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.
Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.
Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.
Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.
Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.
The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.
Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.
Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.
The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.
Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.
Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.
Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.