- Reds right-hander Nick Hanson, the club’s third-round pick in the 2016 draft, will undergo Tommy John surgery, as reported by SB Nation’s Eric Roseberry and the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Zach Buchanan (Twitter links). Hanson, a Minnesota high schooler, was slated to attend the University of Kentucky before agreeing to an above-slot $925K bonus to join the Reds. The 2017 Baseball America Prospect Handbook ranked him as the 30th-best prospect in Cincy’s system, describing the 6’6″ 18-year-old as “understandably raw with a loose arm” but owning a fastball in the 91-95mph range and the potential for an above-average curveball. Given the usual TJ recovery period, Hanson’s best-case scenario for a return is midway through the 2018 season.
Hernan Iribarren has enjoyed a largely unremarkable major league career, but he still has an interesting personal tale to tell C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Once a reasonably notable prospect, Iribarren hasn’t quite yet appeared in fifty MLB games. And at 32 years of age, he’s unlikely to make a significant on-field impact for the Reds organization even if he does crack the MLB roster. Still, writes Rosecrans, Iribarren’s presence will continue to be felt, as he has provided invaluable mentoring to a variety of Cincinnati players — most notably, fellow Venezuelan infielders Jose Peraza and Eugenio Suarez.
- Already sans their best starter, the injured Anthony DeSclafani, as Opening Day approaches, the Reds might also begin 2017 without top reliever Raisel Iglesias, who hasn’t pitched since March 14. An elbow issue has kept Iglesias out of action, but an MRI only showed a bone bruise, according to C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer. “The good news is that it doesn’t look like it’s going to be a huge setback or there are any structural issues at all,” said manager Bryan Price. “The negative is that he’s going to have four more days off before he begins to throw again and we’ll have to see how comfortable we are by Opening Day or maybe before that.” A former starter, Iglesias was among the few bright spots in a historically inept Reds bullpen last year, when he posted a 1.98 ERA, 9.72 K/9 and 3.42 BB/9 in 50 innings as a reliever. Health permitting, the 27-year-old will serve as a high-leverage bullpen weapon this season.
While the suddenly shortstop-needy Yankees have interest in acquiring the Diamondbacks’ Nick Ahmed, they’re not eyeing either the Reds’ Zack Cozart or the Tigers’ Jose Iglesias. In the wake of the shoulder injury Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius suffered Saturday, Cincinnati gauged the Bombers’ interest in Cozart, and Detroit did the same with Iglesias. The Yankees turned down both teams’ overtures, reports George A. King III of the New York Post.
It’s unclear what the Reds and Tigers would have wanted in return for their shortstops, neither of whom carry ultra-cheap price tags. Iglesias is set to rake in $4.1MM this year, his penultimate season of team control, while Cozart will collect $5.325MM and then become a free agent next winter. Given that Gregorius could only miss the first month of the season, it likely wouldn’t make sense for the Yankees to add a somewhat expensive stopgap at short.
The rebuilding Reds have been trying to move the 31-year-old Cozart since at least last summer, when a near-trade with the Mariners fell through. Cozart has been a terrific defender since debuting in earnest in 2012 (54 Defensive Runs Saved, 42.2 Ultimate Zone Rating), and he has recently offered respectable production at the plate. Over the previous two seasons, Cozart combined to slash .254/.308/.435 with 25 home runs in 722 plate appearances. It’s somewhat surprising, then, that Cincinnati hasn’t been able to find a taker for Cozart, though many teams are set at shortstop, as FanGraphs’ Jeff Sullivan writes. By ridding themselves of Cozart, the Reds would be able to turn to a full-time middle infield consisting of the 22-year-old Jose Peraza and the 23-year-old Dilson Herrera, the latter of whom will begin the season at the Triple-A level.
Unlike the Reds, the Tigers aren’t rebuilding, making it an eye-opener that they’d dangle their starting shortstop prior to Opening Day. Iglesias, 27, has been a roughly average player dating back to his first full season, 2013, having accounted for 5.6 fWAR in 1,359 plate appearances since then. The light-hitting Iglesias is coming off his worst offensive season (.255/.306/.336 in 513 PAs), but he made up for it with his defensive chops (three DRS, 11.6 UZR) en route to a career-high 2.1 fWAR. If it were to deal Iglesias sometime this year, Detroit would presumably hand shortstop to a potentially similar player in prospect Dixon Machado. MLB.com describes the 25-year-old as “a defensive wizard who has improved enough physically and with the bat to be a big league regular.” Offensively, Machado hasn’t lit it up at the Triple-A level, where he has slashed .264/.331/.344 in 1,136 PAs, and has only taken 91 trips to the plate in the majors on account of Iglesias’ presence.
As for the Yankees, barring an Ahmed acquisition or a change of heart on Cozart or Iglesias, they’ll go into Opening Day with one of Starlin Castro, Tyler Wade, Ronald Torreyes, Pete Kozma or Ruben Tejada as Gregorious’ temporary replacement. If it’s Castro, who’s the Yankees’ starting second baseman, other members of the shortstop candidates group or utilityman Rob Refsnyder could fill in at the keystone.
- Kelly Johnson has received interest from the Blue Jays, Braves and Reds about a minor league deal and non-roster invite to Spring Training, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter link). Johnson, however, is still holding out in the hopes of landing a Major League contract. Atlanta’s interest in a reunion with Johnson has been well-documented, though Cincinnati and Toronto are new names as suitors. The veteran utilityman would fit as a needed left-handed bat and versatile bench piece for both the Reds and Jays.
- The Reds also have Ryan Raburn and Desmond Jennings in camp on minor league contracts, and their track records mean more to manager Bryan Price than their Spring Training performance necessarily does, the manager tells MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon and other media. “Hopefully with the Raburn, Jennings group of experience and even [Hernan] Iribarren with his background, you want to have at least one of those guys if not two of them on the club to lend that experience,” Price said. The skipper’s further comments about valuing experience and versatility could be another hint as Cincinnati’s interest in Johnson, though that’s just my speculation.
In his latest notes column, FanRag’s Jon Heyman reports that while teams such as the Astros, Pirates, Rangers and Yankees were all linked to Jose Quintana in trade rumors this offseason, the best offer the White Sox received came from an unnamed club that is currently perceived as more of a rebuilding team. That could mean any number of teams — the Braves, Phillies, Twins, Reds, Brewers and Padres are all in the midst of retooling their organizations — and further context is seemingly unknown at this time. A trade of Quintana, at this point, seems far likelier to occur this summer than during the final days of Spring Training, though Heyman’s note is a reminder that Quintana would appeal to virtually any club in baseball. With four years and $36.85MM remaining on his contract, Quintana’s affordable level of excellence can help clubs looking to win now or those looking to contend more in 2018-19.
A few more highlights…
- The Braves have made “multiple” attempts to sign free-agent outfielder Angel Pagan, but the veteran has been holding out for a big league deal worth around $5MM. Heyman notes that Pagan has received some guaranteed offers, but they’ve come with very low base salaries. Atlanta has also been tied to another reunion with infielder Kelly Johnson, but Heyman notes that Johnson, too, is seeking a Major League contract.
- Zack Cozart is still available in trade talks, but the Reds haven’t gotten much in the way of appealing offers due to the fact that few clubs are looking for a shortstop right now. The Padres have talked to Cincinnati about Cozart, but Heyman notes that they’re not keen on giving up top-tier talent for a player with only one year of club control remaining before free agency. Heyman notes that San Diego is still on the lookout for a shortstop upgrade.
- The Rangers would want a Major League ready starting pitcher in any trade involving Jurickson Profar, Heyman notes. The Padres like Profar but wouldn’t be willing to surrender right-hander Luis Perdomo in order to obtain him, he adds. That may raise an eyebrow for some fans, but I’d point out that Perdomo has five years of control remaining (to Profar’s three) and posted a 4.47 ERA with 6.0 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 and a 61.4 percent ground-ball rate across his final 110 2/3 innings in 2016 after a dismal start in the bullpen. In that time, he posted a 3.84 xFIP and 3.88 SIERA. Profar hit .239/.321/.338 in 307 plate appearances last season.
- Right-hander Jered Weaver tells Heyman that he considered retirement this offseason following a career-worst year in 2016. However, Weaver began to feel stronger after a month of rest, ultimately landing with the Padres on a one-year, $3MM deal. Weaver says that he’s “10 steps above last year” in terms of how he feels physically at this point.
- The Indians made an offer to Jose Bautista that was for roughly the same $18.5MM guarantee he received with the Blue Jays, Heyman reports, and they weren’t entirely closed off to a multi-year deal. However, Bautista’s preference was to head back to Toronto.
- The Pirates sought right-hander Derek Law (among other pieces) in trade talks centering around Mark Melancon with the Giants at last year’s trade deadline, per Heyman. It seems that the Pirates were focused on adding an MLB-ready replacement arm for the bullpen in Melancon talks, which they received in the form of left-hander Felipe Rivero. San Francisco, of course, signed Melancon to a four-year deal this winter.
March 15: DeSclafani will explore the possibility of undergoing platelet-rich plasma and stem cell injections in an effort to accelerate his timetable, tweets Buchanan.
March 13: Reds righty Anthony DeSclafani has been diagnosed with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching arm, president of baseball operations Dick Williams told reporters including Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer. For now, he’ll be shut down for a month before being reevaluated.
It’s obviously good news that DeSclafani isn’t set for Tommy John surgery despite suffering an injury to his UCL. There are, after all, several new techniques being utilized to forestall a surgical option or limit the damage if a procedure is performed. And teammate Michael Lorenzen was able to avoid a TJ procedure last year with a “very similar” injury, per team doctor Timothy Kremcheck (via Buchanan, on Twitter).
Clearly, though, the club will still need to chart a cautious course to avoid greater damage to DeSclafani’s UCL. Steering clear of a future TJ procedure will no doubt be a top priority in determining his rehab approach and timeline. While it doesn’t seem to be on the table presently, avoiding the legendary procedure — with its year-plus rehab timeline — will require care.
What that means in the immediate future is that the Reds likely won’t welcome DeSclafani back to the MLB rotation for quite some time. Lorenzen, whose injury occurred in the middle of March last year, did not make it up to the majors until June 24th. In his case, a bout of mono intervened to extend the recovery timeline, so DeSclafani can reasonably expect to make it back sooner — though he will also need a lengthier ramp-up since he’ll return to the rotation.
For Cincinnati, it obviously stings to lose the presumptive staff ace for a decent chunk of the upcoming season. While there’s little chance the organization would’ve been competitive, DeSclafani certainly could’ve become a highly appealing mid-season trade chip; while that’s still possible, it’s perhaps less likely — and there’ll surely be at least a bit of an injury discount to his value given his recent health questions. Additionally, losing this much time after an injury-shortened 2016 season could mean that DeSclafani will face innings limitations in 2018.
The missing innings will also tell in arbitration, which DeSclafani will qualify for next fall. Even if he continues his excellent 2016 work — 3.28 ERA with 7.7 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 — upon his return, his arb earnings will be held down by the limits on the number of frames he’ll be able to accumulate.
Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams gave an interesting interview to David Laurila of Fangraphs that’s worth a read. The top Cincy baseball decisionmaker noted that it’s harder for clubs of that market size to pay solid veterans on short-term deals during a rebuilding campaign, which is one of several factors that tends to make the process more painful. But the organization is plainly committed to doing it and doing it right. Williams detailed many different initiatives underway after an exhaustive review of “where we thought dollars would have a better return on investment than at the major league payroll level.” You’ll want to give the post a full read.
Here’s more from the National League:
- With Ian Desmond set to miss a chunk of time early in the season, the Rockies are sorting through their options for filling in, as Nick Groke of the Denver Post writes. Mark Reynolds is the obvious choice as a primary replacement, of course, but the team will need to line up some bodies behind him. With manager Bud Black saying the club hopes to “take advantage” of the versatility of some of their own players, he lined up each of Jordan Patterson, Stephen Cardullo, and Cristhian Adames at first in drills. Whether the organization might look at external names isn’t known, but Black did say that he has not heard any discussion surrounding former Rockies first bagger Justin Morneau.
- Righty Matt Wisler is still trying to establish himself for the Braves, Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. The 24-year-old has been hit hard this spring, as he was in the majors last year, and there doesn’t seem to be much chance that he’ll crack the MLB rotation unless there’s an injury or big performance downturn during the season. Still, manager Brian Snitker says he’s a believer — at least in the quality of Wisler’s offerings. “[I]t’s just location– fastball location,” Black said of Wisler’s struggles. “He’s just got to keep working on location. The stuff is there. The kid’s stuff is too good not to be successful.”
- Jordan Schafer’s efforts to make the Cardinals roster as a lefty reliever have run into some difficulties, as MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch Reports. The 30-year-old is dealing with forearm soreness, with the root cause yet to be determined. He hadn’t been particularly effective in his five outings anyway, and struggled upon reaching Triple-A briefly last year with the Dodgers organization. But Schafer was actually quite impressive at Double-A in 2016, working to a 3.15 ERA with 10.4 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 over forty frames.
The Reds had been optimistic that right-hander Anthony DeSclafani’s tender elbow wouldn’t keep him out for any regular-season action, but he’s now likely to begin the year on the disabled list after suffering a setback Friday, reports Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer. DeSclafani will undergo an MRI, which is certainly an unsettling development for him and a Cincinnati team that could lose its top starter for an undetermined amount of time. The Reds went the first two months of last season without DeSclafani, who was on the DL with an oblique injury. He then returned to deliver 123 1/3 innings and record a 3.28 ERA, 7.7 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 and a 41.9 percent ground-ball rate. If the 26-year-old’s elbow issue is serious, the Reds could move reliever Michael Lorenzen to the rotation, per Buchanan, who notes that manager Bryan Price is against the idea of transitioning Raisel Iglesias back to a starting role.
- The Reds renewed outfielder Adam Duvall at $577,500. He was evidently looking for more after a breakout 2016 campaign in which he hit 33 homers but lagged in the on-base department (.297 OBP). Duvall has established himself as the team’s regular left fielder, though, and did out-earn two other power-hitting players in the same 1+ service class.