- The Giants seem likely to hold onto Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto this offseason, opines Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. That’s not particularly surprising, as San Francisco has little in the way of rotation depth. Samardzija looks like a plausible trade candidate, but any return figures to be minimal. He’ll make $18MM as a 35-year-old rental and looks like a back-end starter at this point. Cueto, meanwhile, will need to reestablish his health before another club will consider paying down some of the $46MM he’s due over the next two seasons (including a 2023 buyout). The veteran (34 in February) started just four games in September following an August 2018 Tommy John Surgery. As Schulman notes, each pitcher could see his trade value rebound with a strong first half.
- The Dodgers have had a quiet start to the offseason, observes Andy McCullough of the Athletic. Given the club’s repeated postseason disappointments in recent years, many L.A. fans have called for a roster shakeup. That sentiment is shared by some in the Dodgers’ front office, relays McCullough, although the club’s only significant acquisition thus far has been reliever Blake Treinen, who inked a one-year, $10MM deal two weeks ago. While there’s still time for the Dodgers to make a splash- they remain front and center on the latest Mike Clevinger and Francisco Lindor rumors- McCullough points out that they haven’t acted rashly under Andrew Friedman’s leadership. They may not need to so this offseason, as they again look to be the overwhelming favorites in the NL West.
The Giants have designated lefty Williams Jerez, per a club announcement. That opens a roster space for the return of veteran hurler Johnny Cueto, who’ll start tonight after working back from Tommy John surgery.
The San Francisco organization carried Jerez on the 40-man all year long after picking him up in a late-spring trade. The 27-year-old permitted only a pair of earned runs in his six MLB innings, but allowed six free passes while striking out four.
Otherwise, Jerez turned in solid numbers at Triple-A this year, working to a 3.86 ERA with 9.8 K/9 against 2.6 BB/9 over 56 frames. He was especially effective against opposing lefties, holding them to a .574 OPS.
After over a year of rehabilitating from Tommy John surgery, Johnny Cueto is set to return to the Giants. Kerry Crowley of the Bay Area News Group was among those to report the news that Cueto is scheduled to start Tuesday’s game against the Pirates, which will mark Cueto’s first Major League outing since July 28, 2018.
The usual 12-15 month timeline associated with Tommy John recovery created doubt that Cueto would be back before the 2020 season, and despite a minor back injury that it now seems will delay his return by a few days, Cueto will now get a chance to work off the rust over at least a few outings in September. If all goes well, Cueto (who turns 34 in February) should be ready to hit the ground running come Opening Day.
After signing a six-year, $130MM deal with San Francisco in the 2015-16 offseason, Cueto delivered an outstanding 2016 campaign before blisters and a flexor strain contributed to a disappointing 2017. It seemed as if Cueto was back on track in nine 2018 starts prior to his surgery, though it remains to be seen if Cueto can truly regain his past form — it isn’t surprising to see any pitcher decline in his age-34 season, even if that pitcher isn’t coming off a major arm surgery.
The Giants could potentially lose Madison Bumgarner in free agency this offseason, leaving Cueto and Jeff Samardzija as the prohibitive top two in San Francisco’s rotation. Even if Samardzija isn’t traded, there is still a lot of uncertainty within the starting five, as younger arms like Shaun Anderson, Dereck Rodriguez, Tyler Beede, and Logan Webb have all struggled this year. A healthy Cueto provides at least some stability as the club will have to decide what they have with their internal options, and weigh how to much to spend on veteran starters over the winter.
The Twins are waiting to see how reliever Sam Dyson responds to some time off to deal with recurring biceps soreness. Chief baseball officer Derek Falvey discussed the matter with reporters including Phil Miller of the Star Tribune (Twitter link). It’s an effort to “get out ahead” of things, says Falvey. The Twins need their most significant trade deadline acquisition at top form with a major postseason clash beckoning. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been himself since coming over. Dyson owns a 7.15 ERA in a dozen appearances in Minnesota.
More injury updates from around the game …
- Giants right-hander Johnny Cueto, on the mend from 2018 Tommy John surgery, experienced a setback in his most recent rehab outing, tweets Kerry Crowley of the San Jose Mercury News. He’ll be reevaluated in the next few days but won’t be an option for the team as soon as originally hoped. Manager Bruce Bochy had previously put a tentative date of Sept. 8 on a return for Cueto, but that no longer appears to be a plausible timeline. Back tightness, rather than arm issues, has caused the revised timeline. While there’s still hope that Cueto will make it back to the big-league bump this season, the organization will surely avoid any unnecessary risks.
- A few Pirates outfielders won’t return to action this year, as Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports (Twitter links). Gregory Polanco will receive platelet-rich plasma injections in a bid to spur healing in his troublesome shoulder. That’ll be a key situation to monitor in the offseason for the Pittsburgh organization. Jason Martin now has his own shoulder malady to deal with: a separation suffered yesterday. He’s expected to miss the rest of the year. Infielder Kevin Kramer will come up to the active roster due in part to Martin’s absence. Though Bucs righty Mitch Keller was hit in the wrist with a batted ball yesterday, he was able to play catch today. his timeline isn’t clear, but that certainly seems like promising news.
- The Phillies got some promising news on righty reliever Seranthony Dominguez, who has at times seemed destined to miss the rest of the season. Despite a recent scare, he has shown enough progress in his elbow health to resume throwing, manager Gabe Kapler told reporters including Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philly (via tweet). It’s still not clear that Dominguez will have enough time to ramp up and return to active duty, though perhaps there’s still an outside shot.
- Padres southpaw Adrian Morejon will not make it back to the bigs in 2019, Dennis Lin of The Athletic tweets. That’s not to say that the widely hailed 20-year-old isn’t making progress. His injured shoulder is in good enough shape to allow Morejon to resume throwing. Though he struggled quite a bit in limited MLB action, Morejon has generally shown all the skills that made him a consensus top-100 leaguewide prospect. He’ll likely again factor into the San Diego plans next season, though he’ll do so without much of an innings base to work from. Morejon has not yet thrown more than 65 1/3 frames in a given campaign and fell shy of that mark this year.
Let’s take a look around the majors’ West divisions…
- With the Athletics looking to add a third catcher when rosters expand, they’re set to choose between minor leaguers Sean Murphy and Dustin Garneau, manager Bob Melvin told Martin Gallegos of MLB.com. “There will be a lot of talk leading up into Sunday on who that will be,” Melvin said. The more hyped option is certainly Murphy, one of the best prospects in baseball (MLB.com ranks him 44th). The 24-year-old has gotten his first extensive action at the Triple-A level this season and laid waste to enemy pitchers, whom he has teed off on for a .337/.415/.702 line (158 wRC+) with 10 home runs in 123 plate appearances. However, injuries have led to an abbreviated campaign for Murphy, and the A’s might not promote him yet if they don’t expect him to garner much playing time. In that case, the edge would go to the veteran Garneau, who was with Oakland earlier in the season before it outrighted him to Triple-A on Aug. 19.
- The Giants are shutting down right-handed reliever Trevor Gott for two weeks because of a Grade 1 UCL sprain and a flexor strain, according to Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic. Surgery’s not an option at the moment, fortunately, and manager Bruce Bochy’s hopeful Gott will pitch again this season. If not, this will go down as an encouraging year for Gott, whom the Giants acquired from the Nationals for cash considerations in February. While Gott has put up an unappealing 4.44 ERA in 52 2/3 frames, he has also notched a 3.12 FIP with 9.74 K/9 against 2.91 BB/9 and almost doubled his swinging-strike rate since last year (from 5.6 percent to 10.8).
- More from Baggarly, who tweets that righty Johnny Cueto’s another Triple-A start away from rejoining the Giants. The 2018 Tommy John patient’s scheduled to take the ball Saturday, after which the Giants hope to activate him. That would seem to align with Bochy’s Sept. 8 projection for Cueto. The Giants’ playoff hopes are all but dead at this point, but they’ll nonetheless be glad to welcome Cueto back in advance of 2020. Next season will be the second-last guaranteed campaign of the six-year, $130MM contract San Francisco handed the then-ace prior to 2016.
- The Rangers are contemplating September promotions for hard-throwing minor league relievers Joe Barlow and Demarcus Evans, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. Neither pitcher is on the Rangers’ 40-man roster, which is full, but the team plans to add the soon-to-be Rule 5-eligible pair in the coming months anyhow, as Grant notes. The 23-year-old Barlow has largely mowed down pro hitters since he joined the Rangers as an 11th-round pick in 2016, though he has struggled over his first 15 1/3 Triple-A innings this season. Evans, 22, was a 25th-rounder in 2015 who has risen to Double-A ball for the first time this season. He has overcome a high walk rate there (5.4 per nine) to post a microscopic 1.08 ERA with 14.58 K/9 in 33 1/3 innings.
Brian McCann left Tuesday’s game with what the Braves described as left knee soreness. The veteran catcher was set to undergo tests today, and manager Brian Snitker indicated to reporters (including Tim Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution) that he didn’t yet know if McCann would need to be moved to the injured list. Alex Jackson is most obvious candidate to be called up from the minors to back up Tyler Flowers if McCann does require an IL stint, though Atlanta also picked up John Ryan Murphy in a trade deadline swap with the Diamondbacks. Calling up Murphy would require the Braves to make room on the 40-man roster, however. McCann has hit .264/.336/.423 with 10 homers over 274 plate appearances this season (while also posting some above-average framing numbers), giving the Braves some extra pop from the catcher position as Flowers has had a down year at the plate.
More injury news from around the NL…
- Kyle Freeland left Tuesday’s game in the sixth inning due to a strained groin, and the Rockies left-hander seems likely to spend some time on the injured list. Freeland told Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post and other reporters that the injury feels similar to a strain that also put him on the IL back in 2017, though only for a minimal stint. The injury continues what has been a nightmare of a season for Freeland, as he has a 6.98 ERA and 22.9% home run rate over 99 1/3 innings, and also spent almost a month and a half at Triple-A in an attempt to get himself on track.
- Giants manager Bruce Bochy gave an unofficial projection of September 8 as Johnny Cueto’s potential return date to the majors, as Bochy told reporters (including the San Francisco Chronicle’s Henry Schulman) on Tuesday. Cueto threw 60 pitches in a rehab outing for the Class-A San Jose Giants yesterday, and he’ll make the first of two rehab starts for Triple-A Sacramento on Monday. Assuming the tentative September 8 date stands, it will mark just over 13 months between Tommy John surgery and a Major League mound for Cueto.
- In other Giants injury news, right-hander Shaun Anderson has started his own Triple-A rehab assignment, Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area tweets. Anderson hit the IL on August 8 due to a blister on the middle finger of his throwing hand, so he shouldn’t require too long of a ramp-up period before he is able to rejoin the Giants. Anderson has a 5.33 ERA, 1.77 K/BB rate, and a 6.0 K/9 over 82 2/3 innings in what has been a rather inconsistent rookie season for the 24-year-old.
Johnny Cueto’s rehab outing with Single-A San Jose is set for tonight, manager Bruce Bochy told reporters (including NBC Sports Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic and Kerry Crowley of the Bay Area News Group), with the veteran righty slated to make 45 pitches. Cueto is expected to make one more start beyond tonight for San Jose, though the original plan of two further rehab outings at Triple-A would be altered, as Cueto might simply get called back to the majors if he is healthy and throwing well. By having “Cueto get up to speed in big league games,” as Pavlovic puts it, the Giants would get some needed rotation help, even if Cueto is limited to only four or five innings per start. All will depend on how Cueto is feeling as he reaches the final stages of his Tommy John rehab, of course, though getting Cueto back in anything close to his old form would certainly help a San Francisco club that is struggling to stay in wild card contention.
Here’s more on some other injury situations from around baseball….
- Yankees manager Aaron Boone and GM Brian Cashman both believe Giancarlo Stanton will be ready to return sometime in September, and the slugger himself told reporters (including MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch) that he hopes to get “a few weeks of at-bats before October.” Those at-bats could come in the form of simulated games or minor league games, however, as Stanton has yet to be cleared for on-field activity. A variety of injuries have limited Stanton to just nine games, making it a “brutal” season that has only been salvaged by the Yankees’ success. “That’s what’s kept it not so bad for me, is to watch everyone bring together wins all different ways….That’s what I’ve been focusing on, not ’poor me’ or all that stuff,” Stanton said.
- Rich Hill and Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman haven’t closed the door on the possibility of Hill starting for the team in the postseason, Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times writes, assuming Hill’s rehab from a flexor tendon strain proceeds as expected. Hill played a 50-toss game of catch from 120 feet today, and the next steps in his rehab include throwing off a mound next week and then tossing four bullpen sessions. From there, Hill “will make what amounts to rehab appearances in the majors. He would start with an inning or two, and increase the workload with each outing, one inning at a time, like in spring training.” This plan could get Hill ready to go for October, though if length is still an issue, the Dodgers could also use one of several other arms in combination with Hill in a piggyback situation.
- Brandon Morrow threw a live batting practice session in Arizona yesterday, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer told 670 The Score radio (hat tip to Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune). It remains to be seen if Morrow will pitch at all in 2019, though he projected a possible return in early September in his most recent update, as he had been facing hitters and wasn’t feeling any soreness in his forearm or elbow.
Cueto’s return to a competitive pitching environment came almost exactly one year to the day of his 2018 Tommy John surgery. The 33-year-old has obviously made significant progress in his recovery and is now firmly on track to return to the MLB mound late this season.
The results were rather impressive for an initial showing, even if it came against rookie ball competition. Of his 21 pitches, Cueto threw 19 for strikes — seven of them of the swinging variety — while racking up five strikeouts in a pair of hitless innings. He was already sitting in the same range with his fastball that he did last year (90.5 mph). While that was a low point for the veteran, it seems promising that his arm speed is already at least to that level.
Unconvinced? Want to see it with your own eyes? Well, Cueto has you covered. He thoughtfully posted every pitch of his outing to his Instagram account.
Cueto is obviously excited about the prospect of a return, as Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area writes. The plan is for him to make another rookie ball outing before moving to the High-A level for several additional outings. Cueto will ultimately need at least two full tune-ups at the highest level of the minors before he makes it back to the MLB mound.
The Giants altered their trade deadline approach after a winning streak brought them back into the Wild Card picture, so Cueto could provide a nice boost this year. Regardless of how the standings look when he’s ready to return, Cueto will be looking to reesteablish his form before shutting things down for the offseason. The Giants owe him $21MM annually through 2021, along with a $5MM buyout on a 2022 club option.
Giants right-hander Johnny Cueto is less than a year removed from undergoing a Tommy John procedure Aug. 2, 2018, but he’s already nearing a rehab assignment, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle relays. Cueto will begin pitching in rehab games in the Arizona rookie league at the start of August, manager Bruce Bochy announced Tuesday.
The Giants’ expectation is that Cueto will factor into their major league plans this season, and considering the recent tear they’ve gone on, the 33-year-old could influence a playoff push. At 45-49, the Giants remain a serious long shot for a playoff spot, especially if they start dealing veterans by the July 31 trade deadline. For now, however, they’ve rallied to within three games of a wild-card spot in a crowded race.
Regardless of whether he does pitch for the Giants in 2019, Cueto has two more guaranteed seasons left on the six-year, $130MM deal he signed with the team going into 2016. The longtime workhorse and ex-ace lived up to the pact in its first year, firing 219 2/3 innings of 2.79 ERA/2.96 FIP ball, but has struggled with injuries and failed to perform to his previous levels since then. Dating back to 2017, Cueto has given the Giants 200 1/3 frames of 4.18 ERA/4.55 FIP pitching.
Meanwhile, another of the Giants’ high-paid veterans – third baseman Evan Longoria – revealed Tuesday that he could miss two weeks to a month because of plantar fasciitis in his left foot. The injury forced Longoria to the IL on Monday, derailing a superb stretch for the former superstar. Longoria has posted a video game-like 1.537 OPS and swatted six home runs in 34 plate appearances in July, raising his 2019 line to .241/.318/.446 (101 wRC+) with 13 HRs in 311 PA. The 33-year-old’s overall production as a Giant has still underwhelmed since they acquired him from the Rays prior to 2018, though Longoria’s recent play has aided in the team’s improbable run toward contention. As long as he’s out, fellow vet Pablo Sandoval figures to handle third for the Giants. That is, if they don’t trade Sandoval in the next two weeks.
Giants righty Johnny Cueto has been on a relatively aggressive timetable in his effort to work back from Tommy John surgery. He’s still on track for a possible return to the majors this September, as Kerry Crowley of the Bay Area News Group reports.
The 33-year-old Cueto was turning in good results last year when he went down, making it through 53 frames of 3.23 ERA ball. But his velocity was down and the peripherals painted a different picture. His outlook soured quite a bit more when it was determined he’d require a replacement ulnar collateral ligament last August.
Expectations will be modest, but there’s still quite a bit at stake here for the San Francisco organization. Cueto is earning $21MM annually through the 2021 season, with a $5MM buyout due thereafter on a $22MM club option. It’s tough to imagine he’ll be worth anything close to his annual salary moving forward, but every bit of contribution will help the club to stomach its already-fixed financial commitment.
Cueto is still working out at the Giants’ Arizona facility, so he’ll hop over to Chase Field for a ’pen session while the club is in town. If all continues to go well, says Crowley, Cueto could embark upon a rehab assignment in August and be back in the bigs for the final month of the season. That would represent a fast-tracked, though hardly unprecedented return. While the Giants won’t have much to play for, seeing him in action could at least help with the offseason planning.