Under The Knife 8/3/22
After the Gold Rush
Rest in peace.
With trade discussion down below Quick Cuts and a long edition of UTK ahead, let’s get right to the injuries:
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JACOB DEGROM, SP NYM (fractured shoulder)
Max on Monday, Jacob on Tuesday. That’s precisely the plan that the Mets had, if not those specific days of the week, back when they signed Scherzer, adding to what should be the best 1-2 starters in the league. It finally happened, all the way in August, with deGrom’s season debut.
Rob Friedman @PitchingNinjaJacob deGrom, 94.5 mph Slider. 😲 https://t.co/Wb1NRjKT3k
For all the talk of adjusted postures and reduced velocities, that wasn’t what we saw. DeGrom’s power slider had speed and shape, though even with the expected pitch limits, deGrom did appear to tire some in his last innings. His last strikeout, of Nelson Cruz, came in the fourth. A scout at the game said he was surprised deGrom finished the fifth. While he got through it at 59 pitches, the scout said deGrom was visibly tired at the end of the fourth.
The Mets, as I told you, are going to be very conservative with deGrom. Ending under 60 is a bit lower than I expected, but the situation gives us some sign on how Buck Showalter is going to handle the in-game. The team can’t wring out deGrom and hope to get him to the playoffs, opt-out or not, so this first start is both positive and negative. It looks like the good deGrom is back, but he’s going to have to be handled and the team is going to have to do more from the pen and with the bats to win when he’s up.
FRANKIE MONTAS, SP NYY (no injury)
The Yankees gave up some things, but it feels like they got Frankie Montas for less than the Mariners gave up for Luis Castillo. I know, not exactly equal in a lot of ways and any prospect can be good or bad. We won’t know for a while, but while both pitchers have had some injury issues, Montas has been mostly durable. His recent shoulder issue was handled well by the A’s medical staff and he was right back out there, looking good enough to get traded.
Now, the key for Montas and the Yankees is making sure that nothing is lost in the transfer. While the Yankees will have all of the medical records and Montas’ knowledge, they don’t always get everything, plus every medical staff has different preferences and biases on treatments and modalities. As well, they have different time demands and resources. I doubt the Yankees are lacking here, but there’s always something lost in translation.
Keeping Montas’ shoulder and the rest of his body healthy is obviously key for this trade to work. The team has enough confidence to have made a head scratching deal costing them depth in Jordan Montgomery and pushing Luis Severino back slightly with a roster move. There’s two months plus to keep this working, then a full off-season of work at “The Gas Factory” for Montas and the Yankees. I find that perhaps the most fascinating part of the trade. Do the Yankees have an advantage with what they’ve built there, something few other teams have even attempted? Montas might be the most talented subject they’ve had and getting even more out of him would be a signal.
JASON CASTRO, C HOU (torn meniscus)
Jason Castro underwent surgery last week to repair his meniscus. He’ll be out for the season and playoffs, but should be fine for the start of next season. This is notable because the Astros were able to keep this quiet enough - Castro had been on the IL, but the surgical decision - to not get raked for a replacement, trading for Christian Vasquez.
I think it’s notable that James Click went to his former Baseball Prospectus and Tampa Bay Rays colleague Chaim Bloom to get this done. My guess is that the two did this almost head to head, keeping others out of it and keeping the loop very closed. Asking around, the Astros did check in on some other catchers, but points for being able to keep a need looking like a want.
Repairing a meniscus is relatively new in usage, but keeps the meniscus’ function in place, rather than cutting the damaged piece out as was done for decades. It doesn’t always work, leaving a meniscectomy an easy fix with almost no extra time loss. It does take longer, up to six months, to heal and with new advances, it feels like a problematic enough surgery that we’ll see more biologics here. The use of transplants and implants also feels like it should come, but in the context of sport, I think we’re more likely to see players go back to the quick fix of removing the damaged meniscus and then going back for an implant later.
TARIK SKUBAL, SP DET (inflamed forearm)
Tarik Skubal was expected to be one of the pitchers traded, but one key suitor bowed out after an MRI found inflammation in the flexor tendon. It’s not a devastating diagnosis, but it was enough to change the value enough for a team that valued innings. The Tigers should be valuing innings as well, since they have seven of their pre-season top ten on the IL.
Skubal’s situation is tough. The Tigers have to exercise caution with their de facto ace and really only healthy and established starter. Getting Matt Manning back helps, but the Tigers don’t have the depth to go twelve deep. Even with Skubal and Manning, I struggle to see where they’re going to find enough valid innings or creative solutions to get through.
The Tigers are saying currently that Skubal will miss one turn through the rotation as they work to reduce the inflammation. The problem is that we’re seeing more and more pitchers hit the workload wall at about 100. Skubal has a career high of 149. This feels like a recipe for disaster, or at the very least, being ultracautious with an arm in a context where they need the opposite from him.
DINELSON LAMET, P MIL (no injury)
A key part of the Brewers return for Josh Hader is Dinelson Lamet. This is an interesting one, in that Lamet’s key weakness is durability and he goes from one of the lowest-ranked medical staffs to one of the highest. At the very least, David Stearns seems to recognize what he has, without overwhelming that staff by collecting iffy arms. Lamet is a gamble, but a calculated one.
The Brewers medical staff has long been one of the better ones at keeping arms healthy, despite several changes over the years. At it’s peak, it was an integrated unit, from GM to scouting, from medical staff to coaches. That’s gone back to a more standard look, but there’s still remnants and institutional knowledge, as well as some hard-working people to get those results.
Joe Sheehan tossed out the idea that Lamet would be a good tandem guy and while I agree, no team has really done this kind of role well. I can foresee there being a “sixth and seventh” guy, or even a 4/5/6 functional floater for a guy who could only get through two times around. Given 13 and 14 man staffs, it’s a wonder no one’s been able to do this, but the fact is, most teams don’t have the slightest idea where their pitchers are in terms of readiness and recovery. Until they do that, we’re stuck in the Yost-modified La Russa model of reliever usage that we have been for the better part of a decade.
If Lamet becomes a valuable pitcher, measured both by workload and by what he does on the field in terms of pure return, it should not only be credited to the Brewers staff, but a wake up call to the Padres. (And yes, Josh Hader, a slightly built flamethrower, is the converse case to Lamet. The Brewers kept him healthy, albeit with a shift to a more standard pure-closer role, so can the Padres do the same?)
KRIS BRYANT, 3B COL (plantar fasciitis)
Kris Bryant has plantar fasciitis and for the third time, he’s on the IL this season. This has led to some discussion/speculation that Bryant’s status could invoke an insurance benefit for the Rockies. That’s not how disability insurance works and baseball contracts in general are a very unique subset of those. I had to do a lot of digging and take a lot of equivocation, but here’s what I believe is the case.
Most contracts today are not insured, because the market is so specialized. Specialization means there’s a small pool and means premiums are higher. Your health or auto insurance is largely based on large pools and larger numbers; imagine if it was localized, where only drivers in your neighborhood could share a rating. Premiums would go up.
Even when contracts are insured, there’s always an elimination period. Think of it like a deductible or co-pay. Most of these are 90 days, meaning that a player has to be out 90 days in a row before there would be any payment. Even then, that payment doesn’t come until the end of the fiscal year. I’m told Bryant’s is an “extended elimination”, which is likely 180 days. That’s 180 days, straight, before there’s any benefit. Every time he comes off the IL, that clock resets, starting again when he goes back on at Day 1.
What about the off-season? Well, the insurance company has the right to check in and see whether a player has healed, but in sports, these kind of off-season checks seldom happen because there’s no payment due outside of the season. Bryant could be out for 180 days — January 30th, 2023, if what Alexa just answered me is correct and wow, Skynet — and only then does the count start. The Rockies would be due no benefit for anything before then, or actually, January 31, and actually Opening Day ‘23 since there’s no loss until then. If Bryant played a couple days in spring training, that could reset the clock.
Essentially, what the Rockies are paying for is career-ending insurance. It would take a devastating injury and Bryant simply not being able to play. Prince Fielder’s situation comes to mind. Only then does this policy make sense. Until then, the Rockies are just paying the premium, adding to their “losses”, allowing them to get even more revenue sharing.
If Soto isn’t enough for you, Padres fans, it won’t be long before we see Dominican Destruction or whatever they call Fernando Tatis Jr, Soto, and Manny Machado in the promos. A rehab assignment could be announced as soon as tomorrow and if you told me they were delaying that announcement so that it comes on the day Soto comes in, I would not be surprised at all. Zero surprise … The maintenance program for Byron Buxton’s knee seems to be getting less effective. The team has trying managing it, but at some point, this feels very Harold Baines to me … Luis Severino is going on the 60-day for roster reasons, not a setback, but math is hard … Tyler Stephenson had a plate installed over his collarbone fracture. This stabilizes the fracture and is often more comfortable, as the arm can be a bit freer (not confined in a single position in a brace or sling). It doesn’t change healing time at all … The Pirates say David Bednar was available, but back spasms often say otherwise. It bears watching if you’re hoping for Pirate saves … Jon Gray had cramps rather than an oblique strain, confirmed by imaging. This is only interesting in the sense that this would likely be done by ultrasound and I’m curious if the Rangers are using it in house, or if they sent him over to Keith Meister. Sources would not comment, but responses make me think I got it right … Both Brendan McKay and Yonny Chirinos head to Single-A to continue their rehab. Both could be in Tampa by the end of the month. I’m still waiting to see if Tyler Glasnow progresses enough to be back and useful for the Rays this season … Ol’ pal Jon Weisman brought up this old article about Shawn Green in regards to Druw Jones’ shoulder issue. I don’t think they’re a good comp, but I am curious how Green’s shoulder is now. He played much longer than I expected back then … Caleb Smith punched a wall, broke his finger, and will miss much if not the rest of the Diamondbacks season.
Soto. Tatis. Machado. Darvish. No one will say that AJ Preller wasn’t bold and this might be his boldest move. He’s echoing Les Snead’s “F*** Them Picks”, just substituting prospects for draft picks, though my guess is Preller would trade those too if it was legal. The thing here is that I’m not sure all this talent makes them the favorites still, but it’s a nice hand to play. Keeping the pitching healthy and productive from this point becomes even more key … The Will Smith for Jake Odorizzi trade is one of those where smart guys on both sides make me wonder what I’m missing. The Braves’ deep bullpen loses a bit, but they see more in Odorizzi than I have. The Astros go deep, but have some depth issues if they have pitching injuries. Someone’s a bit smarter on this deal, but I’m not sure which side yet …. And then the Braves traded for Raisel Iglesias and things all made sense again. I should know not to doubt Alex and Jason … The return to the Reds for Tyler Mahle includes Stephen Hajjar, a top arm in the 21 draft out of Michigan. He’s a KineticPro arm and I got a good look at his mechanics in the run up to the draft while working at ProPlayAI. The Reds are just collecting power arms and could be downright filthy in 2025 … The Cubs deal for Scott Effross, a guy with five years of control, in return for a prospect is the ultimate in future looks. If your team can’t even keep rookies, it’s time to question the plan (or the planners) … The Marlins didn’t make any deals, which makes it even more key that the Marlins stay healthy the rest of the way. I’m not sure it helps them to make the playoffs, but if you get there, anything can happen. The medical staff was the biggest change Kim Ng made this offseason, so now it needs to pay off … No idea what either the Cards or Yankees got with the Bader/Montgomery deal. The Cards needed innings and got a guy who’s never gone more than 155. Maybe Montgomery and Quintana are enough, but I don’t think so. The Cards left the orchard without the best fruit.
A reminder that there will be no scheduled UTK on Friday. I’ll make it up to you.
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