MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL NEWS & NOTES

Dave Dombrowski, the general manager of the Boston Red Sox, spoke to reporters on Saturday afternoon and revealed that he had spoken extensively to Brian Cashman, his counterpart with the Yankees, the day before. It was a cordial chat, no doubt, but surely no substantive strategic plans were divulged.

For, just as their teams are competing against one another on the field this weekend, Dombrowski and Cashman are in competition to upgrade their teams through a trade over the next month.

Even though they have the two best records in baseball, neither team can shake the other in the race for the American League East crown, and perhaps a decisive trade might create separation.

The Red Sox need bullpen help. For the Yankees, the clear need is for a starting pitcher, and nothing that happened in Boston’s 11-0 victory over the Yankees on Saturday was likely to alter Cashman’s thinking. By David Waldstein

 leading to some real worry, it came as something of a relief when the Cubs announced that Yu Darvish has been diagnosed with a right elbow impingement, as Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic was among those to cover on Twitter. Already on the DL, Darvish will receive a cortisone shot before being examined again next week. It’s not yet known what the course will be from that point, but the club is no doubt pleased that there’s not a more significant underlying issue plaguing the high-priced hurler.

The Red Sox and Astros are among the teams with interest in Reds closer Raisel Iglesias, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. Houston, in particular, is “looking hard at Iglesias,” Cafardo writes. The Astros had been eyeing fellow late-game option Kelvin Herrera, per Cafardo, though he’s no longer on the market after the Royals traded him to the Nationals earlier this month. Unlike Herrera, a free agent at season’s end, Iglesias could be a multiyear solution for an acquiring team. The 28-year-old standout is under control through 2020 for affordable salaries ($4.5MM this season, $5MM in each of 2019 and ’20), though he could elect to opt into arbitration over the winter in hopes of securing a raise. Given Iglesias’ track record and remaining team control, the Reds would surely require an impressive haul to consider moving him. It’s worth noting, then, that the Astros have Baseball America’s 10th-best farm system, while the Red Sox’s prospect pool is just 24th.

As the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches, staying under the $197MM competitive-balance tax figure is “a target, not a mandate” for the Giants, according to general manager Bobby Evans (via John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle). At the moment, the Giants are under the threshold, per Evans. If they stay under it through the end of the season, the Giants would lower their tax rate from 50 percent to 20 percent in time for the offseason, when rumored target Bryce Harper is scheduled to be among the majors’ available free agents. Indeed, “there are a lot of incentives to stay below it,”Evans added. But it could be difficult, Shea explains, especially if the Giants remain in playoff contention around the deadline. They entered Saturday at 43-40, putting them just 1 1/2 games out of a wild-card spot.

Dodgers rookie righty Walker Buehler had worked exclusively as a starter this year until Thursday, when he came out of the bullpen in his return from the disabled list. That outing – Buehler’s first with the Dodgers since June 8 – didn’t go well, and after yielding five earned runs over an inning against the Cubs, LA optioned him to the Single-A level on Friday. Now, Buehler will have to make a minimum of two minor league rehab starts before returning to the Dodgers’ rotation, manager Dave Roberts told reporters, including Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. The Dodgers’ plan was for Buehler to work three innings Thursday in lieu of a rehab assignment, but that blew up in their faces.

Tigers right-hander Michael Fulmer is drawing a lot of interest from not just contenders like the Phillies, Dodgers and Yankees, but also from rebuilding teams like the Padres.  Clearly Fulmer would be a fit for a lot of teams considering both his ability and his years of control; he isn’t arbitration-eligible until this winter, and he has four years of arbitration coming as a Super Two player.  Fancred Sports’ Jon Heyman wrote earlier this week that it could be unlikely that Fulmer is actually dealt, as Detroit has naturally put a big price tag on the righty in trade talks.  San Diego is deep in prospects, however, so the Friars could be one of the few teams who wouldn’t immediately balk at the Tigers’ demands.

 writes he makes consistent contact, he brings speed to the basepaths, and he covers ground in the outfield. So, what’s the problem with Myles Straw? According to a Houston Astros suit who should know (better), “we’re trying to get him to turn on the ball more and focusing on hitting line drives and having some of those turn into homers.”

Really? So, despite the fact that Straw leads the known universe in steals (43 of 50 at press time), is 5’10” and 180 pounds, and has only hit three home runs in about 350 games, the Astros want to turn Maury Wills into Boog Powell?

Previously covered, at length, is the recent revelation that up and down the Houston minor league system is a seemingly pervasive focus on power and an effort to increase launch angle on virtually every player.

Insidious? Productive? Effective? Only time will tell if this sweeping obsession with power will, ultimately, result in a muscle-riddled, perennial World Champion Houston Astros, or more destructively, produce a scrap heap of would-be baseball players whose natural talents were hijacked and twisted to conform to an ill-advised, cyber-driven power grab.

the Orioles having failed to extend Manny Machado in the past, the shortstop noted this weekend (via Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun) that “they never reached out and showed that appreciation like the Angels did to (Mike) Trout. It was a totally different situation.” Machado was referring to the Angels’ decision in 2014 to give the then-22-year-old Trout a six-year, $144.5MM extension – one that canceled out three arbitration-eligible seasons and three free-agent years. Now, Machado says he’s “grateful” he’ll hit free agency this offseason at the age of 26. So, while the Orioles are all but guaranteed to trade Machado to a contender in the next few months, it doesn’t sound as if his next employer will have a legitimate chance to prevent him from reaching the open market with a new contract. Of course, given that Machado is in line to sign one of the majors’ richest deals ever, it’s no surprise he’s eager to test the open market.

Manny Machado will be the most oft-discussed player in baseball from now until the point that he’s ultimately traded, and Orioles general manager Dan Duquette said for the second time this month that interest in the free-agent-to-be is greater than it was when the O’s made him available in the offseason (link via Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com). By Steve Adams

The Arizona Diamondbacks, has a particularly compelling case to add Machado to its ranks, as Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic explores. With A.J. Pollock and Patrick Corbin up for free agency following the season and Paul Goldschmidt only controlled through 2019, Piecoro argues that the Diamondbacks will never have a better chance to win with this core of players than they do right now. The front office has already been aggressive in acquiring Brad Boxberger, Jon Jay and Steven Souza Jr. (even if that move has yet to pay dividends), and it would indeed seem curious to take the metaphorical foot off the gas pedal now.

Left-hander CC Sabathia suggested last month that he’d retire at year’s end if the Yankees were to win the World Series. But the 37-year-old now seems more open to returning in 2019 even if the Yankees aren’t the last team standing this season. “If we win the World Series and I pitch well and I’m healthy at the end of the year, then it’s 50-50 that I come back,” Sabathia said (via Marc Carig of The Athletic; subscription required). “It’s not an absolute.” Considering how well he’s pitching, it stands to reason the Yankees would welcome back a healthy Sabathia next year if he decides to keep pitching. In his age 37-season, Sabathia has pitched to a 3.02 ERA/4.04 FIP in 83 1/3 innings, thanks in part to his ability to limit hard contact. Sabathia ranks third among qualified pitchers in average exit velocity against (84.2 mph).

The value of Blue Jays first baseman Justin Smoak’s 2019 club option has climbed from $6MM to $7MM, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet tweets. In order for that to happen, Smoak needed to accrue 950 plate appearances from 2017-18. He surpassed that figure Saturday. And Smoak’s option will go from $7MM to $8MM if he amasses 150 more PAs this year (1,100 total from 2017-18), Davidi notes. Whether his salary ends up at $7MM or $8MM, both numbers look like reasonable salaries for Smoak – who’s enjoying his second straight above-average offensive season. Although, Smoak’s .235/.359/.438 line in 315 PAs falls well short of last year’s .270/.355/.529 showing.

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