder Anthony Rendon is preparing for another Double-A appearance in the coming days, MLB.com’s Bill Ladson reports. The issue has not been with his knee, which caused him to hit the DL to start the year, but with tightness in his side. That’s good news for the club, obviously, as is the fact that reliever Casey Janssen appeared in an extended spring game. He is set to begin his own run up through the minors in short order, per Ladson.
- Injured Tigers starter Justin Verlander is set for a third MRI on his right triceps area early next week, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports (Twitter links). Meanwhile, reliever Joe Nathan underwent his Tommy John procedure yesterday, Fenech tweets, with Nathan saying that it went well. It figures to be a long road back for the 40-year-old, but indications are that he’ll try to return to the big leagues.
Marlins ace Jose Fernandez and manager Mike Redmond spoke with Anthony Castrovince for a Sports On Earth piece about the 23-year-old Fernandez’s recovery from Tommy John surgery. Fernandez says that he’s become close with NL East rival and fellow Tommy John victim Matt Harvey, who made his season debut for the Mets today (and dominated the Nationals). The two aces have discussed the rehab process, with Fernandez checking in to compare their rehab cycles. Fernandez has replaced a borderline ridiculous offseason cycling program — he used to cycle up to 600 miles per week, Castrovince notes — in favor of bulking up to add muscle and hopefully avoid further injuries to his arm. Redmond is pleased with the amount of time Fernandez is spending on the bench and with his teammates, always looking to learn, improve and ready his mind for the day he returns to the mound.
Elsewhere in the NL East…
- Cuban outfielder Dian Toscano, who signed a four-year, $7.5MM deal with the Braves this winter, has arrived in the U.S. and is working with Major League Baseball to establish residency, reports MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. While there’s no timeline on how long that will take, Bowman notes that it’s one of the final hurdles Toscano needs to clear before beginning his Braves career. Bowman adds that Toscano could emerge as a backup outfield option in Atlanta as soon as this season.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports feels that the belief that the Braves‘ farm system had become unproductive under the previous front office was misguided. Rosenthal looks at the number of players that had graduated to the Majors, pointing to them as evidence that the system continued to churn out quality talent. Aside from the team’s major trades of Evan Gattis, Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Craig Kimbrel, Rosenthal finds other player personnel decisions questionable, highlighting the risk involved in acquiring Manny Banuelos and the decision to leave former top prospect J.R. Graham unprotected in this year’s Rule 5 Draft.
- Mets GM Sandy Alderson tells Andy Martino of the New York Daily News that he doesn’t instruct manager Terry Collins on how to construct his lineup, despite recent media speculation that the opposite is true. Alderson said that much like Collins offers input on roster moves but the front office has final say, he will offer input on lineup decisions, but Collins has final say.
The Marlins’ signing of Christian Yelich to a deal that guarantees him just under $50MM for seven years marked the second time in the past several months that the team has awarded a young outfielder a big extension. The first, of course, was Giancarlo Stanton‘s enormous $325MM contract. Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald spoke with Yelich and agent Joe Longo to see how the deal went down, and evidently the first contract had much to do with the second.
The Marlins initially spoke to Longo about a Yelich extension before signing Stanton, Spencer reports, and Stanton’s deal served as a catalyst for Yelich’s. “(Yelich) tells me it’s different now,” Longo says. “I think the Stanton signing kind of set the tone for that. It certainly set the tone for us.”
Yelich “reminds me a lot of a young Don Mattingly,” says Marlins GM Dan Jennings. “A tremendous hitter who’s only going to get better as he learns the league and the pitchers.”
One might wonder if the Marlins could continue locking up young players. The Stanton and Yelich deals might or might not encourage starter Jose Fernandez to consider an extension of his own — Spencer writes that the Scott Boras client says the possibility of a deal depends on a number of factors. But he’s encouraged by the team’s commitments to Stanton and Yelich. “I think the team is proving to fans that they want to win, and I think that’s what they want in Miami,” says Fernandez. “It’s really nice to see that happen.”
The latest out of Miami..
- When asked if he’s in on James Shields, Marlins GM Dan Jennings told Jim Bowden of SiriusXM (on Twitter) “you never know if you’re still in it or not in it until someone signs him.” At present, however, it would seem that the Marlins are on the outside looking in with the Padres viewed as the favorites and the Cubs still lurking.
- Jennings added, “We have had internal discussions about [Shields] and all other free agents… we’ll see in the next few days where he goes,” (via MLB Network Radio on Twitter).
- Jennings told Bowden (on Twitter) that Dan Haren is preparing for Spring Training and looking forward to being a member of the Marlins. Haren reportedly has been hoping for a trade that would keep him closer to his family in California. At one time, Haren seemed to be considering retirement over spending the season in Miami.
- Jennings said that the timetable for Jose Fernandez to take the mound is between June 15th and July 15th (via Bowden on Twitter).
- Joe Frisaro of MLB.com (on Twitter) opines that the Marlins’ next step should be to try to sign Rafael Soriano or Francisco Rodriguez on the cheap. When asked by Bowden (link) about possible interest in the relievers, Jennings didn’t tip his hat much, saying that he’s “always looking to add.” Jennings added that he’s exploring potentially bringing “one or two more guys to camp,” according to MLB Network Radio (on Twitter).
The Marlins have already locked up Giancarlo Stanton to a record-setting 13-year deal, and they’re now focusing on extending the rest of their young core. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Fish have made long-term offers to ace Jose Fernandez, left fielder Christian Yelich and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, with an offer to center fielder Marcell Ozuna expected to come this week.
Heyman doesn’t have specifics on all four of the deals, but he reports that the Fernandez proposal is said to be for six years and about $40MM. It also contains two club options. While that payday may seem light in comparison to Stanton’s contract, it’s worth noting how different the situations of Fernandez and Stanton are. Both are cornerstone players, but Stanton signed his deal with just two years of team control remaining when he was due to earn roughly $13MM in 2015 already. Fernandez is not yet even arbitration eligible (he’ll earn close to the league minimum next year) and is also coming off a season cut short by Tommy John surgery. Stanton, on the other hand, was coming off a second-place MVP finish.
According to Heyman, the offer to Fernandez would be the largest ever for a pitcher with his service time, though there appears to be a bit of disconnect there. Heyman notes that the offer is for “close to” $40MM. Fernandez currently has exactly two years of MLB service, and Gio Gonzalez‘s six-year, $42MM contract is the biggest extension ever signed by a pitcher with two to three years of MLB service (as can be seen in MLBTR’s Extension Tracker). It’s possible that Heyman is simply referring to a player with exactly two years of service or even a player in the low two-year range, but in terms of service class, anything short of $42MM in guaranteed money would fall a bit shy of a record.
The offer to Yelich, according to Heyman, is said to be modeled after Starling Marte‘s six-year, $31.5MM contract, but it contains a smaller guarantee than that deal. There’s still some work to do before the two sides are close to an agreement, he notes. Yelich, who quietly posted roughly a four-WAR season, has just one year and 69 days of MLB service time. Marte’s contract is the second-largest ever for an outfielder with one to two years of service (Ryan Braun‘s $45MM deal is king), but as the Extension Tracker shows, recent extensions for Paul Goldschmidt (five years, $32MM), Jedd Gyorko (five years, $35MM), Anthony Rizzo (seven years, $41MM) and Andrelton Simmons (seven years, $58MM) have all topped the Marte deal in terms of guarantee.
General manager Dan Jennings wouldn’t comment on specific situations, but he expressed confidence to Heyman in locking up his young stars, even Fernandez, who is represented by Scott Boras. “We’ll get it done,” said Jennings. “We’ll get it done with Scott, too; we’ll just have to rassle a little harder.” Boras, of course, is typically averse to advising his young talents to accept extensions before hitting free agency, though there are notable exceptions (including recent cases of Carlos Gonzalez and Carlos Gomez).
To this point, Heyman writes, there’s yet to be an inclination that Fernandez is amenable to a long-term contract with such little experience under his belt and given his injury status. The pair of proposed club options, in particular, would seem to go against Boras’ typical philosophy. However, Jennings maintained optimism and felt that extension talks with all four of his young players are going well: “We’ve had some great exchanges. I feel like we’re moving in the right direction.”
The Marlins have opened long-term extension talks with injured ace Jose Fernandez, Christian Yelich and Adeiny Hechavarria, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. As Rosenthal notes, nothing is close with any of the three. Fernandez, a client of Scott Boras, is a particularly long shot to be extended. Boras typically encourages his clients to test the open market, and while his players have on rare occasion signed long-term deals before reaching that point (e.g. Carlos Gonzalez and Carlos Gomez), Fernandez isn’t in a great spot to talk contract as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery.
It’s not hard to see why Miami would have interest in extending Fernandez, however, as he was among the game’s most dominant young arms before undergoing surgery and figures to get back to that point in the near future. The former first-rounder skipped Double-A and Triple-A entirely and debuted in the Majors as a 20-year-old. While that jump would be difficult for most, Fernandez had no trouble acclimating to the Majors and notched a ludicrous 2.25 ERA with 10.3 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 through his first 224 1/3 innings. He won Rookie of the Year honors in 2013 and finished third in the NL Cy Young balloting that season.
Fernandez is controlled through 2018, although now that he’s missed a season with injury, the Marlins’ decision to have him break camp in 2013 looks even more questionable; Miami could’ve secured another year of team control by leaving him in the minors for just three weeks or so. Of course, if an extension is worked out, that will be a relatively moot point (though still puzzling, in principle).
Yelich, 23 in a month, quietly enjoyed a breakout season. Also a former first-round pick, he batted .284/.362/.402 with nine homers, 21 steals and excellent defense in left field. Baseball-Reference valued him at 3.6 WAR, while Fangraphs pegged him for 4.3 WAR. Yelich can be controlled through 2019 and won’t be arbitration eligible for two more years, so there’s no immediate urgency for the Marlins to extend him. He’s repped by Paragon Sports.
Hechavarria, 26 next April, is a client of Praver-Shapiro Sports and is a more curious case. While most acknowledge that he has the tools to be an excellent shortstop, most defensive metrics peg him as below-average at shortstop despite his affinity for highlight-reel plays. He’s under control through 2018 and isn’t arbitration eligible until next winter. Hechavarria posted an improved .276/.308/.356 batting line in 2014, though his offense still hasn’t caught up to its minor league levels, where he slashed .327/.376/.446 with eight homers in 606 Triple-A plate appearances.
In addition to this group, the Marlins are, of course, trying to extend franchise cornerstone Giancarlo Stanton. Earlier today, reports indicated that talks are ongoing and the Marlins are aware of and comfortable with the fact that Stanton may cost $28-30MM annually.
The Marlins hope to have Giancarlo Stanton signed to a long-term extension before the Winter Meetings, Miami president of baseball operations Michael Hill tells Jim Duquette and Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (audio link). Hill said that Jose Fernandez‘s rehab from Tommy John surgery is going well but the team is “not going to push anything because he is so valuable to us.” Not included in the audio link, but available via Bowden’s Twitter feed, are Hill’s remarks about wanting to add another starting pitcher and a big bat to the Marlins’ roster this offseason.
Here’s some more from around baseball…
- Ten hitters who the Mariners could pursue via trades or free agency are listed by Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. Victor Martinez, Michael Cuddyer and Billy Butler seem to be Seattle’s likeliest targets, Dutton believes, while players like Melky Cabrera (desire to play on the East Coast), Nelson Cruz and Yasmany Tomas (salary demands) seem unlikely to join the M’s.
- Alex Rios is likely viewed by the Mariners and other teams as “a fall-back option” if their preferred outfield choices aren’t available, Dutton writes. “Few if any” scouts would sign Rios to a two-year contract, though a one-year deal worth no more than $10MM “could be a reasonable…risk.” MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes predicted Rios would find a one-year, $8.5MM deal this winter.
- A number of trends emerged from a study of how the last 46 playoff teams allocated their payroll, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. Spreading salaries around seemed to be a key factor — only nine of the 46 teams spent more than 17% of their Opening Day payroll on a single player, and the teams averaged 54.5% on their five most expensive players. Of the 46 teams studied, only two had a highest-paid player who was also their most productive player (according to WAR).
- With offense down, starting pitchers (maybe even the top arms) could see their market diminished in free agency this winter, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes in his latest Insider-only piece. Conversely, this also raises the value of free agent hitters, plus some teams could receive some big returns in trades for quality bats. Olney lists a few hitters that have already been mentioned as possible trade candidates (i.e. Yoenis Cespedes and Cubs‘ middle infielders) as well as longer-shot options as Manny Machado.
- Mike Elias, the Astros‘ director of amateur scouting, discusses Houston’s scouting department, some prospects the difficulty in accurately grading hitting and a number of other topics as part of a wide-ranging interview with Fangraphs’ David Laurila.
Here’s the recap of some notable players who saw their roster status changed over the weekend…
- The Marlins moved Jose Fernandez to the 60-day disabled list, opening up roster space for newly-acquired reliever Bryan Morris. Fernandez, of course, will be sidelined for roughly the next year as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
- The Rays moved infielder Tim Beckham to the 60-day DL and filled his 40-man roster spot by purchasing the contract of outfielder Jerry Sands from Triple-A. Sands will help fill in for Wil Myers, who went on the 15-day DL yesterday. Beckham, the first overall pick of the 2008 draft, tore his right ACL during the offseason.
- The Diamondbacks moved left-hander Matt Reynolds to the 60-day DL in order to create a 40-man roster spot for outfielder David Peralta, who had his contract purchased from Double-A. (A.J. Pollock was placed on the 15-day DL in a corresponding move.) Reynolds posted an impressive 1.98 ERA, 7.6 K/9 and 4.60 K/BB rate in 27 1/3 IP out of the Arizona bullpen last season before undergoing Tommy John surgery in September.
FRIDAY: Fernandez underwent successful surgery today, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports on Twitter. The club anticipates the usual twelve to eighteen month recovery period.
TUESDAY, 10:02pm: The Marlins have announced that Tommy John surgery has been recommended to repair a ligament tear in Fernandez’s right elbow, though the team cautions that it has yet to be decided whether (and if so when) the procedure will take place.
9:09pm: The second physician’s assessment was the same as the first, tweets Spencer: a UCL tear for which surgery is recommended.
2:20pm: Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com has some further details on the situation, reporting that ElAttrache diagnosed Fernandez with a “significant tear” of his ulnar collateral ligament and recommended surgery. Fernandez will visit with Kaplan today for his take, but all expectations are that a Tommy John procedure will ultimately result.
MONDAY, 7:30pm: The Marlins expect that Fernandez will require season-ending surgery, reports Rodriguez (via Twitter). Needless to say, the outstanding 21-year-old would be the crown jewel of the many outstanding pitchers who have succumbed to elbow injuries in recent months.
7:15pm: Fernandez has already undergone a second MRI, Rosenthal tweets. The first was overseen by Dr. Neal ElAttrache, says Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun Sentinel, with Fernandez then returning to Florida for a second MRI and consultation with team medical director Lee Kaplan.
5:32pm: Rosenthal tweets that Fernandez has been placed on the DL with a right elbow sprain. He adds that Fernandez is returning to Miami and the results of the MRI are still pending. Spencer quotes Redmond’s response when asked if he is concerned about Tommy John surgery: “I think you’re always concerned when you’re talking about elbows. It’s a big blow.”
4:45pm: The Marlins are off to a surprising start to their 2014 season at 20-18, but bad news appears to be on the horizon. Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports (via Twitter) that Jose Fernandez is undergoing an MRI in Los Angeles, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that the Cy Young hopeful is expected to be placed on the disabled list. The Marlins announced earlier today that manager Mike Redmond would be addressing the media at 6:30pm EST.
Clearly, any substantial injury to Fernandez would be a devastating blow to the Marlins. The 21-year-old is off to a dominant start to the season, having pitched to a 2.44 ERA with 12.2 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and a 48.8 percent ground-ball rate in 51 2/3 innings. Fernandez was hit hard by the light-hitting Padres in his last outing, surrendering six runs (five earned) on six hits and a walk in five innings, though he was reportedly ill prior to that outing.
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.”