The Cubs are kicking off a series against the Padres with a late game tonight, so until then, let’s check in on some news from around the league ….
- After his start on August 1, Stephen Strasburg boasted an excellent 2.63 ERA, alongside very strong peripherals (2.90 FIP, 3.20 xFIP), and figured among the most likely candidates for the 2016 NL Cy Young award (especially with Clayton Kershaw’s extended absence). But then, in his last three starts, something’s been a bit off. He gave up four earned runs in 4.2 IP against the Giants, six earned runs in 5.1 innings against the Braves and nine (!) earned runs in just 1.2 innings against the Rockies. Those three starts represented just the second, third, and fourth time Strasburg has failed to go at least 6.0 innings, and those runs accounted for nearly 33% of the total number of runs he’s allowed all year. Something certainly felt off, and now we know that it was: The Washington Nationals have placed Stephen Strasburg on the 15-day disabled list with a sore elbow.
- There is not much news on the extent of the injury, but Joel Sherman (New York Post) is reporting that it is not a structural problem. Indeed, he claims that the Nats are just being proactive with the disabled list stint, to get him ready for the stretch/playoffs. Even still that’s a pretty scary turn for the Nationals, even with their comfortable 8.5 game lead in the NL East. If Strasburg isn’t capable of pitching at his current level come October, the Nationals’ chances in a five game set will have been diminished significantly – losing one of the best pitchers in baseball will do that to you. In his place, AJ Cole has been recalled from Triple-A and will start tonight against the Orioles. This will be a story to follow, especially considering the broader NL playoff implications.
- If you missed the – pardon my French – media shit-storm surrounding the Arizona Diamondbacks’ front office, you have some fun, but terrifying reading ahead of you. In an article at ESPN, Keith Law paints a detailed picture, chronicling many of the recent,
extraordinarily incompetentquestionable and uninformed decisions of the D-backs front office, with specific focus on GM Dave Stewart and Chief Baseball Officer Tony La Russa. Over the past few years, Law maintains, the D-backs have made some pretty big mistakes, and not just differences-in-baseball-opinion-type stuff. Instead, it’s like, really serious didn’t-understand-the-rules-type stuff.
- For one example, Law recalls the acquisition of Cuban right-hander Yoan Lopez. On the surface, you can question the D-backs decision to target him at all (he’s underperformed and has reportedly had problems with coaches and players in the organization), but that’s just half of it. Arizona extended Lopez an $8 million bonus to sign him after the 2013 season, despite the fact that the market had reportedly valued him much lower (Law says it was about 1/10th that price). But, okay, some team’s really want their man, right? Well, not so much. According to Law, the Diamondbacks were unaware that, per the IFA rules, they would have to pay an $8 million penalty on Lopez’s bonus and that they would be prohibited from signing any July 2 free agents in the next two signing periods, as well. In other words, they had no understanding of the IFA bonus pool rules and were surprised to learn of the penalties. I’m just not quite sure how the two most widely discussed caveats/penalties to IFA can slip by an entire organization. But it happened, says Law, and it happened at the highest level. The Diamondbacks also reportedly made mistakes in the draft (failing to use their entire allotment of signing bonuses in 2015 – leaving $1.7 million on the table), have displayed very poor player judgement (DFA-ing reliever Will Harris to an immediate rush of claims), and have even doubled down on the highly-scrutinized (and since worsened by Shelby Miller’s descent and Dansby Swanson’s debut) Shelby Miller Trade.
- [Brett: The reports about the Diamondbacks would have been harder to believe if not for the extraordinarily questionable player personnel decisions made in the last two years, none of which is merely hindsight because the Diamondbacks have been so bad this year. Most of the baseball web was questioning almost everything the Diamondbacks did this offseason. It just made no sense, and, well, now here we are.]
- The club has 2017 options on GM Dave Stewart and Assistant GM De Jon Watson, which need to be exercised before August 31, but both are far from a guarantee. In fact, Diamondbacks ownership may even consider making some sweeping front-office changes, which apparently includes La Russa, as well. This is a relatively fascinating story and is sure to be something to follow over the next few weeks/year.
- Speaking of the Diamondbacks, one of their minor leaguers, Luis Veras, made an absolutely brilliant catch over the left field foul wall, somersaulting out of play.
- After recently being DFA’d from the Houston Astros, Carlos Gomez has officially signed a Minor League deal with the Texas Rangers. After a few excellent seasons with the Brewers from 2012-2014 (16.1 WAR), Gomez has hit a bit of a wall in 2016, slashing just .210/.272/.322 with the lowest defensive marks of his career. The Rangers, however, are counting on a return and expect Gomez to take over a significant role in left field. “We’ll get him out there and let him play,” manager Jeff Banister said over the weekend. “This is a veteran outfielder who, when he is out there, can impact the game.” Gomez certainly has a history of success and the respect of the Rangers, but a dramatic and immediate turnaround would be quite a surprise. Still, making such a low-risk, high-reward acquisition of a 30-year-old Gomez is far from crazy. In fact, I really like the move for the Rangers, it has the potential to really payoff. After a short break from playing (August 9), Gomez will report to Triple-A Round Rock to get back up to game speed before joining the big league club.
- Although Kyle Schwarber is “most likely probably not” returning this season, the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton still might. After just one week on the disabled list with Grade 3 left groin strain, Stanton is expecting to make it back by the final week of the regular season. Then, should fate smile upon us, the Marlins could edge out the Cardinals for the second Wild Card (currently 1.5 games back) and Stanton could continue playing in the postseason. It’s an aggressive timeline, but Stanton is no stranger to injury (and thus recovery), so I’m a bit inclined to believe him. Marlins President Michael Hill agrees that he’ll be back, adding that his rehab has been going strongly and the feedback has been very positive. 2016 may not be Stanton’s season, but we may not have seen the last of him either.
- A really strange story out of Oakland has developed, once Billy Butler missed the last two games after being injured in an “altercation” with teammate Danny Valencia. No one with the team is commenting on the story, but they’re not denying either – when asked, Valencia simply stated, “What happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse.” According to manager Bob Melvin, Butler missed the past two games due to nausea and vomiting, but specifically ruled out the flu. The prevailing theory, then, is that he suffered some sort of concussion. At the San Francisco Chronicle, Susan Slusser cites two sources that claim “the dispute in the clubhouse began when Butler informed an equipment representative that Valencia had not, in fact, been wearing the spikes that Valencia had told the representative that he was using.” I’m not quite sure what to make of all of this, given the secrecy surrounding the story, but it certainly is strange. To be fair, several players (Yonder Alonso, Coco Crisp, and Eric Hosmer) have each come out supporting Valencia’s character. I suppose we simply need to reserve judgement until further details are revealed (and probably reserve it then, too).
- After a very long journey, Yulieski Gurriel has finally made his Major League debut with the Houston Astros, going 1-2 with a walk. He was very excited and proud to have finally made it to the show, but his big day was not full entirely of good news: Gurriel, 32, was forced to leave the game with some right hamstring tightness. Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch wasn’t overly concerned, but wanted to be especially cautious with Gurriel, given the weather (there were two extended rain delays) and the nature of his debut. Gurriel, who will primarily play in left field and first base (DH and third base are also possibilities), is day-to-day. Hopefully, he’ll return soon.
- If you recall, his talented, younger brother is still a free agent, but won’t likely sign until October 19.
- According to a report on Twitter from Jon Heyman, the Pittsburgh Pirates have extended David Freese on a very reasonable contact. Formerly a free agent at the end of the season, Freese will now make $6.25 million in 2017 and $4.25 million in 2018, with a $6 million team option (or $500,000 buyout) in 2019. Joel Sherman later confirmed the deal, adding that Freese can make up to $1 million in performance bonuses each year, if he reaches certain plate appearance thresholds. So the bottom line, then (a 2-year, $11 million extension, with a $6 million team option) is a very comfortable extension for Pittsburgh. Freese, 33, may not be the player he once was with the Cardinals, but he’s been an above average hitter for his entire Major League career (115 wRC+), and has been having his best offensive season in a while (.276/.355/.437; 117 wRC+).
- Lastly, speaking of the Cardinals ability to make players perform better than their capabilities:
Jeremy Hazelbaker: Hits @Cardinals 14th pinch-hit HR of season
Ties MLB record
– 2001 Diamondbacks
– 2001 Giants
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 21, 2016
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.