MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL NEWS & NOTES

 

L.A.’s Mike Trout and Boston’s Mookie Betts are having historic seasons. But how they’ve solved the strikeout era diverges in one remarkable way. Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

“Give me something on Mike Trout. Anything. Just one thing. . . . Please.”

Even legends have their vulnerabilities. Achilles had his heel, Superman his Kryptonite and Mickey Mantle had Dick Radatz, the reliever known as the Monster, who whiffed the Mick 12 times in 16 at bats. Scott Servais, the Mariners’ manager, had been watching Trout play for eight years, back to when the Angels’ centerfielder was a teenager, and still he knew of no Trout antidote, no Monster to tame him.

The first time Servais saw Trout play was November 2011, when Jerry Dipoto, then the Angels’ general manager, hired Servais as his assistant and sent him to watch the Arizona Fall League. The then 20-year-old Trout, weary and weak from 156 games that year, including his major league debut, hit .245 with one home run in Arizona. “Scott, don’t worry,” Dipoto said when Servais expressed doubt about Trout’s potential. “This guy is going to be the next big thing in our sport.” Continue Reading, by TOM VERDUCCI

The American League’s playoff picture has been outlined for months now. Sure, there’s still some squishiness around the center—Red Sox or Yankees?—but the boundaries, just halfway through the season, are all but officially settled. In terms of simple probability, there’s not much room for surprises here, and in terms of sheer practicality, there’s far less.

Or, at least, that appeared to be the case as recently as a week ago. But Oakland’s recent hot streak has pushed just the tiniest bit of ambiguity into the room. Currently riding a 19–5 run, they’re now just five games out of the second wild card spot. That doesn’t give them fantastic odds, by any stretch of the imagination, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that their best course of action at the deadline will be pushing their chips in for a serious run. It does give them an interesting position in a polarized league, though: Oakland’s right in the middle of things, which means that they’re more or less alone. Continue Reading, by EMMA BACCELLIERI

Matt Kemp leads the majors in batting average with RISP.

The phone call that Matt Kemp never saw coming came as he was having lunch with some friends on the afternoon of Dec. 16, 2017. On the other end was his longtime agent, Larry Reynolds, with some surprising news for the veteran outfielder: The Braves—his then-team—were trading him away.

Changing cities was nothing new for Kemp: Atlanta was his third team in his last four years, and his stay there had lasted 16 months. Being dealt is an inescapable part of the business of being a baseball player, and even though Kemp had figured he was staying put with the Braves, learning that he was heading somewhere else wasn’t too huge a shock. Then Reynolds dropped a much bigger bomb.

“He kind of laughed, and I was like, are you joking with me,” Kemp says. “And he was like, you got traded, and you’ll never guess where.” Continue Reading, by JON TAYLER

During the course of the Angels‘ Thursday night home game against the Mariners (SEA-LAA GameTracker), Halos DH Albert Pujols tallied three hits and a pair of home runs. Those three hits gives him 3,055 for his career, and that ties him with Rickey Henderson for 25th place on the all-time list. As for his second homer, it was also an especially notable one …  Continue Reading, by 

The Phillies have improved their offer to the Orioles for star infielder Manny Machado, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (Twitter links). In recent days, the Brewers, Dodgers and Yankees have been categorized as the favorites to land Machado. However, Rosenthal suggests that while the Dodgers and Yankees have the strongest offers on the table, the Brewers are beginning to fade from the mix, while the Diamondbacks are, at this point, “on [the] periphery” of the market.

Regarding the Yankees’ interest in Machado, some have considered it a questionable fit given the presence of Miguel Andujar and Didi Gregorius on the roster. Rosenthal, though, echoes recent suggestions from MLB.com’s Jon Morosi that it’s at least possible that Andujar could be utilized as the centerpiece of a trade to acquire a controllable piece in the rotation, thus opening a spot for Machado. There are questions about Andujar’s defense, Rosenthal notes, which is borne out in defensive ratings (-12 Defensive Runs Saved, -7 Ultimate Zone Rating).

Suffice it to say, there are plenty of moving parts on the Machado front. Baltimore has been said to be keen on acquiring controllable starting pitching, and the Phillies have plenty of options in that regard, as do the Brewers, Yankees and Dodgers.

It’s not yet clear what, precisely, the Phillies (or any team) is willing to offer up, though the Phils have intriguing young rotation pieces in the form of Zach Eflin and Enyel De Los Santos, each of whom has already pitched in the Majors this season (extensively so, in Eflin’s case). Right-handers Sixto Sanchez and Adonis Medina are each considered to be among the game’s top 75 or so prospects, and the Phils have a number of MLB-ready back-of-the-rotation options on the 40-man roster who could be secondary pieces (e.g. Ben LivelyJake ThompsonDrew AndersonMark Leiter Jr.)

Regarding the Yankees’ scenario, while some fans would undoubtedly bristle at the very notion of moving Andujar, third base is a position of depth for the Yanks, who still have Brandon Drury as an option who could step onto the big league roster following the season, should that scenario ultimately play out. Of course, the Yankees also figure to be prominent players in the offseason market to acquire Machado this winter, and if they’re successful in that regard, Andujar would’ve potentially been viewed as an expendable piece anyhow. As ever, it’s worth emphasizing that that’s one of numerous scenarios that’s likely being kicked around at this juncture.

As for the Brewers, they’ve previously been said to be among the most aggressive suitors, but right-hander Corbin Burnes, one of the Orioles’ targets, could prove to be a sticking point in those talks. Tom Haudircourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel took a lengthy look at the fit between the Brewers and Machado earlier today, calling him an “absolutely perfect” fit given the team’s deficiencies in the lineup — particularly at shortstop. Milwaukee, according to Haudricourt, still views struggling Orlando Arcia as its shortstop in 2019 and beyond, but Machado would give them a potentially overpowering top of the order, joining Lorenzo CainChristian YelichJesus AguilarTravis Shaw and Eric Thames/Ryan Braun.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post, meanwhile, tweets that Utley will announce his intention to retire at season’s end. He’s technically under contract for the 2019 season as well at a rate of $1MM, but it seems he’ll forgo that sum and call it a career when the 2018 campaign draws to a close.

If and when Utley does elect to end his playing career, he’ll quite likely be viewed as a potential Hall of Famer — and with just cause, given his overall body of work. The former No. 15 overall pick (Phillies, 2000) has, to this point, spent parts of 16 seasons in the Majors and posted a .276/.358/.466 batting line with 259 home runs, 1100 runs scored, 1025 RBIs and 153 stolen bases. The six-time All-Star has won four Silver Slugger Awards at second base — each coming between 2006-09, when he was widely considered to be one of the best players in all of baseball. From 2006-13, Utley raked at a .290/.379/.498 clip — good for a robust 129 OPS+.

Utley’s best season, by measure of wins above replacement, came in 2008 when he helped lead the Phillies to a World Series Championship. Then 29 years of age, Utley hit .292/.380/.515 with 33 homers during the regular season and played a pivotal role in helping the Phils advance beyond the NLCS against his current organization, the Dodgers. All in all, he’s been worth 65.6 rWAR and 63.2 fWAR over the course of a brilliant career. Utley doesn’t have the individual accolades that many prefer to see among Hall of Famers, but he had one of the better peaks of any second basemen in recent memory and figures to nonetheless have some supporters when balloting rolls around. By Steve Adams MLB Trade Rumors

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia had his left knee surgically repaired last October and didn’t debut until late May. He appeared in only three games before landing back on the DL. According to an ESPN report, Pedroia isn’t sure if he’ll make it back into a major league game this season.

Pedroia said, “I”ve healed quick with every other injury I’ve had. But this is obviously different. You can’t risk it. If I come back too early and the graft fails, then that’s it.” He added, “I’d love to play right now, but I can’t. I’m going to be back for good if I let it heal. That’s it. I’ve got to let it heal. … I can’t do anything about time.”

Pedroia, 34, went 1-for-11 with a single and two walks in his three games. Eduardo Nunez and Brock Holt have been handling second base in Pedroia’s absence. Second base may be a position the Red Sox choose to address approaching the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. By Bill Baer NBC Sports

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Twenty years ago he and Mark McGwire juiced baseball with their home run chase—and while we view that era differently now, time has largely healed baseball’s PED wounds. Sosa, though, has been mostly absent from the public eye and is persona non grata at Wrigley Field. Where have you gone, Slammin’ Sammy? Let’s start in Dubai… Continue Reading, by JASON BUCKLAND AND BEN REITER 

Norm Hall/Getty Images

Diamondbacks starter Zack Greinke has been added to the National League All-Star roster, replacing Cubs starter Jon Lester, who is slated to pitch on Sunday in San Diego against the Padres. The 2018 All-Star Game will be held on Tuesday at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.

Greinke, 35, is now a five-time All-Star. This season, the right-hander is 9-5 with a 3.39 ERA and a 117/23 K/BB ratio in 114 innings. Greinke is in the third year of a six-year, $206.5 million contract with the D-Backs signed in December 2015.

Lester, 34, is also a five-time All-Star. He’s been having an outstanding 2018 campaign, going 11-2 with a 2.45 ERA and an 81/38 K/BB ratio in 106 1/3 innings. The only qualified NL starters with a lower ERA than Lester’s are Jacob deGrom (1.68), Aaron Nola (2.27), and Max Scherzer (2.33).

Both Greinke and Lester have been All-Stars in both leagues. By Bill Baer NBC Sports

Even if the Mets’ Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard stay put, the next few weeks aren’t likely to be lacking in trades for starting pitchers.

MLB Network insider Jon Heyman broke down the starter market for Fancred Sports on Thursday, looking at 29 pitchers whose names have been floated in trade rumors. Below are the 10 hurlers Heyman says have a greater than 50 percent chance of being traded, ordered from most to least likely. Continue Reading, by Thomas Harrigan MLB.com

Earlier this season, Scooter Gennett was poised to be one of the Reds’ top trade chips this summer. The second baseman was prepared to be plugged in for rumors ahead of the July 31 non-waivers Trade Deadline.

Gennett’s situation now appears to be less tenuous, especially as he’s contributed to the Reds becoming one of baseball’s hottest teams. It appears doubtful that he will be traded by Cincinnati. It’s also become possible that Gennett could receive a contract extension. Continue Reading, by Mark Sheldon

 

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