- A rival executive believes Jake Arrieta will get “at least five years” in free agency this winter despite a shaky performance thus far in 2017. Arrieta’s 4.64 ERA over 77 2/3 IP could be in part due to some bad luck (a .319 BABIP, 65.8% strand rate and a spike in his home run rate), though his velocity and ground-ball rates are both down from last season and he is posting his highest hard-hit ball rate since 2010. A sixth guaranteed year could be possible if Arrieta can so easily obtain five years, Heyman reasons, though given the Cubs ace’s struggles and his age (32 next Opening Day), I have my doubts.
The right hand tendinitis that has kept Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks out since June 8 will likely shelve him for a while longer, reports Gorden Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Thanks to the setback he suffered Tuesday, Hendricks’ absence “will be measured in weeks,” not days, writes Wittenmyer. Hendricks is “sore,” said manager Joe Maddon, who added that his injury is “awkward” and “just not going away.” Like most of his Cubs teammates, Hendricks has taken steps backward this year on the heels of a magical 2016. After contending for the NL Cy Young last season, when he logged a 2.13 ERA, 8.05 K/9 and 2.08 BB/9 over 190 innings, the soft-tossing 27-year-old has experienced a velocity drop and recorded a 4.09 ERA, 7.44 K/9 and 3.08 BB/9 over 61 2/3 frames in 2017.
The latest on several other notable major leaguers dealing with injuries:
- The top player in the game, Angels center fielder Mike Trout, will resume swinging next week and travel with the Halos during their visits to New York and Boston, relays ESPN.com. Trout, who underwent surgery on torn left thumb ligaments May 31, hopes to return before the six- to eight-week recovery timeline and play in next month’s All-Star Game. “It would be pretty cool just to, hopefully, be back by then,” Trout said. “Before the All-Star break, right at the All-Star break, just depending on how it goes.”
- Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez, diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat this week, was released from a Detroit-area hospital on Saturday, according to Jason Beck of MLB.com. It’s unclear whether Martinez will come off the disabled list when he’s first eligible on June 27, per Beck. For now, “the thought process is probably a week of rest,” said manager Brad Ausmus.
- Astros manager A.J. Hinch announced Saturday that righty Lance McCullers will come off the DL during the upcoming week (via Brian McTaggart of MLB.com). McCullers just hit the DL on Monday with discomfort in his lower back, so his stay will end up as a short one. He’s one of four Astros starters on the DL – Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton and Collin McHugh are the others – and arguably the best of the bunch. McCullers has been superb over his first 76 2/3 innings this season, having posted a 2.58 ERA, 10.45 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and a 63 percent ground-ball rate. His teammate Morton, out since May 25 with a lat strain, also seems to be progressing toward a return. Morton is set to make a two-inning rehab start for the Astros’ Triple-A affiliate on Thursday.
- After a high ankle sprain forced Mariners shortstop Jean Segura to the DL on June 2, general manager Jerry Dipoto suggested he could miss two months. However, fortunately for the Mariners, it appears Segura will return much sooner than that, perhaps as early as next week if a Triple-A rehab assignment goes well, relays Greg Johns of MLB.com. Segura batted .341/.391/.462 in 198 plate appearances before his injury, which helped convince the Mariners to sign the offseason trade acquisition from Arizona to a five-year contract extension.
- The Angels have placed righty Matt Shoemaker on the DL, retroactive to Friday, with a forearm strain and activated reliever Cam Bedrosian, per Kaelen Jones of MLB.com. Forearm injuries are scary for pitchers, but Shoemaker’s tightness is in his extensor muscle, making it less likely to be related to his elbow. Still, even if Shoemaker’s only out for a little while, the Angels are in the unenviable position of having a full rotation on the DL with him, Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney, Tyler Skaggs and Nick Tropeano. On the other hand, Bedrosian’s return is welcome news for the Angels, whose bullpen has been surprisingly effective without him. Bedrosian dominated over 6 2/3 innings before a groin strain forced him to the DL in late April, and the 25-year-old was also a lights-out option in a breakout 2016 campaign.
The White Sox will activate righty James Shields to make a start on Sunday, as JJ Stankevitz of CSN Chicago reports (Twitter links). That’ll leave plenty of time for the veteran to show not only that he’s back from a lat strain, but also that he still has some gas left in the tank. Shields, 35, turned in three solid starts to open the year after a terrible 2016 season. Possible trade suitors will be looking to see whether he can manage extended productivity between now and the deadline.
Here’s more on the injury front:
- Mets second baseman Neil Walker appeared to suffer a left hamstring injury while trying to leg out a bunt single in tonight’s game. The club did not reveal any details in an official announcement, though the team did state that Walker is already slated to undergo an MRI tomorrow. Not coincidentally, perhaps, infielder Gavin Cecchini was removed from the Triple-A Las Vegas lineup, as Betsy Helfand of the Las Vegas Review Journal tweets.
- There were also some fresh concerns on the pitching side of the equation for the Mets. Matt Harvey was hooked after four innings and 58 pitches, as David Lennon of Newsday reports (Twitter links). He’ll head in for a medical check tomorrow after what he called a “fatigued” outing in which his fastball velocity dropped as low as 87 mph — a level that, per Harvey, he hadn’t visited since he was a freshman in high school. Also, before the game, the Mets placed lefty Josh Smoker on the DL with a left shoulder strain. New York was forced to lean on the reliever for four innings and 81 pitches last night. Righty Rafael Montero will return to the majors in his stead.
- The Red Sox saw another starter leave with an injury tonight, as southpaw Brian Johnson exited with what the team is calling left shoulder discomfort, as Jen McCaffrey of MassLive.com reports. While all involved expressed hope that the issue wouldn’t turn out to be anything significant, Johnson will be given a full checkup in Boston tomorrow to be sure.
- The Cubs are weighing a DL move for Ben Zobrist, as Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune was among those to report. His left wrist isn’t healing up as hoped, so Zobrist will be looked at more closely tomorrow. If he’s not able to suit up, then a DL placement seems likely.
- There’s some positive news on Angels southpaw Tyler Skaggs. As Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register tweets, the 25-year-old is heading to the team’s spring complex with an eye on making back to the majors by early July. Hell be hoping to finally put an end to the string of injuries that have slowed his promising career. Skaggs is currently working back from an oblique strain.
- Also now looking toward a return is Rangers lefty Cole Hamels. As Stefan Stevenson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports, Hamels could take a rehab start on Friday — the same day that Tyson Ross is set to make his Rangers debut. That could potentially line Hamels up to return to the majors before month’s end. That’s promising news for a Texas team that is off to a middling start to the season. The Rangers are also likely to welcome back first baseman Mike Napoli and outfielder Carlos Gomez in the coming days.
- Things aren’t looking as promising for Padres righty Jarred Cosart. According to AJ Cassavell of MLB.com, on Twitter, Cosart has been diagnosed with a flexor strain. He’s not yet ready to begin throwing and will partake in some rehab efforts at the club’s spring facility.
- Finally, the Dodgers are holding their breath as prized young lefty Julio Urias reports to Dr. Neal ElAttrache for a look at his shoulder. As Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times reports (Twitter links), soreness in the joint has forced the 20-year-old to the DL at Triple-A. Things haven’t gone as hoped this year for Urias, who showed immense promise in 2016. He largely struggled in five MLB starts and was carrying higher-than-usual walk totals at Triple-A.
- Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks experienced discomfort when testing out his injured right hand today and has had his target return date pushed back, reports Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago. Manager Joe Maddon wouldn’t offer much in the way of specifics, instead more vaguely stating, “There’s no definitive timeline, no finish line. It’s just that he’s not ready.” Hendricks was placed on the disabled list last week in what the Cubs hoped would be a short-term move due to tendinitis in his right hand, but it seems that he’ll have a lengthier absence than anticipated. Maddon said he “would not be surprised” if Hendricks’ injury was re-tested in the near future.
A legitimate sense of mystery shrouds Japanese star Shohei Otani, writes Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, as Major League scouts and general managers have no idea whether the 22-year-old phenom will actually enter the posting system and leap to Major League Baseball this offseason. Passan spoke to at least five general managers and multiple scouts for his extensive column, which I’d highly recommend reading in full.
There’s skepticism that Otani will actually leave NPB this offseason, as doing so would mean subjecting himself to MLB’s newly reconfigured international bonus system, which will undoubtedly cost him more than $200MM. Otani’s maximum payday this winter would be $10.1MM, Passan notes, and while many have speculated about Otani quickly signing a multi-year extension after inking his initial deal, that may not be likely. Passan cites multiple “high-ranking sources at MLB” in reporting that “the league expects to be vigilant to ensure the sanctity of the system is not made a mockery by extralegal payments.” Then again, Major League Baseball intervening in a contract would certainly be a bad look, and Passan wonders if the league would actually follow through on such an extreme measure.
[Related: Scouting Shohei Otani]
Passan’s survey of big league front offices and scouting departments resulted in many within the game speculatively connecting the Rangers, Dodgers, Padres, Giants, Yankees, Cubs and Astros to Otani, although the clear takeaway is that no one really knows who the favorite would be. Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union Tribune, in fact, suggests that the connection to the Padres is largely overblown (all Twitter links), especially considering the fact that they’d be limited to a $300K signing bonus.
Several American League clubs believe themselves to have an inside edge over their National League rivals due to Otani’s desire to continue as a two-way player in MLB, Passan continues. Serving as a DH and then pitching every fifth day seems more feasible than playing the outfield between starts.
Further complicating matters is the fact that Otani has yet to even pitch in 2017 and has been limited to eight games as a designated hitter. Otani missed the World Baseball Classic due to an ankle injury and has yet to take the mound because a hamstring injury that Japanese media outlet Sponichi recently reported would keep him out until at least July. A recent report from Japan’s Nikkan Sports revealed that Otan threw a 31-pitch bullpen session but did so at a distance of less than the standard 60 feet and did not throw at full strength.
The injury isn’t likely to be a significant detriment to Otani’s market, though. Teams familiar with Otani are well versed in his repertoire and his skills at the plate, having seen him extensively in the past. The questions stemming from his injury wouldn’t center around a lack of ability to gather relevant scouting data, but rather whether interested teams need to have long-term concerns about these injuries either lingering or recurring. And all of that, of course, assumes he even enters the posting system this winter in the first place, which is hardly a given.
6:22pm: Left-hander Brett Anderson has been moved to the 60-day disabled list to clear a spot on the roster for Frankoff. There’s been no setback for Anderson, ESPN’s Chicago’s Jesse Rogers notes (Twitter link). However, Anderson’s already been on the shelf for roughly a month and wouldn’t be ready to return within 60 days of his initial DL placement.
4:23pm: The Cubs have place right-hander Kyle Hendricks on the 10-day disabled list due to tendinitis in his right hand and selected the contract of fellow right-hander Seth Frankoff from Triple-A, the team announced to reporters (Twitter links via Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune).
Left-hander Mike Montgomery will start tomorrow in place of Hendricks, whose DL stint is expected to be rather minimal, per Gonzales. The team will announce a corresponding 40-man roster move before tonight’s game but did not provide one at this time.
Hendricks, 27, was one of the front-runners for the NL Cy Young Award last season and finished third on the ballot, but he’s been unable to replicate last season’s magical performance to date. Through 61 2/3 innings this year, he’s pitched to a 4.09 ERA while both his K/9 rate (7.4) and BB/9 rate (3.1) have trended in the opposite direction relative to last year’s excellent marks (8.1 and 2.1, respectively). Hendricks has seen his fastball velocity plummet from 87.6 mph all the way to 85.6 mph in 2017, and he’s seen significant declines in his swinging-strike rate as well as his rate of throwing first-pitch strikes. It’s not clear if the current hand issue how significantly, if at all, the current hand issue has impacted him this year.
As for the 28-year-old Frankoff, he’ll make his MLB debut the first time he steps onto the mound. The longtime A’s farmhand spent the 2016 season with the Dodgers and is in the midst of his first season with the Cubs organization. A former 27th-round pick (2010), Frankoff had a nice year in the Dodgers’ minor league ranks in 2016 and is enjoying the best season of his pro career with Chicago’s Triple-A affiliate so far. In 11 games (nine starts, two relief appearances), he’s totaled 55 1/3 innings of 2.77 ERA ball with 9.6 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and a 53.7 percent ground-ball rate. Though he’s worked primarily as a starter in Iowa, he’ll head for the Cubs’ bullpen for the time being.
3:55pm: The Cubs have now also issued a statement, via press release: “Last night, we were made aware of a serious claim posted on social media about Addison Russell. We reached out to Major League Baseball and, following the protocol established by MLB, will fully cooperate with the Commissioner’s Office as it gathers pertinent facts. Addison will not be in uniform tonight to allow him to work through this matter.”
It should be stressed, of course, that there’s no team-issued suspension at play here. The Cubs, rather, are merely giving Russell a day off to work through the matter (as noted by ESPN’s Jesse Rogers). They’ll play a man short for tonight’s game.
3:35pm: Both Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago/670 The Score and Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago report that MLB has not launched a formal investigation of the matter (Twitter links). Rather, the league is “looking into” the matter, per Levine. Mooney, meanwhile, cites a source close to Russell in reporting that MLB is at a “fact-finding stage.” The exact distinction between a formal investigation and fact-finding is somewhat unclear, though the implication is clearly that the former is more serious than the latter.
3:20pm: Russell has issued a brief statement on the matter via a team press release: “Any allegation I have abused my wife is false and hurtful. For the well-being of my family, I’ll have no further comment.”
In an Instagram post on Wednesday, a friend of Russell’s wife, Melisa, accused Russell of “mentally and physically” abusing Melisa. As a result, the league would like to interview both Melisa Russell and her friend, according to Wittenmyer.
Addison Russell is now the second major leaguer to face domestic abuse allegations this week. Rays catcher Derek Norris’ ex-fiancee accused him of “physical and emotional abuse” in an Instagram post on Tuesday, but Norris quickly refuted that, saying: “I have NEVER been physically or emotionally abusive towards her, or anyone else in my life. I plan to go above and beyond to assist MLB with their investigation into this matter.”
Since the league instituted its current domestic violence policy two years ago, suspensions have been handed out to Aroldis Chapman, Jose Reyes, Hector Olivera and Jeurys Familia. As MLBTR’s Steve Adams noted on Wednesday, each of those players’ situations dealt with singular incidents and came with criminal investigations. The cases of Russell and Norris differ from theirs, but both players are clearly at risk of facing some sort of punishment from the league.
- Speaking of the Cubs’ search for pitching, Eddie Butler and Mike Montgomery are trying to retain their jobs as the team’s fifth starter and potential spot starter, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. Butler, a former top Rockies prospect, has a 3.75 ERA over 24 innings this season while Montgomery has a 2.21 ERA over 36 2/3 relief frames. Neither pitcher has terribly impressive peripheral stats, however, so it still seems likely that Chicago will try to acquire a higher-level arm and keep Butler, Montgomery and the injured Brett Anderson as rotation depth.
- While it would some major financial and roster wrangling to see Bryce Harper join the Cubs when he hits free agency in the 2018-19 offseason, Kris Bryant told CSNChicago.com’s Patrick Mooney and other reporters that he and Harper have had some casual conversations about being teammates. “I think we might have talked about it, just like messing around. Like it would be cool to play with you again,” Bryant said, referring to he and Harper playing together as youngsters in the Las Vegas area. “(It’s not) like Kevin Durant: ’I want to play there.’ But I would say if that were able to happen and work out like that, gosh, it would be exciting.” This sounds like the type of general banter that probably happens quite a bit between friends who play on different teams, though everything involving Harper’s heavily-anticipated foray into the free agent market is likely to draw attention between now and the end of the 2018 season (unless, of course, he signs an extension with the Nationals).
- With both Jake Arrieta and John Lackey set to hit free agency (and a shaky mix in the five-spot in the rotation), the Cubs are likely to pursue at least two starters following the 2017 season, per Heyman. He lists Marco Estrada and Derek Holland as some semi-speculative picks, noting that one exec from another club feels they fit the mold of arms the Cubs are likely to eye. Chicago, of course, is certainly a candidate to add some rotation help this summer and could well pick up an arm controllable beyond the current season, which would impact their offseason trajectory.