Matt Cain Rumors

NL West Notes: Lyles, Rockies, Johnson, Corbin, Puig, Baez

Rockies right-hander Jordan Lyles was forced to exit Wednesday evening’s start against the Angels after taking an Albert Pujols line drive off his pitching hand. Twitter reactions indicated that Lyles’ hand became visibly swollen in nearly instantaneous fashion (image via Vic Lombardi of CBS Denver on Twitter). Clearly, the struggling Rockies can ill afford to lose a reliable rotation arm such as Lyles for a significant amount of time. To date, the 24-year-old Lyles has a 4.30 ERA with a somewhat troublesome 21-to-17 K/BB ratio in 37 2/3 innings with the Rockies. He’s notched a characteristically strong 49.6 percent ground-ball rate as well. A serious injury would mark the second consecutive season in which a freak injury shelved Lyles, as last year he suffered a fracture in his non-throwing hand while covering home plate.

Here’s more on the Rockies and the rest of the division in what is an injury-tinted look at the NL West…

  • Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post joined Sandy Clough and Scott Hastings of 104.3 The Fan in Denver (audio link) to discuss recent news in which Troy Tulowitzki‘s agent publicly mentioned that he and his client would consider requesting a trade. Saunders touches on the previous unwillingness of Rockies owner Dick Monfort to part with veteran players. Saunders offers a very candid take on his view of the state of the Rockies and how the team has handled Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez in the past, specifically wondering if the latter of the two has much of any trade value left. (At present, it would seem to me that he has very little, due to the remaining three years on his contract, his injury history and lack of productivity to begin the season.)
  • Josh Johnson‘s return from Tommy John surgery had recently been slowed by some soreness, but Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports tweets that the oft-injured righty has resumed throwing. The Padres are optimistic that Johnson can soon begin a rehab assignment, Morosi adds. Johnson returned to the Padres on a one-year, $1MM contract this winter after missing the entire 2014 season due to a torn UCL.
  • Via FOX Sports Arizona’s Jack Magruder (Twitter link), Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart said in a recent TV interview that the club is targeting a June 4 return for fallen ace Patrick Corbin, who, like Johnson, underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 2014 season.
  • Yasiel Puig has experienced a setback in his recovery from a strained hamstring and isn’t expected to join the Dodgers anytime soon, manager Don Mattingly told reporters, including MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick. An MRI taken Monday revealed that Puig’s hamstring strain has not yet healed, and Mattingly said that it would be “at least a couple weeks” that Puig will remain on the shelf. It seems fair to believe that Puig may be sidelined into June.
  • In other Dodgers injury news, righty reliever Pedro Baez was forced to leave tonight’s game after he felt something in his right pectoral muscle, tweets the L.A. News Group’s J.P. Hoornstra. Baez is slated to undergo an MRI tomorrow. He’s been a highly useful member of the Dodgers’ bullpen, entering play Wednesday with a 1.88 ERA and a 19-to-3 K/BB ratio in 14 1/3 innings.
  • Giants right-hander Matt Cain threw his first bullpen session since his elbow surgery yesterday, tweets John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle.  He’ll have another session on Friday and will need three to four in total before moving onto facing liver hitters, Shea adds.

NL West Notes: Cain, Baker, Kimbrel, Ross

The Giants officially placed Matt Cain on the disabled list with a strained flexor tendon, and the righty told reporters, including the San Francisco Chronicle’s Henry Schulman (Twitter links) that he’s hoping to return in two weeks, though there’s no certainty that such a quick return is possible. “Might as well try for it,” Cain said. “That’s what you’re hoping for. Only time will tell.” Cain said he doesn’t feel any “killing” pain, but rather he feels pain when going through certain movements. There’s currently no timetable for him to throw, and the team has recalled Chris Heston to make a spot start and fill Cain’s roster spot. San Francisco also added Kevin Correia on a Minor League pact earlier tonight to provide some depth.

Here’s more from the NL West…

  • Scott Baker looks like the likeliest option to step into the Dodgers‘ rotation in place of the injured Hyun-jin Ryu on April 14, writes Steve Dilbeck of the L.A. Times. Of the team’s projected Triple-A starters, Baker is the only one eligible to be called up on the 14th when the team will need a starter. Carlos Frias, Mike Bolsinger, Zach Lee and Joe Wieland are all on the 40-man roster and therefore need to spend at least 10 days in the Minors (barring an injury on the Major League roster) before they can return to the Majors.
  • Craig Kimbrel tells MLB.com’s Corey Brock that he watched with interest from afar as the Padres drastically revamped their roster, and he’s shocked but excited to be a last-minute addition to the reconstructed team. “You can tell this organization is going after it, it’s not a few-years deal, it’s right now,” said Kimbrel. “As a player, that’s exciting. You don’t know how long you’re going to play this game. [Being here] you could tell everyone is excited … from the front office to the players. That gets me excited. I’m ready to get the ball and get started.” Brock also notes that Kimbrel’s former Braves teammate, Justin Upton, gave GM A.J. Preller a “glowing endorsement” of the closer before the trade was agreed to by both sides.
  • Diamondbacks players were relatively stunned by the team’s sudden release of Cody Ross on Sunday, writes Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic. Jordan Pacheco tells Buchanan he’s always looked up to Ross, a fellow New Mexico native. Mark Trumbo spoke highly of Ross as a teammate: “The positive energy he brought each and every day was almost unmatched. He’s a very special guy in his ability to lighten the mood in any situation. When it’s go time, he had that ability as good as anybody in the game.” Ross will sign with the A’s tomorrow upon officially clearing release waivers, FOX’s Ken Rosenthal reported earlier tonight.

Matt Cain Undergoes MRI Due To Forearm Tightness

12:45am: After tonight’s win over the D-Backs, Bochy told reporters that there’s no torn ligament in Cain’s elbow and the injury is more of a “two week thing,” via Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter links). Cain himself termed the injury a flexor strain but also noted that the team’s trainers are fairly optimistic about his prognosis. Based on the timeline suggested from Bochy, however, it sounds like a DL stint is in the cards.

8:23pm: Giants right-hander Matt Cain underwent an MRI today after experiencing pain in his right forearm, manager Bruce Bochy told reporters, including Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area.

While the result is presently unknown, Cain’s 2014 season came to an end after he underwent surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow, and Pavlovic writes that Giants officials privately expressed concern that the issue could eventually lead to Tommy John surgery. Forearm pain is often a precursor to Tommy John surgery, so it seems reasonable to have some legitimate concerns about Cain’s immediate future. Of course, there are a number of other, more minor issues, that could result in forearm pain for Cain. It sounds like Cain will miss his first scheduled start, at the very least, as Bochy said “There’s got to be some concern” and indicated that the team would withhold him on Wednesday if necessary.

To further complicate the team’s pitching outlook, Jake Peavy will miss his first start due to a back injury, although the hope is that he can make a start in the second series of the season in San Diego. Still, it’s troublesome for Giants fans that two of the team’s five projected starters are already facing injury issues of any magnitude.

The Giants’ pitching depth was called into question this offseason by many pundits. Beyond ace Madison Bumgarner, there was little certainty in San Francisco’s rotation picture. Cain’s recovery from surgery was a question mark, and 39-year-old Tim Hudson had ankle surgery this winter. Tim Lincecum has been ineffective for three years now, and Peavy’s own injury history is lengthy.

Such concerns may have played a role in the Giants’ decision to re-sign Ryan Vogelsong late in the offseason, and Bochy has already informed reporters that Vogelsong will start in place of Peavy. Beyond him, the next line of defense in the rotation is excellent swingman Yusmeiro Petit, who stepped into the rotation with aplomb late last year when Lincecum’s struggles became too great to ignore.



Matt Cain To Undergo Elbow Surgery, Miss Rest Of Season

MONDAY: Cain has decided to undergo surgery and will miss the rest of the season, tweets Alex Pavlovic of the Mercury News.

FRIDAY: Several medical officials have recommend that Cain undergo surgery, and Giants manager Bruce Bochy told reporters (including MLB.com’s Chris Haft) that “if you’re putting odds on it, odds are going to be that he will not pitch” again in 2014.  Cain did some flat-ground throwing from 60 feet today and he’ll see how his arm responds to that workout before deciding whether to go under the knife immediately and begin the minimum three-month recovery period.

THURSDAY: Cain and the Giants are weighing whether the righty will undergo a procedure on his right elbow to clean up bone chips and other debris, reports Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com. Tommy John surgery is not on the table, says Baggarly.

If Cain has the procedure now, he would likely be out for the rest of the year, but would be expected to be ready for a standard ramp-up to the 2015 season.

TUESDAY: Giants starter Matt Cain is set for a visit with Dr. James Andrews regarding his ongoing difficulties with inflammation in his right elbow, CSN Bay Area analyst (and former big leaguer) Shawn Estes tells 95.7 The Game (Twitter link). Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com confirmed the report via Twitter.

Certainly, the club will hope that good news comes out of the consultation, but the necessity of the visit presumably only adds to the team’s reported desire to add a starter at the trade deadline. Cain is owed $67.5MM after this season, including a buyout of a $21MM club option for 2017. He owns a cumulative 4.06 ERA over 274 2/3 innings dating to the start of 2013.


Assessing Early Returns On Recent Giants Extensions

No MLB team finalized more extensions this offseason than the Giants, who locked up five of their top players. General manager Brian Sabean committed more than $200MM in future salaries in the four-month period from the beginning of January to the beginning of April. The extensions promised to solidify the team’s rotation long-term and cap the future earnings of a pair of arbitration eligible All-Stars. 

For the most part, the extensions have worked for the team. Tim Lincecum's disappointing season is the largest blemish on an otherwise encouraging set of contracts for San Francisco. 

Matt Cain - Giants (PW)

Lincecum, whose early-career accomplishments assured him of a substantial raise, signed a two-year, $40.5MM contract extension to cover his final two arbitration years. Though he has pitched better lately, his ERA sits at 5.30 in what has been the most disappointing season of his MLB career. It’d be understandable if the Giants are relieved Lincecum didn’t accept their $100MM extension offer before the season. In that context, $40.5MM isn’t so expensive. Still, if the team had gone year to year with Lincecum, he wouldn’t have been locked in for a $22MM salary in 2013; a non-tender would have been possible.

Three other Giants starters have exceeded expectations since signing multiyear deals. Vogelsong, who signed a two-year, $8.3MM contract in January, is repeating last year's success. He has a 2.85 ERA with 7.1 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 on his way toward a career high in innings pitched. Vogelsong would have been a free agent after the 2012 season if the Giants hadn't locked him up. They'll surely be glad to have him back for just $5MM in 2013 (the extension also includes a 2014 club option).

Like Vogelsong, Madison Bumgarner has replicated his 2011 success. The 23-year-old left-hander has inserted himself into the NL Cy Young Award race by posting a 2.83 ERA with five times as many strikeouts as walks in 171 2/3 innings this year. He obtained a record deal for pitchers with one-plus years of MLB service (five-years, $35MM), so it’s not as though Bumgarner obtained anything less than full value back in April. But this deal could hardly be going better for the Giants.

Matt Cain also obtained a record-setting contract this spring. He obtained a five-year, $112.5MM contract that established a record for right-handed pitchers. He's earning Cy Young Award consideration again after pitching a perfect game and posting a 2.83 ERA in 174 2/3 innings. If Cain had reached the free agent market this offseason, he would be the most sought-after pitcher available. The Giants could have re-signed him, of course, but not without spending considerably more than they did in April.

Lastly, Pablo Sandoval's play has justified his new three-year, $17.15MM contract — at least when he's been on the field. Although he spent time on the disabled list with a strained hamstring and a fractured hamate bone, he does have an .821 OPS in 294 plate appearances. This extension had limited upside for the Giants in the first place, since it didn’t buy out any free agent years or include any club options.

For now the Giants are presumably focused on maintaining their division lead over the Dodgers and Diamondbacks. A few months from now, once the most chaotic part of the offseason has ended, Sabean and the rest of the San Francisco front office will encounter a familiar challenge: it'll be time to consider extensions for a new set of players led by All-Star catcher Buster Posey.

Photo courtesy of US Presswire.


Checking In On The Latest $100MM Contracts

Every year a few players join baseball’s exclusive $100MM club with free agent deals and mega-extensions. Last offseason was no different — eight players signed nine figure deals. The contracts were all for five years or more, so it’s far too early to call them successes or failures. As the season approaches its halfway point, let’s check in on baseball’s newest $100MM contracts:

  • Albert Pujols, ten-year, $240MM contract - Pujols had a painfully slow start, but he has raised his batting line to a respectable .270/.332/.461. His last 40 games have been legitimately Pujols-like: 11 home runs and an OPS over 1.000.
  • Joey Votto, ten-year, $225MM extension - It's impossible to have a complete discussion about baseball's best hitters without considering Votto. The 28-year-old leads the National League in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, walks, doubles and wOBA, so this deal couldn't be going any better for the Reds.
  • Prince Fielder, nine-year, $214MM contract - Fielder continues to hit at an All-Star level, though he has a relatively modest total of 12 home runs. Unfortunately for Tigers fans Mike Ilitch's bold investment hasn't been enough to keep the team above .500.
  • Matt Kemp, eight-year, $160MM extension - Hamstring issues have sidelined Kemp, who was the best hitter in the National League for the first month of the season.
  • C.C. Sabathia, five-year, $122MM extension - Sabathia, now on the disabled list with a strained groin, is in the midst of yet another tremendous season. He has a 3.45 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 107 innings.
  • Matt Cain, five-year, $112.5MM extension - Cain's enjoying his best season as a Major Leaguer. He has a career-best ERA (2.27), strikeout rate (9.0 K/9) and walk rate (1.9 BB/9) through 107 innings. The Giants' decision to invest in Cain still looks like a good one.
  • Jose Reyes, six-year, $106MM extension - Reyes' offensive numbers have dropped off across the board this year, no thanks to a 60 point dip in batting average on balls in play.
  • Ryan Zimmerman, six-year, $100MM extension - Zimmerman's off to a slow start at the plate despite two home runs in his past three games. He missed two weeks with shoulder soreness earlier in the year and has just a .235/.297/.350 batting line.

Quick Hits: Hamels, Athletics, McCarthy, Rockies

Stephen Strasburg looked almost human tonight, allowing two runs in six innings against the Astros to raise his ERA all the way up to 0.95 for the season.  Strasburg still picked up the win in a 6-3 Nationals victory and, as a bonus, got a hilarious new nickname for his curveball, courtesy of MLB Network's Jerry Manuel.

Here are a few odds and ends from around the Majors…

  • Matt Cain figures Cole Hamels' next contract (whether with the Phillies or on the free agent market) will earn the southpaw more than Cain's recent extension with the Giants, reports MLB.com's Todd Zolecki.  "History-wise, lefties have always brought more than a righty," Cain said. "It's just the nature of the game."  Cain said he was happy to sign his extension and remain in San Francisco for the long-term as free agency is "not always a beautiful thing."
  • The Athletics' stadium issue and possible move to San Jose will not be on the agenda at the next owners meetings, tweets Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.  Earlier today, Slusser reported that the A's were pushing to have the issue subjected to a vote of other owners so they could have the issue settled once and for all.
  • ESPN's Buster Olney (via Twitter) thinks the A's could explore a multiyear contract with Brandon McCarthy.  The right-hander has pitched very well in his time in Oakland, posting a 3.24 ERA and a 4.59 K/BB ratio in 28 starts.  MLBTR's Tim Dierkes considered McCarthy as an extension candidate in February.
  • The Rockies' starting pitching woes could be solved by three southpaw prospects — Drew Pomeranz, Christian Friedrich and Tyler Matzek, writes Troy Renck of the Denver Post.
  • Also from Renck, he notes that Troy Tulowitzki's six-year extension from the Rockies in 2010 drew criticism at the time, but now could be seen as a bargain in the wake of the mega-deals given to Albert Pujols and Joey Votto.
  • The Reds are one of several preseason contenders off to a slow start, but Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News says it's far too early for fans to panic.

Quick Hits: Oswalt, Cain, Soria, Votto, McCourt

We're less than 24 hours away from the first official game at Marlins Park, as the Fish show off their new ballpark in their season opener against the World Series champion Cardinals.  Here are some news bits to tide us over in the meantime…

  • The Giants' extension with Matt Cain is "a sound deal," several non-San Francisco team executives tell ESPN's Buster Olney (via Twitter).
  • Roy Oswalt will likely need around 60 days of preparation time to be ready to pitch, a source tells Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link).  This fits with Oswalt's previous statement about looking at a midseason return.
  • Royals closer Joakim Soria underwent Tommy John surgery today and the medical team "couldn't have been more pleased" with the procedure, a club source tells MLB.com's Dick Kaegel.  Soria will miss the entire 2012 season recovering from the surgery.
  • Joey Votto's 10-year, $225MM extension with the Reds is "one of the crazier seeming contracts in baseball history," writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.  Heyman talks to several anonymous team executives about the contract, with theories ranging from the Reds being worried about the Dodgers' aggressive new ownership to the Reds being able to afford Votto thanks to several years of collecting luxury tax payments.  Then again, one competing GM says simply, "The Reds look like they have no plan."
  • Attorneys for Major League Baseball made a court filing arguing that the Dodgers shouldn't be allowed to emerge from bankruptcy until the team pays back $8.3MM worth of bills from the league, reports Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times.
  • Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at how some recent big contracts around baseball could impact the Cardinals.  Miklasz thinks that Cain's deal will make Adam Wainwright's next contract even more expensive, but I don't agree, given that Wainwright is three years older and has a more checkered injury history.
  • Several Padres players, as well as several players from the entire NL West and AL West, are discussed by opposing scouts in a chat with Tom Krasovic of Inside The Padres.

NL East Notes: Lannan, Johnson, Hamels

With Jonathon Niese closing in on a contract extension with the Mets, let's look at some other news from around the NL East…

  • The Nationals announced they were optioning John Lannan to the minors, (a move first reported by Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post), which will make Ross Detwiler the club's fifth starter.  In a separate item, Kilgore examines the move and concludes "the Nationals quite clearly put financial interest last and what they believed to be the best baseball decision first."
  • The move is sure to spur on more rumors that the Nationals could trade Lannan, though GM Mike Rizzo told reporters (including Mark Zuckerman of CSN Washington) that Detwiler won the job and that Lannan has drawn only "mild interest" on the trade market.  MLB.com's Bill Ladson reports that the Nats were asking a high price for Lannan, and other teams weren't willing to part with a starting position player in exchange for the southpaw.  (Both links are to Twitter.)
  • Josh Johnson hasn't given any thought to how Matt Cain's extension with the Giants may impact any possible new deal between himself and the Marlins, reports MLB.com's Joe Frisaro.  Johnson signed a four-year, $39MM extension with Miami that runs through the 2013 season.  Even if Johnson pitches up to form over the next two seasons, you'd have to figure that his injury history will limit the size and value of a contract extension. 
  • The Phillies offered Cole Hamels an extension worth "Jered Weaver money" (five years, $85MM) late last season, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.  Hamels now has a strong case for an extension worth at least as much as Cain's deal, Heyman notes.  The Giants' initial offer to Cain, Heyman says, was reportedly worth less than $65MM.
  • From earlier today, Chad Durbin switched NL East teams, signing with the Braves after being released by the Nationals.

Olney On Votto, Cain, Hamels

Two National League stars signed massive extensions yesterday and Buster Olney discusses the two deals in his latest column at ESPN.com. Some highlights, starting with Joey Votto's $225MM deal:

  • “At some point this contract will be a drag on a team in a mid-market,” one talent evaluator told Olney. Another called the deal “nuts,” and a third said it’s “absolute insanity.” One supporter of the deal said letting Votto go would have crushed the franchise.
  • If the Giants hadn’t offered Matt Cain a record-setting deal, he would have obtained a nine-figure deal elsewhere. Olney suggests it’d be hard to find a more consistent pitcher than Cain.
  • Talks between the Phillies and Cole Hamels have been dormant in recent weeks, but could be rekindled at any time. Olney finds it hard to imagine that an offer worth markedly less than Cain’s $112.5MM deal would have much appeal to Hamels and agent John Boggs. Ruben Amaro Jr. recently said the Phillies can afford three $20MM starters.