- The Dodgers will keep left-hander Alex Wood in their rotation when southpaw Rich Hill and righty Brandon McCarthy return from the disabled list next week, manager Dave Roberts told reporters Saturday (Twitter link via Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times). Wood opened the season in the bullpen, but the results have been too good to ignore since he moved to the rotation in late April. Across four starts and 22 innings, Wood has allowed four earned runs (all in his May 2 outing), with a whopping 34 strikeouts against four walks. Given that Wood, Hill, McCarthy and Clayton Kershaw are presumably on the cusp of occupying four-fifths of Los Angeles’ rotation, either Julio Urias or Hyun-Jin Ryu will end up as the odd man out.
- The Dodgers have updates on a number of players. Lefty Rich Hill is going to return as a starter, but if his blister issue recurs then the team will consider moving him into some kind of relief role, manager Dave Roberts tells MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (Twitter link). The timeline remains a ways off for outfielder Andre Ethier, meanwhile. He’s still not able to run without feeling pain in his back, Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times reports, making it seem unlikely he’d be able to return early July. Finally, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez is expected to begin a rehab assignment next week, Alanna Rizzo of Sportsnet LA tweets. He may only require two or three games before returning.
- Heyman also reports a pair of agency changes, noting that Red Sox top prospect Rafael Devers is now a client of Rep 1 Baseball, while Dodgers top prospect Yadier Alvarez is now repped by Wasserman. Neither has made his MLB debut yet, though both are considered among the game’s top 25 to 50 prospects and could theoretically surface in the Majors within the next calendar year or so (Devers, who is already in Double-A, appears closer than Alvarez, who has just 18 innings in High-A). Both changes are now reflected in MLBTR’s Agency Database, which contains representation info on roughly more than 2,500 Major League and Minor League players. If you see any inaccuracies or omissions, please let us know via email: email@example.com.
- The Dodgers have lost yet another starter to the disabled list, as right-hander Kenta Maeda has been placed on the 10-day disabled list due to tightness in his left hamstring. Maeda, who took a shutout into the ninth inning of last night’s game, has been excellent over his past three outings (2.21 ERA, 21-to-4 K/BB ratio in 20 1/3 innings) following a rough start to the season. There’s no word on precisely how long Maeda will be sidelined just yet, though he joins Rich Hill, Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy and Brock Stewart on the L.A. disabled list.
Dodgers outfielder Andrew Toles has been diagnosed with a torn right ACL, the club announced and Ken Gurnick of MLB.com was among those to tweet. He’ll require surgery to repair the ligament that seems likely to keep him out for the remainder of the season.
For the time being, at least, Brett Eibner will take his place on the active roster, per J.P. Hoornstra of the Southern California News Group (Twitter link). Also coming up is Scott Van Slyke, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports (Twitter links), with reliever Adam Liberatore also hitting the DL with a groin strain. The two new additions to the roster, however, both hit from the right side.
The left-handed-hitting Toles, 24, hurt himself chasing down a flyball in the left field corner in an attempt to preserve an ongoing no-hitter. But he couldn’t make the catch and had to be helped off the field after going down awkwardly.
Today’s news represents the worst-case scenario. While Toles should have every hope of returning to full health after his ACL is repaired, the recovery time required makes it all but certain he won’t return in the present season.
Toles had engineered a meteoric rise to the majors last year, finally (and suddenly) making good on his promise. He had previously been a third-round pick of the Rays who washed out of baseball and ended up sitting out the 2015 season. But he hit at every level in 2016, including the majors, where he slashed .314/.365/.505 in 115 plate appearances.
That late-season showing made Toles a clear part of the Dodgers’ plans for the current campaign. If anything, though, his importance has increased: Toles is one of six Dodgers players who has accumulated more than 100 plate appearances thus far. Though he’s not quite hitting at last year’s pace, Toles is sitting at a productive .271/.314/.458.
Of course, that offensive work has come almost exclusively against right-handed pitching, as the Dodgers prefer to use him in a fairly strict platoon role. But he was a highly useful piece, and one that will be missed. While Los Angeles is fortunate in that top prospect Cody Bellinger has opened his career with a bang, and is capable of playing a corner, he had been slated to spend most of his time at first base with the struggling Adrian Gonzalez resting his ailing forearm. Instead, Bellinger will occupy left field for the time being, skipper Dave Roberts told reporters including Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times (Twitter links). He added that the organization will look to accelerate Gonzalez’s rehab timeline in the wake of the injury.
Looking ahead a bit, Andre Ethier could ultimately take over as the primary left-handed-hitting platoon corner outfielder, though he’s still a ways away from returning and features quite a different skillset than Toles. Ultimately, there are still plenty of scenarios for the Dodgers to have quite a productive outfield unit. So long as Gonzalez can return to take the lion’s share of time at first, the team can allow Bellinger and Yasiel Puig a chance to hold down near-everyday jobs in the corners, with platoon pieces such as Ethier and Franklin Gutierrez on hand to pick up any slack.
- The Dodgers have inked lefty Logan Darnell to a minors pact, as Triple-A Oklahoma City broadcaster/media relations director Alex Freedman announced on Twitter. Darnell, 28, has 24 MLB frames under his belt, all of those coming in 2014 with the Twins. Last year, he worked to a 3.53 ERA over 109 2/3 Triple-A frames. He wasn’t exactly generating great results with the indy ball Somerset Patriots, but evidently showed enough to catch the eye of the Dodgers’ brass.
The Dodgers announced that they’ve claimed left-hander Justin Marks off waivers from the Rays and optioned him to Triple-A. Outfielder Andre Ethier was transferred to the 60-day disabled list to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.
The 29-year-old Marks has a 1.74 ERA in 10 1/3 innings for the Rays over the past two seasons, but he’s also issued 10 walks against just seven strikeouts in that sample. Marks has had questionable results through his minor league tenure as a starting pitcher, though he dominated left-handed opponents last season in his work between the Majors and minors; same-handed opponents mustered just a .199/.268/.344 batting line against Marks in 168 plate appearances.
Each year, the free-agent class is impacted by the performance of players with vesting options (as is the financial future of players with said provisions in their contract). For those unfamiliar with the option, a vesting option is typically (though not always) a club option that can automatically trigger based on the player’s health and/or performance. Meeting pre-determined criteria for games played, innings pitched and plate appearances are the most common ways of triggering a vesting option. Some also require that a player avoid the DL at the end of the season and/or for a certain number of games over the course of the year.
Here’s a look at all of the 2018 player options that can automatically trigger based on the players’ 2017 performance…
- Matt Cain: The 2017 campaign is the final season of a six-year, $127.5MM extension that Cain signed with the Giants on April 2, 2012. Prior to that point, Cain had been one of the most durable and efficient starters in the NL, but injuries have completely derailed Cain’s career since that 2012 season. Cain hasn’t thrown more than 90 1/3 innings since 2013, and so far he’s delivered just a 4.64 ERA in 455 1/3 innings over the five extra years of control the Giants bought out. If he can reach 200 innings this season and is not on the disabled list due to elbow or shoulder troubles to end the year, his $21.5MM club option would become guaranteed. However, he’s averaging fewer than 5 1/3 innings per start in 2017, and his previous health woes make that decidedly unlikely. His option comes with a $7.5MM buyout, which seems like an inevitable outcome.
- Andre Ethier: Ethier batted .273/.351/.429 through the first three seasons of his five-year, $85MM extension (including particularly strong efforts in 2013 and 2015), but he played in just 16 games last season and has been on the disabled list for the entire 2017 season (herniated disk in his lower back). His $17.5MM club option would automatically vest with 550 plate appearances this season, but that’s obviously not going to happen, so he’ll receive a $2.5MM buyout instead.
- Matt Garza: Garza’s four-year, $50MM contract with the Brewers contained one of the more convoluted vesting options in recent memory. Injury concerns surrounding Garza allowed the club to land a team option valued at a base of just $5MM. However, had Garza made 110 starts over the contract’s four years, pitched 115 innings in 2017 and avoided the DL at the end of the 2017 season, the option would’ve become guaranteed at $13MM. On the other side of the coin, the Brewers would’ve been able to pick it up at just $1MM had Garza missed 130 or more days during any single season of the contract. Neither of those scenarios will play out at this point, though. All of that is a long-winded way of saying that Garza’s option won’t be vesting at $13MM and will come at a potentially reasonable rate of $5MM.
- Gio Gonzalez: Gonzalez’s five-year, $42MM extension came with a $12MM club option for the 2017 season (which was exercised) and a $12MM club/vesting option for the 2018 campaign. If the left-hander reaches 180 innings this season, he’ll be locked in at $12MM next season. For a player as durable as Gonzalez, who averaged 31 starts per year from 2010-16, that seems simple enough. But, Gonzalez has had difficulty working deep into games and has not crossed the 180-inning threshold since 2013. This season, though, he’s already racked up 44 1/3 innings through seven starts — an average of about 6 1/3 frames per outing. He’d need only 29 starts at that pace to trigger the option. And even if he doesn’t sustain that innings pace, if he can avoid the DL and average even 5 1/3 to 5 2/3 innings per start for the rest of the year, he’d accrue enough innings to guarantee that option. Of course, if Gonzalez delivers anything close to the 3.57 ERA he’s turned in through parts of six seasons as a National, the team will likely pick up the option even if it doesn’t vest.
- J.J. Hardy: Hardy decided to forgo the open market at the end of the 2014 season, instead re-upping with Orioles in early October on a three-year, $40MM deal. His contract comes with a $14MM club option ($2MM buyout) that could automatically vest in the event that Hardy reaches 600 plate appearances this season. Hardy, however, has reached that total just twice in six previous seasons with the Orioles, and he’s hitting a mere .196/.232/.252 through his first 113 plate appearances in 2017. Based on his recent health track record, it could be considered unlikely that he stays healthy enough to trigger the option. But if he does remain healthy and doesn’t turn things around at the plate, the O’s won’t have a hard time justifying a reduction in playing time to prevent the option from vesting.
- Greg Holland: Holland signed a one-year, $7MM deal with a mutual option for the 2018 season, though so long as he remains healthy it’s effectively a two-year, $22MM contract with a player option/opt-out provision. Holland’s $10MM mutual option becomes a $15MM player option if he appears in 50 total games or finishes 30 games in 2017. He’s come out of the gate roaring as a dominant closer in Colorado, just as he was in Kansas City. Holland has already finished 14 games, meaning he needs just 16 more to trigger that player option and secure the right to re-enter the open market. An injury seems like the only thing that will stand in Holland’s way, as he’s currently sporting a 1.29 ERA with a 17-to-5 K/BB ratio, a career-best 51.6 percent ground-ball rate and a 93.9 mph average fastball through his first 14 innings.
- Hisashi Iwakuma: After injury concerns stemming from Iwakuma’s physical caused the Dodgers to back out of a reported three-year, $45MM agreement in the 2015-16 offseason, Iwakuma instead returned to the Mariners on a one-year deal with a pair of vesting options. Iwakuma needed 162 innings to trigger his 2017 option, and he needed either 162 innings in 2017 or 324 innings between 2016-17 to trigger his $10MM option for the 2018 season. The 36-year-old racked up 199 innings last year, meaning he now needs just 125 innings in 2017, though he must also avoid the disabled list at season’s end as well. Iwakuma has barely averaged five innings per outing (31 through six starts), but he also needs just 94 more innings this year for that option to kick in.
- Ricky Nolasco: Nolasco’s option isn’t a standard vesting option, but his $13MM club option would become a player option with 400 innings pitched between 2016-17. The 34-year-old logged 197 2/3 innings last year, meaning he’d need 202 1/3 innings in 2017 in order to convert his option. That’s a total that Nolasco has reached only twice in his career, and he’s not on pace to approach that number through his first seven starts of the season. If Nolasco were to make the same number of starts as last season (32), he’d need to average nearly 6 2/3 innings per outing for the rest of the season to reach that level. If he ties his career-high with 33 starts, he’d need to average 6 1/3 frames through season’s end. It’s technically possible that Nolasco does end up with a $13MM player option, but the likelier scenario is that the Halos will choose between a $13MM club option and a $1MM buyout. (Thanks to MLBTR commenters paytoplay and jdobson1822 for pointing out Nolasco’s option.)
Cot’s Contracts was used in the creation of this post.
- Also heading to the 10-day DL is Dodgers righty Brandon McCarthy, as Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times was among those to report. McCarthy suggested that the layoff wasn’t necessary, as his shoulder injury occurred to the non-throwing side. But the organization felt there were at least some problems with having him on the field before the shoulder was fully healed — and, perhaps, also saw an opportunity to rest McCarthy’s arm while giving innings to other pitchers and adding another reliever (lefty Adam Liberatore). “When you have five other guys who are capable, right now, to pitch and help us win baseball games, to have the benefit of some extra days to strengthen [the shoulder], to heal it — as an organization, I think it’s the right thing [to do],” said manager Dave Roberts (parentheticals via McCullough). “I understand his frustration.”
- Rich Hill will make another rehab start in Class A ball on Tuesday and then rejoin the Dodgers rotation, manager Dave Roberts told the L.A. Times’ Bill Shaikin (Twitter link) and other reporters. Hill has twice been placed on the DL this season due to recurring blister problems, and while a potential move to the bullpen had been considered, the southpaw will instead resume his duties as a starting pitcher. Hill’s first rehab outing (60 pitches split between a bullpen session and an in-game performance) last Thursday seemed to go well, as Hill told MLB.com’s George Alfano that his blister wasn’t an issue.
- In other Dodgers injury news, Roberts also told the media (including Shaikin) that second baseman Logan Forsythe will resume his rehab assignment after the weekend. Forsythe, who suffered a fractured big right toe two weeks ago, was tentatively slated to be activated from the DL this weekend before he felt some hamstring tightness during a rehab game earlier this week.