Quick Hits: Hicks, Swihart, Reyes, Nolasco

Cardinals reliever Jordan Hicks became the second pitcher ever (after Aroldis Chapman) to hit the 105mph mark, tossing two fastballs at that epic speed during an appearance against the Phillies on Sunday.  As The Athletic’s Mark Saxon writes in a subscription-only piece, Hicks’ feat may represent the virtual limit of how fast a human arm can throw a baseball.  “The maximum can’t go up, because the ligaments can’t take it,”  said Dr. Glenn Fleisig, research director of the American Sports Medicine Institute.  “We’re at the limit, based upon what ligaments and tendons can take….What’s happening is more teams have more guys near the top of the limit, but the limit is just going up nominally.  It really can’t go up.  Maybe at the top it will go up one mph or so, but never will it be 10 mph faster.  It’s just more crowded near the top now.”

While we wonder if Dr. Fleisig has ever heard of a former Mets phenom named Sidd Finch, let’s check in on some news from around the baseball world…

  • The Red Sox have put a high price tag on Blake Swihart in trade negotiations with other teams, NBCSports.com’s Evan Drellich reports.  “Hard to find a trade partner when you’re asking for some of teams’ best prospects,” one rival talent evaluator tells Drellich.  Swihart has barely played at all this season coming off the Sox bench, and his previous two seasons also saw little MLB action (though injuries were a big factor in the lack of activity).  While these factors have seemingly dimmed Swihart’s former top-prospect status, the Sox are still aiming for a big return for Swihart, with Drellich noting that some familiar with the trade talks have described Boston’s demands as “unreasonable.”  The Sox may end up designating Swihart for assignment when Dustin Pedroia returns to ensure that a Swihart deal will happen, though this may or may not create the “bidding war” the Red Sox hope will then occur.  MLBTR’s Steve Adams recently broke down the potential market for Swihart, and while there are several teams that could use catching help, it hardly seems like Boston will score multiple quality minor leaguers in exchange for Swihart.
  • Jose Reyes had another tough game tonight, making two errors that contributed to a 5-1 Mets loss to the Marlins.  Reyes now has a measly .145/.203/.200 slash line through 59 plate appearances this season, leading the New York Post’s Mike Puma to question whether Reyes’ time on the roster is coming to an end.  Rookie Luis Guillorme may have more to offer in the utility infield role, leaving Reyes as the potential odd man out once Todd Frazier returns from the disabled list.
  • Veteran right-hander Ricky Nolasco is hopeful of continuing his career, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports (via Twitter).  Nolasco was released from a minor league deal with the Royals during Spring Training and has yet to catch on with another team.  A veteran of 12 Major League seasons, Nolasco posted a 4.92 ERA, 7.1 K/9, and 2.47 K/BB rate over 181 innings with the Angels in 2017.  While his performance has generally dimmed in recent years, Nolasco is still an effective innings-eater and managed a 2.6 fWAR season as recently as 2016.

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MLB Daily Roster Roundup: Adames, Gordon, Souza, Travis

ROSTER MOVES BY TEAM
(May 21st-May 22nd)

NATIONAL LEAGUE

  • NEW YORK METS Depth Chart
    • Acquisition: OF/INF Jose Bautista (signed to one-year contract)
      • Bautista played LF and batted 5th versus a left-handed starter on Tuesday.
    • Optioned: INF/OF Phillip Evans

AMERICAN LEAGUE

  • MINNESOTA TWINS Depth Chart
    • Designated for assignment: P Phil Hughes
    • Promoted: OF Ryan LaMarre
    • Acquisition: 1B Chris Carter (acquired from Angels for cash considerations)
      • Carter will continue to play in Triple-A. He is not on the 40-man roster.

FUTURE EXPECTED MOVES

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Injury Updates: Hill, Faria, Ramos, Smith, Bumgarner, Candelario, Boyd

Rich Hill’s latest blister problem was originally estimated by Dodgers manager Dave Roberts to require a four-week DL stint, though the southpaw threw a full bullpen session today.  As Roberts explained to MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick and other media, Hill was keeping his arm in shape while wearing protective tape over the injured middle finger of his pitching hand.  Hill told reporters yesterday (including The Athletic’s Fabian Ardaya) that is hopeful of a quicker return from this injury, though he is still looking for a more long-term answer to the blister problems that have plagued his career in recent years.  Hill even raised the idea of petitioning the league to allow him to wear the tape on his finger during a game — MLB rules prohibit a pitcher from wearing an “attachment to his hand, finger or wrist,” though Hill argues that it wouldn’t be any different than a hitter wearing a batting glove.

Here’s some more on some other injured players from around baseball…

  • The Rays suffered through a tough third inning tonight, as starter Jake Faria left the game with a strained left oblique and catcher Wilson Ramos departed later in the frame with a left hand contusion after an Austin Pruitt pitch deflected off the ground and hit Ramos in the top of the hand.  The Faria injury seems like the more immediately serious injury of the two, as oblique strains usually require at least a few weeks to recuperate; manager Kevin Cash told reporters (including the Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin) that Faria will “miss some time” with the injury.  Faria has struggled to a 5.48 ERA over 47 2/3 frames this season, though his absence would further tax a Rays pitching staff that is already putting a heavy load on its relievers due to the team’s unique usage of relievers.  As for Ramos, he tells Topkin that he doesn’t believe he’ll require a DL stint, though his hand is still swollen.
  • Carson Smith will seek out a third opinion on his injured shoulder to see if he can avoid surgery, Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe reports (Twitter link).  The Red Sox reliever suffered a subluxation in his right shoulder last week after angrily tossing his glove in frustration over a poor outing.  This would be another brutal injury setback for Smith, who missed most of the 2016 and 2017 seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery.
  • Madison Bumgarner threw 30 pitches in a simulated game today, and is on track to make his first rehab start on Saturday.  (MLB.com’s Richard Dean was one of several reporters with the info.)  The Giants ace will likely make three rehab outings before returning to the 25-man roster in June to make his season debut, after fracturing a finger in Spring Training.
  • Tigers third baseman Jeimer Candelario is slated to begin a minor league rehab assignment tomorrow, manager Ron Gardenhire told the Detroit Free Press’ Anthony Fenech (Twitter link) and other reporters.  The young third baseman was posting some big numbers (five homers, .272/.359/.497 in 167 PA) before being sidelined with tendinitis in his left wrist.  Candelario’s was placed on the DL on May 14, so it seems like he won’t miss much or maybe even any time beyond the 10-day minimum absence.
  • In more troubling injury news for the Tigers, southpaw Matthew Boyd was forced to leave his start after four innings tonight due to what the club described as an oblique spasm.  This is a lesser injury than a strain, though obviously Detroit wasn’t taking any chances with the young left-hander.  Boyd has delivered some good results with a 3.12 ERA over 52 innings, though advanced metrics indicate some batted-ball luck (.248 BABIP) and Boyd isn’t generating many grounders (32.9% ground ball rate) or strikeouts (7.1 K/9).

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AL West Notes: Hamels, Wood, Ohtani, McCann, Chapman

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.

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Mets To Sign Jose Bautista

The Mets have agreed to a deal with Jose Bautista, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman reports.  News broke yesterday of interest between Bautista and the Mets, with MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo reporting earlier today that the two sides were progressing towards a contract.  In a follow-up tweet, DiComo adds that the deal is expected to become official later today.

More analysis to come…

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