Justin Verlander Rumors

Quick Hits: Mock Draft, Upton, Papelbon, Verlander, Rondon

Early mock drafts continue to roll out, with MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis releasing their first effort at spitballing the always hard-to-call results. The MLB.com team pegs high school outfielder Daz Cameron — son of longtime big leaguer Mike Cameron — as the likeliest current optiton for the Rangers at fourth overall.

Here are a few more notes from around the game:

  • The Padres expect outfielder Melvin Upton to begin a rehab stint in the near future given the improvement in his foot injury, MLB.com’s Corey Brock writes in response to a reader question. San Diego probably will not have any decisions to make until the start of June, says Brock, which is probably the earliest he’ll be ready to come off of the DL. What happens at that point remains to be seen, of course, but Brock notes that the club could theoretically give Wil Myers more time at first base to afford Upton a useful place on the roster — and a chance to attempt to return to form. In truth, Upton represents a free roll for the Friars, who took on his salary only to facilitate the addition of Craig Kimbrel. But the team has every incentive to see if it can get him back on track.
  • The market for Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon has evolved significantly over time, of course, and figures to continue to do so as the summer draws near. Corey Seidman of CSNPhilly.com argues that the Marlins currently make the most sense as a trade partner for Papelbon, whose contract appears more and more manageable over time — particularly as he continues to produce on the field. We just saw reports that the Fish are indeed exploring external options to bolster their pen, of course, and Papelbon remains an intriguing option. While I agree with Seidman that the division rivals would probably not hesitate to deal with one another, I wonder whether Miami would have the appetite for Papelbon’s still-hefty salary (he’s owed $13MM this year and $13MM next if his option vests).
  • The Tigers watched bullpens from two important right-handers today, as Jon Morosi of FOX Sports and Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press report (Twitter links). Starter Justin Verlander threw twenty pitches and left pitching coach Jeff Jones “very pleased,” while reliever Bruce Rondon also took a turn on the bump. Detroit ranks toward the upper-middle of the pack in terms of run prevention thus far in 2015, but the club has relied more than it might prefer on the largely untested Kyle Lobstein in the rotation and could certainly use a quality set-up man at the back of the pen. The progress of Verlander and Rondon, then, is likely to have a significant impact on the team’s summer plans.

Injury Notes: Medlen, Mesoraco, Bailey, Fernandez, Rendon, Janssen, Verlander, Nathan

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.

Central Notes: Harris, Verlander, Lucroy

The Cardinals are set to promote righty reliever Mitch Harris on Tuesday, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweets. When Harris makes his first pitch with the Cardinals, he’ll become the first graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy to pitch in the big leagues in nearly a century, as Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan wrote last month. The Cardinals drafted the 29-year-old Harris in the 13th round all the way back in 2008, but Harris spent several years honoring his commitment to the Navy, traveling the world as a weapons officer. The Navy didn’t allow him to join the Cardinals organization until the 2013 season. Once he did, though, the Cards moved him quickly through the minors, and after a handful of innings at Triple-A Memphis, he appears set to make his big-league debut. Perhaps that will come in Washington, where the Cardinals play tomorrow through Thursday. Here are two more quick notes from the Central divisions.

  • Justin Verlander‘s MRI last Thursday confirmed the Tigers‘ initial diagnosis that he has a strained right triceps, James Schmehl of MLive.com writes. He won’t throw anymore until his arm stops feeling sore. Schmehl notes that Verlander is currently on the disabled list for the first time in his ten-year career. He has not yet pitched this season.
  • In other injury news, Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy is headed to the disabled list with a broken left toe, MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy tweets. The loss of one of their superstars is an awful blow to a Brewers team that’s already in a 2-10 hole this season. Lucroy was hitting .167/.250/.214 in 48 plate appearances in 2015. Martin Maldonado will, presumably, handle the bulk of the Brewers’ catching duties in his place.


AL Central Notes: Ingram, Kluber, Tigers, McGowan

Condolences go out to the family and friends of Twins Minor League instructor/manager Riccardo Ingram, who as MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger writes, lost a battle with brain cancer yesterday at the age of 48. Ingram spent 17 seasons in the Twins organization as a manager, coach and roving hitting instructor. “It’s very sad news,” said GM Terry Ryan. “…He’s one of those guys where it would be very difficult for me to find somebody who had a bad thing to say about Riccardo Ingram.” Originally diagnosed in 2009, Ingram overcame his first bout with the disease and returned to his post with the Twins through the 2014 season. Said manager Paul Molitor: “I think we were all blessed we were able to get those five or six years with him after the original diagnosis. But it’s not easy.”

Here are a few more items from around the AL Central…

  • There’s been “some progress” between the Indians and ace Corey Kluber on an extension, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link), but it remains unclear whether or not the team will strike a deal by the reported Opening Day deadline. Kluber is not yet arbitration-eligible, but a repeat of anything close to his 2014 Cy Young season would make his first price tag in arb enormous, so there’s some benefit for Cleveland to seek cost certainty at this juncture despite the fact that Kluber is a late bloomer and thus older than most extension candidates.
  • Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander will open the season on the disabled list due a right triceps strain, writes MLive.com’s Chris Iott. Incredibly, this will mark the first DL stint of Verlander’s exceptional career. Though the injury is not considered serious, it’s an ominous start for the former ace after he led the AL in earned runs allowed in 2014 and struggled to a 5.63 ERA (10 runs in 16 innings) this spring. He’s tentatively slated to come off the DL on April 12.
  • Also opening the season on the DL will be flamethrowing righty Bruce Rondon, who is experiencing biceps tendinitis. The injury appears to be unrelated to last year’s Tommy John surgery, but Rondon didn’t throw back-to-back days all spring and won’t be activated until he is able to do so. Manager Brad Ausmus said he doesn’t know when Rondon will throw again, via Iott. The Tigers already have a precariously thin bullpen, and the loss of Rondon for any significant chunk of time would further cloud the outlook.
  • The Twins are “kicking the tires” on right-hander Dustin McGowan, who was recently released by the Dodgers, reports Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (via Twitter). Via Wolfson, the Twins had interest in McGowan back in November, but their interest faded later in the offseason as he remained unsigned. Perhaps disappointing Spring Training efforts from some internal bullpen candidates have rekindled some of that interest. McGowan recorded an uninspiring 4.17 ERA in 82 innings (eight starts, 45 relief appearances) with Toronto last season, but he was much better out of the ‘pen than in the rotation, as he has been throughout his career. McGowan’s 3.79 ERA as a reliever is nearly a full run lower than his 4.78 mark as a starter, though xFIP feels he’s about the same pitcher in either role (4.30 vs. 4.32).

“No Major Structural Damage” To Verlander’s Shoulder

An MRI brought good results for the Tigers’ Justin Verlander, whose shoulder has suffered “no major structural damage,” according to manager Brad Ausmus (via a tweet from Chris Iott of MLive.com). Some relatively minor inflammation was identified, which will require some rest and at least one missed start, but a DL stint is unlikely at this time.

In sum, the news was positive both for the team’s efforts to re-take the AL Central and the long-term return on Verlander’s massive contract. Though he has not been himself this year, with a 4.76 ERA and just 6.7 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9 (after yesterday’s brutal one winning of work), Verlander has still been a workhorse with 158 2/3 innings pitched. And Detroit will no doubt be relieved that it can expect to feed him innings rather than relying on unproven youngsters or being forced to go back to the trade market.

Verlander has tossed at least 200 frames a season every year since 2007, avoiding any time on the DL along the way, and it will be remarkable if he can yet again steer clear of going inactive. The absence of structural issues with his shoulder would seem to rule out some of the worst-case scenarios. Performance issues remain, however, as Verlander has not produced the results or peripherals of a pitcher who is guaranteed $140MM after the year.


AL Central Notes: Willingham, Indians, Tigers

While many clubs are averse to making trades within their own division, the Twins and Royals showed little hesitation to do so last night when Minnesota traded Josh Willingham to Kansas City in exchange for right-hander Jason Adam. The Twins, in fact, seemingly have little qualms about dealing to division rivals. Within the past five years, they’ve traded Francisco Liriano to the White Sox, Delmon Young to the Tigers and acquired Carl Pavano from the Indians. They also flipped Jim Thome back to Cleveland and Jamey Carroll to the Royals for players to be named later/cash considerations. Of course, most of these are fairly minor trades, but the Pavano trade and the Liriano trade have had lasting effects on the organization (Minnesota acquired Eduardo Escobar in the Liriano deal).

Here’s more on the most recent intra-division trade and the rest of the AL Central…

  • Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press spoke with Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and second baseman Brian Dozier about Willingham’s departure. Gardenhire said the move was tough for the clubhouse to swallow, while Dozier called Willingham his mentor and best friend. As Berardino points out, Willingham currently has the eighth-most games of any active player that has never made a postseason appearance. Berardino was also among the reporters on hand to speak with Willingham himself in the Twins’ clubhouse following the announcement of his trade (All video links).
  • Zack Meisel of the Cleveland Plain Dealer began an excellent series by taking an in-depth examination of the Indians‘ analytics department and the contributions they make to the baseball operations department. Director of analytics Keith Woolner has been with the team since 2007 and has seen the Indians add two other analytics experts to his side based on the value they felt Woolner added. “There’s a lot of conversations out there, most of which never amount to anything,” Woolner said, “but you don’t know which ones are going to come to fruition, so you spend a lot of time evaluating a bunch of possibilities … so that when that one comes along, you have the information in place so that [GM Chris Antonetti] can make the best decision.”
  • Justin Verlander tells Chris Iott of MLive.com that he had the “worst” stuff of his career in Monday night’s disastrous one-inning start. Verlander, who will undergo an MRI on his shoulder, said he’s nervous to learn the results, but his shoulder has been bothering him for a while of late. In a second piece, Iott looks at the sudden dearth of pitching for the Tigers, with Verlander ailing and Anibal Sanchez and Joakim Soria hitting the DL. Iott points out that Detroit, which already has two rookies in its rotation for the time being, will have a pair of double-headers later this month, which could cause them to dip even deeper into a shallow pool of talent. While Iott doesn’t write this, it’d be surprising to me if GM Dave Dombrowski wasn’t actively looking to acquire further bullpen and/or rotation depth.

Injury Notes: Verlander, Machado, Rios, Anderson

Let’s take a look at a few injury situations from around the game that could have hot stove implications:

  • Tigers starter Justin Verlander lasted only one rough inning today, leaving with right shoulder soreness. The veteran will undergo an MRI tomorrow, reports Chris Iott of MLive.com (Twitter links). “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit nervous,” said Verlander. “I’ve never been through this before.” Indeed, the 31-year-old righty has never been on the disabled list in his excellent career. But there have been signs of trouble this season, as Verlander has worked to an uncharacteristic 4.57 ERA and seen his strikeout numbers plummet (6.6 K/9). Eno Sarris of Fangraphs wrote recently that some indicators suggested Verlander may have been playing hurt, and the hurler confirmed today that the issue “has been lingering for a while,” as John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press reports on Twitter. In the immediate term, Verlander’s situation — combined with a DL stint for Anibal Sanchez — creates significant rotation difficulties for the club, which just dropped out of first in the AL Central. Detroit will call up youngsters Robbie Ray and Buck Farmer (who has just two Double-A appearances to his name) to take upcoming starts, but another addition cannot be ruled out at this point. In the long run, of course, questions continue to pile up regarding the outlook for the Tigers’ remaining $140MM commitment to a player who was once considered by many to be the game’s best pitcher.
  • Orioles third baseman Manny Machado also left early today after twisting his right knee awkwardly at the plate. A severe injury seemed possible based on replays, but the team has expressed hope that it dodged a bullet after initial X-rays did not reveal any ligament damage, as MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli tweets. But an MRI will be needed for a full assessment, and Machado will have a scan tomorrow morning, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports on Twitter. Machado missed the early portion of the season due to surgery on his left knee. With Baltimore still fending off competitors from atop the AL East, any significant absence for Machado would be a big blow. Though the team could scan the trade market (with all the usual August complications) for a replacement, if it became necessary, the O’s would perhaps be more likely to turn to in-house options such as Ryan Flaherty and Jimmy Paredes.
  • Outfielder Alex Rios of the Rangers received positive news from an MRI on his left ankle, which revealed only a sprain, as Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest reports on Twitter. Rios, who has cleared waivers, may be ready to return to action as soon as tomorrow. He could still hold appeal for clubs looking to add a right-handed-hitting, corner outfield bat to the mix, though one possible suitor likely dissipated today when the Royals acquired Josh Willingham.
  • Rockies starter Brett Anderson will undergo surgery to repair a disc in his lower back, reports Thomas Harding of MLB.com. The procedure is expected to come with a five-month recovery period, which would set Anderson on track for Spring Training but will certainly make it difficult for Colorado to justify exercising its $12MM club option over the lefty. While Anderson was strong in limited action this year, and is still just 26 years old, he has not stayed healthy enough to throw over 100 innings since 2010.

Tigers Notes: Cabrera, Paulino, Verlander

Happy birthday to former Tigers outfielder Chet Lemon, who turns 59 years old today.  Lemon, the 22nd overall pick of the 1972 draft, spent his first seven seasons with the White Sox before he was traded to Tigers prior to the 1982 season.  "Chet The Jet" went on to be a staple in the Detroit outfield for the next nine seasons, hitting a solid .263/.349/.437 with 142 homers in 1203 games as a Tiger and earning himself a ring as part of the 1984 World Series championship team.

Here's the latest from Motown…

  • Miguel Cabrera told reporters (including MLB.com's Jason Beck) that he hasn't talked to his agents about contract extension talks with the Tigers, though the two-time AL MVP isn't concerned given that he still has two years remaining on his current deal.
  • Catcher Ronny Paulino has been suspended for 100 games after testing positive for exogenous testosterone, Major League Baseball announced.  Paulino was originally acquired by the Tigers from the Orioles last August and Detroit re-signed the veteran backstop to a minor league deal in November.  This is the second PED suspension for Paulino, who was suspended for 50 games spanning the 2010 and 2011 seasons.  He last played in the Majors in 2012, appearing in 20 games with Baltimore.
  • Justin Verlander isn't planning on talking fellow ace Max Scherzer into remaining with the Tigers once his contract is up.  "Max is his own guy….He’s going to make his own decisions, but I don’t think I need to be a recruiter," Verlander told reporters, including Beck.  "I think from what he’s been saying, he’s made it loud and clear that that he wants to stay in Detroit….I think what this organization has done has recruited him — not just the players here. I think he enjoys being part of this team."  Verlander also discussed such topics as the Tigers' offseason moves and the rise of salaries across baseball during his chat with the media.

AL Central Notes: Twins, Tigers

Let's take a look at the latest out of the AL Central:

  • Twins star Joe Mauer told reporters, including Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com, today that former teammate Justin Morneau was among those who urged him to make the switch to first base. "He actually told me, 'Joe, you need to move. It's just not worth it,'" Mauer reported. Morneau, of course, suffered a career-altering concussion in 2010.
  • Justin Verlander may not be ready to pitch the Tigers' season opener on March 31 after undergoing core muscle surgery earlier this month, GM Dave Dombrowski disclosed Thursday (via Chris Iott of MLive.com). However, Dombrowski added that the ace is "doing great" in his recovery, and if he is out of action at the start of the season, it "would only be a very short time period."
  • Alex Avila doesn't expect to go to an arbitration hearing, despite being the Tigers' only arbitration-eligible player to swap contract figures with the club, MLB.com's Jason Beck reports. "Filing numbers just basically gives you more time to negotiate," the catcher commented on Thursday. As the MLBTR Arbitration Tracker shows, Avila filed for $5.35MM, while the Tigers countered with $3.75MM. 

Pitching Notes: Winston, Verlander, Johan, Yankees, Brewers

Florida State quarterback and pitcher/outfielder Jameis Winston may not ultimately be long for the game of baseball, but he has potential first-round talent, J.J. Cooper of Baseball America writes in an interesting piece. If Winston were to end up pursuing baseball, he has legitimate ability both as a switch-hitting position player and as a pitcher. But his developmental process may mean he now has more value through his arm, Cooper writes. One scout says that, if he sees enough time on the mound, Winston is a top-20 draft candidate given his low-to-mid-90's fastball and solid slider.

Here are some pitching notes from around the league:

  • The Tigers announced today that former American League Cy Young winner Justin Verlander underwent successful core muscle surgery in Philadelphia this morning. Verlander injured himself in late December during his regular offseason conditioning and will undergo rehab for the next six weeks. "We fully anticipate Justin to participate in spring training and be in a position to compete at the beginning of the 2014 season," said GM Dave Dombrowski in the press release. Here's more from around the league…
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (via Twitter) that Johan Santana expects to throw off a mound this month and could either sign with a team to complete his rehab or wait until he is healthy to showcase for teams. The two-time Cy Young Award winner is still deciding the best course of action, it seems.
  • The Yankees are among several teams keeping an eye on Santana's rehab progress, reports Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger. He may audition for scouts before Spring Training, McCullough adds. 
  • The Brewers have been running quietly in free agency thus far, but GM Doug Melvin says that the team is talking with several relievers, reports MLB.com's Adam McCalvy, who breaks down the remaining options. On the other hand, Melvin seems content taking his current array of relievers into Spring Training without a significant addition. "Right now, we're just going to [fill the bullpen] internally," said Melvin, "unless that changes." 

Jeff Todd contributed to this post.