- If the A’s had their way, they’d probably already have made at least one additional long-term investment. The club has tried to lock down third baseman Matt Chapman in the past to no avail; he has only continued to boost his value in the meantime. But he says he’s interested in remaining with the A’s “for a long time,” as Martin Gallegos of MLB.com reports on Twitter. Interestingly, Chapman cites the Davis contract as “a step in the right direction” for his own situation. Whether a deal comes together, he says, “is out of [his] control.”
- In a recent profile of superstar quarterback Kyler Murray, who just so happens to have previously signed a contract to join the A’s, SI’s Robert Klemko covers plenty of topics of general interest. From a hot stove perspective, though, there’s one nugget of particular interest: per Klemko, the Oakland ballclub dangled an additional $14MM contract to keep Murray from heading to the NFL. That offer evidently was made in January as Murray was pondering whether to declare for the draft (which he ultimately did). The A’s would have added that sum on top of the $4.66MM they had already promised him. While there’s no evident path to a deal at this point, now that Murray has positioned himself as the likely top overall pick in the NFL draft, it’s a fascinating number to contemplate — with multi-faceted connections to the valuation of amateur talent, the evaluation of recent extensions signed by current MLB players, and the willingness of MLB teams to sacrifice draft picks (when you consider the huge risk that the A’s took — and were willing to double down on — for a talented but still undeveloped player).
- That cash is small potatoes compared to the still-uncertain stadium situation in Oakland. As Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle tweeted yesterday, there has been a notable recent development. Alameda County has lined up a deal with the team to sell the municipality’s ownership interest in the O.co Coliseum site to the A’s, with a vote scheduled for tomorrow to approve. That’s part of the club’s recently announced plan to build a new park on another site while redeveloping its current home. (That idea arose after prior plans were scuttled.)
- Focusing on the immediate roster needs, the A’s are surely anxious to get Matt Olson’s bat back in the lineup. The first bagger’s injured hand seems to be on the mend; as manager Bob Melvin told reporters including Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle, via Twitter, Olson was able to take cuts off a tee for the first time today. That’s a promising development, though there’ll be further hurdles to clear before Olson is ready to make it back to the MLB roster.
Veteran slugger Edwin Encarnacion is expected to open camp with the Mariners after trade talks surrounding him failed to gain traction, per Jon Morosi of MLB.com (Twitter link). Seattle GM Jerry Dipoto is expected to continue exploring potential deals over the course of Spring Training as needs arise throughout the league, he notes. Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times wrote over the weekend that interest in Encarnacion had faded. Encarnacion, among the game’s steadiest sluggers, has one year remaining on his three-year, $60MM contract and is almost certainly limited to American League clubs at this point of his career. An injury to a contender’s DH this spring could create some additional interest in Encarnacion, but a trade at this juncture doesn’t seem all that likely.
More from the division…
- Angels manager Brad Ausmus addressed the health of right-hander/designated hitter Shohei Ohtani today (Twitter link via Jeff Fletcher of the Southern California News Group). While Ausmus didn’t want to get too specific in terms of providing a timeline for Ohtani’s return to the club following Tommy John surgery, the first-year Halos skipper indicated that the team expects Ohtani back at some point in May. He’ll be strictly limited to DH duties, of course, and it’s not yet clear exactly how often the Angels plan to get Ohtani’s bat into the lineup in the early stages of his recovery. One can imagine that the team will want to be particularly cautious, but the Angels will also want Ohtani in the lineup as often as possible after he hit .285/.361/.564 with 22 homers in just 367 plate appearances last season.
- Matt Chapman underwent thumb and shoulder surgeries this offseason, but the budding Athletics star looks to be on track for the season, writes Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Chapman took 50 swings in a batting cage Monday, and while he might be limited early in camp, the expectation is that he’ll be ready for the season opener. Perhaps more interesting, Slusser writes in another column that the organization has “no qualms” about putting top prospect Jesus Luzardo in the rotation on Opening Day if he’s deemed the best option. If that is indeed the organization’s stance, it’s a departure from the manner in which many clubs think. Luzardo, just 21, is considered to be among the game’s most elite pitching prospects, ranking inside the game’s 20 best all-around prospects on multiple publications. Last year, at just 20 years old, he skyrocketed from Class-A Advanced to Triple-A, working to a combined 2.88 ERA with 10.6 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 over the course of 109 1/3 innings. Presently, the A’s will have Mike Fiers, Marco Estrada and Brett Anderson (assuming he passes his physical) in the rotation, with a pair of spots up for grabs, barring further additions.
- Infielder Matt Davidson chatted with MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan about his role with the Rangers this coming season. Davidson, signed as a corner infielder/reliever, indicated that he’s not expecting to be one of the team’s top seven or eight relievers. Rather, he’s aiming to be an option to pitch in the same capacity he did with the White Sox last year — as a mop-up reliever in blowout games. “I want to be the pitchers’ best friend,” said Davidson. “Nobody wants to go in when it is a 7-0 blowout. I want to be the guy that helps them out.” Davidson did toss three shutout innings last season, and it’s not out of the question entirely that he pitches more effectively than some would expect if given a few more opportunities. However, it sounds as if the early plan is for him to try to make the club as a bench piece and emergency option on the mound more than any type of regular bullpen piece.
Some rumblings from around the AL West…
- “We are a point where we feel complete with our club,” Angels GM Billy Eppler tells MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger, as the Halos feels they made enough short-term additions to be able to compete in 2019. The club was cautious about not dealing any of its top prospects from a farm system that has undergone a major rebuild in recent years, and Los Angeles didn’t splurge on any long-term free agent commitments. That said, the Angels’ focus on short-term signings “wasn’t scripted,” as Eppler put it. “There were some players that we engaged on and made offers to that would’ve been multi-year commitments. Those didn’t work out for a couple different reasons. But shorter-term deals work in a variety of ways — they keep you flexible, and they keep you open to doing things both during the season and in succeeding seasons.” Some type of a reload was necessary for the team, given both the sorry state of the Angels’ minor league pipeline just a few years ago and the number of ill-fated big contracts that didn’t pan out. Still, the Angels are on something of a clock to get back into contention, given that Mike Trout is only under contract for two more seasons.
- Matt Chapman provided an update on his health status in the wake of offseason thumb and shoulder surgery, telling reporters (including the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser) that he’ll be in the lineup when the Athletics begin their season on March 20 in Tokyo. The third baseman could miss a few early Spring Training games as he recovers, however, noting “it’s hard to say when everything will be a full go.” Chapman expressed some regret at waiting until December to undergo his shoulder procedure, as he said the joint was giving him some discomfort during the season but he thought some downtime would correct the issue. While the A’s will certainly be cautious about their star during the spring, it doesn’t yet seem Chapman is in any danger of missing any regular season action.
- Outfield prospect Kyle Lewis was invited to the Mariners’ big league Spring Training camp, a positive development for Lewis after an injury-plagued start to his pro career, TJ Cotterill writes for Baseball America. The 11th overall pick of the 2016 draft, Lewis has already undergone two knee surgeries, limiting him to just 711 plate appearances and 165 games over two-plus seasons. These injuries and a not-unrelated relative lack of production (.258/.328/.430 slash line in the minors) have caused Lewis’ prospect stock to drop, though the 23-year-old is entering a season healthy for the first time. “He’s missed so much time, but we feel better today than we’ve ever felt with his work and his progress. Most of us who have been around Kyle, we really don’t have a lot of concern about the ability. It’s the health,” Mariners farm director Andy McKay said.
The Athletics announced today that third baseman Matt Chapman has undergone surgery on his left shoulder. Specifically, a “distal clavicle resection” was performed, per the club announcement.
Thankfully, the outlook isn’t as scary as that technical description. Chapman is said to be only six weeks away from resuming swinging, so long as all goes according to plan. He’s also recovering from a mid-October thumb procedure but seems on track to return from that as well.
Chapman’s thumb problem had arisen during the season, while the shoulder issue only came to light while he was doing winter workouts. In any event, all told, it seems A’s can breathe easy with regard to the 25-year-old star, who’ll be looking to follow up on an immense 2018 season in which he was one of the most valuable players in the American League.
The chatter started last year as Matt Chapman burst onto the scene for the Athletics. The early returns were impressive. Still, Dave Cameron was seemingly pushing the envelope a bit when he asked in early August whether Chapman could be emerging as a star.
Of course, as Cameron noted, there was plenty of reason to wonder whether Chapman would really be able to hit enough to profile as a true star. The thrust of the post, really, was that his outstanding glovework made Chapman a potentially excellent player even if he only hit around the league average. From that point in the season, moreover, Chapman’s output at the plate faded, leaving him with a solid but unspectacular 109 wRC+ at season’s end.
The overall rookie showing was still plenty promising, no doubt. A quality regular on a league-minimum contract for years to come? Sign any team up, especially one that’s somehow still playing in the O.co Coliseum.
Of course, it still remained to be seen how Chapman would look over a full season in the majors, after opposing pitchers had a chance to adjust. Would his prodigious minor-league strikeout levels be too much to overcome? Would his obvious defensive talent be sufficient to carry him if the bat lagged?
Consider those questions answered. Put most simply: he finished third in all of baseball in position-player rWAR (8.2) and rated among the top ten by measure of fWAR (6.5).
With 2018 in the books, the only question left is how much it’d cost the A’s to lock Chapman in for the long run. It’s a question that was already on the minds of the Oakland brass, as the organization reportedly sought to talk about a deal over the 2017-18 offseason. Unfortunately for the club, Chapman and agent Scott Boras declined the opportunity to discuss a contract at that time.
It could be, then, that discussing Chapman’s value now is mostly an exercise in the hypothetical. But it stands to reason that the A’s will at least try to open the door to talks once again — perhaps with added motivation as they seek to continue the momentum from an exciting 2018 season and keep pushing for a new ballpark. And perhaps Chapman’s camp will show some willingness to consider numbers now that he has set down a marker as a top-end player rather than a target for a cheap pre-arb deal. He is still reasonably youthful, at 25 years of age, but won’t reach arbitration until 2021 and can’t qualify for free agency until the 2024 season — his age-31 campaign.
A lot can change in the meantime, as Chapman’s just-announced thumb surgery underscores. Fortunately, it seems as if there isn’t any reason to think that procedure will represent an ongoing problem; exactly how it could influence the possibility of a deal isn’t entirely clear, though odds are it won’t be a major factor in any direction.
In examining Chapman’s merit as a player, there’s frankly not a ton to discuss regarding his glovework. It’s lauded by scouts and stats alike and there’s no real reason to think it’ll fade any time soon. He’s also a solidly graded baserunner even if he isn’t a threat to swipe any bags. The floor, as has long been suspected, is rather lofty. Those skills won’t really pay in arbitration, which is certainly a relevant consideration in contemplating the valuation of a potential extension, but their value isn’t in question.
The bat is where it’s still interesting to dig in. Even as Chapman’s output sagged some late in 2017, he made a notable improvement in his contact ability. For September and October, Chapman recorded a 21.2% strikeout rate — far superior to what he had shown as a professional to that point. He sustained the improvement in 2018, showing a similar approach to what he exhibited in 2017 but posting a much-improved 8.8% swinging-strike rate.
Even as he put the bat on the ball more often, ultimately carrying a 23.7% strikeout rate that sits barely above the leaguewide mean, Chapman kept producing power numbers. He finished the season with 24 long balls, a .508 slugging percentage, and .230 isolated slugging mark. With a solid 9.4% walk rate chipping in, Chapman managed a .356 OBP.
There’s a lot to like here, clearly. Upping his contact rate clearly didn’t prevent Chapman from making good contact. To the contrary, he posted an outstanding 93.0 mph average exit velocity and 47.6% hard-hit rate, according to Statcast. That said, some of the numbers also suggest some cause for skepticism with regard to the sustainability of Chapman’s output. His on-base numbers were boosted by a .338 BABIP — the first time he cleared the .300 barrier as a professional. Chapman’s average launch angle dipped to 14.7 and his groundball rate jumped to 40.3% (well over his minor-league average), perhaps explaining why Statcast credited him with only a .333 xwOBA — well shy of the .370 wOBA he actually recorded.
Perhaps it’s not a slam dunk that Chapman will produce at a rate thirty percent better than league average for the foreseeable future. But he has already shown more adaptability as a hitter than was generally anticipated and established a fairly significant overall offensive ceiling. If there’s some danger of regression, perhaps there’s also some possibility that Chapman will continue to improve at the plate. Supposing he settles in as a solidly above-average hitter who can’t ever quite fully combine both high-end power and strong on-base ability, Chapman could still easily run off a few more 5-WAR campaigns before he sniffs the open market.
Let’s get down to some salary numbers, then. Chapman largely matched Nationals star Anthony Rendon in output this year and likely has even greater arbitration earning upside with his potential to drive the ball out of the park. Though Rendon benefited from having originally signed an MLB contract, boosting his first arb salary, his anticipated total of around $35MM in total arbitration earnings seems to be a reasonable ballpark tally for Chapman. Of course, Oakland wouldn’t need to begin paying that for a few more years, during which time the club can pay him no more than it does any other player who happens to be taking up an active roster spot. And Chapman also was a bit slower to reach the majors, limiting his eventual free-agent value. Even if we guess he’ll ultimately command $30MM+ annual salaries in his open-market years, there’s a limit to what the A’s in particular would be willing to promise to lock those seasons in.
From a practical perspective, then, there’s reason to be skeptical that Chapman warrants anything approaching a nine-figure guarantee. He certainly would scoff at the kind of deal that he might have been presented with last offseason — say, the sub-1.000 service record deal (six years, $26MM) signed by Paul DeJong after a similarly strong 2017 debut. But there’s a reason that the current record for a player with less than two years of service is still held by Andrelton Simmons, at a relatively modest $58MM over seven years. In short, there’s not a ton for teams in this situation to gain by going wild at this early stage — particularly for players, like Chapman, that aren’t especially precocious.
It seems fair to assume that beating the Simmons deal would represent a bare minimum starting point to capture the attention of Boras, who is a notoriously hard bargainer in early extension talks, in particular. Even handing over control over a pair of free agent seasons for Chapman could, after all, have a monumental impact on his eventual open-market earning capacity. My own guess is that Boras would take aim at some other notable pre-arb targets, even if they were landed for players with more than two seasons of MLB service. The Mike Trout contract (six years, $144.5MM) is assuredly well out of reach, but Carlos Gonzalez showed way back in 2011 that even mere mortal pre-arb players can secure big guarantees (seven years, $80MM).
It might well take something approaching or exceeding that salary level to get Chapman to bite. That’d be an unprecedented payout for a player who hasn’t even recorded two full years of service time, but today’s youthful superstars seem to be holding for such a move in the market. It’s notable, after all, that we haven’t seen a premium all-around player ink a deal at that stage of his career in recent years, with the largest sub-2 extensions of recent vintage being secured by players like Simmons and Christian Yelich before they fully broke out in the manner Chapman has. Here, Chapman has not only already turned in a superstar-level campaign, but features the kind of offensive profile that will boost his arb earnings.
Whether there’s appetite on either side for a full exploration of a contract isn’t yet known. It could be that last year’s non-talks and/or the thumb surgery will interfere. Chapman may simply not have interest personally. The A’s have a clean balance sheet to work with, but they also have other priorities to address and have never yet opened a season with a payroll of even $90MM. Then, there’s the fact that the team’s record for a single contract is still owned by former hot corner stalwart Eric Chavez — a player who in some ways serves as a fairly interesting comp for Chapman on the field — which on the one hand illustrates the extent to which the Oakland organization would need to leave its comfort zone to do a deal, and on the other hand perhaps suggests it’s time it does so again.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Athletics announced today that third baseman Matt Chapman has undergone surgery on his left thumb. Specifically, he underwent an ulnar sided sesamoid bone excision on the troublesome digit.
While it’s never good to hear of the need for surgical intervention, it seems there’s good cause for optimism in this case. The announcement indicates that physician Dr. Steven Shin “was pleased with the outcome of the surgery and anticipates Matt to make a full recovery prior to the start of spring training.”
If that prognosis holds up, this could be a generally positive development for Chapman’s outlook. After all, he missed time and ultimately required a cortisone shot to treat the thumb during the 2018 season. Upon his return, Chapman’s offensive productivity shot up. Resolving the problems for good would obviously be quite a relief for player and team.
Chapman ended up turning in an outstanding all-around 2018 campaign, making core contributions to an A’s club that stunningly streaked to 97 wins. If he can maintain anything approaching that output moving forward, he’ll be a foundational piece for the organization for years to come.
With ongoing uncertainty leading to some real worry, it came as something of a relief when the Cubs announced that Yu Darvish has been diagnosed with a right elbow impingement, as Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic was among those to cover on Twitter. Already on the DL, Darvish will receive a cortisone shot before being examined again next week. It’s not yet known what the course will be from that point, but the club is no doubt pleased that there’s not a more significant underlying issue plaguing the high-priced hurler.
Let’s run through some other health updates of note …
- The Brewers are still unsure when they’ll welcome back righty Jimmy Nelson, GM David Stearns tells reporters including MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy (via Twitter). “We still think Jimmy is going to pitch for us this year,” Stearns stressed. But the shoulder surgery that knocked Nelson out has required a “slower process,” says Stearns, with Nelson still “yet to pitch off a mound.” It seems there’s no chance that the Brewers will welcome back their staff ace in advance of the trade deadline, meaning they’ll need to assess their rotation without full knowledge of his ability to contribute down the stretch.
- Padres outfielder Franchy Cordero appears quite likely to elect season-ending surgery, MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell tweets. It’s still not a certainty, and the lack of urgency in making the final call — it has been under consideration for at least ten days — speaks to the general timeline. Though Cordero would miss the rest of the MLB campaign, he’d likely be ready to participate in winter ball and certainly be at full health for Spring Training next year.
- Athletics third baseman Matt Chapman has progressed to taking swings, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets. He has already been out for about two weeks with a hand injury.
- It seems there’s some cause for optimism for the Indians regarding reliever Tyler Olson. MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian tweets that Olson has been able to throw a bullpen session, which certainly indicates he’s progressing rather well from a lat injury that perhaps could have been worse.
- Likewise, Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg turned in a surprise bullpen session, as Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com was among those to tweet. That’s the first real indication that Strasburg is ready to begin working back toward a return from shoulder inflammation in earnest.
- In other NL East news, the Mets increasingly have a confounding situation on their hands with regard to star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News writes. Cespedes went on the DL in the middle of May with what seemed to be a minor injury, but still has not resumed running. Skipper Mickey Callaway says the veteran is “feeling a lot better,” but there’s no real sense of a timeline.
- Righty Wilmer Font left today’s game with a lat injury, with Rays skipper Kevin Cash saying it’s probably a serious one, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports on Twitter. The recently claimed righty “in all likelihood will miss significant time,” says Cash, which is quite a disappointment for all involved. Entering play today, the 28-year-old had found his groove with the Rays, turning in 22 innings of 1.64 ERA ball with 7.0 K/9 against 3.7 BB/9.
- In news of longer-term consequence, the White Sox are still holding their breath with regard to well-regarded pitching prospect Dane Dunning. The team announced that he has been diagnosed with a “moderate elbow sprain that presently will not require surgery.” For the time being, he’ll rest for a while and resume throwing in about two months’ time if he’s deemed ready. That’s hardly good news, but is certainly better than the worst-case that may have been feared.
Right-hander Yu Darvish, out since May 23 with triceps tendinitis, is nearing a return to the Cubs’ rotation. Darvish will make a Single-A rehab start Monday and could head back to the majors thereafter, per Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. It’s not yet clear whether he’d bounce Mike Montgomery from the team’s rotation, as the lefty has performed well as a starter in Darvish’s absence and caught the attention of the Cubs’ front office in the process. Should Chicago choose to keep Montgomery and the walk-happy Tyler Chatwood in starting roles, it could go to a six-man rotation upon Darvish’s return.
More injury updates from around the majors:
- The Rockies announced that they’ve placed reliever Bryan Shaw on the 10-day disabled list with a right calf strain and recalled righty Yency Almonte from Triple-A Albuquerque. The DL placement continues a season to forget for Shaw, who’s in the first of a three-year, $27MM deal. Shaw has disappointed with his new club thus far, having recorded a 7.57 ERA with career-worst walk and home run rates (5.05 BB/9, 2.02 HR/9) over 35 2/3 innings.
- Athletics third baseman Matt Chapman, on the 10-day DL since June 15, won’t come back when first eligible, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Chapman landed on the shelf with a right thumb injury, though team doctors now believe the problem area is just above his wrist, according to Slusser. He may need a cortisone shot as a result, and might not return until the A’s next homestand (June 29 to July 4). Meanwhile, the A’s are set to activate reliever Ryan Buchter from the 10-day DL on Monday, Slusser adds. The offseason trade acquisition has been dealing with a left shoulder strain and hasn’t pitched for the A’s since April 25.
- The Brewers will likely go without reliever Matt Albers until after the All-Star break, manager Craig Counsell told Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and other reporters Sunday. Albers is “going in the right direction,” though, Counsell noted. The 35-year-old has been out for just under two weeks with right shoulder soreness. Albers, whom the Brewers signed to a two-year, $5MM guarantee over the winter, has pitched to a 3.53 ERA with 7.85 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 and a 45.7 percent groundball rate in 28 2/3 innings.
- The Pirates have sent reliever Michael Feliz to the 10-day DL with right shoulder inflammation and recalled righty Clay Holmes from Triple-A Indianapolis, the team announced. The hard-throwing Feliz has endured a rough season in his first year with the Pirates, who acquired him from Astros as part of the teams’ Gerrit Cole trade over the winter. Feliz ranks second among Pirates relievers in innings pitched (32 2/3) and has struck out 10.74 hitters per nine, but a high walk rate (4.41 BB/9) and a low grounder percentage (30.7) have helped lead to a 5.51 ERA.
The Athletics have made a series of roster moves in advance of today’s game against the Angels. The club’s PR department announced that third baseman Matt Chapman has been placed on the DL with a right thumb contusion, retroactive to yesterday. In a related move, the club has recalled infielder Franklin Barreto. Right-hander Josh Lucas has also been recalled, with fellow righty Carlos Ramirez headed to Triple-A in order to make room on the active roster.
As the PR department mentions in the above link, Chapman had played in all 69 of the A’s games prior to today. He’s hit 10 homers on the year and is batting .250/.346/.447. Chapman was hit by a pitch on the hand in the eighth inning of Tuesday’s game against the Astros. Because he remained in the game, it seemed at the time as though the injury wasn’t serious, but his placement on the DL says otherwise.
Barreto, meanwhile, will be up for his third bout with the MLB club this season. Long considered one of the organization’s top prospects, the young infielder has managed just a .182/.241/.325 batting line across 83 career plate appearances at the major-league level, striking out a catastrophic 43.4% of the time. He’s still just 22, however, so there’s still plenty of room for optimism surrounding his growth and development.
Lucas has been used in an intriguing capacity so far this year, having pitched at least two full innings in three of his four appearances on the season (only one start). He owns a 2.89 ERA across his 9 1/3 innings, with ten strikeouts against five walks. It’s not at all far-fetched to think that he’s simply up as a fresh arm to provide cavalry to an exhausted bullpen, as A’s starters have averaged fewer than four innings per start across the club’s past four games.
Cole Hamels has a 20-team no-trade clause in his contract, though the veteran southpaw described his no-trade protection as “just kind of a formality” during a wide-ranging chat with NJ Advance Media’s Randy Miller. Hamels can block deals to every team except the Braves, Mariners, Phillies, Nationals, Rays, Cardinals, Cubs, Royals, and Astros, though it doesn’t sound like he would have any specific objection to being dealt to a contender. “Really, it’s just kind of like heads up….It just kind of provides a little bit more information, a little bit more bargaining power,” Hamels said. “That’s kind of really what that entails. But at the end of the day, situations kind of come up and I think everybody understands what can transpire.”
With the Rangers struggling and Hamels in his final year under contract, the former World Series MVP has often been cited as a potential deadline trade chip. Some players in Hamels’ position have used their no-trade clause to garner some extra money and/or future security, though it doesn’t seem like Hamels would be particularly inclined to insist that a new team (for example) automatically pick up the $20MM club option on his services for 2019. It’s worth noting that several of Hamels’ nine non-protected teams are contenders, so Texas might not necessarily have to worry about the no-trade clause at all to potentially deal the left-hander. Miller’s full piece is well worth a read, as Hamels discusses several topics about his past and future in baseball.
Some more from the AL West…
- An MRI revealed some damage to Blake Wood’s ulnar collateral ligament, the Angels told MLB.com’s Maria Guardado and other reporters today. Wood will receive a second opinion before deciding on his next course of action. The extent of the damage isn’t known, though the worst-case scenario would be that Wood undergoes Tommy John surgery and is thus sidelined through at least half of the 2019 season. Wood has been on the DL for the last month due to an elbow impingement, and had posted a 2.31 ERA, 7.7 K/9, and 1.43 K/BB rate over 11 2/3 IP out of the Los Angeles bullpen this season. Wood is a free agent this winter, and would be facing some type of incentive-heavy, minor league deal at best if he does face a Tommy John absence.
- The Angels’ balancing act of using Shohei Ohtani as a two-way player has been “perfect” based on Ohtani’s projected and assumed values as a pitcher and as a hitter, according to ESPN.com’s Sam Miller. “The miracle isn’t just that we get to see a player who is as good at hitting and as good at pitching as Ohtani is. It’s that we get to see one who is precisely this good at each so that this usage makes sense,” Miller writes.
- As part of a reader mailbag piece, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart writes that he would “be surprised” if Brian McCann is with the Astros in 2019. McCann is in the final guarantee year of his contract and the Astros hold a $15MM club option on him for next season. This option vests into a player option should McCann has 601 PA and at least 90 starts at catcher this season, and doesn’t end the year on the disabled list, though obviously Houston could manage McCann’s workload to ensure he doesn’t hit the vesting threshold. The hot-hitting Max Stassi has already cut into McCann’s playing time, though McTaggart isn’t sure that Stassi (a longtime prospect) would necessarily be the starting catcher going forward if the Astros parted ways with McCann. It’s worth noting that the Astros were linked to J.T. Realmuto in trade rumors last winter, and the team has the minor league trade chips to manage such a big acquisition. McCann, 34, has above-average run creation numbers (111 wRC+) via his .248/.347/.396 slash line in 118 PA this season, though his production over the last five years has generally been closer to league-average.
- The Athletics’ pick of Matt Chapman with the 25th overall selection of the 2014 draft came about due to something of a “reverse Moneyball” situation, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal writes (subscription required). Chapman had only modest hitting numbers in college ball but his skillset was heavily praised by A’s scouts; unlike the events of the film and Michael Lewis’ book, Billy Beane and company decided to go against the statistics to choose Chapman, as a private workout for the team prior to the draft helped answer the front office’s concerns. The pick looks like a great one for the A’s, as Chapman has broken out into one of the game’s most promising young stars.