Brewers center fielder Lorenzo Cain has opted out of the rest of the 2020 season, according to a team press release. President of baseball operations David Stearns commented on the situation in the release, saying “Lorenzo Cain has informed us that he will not participate for the remainder of the 2020 season. We fully support Lorenzos decision, and will miss his talents on the field and leadership in the clubhouse.”
Cain becomes the 18th player to opt out of playing in 2020, not counting Nick Markakis who initially opted out but chose to resume playing for the Braves. Cain is certainly one of the biggest names on that list, a long-time veteran with a decorated resume that includes two All-Star appearances, a Gold Glove, and a World Series ring as a member of the 2015 Royals.
There hasn’t been any word as to whether or not Cain was opting out due to any personal medical reason, and if Cain isn’t at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19, his decision will mean that he is walking away from the prorated portion of his original $16MM salary for the 2020 season. It’s no small amount of money, obviously, though less of a financial cost for a player who has already banked well over $50MM in career earnings, and is slated to earn $33MM over the 2021/22 seasons as per the terms of the five-year, $80MM deal he signed with Milwaukee in January 2018.
Like all teams, the Brewers have had their share of COVID-19 cases, with Luis Urias and Angel Perdomo both testing positive before the start of Summer Camp. (Eric Lauer also missed time after exposure to someone who was COVID-positive, though Lauer himself didn’t have the virus.) It’s fair to wonder whether Cain’s decision was prompted not necessarily by his own team, but rather the wider scope of coronavirus cases around the National League in particular, with the Marlins and Cardinals. Milwaukee, in fact, was supposed to be the Cardinals’ opponent this weekend before an outbreak within the St. Louis clubhouse led to two postponed games and almost certainly will prevent the two clubs from playing on Sunday.
From a baseball perspective, losing Cain is certainly a blow to a Milwaukee team that had aspirations of another postseason appearance, at minimum. While Cain was coming off an injury-hampered 2019 season that saw post only a .697 OPS over 623 plate appearances, he still managed to generate 1.5 fWAR due to his typically excellent center field defense. Prior to 2019, Cain has been a solidly above-average offensive performer over his previous five seasons, hitting .301/.361/.433 over 2805 PA from 2014-18 with the Royals and Brewers.
Without Cain, Ben Gamel now looks to be the Brewers’ primary center fielder. Gamel has shown decent potential as both an everyday player with the Mariners and a part-timer with the Brewers, hitting a respectable .266/.336/.391 over 1199 PA from 2017-19, though the jury is still out on his center field glovework. Gamel has a -5.0 UZR/150 and minus-1 Defensive Runs Saved over only 181 career innings in center, as the vast majority of his big league playing time has come as a corner outfielder. Avisail Garcia is the only other realistic center field candidate on Milwaukee’s active roster, so the Brew Crew could turn to one of the other options (Keon Broxton, Corey Ray, or Tyrone Taylor) within their 60-man player pool.
The Braves have selected the contract of left-hander Chris Rusin, as per the team’s official Twitter account. To create space on both the 30-man active roster and the 40-man roster, Atlanta designated right-hander Jhoulys Chacin for assignment.
Atlanta signed Chacin to a one-year, Major League contract back on July 21, as the club was looking to add some additional rotation depth due to Cole Hamels’ injured-list stint and Felix Hernandez’s opt-out. Chacin ended up making two relief appearances for the Braves, both against the Mets — the first was an impressive performance of 3 2/3 scoreless innings on July 26, and the other took place just last night, with Chacin surrendering four earned runs over 1 1/3 innings of work.
The Braves had clearly seen enough following yesterday’s outing, and Chacin now finds himself potentially back on the free agent market in short order. Given that teams are always in need of pitching depth, it’s possible Chacin could find another deal elsewhere, which could mean he’d be joining his fifth different organization in less than a year’s time.
Chacin has already appeared for seven different teams over his 12 MLB seasons, and also been part of the Indians and Twins organizations without ever suiting up for them in a big league game. Minnesota was Chacin’s most recent stop before signing on with the Braves, as the Twins inked Chacin to a minor league deal over the offseason but released him less than a week before their July 24th opener.
More analysis to come…
One of baseball’s top prospects could make his MLB debut on Sunday, as Casey Mize could potentially start the Tigers’ game against the Reds. Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire has held back from directly stating that Mize is slated to start, as the skipper told MLB.com’s Jason Beck and other reporters on Friday that “I cant announce anything until my general manager makes a statement.” In another chat with media (including MLive.com’s Evan Woodbery) this morning, Gardenhire noted that “Were on a day-to-day basis here. Weve got to make sure everythings okay before we make that announcement for tomorrow.”
Factors both large and small go into that “everything’s okay” designation. Most directly, rain and thunderstorms are in the forecast for both tonight and tomorrow in the Detroit area, so the Tigers aren’t going to promote Mize unless they are certain a game will actually be played. (To that end, the Tigers and Reds moved their game today from a 5:10pm CT start to 12:10pm CT in an effort to try and beat the rain.)
In the bigger picture, there is also the increasingly ominous threat that the 2020 season could be paused or halted altogether as multiple teams (the Marlins and Cardinals) are now dealing with coronavirus outbreaks. The latter situation is more directly concerning to the Tigers, as Detroit is scheduled to face St. Louis in four games from August 3-6. At the very least, it seems very likely those four games won’t be happening, leaving the Tigers with an extended break in the schedule unless they can possibly rearrange any other games with other opponents.
Such on-field considerations are of obvious concern to the Tigers in regards to Mize’s status, as they’re not going to call up their most prized young arm only to begin his career in stop-start fashion. Service time could also be an issue, as while enough time in the season has passed that Detroit has gained an extra year of control over Mize, the Tigers might not want to start his service time clock due to the possibility that the league might halt play all teams within just a few days’ time.
It’s an unusual situation to be sure, though the idea of Mize making his debut in 2020 was certainly in the cards long before the pandemic became a reality. The first overall pick of the 2018 draft has impressed in his brief pro career, posting a 2.71 ERA, 4.62 K/BB rate, and 8.8 K/9 over 123 total minor league innings. Mize hasn’t pitched beyond the Double-A level, tossing 78 2/3 frames for the Tigers’ Erie affiliate in 2019, though the canceled 2020 minor league season erased his opportunity to pitch Triple-A ball. Detroit included Mize on its 60-man player pool, and the righty has been working out at the team’s minor league training site.
The Diamondbacks will give infielder Andy Young his first Major League promotion, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link). Young is already on Arizona’s 40-man roster, though the D’Backs will have to make another move to find space on the 30-man active roster.
Originally a 37th-round pick for the Cardinals in the 2016 draft, Young is now on the cusp of the majors after that rather unheralded start to his pro career. The 26-year-old posted some strong hitting numbers during his time in the St. Louis farm system, and came to the D’Backs in the 2018-19 offseason as part of the trade package in the deal that sent Paul Goldschmidt to the Cards. The production continued for Young in his first season as a Diamondback, as he hit .271/.368/.535 with 29 homers over 540 combined plate appearances, split almost evenly between Arizona’s Double-A and Triple-A affiliates.
MLB Pipeline lists Young as the 15th-best Diamondbacks system, describing him as “a bat-first prospect” who “does enough damage from the right side of the plate to mitigate many of the concerns about his defense.” Young has mostly played second base in the minors, though he has logged a substantial amount of time as both a third baseman and shortstop, plus a handful of games in the corner outfield.
There aren’t any immediate openings for Young at any of those positions on the Diamondbacks’ depth chart, though he can provide backup at multiple spots and also likely log some DH at-bats. If nothing else, Young can add some pop to a D’Backs lineup that has been inconsistent at best over the team’s first eight games.
9:47AM: One Cardinals player has tested positive, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Jared Diamond, while The Athletic’s Mark Saxon (Twitter link) reports three of the positive tests were from the coaching staff.
9:10AM: Multiple Cardinals players have tested positive for the coronavirus in the wake of the club’s most recent tests. The exact number isn’t yet known, though SportsGrid’s Craig Mish (Twitter link) reports “more than five” positive results amongst the players, while The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports that “between four and six” of a “combination of staff and players” tested positive. Former big leaguer Trevor Plouffe tweeted earlier this morning that “at least four” St. Louis players tested positive.
This ominous news indicates that a second team is now in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak, following the 20 total reported cases between Marlins players and the club’s coaches and training staff. Yesterday’s Cardinals/Brewers game was postponed due to positive coronavirus tests for two St. Louis players.
The Marlins haven’t played since last Sunday, and it now seems inevitable that the Cardinals will face a similar schedule pause of at least a week following today’s results. Most immediately, today’s game with the Brewers has been postponed, according to Heyman. Aside from the weekend series with the Brewers, the Cards were also set to play the Tigers four times (twice in Detroit, twice in St. Louis) from August 3-6, and then continued the homestand with three games against the Cubs on August 7-9, and three against the Pirates on August 10-12.
The Cardinals were also supposed to face the White Sox in the “Field Of Dreams” game in Iowa on August 13 and then have August 14 off before embarking on another long stretch of games, without another off-day until August 27. The sheer volume of games involved will mean a mass overhaul of not only the Cardinals’ schedule, but the schedules of several other teams. In a best-case scenario (if such a term even applies to this situation), “only” the 10 games against the Brewers, Tigers and Cubs, would have to be reworked if St. Louis is able to resume play next week.
In the bigger picture, however, the Cardinals’ outbreak raises even more serious questions about whether Major League Baseball as a whole can feasibly continue a 2020 season in its current form. With two teams now in outbreak situations after barely more than a week into the season, a wider-scale shutdown (either temporary or otherwise) could be in order. Commissioner Rob Manfred reportedly told MLBPA executive director Tony Clark that such a halt may be necessary.
For the second consecutive day, the Phillies haven’t had any players test positive for COVID-19, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link). While this is obviously a good sign, it doesn’t necessarily mean a clean bill of health for all on-field personnel, of course, as the Phillies’ current schedule pause was due in part to positive test results from a coach and clubhouse staffer earlier this week.
Still, the Phillies will take part in a team workout today, NBC Sports’ Jim Salisbury reports (via Twitter) as they hope to resume action soon. The Phils continue to be in limbo following their series with the Marlins last weekend, as the close exposure to a Marlins team in the midst of a coronavirus outbreak resulted in the Phils sitting out a week’s action, with seven games postponed.
Then again, Philadelphia’s next scheduled series is against Miami from August 4-6, and it is quite possible those games could be postponed due to the Marlins’ situation. If the Marlins are unavailable, one option could be for the Phillies and Yankees to try and squeeze in their three games missed last week into a single game and double-header on August 3rd and 4th, as New York has a pair of off-days in their schedule — the Yankees are available since they moved up games against the Orioles to fill the gap left behind by the postponed Phillies games.
Marlins infielder Isan Diaz has opted out of the 2020 season. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman tweeted yesterday that Diaz was considering such a decision, and the move became official last night when Miami placed Diaz on their restricted list. Diaz released a statement on his Instagram page:
“This has been a tough week to see so many of my teammates come down with the virus, and see how quickly it spreads. After much deliberation and thought, I have made the difficult choice of opting out for the remainder of the 2020 season. This has been a decision that I have discussed with my family, and I feel its the best one for me and my overall well-being. I will deeply miss my teammates and competing on the field. I wish my brothers the best and look forward to taking the field again with them soon!!”
Diaz is not one of the 18 Marlins players who have thus far tested positive for COVID-19. Given the widespread nature of the team’s outbreak, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if more Miami players joined Diaz in sitting out the 2020 campaign, though obviously circumstances and personal feelings are different for every individual.
With Nick Markakis choosing to end his opt-out and rejoin the Braves, that leaves 17 players who have decided to opt out of the 2020 season. Players who opt out for specific health-related seasons (such as Orioles righty Kohl Stewart, who has Type 1 diabetes) will still receive their full prorated salary and service time, while players without a personal health issue will forego their service time and remaining salary.
This is the case with Diaz, who is just his second year of Major League action. Ranked as a consensus top-100 prospect prior to the 2017 season, Diaz was one of the four prospects acquired by Miami in the blockbuster trade that sent Christian Yelich to the Brewers in January 2018. (This was already the second big trade of Diaz’s young career, as he came to the Brewers as part of the five-player swap that sent Jean Segura from Milwaukee to Arizona in January 2016.)
A .973 OPS in 435 Triple-A plate appearances in 2019 led to Diaz’s first MLB promotion last season, though he struggled in his first stint in the Show. Diaz hit only .173/.259/.307 over his first 201 PA for the Marlins, which could have been part of the reason why Miami acquired Jonathan Villar as its primary second baseman during the offseason. Since Villar is only under contract through the 2020 season, however, Diaz is still projected as Miami’s second baseman of the future.
The Orioles announced that they have traded left-hander Richard Bleier to the Marlins for a player to be named later.
For the Marlins, this is clearly an attempt to fill in a roster that has been decimated by the coronavirus. Miami has seen a whopping 18 players test positive for the illness, which has prevented the club from taking the field this week.
In Bleier, the Marlins are getting a 33-year-old Davie, Fla., native who has experienced his share of success in the majors. Despite a measly lifetime strikeout rate of 4.47 per nine and a sub-90 mph fastball, Bleier has managed a 2.99 ERA/3.74 FIP across 177 1/3 innings with the Yankees and Orioles since he debuted in 2016. Excellent walk and groundball rates of 1.47 and 62.4 percent, respectively, have enabled Bleier to prevent runs at such an impressive clip.
While Bleier logged a woeful 5.37 ERA over 55 1/3 frames a year ago, he gave the O’s three scoreless frames this season before the rebuilding club parted with him. Bleier’s on a prorated $915K salary this year and still has two more seasons of arbitration eligibility left.
White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson left the team’s win over the Royals on Friday with right hip soreness, the club announced. The reigning AL batting champion is day-to-day, and the White Sox will re-evaluate him Saturday, manager Rick Renteria told James Fegan of The Athletic and other reporters. Anderson had a multi-hit game Friday, continuing a terrific start in which he has slashed .333/.355/.567 over 31 plate appearances. Chicago replaced him with utilityman Leury Garcia.
- Blue Jays reliever Ken Giles went on the injured list July 27 with a right forearm strain, but the team is “very optimistic” he’ll return this season, according to general manager Ross Atkins (via Kaitlyn McGrath of The Athletic). After getting a second opinion on the injury, Giles underwent a platelet-rich plasma injection. Not only would his return boost the Blue Jays’ of pushing for a playoff spot, but it would be a positive for Giles as he prepares for a trip to free agency in a few months. The 29-year-old was absolutely dominant when he was healthy enough to pitch in 2019, but arm problems have troubled him since last summer.
- Pitching has been a problem for the Red Sox early this season, but a couple of their hurlers are on the way back from the COVID-19 injured list. Left-handers Darwinzon Hernandez and Josh Taylor could join the Red Sox sometime within the next week, Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com writes. The 23-year-old Hernandez reached the majors for the first time last season and struck out a ridiculous 16.91 hitters per nine across 30 1/3 innings, though a horrid 7.71 BB/9 helped lead to a below-average 4.45 ERA. Taylor, 27, somewhat quietly notched a 3.04 ERA/3.11 FIP with 11.79 K/9 and 3.04 BB/9 in 47 1/3 frames as a rookie.
- Ryan Lewis of Ohio.com relayed updates on a trio of injured Indians on Friday. Catcher Roberto Perez, whom the Indians placed on the IL this week with a right shoulder issue, has experienced improvement. The club will re-evaluate him Tuesday. Outfielder Tyler Naquin, on the IL since last weekend with a fractured toe, has started sprinting. And fellow outfielder Delino DeShields, an offseason acquisition who still hasn’t made his Cleveland debut on account of a positive COVID-19 test, played 4 1/2 rehab innings Friday. There’s no word on when any of them will be ready to rejoin the Indians, though.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone announced Friday that right-handed reliever Tommy Kahnle will undergo Tommy John surgery, Marly Rivera of ESPN reports.
This isn’t surprising news, as MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported just minutes ago that Kahnle was probably going in this direction. Still, the fact that it’s now official is unfortunate for him and the Yankees. Kahnle, 30, has been an important part of their bullpen since they acquired him from the White Sox in a 2017 blockbuster trade. Since rejoining the Yankees, who selected him in the fifth round of the 2010 draft, Kahnle has logged a 4.01 ERA/3.23 FIP with 12.58 K/9, 3.69 BB/9 and a 44.8 percent groundball rate over 112 1/3 innings.
While Kahnle won’t be easily replaceable for the Yankees, the World Series contenders are well-equipped to soldier on without him. After all, the team also Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino and Chad Green as other prominent late-game arms. Kahnle’s season-ending injury takes a quality option away, though, and now it’s in question whether he will pitch for the Yankees again. Considering the timing of this surgery, Kahnle may not be ready to return until very late next season or at the beginning of 2022. In the meantime, the Yankees will have to decide whether to tender him a contract for his final arbitration-eligible season in 2021. He’s on a prorated $2.65MM salary this year, and that number should stay the same next season.