A look at the waiver-wire pickups you might want to consider in deep leagues.
Injuries suck, and baseball has been an especially cruel mistress this season, depriving us of many of the game’s most exciting pitchers and some dynamic hitters, too. There’s been some bad news for just about every deep league owner this season —trust me, I own Mat Latos in two of them—but out of these injuries come opportunities for savvy owners to make some important waiver-wire pickups and trades.
Plus, as much as Jon Stewart feeds off of Fox News, this column needs injuries to remain fresh and topical, so I shall stop biting the hand that feeds.
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Michael Pineda's labrum tear doesn't bode well for his future, but it's not the death sentence it used to be.
On Wednesday, the Yankees revealed that Michael Pineda had suffered a torn labrum, a devastating turn of events both for the 23-year-old righty and for the team that acquired him from the Mariners for top prospect Jesus Montero back in January. Pineda will miss the entire season and part of 2013, thinning the Yankees' surplus of starting pitching—and underscoring the fact that you can never have too much—while raising the question of whether they will ever get much value out of him.
The waiver wire awaits a number of players if they don't make the big-league roster.
Within a fortnight, pitchers and catchers will report for duty, thus marking the beginning of the spring and starting the countdown until the league-wide roster crunch. As difficult as picking the best 25 players can be, the occasionally arcane roster rules add even more complications to the equation. Options are the most notorious and popular forms of restrictions placed upon the teams. The goal is simple: to limit talent hoarding and to assist players in finding opportunities.
Despite the notoriety, options remain shrouded in mystery. Thomas Gorman’s primer from early 2006 remains an indispensable resource for those seeking deeper understanding. The casual observer should keep three rules of thumb in mind when thinking about options:
The Mets center fielder, out all season while recovering from microfracture knee surgery, begins a rehab assignment Thursday, along with other injury news from around the majors.
Carlos Beltran (arthritic knee, ERD 7/15) In what is sure to be a continuing series, the Beltran watch is now headed for a rehab assignment, which will start tomorrow at High-A St. Lucie. Beltran was watched by the Mets' top brass, including Omar Minaya, during an extended spring training game on Sunday and they felt the center fielder was ready to start his 20-day rehab clock. I've pushed the idea that Beltran needs to be up in Flushing as soon as he's physically able, but several people inside the game have told me that while there's merit in the concept, Beltran is human and needs a "spring training equivalent." The downside here is that he's going to be taxing the knee during that time. Of course, that's what rehab assignments are for. They'll be very controlled, perhaps not so much as the simulated games he's been in, but Beltran will have very specific steps and tests at each point. He'll have the DH option in most games as well, something he won't have when he makes it back to the Mets. Watching how often he needs to play there is going to be a big tell for his progress. The key will be how his knee responds and the Mets' ability to manage the inflammation and bruising that will inevitably occur inside the knee. The brace he is wearing is helping, but the continued idea that he's a center fielder is not. I'm most curious to see when that will be abandoned. One interesting concept that was tossed out by an MLB athletic trainer was the idea that Beltran could hit well enough to be in the lineup every day, but not play the field consistently. He wondered if there's a level and a cost where Beltran might make sense for an AL team. If Beltran were to show that, the idea of him being a modern-day Harold Baines would have to be intriguing for some teams as well as for the Mets escaping at least some of Beltran's contract. It's very equivalent to what the Twins did with Jim Thome, though he was a free agent.
For some players, the upcoming break looks like the dawn of a new day, but for others, the sun may be setting fast.
The halfway point in the season has come and gone, but the All-Star Game is still a week away. The season seems to be dominated by injury news, but it's really not. Looking back, we've had some big names go down, but not so many that it would be outside the normal variance. Injuries, in some ways, are actually down from recent levels. We're seeing players come back much more quickly than in the past, and some returning from conditions that would have been career-ending five years ago. Medical science changes faster than I can type, but we're seeing those changes work to the field's advantage in most cases. Players don't just blow out their arm and head back to Spavinaw or whatever small town they came from anymore. No, the team is on the hook for a couple million and spends a year working him back. That's tough, but in the end it makes the game better. Where would the Cubs be without Kerry Wood or Ryan Dempster, two guys that are back on the field because of Tim Kremchek and Jim Andrews? Would the Rays be in the position they're in if they'd had arm injuries, or if Ron Porterfield (and before him, Ken Crenshaw) didn't do such an outstanding job of keeping players on the field? The Red Sox, the White Sox, and the Diamondbacks are all winning teams with winning medical staffs. The two go together, so when you see the athletic trainers take the field at the All-Star Game, cheer for them. They deserve it as much as the players. Powered by the iPhone 3G, on to the injuries:
Mulder and McGowan may both be exiting stage-left, and Byrnesie needs to tone down his act next year.
Aaron Harang (7 DXL)
"Tight forearm" sounds kind of innocuous, like "skinned knee" or "bum ankle." Colloquial always sounds better than technical, but sounds better isn't always better. Harang may seem like the prototypical workhorse, but this kind of injury is seldom just nothing. Going through the list of names, there are guys like John Patterson, Josh Johnson, and Shawn Hill who all had this type of forearm stiffness as a precursor to far more serious elbow problems. Sure, there are some like Felix Hernandez, for whom forearm stiffness was nothing more than that, but the list of players is much more negative than I'd expected. Harang's workload isn't tremendous, though he does have a number of starts of more than a 100 pitches, and the occasional period where he seems to lose it for a start or two, and then get it back. This is no different under Dusty Baker than it was in past seasons without him, so eliminating that culprit leaves me taking a hard look at the relief appearance he made at the end of May as a tipping point, despite Baker's protestations against the facts. (Just check his game logs, especially the game scores.) He's 14th on the PAP list, though his stress score of 13 is hardly worrisome, and wouldn't have made the top 50 just five years ago. Harang's velocity and control were off last time out, another big red flag. Harang is heading back for imaging and a visit with Tim Kremchek, and Reds fans may be holding their breath and hoping that Harang will only miss one start or just have a short DL stint. Initial testing makes it seem as if the UCL is intact, so we won't know much until the results are back.
Dustin McGowan and Shawn Marcum are providing hope for 2008 in the midst of a dismal 2007 in Toronto.
While the defining image of the Yankees' season so far is overmatched 24-year-old lefty Chase Wright yielding four straight homers to the Red Sox back on April 22, the current reality is that it's the offense, not the pitching, hamstringing the team's attempts to make up ground on the Red Sox. Or the wild card. Or .500. The Yankees have scored just 125 runs in 26 May games, a bit under five runs a game, while allowing 114. Yes, the Yankees are 12-15 this month while outscoring their opponents, which is perhaps the biggest reason to remain optimistic about their chances.
Erik begins a look at what prospects expect to produce for fantasy owners in both the short- and long-term.
Part one will cover American League prospects, including their overall rank. Part two will cover the National League. An update, discussing the largest movers and new entries, will follow in about a month, in time for late July-early August trade deadlines.