MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL NEWS & NOTES-HAMELS-YANKEES-OHTANI-METS

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MLB.com’s Jon Morosi reported early Friday morning that the Rangers and Mariners have had dialogue about a trade involving starter Cole Hamels. As Morosi notes, a deal isn’t close yet.

Hamels, 34, is earning $22.5 million this season and has a $20 million club option for the 2019 season with a $6 million buyout. The lefty also has a limited no-trade clause, but the Mariners are not one of the teams to which he can prevent a trade.

Reds first baseman Joey Votto and Brewers catcher Erik Kratz got into a heated argument in the bottom of the third inning of Thursday evening’s game in Cincinnati. Junior Guerra threw a 3-1 fastball that was just a bit off the plate, but home plate umpire Roberto Ortiz called it a strike. Votto wasn’t happy, so he had some words with the ump. Kratz wasn’t happy with Votto, either because he was trying to get his strike zone shrunk or that he was taking a long time to get his point across. Kratz stood up and the two exchanged words face-to-face, and then the benches emptied. The players congregated around home plate, but just to exchange words. There were no punches thrown and no one was ejected.

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Yankees will call up infielder Brandon Drury from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He will be active for Friday night’s game against the Red Sox.

The Yankees acquired the 25-year-old Drury from the Diamondbacks in the three-way trade that also involved the Rays back in February. Drury hit the disabled list early in the season due to severe migraines. Drury was supposed to be the Yankees’ everyday third baseman, but when he got injured, the club promoted Miguel Andúar and never looked back. In eight games, Drury hit .217/.333/.391. Andujar has hit .276/.303/.506 in 68 games. By Bill Baer

The Dodgers and Diamondbacks will end up battling for the NL West divisional crown. That is probably the most interesting storyline in the otherwise boring division. By Gabriel Baumgaertner

Shohei Ohtani’s elbow injury has healed enough that the Los Angeles Angels’ two-way star can begin a hitting program. General manager Billy Eppler said Thursday that Ohtani underwent an MRI in Los Angeles that showed improvement to his ligament, clearing him to take batting practice in private.

Ohtani was placed on the disabled list with a UCL sprain June 8. He will be re-evaluated by doctors in three weeks. Asked whether Ohtani needs Tommy John surgery that could cause him to miss the rest of this season as well as all of the 2019 season, Eppler says no doctor has told him that the Japanese star needs surgery at this time. By ASSOCIATED PRESS

OK, this is fascinating: Several sites — including FangraphsBaseball Prospectus and Clay Davenport’s site — offer the percentage chance that every team has for making the playoffs. One thing they all agree on is that the Kansas City Royals have no chance at a postseason berth.

But there’s something else that is kind of mind-blowing: In most of the projections, the five American League teams — the Yankees and Red Sox in the East, the Indians in the Central, and the Astros and Mariners in the West — ALL have a better chance of making the playoffs than any team in the National League.

Take, for example, the Baseball Prospectus Playoff Odds Report: In the AL: The Yankees (99.9 percent), Astros (99.7 percent), Red Sox (99.4 percent) and Indians (98.6 percent) are all virtual locks. The Mariners (80.9 percent) are heavy favorites. By Joe Posnanski

Following yesterday’s leave of absence for general manager Sandy Alderson, Mets assistant GM John Ricco spoke with the media about the team’s status as deadline sellers and confirmed that they’ll at least listen to offers on top starters Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard (links via Newsday’s Tim Healey and the New York Daily News’ Kristie Ackert).

The Pirates’ Triple-A affiliate announced on Monday that right-hander Johnny Hellweg has been granted his release in order to pursue an opportunity to play in Japan. Tim Williams of PiratesProspects.com first tweeted the news.

Hellweg, 29, was once considered one of the Angels’ better prospects and was one traded to the Brewers alongside Jean Segura in the 2012 Zack Greinke blockbuster. Hellweg wasn’t able to establish himself with the Brewers, however, totaling just 30 2/3 innings with Milwaukee in 2013. Hellweg sustained a torn ulnar collateral ligament in 2014 that limited him to 20 innings that season, and he pitched just 60 2/3 innings in Triple-A in his final season with the Brewers organization in 2015. By 

According to the SportsLine Projection Model, the Twins right now have a mere 1.3 percent chance of making the postseason. Yes, Minnesota played in the AL Wild Card Game last year and behaved like contenders this past offseason, but right now they’re forecast for just 78 wins. Given the strength of the contending field in the American League, that’s not even close to good enough.

This reality apparently isn’t lost on the front office. According to MLB.com’s Jon Morosi, the Twins are poised to be among the teams looking to sell prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Morosi name-checks second baseman Brian Dozier, right-hander Lance Lynn, and infielder Eduardo Escobar as possibilities to be dealt to a contender. Not coincidentally, all three are pending free agents. By  

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On a recent Monday night, the Pirates played host to the Milwaukee Brewers for the first time this season. The game drew 10,672 paying fans to PNC Park.

At first glance, the lean crowd wasn’t especially unusual. Attendance has been soft for much of the season, and several games had attracted smaller crowds to the ballpark.

Still, unlike some sparsely attended Pirates games earlier this season, June 18 was a hot summer evening, not a cold or snowy spring day. School was out for the summer. The Pirates were facing a playoff contender and a division foe; the Brewers had a slim lead atop the National League Central.

Yet the 10,672 tickets sold that night represented the third-lowest paid attendance at a June game in PNC Park history. The two June ballgames with smaller crowds were competing against Stanley Cup final games involving the Penguins, as radio host Andrew Fillipponi first noted. By ELIZABETH BLOOM

The Blue Jays are likely to seek pitching prospects in exchange for impending free agent J.A. Happ, which seemingly puts the Yankees at the front of the line to acquire the veteran southpaw, per MLB Network insider Joel Sherman.

Toronto’s farm system is rich with promising position players such as Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Anthony Alford, but lacking on the pitching side.

Meanwhile, 16 of New York’s top 19 prospects are pitchers, according to MLB Pipeline’s rankings. While Justus Sheffield likely won’t be on the table in any potential Happ trade, the Yankees may be able to swing a deal for the 35-year-old by sending a pair of their mid-level pitching prospects to the Blue Jays. By Thomas Harrigan

 

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