- The Cards recalled Giovanny Gallegos from Triple A today, the club announced and Joe Trezza of MLB.com tweeted. The 27-year-old reliever – whom you’ll recall was one of the arms acquired from the Yankees in the late-summer swap for Luke Voit – will be available out of the St. Louis bullpen. With the playoff race nearing its apex, Gallegos isn’t likely to see a lot of usage, but an extra arm never hurts this time of year.
- Trezza also tweeted that Cards manager Mike Shildt expects Bud Norris (blister) to be available out out of the pen tonight. Norris was pulled in the 7th inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers last Sunday when the blister surfaced. Though the deposed closer has struggled at times this year, he figures to be an important piece of the puzzle in the final week. With the final six games against the division-rival Brewers and Cubs, there figure to be more than enough high-leverage, heart-pounding situations to go around – even if he’s not closing games.
- In a separate piece from Goold, Cardinals president of baseball ops John Mozeliak confirms some items of interest about the club’s future bullpen. Namely, current closer Carlos Martinez will indeed return to the starting rotation next season. A tight rehab timeline, coupled with the team’s needs, prompted Martinez’s move to the pen late this year. While it has worked out quite well thus far, however, it seems more happy accident than long-term strategy.
- Speaking of the late-inning mix, flame-throwing rookie Jordan Hicks will have no restrictions the rest of the way because of the built-in days off. Though he’s still roughly 25 innings shy of his total innings tally from last season, when he was pitching as a starter in the minors, Hicks has still been relied upon rather heavily in 2018. Pitching every couple of days is a different animal, as is the pressure the 22-year-old faces as a late-innings reliever in a pennant race. Regardless, Shildt will have unfettered access to his young fireballer as the Cardinals try to lock down a spot in the playoffs.
- As Goold also covers, the Cardinals have no intention of altering their starting rotation for the final week of the season. It’ll be Austin Gomber, Jack Flaherty, and John Gant facing off against Milwaukee starting Monday.
Cardinals righty Jordan Hicks has hired the Ballengee Group as his representatives, according to Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter). MLBTR’s Agency Database now reflects that and other recent agency moves.
Hicks is just 21 years of age and had never pitched above the High-A level entering the season. But he’s now the owner of a 1.96 ERA through 23 MLB frames. With the game’s biggest fastball at his disposal, Hicks has captured quite a lot of attention in recent weeks.
Of course, there’s also some cause for skepticism. Hicks has generated a pedestrian 7.2% swinging-strike rate and dished out 16 walks against just 11 strikeouts. And Hicks may not be able to sustain a .191 BABIP-against, as Statcast numbers suggest the quality of contact produced by opposing hitters supports a .346 xwOBA that substantially lags the .254 wOBA that has resulted.
The statistical questions only increase the intrigue surrounding Hicks. Ultimately, we’ll have to wait to see whether he can sustain the excellent bottom-line results. If he’s able to do so, there could be a near future where Hicks racks up saves, arbitration earnings, and endorsement deals. No matter what, he’ll be a fascinating player to watch.
Cardinals reliever Jordan Hicks became the second pitcher ever (after Aroldis Chapman) to hit the 105mph mark, tossing two fastballs at that epic speed during an appearance against the Phillies on Sunday. As The Athletic’s Mark Saxon writes in a subscription-only piece, Hicks’ feat may represent the virtual limit of how fast a human arm can throw a baseball. “The maximum can’t go up, because the ligaments can’t take it,” said Dr. Glenn Fleisig, research director of the American Sports Medicine Institute. “We’re at the limit, based upon what ligaments and tendons can take….What’s happening is more teams have more guys near the top of the limit, but the limit is just going up nominally. It really can’t go up. Maybe at the top it will go up one mph or so, but never will it be 10 mph faster. It’s just more crowded near the top now.”
While we wonder if Dr. Fleisig has ever heard of a former Mets phenom named Sidd Finch, let’s check in on some news from around the baseball world…
- The Red Sox have put a high price tag on Blake Swihart in trade negotiations with other teams, NBCSports.com’s Evan Drellich reports. “Hard to find a trade partner when you’re asking for some of teams’ best prospects,” one rival talent evaluator tells Drellich. Swihart has barely played at all this season coming off the Sox bench, and his previous two seasons also saw little MLB action (though injuries were a big factor in the lack of activity). While these factors have seemingly dimmed Swihart’s former top-prospect status, the Sox are still aiming for a big return for Swihart, with Drellich noting that some familiar with the trade talks have described Boston’s demands as “unreasonable.” The Sox may end up designating Swihart for assignment when Dustin Pedroia returns to ensure that a Swihart deal will happen, though this may or may not create the “bidding war” the Red Sox hope will then occur. MLBTR’s Steve Adams recently broke down the potential market for Swihart, and while there are several teams that could use catching help, it hardly seems like Boston will score multiple quality minor leaguers in exchange for Swihart.
- Jose Reyes had another tough game tonight, making two errors that contributed to a 5-1 Mets loss to the Marlins. Reyes now has a measly .145/.203/.200 slash line through 59 plate appearances this season, leading the New York Post’s Mike Puma to question whether Reyes’ time on the roster is coming to an end. Rookie Luis Guillorme may have more to offer in the utility infield role, leaving Reyes as the potential odd man out once Todd Frazier returns from the disabled list.
- Veteran right-hander Ricky Nolasco is hopeful of continuing his career, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports (via Twitter). Nolasco was released from a minor league deal with the Royals during Spring Training and has yet to catch on with another team. A veteran of 12 Major League seasons, Nolasco posted a 4.92 ERA, 7.1 K/9, and 2.47 K/BB rate over 181 innings with the Angels in 2017. While his performance has generally dimmed in recent years, Nolasco is still an effective innings-eater and managed a 2.6 fWAR season as recently as 2016.
On his latest podcast, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand chats with just-minted Reds GM Nick Krall, who took a grinder’s approach to getting into the game. The back story is an interesting listen and also provides some insight into Krall’s background with the Moneyball-era A’s. Of what he learned from Billy Beane, Krall says he was impressed by Beane’s scope of knowledge of players from outside the Oakland organization along with his certitude as to “what he wanted on his team.” From former Reds GM Walt Jocketty, Krall says he learned to exercise greater patience. (Krall describes himself as “a very impatient person” by nature.) It’s a worthwhile listen for fans who want to learn more about the most recent person to be named a major-league general manager.
Here’s more from the NL Central:
- Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette looks at a few interesting subjects involving the Pirates. In particular, she dives into the question of fastball velocity in regard to closer Felipe Vazquez, whose slight loss of speed does not seem to represent much cause for concern — particularly since he has actually increased the spin rate on the offering. Though Vazquez only carries a 3.86 ERA on the year, it’s worth noting too that he has been hurt by a 58.3% strand rate. That said, while Vazquez is still getting loads of swinging strikes, his walk rate has gone backwards and he isn’t getting as many grounders as he has in years past. At this point, he hasn’t shown quite the level of dominance he did in 2017, but there’s not yet any reason to believe he won’t be a quality late-inning arm for the foreseeable future.
- The Brewers activated righty Chase Anderson from the DL to take the ball yesterday, optioning Freddy Peralta to open a roster spot. It’s certainly good news for Milwaukee that Anderson was able to bounce back quickly from illness; now, the 30-year-old will look go get back on track after a messy start to the year. He has managed a 3.86 ERA in 51 1/3 frames, but has showing worrying trends in his peripherals that have fielding-independent pitching metrics raising red flags (6.02 FIP; 5.36 xFIP; 5.16 SIERA). The brief respite for Anderson may not have been the worst thing for all involved. In addition to giving him a chance to get sorted, the team surely now feels like it has a better sense of Peralta’s potential to help at the MLB level in the near term. His second outing wasn’t quite as stirring as his first, to be sure, but Peralta impressed overall by allowing just four earned runs on four hits while recording 18 strikeouts against eight walks in 9 2/3 innings.
- Over at Fangraphs, there are a couple pieces well worth a read for fans of the division. Jeff Sullivan examines the curious case of Cardinals reliever Jordan Hicks, the flamethrowing reliever who has thus far registered very few strikeouts. It’s a well-balanced take on the youngster, who certainly has exhibited a fascinating skill but still will need to make improvements to become a dominant MLB reliever. Speaking of fastballs, Jay Jaffe looks at the arsenal of Cubs starter Yu Darvish and his reasonably promising return from the DL. It’s a complicated picture, but well worth a look for anyone looking to gauge where things are headed for the high-priced hurler.
The Cardinals will include right-hander Jordan Hicks on their 25-man roster, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, with the move becoming official on Wednesday or Thursday morning. Righty John Brebbia will be optioned to Triple-A in a corresponding transactions once Hicks’ contract has been selected.
A third-round pick for St. Louis in the 2015 draft, Hicks has looked good in Spring Training, posting a 2.35 ERA and recording eight strikeouts against just one walk over 7 2/3 innings. Despite this strong performance, this is quite an aggressive promotion for the Cards, as Hicks will be entirely skipping both Double-A and Triple-A en route to the majors. He posted good but not dominant numbers (2.82 ERA, 7.4 K/9, 1.85 K/BB rate) over 165 2/3 innings in the minors and was a well-regarded but not elite prospect, ranked as the sixth-best minor leaguer in the Cardinals’ farm system by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus.
[Updated Cardinals depth chart at Roster Resource]
Despite this lack of a standout pedigree, Hicks obviously impressed Cardinals officials during the spring and offers even more potential as a bullpen weapon. Just three of Hicks’ 34 career appearances in the minors have come as a reliever, though the 2018 Baseball America Prospect Handbook predicted that relief pitching could be Hicks’ ultimate future due to some issues with his control and command. Hicks offers an arsenal of two excellent pitches that would seem to lend itself to bullpen work, including a power curveball “that draws plus-plus grades from evaluators,” according to BA. He is best known, however, for a fastball that routinely averages in the mid-90’s, and he has touched the 102-mph threshold this spring.
This type of velocity could be even more dangerous in short bursts as a reliever, and Hicks’ inclusion on the roster adds another fascinating wrinkle to the Cardinals’ closing situation. Luke Gregerson was signed this winter to ostensibly work as the St. Louis closer, though it seems as if the team will take something of a situational approach to the ninth inning, especially since Gregerson will start the season on the DL. Tyler Lyons and Dominic Leone look like the top choices for saves right now, though there have been rumors that the Cards are still interested in free agent Greg Holland. Should Hicks impress early in the season, however, his power arm could quickly move him up the depth chart and potentially get him into the closer mix as well.
Some rumblings from around the NL Central…
- The Cardinals were linked to Rays closer Alex Colome in trade rumors earlier this winter, though two sources tell Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the team’s interest in Colome was “overstated.” Chris Archer seems to be the Cards’ top target in regards to trade talks with the Rays.
- Cardinals GM John Mozeliak told Goold and other reporters that he is still “kicking tires” on some other bullpen options but he is overall comfortable going into the season with Luke Gregerson as the top closer option. This could be some gamesmanship on Mozeliak’s part given that St. Louis has been exploring several relief options both before and after they signed Gregerson, though Gregerson collected 31 saves as recently as 2015 when he pitched for Houston. In terms of other available relievers, the Cardinals have “at most, tempered” interest in Greg Holland. Beyond the veteran Gregerson, the Cards also have several young arms in the pen and in the upper minors that could eventually factor into the ninth-inning mix. Goold notes that hard-throwing righty prospect Jordan Hicks has drawn trade interest from other teams.
- Now that Gerrit Cole has been traded, teams who have talked deals with the Pirates believe that the Bucs could now be more open to moving Andrew McCutchen, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick writes (Twitter links). Pittsburgh has had “ongoing dialogue” about McCutchen with multiple teams, including the Giants. One potential side effect of increased trade talks involving McCutchen (and the Marlins’ Christian Yelich) is that it could extend the lack of activity on the free agent outfielder front.
- If the Pirates did deal McCutchen, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (Twitter links) isn’t sure how much the Bucs could get back, based on the relatively lacking returns other teams have recently gotten in trades for players in their final year before free agency. Olney opines that the Pirates could get more young talent back in a trade by offering to cover some of the $14.75MM owed to McCutchen in 2018.
- It doesn’t appear as though Joe Maddon and the Cubs have any talks about an extension, though the manager said during this weekend’s Cubs Convention (as reported by The Athletic’s Patrick Mooney) that he doesn’t “ever try to strike up those kind of conversations….I believe if we take care of our own business properly, that’s the kind of stuff that takes care of itself. I’ve always relied on that thought. So I’m not concerned about that. I am a Cub right now. And I want to be a Cub for many years to come.” Maddon is under contract through the 2019 season, so there isn’t any immediate need for either side to press for extension negotiations already. Maddon’s comments also make it seem as if he has no plans to retire anytime soon, which is notable given that he turns 64 next month.
- It’s unclear how many “untouchable” players the Orioles have, but second baseman Jonathan Schoop, outfielder Trey Mancini and reliever Mychal Givens are among them, an executive from outside the organization told Kubatko at the Winter Meetings. The lone player of those three who’s not under control for the long haul is Schoop, who has two arbitration-eligible years remaining. The Orioles will attempt to extend him sometime soon, Kubatko suggests. Mancini is controllable for the next half-decade, including two pre-arb campaigns, while Givens is under wraps for four more seasons (he’ll be eligible for arbitration in a year).
- While talking Manny Machado with the Cardinals, the Orioles showed interest in a trio of right-handers – Luke Weaver, Jack Flaherty and Jordan Hicks – as well as catcher Carson Kelly, Kubatko relays. In acquiring Weaver and Flaherty, the Orioles would accomplish their goal of getting two major league-ready starters for their top player. Of course, it’s questionable whether the Cardinals would even part with one (let alone both) for a single year of Machado. Weaver held his own across 60 1/3 innings last season for the Cards, who may not be in position to lose another starter with free agent Lance Lynn likely set to depart, while Flaherty ranks as MLB.com’s 48th-best prospect.
- The Orioles are reportedly trying to acquire Royals left-hander Danny Duffy, but Kubatko throws cold water on the possibility. Baltimore is indeed interested in Duffy, but it’s unlikely a deal with Kansas City will come together, in part because the Royals aren’t “aggressively shopping” the soon-to-be 29-year-old, Kubatko hears.
- Although the Orioles are seeking a left-handed hitter, they don’t seem to have interest in free agent Jon Jay, per Kubatko. That differs from previous offseasons when Jay was on the O’s radar, he notes. Conversely, Baltimore could consider Preston Tucker, whom the Astros designated for assignment Friday.