Injuries Galore: It's Back to the Drawing Board for a Handful of MLB Contenders
On Thursday afternoon, bad news rained down on some of baseball's top contenders like Johnny Manziel singles at a Las Vegas after hours club.
New York Yankees' starter Masahiro Tanaka has a partially torn ulna collateral ligament that will keep him out a minimum of six weeks, but could result in Tommy John surgery.
Carlos Beltran hit the seven-day disabled list due to facial fractures and concussion symptoms after a freak batting practice accident on Wednesday.
St. Louis Cardinals' catcher Yadier Molina was placed on the 15-day DL due to a torn ligament in his right thumb, and will miss 8-12 weeks.
Cincinnati Reds' second baseman Brandon Phillips was also placed on the 15-day DL due to a torn ligament in his left thumb. He's expected to miss 6-10 weeks.
Los Angeles Angels' starter C.J. Wilson was placed on the 15-day DL because of a right ankle sprain.
That's a lot of stuff for one tiny little afternoon.
Yes, it was a dark day for the Yankees, Cardinals, Reds and Angels, all four legitimate playoff contenders. Consider what these five players mean to their teams, and you can see that their absences will have a noticeable impact.
The biggest loss among the five is quite obviously Tanaka. The Yankees were already without CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda for the rest of the season, and now it appears there's a good chance Tanaka could be out for a very long time as well. He'll try to rehabilitate his elbow injury first, which will keep him out a minimum of six weeks. However, if rehab does not repair his elbow, Tanaka will likely require Tommy John surgery (stop me if you've heard this one before) which would keep him out through the 2015 season.
That is the very real and nightmarish scenario for the Yankees.
Whether he's out six weeks or a year-and-a-half, expect the Yankees to try and deal for a starter like Philadelphia's Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee or San Diego's Ian Kennedy, although their less-than-stacked farm system could make a trade for a top starter difficult.
As for Beltran, he's not had a very good season at the plate, with just nine home runs and 28 runs batted in on just 255 plate appearances, after hitting 24 bombs last year and 32 the year before. However, his absence will be felt, and New York could also look to land another outfielder as part of any package for a starting pitcher.
For the Cardinals, the loss of Molina is devastating, with ESPN's Dave Schoenfield saying his loss could cost St. Louis as many as four wins this year. Since 2011, the Cardinals have a .575 winning percentage when he's in the starting lineup and a .495 percentage when he does not. He is, simply put, one of the very best catchers in the game.
The Cards hope to have him back by late September, and for right now, back-up catcher Tony Cruz (.255/.345/.294 slash line in 59 plate appearances this year) will get the lion's share of the starts in his absence. However, St. Louis is likely scouring the market for a temporary fill-in at catcher. One option would seem to be the recently-released A.J. Pierzynski, although he was hitting just .254/.286/.348 with four homers and 31 RBI in 274 plate appearances. He has an fWAR of 0.0, and his nERD of -1.05 means a lineup full of Pierzynski's would generate 1.05 runs per game fewer than a lineup full of average Major League players.
John Buck, recently cut by Seattle, is a free agent, and Philadelphia's Carlos Ruiz and Minnesota's Kurt Suzuki could both be attractive trade options, although Ruiz is currently out with a concussion and is owed $8.5 million in both 2015 and 2016, and the Twins say they're not ready to deal their All-Star catcher just yet.
The Reds dodged a bullet after starter Homer Bailey left Thursday's game in the sixth inning with pain in the patellar tendon of his right knee. However, the team says he's OK and will likely make his next start.
They were less lucky with the news on Brandon Phillips.
Cincinnati was already without first baseman Joey Votto, who is on the 15-day disabled list due to quad injury that could hamper him for the rest of the season. And while Dat Dude isn't the player he was a couple years ago, he's a run producer who is important to the Cincinnati lineup. The Reds could make a play for the top second baseman on the market, Philadelphia's Chase Utley, however a more likely target would be Chicago's Gordon Beckham.
The loss of C.J. Wilson will hurt the Angels' rotation, and could spur them to pick up a starter in a trade, although of all the injuries mentioned so far, his is the least devastating to his team.
All of these injuries are significant, however. The Yankees appear to be in the worst shape, followed by St. Louis, Cincinnati and L.A. But all four contenders are going to have to go to the drawing board and come up with some contingency plans until their injured bodies are healed and ready to roll.