We've reached the point in the offseason where teams are just hoping their players can make it to spring healthy.
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After recent injuries to Victor Martinez and Josh Hamilton that will threaten their availability for Opening Day, the biggest blow of the winter came Wednesday when it was learned Jonathan Lucroy will miss 4-to-6 weeks with a hamstring strain. According to MLB.com's Adam McCalvy, the hamstring flared up on Lucroy when he began to ramp up his running two weeks ago.
Despite the bad news, there's reason for optimism. Lucroy has already had a platelet-rich plasma injection to begin the healing process, and he said he doesn't feel any pain when doing most baseball activities.
"The cool thing about it is I can hit and throw and catch and not feel anything," Lucroy told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "But when I start running, I feel it. It's not that big of a deal. These things usually heal on their own. So, we gave it a little incentive to heal with the PRP injection. There's no reason to panic."
Perhaps the biggest area in which the injury presents a problem is Lucroy's development defensively at first base. The club had hoped the 28-year-old could get some work in at the position this spring in hopes of giving him some days off behind the plate during the season.
Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said Lucroy will still be able to do most of what they hoped he'd be able to do in camp.
"It's a bit of a concern, but he has played the position," Ash said. "The idea going into spring was that we would be able to fine-tune what he was doing there, get him more comfortable at the position, give him more game experience. But you also have to keep in mind that Adam Lind is going to be the primary first baseman."
Lucroy is confident he'll be in the lineup on Opening Day, but hamstring injuries are unpredictable and have a tendency to linger. The Brewers will certainly be cautious with their All-Star catcher, and his playing time early in the regular season could lag as a result.
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Shields Heads Home
James Shields took most of the offseason to find a home, but his journey had a happy ending this week.
Shields ended up going back to the West Coast, signing a four-year, $75 million contract with the Padres Wednesday. The deal includes a $16 million club option for 2019.
The marriage is beneficial for both the player and the team. The Padres put an exclamation point on an aggressive offseason with the signing of the pitcher. Shields will join Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy in forming a formidable rotation to combat the Dodgers and Giants in the National League West.
For Shields, he finds himself playing half his games in one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the league. He won't benefit from a great defense like he enjoyed in Kansas City, but the Padres' revamped offense should provide him more run support than he's received in recent years.
The Padres' winning ambition wasn't lost on Shields, and in the end he said that's why he spurned the Cubs -- among other suitors -- to sign in San Diego.
“It’s incredible to see change and the willingness to win,” Shields said at his introductory press conference. “The fact that this organization is ready to win now, that’s what attracted me to the San Diego Padres. I’m accustomed to winning and I want to spend the rest of my career winning. Hopefully, we’ll create that winning culture in the clubhouse.”
With his new home know determined, Shields jumps up to No. 26 among starting pitchers in our preseason ranks. His projected statistics and so much more are available now in the Draft Guide.
Phillies For Sale
The majority of the heavy lifting is now done, but two pitchers remain available in the city of brotherly love.
Both Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon continue to generate interest on the trade market, and both presumably can be had despite spring training being just days away. For Hamels, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said the club has received four "real offers" from interested teams. It's not clear which teams have made offers, but given what has been reported over the offseason it stands to reason that the Rangers, Dodgers and Cardinals are among that group. All three teams have shown interest in the southpaw at points this winter.
For their part, the Phillies have remained steadfast in their demand for a top prospect in return for Hamels, and rightfully so. They won't give away the 31-year-old, and it's unclear if any team is willing to part with its best prospect -- and likely more -- for Hamels at this point. That could change as pitchers begin to get injured during spring.
A trade may be more likely for the 34-year-old Papelbon, but even that has become less likely in recent days. Talks between the Brewers and Phillies are said to be "dormant," as the clubs quibble over who the Brewers would surrender for the right-hander. The Phils would surely like to be out from under Papelbon's contract, but they would be willing to take on salary if it meant they could get a worthwhile prospect in return. So far, they haven't found a match.
Quick Hits: Garrett Richards (knee) was cleared to begin throwing off a mound. He'll throw a bullpen on Monday, and things appear to be progressing toward Richards being ready for a return to action in early April, if not by Opening Day ... Miguel Cabrera (foot) is scheduled for a checkup with his doctor next Tuesday. The hope is that he'll be cleared for baseball activities at the checkup ... The Blue Jays and Josh Donaldson weren't able to find a happy medium before heading to an arbitration hearing Thursday. The Jays offered $4.3 million and Donaldson asked for $5.75 million, and a resolution is expected Friday ... The Royals had no such problem settling with Kelvin Herrera. The two sides came to a two-year, $4.15 million deal Thursday ... Cuban shortstop Yoan Moncada worked out for the Dodgers Thursday, and he's also worked out for the Padres, among others, in recent days. Moncada is hoping to have a team in mind by the end of next week ... The Mariners reportedly signed Rickie Weeks to a one-year, $2 million deal with another $2 million in incentives available. The club, per Jon Heyman, plans to use Weeks in the outfield "a lot" ... Francisco Rodriguez, a potential alternative to Papelbon for the Brewers, is reportedly looking for a two-year deal. With relievers like Jose Veras having had to settle for minor league deals recently that appears to be optimistic, despite K-Rod's stellar 2014 season ... Two more arbitration avoidances of note: the Giants settled with Casey McGehee for $4.8 million, and the A's and Tyler Clippard met at $8.3 million.