Masahiro Tanaka Rumors

AL East Links: Matusz, Tanaka, Arencibia

Though the Rays are just 24-21 for the season and 5-5 over their last 10 games, they’ve vaulted into first place in the AL East as the division’s only winning team.  The Yankees have lost 10 of their last 11 games to drop to an even 22-22 while the Red Sox (21-23), Orioles (19-22) and Blue Jays (20-26) are just struggling to get back to the .500 mark.  Here’s the latest from the struggling division…

  • Orioles reliever Brian Matusz was ejected from Saturday’s game with the Marlins for having a foreign substance on his arm, and now the southpaw has been suspended for eight games, Major League Baseball announced today.  Matusz is appealing the suspension.  As Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun notes, the suspension comes at an inopportune time for the O’s, as their pitching depth will already be tested due to a stretch of 14 games in 13 days (thanks to a double-header).  Left-handed batters have only hit .185/.214/.296 this season against Matusz, who has a 3.18 ERA in 17 innings.  The eight games matches the length of the suspension handed out to Brewers lefty Will Smith for a similar offense last week.
  • Masahiro Tanaka told reporters (including Dan Martin of the New York Post) that he is “not gonna make a change” to his pitching style in the wake of forearm and wrist injuries, but admits that he is “going to have to oversee my body a little bit better.”  Tanaka’s health has been of great concern since it was revealed that he had a partially-torn UCL last summer, and despite a couple of DL stints since, the Yankees still hope their ace can avoid a longer-term stay on the injured reserve.  Tanaka will make his second minor league rehab start on Wednesday.
  • J.P. Arencibia is trying to stay optimistic as the catcher continues his pro career for the Rays‘ Triple-A team, he tells Sportsnet’s Greg Mercer.  Arencibia goes into detail about how he felt he didn’t deal with the pressure of being an everyday player with the Blue Jays, and also about his surprise at being released by the Orioles’ Triple-A affiliate earlier this season.

AL East Notes: Heathcott, Ellsbury, Tanaka, Blue Jays

Let’s take a quick look in at the AL East:

  • The Yankees have called up outfielder Slade Heathcott after placing Jacoby Ellsbury on the 15-day DL, as Jack Curry of the YES Network tweeted last night. For Heathcott, the opportunity represents yet another step in a remarkable turnaround. The former top-100 prospect has impressed the organization this spring since losing his 40-man roster spot and re-signing to a minor league deal. As for Ellsbury, it’s only a knee sprain at the moment, but his recovery bears watching given his injury history.
  • Meanwhile, the Yankees got more promising injury news out of starter Masahiro Tanaka, as George A. King III of the New York Post reports on Twitter. The injured hurler will make a rehab start on Thursday at Triple-A, per King.
  • It’s time for the Blue Jays to look into dealing either Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion for pitching, Joel Sherman of the New York Post opines. While those sluggers continue to provide low-cost power production, Sherman argues that an arm is a more pressing need for the club. Unsurprisingly, GM Alex Anthopoulos indicated that he was not inclined to move either player. It’s certainly hard to disagree that the team needs to bolster its staff if it wants to make a serious run this year, though for my money it still probably makes more sense to deal away prospects to make that happen. After all, the most likely contention scenario would be one in which Bautista and Encarnacion remained in Toronto, and either or both could always be dealt after the season to recoup any lost long-term value if things don’t pan out.

AL East Notes: Tanaka, Rays, Red Sox, Orioles, Everth

The Yankees announced today that injured ace Masahiro Tanaka threw a 29-pitch bullpen session at Nationals Park. The bullpen session was the third for Tanaka, who has been on the disabled list for about three weeks with a forearm strain. The Yankees continue to be hopeful that Tanaka, who suffered a small tear in his right elbow’s ulnar collateral ligament last year, will be able to avoid Tommy John surgery (or any other serious operation). Tanaka made two starts at the end of the 2014 season after coming back from the injury and pitched well in four starts prior to his injury in 2015.

Elsewhere in the AL East…

  • Rays manager Kevin Cash won’t name a closer now that Jake McGee is back from the disabled list, writes Troy Provost-Heron of MLB.com. Cash maintains that he’ll use Brad Boxberger (who has closed in McGee’s absence) and McGee in save situations, depending on matchups. Boxberger tells Provost-Heron that he’s ok with not being the team’s sole closer, as McGee helps deepen the bullpen and take pressure of the rotation. However, I’ll note that given Boxberger’s early dominance in the ninth inning, being downgraded to a timeshare or even back to a setup role could have significant impact on his arbitration earnings following the 2016 season. Were Boxberger to have amassed a pair of dominant seasons at the back end of the game, he’d have been in line for a hefty payday. Greg Holland, for instance, landed a $4.65MM payday in his first trip through the arb process. The usage of both McGee and Boxberger will have a strong bearing on how affordable they are for the cost-conscious Rays in the years to come, making their closer situation of particular interest. (As a side note to fantasy players, remember that you can follow MLBTR’s @closernews account on Twitter for consistent updates on closer/setup situations throughout the season.)
  • Just as the Red Sox‘ rotation has begun to show signs of improvement, the team’s offense has gone into the tank, observes Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. Lauber feels that the team needs to drop Mookie Betts from the leadoff spot as the 22-year-old sorts out his struggles and, perhaps more importantly, call up the hot-hitting Rusney Castillo from Triple-A. Lauber opines that Castillo could deliver more consistently competitive at-bats against right-handed pitching than Shane Victorino, adding that additional rest for Victorino is the best way to keep him healthy at this point. The Red Sox, who lost 5-0 to James Paxton and the Mariners yesterday, have been particularly feeble against left-handed pitching.
  • Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com looks at a number of Orioles-related topics in his latest notebook. Kubatko notes that GM Dan Duquette told his colleague, MASN’s Steve Melewski, that there’s a “distinct possibility” that the team will select Chris Parmelee‘s contract from Triple-A, though as Kubatko notes, there’s no clear spot for the corner outfielder/first baseman on the roster. He also notes that catcher Steve Clevenger‘s defense has drawn rave reviews from Triple-A manager Ron Johnson. Baltimore optioned Clevenger to Triple-A, citing a need to improve his defense, and Clevenger has caught 12 of 34 base stealers (35%) this season.
  • Lastly, Kubatko wonders what will come of Everth Cabrera when he’s eligible to be activated from the disabled list. The team can clear a roster spot by optioning Rey Navarro, but they’ll also need a spot in the infield for Ryan Flaherty. Cabrera is out of options and can refuse his outright assignment but still collect his $2.4MM salary if the Orioles pass him through waivers, lending the possibility that a situation similar to that of Ryan Webb could come up in the near future.


Injury Notes: Pence, Tanaka, Blue Jays, Fister, Ryu

Giants outfielder Hunter Pence is returning to active duty tomorrow, Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News reports on Twitter. Pence has yet to see MLB action this year since suffering a fractured forearm in the spring. The 32-year-old figures to provide a nice boost to the club, which has produced middling results thus far.

Here are some more injury notes from around the game:

  • Another important player who received promising injury news is Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka. As Bryan Hoch of MLB.com tweets, Tanaka threw 35 pitches in a BP session today and seems to be nearing the start of a rehab stint. Tanaka’s continued progress is obviously welcome, particularly given that swingman Chase Whitley may be headed for season-ending surgery.
  • The Blue Jays also have some notable situations to watch, with Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca providing several updates. Outfielder Michael Saunders will miss four to six weeks to rest his knee. And catcher Dioner Navarro still does not have a timetable for a rehab assignment as he rests his hamstring. More positively, shortstop Jose Reyes is nearing his own build-up through the minors. While Saunders and Reyes are important for the team, the Navarro news is most notable from a transactional perspective. Though he has not done much offensively this year, Navarro could be a useful trade piece for a Toronto club that has other needs — if he can reestablish his health and show more promise at the plate.
  • The Nationals made the surprising announcement today that righty Doug Fister is heading to the DL with right forearm tightness (via Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com, on Twitter). Young starter A.J. Cole, one of the team’s top prospects, will return to take his spot on the active roster. While hidden somewhat due to the attention given to Stephen Strasburg, there is cause for concern with Fister, whose velocity (86.1 mph average two-seam fastball), K:BB ratio (4.1 K/9 vs. 2.3 BB/9), and groundball rate (40.9%) have suffered in comparison to his usual numbers. Of course, the Nationals are somewhat uniquely suited to weather any extended absence, should that prove necessary. But for the 31-year-old free agent-to-be, the first two months of the season have left him with plenty to prove the rest of the way.
  • Hyun-jin Ryu of the Dodgers is still not even scheduled to resume throwing, J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles News Group reports on Twitter. The health of the 28-year-old lefty remains a key sub-plot in the development of the summer trade market: L.A. already profiles as a strong buyer for starting pitching, and its needs would be enhanced greatly if Ryu isn’t able to develop an upward trajectory.

AL Notes: Correa, Hicks, Angels, Tanaka, Red Sox, Kazmir

Promotions are always interesting to keep an eye on this time of year, as teams look to balance future control and cost with developmental prerogatives and the needs of the MLB roster. One of the most-watched players, shortstop Carlos Correa of the Astros, will make his debut today at Triple-A after destroying the Double-A level at just twenty years of age. The next stop could be Houston, where the big league club playing well but dealing with a significant injury to Jed Lowrie. Meanwhile, the Twins have decided the time is ripe to give another shot at former top prospect Aaron Hicks, still just 25, who has struggled in his time in the majors but forced his way back with a .336/.415/.561 run through the highest level of the minors this year.

Here’s more from the American League:

  • The Angels, who have fielded a somewhat surprisingly unproductive lineup thus far, look in need of a bat, as Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register writes. While GM Jerry Dipoto says that he expects at least some of the team’s group of established hitters to return to their usual contributions on offense, Fletcher says that the front office is ready and willing to pursue an acquisition over the summer. Given the team’s struggles against right-handed pitching, Fletcher opines that Brewers first baseman Adam Lind would make for a particularly sensible trade target. He ticks through a few other plausible options as the market begins to take shape.
  • Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka is set to throw his first bullpen today since suffering a forearm strain, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch tweeted yesterday. At this point, it would seem to rate as a pleasant surprise if Tanaka is able to contribute more quality innings this year, though the club seems determined to give him every opportunity to return before pursuing more drastic options.
  • Indeed, as Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes, the Yankees rotation has plenty of issues but still rates as the most complete outfit in the division. GM Brian Cashman continues to say that he believes Tanaka can stave off a Tommy John procedure. And as Sherman rightly notes, Chris Capuano and Ivan Nova both appear on track to deliver useful arms in the relatively near future. If the club stays in position and has a need, of course, it should have no difficulty finding ways to add quality innings via trade over the summer.
  • The Red Sox staff, meanwhile, has been a source of near-constant hand-wringing and speculation for months. There are reasons to believe in improvement from the peripherals, as MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince explains, though as he notes the biggest reason for hope may lie in the club’s evident ability (and demonstrated willingness) to swing deals to add additional arms.
  • Red Sox GM Ben Cherington continues to emphasize the organization’s commitment to delivering better results from its internal pitching options, as Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald reports“We knew we needed good pitching coming into the year to win games, and we still know that,” says Cherington. “I believe we’ll pitch better, and I believe we have a lot of the solutions here already.” Cherington emphasized that he wants to see how things proceed with a new pitching coach (and new backstop duo) now in place. Regardless, as he notes, it would be hard to make a move now. “Not a lot of teams are in that (trade) mode,” said the Red Sox GM, “but there wouldn’t normally be this time of year anyway. We’re not really there yet. There’s not a lot of team-altering moves being discussed this early. Probably need a little bit of time on that.” In Lauber’s estimation, Cherington’s protestations notwithstanding, Boston must and will strike one or more trades and/or promote well-regarded lefty Eduardo Rodriguez for an infusion of talent.
  • One possible trade target for the Red Sox (and, of course, other teams) is Athletics lefty Scott Kazmir, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe opines. Indeed, Kazmir’s strong recent track record and meager remaining commitment, to say nothing of the free-wheeling nature of Oakland GM Billy Beane, frame him as a popular source of trade speculation over the next few months. If the team decides to market him, which seems more and more plausible with each passing day for the 12-22 A’s, it will be fascinating to see what the 31-year-old returns in a trade.

East Notes: Brown, Margot, Hamels, Mujica, Tanaka

The Phillies have optioned former All-Star Domonic Brown to Triple-A after his rehab stint came to a close. Brown broke out in 2013 but endured a rough season last year, and it now seems he’ll have to earn his way back onto the active roster. In spite of his troubles, writes David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News, the 27-year-old has upside that remains worth trying to tap into for the rebuilding club.

Here’s more from the game’s eastern divisions:

  • The Phillies are sending former skipper Charlie Manuel to watch Red Sox minor leaguer Manuel Margot, Murphy reports. Margot, a rising prospect, could in theory be an important piece in a deal involving Philadelphia starter Cole Hamels, though at present that is a largely speculative connection. As WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford writes, it is “intriguing” to consider whether the Phils would consider structuring a deal around Margot and, perhaps, one of Boston’s upper-level arms — a scenario that Peter Gammons suggested earlier in the winter (Twitter link).
  • As things stand, the Red Sox are not yet prepared to make a move for Hamels, writes Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. But, says Lauber, the club should be prepared to do so — perhaps sooner than later. Indeed, as Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes, things could be shaping up for an earlier-than-usual market, particularly with a number of possible Hamels suitors dealing with significant rotation issues.
  • There have been recent suggestions that struggling Red Sox reliever Edward Mujica may be in trouble of losing his roster spot, as Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe tweeted last night. But while a Boston roster move is expected today, tweets the Globe’s Nick Cafardo, it is not expected to be a DFA of the embattled righty.
  • The Yankees are among the clubs dealing with concerns in their starting five, due in large part to the enhanced uncertainty surrounding Masahiro Tanaka. As John Harper of the New York Daily News writes, the club is still hopeful that its ace will return this summer, though there is plenty of reason for skepticism. As Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com explains, the larger concern is perhaps whether Tanaka’s devastating splitter will ultimately prove an unsustainable offering in the long run. “That’s what’s made him successful, so that’s how he pitches so you have to deal with it,” said manager Joe Girardi.

Tanaka Out At Least A Month Due To Forearm Strain

The Yankees announced tonight that they have placed right-hander Masahiro Tanaka on the disabled list after an MRI revealed a “mild right forearm strain” and tendinitis in his right wrist. Jack Curry of the YES Network tweets that GM Brian Cashman told reporters that Tanaka will, conservatively, be sidelined for at least a month (Twitter link). For the time being, Tanaka will be shut down from throwing for the next seven to 10 days.

Tanaka tells reporters, including MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch (Twitter link), that “nothing really big came up from the MRI,” and he feels he can come back strong. However, while there’s been nothing to suggest that he has further torn his ulnar collateral ligament, forearm strains are indeed often a precursor to Tommy John surgery.

Tanaka was sidelined from July 8 through Sept. 21 last season due to a small tear in the UCL of his right elbow. However, he was able to return from the injury without undergoing Tommy John. While his final outing of the season was one he’d like to forget — seven runs in 1 2/3 innings — Tanaka has looked generally excellent to begin the 2015 season, reeling off 22 1/3 innings of a 3.22 ERA with a 24-to-7 K/BB ratio.

The Yankees will once again hope that Tanaka can dodge the Tommy John bullet, but a significant injury to their ace would again overexpose an already thin rotation. Nathan Eovaldi and CC Sabathia have both struggled to varying extents, while Ivan Nova is recovering from his own Tommy John, and Chris Capuano has yet to take the hill after opening the season on the DL.

As it stands, Sabathia, Eovaldi, Michael Pineda and Adam Warren will continue to round out the rotation, as Capuano inches closer to what the team hopes will be a May return. However, it’s not difficult to envision a long-term injury to Tanaka prompting the Yankees to seek a replacement from outside the organization to help steady their rotation in what looks to be a highly competitive American League East.


AL East Notes: Rays, Red Sox, Tanaka

Here’s the latest from the American League East:

  • The Rays are going to have to drop a player from their 40-man roster to account for the club’s bullpen injuries, Cork Gaines of Rays Index explains. With C.J. Riefenhauser joining Jeff Beliveau on the major league DL, and fellow southpaws Enny Romero and Grayson Garvin both on the DL in the minors, the club is low on options.
  • While the Red Sox rotation additions have struggled badly to start the year, the club did not have many appealing alternatives available to it, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal writes. MacPherson ticks through the possibilities, explaining that, by and large, Boston was probably wise not to beat other teams’ offers for several top arms.
  • Masahiro Tanaka has trended up in his last two outings for the Yankees, as Brendan Kuty of NJ.com explains. His ability to pitch through a partial UCL tear remains critical to the club not just this year, but looking into the future.

AL East Notes: Tanaka, Orioles, Reimold, Maddon

Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka told reporters (including the New York Post’s Dan Martin) that he expects his velocity to drop a bit this season, though this may have as much to do with pitch selection as it does with concerns about his slightly torn UCL.  “Because of the fact I’m throwing more two-seamers, that would obviously make the velocity go down a bit,” Tanaka said through an interpreter.  “As for my pitching style and my mechanics, I’m trying to relax a little bit more when I’m throwing, so that might have something to do with it.”  Tanaka averaged 91.2 mph on his fastball last season, as well as 88.9 mph on his cutter and 86.5 mph on his split-fingered fastball.

Here’s some more from the AL East…

  • The Orioles are hoping to make at least one trade before Opening Day to move some of their roster excess, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko reports.  Kubatko feels Steve Clevenger has the advantage over T.J. McFarland for the final spot on the Orioles’ roster, though the O’s could also deal Clevenger given their depth at catcher.  Nolan Reimold will probably be assigned to Baltimore’s minor league camp to avoid putting the out-of-options outfielder through waivers, as the O’s are worried Reimold would be claimed by another team.
  • Speaking of Reimold, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun shares the somewhat unique details of the opt-out clause in Reimold’s minor league deal with the Orioles.  If Reimold isn’t on the Orioles’ 25-man roster by July 11, the O’s must send an e-mail to all 29 other teams asking if they’re interested in Reimold.  If a team responds in the affirmative, the O’s must either “assign” him to that club in a cash transaction or put him on their 25-man roster themselves.  If no team shows interest, Reimold stays with the Orioles.
  • Major League Baseball’s investigation of the Rays‘ tampering charge against the Cubs will continue past Opening Day, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune reports.  The Rays accused the Cubs of tampering with Joe Maddon when he was still under contract as Tampa Bay’s manager, and the matter is still unresolved after over five months of investigating.

AL East Notes: Red Sox, Craig, Wieters, Bailey, Tanaka

Here’s the latest from the American League East:

  • The Red Sox risk losing a chance to acquire Cole Hamels of the Phillies by waiting to deal for him, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. While it is too early to judge the team’s current rotation, results — and, perhaps more importantly, reviews from rival scouts — have been less than promising.
  • Meanwhile, the Red Sox are still “trying to find a trade partner” for first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig, per Cafardo. He notes that the club has assigned several “top pro scouts” to watch the Giants, Padres, and Cubs recently, though it is not entirely clear that all of those clubs could match up on Craig.
  • Orioles catcher Matt Wieters will be shut down for about a week after experiencing tendinitis in his surgically-repaired right elbow after his first stint behind the dish, Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun reports. Manage Buck Showalter said that he does not see the news as a setback, and indicated that the move was made as an exercise of caution. Wieters’ ability to return to his usually sturdy work with the mask on is critical not only to the team’s hopes this year, but also to his free agent case after the season.
  • Reliever Andrew Bailey made his return to competitive action today for the Yankees, with Chad Jennings of the LoHud Yankees Blog tweeting that Bailey’s fastball sat in the low 90s in his inning of work. Meanwhile, Masahiro Tanaka continued to show strong form this spring, as Jennings further reports. If both of those arms can prove healthy and effective, the club’s run prevention efforts will obviously receive a significant boost. While Tanaka pitched much of last season before being shut down with a partial UCL tear, Bailey has not thrown a big league pitch since 2013 and represents pure upside for New York.