The Pirates designated left-hander Steven Brault for assignment before the lockout began, with Brault electing free agency shortly thereafter. The rebuilding club could feasibly re-sign Brault and fit him into their plans for 2022, but Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic doesn’t think that’s likely. He quotes general manager Ben Cherington as saying he’ll “keep the door open” to bringing the lefty back, but that “The health has gotten in the way the last couple of years.”
Brault missed about a month in 2019 with a shoulder strain but managed to stay healthy for the shortened 2020 campaign. Over those two seasons, he threw 156 innings with a 4.67 ERA, seeming like a decent rotation piece for a rebuilding club to have on hand. Unfortunately, 2021 wasn’t kind to the southpaw, as he spent much of the season on the IL and only made seven starts in the big leagues. He’s still only 29 years old, turning 30 in April, meaning another team could give him a chance to log some innings and show his health, even if it might not be the Pirates. He has between four and five years’ service time, which means a team that signs him and sees him round back into form could control him through 2023, as long as the service time rules remain unchanged in the next CBA.
More news from the Central divisions…
- Much like Brault, Reds prospect Nick Lodolo also had an injury-plagued season in 2021. The 23-year-old was only able to make 13 starts between Double-A and Triple-A this year due to a blister as well as a shoulder strain. However, he seems to be on track for a healthy start to 2022, according to Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer. He spoke to Reds farm director Shawn Pender, who says he reached out to Lodolo about two weeks ago “just to check in, say hello and how are you doing. He says, ’Gosh, I feel great. I guess all that strength and conditioning helped me, and the time off. I feel really up to the task of coming back ready to go,’ so that’s all been positive.” That’s surely good news for Reds fans, as Lodolo could be an important contributor in 2022, if healthy. The 7th overall selection of the 2019 draft, Lodolo is one of the most highly-touted prospects in the game, being ranked as the 89th-best prospect in baseball by FanGraphs, coming in at #31 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 and 23rd on Baseball America’s list. The Reds’ rotation has a strong front three in Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray and Tyler Mahle, but all three have been frequently mentioned in trade rumors in recent months, as the Reds are apparently looking to reduce payroll. If those rumors prove true and any of that trio is moved, it would enhance the likelihood of Lodolo being able to make the jump to the big leagues in the coming season.
- Terry Francona stepped away from his managerial duties in Cleveland at the end of July to undergo a hip replacement and foot surgery, leaving DeMarlo Hale in charge for the latter parts of the 2021 campaign. Paul Hoynes of cleveland.com provides an update, saying that Francona “should be off crutches in the next few weeks.” In September, team president Chris Antonetti said “We continue to plan looking at ’22 with Tito as our manager. If at some point that changes, we’re going to have to reconsider and relook at things at that point. But we have no reason to think that will be the case.” Based on this most recent update, it appears everything is still on track for Francona to return to health and to the dugout in 2022.