aroldis chapman getty

What, exactly, are we supposed to do to prevent Aroldis Chapman-style injuries?

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The scene from Arizona in which Aroldis Chapman was smacked in the face by that Sal Perez comebacker is simply awful. He had literally no time to react and, while the latest reports from the hospital are encouraging, it may be a while before Chapman is pitching again. And there is no guarantee that the injuries and the experience won’t change him. Just terrible stuff.

Baseball fans and commentators haven’t had much time to react either, but they’re reacting all the same. Here’s a column from 2AM this morning — just a couple hours after the incident — from Fox’s Jon Paul Morosi:

But the sad reality is, as a practical matter, pitchers aren’t much safer now than on Sept. 5, 2012 — when Brandon McCarthy, then with the Oakland Athletics, was hit in the head by a line drive . . . Whatever engineering expertise needs to be mustered — and however large the checks that need to be written — an $8 billion industry should be able to find the answers . . . And so the next step is both obvious and imperative: Baseball must find a way to offer its pitchers a little more protection, to lessen the chances of our national pastime witnessing the worst kind of tragedy.

I sympathize with the sentiment, but I’m not sure what exactly is so obvious about the next step. At least in any specific terms. As Morosi himself notes, a helmet wouldn’t have protected Chapman here and even if it would have, pitchers have uniformly rejected the new reinforced cap that was introduced this spring. If we can’t easily or practically put helmets on guys in the line of fire (and I acknowledge the difficulties in doing that) it’s not going to be any easier to develop or mandate things like masks, face guards, reinforced rec-specs or whatever else may cut down on the risk to pitchers.

And if they were to mandate such measures, it’s not like we’d see a safer game overnight. Practical considerations would mean that any significant new equipment — especially ones that would mess with a pitcher’s comfort, vision and range of motion — would mean that they’d have to be grandfathered in. Kids who pitch with face masks in little league now would probably be the first generation that could reasonably be expected to do so when they’re 25 years-old and playing in the bigs. You can’t expect Clayton Kershaw to wear one of these next week.

I’m not one of those people who just blithely throw up their hands and say “accidents happen, that’s life in baseball!” But I do believe it’s way easier to say “we must do something!” than it is to actually solve a problem like this. Or, really, to even define a problem like this. Believe me, if it was, it would’ve been addressed long before now.

Dallas Keuchel, Astros did talk long-term contract

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Dallas Keuchel‘s agent Darek Braunecker told MLB Network Radio in early January that he had not engaged in any long-term contract negotiations with the Astros’ front office. Two weeks later, the sides reached a one-year, $7.25 million agreement, avoiding a salary arbitration hearing. So was a bigger financial commitment ever discussed?

Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle has the answer, writing in his offseason review that the “Astros and Keuchel have had substantial talks about extensions [this winter] … but to no avail.”

Keuchel carries all the leverage in the world after winning the 2015 American League Cy Young Award with a 2.48 ERA, 1.017 WHIP, and 216/51 K/BB ratio in 232 innings. He also made three appearances in the postseason to a 2.57 ERA in 14 frames.

Keuchel’s $7.25 million salary for 2016 will be a record for a player in his first year of arbitration eligibility. Locking up some of his free agent years (2019, 2020, 2021, etc.) would likely take a commitment of $120 million or more.

Houston has the 28-year-old left-hander under contractual control through 2018, and it sounds like the plan is to go season-to-season with his salaries.

He’ll remain a huge value to a good-looking Astros team.

Yadier Molina gets cast removed from surgically-repaired thumb

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Yadier Molina underwent surgery to repair a ligament tear in his right thumb shortly after the Cardinals were eliminated from the NLDS by the Cubs, and then he needed a followup procedure two months later.

It’s been an offseason of rest and rehab for the seven-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glover, though he’s about ready to ramp up the intensity of workouts with the beginning of spring training approaching …

Brayan Pena was signed to a two-year, $5 million free agent contract this winter to provide more reliable depth behind the plate. He’ll be the Cardinals’ starter at catcher come Opening Day if Yadi isn’t quite ready.

Molina started a whopping 131 games behind the plate in 2015.

Jose Fernandez wants $30 million a year, Marlins don’t plan on paying

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You’ve heard the stories by now. Jose Fernandez does not get along with Marlins management and is doubtful to sign a long-term contract with the team.

There’s still time for those relationships to be repaired — Fernandez can’t become a free agent until after the 2018 season — but we also have a monetary issue at play.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes Sunday that the Marlins are “under the impression” Fernandez and his representatives want $30 million per year on a long-term deal, a figure the Marlins “have no plans to meet.”

If the Marlins won’t pay, Fernandez and his reps will seek that number when the ace right-hander reaches free agency. That could be the same offseason Bryce Harper tries for $500 million.

A friend of Fernandez told Jackson that the 23-year-old native of Cuba was upset about some of the trades the Marlins made last summer and the removal of pitching coach Chuck Hernandez. You probably heard talk of Miami shopping Fernandez this winter, but the asking price was predictably sky-high.

Fernandez has been limited to 19 starts over the last two years because of Tommy John surgery and a biceps injury, but he boasts a stellar 2.40 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 10.5 K/9 in 289 career major league frames. He will make $2.8 million in 2016 and carries two more years of arbitration eligibility.

If he can put together a run of 30-start, 200-inning seasons, Fernandez will get that $30 million per year and probably much more.

Michael Brantley’s timetable off shoulder surgery is “hazy”

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Paul Hoynes at the Cleveland Plain Dealer has an in-depth look at how the Indians will manage their outfield during the early part of the 2016 season, in the absence of star Michael Brantley.

Brantley underwent labrum surgery on his right shoulder this past November and has not picked up a bat all winter. “In the off-season people know I love to hit,” Brantley acknowledged to Hoynes late last week. ”I hit a lot. It’s just been a change in my timetable.”

Hoynes says the projected date for Brantley’s 2016 debut is “hazy,” guessing that it might happen around late April or early May if everything continues to go smoothly. Shoulders can be tricky, for hitters and pitchers.

Rajai Davis, Abraham Almonte, and Lonnie Chisenhall figure to make up Cleveland’s primary starting outfield while Brantley is finishing his rehabilitation. Collin Cowgill and Joey Butler could also be in the mix. It’s a lacking group, tasked with replacing one of the most productive players in baseball.

Brantley, 28, has slashed .319/.382/.494 over the last two seasons, tallying 35 home runs, 90 doubles, 181 RBI, and 38 stolen bases in 293 games.

Could the talented Tribe be in for another slow start?

Shouldn’t this club be spending more money?