Some big stuff going on around the league …
- The biggest of which is probably a huge, unfortunate injury for the Blue Jays: young righty Marcus Stroman, who was emerging as a possible ace for the team, tore his ACL during pitcher fielding practice yesterday. The 23-year-old is out for the season, and it sucks, once again, not only for the Blue Jays, but also for baseball fans who enjoy watching talented players. The Blue Jays now are going to have to scramble to figure out what they want to do. They had previously been connected to Cole Hamels, and it would seem like they are even more likely now to go after him (unlike the Rangers in the Yu Darvish situation, the Blue Jays are definitely set up to win right now) … except Ken Rosenthal questions whether they can afford his contract, and whether they’d be willing to give up to prospects in addition to that price. For now, the Blue Jays are saying they will fill the rotation hole internally, but they don’t have a lot of depth as it is.
- Indeed, Joel Sherman writes that the Blue Jays could wait out the Spring and try to grab an option that becomes available because of a roster squeeze elsewhere, such as the Cubs’ Felix Doubront, who is out of options, and could be on the outside of the Cubs’ rotation looking in, even after injuries to Jacob Turner and Tsuyoshi Wada. For their part, the Cubs now may prefer to hang onto their own depth until the very end of the month when roster decisions will be due, so maybe there will prove to be a good fit here. Then again, another injury or two in Cubs camp, and they may suddenly not want to move any of their pitchers.
- The other connection to the Cubs in all of this: the Blue Jays are already trying to unload catcher Dioner Navarro, and I wonder if they’ll now be even more incentivized to take the best deal possible, either to save money to be used on a starter, or to pick up a fringe starter in the deal. That obviously impacts the Cubs’ efforts to market Welington Castillo.
- Speaking of which, Diamondbacks catcher Oscar Hernandez – one of a few super fringy catching options for the D-Backs, which is all they have – left yesterday’s game with a wrist injury. You’d think that could push Arizona further into pursuing Castillo, to whom they’ve been connected before, but the cynic in me immediately thinks, “Are they really going to be competitive this year anyway? So who cares if they lose another catcher?”
- But Navarro’s agent says those D-Backs, as well as the Tigers, have shown interest in trading for Navarro (Toronto Sun). So there you go.
- Padres backup catcher Tim Federowicz is having knee surgery, which has the Padres contemplating their options behind the plate. I don’t think a move for Castillo is likely, though, given the presence of Derek Norris (a good bat, dicey glove type) as the starter. Instead, the Padres will probably be looking for a cheap, defensive-minded true back-up type.
- Meanwhile, those Padres might now be the favorites to sign Cuban second baseman Hector Olivera (Jeff Passan). If they do, and if he’s healthy, it’s yet another improvement for a team that projects to be right there in the Wild Card fight (if not the NL West).
- Cliff Lee has a tear in his flexor tendon – not the UCL – which is essentially the injury he’s been dealing with for almost a year, and he’s going to try and pitch through it (Phillies.com). If he can’t, surgery might be on the table. It’s a bummer for Lee, and also for the Phillies, who likely had hoped to wield a healthy Lee as a trade chip come July.
- Lee’s injury hasn’t changed GM Ruben Amaro’s thinking on how aggressive to be in shopping Cole Hamels, as he discussed with Jayson Stark at length. Amaro has gotten a lot of flack for how he’s handled the Hamels situation, sticking to his guns on what other teams have described as unrealistic trade demands, but I agree with him in this instance. Lee getting hurt doesn’t really impact the Phillies’ position with respect to Hamels, who is presently healthy. All pitchers are at a risk for injury, and whatever chances the Phillies are taking by holding onto Hamels for now are the same as the chances they are taking by holding onto him after Lee got hurt. The longer you hold an asset, the more you risk he could get hurt or become ineffective … but you also leave open the chance that the market develops for you (the Cubs did this very thing with Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija). Nothing that happened with Lee impacts that discussion with respect to Hamels in any way. (Instead, it’s always been my argument that the real issue the Phillies are facing is Hamels’ age and contract stacked against the impending wave of free agent starters. That could put more arms on the market than usual in July, and it could also give teams plenty of other options if they’re willing to wait until after the season. *That* is why the Phillies should deal Hamels now, not because of some inarticulable connection between Lee’s injury and Hamels’ potential for injury.)