As we head into the middle of August, contenders are just beginning to gear up for the stretch run. But for two of the modern era’s most legendary sluggers, this past week spelled the end.
At a press conference on Sunday, the Yankees announced Alex Rodriguez would be retiring amidst the season and transitioning into an instructor role with the team. His last game was on Friday night at Yankee Stadium. He batted third and started at DH, finishing 1-for-4 with an RBI double in the contest.
Rodriguez, 41, doesn’t appear to have much left in the tank but hasn’t ruled out the notion of playing for another team in 2017. The Marlins have reportedly had internal discussions about the possibility of bringing him aboard. While A-Rod appears to be finished in New York, his playing career is not necessarily over.
Unfortunately, no such ambiguity surrounds Prince Fielder, who stunningly announced his own forced retirement on Tuesday. After undergoing fusion surgery in his neck for a second time in three years, doctors determined that the 32-year-old is no longer medically fit to play. Fielder was one of the game’s most reliably durable players from 2006 through 2013, missing a total of 13 games over those eight seasons.
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Both carry deep-league intrigue.
* Tim Lincecum isn’t done yet, but it’s looking like he might not be far off. The veteran accepted a demotion to Triple-A this week after being designated for assignment by the Angels. His comeback attempt in Anaheim fizzled completely, as Lincecum went 2-6 with a 9.16 ERA in nine starts after joining the Halos in June.
Lincecum hasn’t been an especially effective pitcher since 2011 and continued to show vastly diminished velocity when he returned from a long layoff this summer. His big-league future is very much in doubt. For the time being, Jhoulys Chacin replaces him in the Angels rotation, but he offers minimal upside.
* Adam Ottavino was off to a great start as Colorado’s closer last year, but fell victim to Tommy John surgery less than a month in the season. After a 14-month rehab, he made it back to the mound for the Rockies just ahead of the All Star break. He was lights-out for several weeks, allowing zero runs in 15 appearances, and on Tuesday he was officially restored as closer, replacing the struggling fill-in Carlos Estevez.
Ottavino is presently available in more than half of all Yahoo leagues. If he’s out there and you have any kind of need for saves or relief help, pick him up immediately.
* It’s been a rough year for Carlos Gomez, and the Astros have seen enough. They designated the energetic yet enigmatic center fielder for assignment on Wednesday amidst a brutal series at Target Field that included several fielding and baserunning miscues.
Typically a fantasy prize with his consistent production in the home run and stolen base categories, Gomez has been enduring a career-worst season, with five homers and a .594 OPS in 81 games. He’s still only 30 so we’re not writing him off yet by any means. He’ll resurface somewhere else soon, as Houston is currently working to trade him. The Mets and Cardinals are known to be in the running.
With Gomez out, Jake Marisnick takes over as primary center fielder for the Astros. He’s more of a defensive specialist than offensive asset but has some speed (he stole 24 bases in a part-time role last year) and could offer value in deeper leagues.
* An oblique strain sidelined Zack Greinke for well over a month, but he finally returned on Tuesday, picking up a win against the Mets. Greinke fanned six while allowing three runs over six innings. He looks to be back up to speed but faces a tough assignment against the Red Sox on Sunday.
* Shoulder problems continue to besiege Michael Wacha. The 25-year-old right-hander was placed on the DL with shoulder inflammation on Tuesday, a recurrence of the ailment that cost him time in 2014. He may be out for the year.
As usual, the Cardinals have no shortage of high-caliber young arms to replace him. Luke Weaver, owner of a 1.30 ERA in the minors, takes Wacha’s spot in the rotation. Another premium prospect, Alex Reyes, takes his spot on the roster. Reyes will work out of the bullpen for the time being.
* In April, Michael Conforto was a crucial offensive force for the Mets, batting .365 with a 1.118 OPS to help carry the lineup. Since May 1st, he has batted just .121/.238/.313. On Friday, New York finally lost patience with the scuffling young outfielder, optioning him to Triple-A amidst a 5-for-39 slump.
Conforto previously spent three weeks in the minors after a June demotion but made his way back quickly after dominating PCL pitching. He still simply has not been able to find his stroke in the big leagues, though, and his manager believes he is pressing. We expect to see Conforto back in September.
* The Blue Jays placed Jose Bautista on the disabled list due a knee sprain suffered while tripping in the outfield. It’s not a great development for a guy who is trying to bolster his lacking numbers (.793 OPS with 15 homers) as he prepares to enter free agency. An example timetable for his return isn’t known but the injury doesn’t sound too serious. In his absence, Michael Saunders – who already has a career-high 20 homers – should get most of the starts in right.
* Diamondbacks outfielder David Peralta will miss the rest of 2016 after undergoing wrist surgery on Thursday. He hit the DL three times this year and never produced much, a letdown following his exceptional 2015 campaign. We’ll look for him to bounce back strong next year.
* Nathan Eovaldi made it through only 12 pitches in his Wednesday start before leaving with arm pain. The Yankees placed him on the shelf due to an elbow tendon injury and recalled Luis Severino, the rookie who had been sent down days earlier. Though Severino holds a dreadful 1-7 record and 6.42 ERA in the majors this year, he has ability. Keep an eye on him down the stretch.
* On Friday the Rays activated newly acquired infielder Matt Duffy, who had been on the DL since long before Tampa received him in the Matt Moore deal. He usurps the starting shortstop job from Brad Miller, who is now getting looks at first base.