2:54pm: Mahle tells reporters that an MRI revealed only irritation but no structural damage (Twitter thread via Charlie Goldsmith of the Cincinnati Enquirer). Mahle said the issue is “not concerning at all” and that he plans to return shortly after the All-Star break.
1:28pm: The Reds announced Wednesday that right-hander Tyler Mahle has been placed on the 15-day injured list with a shoulder strain. The move is retroactive to Sunday. Righty Ian Gibaut, whom the Reds claimed off waivers this week, will take his spot on the active roster. Cincinnati also announced that catcher Chris Okey cleared waivers and will remain in the organization after being assigned outright to Triple-A Louisville.
Mahle, one of the more notable trade candidates in the National League, had been scheduled to start a game for the Reds tomorrow. The team has not yet provided a timetable on his potential return, but the earliest he’ll be able to return is just two weeks prior to the Aug. 2 trade deadline.
The timing of the injury is brutal for the Reds, who have watched as Mahle has shaken off a poor start and rounded into form as next month’s deadline looms. After pitching to a grisly 7.01 ERA through six starts and walking 14 of the first 120 hitters he faced (11.7%), Mahle has rebounded to the tune of a 3.51 ERA, 27.8% strikeout rate and 8.0% walk rate across his past 66 2/3 frames. Nearly one-third of the 26 runs he’s allowed dating back to May 8 came in one nightmare outing against the Cubs on May 24 (eight runs in four innings). Since that start, Mahle owns a 2.58 ERA, 28.3% strikeout rate and 7.1% walk rate in 45 1/3 frames.
For much of the season — and for much of the offseason — it’s looked as though Mahle, teammate Luis Castillo and A’s ace Frankie Montas would be the three most coveted names on the trade market. All three are affordably controlled through the 2023 season and have made substantial strides in recent years to establish themselves as (at least) quality mid-rotation hurlers. Now, with Mahle on the injured list for a yet-to-be-determined period and Montas dealing with shoulder inflammation of his own, Castillo suddenly stands as the lone, healthy member of that heavily speculated-upon trio.
It’s still possible, of course, that Mahle makes a quick return from the IL, pitches well and that his medical records look sufficiently clean for a trade to come together. There’s little denying that a shoulder strain just three-plus weeks from the deadline, however, is going to give any number of would-be trade partners a fair bit of trepidation regarding the righty’s short- and long-term outlook. If the Reds are ultimately unable to move Mahle, they’d be able to try again this winter or at the 2023 deadline, health permitting. His value won’t be nearly as high at either juncture, however.
With Mahle shelved for at least the next couple weeks, an even broader focus will be placed on Castillo, who has been excellent since missing the first month of the season recovering from a spring shoulder injury. Utilityman Brandon Drury has become an oft-suggested trade candidate, but the Reds also have a series of other possible candidates. Outfielders Tyler Naquin and Tommy Pham and southpaw Mike Minor are among the other veterans the Reds could peddle in the weeks to come.