Bad news for Royals fans. And for Luke Hochevar, of course:
Hochevar, the 30-year-old former No. 1 overall pick, felt a twinge in his elbow on Monday. On Tuesday, he felt soreness in the joint, and an MRI revealed his condition, which also includes strained muscles around the elbow. On Thursday, he was scheduled to meet with Neal ElAttrache, the Dodgers’ team physician, in Los Angeles.
That meeting happened and Ned Yost announced this morning that Hochevar will have Tommy John surgery. Given that Hochevar is eligible for free agency this fall, it’s quite possible he’s pitched for the Royals for the last time.
Hochevar was a disappointment as a starter for years, but last season he moved to the pen and tossed 70 innings with a 1.92 ERA and 82/17 K/BB ratio. If he had repeated that this year he had a big payday in his future.
As it is, someone will likely take a chance on him, as he will likely pitch most of 2015. And given that, as we’ve reflected upon so much for the past 24 hours, a torn ligament is no longer a death sentence for a pitcher.
The Dodgers have pulled off their first blockbuster trade of the offseason, sending Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, Charlie Culberson, Adrian Gonzalez and cash considerations to the Braves for Matt Kemp, per announcements from both teams. The Braves are set to designate Gonzalez for assignment on Monday, making him a free agent.
Kemp, 33, had a down year with the Braves in 2017, hitting a career-low -0.5 fWAR in 115 games with the club. At the plate, he slashed a modest .276/.318/.463 with 19 home runs and a .781 OPS through 467 plate appearances, but was hampered by a nagging left hamstring strain through most of the season. This will be his 10th campaign with the Dodgers.
Whether or not Kemp can rebound during his second stint in Los Angeles is almost beside the point, however. The deal is effectively a salary dump to end all salary dumps. Offloading multiple one-year contracts for McCarthy, Kazmir and Gonzalez should bring the Dodgers back under the $197 million luxury tax threshold and position them to make a run at some of the big fish in next year’s free agent pool. It’s also worth noting that they may not keep Kemp around for long — per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, the club appears as likely to flip the veteran outfielder as they are to use him. As for the Braves, they not only rid themselves of the $43 million due Kemp through 2020, but added some rotation and infield depth with McCarthy and Culberson and can now give top prospect Ronald Acuna a legitimate tryout in left field.