Willson Contreras injury is more bad news for Cardinals; how a Yankees-Rays-Marlins trade came together

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Willson Contreras has a broken arm, Ken gets the inside story on a late spring trade, we have a concerning story about Perfect Game and Fanatics and Jarren Duran is doing something special in Boston. I’m Levi Weaver, here with Ken Rosenthal — welcome to The Windup!

Contreras injury a blow to Cards’ struggling offense

It has already been a pretty miserable season for the last-place Cardinals. Things just got worse.

In the second inning last night, J.D. Martinez of the Mets swung at a pitch and connected hard — but not with the ball. His bat nailed the left forearm of catcher Willson Contreras, who reacted immediately and demonstrated he was in a lot of pain. X-rays later showed a fracture in his arm.

It was an awful injury, and it’s especially bad for the Cardinals, whose already struggling offense is losing their best hitter this season. Coming into Tuesday’s game. Contreras led the team in bWAR (1.7), home runs (6), and all three slash lines except batting average. His .931 OPS was nearly 200 points better than the next-best on the team (Nolan Arenado, .740).

For now, backup catcher Iván Herrera will be pushed into regular playing time, He’s hitting .232 (.653 OPS) after 69 at-bats this year. They also have Pedro Pagés, who is expected to be called up today. He was in the big leagues briefly last month and went 0-for-2 with a walk in limited action.

After the game, Contreras expressed optimism that he would be back by the All-Star break (July 15-18).

Oh, and if all that wasn’t bad enough, the Cardinals — who led the Mets 3-0 at the time of the injury — gave up six runs in the fifth inning and lost 7-5.

Ken’s Notebook: Doing deals over coffee

General managers rarely negotiate face-to-face anymore. Trade conversations and free-agent negotiations are conducted mostly by text, email and phone. Even at the winter “meetings,” in-person discussions often are the exception, not the rule.

On March 27, the day before the season opener, Tampa Bay Rays president of baseball operations Erik Neander and general manager Brian Cashman got together the old-fashioned way. The result was a three-team trade: The New York Yankees landed infielder Jon Berti from the Miami Marlins, the Rays acquired catcher Ben Rortvedt from the Yankees and the Marlins wound up with a minor leaguer from each team.

Cashman’s spring home in Tampa, site of the Yankees’ training facility, sits directly on the route between Neander’s home and the school one of Neander’s sons attends. After dropping off his son, Neander called Cashman and said he would be driving by his house. The talks between the three teams were stalled. Cashman invited Neander to come over for coffee.

The Yankees already were in Houston. Rortvedt, who had made the club’s 26-man roster as one of three catchers, was at the team hotel. Cashman, though, had stayed behind in Tampa, and made Rortvedt aware teams were interested in trading for him. If a rival club offered something that, in Cashman’s words, “moved the needle,” Rortvedt would be gone.

The Yankees, knowing DJ LeMahieu would begin the season on the injured list, needed an infielder. They earlier had pursued free agents Amed Rosario, who signed with the Rays, and Kiké Hernández, who returned to the Dodgers. The Rays, meanwhile, had two catchers, René Pinto and Alex Jackson, but were looking to upgrade. Jackson was only on a minor-league deal.

Sipping their coffees, Cashman and Neander worked on the framework of the deal, looping in Marlins GM Peter Bendix. Jackson, who thought he had made the Rays as one of two catchers, was stunned to learn after the team’s final workout that he was being sent to Triple A. Opening Day was less than 24 hours away.

A little more than a month later, things have changed again. Rortvedt has proven to be one of the Rays’ best hitters in the early part of the season, batting .333 with an .813 OPS in 74 plate appearances. Jackson joined him on the team’s roster last Friday, replacing Pinto, who was sent to Triple A. The next day, Berti rejoined the Yankees after missing three weeks with a left groin strain.

Good thing Neander called Cashman after dropping off his son.

“He’s a good host,” Neander said.

Perfect Game, Fanatics deal has agents concerned

Britt Ghiroli’s story today is worth the spotlight, but if you have any youth baseball players in your life, it’s a must-read. The short version: An expected licensing deal with Fanatics is causing concern about Perfect Game requiring players to sign away their NIL rights in perpetuity to participate in the program.

For those unfamiliar with Perfect Game, it is a showcase that allows parents to pay to have their baseball-hopeful kids ranked and/or scouted. Quite a few big leaguers are alums, including Mike Trout, Mookie Betts and Bryce Harper.

Here’s an excerpt from Britt’s story:

In a waiver release form on Perfect Game’s website — whose title, “participantrelease2019,” suggests it’s at least five years old — there’s a section called “Media Release.” Within that, participants are informed that their signature at the bottom of the document grants Perfect Game “the absolute and irrevocable right” to use their name, signature, likeness, image, voice and/or appearance in any photos, videos, audio, digital images or cards on behalf of any Perfect Game or its affiliates, at any present and future events related to Perfect Game.

The section also states participants will not receive any compensation for the use of those things, and releases Perfect Game from any and all claims and demands related to usage and ownership of the participant’s name, signature, likeliness, image, voice and appearance.

It makes sense for Perfect Game to need these rights to post highlights on their website and sell ads. But here’s the plot twist.

First, Perfect Game just agreed to a licensing deal with Fanatics to produce merchandise, including baseball cards, featuring PG players. The waiver gives them the right to do that without any further permission needed from (or compensation paid to) the players or their parents. Further, players are now signing hundreds of items — including stickers that can later be added to baseball cards.

Where it begins to sound exploitative is that there’s no expiration date on this waiver, leading to concerns that Perfect Game and Fanatics will own those rights throughout a player’s entire career, even into the big leagues. And as the story says, “even when that player retires, Perfect Game owns the rights they signed over involving any Perfect Game event or signed memorabilia.” Player NIL rights have gotten more attention lately because they are now allowed to profit off of them as NCAA athletes.

Both Perfect Game and Fanatics declined to comment on the story, but a number of anonymous agents (and Scott Boras, on the record) are quoted, saying in no uncertain terms that the form the players are signing is predatory.

It’s worth a read, especially if you’re a parent of a big-league hopeful.

Jarren Durran on record triples pace

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Jarren Duran and his lizard arms are on pace to hit a record number of triples. (Charles LeClaire / USA Today)

If your brain works anything like mine, I’m about to plant a seed in it that will never go away. Earlier this week, I saw a video that described Jarren Duran as running “like an angry lizard.”

Now you’re going to think of it every time you see him run, and if his first 36 games are any indication, you’ll have a lot of opportunities. He hit his sixth triple of the year last night, most in baseball, and putting him — we’re getting closer to these words meaning something —  “on pace for” 27 triples this year.

The last player to hit more than 25 in a season was Kiki Cuyler, who had 26 for the Pittsburgh Pirates … in 1925.

In the divisional era (1969-present), there have only been six seasons of 20+ triples. The last two came in the same season, when Jimmy Rollins had 20 for the Phillies and Curtis Granderson hit a divisional-era record 23 for the Tigers.

If you’re wondering, the all-time record was set by Owen Wilson, with a wwwowww-worthy 36 triples for the Pirates in 1912.

More Red Sox: After our discussion yesterday about Boston’s surprising pitching success this year, Jen McCaffrey has a great in-depth look at how new chief baseball officer Craig Breslow and pitching coach Andrew Bailey have revolutionized the pitching staff.

Handshakes and High Fives

We spoke too soon. The Twins’ lucky (and by this point, possibly disease-ridden) sausage was not disposed of after the winning streak ended. They’re now 1-1 since it made its grand return.

No Trea Turner. A night off for a few starters. Facing the league leader in ERA (José Berríos, 1.44). No problem for the Phillies, who won 10-1 to extend their winning streak to seven games.

J.P. France of the Astros is going to be out for “a while” with a shoulder injury, further highlighting the Astros’ lack of starting pitching depth. Cristian Javier should be back soon, but even a healthy Justin Verlander isn’t stopping the bleeding for the 12-23 Astros.

Carson Fulmer was supposed to be a star after being picked 8th in the 2015 draft by the White Sox. Now, after a 29-month layoff, he’s back in the big leagues with the Angels. Sam Blum has the story.

Cody Bellinger is back from the IL. What’s the plan for Pete Crow-Armstrong?

David O’Brien highlights how Orlando Arcia’s defense has made him a more-than-adequate replacement for the departed Dansby Swanson.

Eno Sarris says there’s another element to consider when looking at a player’s “luck” — their team’s schedule.

You can buy tickets to every MLB game here.

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(Top photo: Dilip Vishwanat / Getty Images)

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