Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Baez has enormous power, the kind you get from having lightning-quick wrists and strong forearms, which he's shown major league audiences in flashes such as this year's Futures Game (where he hit an opposite-field homer off Lucas Giolito) and in spring training stints with the Cubs. He's a natural shortstop but may end up moving to second or third base, with the arm for the latter and enough quickness for the former. He had another full season before he had to go on the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, but the Cubs chose to bring him up now -- in the hopes it'll better prepare him for next year -- rather than wait until next April, which might have pushed off free agency by a year.
With the first of the Cubs' quartet of elite hitting prospects arriving, and two more not far behind, the urgency for the front office to acquire starting pitching just increased significantly.
Baez's promotion means more, however, than merely the infusion of talent. It brings us closer to Cubs Judgment Day, when all of these prospects reach Wrigley Field and the front office has to find places for them to play in a sort of peculiar game of prospect musical chairs. The obvious solution is to trade one or more of them for pitching, but I can see Jed Hoyer et al disliking the idea of trading any of these potential superstars, especially Baez, Kris Bryant or Addison Russell. Starlin Castro's bounce-back this year to the level he showed in 2012 at age 22 should restore some trade value, and with a team-friendly contract ($41 million guaranteed through 2019) and passable defense at shortstop, there ought to be a number of teams interested in obtaining him for pitching, the Mets foremost among them.
If Castro goes, the Cubs still have more prospects than open positions at the major league level, assuming Anthony Rizzo is locked in at first base (as he should be; if we can't have the Joey Votto we want, Rizzo may very well be the Joey Votto we need). Baez, Russell and Arismendy Alcantara all can play short. Bryant plays third, but Baez could play there, too, while both Baez and Alcantara also could handle second. If Bryant moves off third, the longtime assumption has been that he would move to right field, but that's Jorge Soler's ideal position ... and if Soler moves to left, he might block Billy McKinney, the "other" guy in the Jeff Samardzija trade, who's hitting .310/.400/.460 in 105 plate appearances since the deal; or Kyle Schwarber, the Cubs' first pick this year, if Schwarber doesn't work out behind the plate. Alcantara has played some center since reaching the majors, but that's Albert Almora's best position, although Almora has struggled at the plate all season.
Soler might be the next call-up, because he's the only one of all of the remaining prospects I mentioned here who's already on the 40-man roster, the result of the major league deal he signed in the spring of 2012. (Although the Cubs have used three of Soler's options, he'll qualify for a fourth option next year because he has fewer than five full seasons in pro ball.) Soler's issue isn't lack of ability, but lack of reps: In more than 24 months since his pro debut, he's had fewer than 600 regular-season plate appearances, and has just 118 above A-ball. If he continues torching Triple-A, however, I'd call him up when Iowa's season ends in early September. Bryant may be more advanced right now, but he's not on the 40-man, and adding him prematurely and giving him major league time creates some added risks should he get hurt this September or in spring training next year.
[+] EnlargeJon Lester
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Jon Lester could be a pitching target the Cubs go after this offseason.
With the first of the Cubs' quartet of elite hitting prospects arriving, and two more not far behind, the urgency for the front office to acquire starting pitching just increased significantly.
The possible 2015 rotation right now is comprised of Jake Arrieta, Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson and some fifth-starter types -- not enough to boost the team into contention -- and their best starting pitching prospects likely won't be ready for at least two more years. They may have more luck acquiring pitching for Castro or Alcantara than for prospects, given the trend during this year's trade deadline buildup, in which we saw major leaguers moved rather than minor leaguers in the bulk of the biggest deals.
That same urgency, combined with a lack of major financial commitments on the current roster, should lead the Cubs to be more aggressive in free agency, too. Most of the best starters on the market this winter -- and there aren't many premium ones available -- will receive a qualifying offer, so signing them as free agents would mean the loss of a pick, which for the Cubs would mean their second-rounder, a small disincentive at most. There is one premium pitcher heading for the market who can't receive a qualifying offer, however, and the Cubs' brass are already very familiar with him: Jon Lester.
Adding Lester to their rotation could net the Cubs four to five extra wins over what they would have in-house for that rotation spot, a little less relative to 2013 because some of those starts went to Jason Hammel. It's one option of several, but makes a lot of sense given the front office's connections to Lester and its desire to retain as many draft picks as it can.
Timing key in Cubs' call-up.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Baez did that at Triple-A Iowa, gradually learning to lay off pitches out of the strike zone, learning that if you ignore the slider in the dirt, it gives you a better chance to get pitches in the zone. This is a message reinforced by the Cubs' new minor league hitting guru Manny Ramirez, who seems to have had an immediate impact on the young players he has worked with and has been impressed with Baez's skills, which have blossomed.
Think of Baez as the college freshman who got a lot of C-minuses in the first marking period but now has graduated from Triple-A with honors: Despite being more than five years younger than the average player in the league, Baez racked up 23 homers and a .510 slugging percentage. Over his past 30 games in Iowa, he has hit .310 with 12 homers and a 1.063 OPS.
Baez's bat speed and powerful swing look to some like that of former All-Star infielder Julio Franco; others watch Baez swing and think of Gary Sheffield. On Monday afternoon, evaluators with two other teams separately said that Baez reminds them of a current major leaguer who has been in the news lately.
"It's an imperfect comp, but he reminds me a little of Yoenis Cespedes," said one. "Crazy tools type with incredible bat speed, but still feeling for the strike zone and will have lapses at the plate and in the field. I think Baez will actually have more game power than Cespedes, but will struggle to adjust as quickly in terms of hitting, especially from a situational standpoint."
The Cubs understand this, which is why they are calling up Baez now. Get him into the big leagues for August and September, get him some at-bats and all the firsts out of the way. He'll presumably do some damage, hit his first home runs, and he'll probably have some tough days as well. Baez will have an opportunity to go into the winter and reflect and refocus for 2015, much in the same way he did after his slow start this season.
This is only the first big step for the Cubs. Outfielder Jorge Soler came back from injuries and hit .415 in 22 games in Double-A before being promoted to Triple-A, and given that he's already on the team's 40-man roster, he'll probably be up for the last weeks of the regular season. Kris Bryant has 14 homers in 45 games for Iowa with an OPS of 1.077. He's likely an early-season candidate for promotion in 2015. Starlin Castro is on track for 178 hits (including 60 extra-base hits), and Anthony Rizzo is likely to get some top-10 votes in the NL MVP balloting. In an era when teams are scrambling for offense, the Cubs are piecing together what has the potential to be an extraordinary lineup.
The pitching reconstruction has a long way to go, to build a staff almost from top to bottom. But today, that won't matter. As Baez takes his first big, aggressive swing in the big leagues, today is a day for a Cubs fan to dream.
• For the Cubs, it's time to print the T-shirts, writes Mark Gonzales. Baez is not Superman, writes Rick Morrissey.
Around the league
• On Monday’s podcast, Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski gave a great breakdown of how the deal for David Price came together. Price makes his debut for the Tigers Tuesday night against the Yankees.
• The Tigers' Ezequiel Carrera made what was arguably the best catch of the season. The catch couldn’t save the Tigers.
• This is terrible: Andrew McCutchen is likely headed to the disabled list.
• This is great: Michael Wacha will start a throwing program Tuesday.
• Monday night felt like the first real day of scoreboard watching, with the Angels and the Athletics playing at the same time and with Oakland carrying a one-game lead into the day. The Angels jumped on Zack Greinke for four runs early and Oakland fell behind, and there were a few innings in which it looked like the two teams might be tied.
Jim Cowsert/USA TODAY Sports
Angels starter Garrett Richards threw a five-hit shutout to beat Dodgers on Monday night.
The Angels went on to beat the Dodgers behind a masterful performance from Garrett Richards, as Kevin Baxter writes, but the Athletics came back and beat Tampa Bay in extra innings.
From ESPN Stats & Information, more on Richards and how he won:
A. Averaged 97.3 mph with his fastball -- his third-fastest average fastball velocity this season.
B. The Dodgers swung at 22 sliders and missed 11 of them. Richards is now 9-0 with a 1.39 ERA in the 10 starts in which opponents missed on half their swings against his slider (3.62 ERA in his other 13 starts).
C. The Dodgers were 0-for-14 with nine strikeouts in two-strike counts against him.
• Oakland won a late-night thriller against former teammate Grant Balfour, as Susan Slusser writes. The Rays were really unhappy with the strike zone.
• Albert Pujols and Yasiel Puig had a game within a game.
• The Yankees won the first game of the series against Detroit, but lost David Phelps to the disabled list.
• Masahiro Tanaka felt good in a throwing session. Mark Teixeira was scratched because of dizziness.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. Wilson Ramos will take paternity leave.
2. Waiver options abound for the Pirates. It makes a lot of sense for Pittsburgh to place a claim on Cole Hamels, who is reportedly on waivers right now, even if they presume they can’t get him; they could at least block the Giants or Cardinals or Dodgers or another NL contender from having access to Hamels. Heck, it might even make sense for the Cubs -- who are second in the waiver wire pecking order -- to place a claim on him, to see if they could coax the Phillies into a move that should happen at one time or another as Philadelphia rebuilds.
3. The Mets cut Bobby Abreu.
4. The Red Sox have a couple of moves in the works.
5. The Mariners are going to make a rotation adjustment, writes Ryan Divish.
6. Ken Williams wanted to add to the White Sox at the trade deadline.
7. Mike Carp has taken over for Mitch Moreland.
8. Dan Uggla declined a chance to play in Triple-A.
Dings and dents
1. Nate McLouth landed on the disabled list.
2. Ubaldo Jimenez has rejoined the Orioles.
3. The Jays will activate Brett Lawrie.
4. Jarrod Parker played catch.
AP Photo/Alex Gallardo
Giants starter Matt Cain will be out for the remainder of the season with a right elbow injury.
5. It’s official: Matt Cain is out for the year.
6. Chris Perez landed on the disabled list.
7. Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher are working their way back.
8. Joe Mauer reported to Cedar Rapids. Mauer has four years and $92 million remaining on his deal after this season.
9. Derek Holland struggled in a rehab outing.
10. Ryan Hanigan suffered a setback.
1. Delmon Young got a big hit.
2. Pablo Sandoval got a big hit.
3. The Reds lost the first game of their series with the Indians.
4. Jose Abreu continues to play great.
• The Marlins' big trade last week got mixed reviews.
• David Murphy writes that Ruben Amaro is out of touch.
• Pedro Alvarez needs to figure out his throwing issue soon, writes Bill Brink.
• If the Cardinals have an issue with Oscar Taveras, the veteran players should deal with it.
• Taveras is finding his stride, writes Joe Trezza.
• Yovani Gallardo is looking to stay hot.
• Addison Reed appears to be back on track.
• The Rockies and Giants will resume a tie game on Sept. 1.
• The Padres have some leadership turnover.
• Drew Smyly will make his Rays debut Tuesday night.
• David Ortiz is in a weird situation.
• Henry Owens flirted with a no-hitter in his first start in Triple-A.
• Joe Kelly is eager to face his former teammates.
• Corey Kluber was great, again. From ESPN Stats & Info, how he won:
A. A 70 percent strike rate -- Kluber is 9-0 with a 1.44 ERA in 12 starts this season when throwing at least 67 percent of his pitches for strikes (3-6 with a 4.00 ERA in his other 12 starts).
B. He got 14 missed swings against breaking pitches, his second most in any start this season (17 on May 4 against the White Sox).
C. The Reds were 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position against him.
D. Kluber got four of his seven strikeouts with his curveball Monday, his fourth straight start with at least four strikeouts on his curveball. Nobody has gotten more strikeouts with that pitch this season.
• Kyle Zimmer hopes to help the Royals this year.
• The Royals are debating replacements for Eric Hosmer.
• The Twins are scrambling to fill center field.
• The Mariners feel they have to pieces to make a postseason push.
• The Astros have been hurt by injuries.
• Twenty years ago, the players’ strike began with Tony Gwynn hitting .394, and Jeff Sanders asks if he would’ve hit .400. I covered the Padres at that time and he was blistering hot when the work stoppage began. I’ll always believe he would’ve hit .400.
• Kate Upton and Justin Verlander had a moment at Yankee Stadium.
• A burglar got a 50-year sentence after invading Hank Aaron’s home.
And today will be better than yesterday.
Brett Gardner an unlikely power play.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
This is not something practiced daily, but it says something about how well Gardner is going right now that his aim was dead-on perfect: The gum bounced off Zillo’s chin. Zillo turned and looked at Gardner and there was some reference to lineage, through a smile, but hey, he wasn’t going to get too upset, considering how Gardner has become the driving force in the Yankees’ lineup.
The tiebreaking home run that Gardner clubbed off Boston left-hander Craig Breslow was his 15th, meaning that with eight weeks to go in the regular season, he has nearly doubled his career high in homers. He leads the Yankees in batting average, at .284, on-base percentage (.363) and slugging percentage (.467). He has scored 70 runs, 18 more than the Yankee ranked second, Jacoby Ellsbury. He has averaged 4.47 pitches per plate appearance -- second to Mike Trout among all major leaguers -- and his recent burst of offense has ignited a lineup that has developed, through recent deals, into one of the deepest in the American League.
Martin Prado batted ninth Sunday for the Yankees, and Stephen Drew -- who appears to have his timing back, after signing midseason and struggling for two months with Boston -- hit eighth and drove in four runs, appearing completely comfortable playing second base against the Red Sox.
Joe Girardi wrote the names of three switch-hitters into his lineup, with Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira and Chase Headley behind Derek Jeter and Ellsbury. It all starts with Gardner, and he is thriving. How'd it happen?
In conversation Saturday, Gardner explained that his swing has been consistent, and he acknowledged that in certain situations, he has been able to anticipate and look to drive the ball, depending on the count, fueling the home run surge. The home run off Breslow came on a 2-0 count, and Gardner seemed to lean into the pitch. A still shot in the New York Post this morning captures Gardner’s teeth-gritting max effort in the midst of his swing.
No matter how many home runs he hits, however, Gardner said he isn't really a home run hitter. "I'd rather hit a triple than a home run," he said.
Then he paused, and took back those words. Because you score a run with a home run and you get to trot around the bases, he said. As he did Sunday, at the end of a week in which he hammered five homers and the Yankees' lineup depth and confidence grew. They are now five games out in the AL East, and 1.5 games behind Toronto in the race for the second wild-card spot.
• In their win, the Yankees got another injury scare about another starting pitcher, David Phelps, whose stuff looked completely flat in two rough innings; he may miss a start. The Yankees did get good news Sunday about Michael Pineda, whose fastball was clocked at 94 mph in the midst of his 58 pitches, and he could be promoted sometime within the next two weeks if all continues to go well.
• Masahiro Tanaka may learn today if his injured elbow is getting any better. The Yankees need to show caution with the dominant Dellin Betances, writes Bob Klapisch. Beltran continues to surge at the plate.
• This is really terrible for baseball: Paul Goldschmidt is out for the season.
• Jackie Bradley Jr. is arguably the best defensive outfielder in the American League, with an incredible arm and the ability to run down fly balls with ease. But he is really, really struggling at the plate, with his average down to .218. He looks lost in his swing. This is an extremely important time in his career, because the Red Sox are in evaluation mode and making choices for 2015, and they will want to see him doing everything possible to get better and make an adjustment -- coming out for early batting practice, for extra drills, etc. He is at a crossroads right now in how his role is being defined, and in such a critical moment, it will help the perception of his work if his daily preparation mirrors that of Dustin Pedroia.
• Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez grew up in Puerto Rico idolizing the gods of catching who preceded him, Ivan Rodriguez and the Molina brothers. In recent offseasons he has had the chance to work out in the winter with Jose Molina, drawing upon his knowledge about calling pitches and framing pitches, and occasionally he and Jose will talk. The day that Vazquez was called up to the big leagues also happened to be the time that Yadier Molina injured his thumb, and yet Vazquez got a congratulatory phone call from Yadier, a gesture that meant a lot to the younger catcher.
• All things considered, it was a tough weekend for the Pirates in Arizona -- Andrew McCutchen got drilled Saturday in apparent retaliation; he got hurt on Sunday; and the way they lost the game Sunday was maddening, from their perspective.
And Pedro Alvarez’s throwing problems continue.
• Stephen Strasburg was dominant, as Adam Kilgore writes. From ESPN Stats & Information, how he won:
1. He left only 12.1 percent of pitches up in the zone, his lowest total over the past two seasons.
2. He threw only 53.5 percent fastballs; had been over 60 percent in his previous three starts, all losses.
3. He struck out 40 percent of the batters faced for the third time this season and first time since April 10.
• Oakland’s offense has struggled the past few days, and it was limited to two runs Sunday, as Susan Slusser writes. From ESPN Stats & Info: It has been only three games since they dealt Yoenis Cespedes, but there's no denying the A's have hit some offensive bumps in the road. Outside of an
eight-run fifth inning Saturday, the Athletics have sputtered in those three games, scoring only two runs in the other 26 innings. Coming into the weekend, the Athletics' offense had been among the best in MLB since the All-Star break, ranking second in runs per game (5.75), eighth in walk percentage (8.3), first in hard-hit average (.216) and third in OPS (.770). A large part of the recent surge by their offense was the performance of Cespedes. He had a .326 BA, .333 OBP and .630 slugging percentage in the 11 games he played with the A's after the All-Star break.
• Meanwhile, the Angels picked up another game in the standings.
• Speaking of Cespedes: He took batting practice for the first time as a member of the Red Sox at Fenway Park, and hammered the Green Monster. Cespedes is known for hitting line drives, laser-shot homers, and John Fisher of ESPN Stats & Info dug this out: Of the 66 homers that Cespedes has hit in his career, 19 would not have been homers if hit in Fenway Park because of the trajectory. The natural follow question to that, of course, is how many additional homers would Cespedes have hit if he had been playing all of his games in Fenway, and that's more difficult to determine -- but undoubtedly, there will be times when what had been easy fly balls in his former home will carry into the Monster seats for Cespedes.
Will Middlebrooks was in Cespedes' hitting group, with David Ortiz, and when it was over Middlebrooks joked that in order to keep up with those two sluggers, he would have to find the lightest bat possible.
• Starlin Castro is calling for the promotion of red-hot prospect Javier Baez.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The Pirates signed Jayson Nix.
2. The Rangers picked up Mike Carp.
Dings and dents
1. The Brewers dodged a bullet with Matt Garza’s injury, writes Tom Haudricourt.
2. The Rays have pushed back Ryan Hanigan’s return.
3. Jonny Venters was encouraged after a recent throwing session.
4. George Springer is headed for a rehab assignment.
1. A strong Cole Hamels outing was wasted.
2. Clay Buchholz pitched with what seemed to be zero confidence Sunday night.
3. James Shields won a big game for the Royals.
4. Anibal Sanchez dominated.
5. Jacob Turner fell flat.
6. The Twins’ offense erupted.
7. The Blue Jays had a lousy weekend in Houston. The Jays need to stay within themselves, says Dioner Navarro.
8. The Mariners’ offense continues to be an issue.
9. The Braves are sinkingly slowly in the NL East, writes Mark Bradley.
10. Neftali Feliz blew a save.
11. The Padres swept the Braves, as old friend Chris Jenkins writes.
• Ryan Howard is back in a slump. Per the Elias Sports Bureau: Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins all survived last week's trade deadline long enough to reach a significant milestone. Sunday's loss to the Nationals was the 886th regular-season game that they've started together in the field for the Phillies at first base, second base and shortstop, respectively. They've tied the Dodgers' trio of Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes and Bill Russell for the major league record for most games started together in the field by three teammates at those positions.
• Bartolo Colon’s trade value may have taken a hit.
• The complacent Cardinals have benefited from the changes, writes Bernie Miklasz. John Lackey was outstanding for the Cardinals.
• Yadier Molina is marking time in his recovery.
• The Reds’ bats came to life.
• Edwin Jackson doesn’t worry about trade talk.
• Hunter Pence and the Giants had a big day, as Henry Schulman writes.
From ESPN Stats & Information, how Madison Bumgarner shut down the Mets on just 94 pitches:
1. He threw 55.3 percent fastballs, his highest percentage in a start since the 2011 season (hitters were 1-for-10 with four strikeouts and no hard-hit balls vs. the fastball).
2. He threw 60.6 percent of his pitches in the strike zone, his second-highest total this season.
3. His 79.8 percent strike percentage is his second highest in a game in his career.
• Trevor Cahill is gaining confidence, writes Nick Piecoro.
• The Rockies continue to get obliterated.
• The Dodgers are having problems at the back end of their rotation.
• Per Elias: The Yankees' 8-7 win at Fenway Park was their 14th consecutive game decided by two runs or fewer. It's the longest such streak in the history of the Yankees franchise and the longest streak of its kind for any major league team since the Orioles played 16 straight games decided by such slim margins in 1975.
• The Orioles' offense needs to wake up soon, writes Peter Schmuck. Chris Tillman shut down the Mariners, however.
• This is how the Red Sox trades came together, writes Peter Abraham.
• An upcoming trip will be vital for the Rays' playoff push.
• The Indians' trade for Trevor Bauer is looking better and better.
• Christian Colon got his first career start at third.
• Lee Judge writes about how the Royals took a series from the best team in baseball.
• David Price brings a psychological injection to the Tigers, writes Drew Sharp.
• The Indians took care of business against the Rangers, as Dennis Manoloff writes.
• Improved defense has been a plus for the White Sox, writes Toni Ginnetti.
• Aaron Hicks must prove himself in Triple-A, says Ron Gardenhire.
• The Rangers are on the verge of a historic flop, writes Evan Grant.
• A Vanderbilt guy is moving quickly through the Tigers' farm system.
And today will be better than yesterday.
Potential pitching targets for Red Sox.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
But Cespedes leaned into the pitch and seemed to jam himself, lofting a high fly to fairly deep center field. As he started to move toward first base, he grimaced. So close ...
There will be better days ahead for Cespedes and the Red Sox lineup, which looks dramatically different in its power potential now that Cespedes is hitting behind David Ortiz and in front of Mike Napoli. Cespedes might be inconsistent and might not draw a lot of walks, but opposing pitchers and managers will be leery of his ability to dent the Green Monster. Boston had to upgrade its lineup, and GM Ben Cherington accomplished this by acquiring Cespedes.
Moving forward, the challenge for the Red Sox is to rebuild a rotation that has undergone massive turnover since late last season. Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jake Peavy and Felix Doubront have been traded, and Ryan Dempster has retired. Only Clay Buchholz remains, accompanied by the hope and promise -- and inexperience -- of unproven prospects.
Allen Webster, one of the young pitchers who will get a chance to be part of Boston’s rotation the rest of this season and into next season, could not throw strikes Saturday, walking six.
Theoretically, the Red Sox could pursue Lester as a free agent in the offseason (more on that below) or make a play for Max Scherzer. But they will be the two most expensive free agents on the market.
Rival officials see thin opportunity for the Red Sox in the rest of the free-agent market. Perhaps they can land former Boston prospect Jorge De La Rosa, who has had his success obscured by the thin air of Colorado, or James Shields, an innings-eater who will be 33 years old; both will cost less than Lester or Scherzer but will cost Boston its first-round pick, assuming that De La Rosa and Shields are given qualifying offers by their current teams. Francisco Liriano, Justin Masterson and Ervin Santana also figure to be among the second tier of free-agent starters.
As Cherington acknowledged, what he may be doing in the months ahead is looking to flip some of Boston’s prospect depth in return for pitching.
Some of the candidates:
Tyson Ross, Padres: San Diego will be rebuilding in the coming months -- a new general manager is likely to be named in the middle of the week ahead -- and swapping the 27-year-old Ross, who has blossomed and has three more years before he’s eligible for free agency, could be an option.
Cole Hamels, Phillies: He will make at least $90 million over the next four seasons, with a vesting option for 2019, which isn’t that far away from what the Red Sox wanted to pay Lester. The Phillies and Red Sox did talk about a deal briefly, and given Philadelphia’s need for prospects, the two could be a match. But before any of those kinds of conversations happen, there needs to be a reality check in Philadelphia and a clear directive on where to go from here.
Zack Wheeler, Mets: At some point, the Mets will deal some pitching depth to acquire some position prospects, and Wheeler might be the most likely candidate to go, as he is further along in his development than Jacob deGrom. Here’s the problem: The Mets need impact hitters in return, and unless the Red Sox are willing to discuss Xander Bogaerts -- which seems really unlikely -- Boston doesn’t have thumpers. The Mets would seem to match up better with the Cubs in potential pitcher-for-thumper trades.
Wade Miley, Diamondbacks: Teams that asked about him during the summer were rebuffed. Unless he signs a multiyear deal, it will make sense for the Diamondbacks to at least consider dealing him, given that he’s about to become eligible for arbitration.
Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals: This is a total long shot, but here’s how this might work. Zimmermann is eligible for free agency after 2015, and he and the Nationals have not worked out a long-term deal (just as Lester and the Red Sox were not able to). Zimmermann’s stuff would translate well in the American League, and maybe the Red Sox could get close enough to working something out in a trade that they could find out what the 28-year-old Zimmermann wants in a multiyear deal. Again, it's a complete long shot, but the Red Sox will be looking under all stones this winter.
Doug Fister, Nationals: He has had success in the AL with the Mariners and Tigers and will be eligible for free agency after 2015. It could be that the Nationals would deal him now before he walks away, for the right price.
One of the Reds’ starters -- Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake or Mat Latos: Cincinnati is about to face a big dollar crunch with its rotation and might be open to moving one of its veterans during the winter. Cueto is one of the NL’s best pitchers and will be a free agent after 2015, so unless the Red Sox can work out an extension, he might be unlikely. Latos has had some injury issues this year, although he’s pitched effectively since coming off the disabled list. Leake is 26 years old and just keeps getting better and better. With his athleticism -- really, he and Joe Kelly are very similar -- he might be at the outset of a long career. His career ERA outside of Cincinnati’s hitter-friendly park is more than three-quarters of a run better than it is at home.
Buchholz, the elder statesman of the Boston rotation, will pitch for the Red Sox on "Sunday Night Baseball" (8 ET, ESPN) against David Phelps and the Yankees. Dan Shulman and John Kruk will be doing their broadcast from atop the Green Monster and share at least some trepidation about a Cespedes laser shot.
• Andrew McCutchen was drilled by the Diamondbacks the day after Paul Goldschmidt’s hand was broken by a pitch.
Here’s the video of the apparent retaliation. Here’s McCutchen talking after the game.
Goldschmidt went on the 15-day disabled list and is out for six weeks. Ernesto Frieri says he didn’t hit Goldschmidt on purpose.
• On Friday’s podcast, Karl Ravech and Justin Havens offered a thumbs up or thumbs down on the work of a bunch of teams, Marc Topkin discussed the Rays’ trade of David Price, and Alex Speier ran through the Jon Lester deal.
• The lingering shock from Joe Kelly’s trade to Boston was still on his face Saturday, as he talked about reading about the deal on Twitter and then getting summoned to speak with Cardinals GM John Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny. Kelly leaves behind many close friends.
When he arrived in Boston on Friday afternoon, he decided he wanted to take the game in as a fan, so he went to the ticket office, showed his players' association ID card and asked for a ticket. He got a pretty good one -- five rows behind the visitors’ on-deck circle.
Did anybody recognize him? “Nobody,” he said.
• Shawn Kelley made a great pitch to help beat the Red Sox on Saturday.
The Red Sox jumped for a second chance at Cespedes, writes Scott Lauber. Allen Craig is out to hit the reset button -- although he rolled his ankle Friday.
• Chase Headley played with a knee brace earlier this season after suffering a bone bruise, but since he got better and the knee brace was removed in late May, he feels much better at third base and is moving well. So far, he has shown excellent defense. Headley is from a small town and said that if you had told him two weeks ago that he would like playing in New York, he wouldn't have believed it. But his early experience with the team has been excellent.
There was a growing confidence in the Yankees’ clubhouse that, through the roster upgrades made in recent weeks -- Martin Prado, Headley, Stephen Drew, Brandon McCarthy -- the team is going to make a run.
• The weekend after the All-Star break, the Dodgers were in St. Louis and Matt Kemp was struggling, so he went to the coaching staff and asked for help. What he’s done lately is adjust his stride at the plate to enable him to cover the outside corner better, and he’s gotten back to driving the ball to right-center field.
Kemp homered again Saturday, his fourth in five games.
But Paul Maholm is out, and the rotation is starting to be a concern for the Dodgers.
• One of the more amusing conspiracy theories is that Lester left the Red Sox with some sort of understanding that he will be back next year. Lester and the Red Sox were really polite publicly as this played out, saying all the right things. But behind the curtain, it was a long, tough summer.
The team’s initial offer of $70 million was far below what was acceptable in Lester’s camp, and while the Red Sox indicated a willingness to go higher than that, the left-hander all but ended the formal talks at that point. The Red Sox tried repeatedly to re-engage during the season, but Lester did not want to get involved; friends say he didn’t want to get into the back-and-forth of talks in-season without having the confidence that the Boston offer was more about signing the player than about public relations. During the weekend the Red Sox played in New York, a foray came from the team: The Red Sox would be willing to discuss a deal along the lines of the $105 million contract that Homer Bailey had signed with the Reds, but a deal in the range of what Hamels got from the Phillies ($144 million) was totally out of the question.
By then, the goalposts had moved for Lester, and a $105 million concept that might have been within range during spring training was off the table for the left-hander. There were many informal discussions between the two sides, including a Saturday night conversation on June 28 and a lengthy heart-to-heart at Yankee Stadium the next day. We reported about the talks that weekend, which were denied -- under the loose cover that there was no formal offer. But they talked, numbers were discussed, and no deal was made then or in the days leading up to his trade.
The conspiracy theory of Lester having an understanding would have to be built on an unbreakable bond of loyalty and trust. But that has to extend both ways, and when the two sides opened talks in the spring with such an enormous gap, the Lester-Red Sox relationship degraded into a business transaction -- and that’s all it will be going forward, if the Red Sox pursue Lester again.
Unless the Red Sox change their fiscal ways, writes Dan Shaughnessy, Lester is gone.
I could not agree more. It’s business, not personal, and if Boston increases its offer dramatically, he might be back; if the Red Sox don’t, there’s no chance he’ll return. Players in their clubhouse know this.
Lester said goodbye to Red Sox fans.
Lester won his debut with the Athletics on Saturday, as Susan Slusser writes.
• Jim Thome was honored, and the Indians won. Cool gesture by the Indians to sign him and for Thome to retire as a member of their franchise. Thome’s statue was unveiled.
• Jacob deGrom flirted with a no-hitter.
From the Elias Sports Bureau: DeGrom, with Saturday's victory over the Giants, has won each of his last five starts, with a 1.04 ERA over that span. DeGrom is the first rookie since Dontrelle Willis in 2003 to go 5-0 with such a low ERA over five starts. Willis' best five-start stretch for the Marlins that season spanned from May to June, when he fashioned a 0.96 ERA over five consecutive wins.
• David Price was on hand to see Rick Porcello’s 13th win. Price is excited to pursue a championship.
• Peavy is winless in his last 17 starts (0-11, 5.28 ERA in that span).
• With Eric Hosmer out, Billy Butler played first base, and a mistake helped beat the Royals.
• Masterson won in his Cardinals debut.
• The Rays say they would have gotten less in the winter if they had waited to trade Price, as Marc Topkin writes. From his story:
"Somewhere," executive VP Andrew Friedman said, "between a good bit less to dramatically less."
In reality, they were pleased to get as much as they did ...
• From ESPN Stats & Information, how Jordan Zimmermann beat the Phillies:
A. He threw 73.2 percent of pitches for strikes, his third-highest rate this season.
B. He induced 18 swings-and-misses, his third-highest total this season.
C. He allowed only one hit when the count reached two strikes (1-for-16).
D. He held the Phillies to one hit with runners on base (1-for-10).
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The Rockies need some hired help before the 2015 season. Colorado’s season was hurt by more than just injuries.
2. Jimmy Nelson is set to start Tuesday for the Brewers.
3. Steve Simmons writes that Jose Bautista threw his GM under the bus.
Dings and dents
1. Marlon Byrd has a dinged foot.
2. The Tigers won’t rush Andy Dirks.
1. The Nationals destroyed the Phillies.
2. A.J. Burnett was ejected in the midst of an 11-0 loss.
3. The Orioles slipped, writes Dan Connolly. They decided to pitch to Robinson Cano.
4. The Brewers got banged around.
5. The Reds were doomed (again) by a docile offense.
6. The Braves are getting absolutely wrecked on the West Coast. That’s five straight losses and counting.
7. Christian Yelich rescued the Marlins.
8. The Jays got blasted.
9. The Mariners had a textbook win.
The Padres outlasted the Braves.
From Elias: Josh Harrison, who homered and doubled in the Pirates' win over the Diamondbacks on Saturday, has at least one extra-base hit in each of his last seven games. That ties the longest such streak for a Pittsburgh player in the last 28 years. The most recent Pirates player with a longer run of games with at least one double, triple or home run was Sid Bream, who had an extra-base hit in eight consecutive games in May 1986.
The Pirates are counting on the return of a couple of players to help them, writes Travis Sawchik.
Masterson is a mystery.
The Cardinals are a team in transition, writes Bernie Miklasz.
Chris Bosio believes the Cubs have a lot to play for down the stretch.
The Phillies lack what it takes to build a winner. One question that should be asked, if it hasn’t been already: Is Hall of Fame general manager Pat Gillick, now a special assistant with the Phillies, being used enough? Is his input sought on a daily basis? He is an expert in building teams, from his longstanding work in Toronto to the turnarounds he produced in Baltimore, Seattle and Philadelphia.
A new curveball has helped a Mets prospect.
The Astros put on a show, writes Evan Drellich.
Leonys Martin has been unable to hit according to the situation.
Brandon Moss is in an extended slump.
C.J. Wilson was hit hard in his first start after being activated from the disabled list.
The memories of the Royals’ academy live on.
A Royals prospect is on a fast track to the big leagues.
Jose Abreu takes pride in giving back.
A Twins outfielder came through, La Velle Neal writes.
The Yankees’ relief corps is building its own legacy, writes Tyler Kepner.
Marcus Stroman wore an interesting outfit.
The David Price trade keeps other pieces in place.
Drew Smyly is excited to join the Rays.
• Longtime Braves broadcaster Pete Van Wieren died Saturday morning at the age of 69 after a long battle with cancer.
• Matheny got an earful about his outburst about replay. MLB has been pushing managers to be more supportive publicly about the replay system.
• Lenny Dykstra is out of prison.
• A fan fell out of the stands at Citi Field.
And today will be better than yesterday.
The many August trade candidates.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
And sure enough, Lee walked off the mound Thursday night after trying to execute a cutter and gestured toward his elbow, saying he was done. He has visits to doctors in front of him, but Lee's season may well be over, and there's no chance of him being traded with the Phillies owing him $48 million over the next 14 months.
Lee had seemed to be an August candidate for a deal, but that is over. Other players may get traded in August, or at least be discussed in deals as they either clear waivers or get claimed.
Such as these guys:
Alex Rios, Rangers
There was actually some surprise among rival executives that Rios didn't move, but teams were probably less aggressive than the Rangers expected because Rios hasn't hit home runs this year -- just four in 395 at-bats, while playing in a hitter-friendly park. He is batting .304, however, and you'd have to figure that some AL contender will claim him. Texas stood pat and has 2015 in mind.
Marlon Byrd, Phillies
He's a right-handed power hitter who has been hitting homers this year, and even with a vesting option for $8 million for 2016 after an $8 million deal for next year, it’s a virtual lock that he’ll be claimed. Whether the Phillies make something of it with the claiming team is a whole other issue.
Cole Hamels, Phillies
He's owed at least $90 million for the 2015-18 seasons and is throwing the ball extremely well right now. It would make sense for the Giants to place a blocking claim on him so that, at the very least, the Dodgers can’t make a move on the left-hander. But whether it's the Giants or the Dodgers or the Red Sox, somebody will claim him, and we will have 48 hours of Cole Hamels waiver drama in August before the Phillies pull him back, in all likelihood.
By the way: The Mets should put in a claim on him, to block a division rival from conducting business. And who knows, if the Phillies actually listened to an offer, Hamels would be a great add for the Mets at this stage of their rebuilding, as a leader of the staff.
By the way, II: The Phillies should at least have a conversation with the claiming team about what they would offer in trade. By the time the Phillies are really good again -- maybe in the last years of this decade -- Hamels will either be overvalued in his salary or he will be retired. They might as well swap him for prospects to accelerate the franchise turnaround.
Neal Cotts, Rangers
He's having an OK season overall, and he's owed about $700,000 for the rest of this season. He could be among the brigade of relievers that usually change teams in August.
Garrett Jones, Marlins
If Miami hangs in the NL East race, they'll keep him. If not, he might be an interesting player for a contender, given his $5 million salary for the season and his .795 OPS against right-handed pitchers.
Nate Schierholtz, Cubs
He's hitting under .200 and had only nine hits in July, but he's experienced and could move to some team that is hit with an injury.
Mat Latos, Reds
As Jayson Stark reported, the Reds have been open to discussing him, and Latos, 26, is arbitration-eligible this winter. It might make sense for the Braves to place a claim, given that Ervin Santana will likely depart as a free agent after this season.
Ryan Ludwick, Reds
It all depends on how he's swinging the bat at the time he passes through waivers, but Cincinnati could be ready to move him sometime -- and there aren’t a lot of decent right-handed bats.
Joaquin Benoit, Padres
He won’t get through waivers, for sure -- the Dodgers will claim him, or perhaps before that, the Giants. It seems unlikely San Diego will trade him now, but you never know.
David Ross, Red Sox
A perfect add for some contender that loses a catcher to injury this month. He's cheap, he's experienced and he handles pitchers well.
Josh Willingham, Twins
He's owed about $2.3 million for the rest of this season and he's got right-handed pop, but he's not hitting. A good bet to get through waivers.
Adam Dunn, White Sox
[+] EnlargeAdam Dunn
Brian D. Kersey/Getty Images
Adam Dunn still gets on base and still hits home runs.
The DH is owed about $5 million for the rest of this season, in the last year of his contract, and he'll probably finish the year with Chicago. But if you see a slugger go down for an AL team -- one of the Jays, or the Orioles, Carlos Beltran, or Oakland -- Dunn might be an interesting claim, because he still draws walks (he's got a .362 on-base percentage) and still hits homers (17 this year, in 367 plate appearances).
Gordon Beckham, White Sox
He's owed a little over $1 million for the rest of this season, as he heads toward a possible non-tender this winter. Might not be a bad fit for the Giants if they can't find another second baseman.
John Danks, White Sox
He's owed $14 million for each of the next two seasons, and some rival teams had some level of interest in him.
Ben Zobrist, Rays
He's got a good team-friendly option for $7.5 million next season, so he will get claimed on waivers -- perhaps by the Mariners, who would be first in line among the contending teams, or the Yankees, who need middle infield coverage for next season. The chances that a deal gets worked out would seem to be slim; the Rays might have a better shot at making a trade in the offseason, if they so choose.
Trade deadline stuff
1. At the end of one of the busiest and most aggressive trade-deadline days ever, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro suggested that rival executives weren’t aggressive enough in pursuing his players. From Todd Zolecki’s story:
"Not disappointed," Amaro said. "More surprised that there wasn't more aggressive action from the other end. We have some pretty good baseball players here."
Which is sort of an interesting way to look at it. That means that the Phillies' rebuilding hinges on the work of rival general managers.
Amaro needs to get real, writes David Murphy. The Phillies need radical action, writes Bob Brookover.
2. The respect that the industry has for the Rays' trade work frames the pervasive surprise in the industry that they did not get more for David Price. A lot of rival officials say they think the Rays could have kept Price for the rest of this season, continued to compete with their Cy Young winner and gotten close to the same value in a deal in the winter.
3. The Cardinals have had all kinds of trouble with starting pitchers needing relief in the fifth or sixth innings this summer, and John Lackey gives them a proven veteran who will work to take the ball into the late innings. And the Cardinals are in a better position to deal with Lackey's slated $500,000 salary for next season than the Red Sox were, perhaps by approaching him about a moderate-sized extension. It could be good business to offer him a two-year deal for 2016-17 for something in the range of $24 million to $30 million, with the corollary idea of spreading it out over the next three seasons.
4. The Blue Jays didn't do much but there really wasn't a magic move for them to make. They could be in position to make a waiver claim on Jason Hammel (although the Yankees could drop a claim in front of them, given the current standings.)
5. The Yankees added a whole bunch of small upgrades to their 2014 playoff chances in the past month, from Chase Headley to Brandon McCarthy to Esmil Rogers to Martin Prado to Stephen Drew to Chris Capuano, and surrendered just one decent prospect in Pete O’Brien. Maybe it works out, maybe it doesn’t, but they tried, and going forward, the Yankees can plug Prado in wherever he is needed next year -- second base, perhaps, or third, or right field. The Yankees looked at what Omar Infante signed for after last season, about $10 million a year in a three-year deal, and figured that adding Prado, who will make $11 million for each of the next two seasons, made sense.
Ken Davidoff thinks the Yankees are desperate.
6. I'd take the Tigers' rotation over Oakland's rotation, but the Athletics have the deeper team, with the better bullpen. Rajai Davis takes over in center field for the Tigers, which takes Detroit down a notch defensively. (Although Austin Jackson is not rated among the better defensive center fielders this season.)
7. The Orioles traded for Andrew Miller, giving Buck Showalter another great bullpen option.
8. Spoke to executives with other teams who already assume the Red Sox will be serious bidders on James Shields in the winter, given their need for an innings-eater and staff leader.
9. Austin Jackson says he kind of knew what was going on when he was pulled off the field.
10. Oakland leads the majors in runs scored, with an offense that truly is a sum of its parts, rather than being built on the strength of one or two great hitters. But Yoenis Cespedes was one of the team’s best hitters, and certainly the most dangerous hitter against good pitching, which is why the deal carries some risk for the Athletics. Up until now, it has seemed as if the team could weather an injury to any player and continue to generate a ton of runs. But now, with the depth of the lineup having taken a hit, one more significant injury -- to a Josh Donaldson or a Brandon Moss -- and the whole thing might look a lot different.
11. The Royals stood pat, writes Andy McCullough.
12. Joel Sherman has five takeaways from the crazy day.
13. The Cardinals were really shaken up by the trade of Joe Kelly and Allen Craig, writes Derrick Goold. This was a loud wake-up call, writes Bernie Miklasz.
Oscar Taveras homered and the Cardinals won. With Craig gone, there is no reason to hold Taveras out of the every-day lineup now.
14. Kurt Suzuki got an extension with the Twins.
15. The Brewers' trade for Gerardo Parra gives them some defense and some depth.
16. The Braves got a couple of guys.
17. The most prospect-laden trade resulted in the Marlins landing Jarred Cosart.
18. For David Price, there was absolute sadness.
19. The Astros traded a pitcher with local ties.
20. The Padres traded Chris Denorfia.
21. The Mariners improved, but Larry Stone wonders whether that’s enough.
• Oakland is trying to live in the present, writes John Shea.
• Ann Killion writes that the A's are World Series favorites.
• The Angels believe they have what it takes, writes Mike DiGiovanna.
• The Tigers have three Cy Young winners.
• The Royals can blame themselves for being trade deadline losers, writes Sam Mellinger.
• The Tigers got David Price and that might mean the end of the Indians in 2014, writes Paul Hoynes.
• The White Sox stood pat at the deadline.
• Jon Lester deserved better from the Red Sox.
• The Red Sox are poised to move Xander Bogaerts back to shortstop. These trades offer few clues about the direction of the Red Sox, writes Dan Shaughnessy.
• The Blue Jays stood pat.
• The D-backs' focus is on the future.
• Arizona’s trades were not the exciting kind, writes Dan Bickley.
• Carlos Gonzalez has a sore ankle.
• Brian Sabean says the trade deadline market was too expensive.
• The Dodgers made the decision to keep their prospects, writes Bill Plaschke. Let’s face it: The dynamics of the division had changed quickly. The pressure has shifted from the shoulders of the Dodgers to the Giants, because of how each team has been playing lately.
• The Dodgers hope that Matt Kemp is going all retro on them.
• The Pirates didn’t make any deals. They do their best work in August. Buying trust is a must for Pittsburgh.
• The Reds did not make a move.
• Walt Jocketty called around, but made no connections, writes Hal McCoy.
• The Cubs got a catching prospect, writes Mark Gonzales.
• The trades might hasten the promotion of Javier Baez, writes Gordon Wittenmyer.
• The Nationals made a move for Asdrubal Cabrera, as Adam Kilgore writes.
• Jonathan Papelbon, who has a vesting option for 2016 that is built on his ability to remain a closer in 2015, insists he will only be a closer.
• The Mets are looking to the offseason to make moves.
• The Braves addressed both of their deadline priorities, writes David O’Brien. They were swept by the Dodgers, losing to a tall left-hander.
• Clayton Kershaw dominated again, pitching another complete game against the Braves.
From ESPN Stats & Information, Kershaw, by the numbers:
33. That's the percentage of batters he's striking out this season. That's on pace to be the highest of any pitcher since Randy Johnson struck out 37 percent in 2001.
114. That's how many strikeouts Kershaw has gotten with his breaking ball this season, good for most in the National League. Hitters are chasing 46 percent of his breaking balls out of the strike zone, the highest rate in the majors.
13. That's how many consecutive games Kershaw has with at least seven strikeouts allowing three runs or fewer, the second-longest streak in the past 100 years, trailing only Randy Johnson, who had 14 straight games like that in 1999.
• There will be a lot of talk today about the rule regarding blocking home plate after what happened in Miami last night.
• The Athletics are going ahead with a Cespedes T-shirt giveaway on Saturday, for a game that will be started by Jon Lester.
And today will be better than yesterday.