Inside Baseball AL Notes | Justin Upton has tough decision coming

Inside Baseball news and notes from around all 15 AL teams. For notes on all 15 NL teams, click hereClick here for managers on the hot seat during the season’s final month.

Baltimore Orioles

  • The Orioles’ canceled trade that would have sent Zach Britton to the Astros on deadline day included Colin Moran.
  • Tim Beckham has a remarkable 1.9 bWAR is his short time with the Orioles (less than a month). That was the best trade of this past trading season. How good has Beckham been? Combined, Yu Darvish and Sonny Gray don’t have a 2.0 WAR with their new teams, and they haven’t been bad at all.
  • The Orioles’ decision to buy and not sell looks pretty good, thanks to the team’s seven-game winning streak.
  • Dylan Bundy’s one-hit shutout was the first time in 479 consecutive games without a pitcher going the distance in a shutout, MLB Network reported.
  • In fact, the Orioles have the best record in the AL under the Odd Couple tandem of Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter.
  • Trey Mancini has remained tres hot.
  • Loved some the Players Weekend back-of-the-jersey monikers. Players Weekend plus: “Beef” for Welington Castillo.

Boston Red Sox

  • Nice story on how the Red Sox discovered a 14-year-old Rafael Devers by Jen McCaffrey.
  • Rough week overall for the Red Sox. Chris Sale and Rick Porcello were lit up, they ran into the Indians juggernaut and played poorly against the Orioles before completing a sweep of Toronto.
  • For the great Sale, it was just a continuation of issues vs. Cleveland. Sale did, however, later in the week became the fastest in the majors to 1,500 strikeouts, topping Kerry Wood’s record. (Nice headline on MLB.com: K-wickest to 1,500). It’ll be either him or Corey Kluber for the Cy Young. And he now has 11 career games with at least 10 strikeouts and no walks, more than Bob Gibson (nine), Nolan Ryan (eight) and Sandy Koufax (seven), according to Christopher Kamka.
  • Boston salvaged what was a rough week with a sweep in Toronto, which combined with New York’s struggles has the Sox 5.5 games up in the East.

Chicago White Sox

  • Add catcher Zack Collins, a University of Miami (the U) product, to their long list of top prospects (he seems to get overlooked sometimes). He has a .636 slugging percentage.
  • Carlos Rodon has adjusted his pregame schedule to try for more velo early in games, Dan Hayes of Comcast Chicago writes.
  • Avi Garcia has an interesting slash line in August: .418/.476/.491, @JRFegen points out. Lots of singles, as he says.
  • Jose Abreu continues to be a plus as a player and leader.

Cleveland Indians

  • The Indians look like they may be hitting their stride (Don’t forget my pre-year World Series prediction was Dodgers over Indians!)
  • Corey Kluber continues to amaze.
  • The Bradley Zimmer catch on Lorenzo Cain was off-the-charts good.
  • If Andrew Miller is on the DL he has to be really hurting. “There isn’t anyone as tough as this guy,” says a former employer of his. He once insisted on pitching through a painful forearm issue early in his Yankees tenure.
  • Players Weekend Plus: “Slamtana” for Carlos Santana.
  • Jay Bruce has pledged to match up to $100,000 donations to the Harvey Hurricane relief fund.

Detroit Tigers

  • Nick Castellanos has had a very disappointing year, and he could be added to the Tigers hitting the block this winter. He’s taken a step backward at third base, in particular, and Tigers people are so disappointed in his defense that they are willing to consider right field for him. But some Tigers people simply believe he may need a change of scenery. Castallanos was one of many Tigers to clear waivers, as FanRag Sports reported.
  • There is a belief among some around the league that Ian Kinsler wouldn’t mind a trade, and the Tigers are expected to entertain deals for him and other veterans this winter. Kinsler is a pro, of course, and he has said publicly that he can’t worry about his own situation and will continue to play to the best of his abilities, either way, but like some others he is believed to prefer to play for a contender, not a rebuilder, which the Tigers will be for a change. Once they pick up his $10 million option, and they will do that (the buyout is a hefty $5 million, anyway), they are expected to field offers. He was claimed and blocked on waivers earlier in the month, so this will be a winter deal.
  • Justin Upton has a tough call whether or not to opt out of the $88 million and four years remaining on his contract after the year. He’s performed superbly. But one rival warns, “The market doesn’t seem to reward power hitters. Jay Bruce was practically a giveaway (in trade).” That exec advises that Upton doesn’t opt out. Others, though, say he could add a year to his deal, potentially.
  • Here’s an in-depth story about why it’s been difficult to get the Tigers’ rebuild off the ground, by Lynn Henning of the Detroit News, with lots of details.
  • Best wishes to Victor Martinez, who has been sidelined with an irregular heartbeat for a second time this season.
KANSAS CITY, MO - JULY 17: Detroit Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez (41) in the on-deck circle in the first inning of an AL Central game between the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals on July 17, 2017 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, MO. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire)

Houston Astros

  • Jose Altuve is the clear AL MVP leader with Aaron Judge’s second-half struggles probably taking him out of the running. (Of course, Mike Trout is always a threat.)
  • The Astros could easily be distracted by what’s going on in Houston, and no one could blame them if they were.
  • No word yet on whether Hank Allen, one of the nine-plus scouts let go, will accept an offer to stay as a part-time employee. Allen, 77, is the brother of Dick Allen.
  • Players Weekend plus: “Ground Chuck” for Charlie Morton. Also: “100 Miles Giles” for Ken Giles.

Kansas City Royals

  • GM Dayton Moore could have opportunities elsewhere; it just depends on whether he’d leave Kansas City, which is now home for him. He’s one of the better GMs in the game, but the Glass family gave him a lot of rope at first, when he informed them the rebuild could take awhile (it did, but they got it done, resulting in two straight World Series appearances). While Moore signed a five-year deal a couple years back, word is that the Glasses have suggested to him it’s up to him what he wants to do with his career. Moore’s said to have turned down multiple chances elsewhere, and while he surely understands he’s in for a rebuild in KC now, he’s believed to savor such a challenge. And, one colleague said, “It might be tough for him to leave.”
  • The Royals are figuring they might be able to afford to bring back one of three positional stars, between Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain. The belief here is that they’d try Hosmer first, though they understandably love all three guys.
  • Ian Kennedy very candidly told Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star that he’d be “pretty stupid” to opt out (Kennedy has $42M and three years to go). Kennedy, a USC man, is the opposite of stupid.
  • The Royals didn’t score for 45 straight innings, though if any team’s resilient, this is the one. They won the game they ended that unwanted streak.
  • Perhaps no free agent has done more for his market than Moustakas, who will set a Royals season record for home runs. He needs two to top Steve Balboni’s 36. Bye Bye record.

Los Angeles Angels

  • Huston Street is hoping to be back for the final fortnight (thinking about tennis at U.S. Open time) of the season, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports.
  • Andrew Heaney is back, and looking good. The Yankees were one team that always liked him (Angels GM Billy Eppler was a Yankee of course).
  • Mike Trout donated $27K to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. Nice.
  • It was an expensive day for Trout, as he promised C.J. Cron Phoenix Suns season tickets if Cron hit two homers in the game Tuesday, and Cron did it, in an 8-2 win. Naturally, Cron was pretty pumped.

Minnesota Twins

  • Byron Buxton is emerging as the star the Twins figured he’d be when they made him the No. 2 overall pick. Since July 4, Buxton has a .356/.391/.853 slash line, Joe Posnanski of MLB.com pointed out — with 10 steals and nine homers, no less. 
  • Buxton’s left hand is reportedly being checked after it slipped off the bat in Wednesday night’s game. Paul Molitor said “it’s cause for concern” on MLB Network.
  • The thing about the Twins and their sale: their schedule over the last two months was easily the easiest among the contenders.
  • The Twins’ outside-the-box thinking is on display with their just-hired director of baseball operations Daniel Adler, who is not only an analytics guy but a football analytics guy. Adler, 30, comes to the Twins from the Jacksonville Jaguars, who it must be said aren’t exactly lighting the world ablaze. But Adler, who was Jacksonville’s director of football research, also previously worked for the New England Patriots and Cleveland Browns, so he’s run the gamut from best to worst organizations. The magna cum laude graduate of Harvard (where he was president of the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective) does have some baseball experience; he once worked in the MLB home office.
  • Players Weekend Plus: “The Doof,” for Tyler Duffey.
  • Congrats to Joe Nathan on the occasion of his retirement. He had a regular-season save percentage that rivaled Mariano Rivera. Not bad for a former shortstop out of Stony Brook (Long Island) University.

New York Yankees

  • The Yankees won’t “chase” Masahiro Tanaka, sources close to the situation say. Of course, if Tanaka should actually opt out, things could change. But for now, someone in the know insisted that they wouldn’t bid above what’s left on Tanaka’s deal — $67 million, three years,
  • The Yankees will consider bringing CC Sabathia back, though, on a one-year deal. The Yankees did “chase” Sabathia when he suggested he might opt out of his $161 million, seven-year deal, and while he is overpaid now by a bit, he is still a productive pitcher (and the AL career leader in strikeouts for a lefty).
  • Yankees GM Brian Cashman is in Japan now, the latest baseball executive to pay respects to the doubly good NPB star Shohei Otani. As reported in this space last week, the Yankees and Red Sox have acquired the most extra international bonus money, adding $3.25 million to their $4.75 million allotment.
  • It turns out Alex Rodriguez applied a little tough love to get the best out of Gary Sanchez.
  • Joe Girardi needs to calm down. With a 6-1 lead built by five Mariners first-inning errors, Girardi was upset that Jean Segura wasn’t called for interference after he clearly ran and slid out of the baseline and, in his opinion, disturbed shortstop Didi Gregorius’ throw to first. However, the slide, while out of the line, wasn’t obviously in his way, and the throw was perfectly fine. The real problem was that first baseman Chase Headley failed to catch the lobbed toss, which ended up at his feet but should have been caught. Yankees fan all disagreed with me, but Girardi looked silly going nuts when his own first baseman could have made it a moot point by simply catching the ball.
  • Players Weekend Plus: “Kraken” for Gary Sanchez, though we don’t think it’s for “Kraken” some heads. (And by the way, MLB did right by giving Sanchez a ban about half of what Miguel Cabrera’s ban was; the precedent is that the one who triggers the fight is the one who gets the longest suspension.)
Second base umpire Mike Everitt ejects New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi, left, from the game during the third inning of a baseball game, Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017, at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Second base umpire Mike Everitt ejects New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi, left, from the game during the third inning of a baseball game, Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017, at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Oakland A’s

  • Jed Lowrie looks like a top possible Aug. 31 trade candidate (he tops this list by mlbtraderumors.com, anyway).
  • The A’s have three rookies with 10 home runs for the second time in their history, and first since 1977, wrote Jane Lee of MLB.com. Matt Chapman, Matt Olson and Chad Pinder turned the trick this time; in 1977 it was Wayne Gross, Tony Armas and Mitchell Page.
  • Players Weekend Plus: “Triggonometry” for Andrew Triggs. Also: “PTBNL” for the humble Josh Phegley.

Seattle Mariners

  • The Mariners continue to go for broke, picking up Mike Leake to fortify a rotation decimated by injuries, as they endeavor to reach the playoffs for the first time in 16 years. The odds remain against them, though, as nine teams are trying for the two Wild Card spots (and the Yankees look likely for one). One thing, though: The window should be open next year for Seattle, too, and Leake’s deal goes for three more after this one.
  • The Cardinals will pay what’s said to be a fairly small portion of Leake’s $16 million salary going forward.
  • James Paxton and King Felix are still shooting for the middle of September to return.
  • Nelson Cruz and former O’s teammate Jonathan Schoop text each other regularly, talking smack about who will lead the AL in RBI, Britt Ghiroli of MLB.com reported. Cruz was a mentor for Schoop his one year in Baltimore.
  • Safeco Field is going straw-less next month. As Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News-Tribune said, the motto is “no sucking in September.”
  • Happy 74th this week to Lou Piniella, who guided the last Mariners playoff team, back in 2001.
  • Players Weekend Plus: “Corey’s Brother” for Kyle Seager.

Tampa Bay Rays

  • The Rays lost an astounding six straight games in which they had homered three times.
  • Players Weekend Plus: “Tommy Two Towel” for Tommy Hunter (any tribute to Goodfellas gets a plus here).
  • The Rays did a nice job hosting Rangers vs. Astros this week.

Texas Rangers

  • Texas made clear to the Astros they were completely willing to trade Yu Darvish in-state and in-division despite rumors of rivalry/bad blood. But they never got close. The Rangers started by asking for Houston’s top guys, but eventually requested a package of good A-ball players. Houston, however, offered David Paulino, a former prospect currently on the suspended list. It’s probably nothing about bad blood, either; the Astros were only looking to make a deal their own way.
  • There did seem to be some bad blood, however, when the Astros issued a statement stating the Rangers declined to switch series, though bad blood isn’t what got in the way of a trade.
  • My apologies for questioning the Andrew Cashner signing. He turned out to be a good one.
  • For those of us who thought Adrian Beltre was a tad steep at $18M per, well, Beltre is playing like another David Ortiz, as he’s getting better in his late 30s. Call him the new Papi.
  • The Rangers will need to do something to straighten out what’s gone on in their bullpen this year.

Toronto Blue Jays

  • J.A. Happ was claimed, and blocked, on waivers and won’t be dealt by Thursday’s deadline.
  • Justin Smoak may be the most improved player in baseball. Insiders even marvel about the defense, but it’s those 35 home runs that really are eye opening.
  • Josh Donaldson is having a huge second half, and should have major value should the Jays entertain trades this winter.

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