- The Royals have disappointed this season, and rival executives tell Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star that the Royals could face a tough time reloading for another quick return to prominence. A lack of quality pitching in the system is one issue, not to mention rule changes to the draft and international spending that have made it harder for smaller-market teams like K.C. to stockpile talent. Dodd’s piece is well worth a full read for a look at what plagued the Royals this season and the challenges they’ll face in the future.
A trio of notable players just hit the 15-day DL, so we’ll cover them all right here:
- The Indians announced that they have placed righty Danny Salazar on the 15-day DL while he rests his prized right elbow. Fortunately, an MRI seems only to have revealed inflammation, so the hope is that Salazar won’t miss an extended period of time. And Cleveland has plenty of rotation depth on hand, including Cody Anderson and Mike Clevinger, with the latter getting the nod for the time being. Still even a relatively brief absence will have an impact; Salazar has been nothing short of outstanding, and the AL Central-leading club holding a four-game cushion in the division race.
- After already recently placing infielder Jose Reyes on the shelf, the Mets have now done the same with shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. He suffered a strained patellar tendon and is headed for an MRI. The team also added just-signed outfielder Justin Ruggiano to the 15-day ranks. Cabrera’s loss is notable for an organization that was already scrambling to fill in for missing infielders. Matt Reynolds will come up for the meantime to help fill the void, but it seems there’s some real concern that the injury could require a fairly lengthy absence.
- Astros reliever Luke Gregerson is headed to the 15-day with an oblique strain, the team announced. That not only will keep him out of action for a bit, but will clear the way for Ken Giles to take over as the team’s closer with Will Harris struggling of late. Gregerson has been rather excellent this year despite himself losing the 9th-inning job previously, with ERA estimators valuing him even more highly than his 3.09 ERA.
- The Braves have added righty Julio Teheran to the DL as well. He is dealing with a lat strain that isn’t believed to be serious. Atlanta will obviously want to exercise plenty of caution in handling the injury, even if it isn’t particularly worrisome, as Teheran is a key piece of the organization’s rebuilding plans and there’s no need to rush him back.
- Cardinals reliever Trevor Rosenthal has been given platelet-rich plasma injections in his bothersome righty shoulder, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweets. GM John Mozeliak says that it’s possible Rosenthal Of course, St. Louis will be looking for more than just physical improvement; it’ll also hope that he can fix his skyrocketing walk rate during a rehab stint.
- As expected, Royals righty Luke Hochevar underwent a procedure today to help deal with a diagnosis of thoracic outlet syndrome, as Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star tweets. He is expected to be out for six months, which would conceivably mean that he’ll be ready for a full spring camp if the rehab goes according to plan. It seems likely that the Royals will decline their end of a $7MM mutual option on the reliever, which would make him a free agent, though certainly it’s possible to imagine him staying with Kansas City on some kind of creative, two-year deal of the sort that the team has reached in recent years with several injured hurlers.
- The Royals’ decision to stand pat at yesterday’s trade deadline was a surprise to some, considering the fact that Kansas City has fallen to 50-55 and has at best a narrow window to make the postseason. General manager Dayton Moore spoke about the team’s lack of trades with Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star, stating that he wants to give his players a chance to “dig back out of this mess we’re in.” More interesting, perhaps, was his take on righty Edinson Volquez, who has a mutual option on his contract for the 2017 season that figures to be declined one way or another. While he wouldn’t firmly commit to the notion, Moore suggested that the team could very well make Volquez a qualifying offer at season’s end, which is projected to be worth $16.7MM, as ESPN’s Buster Olney recently reported. Said Moore of Volquez: “We’ll see. Obviously we have to evaluate that, but that’s certainly a part of our thinking.”
While we’ll certainly break out any stories that seem to have some helium, we’ll use this post to keep tabs on less pressing developments in the market for starting pitching:
- The Pirates are talking to the Yankees about Ivan Nova, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
- The Marlins are now looking for another starter after sending Colin Rea back to the Padres, Jon Morosi of MLB.com tweets.
- Angels lefty Hector Santiago is still on the Tigers’ radar, along with Hellickson, per Morosi (via Twitter). Santiago has been talked about a decent bit in recent weeks, but we haven’t heard very many strong connections. Los Angeles is likely willing to deal him in the right situation, but surely puts a high value on a useful starter who is controllable beyond the year.
- The Astros are mostly just “dabbling” in the market for starters, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick tweets. Edinson Volquez of the Royals represents one possible target, though Houston is said not to be terribly interested in the veteran righty.
- While we haven’t heard much in the way of specifics, the Cubs are said to be eyeing an impactful rotation addition, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that’s still the case. (He adds that the team prefers not to overpay for a left-handed-hitting outfielder, which is also on their wish list.)
- The Phillies may well hold onto righty Jeremy Hellickson, ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark tweets. Philly hasn’t changed its asking price — last we heard, at least one quality prospect — but the market is changing. The Giants and Tigers aren’t in the bidding, per Stark, while the Rangers and Blue Jays have other names higher on their priority lists. With that being said, Jon Morosi of MLB.com tweets that Detroit is still looking at Hellickson, among other starters, as they seek to add to their rotation.
JULY 31: The Royals announced that Davis has been placed back on the 15-day disabled list with a flexor strain in his right arm. The move is retroactive to July 27, and no timeline has been issued on Davis’ recovery. Lefty Matt Strahm is coming up from Double-A to take his roster spot.
[Related: Updated Kansas City Royals Depth Chart]
JULY 30: Royals closer Wade Davis is flying back to Kansas City to undergo an MRI on his right elbow, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan tweets that the MRI is to examine Davis’ forearm, though regardless of the specific portion of the arm that is being checked out, the test is still an ominous bit of news out of Kansas City. Casey Jones first tweeted that Davis was flying back to K.C. for an examination.
Davis, 30, has seen his name pop up frequently in trade rumors over the past week as the Royals have reportedly begun to consider selling veteran pieces prior to Monday’s non-waiver trade deadline. The uncertainty around his elbow now, however, would seem to all but eliminate the already minimal chances of Davis being moved. Even if the MRI yields positive results, it’d be difficult for a club to meet Kansas City’s exceptionally high asking price just a day or two after the MRI.
Reports over the past week have suggested that the Royals sought names like Lucas Giolito from the Nationals in trade talks or hoped to package Ian Kennedy and the remaining $62.5MM on his contract with Davis in trade talks. That would indicate a daunting asking price even if Davis were healthy and in top form on the mound, but now it looks that neither of those is the case. While Davis has a terrific 1.60 ERA and 21 saves on the season, he’s averaging just 8.6 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 after averaging 12.1 K/0 and 2.8 BB/9 from 2014-15 with Kansas City. His velocity, while still a strong 94.9 mph, is down a full mile per hour from last season as well.
Davis spent two weeks on the disabled list with a forearm strain earlier this month, making the news of an MRI all the more troubling for the Royals. The two-time All-Star, who has a 1.09 ERA in 173 regular season innings out of the Royals’ bullpen since 2014, is earning $8MM this year and has a $10MM club option for the 2017 season.
The Athletics and Royals have announced a swap of outfielders, with the fleet-footed Billy Burns headed to Kansas City in exchange for Brett Eibner. Both were playing at the Triple-A level for their respective teams, but have been in the majors at points earlier in the year.
Burns, 26, brings to Kansas City an elite set of wheels that should play well in the spacious outfield at Kauffman Stadium, and his overall skill set should fit in well with the Royals’ general style of play. Burns boasts an extremely high contact rate and has fanned in just 13 percent of his plate appearances at the Major League level, which is characteristic of the approach the Royals have utilized to great effect in the past two seasons. However, his overall offensive game took a notable step back in his sophomore season. After posting a .294/.334/.392 slash in 555 PAs last season (good for fifth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting, though that award was really a two-horse race), Burns batted just .234/.270/.302 in 292 PAs before being optioned back to Triple-A earlier this summer.
Eibner, 27, has just 85 plate appearances at the Major League level, where he’s batted .231/.286/.429 with three homers and six doubles. He ranked among the Royals top 30 prospects, per Baseball America, in each of the past five offseasons, checking in at No. 17 overall on the two most recent iterations of said list. Though the former second-rounder is older than most would associate with the term “prospect,” he does have an impressive track record in Triple-A, where he’s hit .280/.354/.471 with 37 homers in 961 plate appearances in parts of three seasons. Oakland has been home to no shortage of late bloomers under president of baseball operations Billy Beane, and the hope for Eibner is that he’ll seemingly be the next such success story.
Depending on the Royals’ plans for Burns, he could be controllable through the 2020 or 2021 season. Burns entered the season with one year and 20 days of big league service time, and he picked up an additional 97 days of Major League service before being optioned out earlier this month. He’d need another 55 days of service time in the Majors this year to reach two full years, which would put him on track for free agency following the 2020 season. However, if the Royals view him as more of a September call-up for the expansion of Major League rosters, Burns will fall shy and won’t be eligible until following the 2021 campaign. Eibner, meanwhile, is controllable through the 2022 seeason.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Injuries always play a major role in shaping the trade deadline; indeed, waiting to see how health issues shake out is one of the biggest reasons that clubs wait until they are under the gun to make their moves. We already have covered some notable recent developments — Rich Hill isn’t yet ready for a start for the Athletics; Mets center fielder Juan Lagares just went down to thumb surgery; the Rangers lost Prince Fielder for the season; and Royals reliever Luke Hochevar is likely headed for his own season-ending surgery.
Here are a few more less-impactful, but still notable injury updates from recent days:
- The Astros added infielder Luis Valbuena to the DL yesterday with a hamstring injury, as Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle tweets. Though it still seems like a relatively minor injury, it could shake things up for Houston. For one thing, it likely means extended exposure at the hot corner for top prospect Alex Bregman. For another, it could increase the need to get just-signed Cuban infielder Yulieski Gurriel into minor league action and then up to the majors. The really interesting question, though, is whether the injury opens some added daylight for the ’Stros to go after a big bat on the trade market. And it goes without saying that the injury snuffs out whatever meager chance there was that Valbuena would be moved as part of Houston’s deadline machinations. [Updated Astros Depth Chart]
- This one is from two days back, but the Phillies’ placement of outfielder Peter Bourjos on the DL certainly seems to change things a bit on the center field market. He’d have represented a useful plug-in for teams in need of a swift-footed defender down the stretch. And even if his hot streak was destined to fizzle out, Bourjos has shown that he can still bring something to the table with the bat. As things stand, though, his shoulder is enough of a question mark that he’d be a tough player to add on speculation; given his cheap salary, moreover, Philadelphia will likely be forced to take a meager return should Bourjos be moved in the August waiver-wire period. [Updated Phillies Depth Chart]
- Rays first baseman Logan Morrison has hit the shelf with a forearm strain, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported via Twitter. Given his struggles, Morrison’s departure from the first base market isn’t a major change. Still, though, Tampa Bay might have hoped to offload some of the remainder of Morrison’s $4.2MM salary this year, particularly given that he’ll be a free agent this fall. Though his overall .228/.304/.371 batting line on the year leaves quite a bit to be desired, LoMo has traditionally put up solid results (.754 OPS) against right-handed pitching. [Updated Rays Depth Chart]
- Meanwhile, the Rays activated right-handed reliever Brad Boxberger from the DL. He still hasn’t made an appearance since returning from an oblique strain, and has only seen action in a single game this year. While that leaves him as an unlikely trade target, there’s an outside chance that a club seeking shelter from the high price tags on top pen arms could look for a buy-low opportunity. The Rays will surely hope he can rebuild some value over the next several months, but with Boxberger set to reach arbitration after the season, there’s likely to be added motivation to move him. Over his 178 MLB frames, Boxberger owns a 3.03 ERA with 11.9 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9 — with even better results in 2014 — so there’s obviously some upside there.
- To be sure, the odds of the Royals dealing Lorenzo Cain were always slight — even if the team is open to listening on him. But a hamstring injury and month-long layoff seemed to all but eliminate the already-feeble chances of a trade. Now Cain is back from the DL, and ready to get back to work at making this season’s batting line (.288/.338/.413) look more like that from 2015 (.307/.361/.477). It still seems that an offseason deal — if any — is more likely, but there’s no question that contenders would have serious interest in a player who has established himself as one of the game’s better all-around players in recent years. [Updated Royals Depth Chart]
- Diamondbacks center fielder A.J. Pollock, who has missed the entire season after fracturing his elbow late this spring, faced live pitching for the first time yesterday, as Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic tweets. Pollock’s status won’t directly factor into the deadline; he’s not going anywhere and the D-Backs aren’t shopping for a replacement. Still, though, the fact that he seems to be making progress toward a return in 2016 may fortify Arizona’s resolve to maintain its course as a modest seller over the coming days.
- Even as the Marlins reportedly make their pitch for Andrew Cashner, the team is continuing to look far and wide for their rotation needs, per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. He adds three more names that the club has asked about: Edinson Volquez of the Royals, Matt Shoemaker of the Angels, and Julio Teheran of the division-rival Braves. Nothing in the Miami system is off limits, per the report, including first baseman Josh Naylor and righty Luis Castillo — each of whom have been asked about quite frequently by other clubs, per Jackson. Rival clubs get the sense that the Marlins are “desperate” to bolster their rotation, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick tweets, but it’s still not entirely clear how the team will make that happen given its thin farm. Of course, as the examples of Naylor and Castillo show, the system isn’t devoid of talent, but it would certainly sting to part with the organization’s best pieces, and it’s not at all clear that those players would be enough to score a quality, controllable arm.
- Despite moving to add infielder Eduardo Nunez tonight, the Giants are still focused on pitching, GM Bobby Evans tells reporters including Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area (via Twitter). It’s hard to draw a bead on the Giants’ favored targets, as ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick says they’re “blanketing” the market for starters and relievers (Twitter links). But the team is among may that have reached out to the Royals, so you can at least add some hypothetical new names to the long list of possibilities for San Francisco.
TODAY: Though he’ll head in for a second opinion, skipper Ned Yost said that surgery is likely, Dodd tweets.
YESTERDAY: The Royals have placed reliever Luke Hochevar on the 15-day DL, per a team announcement. The team says that he is showing symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome, including numbness in his fingers, as Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star reports (Twitter links). Righty Brooks Pounders has been recalled to take Hochevar’s place on the active roster.
[Related: Updated Royals Depth Chart]
That’s highly unfortunate news for the 32-year-old, who has come back already from Tommy John surgery, which caused him to miss all of 2014. And it’s a blow for a Kansas City organization that could have used Hochevar down the stretch — or turned him into a decent prospect return in a trade.
Though he is only working to a 3.86 ERA on the year, Hochevar has punched out 9.6 and walked only 2.2 batters per nine. He’s still bringing a mid-90s fastball and generating a strong 13.4% swinging strike rate. While he doesn’t generate grounders like he used to and has been a bit homer-prone (1.45 per nine), Hochevar looked like a nice trade chip for K.C.
While it’s not yet known whether the Royals will sell, or where exactly they’d draw the line, Hochevar would have rated as a prime asset to move because of his contract. He’s earning a reasonable $5.5MM this year and seemed likely to turn down his side of a $7MM mutual option (which comes with a $500K buyout).
Now, it not only seems unlikely that Hochevar will be traded, but his entire career path is uncertain. There are a range of outcomes for a player who is diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome — which, it must be stressed, hasn’t yet been determined — but it’s unquestionably a significant malady with which to contend.
- The Royals will wait until the very last minute to decide if they’re going to sell off veteran pieces. Edinson Volquez, Kendrys Morales and Luke Hochevar — each of whom has a mutual option on his contract but is likely to hit the open market following the season — are among the team’s candidates to be traded if the Royals do sell. Interestingly, he also notes that there’s a belief that Kansas City will let Alcides Escobar go and replace him with Raul Mondesi Jr. I’d personally wonder if, even though he hasn’t performed well at the plate whatsoever, the Royals could generate some trade interest (either now or after the season) due to the $6.5MM club option ($500K buyout) on Escobar’s contract.