- Left-hander David Huff has exercised the May 15 opt-out clause in the minor league contract he signed with the Royals during the offseason and is now a free agent, MLBTR has learned. Huff threw 23 2/3 innings for the Royals’ Triple-A affiliate and posted phenomenal nine-inning strikeout and walk rates of 11.03 and 0.76, respectively, along with a 4.18 ERA. The 31-year-old has put up a 5.08 ERA, 5.4 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 as a starter and reliever in parts of seven major league seasons.
- Left-hander Brian Duensing has asked to be released from his own minor league deal with the Royals, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan reports (Twitter link). Duensing’s contract also contained a May 15 opt-out date. This is the second time that Duensing has opted out of a minor league deal with the Royals in the last two months, as the two sides came to terms on a new contract after Duensing opted out of his previous deal near the end of Spring Training. The 33-year-old has a 3.10 ERA, 3.80 K/BB rate and 8.4 K/9 over 20 1/3 relief innings for Kansas City’s Triple-A affiliate this season.
The Royals announced today that they’ve placed 40 percent of their starting rotation on the 15-day disabled list, with Chris Young going on the shelf due to a strained muscle in his forearm and Kris Medlen landing there due to a inflammation in his right rotator cuff. The Royals have recalled lefty Scott Alexander from Triple-A and also selected the contract of right-hander Peter Moylan from Triple-A, thus adding another member to their 40-man roster. (A 40-man vacancy was created earlier this week when prospect Raul Mondesi Jr. was suspended for 50 games due to a failed PED test.)
Indications last night were that Young may not require a full 15 days to allow his forearm to mend, but because he could require a week or more of rest, the Royals opted to DL him in order to avoid playing a man short for the next week. The outlook on Medlen is less certain, as there’s been no indication as to what type of timeline he is facing to return from his latest arm troubles. Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star tweets that an update on his status is expected later this afternoon, though. MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan writes that Dillon Gee will start this Saturday in Young’s place in the rotation, and he tweets that Sunday’s start will probably go to one of two lefties currently in the ’pen: Danny Duffy or Brian Flynn.
The 36-year-old Young inked a two-year, $11.5MM contract this offseason on the heels of a pair of strong years with the Mariners (2014) and Royals (2015). However, he’s been shockingly prone to the home run early in 2016, surrendering 13 long balls in just 32 1/3 innings en route to a 6.68 ERA. Young told Flanagan and others in the KC media earlier this week that he’s been experiencing some forearm discomfort since Spring Training, though primarily in between starts. However, it’s certainly plausible that the injury has been hampering him throughout his first six starts of the season.
As for Medlen, the 30-year-old is no stranger to arm injuries, having twice undergone Tommy John surgery in the past. However, this is the first time he’s landed on the disabled list due to a shoulder injury. Medlen is in the second season of a two-year, $8.5MM contract that also contains a mutual option for the 2017 season. To this point, he’s limped to a 7.77 ERA with more walks (20) than strikeouts (18) in 24 1/3 innings pitched. Medlen has completed six innings just once this season and has only thrown two innings in each of his past two starts.
The 37-year-old Moylan is a survivor of two Tommy John surgeries himself and made a return to the Major Leagues in 2015 for the first time since the 2013 campaign. He’s kicked off this season by allowing one earned run with a 10-to-5 K/BB ratio in 12 1/3 innings at the Triple-A level. Alexander, 26, made his big league debut with the Royals last season and tossed six innings in the Majors. He started the 2016 season in the bullpen at Omaha, where he’s allowed four runs with eight strikeouts against four walks in 14 innings. Lefties batted a miserable .152/.243/.163 in 103 plate appearances against him last year between the Majors and Triple-A.
On a night when Max Scherzer turned in one of the most dominant starts in history, striking out 20 Tigers batters (video link) to tie a Major League record, here are a few notes on pitcher contracts and injuries…
- Cubs ace Jake Arrieta won’t offer the team a discount in extension talks, he told reporters, including ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers. According to previous reports, the Cubs have been hesitant to commit to anything greater than a four-year term, and that length clearly isn’t of interest to the 30-year-old reigning Cy Young winner. “Aces get seven years,” Arrieta candidly said in the interview. Asked what he felt his market to be, Arrieta declined to answer directly, instead telling reporters: “I’ll let you judge that. Just look at the numbers.” Arrieta again emphasized that his preference is to remain with the Cubs but that being compensated at the same level as the game’s other elite arms is also a factor. “Financially I’m fine, regardless,” he said. “You want to be paid in respect to how your peers are paid. I don’t think that changes with any guy you ask. It happens around baseball every year.” As Rogers points out, Scherzer and David Price are likelier comparables than the recently extended Stephen Strasburg, who secured a seven-year, $175MM deal.
- Mets left-hander Steven Matz will miss his next start due to soreness in his pitching elbow, manager Terry Collins told the media (via ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin). Right-hander Logan Verrett will take Matz’s turn in the rotation on Saturday, and Matz will be examined by doctors in New York next Monday. As the lefty himself explained (via the New York Post’s Mike Puma), he tried to pitch through similar soreness last season and ultimately had to spent two months on the shelf. The issue seems relatively innocuous at the moment, though given Matz’s considerable injury history it’s not surprising to see Puma write that there is “some level of concern” about Matz.
- MLB.com’s Bill Ladson spoke to Strasburg about his extension with the Nationals, (Twitter link to audio download), his motivation to sign now with free agency looming, the influence Tony Gwynn (his favorite player growing up and coach in college at San Diego State) has had on his desire to remain with one club and the team’s decision to shut him down in the midst of the 2012 playoff push in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. “He definitely had that sense of loyalty,” Strasburg said of Gwynn. “I think there were certainly times in his career where he could’ve gone other places, but the city, San Diego, kind of grew on him, and he became an icon in that city. I’m not about to say that I’m going to be on his level here in D.C., but I think you do have some sort of sense of loyalty to the team that did draft you, at least speaking for myself. So, when the opportunity presented itself that, here’s a fair deal presented to you, it didn’t really take long to make my mind up.”
- Reds right-hander Homer Bailey is “taking a step back” in his rehab from Tommy John surgery, writes C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Bailey explains to Rosecrans that he had a second opinion on his elbow on Monday, 366 days after his surgery, and is slowing his pace as a precaution. Bailey recently experienced some pain and took 10 days off from throwing and is being extra cautious. “One of the things that was brought to my attention was there’s a lot of research about guys who come back at the 12-month mark have a higher probability of it happening again, as opposed to maybe 14 months then the numbers are (better),” he adds. Bailey made throws of 110-120 feet on Tuesday without pain, but he tells Rosecrans he’s still about a month away from a rehab assignment.
- Chris Young, who underwent an MRI today due to forearm soreness, has been diagnosed with a muscle strain on the top of said forearm, tweets the Kansas City Star’s Rustin Dodd. Young is a candidate to land on the 15-day disabled list, even though (via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan, on Twitter) manager Ned Yost said that Young may not need 15 whole days to recover from the issue. The club may simply not have a choice, especially due to the fact that right-hander Kris Medlen is also scheduled to have his shoulder examined due to some soreness (via Dodd). Medlen’s Sunday start is in jeopardy, though the severity of the issue remains unclear.
Blue Jays left-hander Franklin Morales is just eight days from accumulating 45 days on the club’s roster, at which point the entirety of his $2MM salary becomes guaranteed, tweets Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith. (Morales’ contract contains a 45-day advance consent clause — a common provision which MLBTR’s Zach Links explored at length in Spring Training 2014.) However, Morales is currently on the disabled list and has yet to begin a rehab assignment, meaning there’s virtually no way he’ll be activated by that time. While the Blue Jays could’ve cut loose a healthy Morales within a 45-day window and not had to pay his entire salary, advance consent clauses also prohibit teams from terminating the salary of injured players. As such, Morales is effectively guaranteed to receive all of that $2MM sum. Of course, if Morales pitches as well as he did with the Royals in 2015 upon activation from the DL, the Jays won’t mind that salary.
- Royals left-hander Brian Duensing, currently pitching for the club’s Triple-A affiliate, has a May 15 opt-out date approaching, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan tweeted recently. The longtime Twins lefty is off to a strong start in the minors this season, having worked to a 2.04 ERA with a 15-to-4 K/BB ratio in 17 2/3 innings for the Storm Chasers. The 15 strikeouts, in particular, are encouraging for Duensing, who saw his strikeout rate deteriorate rapidly over the life of his final three seasons in Minnesota.
Royals right-hander Chris Young is leaving the team to travel back to Kansas City, where he’ll receive an MRI on his right forearm, tweets MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan. Via Flanagan (link), Young says that he’s felt some soreness in his forearm since Spring Training ended. However, he adds that the club’s medical staff has informed him that the “serious stuff checks out OK,” though it remains to be seen what the MRI will reveal. Young’s fastball velocity is actually up from previous seasons, but the increased zip hasn’t done him any favors; the 6’10” righty has been roughed up to the tune of a 6.68 ERA in 32 1/3 innings this season and has been astonishingly homer-prone, serving up 13 long balls in that time.
3:57pm: Quinn points out (links to Twitter) that Mondesi Jr. is the first player to receive a reduced suspension — a possibility that was added to the latest drug agreement. Had he tested positive for a stronger substance, the reduction wouldn’t have been possible, but Clenbuterol is specifically listed among the substances for which a substance can be reduced if lack of intent can be proven.
Meanwhile, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports that as part of the reduced punishment, Mondesi Jr. will still be eligible for the postseason (Twitter link).
3:45pm: Royals top prospect Raul Mondesi Jr. has received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for the banned substance Clenbuterol, the league announced today. The son of the former big league outfielder of the same name, Mondesi saw his suspension dropped from 80 games to 50 games after the league and the MLBPA showed that the substance was present in a cold medication which Mondesi had taken, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Royals GM Dayton Moore said in a statement today that the team believes that Mondesi did indeed unknowingly take the substance:
“This is an unfortunate incident that we believe to be an innocent mistake, but these are the consequences that players face when they do not adhere to the policies that have been collectively bargained. We have a protocol in place with our medical team should a player ever have questions about what they may be taking, even if an over-the-counter medication. In this particular case, the protocol was not followed and the consequences are such. We remain supportive of Raul Mondesi Jr.”
Mondesi Jr. himself has also commented on the punishment, via press release:
“Today I agreed to accept a 50 game suspension from Major League Baseball. It is by far one of the hardest moments I have had to face in my life, but it is a decision that I accept and one that I take full responsibility for as a professional. I took an over-the-counter medication (Subrox-C) which I bought in the Dominican Republic to treat cold and flu symptoms. I failed to read the labeling on the medication or consult with my trainer or team about taking it and did not know it contained a banned substance. … I apologize to my organization, my teammates, the fans and everyone who has supported me in my career. Never did I intend to take a substance that would give me an unfair advantage on the field. It is solely my mistake and there are no excuses for my carelessness in not being fully informed of what I put in my body.”
Mondesi Jr., 20, rated as the game’s No. 29 prospect entering the season, according to Baseball America. He also rated 33rd on MLB.com’s Top 100, 73rd on the Top 100 of ESPN’s Keith Law and 16th on the Top 101 of Baseball Prospectus. The toolsy shortstop began the season at Double-A — his second stint at the level — and was hitting .250/.304/.462 with five homers and 11 steals through his first 113 plate appearances. Mondesi, of course, famously made his Major League debut for the Royals not only in the playoffs last season, but in the World Series against the Mets (he was 0-for-1 with a strikeout). While he’s likely a ways from an everyday role with the Royals’ big league club, he’ll miss out on 50 days of developmental time as a result of the punishment. His presence on Kansas City’s 40-man roster means that the team will also free up a 40-man spot during Mondesi Jr.’s time on the restricted list.
Recent reports from ESPN’s T.J. Quinn indicated that further PED suspensions would be on the horizon following the 80-game suspensions dished out to Miami’s Dee Gordon, Toronto’s Chris Colabello and Philadelphia’s Daniel Stumpf. Mondesi Jr. isn’t necessarily a household name, but Quinn stated at the time that it’s unlikely any significant names would be involved.
In one of the best, most shocking moments of the season, Mets right-hander Bartolo Colon hit his first career home run Saturday night, a two-run shot off the Padres’ James Shields. It took Colon until the age of 42 to go yard, making him the oldest player in major league history to finally break through with a homer. The ball exited Colon’s bat at 97 mph and traveled 365 feet at pitcher-friendly Petco Park, according to Statcast (data and video courtesy of SI Wire). Colon savored the accomplishment by taking a 30-second trot around the bases. He also impersonated Babe Ruth on the mound by turning in a nice pitching performance, throwing 6 2/3 innings of three-run ball in a 6-3 win.
We won’t top that tonight, but here’s more from the sport:
- Japanese right-hander Shohei Otani might be willing to leave his homeland for the majors if teams see him as both a pitcher and a hitter, tweets Jim Allen of Kyodo News. The 21-year-old Otani is in the midst of his third straight dominant season as a pitcher for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, and he’s on an early offensive tear with a .308/.362/.654 line in 58 plate appearances. Otani is a career .251/.306/,450 hitter with 23 home runs (including five this year) in 615 PAs. “He’s going to have to make a choice. Either way he’s going to be an All-Star-caliber player as a hitter or pitcher,” an American League scout told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe in February.
- The Phillies were among the many teams with a scout in attendance at free agent righty Tim Lincecum’s showcase Friday, reports Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer. At 31, Lincecum would become the elder statesman of the Phillies’ young rotation if he were to sign with them, though the club may have simply been doing its due diligence when it scouted the two-time Cy Young Award winner.
- Omar Infante has gotten the vast majority of playing time for the Royals at second base this year, but his days as the everyday option there are winding down, writes Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com. “I’m just trying to find ways to keep him productive,” said manager Ned Yost. “Sometimes more recovery time makes him more productive. So playing him four days a week or three days a week or five days a week is better than seven days a week. His arm is shortening up and his range is shortening up.” After a stretch of solid production with multiple teams from 2009-13, Infante joined the Royals on a four-year, $30.25MM contract and immediately began a steep decline. In 1,126 plate appearances with Kansas City, Infante has hit a paltry .238/.269/.328 – including a .247/.284/.326 line in 96 PAs this season. Fellow Royals second baseman Christian Colon hasn’t been any better offensively in the early going, having slashed .250/.300/.286 in 30 PAs.
The Indians have announced that they’ve optioned rookie outfielder Tyler Naquin to Triple-A Columbus. They’ve also recalled Cody Anderson, who will start today’s game against the Royals. With Naquin heading down, it appears Rajai Davis will take over as the Indians’ everyday center fielder. The move initially appears to be a somewhat surprising one, since Naquin has hit .315/.327/.426 this season. There does appear to be some logic to the move, however. Naquin struck out 19 times against one walk, and he has limited Triple-A experience. The Indians also have more outfield options than they did at the beginning of the season with Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall having returned from the disabled list. It might also be worth noting that if Naquin plays for a few weeks in the minors this season, the Indians can control him for an extra year, potentially allowing him to reach free agency after 2022 rather than 2021. Here’s more from the Central divisions.
- Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a thumb fracture, as Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star and other reporters have noted. Moustakas hurt himself last week in Anaheim on a tag at third. The Royals have recalled Cheslor Cuthbert to take Moustakas’ spot on their active roster. Moustakas (.258/.314/.536 this season) is one of the very few Royals position players who have hit well this year, so his absence should be a blow to the Kansas City offense.
Phillies right-hander Hector Neris has rapidly risen through the club’s ranks in the bullpen, pitching in a setup capacity at the moment and with a future as a potential closer, manager Pete Mackanin tells Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. However, as Salisbury reports, Neris was almost never part of the organization at all. Neris nearly had an agreement with the Royals as an 18-year-old out of the Dominican Republic, but Kansas City backed out of the deal because they doubted the validity of his documentation. It wasn’t until two years later that he was discovered by Phillies scouts, who preempted a scheduled workout with 12 other teams with an offer to sign for what now seems an extreme bargain: a $17K signing bonus. Six years later, Neris is armed with a fastball that can touch the mid-90s and a splitter that Mackanin terms an “invisible” pitch and catcher Carlos Ruiz calls one of the best he’s ever seen. Neris has a 1.04 ERA with a 27-to-4 K/BB ratio through 17 1/3 innings this year on the heels of 40 1/3 innings with a 41-to-10 K/BB ratio in 2015.
More from the NL East…
- The allotted time for Josh Edgin’s minor league rehab assignment is nearly complete, but as MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo writes, the Mets lefty is likely to be optioned to Triple-A at the completion of that window to continue building back up from 2015 Tommy John surgery. Specifically, DiComo writes that Edgin isn’t yet pitching on back-to-back days, and his velocity, which most recently topped out at 88 mph, is a far cry from the 92-93 mph he could throw prior to undergoing the operation.
- Marlins manager Don Mattingly is making a strong impression in his first year on the job, writes FOX’s Ken Rosenthal in a notes column. The former Dodgers skipper drew nearly identical praise from assistant GM Mike Berger and coach Perry Hill in separate interviews, Rosenthal notes, for the manner in which he commands accountability and his attention to detail. Berger called Mattingly “the right voice at the right time” and added that Mattingly addresses issues that arise “in a way that makes you feel like a million bucks.” The Marlins have had a tumultuous week, with the 80-game suspension of Dee Gordon still looming large over the club, but the club has nonetheless won nine of its past 10 games.
- The Nationals’ decision to shut down Stephen Strasburg after 159 1/3 innings in 2012, his first season back from Tommy John surgery, has perhaps helped to pave the way for him to sign with another club this winter, writes MLB.com’s Jon Morosi. Strasburg’s arm has held up well since that controversial decision, and he’s now poised to hit the open market this coming winter and break former teammate Jordan Zimmermann’s $110MM record for a post-Tommy-John pitcher. While Morosi doesn’t specifically touch on this, it seems particularly difficult to envision the Nats retaining Strasburg in light of their struggles in signing free agents this past offseason due to their need to include deferred money in each of their contract offers. Morosi speculates that Strasburg could receive more than $150MM over six years, which is perfectly reasonable but strikes me as conservative for Strasburg, who will pitch the majority of next season at the age of 28. As Tim Dierkes noted recently in placing Strasburg atop MLBTR’s Free Agent Power Rankings, agent Scott Boras seems likely to target $200MM+, and it’d be a surprise if Strasburg (assuming health) didn’t land an opt-out clause as well.
- Carlos Beltran wants to keep playing beyond this season and there’s a chance he could return to the Royals in 2017. Kansas City will have a vacancy at DH next season since Kendrys Morales is a free agent, and the Royals made a push to sign Beltran in the 2013-14 offseason before the Yankees boosted their offer to include a third guaranteed year. Beltran, who turns 39 tomorrow, is still swinging a strong bat, and it’s possible he could better preserve himself in a regular DH role — Alex Rodriguez’s presence in New York has kept Beltran mostly in right field as a Yankee.
- Aside from Ian Kennedy, the Royals also targeted free agent hurlers Zack Greinke, Wei-Yin Chen and Mike Leake as good fits for their rotation last winter. “All throw changeups, all field their positions well and, most importantly, all command their fastballs,” Rosenthal noted, and GM Dayton Moore told him that pitchers who tend to fall behind in the count didn’t mesh with the Royals’ style. K.C. ended up signing Kennedy to a five-year, $70MM contract, which was less than the five years/$80MM Leake and Chen respectively received from the Cardinals and Marlins and obviously well below Greinke’s $206.5MM megadeal with the Diamondbacks. (Leake, unlike the other three, didn’t have qualifying offer draft compensation to his services.) In the early going, Kennedy has been outstanding as a Royal, posting a 1.35 ERA over his first three starts.