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.
In their second trade on Friday, the Phillies dealt right-hander Jeremy Hellickson to the Orioles for outfielder Hyun Soo Kim, minor league lefty Garrett Cleavinger and international signing bonus slots. The Orioles will also receive cash considerations from the Phillies.
Hellickson will bolster a pitching staff that, while not well-positioned to contend for a division title, still stands a slim chance of reaching the postseason this year. The Orioles have not yet revealed where he’ll land in the rotation, though MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli speculates that the right-hander could supplant either Chris Tillman or Ubaldo Jimenez.
The 30-year-old righty went 6-5 in 20 starts with the Phillies, racking up a 4.75 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 5.2 SO/9 through 112 1/3 innings in 2017. It’s a bit of a comedown from his performance in 2016, during which he maintained a sub-4.00 ERA for the first time since 2012. While Hellickson’s numbers haven’t been outstanding, he’s been relatively healthy and hasn’t sustained anything more serious than a mild knee sprain and back tightness over the last year. His presence should bring some consistency to an ailing Orioles rotation that currently ranks third-worst in the league with a cumulative 5.90 ERA and 2.2 fWAR.
The Phillies will receive some outfield depth in 29-year-old left fielder Hyun Soo Kim, who carries an underwhelming .232/.305/.288 batting line with five extra bases and 10 RBI through his first 142 PA in 2017. He made just 33 starts in left field this season and could step into a similarly limited role in Philadelphia’s outfield after the club traded Howie Kendrick to the Nationals on Friday.
Cleavinger, 23, has seen mixed results in his first Double-A stint this season. The left-hander dragged a 6.28 ERA, 5.4 BB/9 and 9.8 SO/9 through 38 2/3 innings with Double-A Bowie and has struggled to improve both his control and velocity during three seasons in the Orioles’ farm system.
Although the deal netted Baltimore some much-needed pitching depth, they still have a long way to go before they can give the AL’s top teams a run for their money. Per FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, it doesn’t look like they’re done adding at the deadline just yet:
The Mets acquired closer AJ Ramos from the Marlins, the team reported Friday. The Marlins will receive two prospects in the deal, right-hander Merandy Gonzalez and outfielder Ricardo Cespedes.
The trade comes as some surprise given the Mets’ current status as non-contenders in the NL East, though MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo points out that they could position themselves for the division title again in 2018. They also have a proven closer in right-hander Addison Reed and will presumably continue to field offers for him before he hits free agency following the 2017 season.
Ramos, 30, is coming off of his first All-Star campaign with the Marlins in 2016. He racked up 20 saves in 40 appearances and compiled a 3.63 ERA, 5.0 BB/9 and 10.7 SO/9 over 39 2/3 innings in 2017. He’s due $6.55 million this season and will remain under team control through 2019.
The Marlins, meanwhile, will receive the Mets’ No. 9 and No. 22 prospects. Gonzalez, 21, began the season in rookie ball and advanced to High-A St. Lucie in June, pitching to a cumulative 1.78 ERA, 1.7 BB/9 and 8.4 SO/9 through 106 innings. He was ranked No. 5 among the Mets’ pitching prospects and No. 9 in their system, and has found some success in the lowest rungs of New York’s farm system despite some command issues and trouble defining his breaking balls.
Cespedes, 19, progressed to Short-Season A Brooklyn in 2017 after several stints in rookie ball. In 81 PA with Brooklyn, the center fielder slashed .240/.278/.280 with a double and 12 RBI before getting sidelined with an undisclosed injury.