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Inside Baseball AL Notes | Angels did well to go for it

Jon Heyman



Los Angeles Angels' Mike Trout (27) ad Justin Upton (9) celebrate scoring on a single by Albert Pujols in the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers on Friday, Sept. 1, 2017, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Inside Baseball news and notes from around all 15 AL teams. For notes on all 15 NL teams, click here.To read about the Tigers upcoming rebuild and recent August trades, click here.

Baltimore Orioles

  • The Tim Beckham trade looks like an all-timer. Not only have they picked up 2 WAR (theoretically, two wins) but they have three more years with him. That’s big because they weren’t going to be able to pick up J.J. Hardy’s option and had no real shortstop alternative.
  • Jonathan Schoop is having himself quite a season.
  • Catching prospect Chance Sisco really can hit.
  • Since the All-Star Game, Manny Machado has been about the best player in the game.

Boston Red Sox

  • Maybe it’s coincidence, but the Red Sox haven’t hit since the Yankees dropped the dime on them on their dugout shenanigans. They are posting a slash line of .213/.294/.339 in those two weeks through Tuesday, and .181/.258/.254 in the last week.
  • There is understandable skepticism about manager John Farrell’s claim that he didn’t know devices were being used to steal signs. A rival exec said “He’s Sergeant Schultz…I know nothing.” (For those under 50, Sgt. Schultz was a character from “Hogan’s Heroes” and was famous for the line).
  • Chris Sale allowed back-to-back homers for the first time in his career.
  • The Cy Young race is a two-man affair: Sale and Corey Kluber of Cleveland. Hard to believe Sale has yet to win one. It’s almost like he should get one as a sort of lifetime achievement award.
  • Addison Reed has a 5.93 ERA in Boston.

Chicago White Sox

  • Besides all their ballyhooed prospects, Alec Hansen, who fell all the way to No. 49 after a rough year (he was a candidate go No. 1 overall), is pitching like a top-of-the-draft guy, with 81 strikeouts in 54.2 innings.
  • And by the way, Lucas Giolito continues to look much improved.
  • Young pitcher Tyler Danish tweeted that he is “unbelievable blessed” to walk away from an ugly car accident.

Cleveland Indians

  • “They’re a helluva club,” says one NL scout. “They are a very disciplined team. They take a lot of pride, and give a ton of effort.”
  • The one worry, says the scout, is whether Andrew Miller (knee) can return in top form. Without him, says the scout, “I don’t think they have enough depth.”
  • Little Jose Ramirez is up to 76 extra-base hits after a game with five. His .568 slugging percentage is second in the AL to Aaron Judge (.571), though they are physical opposites. Amazing.
  • The winning streak is up to 14 games.
  • The Indians signed Roberto Hernandez. No, different guy (not Fausto!).
  • Sources say there’s a belief the Indians would have matched or beaten the $18.5 million deal for Jose Bautista last winter, though word is he was “obsessed” with returning to Toronto. Anyway, as it turns out, Cleveland is fortunate it didn’t work out.

Detroit Tigers

  • The Tigers did well in their August trades of Justins Upton and Verlander, but a long rebuild is in store.  
  • The Tigers will pick up Ian Kinsler’s $10 million option, then are expected to shop him hard with the clear intention to trade him. Word is that he wouldn’t mind a deal.
  • Artie Lewicki is the first Artie in the majors since Artie Wilson in 1951, Jason Beck of MLB.com pointed out.
  • Two Tigers outfielders “assisted” on Jose Ramirez home runs in the same game, knocking balls over the fence. It’s been that kind of year.
  • One plus: they came into the season with no center fielders, and they might have found a couple – JaCoby Jones and Mikie Mahtook.
  • They are figuring Nick Castellanos for the outfield next year.
  • One consideration in possibly keeping Brad Ausmus: He is known as an excellent teacher, and they are after all, in need of a teacher now. However, Ausmus does appear to be on the hot seat.
ARLINGTON, TX - AUGUST 15: Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus looks from the dugout during the MLB game between the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers on August 15, 2017 at Globe Life Park in Arlington, TX. Texas defeats Detroit 10-4. (Photo by Steve Nurenberg/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Steve Nurenberg/Icon Sportswire)

Houston Astros

  • Justin Verlander’s 95.3 average velocity makes it three straight years when his mean velo has gone up, from 92.3 to 92.8 to 93.5, then this year. It’s his highest mark since 95.4 in 2010.
  • The Verlander press conference and Carlos Correa return occurred the same day, leading to extra excitement. As Julia Morales of Astros TV said on twitter, “Wake up, y’all!”
  • The Astros let go of Triple-A Fresno manager Tony DeFrancisco. One person familiar with the situation says, “He did everything they asked.” The Astros could set a record for firings for a division winner.
  • Jose Altuve is first or second in batting average, on-base percentage, OPS, hits and runs.
  • Alex Bregman is hitting .335 in the second half. Future superstar.
  • Cameron Maybin was a “weird pickup” one competing exec opined. That exec noted how the Astros are deep in the outfield. But Maybin brings extra speed and has had a hot start to his Houston career.

Kansas City Royals

  • The Royals were outscored 46-21 their first five games on the trip, yet have a 3-2 record.
  • Salvy Perez’s home run gave the Royals 169 for the year, a new franchise record, Rustin Dodd of the K.C. Star noted.
  • Mike Moustakas, who’s one away from setting the individual record, is nursing a knee issue at the moment.

Los Angeles Angels

  • The Angels deserve big credit for their bold play to land Justin Upton on deadline day, as owner Arte Moreno had to show a willingness to commit to the $90-plus million to go on Upton’s contract should he not opt out. The word going around now is that Upton’s decision will hinge on his finish. His 1.017 OPS in the second half has put that opt-out in play.
  • One thing about his call: Upton is said to be a lot happier with the contending Angels, a team he considered two years ago. However, things “didn’t line up” at the time. Translation: Moreno wasn’t ready to commit that kind of cash. But as the Angels kept outperforming, Moreno was willing to go for it – so good for him.
  • Brandon Phillips was a major upgrade at minimal expense. When an Angels person said a month ago in this space that they had “limited” interest in Phillips, that was a fair assessment. They gave up only journeyman catcher Tony Sanchez to get him – though they are paying about $700K, as well, including the $500K assignment bonus he is to receive.
  • Garrett Richards could be the key new man. Mike Trout’s roommate returned Tuesday.
  • Mike Scioscia on Mike Trout: “The best thing about Mike Trout is that he doesn’t chase numbers; he wants to win.”
  • Eppler declined to discuss the team’s intentions regarding the possibility of a long-term deal for Trout. Since they wouldn’t entertain trade ideas, you’d have to believe they’d try to lock him up longer than they have him.

Minnesota Twins

  • Paul Molitor is really doing a terrific job. “One of the better managers in the league,” says a rival GM.
  • They are in for a fight for the final wild card spot, but they still have the easiest schedule – thanks to dates with the Tigers and White Sox.
  • Byron Buxton had 20 consecutive steals. Even better, he has a .350 batting average and 1.053 OPS in the second half.

New York Yankees

  • The Yankees are said to like Eric Hosmer very much. However, their interest in keeping their spending down to save this winter for a run at one more of the superstars the following winter may prevent them from making a big run at Hosmer. They are also saying they like Greg Bird. And whether they truly believe in Bird or not, the thought of having a player making just over the minimum at first base is pretty enticing.
  • Aaron Judge became the first rookie to walk 100 times since Junior Gilliam. For all the focus on his dropoff, he’s having himself quite a year (and is still in the MVP picture – though clearly trailing leader Jose Altuve at this point).
  • Sonia Sotomayor gets bonus points here for joining all the fake judges in the bleachers at Yankee Stadium. Some of you may recall it was Sotomayor who ended the strike in 1995 with her correct ruling.
  • Gary Sanchez does lead the majors with 14 passed balls. But too much has been made about this already.
  • There is more buzz about the Marlins maybe making a play for long-time Derek Jeter friend Gary Denbo. But some believe that Yankees GM Brian Cashman will do what he can to keep Denbo, and will indeed make a play to ensure he stays. Cashman’s contract technically is up. But there’s no reason to think he won’t be back after the excellent job he’s done with the quickest rebuild in history.
FLUSHING, NY - AUGUST 17: New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge (99) during the Major League Baseball game between the New York Mets and the New York Yankees on August 16, 2017, at Citi Field in Flushing, NY. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)

Oakland Athletics

  • The A’s had a lost road trip and had a seven-game losing streak before winning Tuesday.
  • Bob Melvin is said to be “safe” no matter the record. And that makes sense.
  • Boog Powell is on an 0-for-18 slump.
  • A.J. Puk, the big lefty out of the University of Florida, and No. 6 overall pick in 2016, has been impressive.
  • James Kaprielian — acquired in the Sonny Gray deal — is said to be progressing nicely after his Tommy John surgery.

Seattle Mariners

  • The adjustments the Mariners have had to make in their rotation continue, as they try to piece together a semblance of a five-some. It’ll be a miracle if they make it to October with all these changes on the fly, though.
  • Dan Vogelbach, who can hit, is back.
  • Robinson Cano is just warming up.

Tampa Bay Rays

  • The Rays aren’t seen as having any chance to re-sign Alex Cobb. They gave it a good shot twice, once after after his second year and then again after his third. They offered $30-plus million the first time, and $40-plus million the second time. However, the Rays wanted the deal to have two team options. Cobb, with a nice season, should easily out-do those deals. And he also won’t have to give two options as a free agent. Cobb and his wife moved a couple winters in a row, so they don’t mind change (though they seem to have settled in Arizona for winters),
  • Logan Morrison was one of the best free-agent signings of the year. To hit 35 home runs after signing for $2.5 million, the Rays got quite a deal.
  • The still-contending Rays hosted wild card-leader Minnesota (for the second spot) and this was the attendance Tuesday night: 6,509 (noted by LaVelle Neal of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune). An incoming hurricane may have had something to do with that.
  • Steve Cishek has been very good for the Rays, with a 0.40 ERA in the second half.
  • The Rays have been on the wrong end of two big Tim Beckham decisions. Of course, in hindsight they should have taken the Florida State catcher Gerald “Buster” Posey rather than the high school shortstop Beckham. But then the trade of Beckham for a Class-A player looks like a giveaway at the moment. To be fair, Beckham has to take some responsibility for not living up to the hype; he had some maturity issues early. One explanation heard regarding the trade is that they believe Brad Miller is the better player.
  • Between Beckham and Trea Turner (whom they sent in the three-way deal for Steven Souza), they have stocked the Beltway with shortstops.
  • To be fair, Adeiny Hechavarria is terrific defensively.
  • Derek Norris’ rest-of-the-year suspension for spousal battery received little notice, and the guess is, his free agency next winter will be handled similarly.
  • It may surprise some but Alex Colome leads the AL in saves, with 42.

Texas Rangers

  • The Rangers decided not to promote Jurickson Profar this September, and it’s hard to recall a No. 1 prospect who’s fallen this far. Word was, he was hoping for a trade that never came.
  • Willie Calhoun was up to 31 home runs. No doubt, the kid can hit.
  • Adrian Beltre hasn’t slowed down a bit as a hitter. He has a .971 OPS in the second half.
  • Joey Gallo has a 1.057 OPS in the second half.

Toronto Blue Jays

  • Don’t expect Toronto to deal Josh Donaldson this winter.
  • The Jays are supremely confident that Troy Tulowitzki will be fine for next year from a physical standpoint. However, there is some internal concern about what happened to his performance this year.
  • Devon Travis would like to return before the year’s up for his own peace of mind.
  • Aaron Sanchez is throwing bullpens and is expected to be fine for next year.
  • Bo Bichette looks like a big-time prospect, with his .365 batting average and 14 home runs at Dunedin (Class A Advanced) as a 19-year-old. The son of Dante (a terrific guy; I covered him with the Angels in the ‘80s) is surpassing the hype. Jays people marvel at his approach, and believe it comes from his father’s insistence that his boys get thousands of at-bats. (Word is, Dante pitches to them to ensure that).
  • It’ll be interesting to see if the Jays bring back Bautista yet again. It was surprise when they did so last winter. There’s a mutual option, but there’s no history of mutual options ever being picked up by both sides. So why would it start now?
  • Bautista, who somehow got $18.5 million ($500K more than the qualifying offer), has a -1.4 WAR this year and .206 batting average. There’s a belief the Indians offered a similar deal, and might have gone higher. Bautista is ineligible to receive another qualifying offer (obviously, he won’t get one anyway).
  • Kendrys Morales is having the year that was expected now, with 27 home runs, 76 RBI and a .760 OPS. He somehow has a -0.2 WAR even though he is strictly a DH. Not sure why that would be, because his stats are way better than a replacement player should be, and since he doesn’t play the field, that’s all from offensive stats. (Yes, he is slow. But not that slow!)
  • One of the best things the Jays did was sign up Justin Smoak to a two-year, $8.5 million deal with an option for 2019, which will surely be picked up. But Smoak deserves the credit for turning his career around. Smoak did a couple things: 1) He worked with a sports psychologist to help maintain a consistent approach, which he does by swinging down on the ball, and 2) He realized it was OK to have different swings lefty and righty, and worked more on his lefty swing.
  • While the new Jays regime is considered forward-thinkers steeped in analytics, they have no plan to fire scouts.

Jon Heyman is an MLB Insider for FanRag Sports, featuring breaking news, information and his Inside Baseball column, which appears on FanRagSports.com every Thursday. Heyman also has been an insider at MLB Network since the channel launched in 2009 and is a regular contributor to WFAN in New York, where he appears weekly on the Joe and Evan Show and previously appeared on the Mike and the Mad Dog Show. He also appears on WSCR in Chicago, WBZ-FM in Boston and the Petros and Money Show on Fox in Los Angeles. Heyman comes to FanRag Sports from CBSSports.com, where he worked for five years and wrote the popular Inside Baseball notes column. Before going to CBS, Heyman worked for five years at Sports Illustrated and SI.com, where he was a senior writer and started an Inside Baseball Column. Heyman worked for 16 years at Newsday in New York, where he was the Yankees beat writer, a baseball columnist and finally a general sports columnist. Heyman started his career at the Moline (Ill.) Daily Dispatch, then moved to the Los Angeles Copley Newspapers (Torrance Daily Breeze and Santa Monica Outlook) before going to Newsday. Heyman at one time also served as a national baseball writer for The Sporting News. Heyman is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. The Santa Fe, N.M. native grew up in Cedarhurst, N.Y., on Long Island.