Brewers decline Looper's $6.5 million option

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Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin has made it very clear that acquiring starting pitching is the Brewers’ biggest priority this offseason, even trading J.J. Hardy to the Twins for Carlos Gomez in part to clear payroll space for rotation help.
Despite that this afternoon the Brewers declined their $6.5 million option on Braden Looper, choosing to pay him a $1 million buyout instead after the 35-year-old went 14-7 with a 5.22 ERA in 194.2 innings spread over a league-leading 34 starts this season.
On the surface it may seem strange to get rid of a veteran who went 14-7 in a rotation that had the league’s worst ERA, but Looper’s win-loss record vastly overstates his effectiveness. In addition to his ugly 5.22 ERA, he allowed the most earned runs (113) and homers (39) in the league while opponents batted .289/.344/.503 against him. He basically turned every hitter into Matt Kemp, who batted .297/.352/.490 this season.
Looper also had a sub par 100/64 K/BB ratio in 194.2 innings and fell apart down the stretch, posting a 5.54 ERA in the second half that included a 6.58 mark in September. In other words he was awful at just about everything except for getting good run support from the Brewers’ lineup, and as a 35-year-old who underwent post-season knee surgery he’s hardly a good bet to improve enough to be worth $6.5 million in 2010.
Melvin indicated that the Brewers would consider re-signing Looper at a lesser salary, but added that in the meantime “we wanted to keep our flexibility” with the $5.5 million saved. It’s a safe bet that Looper won’t get anything close to $5.5 million on the open market, so even if the Brewers fail to land the big upgrade via free agency that Melvin is aiming for there’s little risk in letting Looper shop himself around.

Video: Bryce Harper crushes a home run to the Chase Field concourse

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Aaron Judge may be the talk of the town right now, but let’s not forget some of Major League Baseball’s more established sluggers. Take the Nationals’ Bryce Harper, for instance, who jumped on a full count during the first inning of Saturday’s game and postmarked the ball to the center field concourse in Chase Field.

Harper’s mammoth hit was the first career home run allowed by Diamondbacks’ rookie Anthony Banda. Banda quickly recovered with an inning-ending strikeout to Ryan Zimmerman, but was booted from his big league debut after Harper, Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon combined for a three-run spread in the sixth.

The first-inning homer also served another purpose: it extended Harper’s hitting streak to 15 games, the longest current streak in MLB this season. He’ll need four more games to tie the 19-game streak Royals’ infielder/outfielder Whit Merrifield established back in June.

The Nationals currently lead the Diamondbacks 4-2 in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Chi Chi Gonzalez to undergo Tommy John surgery

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Rangers’ right-hander Chi Chi Gonzalez is slated for Tommy John surgery, according to a report by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Gonzalez was placed on the 60-day disabled list back in early April with a partial UCL tear and was working towards a throwing program before getting sidelined with more elbow pain. He’s expected to miss the entirety of the 2018 season while recovering from the surgery.

This is the second straight season that has been derailed for Gonzalez due to injury. The 25-year-old starter pitched just 10 1/3 innings in 2016 after recovering from a torn UCL, and was optioned to Triple-A Round Rock to finish out the year after compiling an 8.71 ERA, 7.8 BB/9 and 6.1 SO/9 in three starts with the club. He showed more promise in Triple-A with a 4.70 ERA, 2.9 BB/9 and 5.9 SO/9 through 24 starts and 138 innings.

It’s a tough blow for the Rangers, who have seen Gonzalez healthy in just one major league season to date. General manager Jon Daniels told reporters that a recent MRI showed signs of weakening in the ligament, which disrupted the team’s plans to have the right-hander stick to a six- to eight-week recovery timetable after getting a platelet-rich plasma injection (via Stefan Stevenson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram). The surgery is expected to take place next week and will put Gonzalez’s earliest return date sometime in September 2018.