Last August, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported that the Diamondbacks and Marlins were in talks regarding a possible Shelby Miller trade that was ultimately vetoed by D-backs owner Ken Kendrick. Roughly nine months later, FanRag’s Jon Heyman adds some more context to the story, noting that the two sides were in talks regarding right-handers Luis Castillo, Jose Urena and Austin Brice were all being discussed as potential pieces for Arizona to acquire, as was left-hander Dillon Peters (not necessarily all four, though Castillo and Urena were likely the centerpieces). One D-backs source tells Heyman the trade was never close, though Heyman cites others who agreed with Nightengale’s report, stating that Kendrick did indeed veto the deal when it was close to fruition. Miller, of course, remained with the D-backs and looked better in 2017 than he did in 2016 before suffering a torn UCL and undergoing Tommy John surgery.
A month after they first drew a connection to free agent right-hander Doug Fister, the Mets are still considering signing the 33-year-old, according to Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. New York was among four teams to watch Fister throw last week, joining the Blue Jays, Diamondbacks and Angels, reports Cotillo, who adds that the Giants also took a recent look at him.
The Mets’ rotation is in far worse straits than it was when they were eyeing Fister in early April. Ace Noah Syndergaard has since landed on the disabled list with a partially torn right lat, and he’s unlikely to return until after the All-Star break. Meanwhile, Steven Matz and Seth Lugo still haven’t pitched this year as a result of elbow problems, and Matt Harvey, Robert Gsellman and Zack Wheeler have logged subpar results. In the Mets’ view, Harvey also hasn’t been a model member of the organization behind the scenes, evidenced by the three-day suspension he’s currently serving.
The other four teams targeting Fister have also seen their rotations deal with injuries. Two of Toronto’s top starters, Aaron Sanchez and J.A. Happ, are on the DL. Arizona lost Shelby Miller to a season-ending elbow injury last month, leaving it without an obvious solution to team with Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray, Taijuan Walker and Patrick Corbin. Los Angeles is without two of its starters, Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs, both of whom are on the DL. Lastly, San Francisco’s ace, Madison Bumgarner, will sit out until at least midsummer thanks to a dirt bike accident, and fellow starters Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Matt Moore, Matt Cain and Ty Blach have recorded mediocre to poor results in the early going.
Like the Giants’ starters, the soft-tossing Fister hasn’t been all that effective of late. Once a legitimate middle-of-the-rotation arm (if not more), Fister produced like a back-end type with the Nationals and Astros from 2015-16, posting a 4.48 ERA and a 4.68 FIP in 283 1/3 innings. Further, whether he signs a major league deal or a minor league pact, Fister will surely need some time to tune up at the lower levels before potentially contributing in the big leagues this season.
The Diamondbacks will select the contract of veteran outfielder and longtime division rival Gregor Blanco prior to tonight’s game, reports Tommy Stokke of FanRag Sports (Twitter link). Arizona’s 40-man roster is full, so a corresponding move will need to be made. (Injured right-hander Shelby Miller has already been moved to the 60-day DL, so they’ll need to look elsewhere to free up a spot.)
The 33-year-old Blanco inked a minor league deal with the D-backs this offseason and may have had a shot at cracking the Opening Day roster were it not for an oblique issue that slowed him late in Spring Training. He’s been rehabbing that injury thus far in 2017 and has hit quite well in six games with the Diamondbacks’ Class-A Advanced and Triple-A affiliates (nine hits, four stolen bases and a 6-to-3 K/BB ratio through 26 plate appearances).
Blanco, of course, is a known commodity in the NL West after having spent the 2012-16 seasons wearing a Giants uniform. In 649 career games with San Francisco (2054 plate appearances), he’s posted .259/.338/.360 batting line while seeing time all over the outfield. A reserve role in Arizona seems likely for Blanco, as each of Yasmany Tomas, A.J. Pollock and David Peralta is healthy at the moment (with the exception of a recent bout with the flu for Peralta).
- There are other organizations taking a look around for assistance, though it’s not clear whether any are doing more than eyeing the waiver wire and veterans playing on minors contracts. The Red Sox are looking for rotation help while waiting for David Price, who is said to be nearing a rehab assignment. And the Tigers would like to bolster their beleaguered bullpen. The Diamondbacks will probably wait and see whether they can continue their hot start before deciding how to proceed, but Heyman notes that the club would likely “have some spending money” to work with if additions prove necessary and wise. On the sell side, the White Sox remain willing to deal despite their fairly solid start to the year. But the club isn’t backing down from its offseason asking prices, which is certainly no surprise given its prior stance and the promise of renewed demand at the trade deadline.
- Even with Zack Greinke pitching well and the Diamondbacks battling for first in the NL West, Greinke’s huge salary will still make the D’Backs open to discussing a trade, rival evaluators believe. Greinke is owed roughly $167MM through the end of the 2021 season, single-handedly accounting for a such a big percentage of Arizona’s current and future payroll commitments that a trade may well be in the best long-term interest of the team. Of course, if the D’Backs are still contending into July, GM Mike Hazen will face pressure to keep Greinke so he can help the club reach the postseason for just the third time in 15 seasons.
- The Diamondbacks project Archie Bradley as a long-term starter, but the right-hander won’t go back to the rotation in the wake of Shelby Miller’s season-ending elbow injury, manager Torey Lovullo announced Sunday (via Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com). “He will remain in our bullpen,” Lovullo said of Bradley. “The way we look at it is he’s been pretty dominant in the bullpen.” With a 1.20 ERA, 10.8 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in 15 innings, the 24-year-old Bradley has indeed been almost untouchable as a reliever this season. Bradley wasn’t nearly as good as a starter from 2015-16, a 177 1/3-inning stretch in which he recorded a 5.18 ERA, 8.42 K/9 and 4.52 BB/9. While it’s a certainty that he’ll stay in the bullpen, it’s unclear who will take Miller’s spot in the rotation. “Those are the discussions we’re having,” Lovullo stated. “And within the system there are a variety of options for us. So, we’ll hammer that out. That’s a discussion we’ll be having as a group over the next few days.”
SATURDAY: Miller has, in fact, decided to undergo Tommy John surgery, writes FanRag’s Tommy Stokke. Details of the surgery are unclear, but he’ll miss the rest of 2017 and quite likely a portion of the 2018 season while he recovers.
THURSDAY: Diamondbacks right-hander Shelby Miller has been diagnosed with flexor strain and a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament, Miller himself tells reporters (Twitter links via FanRag’s Tommy Stokke). Miller is considering his options, including Tommy John surgery, and will make a decision sooner rather than later.
The 26-year-old Miller exited his most recent start due to forearm tightness and was quickly placed on the 10-day disabled list, though this new diagnosis guarantees that he’ll miss considerably more time than that — likely the remainder of the 2017 season unless he pursues a non-surgical route such as a platelet-rich plasma injection or stem cell treatment (neither of which would guarantee that he’d ultimately avoid surgery).
The news comes as a significant blow to the D-backs after Miller showed encouraging signs early in the season. After a dreadful first year in Arizona (6.15 ERA, 6.2 K/9, 3.8 BB/9), Miller was showing improved velocity and missing more bats early in the 2017 season. Through his first three outings, Miller logged a 3.50 ERA with a 17-to-7 K/BB ratio and a 48 percent ground-ball rate. His most recent outing, however, back on April 23, lasted just four innings as Miller issued five walks and saw his average velocity dip.
[Related: Arizona Diamondbacks Depth Chart]
With Miller out for a significant time regardless of his ultimate treatment option, the D-backs will have a vacancy in their rotation. Zack Greinke, Patrick Corbin, Robbie Ray and Taijuan Walker are presently occupying the top four slots, and right-hander Zack Godley was recalled to make a spot start yesterday (though he’s already been optioned out).
In addition to Godley, right-hander Braden Shipley (a former first-round pick that’s currently in Triple-A and made his MLB debut in 2016) and right-hander Archie Bradley could be candidates to join the rotation. Bradley has been lights out in a relief role early this season, though GM Mike Hazen very recently told the Arizona Repbulic’s Nick Piecoro that the organization still views Bradley as a starter in the long run.
- The Diamondbacks announced that they’ve selected the contract of left-hander T.J. McFarland and moved Shelby Miller to the 60-day disabled list to clear a spot on the 40-man roster. Miller, as he announced earlier this afternoon, is dealing with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament and a flexor strain. McFarland, 27, logged a 2.76 ERA in 58 2/3 frames with the 2014 Orioles but has struggled in 65 innings since that time, working to a 5.68 ERA with 4.6 K/9 against 3.9 BB/9. When at his best, McFarland held opposing lefties to a combined .246/.309/.330 batting line in a total of 194 plate appearances between the 2014-15 campaigns.
April 26: Miller’s MRI is being sent to Dr. James Andrews for a third opinion, writes MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert. Miller, according to Gilbert, was asked directly if the first two readings of his MRI results showed a torn ulnar collateral ligament.
“They see something in there,” Miller said to reporters. “They haven’t given me specifics yet, exactly what it is or how we’re going to handle it or what we’re going to do to fix it.”
Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic spoke to D-backs manager Torey Lovullo about the impending third opinion, though Lovullo downplayed the ominous nature of that development.
“It’s part of the plan that we had talked about all along where we were going to have this group look at it and come together and get as much information as we possibly could, and pass it along to Shelby and figure out what the best game plan is,” Lovullo told McManaman.
April 24, 6:50pm: Miller is slated to visit orthopedic surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache for a second opinion, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic tweets.
4:36pm: As expected, the Diamondbacks have moved righty Shelby Miller to the 10-day with forearm tightness, per a club announcement. He was forced out of his start yesterday with an apparent injury, prompting obvious concern from within the organization.
[RELATED: Updated Diamondbacks Depth Chart]
For the time being, reliever Silvino Bracho will take the open roster spot. It’s not immediately clear how the club will fill the gap in its rotation, though it seems reasonable to think that righty Archie Bradley could get a shot. The former top prospect has thrived thus far in a bullpen role.
There’s still no word on a diagnosis for Miller, who entered the year looking to engineer a turnaround following a disastrous debut season in Arizona. Through 22 innings over four starts, he had worked to a 4.09 ERA with 8.2 K/9 but also 4.9 BB/9 while sitting around a career-best 95 mph with his fastball.
All things considered, those numbers provided both cause for optimism and reason for wariness. The hope remains that the 26-year-old has avoided a significant injury, so that both Miller and the team have the chance to find out whether he’s capable of making a full rebound.
- Although the Diamondbacks didn’t consider Archie Bradley when looking for spot starters to fill Shelby Miller’s spot in the rotation on Wednesday, the organization still views him as a starter in the long run, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports. Bradley has been dominant in 11 1/3 innings of relief work so far, but the decision to keep him in the ’pen was more due the fact that he’s not stretched out than any concerns that he cannot succeed as a starter. “We’ve always held that in the back of our mind that, long-term, (Bradley) was going to impact our rotation,” said GM Mike Hazen. “…Once we made the decision to put him in the bullpen, we knew that we were going to have to figure out sort of a strategy back out of it if we wanted him to start – to do it safely for him.” Right-hander Zack Godley will start for Arizona tonight in Miller’s place, and further word on Miller is expected in the near future.