The Royals have decided to baby Luke Hochevar

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Luke Hochevar is far from the kind of 22-year-old hotshot starting pitcher teams typically shut down in September.  He actually turned 28 today, and he’s currently sporting a 5.29 ERA in 96 big-league starts (and four relief appearances).  Nevertheless, the Royals have decided to have him hang it up for the season because of concerns about his workload.

The Kansas City Star’s Bob Dutton has the quotes:

“Could he finish the year?” manager Ned Yost asked. “Yeah. He wants to. But for me, it just  doesn’t make any sense to continue to push his innings when he’s in a good spot.  It gives us an opportunity to look at somebody else.”

The decision likely has a lot to do with last year’s reduced workload, the result of a sprained elbow ligament that sidelined him from mid-June until early September.  Hochevar ended up throwing just 103 innings then before jumping to 198 this year.

“He’s had a real nice second half,” Yost said, “and the innings are  way up. He ends on a real good note. He’s healthy. He’s strong. He’s ready to go  230 innings next year without missing a beat.”

Well, let’s not go that far.  Generally, one has to be pretty good to pitch 230 innings.  Hochevar is ending this season with a 4.68 ERA.  Yost is right about the second half improvement — he went 6-3 with a 3.52 ERA and a particularly impressive 1.13 WHIP in his final 12 starts — but he got some help from the schedule makers there.  Overall, his peripherals suggest that little has changed.  This year’s strikeout rate is a little worse than his career average, the walk rate is a little better and the home run rate is almost exactly the same.

Hochevar may yet make the jump from No. 4 starter to No. 3 starter, but it’s hard to see him having much more upside than that.  With his salary likely to increase to $3 million or so in arbitration next year, it’s still to be determined whether he’s going to fit into Kansas City’s long-term plans or not.

Cardinals extend José Martínez through 2020

Jose Martinez
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First baseman/outfielder José Martínez agreed to a two-year contract extension with the Cardinals on Saturday, per a team announcement. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that Martínez will receive $3.25 million in the deal plus incentives if he earns a more stable place within the starting lineup.

Martínez, 30, played 887 games in the minors before making his major-league debut with the Cardinals at the tail end of the 2016 season. The veteran first baseman has been nothing but productive in the three years since his debut, however, and turned in a career-best performance in 2018 after slashing .305/.364/.457 with 17 home runs, an .821 OPS, and 2.3 fWAR through 590 plate appearances. While he brings some positional flexibility to the table, he’ll be forced to compete against Dexter Fowler and Tyler O'Neill for a full-time gig in right field this year, as Paul Goldschmidt currently has a lock on first base.

According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the extension wasn’t solely precipitated by Martínez’s productivity in the majors, but by a competing offer from an unnamed Japanese team over the offseason. Goold adds that Martínez would have earned “significantly more than he would in the majors” had the club sold his rights. In the end, they ultimately elected to ink him to a more lucrative deal themselves. He’ll be eligible for arbitration in 2020.