Twins right-hander Tyler Mahle will undergo Tommy John surgery, manager Rocco Baldelli announced to reporters Thursday (Twitter link via Do-Hyoung Park of MLB.com). Mahle, who’s scheduled to become a free agent at season’s end, will miss the remainder of the 2023 campaign and the early portion of the 2024 season as well.
It’s a brutal blow for a Twins team that traded three prospects to acquire the final year-plus of Mahle’s arbitration eligibility at last summer’s trade deadline. The 28-year-old Mahle has pitched well for the Twins when healthy, notching a 3.64 ERA in nine starts, but shoulder troubles limited him to just four appearances post-trade last year and he’s now done for the season in 2023 after just five starts. Given his impending free agency, it could spell the end of Mahle’s time with the team entirely — hardly what the front office had in mind when sending Spencer Steer, Christian Encarnacion-Strand and Steven Hajjar to Cincinnati in that swap.
There’s still the possibility that the Twins could try to work out some type extension that’d keep Mahle in Minnesota beyond the current season. They’ve previously shown a willingness to work out that type of deal with pitchers rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Michael Pineda’s original two-year, $20MM free-agent deal with the Twins was signed knowing he’d miss the bulk of that first year recovering from a Tommy John operation. Minnesota also extended right-hander Chris Paddack — another trade acquisition who wound up requiring Tommy John — on a three-year deal earlier this year. Paddack won’t return until this summer.
Regardless of where things go with Mahle’s contract status, his injury leaves an unquestionable hole in the Twins’ rotation. Minnesota is deeper in starting pitching this season than at any point in recent memory, but Mahle will now join Kenta Maeda on the injured list. Right-handers Bailey Ober and Louie Varland began the season with Triple-A St. Paul and might well have been guaranteed rotation spots with many other clubs, given their 2022 success. They’ll both likely be locked into the Twins’ starting staff now, following a strong trio of Pablo Lopez, Joe Ryan and Sonny Gray.
Further injuries to the group could truly begin to test the Twins’ depth. Prospects Simeon Woods Richardson and Brent Headrick have had tough starts in St. Paul — though Headrick excelled in a brief big league look — and former top prospect Jordan Balazovic is just now moving back into a starting role after his 2022 season was ruined by a knee injury. Prospects Josh Winder and Cole Sands were rotation options last year in Minnesota, but both have been primarily working out of the bullpen in 2023.
As it stands, the Twins’ starting five still looks like a strong group. Ober has been brilliant in 2023 (0.98 ERA and 18 1/3 innings through three starts) and now boasts a career 3.51 ERA in 166 2/3 MLB frames. Varland has a 4.32 ERA through three turns and, paired with last year’s handful of starts in his debut season, carries a 4.01 ERA in 42 2/3 big league innings. The previously mentioned Paddack isn’t yet ready to join the group, but he’s nearing the one-year anniversary of his own Tommy John operation. He could be ready for a return mid-summer, and the team is also hopeful that Maeda can avoid a prolonged stint on the injured list — though they’ve not yet placed a hard timetable on his return.
Boycott the pitch clock
Boycott the pitch
Curly Was The Smart Stooge
Throw the clock out the window and watch time fly by
This trade blew up in the Twins face. You can’t predict this at the time of the trade. Steer and Encarnación-Strand to the Reds hurts the Twins quite a bit in hindsight.
And that fact may be what compels them to offer Mahle an extension to avoid having nothing to show whatsoever from that trade.
@solaris602: When I was a young man playing poker we used to call that throwing good money after bad. Most of the time it proved not to be a good idea.
Steer? The guy with the 93 OPS+? How exactly is he hurting the Twins by being gone? And the other guy has yet to even face big league pitching. There have been far more players in history that tore up AAA arms and did jack in the majors. It COULD hurt the Twins in the long run, but it hasn’t done anything yet.
Encarnacion-Strand is looking great in the minors but yeah, I’m not really missing Steer right now.
I’m a believer in CES but that BB% is brutal particularly along with that K%.
This is his rookie year, and he has a 97 OPS+ and a 0.4 bWAR.in roughly 1/5th of a season.
Yep. And he is doing that on a bad team. On a contending team, he would have much less playing time and wouldn’t put up those average numbers.
Dumpster Divin Theo
Twins got the bum. Reds got the steer
Plenty of people predicted it was a bad idea to give up so much talent for a middle to back end starter with very few full, healthy seasons under his belt. Kudos to the Reds management, hell of a PR campaign using peripherals to convince people Mahle was a 1b type ace.
No one thought he was a 1b ace.
Granted, this is the elbow, but another case of the Twins trading for a quasi-injured guy (bad shoulder at the time) hoping to get lucky with a “great” player for a cheap price.
Add another one to the pile.
If there’s anything good to come out of this, it’s that Cleveland has also had it’s share of problems this season. They’re behind Detroit right now, but I still see the ALC coming down to the Twins and Guards. Baseball seems to be a game of attrition this season.
Tough break. That trade may look bad but, as a Twins fan, we had and still have players that were ahead of both Steer and CES. Not that I wouldn’t like to have them still in the organization. Hopefully the FO can get an extension done to recoup some of the prospect investment and give Mahle a longer runway back to the bigs.
Why extend an oft injured mediocre player?
The twins spent 8 mil? on Archer a years ago. with that as a base line why not spent 10-30 mil on a player that’s floor is mediocre. Ceiling is unknown? for 2-3 years?
Archer wasn’t worth $8,000,000 imo, and many others or he’d be playing right now. They also have an up and coming crop of young guys and Mahle wouldn’t be playing at all next year anyway. Twins already have Paddack, another one not worth it imo, returning from TJ. It’s an expensive way to stash a guy away and they’re a small/mid market team that could use the money elsewhere. Maeda returned this year and is already hurt and been ineffective.
That’s at least 15
For Love of the Game
Are you referring to TJs this year? Any idea what the numbers have been in recent years?
Gilbreath, Cavalli, Montes de Oca, Foster, Brubaker, Anderson, Bubic, Ray, Garcia, Warren, Quezada, Marquez, Trivino, Springs, Mahle are the names I know of for this year. The number I found for last year was 41 players with MLB experience, however there were only 9 surgeries performed by the end of May.
*Quijada not Quezada
I wonder how Tommy John feels about a potential career-ending injury after himself? And does he get a cut of every surgery named after himself? Just wondering.
For Love of the Game
Copyright it as in “Tommy John© surgery!”
We had 39 posts on pitchers undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2021 — 20 of which were performed on or before May 11.
I think a lot of people want to try to assume there’s causation with the pitch clock — not saying you were; I just see it a lot — but this year’s number of Tommy John surgeries isn’t really out of line with prior seasons.
Were all guys with MLB experience? I was using a spreadsheet that had a list of them. It may have been missing some, but I’d assume some of the players you’re mentioning were not players with MLB experience
A quick google told me 32 MLB players in 2021 and 28 in 2022
That’s some good homework, DarkSide. And that list will only keep growing as long as pitchers continue to whip the ball as hard as they can instead of learning to actually “pitch”.
Has nothing to do with it
Has nothing to do with a pitch clock lol
@avenger65 – Probably pretty good considering it’s actually the surgery that saves careers rather than ends them.
Steve: My hunch is that these days teams are much more likely than in the past to think of their players as inanimate assets, to be used up and then discarded, with no loyalty, and no conception of them as human beings.
Pitchers know this. So in order to keep their jobs and work toward that huge payday, they reluctantly give it their all, on every pitch, with maximum velocity and torque.
It’s really a tragedy the way players are treated by the subhumans who own the teams and run the sport now.
FWIW, those mumbers pull from the spreadsheet I used, but they’re lazy pulls because that spreadsheet only calls a player (MLB) if they underwent surgery while on the active roster.
The Twins were Steered wrong in that trade and are now left on the Strand of woe and despair.
Pedro Martinez’s Mango Tree
Oh man I remember that Pedro quote about sitting under the mango tree without 50 cents. Didn’t he also say he’d bean the bambino in his bum if they resurrected him?
Pedro Martinez’s Mango Tree
He did indeed! I’m just glad that someone else remembers that quote (the mango tree one)! I think he said it after the Yankees beat him in Game 1 of the 2004 ALCS
As a matter of fact that was the “call the Yankees my daddy” quote too, right? I remember because ESPN NY radio had the music guy on Michael Kay’s show make a song about it. That ALCS was the best week of baseball I’ve ever seen.
Pedro Martinez’s Mango Tree
Think the “Daddy” comment was a few years before that
The anonymity of posting on this site really leaves the door Hajjar for some dorky jokes!
Mahle is a huge upside guy. Hope he bounces back.
This one belongs to the Reds
Definitely. He is missed by his old team just like Castillo.
Hoping for the best for him bouncing back.
Ober’s job security is cemented now. Just need Varland/Headrick or Maeda to step it up and be a solid 5th.
Maeda probably toast at this pt.
Steer is solid but they won’t lose sleep over him. CES has us all wondering if he is the next Austin Riley or the next Aristides Aquino – massive upside I am betting on Encarnacion-Straud to be a keeper. When guys like Trevor Story and Aristedes Aquino start their careers so hot it is hard not to get on the bandwagon, but baseball is a game of adjustments. Reds did well trading Mahle and even Castillo
Danny Valencia with more power and a 1b At best probably better suited for DH most games…
Steve summed it up well here—this year’s starting pitching options are the deepest and strongest the Twins have had in quite some time, but no team’s depth is endless and there’s a point where injuries start to push it.
The attrition they’ve had at this point is just about the amount they could have without a significant drop-off. If everyone stays relatively healthy at this point, they’re probably fine. Any more significant losses and things will get dicey. At least there’s been nothing so far to suggest Maeda’s injury is serious or will keep him out of commission for a long time.
I’m thinking of getting TJS myself. There’s nothing wrong with my arm, I just feel left out.
Falvey getting hot under the collar suppressing his compulsion to offer Mahle an extension.
Guaranteed contracts will eventually be the downfall of Baseball. It’s only a matter of time.
No extension should happen with Mahle. The Twins have too many strong young arms that can fill in. Before the injury I thought Ober was a better pitcher than Mahle. I also think Varland has more upside and I know people are writing off Josh Winder, but I think Winder has a higher ceiling than the credit he is given. Connor Preilipp is on the horizon as well.
No extension. Either go after a true #1 or build within.
@joefleury – Josh Winder seems destined for the bullpen (or different career) because of his balky shoulder. I’d think most fans who follow the Twins’ farm system know Winder has some very good stuff, but he just can’t stay on the mound.
When the Twins traded for Mahle and I assume due diligence was done by looking at current imaging of his shoulder & elbow as part of the routine physical and conferring with orthopedic specialists…and nothing showed up, clean bill of health??? Now my memory could be failing but at the time of his medical. wasn’t it a somewhat known fact that Mahle was having issues (wasn’t he on the IL at the time of the trade?) So I am getting heavy Frankie Montas vibes here. Maybe these trade deadline deals are not getting the proper scrutiny/vetting as they should be getting in regards to the medicals.
Just about every major starting pitching trade this Front Office has made has ended up the same.
Sonny Gray had several injury stints last year, no TJ though. And then Pablo Lopez has a history of shoulder issues, hopefully no major surgery coming
They cost less than healthy players
Except for Rodon.
Disagree Utah. He’s making injured elite player salary. Verlander and Scherzer make double his annual salary and Cole makes double in total contract
Rest of the year and early part of next year? In what dream world are you living? If he makes it back in 24 it’ll be a long shot, these surgeries are taking 16-24 months in most cases before a pitcher can return anywhere close to his old self.
That’s the key. He should be back by August 24, but very few guys get their stuff back before the season following that.
It’s good to know pitch counts of 80-90 helped Mahle avoid injury in his career
Mahle was hurt before he came to the Twins. The Reds had shut him down for a couple weeks a little prior to the trade. Can’t say it had anything to do with the UCL, though.
Twins can’t ever catch a break with their big SP acquisitions. Hope he recovers well.
Can’t catch a break or have bad scouting?
And honestly, I’d believe “intentionally shopping for injury prone to get a ‘deal'” before I would say “can’t catch a break”
Motor City Beach Bum
Call Scott Harris and trade for Eduardo Rodriguez. 4-2 1.45 ERA. It’ll probably cost you a little more given you are in the same division and we are only a few games back in the standings. Get in there before the bidding war at the deadline I like Mahle. That is disappointing to hear he is hurt.
E-Rod ain’t going anywhere because of that opt-out.
Motor City Beach Bum
The pitching market was so crazy this offseason and with all the injuries I think someone will bite. A Sports Illustrated article had him linked to the Cards surprisingly. They have surplus bats so it would make sense on paper. If the Tigers can’t get anything decent they should just keep him and win as many games as they can for the fans. I’m good with that too.
Try to buy that opt-out off him. It’s about money always so make him an offer he can’t refuse! Then you’ve got value
For as mediocre as Steer has been in his first ~250 MLB PA, his start in AAA was statistically quite similar to CE-S’s AAA start. CE-S has 69 AAA PA so far…
Spencer Steer first 69 AAA Plate Appearances:
.368 OBP/.678 SLG/1.046 OPS
C.E-S first 69 AAA Plate Appearances:
.391 OBP/.712 SLG/1.103 OPS
Well they pretty much made San Diego look like Dangerous Dan McGrew getting an &&&&&&& tore new. When your winning that much against an expensive team, it really don’t matter how bad your guys are doing, when other teams are doing worse. I’m hoping Detroit can get over .500 soon Until some team other than the Twins do it, they are winner’s just over .500. The Central Division where the living is easy, and you don’t have to spend a fortune.
I want Detroit to get to .500 soon as well, but really asking for a favor and hope that doesn’t occur at the expense of my Mariners this weekend. Can we agree on a split 2-2 of the four game series lol ? I could live with that, and then Detroit can pounce on whoever is next to surpass .500 !!! I hope that’s a fair deal, Tigers fan.
I’m curious how many TJs will happen this season. Along other arm ailments. Pitch Clock gone next season for sure.
Where do you people come up with this stuff? It’s not like the pitch clock is new to baseball. It’s been around for years in the minors. There’s no increase in UCL injuries this year compared to last year.
I just like to make stuff up on the fly.
Brutal, sorry Twins fans. Giving up decent prospects for a guy that gets injured and doesn’t contribute much really sucks. Maybe they can work out one of those 2 year deals with a low salary in the first year while he recovers and a normal salary in the second year when he should be back from his recovery.
I assume the team pays for the surgery? Is it considered elective? The kick in the pants is that you trade 3 prospects, pay for the surgery (in some way), pay out the contract and at some point he could come back to beat you.
The team covers all medical.
Steer is barely holding his head above water.
Encarnacion-Strand is striking out 20x more than he’s walking, but is still hitting the ball hard.
Hajjar has been labeled a reliever, is injured and was traded by the Reds already.
Dumpster Divin Theo
At this point the Weird Ass Minnesota Twins (WAMT) should just Mahle it in.