Mariners’ left-hander Drew Smyly will not start the season with the team after sustaining a flexor strain in his left elbow, reports MLB.com’s Greg Johns. The lefty reportedly injured his elbow in camp on Tuesday during a bullpen workout. He was expected to take the fourth spot in the rotation behind Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton, but club GM Jerry Dipoto says that a 6-8 week setback looks likely at this point.
Smyly, 27, completed a three-year track with the Rays in 2016. He pitched through 175 1/3 innings, his first full season after rehabbing a torn labrum in 2015, and came out the other side with a 4.88 ERA, 2.5 BB/9 and 8.6 SO/9. The Mariners acquired Smyly in January for outfielder Mallex Smith and two minor leaguers, and were expected to utilize the lefty as a core member of their rotation in 2017.
Now, it’s up to fellow left-hander Ariel Miranda to fill the No. 4 spot as the team prepares to open the season on Monday. According to Dipoto, Miranda was assigned to Triple-A Tacoma in order to remain stretched out as a potential sixth starter (via Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News-Tribune). In other words, the team was anticipating some health issues with their rotation, though maybe not quite this early in the year. Smyly is expected to seek additional opinions on his elbow in the coming week.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that Major League Baseball has banned all transactions with Liga Mexicana de Beisbol (LMB), popularly known as the Mexican League. As of now, all 30 teams are prohibited from signing players under contract with LMB teams. The ban was issued due to Major League Baseball’s contention that “corruption” and “fraud” run rampant in the player acquisition process.
Passan describes the issues in detail, and they sound pretty compelling. The upshot: LMB clubs — which have full control over their players — are taking advantage of them, taking most if not all of the signing bonuses MLB teams give them after negotiating for their rights. Mexican teams often sign players when they’re 15 years-old so that, once they are old enough for American teams to approach them, they’re in the position to take a usurious cut.
Passan says Major League Baseball is demanding greater transparency from LMB before it’s willing to lift the ban. He also says that the MLBPA is in “lockstep” with Major League Baseball on the matter, which makes sense given that, if MLB’s claims are accurate, players are being exploited here. He also says that if LMB does not change its ways, there is a “Plan B,” though it’s not clear what that is.
There aren’t a ton of Mexican players signed by MLB teams each year, but there are enough to make this a significant issue that is worth watching.