- The Reds don’t figure to be big players on the free agent market, Williams says. To the extent that they do open their wallets, it could be on relief help. “I could see spending some money on the bullpen,” Williams says. The Reds’ 2016 ’pen was among the game’s worst, with a 5.09 ERA, 8.2 K/9 and 4.6 BB/9 for the season, so adding there would seem to be a convenient way to upgrade for a team not looking to spend heavily.
- The team could also attempt to add bench players and perhaps a veteran starter to complement Anthony DeSclafani, Homer Bailey, Brandon Finnegan and Dan Straily. Williams reiterates, though, that the team won’t be looking for a high-end player, and names Robert Stephenson, Cody Reed, Amir Garrett and Tim Adleman as candidates to take over the fifth spot.
- If the team uses Raisel Iglesias and Michael Lorenzen in its bullpen after both had strong 2016 seasons, it will do so with the goal of “maximizing their innings,” Williams says. “[I]f you do put them in the bullpen, it’s not going to be with the intent of making them one-inning guys. They’re too talented for that.”
- With much of its former veteran core (such as Todd Frazier, Aroldis Chapman and Jay Bruce) already having departed in trades, the Reds don’t figure to be big players on the trade market, either, Williams says. “We’ll always continue to be opportunistic as a team in our place in the lifecycle has got to be, [but] I don’t think we’ll be terribly active.”
- The team will chat with second baseman Brandon Phillips to see whether he might waive his full no-trade clause. The Reds attempted to deal Phillips to the Nationals last winter, but he turned that deal down. Phillips recently said he hasn’t strongly considered whether he’d accept a trade. Should he depart, the team would have Jose Peraza and/or Dilson Herrera ready to replace him. The team could also use Peraza at shortstop, which means they’ll have to make a determination about their incumbent at that position, Zack Cozart. (MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk recently explained that finding everyday roles for Peraza and Herrera should be one of the Reds’ top priorities this winter.)
- The Reds could also look for a bit of catching help in case Devin Mesoraco’s recovery from hip surgery doesn’t go smoothly.
Cubs setup man Pedro Strop suffered a left knee injury while sliding to make a play on a weakly hit grounder last night and had to be helped off the field, as MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat writes. Strop will undergo an MRI today, at which point the club will know more about the amount of time he’ll need to miss. The Cubs’ bullpen is a bit thin at the moment as it is, with right-hander Hector Rondon dealing with a triceps issue (though Rondon has not been placed on the disabled list). A significant injury to Strop would be a substantial blow to the Cubs’ late-inning relief corps, as Strop has turned in a very strong 2.89 ERA with 11.5 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and a 59.6 percent ground-ball rate in 43 2/3 innings. His 50 relief appearances trail only Travis Wood for the team lead.
More from the NL Central…
- MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch provides an update on a number of injured Cardinals, noting that left-hander Tyler Lyons’ season could be in jeopardy. The 28-year-old has been diagnosed with a fracture in his right knee and recently received a platelet-rich plasma injection as part of the treatment. It’ll be another three weeks before he’s evaluated, though, and GM John Mozeliak candidly stated: “I definitely feel like his season may be in question.” Shortstop Aledmys Diaz is back with the team and currently sporting a splint on his fractured left thumb. He’ll meet with a hand specialist next Monday to further establish a timeline for his own return. Meanwhile, right-hander Jordan Walden, who has pitched just 10 1/3 innings as a Cardinal since coming over in the Jason Heyward/Shelby Miller trade, hopes to return in September, though the Cardinals are being more cautious about his potential availability.
- Injured closer Trevor Rosenthal told Jim Hayes of FOX Sports Midwest (video link) that he’s dealing with a “pretty significant” flexor mass strain in his right forearm that has previously not been reported or acknowledged by the Cardinals. (Langosch notes in the above-linked piece that the team has still not confirmed that diagnosis.) Rosenthal is on the disabled list with inflammation in his right rotator cuff and recently received an PRP injection of his own, but the forearm issue, which Rosenthal says may have led to the inflammation in his shoulder, would be a new and possibly greater concern than the previously reported shoulder injury.
- Raisel Iglesias recorded the first save of his big league career on Wednesday, and there could be quite a few more in his future, writes C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer. “He’s stepped it up and I think we’re looking at a role that could be very comfortable for him and something we’ll have to weigh moving forward between starter and reliever,” said manager Bryan Price. Iglesias himself expressed an enormous amount of pride in being asked to take the ball in the ninth inning, explaining through a translator that he was as proud to pitch in that role as he was to be named Opening Day starter for the Reds. Said Iglesias: “I feel really proud because I’ve waited for this moment, this is what I’ve wanted to be on the team, this is what I want to do. I want to be the closer.” Iglesias looked like a highly intriguing rotation candidate entering the season, but a shoulder injury sidelined him for two months, and he’s pitched exclusively out of the bullpen since returning. Since being activated from the DL, Iglesias has a sensational 0.65 ERA with a 31-to-12 K/BB ratio in 27 2/3 innings.
Red Sox manager John Farrell addressed his job security Friday, telling reporters, including Ryan Hannable of WEEI, “We’ve come off a tough month. Finished with a disappointing trip through Texas and Tampa. I can understand that question, the potential speculation that is out there.” The Red Sox followed a 10-16 June by leading off July with a win Friday, but they suffered a stunning 21-2 loss to the Angels at Fenway Park on Saturday. That won’t help Farrell – who said the performance “embarrassed” him (Twitter link via Ian Browne of MLB.com) – though his 43-37 team still holds one of the American League’s two Wild Card spots through nearly half the season.
More from Boston and three other major league cities:
- Farrell didn’t want to commit to right-hander Clay Buchholz making another start after his poor outing last Sunday, and now the manager is in the same position after Saturday’s result, Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald was among those to report (Twitter link). Buchholz threw 4 1/3 innings and allowed six runs (three earned) on seven hits and a walk, raising his ERA/FIP/xFIP trio to an ugly 5.91/6.03/5.51 through 80 2/3 frames this season.
- The first-place Giants continue to hunt for starting pitchers, tweets the San Francisco Chronicle’s Henry Schulman, who reported two weeks ago that the team was searching for rotation help. Giants starters entered Saturday ranked sixth in the majors in both ERA (3.62) and fWAR (7.8), though nearly all of the rotation’s value has come from Johnny Cueto, Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija. With those three in the fold, odds are the Giants are only looking for a back-end type to improve on Jake Peavy, Albert Suarez and the currently injured Matt Cain.
- While Raisel Iglesias’ shoulder injury-forced shift to the Reds’ bullpen could hurt his earning power in the long run, the 26-year-old told Mark Sheldon of MLB.com that he’s enjoying his new role. “I feel really good coming out of the bullpen,” the righty said through an interpreter. “I’ve got my routine now. Coming out of the bullpen is something I did when I was in Cuba.” Iglesias has been a breath of fresh air in relief for the Reds, whose bullpen is the majors’ worst. In 7 1/3 innings and four appearances since returning from a nearly two-month disabled list stint June 21, Iglesias has yielded just one run on three hits and three walks.
- Angels setup man Joe Smith has come off the DL in time to serve as a potential deadline chip for the last-place Halos, writes Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com. It’s worth noting that the right-hander, who had been on the DL witIh a hamstring strain since June 7, has seen his ERA (3.78) and K/9 (5.81) fall well below his career marks of 2.92 and 7.48 in 26 1/3 innings this season. The ground-ball-inducing 32-year-old is on a $5.25MM salary and will hit free agency in the offseason.
Improving their bullpen will be the Nationals’ “top priority” as the Aug. 1 trade deadline approaches, a source told Bill Ladson of MLB.com. The Nats aren’t close to acquiring anyone at this time, reports Ladson, who writes that they are hoping the Yankees will put lights-out lefties Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller on the block. Both have been connected in the past to the Nationals, who aren’t content with Jonathan Papelbon serving as their closer. Papelbon has fared well this year, having converted 14 of 16 save chances and posted a 2.91 ERA, 7.06 K/9 and 2.08 BB/9 in 21 2/3 innings, but he’s undoubtedly inferior to both Chapman and Miller. Even without either of those two in the mix, Washington’s bullpen entered Sunday ranked third in both ERA (2.85) and K/BB ratio (3.51).
More pitching notes:
- In unfortunate news for the Reds, their top starter, right-hander Raisel Iglesias, will work out of the bullpen when he returns from a shoulder injury in a few weeks, reports Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer (Twitter link). The door isn’t closed on the 26-year-old rejoining the Reds’ rotation down the line, but he’ll have to show that his shoulder can hold up, per Buchanan. From a financial point of view, Buchanan notes that the likelihood of Iglesias opting out of his $27MM contract when he becomes eligible for arbitration will decrease if he doesn’t go back to starting (Twitter links). Iglesias has 154 days of major league service time under his belt and will soon reach the 172-day mark necessary for a full year, but he’s still a good distance from the three years needed to take a crack at arbitration. The Cuba native has so far made 23 big league appearances (21 starts) and compiled a 4.00 ERA, 9.68 K/9 and 2.55 BB/9 in 123 innings.
- On the bright side for the Reds, righty Anthony DeSclafani is likely to make his 2016 debut during the upcoming week – perhaps Friday – tweets Buchanan. The 26-year-old has been out all season with an oblique issue. He performed well in 2015, his first full big league campaign, totaling 184 2/3 innings of 4.05 ERA/3.67 FIP/3.97 xFIP pitching.
- The Mariners’ Felix Hernandez might not return from the disabled list when he’s eligible on June 12, reports Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. “Fingers crossed, but he may miss a couple (of more starts). We’ll see,” said manager Scott Servais. The hope when Hernandez landed on the DL with a straight right calf muscle was that he’d only miss two starts, but he still isn’t moving well and hasn’t resumed throwing. King Felix posted a 2.86 ERA, 7.57 K/9 and 3.71 BB/9 in 63 innings prior to going on the shelf.
Every player has different priorities, many of which go beyond maximizing earnings, though that’s not always easy to discern from publicly available information. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports provides an interesting recent example, though, in Jason Hammel of the Cubs. The right-hander and his wife were disappointed to be dealt away from Chicago at the trade deadline in 2014, with Hammel telling Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein that he would “pitch well enough that you bring me back” even as he departed for the A’s. Though Hammel wasn’t as good in Oakland as he had been before the deal, that’s just what happened, as Hammel inked a two-year, $18MM deal in the offseason. It looked like a nice value for the team at the time, and the veteran has rewarded the Cubs with 204 2/3 innings of 3.43 ERA pitching since his return.
Here’s more from the NL Central:
- Cardinals shortstop Jhonny Peralta has been cleared to begin swinging a bat, as MLB.com’s Jen Langosch reports on Twitter. Peralta’s thumb injury looked like a major blow at the time, and while his loss has been softened by the stellar play of Aledmys Diaz, he should still provide a boost for a club that’s hovering around .500 while their division rivals to the north lay waste to the rest of the league. Fellow middle infielders Kolten Wong and Jedd Gyorko haven’t been nearly as effective as Diaz, and could cede playing time to Peralta when he’s healthy.
- Shane Victorino is active at Triple-A Iowa for the Cubs, but he might not spend much time there before a decision is made on his future with the organization. Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register tweets that Chicago has informed the veteran outfielder that his status will be reevaluated after a few weeks with the team’s top affiliate. Victorino is off to a solid start, with five hits — including two doubles and a triple — in his first four games.
- There’s long been talk that Epstein would sign a new deal with the Cubs before reaching executive free agency after the season, but he tells Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link) that there are no imminent extensions — either for himself or with any of the team’s players. Nevertheless, the presumption still seems to be that Epstein will re-up with the organization at some point.
- It was always expected to be a difficult season for the Reds, but the organization has dealt with more injuries than might’ve been hoped. C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer provides updates on several situations. Righty Michael Lorenzen is just now returning to the hill after experiencing elbow issues this spring and then suffering a bout with mono. Fellow pitchers Anthony DeSclafani, Raisel Iglesias, and Jon Moscot are all making progress with their own injury matters, but certainly that’s not a list of arms that the club hoped to see on the DL at this stage of the year. DeSclafani, like Lorenzen, has yet to appear in the majors this season.
The Reds have placed right-hander Raisel Iglesias on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to Tuesday with an impingement in his throwing shoulder, per a club announcement. They’ve also transferred catcher Kyle Skipworth to the 60-day DL with an ankle injury.
Iglesias was scheduled to start for the Reds in Pittsburgh today, but he felt a “pinch” in his shoulder Friday and underwent an examination Saturday that led to his placement on the DL. This isn’t the first time Iglesias’ shoulder has acted up, which is obviously alarming, as the 26-year-old dealt with fatigue last season and began his throwing program later in the spring as a result. Iglesias followed that spring program with a stellar first month of the season, throwing 28 1/3 innings of 3.49 ERA ball (9.21 K/9 and 2.22 BB/9) in five starts. He was easily the brightest spot in a Reds rotation that concluded April with the majors’ seventh-worst ERA (4.84) and second-worst FIP (5.61).
With Iglesias out of the picture for a to-be-determined amount of time, Tim Adleman will take the mound for the Reds in his big league debut today. The 28-year-old owns a 3.79 ERA, 7.4 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 410 1/3 career minor league innings.
The Cardinals gave right-hander Carlos Martinez permission to leave the team Friday because of a civil lawsuit he’s facing in South Florida, ESPN reported (link via Dan O’Neill of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch), though he is now back with the club. “We are just learning of this matter. I was notified by Carlos’ agent the other night,” general manager John Mozeliak told ESPN. “We will not be in a position to act until we have more information.” Major League Baseball has not informed the Cardinals of any pending disciplinary action, according to Mozeliak. The club is in the process of determining whether the allegations made by the woman who filed the lawsuit will lead to a league investigation under its domestic violence rules, per O’Neill. Martinez, who has put up a 1.93 ERA, 6.43 K/9 and 2.57 BB/9 in four starts (28 innings) this season, is scheduled to take the mound for the Cardinals on Sunday.
More of the latest pitcher-related news from around the league:
- Hard-throwing reliever Ken Giles hasn’t come as advertised this year after the Astros gave up a Vincent Velasquez-headlined haul for the ex-Phillie during the offseason, and he told Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle that his issues are related to mechanics. “I’m not the guy I was the past two seasons. I’m somebody completely different on the mound, and I don’t feel comfortable up there. It’s just mechanical work,” he said. Giles was an elite reliever for the Phillies from 2014-15, combining for a 1.56 ERA with an 11.75 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 115 2/3 innings, but this season has been a nightmare for the 25-year-old. Though Giles’ strikeout and walk rates look fine (12.6 and 3.6, respectively), as does his velocity, he has already surrendered four home runs and 10 earned runs in 10 innings. Giles yielded a combined three homers and 20 earned runs during the previous two seasons. Thanks to his struggles, the Astros will “ease the burden of the eighth inning off of him a little bit,” manager A.J. Hinch said.
- Two prospective long-term cogs in the Reds’ rotation, right-handers Raisel Iglesias and Anthony DeSclafani, are dealing with injuries, as C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes. Iglesias, who’s scheduled to pitch Sunday, felt a “pinch” in his throwing shoulder Friday and underwent an examination today. The Reds will know more about his status later in the day, manager Bryan Price said. This isn’t the first time Iglesias’ shoulder has acted up: The 26-year-old dealt with fatigue last season and began his throwing program later in the spring as a result, Rosecrans notes. Iglesias has been stellar early this year, having tossed 28 1/3 innings of 3.49 ERA ball (9.21 K/9 and 2.22 BB/9) in five starts. DeSclafani, meanwhile, has been out all season with a left oblique strain and felt a “sensation” in his side during a 77-pitch rehab start Friday. “We’re really doing everything we can to avoid a setback. He was good until the last inning or so, and then it was an issue,” Price stated.
- Angels lefty Andrew Heaney won’t need surgery on the forearm strain that has kept him out for nearly all of April, but he still hasn’t been cleared to throw, according to Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register and Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com (Twitter links). Heaney will receive a platelet-rich plasma injection in his left arm, which will keep him out for six to 12 more weeks, GM Billy Eppler said (Twitter link via Fletcher). Heaney started for the Halos on April 5 and put up a decent line against the Cubs (six innings, seven strikeouts, no walks, seven hits, four runs), but he complained of left forearm tightness afterward and landed on the disabled list the next day.
The Giants and first baseman Brandon Belt have an arbitration hearing set for tomorrow, Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News tweeted last night. The two sides are facing a $2.2MM gap between Belt’s $7.5MM salary figure and the $5.3MM counter from the team (as can be seen in MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker), and Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets that with the hearing so close, the sides are focused on a one-year deal rather than a longer-term pact. Of course, long-term negotiations can always resume and carry on into Spring Training, so it does make some sense to focus efforts on avoiding the dreaded arbitration hearing for the time being.
Here’s more from the NL…
- Reds left-hander John Lamb, who had been expected to compete for a spot in the team’s rotation this spring, had back surgery in December, reports MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon. In an MLB Network appearance with Chris Russo today (video link), Cincinnati manager Bryan Price revealed that Lamb will eventually be in the rotation mix but isn’t expected to be ready until mid-April. Per Price, right-handers Anthony DeSclafani and Raisel Iglesias are locked into rotation spots heading into Spring Training, but the remaining three spots will be up for grabs, with names like John Moscot, Cody Reed, Robert Stephenson and Brandon Finnegan all in the mix for one of the three spots until Homer Bailey returns, which the team expects will happen on May 1. Price went out of his way to state that despite some opinions that Finnegan is best-suited for the bullpen, the Reds like him as a starting pitcher.
- From that same interview, Price said that he’s “not really surprised” that Brandon Phillips vetoed a trade that would have sent him to the Nationals despite the Reds’ rebuild. “Brandon, I think, just absolutely loves Cincinnati,” Price explained. “He loves the fans. He loves the team. He loves the ball park. I think he really values the fact that the Reds threw a lot of trust in him when they acquired him from Cleveland and gave him a chance to play.”
- Tom Haudricout of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel spoke with Aaron Hill and Brewers manager Craig Counsell about the trade that sent the veteran Hill to Milwaukee. Hill explained to Haudricourt that being traded to a rebuilding team isn’t necessarily a bad thing, stressing that the emphasis on competition still exists and adding that he has a tremendous amount of respect for his new skipper. Of Hill, Counsell said that the Brewers look forward to Hill working with the team’s younger players and expect there to be “a lot of playing time” for Hill. “I do think his experience is valuable on this club with a lot of new faces and a lot of young faces, and a lot of players who are going to go through experiences in the big leagues for the first time,” said Counsell. Haudricourt notes that Hill will platoon with Scooter Gennett at second base and also receive some starts at third base against right-handed pitching.
- Mets catcher Kevin Plawecki underwent offseason sinus surgery, he tells Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News. The operation, according to Plawecki, was performed with the goal of alleviating persistent bouts of dizziness. Plawecki says that his right sinus became completely blocked, preventing airflow through that side of his nose and leading to extreme dizzy spells that were aggravated each time the team would fly. “It was almost like a drunk feeling without having anything to drink, that’s the best description,” said Plawecki. The soon-to-be 25-year-old figures to serve as the primary backup to Travis d’Arnaud for the Mets this season and would step into a starting role in the event that d’Arnaud’s injury problems persist.
The Reds announced that they have designated right-hander Jason Marquis for assignment today (Twitter link). The move paves the way for the team to select the contract of right-hander Jon Moscot, who will start tonight’s game versus the Padres. Additionally, Cincinnati has placed righty Raisel Iglesias on the disabled list with an oblique strain and recalled right-handed reliever Pedro Villarreal from Triple-A Louisville in his place.
The veteran Marquis won a spot in Cincinnati’s rotation this spring when Tony Cingrani was somewhat unexpectedly shifted to the bullpen. While Cingrani has been one of the team’s more effective relievers in terms of ERA, Marquis has not experienced success in the rotation.
Marquis, 36, has totaled a 6.46 ERA in 47 1/3 innings with the Reds across nine starts. Though his 7.0 K/9 rate and 2.7 BB/9 rate are both markedly better than his career numbers in those categories, Marquis has been very homer-prone. He’s also seen his typically excellent ground-ball rate dip back to about the league average, so the increase in the percentage of fly-balls against him that leave the yard has been magnified by the fact that he’s giving up fly-balls at a higher rate in previous years.
The 23-year-old Moscot entered the season ranked 20th among Cincinnati farmhands by both Baseball America and Fangraphs, while MLB.com was a bit more optimistic, ranking him 14th. The consensus among the three scouting reports is that Moscot has a fifth starter’s ceiling thanks to four average pitches. BA notes that he lacks a true plus pitch, and while he has better pure stuff than former Reds farmhand Ben Lively (who was traded to the Phillies in exchange for Marlon Byrd), Lively misses far more bats due to better deception on the mound. FG’s Kiley McDaniel notes that while fifth starter is the upside, the Reds should be pleased if he turns out as a middle reliever or long man as well.
Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco did not travel with the team and instead remained in Cincinnati to undergo an MRI on his hip, tweets John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Catcher Kyle Skipworth will fill in for the time being, as he’s had his contract selected from Triple-A, the Reds announced. (A corresponding 40-man move will happen prior to tonight’s game.) The Reds entered the season with quite a few injury question marks, but Mesoraco was not thought to be one. Clearly, losing Mesoraco for any significant amount of time would be crushing for a Cincinnati team that many have already picked to struggle in the NL Central, though it’s too early to tell exactly how great the level of concern surrounding Mesoraco should be.
A few more notes from baseball’s Central divisions…
- Fangraphs’ Craig Edwards breaks down Raisel Iglesias’ debut against the Cardinals yesterday, noting that while the start didn’t alleviate concerns about Iglesias’ ability to work deep into games, he showed enough to suggest that he can get big league hitters out on a consistent basis, even if it ultimately has to come in a relief role. With Homer Bailey nearing a return from the DL, the Reds will have to make a decision between Iglesias and veteran righty Jason Marquis. For the time being, that’s been solved by optioning Iglesias to Louisville, but Edwards wonders if it’d be a better decision to eventually let Iglesias develop at the highest level — a move that would seemingly force Marquis into the bullpen or off the Cincinnati roster.
- Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette spoke to Pirates GM Neal Huntington about the decision to pursue a long-term contract with Josh Harrison. “When you believe in the person and you believe in the abilities of that person, and it aligns with where you want to go, you’re able to find the common ground, it makes all the sense in the world,” Huntington told Brink. As Brink points out, not all deals of this nature work out — he uses Jose Tabata as a particularly regrettable deal for the Pirates — but the cost certainty they provide is valuable. Brink notes that the Bucs will be on the hook for $42.25MM in 2017 — the last guaranteed year of the Andrew McCutchen and Francisco Liriano contracts — for the combined salaries of Harrison, McCutchen, Liriano and Starling Marte.
- Torii Hunter told reporters prior to today’s home opener that the Royals, Mariners, Rangers and Orioles were all interested in him before he made the decision to sign with the Twins, tweets the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ Mike Berardino. The Royals, in particular, seemed to tantalize Hunter, per Berardino: “Those guys going to the World Series, that was very appealing,” Hunter added.