UPDATE: According to T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com, the Rangers are interested in Hawpe. They are considering him as insurance at first base in case Mitch Moreland is slow coming back from wrist surgery.
9:31 PM: Brad Hawpe and Jorge Cantu news on the very same night? This Hot Stove is a-burnin’.
Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com is reporting that Hawpe could be close to signing a minor league contract with a spring training invite. With whom? No idea. But three teams are currently in the mix.
Hawpe signed with the Padres last winter and batted just .231/.301/.344 with four homers, 19 RBI and a .645 OPS over 216 plate appearances before being placed on the disabled list in June with a strained left middle finger. However, his left elbow was the bigger issue, eventually requiring Tommy John surgery in August. The Padres declined his $6 million option for 2012 in October, making him a free agent.
Despite the surgery, Hawpe is said to be healthy and ready to compete for a big league job during spring training. The 32-year-old is coming off two terrible seasons, but handles right-handed pitching pretty well and his home-road splits aren’t as crazy as you’d think for someone who played a large chunk of games in Colorado. He’s worth the gamble, but given his poor reputation as a defender, he’s probably better off in the American League where he could DH.
In Major League Baseball, players are routinely pressured to play through injury and pain. Sometimes it’s just a minor ache, and sometimes it’s a very serious injury. The pressure comes from everywhere: the players themselves, their peers, coaches, front offices, media, and fans. Players who develop a reputation for landing on the disabled list are described as “soft” and “fragile.” Players who battle through the pain get talked about as “gritty” and “dedicated.”
Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals are trying to encourage their players to be more honest about their health. The culture surrounding this is tough to change, but manager Mike Matheny wants his players to come to him if “anything that is off.” As Goold notes, Alex Reyes and Matt Bowman revealed they were, in Bowman’s words, not “entirely forthcoming.” Carlos Martinez said he pitched tentatively because he was “scared” of re-injuring himself. Matheny also called pitcher Michael Wacha “a great liar” when talking about his arm health.
Matt Carpenter has also played through injury and takes pride in it. He’s an example of the old mentality the club is trying to pierce through. Caarpenter said, “I’m a believer in if you’re getting paid to do a job and you’re capable of doing the job — even if it’s 85 percent of your best — I feel you have the obligation to be out there. That is the mentality I’ve always used. I could have very easily, at times last year, sat on the [disabled list], but I felt like I could still go out and do my job.”
Goold points out that players approach dealing with health issues differently depending on where they’re at in their careers. A young player who just got called up has pressure to stay in the big leagues and appear in games, so he may not want to address a health issue. A player who has already secured a multi-year contract may have less pressure on him and thus may be more willing to come to the trainer’s room.
I’ve long believed that player health will be the next arena in which front offices will separate themselves from the pack. Analytics had been that battleground for a while, but with every club now having an analytics department in some capacity, front offices will have to find value in new ways. Limiting the amount of time that players miss due to injury would be a significant boost for a team and it will start with players being forthcoming about what’s bothering them rather than trying to fight through pain.