- 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.
Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez is headed to the 10-day DL with ongoing forearm tendinitis, the club has announced, with center fielder Joc Pederson being activated from his own stint. Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reported earlier that the move was very likely forthcoming.
Remarkably, this represents the first time he has required a DL stint in his 14 MLB seasons. Gonzalez, who’ll turn 35 in a few days, has played in no fewer than 156 games annually ever since he established himself as a regular back in 2006.
While it’s sad to see that outstanding run of durability come to something of an end, Gonzalez was not looking himself in the early stages of the season. The forearm problem, which limited him this spring, has very likely played a role in his .255/.327/.309 batting line through 105 plate appearances. Gonzalez is also suffering through some lower-back problems, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times adds on Twitter.
Manager Dave Roberts had hinted the DL stint was likely in an appearance on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (audio link). He had stated previously that the team would need to sit down with the highly respected veteran before making a move. But now that it has been made, the path is cleared for exciting prospect Cody Bellinger to stay on the active roster after his impressive start.
“I had a conversation with Adrian yesterday on our off day,” Roberts said earlier today, “and I think that right now where we’re at, we’re leaning toward putting him on the disabled list. We haven’t made that decision officially but I think that’s where we’re going to go and give Cody a little runway to play some first base.”
While there’s still quite a bit of uncertainty in how things will play out the rest of the way, there is now clearly a path for Bellinger to stake a permanent claim to a roster position — if not the first base job. (He is also capable of playing all over the outfield.) Through 36 plate appearances, the hyped youngster has slashed .303/.361/.576 with two home runs. While his proclivity to go down on strikes was the biggest question about him as a player, Bellinger has only been retired by strikeout six times thus far — though certainly it’s a minuscule sample at this point.
If Bellinger can stick on the active roster the rest of the way, he’d set himself up to qualify for arbitration as a Super Two player, meaning he could reach eligibility in advance of the 2020 season. Though he’d add an extra year of arb earnings, with boosted salaries the rest of the way, Los Angeles would still control him through at least 2023.
- Andy McCullough of the L.A. Times provides a pair of updates on some injured Dodgers (Twitter links). Second baseman Logan Forsythe was lifted from the most recent game on his rehab stint due to tightness in his hamstring and won’t be reinstated from the disabled list tomorrow, manager Dave Roberts told reporters. That could mean continued playing time at second base for the struggling Chase Utley, who is hitting just .104/.204/.125 through his first 54 plate appearances. Meanwhile, left-hander Scott Kazmir still needs at least another two weeks in extended Spring Training to build up his arm strength. That should push his timeline back at least into the month of June, even in a best-case scenario, as Kazmir would need further work on a minor league rehab assignment.
- The Brewers announced today that they’ve traded minor league outfielder Victor Roache to the Dodgers in exchange for cash or a player to be named later. A former first-round pick (28th overall, 2012), the now-25-year-old Roache has yet to ascend beyond the Double-A level in his minor league career. Roache has appeared with Double-A Biloxi in each of the past three seasons but mustered a timid .234/.313/.391 batting line in that time. The Georgia Southern product was off to a woeful .176/.238/.230 start through his first 80 plate appearances prior to today’s trade. Baseball America’s most recent scouting report on him (No. 24 in the Brewers’ system in the 2015-16 offseason) praised his strong power skills but also noted his lack of discipline and defensive limitations.
Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts acknowledged after last night’s game that there’s a chance top prospect Cody Bellinger won’t be optioned back to Triple-A when Joc Pederson is ready to return, as Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register was among those to report. The 21-year-old has only 32 plate appearances under his belt, but he is batting a robust .345/.406/.655 with three walks to go with five strikeouts. “I think I belong,” said Bellinger. His manager seemingly agreed, praising the youngster and noting that “things can change” when addressing the question whether Bellinger would be sent back as planned. The question remains one of playing time, as the organization no doubt prefers that Bellinger play more or less every day. Unless first baseman Adrian Gonzalez is sent to the DL to rest his forearm or the club decides to reduce the playing time of its existing group of outfielders, that might be difficult for the Dodgers to arrange.
Here’s more from the National League:
- While Mets players and coaches say Matt Harvey has been on the rebound in terms of his stuff, the results just haven’t been there, as MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo explores. Both Harvey and manager Terry Collins say they believe the issue is command, especially with his secondary offerings. Whatever the cause, it’s concerning. While Harvey’s average velocity isn’t too far from his typical range, he is managing only a 7.4% swinging-strike rate. That has left him with as many earned runs as strikeouts (5.14 per nine apiece) over his 35 innings this year.
- Meanwhile, Mets catch Travis d’Arnaud left yesterday’s game when his recent wrist injury “acted up,” in the words of Collins and as DiComo further reports. It’s not immediately clear whether he’ll miss any time; presumably, that’ll depend upon how the joint responds today. The 28-year-old has rebounded somewhat after a rough 2016 season at the plate. Over his 66 plate appearances, he owns a .203/.288/.475 batting line with four home runs and six walks against just 11 strikeouts — and a .182 BABIP that could suggest some misfortune.
- Though Cubs star Kris Bryant was forced out of last night’s game with a calf issue, it doesn’t sound as if it’s much cause for concern. Bryant told reporters, including Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times (via Twitter), that he is very confident of returning to the lineup today. Unsurprisingly, the 25-year-old has continued to rake in his third MLB campaign. Over 122 plate appearances, he’s slashing .291/.393/.553 — a near-exact match for the 2016 batting line that helped him to the NL MVP award.
The Dodgers have placed lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu on the 10-day DL with what the organization is calling a hip contusion, per a club announcement. He’ll be replaced on the active roster by righty Josh Fields.
It seems that the injury was incurred when Ryu attempted a slide while running the bases, per skipper Dave Roberts (via J.P. Hoornstra of the Southern California News Group, on Twitter). The hope, though, is that he’ll miss just one start.
With an off-day coming up, Hoornstra notes, the move won’t really cost the Dodgers much at all — so long as Ryu is indeed ready to return after the minimum absence. But the team will be able to enjoy an added reliever while he’s off the active roster.
Ryu, 30, is off to quite a promising start after missing the vast bulk of the past two seasons. Through five starts, he owns a 4.05 ERA across 26 2/3 innings with a strong 9.8 K/9 against just 2.7 BB/9. He’s sitting between 89 and 90 mph with his average fastball, just under his prior level, and so far has managed a career-best 12.1% swinging-strike rate.