Inside Baseball news and notes from around all 15 AL teams. For notes on all 15 NL teams, click here. To read about the top 60 heroes of the 2017 season, click here:
- The Orioles seem to understand there’s not going to be a long deal for star closer Zach Britton, so he could be in play again for trades this winter. That’s part of the reason he was shopped at the deadline before a prospective trade with the Astros fell through due to medicals (or possibly also some cold feet on the part of ownership). The Orioles were interested in doing something to buy out at least a year of free agency at some point.
- Britton does love Baltimore, as John Perrotto of FanRag Sports wrote, so you never know (though that doesn’t seem particularly likely at the moment).
- The Orioles have no intention to shop Manny Machado, though they haven’t yet decided whether they will make a second big attempt to lock him up long-term.
- The Orioles’ season didn’t play out like they had hoped, but their system looks better than it has in years. It jumped from 29th to middle-of-the-pack in one ranking.
- One reason for the stark jump is outfielder Austin Hays, who demonstrated a great hitting ability and surprising power in the minors, and became the first player from the 2016 draft to make the majors (he has five quick RBIs, too). He was the No. 91 pick overall. Kudos to area supervisor Kirk Fredriksson, area scout Arthur McConnehead and scouting director Gary Rajsich for making it happen. More on Hays in Reds notes in the NL section.
- While they tried for Zack Cozart in July, the Orioles wound up doing better by getting Tim Beckham from the Rays for very little.
- Chris Davis is striking out 40 percent of the time.
- Orioles manager Buck Showalter is considered an excellent strategic manager, though his move to intentionally walk Aaron Judge as the potential tying run to pitch to Gary Sanchez seemed to fly in the face of the odds considering Sanchez’s career slugging percentage is on par with that of Judge. Judge is the hotter of the two players and an obvious Orioles destroyer (11 home runs vs. the Birds this year alone), so it isn’t entirely nutty. Beyond that, it worked.
- Condolences to the family of Miguel Elias Gonzalez, the 21-year-old pitching prospect who became the latest to die on the roads in the D.R.
Boston Red Sox
- As written in this space, the Red Sox deserved a much harsher penalty for stealing Yankees signs using an Apple watch. MLB appears to be going by precedent. But if that’s the case, they need to change the precedent. Such cheating is an embarrassment, and should be discouraged. By penalizing the Red Sox by having them making a donation to charity, which they are happy to do anyway, MLB isn’t giving it the seriousness the case deserved, as a Yankees person suspected was the case in last week’s column.
- Andrew Benintendi’s nice finish affirms what a special career he’s expected to have.
- Benintendi did make 11 outs on the bases. It’s nice that he’s aggressive, but that may be a bit high.
- Craig Kimbrel has a 51 percent strikeout rate. No surprise that leads MLB. (Figure courtesy of Scott Lauber).
- Mookie Betts had four home runs in a 34 at-bat span after going 123 at-bats without one, Lauber also pointed out.
- The Red Sox are up to 15-3 in extra-inning games after beating the Orioles in two straight such contests (they dropped the O’s to 12-4 in extra-inning games).
- The Red Sox reportedly want Eduardo Nunez back. Can’t blame ‘em.
Chicago White Sox
- Good call by the ChiSox to keep Jose Abreu rather than shop him. He is just the sort of star the top prospects such as Yoan Moncada (and later Eloy Jimenez) can look up to. Terrific person, not just player.
- Avisail Garcia is hitting .333, the highest mark for a White Sox player since Frank Thomas in 1997.
- The debate about whether the White Sox or Braves has the best system in baseball rages on. One rival said the ChiSox have more prospects with the potential to become big stars, but that the Braves’ system is easily the best overall.
- Carson Fulmer is showing positive signs.
- Nicky Delmonico has surprised some folks with his nice performance since his call-up.
- The ChiSox posted 50 hits their first three games of their series with the Tigers before Matthew Boyd throw a one-hitter against them. Go figure.
- The excitement surrounding the Indians’ streak was amazing, and they even sold out their weekend games. Good to see that.
- Trevor Bauer is one of many Indians thriving, and the latest in the run of good decisions by the team.
- Bauer also gets extra points for joking about how he was also the pitcher for UCLA when they lost a 22-game winning streak, as well. That’s quite a coincidence.
- Francisco Lindor continues to be one of the best players in MLB. He’d be an MVP candidate with just an average start to the season, and as it is should be somewhere on the ballot.
- Jose Ramirez deserves some MVP consideration, as well.
- Edwin Encarnacion is up to 35 home runs, as it’s all coming together for the Tribe.
- The timetable of Michael Brantley’s return remains unclear, president Chris Antonetti told AP’s Tom Withers.
- Nick Castellanos is hitting much better since the Tigers moved him to right field.
- Great job by Matthew Boyd taking a no-hitter 8.2 innings. Tim Anderson’s bid-ending double to deep right field likely couldn’t be caught by anyone. But you had to wonder whether there might have been a better right fielder to use in the final innings than Castellanos.
- Boyd’s one-hitter was actually the first quality start since the trade of Justin Verlander.
- Jeimer Candelario looks really good, and is showing excellent plate discipline for such a young player.
- Andrew Romine is going to attempt the nine-positions-in-nine-innings thing. Good luck to him.
- Lloyd McClendon would seem to be one obvious candidate should Brad Ausmus be let go at year’s end. If there is a change, Jim Leyland, who has been a consultant, certainly would like that choice. They didn’t hire McClendon when Leyland retired, but McClendon managed at Triple-A Toledo and is now the Tigers’ hitting coach and getting good reviews.
- Regarding the Ausmus situation, GM Al Avila would only say “I have said all along, I will not speak on or off the record on this. After Brad and I talk and discuss things, then and only then will we make any announcement on our direction.” The belief here is that he’ll get another opportunity elsewhere at some point if the Tigers do decide to make a change, and like most he’ll be even better in his next opportunity.
(AP Photo/Jose Juarez)
- The Astros’ AL West crown is their first in five years in the division.
- Verlander, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran are in the playoffs for the sixth time apiece, via Root Sports. None of them has a ring yet, however.
- GM Jeff Luhnow, after getting a congratulatory text from ex-manager Bo Porter, kindly thanked him for helping them get to this point. While they certainly weren’t a match working together, Luhnow understood Porter’s contribution.
- Forrest Whitley, the 19-year-old right-hander who made it to Double-A, is the one everyone wanted, including the Tigers (for Verlander) and the Orioles (for Zach Britton).
- Apology in order. I criticized the signing of Josh Reddick as being an overpay by about $20 million. But Reddick certainly was well worth his salary in Year 1. He’s played terrifically.
- The move to put Joe Musgrove in the bullpen has been a great one. He has a 1.57 ERA there.
- From Ryan Spaeder: The only players with more extra-base hits and stolen bases than Carlos Beltran’s totals of 1,076 and 312: A-Rod, Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker. If this is Beltran’s last year, and the guess here is that it is, it says here he’s a Hall of Famer.
- John Martin, one of the nine or so Astros scouts let go (they won’t say exactly how many), is said to be close to getting a job. He signed Lance McCullers Jr., and before that, Manny Machado.
Kansas City Royals
- The Royals plan to give Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas qualifying offers, and are very likely to give one to Lorenzo Cain, too, but that isn’t set in stone. They will debate whether to give a QO to Jason Vargas, but are seen as unlikely to do so. He’s had a nice season but appears to be tiring.
- Mike Minor suggested he might want to consider closing.
- Raul Ibanez’s name is getting out there as potential managerial hire somewhere.
- Bernie Pleskoff did a nice scouting report on young Royals pitcher Jake Junis.
Los Angeles Angels
- GM Billy Eppler should get big credit for prescient pickups — like Parker Bridwell for pocket change — that have kept the Angels in the race despite losing the vast majority of their rotation once again.
- Mike Trout is close to joining a very select crew with four 30-homer seasons before his age 26 season. According to Adam Chodzko of the Angels, the only ones who’ve done that are A-Rod, Jimmie Foxx and Joe DiMaggio. Trout has 29.
- The return of Garrett Richards is a welcome sight. Richards is a great talent and he should be more than just Trout’s roommate.
- Andrelton Simmons has stepped up his game in many ways, and one way he has is by walking much more frequently (he may walk twice as much this year as last).
- Be wary of the rankings of minor league systems: Consider that the Angels were ranked at the bottom the two years Trout was in the minors. And now by WAR, they should have been near the top.
- Ian Kinsler could be a winter trade target.
- Paul Molitor is doing a terrific job and warrants Manager of the Year consideration.
- The Twins once had a run differential of negative-100 but remarkably have come almost all the way back.
- They have 13 games in which they scored double-digits in runs, including 10 since Aug. 8. Their positional nucleus is excellent.
- Amazing job by the Twins to get to this point. But unfortunately for them, if they get there, they’ll have to beat the Yankees in New York in a wild-card game. They haven’t beaten the Yankees in forever – at least it seems that way.
- The deal to send Jaime Garcia to the Yankees will be one for debate. Garcia recently beat the Twins.
- Byron Buxton looks like the superstar folks predicted he’d be. He had 21 straight steals, and more important, he’s hit up a storm, too. Since July 9, he had a slash line of .337/.377/.624.
- Good to see Joe Mauer back in a starring role. Joel Sherman of the New York Post did a nice comparison of Mauer and Don Mattingly.
- The Twins fired minor-league manager Doug Mientkiewicz, and neither the move nor timing appeared to make much sense.
- Some believe Bartolo Colon may want to go two more years to set more Latin pitching records. And who’s going to doubt him at this point?
New York Yankees
- The Yankees have every intention to get below the luxury tax threshold for the 2018 season.
- The Yankees will bring back GM Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi, assuming they both want to return. Cashman did arguably the best job in his 20 seasons as GM executing the fastest rebuild in MLB history (with an assist by their scouts and minor league people).
- Aaron Judge is back in the MVP picture.
- Judge became the third rookie in MLB history to have 100 RBIs, runs and walks, joining Al Rosen in 1950 and Ted Williams in 1939, courtesy of YES Network.
- Gary Sanchez set the Yankees record for home runs by a catcher with his 31st, breaking a tie with Yogi Berra and Jorge Posada.
- And Didi Gregorius topped the iconic Derek Jeter as the all-time single-season home run leader for Yankees shortstops with 25.
- Jacoby Ellsbury has a .526 on-base percentage in September (and it would be even higher if catcher’s interference counted in one’s favor for OBP). The theory advanced here that his concussion was adversely affecting his play appears to have merit (not that every theory advanced here does). Here’s what Danny Knobler of Bleacher Report wrote about Ellsbury as a playoff spark.
- The Yankees haven’t given up on the AL East, but if they have to play in the wild-card game, which looks like a probability at this point, Luis Severino will get the call, with Sonny Gray and Masahiro Tanaka in some order presumably getting Games 1 and 2 of a potential ALDS.
- A rival scout who’s canvassed the minors says no one has a better system than the Yankees. That person concluded, “Gary Denbo has done a terrific job. They have the best minor league system, by far.”
- Bernie Pleskoff of FanRag gives a glowing scouting report on pitcher Domingo Acevedo.
- The Yankees are surely miffed about MLB’s ruling of only a fine for the Red Sox. However, word is they are under a gag order not to say anything about it, so we won’t know for sure how they feel (though we can assume, especially since leading up to the decision, Yankees people said they were disappointed MLB wasn’t taking it as seriously as they hoped).
- Chase Headley has made a nice comeback. Good Headley trivia on Twitter: He was the valedictorian of his high school class.
- With all their big names in their bullpen, it’s quite a surprise that Chad Green has emerged as the biggest weapon they have back there.
- The Yankees’ 154 runs in 19 games against the Orioles this year is the most by any team against another team in the expansion era.
- The Yankees want to win the AL East, but the wild card would set up nicely for the Yankees: a home game against the Twins, a team that seems psyched out in the Bronx. The Yankees are 40-17 this decade vs. the Twins and 57-25 last decade, continuing a trend. In the playoffs, they are 12-2 in games vs. the Twins.
(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
- Matt Olson is doing some amazing things, but until recently had been overshadowed by the Phillies’ wunderkind Rhys Hoskins. As Ryan Lawrence pointed out, in the matchup of the A’s (formerly of Philly) and Phillies, Olson out Hoskins-ed Hoskins. Olson has actually been outdoing everyone lately, and he has hit home runs in three straight games an astounding four times already.
- FanRag’s Melissa Lockard wrote about what Olson is doing here.
- Daniel Mengden halted a streak of 186 games without a complete game by an A’s pitcher in a win at Philly.
- It was nice to see very long-time clubhouse legend Steve Vucinich tweet a picture of himself with the statue of Connie Mack on the A’s’ rare trip back to Philly. Vucinich and Mack are the only two 50-year employees of the A’s.
- It’s tough to blame anyone for the Mariners’ ultimate also-ran status this year, as they have been decimated by injuries. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be pressure to win soon.
- Manager Scott Servais may always have been in a tough spot as the hire of good friend/GM Jerry Dipoto with mostly executive/playing experience, and as such is an easy target. But there’s starting to be some behind-the-scenes clubhouse complaints being heard regarding Servais. Of course, with the expected backing of Dipoto, nobody believes he’s in any sort of trouble. But it is something to keep an eye on.
- Dave Roberts is said to have finished second in their managerial derby, though it was probably going to be hard to beat out Servais.
- With the Mariners veteran team, someone with more experience might have been a better choice, one rival opined.
- Dipoto himself may start to come under pressure next year, his third with the organization. Someone with league ties said he believes Dipoto was originally given a three-year deal, though the length of his deal has been unreported and is unconfirmed. It’s unknown if he ever received an extension to the original term. The Mariners have the longest playoff drought (since 2001) in MLB, and while Servais has been there for only two of those years, some others believe the Mariners need to win in a window that may be closing.
- The Mariners are thought to like Lucas Duda and perhaps Mitch Moreland as potential free agents for first base. They currently have Yonder Alonso, who like Duda and Moreland is a free agent after the year, plus Danny Valencia manning the position.
- The returns of Felix Hernandez and James Paxton appear to have come too late.
Tampa Bay Rays
- To expand on last week’s speculative column on where the top-25 free agents may go, in addition to the Dodgers, Cubs and Yankees for Alex Cobb, the Orioles, Blue Jays and Rockies could be among potential landing spots. Cobb’s connections to Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman make the Cubs and Dodgers obvious possibilities, but the Yankees, Blue Jays and Orioles probably like the way Cobb has handled the AL East. He’s also had a very nice walk year, and is the only top free agent starter under 30.
- Ian Kinsler could be a trade target in winter.
- Kevin Kiermaier truly makes some amazing catches.
- The Rangers are disappointed by this season, and appear to be evaluating everything, which means there could be a change or two made – though one person familiar with their thinking said manager Jeff Banister is “100 percent” coming back. The disastrous bullpen performance undermined the season, but they also had under-performances from Yu Darvish, Jonathan Lucroy and Rougned Odor, as well (Darvish and Lucroy were traded), so other alterations wouldn’t be a surprise. They aren’t used to such mediocre performance, and almost anything else could be on the table.
- Adrian Beltre shocked folks by getting back so quickly and hitting with basically no power in his back leg. Many thought his latest injury would knock him out for the year, as was expressed in this space last week. But even with the Rangers just about out of it, Beltre overcame the odds, to DH.
- Top prospect Willie Calhoun has hired Scott Boras to represent him.
- Joey Gallo’s 490-foot home run at Anaheim (sorry, LA.) was something to see.
- Jurickson Profar would seem to be a trade candidate for the winter.
Toronto Blue Jays
- The Blue Jays became the first to sign a 2017-18 free agent when they brought back Marco Estrada on a $13-million, one-year deal. They “need pitchers,” in the words of one Jays person. And Estrada was claimed on revocable waivers, so someone (the Yankees) was willing to pay his salary late this year. He has a 3.75 ERA over his last 10 games.
- Scouts are amazed by the hitting acumen of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and not how much more disciplined of a hitter he is than his father.
- The Jays system may be much better than folks realized and is now ranked in the top-10. That’s thanks mostly to the likes of Guerrero, Bo Bichette and others who were underrated, so ex-GM Alex Anthopoulos gets an assist.
- DeMarlo Hale, who was said to have been very impressive during his Mets interview when Terry Collins was hired, would still make a fine candidate somewhere.