The downside of the Ichiro trade.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Yankees' trade for Ichiro Suzuki is interesting in the same way that Joe Namath playing for the Los Angeles Rams was interesting. Ichiro is an easy first-ballot Hall of Famer and has been an amalgam of hits, stolen bases, Gold Glove Awards and All-Star votes in his career, but it's unclear how he represents an upgrade for the New York Yankees, other than for their network.
Others ahead of him in his OPS neighborhood this year are Jeff Francoeur, Rickie Weeks and Drew Stubbs. DeWayne Wise, who the Yankees designated for assignment to make room for Ichiro, had a .778 OPS in 53 plate appearances with New York -- significantly higher than Suzuki's OPS in each of his last three full seasons.
Ichiro embraced this and essentially made it happen, and he has indicated a willingness to go along with whatever Yankees manager Joe Girardi wants. Ichiro could be energized, in theory, by shifting from an exhausted situation to something better. Think Kevin Youkilis going from the Boston Red Sox to the Chicago White Sox. If Suzuki is surrounded by better players in a ballpark better-suited for hitters, this could create opportunities.
But is also has the chance to become something of an embarrassment.
If he doesn't play well -- and there is a lot of evidence that could be the case -- then Girardi will have a revered 10-time All-Star sitting on his roster.
There are other hitters who get on base more, who hit for more power, who are better-suited to take advantage of the dimensions in Yankee Stadium. Ichiro is still a good outfielder, and he can run. There are many other outfielders who have those two particular skills.
If it doesn't go well, Girardi is going to have to immediately feel comfortable with the idea of pinch-hitting for an all-time great. He will have to fight empathy in making his choices. He may feel compelled to play Ichiro purely out of a sense of deference to Ichiro's extraordinary history.
In 1973, Willie Mays was 42 years old, in the final season of his career, and he played 45 games in the outfield for the New York Mets -- all in center field. Nobody was ever going to tell Willie Mays he wasn't the center fielder -- a practice that continued through the World Series that year and went badly at the end.
Mays' OPS in that regrettable final season was .647. Ichiro Suzuki's OPS this morning is .640.
The acquisition of Ichiro made it a big day for the Yankees, Girardi said. The Yankees are hoping for the best, writes John Harper. Ichiro is a famous supplementary part for the Yankees, writes Joel Sherman.
In Seattle, there is relief that Ichiro is gone. This saves the Mariners from barreling headlong into a situation identical to the Ken Griffey Jr. debacle two years ago.
Fans are coping with Ichiro's departure.
Notes on the Ichiro trade
From ESPN Stats & Information
• The Yankees acquired Ichiro for 25-year-old right-handed pitchers D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar.
• Ichiro's $17 million salary this season gives him the fourth-highest salary on the Yankees (after Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia) and makes him the team's 12th $10M man this season (including $11.5M being paid to A.J. Burnett).
Highest career BA among active players (min. 3,000 PA)
Albert Pujols: .326
Joe Mauer: .324
Ichiro Suzuki: .322
Todd Helton: .320
• The Yankees now have three players with at least 2,500 career hits (Ichiro, Rodriguez and Derek Jeter).
From Elias Sports Bureau: Only two teams in MLB history have had three players with at least 2,500 career hits at the time they were together: A's in 1927 (Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins, Zack Wheat) and A's again in 1928 (Cobb, Collins, Tris Speaker).
• While Ichiro's bat is not what it once was, his glove is still golden. According to Fangraphs.com, Ichiro ranks second among all corner outfielders in defensive runs saved. According to that same metric, Ichiro joins a group that ranks second-worst in the American League.
Defensive runs saved in 2012 by Yankees corner outfielders
Ichiro Suzuki: 12
Andruw Jones: 2
Nick Swisher: minus-3
Raul Ibanez: minus-4
Ichiro's last four seasons (BA/OPS)
2012: .261/.640 (both would be career worsts)
Comparing Ichiro to Wise, Ibanez and Jones trio (Ichiro/trio)
Slug pct.: .352/.429
• The Miami Marlins were baseball's biggest story coming into this season, and now they are its greatest disaster after fewer than 100 games. The trade of Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante to the Detroit Tigers for Jacob Turner means that Miami is veering, again, back into familiar ground. The Marlins are willing to deal Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson and anybody else not nailed to the floor, and what South Florida has again, after its investment in a new ballpark, is an unwatchable team for the final two months.
The first season-ticket holders in the history of the Marlins' new park bought their tickets expecting to see a world-championship caliber team and instead, in August and September, they will see a lot of the same type of players the Marlins have been fielding for most of the last decade -- young, talented, cheap and unaccomplished.
Now can you understand why Pujols wanted a no-trade clause when the Marlins pursued him in free agency last winter?
GM Larry Beinfest said the Marlins have given up on this season. Johnson threw great in what was essentially an audition for other teams.
The Tigers are playing well, and they got even better without giving up prospect Nick Castellanos. Infante and Sanchez give Detroit exactly what it needs in its unflinching effort to win a World Series this year: a good second baseman and a solid presence at the back end of the Tigers' rotation.
Turner is an excellent addition for the Marlins' baseball operations department. But it's the kind of white-flag trade that has been executed far too many times in this franchise's short history.
Mark Simon has more on how good Johnson was against the Atlanta Braves.
• The Braves are waiting for Ryan Dempster to say yes.
• The Texas Rangers figure to be one of the more aggressive teams in the trade market in the next eight days in the aftermath of the season-ending injury to Colby Lewis. Texas is looking for elite talent -- Cole Hamels or Zack Greinke.
• The Philadelphia Phillies are waiting to see if Hamels is going to take their offer.
• The Rays' players are trying to block out trade rumors.
• The Los Angeles Dodgers are putting together a pretty amazing road trip, at a time when it is badly needed.
• The Colorado Rockies should play Todd Helton, writes Troy Renck.
• The Red Sox are keeping Jon Lester in their rotation.
• Ken Kendrick, CEO of the Arizona Diamondbacks, says Arizona is better off with Justin Upton on the team.
• Nolan Ryan says Josh Hamilton gives away at-bats.
Searching for Mike Trout's flaw.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
ANAHEIM -- With his headphones on and a towel at the ready in his waistband, Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington did his daily 10 laps around the field early Sunday afternoon, walking briskly in his fight against Father Time. When the Rangers' manager finished, he relaxed in the dugout and saw something he had never seen before.
Mike Trout had come out to work on his bunting, and as Washington watched the Angels' phenom square around in his work with third-base coach Dino Ebel, the thought occurred to Washington that he had finally identified something Trout isn't good at.
Trout might have the highest average in the American League. He might be the fastest player in baseball; the Angels clocked him at 3.52 seconds from home to first, almost supernatural. He might be the best player in baseball, as Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane predicted in early May. He might be the best player of his generation, as Albert Pujols said Sunday.
But Mike Trout is not a great bunter, Washington said with a smile.
He went on to explain that his team hasn't figured out a way to get him out, and as if to illuminate that point, Trout reached base in four of his five plate appearances Sunday night -- a triple in his first at-bat, a walk after a dozen pitches, another walk, a single.
As one member of the Angels' organization said the other day, we are all conditioned to think that eventually a 20-year-old rookie -- who went to Magic Mountain Saturday evening with his friends, like a lot of 20-year-olds -- will turn into a pumpkin, inevitably. Pitchers will figure things out. Advance scouts will discover his kryptonite.
But here's the thing: Trout's swing is incredibly simple, and his approach is so sound in how he takes the ball to right field, something he learned from watching Derek Jeter as a kid, the Angels source said.
"You see a rookie hitting .350 and you think that eventually, it'll stop," the source said. "But after awhile, you start to wonder if this is who he is -- and that he's actually getting better."
Trout's OPS for his first plate appearance against starting pitchers is about .700 this year. His second: About 1.120. His third: About 1.400. His fourth: About 1.500.
He doesn't watch video between at-bats, he said before Sunday's game. The first time he is thrown a breaking ball, he said, he captures a mental image of the pitch and then makes his adjustments thereafter. Like a hitter with a photographic memory.
The Rangers couldn't get him out; the Los Angeles Dodgers say they can't find a hole in his approach; scouts are befuddled, so far.
But Washington can still hang onto this -- Trout isn't a great bunter. Yet.
Trout's current trajectory would take him to these numbers at season's end -- a combination we've never seen before in Major League Baseball:
Extra-base hits: 73
Stolen bases: 58
On-base percentage: .412
Meanwhile, the weekend ended badly for the Rangers, whose hitters looked awful in their at-bats against Dan Haren -- most notably Josh Hamilton, who has seen his on-base percentage plummet by about 100 points during the past couple of months. The Rangers have a lot of peak/valley hitters manifesting this season -- Hamilton, Mike Napoli, Nelson Cruz.
And Texas is dealing with a rash of pitching injuries, as well.
Oakland swept the New York Yankees in four games, and at the end there was a fitting conclusion, writes Steve Kroner.
Notes from Elias Sports Bureau
• This is the first time that the A's have had eight walkoff wins in a span of 16 home games. The last MLB team to do that was the Brewers in 2000 (also eight in 16).
• The last time the Yankees were swept in a series of at least four games by the A's was 1972. They had played 19 straight series of four-plus games against the A's since without being swept. The last time the A's swept a series of at least four games against the Yankees at home was in 1913 at Shibe Park in Philadelphia.
• The A's had hosted 57 straight series of at least four games against the Yankees since they last swept them at home.
• This is the first time the Yankees have been swept in a four-game series with each loss by one run. The last time the Yankees lost four straight games, each by one run, against the same opponent was against the Tigers in 1988-89.
• The Detroit Tigers closed out a sweep of the Chicago White Sox with a strong effort from Jacob Turner.
From ESPN Stats and Info, how Turner won:
A) Threw strikes: 70 percent strike percentage bolstered by the White Sox swinging at 52 percent of all pitches. Four of Turner's first five starts had strike percentages in the 50 percent range.
B) White Sox swung at 15 of Turner's 41 pitches out of the zone, a chase percentage of 37 percent. As a team, the White Sox have chased more than 30 percent of "bad" pitches this season, third-most in the AL.
C) 18 of 23 batters saw first-pitch strikes. Only four plate appearances ended with the hitter ahead in the count (three were outs), and Turner went to just one three-ball count (full) the entire day.
From Elias: At 29 years and 95 days old today, Cabrera becomes the 11th-youngest player in MLB history to hit 300 home runs. He's the fifth active player to reach 300 career homers before age 30.
Active players to reach 300 HRs before age 30
Alex Rodriguez: 27 years, 249 days
Andruw Jones: 28 years, 144 days
Pujols: 28 years, 170 days
Cabrera: 29 years, 95 days
Adam Dunn: 29 years, 237 days
Cabrera is only the second Venezuelan-born player to reach 300 homers in his career. Most career homers among Venezuelan-born players:
Andres Galarraga: 399
Magglio Ordonez: 294
Bobby Abreu: 286
Tony Armas: 251
• The pitcher formerly known as Fausto had three birthdays, with three cakes, as Paul Hoynes writes.
• Jair Jurrjens got roughed up. There is an expectation in other organizations that the Atlanta Braves will make an immediate push to add a starting pitcher, and they have been in the Ryan Dempster talks all along.
Dings and dents
1. Ian Desmond is headed to the disabled list.
2. Matt Garza is feeling better and might avoid the disabled list.
3. Jonny Venters looked good in his first outing off the disabled list.
4. Giancarlo Stanton is making progress.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The Milwaukee Brewers seem ready to sell.
2. The San Francisco Giants are trying to decide what to do with Brandon Belt, writes Henry Schulman.
3. The San Diego Padres signed hitter Carlos Quentin. Huston Street is next.
4. Oakland is among those interested in Chase Headley, and perhaps the Athletics' strong play in the past month will nudge them to be a little bit more aggressive than they'd normally be.
By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats and Info
5: HRs by Kevin Youkilis in 22 games since joining White Sox (had four homers 42 games with Red Sox this season)
36: Times Ichiro has stolen two bases in a single inning in his career
NL East notes
• Ryan Zimmerman powered the Washington Nationals, who came back to win the final two games of the four-game series against the Braves. Washington is getting tough through adversity, writes Thomas Boswell.
• The Phillies' clubhouse is keeping the faith, writes David Murphy.
• Anibal Sanchez threw well, with scouts in attendance, but the Miami Marlins lost again.
NL Central notes
• The Chicago Cubs were wrecked.
• The Brewers' playoff dreams may have ended, writes Tom Haudricourt.
• The St. Louis Cardinals put it all together in a sweep, writes Bernie Miklasz. Adam Wainwright says St. Louis is championship caliber.
• The Houston Astros are evolving into the '62 Mets, in the nature of how they're losing. There are massive changes to come for Houston, as Chip Bailey writes.
• Ron Cook writes that there is a lot to enjoy about the Pittsburgh Pirates.
NL West notes
• The Dodgers needed a lift, and they got it against the New York Mets during the weekend.
• Jason Kubel and the Arizona Diamondbacks had a really fun weekend.
• There have been first impressions with the Rockies' four-man rotation.
AL East notes
• While the Yankees were swept, the Baltimore Orioles gained gobs of ground in the standings.
• Jon Lester was crushed.
From ESPN Stats and Info, how Lester allowed 11 runs:
A) Fastball was all over the map, contributing to a very poor strike percentage, especially against righties. Since the start of the season, Lester had thrown 63 percent strikes to RHB; on Sunday it was less than 52. That also meant fewer swings (42 percent versus 46 percent) out of Toronto hitters, and a better contact rate (84 percent versus 79 percent) when they did swing.
B) Career-high four home runs allowed, three on fastballs, and all three of those near the same spot (the middle/right of the plate looking in, the "6" on your phone). Blue Jays went 8-for-13 plus a sac bunt when they got a pitch in the strike zone and put it in play.
C) Curveball also ineffective: Seven of the 11 he threw were out of the zone, five of them not even close, and only one was swung at.
• The Toronto Blue Jays partied on against Lester, the headline in this story reads.
• Joe Maddon was disappointed with the Rays' 4-6 homestand. Tampa Bay's offense struggled again.
• The Yankees suffered a flashback to 1972.
AL Central notes
• The White Sox had a brutal weekend.
• Ryan Doumit saved the day.
• The Cleveland Indians are in a free fall and dropped below .500.
• Jeremy Guthrie struggled, as Tod Palmer writes. A couple of Kansas City Royals were ejected.
Cespedes has changed Oakland's plan.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
In recent years, the New York Yankees have provided a barometer for the Oakland Athletics. Even when the Athletics were playing well, the Yankees tended to go into Oakland and overmatch their younger opponents; when the Athletics went into Yankee Stadium, well, forget it. They often looked intimidated and simply not ready for the stage.
So the ongoing series between the Athletics and Yankees is especially noteworthy. Oakland has won the first three games of the four-game series, limiting the Yankees to six runs. On Sunday, when Bartolo Colon pitches against CC Sabathia, Oakland could close out a sweep of the team that is running away with the AL East. As of Sunday morning, the A's are tied for one of two wild-card spots.
The Athletics have the best team ERA in the American League and not by a small margin. Their bullpen has been spectacular, holding opposing hitters to a .202 batting average. And they have their version of a Josh Hamilton, a Robinson Cano, a Mark Trumbo in Yoenis Cespedes.
The defector from Cuba is not close to being the best player in the major leagues, but the Athletics say that when he is healthy and in the lineup, he provides large dollops of hope and toughness. If he strikes out in his first few at-bats -- and he's got 51 strikeouts in 229 at-bats this season -- he will be there at the plate in the late innings utterly convinced that he's one swing from beating you. He believes he has the ability to crush a ball at any time, like he did on Saturday when he mashed a 458-foot homer off Phil Hughes.
This is something the Athletics have lacked in their everyday lineup since the departure of Miguel Tejada, whose energy level and confidence lifted his less experienced teammates.
Cespedes has seven hits in his 10 at-bats in this series against New York, including two Trumbo-like homers and zero strikeouts. Each time he comes to the plate, there is an expectation that he could alter the game. This is his expectation and of those who wear the same uniform. Injuries have limited him to 62 games, but in those, Oakland is 38-24. When Cespedes hasn't played, the Athletics are 12-20.
Cespedes' play and presence has shifted thought in the Athletics' organization. Before this season of rebuilding began, there was no way that Oakland would have entertained the notion of aggressively pursuing help at shortstop or third base before the trade deadline, but that's going on now. Marco Scutaro is available, and so is Yunel Escobar and Stephen Drew.
The Athletics' players have earned that midseason help. Ryan Cook has earned that with his spectacular season; he's allowed 16 hits in 42 1/3 innings. Jarrod Parker has earned that by limiting opponents to a little more than three runs per game; he won Saturday. Josh Reddick has earned that by making an adjustment in his approach and clubbing 21 homers so far.
Cespedes has earned that by helping make the Athletics believe that they can beat anybody from Anaheim to Arlington to the Bronx.
Brandon Inge was The Man for the Athletics Saturday.
From Kenton Wong of ESPN Stats & Info, more on Oakland's turnaround:
Heating up in Oakland
Best records in baseball since July 1.
Team Win pct. W-L
Oakland Athletics .867 13-2
Detroit Tigers .765 13-4
Pittsburgh Pirates .688 11-5
San Diego Padres .688 11-5
• The Athletics have been the hottest team in baseball since the start of July, going 13-2. That has allowed them to gain 6½ games on the AL West-leading Rangers in that span.
• Many of the A's wins this month have come in dramatic fashion, including five walk-offs:
July 3: Brandon Moss hits a game-tying single in the bottom of the ninth. Coco Crisp ends the game with a walk-off sac fly.
July 6: Chris Carter hits a pinch-hit three-run walk-off homer in the 11th inning.
July 8: Josh Reddick hits a walk-off double in the 13th.
July 18: Brandon Hicks hits his first career homer -- a walk-off shot in the ninth.
July 20: Brandon Moss hits a walk-off single in the ninth inning.
• Sunday, Oakland will have a chance to finish a sweep of the Yankees, owners of the best record in baseball at 57-37. The Yankees have not been swept in a four-game series since facing Toronto in May 2003.
• Pitching has keyed the A's recent success, as they have allowed three runs or fewer in 12 of their 13 wins this month. They have also gone 7-0 in one-run games, including each of their past four games.
• In addition to the pitching, Cespedes' return has helped. When he missed 22 games in May with a hand injury, Oakland went 7-15. After a mediocre first half, Cespedes has picked it up in the second half with six multihit games, including two 4-for-5 games.
Cespedes this season (first half/second half) Games: 54/8
Slug pct.: .465/1.032
Cespedes has especially improved hitting off-speed pitches. From March-May, he hit just .190 on at-bats ending with an off-speed pitch (compared to .351 from June-July). His OPS has also risen from .617 against off-speed pitches in March-May to 1.007 in June-July.
A slow-developing trade market
The Houston Astros' purge has been responsible for most of the trade action to date, and there have been a couple of other minor deals. But there has not been much in the way of high-impact trades, and some general managers believe that's because their brethren are struggling to define the value of two-month rental players like Ryan Dempster.
In past seasons, it was commonplace for teams to surrender strong packages of prospects for a veteran like Dempster. Last season, for example, the San Francisco Giants gave up their best young pitcher, Zack Wheeler, for Carlos Beltran.
But under the new rules, the wild-card teams are guaranteed just one game, and there is no draft-pick compensation for an acquired player like Dempster. At a time when more teams tend to operate with a macro vision, executives are reassessing the value of a midseason deal. "There is a point when common sense takes over," a GM said Saturday. "You are not going to put your team in a desolate place in 2013 and beyond" to get one quick fix.
"It's a business decision," he added.
For example: The Los Angeles Dodgers, not liking the price tag for Dempster, have decided to focus on players they could control beyond this season, like Matt Garza, who was pulled from his start Saturday after experiencing some cramping.
The Cardinals' desire to add a starter has been mitigated by the progress of Jaime Garcia.
The remaking of the Astros
Meanwhile, other executives have noted that the Astros are positioning themselves to be this decade's version of the Tampa Bay Rays, who finished so poorly in the standings repeatedly early last decade that year after year they picked at or near the top of the draft -- and made a lot of right choices.
The Astros had the No. 1 pick this year, they are strongly positioned to have the No. 1 pick next year, and their rebuilding could take so long that they may be picking at or near the top of the draft for several more years to come.
What the Astros are gambling, of course, is that they won't do mortal damage to the interest and faith of their hard-core fans. Houston was fifth in the NL in attendance in 2004, 10th in 2010, 13th in 2011. Right now, the Astros rank last, with no hope yet on the horizon and plans to move into the more competitive AL West next year.
The San Diego Padres have been through fire sales, and they will attest: A strip-down strategy like this comes with risk and long-term costs. The covenant with some hard-core fans is irreparably broken. You can argue that this is the best strategy for the Astros to pursue in their effort to win ballgames, but as a business entity they are training a generation of fans to ignore them completely.
Brett Myers became the latest veteran to be dumped. Francisco will be the Astros' new temporary closer.
From ESPN Stats & Info: The Astros have now sent four of their top five salaries from Opening Day packing: Carlos Lee ($19 million), Myers ($12M), Brandon Lyon ($5.5M) and J.A. Happ ($2.35M). The only player in the top five still with the team -- Wandy Rodriguez ($10.5M) -- is rumored to be on the block.
• We've got the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels on ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball," with Dan Haren pitching against Matt Harrison and with Mike Trout chasing history. He scored again in the Angels' loss Saturday.
Most consecutive games with run scored among rookies (since 1957)
2012: Trout -- 13
2001: Albert Pujols -- 13
1984: Dan Gladden -- 11
Source: Elias Sports Bureau
Most consecutive games with run scored (Angels history)
2012: Trout -- 13
1995: Jim Edmonds -- 13
1997: Edmonds -- 11
1993: Chad Curtis -- 11
Source: Elias Sports Bureau
Yu Darvish shut down the Angels on Saturday. Arm tightnesscould sideline Colby Lewis again. Ervin Santana had a really bad day.
• John Lannan helped the Washington Nationals salvage a badly needed nightcap victory against the Atlanta Braves. Bryce Harper likely will be back in the lineup Sunday.
Ben Sheets was outstanding again, Carroll Rogers writes.
• Cole Hamels might have pitched his last home game for the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday, a loss.
• You can't stop the Detroit Tigers, you can only hope to contain them: Detroit is on a serious roll and has moved into first place after Rick Porcello was dominant.
• It looks as if the Tigers will call up Nick Castellanos no later than September, writes Lynn Henning.
• The Rays' loss Saturday was devastating in many ways, Roger Mooney writes. Luke Scott is back on the disabled list.
By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats & Info
5: Leadoff homers by Shin-Soo Choo this season -- most in MLB
12: Runs scored by the Cardinals in the seventh inning versus the Cubs; the only 12 runs scored in Saturday's 12-0 game
13: Consecutive games with run scored by Trout
23: Consecutive games Robinson Cano hit safely in before having the streak snapped Saturday
334: At-bats needed by Edwin Encarnacion to reach 26 homers -- tying a career-best
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The Phillies may soon trade Shane Victorino, writes Bob Brookover.
2. The Yankees are intrigued by Justin Upton but should wait until the offseason to make a move, writes Joel Sherman.
3. Roberto Hernandez is on the path to return to the big leagues; the Cleveland Indians think he might need only a couple of starts in the minors after he serves his suspension.
Dings and dents
1. Jayson Werth has started his rehabilitation assignment in the minors.
2. Juan Cruz landed on the disabled list.
3. Johan Santana, who looked like he had no mound weapons Friday, was placed on the disabled list, and now the reeling New York Mets have two rotation spots to fill.
4. Denard Span was lifted from Saturday's game because of dizziness.
5. Hanley Ramirez is sidelined with an infection.
6. Tim Stauffer is making steady progress.
AL East notes
• Give the Baltimore Orioles some credit: They have hung in there despite their pitching issues. And Chris Tillman bounced back to throw well Saturday.
• The Boston Red Sox crumbled late.
• The Toronto Blue Jays mashed.
AL Central notes
• The Chicago White Sox fell out of first place.
• Lorenzo Cain had a good day.
• The Indians were taken down by a former Indian.
AL West notes
• The Seattle Mariners got some gutsy pitching.
NL East notes
• Carlos Zambrano was erratic, Andre Fernandez writes.
NL Central notes
• The Pirates got a lot done without doing much of anything at all.
• The St. Louis Cardinals erupted on Saturday.
• The Cincinnati Reds are without Joey Votto, but they're still winning.
• The Milwaukee Brewers were beaten, and if Milwaukee went into sell mode now, that would make sense.
NL West notes
• The Colorado Rockies bounced back.
• Jason Kubel had a really, really big day with three homers.
• Matt Cain and the Giants won a wacky game.
Paul Maholm among pitching trade targets.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Paul Maholm was drafted nine years ago and has pitched in more than 200 games in the big leagues, so the book on him is well-established. Left-hander with a below-average fastball who has to mix his pitches to win.
But before the trade deadline every year, teams will still send scouts to watch pitchers like Maholm because they're looking for a hot hand -- a hitter in the midst of an offensive burst; a pitcher who has made an adjustment that's fueling a hot streak or has started throwing a pitch that's working for him.
Like an NFL team looking for a kicker who is on a roll, MLB teams seek a quick fix. One great start -- or a short series of strong outings -- can make a difference to clubs this time of year.
Maholm has a career ERA well over 4.00, but he is pitching well right now. At 30 years old, he is making his mistakes down in the strike zone, an evaluator says, rather than up. For a soft thrower such as Maholm, that can make an enormous difference.
Maholm is making $4.75 million this year, has a $6.5 million option for next season and has thrown well for most of this season. Since his first two starts of the season, in which he allowed 12 earned runs in eight innings, he has an ERA of 3.32, with only eight homers surrendered in 97.2 innings. He has allowed only three earned runs in his last 30.1 innings, with four walks and 20 strikeouts.
He doesn't have the stuff of a Cole Hamels, the American League East pedigree of Matt Garza or the ceiling of a Zack Greinke, but at this time of year, teams are looking for help, and Maholm looks like he could help.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers remain in the mix for Ryan Dempster.
Sources say that as of Friday morning, the Dodgers and Cubs haven't found common ground. Los Angeles is trying to keep a high number of its top prospects off-limits, and the Cubs are having talks with other, more aggressive teams.
The Cubs might be scrambling to fill their rotation in the final two months, because Dempster might be traded today. Garza could follow in the next 11 days, with Boston being a major player in the trade talks, and Maholm could draw interest from teams that see substance in his turnaround.
"They're going to trade anyone who has value," one executive said about the Cubs.
The funny thing is that the Cubs are red hot these days, with 14 victories in their last 19 games.
• Along the same lines, you wonder if Edinson Volquez's one-hitter is going to open some eyes among rival evaluators in the days before the deadline.
He is making $2.238 million this season, will have five-plus years of service time when the season's over and won't be eligible for free agency until after next year. These are his numbers over his past five starts:
H: 20 (an impressive number)
BB: 19 (a scary number)
Volquez, 29, has been a rotation leader before and has shown he has a high ceiling. He has been markedly better pitching in Petco this year than on the road.
From ESPN Stats & Info, how he shut down the Astros:
(A) Volquez threw 72 of 117 pitches (61.5 percent) down in the zone or below, his highest percentage in a start this season. Astros hitters were 0-for-13 in at-bats ending with a pitch in that location.
(B) He threw 37 curveballs out of 117 pitches (31.6 percent), his most curves and highest percentage in a start this season. Astros hitters were 0-for-9 in at-bats ending with a curveball.
(C) The Astros hitters were 0-for-13 with four strikeouts in at-bats ending with an off-speed pitch overall, including 0-for-9 down in the zone or below.
(D) He recorded a season-high 13 ground ball outs.
• Yes, the Texas Rangers would be open to the idea of upgrading their pitching, but there are few available pitchers who fit that description. Maybe only one, in fact: Cole Hamels. As Jayson Stark first reported, the Phillies have increased their offer to Hamels to six years, and if he signs, the Rangers may forgo the trade market altogether, other than adding pieces for their bench.
• A six-year deal for Hamels would cost something in the range of $140 million, almost double what Philadelphia seemed willing to spend on the left-hander last year. If Hamels gets about $24 million a year, that would mean Philadelphia would have about $95 million committed to four players -- Hamels, Cliff Lee, Ryan Howard and Roy Halladay -- for 2013.
There has been speculation that Lee might be dealt, but keep in mind that his contract is heavily back-loaded, with salaries of $25 million for each of the next three seasons and a $27.5 million vesting option for 2016 that contains an enormous buyout of $12.5 million. Howard is in the first year of a five-year, $125 million deal.
• The Blue Jays' lack of bullpen depth has hurt, writes Brendan Kennedy.
I don't think any organization has been stopped in its tracks this season in the same way the Blue Jays have. All of their best young pitchers have been cut down by injuries, suspending their development and affecting all parts of the team. Because of what's happened this year, the Blue Jays are destined to go into the 2013 season with almost an identical set of questions that they had this year -- adding shortstop to the list, because Toronto seeks change at that position.
• Chris Carpenter had his surgery.
• The Tigers continued to gather momentum behind a strong start by Max Scherzer. They face the Chicago White Sox in a big weekend series. Detroit could be in first place by Saturday, writes Bob Wojnowski.
• The Diamondbacks and Marlins are among the teams prepared to sell. On Thursday, Arizona blew a big lead and Miami was taken down, again, by the Cubs.
The Miami players say they're still in the playoff hunt. From Joe Capozzi's story:
The main talk about the Marlins now is whether they will look to trade players such as pitcher Anibal Sanchez or second baseman Omar Infante or reliever Randy Choate among others.
"Right now to be honest, I don't think we have anything, at least they don't mention to me any move. They might wait until Pittsburgh,'' Guillen said.
"I think we have good players. I think we can compete. It's up to them to see who stays or who goes.''
The Diamondbacks' plans remain in neutral, GM Kevin Towers says.
• By about a quarter of a run, the Athletics have the best ERA in the American League, and Oakland beat the Yankees on Thursday.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. Contrary to a report, the Red Sox and Pirates have not talked to the Diamondbacks about Stephen Drew.
2. The Blue Jays recalled Yan Gomes.
3. The Rockies' top position prospect needs to have hope for a recall, writes Troy Renck.
4. The Dodgers apparently are not interested in Jimmy Rollins, writes Dylan Hernandez, because he is locked into a long-term deal.
5. Even Justin Morneau is available as the Twins prepare for a purge, writes John Shipley.
6. The Royals signed Jason Kendall.
7. Ryan Roberts, a major disappointment for the Diamondbacks this year, hasn't been playing much, Nick Piecoro writes.
8. The Phillies are still trying to decide whether to buy or sell, writes Bob Brookover.
9. The Nationals cut Rick Ankiel.
10. The Mets need to think about a bullpen makeover for future seasons, writes Joel Sherman.
11. Nick Markakis likes the leadoff spot.
12. The trade deadline could become a big deal for the Red Sox.
Dings and dents
1. Todd Helton is going to test his hip.
2. Jesse Crain will be back this weekend.
3. Brett Gardner is likely out for the year.
4. Ian Desmond will be in the Washington lineup today, writes James Wagner.
5. Joba Chamberlain continues to throw great, George King writes.
By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats & Info
3: Career walk-off home runs for Cody Ross (five career walk-off hits)
12: Of David Wright's 14 home runs have come off fastballs over the middle of the plate vertically (belt-high)
13: Wins for David Price and R.A. Dickey, most in the majors
43: Straight games with three or more runs for the Yankees (longest single-season streak in team history and second-longest single-season streak in Live Ball Era)
AL Central notes
• The Indians closed out their road trip with a loss.
• The White Sox had their guts ripped out.
• The Twins let a strong start go to waste.
NL Central notes
• The Reds rallied from a 6-0 deficit, but Brandon Phillips was upset with the fans afterward.
• The Astros are positioning themselves perfectly for the No. 1 pick. They have lost 36 of their last 48 games.
AL West notes
• The Angels' offense slowed.
• The Mariners had a nice series in Kansas City, as Geoff Baker writes.
AL East notes
• The Yankees' domination in Oakland ended.
• David Price was The Man for the Rays.
From ESPN Stats & Info, how he won:
(A) Price didn't allow a run while striking out seven in seven innings pitched.
(B) Indians hitters were 0-for-12 in at-bats ending with Price's fastball, just the second time this season he has not allowed a hit against the pitch.
(C) He threw 22 curveballs out of 108 pitches (20.4 percent), well above his season average of 11.3 percent. Indians hitters were 0-for-5 with three strikeouts in at-bats ending with the curve.
(D) Indians hitters were 1-for-15 in two-strike at-bats, including 0-for-12 against the fastball and curveball.
(E) Indians hitters were 0-for-8 with five strikeouts in at-bats ending with a pitch down in the zone or below. All the outs came against his fastball or curveball.
• Cody Ross hoisted the Red Sox onto his shoulders.
NL East notes
• R.A. Dickey ended the Mets' losing streak, writes John Harper.
• Gio Gonzalez had a bad day.
• The Braves really needed a win, and Tim Hudson delivered.
Ichiro deal a shrewd move by everyone.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Seattle Mariners have finally turned the page and done the right thing for Ichiro Suzuki and themselves by trading him to the New York Yankees in exchange for minor league right-handed pitchers D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar.
The Yankees have been in need of outfield depth since the injury to left fielder Brett Gardner, who had arthroscopic elbow surgery and is now out for the year. The Yankees have been platooning Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones since he went down and they have done a decent job, but the Bronx Bombers have really been missing Gardner’s speed and range in the outfield as well as his ability to manufacture runs with his wheels and create more fastballs for the other Yankees hitters because he's a threat to steal.
AP Photo/Bob Galbraith
The Yankees need speed, and Ichiro still has that.
Ichiro, 38, is a 10-time All-Star who has won two batting titles, not to mention the 2001 AL MVP and Rookie of the Year. However, he’s been in steady decline the last three years, and the M’s have seen his OBP go from .352 in 2009 to .315 in 2010 to .310 in 2011 to a career-low .288 this year. He has, however, maintained his ability to steal bases, as he's 15-for-17 this year.
The Yankees hope to be getting a rejuvenated Suzuki, who had to waive his 10-and-5 rights to accept the deal to New York. Playing for the non-contending Mariners that last several years has to have worn on him and a chance to get to the World Series could spark an solid second half for Suzuki. He will clearly benefit from joining the power-packed Yankee lineup and should be able to give the club the stolen-base threat they lost with Gardner’s injury.
The Mariners are going nowhere in 2012 and dealing Suzuki allows them to add some minor league depth. More importantly, because Ichiro is a free agent after this season, this deal will prevent the Mariners from having to answer questions about what they will do with him next year.
As for Seattle's haul, Mitchell is a 25-year-old who was a 10th-round pick in 2010 out of Clemson. The 6-foot righty is a sinker-slider pitcher who could be a No. 5 starter if everything breaks right. Farquhar, who's also 25, is a 5-9, 180-pound reliever who has a 3.33 ERA in 51 1/3 innings between Double- and Triple-A this year. He's an extra bullpen arm, the kind of guy you like to have in reserve in Triple-A.
Basically, this deal had more to do with opening a spot for younger players for the Mariners while paying Ichiro the ultimate respect of allowing him to finish his career in a pennant race.
For the Yankees, a small price to pay to improve the outfield and compensate a little bit for the loss of Gardner.
The other major deal of the day saw the Miami Marlins make a tremendous trade in building for the future by sending second baseman Omar Infante and right-handed pitcher Anibal Sanchez to the Detroit Tigers in return for righty Jacob Turner, catcher Rob Brantly and southpaw Brian Flynn (The two teams are also swapping compensatory draft picks that are part of the new collective bargaining agreement in the deal).
Turner will develop into a top-of-the-rotation starter in time and Brantly could become the Marlins' everyday catcher as early as next year. The Tigers made the deal for the present as they filled two huge needs in one deal. Infante improves their second-base situation both offensively and defensively, and Sanchez will benefit from the Tigers' potent offense and could have the same second-half impact that Doug Fister had a year ago. This deal is as simple as the Tigers winning short term and the Marlins crushing it with a huge win long term. This deal has the potential of someday bringing back memories of the John Smoltz-for-Doyle Alexander trade that Tigers fans still can’t forget.