Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post Dispatch confirms what was feared last night: Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal has a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow and is done for the season.
Strauss reports that no decision has been made yet on Furcal going under the knife, but a torn UCL is the injury fixed by Tommy John surgery. Recovery times are quicker for position players than pitchers, although a big part of Furcal’s game is his arm strength at shortstop and the 34-year-old’s status for next season would definitely be in doubt. He’s under contract for $7 million in 2013.
Because the injury occurred with almost zero time for the Cardinals to trade for a veteran shortstop Daniel Descalso figures to be the primary fill in, although they also called up light-hitting minor leaguer Pete Kozma from Triple-A and for tonight at least he’s in the starting lineup. Kozma was a first-round pick in 2007, but has always struggled offensively in the minors and hit just .232 with a .647 OPS in 131 games at Triple-A this season.
Furcal finishes the season hitting .264 with five homers, 12 steals, and a .671 OPS in 121 games.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals and first baseman Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension. However, Hosmer also indicated that he will head into free agency if a deal is not consummated by Opening Day.
Hosmer, 27, avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, agreeing to a $12.25 million salary for the 2017 season. He is one of four key Royals players who can become a free agent after the season along with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer does reach free agency, he would arguably be the top free agent first baseman.
Hosmer finished the past season hitting .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI while making his first All-Star team.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.
According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.
Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.