Weekend wrap-up: A Harper, Hanrahan hullabaloo

Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

All the big news from the past week.

Though Harper and Hanrahan dominated the news this past week, there were several other intriguing stories coming down the slope as we inch ever closer to hot stove season.

The good news from the past week is that everyone's elbows seemed to have stayed relatively intact, and the early tide of Tommy John surgeries has subsided, though AJ Griffin was a late arrival to the list this week.

The bad news, specifically for Nationals fans, is that thumb ligaments still seem to be rather fragile, as Bryce Harper will be shelved until early July.

Here's a look at the rest of the week that was:

Editorials

Winners and losers: The Blue Jays, the Mets, and an aged knuckleballer:

So the Mets shipped off Dickey along with back-up catcher Mike Nickeas and slightly more useful back-up catcher Josh Thole--who has had the unenviable job of catching Dickey since 2010. For his part, Alex Anthopoulos quickly signed Dickey to the extension that he wanted, adding two years at $12MM a pop to the $12MM he was set to make in 2013 and a club option for at third year at the same price with a $1MM buyout, guaranteeing Dickey an extra $25MM.

In return, the Mets got two catchers--albeit two catchers with much more upside than Mike Nickeas and Josh Thole--John Buck and Travis d'Arnaud, along with the giant righty hurler Noah Syndergaard and RAW Venezuelan minor league rightfielder Wuilmer Becerra.

NL Rookie of the Year: Can anyone catch Billy Hamilton?:

There are a few prospects in the minors that appear as though they are capable of playing at the major league level -- perhaps with better numbers than Hamilton. Not more stolen bases of course, just better offense output than the .221/.253/.279 batting line he's posted so far.

AL Rookie of the Year: Abreu, Tanaka, Ventura lead race:

Jose Abreu is tied for the league lead in home runs and runs batted in.

Masahiro Tanaka leads the American League in strikeout-to-walk ratio and trails only Cliff Lee league-wide.

And Yordano Ventura -- in addition to having a better ERA than Tanaka -- has thrown the fastest pitch in baseball so far this year. It can only be described accurately in terms of hysterical combustibility.

Who is winning the Dexter Fowler trade?:

The December trade that sent Fowler to the Astros in exchange for pitcher Jordan Lyles and outfielder Brandon Barnes was nearly universally praised as a steal for Houston, and at the time, it was easy to see why.  The Astros were picking up an in-prime 27 year old OF who had two years of team control remaining and a career OBP of .363, a trait much desired by the franchise whose .299 OBP in 2013 ranked them 29th out of 30 MLB teams.  In exchange, they gave up Lyles, 23, a former 1st round draft pick whose 5.35 ERA across 377 IP for the Astros had been enough to accumulate -2.8 rWAR in parts of 3 seasons, and Barnes, also 27, who hit .240/.289/.346 in his first full season spent entirely in the big leagues.

Buyer's remorse: The Minnesota Twins and Ricky Nolasco:

Paired with the Twins' signing of Phil Hughes, Nolasco was brought in to stabilize a rotation that had been so abysmal that their closest comp--no strikeouts, alarming ERA--would be that of the historically bad rotations of the early 2000s Royals, headed up by the likes of Scott Elarton, Brian Anderson, and Mark Redman.

Of course the flaw in the logic that Ricky Nolasco can stabilize a pitching staff lies in the fact that one is looking for Ricky Nolasco to stabilize a pitching staff.


Injuries

Bryce Harper to miss two months due to thumb surgery:

Harper, 21, injured his thumb while sliding into third base on Friday night against the Padres, and was placed on the 15-day disabled list over the weekend. Concerns within the Nationals' organization grew on Monday when the possibility of an extended absence first arose, and the team will now be without their slugger for a significant chunk of the season's first half.

Harper joins Doug Fister, Ryan Zimmerman and Wilson Ramos on a growing list of Nationals who have suffered significant injuries so far this season.

Brewers place Ryan Braun on DL with oblique strain:

Braun, who played in just 61 games last season due to a thumb injury and 65-game suspension for violating MLB's drug policy, has gotten off to a hot start this year. He was hitting .318/.361/.591 with a .402 wOBA and 156 wRC+ at the time of the injury. He is currently 10th in the NL with a .952 OPS.

Updates

Aroldis Chapman nearing return for Cincinnati:

The 99 mph registered by Chapman's very first pitch indicated that his arm is ready to return, and if the comments he made following his one inning performance are any indication, he's carrying no residual fear of a similar incident occurring again, either.  As C. Trent Rosecrans noted in a post-game article for USA Today Sports, Chapman said (through interpreter Tomas Vera), "I'm really positive about this.  I feel really normal, I have confidence in myself, I don't have any fear or anything."

News

Tigers sign Joel Hanrahan to 1-year, $1 million contract:

There is no set timetable for Hanrahan's return, meaning that the former All-Star will be allowed to take his time working his way through the Tigers' minor league ranks before joining the major league team at some point this season. He will begin on the disabled list for the Tigers, and use his time in the minors as his spring training.

Detroit's bullpen has been a mess so far in 2014. Free agent signings Joe Nathan and Joba Chamberlain have struggled in the early going, and veterans like Phil Coke and Al Alburquerque have struggled as well.

Padres sign Odrisamer Despaigne to $1 million deal:

San Diego's rotation has posted a 3.96 ERA, good enough for 17th in the majors through just over a month of play. The Padres have been hurt by the losses of Cory Luebke and Josh Johnson, who both need Tommy John surgery, so the low-risk addition of Despaigne provides depth.

Despaigne, who also drew some interest from the Diamondbacks and Twins since becoming available to MLB teams, is a bit of an unknown commodity due to his low-profile status as a Cuban prospect. Padres' GM Josh Byrnes told Brock that Despaigne was an "old generation" type of Cuban pitcher, and that the Padres were impressed with his varied use of many pitches and arm angles.

Chris Johnson extension worth up to $23.5 million:

More so than anything, the move is a testament to the lackluster forthcoming third base market that is set to hit this offseason. With the likely top available candidate, Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval, barely hitting half his weight and other soon-to-be free agent Chase Headley also batting below the Mendoza Line, Braves general manager Frank Wren recognized the need to secure Johnson, thus locking him up for the next few seasons.

Johnson certainly didn't come cheap, with his breakout .321/.358/.457 performance last season demanding a substantial dollar amount. But given the alternative options and the consistency Johnson has displayed throughout his career, the Braves have to be pleased with the deal.

Blue Jays promote Marcus Stroman:

A first round pick (22nd round) of the Blue Jays in 2012, Stroman has spent parts of three seasons in the minors, posting a 14-7 record and 3.03 ERA in 40 appearances (25 starts). He was very good last year with Double-A New Hampshire (9-5, 3.30 ERA in 20 starts) and has been even better to begin this season with Triple-A Buffalo (2-2, 1.69 ERA in 5 starts).

Rays designate Heath Bell for assignment:

Bell, who was acquired from the Diamondbacks in a three-team trade last December, was 1-1 with a 7.27 ERA in 17.1 innings over 13 appearances for Tampa. They are responsible for $5.5M of his $9M salary for this season, making their decision to cut him loose a bit of a surprising one.

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