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Inside Baseball AL Notes | Yankees targeting luxury tax threshold

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman is interviewed during baseball's annual general managers meeting Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Inside Baseball news and notes from around the American League.

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Baltimore Orioles

  • One executive seriously wonders whether the $161 million contract given to Chris Davis will be about the last one to go to a slugger of that sort following a winter where sluggers struggled to get a fraction of that. Davis had the advantage of being an above average defender and under 30, but all around play is favored over homers at the moment.
  • The pitching is more concerning than ever. Hard to believe Kevin Gausman had a game with six walks and no strikeouts vs. the Yankees, the first pitcher to have such a line against the Yankees since Omar Olivaras (via Michael Kay Of YES Network and Joel Sherman of the New York Post).
  • Manny Machado is hitting off a tee. He wasn’t having his expected year but he has a year and a half to show his free agent worth and no one should doubt him.

Boston Red Sox

  • The team approached Mookie Betts regarding a multiyear offer, but like many other young stars, he’s comfortable going year to year for now.
  • The acquisitions of Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel have worked exactly as they’d hope, so it’s a bit of a surprise they seem to have taken a small step backward this year.
  • Sale is the Cy Young favorite, and Kimbrel is whiffing an unreal 55.6 percent of the batters he faced (via Tyler Kepner of the New York Times).
  • David Price is one of the nicest guys around. But you have to wonder whether Boston is the right spot for him after he lashed out at reporters there the other day. I don’t find Boston media especially objectionable, though there are undoubtedly a shocking large number of them there, and there’s a long history of players not loving the media fishbowl that Fenway is, including Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, who famously told Danny Knobler, now of Bleacher Report, that he hated the Boston media (he was safely in L.A. by the time he said that). Anyway, it is apparently not for everyone – though Gonzalez was traded over there and did didn’t choose it, as Crawford and Price did. The moral of the story is: it’s hard to turn down the biggest deal. Also, it’s hard to know who will thrive there (obviously, Sale and Kimbrel have, though Kimbrel had an early hiccup or two).
  • The Red Sox have their eye on Venezuela catcher Daniel Flores. He’s seen as a great catch-and-throw guy. He’s eligible to sign July 2.
  • Tyler Thornburg still isn’t throwing.
  • As we’ve said here before, Dennis Eckersley is terrific as the color man on Red Sox games.

Chicago White Sox

  • White Sox people are acting like they assume Jose Quintana will be traded this time. And they don’t believe his less-than-great start will adversely affect his trade value.
  • There’s no evidence Todd Frazier has drawn no serious interest to date. But he’s been heating up, and he could probably help at least Boston.
  • The White Sox aren’t anxious to trade Jose Abreu, even if he has a market. He’s playing well, he’s a leader and they expect to have a Cuban-heavy lineup at some point, with Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert two of their top three prospects.
  • Avisail Garcia hired Gene Mato as his agent in April. Garcia really turned things around this winter, with big workouts and renewed dedication over the winter.
  • Lucas Giolito is showing better stuff lately (and he threw a no-hitter), but Reynaldo Lopez is the pitcher the ChiSox most coveted in that Adam Eaton deal.
  • Wake Forest 1B Gavin Sheets, son of Larry, was the ChiSox’s second round pick.

Cleveland Indians

  • Carlos Santana isn’t off to his best start, but one executive predicted he’d get $60 million for four years. His offensive versatility is seen as a reason he’ll do well. The Indians have not broached the subject an extension, though it was expected the sides would get together in season.
  • As predicted, Edwin Encarnacion has heated up in May following his rough April.
  • Nick Goody has been surprisingly good in the Tribe pen.
  • John Perrotto of FanRag did a story on the lackluster starts for last year’s two World Series combatants.

Detroit Tigers

  • Saw Jim Leyland at the MLB Network draft, and he expressed faith that the Tigers would get it together. He’s basing that on the team’s talent.
  • If the Tigers do wind up selling, one rival predicted they’d get a big haul for closer Justin Wilson. Big stuff.
  • The Tigers nabbed pitcher Alex Faedo from the University of Florida at No. 18 overall. They’d picked him once before, in the 40th round, but this time they will make sure to sign him.

Houston Astros

  • Jose Altuve had a nice pep talk for just-promoted top outfield prospect Derek Fisher. Because, he’s Altuve, as Julia Morales, the Astros’ sideline reporter for ROOT Sports, put it.
  • I don’t think the talk was about this, but it was interesting to see Fisher swung at his first 3-and-0 pitch. As Ryan Spaeder noted on Twitter, Kevin Youkilis had 292 3-and-0 counts without ever swinging, and Omar Vizquel had 667 three-and-0 counts without ever swinging.
  • Congrats to Nori Aoki on his 2,000th hit between NPB and MLB.
  • The Astros’ pick No. 75, first baseman J.J. Matijevic from the University of Arizona, was compensation for the Cardinals’ breach of Houston’s data base.
  • Carlos Correa may be an even bigger star than folks envisioned.

Kansas City Royals

  • It’s been a great run, and the Royals haven’t committed to buying or selling yet, but rivals believe their smart front office will eventually have to seriously consider a sale to replenish the system. “They’re going to need players,” one rival says respectfully.
  • The defense of Alcides Escobar is so good that they could consider bringing him back even though he hasn’t hit a lick this year. He also should be cost-effective (based on that offense).
  • Nick Pratto, a prep star from that powerhouse Huntington Beach (Calif.) High, is said by some to have the sweetest swing of the draft. The No. 14 overall pick was a star for Huntington a half decade ago in the Little League World Series, too. He is best friends with Mickey Moniak, the No. 1 overall pick a year ago for the Phillies.

ANAHEIM, CA – JUNE 03: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Designated hitter Albert Pujols (5) smiles after his grand slam for his 600th career home run during an MLB game between the Minnesota Twins and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on June 3, 2017 at Angel Stadium of Anaheim in Anaheim, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)

Los Angeles Angels

  • The Angels and Jordon Adell are likely to have a slot deal. He was the No. 10 pick in the draft.
  • Albert Pujols hit his 600th home run to relatively little fanfare, and told folks he’d like to get to 700 and even pass Barry Bonds to become the all-time home run king (note: we consider Hank Aaron the all-time king, but I guess it depends on your perspective; Bonds is officially the leader, that is true). And with 4 and a half years to go, that definitely is the right thing to say. You can’t pretend you expect to decline in your 40s, though everyone else expects it.
  • Doug Fister was throwing 89-90 in the Angels minors, according to @JeffFletcherOCR.
  • Alex Meyer had a nice game against his old Twins team.
  • Brian Kenny of MLB Network says that with Trout out, the Freeze guy who races for the Braves against fans (a member of the grounds crew who happens to have world-class speed and dresses in a “Freeze” outfit) is the true face of baseball presently.
  • The Angels are playing surprisingly well without Trout. They haven’t gone into a freeze, so good for them.
  • Eric Young Jr., Trout’s replacement, has had a surprisingly nice run, especially nice considering the very sad story he has about losing an infant child recently. Good for Angels execs Nate Horowitz and Andrew Ball recommending they give EY a try, and good for EY to make this nice comeback.

Minnesota Twins

  • The Twins are expected to save some money when they come to terms with No. 1 overall pick Royce Lewis.
  • Boras advised more players than ever this year. And while it should come as no surprise that he will rep a player from Junipero Serra, where previous client Austin Hedges went (as well as Boras’ ballplaying sons), and where Boras has a stronghold, this one came as a stroke of good fortune. Lewis’ father is in business owning a Tustin restaurant, the Winery, with Boras’ great friend Joe Hernandez, and when Lewis was 10, the father told Boras his son had a bit of promise and asked if he could check him out. Boras hears stories like this all the time, but he takes all requests seriously, so he took a look. And it didn’t take long to know the father was actually underselling his son’s talents. The kid could play, then and now.
  • The last time a team in first place held the first pick in the draft was 2001 when the Twins also held the pick, and wisely chose local product Joe Mauer, who also had a football (QB) scholarship to Florida State but chose to play baseball near his St. Paul home.
  • Byron Buxton leads the majors with 12 four-star catches, says Shane Jackson of MLB.com.
  • The Twins entered the week in first place despite being on pace for a negative 111 run differential, as Dayn Perry of CBS Sports.com pointed out.
  • If this is it for Joe Nathan, it’s been quite a run. Though he looked pretty good in spring training with the Nats and then in the minors for them, word is he will likely retire if there’s no job forthcoming soon.

New York Yankees

  • Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks, the two spring combatants for a right-field job, have turned in All-Star caliber first halfs, with Judge looking like the easy MVP leader. Judge in fact is the first rookie to lead all three Triple Crown categories as late as June, according to Elias.
  • Hicks has been brilliant, too, and was one of eight qualifying players with more walks than strikeouts, a rarity in the game today.
  • Here’s a big plus to having so many young stars: It could enable the Yankees to finally get below the salary threshold, which has become their mission. They said they’d do it a few years back, but erred and went for it at that time. This year, they aren’t talking aloud about getting under the threshold. But they are definitely thinking about it. Getting below the threshold would be quite advantageous should they make big plays in the winter of 2018-19 as they hope to do, because it would reset their penalty percentage.
  • Bryce Harper had been seen as a likely target, though Judge’s emergence in right field could means they might make the first big play for Manny Machado. They also may have a need at third base, so that makes sense. But of course, if they get below the threshold, there’s no telling what they may try to do.
  • The Hicks deal looks like another winner in a string of them by GM Brian Cashman, who will have his contract extended after the year, assuming that’s what he wants, according to sources (the Yankees’ policy is to wait until after the year with GMs and managers; Joe Girardi also should be in line for an extension).
  • Starlin Castro is another Cashman pickup playing like an All-Star.
  • Didi Gregorius has been fantastic from day one since coming off the DL.
  • Masahiro Tanaka would be taking a big gamble to opt out of $67 million and three years.
  • CC Sabathia could be brought back, which would have been unthinkable at the beginning of the year. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe suggested as much, and it can’t be ruled out, confirms a Yankees official.
  • The Yankees were on pace to 269 homers.
  • They scored five-plus runs in the first inning two straight games for the first time since a doubleheader vs. the St. Louis Browns Aug. 25, 1938.
  • The Yankees didn’t have to use a sixth starter until game No. 60, the longest they’ve gone into a season without going beyond their original rotation since 1975, when they used Tippy Martinez in game No. 100 after having using a rotation of Catfish Hunter, Doc Medich, Rudy May, Pat Dobson and Larry Gura through the first 99 games, Michael Kay said on YES.
  • Hard to believe: the White Sox are the only team younger than the Yanks in the AL.
  • The Yankees have had a plus-115 run differential after 60 games eight times previously in their history, and won the World Series all eight of those years, Katie Sharp from ESPN tweeted.
  • Clarke Schmidt, the Yankees top pick at No. 16 overall, has a dad who’s a three-star general, Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com reported. Schmidt didn’t seem to suffer too much by the knowledge he needs Tommy John surgery.

Oakland Athletics

  • Sonny Gray looks terrific lately. Looks like a great trade candidate from here.
  • Oakland’s first-round pick Austin Beck is expected to get $5.3 million (slot) from the A’s. The prep outfielder had a big year coming off ACL surgery.
  • Yonder Alonso seems like a new hitter, as mentioned in this space before. And as Tyler Kepner of the #failing New York Times noted, he has a .667 slugging percentage, nearly 300 points higher than his .383 mark coming into the year.
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 25: Seattle Mariners shortstop Jean Segura (2) fields a eighth inning ground ball against the Washington Nationals on May 25, 2017, at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. The Seattle Mariners defeated the Washington Nationals, 4-2 in an interleague game. (Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire)

WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 25: Seattle Mariners shortstop Jean Segura (2) fields a eighth inning ground ball against the Washington Nationals on May 25, 2017, at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. The Seattle Mariners defeated the Washington Nationals, 4-2 in an interleague game. (Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire)

Seattle Mariners

  • The Mariners have used a league-high 12 starting pitchers, which illustrates their problems, more than anything else.
  • Can’t blame Jean Segura for signing the $70-million, five-year extension, especially with the full no-trade. Segura earned it by leading the NL in hits last year. And leading the AL in hitting before going on the DL this year.
  • Mitch Haniger is back. He was a big loss. He is a very good two-way player. He also has a 27-game on-base streak (Brian Kenny’s favorite kind).
  • Some believe Minnesota prep pitcher Sam Carlson in the second round was a coup.

Tampa Bay Rays

  • Nothing’s done, but the Rays are expected to give pitcher/hitter Brendan McKay a record deal.
  • At 34-32, the Rays are not looking to sell.
  • Tampa Bay made a “creative” offer to Tampa resident Jose Bautista that included options to make it a three-year deal. But ultimately, Bautista wanted to go to his baseball home in Toronto (and he had a greater guarantee there), where his best fans already reside. The Indians were the third team involved.

Texas Rangers

  • Before cutting Sam Dyson, the team is said to have seriously considered doing the same with Jeremy Jeffress, who also was off to a shockingly poor start. Ultimately, they decided he had more chance to turn it around than Dyson. And Jeffress has turned it around since.
  • Adrian Beltre was expected to go on the D.L. but as has been his history he’s playing through injury and he’s doing it again. That’s one more thing that makes him a Hall of Famer.
  • Hard to believe but Robinson Chirinos is one of the MLB leaders for home runs on 0-and-2 counts. According to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, since 2015, Chirinos has 10 homers on 0-and-2 counts, putting him in a tie for fifth. Mike Trout has 15, Nelson Cruz 13 and Chris Davis and Todd Frazier 11 apiece, with Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion, Manny Machado and Albert Pujols tied with Chirinos with 10. But the thing is, Chirinos has had only 97 such counts in that period. With Frazier having the next fewest on the list (177) and no one else having fewer than 248.
  • Time for Jurickson Profar to make the most of his most recent chance. He needs to create trade value at the very least.
  • Tyson Ross makes his first start Friday.
  • Yu Darvish has pitched four games of seven innings or more with only one hit allowed, and all four have come against in-state rival Astros (via MLB Network).

Toronto Blue Jays

  • Justin Smoak’s two-year deal, which seemed like an odd idea at the time, could turn out to be a major bargain, as he has been their most productive hitter to date. And one of the best sluggers in the league.
  • Nate Pearson, the Jays’ top pick, wowed scouts by hitting 102 on the gun, Jim Callis of MLB.com reported.
  • The Blue Jays tabbed Kacy Clemens in the eighth round. His father Roger is an ex-Jay. He put up very good numbers for them, startlingly good in fact.
  • Josh Donaldson “looks really, really good right now.” Maybe like the MVP Donaldson.

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