Click here for a transcript of tonight’s baseball chat, moderated by MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk
Matt Shoemaker has a torn left ACL that will keep him out of action for the rest of the 2019 season, tweets Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. The Blue Jays right-hander was placed on the 10-day IL earlier today after suffering the injury during Saturday’s game. What was initially thought to be a knee sprain is evidently much worse than expected, and Shoemaker finds himself on the shelf in what seems to be the worst-case scenario.
The diagnosis comes as the latest in a frustrating set of seasons for Shoemaker, who managed just 21 starts in his final two seasons with the Angels. After he was unable to replicate the success that he enjoyed in 2014, his first full Major League season, the 32-year-old signed on with the Blue Jays last winter on a one-year deal, hoping that a change of scenery would coincide with a return to strength and a comeback season.
The news is that much more devastating when considered in context with Shoemaker’s extensive injury history and his early-season success with his new club. Through his first five starts of the young season, Shoemaker impressed his new organization and looked in position to make good on that return to form. His 1.57 ERA was accompanied by impressive peripheral numbers, with his 0.9 HR/9 on par with his best seasons. Unfortunately, though, 2019 will go down as another lost season for the veteran righty.
Of course, the injury is equally disappointing for the Blue Jays, who looked to Shoemaker to provide stability in a rotation that was one of the weakest in the American League last season. Entering the season, there were plenty of questions in the rotation, with Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez both enduring disappointing seasons in 2018 and free-agent signee Clay Buchholz a relative unknown. The depth beyond that group of veterans is comprised of unproven young pitchers, one of whom will now have to step into the rotation in Shoemaker’s absence. Thomas Pannone and Sam Gaviglio, who started 24 games for Toronto in 2018, appear most likely to replace Shoemaker.
Though his contract will expire at season’s end, Shoemaker is still eligible for arbitration, so the Blue Jays will have priority to keep the hurler around for next season if both parties are interested, though his contractual status is surely the last thing on Shoemaker’s mind following his injury.
Here’s the latest from around the American League…
- In an interview with Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (link to Bowden’s Twitter feed), Athletics GM David Forst said that Matt Olson is expected back in the lineup within the next two weeks. Olson underwent surgery to move his hamate bone from his right hand back on March 22, and while no timeline was given, MLBTR’s Jeff Todd noted that players who underwent similar procedures typically were able to return within six-to-eight weeks. If Forst’s projection is correct, that would put Olson on the low end of that time frame, which is good news for the A’s. Olson hit .250/.339/.502 with 53 homers over 876 plate appearances in 2017-18, and also delivered some outstanding defense at first base, earning him a Gold Glove last season.
- The Athletics have been talking to shortstop Marcus Semien about a contract extension, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney writes (subscription required). This isn’t the first time the two sides have discussed a longer-term deal, as Semien and the A’s were known to be talking as far back as July 2017. Since that time, Semien entered into his arbitration years, and is earning $5.9MM this season with one more arb-eligible year before hitting free agency after the 2020 season. He’ll be 30 years old when he reaches free agency, so Semien could potentially be interested in locking down an extension now (as so many players have in the last two months) rather than face a potentially scarce free agent market as a player entering his 30s. Semien posted a career-best 3.7 fWAR in 2018, making some great strides in his defense while delivering another season of slightly below-average (95 wRC+, 96 OPS+) hitting.
- Also from Olney’s piece, he speculates that the Red Sox could become a popular deadline seller if the team continues to falter throughout the season. It’s still very early, of course, and the Sox did just complete a three-game sweep of the AL East-leading Rays. But if Boston did fall out of the pennant race, players who could be free agents in the offseason (i.e. Rick Porcello, Mitch Moreland, and opt-out candidate J.D. Martinez) could all potentially be moved for some needed prospects. Perhaps more importantly, moving some salary could also allow the Sox to get under the maximum luxury tax penalty threshold of $246MM. It would only be a one-year reload for the club, as the Red Sox would look to contend again in 2020 in their final year of team control over Mookie Betts. It doesn’t seem too likely, by the way, that Boston would look to shop Betts, even though he has rebuffed the team’s overtures about a contract extension.
- The Blake Swihart era in Boston came to an unceremonious end on Friday, as the Red Sox dealt Swihart and $500K of international bonus pool money to the Diamondbacks for minor league outfielder Marcus Wilson. The Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato looks back at Swihart’s rocky development through the Sox farm system, which included injuries, multiple position changes, and an inability to truly unlock his heralded hitting potential even in the minors. As highly-touted a prospect as Swihart was, “the organization could never come to a clear consensus on his ability. There was always a disconnect and it existed through multiple regimes in the front office and field staff,” Mastrodonato writes. This manifested itself in a seeming lack of confidence in Swihart as a regular catcher, though Mastrodonato notes if the Sox were going to deploy Swihart at different positions, it was unusual that Swihart wasn’t considered to fill Boston’s third base void prior to the 2017 season.
Brewers infielder Mike Moustakas will try to play through a fracture in the tip of his right ring finger, and is hopeful of avoiding an injured list stint. (Todd Rosiak of Milwaukee Journal Sentinal was among those to report the news.) Moustakas suffered the injury yesterday while fielding a ground ball and left the game after the sixth inning. X-rays were negative, though Moustakas isn’t in the Brewers’ lineup today. The third baseman-turned-second baseman has received mixed reviews at his new position depending on which defensive metric you prefer — the Moose has a +3.9 UZR/150 but minus-2 Defensive Runs Saved over 137 1/3 innings as a second baseman this season. No matter the position, Moustakas has continued to hit, with six homers and a .239/.349/.549 slash line through 83 plate appearances.
Some more from around the NL Central…
- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle and GM Neal Huntington updated the media (including Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) on the status of several injured Bucs players. A collision between Starling Marte and Erik Gonzalez during Friday’s sent both men to the injured list, with Gonzalez on the 60-day IL with a broken collarbone and Marte to the 10-day IL with abdominal wall and quadriceps bruises. While Marte has the shorter timeline on paper, Huntington wasn’t certain when Marte could be back in action. Corey Dickerson isn’t yet ready for a minor league rehab assignment as he recovers from a shoulder strain, while Gregory Polanco (labrum surgery) could potentially make his season debut sometime this week.
- In other Pirates injury news, the team placed catcher Jacob Stallings on the 10-day IL with a cervical neck strain. Stallings’ roster spot will be filled by Einar Diaz, who was activated off the IL after recovering from a virus that sidelined him for two weeks’ worth of Spring Training action.
- Top Reds prospect Nick Senzel is scheduled to play in his first Triple-A game of the season on Tuesday, Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes. Senzel was sidelined late in Spring Training with an ankle injury, so it will end up being roughly a month-long absence for the infielder-turned-center fielder. Senzel has already been playing some extended Spring Training games, and will now return to Triple-A Louisville after posting an .887 OPS in 193 PA at the top minor league level in 2018. The Reds are expected to promote Senzel at some point this season, though they’ll first want to see the 23-year-old get an extended stretch of good health, as Senzel has been plagued by a variety of injuries over the last year.
- The Reds’ starting pitching has looked much better this season than in the last several years, and catcher Tucker Barnhart feels part of the reason for the improvement is an increased focus on analytics. Under new manager David Bell and new pitching coach Derek Johnson, discussions with Reds coaches are “more numbers-driven now,” Barnhart tells Fangraphs’ David Laurila. “They’re more percentage-driven, and more based on exit velocities and probable outcomes. Things like that. I still trust my eyes, but in the back of my mind there are always the percentages of what’s supposed to work. You’d be naive not to fall back on that, especially if you’re stuck calling a pitch.”
The latest minor moves from around baseball….
- The Red Sox have outrighted Erasmo Ramirez to Triple-A, Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe reports (Twitter link). Ramirez was designated for assignment on Friday and had the option of rejecting an outright assignment to become a free agent, so it appears as though the right-hander has decided to remain in the Sox organization after clearing waivers. The 28-year-old signed a minors contract with Boston in the offseason and appeared in one Major League game, though that lone appearance was enough to guarantee Ramirez’s big league salary. As Masslive.com’s Christopher Smith notes, Ramirez’s salary will still count against Boston’s luxury tax calculations for the season. Terms of Ramirez’s guarantee aren’t known, and while it surely isn’t an exorbitant amount, every dollar counts for a Red Sox team that is trying to stay under the $246MM maximum tax penalty threshold.
The Blue Jays have placed righty Matt Shoemaker on the 10-day injured list due to a left knee sprain, as per a club announcement (via Twitter). Infielder Richard Urena has been recalled from Triple-A in a corresponding move.
Shoemaker suffered the injury on Saturday, while participating in a rundown to record the last out of the third inning of Toronto’s 10-1 win over the A’s. The right-hander was replaced by Sam Gaviglio to begin the next inning. Shoemaker is scheduled to undergo an MRI to determine the severity of his injury, and the potential timeframe for his return. A lengthy IL stint could scuttle Shoemaker’s value as a potential deadline trade chip for the rebuilding Blue Jays, given his strong early-season results.
After tossing only 108 2/3 total innings in 2017-18 for the Angels due to multiple forearm problems, Shoemaker had a 1.57 ERA, 7.53 K/9, 51.4% grounder rate, and 2.67 K/BB rate over his first 28 2/3 innings in a Blue Jays uniform. There is certainly some good fortune baked into those results, as Shoemaker’s .335 xwOBA far outweighs his .243 wOBA and he has also received some good batted-ball (.183 BABIP) and strand rate (87.2%) luck. That said, Shoemaker also has a career-best 13.4% swinging strike rate.
One of many highly-touted youngsters in the Padres’ organization, Urias was a consensus top-30 prospect in baseball when he made his big league debut last August. He appeared in just 12 games before a hamstring injury shut him down in September, however, and Urias hit another setback in his Major League career with an extremely slow start at the plate this season. Urias has just two hits in 24 at-bats this season, and has slashed only .083/.241/.125 through 29 plate appearances.
It isn’t a big sample size, to be fair, and that lack of playing time is likely a factor in Urias being optioned to Triple-A. Ian Kinsler has seen the bulk of action at second base this season, leaving Urias as something of a glorified utility infielder, backing up Kinsler, Manny Machado at third base, and Fernando Tatis Jr. at shortstop. Though Kinsler has also struggled in the early going, his track record gives him a leg up on the inexperienced Urias, who can now get some more minor league seasoning. Urias has already proven his worth against minor league pitching (.300/.405/.457 in 568 PA at Triple-A), so this demotion could be a temporary one, if Urias quickly gets his groove back at the plate.
The Mets again appear to have interest in left-hander Gio Gonzalez, Kevin Kernan of the New York Post writes. The Mets are “keeping a close eye on” Gonzalez’s situation, as the southpaw opted out of his minor league contract with the Yankees yesterday, creating a 48-hour window for the Yankees to either add Gonzalez to their 25-man roster or release him.
This isn’t the first time that Gonzalez has been on the Mets’ radar screen, as the Amazins considered signing the veteran hurler in the offseason. Though the Mets and a few other teams were linked to Gonzalez in rumors, the Yankees were “pretty much” the only team to come through with an actual offer, as Gonzalez said last month. That offer was a non-guaranteed deal that would have paid the left-hander $3MM if he had reached the Yankees’ 25-man roster. Despite Luis Severino’s injury, the Yankees seemingly haven’t seen the need to utilize Gonzalez in their pitching staff, and thus it seems as though Gonzalez will hit the open market once more.
As much as the free agent market has been increasingly hostile to veteran players, it was still surprising that Gonzalez wasn’t able to land a Major League contract over the winter. While his peripheral numbers indicated some decline in 2018, the 33-year-old has still been a durable and effective mid-rotation starter for the last nine seasons. Since the start of the 2010 campaign, Gonzalez has posted a 3.49 ERA, 2.37 K/BB rate, and 8.6 K/9 over 1681 1/3 innings for the A’s, Nationals, and Brewers.
Now that the season has begun, however, Gonzalez may have a better shot at a guaranteed deal since teams suffering from early-season pitching woes may be more amenable to such a contract. In the Mets’ case, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported yesterday (Twitter link) that New York is more likely to sign Gonzalez than either Dallas Keuchel or Craig Kimbrel because Gonzalez’s price tag would still be considerably lower than those other two available hurlers. Plus, signing Gonzalez wouldn’t cost the Mets a draft pick, unlike the qualifying offer-rejecting Keuchel and Kimbrel.
Mets starting pitchers have combined for a 5.56 ERA this season, sixth-highest of any team in baseball. Jason Vargas and his 9.58 ERA is the most glaring weak link, though Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard have also struggled, and Steven Matz’s promising early results were stained by a nightmarish outing on Tuesday (six earned runs without a batter retired).
The latest from around the AL East…
- Blake Snell continues to be on pace for a quick return from the 10-day IL, as the Cy Young Award winner told reporters (including Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times) that he felt good following a bullpen session on Saturday. A fractured toe sent Snell to the injured list last week, though the southpaw could potentially be pitch on Wednesday, his first eligible day to be activated. Since the Rays have an off-day on Thursday, however, the team could also wait until Friday to activate Snell, just to make sure the ace is entirely recovered and ready to go. More details could be known on Monday, as manager Kevin Cash said Snell could throw another bullpen that day.
- Dustin Pedroia is also hopeful of a minimum IL stint as he recovers from his latest knee problem, telling media (including Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald) that his injury was “just a weird freak thing” rather than a more serious setback. The Red Sox second baseman explained that his cleat caught in the dirt while he was swinging during Wednesday’s game, leading to an ominous-sounding popping feeling in his knee when it failed to turn along with the rest of his body. Given that knee injuries have limited to Pedroia to just nine games since the start of the 2018 season, he admitted that the pop “more kind of scared me than anything….We’re going to let it calm down for a few days and it should be all right. It just twisted the wrong way.” Given Pedroia’s recent injury history, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Sox wait beyond the 10-day minimum to activate him from the IL. In the opinion of Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe, the team should give Pedroia more minor league rehab time before his return, as Pedroia had only a four-day stay in the minors during his first rehab stint this season and looked shaky at the plate once he reached Boston’s MLB roster.
- Speculation continues to swirl over when Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will be promoted to the Blue Jays’ roster, now that more than enough days have elapsed on the service-time calendar for the Jays to gain an extra year of control over the star prospect. Guerrero was slowed by an oblique injury suffered during Spring Training, though he hasn’t looked any worse for wear in his return to the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons, posting a whopping 1.324 OPS over his first 20 plate appearances. The Jays would like to see Guerrero play in three consecutive games as part of his recovery process, though as MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm notes, this has yet to happen due to multiple rainouts on Buffalo’s schedule. Assuming the Bisons get some good weather on their four-game series in Syracuse this week, Chisholm speculates that April 26 would seem to be the earliest potential date for Guerrero’s Toronto debut, when the Blue Jays begin a series against the Athletics at Rogers Centre.
The Rays have placed outfielder Austin Meadows on the 10-day injured list due to a sprained right thumb. This was one of a series of roster moves made by the club this morning, as Tampa Bay also activated utilityman Joey Wendle from the IL, optioned righty Jake Faria to Triple-A, and called up utilityman Andrew Velazquez and right-hander Emilio Pagan. Right-hander Hunter Wood has also been placed on the paternity list.
Meadows’ status is the headline from this bunch of items, as the 23-year-old has been a major contributor to the Rays’ early run to the top of the AL East. Meadows has hit a blistering .351/.422/.676 with six homers over 83 plate appearances this season, showing the potential that made him one of the game’s top prospects coming up in the Pirates’ farm system. Pittsburgh dealt Meadows, Tyler Glasnow, and prospect Shane Baz to the Rays for Chris Archer last July in a trade that is already looking like a major success for Tampa, given how Meadows and Glasnow have excelled in 2019.
While losing Meadows is a blow, Wendle is a more than solid replacement in the corner outfield slots. Wendle was a breakout star in his own right in 2018, hitting .300/.354/.435 over 545 PA to earn a fourth-place finish in AL Rookie Of The Year voting. Wendle only appeared in four games this year before hitting the IL due to a hamstring strain, which opened the door for Brandon Lowe to blossom as the everyday second baseman.
The Rays’ penchant for lineup flexibility will likely mean that Wendle sees time all over the diamond, and while the bulk of his experience is as an infielder, Wendle did start 13 games in left field last season. Velazquez is also likely to see some time in the corner outfield positions, as well as providing further depth behind Kevin Kiermaier in center field.