4/17/21: Placed OF Christian Yelich on the 10-day IL, retroactive to April 14th (lower back strain). Recalled RHP Eric Yardley from the ATS.
4/22/21: Activated C Jacob Nottingham from the 10-day IL and designated him for assignment. 40-man roster at 39.
4/23/21: Placed IF Jace Peterson on the 10-day IL, retroactive to April 22nd (left thumb cryotherapy). Activated 2B Kolten Wong from the 10-day IL.
4/24/21: Placed LHP Brett Anderson (strained right hamstring) and RHP Josh Lindblom (right knee effusion) on the 10-day IL. Recalled RHP Phil Bickford and OF Corey Ray from the ATS.
4/26/21: Optioned OF Corey Ray to the ATS. Purchased the contract of UT Pablo Reyes from the ATS. 40-man roster full.
4/27/21: Placed C Manny Pina on the 10-day IL (fractured left great toe). Placed IF Daniel Robertson on the 7-day Concussion IL. Optioned RHP Phil Bickford to the ATS. Recalled RHP Patrick Weigel, C Luke Maile and OF Corey Ray from the ATS.
4/28/21: Optioned OF Corey Ray to the ATS. Purchased the contract of RHP Zack Godley from the ATS. To make room on the 40-man roster, designated RHP Phil Bickford for assignment. Noted the loss of C Jacob Nottingham to the Seattle Mariners on an outright assignment waiver claim. 40-man roster still full.
4/29/21: Placed RHP Corbin Burnes on the COVID-19 Related IL. Placed RHP Zack Godley on the 10-day IL (right index finger contusion). Optioned RHP Patrick Weigel to the ATS. Purchased the contract of RHP Jordan Zimmerman. Recalled RHP Alec Bettinger and LHP Eric Lauer from the ATS. 40-man roster still full.
The Brewers have had a boatload of injuries. Yelich had to come out of the April 11th game against the Cardinals in the 2nd inning with a back injury. He hasn’t played since, and now that Cain is also on the injured list, the club has been using Billy McKinney in left, Jackie Bradley, Jr. in center and Avisail Garcia in right. They have Tyrone Taylor in reserve. The only position-player left on the 40-man was OF Corey Ray. Initially, the club just decided to bite the bullet, go with 14 pitchers, recall Yardley (who had just been optioned 5 days before) and go with a 14-man staff and 4-man bench.
After running out of starting outfielders, the club started running out of bench players and pitchers. Jace Peterson had been dealing with a thumb injury since spring training, and placing him on the IL was the corresponding roster move to activate Kolten Wong. Peterson started six of the eleven games that Wong missed with his IL stint. Backup infielder Daniel Robertson was hit in the head by Cubs reliever Jason Adam in the 9th inning of the April 25th game, and backup catcher Manny Pina fouled a pitch off of his left big toe the next day and broke it. Another catcher, Jacob Nottingham, was DFAd simply because he wasn’t hurt anymore, was out of options, and the club had no room for a fifth catcher on the 40-man roster. Corey Ray was on the roster for a hot minute, but he had to give way to Pablo Reyes because the club needed another infielder.
Reyes originally signed with the Pirates as an 18-year old undrafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in May of 2012. He had a nice showing in a September cup of coffee in 2018, but didn’t hit in extended action in 2019. About a month after he was outrighted to AAA in January of 2020, he was popped with an 80-game suspension for testing positive for the PED Boldenone. Although he was not on a 40-man roster when the suspension was announced, my best understanding is that he was disciplined under the major league program because his 2019 deal was a major league split contract deal. For that reason, sitting out the whole 2020 season cleared his 80-game suspension. He was declared a Rule 55 minor league free agent, then signed a minor league deal with the Brewers with an invite to 2021 spring training. He impressed in spring with his offense, plate discipline and positional versatility, but fell short of making the roster. Although he hasn’t hit much in the majors, he has two minor league options remaining, a career .351 OBP in the minors and has played every position except catcher and first base.
Now we get to the pitching injuries. The club lost both #4 starter Brett Anderson and Josh Lindblom to a hamstring and knee injury, respectively, in the April 24th game. Lindblom lost out on the #5 starter job to Freddy Peralta. He replaced Anderson in the April 24th game and would have been the first man up to replace Anderson in the rotation, but he was also put on the shelf.
The club decided to add Zack Godley, a late non-roster invitee to camp, to make the start on April 28th in Anderson’s turn. This is Godley’s sixth organization since 2013. Initially drafted in the 10th round of the 2013 draft by the Cubs, he was traded to the Diamondbacks and spent part of every season from 2015 through 2019 in their rotation. After being DFAd in August of 2019, he was claimed by the Blue Jays and DFAd again that September, electing free agency in lieu of an outright assignment. He signed a minor league deal with the Tigers for 2020, but was released twice before signing another minor league deal with the Red Sox in July of 2020. The Red Sox added him to the active roster, and he pitched in 8 games with 7 starts before his season ended with a right elbow flexor strain. His strikeout percentage was below average, he allowed 9 homers in 28.2 IP, and he elected free agency again in lieu of an outright assignment.
In the 3rd inning of Godley’s start, a pitch hit his right index finger while he bunted the ball. He had to be removed from the game, and is now on the IL himself. He’s out of options, so his stay on the 40-man roster might be short. To make matters even worse, Corbin Burnes, who has 49 strikeouts in 5 starts without a walk, has also been placed on the injured list without a reason. The club won’t give any other information, which means he’s been placed on the COVID-19 Related IL, and could mean anything from a positive test, to side effects from a vaccine, to being in close contact with someone who has the virus, among other possibilities. The Brewers are in the middle of a 17-game stretch without a day off until May 10th. Eric Lauer has being recalled to make the start on April 29th to give the starters an extra day of rest. Unless Burnes’s issue can be resolved before Sunday, May 2nd, the club will need another starter to take his spot, as well.
Alec Bettinger was also recalled on the 29th as an extra bullpen arm in the meantime. He had an elbow injury in spring training and didn’t pitch in any games. He was in the AA Biloxi rotation in 2019 and has never pitched in AAA, although he was added to the club’s 2020 Club Player Pool a bit late in the game in August of last year. The club only has two other pitchers left on the 40-man roster, and only one is healthy. Dylan File had surgery on February 4th to repair a stress fracture in his right elbow, and will be out for half the season at least. Because he didn’t have any major league service last season, the club could legally option him within a certain window in spring without placing him on the major-league injured list. The last one is Chad Sobotka, the 2nd reliever the club acquired from the Braves earlier this month in the Orlando Arcia trade. That trade has helped, if for no other reason that Patrick Weigel, the other reliever from that trade, has been used already. The club had to DFA Phil Bickford just to make room for Godley. I covered the club’s addition of Bickford last September in this article, and likely removed him because he would probably clear waivers as a pitcher who hasn’t really pitched above A ball.
The club has even resorted to adding Jordan Zimmermann, another non-roster invitee to camp, to the active roster. He initially was signed to compete for a rotation job, but was released and re-signed to a minor league deal when it became clear that he was not going to best the other candidates. He has been passed over for opportunities until now, and it’s not clear whether he will be used as a spot starter or in middle relief. He missed almost all of last season with the Tigers with a right forearm strain. Zimmermann is coming off of a 5-year, $110 million deal with Detroit, where he wasn’t good for almost any of it.
Even with all of these injury issues, the Brewers were in first place at the end of April despite the fact that Jackie Bradley, Jr. (.195/.258/.305, 1.1% BB rate, 30.3% K rate), Avisail Garcia (.195/.267/.338) and Keston Hiura (.171/.275/.300, 36.3% K rate) weren’t hitting at all. Hiura had one of the worst Z-Contact percentages in the game. Tyrone Taylor may steal some starts from someone in the outfield, as he has impressed in only 27 trips to the plate. Daniel Vogelbach, who it was thought might be a DFA candidate to start the year, was getting starts at 1st base, pushing Hiura to the bench on occasion. Their offense was being carried by Kolten Wong and catcher Omar Narvaez. This is how wild the NL Central is right now. The Brewers hope that Burnes won’t be out for long, as the club will be in trouble without his services. The pitching has carried this team.
4/16/21: Activated IF Matt Duffy from the COVID-19 Related IL. Returned IF Ildemaro Vargas to the ATS. 40-man roster still at 39.
4/17/21: Returned RHP Pedro Strop to the ATS. Optioned LHP Justin Steele to the ATS. Activated RHP Dan Winkler and RHP Brandon Workman from the COVID-19 Related IL. 40-man roster full.
4/18/21: Outrighted C Tony Wolters to the ATS.
4/22/21: Placed OF Joc Pederson on the 10-day IL, retroactive to April 21st (left wrist tendinitis). Recalled IF Nico Hoerner from the ATS.
4/23/21: Placed RHP Shelby Miller on the 10-day IL, retroactive to April 22nd (low back strain). Recalled LHP Kyle Ryan from the ATS.
4/24/21: Optioned LHP Kyle Ryan to the ATS. Recalled RHP Adbert Alzolay from the ATS.
4/25/21: Placed RHP Ryan Tepera on the MLB Suspended List.
4/26/21: Placed C Austine Romine on the 10-day IL (left wrist sprain). Optioned RHP Jason Adam to the ATS. Purchased the contracts of C Tony Wolters and RHP Trevor Megill from the ATS. To make room on the 40-man roster, transferred RHP Jonathan Holder and RHP Rowan Wick from the 10-day IL to the 60-day IL.
4/27/21: Activated RHP Ryan Tepera from the MLB Suspended List.
4/29/21: Designated RHP Brandon Workman for assignment. Recalled LHP Justin Steele from the ATS. 40-man roster at 39.
4/30/21: Placed RHP Trevor Megill on the 10-day IL (right forearm strain). Recalled LHP Kyle Ryan from the ATS. Placed RHP Brandon Workman on unconditional release waivers.
According to the previous reporting on the Cubs’ COVID-IL moves, Pedro Strop was designated as a “replacement player,” meaning he could be sent back to the ATS and taken off of the active and 40-man rosters without exposing him to waivers. Apparently Vargas received the same “replacement player” designation as well, because he’s out of options and there has been no mention of a DFA or outright assignment. While he was on the roster, he only got 2 plate appearances without a hit, and 1.1 innings in the field at second base with one fielding chance. Strop pitched 2 innings over 2 games, walking 2 and striking out 3. The Cubs are now back to normal as far as their COVID issues go on the player side.
Alzolay was recalled to take his rotation spot back for the April 24th game to avoid having to pitch Jake Arrieta on 3 days of rest.
Tepera was initially suspended 3 games for throwing at Brewers’ pitcher Brandon Woodruff on April 13th. Despite saying today’s game was “too soft” and admitting he did it on purpose, the suspension was reduced to 2 games. The Cubs had to play short a man on April 25th and 26th.
The bullpen has undergone a significant shuffling. The Cubs added Shelby Miller to the roster because he had an opt-out in his contract, but his time in the majors showed that he still didn’t have the necessary command for prime time. He walked 5 batters in just 2 innings pitched over 3 games and then went on the shelf. Jason Adam looked promising in camp, but control issues led to his option, and free-agent signee curveball artist Brandon Workman was dumped after getting crushed and walking too many batters. The club even added Trevor Megill for a spin. The Cubs drafted Megill from the Padres organization in the December 2020 Rule 5 draft and worked out a trade that allowed him to be sent to the minors. He had an outstanding camp, but went down with a forearm strain after only 2 games.
On the position player side, Joc Pederson has been a disappointment, slashing only .137/.262/.235 in 61 PA, while striking out about a third of the time without power. Since he went on the injured list, Kris Bryant has been an outfielder, mostly patrolling left field, with Matt Duffy playing the majority of the third base. He’s walking more than he’s striking out right now and his OBP is over .400. Nico Hoerner has been a super-positional sub, playing a little second, starting at short for 3 games while Javier Baez rested with a hamstring injury, and even taking a start in left, all while hitting well. Ian Happ has come back down to earth, slashing only .133/.293/.173 while striking out a third of the time. His 16% walk rate has made him playable at this point. Jake Marisnick has received a lot of playing time in center.
The Cubs were in the basement of the NL Central division at the end of April. Earlier in the season we talked about their offensive woes, and it is true that they haven’t gotten much offense from any of their outfield spots, second base, or shortstop. Baez had 6 homers, but has almost a 40% strikeout rate paired with a 1.1% walk rate. Heyward, Bote, Happ, and Pederson all haven’t hit. But lately, the pitching has been an even bigger problem. Their pitching staff had the 2nd highest walk rate in the game, and their starters had the 2nd lowest FIP and 3rd lowest xFIP in the game with poor peripherals. The starters’ 24 homers allowed at the end of April was the 2nd worst in the game, and they haven’t gone deep into games. Kyle Hendricks has been torched in two of his starts, has a FIP over 8.00, hasn’t showed the command that one would have expected from him, and has already allowed 10 homers in 22.2 IP. The club won’t go anywhere if Hendricks doesn’t pitch like an ace. Their bullpen has one of the highest walk rates in the game, a NL Central problem, but so far have been able to compensate with a high strikeout rate. To top it all off, their defense has been atrocious, at least according to Defensive Runs Saved, with a game-worst -17.
4/16/21: Placed RHP Michael Feliz on the 10-day IL (cracked nail on right middle finger). Recalled RHP Sean Poppen from the ATS.
4/18/21: Activated RHP Cody Ponce from the 10-day IL and optioned him to the ATS.
4/21/21: Designated OF Anthony Alford for assignment. Recalled IF Rodolfo Castro from the ATS. Claimed OF Ka’ai Tom on outright assignment waivers from the Oakland Athletics. 40-man roster still full. Added RHP Miguel Yajure as the 27th man for the 2nd game of today’s doubleheader and returned him to the ATS after the game.
4/22/21: Designated OF Dustin Fowler for assignment. Placed RHP Chad Kuhl on the 10-day IL, retroactive to April 19th (right shoulder discomfort). Purchased the contract of IF Todd Frazier from the ATS. Recalled RHP Geoff Hartlieb from the ATS. 40-man still full.
4/23/21: Placed OF Ka’ai Tom on the COVID-19 Related IL. 40-man roster at 39.
4/25/21: Optioned RHP Geoff Hartlieb to the ATS. Recalled RHP Wil Crowe from the ATS. Outrighted OF Anthony Alford to the ATS.
4/26/21: Optioned IF Rodolfo Castro to the ATS. Activated OF Ka’ai Tom from the COVID-19 Related IL. 40-man roster full.
4/28/21: Outrighted OF Dustin Fowler to the ATS.
The Pirates didn’t waste any time at all in firing both of the center fielders that were expected to get the majority of the time this year. Neither Alford (.083/.241/.083, 55.5% K rate in 29 PA) nor Fowler (.171/.239/.195, 43.5% K rate) could hit, so the club has moved Bryan Reynolds from left field to center. Their biggest blow is the wrist injury to Rookie of the Year candidate Ke’Bryan Hayes, who only played 2 games before going on the shelf. He has suffered a setback, which led to the club adding Todd Frazier to the roster. It was a mild surprise that he didn’t make the club to start with, because he was one of the best offensive performers in camp. Frazier served as a DH mostly during the club’s recent American League games on the road. Since Hayes went on the shelf, 3rd base has been mostly occupied by Erik Gonzalez and Phillip Evans, with Evans playing most of the left field since Alford and Fowler were DFAd.
For additional outfield help, the club decided to claim Tom on outright assignment waivers. He was taken by the Oakland Athletics in the major league portion of the December 2020 Rule 5 draft from the Cleveland Indians organization. He couldn’t be sent to the minors, so the club had to place him on the COVID-19 Related IL so he could clear the protocols. Once he was added, Rodolfo Castro, who was just a stopgap, was sent back down. Tom has had very good minor league offensive numbers at every stop, but he was slowed initially in spring with an oblique injury, and the A’s only gave him 11 trips to the plate before letting him go. The Pirates now have three Rule 5 draftees on the club, one of which is on the 60-day IL.
The Pirates’ pitching, especially the relief pitching has actually been okay, which is a nice surprise for the club with all of the injury issues they experienced last year. Richard Rodriguez has been dynamite, and as a whole the relief corps hasn’t had the walk issues that other NL Central staffs have had. The Rule 5 pick, Luis Oviedo, has had problems with both walks and homers, and it not getting BABPI unlucky. He might not last the season. As far as the rotation goes, Wil Crowe was next up for a rotation job after Chad Kuhl went on the shelf. Kuhl performed the worst out of the lot by far. JT Brubaker, Trevor Cahill and Tyler Anderson have held down the fort just fine, but Mitch Keller continues to disappoint with his 14% walk rate. So far, the Pirates have not been as bad as everyone expected.
4/16/21: Placed OF Aristides Aquino on the 10-day IL, retroactive to April 14th (left hamate fracture). Recalled IF Max Schrock from the ATS.
4/17/21: Designated RHP Cam Bedrosian for assignment. Placed IF Alex Blandino on the COVID-19 Related IL. Activated RHP Sonny Gray from the 10-day IL. Recalled OF Mark Payton from the ATS. 40-man roster at 38.
4/19/21: Outrighted RHP Cam Bedrosian to the ATS.
4/20/21: Placed OF Nick Castellanos on the MLB Suspended List. Placed 3B Mike Moustakas on the 10-day IL, retroactive to April 17th (illness). Activated IF Alex Blandino from the COVID-19 Related IL. 40-man roster at 39.
4/21/21: Added RHP Art Warren as the 27th man for the club’s regularly scheduled game and returned him to the ATS after the game. RHP Cam Bedrosian elected free agency in lieu of an outright assignment.
4/22/21: Activated OF Nick Castellanos from the MLB Suspended List.
4/23/21: Optioned LHP Cionel Perez and IF Max Schrock to the ATS. Recalled RHP Ryan Hendrix from the ATS. Purchased the contract of RHP Heath Hembree from the ATS. 40-man roster full.
4/25/21: Activated RHP Vladimir Gutierrez from the Restricted List and optioned him to the ATS. To make room on the 40-man roster, transferred OF Aristides Aquino from the 10-day IL to the 60-day IL.
4/27/21: Optioned OF Mark Payton the ATS. Activated IF Mike Moustakas from the 10-day IL.
4/30/21: Placed IF Jonathan India on the COVID-19 Related IL. Recalled OF Mark Payton from the ATS. 40-man roster at 39.
Aquino injured himself swinging the bat in the April 13th game against the Giants. He’s already had surgery to remove the hook of his hamate and will be gone for five or six weeks. The Reds feel comfortable with their outfield rotation of Jesse Winker, Nick Senzel, Tyler Naquin and Nick Castellanos, and instead of calling up lefty-hitting outfielder Mark Payton, they decided to bring Schrock up as a 7th infielder. They could use another lefty bat on the bench, but it’s a little weird that they went with another infielder.
Gray is being activated to make his first start of the season today. Jose De Leon will move to the bullpen. The Reds have not revealed the reasoning behind Blandino’s IL placement.
Castellanos was suspended two games for the play against the Cardinals on April 3rd when he flexed at Jake Woodford and the benches cleared. His appeal was denied, and the Reds will have to play with a 25-man roster for the next two games. Moustakas has been out of the lineup for the past five days with a non-COVID illness. All we know about Blandino is that the injured list he was placed on on April 17th must have been the COVID-19 Related IL, because if it wasn’t, he wouldn’t have been eligible to be activated this fast.
My initial suspicions that Guttierez had 20 games of his suspension left to serve because he was on a minor league deal at the time of the suspension was correct. Because he had been added to the 40-man roster this past offseason, he had to be activated from the Restricted List and added back to the 40-man as soon as the suspension was over, and Aquino’s injury provided the necessary roster cover.
The Reds’ bullpen has been atrocious. Cam Bedrosian wasn’t the worst offender (that honor would go to Amir Garrett), but he was the one trimmed to make room for Sonny Gray, in part because he was out of options, and in part because he walked just about as many as he struck out. Cionel Perez was later optioned because of his walk issues as well. The club added Heath Hembree, a non-roster invitee during spring to hopefully help right the ship. Hembree, originally drafted by the Giants in the 5th round of the 2010, has spent part of ever season in the majors since 2013, and had a decent run as a reliever with the Red Sox from 2016-2019, before he came down with elbow injuries. Hembree elected free agency when the Phillies tried to outright him after the 2020 season, signed with the Indians on a minor league deal for 2021, then signed with the Reds very late in spring training after being released by the Indians.