Inside Baseball news and notes from around the National League.
- A.J. Pollock just came back, which is huge.
- Fernando Rodney just allowed his first hit in a month, and his first earned run since April (via Jody Jackson of Fox Sports Arizona). Any thought about them needing a closer seem to have dissipated.
- Paul Goldschmidt (66) and Jake Lamb (65) are the first teammates to enter July with the two best RBI totals since Carlos Delgado and Vernon Wells did it with the Blue Jays in 2003. The 1985 Cardinals were the last NL team to do it with Tom Herr and Jack Clark.
- The Braves’ beautiful recent run put them a half-game behind the Cubs and a half-game ahead of the Cardinals as they hit the halfway mark, so good for them. They were actually 24-20 since their superstar and then MVP candidate Freddie Freeman went out with a broken wrist, with the surprising run comparable to the Angels’ play since their superstar Mike Trout went out, and actually slightly better (@MLBBowman pointed out the record).
- Manager Brian Snitker, who only has an option for 2018, deserves to have that option picked up. Snitker is a lame-duck manager, but he should have his status raised with a reward for not only his loyalty but also a job well done. Snitker’s status seemed somewhat in question earlier but there’s little question he’s earned that next year. The Braves have multiple excellent managerial candidates on their staff – including Bo Porter and Ron Washington – but Snitker has earned another year.
- The Braves could listen to trade offers this year on Julio Teheran.
- The Braves aren’t sure yet whether the Freddie Freeman third base experiment will be a go. He wasn’t tested much on his rehab to know, so it’s hard to know, but Freeman was inserted at third in his first game back on Tuesday and did fine. He had a grand total of three rehab games, causing one rival exec to call it “very odd” to see Freeman try a positional switch after so few games. In any case, credit to Freeman for giving it a try. Real team player.
- Jaime Garcia is drawing interest.
- There’s no expectation the Braves will be able to trade Bartolo Colon, so they’d likely release him. The belief is that Colon could get a job elsewhere, probably on a minor-league deal and perhaps with his old friends in Queens.
- Ender Inciarte was a worthy All-Star pick and may be the bigger gain or loss in that trade with the D-Backs depending on whose side you’re on.
- Jake Arrieta’s last start points to him getting it together before free agency, which could bode well for him to get the six-to-seven year deal he has sought – or at least five. It won’t be with the Cubs, however.
- The Cubs’ whole infield made the All-Star team last year, but so far only first-year Cubs reliever Wade Davis has made it. Been that kind of year.
- Bryant deserves to be on the team, with a .901 OPS and the ability to play five positions. If he doesn’t get in (he’s in the Final Vote) he becomes the first MVP in 10 years not to be at the All-Star Game the next year.
- Kyle Schwarber was off to a nice start at Triple-A Iowa. The Cubs called him up on Thursday.
- The Cubs are still working on a deal for LSU right-hander Alex Lange, their top pick, with a day to go before the July 7 deadline.
- GM Dick Williams said they love All-Star shortstop Zack Cozart and also suggested they’ve had some preliminary talks, though Reds people see keeping the free-agent-to-be Cozart long-term as a difficult proposition considering the big year he is having his walk year.
- The Reds expected No. 2 overall pick Hunter Greene to have signed earlier and have been surprised by the difficulty in negotiations. As of Wednesday afternoon, they were still said to be “working on it.” They have until Friday to get a deal done. The likelihood is that they will since they are believed willing to give Greene the top bonus of this draft, ahead of the $7,007,500 that went to No. 4 pick Brendan McKay. It would be quite a surprise if the pitcher who was shut down before the draft to protect his arm would opt for more amateur baseball (though he does have a UCLA scholarship offer).
- Joey Votto over a 162-game stretch: .359/.459/.638 (also via Christopher Kamka).
- Hard to believe Angel Hernandez sued for alleged mistreatment by MLB and commissioner Rob Manfred. His complaint apparently is that he’s only umpired two World Series. My take: Shouldn’t he have to be a, you know, good umpire to think he’s been mistreated? He’s done loads of other playoff games and All-Star Games, and when he shows up at a game, many of the participants seem disappointed. The lawsuit, filed in Cincinnati, also is disappointing.
- Jon Gray’s return didn’t come a moment too soon. He stopped the season-high eight-game losing streak in his return engagement, a 10-strikeout effort.
- How good is Charlie Blackmon? Well he is 13-for-24 with three homers lifetime against tough lefty Robbie Ray, as Jack Magruder of FanRag points out.
- Greg Holland was coming off Tommy John in the winter, and now he has guaranteed at least $29 million with his 30th game finished, and presuming he opts out, which he will, much more than that.
- Mark Reynolds, who has a tough task beating L.A. star Justin Turner and MVP Kris Bryant in the Final Vote, is nonetheless one of the best signings of the winter.
Los Angeles Dodgers
- The fans did great, but there are still too many All-Star snubs.
- We don’t think Jansen needs to be defended for such candor, but he’s been hit by some for castigating Dodgers fans. And Molly Knight tweeted, “In Kenley’s defense, he’s never had to try to find the Dodgers on TV.” (That almost sounded more like a defense of the fans but was clever either way.)
- Turner and Wood were obviously hurt by at-bats and innings missed. But they easily did enough with what little time they did have to make the team. Turner had a 3.7 WAR, second best in the NL, despite the missed time. And it’s hard to leave out Wood, who is 10-0 with a 1.67 ERA.
- Cody Bellinger will have his father Clay, the former Yankee, pitch to him in the Home Run Derby, a sweet touch.
- Bellinger is the youngest Dodgers position player ever to make the team, adding to a great history of rookies making the team.
- One rival GM says the Dodgers have been the most impressive team he’s seen so far. But another rival wonders about their playoff rotation depth. “They have Kershaw and Wood, then what?” says the rival. “I think they need one more starter. The injury to (Julio) Urias makes it tough.”
- With a day to go, the Dodgers still have some top draftees to sign, including their top pick, Vanderbilt OF Jeren Kendall, a very toolsy guy who had been a hockey player and has a lot of potential. It was a surprise he lasted until pick No. 24.
- Chris Taylor’s previous career high for home runs was 1. He has 10.
- Brandon McCarthy is due back to start Saturday, Billl Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports.
- Brandon Morrow looks like a steal for the Dodgers, Mike DiGiovanna also of the L.A. Times writes.
- Here’s the latest on the sale of the Marlins as it nears the finish line.
- The Marlins’ baseball people are thought ready to do a sale of their own.
- Competing teams would be wise to take a long look at A.J. Ramos, who is an effective closer as a repertoire pitcher.
- The Brewers should think about buying, one rival says. “Why shouldn’t they be a player for Sonny Gray,” the rival wonders. “Gray isn’t a free agent for a couple more years. And they certainly have the prospects to get it done.” Me: It’s still hard to see Milwaukee trading from its carefully constructed stash of prospects (though it certainly has enough outfield prospects).
- Folks love OF prospect Lewis Brinson.
- Corey Knebel deserved that All-Star nod.
New York Mets
- There have been more suggestions the Mets could sell at least their free agents. However, the reality is that, beyond the relievers Addison Reed and Jerry Blevins (who has an option for next year), there isn’t that much value in their impending free agents, based on fairly high salaries for all involved and a lack of need on the market for hitters. Between Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jose Reyes, they wouldn’t get all that much, rivals say. “Reed has the most value of the whole bunch,” one rival said.
- It remains something of a mystery why Amed Rosario isn’t being called up yet. Mets people know he has much more range than Reyes at this stage. They’ve only said that they want him to stay when he’s promoted. But why assume he wouldn’t? One theory is that Mets higherups do not want him perceived as “the savior” of a team in trouble. As one Mets person put it, he isn’t that type of player. No, but at this stage he’s a much better shortstop than Reyes.
- Mets people love first base prospect Dominic Smith. There have been suggestions he needs to get in shape in the past, but Mets people say that with the help of staff, he has done so. He’s a smooth fielder and a sweet swinger. So Lucas Duda will surely wind up elsewhere next year.
- GM Sandy Alderson seemed to admit the Tim Tebow signing really wasn’t a baseball decision when he revealed that no scout wanted to be listed as the Tebow baseball scout in the media guide, so the Mets inserted the team’s director of merchandising instead. (But others say Alderson was just showing some humor.) And yes, this is a boffo deal — for the merchandising man. Tebow is huge in Port St. Lucie in his home state and the state of the Gators.
- Alderson offered a snappy comeback about when we might see Matt Harvey, quipping, “You mean other than Page 6?” (That’s the iconic, New York Post gossip page.) The man is funny, we must admit. Too bad the team has discouraged his tweeting under @MetsGM, which was pretty good.
- In reality, Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and Jeurys Familia are still a ways off, though Familia will head to Florida to start rehabbing next week.
- There’s some expectation the Mets will sign Bartolo Colon on a minors deal. We’ve heard mixed things on that, but why not?
- Michael Conforto wasn’t a bad choice at all to rep the Mets at the All-Star Game, but it’s interesting to note 1) he wasn’t on the ballot and had to make the team out of spring training, 2) he isn’t guaranteed a full-time job when he returns from the DL, and 3) he’s on the DL.
- The Phillies, with only one contract that goes past even this year (Odubel Herrera), will try to spend big after 2018 to help speed up their process. They have the revenues, and will try to use them on major stars, quite possibly including Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Zach Britton and the like (though a Harper-Machado combo seems like a stretch for all but the 1 or 2 biggest revenue clubs). Britton and Machado both have connections to several Phillies decision makers who were previously with the Orioles, including Andy MacPhail, Matt Klentak, Joe Jordan and many others.
- Manager Pete Mackanin has the right temperament for the rebuild, but let’s hope he gets to stay beyond 2018, when his contract expires and the Phillies have a chance to win. He deserves it, but at 65, knowing him, he isn’t stressing over it.
- Pat Neshek was identified by one rival GM as the one Phillie likely to hit the trading block, who has real trade value.
- Larry Bowa expressed frustration with what he sees as an overemphasis on some new stats, such as exit velocity and launch angle, and Phillies insiders say some over there believe it’s all gotten into Maikel Franco’s head and distracted him from playing to his real ability.
- Herrera gets high marks for working on his defense and covering a lot of ground but he has yet to put it all together.
- Cameron Rupp had a 10-for-75 streak.
- Daniel Nava has done a nice job, and may draw a bit of interest.
- The Pirates are suggesting they probably won’t move Gerrit Cole, and rivals see that as the correct move. “It’s not like he’s going to lose a ton of value,” one rival exec says.
- The Pirates are doing the right thing keeping Andrew McCutchen in center field even after Gold Glover Starling Marte returns. The guy who failed a PED test does not deserve center field, and Cutch has been accommodating enough for them.
- McCutchen has the most career home runs without a grand slam, 191, according to @christopherkamka. He just topped Glenn Davis who had 190. Chris Taylor, who barely has cracked double digits in homers, has three grand slams.
St. Louis Cardinals
- Some Cardinals people would love to get Josh Donaldson, who could be the jolt they need. Scouts say they want to see him play more, though, to show he’s at 100 percent following a long stay on the DL with a leg issue.
- The Cardinals aren’t afraid to make changes when things aren’t going as expected. Thus, the latest demotion, for Aledmys Diaz, after the brief demotion of Randal Grichuk.
- Longtime GM John Mozeliak was promoted to president and Michael Girsch to GM. It was a logical move, one that many teams make, but it came at an unexpected time. The Cardinals have had an effective front office for years, but the GM job leads to some degree of burnout especially in a baseball hotbed like St. Louis (though it went unstated why the move was made mid year).
- The death of Oscar Taveras still seems to hang over their heads. Their greatest need is for a middle of the order hitter, the sort Taveras seemed to have the potential to be.
- Jedd Gyorko has been terrific.
- Tommy Pham is fun to watch.
- Congrats to Carlos Martinez for making the All-Star team. That’s a win for all, as he is baseball’s fastest worker, according to numbers provided by MLB Network.
- Local product Luke Voit (Wildwood, Mo., Lafayette High) is off to a 3-for-3 start as a pinch hitter. Great story.
San Diego Padres
- Jose Pirela continues to impress.
- Wil Myers deserves plaudits for saying aloud that he didn’t really deserve to make the All-Star team.
- Cole Bellinger, younger brother of Cody and 15th-round pick out of Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton High, signed for $350,000. He’s a pitcher who throws 91-92 but has potential. “Like his brother he did both (pitch and hit) in high school. But he is not the hitter that Cody is and he’s right-handed,” one scout said. “He is like Cody in that both were barely 17 at the draft. Both were really slight and skinny at this stage. But had room for lots of size and strength gain. As a pitcher, he has good arm action, four pitches and a feel and instinct to pitch. You are projecting the fastball keeps getting better. They won’t start seeing the best of Cole until he gets more physical and the fastball consistency increases. I think when he gets to 21 and closer to man strength it’ll be interesting.” He gave up a scholarship to Grand Canyon in his hometown of Phoenix. The $350K is exactly half the bonus Cody signed for. If he turns out to be half the player, that wouldn’t be bad at all.
San Francisco Giants
- They are doing the right thing by reloading for 2018. As GM Bobby Evans said in this space last week, they want to get back to contending as soon as possible. Managing partner Larry Baer made clear in a couple interviews with Bay Area outlets, that year is 2018. That makes sense as they still have a decent nucleus.
- They will have to do something about that outfield, though, which has been a disaster in 2017.
- The new, less-violent swing of Bryce Harper seems to be paying off. It looks like it could result in fewer strikeouts and more damage.
- The Nats are right to give K-Rod a shot. But realistically they probably see him as more of a sixth- or seventh-inning pitcher. So yes, they still need a closer.
- The Nats have the worst pen ERA at 5.05 and worst batting average against (.273), but they are, surprisingly enough, only tied for second worst in blown saves (13).
- Pat Neshek would be a nice pickup for them, along with other relievers mentioned in the lead to Inside Baseball.
- With a day to go before the deadline, the Nats are still working on a deal with their first-round pick, lefty Seth Romero, formerly of the University of Houston. They may be trying to play hardball with him, as he was ejected from the Cougars baseball team, but there’s progress and optimism for a deal. The terrifically talented lefty has been seen as a possible late add to the Nats’ pen this year. He was the 25th overall selection.
- Gio Gonzalez has an excellent All-Star case. He would have been thrilled to be there in his hometown (he is from baseball hotbed Hialeah, just north of Miami, and was one of the visiting players who flew in for Jose Fernandez’s funeral as they were great friends), but he also deserves the honor. Gonzalez is third in the NL in ERA and quality starts (behind Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw in both cases) and second in WAR (to only Max). He should be in Miami. Plus, it would be a nice story.
- Anthony Rendon deserves to be on the team as well. Among position players he’s second in the league in WAR.
- The Nats have lost Trea Turner for a while, but at least in the first few days afterward, hadn’t called about Reds shortstop Zack Cozart. There seems to be little to no demand for middle-infield help on the trade market at the moment, even very good help.
- Is there any expiration date on Daniel Murphy’s personal tormenting of the Mets? Doesn’t appear to be.