29. San Francisco Giants (35–58, minus-106, LT: 28)
We’ve already got ample evidence that adjustments to the baseball have triggered an onslaught in home runs, with a bouncier core and flatter seams fueling a season that could yield more homers than any other in MLB history. As if that weren’t a big enough problem for pitchers to face, another source of concern has sprung up, one that’s increasingly being blamed on those adjustments to the seams: a blister epidemic.
Giants right-hander Johnny Cueto joins a long list of talented hurlers who’ve dealt with blister problems this year, in some cases resulting in injuries so severe, they’ve required extended trips to the disabled list. Aaron Sanchez, Rich Hill, Noah Syndergaard, Jharel Cotton and Taijuan Walker have all dealt with ugly hot spots on their pitching hands this year. Marcus Stroman recently said he’d never had a blister problem in his life until this season, placing the blame squarely on the new baseballs.
For the Giants, Cueto’s blister struggles could prove especially costly. The veteran right-hander can opt out of his contract and test free agency at the end of this season. That opt-out clause, combined with the Giants being hopelessly out of the playoff race, could have made Cueto an intriguing trade deadline candidate, on the theory that he’d be a rental who wouldn’t cost a boatload of top prospects, or cash, to acquire and retain. But Cueto lasted just four innings and 82 pitches on Friday, before landing on the DL with multiple blisters.
There’s still time between now and July 31 for Cueto to heal and become viable trade bait again. But given that he’s already battled command troubles all season and is sitting on the worst park-adjusted ERA of his career, having a right hand full of painful sores might end up scuttling the Giants’ chances to trade him and recoup some desperately needed young talent for a team that suddenly looks very, very old.