Boston Red Sox – MLB Trade Rumors 2019-04-24T19:51:53Z https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/feed/atom WordPress Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Prospect Notes: Hernandez, Sheffield, Senzel, Bichette, Vlad Jr., Luzardo]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=156890 2019-04-24T02:09:49Z 2019-04-24T02:09:49Z Here’s the latest on some prospects of note from around the game:

  • The Red Sox brought up top pitching prospect Darwinzon Hernandez for his first taste of the majors, with Alex Speier of the Boston Globe first reporting the move. Hernandez, a 22-year-old from Venezuela, still needs to iron out his command but has shown some impressive swing-and-miss capabilities. It was on display tonight, as he allowed five baserunners but also racked up four strikeouts in 2 1/3 innings in relief.
  • Left-handed pitching prospect Justus Sheffield will join the Mariners on Friday for his first action with his new club, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports on Twitter. He’s expected to piggyback with Yusei Kikuchi for a start; it’s possible he’ll be dropped back to Triple-A thereafter, though that’s not yet clear. While he already has 13 days of MLB service on his odometer, Sheffield won’t be able to reach a full year of service even if he stakes a permanent claim to a big-league roster spot. Sheffield hasn’t been himself thus far at Triple-A, carrying an 11:14 K/BB ratio through 18 1/3 innings.
  • It’s possible the Reds will soon welcome top prospect Nick Senzel to the majors. As Fletcher Page of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports, Senzel is back in the lineup at Triple-A after recovering from a sprained ankle. There’s no guarantee that he’ll be promoted in the near-term, but the organization doesn’t have much cause to hesitate at this point. Senzel can no longer achieve a full year of MLB service in 2019; the club is sitting at five games under .500 and can’t wait long to make its move. Once Senzel gets his timing down and gets comfortable in the outfield — he’s lined up in center field tonight for Louisville — he’ll likely be called up.
  • The Blue Jays got some unwelcome news on exciting infield prospect Bo Bichette. Robert Murray and Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic first reported on Twitter that Bichette had suffered a broken hand. As Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca tweets, the fracture was to the second metacarpal of his left hand. Widely considered one of the game’s very best prospects, Bichette will now need to get back to health before he can begin pressing for a major-league promotion. Meanwhile, anticipation grows that teammate Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will soon get the call; Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs tweets that some around the game anticipate it’ll come this week.
  • Top Athletics prospect Jesus Luzardo is beginning to work back toward the hill, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Twitter links). He’s moving from 75 feet to 90 feet tomorrow, so it’s still rather early in his progression back from shoulder soreness. Slusser estimates that it could take four to six weeks before the prized southpaw could be ready for game action. In all likelihood, he won’t be seen as a candidate for a MLB promotion until he has at least a few Triple-A starts under his belt and the club feels confident there aren’t any lingering issues with the joint.
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Steve Adams <![CDATA[Red Sox Will Stay Internal To Replace Eovaldi]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=156779 2019-04-22T15:39:07Z 2019-04-22T15:39:07Z
  • The Red Sox expect to stick with internal options in the rotation following Nathan Eovaldi’s injury, writes Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com. Hector Velazquez will be the leading candidate to step into the rotation, though Marcus Walden could also be an option. Manager Alex Cora downplayed the possibility of opting for a bullpen day in place of Eovaldi, voicing a clear preference for someone who can go out and pitch at least five innings. If the Sox want to go with a nonroster option, Cotillo notes that righty Erasmo Ramirez could again be selected (he’s already cleared waivers following last week’s DFA and accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Pawtucket).
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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Red Sox Notes: Deadline, Swihart]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=156753 2019-04-21T22:51:00Z 2019-04-21T22:50:28Z
  • Also from Olney’s piece, he speculates that the Red Sox could become a popular deadline seller if the team continues to falter throughout the season.  It’s still very early, of course, and the Sox did just complete a three-game sweep of the AL East-leading Rays.  But if Boston did fall out of the pennant race, players who could be free agents in the offseason (i.e. Rick Porcello, Mitch Moreland, and opt-out candidate J.D. Martinez) could all potentially be moved for some needed prospects.  Perhaps more importantly, moving some salary could also allow the Sox to get under the maximum luxury tax penalty threshold of $246MM.  It would only be a one-year reload for the club, as the Red Sox would look to contend again in 2020 in their final year of team control over Mookie Betts.  It doesn’t seem too likely, by the way, that Boston would look to shop Betts, even though he has rebuffed the team’s overtures about a contract extension.
  • The Blake Swihart era in Boston came to an unceremonious end on Friday, as the Red Sox dealt Swihart and $500K of international bonus pool money to the Diamondbacks for minor league outfielder Marcus WilsonThe Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato looks back at Swihart’s rocky development through the Sox farm system, which included injuries, multiple position changes, and an inability to truly unlock his heralded hitting potential even in the minors.  As highly-touted a prospect as Swihart was, “the organization could never come to a clear consensus on his ability.  There was always a disconnect and it existed through multiple regimes in the front office and field staff,” Mastrodonato writes.  This manifested itself in a seeming lack of confidence in Swihart as a regular catcher, though Mastrodonato notes if the Sox were going to deploy Swihart at different positions, it was unusual that Swihart wasn’t considered to fill Boston’s third base void prior to the 2017 season.
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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Minor MLB Transactions: 4/21/19]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=156732 2019-04-21T20:14:28Z 2019-04-21T20:14:28Z The latest minor moves from around baseball….

    • The Red Sox have outrighted Erasmo Ramirez to Triple-A, Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe reports (Twitter link).  Ramirez was designated for assignment on Friday and had the option of rejecting an outright assignment to become a free agent, so it appears as though the right-hander has decided to remain in the Sox organization after clearing waivers.  The 28-year-old signed a minors contract with Boston in the offseason and appeared in one Major League game, though that lone appearance was enough to guarantee Ramirez’s big league salary.  As Masslive.com’s Christopher Smith notes, Ramirez’s salary will still count against Boston’s luxury tax calculations for the season.  Terms of Ramirez’s guarantee aren’t known, and while it surely isn’t an exorbitant amount, every dollar counts for a Red Sox team that is trying to stay under the $246MM maximum tax penalty threshold.
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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Pedroia Discusses "Weird Freak Thing" Knee Injury]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=156699 2019-04-21T16:27:53Z 2019-04-21T16:27:33Z
  • Dustin Pedroia is also hopeful of a minimum IL stint as he recovers from his latest knee problem, telling media (including Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald) that his injury was “just a weird freak thing” rather than a more serious setback.  The Red Sox second baseman explained that his cleat caught in the dirt while he was swinging during Wednesday’s game, leading to an ominous-sounding popping feeling in his knee when it failed to turn along with the rest of his body.  Given that knee injuries have limited to Pedroia to just nine games since the start of the 2018 season, he admitted that the pop “more kind of scared me than anything….We’re going to let it calm down for a few days and it should be all right. It just twisted the wrong way.”  Given Pedroia’s recent injury history, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Sox wait beyond the 10-day minimum to activate him from the IL.  In the opinion of Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe, the team should give Pedroia more minor league rehab time before his return, as Pedroia had only a four-day stay in the minors during his first rehab stint this season and looked shaky at the plate once he reached Boston’s MLB roster.
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    TC Zencka <![CDATA[Nathan Eovaldi To Undergo Elbow Surgery]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=156603 2019-04-22T22:20:10Z 2019-04-20T22:18:24Z MONDAY: Eovaldi will go under the knife tomorrow, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports via Twitter. The club anticipates that the righty will be sidelined for four to six weeks, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com tweets.

    SATURDAY, 4:27pm: Eovaldi is indeed “leaning” toward minor elbow surgery to clean up loose bodies, per Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe.

    10:37am:Red Sox right-hander Nathan Eovaldi has been placed on the 10-day injured list due to a loose body in his elbow, per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo. Bobby Poyner will take Eovaldi’s roster spot (Twitter links). The move is retroactive to April 18th.

    This is not a new injury for Eovaldi, as just last season he had arthroscopic surgery to remove a similar loose body, causing him to miss roughly two months of the season. Obviously, Eovaldi recovered just fine, but the injury is still a blow to the defending champs as they have yet to play up to the level of expectations thus far in 2019. There has been no indication as to whether or not this current IL stint will require surgery. NBC Sports Boston’s Evan Drellich posted this report from November which gave Eovaldi a clean bill of health, though of course, Eovaldi has put a few more miles on the elbow since then.

    The injury hits after just four starts this season in which Eovaldi did not record a decision, totaling 21 innings with an even 6.00 ERA. It was certainly a rough start as his walk rate was up (4.71 BB/9), strikeout rate was down (6.86 K/9), and he  surrendered 2.57 home runs per game on a 25% HR/FB rate. Those numbers were bound to normalize at least somewhat over time, though obviously this new injury revelation might speak to his early season struggles as well.

    Poyner, 26, will join the team as a left-handed option out of the bullpen for the time being. He went 1-0 with a 3.22 ERA across 20 appearances out of the Red Sox pen last season with an impressive 9.7 K/9 to 1.2 BB/9 in the admittedly small sample.

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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Diamondbacks Acquire Blake Swihart]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=156569 2019-04-20T00:02:20Z 2019-04-19T22:54:53Z The Diamondbacks have acquired catcher Blake Swihart from the Red Sox, per a club announcement. International pool money is also going to Arizona in the deal — $500K in spending capacity, GM Mike Hazen tells reporters including Zach Buchanan of The Athletic (Twitter links) — with outfield prospect Marcus Wilson going to Boston in return.

    Swihart had been designated for assignment recently. He’s now heading to an interesting situation with the Snakes. Hazen is among several top D-Backs executives that came over from the Red Sox; needless to say, the team is amply familiar with Swihart.

    The Diamondbacks are the one organization in baseball that has been most dedicated to carrying three catcher-capable players on its active roster. That’s particularly relevant for Swihart, given that his questionable abilities behind the plate have thus far limited his chances in the majors. But the plan doesn’t appear to be for the out-of-options Swihart to displace a current D-Backs receiver (Carson Kelly, John Ryan Murphy, Caleb Joseph). Rather, Hazen indicates that the club intends to utilize him in some kind of utility capacity.

    It’ll be interesting to see whether the Arizona organization is better able to draw value out of Swihart than were the Sox. Prior attempts at moving him around the field didn’t work out. And his well-regarded bat hasn’t yet done much damage in the majors, though to be fair opportunities have come in fits and starts to this point. In 626 career plate appearances at the game’s highest level, Swihart carries a .255/.314/.365 slash with nine home runs, ten steals, and a combination of a 25.7% strikeout rate and 7.7% walk rate.

    The Red Sox won’t come away with what they hoped for out of Swihart, who was once considered quite a high-end prospect. But they were able to add an interesting player in Wilson, who was taken 69th overall in the 2014 draft. He has some swing and miss in his game but also has drawn his share of walks and has produced solid numbers at times in the low minors. An intriguing athlete, Wilson is off to a nice start this year at Double-A and is seen as possessing a relatively lofty ceiling.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Red Sox Place Eduardo Nunez On IL, Promote Michael Chavis, Designate Erasmo Ramirez]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=156533 2019-04-19T16:45:57Z 2019-04-19T16:29:02Z The Red Sox announced a series of roster moves Friday morning, revealing that they’ve placed Eduardo Nunez on the 10-day injured list (retroactive to April 18) due to a mid-back strain). Additionally, Boston has designated righty Erasmo Ramirez for assignment and recalled infielders Tzu-Wei Lin and Michael Chavis from Triple-A Pawtucket. It’ll be the MLB debut for Chavis, a former first-round pick who is currently ranked as the game’s No. 75 overall prospect by MLBPipeline.com.

    Nunez will join fellow second basemen Dustin Pedroia and Brock Holt on the injured list. There’s no word yet on long he’s expected to be sidelined. The loss of that trio facilitated the promotion of Chavis for his first look in the big leagues as well as the return of the versatile Lin, who has been up and down with the Sox dating back to the 2017 season. While Chavis has been primarily a third baseman in his minor league career, he’s played 47 innings at second base in 2019 and has experience at shortstop in the past, as well. He seems likely to step up at second base for the time being with Boston’s other options on the mend.

    Selected with the 26th overall pick in the 2014 draft, Chavis posted modest numbers in his first two and a half professional seasons before breaking out with a .282/.347/.563 batting line between Class-A Advanced and Double-A in 2017. He followed that up with a similarly impressive .298/.381/.538 slash across three levels in 2018 (topping out in Triple-A but spending the bulk of his time in Double-A), though it should be pointed out that Chavis’ 2018 campaign was shortened by an 80-game PED suspension.

    This season, he was off to a .250/.354/.600 start in Pawtucket. Chavis is a bat-first prospect, drawing the most praise for plus raw power and a solid hit tool. Strikeouts are part of his game but haven’t been a huge problem for him, and he’s shown improved plate discipline in recent years as well.

    Ramirez’s stint with the Sox will go down as a brief and forgettable one. The veteran right-hander made only one appearance with the Boston organization, allowing four runs on four hits (including a pair of homers) and a walk with one strikeout in three inning of relief. The Red Sox will have a week to trade him, release him or pass him through outright waivers; Ramirez would be able to reject an outright assignment in favor of free agency anyhow, so this move seems quite likely to end his tenure with the Red Sox organization.

    Though he had a poor year with the Mariners in 2018, Ramirez isn’t far removed from a three-year stretch (2015-17) in which he logged a combined 3.97 ERA with 7.0 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and 1.2 HR/9 in 385 1/3 innings between Tampa Bay and Seattle. He has extensive big league experience as both a starter and reliever, and a club looking at adding some depth in either area could take a look at the righty, who won’t turn 29 until early next month. The Braves are known to be on the lookout for potential bullpen arms, for instance, while the Rangers haven’t been secretive about their desire to add rotation depth.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Red Sox Sign Jeremy Bleich To Minor League Deal]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=156509 2019-04-19T14:23:45Z 2019-04-19T14:23:45Z
  • The Red Sox picked up left-handed reliever Jeremy Bleich on a minor league contract, MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo writes. The 31-year-old made his MLB debut last season with the A’s but totaled just one-third of an inning, allowing a pair of runs in the process. Brief as it was, that MLB debut surely meant the world to the longtime Yankee farmhand, who grinded through a decade in the minors and pitched in independent ball before reaching the game’s top level. Bleich enjoyed a strong year with Oakland’s Triple-A affiliate last season, pitching 51 1/3 innings with 8.4 K/9 against 2.3 BB/9 with a 53.1 percent ground-ball rate in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. He spent Spring Training with the Phillies but was cut loose when he didn’t crack the Opening Day roster. Given the uncertain state of the Boston ’pen, it’s possible that Bleich will earn a second big league opportunity at some point in 2019.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Red Sox Place Dustin Pedroia On Injured List]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=156498 2019-04-19T00:34:53Z 2019-04-18T23:33:07Z 7:34pm: The move is no official. Reliever Marcus Walden was brought up to take the roster spot for the time being.

    6:52pm: Pedroia will indeed hit the IL, per WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford (Twitter link).

    6:33pm: Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia has yet another injury to his troubled left knee, though it seems that he has avoided a significant new problem. Regardless of the outlook, it’s the latest indication that the lauded veteran will likely never get back to being a durable, everyday player.

    Pedroia “felt a pop” in the joint, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said in an appearance on the Dale & Keefe Show on WEEI (audio link). That characterization set off some initial alarm bells.

    As it turns out, the initial medical review was fairly promising, according to Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe. Testing indicated that the 35-year-old “did not sustain a serious injury,” though the precise diagnosis remains unclear.

    It’s still not known whether Pedroia will require a return trip to the injured list, though Abraham says that appears likely. He had just been activated after missing virtually all of the 2018 season. Pedroia recorded two singles and a walk in his first 21 plate appearances.

    No matter how this particular situation plays out, it’s not likely to be the final time the Red Sox have to deal with uncertainty regarding Pedroia this season. As Dombrowski put it, given “the number of things that he’s had going on with that knee, as we know, the knee is never going to be one hundred percent.”

    If the club ends up having to dip into the farm system to find a replacement, it seems likely to call upon Tzu-Wei Lin. Skipper Alex Cora cast doubt upon the idea of calling up slugging prospect Michael Chavis, as Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com tweets, though the third bagger is now being introduced to the second base position to open that possibility.

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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Red Sox Select Contract Of Erasmo Ramirez]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=156349 2019-04-16T17:36:14Z 2019-04-16T17:36:14Z In a second move of the day, the Red Sox announced that they have selected the contract of righty Erasmo Ramirez. He’ll take the active roster spot of fellow right-hander Marcus Walden, who was optioned down.

    This move didn’t require a complementary 40-man transaction, as the club had an opening to work with. But it does still pose some future roster limitations, as the veteran Ramirez will need now need to stay on the active roster or be exposed to waivers.

    Soon to turn 29, Ramirez has seven years of MLB experience as a swingman. He struggled through a homer-prone, ten-start stint last year with the Mariners before landing with the Boston club on a minors pact. In two starts at Triple-A to open the 2019 campaign, he allowed just one earned run in eight innings while recording five strikeouts and no walks.

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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Red Sox Designate Blake Swihart, Select Sandy Leon]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=156342 2019-04-16T17:30:10Z 2019-04-16T16:34:06Z The Red Sox have designated catcher Blake Swihart for assignment, as first reported by Evan Drellich of WEEI.com (Twitter link). In his place, Sandy Leon is heading back onto the MLB roster, as Jon Heyman of MLB Network was first to tweet.

    Struggling out of the gates, the defending champs have decided upon a change behind the dish. The considerations are familiar; they were weighed just weeks ago when Leon was outrighted in favor of Swihart. This move, then, constitutes a mulligan of sorts.

    Swihart wasn’t off to an inspirational start at the plate, with a .231/.310/.385 slash, but it seems likely that the move was driven primarily by the club’s broader pitching issues. The Boston staff has been among the worst in all of baseball thus far. While that reflects quite a bit more than Swihart’s own performance behind the dish, the organization obviously feels it has something to gain in that regard by switching things up.

    Leon was stashed down at Triple-A after clearing waivers late in camp. He lacks Swihart’s abilities on offense but is lauded for his glovework and game management skills. He had teamed with Christian Vazquez to form a defensive-oriented backstop combination in recent years, but the club opted to give Swihart a run at the position to open the season after utilizing him in a utility role last year.

    The move potentially means jettisoning the upside and cheap control embodied in the control rights over Swihart. He’s earning $910K this year as a Super Two player and comes with three further arbitration-eligible campaigns. Long lauded as a potential impact bat that can line up behind the dish, those predictions haven’t yet come to fruition. Over 626 career MLB plate appearances, Swihart owns a .255/.314/.365 slash line.

    Teams that believe in the bat may well give Swihart a chance at a lengthier run of consistent playing time. That could come via trade or waiver claim. If no team is interested in carrying the out-of-options 27-year-old on its active roster and he clears waivers, the Red Sox will have a chance to stash him back at Triple-A.

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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Brock Holt Won't Come Off IL On Monday]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=156199 2019-04-14T22:11:20Z 2019-04-14T22:11:20Z
  • Red Sox utilityman Brock Holt is eligible to come off the 10-day injured list Monday, but he won’t return until at least “late in the week,” Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com writes. Holt, who has been on the IL since April 6 with a scratched right cornea, will see a doctor Tuesday and could then embark on a rehab assignment. Prior to his injury, the 30-year-old Holt got off to a slow start, as have fellow Red Sox second basemen Dustin Pedroia and Eduardo Nunez.
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    George Miller <![CDATA[Injury Notes: Trout, Jeffress, Benintendi, Cobb, LeBlanc]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=156233 2019-04-14T20:48:38Z 2019-04-14T20:48:38Z Angels megastar Mike Trout, who has been unavailable for several days due to a groin injury, has shown improvement and will rejoin the Angels for their series in Texas, per Jeff Fletcher of the Southern California News Group. He remains day-to-day and it is yet unclear when he will be ready to return to the lineup, but the update is certainly welcome news for the Angels. Trout exited the Angels’ April 9 contest with the Brewers after suffering a right groin strain and remained in Los Angeles while the rest of the team traveled to Chicago. The club has managed well in Trout’s absence, finishing a three-game sweep of the Brewers and winning one of two games against the Cubs, with Sunday’s rubber match postponed. The news should certainly inspire some optimism for Angels fans, who have collectively been holding their breath since Trout’s injury. Considering the circumstances, it would feel like the best-case scenario for the Halos to get their franchise cornerstone back after just a handful of games, a stretch in which the team has maintained its winning form.

    Here are the latest updates on other injuries from around Major League Baseball…

    • Brewers reliever Jeremy Jeffress has completed his rehab assignment and will rejoin the Brewers on Monday, per Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Jeffress, a stalwart of the Brewers’ dynamic bullpen in 2018, has been on the shelf for the beginning of the season with a shoulder issue, which has since been resolved, says Haudricourt. He will join Josh Hader in a Milwaukee bullpen that will be without Corey Knebel, who underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this season.
    • In Sunday’s victory over the Orioles, Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi fouled a ball sharply off his right foot and had to exit the game. In some good news for the Sox, though, Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com reports that x-rays on Benintendi’s foot returned negative results, though Benintendi will be day-to-day with a foot contusion.  He was replaced in left field by Blake Swihart on Sunday, who could continue to serve as Benintendi’s substitute if he misses any time.
    • Orioles righty Alex Cobb, out since April 6 with a lumbar strain, won’t come off the IL when first eligible, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com was among those to report. It doesn’t appear Cobb will miss much more time, however. Manager Brandon Hyde indicated he could start during the Orioles’ upcoming series against the Twins, which runs from April 19-21. Cobb pitched well in his lone start of the season, an April 4 loss to the Yankees in which he threw 5 2/3 innings of two-run ball.
    • Seattle Mariners southpaw Wade LeBlanc will miss 4-6 weeks with a grade 2 oblique strain, skipper Scott Servais told reporters, including The Athletic’s Corey Brock (Twitter link). With LeBlanc headed to the 10-day IL, the team has called up right-hander Erik Swanson from Triple-A. Swanson will take LeBlanc’s place in the starting rotation and is slated to make his first Major League start on Wednesday.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Poll: Slow-Starting Playoff Contenders]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=156179 2019-04-14T03:58:29Z 2019-04-14T03:58:29Z The Red Sox, Yankees, Cubs and Rockies were among the majors’ most successful clubs in 2018, when the quartet comprised 40 percent of the league’s playoff bracket. No one was better than the Red Sox, who rolled to 108 regular-season wins before steamrolling the Yankees, Astros and Dodgers in the postseason en route to their latest World Series title. The Yankees, despite their loss to archrival Boston, enjoyed a more-than-respectable year in which they notched 100 victories. And Colorado knocked out Chicago in the National League wild-card game, a battle of two 90-plus-win teams, before succumbing to Milwaukee in the divisional round.

    Given the excellence those clubs displayed last year, it would have been fair to expect each of them to earn playoff berths again in 2019. Instead, while we’re just a couple weeks into the season, all of those teams have tripped out of the starting block, having combined for 19 wins in 58 games. They’re the only members of last year’s playoff field that are under .500 at this point.

    Boston, whose roster is almost the same as its title-winning version (sans relievers Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly), dropped a game to the lowly Orioles on Saturday. Fifteen contests into the season, the Red Sox have already lost 10 times – something they didn’t do until Game 35 a year ago. Neither their all-world offense nor their high-end pitching staff from 2018 have come close to replicating those performances thus far, and questions have swirled around ace Chris Sale. Signed to a five-year, $145MM extension before the season, Sale’s velocity – which began dropping amid an injury-limited 2018 – has continued to plummet. Unsurprisingly, the 30-year-old’s effectiveness has waned as his fastball has lost power. Not only has Sale allowed an earned run per inning across 13 frames, but one of baseball’s all-time strikeout artists has fanned just eight batters.

    Maybe Sale is battling a physical issue, but the Yankees are dealing with plenty of their own. Eleven of their players, including standouts Luis Severino, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius, Miguel Andujar, Aaron Hicks and Dellin Betances are on the IL. The majority of that group won’t be back in the near future – or perhaps until 2020 in the case of Andujar – while Severino, Gregorius, Hicks and Betances haven’t suited up yet this year. With so many integral contributors unavailable, the Yankees have started 6-8. That would be less concerning if not for their inability to capitalize on an easy early season schedule. The Yankees have played 11 games against the Orioles, Tigers and White Sox, all of whom are regarded as bottom feeders, and only won six of those matchups. The AL East rival Rays (11-4) have taken advantage, evidenced by their 4.5-game lead on New York and their six-game edge over Boston.

    Over in the NL, the Cubs – on the heels of a widely panned offseason – have sputtered to a 5-9 showing and a four-game deficit in the Central, which could be one of the majors’ most competitive divisions. Although cornerstone hitters Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber haven’t resembled their best selves, the Cubs’ offense has still done well statistically. Their pitching has been abysmal, on the other hand. Yu Darvish, who’s in Year 2 of a huge contract, continues to perform nothing like the pitcher he was pre-Chicago, while the bullpen the Cubs did little to bolster over the winter has looked predictably vulnerable.

    Speaking of vulnerable, the Rockies have christened their season with the majors’ worst record (3-12) and its last-ranked run differential (minus-36). If the Rockies are going to overcome their horrific start to pick up their third straight playoff appearance, they’ll need far more from their position players. Their hitters have put together a woeful 37 wRC+ and minus-2.6 fWAR, both of which easily rank last in the game. Injuries have played a part, as regulars David Dahl, Daniel Murphy and Ryan McMahon are all on the IL. Meanwhile, the Rockies’ primary offensive catalysts – Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon – have all been duds so far. Those three won’t stay down forever, though, and Colorado’s starting staff also has the talent to rebound from its early season mediocrity. But the Rockies can’t afford to let this skid continue to fester, especially considering they’re stuck in a division with the perennial champion Dodgers. Realistically, it’s wild card or bust for the Rockies, but rallying to steal one of those two spots in a crowded NL won’t be easy.

    While it would be unwise to panic on April 13, there are more reasons for concern than expected in all of these teams’ cases. Then again, the same was said last year about the Dodgers, who began 16-26 on their way to 92 wins and another pennant. The Red Sox, Yankees, Cubs and Rockies can take solace in that, perhaps, but do you believe any of them are already in serious trouble?

    (poll link for app users)

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