- Cardinals reliever Andrew Miller spoke to Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about several topics, including the recent agreement between the league and players’ union about the 2020 season, how Miller is handling the shutdown, and the rather mysterious arm problem that sidelined Miller earlier this month. “There are some explanations for some of what I’m going through and I have a lot of appreciation for the amount of time [Cardinals head athletic trainer] Adam Olsen and Dr. [Brian] Mahaffey have put in helping me to look for some answers,” Miller said. Though there still isn’t an actual diagnosis of Miller’s issue, “I think I have answers that make a lot of sense and they’re not the type of thing that brings any sort of concern to my health and my livelihood.” The southpaw is currently throwing, albeit under “not…ideal” circumstances working out at his home rather than in a normal training environment.
- Michael Wacha turned to some offseason video analysis with his father to help solve mechanical problems from the 2019 season, which put him in a good place heading into his first Spring Training with the Mets, Deesha Thosar of the New York Daily News writes. By the time Wacha met with pitching coach Jeremy Hefner and assistant pitching coach Jeremy Accardo in camp, “they said my mechanical changes that I made over the offseason were exactly what they were going to be telling me,” Wacha said. “Exactly the same type of information or helpful tips that they were trying to get me into, I already made them on my own.” The early returns in Grapefruit League action were somewhat promising, as Wacha posted a 1.17 ERA over 7 2/3 innings, albeit with four walks against only five strikeouts. However, Wacha also didn’t allow any home runs, which was a positive sign after an ugly 1.8 HR/9 helped push his ERA to 4.76 over 126 2/3 innings with the Cardinals last season. Wacha signed a one-year, $3MM with the Mets in the offseason and now looks to be a member of their starting five, in the wake of Noah Syndergaard’s season-ending Tommy John surgery.
St. Louis is among many teams that has trimmed down its roster Thursday. The team announced that it has optioned four players – right-handers Alex Reyes and Junior Fernandez, lefty Genesis Cabrera and catcher Andrew Knizner – to Triple-A Memphis.
Reyes, once among the highest-rated prospects in the game, is the most recognizable name in the group. Thanks in large part to a variety of injuries, the 25-year-old hasn’t been able to live up to the vast hype he generated in his younger days. As of a couple months ago, the hope was that he’d at least emerge as a quality bullpen piece this season for the Cardinals. Perhaps that will indeed happen, but he’ll have to work his way back from the minors first. Thus far, Reyes has endured his fair share of difficulty in Triple-A, including during a 2019 showing in which he stumbled to a 7.39 ERA with 12.2 K/9 and 7.7 BB/9 in 28 innings.
The hard-throwing Cabrera, 23, wasn’t a great deal more successful at preventing runs than Reyes last year in Memphis, where he put up a 5.91 ERA with 9.64 K/9 and 3.55 BB/9 over 99 innings. But Cabrera, like Reyes, still counts as one of the Cardinals’ most promising young arms. Baseball America ranked Cabrera as the Cardinals’ No. 4 prospect after last season, when he totaled 20 1/3 major league innings with a 4.87 ERA and 8.41 K/9 against 4.87 BB/9.
BA also has favorable opinions of Fernandez (the Cardinals’ No. 13 prospect) and Knizner (No. 8). The 23-year-old Fernandez debuted at both the Triple-A and major league levels last season. He was especially strong in 24 1/3 frames as a member of Memphis, with which he logged a 1.48 ERA, induced grounders at a 61.7 percent clip and struck out 9.99 batters per nine with 4.07 BB/9.
Knizner batted .276/.357/.463 with 12 home runs in 280 Triple-A plate appearances a year ago, though the .226/.293/.377 line he registered in his first 58 PA in the majors fell well short. He’ll continue to remain behind Yadier Molina and Matt Wieters in the Cardinals’ pecking order at catcher.
Dean has by far the most MLB experience of the group, appearing in 98 games with the Marlins over the past two seasons. St. Louis acquired Dean in January, though Dean faced a lot of competition for an Opening Day roster spot, given the amount of outfield depth in the Cards’ camp. Dean played mostly as a left fielder in Miami with a few appearances in right field and first base, and he hit .223/.268/.388 with 10 homers over 311 plate appearances.
Williams faced a similar situation as Dean did in facing an uphill battle to win an outfield job, though Williams’ left-handed bat makes him a solid call-up possibility during the season given that Cardinals’ other outfielders are mostly right-handed hitters. A second-round pick for the Diamondbacks in the 2013 draft, Williams was dealt to the Rays in 2014 and then came to St. Louis as part of the return in the Tommy Pham trade package at the July 2018 deadline. Shortly before that deal, Williams received his lone bit of MLB experience to date — a single plate appearance on July 21, 2018.
As noted by Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sosa is eligible to be sent down due to a fourth option year, as opposed to the usual three. After the Cardinals cut ties with Yairo Munoz, Sosa stood to benefit from that unusual situation, and he played well in Spring Training in his bid for a utility infield job. While at Triple-A, Sosa will be the “de facto backup” to Cardinals’ starting shortstop Paul DeJong on the big league roster, should DeJong suffer a longer-term injury. Sosa has had only a few more cups of coffee in the big leagues than Williams, as Sosa has appeared a total of 11 games for St. Louis over the last two seasons.
’Twas the winter of 2015-16. Jason Heyward wasn’t the best-available player in a well-stocked free agent class. But he was a high-quality performer and still tantalizingly young (26). While hardly a traditional corner outfield star due to his middling power, Heyward was well-established as a quality hitter and superlative defender and baserunner.
The debate raged long before the offseason arrived: how much can you really pay for a player like this? All agreed he was good. But the traditionalists howled at the notion of a right fielder who hadn’t even hit forty home runs over the prior three seasons landing a premium contract. The analytically minded countered that, well, runs are runs regardless of how they’re added or prevented. Heyward was a 6.9 rWAR / 5.6 fWAR performer in 2015. With exceptional glovework and a steady OBP, Heyward seemed to be a high-floor player who might have some ceiling as well.
We predicted that Heyward would earn $200MM over a full decade — second-most in a rather well-stocked free agent class. That didn’t quite happen, but the real deal was actually more favorable to Heyward than the one we had guessed. He landed $184MM over an eight-year term and also got two opt-out opportunities (which was worth something at the time the deal was struck, even if they weren’t exercised). The deal delivered a nice $23MM AAV over quite a lengthy term.
Now that we’re all reacquainted with the contract as it turned out … let’s try to remind ourselves of the state of play in the market when it was struck. At the time of the pact, there were hints that the Cubs may not have been the high bidder. The Nationals supposedly had the top offer on the table, though we may presume it’d have been deferred. The incumbent Cardinals were also known to be in pursuit. And the Angels and Giants were still involved in rumors right up until the end.
So … what would things have looked like if Heyward had landed elsewhere?
Whoa … would the Nats have hoisted the commisioner’s trophy last fall had they signed Heyward? That’s obviously not something that can be assessed fairly given the innumerable butterfly effects potentially at play. But the counter-factual does actually present a pretty similar situation to what actually happened in 2019. In right field, the Nationals got solid but hardly otherworldly work out of Adam Eaton — another left-handed hitter whose skillset is rather similar to that of Heyward.
More interesting to consider is the fact that the Nats probably wouldn’t ever have dealt for Eaton had they already acquired Heyward. Eaton landed in D.C. after the team missed on its effort to acquire Chris Sale for the White Sox. The swap cost the Nationals pitchers Lucas Giolito (reimagine 2019 with him on the staff), Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning. Of course, Eaton has been much more affordable than Heyward this whole time. Who knows if the Nats would’ve inked Patrick Corbin last winter had Heyward been on the books.
Ultimately, the Washington organization has deep enough pockets that it would’ve been just fine with an underperforming $23MM salary on the books — not unlike the Cubs. At the same time, also not unlike the Cubs, the Nats have been focused on getting and staying just under the luxury tax line, so this deal would’ve been a constant nuisance that would’ve interfered with any number of lower-cost veteran signings and acquisitions over the past several seasons.
Much like the Nats, the Cards eventually made a big deal for a somewhat similar player. One winter after missing on Heyward (despite reportedly offering as much or more as the arch-rival Cubbies), the Redbirds reversed the talent flow by inking former Chicago center fielder Dexter Fowler. The switch-hitting Fowler wasn’t nearly as expensive as Heyward, but his own five-year, $82.5MM deal has worked out about as poorly. The Fowler contract probably wouldn’t have been signed had Heyward been around, but this is probably to the Cardinals’ benefit since the Heyward deal features a bigger and longer hit. Perhaps the Cubs would’ve ended up retaining Fowler had they missed on Heyward. You could argue over the details, but it’s probably not far from a wash.
Of course, the Cards went without either of those players in that 2016 campaign … which helped open the door to the memorable shooting star of Jeremy Hazelbaker. It’s tough to say whether there were significant long-term effects on the way the Cards’ outfield picture developed. Going without Heyward in 2016 opened more playing time for outfielders Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty and, to a lesser extent, a pre-breakout Tommy Pham. Perhaps one or more would’ve been shipped out of town earlier had Heyward been retained. Maybe Pham’s breakout would’ve occurred elsewhere, thus eliminating his successive trades (to the Rays and then to the Padres), though it’s impossible to say that with any degree of confidence.
We don’t know whether the Halos were really strong pursuers of Heyward, but it’s worth considering what might’ve been. The club ended up foregoing any big free agent splashes that winter. (It had already acquired Andrelton Simmons.) Adding Heyward surely wouldn’t have forestalled the string of four-straight losing seasons, given the way he has played. But it might’ve prevented the Angels from eventually trading for and then extending Justin Upton. And it certainly could’ve gummed up this winter’s signing of Anthony Rendon.
Likewise, it’s not entirely clear that the Giants were heavily involved in bidding up Heyward’s price, but the team clearly had some real interest. The San Francisco org splashed a lot of regrettable cash that winter regardless. It had already inked Jeff Samardzija and ended up signing Johnny Cueto after Heyward landed with the Cubs. The Giants did find a rather direct alternative to Heyward, inking Denard Span to a three-year, $31MM pact. That didn’t quite go as hoped but was hardly a significant disaster. Suffice to say that having Heyward on the books would’ve further complicated an already difficult stretch for the organization.
Ah, yes. The Cubs. Lauded at the time by some for landing Heyward for less than others would’ve paid — really, the deal was probably right at the market rate, give or take — the Cubbies have obviously not benefited from the signing.
Remember how we started this post? The debate over paying out a non-slugging right fielder. Consider these contemporaneous comments. On the one hand …
On the other …
To some degree, neither turned out to be right. And the lack of power was largely beside the point. Heyward did top twenty long balls in 2019, but he was still an average-or-worse hitter for the fourth-straight year. It was certainly his best offensive season for the Cubs … but also the team’s own worst effort in this four-year span. No, the Cubbies haven’t exactly dominated the National League over the span of this deal, but they did capture that elusive crown in 2016.
So does the World Series justify it? Eh … this isn’t as clean an analysis as the Gleyber Torres-for-Aroldis Chapman “you do what it takes!” situation. Heyward was terrible in 2016 and even worse in the postseason, when he contributed just five hits and a walk over fifty plate appearances.
There’s no two ways about it: the deal hasn’t worked out at all as hoped. Heyward has by all accounts worked hard and been a total class act, as ever. And he has trended back up with the bat, which is somewhat promising with regard to the final three seasons of the deal. But the net return to the Cubs — 7.1 rWAR and 6.0 fWAR — has not remotely justified the outlay.
Anybody that has watched the Chicago organization operate these past two winters can see the effects of this contractual miss. The Cubs have decided not to move past the luxury tax line, so every dollar going to Heyward has been another buck that couldn’t be allocated elsewhere. Of course, the Heyward whiff isn’t the only one that has stung in recent years, as MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes recently examined. And it’s worth emphasizing the he’s still just 30 years of age and still capable of contributing. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that he could even morph back into a quality regular. All things considered, this contract certainly didn’t single-handedly obstruct the Cubs’ dynasty-that-wasn’t … but it certainly played a leading role.
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Cardinals righty Miles Mikolas has resumed throwing after undergoing a platelet-rich plasma injection for a strained flexor tendon in his right arm last month, writes Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Mikolas is currently limited to playing catch from 90 feet, but he’s upping the distance regularly and tells Hummel that he now expects to be able to contribute from day one of the regular season — whenever that is.
The forearm injury had previously wiped out any possibility of Mikolas being part of the active roster on the previously scheduled March 26 season opener, but that’s no longer the case. The right-hander had been eyeing a late April or early May return to the roster, and with Opening Day pushed back at least eight weeks, his rehab timeline should be complete before the season gets underway.
Penciling Mikolas into the starting rotation would force the Cardinals into a tough decision on the rest of the rotation. Jack Flaherty is a lock, of course, and former ace Carlos Martinez impressed early in spring as he built back up as a starter. Veteran Adam Wainwright is back on another one-year deal as well, and the Cards also have young righty Dakota Hudson and offseason pickup Kwang-Hyun Kim in the fold as well — the latter of whom turned in eye-opening results in the abbreviated first iteration of Spring Training. There’s ample depth even beyond that group, too. Right-handers Daniel Ponce de Leon and Jake Woodford are both on the 40-man roster, as are lefties Austin Gomber and Genesis Cabrera.
The Cards will surely file all that away in the “good problem to have” drawer if it pans out, but first and foremost will be monitoring Mikolas’ rehab efforts. He’s still only playing catch from flat ground, so he’ll need to progress to throwing off a mound, throwing his breaking pitches and eventually building up to a starter’s workload. Ideally, he’ll be in the mix to start one of the Cardinals’ first games of the season, but as already illustrated, the organization has plenty of depth in the event of a setback.
Mikolas is entering the first season of a four-year, $68MM extension that he inked last spring. He’s owed a $15.75MM salary in each season of the deal, plus the prorated portion of a $5MM signing bonus to be paid each January over the life of the deal.
We don’t really know whether or to what extent extension talks will continue during the coronavirus hiatus. But as I wrote yesterday, it seems reasonable to think they’ll be explored. Some may already have advanced nearly to completion before the global pandemic intervened.
While we may have to wait to learn who the targets are and see what deals get done, there’s a silver lining: more time for rampant speculation! Okay, we’re not going to speculate here; rather, we’ll tick through some interesting possibilities on paper. Remember, we’ve seen an increasing prevalence of deals with less-experienced players (even some without any MLB service) and with new player types (early-career relievers and utilitymen).
In the present MLB environment, value is king and the old forms are fading. Here are some names to chew on from the NL Central …
The Brew Crew already reached two deals this winter, both of which are quite interesting for very different reasons. The Milwaukee organization reached a big new extension (that still feels team-friendly) with superstar Christian Yelich. And it placed a upside bet on young hurler Freddy Peralta, whose ERA hasn’t quite yet matched his talent.
Scanning the rest of the roster, the name that jumps off the page is Josh Hader. True, he just lost an arbitration hearing to the team. But he’s still got a big $4.1MM starting point to build from for three more seasons and his salary could go wild if the Brewers keep him in the closer’s role. Perhaps there’s a path to a deal, even if it doesn’t expand the Brewers’ control rights past arbitration much (if at all).
Likelier, perhaps, are highly talented youngsters Keston Hiura and Brandon Woodruff. The former isn’t even close to arbitration but seems like an easy bet to keep hitting. The latter is a year away from Super Two qualification, so this might be the best opportunity to get him locked in at a palatable price. Given the aggressive stance the Brewers took in the Peralta deal, you can’t rule out negotiations with fellow hurlers Adrian Houser and Corbin Burnes.
Of greater long-term intrigue is the situation of staff ace Jack Flaherty. But odds of an agreement seem long, particularly after the club renewed his contract at a rather meager rate this spring. Perhaps fellow starter Dakota Hudson is a likelier target. If the club gets creative in exploring deals with the staff, relievers Giovanny Gallegos and John Brebbia might be approached, though neither is terribly youthful.
Two years out from free agency, Kolten Wong is a conceivable but hardly pressing potential target. It’s more interesting to contemplate an early pact with emerging utilityman Tommy Edman. But most intriguing of all? A pre-debut pact with top prospect Dylan Carlson. That would free the club to promote him whenever it wishes and perhaps secure a potential new franchise star for his entire prime.
If you can’t trade ’em, extend ’em? Perhaps not in all cases, but the Cubs have a lot of quality players that could be targeted for extensions — now that the team has elected not to deal them over the winter and likely won’t have a chance to revisit its decision in the middle of the 2020 season. Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, and Kyle Schwarber could in theory all fall in this bucket.
The likeliest candidate, though, is shortstop Javier Baez. He was never really on the block, so far as anyone knows, and there’s clearly mutual interest in a deal. Baez is two years from free agency but already well into bigger earnings via arbitration. Talks have been up and down thus far.
Otherwise, the Cubbies could explore ways of locking in lower prices on non-stars for the foreseeable future. What if — and believe me, this is a hypothetical — but what if the team saw some value in the right arrangement with a younger, less-established player? The most interesting possibilities: infielder Nico Hoerner, backstop Victor Caratini, and center fielder (for the time being, anyway) Ian Happ. Having already done a deal with David Bote, this sort of possibility can’t be ruled out.
Thankfully, in this case the team has more or less provided its own list (through unnamed sources that spoke with reporters). Younger big leaguers Bryan Reynolds, Kevin Newman, and Joe Musgrove are all said to be of interest, as is top prospect Ke’Bryan Hayes. Now that we know talks have been initiated, it’s a matter of seeing if anything gets done.
Notably absent from that group? Slugging first baseman Josh Bell. The 27-year-old is in his first season of arbitration eligibility after a big 2019 season. The absence of reporting doesn’t necessarily mean that Bell isn’t of interest, though he may be a bit spendy for the Bucs to commit to.
Beyond that, it gets pretty speculative. The Pirates have big hopes for high-upside youngsters Mitch Keller and Oneil Cruz, but probably want to see them develop more before thinking about a long-term contract.
The Cincinnati ballclub has made a host of interesting moves of late. But there’s still potential for greater contractual action with regard to a few in-house players.
Excellent right-hander Luis Castillo is easily the top target. He’s in classic starting pitcher extension territory as a 2+ service-class player with two full seasons of increasingly productive moundwork. The team can surely envision quite a lot of upside and he has some real incentive to dodge the risk of another MLB campaign before getting paid.
Perhaps there’s also an argument for considering talks with lefty Amir Garrett or reliever/pinch-hitter/CF Michael Lorenzen. If teams can strike deals with pitchers like Peralta and Aaron Bummer, then these guys can’t be ruled out.
It’s awfully intriguing to think about a deal for everywhere-but-nowhere man Nick Senzel. But his precise place in this organization has yet to be determined. While the team would probably buy in at the right price, he’s probably not going to sell himself short and buy into an uncertain situation. There are a few other conceivable candidates on this roster — outfielder Jesse Winker; starter Anthony DeSclafani — but it’s quite a bit harder to see a path to a mutually agreeable deal in those cases.
Nobody knows when the 2020 Major League Baseball season will begin, but we can still look forward to its start. With that in mind, we’ll continue our series on potential bounce-back players from each division, this time focusing on notable National League Central pitchers whose production fell off from 2018 to ’19.
Craig Kimbrel, RHP, Cubs:
Undoubtedly among the greatest relief pitchers in baseball history, Kimbrel’s numbers careened off a cliff in his first season as a Cub. In fairness, though, Kimbrel didn’t have a normal offseason before finally joining the Cubs on a three-year, $43MM contract. The 31-year-old flamethrower went without a deal until the first week June, and he never really got on track after debuting later that month. Kimbrel battled elbow issues and threw just 20 2/3 innings, over which he allowed 15 earned runs on 21 hits (including a whopping nine home runs) and 12 walks. Although Kimbrel did strike out 30 hitters and continue to throw upward of 96 mph, it wasn’t enough to overcome the other problems. Considering what the Cubs have invested in him, not to mention the losses their bullpen suffered in free agency, it’s a must for him to return to form this year.
Jeremy Jeffress, RHP, Cubs:
Jeffress was a lights-out part of the Brewers’ bullpen in 2018, but last season represented an enormous step backward. In fact, it went so badly for Jeffress that the Brewers – then vying for a playoff spot – released him during the first week of September. Jeffress wound up with a ghastly 5.02 ERA in 52 innings and saw his typical fastball go from 95.3 mph in 2018 to 93.8. He also lost 4 percent on his swinging-strike rate, almost 10 percent on his strikeout rate, and 8 percent on his groundball rate. Consequently, he was only able to secure an $850K guarantee in free agency.
Trevor Bauer, RHP, Reds:
Bauer went from one of the absolute best pitchers in the sport two years ago to someone whom the opposition shelled after the Reds acquired him from the Indians at last summer’s trade deadline. The 29-year-old kept throwing hard, averaging about 95 mph on his fastball, but yielded 57 hits (including 12 home runs) en route to a 6.39 ERA in 56 1/3 innings as a Red. Between the two teams, his combined 4.48 ERA and 4.34 FIP were each more than two runs worse than the production he logged in 2018. Bauer also experienced an almost 7 percent fall in groundball rate, and he wasn’t any kind of Statcast hero, ranking near the middle of the pack in multiple important categories.
Pedro Strop, RHP, Reds:
Strop, 34, had several terrific years with the Cubs, but last season wasn’t one of them. His average fastball dropped by 1.5 mph (93.6), his walk rate spiked to its highest level since 2012 (4.32 BB/9) and he gave up more home runs than ever (1.3 per nine). All of those factors helped lead to career-worst run prevention totals for Strop (4.97 ERA/4.53 FIP), which came at a less-than-ideal time for the pending free agent. Strop’s subpar output last year stopped him from cashing in on the open market, but if he can rebound, the Reds will have a bargain on their hands at $1.825MM.
Chris Archer, RHP, Pirates:
MLBTR’s Steve Adams just took a more in-depth dive into the surprising struggles Archer has gone through as a Pirate. The former Rays standout has been a shell of himself since Pittsburgh acquired him from Tampa Bay in a July 2018 trade that looks incredibly lopsided in the Rays’ favor. But not all hope is lost for Archer, who – at the Pirates’ behest – grew too reliant on a sinking fastball that the opposition hammered. Archer bagged the pitch last summer and proceeded to post far better numbers during the second half of the season than he did before then, making the 5.19 ERA/5.02 FIP, 4.14 BB/9, 1.88 HR/9 and 36.3 percent groundball rate he put up over 119 2/3 innings look somewhat deceiving.
Derek Holland, LHP, Pirates:
Holland resurrected his career two years ago in San Francisco, only to fall apart between the Giants and Cubs last season. While Holland made 30 starts in 2018, he had such a rough time a year ago that he spent most of it in the bullpen, where he amassed 43 of 51 appearances. The 33-year-old limped to a 6.10 ERA/6.08 FIP with 8.75 K/9, 4.8 BB/9 and 2.13 HR/9, forcing him to settle for a minor league contract with Pittsburgh in the offseason.
Andrew Miller, LHP, Cardinals:
The first season as a Cardinal didn’t go well for Miller, whom they signed to a two-year, $25MM pact beforehand. The majority of his numbers, including a 4.45 ERA/5.19 FIP in 54 2/3 innings, went the wrong way. Miller, who barely walked more than one hitter per nine during his career-best season back in 2016, issued almost four and a half free passes last season. Moreover, he endured a 10.5 percent dip in groundball rate from 2018 and saw his home run-to-fly ball rate skyrocket to 21.6 percent. The 34-year-old has since dealt with some health troubles this spring, though the latest update on his status was encouraging.
Corbin Burnes, RHP, Brewers:
Burnes had a promising debut from Milwaukee’s bullpen in 2018. However, the spin rate darling’s propensity for surrendering homers proved to be his undoing last season. Burnes, 25, gave them up on 38.6 percent of fly balls, leading to an awful 8.82 ERA/6.09 FIP in 49 innings and canceling out a strong strikeout rate of 12.86 per nine and a borderline elite swinging-strike percentage of 17.2.
Corey Knebel, RHP, Brewers:
Knebel’s on the list for injury reasons, not ones related to performance. He was a huge piece of the Brewers’ relief corps from 2017-18, but Tommy John surgery kept him off the mound a season ago. Knebel, who underwent the procedure just under 12 months ago, had been lining up for an early May return before the game shut down, according to Adam McCalvy of MLB.com. So, the longer baseball’s hiatus last, the better Knebel’s odds are of returning to his past role as a Brewers contributor over a full season.
Cardinals lefty Brett Cecil suffered a “fairly significant” strain of his right hamstring while covering first base in the Cardinals’ final game before the spring shutdown, manager Mike Shildt told reporters over the weekend (link via Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch). There’s no concrete timeline on his rehab — as is the case with baseball in general — but he’ll require “multiple weeks of treatment to get him back to close to being into baseball activities,” per Shildt.
Shildt did note that Cecil avoided a full tear of the hamstring, although any strain, by definition, involves some partial tearing. He was able to walk off the field under his own power at the time of the injury (video link), although the 33-year-old was in obvious pain and walking with a limp.
Cecil didn’t pitch at all in 2019 after undergoing surgery to alleviate carpal tunnel syndrome in his pitching hand. A year prior, shoulder troubles wiped out roughly six weeks of his season. The lefty actually pitched well upon returning from the injured list in mid-May but tanked in the second half of that season. Cecil pitched 9 2/3 innings after the 2018 All-Star break and surrendered a staggering 16 runs on 17 hits and 10 walks with just seven strikeouts.
Cecil is now 75 percent of the way through a four-year, $30.5MM contract he signed with St. Louis prior to the 2017 campaign, and to date, he’s managed only 100 innings of 4.86 ERA ball with just 7.7 K/9 against 3.7 BB/9. Cecil struck out 31.6 percent of the hitters he faced over his final three seasons with the Blue Jays but has seen that number plummet to 19.6 percent. His fastball, which averaged 92.2 mph in 2016, averaged just 89.8 mph during the aforementioned 2018 season.
Suffice it to say, that’s not really what the Cards hoped when issuing the largest contract to which they’ve ever signed a reliever. Depending on the length of the shutdown with which the league is faced, it’s possible that Cecil could be healthy by the time a “second Spring Training” rolls around. Shildt’s rather vague wording and the broader uncertainty surrounding the timeline to Opening Day make that impossible to ascertain, however.
- The Cardinals “will not make any [transactions] until we have more clarity on what the future holds,” president of baseball operations John Mozeliak told Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. This means everything from roster cuts, minor league assignments, releases, or any other moves that would have been expected within the next week had Spring Training progressed as per usual. Despite some speculation on the subject, the league didn’t issue an official freeze on roster moves while the next steps are figured out during this shutdown period, even though some veterans on minor league contracts are approaching the opt-out dates in their contracts. A couple of teams have made some minor league re-assignments in the interim, while the Nationals made the most notable move in releasing Hunter Strickland and David Hernandez.
Teams have taken various approaches in the wake of the coronavirus hiatus. Some more details have emerged about how a few teams plan to handle the unpredictable situation.
- The Cardinals had initially planned to largely disperse, with only ten to fifteen players remaining at the team’s Florida complex. It seems they’ve reversed course somewhat. Fifteen to twenty-five players will stick around for the time being, reports Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. They’ll continue to work out informally, but they unsurprisingly plan to pare back the training intensity, especially on the pitching side. Cardinals officials anticipate an eventual abbreviated “2.0 spring training,” in the words of manager Mike Shildt, that’ll last around two weeks in advance of MLB’s official regular season start date. Technically, MLB could return as soon as April 9, but it’s unlikely games will get underway until at least May.
- The Astros will split into two groups to train, pitcher Lance McCullers announced (h/t to Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle). Some members of the club will remain in the team’s spring complex in Florida, while others are headed back to Houston. The players plan to work out collectively.
- Most of the Mets’ coaching staff will stay at the team’s Florida spring complex, as will many players on the team, tweets MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. Newsday’s Tim Healey recently reported that most of the team would stay put.
- As of yesterday, the Royals were holding tight at their Arizona spring facility, reports Lynn Worthy of the Kansas City Star. As pitcher Danny Duffy acknowledged to Worthy, the fluid situation could call for a change in plans at any time.
- A good portion of the Rays’ roster is holding tight at the team’s spring complex for now. 30-35 players took part in an informal workout yesterday, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Unlike some other clubs, Tampa has no plans to conduct any sort of team-wide vote on the matter, Topkin adds, preferring to let players decide on a case-by-case basis their preferred course of action.