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As expected, Reds starter Homer Bailey underwent Tommy John surgery today, as MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reports. Though his previously-repaired flexor mass tendon apepared in good shape, Bailey’s UCL was determined to be completely torn, leaving little in the way of options to avoid surgery.
- Likewise, Rays righty Alex Cobb was found to have a fully torn UCL, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports, meaning he too was virtually assured to require a TJ procedure. Cobb says the best-case scenario would have him return late in 2016. Fellow Tampa hurler Matt Moore has continued to build his way back from his own UCL replacement, with MLB.com’s Bill Chastain reporting that Moore was able to throw all of his pitches in a live BP session. Moore says he is targeting a mid-June return to the big league bump.
- Though his shoulder has shown some evidence of progress, Rangers lefty Derek Holland will wait an additional two weeks before he begins throwing, as Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets. Though Texas has enjoyed a somewhat surprising contribution from its starting staff (3.71 ERA, 9th in baseball), peripherals suggest that some regression is forthcoming. Regardless, Holland’s health is critical to the club, both this year and — perhaps even more so — in the future.
- Orioles catcher Matt Wieters is set to catch seven innings tomorrow as he continues to work fully back from Tommy John surgery, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets. Wieters’ ability to return to health and productivity will go a long way toward determining his free agent earning power next winter, of course. It will also tell on Baltimore’s ability to compete for a postseason slot, though replacement Caleb Joseph has been a revelation.
- The Mariners appear unlikely to see righty Hisashi Iwakuma return until early June, at the soonest, per Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. Manager Lloyd McClendon says that Iwakuma is “probably still two to three weeks from going out [on a rehab assignment]” and will then need to throw a few outings before making it back to the big leagues. As with Wieters, Iwakuma needs to get healthy and show that he can continue to be effective in order to bolster his open market case. The scuffling Mariners, meanwhile, are not only firmly in need of his services, but also must assess whether they will be in the market for rotation help over the summer.
- Red Sox outfielder Hanley Ramirez is not likely to need a DL stint for his left shoulder sprain, manager John Farrell tells Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). Boston seems to have dodged a bullet with the injury situation, as the club can ill afford an extended absence from the player who has paced the club in hitting thus far.
Here’s the latest from the game’s western divisions:
- Dodgers utilityman Alex Guerrero, fresh off a National League rookie-of-the-month award, has already drawn trade interest, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. But Los Angeles is not quite ready to act on its obvious glut of options in the corner outfield and around the diamond. That over-abundance of quality utility-type options has long been apparent — Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times talked about it with me in length on the MLBTR Podcast a few weeks back — but the team has managed to spread playing time thus far. As Rosenthal notes, however, the time is probably coming where the club will need to strongly consider dealing from its depth.
- Truly, the depth that the Dodgers have compiled at the corner outfield, second, and third is a thing to behold. In addition to Guerrero, Justin Turner and Scott Van Slyke are both mashing in the early going. With Andre Ethier also hitting, Howie Kendrick locked in at second, and Juan Uribe still available at third, the impending return of Yasiel Puig will create yet more lineup pressure. Carl Crawford‘s own DL stint has freed things up somewhat in the meantime, but it still seems apparent that something will ultimately have to give. (And that’s all before considering shuttle players like Enrique Hernandez, Chris Heisey, and Darwin Barney.) Of course, this certainly rates in the category of a good problem to have, as many of the above-named players could profile as significant trade pieces should the Dodgers look to add arms over the summer.
- Brad Miller appears to be moving off of the shortstop position for the Mariners in at least a semi-permanent manner, as Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports. Skipper Lloyd McClendon said that he envisions Miller taking on a Ben Zobrist-like super-utility role. While Miller himself did not sound too pleased with the move, he also expressed a determination to handle the shift professionally. Of course, while Chris Taylor will presumably receive a lot of time at short, it remains to be seen precisely how Miller will slot into the rest of the team’s picture. Second and third base are not exactly positions where Seattle will be looking to utilize a time share, and the club already has left-handed-hitting corner outfield options in Dustin Ackley and Seth Smith.
- With Coco Crisp nearing a return for the Athletics, that raises a tough question regarding speedy young outfielder Billy Burns, as Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. Burns is off to a hot start at the plate and has been a dynamic presence for a team that is off to a 12-16 start. As Slusser explains, the decision will not come down to whether to keep Burns on the roster or make a move with the struggling Craig Gentry. Instead, it is really a matter of deciding what to do with Rule 5 pick Mark Canha — a power bat who is off to a strong start and must be kept on the active roster or placed on waivers. As always, the Oakland roster is loaded with potential scenarios, and Slusser breaks them all down in the piece.
The Rangers have claimed lefty Mike Kickham off waivers from the Mariners, club executive VP of communications John Blake announced. Outfielder Ryan Rua was transferred to the 60-day DL to create space.
Per the release, Kickham will be optioned to Triple-A to start his tenure with Texas. The 26-year-old has struggled badly with his control in the early going this year, issuing 28 walks in just 21 innings for Triple-A Tacoma.
With the Rangers, Kickham will have a chance to get back to being the swingman option he was earlier in his career with the Giants. He has 30 1/3 big league innings under his belt, all with San Francisco, over which he struck out thirty hitters while walking eleven. But the long ball has proved problematic thus far, as nine batters have left the yard against Kickham in his brief MLB time.
Kickham, 26, was added in a minor deal with the Cubs this January. He has seen limited MLB action with the Giants, but did not crack the Seattle roster. Through 21 innings over five starts at Triple-A Tacoma, he had worked to a 7.29 ERA with just 5.1 K/9 against a troubling 12.0 BB/9.
Meanwhile, the Mariners will give the southpaw Beimel another shot at the bigs. He was a pleasant surprise to the team last year, but couldn’t find a major league deal and only rejoined the M’s after being released by the Rangers. Likewise, Taylor was quite useful last year — he posted 1.5 WAR in just 151 plate appearances — and figures to share time with Brad Miller.
The Rangers are off to an 8-16 start this season, and GM Jon Daniels says that while some minor changes could be made this week, the team is “not going to going to wait too much longer before we consider mixing it up further,” writes Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Daniels didn’t specify what would constitute a more significant shakeup, but Grant speculates on three scenarios: demoting second baseman Rougned Odor, benching a struggling “core” player (i.e. Elvis Andrus) and/or replacing hitting instructor Dave Magadan.
Here’s more from the AL West…
- The Mariners last night announced the demotions of righty Yoervis Medina and lefty Tyler Olson to Triple-A Tacoma, and while no official word has been released on the corresponding roster moves that will follow, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports that signs point to Chris Taylor and Joe Beimel joining the club. Taylor was batting Brad Miller for the everyday shortstop role in Spring Training before a fractured wrist sidelined him for four to six weeks. He’s hitting .313/.385/.475 in Triple-A this season and could either serve as a platoon partner for the lefty-swinging Miller or eventually push him for more regular playing time. Beimel inked a Minor League pact in April after unsuccessfully holding out for a more lucrative big league deal this winter. Beimel isn’t on the 40-man roster, so a 40-man move will need to be made, though I’d imagine that could entail simply moving southpaw Edgar Olmos to the 60-day DL, as he’s already been on the 15-day DL since March 30.
- In the latest edition of his 10 Degrees column, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan notes that Angels righty Jered Weaver‘s fastball is averaging an alarming 83-84 mph (depending on whether one uses Baseball Info Solutions’ data or Brooks Baseball). Either way, the concern over his fastball is justified, as Passan points out that 120 of the 122 pitchers that throw four-seam fastballs have an average velocity higher than Weaver’s peak velocity of 87.81 mph this year. Weaver is averaging just 3.9 K/9 and has whiffed three or fewer hitters in all but one of his starts this season, en route to a 6.29 ERA. “Reinvention is the only way to save Weaver,” Passan opines, unless he, like righties Mike Pelfrey and Chris Young before him, is experiencing such a precipitous decline due to injury. (Young, like Weaver, never threw particularly hard in the first place and may be a more apt comparison.)
- Struggles in the Athletics‘ bullpen have the team pondering roster moves, writes Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. One option is switch-pitcher Pat Venditte, who has performed well at Triple-A since signing a Minor League deal this offseason. However, he’s not on the 40-man roster, and space is tight after claiming Alex Hassan off waivers for a staggering third time in the past several months. Slusser writes that when first baseman Nate Freiman is activated from the DL later this month, the team may try to sneak him through waivers to remove him from the 40-man but keep him in the organization. She also notes that southpaw Drew Pomeranz could be bullpen-bound when Jarrod Parker is activated from the DL and reinserted into the rotation.
- I’ll add a note on the surprising division leaders — the 18-7 Astros. Houston is the only club in the AL West with a record above .500 and, as the Chronicle’s Evan Drellich pointed out (Twitter link), they now rank as probables to make the playoffs looking at both Fangraphs’ and Baseball Prospectus’ postseason odds. However, outside of the excellent work provided by Collin McHugh and Dallas Keuchel, the team has received a collective 5.05 ERA from Scott Feldman, Sam Deduno, Brad Peacock, Asher Wojciechowski and Roberto Hernandez in the final three spots in the rotation. Given the club’s early lead, Brett Oberholtzer‘s health and the struggles of Dan Straily at Triple-A, I’d wonder if the ‘Stros would be open to pursuing an early rotation upgrade in an attempt to make their grip on the division more sustainable. Few teams are actively selling pieces this early in the season, but the Brewers are reportedly open to trade proposals, and Houston could look to clubs that have more serviceable arms than slots in the rotation. Given the lack of quality innings at the back of the Astros’ rotation, the team needn’t add an elite arm in order to acquire a significant upgrade. While this is all speculation, history has shown GM Jeff Luhnow to be aggressive on the trade market. Names like Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza and Dillon Gee have all been floated on the rumor mill lately, and it’s not hard to envision the Rays soon having a surplus of arms once Alex Cobb and, eventually, Matt Moore are healthy. For Astros fans that really want to dream big, the argument could be made that there is in Houston both the need and the means (in terms of prospects and finances) to take on a significant portion of Cole Hamels‘ contract, though the asking price could very well exceed Houston’s comfort level.
Mariners outfielder Carlos Quentin confirms that he will retire from the game, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports in a series of tweets. Quentin had been playing with Seattle’s top affiliate since inking a minor league deal, but left Tacoma last night.
Quentin, 32, has $8MM left on the deal that he originally signed with the Padres. San Diego shipped him to the Braves just before the start of the season, of course, as part of the salary swaps included in the Craig Kimbrel deal. Atlanta cut him loose in short order, eating the remainder of that contract.
The route being pursued currently would see Quentin retain his rights to that guaranteed money. Atlanta would have been able to earn some relief had Quentin continued playing, though that amount would not have exceeded the pro-rated portion of the Major League minimum salary.
The Mariners will technically grant Quentin his release, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (via Twitter), but that’s little more than semantics. Heyman notes that Quentin’s injuries will no longer allow him to play, which is the reason for his departure from Tacoma and his decision to retire.
The Mariners had hoped that Quentin would re-establish himself as a viable part-time bat, though obviously the team was not relying on that outcome and essentially took on no financial risk in signing him. Between 2008 and 2013, Quentin slashed a robust .260/.356/.503 with 136 long balls. But he has been slowed by injuries in recent seasons, making only 815 total plate appearances in that stretch.
Quentin confirmed in the press release that physical issues drove the decision to retire. “Over the past several days, it became clear to me that my injuries have taken too great of a physical toll for me to be able to perform at the level I expect from myself,” he explained. “As a result, I believe it is the right time for me to walk away and to refocus my energy on the next chapter of my life with my family.”
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Lefty Joe Saunders has opted out of his minor league deal with the Mariners, Triple-A Tacoma announcer Mike Curto reports on Twitter. The 33-year-old will head onto the open market in search of a more favorable situation.
Saunders, a starter for virtually all of his career, had been throwing from the pen for the Rainiers. He allowed seven earned runs in 11 frames, but did strike out a healthy number of batters (12) while issuing just four walks.
Over a decade in the bigs, Saunders has racked up over a thousand frames of 4.37 ERA ball. But he has struggled in his last two seasons, including a 32-start run in Seattle in 2013 when he managed only a 5.26 earned run average. The 42 innings that Saunders threw last year for the Rangers and Orioles were even less successful.
10:50pm: Heyman adds, via Twitter, that the Orioles are not in the mix for Saltalamacchia.
10:05pm: The Diamondbacks, Rays and Royals are all discussing Saltalamacchia, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. It’s unclear if Kansas City’s interest has picked up at all between McCullough’s report and this latest update, though the Rays and certainly the D-Backs would seem to have a bigger need behind the dish. Like MacPherson yesterday, Heyman hears that the Red Sox aren’t in the mix.
4:14pm: The Royals have some interest in Saltalamacchia, but their interest is said to be very preliminary, according to Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star (on Twitter). As McCullough notes, GM Dayton Moore was the Braves’ director of player development when Atlanta drafted Saltalamacchia.
APRIL 27: The Marlins have already had contact with five teams regarding Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports on Twitter. GM Dan Jennings says that he expects to find a deal for the just-designated backstop.
Among the potential landing spots are the Red Sox, Indians, Mariners, and Diamondbacks, one source tells ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (Twitter link). According to other reports, however, Boston is “unlikely” to be interested in adding the 29-year-old, as Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal tweets, even if it were able to add him for just the league minimum.
Saltalamacchia thrived in Boston, slashing a combined .243/.307/.455 during his four seasons there. Since earning a large free agent payday to join the Marlins last year, Saltalamacchia owns a fairly disapointing .209/.310/.351 line at the plate. That output, while still not bad for a catcher, was not enough to outweigh his lightly-regarded defensive work.
Nevertheless, Salty remains an interesting option for teams looking for a backup or injury replacement (as the above list would indicate). The switch hitter has been much more productive historically against right-handed pitching (.775 career OPS) and makes for a natural platoon mate for any right-handed swinging backstop.
Prior to being hired as the Diamondbacks‘ general manager, Dave Stewart reached out to Dusty Baker to let him know that he may have interest in Baker as a manager if he were to get the GM role, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. However, Baker never heard back from Stewart before the D-Backs hired Chip Hale. Baker said he has no hard feelings about not getting an interview. Stewart told Heyman that he does indeed have a good deal of respect for both Baker and former Rangers manager Ron Washington, both of whom he initially considered for the managerial vacancy. Baker tells Heyman that he hopes to manage again, and Heyman notes that he has applied to three positions, including the Mariners, Tigers and Nationals since being let go from the Reds. “I didn’t fire myself,” said Baker. “I didn’t retire.”
Here’s more from out west …
- The Dodgers have now acquired and designated no fewer than four relievers, and have made a host of other minor roster moves in the season’s early going. That has all taken place as part of the club’s plan entering the season, manager Don Mattingly explains (video via the Tout feed of J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles Media Group).
- Padres righty Josh Johnson tossed a 40-pitch pen session today and is nearing a rehab stint, manager Bud Black tells MLB.com’s Corey Brock (Twitter link). The 31-year-old has not made a major league appearance since 2013, but represents some nice low-risk upside for an a San Diego club that is off to a nice start.
- The Mariners have struggled somewhat with keeping runs off the board, a subject that I discussed with Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune on today’s podcast. In addition to starting poorly, veteran Hisashi Iwakuma has hit the DL with shoulder fatigue (officially called a strained lat), as Dutton reports. He will undergo an MRI tonight, though the hope is that some rest will do the trick. Of course, Iwakuma is also a free agent after the season, and he’ll have some catching up to do to re-establish his value at age 34.
MLBPA executive director Tony Clark is said to be “ready to reach out to [Kris] Bryant soon to determine his mindset” on whether or not a grievance should be filed against the Cubs for holding him in Triple-A to start the season, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports in his latest Inside Baseball column. Heyman notes that the union could file a grievance on Bryant’s behalf even without his consent, though that’s unlikely. The issue at hand, of course, would be whether or not Bryant was clearly one of Chicago’s 25 best players and the demotion was made purely for service time implications. (Chicago bought an extra year of control over Bryant by stashing him in the Minors for all of eight games/11 days). Heyman points out that it would be difficult to an arbitrator to rule in Bryant’s favor, as there’s no precedent for this type of grievance. Players in similar situations have historically been hesitant to file a grievance, he adds, because it would be a contentious way to begin a relationship with a team to which a player will be tied for the next six-plus years. A “Cubs connected person” called the notion of a grievance “laughable” when asked by Heyman. However, the points that Bryant was recalled on the first day the team could add him while still delaying free agency and slotted directly into the cleanup spot could make a case that the club had an understanding of his value, Heyman writes. From the union’s perspective, it’s understandable that they’d have interest in preventing this type of situation in the future, even if it’s a long shot.
More highlights from a lengthy Heyman column…
- The Padres don’t yet view Melvin Upton Jr. as a throwaway piece and will use him as an occasional outfielder and pinch-runner, Heyman writes. He also looks back on Upton’s original five-year, $75.2MM pact and notes that it’s one of the worst contracts in recent history, particularly given the fact that the next-highest offer was believed to come from the Phillies at somewhere in the $40MMs.
- The league’s investigation into the Rays‘ allegations of the Cubs‘ tampering in the Joe Maddon saga could come to a close as soon as next week, per Heyman. MLB was still interviewing people as recently as last week, but to this point there “is believed to have been no smoking guns found.”
- The Reds never approached right-hander Mike Leake about a contract extension this offseason, and the free-agent-to-be is said to be a bit hurt not to have been contacted. Leake’s not a front-line starter, but he’ll hit the open market heading into his age-28 season and currently sports a 3.56 ERA in 427 1/3 innings dating back to Opening Day 2013. A third straight season of 190+ innings and an ERA in the mid-3.00s should position him for a nice contract, especially considering the fact that half of his starts have come in the hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park.
- Multiple teams have worked out Rafael Soriano, and while he’s on the Tigers‘ radar, there’s also been some contact with the Mariners. Heyman adds the Pirates, Indians and Dodgers as “logical suitors,” though I’d imagine the Pirates and Indians in particular would have some payroll constraints, depending on the asking price of agent Scott Boras.
- Heyman echoes ESPN’s Buster Olney in speculating that the Dodgers could make a run at extending Howie Kendrick, noting that the Dodgers love Kendrick both on the field and in the clubhouse. He also notes that the Dodgers are impressed with Alex Guerrero‘s bat and may coming around on him as a passable option at third base or in left field, though the team is already well-stocked at each position.
- The Pirates and Gregory Polanco may have come as close as about $1MM on agreeing to a seven-year contract, Heyman hears. The biggest holdup was over the three club options on the deal, which ranged from $11-13MM, and when the team would have been required to exercise them.
- Though recent reports have indicated that John Lackey hopes the Cardinals will approach him about an extension, Heyman writes that it’s not a likely scenario. St. Louis likes its pitching depth and the young starters in line beyond those in the 2015 rotation.
- The Orioles asked the Blue Jays for both of the team’s first round picks from the 2014 draft — right-hander Jeff Hoffman and catcher Max Pentecost — in exchange for the ability to hire EVP/general manager Dan Duquette as their new president, according to Heyman.
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