Under The Knife 10/11/21

Midway on the LDS

This isn’t a normally timed newsletter, but is there a normal time? With the rainout in Chicago, I thought maybe you’d want something to read so rather than waiting until tomorrow morning, here you go:

Rafael Devers 3B BOS (inflamed forearm)

Every time I see Rafael Devers do anything, he appears uncomfortable. His issue with his forearm is known, but it appears to be getting worse and there’s little known about the specifics. I spoke with several Sox sources who were very closed mouthed about it - typical - but one opposing AT that has been watching Devers speculates that he has an impinged nerve. “The way he’s reacting shows something is hurting and it’s usually on extension,” he said. “He seems to get a late jolt and that can often be nerve. It’s not a typical injury for a non-pitcher, but I’ve seen that reaction enough to wonder.” For reference, it would be much like hitting your funny bone and that does seem to match.

While Devers is still functional, there are questions about whether the injury will stay the same or get worse over the course of a deep October run. If it is a nerve, it’s almost unknown and Devers can play as long as he’s willing to play with the discomfort, if not pain. Beyond that, the question is who would fill in. Enrique Hernandez would be the obvious with Christian Arroyo available, but that removes some of the flexibility of the roster. My expectation is that Devers will continue to play as he has as the Sox continue to try and keep him as functional as possible.

Chris Sale SP BOS (no current injury)

Chris Sale was just one of the pitchers that had a hard time coming back from Tommy John surgery in 2020. At least early 2020, that is. Players from the latter half of the season have done well, but no one seems to know why. There was one suggestion from a GM that it was because there wasn’t team control, but in most cases, I know teams were in contact with players and the fact that they all continued their rehab in different places with different teams means they shouldn’t have all had the same outcome.

Regardless, Sale came back late in the season and while a bit innings limited, he looked good on his extended rehab and then looked more or less normal until the Sox had the COVID outbreak. Sale previously had COVID, was unvaccinated, and since then he hasn’t seemed the same. The stuff is there, but what we don’t know about COVID is basically everything. Sale’s playoff start wasn’t good and the question now is whether he’s even usable in the playoffs. It’s going to be a tough decision if the Sox get past the Rays.

Garrett Richards RP BOS

Garrett Richards has a significant hamstring strain and yes, the Sox were required to document it. An MLB source tells me that the team submitted the normal paperwork, including imaging, and that his shift off the roster was approved. I’m not sure if there was any suggestion that the Sox were faking this, but they weren’t. Richards is ineligible for the ALCS roster if the Sox make it, but could be put back on the theoretical World Series roster. I’m told it’s very touch-and-go on whether he’ll be healed up, but that Richards will continue to rehab and get in some work as if he will come back as long as the team is alive. Matt Barnes took the roster spot and is likely the same for the ALCS, again if needed.

Matt Wisler RP TBR (strained finger)

Matt Wisler is going to pitch through his strained finger until he can’t. The Rays acknowledge that Wisler is still dealing with the same issue that IL’ed him twice late in the season, but he’s functional. He’s pitched well, but has some pain and it has to be managed since the force of the pitches stress the damaged tendon. The worst case here is that it pops and needs to be re-attached, but at least one of the opinions he’s had at this stage matches that.

The Rays are taking a bit of a risk here, but they’re trusting their medical staff - and Wisler - on an in-game level. The biggest risk is not that the finger goes and he can no longer pitch, but that he’s unavailable in-game, leaving them a man down. The Rays aren’t scared to use everyone in the pen in any situation (as Game 3 showed) so being a man down in-game is problematic for them. The Rays are carrying four injured pitchers on their taxi squad, so the replacement would be Ryan Yarbrough, hardly like for like. A source tells me that Wisler’s situation is “manageable” and that they’ll deal with it day to day as they have for most of the second half.

Clayton Kershaw SP LAD (strained forearm)

Clayton Kershaw does not need Tommy John surgery. A source with knowledge of his injury tells me the PRP injection was directly in his forearm, where the problem is, and that several MRI over the course of the second half of the season, including a recent one, show almost no issues with the UCL. I qualify that only in that almost every pitcher is going to have some wear and tear there, especially pitching through a forearm issue.

The expectation is that Kershaw will re-sign with the Dodgers on a one-year deal. It won’t be cheap, but it will protect the Dodgers in case Kershaw can’t pitch. This isn’t going to move fast, simply because the Dodgers could be affected by the CBA more than any team. We’ll see whether the Guggenheim boys seem to mind being way over a lower cap and how the penalties will grandfather some contracts if the threshold is dropped anywhere near where Rob Manfred wants it — and make no mistake, Manfred is firmly in control of the negotiation on his side, if not at the table.

If Kershaw’s forearm heals as normal, he could have a relatively normal offseason and come back well. He’s a resilient pitcher that even with injuries has shown his stuff is still there, with added veteran wisdom. If the Dodgers get Kershaw and Dustin May back, and keep Max Scherzer, it’s hard not to expect them to be at 100 wins again.

Justin Verlander SP HOU* (post-Tommy John)

Justin Verlander is coming back next season and while Jim Crane says they’ll give a qualifying offer - if such thing exists in the new CBA and it likely won’t, at least in the manner we’re used to - that means nothing. Crane is saying they’ll do the least possible, retain a pick, and, well, I won’t pretend to know what Crane is thinking. Probably about how much wedding singers cost.

For Verlander, that ship has largely sailed and he’s going to pick and choose where and how he plays next season. He wants to be close to home, he wants to control how he pitches, and he wants to win. That really narrows things down, unless he’s willing to be a bit creative or a bit speculative. I’m told that the Braves are a big consideration, given their talent and the ease of access, but the Braves don’t normally go out and spend big. I think we could see a Roger Clemens-Yankees thing, where it’s a smaller salary and a lot of bonus.

Another easy fit would be the Marlins. They’re overhauling a lot of things including their medical staff, Derek Jeter would likely cede a lot of control to a player he respects, and it’s as close to home as he could get. The issue is, this team isn’t ready to win, even adding Verlander to a young, rising team. The Rays could win and could afford Verlander if they wanted — could they get a bigger crowd every time he pitches — but the whole Montreal thing is a complicator. There’s other fits, but the more Verlander has to to be away from home, the more expensive it gets, I hear.

As for his recovery, it’s going “normal and boring,” per a source close to Verlander. Verlander could have pushed and pitched at the end of the season, ala Dakota Hudson, but then Astros had ruled that out early and I’m told never really revisited it, even with Zack Greinke’s issues. (By the way, Astros fans, losing Verlander and Greinke could be the difference between keeping Carlos Correa and not.)

Not so quick cuts:

Sometimes, you don’t have to look back to see where someone is going. The Mets are through their first round of “big name” interviews while awaiting the official turndown from the Brewers and David Stearns. That might not come because they’ve been told through unofficial channels that Stearns isn’t that interested and that the Brewers do not consider this a promotion. Who’s on that next list of possibles for the Mets is the more interesting one to me. Talking to someone with knowledge of the situation, they’re likely going to start with their last list. Last time the Mets hired for the position, the list was Brodie Von Wagenen, Chaim Bloom, and Doug Melvin. The latter is an intriguing name and a smart baseball guy that built the foundation for Stearns. He’s also not someone who’s going to want the job for the next decade, most likely and has been great at mentoring people inside the game. If the Mets want a solid guy who can build a culture, they couldn’t do much better than Melvin. He’s hardly the only candidate, but it’s sounding like the Mets will have someone in place by the end of the playoffs.

Ron Washington is emerging as the favorite for the Padres job. While he left his last managerial post with a cloud of scandal over him, he did a bit of an exile, worked his way back, and has been an influential voice in the Braves clubhouse. That doesn’t make any of what allegedly happened back then less problematic, but it’s a decade ago and Wash knows everyone inside the game. It’s hard to find anyone that has a bad word for him, even when directly asked about how problematic that past might be. I don’t think it will derail things if he interviews well and his vision meshes with that of the Padres braintrust.

A lot of people think I’m against their team - especially Mets fans these days. I don’t dislike any team, but as with the likes, it’s more about the people I know and respect. I will admit to rooting for the Rays and Brewers, two organizations filled with smart people (including Mike Groopman and Matt Kleine.) The Red Sox and Chaim Bloom will always have a special place for me, more for Chaim than the team, but I have lots of other people in that organization, and the Astros that I know and respect (Hi, James!) Yes, there could well be a Prospectus vs Prospectus ALCS, which would guarantee a Prospectus GM in the World Series. Yet, I probably have as many friends in the White Sox and Dodgers organizations as any. I’m leaving others out, both BP and non, and I think I do a decent job of staying objective throughout the season. It becomes a bit more apparent in the offseason. So I’m not against your team, folks; I’m for my people and I’m largely rooting for great baseball at this time of the year.