Masahiro Tanaka Rumors

AL Notes: Rios, Leyva, Tanaka

Alex Rios‘ career with the Rangers could be over. The outfielder has a bruised right thumb, and MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan reports that Rios has decided it would be better to simply not play, since the thumb has not gotten better and risks infection. The Rangers are expected to decline Rios’ $13.5MM option this offseason and pay his $1MM buyout, which means that his next big-league plate appearance could come with another team. In Rios’ absence, Sullivan writes, the Rangers will likely move Shin-Soo Choo from left field to right and spend their savings on pitchers. Here’s more from the American League.

  • The Orioles have officially announced the signing of Cuban pitcher Lazaro Leyva. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported the signing in September, although Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun reported earlier this weekend that the two sides were still in the process of finalizing the signing. The deal is reportedly for $725K.
  • Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka made a successful first start on Sunday after missing two months with an elbow injury, allowing one run while striking out four and walking none in 5 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays. He says that his elbow feels good and that he does not think he needs Tommy John surgery, Brendan Kuty of NJ.com reports. “It’s pain-free,” Tanaka says, adding that he rarely thinks about the injury. A strong full season from Tanaka would, clearly, provide a huge boost for the Yankees in 2015 — he’s been one of the best pitchers in the American League this year when he’s been healthy.

AL East Notes: Franklin, Red Sox, Tanaka

Infielder Nick Franklin, part of the haul that the Rays acquired in the David Price trade, will be recalled to join the club today, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Once ranked as one of the game’s top 50 prospects by MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus, Franklin struggled for much of his time at Triple-A with the Rays, hitting just .210/.288/.290. As Topkin points out, Franklin did hit .424 with a pair of homers in nine playoff games that aren’t included in that stat line, and he of course had an excellent first half as a rookie with the Mariners in 2013, hitting .268/.337/.451 in 169 plate appearances.

Here’s more from the AL East…

  • The Red Sox could follow the same method they did with Andrew Miller and the one the Royals/Rays employed with Wade Davis by moving some of their current young starting options to the bullpen, writes Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. MacPherson notes that Brandon Workman already looks like a future reliever and speculates that some or all of Allen Webster, Anthony Ranaudo and Rubby De La Rosa could end up in the bullpen eventually as well. MacPherson also spoke with Miller about the transition from the rotation to the bullpen.
  • Masahiro Tanaka will throw 60 pitches — including some splitters — in a simulated game today, writes John Harper of the New York Daily News. If Tanaka pitches well, he could re-join the Yankees‘ rotation and make a couple of starts before season’s end. While that may be too little, too late for the Yankees’ playoff hopes, a few healthy starts from Tanaka would give the Yankees some peace of mind heading into 2015.

Yankees Notes: Playoffs, Tanaka, Player Development

Yankees GM Brian Cashman isn’t ready to throw in the towel on the 2014 season, reports Jake Kring-Schreifels of MLB.com. While nobody should be surprised by the comments, the Yankees do face an uphill battle. They currently trail the second Wild Card by 4.5 games with 15 left to play. More daunting than the deficit in the standings is the sheer number of teams in the race – the Yankees will have to leapfrog four teams to reach the Wild Card game. As Cashman says, “we’ve just got to win games.”

  • Of course, with a need to win every game possible, many will be watching the progress of pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, writes Kring-Schreifels. Tanaka is currently rehabbing from a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament – an injury that often requires Tommy John surgery. According to Cashman, “we’re trying to finish off his rehab in a proper way, guided by the experts on the medical staff.” If the club isn’t able to get him back in time to help for the 2014 season, they’ll continue his rehab into the offseason. The goal is to determine if he can reach full health without the time intensive surgery.
  • The retirement of Senior VP of Operations Mark Newman presents an opportunity to improve the farm system, according to Bill Madden of the New York Daily News. Under Newman, the Yankees failed to draft any star players since 1996. Madden notes that the Yankees could benefit from better scouting personnel while wondering if Cashman is the right man to oversee a pivot.


Yankees & Red Sox Notes: Tanaka, Lindgren, Shields

Masahiro Tanaka threw a simulated game in Detroit earlier this week, but the Yankees have sent him back to New York with “general soreness” in his arm, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News writes. “There’s not a specific spot; it’s just throughout the arm that’s sore,” says Tanaka. “I’m glad that it’s not the elbow itself.” Right now, Yankees manager Joe Girardi describes the situation as a “little setback.” The setback further delays Tanaka’s return, however, meaning it’s increasingly unlikely he’ll be able to make it back before the season ends. Tanaka’s elbow injury has kept him out of action since July 8. Here’s more out of New York and Boston.

  • Girardi says he’s keeping his eye on 2014 second-round pick Jacob Lindgren, Brendan Kuty of NJ.com writes. After zooming through four levels in his first pro season, Lindgren could be a potential September call-up, perhaps helping the Yankees bullpen down the stretch. So far, he’s pitched 24 2/3 innings and has struck out an amazing 17.5 batters per nine innings, or almost half the batters he’s faced. He’s currently at Double-A Trenton.
  • Missing on Jose Abreu last year helped lead the Red Sox to put in the highest bid for Rusney Castillo, owner John Henry tells WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. “Yes, the financial aspects were impacted by coming close on Abreu. The White Sox did their homework,” says Henry. Castillo is scheduled to play his first minor league game with the Gulf Coast League Red Sox tomorrow.
  • The Red Sox could pursue Royals ace James Shields to upgrade their rotation this offseason, particularly if they’re unable to stage a reunion with Jon Lester, Bradford notes. The Red Sox spent their July acquiring hitting and are likely to address starting pitching this offseason, and ESPN’s Buster Olney had previously noted that Shields was a potential target for the Red Sox. At 32 (33 in December), Shields isn’t young, but he might be able to get a four-year deal this winter.

East Notes: Colon, Castillo, Tanaka, Yanks, Stanton, Phils

It remains to be seen whether the Mets will pull off a deal for veteran starter Bartolo Colon, whose fate will be one of the most-watched storylines over the next few days. Over at Fangraphs, Mike Petriello questions why there has seemed to be such little demand for the righty, concluding that he is likely worth his $11MM salary for next season and could well be an important last-minute upgrade for a contender.

Here’s more from the east …

  • Recent Red Sox signee Rusney Castillo has obtained a work visa in surprisingly short order and is now clear to play, Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com reports on Twitter. It remains to be seen whether Boston will expose him to MLB action this year, but that is now a possibility with about a month left to go in the regular season.
  • The Yankees continue to move forward in a fairly high-stakes attempt to rehab Masahiro Tanaka for a return this year, with success meaning a top-end arm down the stretch and failure potentially meaning a delayed resort to surgery. As George A. King III reports for the New York Post, Tanaka continues to pass hurdles, with colleague Ken Davidson writing that today’s simulated game was a significant step towards a return.
  • Recent acquisitions of the Yankees – including Martin Prado, Stephen Drew, and Chase Headley — could hint at a broader strategic shift, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. All of those players have seen action at multiple positions, and Sherman argues that New York could well commit more resources to depth and versatility going forward, essentially putting additional cash behind the strategies of the Athletics and Rays.
  • Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton said that some have misconstrued his recent comments regarding his contractual situation, as Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun Sentinel reports“There is no answer to what my future is,” he said, explaining that some have over-interpreted his words in either direction. Nevertheless, planned offseason extension discussions are sure to lead to immense scrutiny and speculation.
  • Cole Hamels was just the latest Phillies player to publicly show up manager Ryne Sandberg in some manner, as Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com explains. Though the skipper downplayed the incident and said he has control of his clubhouse, Salisbury paints a picture of a tense situation in Philadelphia. As Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes, this on-field drama is playing out in the midst of broader leadership questions with the club. Martino says that the “fiercely loyal organization” is facing a difficult choice between that loyalty and the evident need for accountability.

Injury Updates: Skaggs, Darvish, Tanaka, Fife

Angels manager Mike Scioscia announced to reporters today that Tyler Skaggs underwent successful Tommy John surgery this afternoon. News of Skaggs’ injury first broke on Sunday afternoon. While the Halos have yet to make a move to address the void in their rotation, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them make some kind of waiver transaction in the next two to three weeks. Skaggs is expected to be out until 2016, Scioscia said on Sunday.

Here’s more on some injury notes from around the league…

  • The Rangers announced tonight that ace Yu Darvish has been placed on the 15-day disabled list (retroactive to Sunday) due to inflammation in his right elbow. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes that Darvish will undergo further testing in the next day or two. Darvish apparently felt tightness when playing catch on Monday, and the discomfort failed to dissipate prior to a scheduled bullpen session on Tuesday. GM Jon Daniels tells reporters, including Grant (Twitter link), that doctors do not believe there is any ligament damage in the elbow. Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest tweets that team doctor Keith Meister feels that Darvish may be suffering from pronator flexor tendinitis. Darvish will undergo an MRI tomorrow, and in the meantime, the Rangers have selected the contract of right-hander Alex Claudio to take his roster spot. Daniels says the team is hopeful that Darvish will only miss two starts.
  • Injured Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka threw fastballs from flat ground today — a step forward from playing catch — tweets MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. Tanaka feels that he still has a chance to pitch in a Major League game again this season. Skipper Joe Girardi told reporters, including Brendan Prunty of the Star-Ledger, that the team also has hope that Tanaka is not lost for the year.
  • Yet another pitcher has fallen prey to the Tommy John scourge, as Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times tweets that Dodgers righty Stephen Fife will undergo the procedure. Fife, who started 10 games for the Dodgers last year and one this season, has a 3.66 ERA in 91 Major League innings over the past three seasons. It seems likely that the 27-year-old would miss most, if not all of the 2015 campaign.

Yankees Notes: Tanaka, Torres, Judge, A-Rod

The Yankees’ playoff chances may hinge on a game of catch that will take place today at Yankee Stadium.  General manager Brian Cashman confirmed to George A. King III of the New York Post that Masahiro Tanaka will throw today for the first time since a slight UCL tear was discovered in the righty’s throwing elbow.  If Tanaka feels good after his session, he’ll continue his rehab process with an eye towards a return in September.  If he doesn’t feel right, Tanaka may have to undergo Tommy John surgery and could be in jeopardy of missing the entire 2015 season.

Here’s some more about the Bronx Bombers…

  • The trainer for Christopher Torres, a 16-year-old Dominican shortstop, made a complaint to the commissioner’s office claiming the Yankees backed out of an agreed-upon $2.1MM bonus with the youngster, Baseball America’s Ben Badler reports.  The Yankees claim no deal was ever reached, while Torres’ trainer says that by not informing Torres of their decision until June, the shortstop was left unsigned with no teams had room left in their international budget.  Badler goes into great detail about the case and the gray area created when teams agree to sign international players months in advance of the July 2 signing period, which is against MLB rules but is very common around the league.
  • The Phillies asked for Aaron Judge in exchange for Marlon Byrd, according to Bill Madden of the New York Daily News.  Needless to say, the Yankees balked at giving up Judge, who was drafted 32nd overall in 2013 and is ranked by MLB.com as the fifth-best prospect in the Yankees’ farm system.
  • With the Yankees struggling at the plate and facing questions at third base and DH for 2015, Newsday’s David Lennon writes that Alex Rodriguez would’ve been a useful piece on the roster right now.  Had A-Rod worked out a 125-150 game suspension last August instead of appealing and ending up suspended for all of 2014, he would already have been eligible to return, Lennon notes.
  • Also from King’s piece, Rusney Castillo‘s private workout with the Yankees will take place on Friday.  The Cuban outfielder also has an upcoming session with the Mariners, and he has already worked out for the Phillies and Red Sox.  King hears from sources that Castillo could sign for between $35-45MM, which is a step up from the $25-35MM we last heard was Castillo’s likely price range, though given the heavy interest in his services and the big-market teams involved, it isn’t surprising his price tag is going up.

Tanaka Has Slightly Torn Ulnar Collateral Ligament

TODAY: Dr. James Andrews was also consulted on Tanaka’s elbow, and concurred with the other three doctors that rehab was the appropriate action at this point, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter).

YESTERDAY: Yankees general manager Brian Cashman gave reporters devastating news today, as he revealed that Masahiro Tanaka has a slight tear in the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, and Tommy John surgery is possible (All Twitter links to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News). Tanaka was examined by three doctors, all of whom confirmed the tear. For now, a platelet rich plasma injection is being recommended, and the Yankees are hopeful that he can return in six weeks’ time.

Cashman stressed that this is a slight tear, Feinsand tweets, and if the immediate recommendation had been Tommy John surgery, Tanaka would be undergoing the operation. It’s not unheard of for pitchers to throw with slightly torn UCLs, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports notes (on Twitter). Adam Wainwright did just that for nearly five years, he notes, and Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets that Luke Hochevar did the same. Ervin Santana is another example of a pitcher who has successfully avoided Tommy John despite a UCL tear. Still, this is highly disheartening news for the Yankees, and those pitchers’ circumstances are the exception, not the rule.

Even with the likes of Cliff Lee, David Price and Cole Hamels potentially on the trade market, it’s unlikely that any acquisition could replace the brilliant performance that Tanaka has turned in to this point in the season (and, the Yankees likely don’t have the prospects to acquire those big names anyhow).

Three months into his seven-year, $155MM contract — a contract he signed after undergoing an MRI that showed his UCL was intact, Cashman notes (via Feinsand) — Tanaka has a masterful 2.51 ERA with 9.4 K/9, 1.3 BB/9 and a 45.9 percent ground-ball rate. That’s good for 3.2 fWAR and 4.1 rWAR, and those numbers would be even better if his two most recent starts (which may or may not have been impacted by the injury) were thrown out. Tanaka allowed nine runs in 13 2/3 innings over those two contests but had a 2.10 ERA in 115 2/3 innings prior.

As far as the Yankees’ approach at this year’s deadline, Cashman said that he will continue to be aggressive unless he is told otherwise (link). The Yankees have already acquired Brandon McCarthy from the Diamondbacks and were expected to pursue infield upgrades and potentially some further pitching help. Cashman likely wouldn’t concede to selling right off the bat anyway, however, and it’s difficult to see the Yankees making a sustained run if they end up losing Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova for the season.


Reactions To Masahiro Tanaka’s Injury

Last night, the Yankees revealed that ace Masahiro Tanaka has a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. The current plan is for Tanaka to receive a platelet-rich plasma injection on Monday and then rehab, with the hope being that he can avoid surgery and be back in roughly six weeks. However, the Yankees were forced to acknowledge that Tommy John surgery is at least a possibility for their $175MM hurler. Here are some reactions from around the league, as well as some speculation as to how this will impact the remainder of their season…

  • Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports wonders when baseball will ever get all 30 teams on the same page in an attempt to remedy what is becoming an epidemic. The problem could be better tackled if all 30 clubs worked in conjunction with the Commissioner’s Office to research the problem from all angles and determine some kind of preventative tactics for future generations. Instead, as Yankees president Randy Levine put it last month: “Teams are hesitant to invest because they think they’re going to seed the money and then everyone is going to share in the information. We’re all too selfish to do it.”
  • Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports references a meta-analysis from the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews this past April which concluded that there is “insufficient evidence to support the use” of PRP injections to treat soft-tissue injuries. He points out that Chad Billingsley had a PRP injection to try to alleviate a partial tear, wound up having Tommy John anyhow, and has pitched two Major League games in the past 22 months.
  • Also from Morosi’s piece, he feels that the Yankees should make the bold move to acquire Cole Hamels from the Phillies. While the team is light on prospects, the Yankees could sweeten the deal by agreeing to take on the contracts of both Jonathan Papelbon and Jimmy Rollins, Morosi speculates. Acquiring Hamels provides cost certainty in the rotation that the Bombers simply couldn’t secure with offseason pursuits of Max Scherzer or Jon Lester.
  • Hiroki Kuroda, David Robertson and even Dellin Betances are pieces the Yankees could theoretically look to move this month if the team does indeed become sellers, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. While Sherman himself isn’t advocating a trade of Betances, he’s heard from a surprising number of executives that the Yankees should market their setup ace while his value is perhaps at its all-time highest. Relievers are a volatile commodity, and they could land a long-term infield piece in the deal. As for Kuroda, he has a no-trade clause but could conceivably waive it to move closer to his family in Southern California. This is my own speculation, but the team could also look to flip the recently acquired Brandon McCarthy to another club as well.
  • Mets ace Matt Harvey spoke to reporters, including MLB.com’s Tim Healy, and weighed in on the news. “It’s an unfortunate thing that you don’t want to see, especially with how much success he’s had in his first year,” said Harvey. “It’s a sad thing. It’s something as a competitive pitcher, you want those guys around. It’s unfortunate that all these are happening. But if you look at the bright side, they’re all kind of happening at the same time. Hopefully we’ll all return at the same time.” Harvey, who went through a partial UCL tear himself before ultimately electing surgery, also discussed his own decision-making process.
  • Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News runs down a list of possible trade targets the Yankees could pursue in the wake of the injury. Feinsand offers a similar line of thinking to Morosi, only his speculation is in regards to Cliff Lee; Feinsand wonders if the Yankees could get away with offering a lesser prospect package for Lee if they agreed to take on the entirety of the roughly $50MM Lee is still owed. He also lists Jorge De La Rosa and former Yankee Ian Kennedy, among others.

New York Notes: Tanaka, Colon, McCarthy

The Yankees have officially placed right-hander Masahiro Tanaka on the disabled list with what they’ve termed right elbow inflammation for the time being. The Rookie of the Year/Cy Young contender has been arguably the most valuable player on the Yankees this season, and an extended absence would seriously dampen the Yankees’ postseason hopes. Currently, the team sits four games out of first in the AL East and three and a half games out of the running for a Wild Card spot, despite having spent most of the season without CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda.

Here’s more on the Yankees and the Mets…

  • The Yankees’ entire season is hanging in balance as the team waits to learn the severity of Tanaka’s injury, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. In the event of a serious injury to Tanaka, he opines, the Yankees will have to give serious consideration to selling off at the deadline. Sherman discusses the trickle-down effect that such an injury would have on the team, noting that Yankee starters have recorded just 33 outs after the seventh inning this season — and 25 of those have come from Tanaka. His absence would further strain an overworked bullpen, and the team lacks enough quality internal rotation options to survive such a blow.
  • Andy Martino of the New York Daily News gets the sense that the Mets are likely to move Bartolo Colon this summer but may hold on to the rest of their regulars. The team wants to contend in 2015, he says, and they feel they have the pitching depth to make up for the loss of Colon. Others, such as Daniel Murphy, would not be so easily replaced. Additionally, trading Colon would free up $10MM in payroll for next season, which could be reallocated to fill other needs.
  • New Yankees pitcher Brandon McCarthy told reporters, including Dan Barbarisi of the Wall Street Journal, that he doesn’t feel that he’s having a bad year, but rather, a confusing year. McCarthy, who has a 5.01 ERA, explains that he’s well-versed in sabermetrics and knows that based on career-bests in strikeout rate, ground-ball rate and average fastball velocity, he’s doing things right. “I know there’s been mistake pitches here and there that get hurt, but that’s to be expected,” said McCarthy. “It’s the other things happening, where I leave a game and feel like I’ve done everything I needed to and the results are terrible. That’s where I’ve been kind of confused.” Barbarisi’s piece also looks at how McCarthy re-invented himself after delving into sabermetrics while recovering from a shoulder injury in 2010.