Hong-Chih Kuo has been a mess all spring as he attempts to come back from elbow surgery and anxiety issues. Today the Mariners decided they’d seen enough, releasing the once-dominant left-hander.
When healthy Kuo has been one of the best relievers in baseball, logging 170 innings with a 1.96 ERA and 201 strikeouts from 2008-2010, but he coughed up 29 runs in 27 innings last season before going under the knife and got knocked around for 14 runs in 6.2 innings this spring.
Kuo’s one-year, $500,000 deal with Seattle would have jumped to $1 million if he cracked the Opening Day roster and included several million dollars in potential incentives. He was good enough recently enough that several teams will likely still be interested in taking a flier on Kuo, but he’ll almost surely have to settle for a minor-league deal and work his way back to the majors.
His most recent elbow surgery was the fifth of his career and Kuo has bounced back in the past, but at age 30 he’s a bigger question mark than ever and showed diminished velocity this month.
Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that the Blue Jays and third baseman Josh Donaldson are tabling extension talks as the two sides weren’t able to build any momentum towards agreement on a new contract.
Donaldson said, “We’re not quite there. That, to me, right now is not the major focus and I’m turning the page.” He added, “I want to play this season and really focus on winning games because, ultimately, our goal is to win a World Series and I don’t want to hinder that at all.” Donaldson also said he expects to hit free agency.
The 32-year-old avoided arbitration with the Blue Jays last month, agreeing on a $23 million salary for the 2018 season. He’s a free agent at season’s end. Last year, the three-time All-Star hit .270/.385/.559 with 33 home runs, 78 RBI, and 65 runs scored in 496 plate appearances. Donaldson missed six weeks in the first half with a calf injury, but was able to return and post terrific numbers, so his health — at least that aspect of it — shouldn’t be a concern going into spring training.
If Donaldson does reach free agency, he’ll join a star-studded group that will likely also include Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Charlie Blackmon, and A.J. Pollock.