The Dodgers dealt Kenta Maeda to the Twins last month, after which the right-hander seemingly indicated that he asked for a trade out of the Los Angeles organization. However, that’s not what happened, according to Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman (via Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register). While Maeda did make it known to the Dodgers he prefers to start (they often used him as a reliever from 2018-19), Friedman insists there was no trade request when the two met last season. “I saw the headline and then we had someone actually listen to it. And he didn’t in that meeting demand anything and nor did he actually say he did in that interview,” Friedman stated. For their part, the Dodgers didn’t enter the offseason planning to move Maeda, per Friedman, but they pulled the trigger when the Twins offered a Brusdar Graterol-led package. Maeda, meanwhile, will now have an opportunity to return to being a full-time starter in Minnesota.
- Former Dodgers’ first-rounder J.T. Ginn underwent Tommy John surgery yesterday, Mississippi State head coach Chris Lemonis announced. The 30th overall pick in the 2018 draft, Ginn turned down pro ball to head to MSU. The 20-year-old righty shined as a freshman in 2019 and looked to be a potential high draft pick again this June as a draft-eligible sophomore. He’ll still be eligible for the draft, of course, but it’ll be interesting to see if any team would be willing to offer him enough to persuade him against returning to Starkville for his junior season.
- Dodgers utility player Chris Taylor’s out of action for the moment after taking a pitch off the back of the left shoulder, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register tweets. There’s no indication that it’s anything but a minor injury for Taylor, whom a fractured left forearm limited to 124 games in 2019. The versatile Taylor was a highly valuable player for the Dodgers from 2017-18, but his numbers dipped last season during a campaign in which he batted .262/.333/.462 with 1.7 fWAR in 414 plate appearances.
- The Dodgers have temporarily shut down infield prospect Omar Estevez as a result of soreness in his right (throwing) shoulder, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register tweets. Estevez has been in camp this spring as a non-roster invitee. It’s unclear how much time he’ll miss, but it’s the latest injury for a player who sat out roughly two months last season with a hamstring strain. When healthy in 2019, though, Estevez put up nice production in his Double-A debut, batting .291/.352/.431 in 336 plate appearances. He now ranks as Baseball America’s 16th-best Dodgers prospect.
Alvarez lost his 40-man spot after some shoulder issues cropped up. It’s unclear as of yet what his health outlook is. Any injury issues would only add to the slate of challenges facing the youngster, who’ll turn 24 later this week.
Once considered a blue-chip pitching prospect, Alvarez has long dealt with control issues and slid off track in 2019. He only made two appearances last year while struggling with injury and disciplinary issues.
Alvarez has yet to appear in the majors. Based upon the history to this point, it seems unlikely he’ll reward the team for its up-front investment ($16MM, which was effectively doubled by tax obligations). Still, the Dodgers will presumably be glad to have the chance to hang onto the remaining upside in Alvarez’s powerful right arm. Better still, the team can work to get him on track without tying up a roster spot.
Right-hander Tom Koehler, in camp with the Pirates as a non-roster invitee to Spring Training, announced his retirement from baseball on Instagram this morning. The 33-year-old Koehler says he’s looking forward to “starting [his] next chapter in the game,” whenever and whatever that may hold. For now, it seems as though he’ll take some time with his family.
From 2013-16, Koehler was a solid and durable constant at the back of the Marlins’ rotation, averaging 30 starts per season while pitching to a 4.14 ERA with averages of 6.8 strikeouts, 3.7 walks and 1.0 home runs per nine innings pitched. He struggled early in the 2017 season and found himself traded to the Blue Jays, with whom he posted an intriguing 15-game relief stint (2.65 ERA, 18-to-6 K/BB ratio in 17 innings). That showing prompted the Dodgers to take a look at Koehler in the offseason with the hope that he could transform his career as a late-inning bullpen piece.
Instead, Koehler was beset by shoulder injuries in 2018. After spending more than half the season trying to rehab an anterior capsule strain and make his Dodgers debut, Koehler underwent surgery that ended his 2018 season. He never threw a pitch at the MLB level for the Dodgers. He signed with the Pirates both last offseason and earlier this winter but wasn’t able to get back onto the hill.
It’s a tough way to end a playing career, although as an 18th-round senior sign back in 2008, Koehler exceeded any and all expectations. The Stony Brook alum pitched in 161 Major League games, totaling 784 1/3 innings of 4.39 ERA ball along the way. Koehler’s 36-55 record is more an indictment on the sub-par Marlins rosters surrounding him for much of his career than on his own abilities on the mound. He was generally a serviceable option, twice leading the club in games started and once leading them in innings pitched. Koehler was never a household name but pitched into his arbitration years, helping him to secure more than $12MM in total salary. Best wishes to Koehler in whatever path he next pursues.
Back on February 16, commissioner Rob Manfred said that he hoped the league’s investigation into whether or not the Red Sox improperly used video replay technology to steal opponents’ signs would be concluded in two weeks’ time. That loose deadline has now passed, and it is still unclear as to when the league will report its findings and issue penalties (if any) to any Red Sox personnel. According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, a decision from the league isn’t expected to come this week, but “the plan is before the regular season.”
For comparison’s sake, the original Athletic piece from Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich about the Astros’ sign-stealing activities was published on November 12, and Major League Baseball announced its disciplinary actions against the Astros almost exactly two months’ later, on January 13. The Rosenthal/Drellich report about the Red Sox was released on January 7, so assuming a general two-month window for such league investigations, it doesn’t seem outwardly unusual that MLB has yet to make an announcement as we hit March 1.
Circumstances could dictate a longer investigation, however. Given that the league was so roundly criticized for the perceived lightness of its discipline towards the Astros, it isn’t unexpected that MLB would take a more measured approach in exploring any possible violation the Red Sox may have committed. (Not that this would necessarily mean a bigger penalty — Sherman writes that the general feeling is that Boston’s “scheme was not as systemic or widespread as that of the Astros, thus, the penalties are not expected to be as severe.”) Manfred told reporters two weeks ago that the Red Sox investigation involved “there have been a couple of developments…that slowed us down” and required secondary interviews with some involved parties.
Interestingly, the Dodgers may have received some slight insight into the investigation when the club was preparing to acquire Mookie Betts from the Sox. Los Angeles “asked MLB if it should be concerned about acquiring Betts and were assured not to worry,” Sherman reports. Red Sox players aren’t subject to possible suspensions as per the outcome of the investigation, since players were given immunity so they could feel free to openly discuss their knowledge of any illegal goings-on inside the clubhouse and video room.
The Dodgers have designated right-hander Yadier Alvarez for assignment, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. Alvarez was reinstated from the restricted list, but was designated in lieu of occupying a 40-man roster spot. He was expected to pitch yesterday, but was a late scratch from his first spring appearance.
The Dodgers awarded Alvarez with a $16MM bonus when he signed with the organization as an international amateur in July 2015. He quickly made a name for himself as a consensus top-100 prospect, but has failed to live up to that billing with three unproductive seasons plagued by persisting control issues.
Today marks yet another setback for the 23-year-old flamethrower. He was placed on the restricted list in September of 2019, capping off a season in which injuries limited him to just two minor league starts. After showing up to Spring Training unexpected this year, he was expected to get a chance to compete for reps, but was unable to make his first appearance yesterday when he “didn’t feel right,” according to Dave Roberts.
Whether Alvarez’s future is with the Dodgers or another team, he’ll have a long way to go to mitigate concerns about his ability to be a productive Major Leaguer. Given his prospect pedigree and undeniable arm talent, Alvarez may be of interest to several teams who hope to unlock the scintillating potential Alvarez showed as a teenager. Given his profound control issues (career 5.1 BB/9 in the minors), it seems most likely that he winds up in a bullpen role, but he’s still just 23 and there’s no question that his stuff could play in any role.
As if there weren’t enough drama surrounding the Dodgers’ three-way deal for Mookie Betts, departed Dodger Kenta Maeda revealed on his YouTube channel that he had requested a trade out of Los Angeles, per Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times.
Neither the trade nor the revelation of Maeda’s request are particularly shocking as Maeda had made clear in the past his desire to be in the rotation. With Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler providing one of the better 1-2 punches in the league, the Dodgers preferred using Maeda as a roving power arm, especially come playoff time. The Dodgers used Maeda as a starter in 2016’s playoffs, but he didn’t make it out of the fifth inning in any of his three playoff starts. In the three postseasons hence, the Dodgers made Maeda into a relief weapon and saw him post a 1.64 ERA in 22 innings in the playoffs from 2017 to 2019.
While 2019’s postseason run was shorter than expected, Maeda was dominant in the NLDS agains the Nationals. He appeared in four of the five games, surrendering just one hit and no walks to seven strikeouts.
The Dodgers had begun to utilize their postseason strategy with Maeda more during the regular season. Now with the Twins, Maeda should be back in the rotation on a full-time basis as he prefers. Maeda has a personal goal of reaching 200 career wins, per Hernandez, which would mean accruing 14 wins per season for the next for years. That’s a tall order for anyone. Only ten pitchers posted so many wins over the past four years. That said, the Twins offense should help in providing an environment conducive to win collection.
In his first four seasons stateside, Maeda has gone 47-35 with a 3.87 ERA/3.71 FIP, and that’s with starting approximately 26 games per season. If he stays healthy, Maeda could potentially garner another 4 to 6 starts per season, putting him in range to hit his target. While Wins aren’t the tell-all stat of years past, it’s safe to assume the relationship between Maeda and Minnesota will have gone quite well if he does indeed achieve the 200-win mark.