Pirates southpaw Steven Brault was pulled from Friday’s start after experiencing discomfort in his left shoulder, per an official announcement from the team. The full extent of the injury has not been revealed, nor has the team determined what amount of time Brault may miss during his recovery. Still, shoulder issues of any severity are cause for some alarm.
Brault pitched into the fifth inning of the game and had just issued a four-pitch walk to the Brewers’ Orlando Arcia when he signaled to the dugout. He consulted with manager Clint Hurdle and the club’s head athletic trainer before leaving the mound, at which point he was replaced by right-hander Michael Feliz. This appears to be the first shoulder injury of his four-year career in the majors so far.
Prior to the injury, the 27-year-old lefty issued three hits, two walks, a run, and four strikeouts across four innings pitched. Through Friday, he’s 3-1 in nine starts with a 4.15 ERA, 4.8 BB/9, and 7.9 SO/9 across 60 2/3 innings in 2019. His loss would further hamper an already-compromised rotation, one that currently ranks 17th in the majors with a collective 4.95 ERA and 5.8 fWAR.
Around this time last year, the ink was drying on Manny Machado‘s 10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres and Bryce Harper was about to put the finishing touches on his 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies. We had gotten used to premier free agents hanging out in limbo until late February and even into March. This past offseason, however, was a return to normal. The top three free agents — Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, and Stephen Strasburg — all signed in December. Once the big names are off the board, the lesser free agents subsequently tend to find homes. There were a handful of noteworthy signings in January, but pretty much everyone was off the board when February began.
There are a handful of free agents remaining as I write this, with one name really sticking out: Yasiel Puig. Last season, between the Reds and Indians, Puig hit .267/.327/.458 with 24 home runs, 84 RBI, 76 runs scored, and 19 stolen bases in 611 plate appearances. He was one of only seven players in the league last year to hit at least 24 home runs and swipe at least 19 bases. While Puig has had some problems over the years, he still possesses a rare blend of power and speed that would seem useful.
The Marlins, White Sox, and Rockies have been linked to Puig this offseason. His market has been otherwise quiet since he became a free agent. The Athletic’s Jim Bowden suggests Puig will have to settle for a “pillow contract” — a one-year deal with which Puig reestablishes his market value, aiming to pursue a multi-year deal the following offseason. Along with the aforementioned three teams, Bowden suggests the Mariners, Indians, Pirates, Giants, Red Sox, and Cardinals as other teams that could potentially fit with Puig, which is not to be confused with teams having expressed interest in his services.