Inside Baseball news and notes from around the National League
- Diamondbacks people express great faith that Torey Lovullo can bring home a playoff spot for the upstart team.
- Other than Archie Bradley no one is performing well above expectations. This bodes well for the D-backs in the second half.
- The Braves were linked to Jose Quintana, but that seemed to be overblown the whole time. Chris Sale was the White Sox pitcher they liked. The ChiSox asked the Braves for Ronald Acuna, and the Braves said no. So it appears they were never close on Quintana.
- Acuna, 19, is a five-tool outfielder with one scout calls “stupid power.” He’s being promoted to Triple-A, as reported by David O’Brien of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution.
- There’s some trade interest in Jaime Garcia.
- For all the comments about Jake Arrieta blowing his chance at a monster deal, one rival GM pointed out that Jeff Samardzija got $90 million for five years from the Giants off a terrible season on the South Side of Chicago. Some may argue that was an overpay, but Samardzija could have gotten a similar deal from the Tigers. And Arrieta, with a Cy Young and World Series heroics, will aim much higher. “Arrieta’s better than Samardzija,” the rival exec points out. That’ why folks still think he’s getting his nine-figure deal.
- It’s hard to see the Cubs as sellers, especially after acquiring Jose Quintana. But other contenders are keeping an eye on it, just in case they fall further back, and star closer Wade Davis becomes available. There are no elite closers on the market yet, but there’s some small hope for Davis as well as Baltimore’s Zach Britton to become available.
- The Cubs’ big problem is that all their starters who had great years last year have gone backward, every one of them. So you wonder if the acquisition of one starter will do the trick.
- The Cubs seek controllable starters, not rentals, as shown by the Quintana acquisition. That is their M.O. They don’t like rentals.
- Schwarber looks much better this time, and he’s in the No. 5 hole, which is where he belongs. The lead-off thing was a mistake.
- Jon Jay is quietly having a very nice season.
- Some Cubs people also say they have suffered from “young at-bats” this year. It’s interesting to note that their kids all thrived last year while many have hit bumps this year.
- NL All-Star manager Joe Maddon, one of the great personalities in the game and a great man for the big stage, has kept his, “What me worry?” attitude. But hey Joe, we are nearly 90 games in. It’s time to get going, no?
- The Reds love Zack Cozart, and would be happy to have him back for two years, or maybe three at the outset. They believe Alfredo Rodriguez, an excellent international signing, will be ready in two. But they seem realistic enough to know Cozart will do better than that on the open market. He’s really having a terrific year. Anyone who can legit beat Corey Seager to start the All-Star Game is impressive, and Cozart did just that.
- Cozart believes a trade is more likely. “I know I’m going to be out there, being where I am in my career, and where the Reds are,” Cozart said. One issue the Reds have had in the past is that contending teams all have good shortstops already.
- Meanwhile, Cozart is involved in his own transaction. Teammate Joey Votto is going to make good on his promise to buy Cozart a donkey if he beat Seager in the vote. “It’s happening,” Cozart said, faux (I assume) excitedly. Votto said he’s done some donkey shopping, and they for between $100 and $400. Cozart, putting in his two cents, said, “I think it should be a top of the line donkey.” Votto says the key is to find a donkey “with the ability to handle big crowds,” as he doesn’t want him or Zack to be kicked when he introduces their donkey at Great America Ballpark.
- The Reds are believed willing to listen on Raisel Iglesias, but word is it would take a “blow them away” type deal. “He could shake up the relief market,” one NL exec not with the Reds said. The Reds understandably love Iglesias and have him under contract for three more years. But everyone is keeping on eye on this, because he could move to the top of the current closer market, provided Zach Britton and/or Wade Davis don’t hit the market.
- One thing about the Reds: While they’ve made some good trades lately, they have a record of trading All-Stars. They traded Justin Turner, Josh Hamilton and Edwin Encarnacion. And three of the four players traded for Mat Latos became All-Stars after the deal (Brad Boxberger, Yasmani Grandal and Yonder Alonso; Edinson Volquez was an All-Star before the trade for the Reds.
- The Reds were relieved to finally get No. 2 overall pick Hunter Greene done right at the deadline, but they felt “frustrated” not to get the deal done quickly, like the other very top tier players. The Reds wanted to get Greene pitching as soon as possible (he’ll start at Class-A Billings, Mont.) and hoped they’d have a deal soon after Tampa’s $7,007,500 deal with Louisville 1B/LHP Brendan McKay became public, as they’d already told Greene and his advisers that they’d make him the highest paid player this year. But Greene, a righty from Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame, took it right to the last minutes before agreeing to the $7.23-million deal, maximizing the contract (the Reds came within $6,000 of having to pay a tax, though they do not). That bonus was the record for anyone in the new slotting system, and the highest deal ever for a high school pitcher, who tend to be bigger risks. Greene’s side emphasized what a special talent he is (he’s a 17-year-old who throws 100, so that’s fair), and suggested there needed to be a real separation between him and the second-best prospect. The Reds wanted him in earlier, but naturally not at the expense of paying a tax or possibly losing a pick.
- Through salary and incentive, Greg Holland has guaranteed himself $29 million, but he’ll leave the $15-million option on the table, assuming health. He’s not going to say he’s opting out now. Mark Melancon got $62 million over four years.
- Holland says he picked Colorado because he knew the pitching coach from Kansas City (Steve Foster) and lives near the bullpen coach (Darren Holmes). And he also liked the roster makeup.
- The only guess on Carlos Gonzalez is that he isn’t 100 percent. A qualifying offer now seems questionable. He’s struggled that much.
Los Angeles Dodgers
- The Dodgers have checked in on Orioles closer Zach Britton, which has current closer Kenley Jansen excited.
- Justin Turner, by the way, has thanked Jansen “many times” for sticking up for him, and helping him make the All-Star team via the Final Vote. Their friendship seems genuine, and terrific.
- One friend of Turner (not Jansen) said Turner’s problem in New York was that the Mets wanted him to take more pitches and walk more, “and he’s not that kind of hitter.” To be fair, Turner didn’t become a star in Cincinnati or Baltimore, either.
- While many are speculating the Dodgers will acquire a big-time starter, there isn’t a great need to do that. With a decent lead, and Rich Hill as their No 3 starter, they don’t seem to feel any desperation. Can’t blame ‘em.
- The Dodgers have been connected to J.D. Martinez, including here. But while Martinez certainly would help, surprise star Chris Taylor has played superbly in left field so far. Of course the Dodgers could also move Taylor back to second base, and turn Logan Forsythe into a utilityman if the were to acquire a big-hitting outfielder such as Martinez. But even with Andrew Toles, Andre Ethier and Franklin Gutierrez all out, the Dodgers have options.
- Alex Verdugo is continuing to tear it up in the minors. And one scout rates him as “a monster.” Which is a compliment.
- Heard Carl Crawford may go back to school to try to earn his degree.
- Marlins people believe the most likely players to move are closer A.J. Ramos and set-up man David Phelps who are both drawing serious interest.
- While Justin Bour has been linked to the Yankees by the Miami Herald, the Yankees seem disinclined to trade big prospects to shore up their rough first-base situation. Beyond that, GM Michael Hill suggested there was no intention whatsoever to trade Bour (or other young, well-priced stars Marcell Ozuna, J.T. Realmuto, Christian Yelich, or even Dan Straily), as they see those players as the type he Marlins need more of. Bour, a former Rule 5 minor-league pickup for $12,500 has made a name for himself with his big first half and spectacular Home Run Derby performance, and he’s loving Miami. But would he mind being a Yankee? Not a chance, not with their history, their core and their short porch of course.
- The Marlins actually have played much better recently. They have been pleased by the pitching of Jose Urena, as well as Straily. Their main issue remains consistency of their rotation, though.
- Miami millionaire Jorge Mas looks like the leader to buy the Marlins with his bid of $1.17 billion, but there needs to be a signed agreement and a vetting process, meaning there may not be a new owner for two to three weeks, or perhaps even longer.
- Some Marlins people are leery of Derek Jeter getting the team because he has no experience running a business despite his pristine rep as a winner and baseball savant. But some of them have been looking at the reports and are wondering about someone who appears to insist on control when they 1) have no experience, and 2) are putting in such a small amount of money. Friends of Jeter suggest he’s having no problem getting investors, but even if he’s recruited many, only one person with as much as $100 million to invest has been name (Bruce Sherman at $200 million to $250 million), and there have been high-profile defections, as the New York Post reported.
- Michael Jordan was a nice name to join Jeter’s group, but someone said Jordan is putting in only $2 million. Jeter is said by sources to be committing $25 million, but word is coming out that he wants a finders’ fee which would recover a lot of the money for him. If he pulls this off, he’s probably a business genius and deserves the team. But there’s no reason he should.
- Tagg Romney isn’t being in much money either, certainly well less than nine figures ($20M is the belief), according to people involved in the talks.
- Some Romney people continue to express some confidence – but sources suggest they are not currently in the lead. Romney bid $1.1 billion, as Robert Murray of FanRag Sports reported.
- If Mas does get the team, look for former major-leaguer and current union executive Jose Cruz Jr. to have a prominent role with the team. Cruz is a Rice graduate with considerable smarts, and said to be “like a son” to Mas, who is well known in Miami baseball circles. Ken Rosenthal of MLB Network first reported on this connection.
- Jeffrey Loria does seem conflicted about selling the Marlins, though there’s no reason to think he backs out (he will get out with a half-billion clear, and the team is losing $50M plus a year now). The tragic death of Jose Fernandez changed everything for Loria. “He’s on my mind every day … every single day. It’s something that doesn’t disappear,” Loria said. “He’d have found a way to be the starter for the All-Star game.”
- The Brewers are planning to be buyers. But there’s a question how big they’ll go. They were linked to Jose Quintana in some reports, and they clearly hac the prospects to do it, but one rival said he believes they’ll be “reluctant buyers,” and doubts whether they will go for the gusto. The Brewers have a 5 ½ game lead in the otherwise disappointing NL Central, but they love their stash of prospects (who wouldn’t? It’s extremely good) and have to wonder if they are ready to compete with the biggest boys yet.
- It’s only his opinion, but he may be onto something. That person said he does see the Brewers bulking up their bullpen. Which would take far less in terms of prospects.
- The Brewers are definitely looking at upgrading the pen. They are checking in on the better relievers available. Obviously Corey Knebel had a terrific first half. But they probably need to augment the pen, especially with veterans, if they hope to stave off the rest of the NL Central, such as it is.
- Jesus Aguilar was a nice waiver wire pickup (from Cleveland).
- Bud Selig turns 83 the day he’s being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Congrats and happy birthday, Bud.
New York Mets
- Addison Reed will be popular on the trade market (though there are close to 10 very good relievers who’ll be out there). With an option for next year that’s all but assured of being picked up, the Mets may well hold onto Jerry Blevins, who’s been terrific.
- Jeurys Familia and Neil Walker have gone to Port St. Lucie to rehab. No word yet on Noah Syndergaard or Matt Harvey.
- It’s time for Amed Rosario already. We agree with him.
- Scouts also like catching prospect Thomas Nido.
- Curtis Granderson is hot, and he’s such a good guy, executives say, that there could be some interest despite a salary ($15 million) that exceeds the overall performance to date.
- Pat Neshek, who’s on the block, says, “A new team pops up every day.” Does he have a preference? “The team with the best record – back to Houston. No, kidding.”
- Wherever he goes, it’s been some kind of year for Neshek between the WBC and All-Star Game. “This feels kind of magical,” he said.
- Tommy Joseph is on the trade block. But it’s at a time when the first-base market will be well-stocked. Could the Yankees make sense?
- Responding to a person who remarked that the Phillies are a couple years away, a Phillies person honestly said, “maybe more than a couple.”
- Jimmy Rollins told me he’d love to be playing. But he’s enjoying fishing and golfing.
- They are hoping that playing their best game of the year in the first-half finale (10 runs in the first inning against the great Jon Lester) could bode well for the second half.
- It’s something that they have weathered a drug ban (Starling Marte), a multi-DUI issue (Jung-ho Kang) and cancer (Jameson Taillon, who is back), and aren’t completely out of it.
- Andrew McCutchen should have been an All-Star. The culprit: player voting is counted too early.
St. Louis Cardinals
- For those complaining Yadier Molina didn’t put up an All-Star first half, he showed why he’s held in such high esteem, providing the NL with its run.
- Paul DeJong has quietly had a similar start (first 36 games anyway) to Cody Bellinger, as Cardinals p.r. person Chris Tunno tweeted. Bellinger has 19 extra-base hit (6 2B, 1 3B, 12 HR) and 34 hits through 36, DeJong 19 extra-base hits (10 2B, 9 HR), and 40 hits. One difference is Bellinger walks a lot more. Bellinger also kept it going well beyond game No. 36. That will be DeJong’s challenge.
- The Cards and Cubs are tied, which isn’t a shock. But it’s at 43-45.
San Diego Padres
- Padres manager Andy Green is said by sources to have received a three-year deal plus at least one team option, meaning he is under contract through at least 2018, same as GM A.J. Preller. No contract length had ever been announced, though former beat writer Corey Brock suggested that it sounded that way upon Green’s hiring. Green also received a fourth-year option (at least one option) but it was just three guaranteed years. In any case, the Padres are believed to very much like Green.
- All-Star reliever Brad Hand is said to be getting huge interest. Besides the Yankees and Nats, it is believed the Dodgers, Cubs, Brewers, Royals, Angels and Mariners could be players for Hand. “There’s nothing really I could do. I like it in San Diego,” said Hand, who surely liked making the All-Star team when the game was in Miami, where he shuttled between starting and relieving and never really took hold. He didn’t blame the Marlins, however.
- The Padres are getting calls on Jhoulys Chacin, Garrett Richard and the like. Their one-year, $1.75M pitching program seems like a good idea now.
- As usual they are open to just about everything. Wil Myers and many Margot are the least likely to be dealt, however.
San Francisco Giants
- One NL scout remarked, “The NL West is a show. When the Giants come back in ’18 or ’19 it will be the big-time division.”
- It’s a stunner the Giants have had this type of season. “Obviously, we’re surprised,” Buster Posey said. “We didn’t anticipate being where we are. What’re you going to do? What’s done is done. All we can do is get some momentum and take it into next year.”
- Best wishes to Michael Morse who’s still batting the concussion suffered when he and ex-Notre Dame football player Jeff Samardzija ran into each other after Giants reliever Hunter Strickland’s idiotic beaning of Bryce Harper.
- Aaron Hill will stay in the game in some capacity if he doesn’t get a playing job.
- The Nationals would love to get Zach Britton. Not only is that obvious, but sources say the Nats have called about Britton.
- Bryce Harper re-affirmed what everyone suspected at the All-Star game: he has the best hair in the game.
- Daniel Murphy swears he doesn’t kill the Mets because he hates the Mets. He isn’t sure what it is. “If I knew it, I promise you I’d try to do it against everyone.” It’s nothing personal, he said. “We’re trying to win the division.” He just thinks he feels comfortable at Citi Field. Nice try, but we’ll still go with the “hate” theory.