The Phillies are reeling after Cole Hamels suffered a setback, pushing his 2014 debut into May most likely. They’re thin on starting pitching depth even after adding A.J. Burnett last month. As a result, they have checked in with Ervin Santana according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.
Or maybe not. Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported shortly after Cafardo’s tweet that a team source told him that the Phillies have not checked in on Santana. [.gif of Larry David hemming and hawing]
It would be surprising if the Phillies wound up with Santana because it isn’t as if they’ve lost Hamels for an entire year. Additionally, they have set a franchise-high payroll following the Burnett signing. Not counting pre-arbitration players, they sat at close to $172 million, per Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly back in February. Once you include those pre-arb players, they’re close to $180 million. Adding in their 1/30 share for player-benefit costs (between $10-11 million), they’re right up against the $189 million luxury tax threshold. Adding Santana would undoubtedly push them over. The Phillies would then have to pay a 17.5 percent penalty on the amount they exceed the threshold, and it would put them in line for a harsher penalty next season if they were to exceed it again. There’s an incentive to stay under if you don’t have unlimited amounts of money like the Yankees and Dodgers.
Amaro recently said in an interview with MLB Network Radio that he needed ownership approval to sign Burnett and would undoubtedly need it once more to sign Santana, which might be one wrench in his plans if Cafardo’s tweet is true. As it stands, the Phillies can hope Jonathan Pettibone is healthy by mid-April, that Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez can handle Major League competition, or choose from a handful of non-roster invitees including David Buchanan, Jeff Manship, Sean O’Sullivan, and Mario Hollands.
Santana, by the way, recently fired his agent. Seems he isn’t happy about being unemployed going into March.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.
According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals are keeping an eye on outfield prospect Luis Robert. The 19-year-old left his native Cuba last November and is expected to command interest from multiple MLB teams as he approaches free agency. Goold adds that the Cardinals sent scouts to evaluate Robert’s workouts in the Dominican Republic as recently as last week.
There’s still a good chance that the club won’t get a shot at signing him; as Craig mentioned last month, it seems likely that Major League Baseball won’t declare Robert a free agent until after June 15. By July 2, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s policies on international bonuses will go into effect, handcuffing teams with the maximum penalty for bonuses to a $300,000 signing figure for any available international prospect. It’s designed to effectively take away those teams’ abilities to sign additional international talent, and the Cardinals have already spent a reported $9.35 million in bonuses on Venezuelan outfielder Victor Garcia, Cuban outfielders Jonatan Machado and Randy Arozarena and Cuban right-hander Johan Oviedo.
Until the cutoff in mid-June, the Cardinals are likely to continue actively scouting other international talent, including Robert. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez quotes an anonymous National League scouting director who describes Robert as the No. 2 talent behind Japanese wunderkind Shohei Otani. The 19-year-old hit .286/.319/.397 with a .716 OPS during a 16-game run in the Canadian-American League in 2016, following up an impressive three-year tenure with the Ciego de Avila in the Cuban National Series from 2013-2015.