Brewers GM David Stearns spoke today about his team’s much-discussed offseason pitching decisions, as Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writes. Explaining that the organization believes it has ample rotation depth on hand, Stearns explained that his focus was on evaluating “the extent of the upgrade” that could be achieved in any particular transactions. Clearly, the team felt it could do more by adding two high-quality outfielders than by putting veteran hurlers in front of a group of youngsters that, in Stearns’s view, “have the ability to make an impact on the major-league level” in the near future. That said, Stearns acknowledges that his front office was involved with several free agents and also “were close a couple of times” to trades for pitching.
- After Lance Lynn signed with the Twins for one year and $12MM, the Brewers offered Cobb a contract with the same terms. Cobb rejected the deal, as it was known that he was looking for multiple years and wasn’t willing to settle for a one-year pact. It should be noted that Lynn himself could’ve had at least one multi-year offer on the table, but opted instead to sign the one-year deal with Minnesota since he was excited about their potential as a contender.
- While none of these teams were specifically cited as being interested in McHugh, Heyman listed the Reds, Brewers, Mariners, and Rangers as teams that are looking for pitching. All four of the clubs have dealt with some injury setbacks in Spring Training, so further additions could be more akin to fill-in options rather than major acquisitions. Texas, however, does seem to be at least considering making a higher-priced add, given how the Rangers showed some recent interest in Cobb and Greg Holland.
Tyler Naquin and Rob Refsnyder are still competing for a potential spot on the Indians’ opening day roster, and Ryan Lewis of the Akron Beacon Journal tweets that manager Terry Francona has explained some details to them. Francona reportedly told the two players that the spot won’t simply go to the guy who gets the most hits over the last week, and that roster construction could be the biggest factor. For instance, if Brandon Guyer and/or Michael Brantley aren’t ready in time for opening day, Naquin and Refsnyder would stand a better chance to make the club out of camp. Whether the club chooses to carry seven or eight relievers will also affect their fates. It’s worth noting that Tyler Naquin has multiple options remaining, while Rob Refsnyder is an out-of-options player.
More out of the midwest…
- In a piece for The Athletic, Doug Gray details ten Reds prospects to keep an eye on for the coming season. The players in the article aren’t necessarily top prospects, but rather a group of under-the-radar players who Gray describes as “unheralded”. The list includes right-handers Nick Hanson and Ryan Hendrix, $10MM shortstop Jose Garcia, and Brandon Phillips’ cousin Montrell Marshall. Many of these players have significant upside and are worth the exploration by any Reds fan, or indeed any avid baseball follower.
- Wade Miley’s opt-out date has been pushed back, Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports reports on Twitter. The southpaw seemed likely to make the Brewers’ rotation before suffering a torn groin that’s expected to keep him out two to four weeks. Miley could have opted out of his contract tomorrow after being informed that he wouldn’t make the opening day roster, but GM David Stearns apparently worked out a deal with his agent. Miley’s opt-out date has been extended until the point at which he’s able to start pitching again.
- Two-time MVP Miguel Cabrera is stuck in “baseball purgatory”, says Scott Miller in an opinion piece for Bleacher Report. Miller describes Cabrera as “an island unto himself”, on a rebuilding Tigers team that will not likely be able to deal him and the $192MM remaining on his contract, particularly coming off the worst season of his career wherein he was plagued by back issues. For his part, Cabrera doesn’t seem to be focused on that aspect of his situation. “I’m here to play,” he says. “I’m not here to give my opinion of what’s going to happen. I’m here to do my job, to help win games and to help the process.”
4:41pm: Tom Haudricort of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel tweets that while the Brewers are calling Boone’s injury a triceps strain, there’s “some concern” that it’s in the area of last season’s lat tear. More testing will be needed, but it’s “a DL situation in any event.”
Additionally, Haudricort adds that while Miley is not expected to go on the major league roster at this time, GM David Stearns is working with Miley’s agent to keep him in the organization.
10:38am: Two Brewers lefties have learned more about their injury situations, as MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports (Twitter links). Rotation candidate Wade Miley has been diagnosed with a slight groin tear, while reliever Boone Logan has a mild triceps strain.
There’s more than just an injury at play for Miley, who can opt out of his minors deal today if not added to the MLB roster. There’s also the matter of an upcoming $100K retention bonus for the Article XX(B) free agent. It’s not clear at this point how much time he’s expected to miss.
As McCalvy notes, it seems that Miley’s representatives will need to hash things out with the Brewers. The veteran hurler says he hopes to remain with the organization after a solid showing this spring. It had been expected that he would crack the rotation to open the season. His existing deal would promise him $2.5MM with as much as $3.2MM more via incentives in the majors.
As for Logan, who inked a $2.5MM guaranteed contract over the winter, the timeline is also yet to be determined. He generally expressed optimism that the injury will not be a significant one, though skipper Craig Counsell tells reporters (including Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel; Twitter link) that Logan will be on the DL to open the season.
The news, particularly with regard to Miley, creates some added questions for a Milwaukee staff that has been the subject of much debate all winter long. Many have wondered why the organization has not pursued further rotation help, while the club has indicated optimism with the unit on hand. Junior Guerra now seems to be in good shape to crack the rotation, while pitchers such as Brent Suter, Brandon Woodruff, and perhaps veteran Yovani Gallardo now have additional opportunity to sneak into the Opening Day starting five — assuming, at least, that the Brewers don’t take another look at outside possibilities.
- Brewers southpaw Wade Miley exited his outing Wednesday with a strained left groin and will undergo an MRI, Adam McCalvy of MLB.com was among those to report (Twitter links here). That’s obviously not ideal for Miley, who’s vying for a place in the Brewers’ rotation, or the team, which isn’t yet sure who will occupy the final two starting spots behind Chase Anderson, Jhoulys Chacin and Zach Davies. Miley looked like a front-runner to earn one of those jobs prior to Wednesday – manager Craig Counsell said that “Wade had made a really good case to be on the team” – though that’s up in the air as we await further news on his injury. It’s also worth noting that the 31-year-old can opt out of his minor league deal as early as Thursday.
- Lefty reliever Boone Logan also left the Brewers’ game with an injury, McCalvy relays (Twitter links). Counsell attributed his departure to triceps/shoulder discomfort, but he’s not yet sure of the severity. Logan joined the Brewers for a guaranteed $2.75MM over the winter after spending a shortened 2017 in Cleveland, where his season ended in July on account of a strained lat muscle.
The minor league contract left-hander Wade Miley signed with the Brewers last month contains a March 22 opt-out clause, Adam McCalvy of MLB.com tweets. Miley can ask for his release if the Brewers don’t inform him that he has made the club by then, McCalvy adds. The latest we’ll know Miley’s fate is March 24, as he’s an Article XX(B) free agent whom Milwaukee must either cut loose or put on its roster by that date. The 31-year-old Miley has a legitimate chance to win a spot in the Brewers’ rotation, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentintel suggested Saturday.
- More on the Brewers, who are “monitoring the catching market,” according to Haudricourt. Their backstops at the moment are Manny Pina and Jett Bandy, while Stephen Vogt will open the season on the disabled list, manager Craig Counsell told McCalvy and other reporters Sunday. Assuming the Brewers don’t change their minds and release Vogt, his $3.065MM salary will become guaranteed on Opening Day. Vogt has been out since late February with a capsule strain in his right shoulder. He has a fan in Brewers general manager David Stearns, who said (via Haudricourt): “We want him here. Stephen brings a lot to this team.”
- The Brewers are reuniting with reliever Jim Henderson on a minor league pact, Adam McCalvy of MLB.com tweets. Interestingly, the 35-year-old Henderson will act as a player/coach, and he could even do some scouting eventually, per McCalvy. The majority of Henderson’s major league time has come in Milwaukee, where he made his MLB debut and pitched to a 3.44 ERA across 102 innings from 2012-14. He last saw action in the majors in 2016 with the Mets. An attempt to catch on with the Cubs a year ago didn’t take, so Henderson went through the season without pitching competitively.
- The Brewers have released reliever Ernesto Frieri, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. The 32-year-old Frieri will look to continue his career, even though he struggled in camp, per Haudricourt. Once of the game’s premier relievers, Frieri was last an effective major leaguer in 2013, when he was the Angels’ closer. He logged just seven innings last year (with the Rangers) after not pitching in the bigs in 2016. Frieri performed well with the Triple-A affiliates of the Rangers, Yankees and Mariners, though, as he combined for a 3.43 ERA with 11.9 K/9 against 4.8 BB/9 over 39 1/3 frames.
Mark Sheldon of MLB.com posits that the Reds’ extension of Eugenio Suarez is a sign that the club is making an effort to keep a young core of players together for the foreseeable future, alongside potential future Hall-of-Famer Joey Votto. In the companion video, GM Dick Williams speaks highly of Suarez, particularly in regards to his defensive capabilities. “This is one of the premier defenders in the league,” says Williams. “At third base he’s established himself as one of the best young players in the league… he’s an offensive force, defensive force, leader in the clubhouse, say no more.” It’s interesting that Williams so specifically refers to Suarez as a third baseman, given the speculation that the former shortstop might slide back to his old position to make room for top prospect Nick Senzel. The GM’s comments seem to suggest the possibility that the destination of Senzel’s path to the majors isn’t the hot corner.
More from some non-coastal ballclubs…
- In other Reds news, the starting rotation picture is beginning to gain some clarity beyond Homer Bailey and Luis Castillo, who appear to be the only locks following injuries to Anthony DeSclafani and Brandon Finnegan. Per a tweet from C. Trent Rosencrans of The Athletic, manager Bryan Price says that Sal Romano and Tyler Mahle “may have separated themselves from the pack a little bit” in the rotation competition. A piece by John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer contains quotes that line up with this tweet, perhaps also suggesting that lefty Amir Garrett is tabbed for a spot if Finnegan’s injury sidelines him to start the season. “With the way Romano and Mahle have thrown in camp, they’ve certainly put themselves in the lead,” Price said, via Fay’s article. “I think with the way Amir has thrown has created an opportunity to jump in there in the rotation and get a start against the Diamondbacks and get stretched out.”
- Brewers prospect Nathan Kirby is finally healthy and determined to establish himself as a valuable pitcher, writes Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Rosiak describes Kirby as something of a “forgotten man” in Milwaukee’s system for the past two and a half years. The 24-year-old was drafted 40th overall by the organization back in 2015, but has since undergone two surgeries on his left elbow (a Tommy John operation and another for ulnar neuritis). Though Kirby ranked near the bottom on most Milwaukee prospect lists, he was a large part of the University of Virginia’s first College World Series title, and would seem to have the potential to rise through the Brewers’ farm system quickly if he can stay healthy this season.
- Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press tweets that the Tigers remain on the lookout for veteran insurance for their starting rotation. The organization is reportedly concerned about the dependability of its starting rotation as a whole; their current options include Michael Fulmer, Francisco Liriano, Mike Fiers, Jordan Zimmerman, Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris. Alex Cobb tops the list of available free agent starters, while Scott Feldman, Trevor Cahill and Clay Buchholz are some other interesting arms that remain on the market.
March 14: Haudricourt tweets that the second opinion on Vogt’s shoulder revealed nothing new, confirming that he’s still suffering from a capsule strain in his throwing shoulder. That could mean he’s in line to open the season on the disabled list, which would temporarily solve the out-of-options logjam at backup catcher. Upon being cleared to play, Vogt would have a month’s time to get back up to speed in a rehab assignment, and the Brewers would have some additional time in-season to evaluate Bandy.
Haudricourt wonders in a followup tweet whether the Brewers may monitor the market for catching depth with Vogt on the shelf. Milwaukee’s catching depth thinned out a bit earlier this winter when the Orioles picked up Andrew Susac in a minor trade.
March 12: Brewers catcher Stephen Vogt, initially projected to be out for two to three weeks with a shoulder issue, experienced a setback when attempting to throw on the field today, tweets MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel adds that Vogt is headed for an MRI to further evaluate the root of his shoulder discomfort (Twitter links).
As both McCalvy and Haudricourt point out, the timing of the move puts both Vogt and the Brewers in a difficult spot. The well-respected veteran entered camp as the favorite to join Manny Pina in comprising Milwaukee’s primary catching tandem, but his status is now up in the air. Moreover, Vogt is out of minor league options and is on a non-guaranteed arbitration contract. The Brewers could still cut him between now and Opening Day and only owe Vogt 45 days of termination pay — or $750K of his $3.05MM arbitration salary.
[Related: Updated Milwaukee Brewers depth chart]
The injury is of interest not only because Vogt is out of minor league options but also due to the fact that fellow catcher Jett Bandy is out of options as well. It seemed like a long shot that both Vogt and Bandy would make the Opening Day roster (barring an injury to Pina), but Bandy looks less like the odd man out now that Vogt’s shoulder is proving to be a continued source of discomfort. Bandy hit just .207/.287/.349 through 188 MLB plate appearances in Milwaukee last year and hasn’t provided anything at the plate in 28 spring PAs (.222/.250/.296), but he nonetheless is likely to be the backup if Vogt proves unready for the opener.
Depending on the severity of Vogt’s shoulder, Milwaukee could cut him loose and try to bring him back to the organization on a new minor league contract. If he does ultimately make the roster, Vogt would be guaranteed the full $3.05MM to which he agreed in arbitration, even if he were to land on the disabled list to begin the year.
- Right-hander Alex Cobb is the last of the top free-agent starters who remains unsigned, and the Brewers have long been considered a fit for the righty. But Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel tweets that he doesn’t expect Milwaukee to make a play for Cobb unless his asking price drops further. Milwaukee has been cited all winter long as a team that needs starters, but to date has only given guaranteed money to Jhoulys Chacin (two-years, $15.5MM) while also picking up Wade Miley and Yovani Gallardo on minor-league deals.
- Given their stance on Cobb, it seems the Brewers will see how things shake out with their current rotation mix while hoping that the anticipated mid-season return of Jimmy Nelson provides a boost. That strategy will require good health for the existing starters. Fortunately, right-hander Zach Davies looks to have moved past the minor oblique strain which was plaguing him. MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy tweets that Davies pitched three innings in an intrasquad game, seemingly setting him up to ramp up in time to open the season at full strength.