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Inside Baseball AL Notes | What’s Astros strategy at the deadline?

Houston Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow smiles as he waits in the dugout during a workout at Yankee Stadium in New York, Monday, Oct. 5, 2015, for an American League Wild Card baseball game against the New York Yankees on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Inside Baseball American League news and notes

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Baltimore Orioles

  • Perhaps the Orioles miss Dave Wallace and Dom Chiti. Whatever the reason, their pitching just hasn’t been the same.
  • Hunter Harvey, who has big promise, is doing simulated games now. He is the son of Bryan Harvey.
  • Manny Machado’s slump is confounding. It’s enough that he isn’t an All-Star, but to be batting in the .220s is hard to believe.
  • Regardless he’s still going to be too expensive for the O’s. Three years ago they tried with a long-term deal said to be only for “well under” $100 million. He’d only been a big leaguer for a year or two at the time. In any case, it isn’t certain how close they got at the time. Now, despite the slump, he would be much, much pricier than that.
  • Zach Britton just came back, which is big.
  • Cory Sedlock, the No. 1 pick in 2016, is out with a right elbow flexor strain.
  • Good for the Orioles to honor O.J. Brigance the former Baltimore Raven now afflicted with ALS.

Boston Red Sox

  • Rivals see the Red Sox’s biggest need as third base, and that is probably correct. They could also look to fortify the pen and add a starting pitcher for depth.
  • Heard great things about Venezuelan signee Daniel Flores, 16. He’s said to be a great catch-and-throw guy with significant power He just signed with them for $3-million plus, as was reported here first.
  • Drew Pomeranz may not be such a bad deal after all. He has a 2.54 ERA over his last eight starts, as @PeteAbe of the Boston Globe points out.
  • Jay Groome had a five-inning no-hitter. Great talent.
  • David Price had a confrontation with WEEI broadcaster Dennis Eckersley on a recent flight, and so that second recent confrontation raises the question about whether Boston is the right place for Price. Then again, if Price pitches like he did July 4, who cares?
  • Hard to believe Allen Craig has gone from an RBI machine to put of the league.
  •  Jed Lowrie could be a good fit for them.
  • RIP Gene Conley, who as Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe pointed out, is the only man to face Willie Mays and guard Wilt Chamberlain. He also got three rings with the Celtics. He was 88.

Chicago White Sox

  • Recently received a clear message from a ChiSox person: They are open for business, and also ready to do business. As that person pointed out, nothing really has changed. They are always willing to look at options to improve their long-term look.
  • David Robertson, for one, expects to be traded (he’s currently on paternity leave with the birth of a girl Violet). No surprise there. That the Royals are not sellers should only help Robertson’s value, as KC closer Kelvin Herrera won’t be going anywhere.
  • Melky Cabrera has the most walk-off hits the last few years, as Yankees fans could attest. He has 14 since 2009, with Albert Pujols, Joey Votto and Andre Ethier tied with 11, according to Christopher Kamka.

Cleveland Indians

  • The Indians had five All-Stars, though they may not have been exactly the right guys. Francisco Lindor is in a slump but got in via the player vote. Meanwhile it’s commendable that Michael Brantley has made it back from a very bad shoulder injury, his numbers look borderline. Carlos Carrasco, for his part, probably deserved the honor.
  • Bradley Zimmer continues to impress with his athleticism.
  • Best wishes to Terry Francona, who continues to have health tests at the vaunted Cleveland Clinic.

Detroit Tigers

  • The Tigers haven’t yet gone to Justin Verlander, who has full veto power over trades, to ask which teams he might approve. It’s known that he loves being a Tiger (and a Tiger legend), but he’s said he didn’t relish a rebuild and it’s known he and fiancée Kate Upton at least like Los Angeles (and have a home there).
  • No less than 13 scouts were at the Tigers’ Wednesday night game. Ten to 18 have been coming every night.
  • It’s a nice story for catcher Alex Avila (the son of Al) who’s feeling much better after some concussion issues and has been more aggressive at the plate. Asked what it’s like to trade his son, Al said he’d let us know when he actually had to do it. The Cubs are reportedly interested. The Jays had interest, but the Cubs may have helped themselves there by sending Toronto Miguel Montero, presumably eliminating Toronto as a landing spot for Avila.
  • Miguel Cabrera, Justin Upton, Jordan Zimmermann and Victor Martinez appear to be untradeable. Though he’s had a solid season, no chance Upton opts out of his contract after the year.
  • Cabrera has lost 20 pounds, according to Chris McCosky of the Detroit News.
  • Verlander’s streak with at least one strikeout in 331 straight games has ended. It’s the sixth longest such streak in MLB history.
  • Anthony Gose never wanted to pitch. But he throws 100 and now he’s trying to make it back to the majors as a reliever, writes Danny Knobler. It’s a nice story. But one scouts says no one should expect him to be Aroldis Chapman because he’s not. “Every team even in A-ball has three guys who throw 95 mph plus,” says that scout, who’s also a cynic.

Houston Astros

  • The Astros are thought by rivals to be waiting for a “big fish” to augment a talented but somewhat fragile rotation – though they aren’t totally convinced that pitcher will be made available. It isn’t known who their top pitching target is, but as has been mentioned in this space before, they like Gerrit Cole (who’s likely to stay in Pittsburgh). Rivals still see Jose Quintana and Sonny Gray as the most likely pitchers to land there, but they’ve called about several other pitchers, including Julio Teheran, so they are investigating everything, including pitchers who aren’t necessarily likely to be traded.
  • The Astros have five All-Stars for the first time since 1994, a year that didn’t count. Well, that makes sense, since the game doesn’t count now.
  • Chris Devenski should have made the All-Star team. And so should Marwin Gonzalez, who’s a budding Ben Zobrist.
  • With a day to go before the deadline, the Astros were still working on a deal with first rounder J.B. Bukauskas. He was seen as very polished pitcher at the University of North Carolina. His deal is expected to get done by the deadline.
  • They are 30-9 on the road. Remarkable.

Kansas City Royals

  • Here’s a surprise: The Royals are buyers, not sellers, at the trade deadline.
  • Pitchers like Derek Holland, Jaime Garcia and others could fit the Royals’ surprise intention.
  • Moore was asked on MLB Network about the value of Eric Hosmer whose zone rating and WAR numbers are again only OK while his other numbers are very good, and Moore provided an impassioned defense of Hosmer’s defense. It is clear he loves Hos, and would love to keep him.
  • Hosmer does seem like an All-Star snub (and he was even snubbed by the Final Vote).
  • Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, who’s having his best year at third (and leads the Final Vote), will get qualifying offers from the Royals, sources said. Lorenzo Cain is having a very nice walk year. But it’s questionable whether the small-market Royals would give Cain a qualifying offer that’s expected to be worth close to $18 million, especially now that there aren’t No. 1 picks attached to them. Tough call.

Los Angeles Angels

  • Rivals believe the Angels, fresh off a surprisingly decent run, will look for short-term quick-fix solutions for their pitching staff. They will look at both the rotation and bullpen but don’t have a stash of prospects to trade so it’s hard to see them making an enormous move.
  • One said the greatest miracle is the Angels hanging in the race “without a rotation.” They’ve also been without baseball’s best player, Mike Trout.
  • The return of Trout is their big fish (no pun intended). He is on track for the second half.
Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Ervin Santana delivers in the first inning of a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians, Sunday, June 25, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Ervin Santana delivers in the first inning of a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians, Sunday, June 25, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Minnesota Twins

  • Ervin Santana (“smell baseball”) is often touted here. But one rival says his average fastball limits his value as a postseason pitcher, and thus a trade candidate. Me: I’d still take a chance on him.
  • Brian Dozier lost a home run when replay missed his ball glancing off the right-field foul pole in a game at Kansas City. The fan who caught the ball tweeted a picture of it to Dozier, who immediately tweeted back a question about whether the yellow mark on the ball was from the foul pole. Yes, it was.
  • Give the Twins credit, to hang in there with a winning record despite a negative-59 run differential. They are the only team with a winning record to have any sort of negative run differential, Twin Cities media legend Patrick Reusse reported.

New York Yankees

  • The Yankees are likely to wait until close to the deadline (“That’s (Brian) Cashman’s M.O.,” as one rival put it) before deciding how to handle needs in the rotation, the pen and possibly at third base or even first base.
  • Aaron Judge is the right kind of star. Good for him doing the Home Run derby.
  • Judge also has a chance to become the first 300-200 guy (a .300 batting average, 200 strikeouts).
  • Best wishes to Dustin Fowler, who suffered that horrid knee injury crashing into the wall before he even got his first major-league at-bat.
  • Doctors have yet to find what’s ailing Greg Bird, who’s been out for a couple months with a mysterious foot injury. Cashman came out to say they know he’s hurt and are just trying to ascertain what’s going on.
  •  Ji-Man Choi is the 10th Yankee to play first base, reports Bryan Hoch of MLB.com. Seems to be a potential need there. They are 29th at first base in OPS and WAR, Michael Kay of YES Network pointed out. They are also only 20th at third base, but above average at every other position, Kay added.
  • Chris Carter’s been DFA’ed twice. He’s a better player than he’s showed.
  • All-Star Dellin Betances is having serious control issues.

Oakland Athletics

  • The A’s should be Trade Central in the West (the White Sox are Trade Central in the Central) with several excellent trade candidates, including Sonny Gray, Yonder Alonso, Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson and others.
  • It’s been that kind of year dept.: On the day ex-A’s Stephen Vogt hit two home runs for the Brewers, the A’s were nearly no-hit by Mike Foltynewicz. Then a few days later, Kurt Suzuki hit two home runs at Oakland.
  • Ryan Madson would have been a decent All-Star choice. Good for him. His comeback is complete.

Seattle Mariners

  • One rival GM said he could see the Mariners as a seller of small things. But with their mandate to win and a decent nucleus, it’s still hard to see them easily giving up the fight.
  • Mike Zunino may be reaching his vast potential now. Ten of his 11 home runs and 31 of his 35 RBI came in June.
  • Hisashi Iwaukuma has experienced a setback. He needs 94 innings for his $15-million option for 2018 to vest. Looks remote at this point.
  • 2016 No. 1 draft choice Kyle Lewis missed most of his first season with a torn ACL and just has a few at-bats this year but has been seen enough that he has risen to become the No. 20 ranked prospect in baseball.

Tampa Bay Rays

  • The Rays are thought looking to add players, especially relievers.
  • Dominican shortstop Wander Franco is expected to have star potential. He signed for close to $3.9 million, as was reported first here. He is also the second Wander Franco in pro baseball, with the other one in the Astros system for four years. His cousin is also a switch-hitting shortstop.
  • Jacob Faria has done a very nice job flying under the radar and giving the Rays yet another starter.
  • Can’t blame Logan Morrison for his candid comments about Gary Sanchez being picked to be in the Home Run Derby. Morrison had a funny quip, saying “I remember when I had 14 home runs.” LoMo is well into the 20s. It probably meant extra to Morrison since he is an ex-Marlin. Anyway, we love it that players want to be in the game, and in the derby, these days.

ARLINGTON, TX – MARCH 31: Texas Rangers starting pitcher Cole Hamels (35) and Texas Rangers catcher Jonathan Lucroy (25) meet on the mound during the spring training game between the Texas Rangers and the Kansas City Royals on March 31, 2017 at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire)

Texas Rangers

  • The Rangers are indeed open to trading Jonathan Lucroy, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports and MLB Network reported.
  • The Rangers out-homered their opponent 20-8 on a recent 10-game trip, and as Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News pointed out, they went 4-6.
  • The pen continues to be an issue. Matt Bush was much better before he stepped into the closer’s role. The Rangers have lost five games where they led after eight innings. According to Grant, all other AL teams had 20 such losses combined.
  • Joey Gallo hit the longest opposite-field homer of the year, at 454 feet. Gallo suggested he didn’t deserve to be in the home-run contest until he became something closer to an All-Star. Good for him.
  • Many thought the Elvis Andrus $120-million was over-the-top after Andrus struggled to hit with authority the next couple years. But he seems to have found his power stroke now, making that deal look much better. His opt-out doesn’t come for two more years, but at least it’s a question now.

Toronto Blue Jays

  • Will the Blue Jays look to sell Josh Donaldson, Marcus Stroman and Co.? 
  • In search of backup catching help all year, the Jays did well to land Miguel Montero, who says he’s feeling better than at anytime in the past few years. He gave a lot of the credit to the Cubs yoga person for that, so hopefully the Jays have a yoga person.
  • Some Jays people couldn’t believe their good fortune in getting Devon Travis for Anthony Gose (more on Gose’s unusual switch in Tigers notes) but now they are starting to question whether they got such a steal, with Travis continuing to have physical problems. He is out until at least September with knee trouble. “He’s in good shape, but he’s never healthy,” says one Jays connected person. If they buy, they could be a rare team looking at second base.
  • One rival giving a one-word evaluation of their bullpen: “Disaster.”

N.L. Notes

Inside Baseball: 9 trades that make sense at the deadline

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