With the deadline approaching quickly, teams will be forced to make tough decisions. Health issues will play a large role in complicating those decisions. In some cases, when a player is known to be out for the entire season, acting decisively to find a replacement makes clear sense. But there are plenty of unresolved health issues throughout the game that will likely have significant impacts on a team’s approach to the deadline. Teams will be gathering information on internal players and on possible targets; here are a few players whose uncertain health status will be watched closely:
Carson Smith & Eduardo Rodriguez, Red Sox: While Pablo Sandoval is nominally on the DL, and perhaps still factors into the team’s needs at third base, the real action is in the pitching staff. Smith could yet represent a significant pen arm, but it’s still unclear how much (if at all) he’ll contribute. And while Rodriguez has been excellent, and seems slated to return shortly from the DL, his recurring knee problems could become a major near-term concern.
Matt Andriese, Rays: There have been plenty of suggestions that the Rays could consider dealing a starter — particularly, pending free agent Alex Cobb — even if they’re in contention. But that’d be much harder to do if Andriese isn’t showing clear signs of returning to full health. Even if he is, the club could elect to stand pat, perhaps deciding to use the abundance of starting options to bolster the relief corps rather than spending young talent to get a new bullpen arm.
Greg Bird & Tyler Austin, Yankees: Perhaps the ship has sailed on the Yanks fully relying on Bird in the second half. After all, he struggled when he was available and is dealing with an ankle injury that does not appear to come with a straightforward solution. And it’s unclear just how much stock the Yankees would put in Austin even if he were at full health. Still, the injury signals coming from these two over the next few weeks could impact the Bronx Bombers’ deadline plans, particularly since the organization is clearly looking to avoid parting with significant prospects unless strictly necessary.
J.J. Hardy, Orioles: Chris Davis is on the shelf as well, though the team’s glut of corner options allows them to weather that storm fairly well. It’s another story with Hardy, who is still one to three weeks from even resuming baseball activities. The Orioles have been in a free fall since mid-May, but GM Dan Duquette was maintaining a buyer’s outlook as recently as late June, but more recent suggestions indicated that the team is presently on the fence. If the O’s perform well in the first two weeks coming out of the break, Hardy’s absence creates a potential area of need.
Danny Salazar, Indians: Shoulder issues have significantly limited the talented right-hander, who is working back towards the majors at present. If he can return to full health, Salazar could conceivably get back to providing quality innings from the rotation — or, at least, the bullpen. If not, the team’s possible pitching needs will be all the more clear.
Hector Santiago, Twins: With a somewhat mysterious and lingering back issue, the southpaw is a question mark for Minnesota in the second half. The team is shopping for young starters regardless, but the urgency of that effort — if not also the possibility of considering at least a modest rental investment — could hinge in part upon Santiago’s progress.
Nate Karns, Royals: Kansas City is reportedly looking to augment the back of its rotation, which is likely in no small part due to the fact that the return of Karns is looking less and less likely. The last update on Karns suggested that thoracic outlet surgery may very well be in his future. If he is indeed lost for the season, as lefty Matt Strahm recently was, the Royals’ need to snag a back-of-the-rotation rental becomes more acute.
Dallas Keuchel & Collin McHugh, Astros: The AL West crown is already nearly in hand for Houston, but that doesn’t mean the team is without its needs. The ’Stros have the luxury of looking ahead to the postseason, but still clearly would like to add to the top of the rotation. So long as Keuchel and McHugh are moving back toward the major league mound, the addition of a starter will remain classified as a strong want. But if either (particularly Keuchel) show any worrying signs, the organization will surely feel a much greater urgency to add an arm that can help drive the team through the postseason.
Matt Shoemaker, Angels: Obviously, Mike Trout is of even greater concern. But all indications are that he’s good to go beginning this Friday. For the Angels, deciding whether it’s worth adding to the roster at the deadline could hinge more upon the health of the rotation. Shoemaker will get checked out before hopefully beginning a throwing program within the week; whether he is progressing toward a return will be important to the Halos’ plans. (Honorable mention: Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs, who are on longer-fuse rehab paths.)
Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners: It’s not clear at this point whether Seattle can expect much at all from the veteran down the stretch. Seattle is already without Drew Smyly for the year due to Tommy John surgery. If Iwakuma can’t begin to make his way back from shoulder problems before the deadline –and if the team can hang in the Wild Card hunt over the next two weeks — then pursuit of a starter would make all the more sense.
Keone Kela & Jake Diekman, Rangers: The Texas pen has produced plenty of hand-wringing this year. Ironically, perhaps, the first crack seemed to form with Kela’s stunning demotion to start the year, owing to behavioral issues. But he has been effective since making his way back, pitching his way into consideration for the closer’s role that has been vacated by Sam Dyson and Matt Bush. Now, however, Kela is dealing with shoulder soreness; his status could help dictate the team’s needs over the coming weeks. Diekman is even more of a question mark after surgery to treat ulcerative colits cost him the entire first half. He’s throwing from flat ground as of early July, and a return to the mound would obviously be a potential boon for the Texas relief corps. But, they also can’t fully know how much to expect from him in the second half given the unique nature of his medical status.