Dodgers manager Dave Roberts is optimistic shortstop Corey Seager will be able to return for the World Series, Ken Gurnick of MLB.com was among those to report (Twitter link). “Corey doesn’t want to be denied,” Roberts said of Seager, who missed the Dodgers’ five-game National League Championship Series triumph over the Cubs with a lower back sprain. Reserve Charlie Culberson provided surprisingly excellent production at shortstop against the Cubs, hitting .455/.417/.818 in 13 plate appearances, but he’s obviously not in Seager’s stratosphere. Seager has opened his career with two superstar-caliber seasons and is likely the Dodgers’ top position player.
- Dodgers righty Yu Darvish reached out to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News with an unprompted message to praise Rangers pitching coach Doug Brocail and recently fired bullpen coach Brad Holman. As Grant notes, Darvish’s recent improvements and changed mechanics have led to criticism for his coaches with the Rangers. “…There should be no criticism of Doug Brocail or Brad Holman,” said Darvish. “They are both very good coaches without a doubt. They are also great people. I’m not the kind of person who lies, so please trust me when I say this.” Darvish goes on to explain some of the alterations that he’s made since changing teams and eventually comes back to the point that there’s “no major difference in coaching or philosophy” that has led to his rebound following his trade to Los Angeles.
- Scott Miller of Bleacher Report profiles the renaissance of Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig. Sources tell Miller that the relationship between Puig and former skipper Don Mattingly was broken beyond repair,” but it seems a second chance under new manager Dave Roberts has paid dividends for all involved — even if it took some time for that to come to fruition. Puig himself credits a newfound willingness to listen to Roberts and others within the organization, spurred by encouragement from his mother, for his improved performance in 2017.
Dodgers phenom Corey Seager feels “normal-ish”, according to manager Dave Roberts (via an article by Ken Gurnick of MLB.com). Seager was injured while sliding into second base during the game in which the Dodgers clinched the NLDS series victory, and hasn’t done any baseball activity since then. Roberts adds that Seager won’t be traveling with the team to Chicago, though that could change under certain circumstances. Regardless, Seager can’t be added to the NLCS roster at this point unless someone on the current roster gets injured. In that case, the player Seager replaces would be ineligible for the Dodgers’ World Series roster, should the team advance that far. The 23-year old Seager batted .295/.375/.479 with 22 home runs during the regular season, and ranked first among all NL shortstops in fWAR. His situation will certainly be worth monitoring closely.
More from baseball’s NL West division…
- In a mailbag article for MLB.com, Rockies beat writer Thomas Harding points out that Colorado used only eight total starting pitchers this past season, which was incredibly lucky considering they averaged 12 starters per season from 2011-2016. Seven of those eight starters are set to return in 2018, and while they have youth on their side, Harding wonders how the organization will adapt if their luck with pitcher injuries regresses to the mean. The Rockies playoff hopes for the next few years will rest largely on the health and development of their young starters, including Jon Gray, Jeff Hoffman, Antonio Senzatela, German Marquez and Kyle Freeland.
- Speaking of mailbag articles for MLB.com, Padres beat writer AJ Cassavell suggests that San Diego’s bullpen-related offseason plans will largely hinge on whether any teams will meet GM A.J. Preller’s asking price on lefty Brad Hand. If Hand is traded, the Padres’ bullpen will likely need a significant overhaul, including some spending on established major leaguers. However, if he isn’t moved and the club is able to retain Craig Stammen, their relief corps may only need a few tweaks for 2018. To say that Hand essentially was the Padres’ bullpen in 2017 isn’t an exaggeration; his 3.89 Win Probability Added (WPA) ranked fourth-best among all relievers in baseball. All other Padres relievers combined for -1.76 WPA, and Stammen was the only other arm in their ’pen to exceed 0.20.
5:50pm: Seager told reporters on Saturday that he will not play in the NLCS. He’s dealing with “a lot of tightness” in his back and is “not really mobile,” and is “hoping” he’ll be able to return should the Dodgers advance to the World Series. It’s possible Seager will start baseball activities next week (Twitter links via Bill Shaikin and Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times).
4:04pm: Seager received an epidural injection after suffering a lower back sprain, Roberts told reporters (including J.P. Hoornstra of the Southern California News Group). Seager suffered the injury during a slide into second base in the first inning of Game 3 of the NLDS and he “hasn’t hit, hasn’t moved around” in terms of baserunning since, Roberts said. The shortstop is considered day-to-day for now, and Roberts didn’t rule out the possibility of Seager being added to the roster later in the series (though this would require another player going on the DL and thus subsequently being inactive for the World Series).
1:11pm: Star shortstop Corey Seager wasn’t included on the Dodgers’ 25-man roster for the National League Championship Series, as revealed today when the Dodgers announced their roster. Los Angeles made two changes from its NLDS roster, with Seager and righty Pedro Baez omitted in favor of outfielder Joc Pederson and utilityman Charlie Culberson.
Seager missed the last two days of team workouts due to a bad back, and the injury is apparently severe enough that the Dodgers didn’t feel comfortable activating him even for a critical playoff series. Manager Dave Roberts described Seager’s problem as a “muscular issue” to MLB.com’s Joshua Thornton and other reporters yesterday, and while Roberts expressed confidence at the time that Seager would be in the Game 1 lineup, the shortstop’s absence could indicate a turn for the worse, or perhaps just extreme caution on the team’s part.
Seager could still appear in the NLCS if another Dodger were to hit the DL during the best-of-seven set with the Cubs. Seager also would’ve been ineligible for the World Series if he’d been removed from the NLCS roster due to injury, as Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register points out on Twitter. Assuming Seager’s back problems don’t continue, deactivating him now preserves his status for the Fall Classic.
Of course, the Dodgers now face a tougher path to the Series without Seager in the fold. After winning Rookie Of The Year honors in 2016, Seager enjoyed a big sophomore season, hitting .295/.375/.479 and 22 homers over 613 PA. These numbers were posted despite battling elbow problems late in the year, and as Andy McCullough of the L.A. Times recently reported, Seager and Dodgers management haven’t always seen eye-to-eye when it comes to playing through pain, as Seager is loath to take time off.
Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernandez are the likeliest candidates to fill the starting shortstop role throughout the NLCS, with Logan Forsythe and Culberson also possibilities. Pederson’s inclusion on the roster gives the Dodgers an additional left-handed bat and more outfield depth, which would allow Taylor or Hernandez to move into infield duty. If Forsythe plays short, Chase Utley could step in at second base, though this scenario would only be deployed with a right-handed pitcher on the mound.
The Twins announced a few baseball operations changes on Tuesday, including the hiring of 27-year-old Jeremy Zoll as the team’s new director of minor league operations. Brad Steil, who had previously been the team’s farm director since 2013, will now instead head up the Twins’ pro scouting department. Zoll has spent the past few seasons in the Dodgers organization, most recently holding the title of assistant director of player development. Zoll has also worked as an advance scouting coordinator with the Angels. “We’re really fortunate and excited to have him,” said chief baseball officer Derek Falvey of the newly hired Zoll (link via MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger). “He came in highly recommended from the people he worked with and around. He’ll bring some new ideas into what we’re doing developmentally.”
- Rich Hill is no stranger to reinvention, and after the curveball that fueled his late-career revival began his fail him early this season, The Ringer’s Ben Lindbergh illustrates how Hill moved away from his signature pitch. Hill began to utilize his fastball to great success, what the southpaw’s heater lacks in speed (89mph), it makes up for with excellent movement. Cutting back on the curveball usage also may have helped Hill avoid the blister problems that plagued him in 2016. The end result was another strong season for the Dodgers lefty, as Hill posted a 3.32 ERA with 11.01 K/9 over 135 2/3 innings.
The Dodgers have now taken the NL West for five consecutive seasons. But the current roster wasn’t exactly built with just that in mind. The big-city organization hasn’t won the World Series since way back in 1988.
President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and GM Farhan Zaidi were looking to construct a powerhouse. At mid-season, they struck a deal to land ace Yu Darvish to an already-loaded rotation. Despite a late-season lull, the team racked up 104 wins.
Here’s how it all came together:
- HOMEGROWN (7)
- Kenley Jansen, RP: International Free Agent (Curacao) November ’04. Re-signed to five-year, $80MM contract in January ’17.
- Pedro Baez, RP: International Free Agent (D.R.) January ’07
- Clayton Kershaw, SP: Drafted 1st Rd (7) ’06
- Corey Seager, SS: Drafted 1st Rd (18) ’12
- Ross Stripling, RP: Drafted 5th Rd ’12
- Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF: Drafted 4th Rd ’13
- Kyle Farmer, C: Drafted 8th Rd ’13
- ACQUIRED VIA FREE AGENCY (4)
- Yasiel Puig, OF: June ’12 (Cuba) — Signed to a seven-year, $42MM contract.
- Justin Turner, 3B: February ’14 (NYM) — Signed to a minor league contract. Re-signed to four-year, $64MM contract in January ’17.
- Kenta Maeda, SP: January ’16 (Japan) — Signed to an eight-year, $25MM contract. Dodgers also paid a $20MM posting fee for his negotiating rights.
- Brandon Morrow, RP: January ’17 (SD) — Signed to a minor league contract.
- ACQUIRED VIA TRADE (14)
- Andre Ethier, OF: December ’05 (OAK) — Acquired in the trade that sent Milton Bradley and Antonio Perez to the Athletics.
- Yasmani Grandal, C: December ’14 (SD) — Acquired in the trade that sent Matt Kemp and Tim Federowicz to the Padres.
- Austin Barnes, C: December ’14 (MIA) — Acquired in the trade that sent Dan Haren, Dee Gordon and Miguel Rojas to the Marlins.
- Enrique Hernandez, INF/OF: December ’14 (MIA) — Acquired in the trade that sent Dan Haren, Dee Gordon and Miguel Rojas to the Marlins.
- Alex Wood, SP: July ’15 (ATL) — Acquired in the three-team trade that sent Hector Olivera, Paco Rodriguez and Zachary Bird to the Braves and Kevin Guzman, Jeff Brigham and Victor Araujo to the Marlins.
- Chase Utley, INF: August ’15 (PHI) — Acquired in the trade that sent Darnell Sweeney and John Richy to the Phillies.
- Chris Taylor, INF/OF: June ’16 (SEA) — Acquired in the trade that sent Zach Lee to the Mariners.
- Rich Hill, SP: August ’16 (OAK) — Acquired in the trade that sent Frankie Montas, Grant Holmes, and Jharel Cotton to the Athletics.
- Josh Fields, RP: August ’16 (HOU) — Acquired in the trade that sent Yordan Alvarez to the Astros.
- Logan Forsythe, INF: January ’17 (TB) — Acquired in the trade that sent Jose De Leon to the Rays.
- Yu Darvish, SP: July ’17 (TEX) — Acquired in the trade that sent Willie Calhoun, Brendon Davis and A.J. Alexy to the Rangers.
- Tony Cingrani, RP: July ’17 (CIN) — Acquired in the trade that sent Scott Van Slyke and Hendrik Clementina to the Reds.
- Tony Watson, RP: July ’17 (PIT) — Acquired in the trade that sent Oneil Cruz and Angel German to the Pirates.
- Curtis Granderson, OF: August ’17 (NYM) — Acquired in the trade that sent Jacob Rhame to the Mets.
Los Angeles will lose some players to the open market at the end of the year, but all were signed to one-year pacts last winter or added over the summer via trade. That means that the core of the club will remain under control — in many cases well into the future. No matter how things turn out this fall, though, there will likely be quite a few interesting opportunities for the always-creative Dodgers front office to pursue over the offseason to come.
- As the Dodgers prepare for a tough NLDS challenge, Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times looks at the difficult balancing act the team has faced with star shortstop Corey Seager. The club has sought to ensure he doesn’t overwork himself, particularly (but not exclusively) since an elbow issue cropped up. But the youngster says he “like[s] to work” and has not always seen eye to eye with the organization on the matter. You’ll want to read the entire story, which conveys and explores the tension surrounding the issue as the Dodgers look to convert their excellent regular season into postseason glory.
The Mets formally announced on Tuesday what has been widely expected and reported for weeks: Terry Collins is out as the team’s manager and has accepted a role as a special assistant to general manager Sandy Alderson (as Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported over the weekend). Beyond that, the Mets made formal the decision to dismiss pitching coach Dan Warthen, and they’ve also cut ties with head trainer Ray Ramirez. The rest of the team’s training and conditioning staff will return, and Warthen has been offered another role in the organization.
The Mets will retain hitting coach Kevin Long and assistant hitting coach Pat Roessler as well as third base coach Glenn Sherlock. The team hasn’t cut bench coach Dick Scott, first base coach Tom Goodwin or bullpen coach Ricky Bones, but each will be granted permission to speak with other teams once a new manager is selected. Notably, Mike Puma of the New York Post reported earlier this morning that the Mets will begin their managerial search, in earnest, this week.
Among the top external candidates, as previously reported by Puma and others, are Astros bench coach Alex Cora and Dodgers bench coach Bob Geren (who formerly served as the Mets’ bench coach under Terry Collins). The Mets, Puma writes, may try to get permission to interview Cora and Geren this week before their respective teams begin postseason play in the divisional series. He also suggested that Scott could be given the opportunity to interview as Collins’ replacement.
Regarding the pitching coach vacancy, Puma wrote that Bones is a top candidate to step into that role, which could open an opportunity for former Mets closer John Franco to interview as the team’s new bullpen coach. The 57-year-old Franco, who spent 14 seasons pitching for the Mets, has interest in coaching for his former team, according to Puma.
Ramirez’s dismissal as head trainer comes on the heels of one of the most injury-plagued seasons for any team in recent memory. While it’s certainly not fair to pin the entirety of the team’s injury woes on him, it’s long seemed possible that the staggering amount of Mets injuries this year would have some type of ramifications on the training/medical staff.
Noah Syndergaard missed most of the season with a torn lat muscle that was suffered after his now infamous decision to refuse an MRI. The Mets were also without Steven Matz, Seth Lugo, Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler for much of the season due to various arm injuries (including a partial tear of Lugo’s UCL), while Yoenis Cespedes, Neil Walker, T.J. Rivera and Michael Conforto all suffered injuries on the position-player side of the equation. All of that is in addition to a season-long absence for David Wright, though his health has been an ongoing issue for the past couple of seasons as he tries to work his way back from shoulder and neck surgeries.