MLB Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz on Chase Headley, Bartolo Colon and More

Most of Major League Baseball's best players were on hand as Yoenis Cespedes won the 2014 Home Run Derby, but team executives likely spent the night working the phones and trying to work whatever deals they're pursuing before the July 31 non-waiver deadline.

David Price is the biggest name on the market this year, and there remains a strong chance that the Tampa Bay Rays deal him by the end of the month.

Along with that potential trade are other smaller, but no less inconsequential, moves that could help teams bracing for postseason runs.

 

Chase Headley

Teams looking to add offense before the trade deadline don't have too many options. As a result, you're seeing guys like Chase Headley at the top of some teams' shopping lists. According to CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman, "four or five" teams are registering early interest in the San Diego Padres star.

One of the biggest roadblocks for potential suitors is Headley's performance. He's hitting .226 this year with seven home runs and 29 RBI.

As Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times pointed out, though, it's as if Headley knows he's on the trade block and is reacting accordingly:

In 12 July games, the third baseman boasts a slash line of .327/.327/.462 with one homer and six RBI.

Headley is a free agent at the end of the year, so time is running out if the Padres want to unload the veteran and still get something in return.

 

Bartolo Colon

It's 2014, and Bartolo Colon may be an in-demand trade target for MLB teams. That's insane, right?

The 41-year-old is having a solid season, posting an 8-8 record with an ERA of 3.99 and a FIP of 3.66. Those numbers aren't as good as what he was doing with the Oakland Athletics last season but still impressive nonetheless.

The New York Mets aren't going anywhere, and with another year left on Colon's deal, they'd be smart to see if they can get anything for him before the trade deadline.

According to ESPNNewYork.com's Adam Rubin, the Mets aren't desperate for a deal, but they're willing to listen:

The New York Mets have made right-hander Bartolo Colon available as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline nears, industry sources told ESPNNewYork.com.

[...]

The Mets are not yet believed to be engaged in serious talks about Colon, and it is not a foregone conclusion that he will be dealt, but a major league source predicted dialogue would increase in the next week. An August trade remains possible, too, via a team making a waiver claim.

Colon would be a good back-end starter for some team competing for the playoffs. Neither the cost nor the risk would be very high.

 

Huston Street

Heyman also reported on another Padre who could be on the move: Huston Street. The veteran closer is garnering interest from a few different teams:

Street looks like the most desirable closing candidate on the market and the ninth inning has been the Angels' one question during a strong first half. They've also scouted Jonathan Papelbon of the Phillies, but his salary is much higher, his contract is longer and it includes a dicey vesting option for a third year. Street is desirable not only because he has pitched brilliantly this year, but he also because he makes just $7 million this year and has a team friendly $7 million club option for next year.

The Pirates are said to be among other teams to check in on Street, with the Orioles and Giants mentioned in a speculative sense as possibilities. Both those teams seem more focused on starting pitchers, however. The Tigers have not indiucated an interest in acquiring a new closer and seem content with veteran Joe Nathan at the moment.

The 30-year-old isn't operating under any pretense that he'll be back in San Diego for next season, as per ESPN's Jim Bowden and MLB.com's Jane Lee:

Street is having a great season, recording 24 saves with an ERA of 1.09 and a FIP of 2.90. You're not going to find a better closer in this year's trade market. And with that $7 million option for 2015, he'll come at a relatively cheap price next year.

Some team will likely meet San Diego's asking price and grab Street before the deadline.

 

Advanced stats via Fangraphs unless otherwise noted. 

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Home Run Derby 2014: Most Disappointing Results from Monday Night’s Event

Well, that could've gone better. Major League Baseball swung for the fences with the new structure it implemented for the 2014 Home Run Derby, and those changes backfired in a big way.

Yoenis Cespedes beat Todd Frazier in the final, but most fans were left burnt out after Monday's event went on and on and on and on. All that was missing was Bud Selig to come out and declare it a draw because there weren't any pitchers left.

On an underwhelming night at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota, these three things stuck out the most.

 

Yasiel Puig Goes 0-fer

Fans were denied any Yasiel Puig home runs, which means fans were denied the patented Puig bat flip. Remember how Cespedes won last year's Derby? Puig would've made that look like Cespedes gently placed the bat on the ground, tucked it into bed and read it a story before it fell asleep.

We can only assume he would've because he didn't hit any home runs.

The problem was clearly Robinson Cano's dad, per ESPN Stats and Info:

In a few weeks, of course, nobody will remember this, and it won't preclude Puig from enjoying his first All-Star Game, per Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times:

But it felt like the fans were robbed to a certain extent on Monday night. Almost everybody wanted to see what the Los Angeles Dodgers star would do, and he did almost next to nothing.

If that's not disappointing, then what is?

 

Jose Bautista and Giancarlo Stanton Are Victims of the System

You'd think that hitting the most home runs in the first round would be a bonus to the hitter. Instead, it served as the beginning of the end for Jose Bautista and Giancarlo Stanton. The duo combined to hit 16 dingers in the opening round but followed up with only four in the third round, and both stars were subsequently eliminated.

Bautista and Stanton were clearly off their games, a result of the amount of time they were forced to wait until their numbers were called. For the former, it was nearly two hours:

If MLB wants to overhaul its overhaul, that's gotta be one of the first places to start. The guys who hit the most home runs shouldn't then be punished.

 

Justin Morneau and Brian Dozier Bow Out Early

This last point isn't any fault of the new Derby structure; Justin Morneau and Brian Dozier simply weren't good enough.

It would've been awesome to see the two face off in the final, or at the very least have one of them make a deep run. Both Dozier and Morneau had the Minneapolis crowd eating out of the palm of their hands, the former because he's a Minnesota Twin and the latter because of his past years of service with the Twins.

You would've thought that Monday night would've belonged to Dozier since he plays at Target Field on a regular basis. Instead, he never got into a groove. Perhaps the pressure got to him a little bit.

Morneau's struggles were a little more predictable considering eight of his 13 home runs and 39 of his 60 runs batted in have come at Coors Field this year.

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2014 Home Run Derby Results: Convoluted Structure Still Led to Deserving Winner

To be honest, I'm not sure how Yoenis Cespedes won the 2014 Home Run Derby, but he was clearly the best on the night, so it all worked out in the end.

In an effort to try to make the Home Run Derby more interesting and draw in more fans, Major League Baseball opted for a league-based bracket structure. You wouldn't think that guys hitting a baseball over a fence could become unbelievably confusing, but MLB made it happen.

Trying to explain it all would be akin to Kenny Mayne and Dan Patrick breaking down the Denslow Cup.

All you need to know is Cespedes beat Todd Frazier in the final after what felt like an eternity, and most fans would agree that justice was done. It would've been regressive to introduce this entirely new format and then watch somebody back into the Derby title.

Look at this stat, courtesy of ESPN's Jayson Stark. No offense to Frazier, but he had no business winning on Monday night:

That was a disaster averted for the Home Run Derby. Jose Bautista couldn't get so lucky.

He hit 10 home runs in the first round, but since he had a bye in the second round, he didn't get to bat again until much later in the competition, by which time he was extremely rusty. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the wait was nearly two hours long:

Cespedes beat Bautista, 7-4, in the third round and subsequently knocked off Frazier. You can see the full results below.

The Home Run Derby is largely irrelevant in a player's overall legacy. Nobody lists the number of Derby wins on somebody's Hall of Fame resume.

What the event can do is make fans truly appreciate a facet of a hitter's game they might not have known existed.

In his two full seasons in the majors, the Oakland A's star hasn't hit more than 26 home runs. He's not what you'd judge strictly a slugger; however, he is the kind of hitter who excels in the Home Run Derby. Cespedes has prodigious power that allows him to hit the ball out of the yard almost on command.

Consider that he's the first player to repeat in the Home Run Derby in over a decade, per MLB:

Not a man of many words, he said after going back to back, "It was something I wanted to accomplish," per Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register.

Some fans might not be too hot on the Derby, but it's at least allowed Cespedes to receive the credit he so richly deserves.

The 28-year-old suffers from two problems in terms of getting proper recognition: He plays on the West Coast, and more importantly, he plays for the Oakland Athletics. He's basically a slightly lesser version of Yasiel Puig if Puig played 300-plus miles north.

Puig certainly isn't suffering from a lack of attention.

The biggest star in Oakland has always been general manager Billy Beane, and as a result, most of the players go unappreciated. The A's offense has been out of its mind this year, yet the more casual baseball fans either don't care or don't have a clue.

If Monday's labyrinthine Home Run Derby was a chance for one of Oakland's best players to get a little publicity, then it was worth all of the hassle.

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MLB Rumors: Latest Trade Buzz Surrounding Mike Napoli, Ian Kennedy and More

Although the eyes of the baseball world are firmly focused on Minneapolis for the 2014 All-Star Game, team executives are working behind the scenes to finalize deals before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

With the free-agent wells drying up, the trade market is becoming the easiest place to find players who can be the missing piece of the puzzle.

A few high-profile swaps have already been made, and more will surely follow over the coming weeks.

The four players below might want to brace themselves for impending moves.

 

Mike Napoli

Like the Boston Red Sox as a whole, Mike Napoli has failed to recreate his magic from the 2013 season. Although his average is six points higher (.265), his power numbers have declined. Napoli's hit 10 home runs and driven in 34 runs, while his slugging percentage has dropped 50 points to .432.

The 32-year-old still has another year left on his two-year, $32 million deal, so the Red Sox might be looking to unload him now and avoid at least $16 million of that contract.

Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe reported that Boston may be getting some interest.

"There have been trade inquiries made on Napoli, according to a major league source," Cafardo wrote.

He added that Napoli's inability to play frequently at catcher has somewhat diminished his trade market.

 

Ian Kennedy and Huston Street

With the Oakland Athletics strengthening their rotation following the Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija trade, the Los Angeles Angels are hoping to not get left behind in the division.

According to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, the Halos are looking into adding both Ian Kennedy and Huston Street:

The Los Angeles Angels, trailing the A's by 1-1/2 games, are trying to counter their division rivals by targeting both Padres All-Star closer Huston Street and right-hander Ian Kennedy, according to major league sources.

The teams have discussed Street, but their talks have yet to include Kennedy, sources say. In addition, a package deal might be difficult to complete with the Padres controlling both Street and Kennedy through 2015.

The Padres likely will trade their potential free agents, third baseman Chase Headley and outfielder Chris Denorfia. They are taking offers for both Street and setup man Joaquin Benoit. But they are 'lukewarm' on moving Kennedy, sources say.

The Angels have already swapped out Ernesto Frieri for Jason Grilli, but adding Street would give them a much more established closer. The 30-year-old is fresh off getting named to the National League All-Star team, per MLB.com's Corey Brock:

Kennedy would be a solid back-of-the-rotation veteran starter. His 7-9 record belies what's been a good 2014 for him. A FIP of 2.92 illustrates that his success isn't solely down to pitching in Petco Park.

While the deal would lack the kind of impact that the A's additions of Hammel and Samardzija had, Los Angeles would arguably improve after roping in Street and Kennedy.

The only problem for the Angels is that they have a terrible minor league system. They don't have the pieces in the organization to work this trade, so most likely, they'll have to give up at least one major leaguer.

 

Marlon Byrd

The Seattle Mariners have gotten little production out of right field. If they want to continue being a threat in the American League West, they've got to do better than Endy Chavez.

To rectify the issue, the Mariners are sizing up Marlon Byrd, who would waive his no-trade clause, per Ryan Divish of The Seattle Times:

The 36-year-old is continuing his late-career renaissance, boasting a slash line of .265/.316/.483 with 18 home runs and 54 RBI. His power numbers might see a slight decline in a move to Seattle, but he'd still be miles ahead of Chavez and Michael Saunders offensively.

Byrd has at least one more year left on his current deal, with a vesting option for 2016. That isn't an unwieldy contract for the Mariners, making him all the more attractive.

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San Diego Padres Reportedly Interview Kim Ng for GM Position

The San Diego Padres took a major step toward possibly hiring the first female general manager ever after reportedly interviewing Kim Ng for their GM vacancy, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com:

Ng is among the highest-ranking women in baseball, serving as senior vice president for baseball operations for Major League Baseball. There has never been a female GM in MLB or any of the other major sports.

She was assistant GM of the New York Yankees from 1998-01 and had been the Los Angeles Dodgers' assistant GM for nine years before joining the commissioner's office.

Ng interviewed with the Padres in 2009 after Kevin Towers was fired. The job eventually went to Jed Hoyer.

The Padres are having a lot of trouble finding viable candidates, especially after A.J. Hinch and Omar Minaya removed themselves from consideration, per CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman and Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal:

Ng is the eighth person the team has interviewed, per Jeff Sanders of The San Diego Union-Tribune:

Hinch, who serves as the team's assistant GM, told the AP that he "wished (the Padres) well in their search to find the right leader for them."

"In the meantime, my focus will be to continue to work in the best interest of the organization at an important time of the year," he added.

Writing for The San Diego Union-Tribune, Matt Calkins argued that Ng is more than simply a publicity ploy on the part of the Padres and that San Diego should seriously consider her for the position:

Some theorize that she is a token interview—MLB's way of trying to look progressive when, in reality, those positions were never within her reach. But that can't be the case. Not when Ng has achieved as much as she has with as many teams as she's worked for.

No, what is more likely true is that nobody has been willing to take a chance on her. Nobody wants to be the guy who got suckered into hiring a woman when it becomes evident she was in over her head.

Well, this is the Padres' chance to be bold. This is President Mike Dee's opportunity to make what would be both the correct and historical choice.

There's no question that hiring Ng would be a major gamble for San Diego. Appointing a new GM is always a leap of faith, but this would obviously be a much different situation.

The organization would be viewed as a joke by some critics who think that hiring a female GM is somehow beneath an MLB team.

However, the fact that Ng has continued to rise in a male-dominated field is a testament to her ability. She wouldn't have gotten as far as she has if she wasn't extremely good at her job.

The Padres have one winning season since 2008 and haven't made the playoffs since 2006. They clearly need an organizational shakeup, and maybe Ng is the person who can make that happen.

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2014 MLB All-Star Roster: Sluggers Who Will Put on a Show in Midsummer Classic

Much has been made about how much pitchers are continuing to dominate Major League Baseball. Maybe the 2014 All-Star Game can be a welcome change of pace.

This is not to say that baseball should go back to the polarizing Steroid Era, but the pendulum has swung a bit too far toward pitching and defense. Fans love to see offense, and they love to see the baseball leave the yard.

The Midsummer Classic has no shortage of studs who can—for one night at least—give the viewing public some pure, unadulterated offense.

 

Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers

In the All-Star Game, Yasiel Puig can flip bats to his heart's content. In fact, don't be surprised that when he's patrolling the outfield in between pitches, he kills the time by honing the exact angle and strength necessary to pull off the perfect bat flip.

In all seriousness, not since Manny Ramirez in his prime has one player been so unpredictable on the field—in a good way. One moment, Puig makes an insane diving catch that should've broken his wrist. The next, he messes up something as simple as hitting the cutoff man.

In the All-Star Game, Puig can do all the risky things he does normally but not have to deal with any of the consequences.

 

Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins

Nobody hits the ball farther than Giancarlo Stanton. According to ESPN's Home Run Tracker, the Miami Marlins star ranks first in average true distance for home runs (423.8 feet). The longest of his 21 home runs traveled 484 feet in terms of true distance, while five have gone at least 450 feet.

Four of those five homers were in Marlins Park, which is 25th-worst for home runs, according to ESPN.com.

Target Field will look like a bandbox in comparison.

Stanton is the best power hitter in the major leagues today. When he's up to bat, you know there's a better-than-average chance he'll connect with a pitch and send it into a different plane of existence altogether.

 

Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

Although he's walked 51 times this year, Mike Trout isn't afraid to go out of the strike zone if he sees a pitch he likes. Like Ivan Drago, whatever he hits, he destroys, like this home run he hit off Tony Sipp to give the Los Angeles Angels a 7-6 win over the Houston Astros on July 4, per ESPN Stats and Info's Mark Simon:

Given his versatile skill set, Trout is a player you want to watch on just about every night, including the All-Star Game. He can make a highlight-reel catch just as easily as he can hit a mammoth home run.

The 22-year-old also knows that he's carrying the Angels banner all by himself after no other LA players got in.

"It sucks," he said, per Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. "I can't take it away from the A's, they're playing great baseball over there, but seeing [Garrett] Richards and [shortstop Erick] Aybar pitch and play every day ... I don't know. It's tough."

Maybe he'll take some of that anger with him to Minneapolis and release it on National League pitching.

 

Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland Athletics

Like his Cuban counterpart, Yoenis Cespedes is always a ton of fun to watch. He's a great hitter with a great arm.

The 28-year-old didn't take part in the All-Star Game last year, but he stole the show during the festivities with his win in the Home Run Derby. Jane Lee of MLB.com reported that Cespedes will most likely defend his crown:

That can be a double-edged sword in terms of the All-Star Game. You always love to see a champion try to repeat, but taking part in the Derby might tire him out before next Tuesday night.

Luckily, his contributions don't have to strictly come from the plate.

It's not necessarily offense, but Cespedes might also get an opportunity show off that cannon of a right arm he has.

You can watch him throwing out Albert Pujols and Howie Kendrick all day. Here's to hoping MLB institutes an "Outfield Assist Contest" next year.

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2014 MLB All-Star Game: Top Debutants to Watch in Midsummer Classic

Although Major League Baseball desperately wants you to care about the All-Star Game, it really is a glorified exhibition. But that doesn't mean fans cannot have fun watching it.

Plenty of stars are making their All-Star Game debuts this year. Some players probably should've gotten in during other years, while others are riding the momentum of breakout campaigns to Target Field.

The four players below are all appearing in their first Midsummer Classic.

 

Jose Altuve, Houston Astros

The fact that Jose Altuve wasn't named a starter is ridiculous, but he made it, and that's all that counts. Nobody remembers how many All-Star Games a guy started.

The Houston Astros' rebuilding plan has been much discussed. If Altuve's development is a sign of things to come, then maybe it's not crazy to call the franchise 2017 World Series champions. Few players have had the first half that the 24-year-old second baseman has:

Altuve's game isn't exactly conducive to producing a memorable All-Star moment, but this is what the game is all about: celebrating the best players in baseball. No second baseman is having a better year than Altuve, and the 2014 All-Star Game is his just reward.

 

Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox

Bo Jackson's home run in the 1989 All-Star Game remains the stuff of legend. In the first inning of his first and only All-Star Game, he sent Rick Reuschel's pitch over the wall in center field.

That's one of the visuals most often used to demonstrate Jackson's prodigious talent.

Jose Abreu has the capability of creating a singular moment just like that. He and Nelson Cruz are tied for the major league lead in home runs, with 27. Only Mark McGwire in 1987 hit more homers for a rookie, as per ESPN Stats & Info:

Abreu isn't the kind of home run hitter who gets a ton of distance. According to ESPN's Home Run Tracker, his true average distance is 402.3 feet, and the farthest homer he's hit went a true distance of 443 feet. For comparison's sake, Giancarlo Stanton's numbers are 423.8 and 484, respectively.

Still, among this year's first-timers, Abreu is most likely to steal the show with a massive moonshot.

 

Josh Donaldson, Oakland Athletics

One year on, it's still anybody's guess as to how Josh Donaldson missed out on last year's All-Star Game. He only ended up finishing fourth in the American League MVP voting. That was certainly not one of Jim Leyland's smarter decisions.

Even Miguel Cabrera seemingly admitted that his manager made a mistake last season.

"Josh Donaldson is great, he deserves it," Cabrera said, per Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. "He’s been consistent for two years. He’s done what it takes to make the team—and I hope he will."

Although it's one year too late, Donaldson's All-Star debut is well deserved.

 

Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers

Four words: Yasiel Puig bat flip.

If Puig hits a home run in the All-Star Game, he should fling the bat so high that it knocks the International Space Station out of orbit. Heck, he should do it on ground balls. Whenever he's up to bat, the fans need to see bat flips.

Few players are more tailor-made for an exhibition like this than the Los Angeles Dodgers star.

He can break as many unwritten rules of the game, and nobody's gonna care. Puig is one of the most fun players to watch with his mix of great plays, flaunting of unwritten rules and occasional boneheaded-ness.

Now, he can be completely uninhibited.

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2014 MLB All-Star Roster: Highlighting Top Snubs After Voting Results Reveal

It's officially summer. Every baseball fan is complaining about the All-Star Game.

Some would argue that discussion about the biggest snubs from the Midsummer Classic is a foolish pursuit. What's the big deal, right?

The problem is that the number of All-Star Games a player participates in are often used as one of the measuring sticks to determine his Hall of Fame candidacy. There's also the little matter of this game determining home-field advantage for the World Series.

If this game is truly supposed to matter, you want the best players taking part.

You can see the full rosters for each All-Star team below, courtesy of MLB.com.

These four players are somehow absent.

 

Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians

The Cleveland Indians starting rotation has been a complete mess this year. The one shining light is Corey Kluber.

Although he only boasts an 8-6 record, Kluber has a 2.99 ERA with 137 strikeouts, which is fourth in the American League. His FIP (fielding-independent pitching, scaled like ERA) of 2.65 illustrates exactly how great he's been this year and how bad his defense has been. According to Fangraphs, only Felix Hernandez has a lower FIP in the American League.

If you want to know just how little help Kluber is getting from his defense, opposing hitters are batting .332 against him, sixth-highest among qualified pitchers. His teammate, Justin Masterson, is fifth.

Despite what's been by far the best year of his career, Kluber will have to wait until somebody else drops out in order to make the trip to Minneapolis.

 

Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox

The AL is loaded with quality starting pitchers, so Kluber's snub is somewhat excusable. What's the excuse for leaving off Chris Sale?

As Tyler Kepner of the New York Times pointed out, the Chicago White Sox ace might be the best pitcher in baseball, period. However, that's not good enough to earn inclusion to the All-Star Game:

In 13 starts this year, Sale has an 8-1 record, with an ERA of 2.16 and a FIP of 2.49. He also leads the AL in adjusted ERA+ at 188, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

Some might argue that Sale didn't earn an All-Star place since he missed part of the season. Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan astutely noted that that didn't stop Clayton Kershaw from making the National League roster:

Seriously, what's the deal here?

The fact that Kluber and Sale are both in the "Final Vote" is little consolation. They should be there already.

 

Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins

Wins above replacement might be anathema for some baseball fans, but it's at least a solid representation of a player's production. Brian Dozier, despite hitting .235, has the third-highest WAR among all second basemen in the major leagues. He's also playing for the Minnesota Twins, which are hosting the All-Star Game.

Surely that's all good enough to get him named to the AL roster. Or not.

Dozier did find the silver lining in all of this, as per Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press in St. Paul:

If Dozier's not gonna be in the All-Star Game, then at least he can catch up with some of his family members. They'll truly appreciate how good he's been.

 

Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals

Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post believes that Anthony Rendon and Matt Carpenter were in contention for the final reserve third baseman role for the National League, and Rendon lost out:

If that was the case, the Washington Nationals star should've earned the place ahead of Carpenter. The two have identical .282 batting averages, but Rendon has eight more home runs, 18 more RBI, a slugging percentage nearly 100 points higher and a 61-point edge in OPS.

According to Fangraphs, Rendon also owns a slight advantage in WAR, 3.2 versus Carpenter's 3.0. Even when you consider how much better Carpenter is defensively, he still hasn't had as good of a year as Rendon.

At least he's on the "Final Vote" ballot. Ian Desmond implored Nats fans everywhere to get out and vote for their player:

With Justin Morneau—possibly earning some votes from Minnesota Twins fans—and Anthony Rizzo also on the ballot, it will be hard for Rendon to make it to Target Field.

 

Note: All stats are courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise noted.

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2014 MLB All-Star Roster: Highlighting Top Snubs After Voting Results Reveal

It's officially summer. Every baseball fan is complaining about the All-Star Game.

Some would argue that discussion about the biggest snubs from the Midsummer Classic is a foolish pursuit. What's the big deal, right?

The problem is, that the number of All-Star Games a player participates in are often used as one of the measuring sticks to determine his Hall of Fame candidacy. There's also the little matter of this game determining home-field advantage for the World Series.

If this game is truly supposed to matter, you want the best players taking part.

You can see the full rosters for each All-Star team below, courtesy of MLB.com.

Somehow absent are these four players.

 

Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians

The Cleveland Indians' starting rotation has been a complete mess this year. The one shining light is Corey Kluber.

Although he only boasts an 8-6 record, Kluber has a 2.99 ERA with 137 strikeouts, which is fourth in the American League. His FIP (fielding-independent pitching, scaled like ERA) of 2.65 illustrates exactly how great he's been this year and how bad his defense has been. According to FanGraphs, only Felix Hernandez has a lower FIP in the American League.

If you want to know just how little help Kluber is getting from his defense, opposing hitters are batting .332 against him, sixth-highest among qualified pitchers. His teammate, Justin Masterson, is fifth.

Despite what's been by far the best year of his career, Kluber will have to wait until somebody else drops out in order to make the trip to Minneapolis.

 

Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox

The AL is loaded with quality starting pitchers, so Kluber's snub is somewhat excusable. What's the excuse for leaving off Chris Sale?

As Tyler Kepner of the New York Times pointed out, the Chicago White Sox ace might be the best pitcher in baseball, period. However, that's not good enough to earn inclusion to the All-Star Game:

In 13 starts this year, Sale has an 8-1 record, with an ERA of 2.16 and a FIP of 2.49. He also leads the AL in adjusted ERA+ at 188, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

Some might argue that Sale didn't earn an All-Star place since he missed part of the season. Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan astutely noted that that didn't stop Clayton Kershaw from making the National League roster:

Seriously, what's the deal here?

The fact that Kluber and Sale are both in the "Final Vote" is little consolation. They should be there already:

 

Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins

Wins above replacement might be anathema for some baseball fans, but it's at least a solid representation of a player's production. Brian Dozier, despite hitting .235, has the third-highest WAR among all second basemen in the major leagues. He's also playing for the Minnesota Twins, who are hosting the All-Star Game.

Surely that's all good enough to get him named to the AL roster. Or not.

Dozier did find the silver lining in all of this, per Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press in St. Paul:

If Dozier's not gonna be in the All-Star Game, then at least he can catch up with some of his family members. They'll truly appreciate how good he's been.

 

Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals

Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post believes that Anthony Rendon and Matt Carpenter were in contention for the final reserve third baseman role for the National League, and Rendon lost out:

If that was the case, the Washington Nationals star should've earn the place ahead of Carpenter. The two have identical .282 batting averages, but Rendon has eight more home runs, 18 more RBI, a slugging percentage nearly 100 points higher and a 61-point edge in OPS.

According to FanGraphs, Rendon also owns a slight advantage in WAR, 3.2 versus Carpenter's 3.0. Even when you consider how much better Carpenter is defensively, he still hasn't had as good of a year as Rendon.

At least he's on the "Final Vote" ballot. Ian Desmond implored Nats fans everywhere to get out and vote for their player:

With Justin Morneau—possibly earning some votes from Minnesota Twins fans—and Anthony Rizzo also on the ballot, it will be hard for Rendon to make it to Target Field.

 

Note: All stats are courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise noted.

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Alfonso Soriano Designated for Assignment by Yankees

The New York Yankees have designated veteran Alfonso Soriano for assignment, manager Joe Girardi announced Sunday, per Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News:

According to Meredith Marakovits of the YES Network, the Yankees made the move in order to add a pitcher. Soriano's offensive dip also provided motivation for the decision:

Girardi and Yankees management didn't blithely DFA the 38-year-old, as Daniel Barbarisi of The Wall Street Journal believed the manager grappled with the decision:

Girardi commented that the hard part is not knowing what the future holds, per Yankees play-by-play man Michael Kay:

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman also spoke about the decision to move Soriano with Joel Sherman of the New York Post:

Weep not for Soriano, though, since he's still counting the money from the massive eight-year, $136 million deal he received from the Chicago Cubs in 2006, per Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com:

If you simply look at the numbers, you can understand why New York feels Soriano is expendable.

After getting traded to the Yankees from the Cubs last year, he looked like his old self, hitting .256 with 17 home runs and 50 RBI in 58 games.    

However, in 2014, his average dropped to .221, while his power numbers are down precipitously to six homers and 23 RBI in 67 games. MLB.com's Andrew Simon found the best indicator to signify Soriano's offensive decline:

Considering how much money he's still due for this year, Soriano will almost certainly clear waivers.

Once he's a free agent, some team might take a flier in the hope that he can return to his form. Having a player with his track record and experience coming off the bench could be a valuable asset come playoff time for a contender.

Meanwhile, the Yankees can use that open roster spot to help improve a pitching staff that ranks 21st in ERA (3.95), 23rd in quality starts (42) and 19th in opponents' batting average (.256). They already made a move earlier Sunday to acquire right-hander Brandon McCarthy from the Arizona Diamondbacks, so it will be interesting to see what they do next.

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Edwin Encarnacion Injury: Updates on Blue Jays Star’s Leg and Return

Updates from Sunday, July 6

Edwin Encarnacion is "certain" to end up on the disabled list, according to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports: 

Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com previously reported the latest diagnosis for Encarnacion:

Earlier in the day, Scott MacArthur of TSN confirmed that Encarnacion is not in Sunday's lineup:

Will Carroll of Bleacher Report also weighed in on Encarnacion's status:

On Saturday night, manager John Gibbons spoke about the the possibility of the disabled list for Encarnacion (via Shi Davidi of Sportsnet):

I’d be very surprised if it wasn’t a DL, for a couple of weeks at least. I don’t know that for sure yet.

Original Text

Canadians haven't had any luck lately. First, Milos Raonic and Eugenie Bouchard were eliminated at Wimbledon. Now, the Toronto Blue Jays have lost Edwin Encarnacion to injury. The first baseman left Saturday night's game in the first inning against the Oakland Athletics after hurting his leg, per Shi Davidi of Sportsnet:

MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm reported specifics:

Encarnacion has been one of the Blue Jays' best hitters this season.

He drove in a run on Saturday to boost his total to 70 RBI on the season, which is tied with Nelson Cruz for the major league lead. The 31-year-old is also one behind Cruz and Jose Abreu for the major league lead in home runs with 26 dingers. 

The Blue Jays will have four days off in a couple weeks for the All-Star Game to help Encarnacion recover, but depending on the severity of the injury, it may not matter.

Few players have been more integral to Toronto's success this season. With the Baltimore Orioles tied with them for the American League East lead and the New York Yankees only three games back, the Blue Jays may find themselves slowly slipping down the division standings the longer that their first baseman is off the field.

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MLB All-Star Voting 2014: Predictions for Stars Who Will Be Overlooked

Arguing about the All-Star Game voting snubs is a bit of a futile endeavor. Most of the players discussed will get into the game anyway through either the manager selections or final vote. But that's not going to stop anybody from doing it.

Ideally, the All-Star voting is a meritocratic process rather than a popularity contest. The best players get the most votes, and everybody is happy. That's not how it goes, though. Fans will vote for their favorite players no matter what they've done on the field.

The five players listed below will most likely be making the trip to Minneapolis, so there really isn't too much to be worked up about. But that doesn't mean my sense of indignation at their perceived slights isn't high for no reason.

 

Jose Altuve, Houston Astros

Most of the time, you trust the fans to if not make the right decision, then at least make something close to the right decision. But there's no accounting for this. According to the July 1 results, Jose Altuve was fourth in the All-Star voting at second base.

He leads the majors in hits (121) and is second in batting average (.347) and stolen bases (37). Yep, seems legit.

The 24-year-old is also coming off a blistering June:

There's no reason that Altuve shouldn't start the All-Star Game. He's been one of the best offensive players in the majors in 2014. Maybe once the Houston Astros turn things around, he'll get the credit he deserves.

 

Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays

Most MLB fans couldn't possibly envision anybody else starting at first base for the American League ahead of Miguel Cabrera. Never mind that Edwin Encarnacion has more home runs, runs batted in and walks, not to mention a higher slugging percentage and OPS.

The All-Star Game isn't a cumulative achievement—except in the case of a retiring star like Derek Jeter. You vote for the players who are having the best seasons.

Cabrera might be the two-time reigning AL MVP, but the fact of the matter is that Encarnacion is having a better season statistically. While this isn't as egregious as Altuve being fourth in the ballot, it's a slight nonetheless.

 

Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals

The AL catcher vote is a complete mess. The top vote-getter is out for the season, while the guy behind him is more of a platoon hitter.

Derek Norris has been very good in his limited at-bats. Eight home runs, 35 RBI and a .309 average are nothing to scoff at.

With all due respect, getting voted into the All-Star Game should be reserved for players who are a little more full time, though.

Salvador Perez has been improving with each month. His average jumped from .211 in April to .262 in May and then .347 in June. Sixteen of his 29 RBI also came in June.

Perez has been the much better defensive catcher, too. His .324 caught-stealing percentage is nearly 200 points higher than Norris' (.133).

 

Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers

Pretty much everybody has seen that Jonathan Lucroy All-Star propaganda video by now. That video alone should be good enough to get him in.

Like the Encarnacion/Cabrera debate, the NL catcher race boils down to reputation vs. production. We've come to recognize Yadier Molina as the best catcher in the world, but so far this year, the numbers don't bear that out.

Lucroy is hitting .331 with eight homers and 43 RBI, compared to .287, seven and 28, respectively, for Molina. Lucroy's slugging percentage and OPS are at least 100 points higher than Molina's. The St. Louis Cardinals star does own the defensive advantage, but the gap between the two in that respect isn't enough to outweigh Lucroy's obvious offensive superiority.

 

Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins

The National League has a wealth of great outfielders, so one or two qualified candidates are bound to finish on the outside looking in no matter how the voting shakes out.

More than likely, one of those players will be Giancarlo Stanton. The 24-year-old leads the NL in both home runs (21) and RBI (61). Far from being just a slugger, he also boasts a batting average of .313 and an on-base percentage of .410.

"This guy is having an unbelievable year," Miami Marlins manager Mike Redmond said, per MLB.com's Joe Frisaro. "I'm so happy for him. I talk about him all time, about how much he means to our team. We need to get him in that starting lineup. He deserves that."

Stanton will struggle to unseat any of Yasiel Puig, Carlos Gomez and Andrew McCutchen, but he deserves to get in ahead of one of those candidates.

 

Note: All stats are courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise noted.

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Manny Ramirez Belts Home Run, Flips Bat For Cubs’ Triple-A Affiliate in Iowa

Manny Ramirez has still got it—well, at least some of it.

The 12-time MLB All-Star hit his first home run of the year for the Iowa Cubs—the Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs—on Monday night. It certainly turned back the clock for those who watched "Man-Ram" mash 555 big-league homers.

Ramirez is with Iowa to serve as a player-coach, helping along some of the organization's most promising hitters.

Sometimes, it's best to lead by example.

Ramirez's home run couldn't have come at a better time, either, as it helped spark a late comeback. The Cubs eventually beat the Omaha Storm Chasers, 7-6, in 10 innings.

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Victor Martinez Injury: Updates on Tigers Star’s Side and Return

Detroit Tigers fans' hearts likely skipped a beat when they heard that Victor Martinez would be out of the lineup for Monday's game against the Oakland Athletics.    

According to Chris Iott of MLive.com, though, Martinez is only suffering from soreness in his side:

The Tigers are swapping out one Martinez for another, with J.D. stepping into the DH role for the time being:

Manager Brad Ausmus revealed that the decision was more precautionary so as not to have Martinez miss any more time than necessary, per Jason Beck of MLB.com:

The 35-year-old is one of the players the Tigers could least afford to lose for a long period of time. Heading into Monday, he was third in the American League in batting average (.323) and fourth in home runs (20). He's been exactly the kind of offensive threat who can ease the pressure on Miguel Cabrera and protect him in the lineup.

As long as Martinez isn't out for a prolonged period of time, the Tigers should be fine. Losing him for a game or two now won't have a huge impact on the team.

After that terrible start to June, Detroit has found its form again, winning eight of its last 10 games and building a 3.5-game lead over the Kansas City Royals. The Tigers look to be hitting their stride once again and have firmly positioned themselves as the best team in the AL Central.

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Victor Martinez Injury: Updates on Tigers Star’s Side and Return

Detroit Tigers fans' hearts likely skipped a beat when they heard that Victor Martinez would be out of the lineup for Monday's game against the Oakland Athletics.    

According to Chris Iott of MLive.com, though, Martinez is only suffering from soreness in his side:

The Tigers are swapping out one Martinez for another, with J.D. stepping into the DH role for the time being:

Manager Brad Ausmus revealed that the decision was more precautionary so as not to have Martinez miss any more time than necessary, per Jason Beck of MLB.com:

The 35-year-old is one of the players the Tigers could least afford to lose for a long period of time. Heading into Monday, he was third in the American League in batting average (.323) and fourth in home runs (20). He's been exactly the kind of offensive threat who can ease the pressure on Miguel Cabrera and protect him in the lineup.

As long as Martinez isn't out for a prolonged period of time, the Tigers should be fine. Losing him for a game or two now won't have a huge impact on the team.

After that terrible start to June, Detroit has found its form again, winning eight of its last 10 games and building a 3.5-game lead over the Kansas City Royals. The Tigers look to be hitting their stride once again and have firmly positioned themselves as the best team in the AL Central.

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Jason Grilli to Angels: Latest Trade Details, Comments and Reaction

The Los Angeles Angels swapped one disappointing closer for another, sending Ernesto Frieri to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Jason Grilli.

The Pirates officially announced the move on Twitter:

In 34 appearances this season, Frieri is 0-3 with a 6.39 ERA and 11 saves. Grilli's been only slightly better, posting an 0-2 record, 4.87 ERA and 11 saves in 22 appearances. The two have combined to blow seven saves.

Mike Scioscia has already confirmed that Grilli will only be given late-inning duties to start out, per Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times:

The L.A. Times' Mike DiGiovanna reported that Joe Smith will take over as the team's closer:

Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto is banking on the trade to help Grilli return to his 2013 form, per Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register:

Grantland's Jonah Keri doesn't think that these kinds of closer swaps happen often:

Rob Neyer of FoxSports.com argued that neither team will really win the trade this year, with both pitchers' projections for the rest of the season in line with one another:

At least with Grilli, the Angels are getting a more experienced pitcher who's had a more consistent stretch over the last few years. It's easy to forget that the 37-year-old made the National League All-Star team last year. He finished tied for seventh in the NL in saves, with 33.

Although Grilli's performance has tailed off this season, it's not even close to Frieri's decline from last year to now. The guy who saved 37 games is nowhere to be seen.

Perhaps the change of scenery will help both players. The Angels are hopeful that Grilli can regain some confidence and eventually be transitioned back into the closer role. If that happens, Smith will be able to move back to late-inning duty, where he's been used throughout his career.

This was a low-risk deal from Los Angeles' perspective, and if it can get back a consistent closer, then offloading Frieri will have been more than worth it.

 

Note: All stats are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Grady Sizemore and Phillies Agree to Contract: Latest Details and Reaction

Grady Sizemore's next stop in his attempted career resurrection has taken him to the Philadelphia Phillies. The three-time MLB All-Star signed a minor league contract with the organization and will report to the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs on Thursday, per MLBRosterMoves:

According to CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman, Sizemore will have the option to opt out in July:

By now, most fans are aware of the 31-year-old's career trajectory. He was one of the most exciting players in the league with the Cleveland Indians from 2005 to 2008. Sizemore ran into injuries in 2009 and never fully kicked the problem.

The Boston Red Sox took a flier on him this year, but in 185 at-bats, he hit a meager .216 with two home runs and 15 RBI. The Red Sox designated him for assignment on June 17.

FanGraphs' David Cameron joked about the Phillies needing another player 30-plus years old with a checkered medical history:

Zachary D. Rymer of Bleacher Report echoed the sentiment, calling the move typical of general manager Ruben Amaro:

The last-place Phillies aren't exactly in a position of strength, though. When Sizemore was designated for assignment by the Red Sox, Ace of MLB Stats compared his slash line with that of Domonic Brown, who has started 73 games for Philadelphia:

At the very least, signing Sizemore, especially to a minor league deal, carries very little risk. Last year, nobody thought Scott Kazmir would be a viable starting pitcher for the Indians and then he went on to win 10 games and earn a nice contract with the Oakland Athletics in the offseason.

Sometimes, teams catch lightning in a bottle with oft-injured former All-Stars.  

Maybe Philadelphia is the right place at the right time for Sizemore and he returns somewhat to the player he was in his prime. If it doesn't work out, the Phillies have little invested financially and can let him go later in the year.

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