The Rundown: Pitching Market Just Got More Interesting, Cubs with Elite Velo

The best pitcher on the planet, who anchors the staff of the team with baseball’s best record, went down with back stiffness Sunday afternoon and that is a big deal. And it’s not just a matter of how this injury impacts Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers, though those are the most acute issues. The ace has faced back trouble before, even missing over two months last season, and this isn’t the kind of thing that just goes away quickly in most cases.

Depending on the severity of the injury, the Dodgers could get a little more aggressive when it comes to acquiring another starting pitcher. They’ve recently been connected to Yu Darvish, whose services might be required if LA hopes to capitalize on their potential.

And that report from Jon Morosi came prior to Kershaw’s injury. In a subsequent post, Morosi went on to name a few prospects that could be involved and also listed other teams known to be scouting the Rangers ace.

The Dodgers scouted Darvish’s most recent start, Friday against the Rays, and possess the farm system necessary to make a compelling offer. Sources say the Rangers are likely to ask the Dodgers for at least two of the following prospects: right-hander Walker Buehler, center fielder Alex Verdugo, second baseman Willie Calhoun and right-hander Yadier Alvarez.

Among that group, the Dodgers are most reluctant to part with Buehler, sources say. Buehler, who turns 23 this week, has a 3.44 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 17 starts this season for three Dodgers affiliates. However, he allowed four earned runs without recording an out in his most recent game, his Triple-A debut on Thursday.

The Cubs, Yankees and Astros were among the other clubs that scouted Darvish’s most recent start, sources say; all of those teams are pursuing rotation upgrades ahead of the Trade Deadline, as well.

The Cubs continue to pop up here, as Morosi was first to report this past Friday. With the Dodgers perhaps in a more desperate spot and with bigger chips play, I can’t see anyone outbidding them should they choose to make a real push for Darvish.

But Kershaw wasn’t the only big-time pitcher on a first-place team forced to leave early with an injury yesterday. Though he says it was strictly precautionary, Stephen Strasburg exiting with “achiness” in his forearm has to scare the Nationals at least a little bit. And maybe a lot bit when you’re talking about a guy who’s already undergone Tommy John surgery — which led to that famous dispute about an innings limit and whether to pitch him with the playoffs on the line.

“We think (Strasburg)’s okay. We just took him out for precaution. He couldn’t get loose. We saw he kept shaking his arm,” Nationals Manager Dusty Baker told the media after Sunday’s game. “So we just took him out for precaution. He’s had a little stiffness, couldn’t really get loose even though he was throwing the ball well. So we’ll analyze it when we get back home. He’ll see our doctors, and hopefully we’ll have an answer on Tuesday.”

The Nats haven’t been quite as prevalent in the trade rumors over the last couple weeks, but even an inkling of doubt as to Strasburg’s health could put them in a position to go big in the market. And that could make things very interesting for the other teams looking to acquire starting pitching. Two top teams in separate NL divisions losing big-time starters would set in motion a series of dominoes that could reach Chicago.

With a rotation that has been lights-out through nine second-half games and that gets Kyle Hendricks back, the Cubs might be spooked out of the market should their fellow front-runners decide to pony up big for Darvish or Sonny Gray. We’ll have to wait and see how everything plays out with Strasburg’s health and the results of the next few games, but things could get really wild heading into the deadline.

The only certainty in all of this is that the Rangers are going to be able to set their price even higher than initially thought.

Velo readings

When it comes to higher than initially thought, Hector Rondon’s velocity has been way up in July. Entering a close game against the Cards last night, he was sitting 98 and even hit 100 mph on ball to Paul DeJong in the 7th inning. Though he gave up a hit and a walk in the frame, seeing Rondon light up the gun like that is a really good sign for the Cubs down the stretch.

We don’t normally tout the speed of throws from catchers to start double plays, but Willson Contreras’s throw to second to begin a twin killing last night was clocked at 89 mph, which, according to Statcast, was the hardest a catcher has thrown a ball to second base this season. Given the big numbers we’re used to seeing from the radar guns, 89 doesn’t seem like much. But when you think about the context and all that goes into a catcher having to make that throw, touching Kyle Hendricks-level speed sounds pretty not bad.

More news and notes

  • The Red Sox promoted top prospect Rafael Devers to play 3B
  • With the imminent returns of Collin McHugh and Dallas Keuchel, the Astros may have dropped out of the starting pitching trade market
  • Former Cub Neil Ramirez has elected free agency after being DFA’d by the Mets and clearing waivers
  • Saturday marked the 20th anniversary of Greg Maddux throwing a 76-pitch complete game
  • The Cubs are 51-46, which is the same record they held through 97 games in 2015 (h/t Ryan Q Davis); incidentally, they went on to win 97 games that season
Back to top button