- While Clayton Kershaw’s injury is obviously a blow to the Dodgers, Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times offers a bit more encouraging detail on the situation. While the team was initially fearful that Kershaw had again injured the disk that he herniated last season, manager Dave Roberts told reporters that a scan confirmed that this injury does not involve last year’s herniated disk. That was the Dodgers’ greatest concern, according to Roberts, who called it a “safe bet” that Kershaw would make it back to the team later during the regular season. Shaikin notes that even the back end of the projected four to six week timeline would have Kershaw back in the rotation in early September. Regarding the potential that Kershaw’s injury pushes the Dodgers to make a run at Rangers right-hander Yu Darvish, Roberts simply stated that every team in baseball would love to have Darvish, but stressed that he has no plans to try to persuade the front office into action: “I can’t put the pressure on. I’m not going to put the pressure on.”
As things stand right now, the Rangers are leaning against dealing star righty Yu Darvish, according to MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan. That could still change with an “overwhelming” offer or a total collapse in the standings, he notes. There’s still no clarity in the American League Wild Card picture, and the Rangers remain as plausible a contender as any, so perhaps the smoke surrounding Darvish really has come from an extinguished flame. That storyline promises to be among the most notable of the coming week, not least of which because of interest from the suddenly Clayton Kershaw-less Dodgers. Los Angeles seems to be taking something of a Darvish-or-bust stance with regard to starters, Joel Sherman of the New York Post suggests in a tweet.
- We continue to hear of widespread interest in Phillies reliever Pat Neshek, though it remains unclear just how much he’ll draw in return. A few teams still looking hard at him are the Nationals, Dodgers, and Red Sox, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (via Twitter). Those three clubs are among several that seem to be looking over a variety of relief pitchers, of course.
July 24: The initial prognosis on Kershaw is that he’ll be sidelined for the next four to six weeks, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). He still is set to receive another opinion before a final determination is made.
While that’s obviously a disheartening development for the Dodgers, that timeline would still give Kershaw time to return and get back up to full strength well in advance of the postseason. And, with a 10.5-game lead on the NL West, the Dodgers can weather the storm even without Kershaw for a month or a bit more.
July 23: Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw exited today’s game in the second inning due to lower back tightness, and manager Dave Roberts told reporters (including J.P. Hoornstra of the Southern California News Group) that Kershaw’s issue “is a DL situation.”
Despite the likely DL placement, Roberts felt this injury wasn’t similar to the herniated disk that cost Kershaw over two months of the 2016 season. This bout of back tightness didn’t involve any shooting pains in Kershaw’s leg, for instance, as Andy McCullough of the L.A. Times notes (Twitter links). More information will be known tomorrow when Kershaw is examined by the Dodgers’ team doctor.
Given Kershaw’s past history with back problems, one can’t fault the team for being as careful as possible with their superstar left-hander, even if this DL stint ends up ultimately being precautionary in nature. With the best record in baseball and a 10.5-game lead in the NL West, the Dodgers can afford to give Kershaw perhaps even more time than required to fully heal up.
This being said, another DL placement due to a back problem is an ominous sign for both the team and the player. Despite that large lead, the Dodgers obviously need Kershaw to make a World Series run, and an extended absence for their ace could have a big impact on the team’s deadline plans. L.A. has mostly been linked to bullpen upgrades on the rumor mill, though the team has been exploring all options, including checking in on starters like Yu Darvish and Justin Verlander.
The Dodgers have enjoyed great success from their rotation and team as a whole despite a staggering number of injuries. As MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick tweets, Kershaw would be the 24th different player the Dodgers have placed on the disabled list this season. That list includes all five members of their current rotation (Kershaw, Alex Wood, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda and Brandon McCarthy, who is about to begin another DL stint), as well as Scott Kazmir and Hyun-Jin Ryu, who also currently sidelined. If L.A. was looking at rotation help even before Kershaw’s injury, the search will only intensify, possibly even towards a headline name like Darvish.
Kershaw is enjoying yet another tremendous season, with a 2.04 ERA, 10.7 K/9, 1.53 BB/9 and 47.4% grounder rate over 141 1/3 innings. One minor wrinkle is that Kershaw’s 15.7% home run rate is over twice his career average, plus he is getting more BABIP (.251) and strand rate (90.2%) luck than usual, which is why his ERA predictors (2.94 FIP, 2.73 xFIP) are significantly above his real-world ERA. Of course, these numbers are still pretty outstanding, which says something about Kershaw’s body of work that 2017 could technically be considered something of “a down year” by his standards.
- The Dodgers were interested in Rangers ace Yu Darvish even before Clayton Kershaw’s back injury, writes Jon Morosi of MLB.com. The timetable for Kershaw’s return, once determined, will further impact their level of interest in Darvish and other arms on the market. Morosi hears that among Dodgers’ top prospects, the team is most attached to right-hander Walker Buehler, who has already ascended to Triple-A and could conceivably help the club in 2017. Texas, meanwhile, would likely target two of the Dodgers’ top four prospects (Buehler, Yadier Alvarez, Alex Verdugo and Willie Calhoun), per Morosi, which is a steep but largely unsurprising ask with the Rangers seemingly on the fence about whether to move Darvish at all.
The Dodgers were reported to be interested in Yu Darvish even before today’s news broke that Clayton Kershaw is very likely headed to the disabled list. Regardless of whether Kershaw’s injury proves to be serious or not, Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times argues that the Dodgers should still acquire Darvish or a similar front-of-the-rotation starter. With the team having a legitimate chance at a World Series title, Hernandez feels the time has come for the Dodgers front office to make a bold trade of valued prospects to add an ace that could at least help lessen the postseason load on Kershaw or (worst case scenario) replace Kershaw entirely if his back problems are serious.
The Dodgers have placed right-hander Brandon McCarthy on the 10-day disabled list due to a blister problem, the team announced. In a corresponding move, Hyun-Jin Ryu will be activated from the DL in time to start Monday night’s game. Kenta Maeda will take McCarthy’s place in the rotation on Tuesday night against the Twins.
McCarthy has long battled injury problems throughout his career and this season has been on different. This is the right-hander’s third DL stint this season, all with different issues — McCarthy’s previous DL placements were due to shoulder soreness and right knee tendonitis. This finger blister took McCarthy out of a start last month and has apparently been bothering him since Spring Training, the righty told MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick and other media, though he threw a 40-pitch bullpen session today and wanted to pitch on Tuesday.
When McCarthy has been able to pitch this season, the 34-year-old has posted some strong results, notching a 3.84 ERA and 2.64 K/9 rate over 86 2/3 innings. While McCarthy’s 6.9 K/9 indicates that he isn’t missing many bats, he also isn’t allowing batters to do much damage when they do put wood on the ball, with just a 28% hard-hit ball rate and a 5.7% home run rate.
The Dodgers rotation has been a revolving door of injury situations this season, with Ryu, Maeda, Rich Hill, Alex Wood and (as of today) ace Clayton Kershaw all missing time to the disabled list. Ryu, for instance, is returning from a left foot contusion and also had a DL stint earlier this year due to left hip contusion. (Not to mention the fact that Ryu missed almost all of 2015-16 recovering from shoulder injuries.) Despite all the health problems, however, Los Angeles leads all of baseball in starting pitcher ERA (3.33) and fWAR (12.1) thanks to superlative work from Kershaw and Wood, plus good-to-solid contributions from everyone else. Given all of the injuries and with Kershaw now possibly out of action, however, the Dodgers have been looking at adding starting pitching at the trade deadline.
- The Cubs and Dodgers recently had scouts watching the Phillies’ Pat Neshek in action, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports (Twitter link). Both teams have been known to be looking at other relievers, so it isn’t any surprise that Neshek is on their radar. Neshek, widely expected to be moved before the deadline, has been linked to several teams — Chicago and L.A. are the newest names on a long list that includes the Nationals, Royals, Red Sox, Yankees, Brewers and Rays.
The Dodgers were among those who scouted Rangers ace Yu Darvish’s latest start, an eight-frame, 12-strikeout showing against the Rays on Friday. It turns out the Dodgers are one of multiple teams with “strong interest” in Darvish, tweets Jon Morosi of MLB Network. Talks between Los Angeles and Texas are in their preliminary stages, adds Morosi.
With a major league-best 67-31 record, the Dodgers are already something of a dream team, and adding Darvish to the fold would further increase their relatively high odds of being the last club standing at season’s end. The 30-year-old Darvish would give the Dodgers at least two bona fide aces, joining the peerless Clayton Kershaw, and there’s a legitimate case they also have another No. 1 in the lights-out Alex Wood. Los Angeles has also gotten quality pitching this year from starters Rich Hill and Brandon McCarthy, though both come with durability concerns. The depth-laden team has a couple more respectable starters in Kenta Maeda and Hyun-Jin Ryu, but they’ve been the weakest links in a rotation that tops the majors in ERA (3.33) and fWAR (12.1).
As an impending free agent, Darvish wouldn’t necessarily stick with the Dodgers past this season, yet this year could represent the franchise’s best chance at a championship in a while. So, between that and their top-notch farm system, the Dodgers could elect to make a bold strike and pay what will be a high price to acquire Darvish. Even though the Rangers are struggling, there’s no guarantee they’ll move Darvish, a franchise icon whom they’d like to re-sign. However, just in case, the Rangers have been scouting the Dodgers’ minor leaguers. The Rangers watched highly touted Triple-A outfielder Alex Verdugo on Friday, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News notes (on Twitter). Verdugo is the 35th-best prospect in the game, per Baseball America, and the Dodgers aren’t eager to part with him or other acclaimed youngsters such as righties Walker Buehler and Yadier Alvarez.
The Rays have acquired reliever Sergio Romo and cash considerations from the Dodgers for cash or a player to be named later, per an announcement from Los Angeles.
After an excellent stint with the Giants from 2008-16, Romo drew offseason interest from the Rays before heading to LA on a one-year, $3MM deal. Staying in the National League West didn’t go well for the 34-year-old Romo, who pitched to a 6.12 ERA (with a less-than-encouraging 5.75 FIP) in 25 innings as a Dodger. He also posted a career-worst walk rate (4.32 per nine) and yielded home runs on 26.9 percent of fly balls – an enormous increase over his 13.9 percent mark from last season. As a result, the Dodgers designated Romo for assignment on Thursday.
Given his woes this year, Romo hardly looks like a cure-all for the Rays, who have been in the market for relief help leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Still, he’s a low-cost pickup who did show some promising signs as a Dodger. Romo struck out 28.7 percent of batters in LA, matching his career mark, logged a 14.8 percent swinging-strike rate that betters his lifetime figure (14.2) and helped offset a low ground-ball rate (35.4 percent) by inducing pop-ups with regularity. At 15.4 percent, Romo’s infield fly rate places him among the majors’ upper echelon when it comes to relievers.
Even with Romo on hand, it stands to reason the Rays will continue to scour the market for relief upgrades over the next week-plus. While the 51-47 club is 1.5 games up on a wild-card spot, Tampa Bay’s success hasn’t come because of its bullpen. Rays relievers entered Saturday 22nd in the majors in ERA (4.37) and 23rd in fWAR (1.4), though the now-departed duo of Danny Farquhar and Jumbo Diaz contributed heavily to those unremarkable numbers before the team jettisoned them in recent weeks. The right-handed Romo hasn’t been any better this year, and he’ll now look to bounce back among a relief corps that includes more stable righty options in Alex Colome, Chase Whitley, Brad Boxberger, Tommy Hunter and Erasmo Ramirez.
Ken Gurnick of MLB.com first reported the trade (on Twitter). Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
- A couple of injury updates on the Dodgers, courtesy of J.P. Hoornstra of the Southern California News Group (Twitter links): First baseman Adrian Gonzalez should return before Sept. 1, but outfielder Andre Ethier likely won’t. Back problems have been ruinous to both veterans this year – Gonzalez has been out since early June, and Ethier hasn’t played at all.