20 hitters who could be traded.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Parity has really put a damper on baseball’s trade market.
Several contending teams are looking to add bats, but the problem is that there are so many buyers and so few sellers. The law of supply and demand is skewed. In my opinion there are just eight teams in baseball that should be sellers at the trade deadline, and two of those eight still are within 10 games of the playoffs.
For example, the Minnesota Twins are just seven games out of the AL Central lead and six games out of a wild-card berth. Likewise, the Seattle Mariners are just 9 1/2 back in the wild-card standings.
Thus, the market for quality bats will be limited. Non-contenders such as the Miami Marlins, Houston Astros and New York Mets, who could be trade partners, have very little proven offense to exchange. Several of these contenders might have to try and solve their offensive issues through the farm system, including the Texas Rangers, Kansas City Royals, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, Washington Nationals, Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants.
Regardless, based on the current standings there still are a number of good hitters who could be moved from non-contending teams by the July 31 trade deadline. Here are 20 of them, broken down by position.
Paul Konerko | 1B | Age: 37
Contract status: $13.5M per year through 2013
Konerko is a free agent at the end of the year and general manager Rick Hahn already is talking about moving Dayan Viciedo to first base. He’d like to get to the postseason one more time and going to another team gives him the best chance of accomplishing that. The Baltimore Orioles or Rays could use him as a DH, while the Pittsburgh Pirates could use him at first base.
Chance traded: 60 percent
Justin Morneau | 1B | Age: 32
Contract status: $14M per year through 2013
A series of injuries and concussion problems have sapped Morneau's elite power, but he hit 19 home runs last season, which suggests he has something left. He has just three bombs this year, which will raise some questions, but if the Twins pay most of his remaining salary, he could find a home at first base or as a DH somewhere. I’m just not sure where that fit would be at this point. Chances traded: 20 percent
Michael Morse | 1B/OF | Age: 31
Contract status: $6.75M per year through 2013
Morse has had his share of injuries over the past couple of years, but he certainly brings to the table a power bat capable of hitting .290 with 20 home run power. His ability to play first base and left field increases his value, and his clubhouse presence has made every team he’s been on better. If healthy, he could be a solid fit in left field for the Giants or Reds. Chance traded: 50 percent
Alex Rios | OF | Age: 32
Contract status: $12.5M per year through 2014, with team option in 2015 and $1M buyout
Two years of consistent .290, 20-home run production has teams knocking on the White Sox’s door. He once appeared to be overpaid, but he has produced enough to prove worth his big contract, and is making less per year than what both Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli got from the Red Sox in the offseason. Several teams could use Rios as a corner outfielder, including the Giants, Reds and Rangers. Chance traded: 50 percent
Andre Ethier | OF | Age: 31
Contract status: $18M per year through 2017
Yasiel Puig has probably taken over the Dodgers’ right-field spot for good. With the eventual return of Matt Kemp in center and Carl Crawford in left, Ethier has become expendable. It would be too much of a luxury to carry him as a fourth outfielder when they’ll be paying him between $15-18 million over the next four years. Ethier probably is not tradable as is, but if the Dodgers are willing to eat approximately $5 million per year and get him down to Rios or Victorino range, then other teams might be intrigued. The most likely landing places probably are the Mets and Mariners, two teams that need corner-outfield production. Chance traded: 35 percent
Juan Pierre | OF | Age: 35
Contract status: $1.6M through 2013
Pierre can still run and still can't throw. He slaps the ball enough to hit .270 and is a good clubhouse guy. The Marlins would like to open up left field for prospect Christian Yelich. Although Pierre would be a good veteran to have to help Yelich, it’s only fair to Pierre to give him another chance at a postseason. A team looking for a fourth or fifth outfielder and pinch-runner down the stretch will be where he ends up if he’s traded. Chance traded: 10 percent
Alfonso Soriano | OF | Age: 37
Contract status: $18M per year through 2014
The Cubs are willing to eat a significant portion of his remaining contract if they can acquire the right prospect. Last year, Soriano nixed a potential trade to the Giants, and reiterated his wishes to finish his contract as a Cub during spring training. He’s having a down year for the Cubs, but if he gets hot over the next month he could find a home. Teams that might fit him include: the Orioles (DH), Giants (LF), Yankees (LF/DH) and Rangers (LF). Keep in mind the Cubs like his leadership for their young players, and he’s not the easiest player to trade at this stage of his career.
Chance traded: 25 percent
Josh Willingham | OF | Age: 34
Contract status: $7M per year through 2014
Willingham has been battling a bad knee but is expected to be healthy by the trade deadline. He belted 64 home runs the past two years and already has 10 this year. He’s a below-average left fielder but his pull power plays in any park. Teams might have to sub him out for defense late in the game, but he’ll definitely help a team in the No. 6 spot in the lineup. The Reds, Rangers, Giants and Philadelphia Phillies might have interest. Chance traded: 50 percent
Kendrys Morales | DH | Age: 30
Contract status: $5.25M through 2013
It’s one-and-done for Morales and the Mariners. The Los Angeles Angels traded him for lefty Jason Vargas in the offseason out of need, and the deal has worked out for both sides. Morales has provided plus power with a .270 average similar to what he did last year for the Angels. However, with catcher Mike Zunino taking over behind the plate and Justin Smoak at first base, the Mariners are hoping Jesus Montero will get healthy and develop into their long-term DH, which means Morales is the odd man out. Therefore, a trade to an AL team that needs a DH, such as the Orioles or Rays, is logical. Chance traded: 50 percent
Lucas Duda | OF/DH | Age: 27
Contract status: $519,000 in 2013; arbitration eligible in 2015
Duda is a .250 hitter who can work a count and hit you 20-plus homers. His best position would be as a DH with occasional playing time in left field. A team that has a manager who moves players around would be his best situation, making the Rangers or Marlins a possible fit. Chance traded: 25 percent
Alexei Ramirez | SS | Age: 31
Contract status: $7M in 2013, $9.5M in 2014, $10M in 2015, $10M team option in 2016
Ramirez is a .276/.315/.403 lifetime hitter who plays above-average defense. He could make a difference in this year’s pennant race for the Pirates, Athletics (if they keep Jed Lowrie at second base) or the Dodgers (if they move Hanley Ramirez to third base). Chance traded: 20 percent
Rickie Weeks | 2B | Age: 30
Contract status: $10M in 2013; $11M through 2014, with $11.5M team option in 2015
Weeks brings a 20-home run, 15-stolen base combo to second base. Although his batting average has declined two straight years, there are many who feel a change of scenery could help him. The Royals or Dodgers might be a fit for him. Chance traded: 40 percent
Jose Altuve | 2B | Age: 23
Contract status: $506,000 through 2013, arbitration eligible in 2015
Altuve is a .290 hitter with 30-stolen base production. He’s an above-average second baseman who plays with high energy and enthusiasm, and is a student of the game. He fits in the Astros’ clubhouse and is not a player Houston wants to trade. In fact, along with third baseman Matt Dominguez and catcher Jason Castro, Altuve is one of the three position players GM Jeff Luhnow considers building blocks of his team.
That being said, Luhnow told me that he’ll have to listen on all players given their situation and it is possible that a team will be willing to send the Astros a couple of good prospects in order to solve second base long term. Teams that make sense for Altuve include the Royals, Phillies, Dodgers, Orioles and Rays. Chance traded: 5 percent
Daniel Murphy | 2B | Age: 28
Contract status: $2.93M in 2013; arbitration eligible in 2014
Murphy is a valuable player in the trade market because he can play multiple positions -- first base, second and third. There are several teams who think he can stay at second base, while others prefer him in a utility role. His bat plays, illustrated by his .290 average after more than 2,000 plate appearances. He has some pop and plays the game hard. Teams that could have interest include the Royals, Orioles and Rays. Chance traded: 30 percent
John Buck | C | Age: 32
Contract status: $6M through 2013
Buck has done a really solid job for the Mets behind the plate. He’s provided some power from the right side, too. With prospect Travis d'Arnaud coming, it only makes sense to trade Buck before he leaves as a free agent. Possible destinations would be the Rays, Tigers and Angels.
Chance traded: 30 percent
Best of the rest
Player Position Team Age Contract status % chance traded
Nate Schierholtz OF CHC 29 $2.25M in 2013# 30
Chris Carter OF HOU 26 $494K in 2013 20
David DeJesus OF CHC 30 $4.25M in '13* 40
Raul Ibanez OF SEA 41 $2.75M in '13 30
Ryan Doumit 1B/C/OF MIN 32 $3.5M thru 2014 35
*team option at $6.5m in 2014 with $1.5m buyout
Breaking down Futures Game rosters.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The 2013 MLB Futures Game will be shown on ESPN on July 14 at 2 p.m. ET and, as usual, it's the best place for you to get quick looks at most of the minors' top prospects from both leagues and all around the world. The first official rosters were released Wednesday -- they are subject to change if any players are promoted or injured before game day -- and here's my immediate reaction to the lists. (Click here for the U.S. roster and here for World roster.)
(Many of these players appeared on my preseason top 100 prospect ranking, which you can find here.)
The U.S. roster
The key names are here, led by Minnesota outfielder Byron Buxton, who was just promoted to high Class A after tearing up the Midwest League; Arizona right-hander Archie Bradley, who'll bring that mid-90s fastball and hammer curve to Citi Field; and Oakland shortstop Addison Russell, whose .259/.338/.502 line as a 19-year-old in high Class A is extremely impressive, even more so given that he played hurt for parts of April and early May.
One thing that surprised me was how weak the U.S. pitching staff is relative to previous years. Two notable omissions are Pittsburgh's Jameson Taillon, who appeared in the game last year but doesn't appear here because the Pirates have two position players in the game; and Toronto's Aaron Sanchez, who just returned from the DL on June 21 but might be the best pitching prospect left in the minors. Houston's Mike Foltyniewicz will sniff triple digits as a starter and seems quite likely to do it in a one-inning stint, but the Astros' two spots are occupied by Delino DeShields Jr. and George Springer. Cincinnati's Robert Stephenson also had a good case to be here.
The staff also has just one left-hander, Philadelphia's Jesse Biddle; Boston's Henry Owens is probably the best lefty left off the roster, although I, too, would have taken Anthony Ranaudo over him, as an older and more advanced prospect, if I were to take someone else from Boston. The Marlins have only one player in the game, Christian Yelich, but lefty Andrew Heaney is pitching well in high Class A and should be a consideration if there's an opening (and if we want to at least treat this like a regular game, not just a showcase).
The U.S. team lost Gerrit Cole, Zack Wheeler (already a two-time FG participant) and Kevin Gausman to promotions and Dylan Bundy and Danny Hultzen to injury; they may also lose the Nationals' lone participant, Taylor Jordan, to promotion this week. If that happens, I'd love to see a new precedent set, where MLB takes the Nats' first overall pick from the 2013 draft, right-hander Jake Johansen, to fill Jordan's spot. Johansen has already signed and made his pro debut, and in a one-inning look should pump a few 98s and 99s. There isn't a clearly better candidate in the system, unless you want to buy into Matt Purke, who hasn't been fully healthy since 2010.
The offense is stronger with a great mix of high-upside guys who are a few years away and some lower-ceiling guys who'll debut in the next few months. Arizona's Chris Owings is the biggest omission among U.S. bats, with 124 hits already for Triple-A Reno, odd since the U.S. team has only two shortstops on it; he's not an elite prospect, but he's 21, performing well and plays a position of chronic need in this game. The Brewers have just one representative, back-end starter prospect Jimmy Nelson, but I might have called on outfielder Tyrone Taylor just to give them a second name in the game, even if he only were to get an at-bat and a few innings in the field.
The promotion of Mike Zunino and the 204th career injury to Travis d'Arnaud left the U.S. a little light on catching candidates, although defensive wizard Austin Hedges (San Diego) belongs here on merit and has the raw power to crush a mistake in this game. The same could be said of Texas' Joey Gallo, who has 80-grade power, an 80 arm at third ... and 117 strikeouts in 311 plate appearances in low Class A this year. If I were managing the U.S. team, I'd be concerned about the propensity of all of these hitters to strike out, but these are by and large the guys who belong in this game.
The World roster
Brian Westerholt/Four Seam Images/AP Photo
Not a big bat, Francisco Lindor's glove already translates.
Again, the right names are here, all in the infield. That group is led by Boston's Xander Bogaerts (the lone representative from Aruba or Curacao this year), Cleveland's Francisco Lindor and Minnesota's Miguel Sano, the latter so famous there's a documentary called "Pelotero" about teams' courtship of him in 2009.
The World's catching is weak -- Christian Bethancourt has shown no development as a hitter for almost two years, although he can really throw, and A.J. Jimenez is more backup material than starter. Texas' Jorge Alfaro is the best catching prospect on the team, grading out very well on four of the traditional five tools, but showing very weak plate discipline even in his second year in the low Class A Sally League. Yankee catcher Gary Sanchez is an obvious omission, but the Yanks have been reluctant to push Sanchez, who's shown some immaturity on and off the field in the past, and probably declined any request for him to participate.
The World infield, on the other hand, is the most exciting part of the roster, with the three marquee names I mentioned above, as well as several exciting under-the-radar prospects in Philly's Maikel Franco, the Cubs' Arismendy Alcantara and Pittsburgh's Dilson Herrera. Carlos Correa is the biggest name missing, although he's just 18 and the Astros have lots of candidates for the game. Raul Mondesi (formerly Adalberto) also probably deserved a spot, but he's also very young, and the World team is loaded with shortstops, led by Lindor.
I assume the starting outfield will include Jorge Soler (Cubs), Oscar Taveras (St. Louis) and Gregory Polanco (Pittsburgh), since the other two prospects on the roster aren't close to the caliber of those three. At 26, Baltimore's Henry Urrutia, one of those two reserve outfielders, is two-and-a-half years older than any other World position player, and is the oldest player on either roster. Taking him as Baltimore's second representative over third baseman Nick Delmonico might be the single worst decision on either roster, especially since the other blatant non-prospect in the game, Atlanta's Joey Terdoslavich, is occupying a spot that could have gone to Delmonico instead.
Minnesota's Max Kepler probably makes this game next year as the first German-born participant; he's played only five games this year, all in the past week, after missing two-plus months with an elbow injury; the Twins also have two top-10 prospects in Buxton and Miguel Sano, both of whom belong here over Kepler on merit. They probably also kept Puerto Rican second baseman Eddie Rosario off the roster.
The World pitching staff has less pure velocity than it normally does, with more command/feel guys than we usually get, including the Mets' Rafael Montero and the Royals' Miguel Almonte, both of whom fill up the strike zone. Baltimore's Eduardo Rodriguez, my 100th-ranked prospect coming into the season, also fits in this category, but has increased his strikeout rate over 2012 even though he moved up a level. And the world will get its first look at Oakland bonus baby Michael Ynoa, signed for a then-record $4.25 million in 2008, after which he had Tommy John surgery and became the best-compensated bat boy in Arizona Rookie League history. The A's chose to add him to their 40-man roster last winter to protect him from the Rule 5 draft and he's at least starting to show more potential, although his inclusion here is more for name value than track record.
No escape for Yanks, A-Rod.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Derek Jeter turns 39 years old Wednesday, and it’s somehow fitting that within the career-long dynamic that has bound Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, The Captain gets cake and presents on the same day that everybody is talking about whether Rodriguez should shut up. And, as usual, Rodriguez brought it upon himself with his ninth tweet, Wallace Matthews writes.
Brian Cashman’s words are his and his alone, and he is the only one in the organization who will have to explain Wednesday why he said what he said and whether owner Hal Steinbrenner thinks his words are appropriate for a highly ranked officer of a prominent company. Cashman knows better than anyone -- after almost two decades of putting out organizational fires -- that his words turned this from a brushfire into a back-page conflagration.
But really, the Yankees’ general manager was speaking for a whole lot of people, from top to bottom, who are fed up with Rodriguez -- from the highest offices in the organization to some of Rodriguez’s peers in the clubhouse.
The Yankees’ front office long ago reached the conclusion that the Rodriguez’s 10-year, $275 million deal was a complete and utter disaster, a tremendous miscalculation. I get the sense that the team would love nothing more than for Rodriguez to go away for good, to gracefully depart the sport and save the team tens of millions of dollars.
But it is resigned to an immediate future tied to Rodriguez, like spouses in a marriage held together only for the sake of the kids, so they have generally stood by him in their public posturing and commentary, although wearily.
That’s the backdrop to Rodriguez’s tweet, which, because of the history, is almost certainly being read within the organization as a strong bit of passive-aggressiveness by the third baseman. When there was published word the other day that Rodriguez had been cleared by his doctor for baseball activities, it was assumed within some corners of the Yankees organization that this had been leaked out by Rodriguez’s side.
Cashman corrected the official record on Monday, saying that Rodriguez had still not been cleared by the Yankees’ doctors. The GM’s comments were published far and wide, and Rodriguez presumably was aware of them when he chose to send out the tweet Tuesday that he got great news and was cleared to play. It could easily have been read as an effort to push the Yankees, to pressure them publicly to working within the timeline that Rodriguez and his doctor want.
Cashman and the Yankees, however, are in no mood to be pushed. The goodwill they have extended on behalf of Rodriguez is completely gone. They have been embarrassed by his actions, by his words, by what they perceive to be repeated lies. There is almost certainly some sentiment in the organization that he’s been stealing their money through a form of business fraud, his past use of performance-enhancing drugs -- and they have to continue writing the checks.
They are willing to have a working relationship with Rodriguez, because they really have no other choice, given the contract. But it is their hope that in the time they have together, Rodriguez conducts himself with humility and respectfulness and within the usual bounds of team-player comportment.
But when he doesn’t -- as in this situation -- well, they’re likely finished with the business of protecting him from himself. If Rodriguez persists and says or does dumb, silly or passive-aggressive stuff, this will be only the first volley.
Only Rodriguez could turn good news into ugliness, writes Mark Feinsand. This was a response to the whole A-Rod thing, writes Mike Vaccaro.
The Yankees won again Tuesday, in a walk-off.
Around the league
• Ian Stewart was released by the Cubs, and the teams seen as most likely to land him are the Marlins and Diamondbacks.
• The Giants fell below .500 after losing to the Dodgers, and before the game, GM Brian Sabean pulled no punches, Henry Schulman writes. From his story:
"You earn your way to winning a division, you earn your way to be able to go to the World Series, and you earn your World Series trophy by doing it on the field," general manager Brian Sabean said before the game. "Right now we're not doing too much of it on the field. We're in rough water right now."
Sabean talked about possible trades and about prospects.
• Meanwhile, Matt Kemp is back. And he’s happy about it, writes Elliott Teaford.
• David Price hopes his next rehab start is his last, writes Joe Smith.
• Carlos Martinez is the next big thing for the Cardinals.
• The Gerrit Cole decision will be made on merit and not on money, says Pirates owner Bob Nutting.
• The Nationals put some runs up.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The Nationals have options in trades, writes Amanda Comak.
2. Will Middlebrooks was sent to the minors. The bottom line for players pre-arbitration: If you produce, you play.
3. With Jose Reyes set to be activated, the Blue Jays made a roster move.
4. Brandon Phillips is away from the Reds.
5. A healthy roster would help the Indians make trade decisions.
6. A Padres prospect is being called up.
Giants face tough decisions.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The challenges for the San Francisco Giants before the trade deadline extend beyond what they lack, and need, in 2013 -- and they need a lot right now. They have won two World Series in the last three years because of strong pitching, but as of this morning, the Giants’ rank 19th among the 30 teams in ERA, with their rotation ranking 22nd.
The Giants are two games under .500 and 3 1/2 games behind first-place Arizona in the mud bog otherwise known as the NL West, and their rotation has to perform better in order for them to return to the playoffs.
But there is also a long-term concern. Barry Zito’s seven-year, $126 million deal expires after this season, and the Giants will need to replace him in the rotation. Tim Lincecum will be eligible for free agency, and while there’s no telling what he or the Giants will want this winter, it’s safe to assume he will not be making $22.5 million next year -- that’s his 2013 salary -- or that he’ll be back as a starting pitcher for San Francisco. As his velocity has declined, so has his strikeout rate, while his ERA has climbed.
When the Giants needed a fill-in starter, they turned to veteran journeyman Chad Gaudin, which gives you a clue about what’s available at the top of their minor league system. They will have to fill at least two spots in their rotation in 2014, and they have almost no internal options.
In recent seasons, San Francisco has dealt for veterans and then retained them on multiyear deals: Aubrey Huff, Marco Scutaro, Angel Pagan, etc. So, as they search for starting pitchers, they might be looking for those who could stick around.
Ricky Nolasco, for example. The Marlins are aggressively trying to move the right-hander, who has a 3.68 ERA this season, and according to rival officials, they have suitors willing to take on the $6 million or so he is owed for the rest of this season. (The Rockies are not one of those teams; they had interest in Nolasco, but backed away after learning the Marlins wanted them to pay all of Nolasco’s salary.) The Dodgers are aggressively trying to land Nolasco, writes Mark Saxon, but the Giants have done a lot of background work on him as well.
Nolasco is 30 years old and will be eligible for free agency in the fall.
"Ricky knows it’s out of his control," said the pitcher’s agent, Matt Sosnick. “His assumption is that he’ll be playing for the Marlins, and if he does get traded, my sense is that he’d love to play as close as possible to where he grew up."
Nolasco was born and raised in Southern California.
Some would-be free agents don’t want to negotiate during a season before they hit the market. This is not the case with Nolasco, says Sosnick. "He’s open to anything, open to an extension from the Marlins or open to an extension to any team he gets traded to."
Nolasco is not a No. 1 type of starter, but he is steady and relatively durable -- a lot like Edwin Jackson, who signed a four-year deal with the Cubs before last season -- having made 31 or more starts in four of his past five seasons and 16 starts so far this year.
The good thing for the Giants, Dodgers, Padres, Rockies and Diamondbacks -- who are all looking for starting pitching -- is that even if Nolasco goes to a division rival, there will be comparable pitchers available. Right now, there is no Cliff Lee-type talent on the market. If you miss out on Nolasco, you could get Matt Garza, who has allowed one run in his last 15 innings, or Scott Feldman.
But the Giants need somebody, soon. And they’ll need at least two somebodies for next season.
The Giants couldn’t solve Clayton Kershaw, as Henry Schulman writes. The Giants are 15-25 in their last 40 games, as Andrew Baggarly writes.
Around the league
• Feldman, one of the most prominent starting pitchers available for trade, picked up a victory on Wednesday. And Kevin Gregg, another trade candidate, picked up his 12th save in 12 opportunities. Feldman talked about pitching in front of scouts.
• Yovani Gallardo, who is under contract for $7.75 million this year and $11.25 million next year and is regarded as a possible trade target, was not at his best pitching against Feldman.
• The Nationals will evaluate their health before deciding what to add, writes Amanda Comak.
• The Pirates are tied for first place in the NL Central, and more remarkably, they are tied for the best record in the majors, after picking up their sixth consecutive victory. Pedro Alvarez has been at the forefront of the success.
From ESPN Stats and Info: After stumbling to start June (1-4), the Pirates have gone 13-5 since to help climb atop the NL Central. Pedro Alvarez has been their hottest hitter. Since June 7, Alvarez has batted .353/.421/.750 with 7 homers.
Alvarez has raised his batting average 43 points (.199 on June 5 to .242 through Wednesday) and has overcome his early-season struggles against pitches up in the zone, hitting .556 on such pitches since June 5.
Remember, the Pirates had the toughest early-season schedule in the majors, which means that they face lighter fare the rest of the way -- and their next nine games are against the Brewers, Phillies and Cubs.
With their latest sweep, the Pirates are 18 games above .500, writes Michael Sanserino.
• The Yankees now know they will be without Mark Teixeira for the rest of the season, and they will again be scanning the waiver wires and rosters of pre-deadline sellers in the weeks ahead. Aramis Ramirez figures to be the most prominent corner guy available for a deal before July 31.
However, Alex Rodriguez sucked up most of the available oxygen in the Bronx Wednesday, even when he wasn’t around. A-Rod is not playing, so in that vacuum, we are seeing the birth of many conspiracy theories. Somebody from Rodriguez’s camp told Wallace Matthews that the player thinks the Yankees are slowing his progress in order to collect insurance.
Now, think about that for a moment. The Yankees have one of the most famous brands in U.S. business, and Rodriguez’s rehabilitation from major offseason surgery has been detailed by the largest news outlets in the world. Would the Yankees love to get out from underneath the weight of the money owed to him in the last four-plus years of his deal? Sure. But this is not like somebody wearing a fake neck brace and living clandestinely on workman’s comp.
When Rodriguez is ready to play, the insurance company is going to know it, which is why the Yankees will bring him along in due time. They can delay his return by a day or two, if they want, but the idea that they would tuck him away without notice from the insurers is laughable.
And there’s this conspiracy theory: Rodriguez wants to come back, play briefly and retire before he is suspended, a source tells the New York Daily News.
The crack in this is that Rodriguez, who has demonstrated throughout his career that he craves attention, would be walking away from the spotlight to save something relatively meager, in the range of $8 million to $16 million -- the amount of money he would lose from a suspension, depending on whether he got nailed for 50 games or 100 games. Remember, this is a player who will make something close to $350 million in salary during the course of his career, by the time it is over.
Meanwhile: Rodriguez told the Yankees Wednesday he is not healthy enough to play. Also, his cousin was told he must testify in the steroid scandal.
Rodriguez won’t ever grow up, writes Ian O’Connor. Rodriguez hates the Yankees and the Yankees hate Rodriguez, writes Joel Sherman.
On a day when the Yankees lost, it was all about A-Rod. Rodriguez isn’t apologizing.
• David Price felt good about his rehab start.
• The Dodgers are driving back toward the top of the NL West. From ESPN Stats and Info: They’ve won a season-high five straight games. Yasiel Puig had his sixth game with three-plus hits Wednesday night, and Hanley Ramirez has been red-hot; he’s hit safely in nine straight games, batting .485/.528/.909 in that stretch with 4 homers.
• R.A. Dickey was dominant.
From ESPN Stats and Info: How Dickey shut out the Rays.
In his complete game on Wednesday, R.A. Dickey needed just 93 pitches, the fewest by a Blue Jays pitcher in a complete game since A.J. Burnett in June of 2006. Dickey appeared to have greater effectiveness throwing his knuckleball for strikes. He threw 64 percent of pitches for strikes on Wednesday as compared to 51.3 percent through his first 16 starts of the seasons.
• This goes under the category of numbers that surprise you: Aramis Ramirez picked career hit No. 2,000 on his 347th homer. Which means he probably has a shot at 2,400 or so hits and 400 homers.
• A.J. Griffin dominated, in his own way. He’s like a Shaun Marcum clone, because he doesn’t throw hard and battles like crazy.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. Melky Cabrera was moved out of the leadoff spot for the Blue Jays. His OPS is about 220 points lower than it was in 2012 and about 120 points lower than it was with Kansas City in 2011.
2. The Cubs may go down to the wire in their negotiations with their No. 1 pick.
3. Alcides Escobar is glad to be hitting second again.
Dings and dents
1. Clay Buchholz had a setback. Which presumably will have the Red Sox perusing the trade market for more than a relief pitcher.
2. Asdrubal Cabrera is back, and Chris Perez is making progress.
3. Jake Peavy played catch; time is running out for him to audition in front of other teams for a possible trade.
4. Ryan Doumit has an ankle issue, writes Mike Berardino.
5. Jonathan Broxton isn’t ready to come off the disabled list, writes Mark Sheldon.
6. Dylan Bundy is going to have Tommy John surgery.
7. Lance Lynn had a bad inning.
8. Roy Halladay will meet with a doctor today, as mentioned within this piece.
9. Dexter Fowler is going to have an MRI today.
10. Ramiro Pena will have season-ending surgery.
Early leaders for MVP, Cy Young.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
I recently bumped into a longtime evaluator who offered an interesting handicap on the National League Most Valuable Player race. "Right now," he said, "Yadier Molina is the league MVP, hands down."
Over the next week to 10 days, every team will play its 81st game and reach the midpoint of the season, and the races for the major awards are starting to take form.
It’s possible to win the MVP or the Cy Young Award with a mad finish, like Vladimir Guerrero did in 2004, but as the use of statistical analysis deepens, the more the broad, season-long view of performance will be weighted -- not only by teams, but also by the writers who vote, who have demonstrated they will pick and choose. We saw this in 2010, when voters ignored Felix Hernandez's 13-12 record and gave him the AL Cy Young Award. Of course, the same electorate ignored WAR and leaned on traditional numbers to select Miguel Cabrera over Mike Trout last year.
NL MVP: Yadier Molina, Cardinals
He leads the NL batting race, with a .353 average, and among catchers he has the highest OPS. Remember, his offensive production is regarded as a complementary part of what he provides. He is renowned for his ability to handle a pitching staff -- and the Cardinals’ work has been excellent this season -- and for positioning the defense, and for shutting down the running games of opposing teams.
Think about this number, which isn’t necessarily related to Molina’s MVP candidacy in 2013 but demonstrates the impact of his presence in a game. Since the start of 2006, these are the fewest stolen-base attempts against major league teams:
1. Cardinals: 645
2. Twins: 860
3. Reds: 863
4. Mets: 877
5. Diamondbacks: 889
6. Astros: 901
7. Mariners: 951
8. Brewers: 955
9. Nationals: 960
10. Orioles: 960
It’s hard to measure exactly what a great catcher provides, but there’s more than enough to support the scout’s view that as of now, Molina’s the front-runner.
The others in the conversation:
2. Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks
3. Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies
4. David Wright, Mets
5. Joey Votto, Reds
Troy Tulowitzki would be among the top three here if he weren’t on the disabled list, with an extended absence ahead of him. Carlos Gomez, by the way, ranks first in WAR.
AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
The guy is hitting .370, without the benefit of infield hits or being able to swing from the left side of the plate. And, by the way, he currently leads the AL in WAR.
2. Chris Davis, Orioles
3. Evan Longoria, Rays
4. Manny Machado, Orioles (second in AL in WAR)
5. Mike Trout, Angels
NL Cy Young Award: Matt Harvey, Mets
He’s got a 2.05 ERA, which is second best in the NL behind Jeff Locke, and he leads in WHIP and in strikeouts.
2. Adam Wainwright, Cardinals (leads NL pitchers in WAR)
3. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers (career 2.42 ERA in the second half)
Others in the conversation: Patrick Corbin, Diamondbacks; Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals.
AL Cy Young Award: Max Scherzer, Tigers
He’s second in the league in WHIP, and in strikeouts. And he seems to be getting better as the season rolls along.
2. Yu Darvish, Rangers
3. Clay Buchholz, Red Sox (although he is drifting back because of his time on the disabled list)
Others in the conversation: Felix Hernandez, Mariners; Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners; Anibal Sanchez, Tigers.
Reasons for Wainwright's success.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
ST. LOUIS -- Oh sure, Adam Wainwright would rather have been on the field in 2011 doing what he loves to do. But he explained on Saturday that while he has always loved baseball, he sort of renewed his vows with the sport that summer as he went through his long recovery from reconstructive elbow surgery.
When the Cardinals were on the road, Wainwright and his wife, Jenny, structured their days around watching the team play, and enjoyed it so much that Jenny told Adam that when his playing days are over, she wants to get the television package that enables them to see all the major league games.
But for Wainwright, that year of watching everybody else play had a practical impact on how he thinks on the mound and how he pitches. He had always had very good command, but since he's come back, his control has been historically great because of a philosophical change that he adopted in his time of reflection.
Wainwright takes the mound for the Cardinals on "Sunday Night Baseball" (8 ET, ESPN) against the Texas Rangers, with more wins (10) this season than walks allowed.
“It's a matter of making an intentional, solid choice to go out there to go out and attack hitters,” said Wainwright.
Wainwright grew up in Georgia and liked watching Russ Ortiz pitch. Ortiz was a battler, never giving in, never throwing meatball fastballs in hitters' counts; it's a very passive-aggressive way of pitching, and it served Ortiz well in his career.
“In my mind, it was great that he never gave in,” said Wainwright. “When he got into a big spot, he knew who was on deck, and he never gave in.”
But as Wainwright reflected on that, he said he thought also about how Chris Carpenter, Cliff Lee and other aggressive strike-throwers went after hitters without any thought of who was on deck.
“What that did for me was put more emphasis on the pitch I was throwing,” he said. “I made less mistakes that way. Now I can attack hitters more than I ever have.”
That 2011 season, he said, he realized how much he loved baseball when he had it taken from him. So when he and Jenny watched games together, he was an active viewer -- keeping a spiral notebook by his side, jotting down notes and thoughts about what he saw.
“I wanted to know what made pitchers great,” he said. “I wanted to know what made Carp great, what made Cliff Lee great, what made Roy Halladay great. On the other hand, what could I do better that could take my game to the next level?”
It's happened. Wainwright is in the midst of the best season of his career, with a 2.37 ERA, the best strikeout-to-walk ratio in his career (a staggering 11.11, which, if he carries it out over the full season, will be the greatest of all time) and a more efficient approach.
Wainwright's pitches per inning
The Cardinals need more from Wainwright Sunday night, given that Texas has taken the first two games of this series. Martin Perez -- who has been working on controlling his emotions on the mound -- had a strong start Saturday.
How the Chris Davis deal got done.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Chris Davis’ major league salary was a little more than $400,000 when the Baltimore Orioles acquired him in their deal with the Texas Rangers in the summer of 2011, but really, it came down to money -- but not his money, which now looks crazy, considering how Davis is arguably the most productive player in the big leagues in 2013.
The Orioles and Rangers had haggled over terms of the deal, and the last question was not whether Texas could part with Davis but whether Baltimore would kick in $2 million to offset the salary of Koji Uehara. The Rangers had agreed to trade Tommy Hunter and Davis, but wanted and needed Andy MacPhail -- who was the team’s GM at the time -- to add cash, something he had rarely done through the years.
But this was a case when the Orioles were both lucky and good. They benefited from the fact that Baltimore manager Buck Showalter had previously worked with the Rangers and knew trusted evaluators who knew Davis, so he lobbied for the acquisition. If Penn State is known as Linebacker University, Showalter once said, the Rangers would be known as a first baseman factory because, through the years, they have developed Mark Teixeira, Adrian Gonzalez, Justin Smoak, Mitch Moreland and Davis.
The Orioles were attracted by Davis’ athleticism and thought he could be a good defender, no matter where he was needed, and although Davis had not hit enough to establish himself in the big leagues, MacPhail and Showalter thought that Davis just had too much success in the minor leagues -- too much success -- to simply be a lost cause. “You just don’t find players with the kind of résumé that Chris had,” Showalter said, referring to the yearly slash lines Davis would post, of .300/.400/Damage.
The Rangers realized that, too, which is why they had given Davis repeated opportunities to lock down a spot in the big leagues, and it just didn’t work out. Davis was universally liked within the organization, and the Rangers all saw the power potential, but it just wasn’t happening -- in fact, year to year, his performance had suffered. As the Rangers assessed Davis’ market value, there were a handful of clubs interested because he was a classic buy-low, high-ceiling player.
Orioles owner Peter Angelos agreed to kick in the cash for the proposed deal with the Rangers, and, in less than two years, Davis has become one of the most prolific hitters in the majors, on pace to hit 59 homers this year. Rangers GM Jon Daniels wrote in an email that he is genuinely happy for Davis. “Great dude,” he wrote. “Wish it had happened here. I feel comfortable with the decision-making process that led us there. The result is obviously not in our favor, but the process wasn't bad.”
Davis hit his 27th HR of the season Friday, giving him 50 extra-base hits in his 73rd game played this season -- tying him for the fifth-fastest player to reach that mark in the expansion era (since 1961), according to The Elias Sports Bureau.
The Orioles lost Friday, in spite of Davis’s 27th homer, and Showalter was ejected. You don’t see him get this upset very often.
• I remember going to spring training thinking that I would pick the Toronto Blue Jays to win the American League East, but then, after talking with rival evaluators and seeing them for a few days, I instead picked them to finish fourth -- mostly based on bullpen concerns. In a division that appeared to be loaded with good bullpens, such as those of Baltimore, Boston, New York and Tampa Bay, the Toronto relief corps looked as if it might have serious issues.
The bottom line: I’m definitely wrong about the Blue Jays’ bullpen, and if Toronto keeps winning, I’ll be wrong there, too. The Blue Jays have won nine straight, after beating the Orioles on Friday on a walk-off, and their relievers have racked up 27 consecutive scoreless innings -- one inning short of the club record set in 1989.
Brett Cecil has played an enormous role in that, after being shifted from starting pitcher to relief, something not unfamiliar to him. “I love it,” he said. “I did it in college, which makes this a lot easier.”
When Cecil was at the University of Maryland, he recalled, he was asked to close games, and, after his first three or four outings, he reported to his coach that he felt some fatigue. “They asked me how many pitches I was throwing to warm up, and I said, ’35 to 40 pitches,’” he remembered. It was explained to him that he needed to learn to warm up to pitch one inning, not for an entire game, and that he would have to find other ways to get his body prepared -- by jumping rope, etc.
So, as the left-hander has transitioned from the role of a starting pitcher into relief with the Blue Jays, he said he has been familiar with developing his routine, preparing mentally to face the left-handed hitters he might see or the right-handed hitters who might be called on to pinch-hit against him. He uses a weighted ball to get loose -- a la Mariano Rivera -- and warms up quickly.
Most of all, Cecil said, he likes the intensity that comes with being a reliever, the instant adrenaline when you get the ball -- usually in a close game, often with a runner or more on base. He has responded to it well: According to Elias, Cecil has faced 43 straight batters without allowing a hit. That's the longest such streak in Blue Jays history and the longest by any reliever since Ernesto Frieri went 53 straight batters without allowing a hit last year.
The Toronto bullpen has a 0.61 ERA in June. That would be the lowest bullpen ERA in a calendar month in franchise history and the lowest (minimum 10 games) by any team since the Yankees' pen posted a 0.24 ERA in June 1981 (Elias).
• The Padres beat L.A. on Friday night but lost Clayton Richard. I wrote here Friday about how the Cubs are ready to deal, and have two starting pitchers available, in Matt Garza -- who threw well again Friday -- and Scott Feldman. Keep in mind that the Chicago front office has firsthand knowledge of the San Diego farm system, given that GM Jed Hoyer and assistant Jason McLeod used to work for the Padres, who have a lot of depth in prospects.
• The Cubs have started exchanging names with other teams, including Baltimore, about Feldman, Garza and others.
• The Dodgers lost again, and are on a trajectory that would take them to a season of 67-95, so we have unofficially reached the stage in which any change should not be considered a surprise.
Clayton Kershaw allowed a home run in the first inning versus the Padres on Friday, to Chris Denorfia. He has allowed six home runs this season, five of which have been to Padres. His 4 ER allowed Friday tied a season high (allowed 4 ER in May 26 home loss to Cardinals).
The Dodgers have some tough decisions to make when their injured outfielders return, writes Dylan Hernandez.
• I watched some of Gerrit Cole’s start against the Angels on Friday and he was ridiculous, in dominating them with his fastball.