Andrew Bailey set for ligament surgery, likely to miss first half

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A second opinion confirmed that Red Sox closer Andrew Bailey has a torn UCL in his right thumb. He’s scheduled to undergo surgery Wednesday and will likely miss 3-4 months.

It turns out that Bailey was hurt in a collision with Pittsburgh’s Alex Presley at first base in his March 21 outing, though he thought nothing of it initially and made two more appearances afterwards on March 24 and 25. When his thumb became more of a problem, the Red Sox sent him for tests and the torn ligament was found.

While it’s disappointing news on the heels of a seemingly disappointing winter for Red Sox fans, this isn’t necessarily the worst thing for the team. Given his history of elbow problems, Bailey wasn’t at all likely to pitch 70 innings this season anyway. Now he’ll only need his elbow to hold up for half the year, increasing the chances that he’ll help the Red Sox in September and, hopefully, October.

In the meantime, the Red Sox can turn the closer’s role over to either Mark Melancon, who closed for the Astros last year, or Mr. Versatility, Alfredo Aceves. The guess here is that Melancon will get the first crack at the role, with Aceves serving as the fallback.

The Red Sox have no plans to shift Daniel Bard back to the pen to help replace Bailey, but that too will be a possibility if he doesn’t adjust well to a rotation role. Aaron Cook has looked better than expected while being brought along slowly this spring and could step into the rotation by the end of April if the Red Sox decide Bard isn’t working out.

Update: A source told the Boston Herald that Bailey is more likely to miss 4-5 months than 3-4. Bobby Valentine said he has no plans to identify a closer right now and that we’ll just have to settle for finding out when the first save situation arises.

The Nationals sign Kevin Jepsen

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Chris Cotillo of SB Nation reports the Nationals have agreed to terms with free agent reliever Kevin Jepsen.

Think of this as the latest in what will likely be a series of no-risk bullpen additions. The Nats, basically, collecting as many almost free arms they can find in an effort to fix their bullpen woes without having to give up anything valuable at the trade deadline. Just like the K-Rod signing earlier this week or the Edwin Jackson signing two weeks ago.

Jepsen pitched for Tampa Bay and Minnesota last year, posting a 5.68 ERA with the Rays and a 6.16 ERA with the Twins, appearing in 58 games in all. He went unsigned this past offseason.

Eh, it might work. It probably won’t, but it might.

Rival Executives Expect Justin Verlander To Hit The Trading Block

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About a month ago, a report circulated that if the Detroit Tigers weren’t above .500 by the end of June, they were going to chuck the season, look to trade off veterans and rebuild. It’s now June 29 and the Tigers are 34-42 and sit six games out of first place.

As such, we should not be too terribly surprised to see a report from Jeff Passan of Yahoo that multiple baseball executives expect Tigers ace Justin Verlander to hit the trade market sometime in the next two weeks. Passan notes that the Tigers haven’t formally offered him and that he’s just passing along speculation from rivals, but it’s pretty astute speculation.

The question is what the Tigers can get for Verlander. On the one hand, yes, Verlander is Verlander and has been one of the top starters in baseball for a decade. While he had struggled for a bit, last year featured a return to Cy Young form. He still has a blazing fastball and there is no reason to think he could not anchor the staff of a playoff caliber team.

On the other hand, as Passan notes, his 2017 has been . . . not so good. He looks amazing at times and very hittable at other times. Overall his walk rate is way up and his strikeout rate is down. There doesn’t appear to be anything physically wrong with him — various ailments contributed to his 2014-15 swoon — so it’s possible he’s just had a rough couple of months. Like I said, Verlander is Verlander, and it may not be a bad gamble to expect him to run off a string of dominant starts like he has so many times in the past.

The problem, though, is that anyone acquiring Verlander is not just gambling on a handful of starts down the stretch. They’re gambling on the $56 million he’s owed between 2018 and 2019 and the $22 million extra he’ll be guaranteed for 2020 if he finishes in the top five in Cy Young voting in 2019. Those would be his age 35, 36 and 37 seasons. There are certainly worse gambles in baseball, but it’s a gamble all the same.

If the Tigers don’t find any gamblers out there on the market, they’re going to have to make a gamble of their own: let Verlander go and get relatively little in return if another club picks up that $56 million commitment or eat it themselves and get prospects back in return to help kickstart a rebuild. Personally I’d go with the latter option, but I don’t work for the Illitch family.