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Hicks Opts Out of the 2020 Season and Other NL Central Transaction News

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MLB: St. Louis Cardinals-Workouts Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

7/13/20: Cardinals place RHP Jordan Hicks on the restricted list. Club Player Pool at 59.

Jordan Hicks has decided to opt out of the 2020 season, as reported by Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch and Anne Rogers of MLB.com. Hicks blew out his elbow in a June 22nd, 2019 game against the California Angels when he struck David Fletcher on a slider for the 2nd out in the top of the 9th inning. He had Tommy John surgery, and was lost for the season. The Cards placed Hicks back on the 60-day IL on February 12th, which was the first day that pitchers and catchers were allowed to report to the first spring training.

If the season had progressed as normal, the Cards expected Hicks to be lost until at least the All-Star Break, which would typically take place right about now. Players on the 60-day IL do not have to count against the 60-man Club Player Pool limit. The Cards nevertheless placed Hicks on their 60-man Club Player Pool when it was announced in late June because the club wanted Hicks to get screened for COVID in a timely manner and to be able continue to throw under the supervision of club officials. As summer camp got started, manager Mike Shilt announced that Hicks would not be available to start the season on July 24th, instead projecting a possible mid-August return to the bullpen.

Although Hicks had advanced to the point of throwing bullpen sessions, Rick Hummel mentioned in his chat today that Hicks was not happy with a recent session. Hicks has Type-1 diabetes, a condition which is said to put him at a high risk of severe complications in the event of a COVID-19 exposure. With a mid-August return to the bullpen, he might have been able to pitch for about a month and might have figured that it was just not worth the risk. Because of Hicks’ high risk pre-existing condition, it is being reported that he will receive his salary and service time credit for the 2020 season.

Hicks has never been optioned the minor leagues since his contract was purchased in 2018 and he was added to the active roster for 2018 opening day. That being the case, Hicks will receive a full year of service time credit, which will put him at exactly 3 years of major league service and make him eligible for arbitration for the first time in the offseason. Let me know in the comments if you can think of a comparable arbitration case.

One supposes that the Cards could have just left Hicks on the 60-day IL. But the restricted list is how clubs have handled COVID opt-out cases. This also eliminates the need to transfer Hicks from the 60-day IL to the restricted list when he’s ready to pitch. Players on the restricted list do not count against the 60-man CPP limit, the 40-man roster or the active roster. Goold noted that Hicks can continue his rehab, but it does not look like it will be with the club.

Hicks’ announcement throws the bullpen into even more uncertainty, as Genesis Cabrea and Ricardo Sanchez have tested positive for COVID for a second time, Alex Reyes has been unavailable for unknown reasons, and Giovanny Gallegos has been unable to travel from Mexico, again for unknown reasons. We suspect what the reasons are, but they have not been confirmed.

BREWERS

7/9/20: Added the following 13 players to their Club Player Pool, with all being assigned to the Alternate Training Site in Appleton, Wisconsin: LHP Clayton Andrews, RHP Phil Bickford, RHP Dylan File, LHP Antoine Kelly, LHP Angel Perdomo, LHP Ethan Small, RHP Trey Supak, C Mario Feliciano, IF Brice Turang, OF Thomas Dillard, OF Tristen Lutz, OF Corey Ray, OF Tyrone Taylor

Perdomo, Supak, Ray and Taylor are 40-man roster players, and with their additions, the Brewers now have all of their 40-man roster players on the CPP.

7/11/20: Placed LHP Eric Lauer, LHP Angel Perdomo and IF Luis Urias on the COVID-19 Related Injury List.

Perdomo and Urias tested positive for COVID-19, but have been reported as asymptomatic. Lauer did not test positive, but was placed on the list because he came into close contact with someone who was positive. The move for Lauer was described by Brewers’ MLB.com beat writer Adam McCalvey as a procedural move in case Lauer did not have time to get ready by opening day. In this article, McCalvey was the first writer I’ve ever seen to acknowledge an actual placement on the COVID-19 Related IL, despite all the transaction pages reporting it as a placement on the 10-day IL without an injury. I’m not saying McCalvey is the only one, but he’s the only one that I came across so far in researching this issue. I still haven’t figured out whether it’s a coding issue with MLB.com or not, but it’s safe to say that any time you see someone placed on the 10-day IL without an injury, what really happened was that the player was placed on the COVID-19 Related IL.

Both Urias and Lauer were acquired in the same trade with the Padres that sent Zach Davies and Trent Grisham to that club. The Brewers have been trying every way in the world to give Urias a starting job, wanting him to start the season at short over Orlando Arcia. But Urias broke the hamate bone in his left hand/wrist area during winter ball and had to have surgery even before the first spring training started. Now he is at risk of missing the start of the season.