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Around the Horn: News & Notes 3/17

What is going on, Ball Boys and Girls? I hope you guys are doing super well as always. If you missed it recently had my second piece published with Authenticity Mags. I talk about how baseball looks and the long-term changes post-2020. Check it out here. The future and present series, fantasy dugout, and power rankings are coming out regularly, so please check those out as well. Today, we got league news, free agent signings, rumors and notes, trade announcements and rumors, injury updates, and prospect buzz. To check out last week's news, click here.

League News:

-"Players and coaches will be able to access footage of a past at-bat or pitching sequence during a game, via dugout iPads, with the league editing the footage to ensure that teams can't use video for underhanded purposes — like stealing signals, for instance. Before 2020, it had become common practice for a hitter to visit a clubhouse computer terminal to review footage from his previous plate appearance. Still, clubhouse terminals were banned due to COVID-19 concerns last year. This certainly played a role in some hitters suddenly struggling at the plate since they had gotten too used to making video-aided adjustments."

According to a statement from Major League Baseball, "The 2021 minor league season will see some new and altered rules at the various levels of play. "Consistent with the preferences of our fans, the rule changes being tested are designed to increase action on the basepaths, create more balls in play, improve the pace and length of games, and reduce player injuries," the statement reads." Some of the changes include AAA bases increasing from 15 square inches to 18 square inches. The rule should reduce collisions on the bases and increase SB success.

AA will experiment with a rule that addresses defensive shifts, "the defensive team must have a minimum of four players on the infield, each of whom must have both feet completely in front of the outer boundary of the infield dirt." The point of this rule is to increase the batting average of balls in play or BABIP.

High-A ball "pitchers are required to disengage the rubber prior to throwing to any base, with the penalty of a balk in the event the pitcher fails to comply." This rule was instituted in the Atlantic League in 2019, "resulted in a significant increase in stolen base attempts and an improved success rate."

A Low-A ball allows a pitcher to throw a maximum of two pickoffs or make two step-offs per plate appearance. However, the pitcher can make a 3rd attempt, but it must result in an out.

The Low-A West league will adopt on-field timers "to enforce time limits between delivery of pitches, inning breaks, and pitching changes." The Low-A Southeast league will use the Automatic Ball-Strike System to assist home plate umpires with balling balls and strikes to ensure a consistent strike zone and determine the system's optimal strike zone.

-OF Nick Markakis called it a career this last week after 15 seasons in the MLB. "My No. 1 decision and my main focus on this is obviously my kids and my family," Markakis said, adding that he's both fortunate and thankful to have been able to play the game as long as he has. Markakis wraps up his career with a .288/.357/.423 slash over 932PA. He earned 1 All-Star nod, 1 Silver Slugger, 3 Gold Gloves, 2388H, 189HR, 1046RBI to give him a career 34WAR according to baseball-reference 28.7WAR according to FanGraphs.

-The Dodgers showed their true colors. OF Andrew Toles "has been battling mental health issues that have kept him from playing professionally since 2018, but the club still renewed his contract for this season, according to Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. Toles is on the restricted list, meaning he won't collect his salary, but the team's decision could enable him to maintain healthcare access, Plunkett notes."

-Padres LHP Blake Snell gave us some insight on the new ball the MLB is using. He stated, "The laces are thicker, allowing me to dig my nails in a while throwing curveballs. Also, fly balls don't carry as much.

-OF Ryan Braun said back in February he wasn't interested in continuing his playing career. That still seems to be the case, as Braun stated in a radio interview Monday that he hasn't touched a baseball or a bat since last season ended, Adam McCalvy of tweets. Braun also revealed that he's "strongly leaning" toward retirement, though he's not ready to commit to a decision yet.

-LeBron James and baseball? James is now a part-owner of the Boston Red Sox. Per Michael Silverman of the Boston Globe," James agreed to purchase "an undisclosed amount of" shares in the John Henry-led Fenway Sports Group, according to Silverman, who adds that Major League Baseball first has to approve the accord. The deal also includes pieces of the New England Sports Network, the Liverpool Football Club, Fenway Sports Management, and Roush Fenway Racing."

--It is worth noting the A's GM Billy Beane will also join this group in the future. Also, KC Chiefs Patrick Mahomes became part-owner of the Royals last July.

-The Blue Jays are picking up their option on manager Charlie Montoyo for the 2022 season.

Roster News:

-The Rays started working out Wander Franco at 3B while Yandy Diaz and Yoshi Tsutsugo could slide over the 1B while Choi recovers from injury. However, Franco will start the season at AAA, and getting him extra time at 3B could prove to be vital for the club in 2021.

-The Giants look likely to roll with Jake McGee as the top choice for save opportunities in 2021.

-The Astros pitching staff may look quite interesting to start the season. Jake Odorizzi, Pedro Barz, Cristian Javier are all question marks and don't look to be trending towards being ready for opening day. Luis Garcia and Bryan Abreu could get the early nod.

-The Angels optioned Brandon Marsh to minor league camp on 3/16. They also selected RHRP Junor Guerra's contract, which all but means he will make the opening day roster.

-The Cubs NRI Shelby Miller has been throwing a great slider and showed excellent command this spring. He is pushing for a bullpen spot. He makes it an option for spot starts, open, or comes in early in games. The Cubs have one open spot on the 40.

-Brewers INF Travis Shaw can opt-out of his contract on 3/15. However, it looks like he will make the opening day roster. Shaw was officially added to the 40 man roster and should be on the opening day roster.

-Tigers NRI Julio Teheran has shown that he has command and control of his slider once again and good arm strength as he is hitting 94MPH on the gun. I would fully expect him to break camp with the Tigers.

-The Cardinals will be without RHP Miles Mikolas for the beginning of the regular season; RHP John Gant is in line to open the season as the Cardinal's 5th starter. Daniel Ponce de Leon, Jake Woodford, and Johan Oviedo are still in the running.

-The A's will continue to build up LHP Cole Irvin as a starter for this upcoming season. The team has also taken a long look at Pete Kozma, who has been on fire during the spring.

-Rangers NRI Matt Bush has a good chance to earn a bullpen spot after Jonathan Hernandez will be opening the year on the IL. Fellow Ranger's pitcher Jordan Lyles will be limited to 50-60 pitch outings to start the season.

-Indians NRI RHRP Anthony Gose has impressed in camp with his upper-90s fastball and excellent slider. However, OF Billy Hamilton will not make the opening roster. The club will either trade or release the vet OF. UPDATE: The team released him on 3/13

--The Indians will also be deploying Andres Gimenez as the starting SS to open the season while Amed Rosario is taking reps all over the place, including CF.

-The Reds will be using a 5-man rotation to start the season. Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, and Tyler Mahle are locked, according to David Bell. At the same time, Wade Miley will fill in the four spot and hope to rebound. Which leaves Michael Lorenzen, Tejay Antone, Jeff Hoffman, and Jose De Leon is competing for spot five.

--The Reds also added INF Jonathan India and LHP Brandon Finnegan to the MLB roster on 3/12. David Bell said they are both officially in the running to make the team.

---3B and possibly soon to be SS slimmed-down Eugenio Suarez started at SS on 3/16 and could be a legit possibility come opening day. The move would shift Mike Moustakas to 3B and open up 2B for Jonathan India.

Hype News:

-Royals and SS Adalberto Mondesi recently discussed an extension. No deal is on the horizon. There is plenty to work through on both sides to get the deal done.

-Cubs 3B Kris Bryant and SS Javier Baez have expressed openness to a club's contract extension. However, there has been no discussion up to this point. Anthony is also willing to talk extension as well.

-Mariners Ty France will not have a set position; however, Scott Servais plans to get him at least 500PA in 2020, which will be great for the M's.

Free Agent Signings:

-The Pirates inked RHP Trevor Cahill to a 1yr deal worth $1.5mil and have an opportunity to earn $1mil in incentives. 2020 was kind to Cahill as he posted a 3.24ERA/4.38SIERA over 25IP for the Giants.

-The Orioles inked INF Maikel Franco to a deal. Franco played in all 60games with the Royals in 2020, posting a .278/.321/.457 line together. Franco singing is an excellent fit for the O's and could be flipped for value down the line.

Free Agent Rumors/Notes:

-The Cardinals could add some veteran pitching to the mix with Rick Porcello, Trevor Cahill, and Homer Bailey being mentioned.

-The Blue Jays outrighted RHP Jacob Waguespack to AAA Buffalo

-The Oakland A's have not attended any of Yoenis Cespedes' recent showcases. "We're not in position, unfortunately (to sign him)," said manager Bob Melvin when asked.


-The Indians traded INF Mike Freeman to the Reds for C Trent Rosecrans. Freeman spent the past two seasons as a utility piece for the Indians, posting a .270/.353/.377 in 256PA.

-The Cubs returned Rule 5 Draft pick, Gary Fenter, to the Orioles.

-The A's returned Rule 5 pick, Dany Jimenez, to the Blue Jays

Trade Rumors:

New Injuries:

-It feels wrong to say this, but Orioles RHP Felix Hernandez exited his outing 3/16 with discomfort in his pitching elbow. The Orioles will know more after King Felix is re-evaluated today, 3/17.

-Nationals Stephen Strasburg left his Spring Training outing on 3/14 with calf discomfort. It is only a slight strain. "It's not something that's going to require any sort (of) long-term recovery. It's definitely good news. So day-to-day," Strasburg added.

-Padres C Austin Nola suffered a fractured left middle finger on 3/14. We should know a clear timetable soon. Victor Caratini and Luis Campusano will hold it down behind the plate for now.

-Mariners LHP Roenis Elias suffered a severe injury to his throwing forearm/elbow; manager Scott Servais told reporters on 3/14. Update as of 3/16, Elias does have a torn UCL and will undergo TJ surgery. The M's offered Elias a two-year MiLB deal to keep him in the organization as he recovers.

-Yankees Miguel Andujar has been held back in camp due to soreness in his right hand/wrist area and saw a specialist on 3/15. Seeing a specialist almost guarantees he will start the season on the IL.

-Giants RHP Dedniel Nunez sprained his UCL in his pitching elbow on 3/15 and will go for a second opinion. Fellow Giants pitcher Alex Wood is dealing with a stiff back and will visit a spine specialist this week.

-Rays OF Brett Phillips will miss 3-4 weeks with a Grade 1 left hamstring strain.

-Red Sox utility-man Danny Santana is battling a foot infection. There is no timetable for his return as of 3/15.

-Red Sox RP Ryan Braiser is unlikely to be ready for opening day. After a broken pinky late in the off-season and missing early parts of camp for personal reasons has set back.

-Nationals RHP fireballer Tanner Rainey has yet to pitch in spring ball due to a minor muscle strain near his right collarbone. He threw a 30-pitch pen session on 3/13 and is hopeful for opening day.

-The Brewers saw both OF Derek Fisher and P Adrian House leave the game on 3/14 due to injury. Fisher will be out a while with his left hamstring. Houser left the game with right thumb discomfort.

-The Rangers could place Willie Calhoun on the IL to begin the season due to a groin injury that has limited his playing time in tame.

-Reds OF Shogo Akiyama left the game on 3/13 with a tight hamstring and will be re-evaluated on 3/14. Teammate Sonny Gray is likely starting the season on the IL due to a recurring back issue. Akiyama will be put on the IL to begin the season.

-Phillies Brad Miller was scratched from the game on 3/13 due to a ribcage injury sustained during a running drill. There is some worry that he tweaked his oblique, which could require multiple weeks on the IL. Miller will be re-evaluated around 3/20 to gauge his status for opening day.

-Phillies teammate RHP Spencer Howard was scratched from his start on 3/15 due to a back spasm. The severity of the issue isn't known. However, it casts more doubt he will crack into a rotation spot come opening day.

-Orioles RHP Hunter Harvey exited his outing Friday, 3/12, with a left oblique issue. The severity isn't known yet.

-Pirates RHP Blake Cederlind was placed on the 60-Day IL with a UCL injury. At this time, he and the Pirates "are discussing what the best-recommended intervention is to treat the injury." The news broke on 3/12

-Padres OF Trent Grisham left the game on 3/11 due to a slight hamstring strain.

-Yankees C Robinson Chirinos has been diagnosed with a fractured right wrist on 3/11. "Wrist and hand specialists will be consulted in the coming days to determine the best next steps," according to the team's official statement. Chirinos will get a second opinion on 3/15 to provide clarity on surgery or not. As of the visit results, Chirinos underwent surgery on 3/16 and will be out 4-6 weeks.

-A's RHP Mike Fiers felt some back discomfort in his most recent pen session on 3/10. It isn't clear how this will affect his status for opening day. As of 3/13, he suffered a setback which puts him questionable for opening day. The MRI results yielded hip inflammation for Fiers and will receive an injection and be rested. Opening day is a longshot for Fiers as of 3/15.

-According to Kim Ng, Marlins RHP Jorge Guzman is battling elbow inflammation and will be out a bit of time.

Injury Updates:

-Astros starts Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez both made their spring debut yesterday, Tuesday, 3/16.

-Yankees LHRP Zack Britton had arthroscopic elbow surgery on 3/15 and should return in about 3-4 months ideally.

-Phillies C JT Realmuto resumed baseball activities on 3/11, and the team is optimistic he will be ready for opening day.

-White Sox C Yasmani Grandal played in his first spring game on 3/13 as DH. It isn't known when he will return to duty behind the plate.

-Brewers CF Lorenzo Cain is expected to return to action by this upcoming weekend. Teammate Ray Black will begin throwing off a mound by the end of the week.

-Mets Carlos Carrasco played catch on 3/14 and threw a pen session on 3/16.

-Mariners OF Jarred Kelenic met with trainers to set a course to return to action on 3/13. Fellow Mariner Shed Long is still dealing with inflammation in his right shin and doesn't look like he will be healthy enough to impact the utility role.

-Giants OF Luis Alexander Basabe will miss 6-8 weeks with a left wrist sprain.

-Blue Jays RHP Nate Pearson is returned to the mound on Saturday, 3/13, to throw a bullpen session.

-Braves INF Ender Inciarte has been hampered by a thumb injury that has kept him out since March 4th. The injury has opened the door for prospects Cristian Pache and Drew Waters.

-Cubs C Austin Romine hasn't played since 3/6 due to a right knee sprain. The injury isn't too serious, and there isn't a plan to return to action.

-Astros C Jason Castro has a strained oblique; the injury has kept him out of action since 3/2. However, it shouldn't keep him out of the question for opening day.

-Cardinals RHP Miles Mikolas got positive results on his shoulder after imaging on 3/11. He has been taken off his throwing program and has no clear timetable when returning to the mound. The imaging showed some inflammation, and he will be shut down 7-10 days as of 3/12

-Angels RHP Gerardo Reyes and Brendan McCurry will undergo TJ surgery and be on the shelf for the next 14-15 months and miss the 2021 season.

New COVID-19:

-It's new to me; Giants 1B Brandon Belt is in question for opening day. As he has spent several weeks recovering from COVID-19, then a mono case, and he is still recovering from heel surgery last October.

COVID-19 Updates:

-A's RHP Frankie Montas is expected to be ready for opening day after a bout with COVID-19 early in camp. He was activated from the COVID IL on 3/15

Prospect Buzz:

-Rangers OF prospect Bayron Lora was hospitalized on 3/13 after being involved in a deadly collision. One of Lora's passengers was killed, and the others were in serious condition. Lora was released from the hospital on 3/14. The Rangers released a statement, saying, "We are aware of the accident involving Bayron Lora and several other individuals today in the Dominican Republic. We are working to gather more information at this time. Our thoughts and prayers are with the individuals who were involved in this accident and with their families. We will have no further comment until we have more information on the accident. Thank you for your understanding."

-Rockies former #3 overall pick Brendan Rodgers left the game on 3/13 with a hamstring strain. If healthy and cleared, Rodgers should slot in as the everyday 2B for the Rockies.

-Astros pitching prospect Forrest Whitley will undergo TJ surgery and will the entire 2021 season. Injuries have hampered the 23yo, 2016 1st round pick since the 50 game suspension in 2018. Since the suspension, he has had shoulder/oblique injuries, forearm problems that shut him down in 2020, and now a 14-15 month layoff with TJ.

-Angels prospect duo of Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh are both dealing with their respective injuries, and both will most likely begin the season at the Angels alternate training site and then with the AAA team in Salt Lake. Adell is working out again as of 3/16. Marsh was optioned to minors camp on 3/16. I would assume he starts the season in either AA or AAA.

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