Joe Nathan is going to try and throw this weekend and obviously everyone hopes he’ll be OK. But let’s be honest: not many pitchers can throw with torn torn ligaments in their elbow and the chances of Nathan being the Twins’ closer this year are slim. Minnesota needs to look at other options. And according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale they’re doing so. Specifically, they’re scouting the Padres’ Heath Bell.
Bell is one of the best closers in the National League — 42 saves; 79Ks in 69 IP, 2.71 ERA in 2009 — and at $4 million this year, something of a bargain for a man of his talents. He also has closer’s facial hair, and that’s just not the kind of thing that can be taught.
Given how much the Twins have done to improve this offseason, the new ballpark and the fact that the AL Central is totally, totally winable, you have to think that they’re not going to want to give the closer’s job to, say, Jon Rauch, if it’s avoidable.
Barring physicals and roster reshuffling, the Yankees and Reds are all but ready to finalize a deal involving right-hander Sonny Gray, Fancred’s Jon Heyman reported Saturday. The exact return has not been confirmed, but Heyman hears that the Yankees will receive top infield prospect Shed Long and a draft pick in exchange for Gray, with an as-yet unnamed third player possibly involved as well.
According to several reports earlier in the day, negotiations came down to the wire as the Yankees first had their eye on the Reds’ no. 6 prospect, 22-year-old catcher Tyler Stephenson. The Reds ultimately elected to hang on to Stephenson and send Long to New York, as they currently have a greater need for catching depth and weren’t expected to be able to provide a full-time role for the infielder in 2019. Long, 23, is ranked seventh in the Reds’ system and appears to be nearing his MLB debut after batting .261/.353/.412 with 12 homers and a .765 OPS across 522 PA at Double-A Pensacola last year.
Gray figures to step into a prominent role within the Reds’ rotation, which is likely to be a mix of recently-acquired left-hander Alex Wood and right-handers Tanner Roark, Luis Castillo, Anthony DeSclafani, and Tyler Mahle, among several others. Despite Gray’s struggle to remain productive on the mound — he’s three years removed from his only All-Star campaign and turned in a disappointing 4.90 ERA and 2.16 SO/BB rate in 2018 — he might yet help stabilize a team that trotted out the fifth-worst rotation in the majors last season. If, on the other hand, the veteran righty finds the hitter-friendly confines of Great American Ball Park a little too unforgiving this year, the Reds can take some comfort in the fact that he’s due to enter free agency in 2020.