- The Dodgers seem prepared to go with in-house options to replace Justin Turner while the star third baseman is sidelined with a fractured wrist. The New York Post’s Joel Sherman recently floated the idea of L.A. acquiring either Deven Marrero or Brock Holt from the Red Sox to help fill the third base void, though Heyman writes that the Dodgers haven’t been in touch with the Sox about either player. Holt and the out-of-options Marrero are both reportedly potential trade candidates due to a roster crunch.
TODAY: Turner will not require surgery to repair the fracture, he tells MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick (Twitter link). In fact, he’ll be able to begin working on regaining his range of motion after spending a few days in a brace. That seems like generally promising news, though clearly Turner will still be out to open the season.
YESTERDAY: Star Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner has been diagnosed with a broken left wrist after being hit by a pitch in tonight’s spring game, manager Dave Roberts said after the contest. (H/t Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times, via Twitter). The unfortunate news strikes a blow to the defending National League champs less than two weeks before the start of the 2018 season.
Turner says it’s a “small, non-displaced fracture,” as Pedro Moura of The Athletic tweets, though we’ll need to await further information before it’s clear how long he’ll be out. Precise details of the injury, as well as its course of treatment and how the veteran proceeds through rehab, will obviously dictate the timeline. It seems clear, based upon generally similar past injuries, that Turner won’t be available for Opening Day and will be out for at least six weeks or so.
The 33-year-old Turner has been among the game’s more productive players in recent seasons. While he has dealt with some injuries, only once appearing in over 130 games since breaking out in Los Angeles, Turner has racked up 18.8 rWAR and 18.2 fWAR over the past four campaigns. He was never better at the plate than in 2017, when he posted an outstanding .322/.415/.530 slash with 21 home runs and more walks (59) than strikeouts (56) over 543 plate appearances.
Replacing that production isn’t reasonably possible, though the Dodgers are about as well-equipped as any team to do so. The club can bump Logan Forsythe to the hot corner while utilizing any number of players at second base. Veteran Chase Utley will no doubt see plenty off time against right-handers, as had already been expected, while versatile right-handed hitters Austin Barnes and Enrique Hernandez will surely also factor into the infield mix.
The injury to Turner will open an opportunity for another player to join the roster to open the season. It’s possible the club could carry an infielder such as Jake Peter or Donovan Solano, neither of whom is on the 40-man, though perhaps the likelier scenario is to keep another outfielder while utilizing Hernandez more on the dirt. Los Angeles is facing tough decisions on players such as Matt Kemp, Joc Pederson, Andrew Toles, and the out-of-options Trayce Thompson, so the injury to Turner could allow the club to keep one more of those names. Alternatively, the Dodgers could break camp with Kyle Farmer as a reserve catcher while giving Barnes more time at second base. Needless to say, there are plenty of possibilities.
While it seemed at one point he profiled as a trade candidate, Yasmani Grandal will enter the season expected to receive the bulk of the playing time behind the dish for the Dodgers, skipper Dave Roberts tells reporters including Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times (via Twitter). Grandal, 29, had been bypassed late last year by Austin Barnes, who turned in a breakout campaign in his first season of significant MLB action. Grandal still put up a quality overall season with the bat and has raked this spring, while Barnes has struggled at the plate in Cactus League action. Regardless, the organization seems to have an excellent tandem to work with.
- With several outfielders seemingly ahead of Trayce Thompson on the Dodgers depth chart, the club is expected to explore trading the out-of-options Thompson, Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times writes. Thompson has shown some promise over three MLB seasons but he hasn’t been the same since suffering back injuries midway through the 2016 season. Thompson appeared in just 27 games for the Dodgers last season, contributing a meager .483 OPS in 55 plate appearances. Yasiel Puig and Chris Taylor are slated for starting duty in right and center field, respectively, with Thompson, Matt Kemp, Joc Pederson, Enrique Hernandez, Andrew Toles, and top prospect Alex Verdugo all competing for left field or backup duty. If a trade partner can’t be found, the Dodgers will risk losing Thompson for nothing, as he would have to pass through waivers before the Dodgers could send him to the minors.
- Dodgers manager Dave Roberts confirmed his rotation to reporters (including Bill Shaikin) today, with Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood, Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill, and Hyun-jin Ryu lined up as the Los Angeles starting five. Beyond those five, however, are some question marks, as Roberts admitted “We don’t have the starting pitching depth that we’ve had in past years.” That depth allowed the Dodgers to reach the World Series despite DL stints for every member of their pitching staff, and now since Yu Darvish and Brandon McCarthy have both moved on to other teams, L.A. now has Ross Stripling, Brock Stewart, and Walker Buehler as the top depth options. Tom Koehler was signed over the offseason to bring a veteran arm into the mix, though Koehler is sidelined indefinitely due to a mild AC strain.
There continues to be in-house “conversation and debate” about what the Dodgers will do in regards to their left field competition, according to Dave Roberts, but the manager seems bullish on veteran Matt Kemp (via Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register). “When you make the trade and you look at the seasons guys had last year who we have coming back, we were already a very good team without Matt,” said Roberts. “But to have a former All-Star in as good a shape as he’s been in years and add him to the mix, it only increases the level of competition to play for everyone around him. That’s a good thing. That’s a good thing for all of us.” The 33-year-old Kemp has gone 12 of 36 with four home runs this spring as he attempts to grab a job as part of a mix that also features Joc Pederson, Enrique Hernandez, Andrew Toles, Alex Verdugo and Trayce Thompson. Plunkett examines each of those players’ cases and suggests that Kemp may well open 2018 as the Dodgers’ primary option in left. Kemp, a former star with the Dodgers, rejoined the team over the winter in a luxury tax-geared trade with the Braves. He’s in the penultimate year of a huge contract, which he signed during his original run with the Dodgers, and set to make $21.5MM this year.
- The Dodgers lost director of player development Gabe Kapler to the Phillies this season and also saw assistant director Jeremy Zoll take a promotion to join the Twins. Kapler’s replacement, former Rays reliever Brandon Gomes, isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel in Los Angeles and shares some philosophies with his predecessor, writes J.P. Hoornstra of the Southern California News Group. Hoornstra chats with Gomes about the point in his career at which he became interested in analytics and player development, as well as the transition from his playing days to more of an executive role. Beyond that, he takes a look at Gomes’ unique background and the 33-year-old’s ability to connect with the players he’s now working with on a daily basis.
As the Phillies introduce Jake Arrieta today, the organization is now much more clearly in a competitive posture than it was at the outset of the winter. But the pedal won’t be fully pressed down, it seems, despite the presence of a few other notable free agents who’d improve the near-term outlook in Philadelphia. GM Matt Klentak says that he does not anticipate any further additions before the start of the season, as MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki tweets.
More from the NL East:
- The Mets continue to have cause for optimism on outfielder Michael Conforto, whose scary shoulder injury made for quite an offseason concern. He’s now nearing game readiness, Mike Puma of the New York Post tweets, and anticipates getting into a spring game next week. That doesn’t mean that Conforto will be on the Opening Day roster, but certainly suggests he’s on track to return relatively early in the season. In other injury news, via MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo (Twitter links), the Mets say that outfielder Yoenis Cespedes has a sore wrist. Though there’s no indication at present that it’s a worrying injury, he has undergone an x-ray and is waiting for the results. Meanwhile, veteran third baseman David Wright is no closer to a return; rather, he’ll hold off on baseball activities for at least eight weeks after being examined recently.
- New Mets first baseman Adrian Gonzalez discussed his fresh start and unusual offseason with Mike Puma of the New York Post. Notably, Gonzalez says he was initially resistant to the Dodgers’ request that he waive his no-trade protection to go to the Braves in a contract-swapping move that ultimately left him landing in New York. But Los Angeles “sweetened the deal every single time” he met with the team, says the veteran, who acknowledged there was compensation involved.
- Pete Kerzel of MASNsports.com examines the Nationals’ decision-making process with top prospect Victor Robles, who is impressing in camp despite a middling stat line in Grapefruit League action. The 20-year-old is ready for the majors, by all accounts, though the organization certainly has plenty of good reasons not to carry him out of camp. First and foremost, the organization has a solid center field combo already lined up in Michael Taylor and the out-of-options Brian Goodwin; in that sense, then, promoting Robles would mean parting with depth. Service-time considerations are also a factor; since Robles picked up 25 days of service last year, he’s just 147 days away from a full year of service. If the Nats wish to delay Robles’s eventual entry onto the open market, they’ll need to keep him down until early May; keeping him from potential Super Two status would likely mean waiting to bring him back up until the middle of the summer.
The Dodgers have released veteran right-hander Mark Lowe from his minor league contract, tweets ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. Lowe had been in camp on a minor league pact, and despite some considerable struggles over the past two seasons, he still hopes to continue his pitching career and land with another organization, per Crasnick.
Lowe, 34, hasn’t appeared in the Majors since tossing 49 1/3 innings out of the Tigers’ bullpen. Detroit inked him to a two-year, $11MM contract in the 2015-16 offseason but received a negative return on that investment when Lowe limped to a 7.11 ERA a dozen homers allowed in those 49 1/3 frames. Notably, his fastball velocity was down from an average of 95.5 mph in 2015 to 92.4 mph in 2016. He was released by Detroit at the end of Spring Training in 2017.
After being cut loose in Detroit, Lowe latched on with the Mariners and reported to their Triple-A affiliate in Tacoma. While he enjoyed a career renaissance after signing a minor league deal with Seattle prior to the 2015 season, Lowe didn’t find the same change in fortune this time around. He struggled to a 6.23 ERA through 39 innings in Tacoma and didn’t fare any better after being flipped to the White Sox in a minor swap.
Lowe hasn’t found success on the mound since working to a pristine 1.96 ERA with 10.0 K/9 against 2.0 BB/9 in 55 innings between the Mariners and Blue Jays back in 2015. He’s a veteran of 11 big league seasons with a lifetime 4.22 ERA, 8.2 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, 1.1 HR/9 and a 39.8 percent ground-ball rate in 385 2/3 innings.
- Andy McCullough of the L.A. Times takes an excellent look at the Dodgers’ failed pursuit of Shohei Ohtani. The team had Clayton Kershaw, Justin Turner and Chris Taylor fly into L.A. to help sell Ohtani on the Dodgers in their in-person meeting, but it proved to be a somewhat frustrating experience. Both Turner and Kershaw candidly stated that the process felt like a “waste of time,” indicating that Ohtani already seemed set on signing with an AL club where he could serve as a part-time DH. Kershaw didn’t express any ill feelings toward Ohtani himself, though he voiced some frustration toward CAA, Ohtani’s agency, over the matter. “I’m kind of mad at his agent for making us waste all that time and effort,” said Kershaw. “Fifteen teams should have been out of it, from the beginning.” Ohtani’s agent with CAA, Nez Balelo, issued a rebuttal to McCullough in which he calls any assertion that Ohtani would meet with a team for which he had no interest in playing “unfounded and an insult to [Ohtani’s] personal ethics.” Balelo also points out that Ohtani met with more NL clubs (four) than AL clubs (three). It’s a fascinating column that is filled with quotes from Kershaw, Turner, Balelo, Dave Roberts and Andrew Friedman.
There continues to be hope that the top pitcher in the game, left-hander Clayton Kershaw, will remain with the Dodgers beyond the upcoming season. Kershaw, who could opt out of the final two years and $65MM on his contract next winter, said last week that he and Dodgers management are “on the same page.” Then, on Saturday, Dodgers owner Mark Walter told Jon Heyman of FanRag that “[Kershaw] should be a Dodger for life.” While it doesn’t seem as if a new deal is imminent – both Walter and Kershaw suggested to Heyman that the hurler wants to wait until the end of the year to sort out his future – the three-time Cy Young winner gushed over his long tenure with the franchise. “I love it here. It’s great,” said Kershaw, who’s entering his age-30 season. “I’ve had an amazing run here. And I don’t take that for granted. Not many guys can say they get to go to the playoffs (almost) every year, or even that they have a chance to go to the playoffs every year.”
More from the majors’ West divisions…
- The Rangers could elect to use a six-man rotation this year, but their best starter, Cole Hamels, isn’t on board (via Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News). The 34-year-old southpaw opined Saturday that a six-man starting staff isn’t “appropriate for where I am at this stage.” Hamels also took a shot at the idea in general, saying: “It’s not part of baseball. I know that’s the new, analytical side, trying to re-invent the wheel. … that’s just not what MLB is to me. That’s not how I learned from my mentors. That’s not the way I’m geared to pitch.” Unfortunately for Hamels, manager Jeff Banister favors the six-man alignment and seems more likely than ever to try it this season, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News tweets. Regardless of how Texas’ rotation plans shake out, it’ll probably need a bounce-back year from Hamels to have any chance at a playoff spot. The longtime front-end starter endured arguably the worst season of his career in 2017, when he logged a 4.20 ERA/4.62 FIP with 6.39 K/9 and 3.22 BB/9 across 148 innings.
- The Diamondbacks are still determining their starting middle infield for 2018, Steve Gilbert of MLB.com writes. Either Ketel Marte or Chris Owings could start at second base or shortstop, while Nick Ahmed is also in contention – but only at short. “I’d say on that front, we value Nick as a shortstop,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “I haven’t had a conversation with him beyond playing shortstop at this point.” With the exception of an 11-inning stint at the keystone in 2014, his first taste of major league action, Ahmed has spent his entire career at short. He has dazzled defensively, evidenced by his 37 DRS and 19.6 UZR, but has only managed a .226/.273/.345 batting line in 1,020 plate appearances.
- The Padres have temporarily halted right-hander Colin Rea’s throwing program after he experienced soreness in his pitching shoulder Friday, AJ Cassavell of MLB.com reports. Rea, who’s working back from 2016 Tommy John surgery, is now unlikely to be ready for the start of the year, Cassavell suggests. Consequently, it appears he’s out of the running for a spot in the Padres’ season-opening rotation, though Cassavell notes that they still have seven other candidates for their starting five.