The Cardinals announced earlier today that Trevor Rosenthal has been placed on the 60-day disabled list, and a followup announcement out of St. Louis confirms what many Cardinals fans had feared; general manager Mike Girsch confirmed to reporters that Rosenthal has suffered a tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and will undergo Tommy John surgery next week (Twitter link via Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch).
Rosenthal’s placement on the 60-day DL already ended his season — a critical blow to a team that is still in the mix for both a division title and an NL Wild Card spot — but the prognosis of a torn UCL may now also spell the end of his time as a member of the Cardinals organization entirely. Rosenthal will almost certainly miss all of the 2018 campaign, and even if the Cardinals hold out faint hope that he can return for the final month next year, he’ll still be non-tendered rather than given a raise on this year’s $6.4MM salary.
The 27-year-old Rosenthal struggled through a down year in 2016 but was tendered a contract for the 2017 campaign anyhow, and he’d largely righted the ship this year. While he had a rocky stretch in mid-to-late June, Rosenthal had burst out of the gates in the season’s second half, firing 14 1/3 innings with just three earned runs allowed and a scintillating 23-to-4 K/BB ratio. Of those three earned runs he surrendered, two came in his final outing of the year (and possibly his final appearance as a Cardinal); Rosenthal allowed a leadoff homer to Xander Bogaerts and walked Mitch Moreland before being pulled from the game.
Rosenthal’s agent, Scott Boras, will now find himself in a similar position to the one he faced with Greg Holland two years ago. Like Holland, Rosenthal is a well-regarded high-leverage reliever that will undergo Tommy John surgery late in the regular season. (Holland’s surgery was performed at the end of September in 2015.) Rosenthal and Boras could seek some kind of backloaded two-year contract this winter, which would allow the righty to rehab with a new organization before hopefully being healthy enough to take the field in 2019.
Alternatively, Rosenthal could opt not to sign a contract at all this winter. That’s the route that Holland took following his own Tommy John procedure, as he opted not to sign in the 2015-16 winter before hosting multiple showcases/workouts for interested teams when he was back to full strength in the 2016-17 offseason.