While the Royals have spoken to Martin Maldonado since learning they’d be without Salvador Perez for the 2019 season due to Tommy John surgery, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman tweets that there’s “a gap” between the two sides, adding that Kansas City decision-makers aren’t optimistic of agreeing to terms. Maldonado surprisingly remains unsigned despite long standing out as one of baseball’s premier defenders behind the dish; given that the Seattle Times’ Ryan Divish reported late last month that the holdup between Maldonado and the Mariners was simply that Maldonado was holding out for a Major League deal, it’s difficult to imagine any gap being all that sizable. Still, it appears Kansas City is content to proceed with the inexperienced duo of Cam Gallagher and Meibrys Viloria behind the dish with Perez on the shelf, leaving Maldonado in search of another fit.
Elsewhere in the AL Central…
- Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer provides an update on a trio of important Indians injury situations: those to outfielder Bradley Zimmer, right-hander Danny Salazar and shortstop Francisco Lindor. Zimmer, recovering from surgery on his throwing shoulder, will begin throwing to the bases this week, per manager Terry Francona. Salazar, also recovering from shoulder surgery, is playing catch from 120 feet, while Lindor is taking grounders and batting practice but not yet moving laterally while he rehabs a calf strain. Lindor, among the game’s best players when healthy, is obviously the most crucial of the bunch, but both Zimmer and Salazar could be key contributors with a return to health. Cleveland’s outfield mix looks perilously thin at present, with Leonys Martin, Greg Allen and Tyler Naquin likely in line as starters (with Jake Bauers a possibility as well, depending on whether Hanley Ramirez makes the roster as a DH). Zimmer, a former first-round pick and elite prospect, could provide a substantial boost if he can tap into his potential. As for Salazar, the hard-throwing starter-turned-reliever carries major upside for an unproven mix of Cleveland bullpen options, though his shoulder has prevented him from pitching since late September of 2017.
- Tigers Rule 5 pick Reed Garrett, selected out of the Rangers’ organization, is vying for one of what could be as few as two open bullpen spots, writes Chris McCosky of the Detroit News. Each of Shane Greene, Joe Jimenez, Blaine Hardy and Drew VerHagen seem likely to land spots, and righty Victor Alcantara seems a safe assumption as well given a solid 30-inning showing last season. VerHagen and fellow right-hander Buck Farmer are both out of minor league options, which could play into the ultimate structuring of the team’s bullpen, as well. McCosky chatted with Garrett and catcher John Hicks about the right-hander’s arsenal and the rapid manner in which he improved his profile — transforming from a struggling starter in 2016 to a somewhat unexpected breakout star at Double-A and Triple-A in 2018. Last year, between those two levels, Garrett worked to a combined 2.04 ERA with 8.9 K/9 against 2.9 BB/9 and a 50 percent ground-ball rate in 61 2/3 innings. Garrett attributes his ascension to added muscle and velocity as well as the adoption of a splitter after he’d originally struggled to succeed with a sinker/slider combination. Detroit successfully carried seldom-used Rule 5 outfielder Victor Reyes on the 25-man roster all last season, and given the status of their ongoing rebuild, it’s plausible that they could do the same with Garrett in 2019.