What the Phillies should do with Lee.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
ST. LOUIS -- Imagine that you bought a new car with the odometer barely moved, and five-year financing made the payments heavier toward the back end of the deal. For almost two full years, you've gotten a chance to run it at full speed.
In that time, you've put a lot of miles on the car. You have started to notice a few pings in the engine. The tread on the tires has started to show signs of wear. Depreciation has begun -- really, from the first day you signed the papers.
Then, out of the blue, someone offers you this deal: They'll take the car off your hands and all the payments, including the whopper balloon bill that's due at the end.
Unless the car came with some sentimental value, you'd take that extraordinary proposal in a second.
In a parallel world, these are generally the circumstances that the Philadelphia Phillies are in today with pitcher Cliff Lee. The best business decision for them is to take the opportunity to dump his contract on the Los Angeles Dodgers. "A no-brainer," said a high-ranking rival official. "From a business standpoint, it's an easy call."
To review: The Phillies signed Lee after the 2010 season to a heavily backloaded five-year, $120 million deal, and as of today, the left-hander is still owed about $95 million. Lee, who turns 34 years old at the end of this month, is set to make about $7.5 million for the rest of this season and $25 million for each of the next three seasons. At the outset of the 2016 season, Lee has a $27.5 million option with a $12.5 million buyout. Lee will be 37 years old when the 2016 season begins, so unless he develops a really hard knuckleball and becomes the next version of R.A. Dickey, there is almost no chance that the Phillies (or any other team) would pick up that option and give Lee the highest salary of any pitcher in the majors when he's at such an advanced age.
So, in effect, Lee is owed $87.5 million for the next three seasons of work, when he will be the highest-paid player in the majors. His deal could cost $102.5 million over four years, if his option vests.
The Phillies talked with other teams about Lee before the July 31 trade deadline, and then on Friday, the Dodgers were awarded a waiver claim on the left-hander. The Phillies essentially have three options: They can try to work out a trade with the Dodgers; they could just give Lee away, like the Toronto Blue Jays a few years ago when they allowed the Chicago White Sox to take Alex Rios on waivers; or they could pull Lee back from waivers.
The Phillies are keeping Lee, Ruben Amaro said the other day. But Amaro tends to change his mind, and it would be in the best interest of the Phillies if he did so in this situation. Dumping Lee is the smart play, although it would take some guts. There would have to be an admission of miscalculation -- first in the initial valuation of the player, and also a conversation about why the Phillies didn't work out a deal before the deadline for a prospect, such as the Rangers' Mike Olt.
The Phillies told other teams they wouldn't eat any of the money owed to Lee, which made any deal impossible in the minds of rival executives. If the Phillies had been more flexible, they might've gotten more traction in their trade talks and gotten a good young player in return for the lefty.
That's not really an option on Aug. 5, so it's spilled milk at this point. There's not much sense in worrying about it. The Phillies should focus on what's to come.
Last year, in the first season of Lee's deal, he continued to pitch like one of baseball's best pitchers, going 17-6 with a 2.40 ERA. This year, not so much, and some of his erosion in performance can probably be blamed on the Phillies' overall struggles. Lee has a 3.73 ERA, and he's allowed a much higher rate of homers.
"He's still a really good pitcher," said one scout the other day.
But is he going to be worth $29 million annually for the next three seasons, which is essentially what the Phillies would owe him?
One really smart general manager noted this summer that when you sign a player to a long-term deal (five or more years) what you are realistically hoping for is peak performance in the first couple of seasons, then a period in the middle of the deal when the player is still good -- but maybe not as great as he once was -- before a steep decline at the end of the deal.
The Washington Nationals would probably jump at the chance to step away from the Jayson Werth contract. The Boston Red Sox would love to get out of the last five years of the Carl Crawford deal. If the New York Yankees were offered a parachute on the last five seasons of the Alex Rodriguez deal, they'd take it. The Phillies owe about $110 million to Ryan Howard through the next four years and two months -- and of course they should welcome the chance to get out of that contract.
Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols and Joey Votto all signed massive contracts, and at the back end of those deals, their teams will be paying more for legacy than for production. The Yankees got to the end of Derek Jeter's 10-year deal and then negotiated a cut in salary for him by about 40 percent. Nobody, besides Barry Bonds and a few others, gets better as they advance well past their 30th birthday.
The Phillies have already gotten the first couple of years of the Lee deal, when the odometer was at its lowest, and what they have is a chance to walk away from the deal when Lee's performance is most likely to decline and when he's about to get even more expensive.
The Phillies have saved a lot of money already in unloading the contracts of Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence, and if they get rid of Lee's contract, they could put themselves in position to be much more aggressive. They've made mistakes and they're paying for them, but now the Dodgers -- with their bottomless wallet -- are essentially offering them a bailout. The Phillies would be crazy to pass it up, unless they are confident he's going to perform at a $29 million level during the next three seasons.
Roy Halladay was really sharp.
The modern manager
The Dodgers have led the NL West for a lot of this summer, and the White Sox are at the top of the AL Central. It's little wonder, then, that the new managerial model being sought are those cut from the Don Mattingly/Robin Ventura/Mike Matheny mold.
In other words: Understated and not given to overreaction; accomplished in a prior playing career; respectful; hard-working with an ability to deal well with others, whether it be someone on staff in player development or a clubhouse kid or a team trainer; and open-minded in dealing with the information being generated by front offices.
Mattingly, Ventura and Matheny are all very much alike in how they deal with players, the front office and the media: honestly, directly and consistently. Members of the Cardinals organization raved here on Saturday about how well Matheny has done this year in replacing the legendary Tony La Russa -- and without any previous managerial experience. The same has been true of Ventura, whose players have responded to his focus on daily preparation.
Meanwhile: Ozzie Guillen remains distinctly old school. He dropped a lot of F-bombs after the Marlins' most recent loss.
• Scott Rolen got another big hit, and the Cincinnati Reds continue to separate themselves in the NL Central; they've taken the first two games in their series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The tension is mounting in this series, Bill Brink writes.
All things considered, this was a good night. Dusty Baker asked Aroldis Chapman: Did you hit Andrew McCutchen on purpose?
• Ryan Braun has a chance for another 20-20 season, writes Todd Rosiak.
• Felix Hernandez wouldn't be human if his concentration hadn't wavered from time to time in recent years. The Seattle Mariners haven't been very good, they've been out of contention and a lot of the starts Hernandez has made have been meaningless in the standings.
But like a bull seeing a cape, the King always seems to respond when he faces a good team, such as the Yankees, and he dominated them on Saturday. From Larry Stone's story:
"That was special stuff today," [manager Eric] Wedge said. "I told him, that's probably the most impressive start I've ever seen as a manager. And I've seen a lot of good and great pitchers pitch over the years."
"This ballpark, that lineup, the swings and misses, the mis-hits, with so many good hitters over there, the efficiency in which he did it, in a 1-0 ballgame -- it doesn't get much better than that."
Along the way, Brendan Ryan was hit by a pitch, and he hopes that all family business has been settled.
The Yankees had no answers, Zach Schonbrun writes.
From ESPN Stats and Information, how Hernandez won:
A. Twenty of the Yankees' 30 plate appearances were over within three pitches, the most by any pitcher against the Yankees in more than two years. The last pitcher to do that was … Felix Hernandez on July 10, 2010.
B. Five of Hernandez's six strikeouts were on three pitches. It's the most three-pitch strikeouts he's had in a single game over the past four seasons and it ties for the most by any starter against the Yankees.
C. Hernandez controlled the count. He threw 63 percent first-pitch strikes -- right at his season average -- and 75 percent second-pitch strikes, his third-highest percentage this season. Only four of 30 hitters saw a 2-0 or 3-1 count.
D. Hernandez threw 26 percent changeups, his second-highest percentage this season and his highest against the Yankees in the past four seasons. The Yankees were 0-for-6 with three strikeouts against the pitch on Saturday.
• Craig Kimbrel has 50 strikeouts and one walk in his past 28 innings of work.
• Sometime before tonight's game, Kyle Lohse will watch video of the Milwaukee hitters, including Braun. And what he will likely see is that Braun has been killing breaking pitches on the inner half of the plate.
Most homers versus breaking pitches on inner half, since 2009 (pitches seen)
2012: Braun, 10 (197)
2011: Robinson Cano, 10 (224)
2011: Miguel Cabrera, 8 (206)
2011: Matt Kemp, 8 (274)
2010: Carlos Gonzalez, 8 (222)
2010: Delmon Young, 8 (207)
2010: Juan Uribe, 8 (168)
2009: Ryan Zimmerman, 8 (303)
From Justin Havens, ESPN Stats and Info
By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats and Info
2: Shutouts by Felix Hernandez at the new Yankee Stadium -- matching the total by all Yankees pitchers since the park opened in 2009.
5: Walks by Mike Baxter -- the second Met to do it in a single game (Vince Coleman in 1992).
21: Streak of consecutive home games with a home run snapped after the Yankees failed to go deep Saturday. It's the second-longest streak in franchise history (23 in 1963).
23: First-pitch strikes by Doug Fister in his win against the Indians.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The Blue Jays went with a bold infield choice.
2. Pat Corbin may keep his spot in the Arizona Diamondbacks' rotation.
3. The Rockies' front office shift will make sense only if the pitching improves, writes Troy Renck.
4. Alfonso Soriano turned down a chance to play for the San Francisco Giants.
5. The relationship between the Cubs' and Dodgers' front offices is not good.
6. An August trade for the Minnesota Twins is seen as unlikely.
7. Jeff Francoeur and Jarrod Dyson are going to work as a platoon.
8. The Kansas City Royals fired their first-base coach.
9. The Houston Astros may look for help in free agency. The Pirates and Royals will tell them: Not a lot of attractive free agents are OK signing deals with a rebuilding team. In fact, what Houston could get would be a lot of second-tier players similar to Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez, etc., who they just traded away.
10. Roy Oswalt wants to be a starter.
11. Josh Hamilton says the issues that are affecting him are related to tobacco. The conversation, of course, is not good for his free agency, because the most significant question teams are already asking about him is: How much can you count on him?
12. Nate McLouth was summoned to the big leagues by the Baltimore Orioles.
Dings and dents
1. Jonny Venters has a sore elbow.
2. Matt Garza will be ready to go Tuesday.
3. Emilio Bonifacio has another thumb injury and is going to see a doctor.
4. It's possible that Evan Longoria will join the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday, as Roger Mooney writes within this notebook.
5. Carlos Ruiz is going to miss the next four to six weeks.
6. Alex Rodriguez is weeks away from coming back, writes George King.
NL West notes
• Buster Posey is killing it these days, and he wrecked the Colorado Rockies again on Saturday.
• Clayton Kershaw was The Man for the Dodgers. Joe Blanton is getting the ball today.
• Jeff Francis struggled against the Giants.
• The Diamondbacks were shut down by Halladay.
• Edinson Volquez couldn't make it out of the second inning.
NL Central notes
• Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals rolled to a victory. The Cardinals are likely playing for a wild-card spot, writes Bernie Miklasz.
• Justin Maxwell, arguably the best acquisition made by Houston, hit a couple of homers.
• Chris Volstad's winless streak reached 21 games.
• The Brewers are really struggling.
NL East notes
• Paul Maholm lost in his debut start for the Atlanta Braves.
• The Miami Marlins had another bad day.
• The Nats rallied. Kurt Suzuki arrived in Washington.
• The New York Mets drew a lot of walks.
AL East notes
• The Jays' youth rose up. Brad Lincoln has wowed his new manager.
• The Rays' winning streak came to an end.
• The Red Sox have dropped three straight to the Twins; Alfredo Aceves thinks the home plate umpire missed a call. This is no longer a small sample for this team, writes Dan Shaughnessy. A coaching shakeup is possible. Nick Punto says the Red Sox are very mediocre.
Bobby Valentine says he hasn't been given one suggestion based on sabermetrics.
• An O's pitcher delivered again, Eduardo Encina writes.
• Doug Fister was almost perfect. The Tigers' new 3-4-5 combo looks like a keeper, writes Terry Foster.
• Kevin Youkilis hit two homers, but the White Sox still lost, Toni Ginnetti writes.
• Joe Mauer packed some drama into his swing in the ninth inning, and now the Twins have a chance to finish a four-game sweep in Fenway Park, writes John Shipley.
• The Royals came up short again.
• Cleveland's losing streak stands at eight.
• Oakland's extra-innings magic came to an end, Susan Slusser writes.
• The Angels' bullpen pulled out a badly needed win. Part of the problems for the bullpen have been related to the starting pitching, Mike Scioscia says.
• Scott Feldman stepped up again.
A L.A. bidding war for Zack Greinke.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
ST. LOUIS -- Some quick thoughts, as we enter the 20th week of the season:
1. The Los Angeles Dodgers are going to be an even bigger factor in the free agent market than anybody anticipated. You figured they would be aggressive before the trade deadline and add some salary, and yes, they added Hanley Ramirez.
But the fact that they were willing to take on the last years of Cliff Lee's contract -- as much as $102.5 million in the next four seasons -- is absolute confirmation that they would have been extremely aggressive bidders on Cole Hamels if he didn't sign an extension with the Philadelphia Phillies, and that they have big plans going into the future.
In fact, Zack Greinke -- easily the preeminent pitcher on the market this fall now that Hamels has signed -- is set up to be the target of a bidding war between two really rich and powerful entities: the Los Angeles Angels and the Dodgers.
The Angels gave up some prospects to get him and intend to keep him, and on the other hand, the Dodgers seem prepared to write blank checks.
Some of the baseball officials who explored the idea of pursuing Greinke 20 months ago walked away put off by his personality, and as Greinke left Kansas City, there were folks in the Kansas City Royals organization who thought it was a good time for him to depart.
But it is possible for people to change, and the Brewers' staffers really liked Greinke a lot; the reporters who covered the team thought he was terrific to deal with.
This reshaped reputation can only help him in the fall, as he picks his next team.
2. For the second consecutive year, St. Louis Cardinals GM John Mozeliak may have had a direct hit in the trade market. There was some criticism of the Cardinals, because they weren't more aggressive in pursuing some of the bigger names like Greinke. But Mozeliak made a relatively modest acquisition for right-hander Edward Mujica, to help shore up the Cardinals' troublesome middle relief, and on Sunday night, Kyle Lohse left after six innings with a 3-0 lead and Mike Matheny rolled out his late-inning trio.
Mujica shut out the Milwaukee Brewers in the seventh, Mitchell Boggs added a scoreless eighth (Boggs hasn't been scored on in 55 days), and Jason Motte closed out the ninth. Just like Mozeliak drew it up.
The Cardinals have the best run differential in the majors, and yet they are running third in their division because of a lot of problems in close games. But Mujica should help plug one of the few holes this team has, giving the strength of what is arguably baseball's best lineup to manifest itself.
3. The Cardinals are seven games behind the Cincinnati Reds, who will be getting back Joey Votto any day, but don't expect St. Louis to catch them any time soon. As part of Cincinnati's pillow-soft schedule -- easily the easiest among the 30 teams in the majors, as the second half started -- the Reds will have two four-game series against the Chicago Cubs later this month before they play their next series against St. Louis. In fact, Cincinnati's next 18 games are against teams with losing records.
4. Stephen Strasburg's innings count is up to 127 1/3, which means that he's got about seven or eight starts left of six innings or so before he gets shut down. And then he will be relegated to being the most televised non-participant in baseball history, through the last weeks of the regular season and the postseason, with cameras focusing on his golf claps for teammates.
The Washington Nationals are doing the right thing; as one person involved in the process said, this is a medical decision and not a baseball decision, because the best doctors in the field of elbow reconstruction are telling the team it needs to limit the stress on a pitcher just two years removed from Tommy John surgery.
But this will be way beyond excruciating for Strasburg, an extremely competitive person. Strasburg overpowered the Miami Marlins on Sunday.
5. Kyle Lohse's free agency is perfectly timed for this fall. With Matt Cain and Hamels signed already and Greinke likely to land with one of the two L.A.-area superpowers, Lohse, 33, is in position to be among the best of the second-tier pitchers and get a really good four-year deal, maybe in the Mark Buehrle range of $58 million. Lohse has gotten better, he's pitched well and he's been reliable.
6. The Philadelphia Phillies kept Lee instead of working out a deal with he and the Dodgers. Their payroll has not been managed well, and unless Lee is covered with some sort of pixie dust that makes him improve with age, it is inevitable that the Phillies will regret not moving his contract when they had this chance.
St. Louis' late-inning failures.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The St. Louis Cardinals are one of the best teams in baseball. Sure, they are eight games out of first in the NL Central and would miss the playoffs if the season ended today, but there's more to their 58-49 record. In spite of that record, the Cardinals rate as the best team in the National League, according to WAR. And while WAR expects them to be a dominant force, the results haven't shown up in the team's win-loss record yet.
In order for the Cardinals to live up to their lofty ranking, they are going to have to start performing better in some crucial areas.
There are many stats that indicate the Cardinals have been a great team this season. They currently lead the majors with a plus-107 run differential. Their offense has also been great. The Cardinals' 113 wRC+, which measures how well a team performs offensively, is second only to that of the New York Yankees. St. Louis' starting pitching has also been excellent: Their 12.4 WAR trails only that of the Washington Nationals this season. The one area where the team has struggled this season is in the bullpen.
The Cardinals' bullpen has been a major contributor to their failures. As a group, the bullpen has accumulated minus-0.5 WAR, which ranks second behind the Chicago Cubs for the worst bullpen in the league. Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte have both shown signs of effectiveness, but the rest of the team has performed close to replacement level.
The poor play in the bullpen has turned the Cardinals into a bad team in close games. The Cardinals' record is just 12-18 in one-run games and 3-7 in extra-inning games this season. Generally, the results of one-run games can be somewhat random, as the game can turn on any number of factors. But there is some evidence that teams with strong bullpens will perform better in games decided by one run.
This makes sense, as those teams would be sending out better relievers in the late innings, and thus, it would be more difficult to score on them. Well, the exact opposite has happened with the Cardinals this season. While some of their performances in one-run games can be blamed on poor luck, a decent portion can be attributed to the poor options they have in the bullpen.
On top of that, the Cardinals' problems seem to get worse at the most crucial points in the game. This can be measured by the team's clutch score. Clutch measures how well a player, or team, performs in high-leverage situations. This season, the Cardinals' bullpen has a minus-1.28 clutch score, meaning they've performed worse than normal when the game is on the line. In fact, the entire team has struggled in the clutch. St. Louis' rotation has a minus-1.25 clutch score, and its offense has a minus-2.90 clutch score.
On the surface, it might look like the Cardinals' offense is to blame for its high-leverage woes, but that's not the case. It's important to note that clutch is a context-dependent stat. This means that in order to figure out whether a team is better in high-leverage situations, you have to compare it to how the team performs in all other situations.
Because of that, the Cardinals' offense isn't as bad in clutch situations as it would initially seem. The Cardinals' offense has been otherworldly in every other situation this season, so while it performs slightly worse than that in clutch situations, it still has been good in the clutch. The same thing can be said of the Cards' rotation. It's one of the best in the league most of the time, but becomes merely above-average in clutch situations.
Again, the focus is shifted to the Cardinals' bullpen, one of the league's worst in normal situations. With the game on the line, it gets even worse. The team's relievers just aren't good enough to stop opponents in tight games or high-leverage situations.
There is hope for the Cardinals to rebound. Clutch stats focus on what has already happened but aren't predictive of future performance. The Cardinals have performed worse in high-pressure situations, but there's no indication that will continue throughout the rest of the season. And because some of their struggles in one-run games can be attributed to bad luck, there's a decent chance that will improve as the season goes on.
The bullpen, however, isn't going to magically improve. The Cardinals are capable of performing like one the best teams in the National League but have been held back by poor luck and a weak bullpen. With the team only 2.5 games out of a wild-card spot, there's still time for the Cardinals to make a postseason run if they can find even a little more stability in the later innings.
Scouting Yasiel Puig's debut.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Yasiel Puig made his professional debut on Wednesday night as a DH and made his first appearance in the field on Thursday night at Scottsdale Stadium, playing for the Arizona Rookie League Dodgers against the Giants. Like fellow Cuban Jorge Soler (Cubs), Puig looked rusty all around, but he did show the strength and raw power that made him a popular free agent when he hit the market in late June, so popular the Dodgers signed him for $42 million.
He's rich. Can he hit?
Puig's first professional hit was a triple to deep left-center, hit probably 400 or so feet, on a ball he didn't even fully square up -- when he hit it, he seemed to think he'd just popped it up. For a big guy with that kind of power, he doesn't use his hips that much; his swing is rotational, but he gets more strength from his hands and arms than from his legs. He's an average runner and showed average arm strength; he looked like he could cover plenty of ground in right, although he wasn't significantly challenged, and he did drop one fairly routine fly ball that hit his glove and bounced out. Overall, he looked a little uncomfortable, especially with his timing at the plate, which I'd attribute to his layoff from playing competitively. I give him a lot of credit for playing all-out, running out two ground balls at full speed and advancing from second to third on a fly ball to short left.
Comparisons to Soler are unavoidable, as they're both from the same country and signed large deals within a few weeks of each other. Soler is looser, more athletic, with better bat speed and looks a lot younger, at least in physical maturity, while Puig has more present power and is stronger overall. I wouldn't take either player's stats this summer too seriously, since they're both old for the league but have not faced live pitching in game situations for some time.
• Dodgers ninth-rounder Zach Bird started and had his best performance of the summer, throwing five scoreless innings without a walk and punching out five. He was 88-92 mph with an average slider at 78-81, throwing one slider (or cutter) at 85 that was just unfair, although that didn't happen a second time. He also showed a slow curveball in the low 70s. He turned 18 just three weeks ago and is very loose and projectable at 6-3, 177 pounds (if that). He has an extremely high leg kick, staying over the rubber a long time, then takes a solid stride toward the plate. He gets on top of the ball very well, although his arm action might be a little long in back, and he does this peculiar glove-wiggle before starting his delivery. This looks like a great sleeper pick for someone taken 296th overall in the draft.
• I caught the AZL Royals earlier in the week and saw the U.S. debut of 19-year-old right-hander Miguel Almonte, who had just been recalled from the Dominican Summer League. He comes from a slot under 3/4 with a very quick arm and worked at 91-94 with a changeup that flashed plus at 82-86, doubling or even tripling up on the pitch. His breaking ball varied widely, some as low as grade 40, some as good as 55 (above-average), 76-78 mph, but caught between a curve and a slider -- it has the two-plane break of a curveball, but he releases the pitch like a slider. He's a little slight of build and doesn't use his lower half as much as he could to generate velocity, but he has present stuff, pounded the strike zone and seemed to have a good idea of what he was doing.
• Unfortunately, the Royals' 10th-round pick, outfielder Alexis Rivera, who's generated a lot of buzz this summer among scouts here, was out for a few days due to injury (he returned to play last night). But 5th-rounder Chad Johnson and 8th-rounder Alfredo Escalera-Maldonado were both in the lineup. Johnson has a solid approach with average bat speed and a pretty good rotational swing, but drifts slightly out over his front side; his receiving was adequate and he did show arm strength. Escalera-Maldonado, a Puerto Rican outfielder and true 17-year-old, showed a quick bat and above-average speed, needing primarily to show he can work the count more effectively. Both are intriguing prospects relative to where they were selected.
Rumors.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Part-time duty for Bay
AM ETJason Bay | Mets Recommend0Comments0EmailAfter a brutal road trip, Jason Bay may be returning to Citi Field as a part-time player.
The Mets' $66 million left fielder was 2-for-31 with three RBI and 10 strikeouts on a West Coast swing to Arizona, San Francisco and San Diego. While he should continue to start against southpaws, his at-bats against righties may be curtailed, writes Anthony Rieber of of Newsday.
Mike Baxter, who tied a franchise record for a nine-inning game by walking five times Saturday in San Diego, will likely pick up the extra at-bats in left field.
- Doug Mittler
Tags:Mike Baxter, Jason Bay, New York Mets
Cards' rotation with Garcia
AM ETJaime Garcia | Cardinals Recommend0Comments0EmailThe expected return of Jaime Garcia from the disabled list later this month was one reason the Cardinals did not see an urgent need to deal for a starter by the July 31 deadline. Garcia is still scheduled back in August, even if the timetable may be pushed back a few days.
Garcia, sidelined since June with shoulder issues, will continue his rehab by starting for Double-A Springfield in San Antonio on Thursday. Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch says the Cards are considering having Garcia make one more minor-league start after Thursday, which will put him back in the majors in two weeks.
Manager Mike Matheny has not divulged how the rotation will be altered when Garcia returns. One possibility is to shift rookie Joe Kelly to the bullpen. Goold says a full-fledged six-man rotation is out of the equation, but that option could be used temporarily to give Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn some extra rest.
MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch suggests the Cardinals could even more Lynn to the bullpen in an effort to lower the righthander's workload.
- Doug Mittler
Tags:Joe Kelly, Lance Lynn, Jaime Garcia, St. Louis Cardinals
Longoria back Tuesday?
AM ETEvan Longoria | Rays Recommend0Comments3EmailThe Tampa Bay Rays have officially played more than half the season without Evan Longoria, who has sat out 85 games with a partially torn hamstring.
The long wait could end Tuesday against the Blue Jays. Manager Joe Maddon says it is a ?50-50? proposition that Longoria could return this week after the star third baseman played Sunday in a rehab stint for Triple-A Durham.
Maddon last week hinted that Longoria would likely not play every day, even as a designated hitter, until the hamstring is fully healed.
Newly-acquired Ryan Roberts, as well as Jeff Keppinger will continue to get time at third base while Longoria works his way back to full health.
- Doug Mittler
Tags:Ryan Roberts, Tampa Bay Rays, Evan Longoria
Oswalt's future in Texas
AM ETRoy Oswalt | Rangers Recommend0Comments1EmailThe Texas Rangers are facing what looks like an increasingly awkward situation with Roy Oswalt.
Oswalt pitched two scoreless innings Sunday in Kansas City, but declined to take the mound in the ninth inning with the score tied at 6, according to manager Ron Washington. "He said he had enough," Washington said.
Oswalt, who agreed to terms with the Rangers in late May, went 3-2 with a 6.49 ERA in six starts before being demoted to the bullpen, where he has thrown two scoreless innings in each of his first two relief appearances.
Evan Grant says the Rangers are aware that Oswalt is unhappy with the banishment to the bullpen, but says it is unclear if the situation has become "acrimonious."
The Rangers could try to trade or potentially release Oswalt if the situation deteriorates, but the club would be on the hook for the remainder of his $4.5 million contract if they cut the cord. But if Oswalt continues to pitch well out of the bullpen, it seems logical that another opportunity in the rotation will present itself.
- Doug Mittler
Tags:Roy Oswalt, Texas Rangers
Giants eyed Soriano
AM ETAlfonso Soriano | Cubs Recommend0Comments0EmailIt's no secret the Chicago Cubs would love to unload Alfonso Soriano, who remains under contract through 2014 at a cool $18 million per year.
Unless Soriano becomes more flexible with his no-trade provision, he could still end up as the Cubs' left fielder next spring, Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune wrote over the weekend.
Rogers reports the San Francisco Giants were interested in Soriano and might have traded for him rather than Hunter Pence if Soriano had been open to the idea. As for West Coast teams, Soriano reportedly was interested only in a trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
- Doug Mittler
Tags:Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, Alfonso Soriano
Johnson's season may be over
AM ETNick Johnson | Orioles Recommend0Comments0EmailAccording to a report in the Baltimore Sun, Nick Johnson's season may be over. The slugger, who hit just .207 with only two home runs in 72 at-bats this season, had been at the team's Florida spring training facility rehabbing a right wrist injury. However, he has apparently returned to his home in California signifying that a 2012 comeback is not likely to occur.
The Orioles have a serious lack of power in the lineup, with designated hitter Jim Thome on the 15-day disabled list with a herniated disc in his back. If he can get through waivers, could Bryan LaHair be an addition the team is willing to make? The team failed to complete a deal for Chase Headley before the deadline, but they might have to do something if Nate McLouth and Lew Ford end up not being the answer.
- AJ Mass
Tags:Baltimore Orioles, Nick Johnson, Bryan LaHair, Chase Headley, Nate McLouth, Lew Ford, Jim Thome
Pettitte eyes September return
AM ETAndy Pettitte | Yankees Recommend0Comments0EmailAndy Pettitte, last seen on the Yankee Stadium mound in late June when he broke his fibula, seemed to be sending out some mixed signals Sunday as to when he will be back in the rotation.
While Pettitte still targets a September return, the lefthander tells Matt Ehalt of ESPNNewYork.com he "has no idea how this thing will feel when I lift up and try to raise my leg and put all my weight down on the mound."
Pettitte, who had another X-ray on Sunday, still isn't ready to throw off a mound.
Pettitte's health is a bigger issue given that the Yankees did not add another starter by last week's trade deadline. Freddy Garcia, has been Pettitte%u2019s replacement and is 3-3 with a 3.95 ERA since taking over, including a win Sunday over Seattle.
- Doug Mittler
Tags:Andy Pettitte, New York Yankees
Chipper still plans to retire
AM ETChipper Jones | Braves Recommend0Comments1EmailChipper Jones may be swinging a productive bat, but the future Hall of Famer still has any plans of putting hthose retirement plans on hold.
The 40-year-old Jones told David O'Brien of the Atlanta JC says a .320 batting average has given him no second thoughts about his plans to call it quits. "I'm ready to move on," said Jones, who apparently wants no part of being MLB's version of Brett Favre.
O'Brien notes that even if Jones wanted to reconsider retirement plans, it it would be a potentially awkward situation, given that the Braves are now selling ticket plans for the remainder of the season built around Chipper's farewell tour.
There also is the issue of whether the Braves would truly want Chipper back given his recent history of injury. At this stage, Atlanta seems content to move forward with Martin Prado as their third baseman in 2013.
- Doug Mittler
Tags:Chipper Jones, Atlanta Braves
August 5, 2012Clock ticking on Lee
AM ETCliff Lee | Phillies Recommend1Comments0EmailThe clock is ticking on the Cliff Lee to the Los Angeles Dodgers rumor. When the Dodgers claimed Lee off waivers it opened up a two-day window for the two sides to work out a deal for the left-hander. If no agreement is reached, then the Philadelphia Phillies have to either let Lee walk for nothing or they can pull him back and will be unable to deal him until after the season.
The two teams hastily worked out some sort of a deal for Joe Blanton just before the trade deadline involving those time-honored ambiguous terms of "cash considerations" and a "player to be named later." It is conceivable that the Phillies might be able to use that deal as leverage in order to get a better return on Lee.
The Phillies are turning into baseball's version of Logan's Run, slowly but surely getting rid of any and all players when they reach the age of 30. Blanton, Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence were just the start of the purge. We would not be surprised if Lee joins the 2012 attendees at "Carousel."
- AJ Mass
What the Phillies should do with Lee
" The Phillies are keeping Lee, Ruben Amaro said the other day. But Amaro tends to change his mind, and it would be the best interests of the Phillies if he did so in this situation. Dumping Lee is the smart play, although it would take some guts." Tags:Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino, Joe Blanton, Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Dodgers
August 5, 2012Beckett and Ellsbury on the mend
AM ETBoston Red Sox Recommend0Comments0EmailJosh Beckett will get the start for the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday afternoon game at home against the Texas Rangers. Beckett had been pulled from his last start on Tuesday in the third inning due to back spasms, an injury that was likely exacerbated by the wet weather. To play it safe, the team opted to use Franklin Morales on Sunday and let Beckett get a few extra days off.
That wasn't the only good news on the injury front for the Red Sox. Although Jacoby Ellsbury did not Saturday's game with what manager Bobby Valentine called a leg issue, the move was considered to be only precautionary in nature and nothing to worry about going forward.
Still, as seemingly only Bobby V can do, he double-spoke that assertion into something that may have Red Sox fans wondering if that is truly the case: "It's a leg issue, but it's not an issue. But it could become an issue." Say what now?
Ellsbury did enter the game as a defensive replacement late, so I guess Valentine was right. At least I think he was.
- AJ Mass
Red Sox report
"He's pitched very well for us, Valentine said of Morales. Every time he's been on the mound as a starter or a reliever, not every time but the majority of the time, I'm expecting him to be healthy, sound, aggressive, pound the strike zone, use his three pitches and help us win a game. Tags:Franklin Morales, Josh Beckett, Jacoby Ellsbury, Bobby Valentine, Boston Red Sox
August 5, 2012Cespedes nursing injury
AM ETYoenis Cespedes | Athletics Recommend0Comments0EmailUPDATE:Cespedes was said to be available for pinch-hitting duties, but instead entered Saturday's game as a pinch-runner in the bottom of the ninth. When the game went into extra-innings, though, Cespedes did not take the field. No swinging of the bat in a tie game and then not being able to wield a glove? It doesn't sound good.
- AJ Mass
The Oakland Athletics have been baseball's hottest team over the past month, but their outfielders are hurting.
We already covered the Seth Smith hamstring injury that caused the A's to put him on the DL and call up Michael Taylor. There's also Coco Crisp, who missed a few games at the end of July due to a tight left hamstring.
But the most recent -- and most concerning -- injury is Yoenis Cespedes' sprained right wrist, which he suffered while sliding Friday. The injury is likely to keep him out of Saturday's contest and could cost him more time.
Crisp has played the past two games, which means he'll handle centerfield with Cespedes out. Clearly, though, losing Cespedes' bat -- he was hitting .432 with 5 homers and 19 RBIs over his past 21 games -- is a tough blow for the A's offense.
If the injury keeps him out longer than expected, it would make sense for Oakland to recall Collin Cowgill, who was bypassed when the club brought up Taylor to fill in for Smith.
- Jason Catania
Tags:Coco Crisp, Oakland Athletics, Yoenis Cespedes
August 5, 2012Cust tries another team
AM ETJack Cust | Astros Recommend0Comments0EmailThe Toronto Blue Jays are playing with what amounts to be barely more than a Triple-A lineup. From sixth to ninth in the batting order on Saturday was a "murderer's row" of Yan Gomes, Moises Sierra, Anthony Gose and Adeiny Hechavarria. In a word: Yuck!
Help might be on the way with the signing of Jack Cust to a minor-league deal. Cust was released by the New York Yankees on Wednesday despite his having hit 20 home runs in 127 plate appearances at the Triple-A level this season.
It's a lot harder for a player to break into a lineup consisting of Curtis Granderson, Raul Ibanez, Andruw Jones and Ichiro Suzuki than it should be in Toronto. Don't be surprised to see Cust in the Blue Jays lineup before the end of the month. What could it hurt?
- AJ Mass
Tags:Ichiro Suzuki, Andruw Jones, Raul Ibanez, Curtis Granderson, Adeiny Hechavarria, Anthony Gose, Moises Sierra, Yan Gomes, Jack Cust, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees
August 5, 2012Cook blows another save
AM ETRyan Cook | Athletics Recommend0Comments0EmailRyan Cook's stint as the closer for the Oakland Athletics has been bumpy of late, but it does not appear to be coming to an abrupt end.
Cook, who took over the job from Brian Fuentes on June 12, has now blown four saves in his last six appearances after serving up a home run to Toronto's David Cooper with a 1-0 lead in the ninth inning of Saturday's game. But Bob Melvin is still standing by his man.
"We're talking about a young kid that hasn't been in this role before and hasn't relieved too long," Melvin told CSN Bay Area after the latest Cook blown save. "There's going to be some times where you are going to struggle some. He's got to fight his way through it."
Oakland is in the middle of a pennant race, so they can't afford too many more losses in games that their closer "should" be closing. Expect Grant Balfour, who is 1-0 with six holds and a .128 batting average against since July 1, without having allowed a run over that time, to get a save chance if it emerges on Sunday, as Cook has now pitched on three straight days.
- AJ Mass
Tags:Grant Balfour, Ryan Cook, Bob Geren, Oakland Athletics
August 5, 2012Rockies rookie done for the year
AM ETChristian Friedrich | Rockies Recommend0Comments0EmailChristian Friedrich's season may be over as the Colorado Rockies rookie southpaw's back issue is apparently worse than the team originally believed.
Freidrich had originally been scheduled to start on Thursday, but had some soreness in his back, so he was pushed back to Sunday. In the interim, an MRI revealed some bad news in the form of a stress fracture. Freidrich was quoted on the team's official website that he was done for the year as a result.
The Rockies have not confirmed the extent of the injury, but Friedrich was placed on the 15-day disabled list, along with outfielder Michael Cuddyer, who has a strained right oblique. Tyler Chatwood, who previously posted a 7.62 ERA with the Rockies in relief, will return to the team from Double-A Tulsa to fill in on Sunday versus the San Francisco Giants.
- AJ Mass
Tags:Colorado Rockies, Michael Cuddyer, Christian Friedrich
August 5, 2012Griffin leaves A's short-handed
AM ETA.J. Griffin | Athletics Recommend0Comments0EmailThe bad news is that A.J. Griffin had to leave Saturday's game with tightness in his right shoulder in the second inning and may be headed for the 15-day disabled list. The good news is that an MRI taken after the game was clear, so there doesn't appear to be any structural damage.
Because the Oakland Athletics were forced to use six pitchers in what ended up being an 11-inning loss the day after they needed seven arms to get through a 15-inning marathon win on Friday, Griffin could be caught in a numbers game. He might get a two-week rest simply because the team needs the roster space to call up some fresh players in the bullpen.
Expect Brandon McCarthy to take Griffin's next turn in the rotation after he recorded nine strikeouts over six shutout innings for Triple-A Sacramento in a rehab start on Saturday night.
- AJ Mass
Tags:Oakland Athletics, A.J. Griffin, Brandon McCarthy
August 5, 2012Lopez earns the save
AM ETWilton Lopez | Astros Recommend0Comments0EmailWilton Lopez retired two Atlanta Braves batters to earn his first save since 2010. By closing out the 3-2 victory, Lopez helped the NL Central cellar dwellers to win just their fourth game in 30 tries since the start of July.
Although the save opportunities may be few and far between on a team 36-games under .500, Lopez should be the man that Brad Mills calls on in the ninth inning for the rest of the season.
Francisco Cordero, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with an inflamed right toe on Friday, had been 0-3 with a 19.80 ERA in his six games with the team. He also blew three save chances since coming over to the team from Toronto via trade.
- AJ Mass
Tags:Brad Mills, Houston Astros, Francisco Cordero, Wilton Lopez
August 5, 2012Fish no longer bona fide at second
AM ETEmilio Bonifacio | Marlins Recommend0Comments0EmailUPDATE:The Miami Herald reports that X-rays on Emilio Bonifacio's thumb were negative and that he might not miss the rest of the season after all. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list, but the team is a little bit more optimistic that he may be able to return to action in 2-3 weeks.
- AJ Mass
If you listen to the ESPN Fantasy Focus Baseball Podcast, you'll get that reference. (Otherwise, details can be found here.)
Now that Emilio Bonifacio is likely out for the year, according to Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun Sentinel, the Miami Marlins have to figure out what to do at second base.
You'll remember the club recently traded starter Omar Infante to the Detroit Tigers, opening up the job for Bonifacio, who'd spent the first part of the season in centerfield before injuring his left thumb, which required surgery. Turns out, it's that same thumb that Bonifacio hurt Friday.
The other issue for the Marlins -- and fantasy owners -- is that Bonifacio had recently been installed in the leadoff spot, where he was putting his speed to good use as the NL leader in stolen bases (30).
To help handle the keystone, Miami called up Nick Green. Expect the journeyman and the likes of Donovan Solano to get most of the playing time there.
One thing's for sure, though, neither of those guys are bona fide.