MLB Trade Deadline 2014: Latest Rumors and Predictions for Available Talent

There really is nothing like the MLB trade deadline in late July. Rumors run rampant, contenders mortgage their future for short-term rentals and losing teams raise the virtual white flag on the season by giving away veteran talent. 

With all that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the latest rumors around the league and offer some predictions on the ultimate destination for some of that available talent.

 

Sam Fuld

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle filled fans in on the latest regarding the Oakland Athletics’ pursuit of Sam Fuld:

Interestingly, Fuld actually started the season in Oakland, so there is some familiarity there on both sides. The A’s could be looking to bolster their depth in the outfield thanks to the neck issues of Coco Crisp and the broken right hand of Craig Gentry, and Fuld could be the perfect fit.

Fuld is 32 years old and sports a .261 batting average this season. He also brings some speed to the table with 13 steals and solid range in the outfield, which makes him an intriguing option for Oakland.

Ultimately, the A’s know what they are getting in Fuld and need some more outfielders if they hope to win the American League West over the Los Angeles Angels. The thought here is that they trade for the speedster.

Prediction: Oakland trades for Fuld.

 

Pittsburgh Pirates 

Jon Morosi of Fox Sports filled fans in on the latest regarding the Pittsburgh Pirates’ quest for more pitching:

Pittsburgh may be an afterthought to some in the race for the postseason, but it is only two games behind Milwaukee entering play Tuesday. A late run is far from out of the question, especially if there are incremental improvements to a pitching staff that ranks 14th in ERA, 14th in WHIP and 15th in batting average against. 

Andrew Miller in particular stands out because he is arguably the best left-handed bullpen option on the market. He sports a 2.45 ERA and an impressive 65 strikeouts in 40.1 innings and has blocked out distractions as the deadline approaches, via Julian Benbow of The Boston Globe:

It’s our job to ignore them and find a way to perform despite them. Whatever it is with distractions—trade rumors or the guy yelling at you in the bullpen or not getting a call you want or whatever it is—it’s our job as professionals to ignore those and go out and perform.

Miller could help solidify the back end of the Pittsburgh pen down the stretch of the season as individual matchups become all the more important. It’s not difficult to imagine a scenario late in September when the Pirates are facing a powerful lefty at the plate with two runners on in the eighth inning.

Miller would certainly improve Pittsburgh’s chances in that situation. If the playoff race comes down to a single game, how that situation unfolds could make or break the entire season.

Prediction: Pittsburgh goes all-out for Miller but ultimately loses him to a contender with more prospects it is willing to offer.

 

Kansas City Royals

Andy Martino of the New York Daily News provided an update on the Kansas City Royals’ pitching situation:

According to major league sources, the Kansas City Royals are considering making a run at one of Monday night’s starters in New York, Colon or Philadelphia’s A.J. Burnett.

This nugget comes with the significant caveat that the Royals might not be able to add the payroll necessary to acquire either pitcher. That will be determined over the next few days, but the team’s evaluators are said to like both veterans.

If financial concerns are at play here, it is difficult to see Kansas City landing both pitchers.

Bartolo Colon is 41 years old and A.J. Burnett is 37, so neither will be seen as a potential long-term investment. Still, a team in Kansas City’s position could use a late-season rental on the mound.

Entering play Tuesday, the Royals were five games back of Detroit and battling with the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays for Wild Card positioning. They are 15th in team ERA, and Colon sports a 3.88 mark in that category, while Burnett checks in at 4.15.

The thought here is that Kansas City rarely has an opportunity to compete for the postseason. The front office will respond accordingly and shore up the rotation by adding the veteran Colon and make a final push for the playoffs.

Prediction: Kansas City trades for Colon.

 

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Yankees Trade Rumors: Latest on New York’s Pursuit of Jon Lester and More

The New York Yankees are currently looking up at the Baltimore Orioles and the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East race, but there probably aren’t a lot of squads feeling sorry for the Bronx Bombers. 

Still, New York is a piece or two away from a run at the playoffs, and the trade deadline is the ideal time to make those moves. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the latest rumors surrounding the Yankees.

 

Jon Lester

Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com filled fans in on the latest regarding Jon Lester:

Of those [interested teams], a source indicated, Toronto has been the most aggressive in its interest.

With Lester a short-term rental -- he's eligible for free agency after the season -- the Red Sox won't be dissuaded from trading him within the division, although that willingness doesn't extend to the rival New York Yankees.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Red Sox have no interest in dealing a game-changer such as Lester to their chief rivals. The Yankees can throw loads of money at Lester when he is a free agent after the season is over, and if he were to help lead them to the postseason this year after a trade, there could be interest in staying put.

Yes, Boston likely wants an impressive package in return for Lester, but helping the Yankees in the process could come back to haunt the Red Sox when they are ready to compete again.

Interestingly, Lester’s agent, Seth Levinson, shot down rumors that Boston wants to trade the lefty because of his pricey demands, via Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com: "The discussions we had with the Red Sox were confidential and will remain that way. There is no truth to the report, and I am not going to guess why it was written or the basis for that report." 

If Lester is demanding big-time money, the Yankees could provide that. However, they would likely love to get him through trade to help out this season.

 

John Danks/Ian Kennedy

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports provided an update on New York’s quest for more starting pitching:

The Yankees are still looking at White Sox left-hander John Danks as a trade possibility in what appears to be a diminishing starters market for them.

Danks may be among the most likely rotation candidates for the Yankees, if not the most likely, as there's no evidence they're even talking to the Padres about Ian Kennedy.

We already reported on the Yankees’ interest in Danks and the possible fit, so the noteworthy thing here is the lack of conversation on Kennedy. New York has lost four of its five starting pitchers from the Opening Day roster, including Masahiro Tanaka to injury, so adding Kennedy would make some sense from a depth perspective.

He sports a 3.66 ERA with 143 strikeouts in 135.1 innings and would provide the Yankees with another arm in a position of need. However, it looks like the Bronx Bombers are more interested in landing other arms, such as Danks, for the time being.

 

Justin Masterson

Speaking of veteran arms, Joel Sherman of the New York Post brought up Justin Masterson as a potential piece for the Yankees:

Justin Masterson fits a profile very similar to that of Brandon McCarthy and Chase Headley: an accomplished player who has struggled this year, makes a good bit of money and is a free agent at the conclusion of the season unlikely to be made the qualifying offer. Oh, and, of course, he is very available.

However, when I checked with the Yankees, he was not on their radar, though they continue to look for a starter upgrade on at least Chris Capuano.

It is probably smart for New York to take a wait-and-see approach when it comes to Masterson. He is dealing with a knee injury on the disabled list but is scheduled to start for Cleveland on Friday.

Yes, that is after the trade deadline, but Masterson’s $9,762,500 contract this year means he could fall through waivers and be available in August. At that point, both New York and Cleveland will have a better idea of where they stand in the playoff race, which could impact a potential trade. 

The Yankees would likely prefer to see some improvement on Masterson’s 5.51 ERA before exploring any potential deals for the veteran.

 

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Yankees Trade Rumors: Latest on New York’s Pursuit of John Danks and More

Lost in all the respect and hoopla surrounding Derek Jeter’s last season as part of the New York Yankees is the fact that the squad is still very much in the race for an American League playoff spot.

Entering play Monday, the Bronx Bombers were four games behind the Baltimore Orioles in the American League East and battling with the Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners and Kansas City Royals for wild-card positioning.

Perhaps a significant move or two at the trade deadline could push the Yankees over the top? 

With that in mind, here is a look at some of the latest rumors coming out of New York.

 

John Danks

Jayson Stark of ESPN.com filled fans in on the latest regarding New York’s potential pursuit of John Danks:

The White Sox had scouts watching the Yankees' system, particularly the minor league catching surplus, in the past few days. It is yet one more indication the Yankees are focused on John Danks in their search for another starting pitcher.

It is certainly interesting that the Yankees are connected with Danks because many teams would take umbrage with his $14.25 million salary the next two years, but probably not New York. Danks may have a 9-6 record, but his 4.40 ERA is certainly far from elite, as are the 17 home runs he has allowed. 

Still, the Yankees pitching staff has taken some lumps in the injury department with CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka. Adding Danks would provide some depth and another solid arm to a rotation that ranks 17th in the league in ERA.

He may not be a game-changer, but Danks would certainly give the Yankees a more formidable pitching group heading into the stretch run.

 

Platoon Search

Despite the pitching staff concerns, there are still some other needs. Stark had another update:

While the Yankees have looked into names like Josh Willingham, other clubs say they appear most focused this week on finding a right-handed hitting platoon partner in right field for Ichiro Suzuki, and one with no long-term salary commitments. So names like Chris Denorfia (Padres) and Justin Ruggiano (Cubs) are more likely than, say, Marlon Byrd or Alex Rios.

Ichiro hasn’t exactly dominated in New York, but he is batting .270 and is still a solid glove in the outfield. If he could platoon with someone consistently at age 40, his production would probably see an uptick. 

None of the names on that list Stark provided is going to single-handedly win the Yankees an American League pennant, but more depth is critical as the wear and tear of the season takes its toll in September. Keeping fresh legs in the outfield, especially one that features older veterans like Ichiro, could be the difference in a future game or two.

 

Looking for Pitching

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports filled fans in on the Yankees’ search for some other more notable names:

The rival Red Sox are said to listening on ace Jon Lester and others now, but he's more likely a winter free-agent consideration for them than a trade possibility for New York.

While Cliff Lee could become an option later if he pitches some better games in his return after a two-month absence with an elbow issue, the Yankees aren't focused on him now since he's all but sure to clear waivers in August and remain a trade candidate.

Lee's teammate Cole Hamels seems barely available, and even if he is, the Yankees probably don't have the upper-level prospects to do such a deal.

That doesn’t exactly seem promising from New York’s perspective, but one American League scout had a more positive take, via Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe:

They have more in their farm system than people think. They have some arms, they have the Aaron Judge kid, [Luis] Severino, [Gary] Sanchez, [Peter] O’Brien, [Eric] Jagielo. If they wanted to make a deal, they have enough to give up.

The name that really jumps out from that list of pitchers is Jon Lester. If the Yankees do pursue him in the offseason, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch seeing them throw big-time money his way. In fact, New York tossing dollars at the best arm on the market is almost a rite of passage for any offseason. 

It’s hard to see Boston trading a pitcher of Lester’s caliber, who just so happens to be among the best lefties in all of baseball, to its chief rival. That being said, stranger things have happened at the MLB trade deadline.

 

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Cubs Trade Rumors: Latest on Chicago’s Pursuit of David Price and More

Fair warning—if you are a player on the Chicago Cubs who is not named Anthony Rizzo, you may very well get traded this season. Just ask Jeff Samardzija, Darwin Barney and Jason Hammel.

The Cubs clearly aren’t going to compete for a postseason berth down the stretch in 2014, and the playoffs in 2015 probably aren’t going to happen either. However, Chicago is loaded with young and talented prospects, including Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Javier Baez, and counts Rizzo and Starlin Castro as potential franchise cornerstones.

Cubs fans may always say “wait ’til next year,” but for once it may just be true in the near future. 

That is why Theo Epstein and Co. are dealing away veteran talent in 2014. The more prospects they can bring to Wrigleyville, the better the future looks. With that in mind, here is a look at the latest from the Windy City.

 

David Price

Bob Nightengale of USA Today filled fans in on the latest regarding Chicago’s potential pursuit of Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price:

If it seems like this sort of flies in the face of everything we discussed in the intro, that’s because it does. Yes, Price is one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, but the Cubs aren’t quite ready to compete yet. Buster Olney of ESPN shared the same sentiments:

The fact that Price is under contract for 2015 certainly makes this a possible avenue for the Cubs if they feel that they are going to compete sooner rather than later. Having a left-handed ace to anchor the rotation is an absolute luxury, but as Olney points out, the prospects are the key here. 

Chicago is hoarding prospects with the hope that more fulfill their potential than don’t. Landing someone of Price’s caliber would not come cheap and may even cost the Cubs one member of their prized trio of Bryant, Russell and Baez.

Going all in on someone like Jon Lester seems like the smarter move at this point.

 

Jake Arrieta 

David Kaplan of CSN Chicago filled fans in on the latest regarding pitcher Jake Arrieta with a noteworthy quote:

Arrieta has been a pleasant surprise for the North Siders this season and is sporting a sparkling 2.18 ERA to go along with a 5-2 record and impressive 1.01 WHIP. What’s more, his batting average against is just above the Mendoza Line at .201, and he is only 28 years old.

That means he still has another few years of his prime remaining, which could coincide nicely with a potential run at a division crown in 2016. Arrieta may not be a front-of-the-rotation ace, but he could be a solid No. 3 pitcher on a playoff team.

Perhaps one day that postseason team will finally be the Chicago Cubs again.

 

Justin Ruggiano

Jayson Stark of ESPN.com provided an update on a potential trade between the Cubs and the New York Yankees:

While the Yankees have looked into names like Josh Willingham, other clubs say they appear most focused this week on finding a right-handed hitting platoon partner in right field for Ichiro Suzuki, and one with no long-term salary commitments. So names like Chris Denorfia (Padres) and Justin Ruggiano (Cubs) are more likely than, say, Marlon Byrd or Alex Rios.

From a Chicago perspective, the name that jumps out is Justin Ruggiano. If Epstein could flip the 32-year-old journeyman for a prospect or two from the Yankees, it would be perfect for the Cubs.

Ruggiano doesn’t figure to be a part of any contending Chicago team within the next few years, but even a middle-of-the-road prospect could help the Cubs down the line. Ruggiano has impressed at times this season with a .296 batting average, but he isn’t in the Cubs’ long-term plans. 

With all these prospects in place, winning may finally be part of those plans.

 

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MLB Trade Rumors: Latest Whispers Surrounding Jon Lester, Cole Hamels and More

Hold on tight, baseball fans, because the next few days figure to be a complete whirlwind. 

The MLB trade deadline is nearly upon us, and contenders are reaching out to the bottom-dwellers of the league in hopes of luring a critical piece or two. Pennants may very well be won or lost with the right move, especially considering the caliber of players who are reportedly on the market.

With that in mind, let’s visit the rumor mill to hear the latest gossip.

 

Jon Lester

Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of Fox Sports filled fans in on the latest regarding Jon Lester and the Boston Red Sox:

Lester is one of the best pitchers in baseball and is anchoring what is otherwise a struggling Boston pitching staff, but the Red Sox may not re-sign him after the year (don’t forget the four-year, $70 million offer they put forth that was borderline ridiculous). If they hope to salvage an enticing prospect package in exchange for the southpaw, they need to trade him this season.

The Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners are both in contention for playoff spots in the American League, and adding a pitcher of Lester’s caliber would obviously be a major boost.

However, any conversations about Lester have to look toward the future because he figures to make major money even though he is on the wrong side of his 30th birthday. He has only missed two starts in the past seven years, so durability isn’t much of an issue, and he sports a sparkling 2.52 ERA this season. 

There is a lot at play here, including talent, prospects, money and age. If a team ultimately decides to trade for Lester, it will come after some serious deliberation on both sides.

 

Cole Hamels 

Speaking of dominating lefties on last-place teams, Morosi fills fans in on the latest regarding Cole Hamels of the Philadelphia Phillies:

Jayson Stark of ESPN had an interesting perspective on the Hamels situation, including a quote from an unnamed executive:

Hamels has four years left on his contract after this season, at $22.5 million a year. And the Phillies have told teams theyre willing to take on $10 million of that. But that still means any team dealing for him would be on the hook for $20 million a year. And given that, one AL executive said, the asking price is ‘just not realistic.’ While clubs basically look at Hamels as a guy the Phillies clearly dont want to trade, they remain frustrated that the Phillies dont factor in all the money that would be assumed when they ask for every teams top three or four young players. ‘That has to count for something,’ the exec said, ‘if youre assuming all that salary. But Ruben wants his doors blown off in order to trade him. And you dont get your doors blown off if this kind of money is attached. It doesnt work that way.’

The St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers may not want to blow the Phillies’ door off, but Hamels does boast a 2.72 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and .230 batting average against. Plus, they could ultimately be competing against each other for a wild-card spot if the Milwaukee Brewers and San Francisco Giants win the National League Central and West, respectively.

The Cardinals and Dodgers both rank in the top 10 in the majors in ERA, but whichever pitching staff added Hamels would have a serious leg up on the other during the stretch run of the season.

 

Noah Syndergaard 

David Lennon of Newsday provided an update on Noah Syndergaard:

Syndergaard is one of the top pitching prospects across MLB, but there has recently been a rumor flying around connecting the New York Mets with Troy Tulowitzki, per Yahoo Sports Jeff Passan. Tulowitzki is one of the best players in all of baseball, so it may take a package centered around a prospect of Syndergaard’s ability, which is what makes Lennon’s update so fascinating to land the shortstop.

The Mets are 8.5 games back in the National League East, so giving up some of their best young assets, including Syndergaard, may not be the best move for their future. Oftentimes, teams on the verge of the postseason and a potential World Series run are the ones giving up their prospects for veterans like Tulowitzki

That certainly does not describe the Mets.

 

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MLB Trade Rumors: Latest on Asdrubal Cabrera, A.J. Burnett and More

While the sports world focuses on the NBA rumors that are running rampant throughout the league, don’t forget about the hot stove on the baseball side of things. 

The July 31 MLB trade deadline is quickly approaching, and the contenders figure to knock on the pretenders’ doors looking for ready-to-win-now talent. With that in mind, here is a look at some of the latest rumors from around the league.

 

Asdrubal Cabrera 

Jon Morosi of Fox Sports provided an update on the Asdrubal Cabrera situation:

The first thing that jumps out about this is whether the Cleveland Indians are going to be buyers or sellers at the deadline. As of Saturday, they were 5.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central and looking up at the Seattle Mariners for the final wild-card spot.

They are far from out of contention, but they might take a realistic look at their World Series chances and push the sell button on Cabrera.

The shortstop is 28 years old and theoretically has a few productive seasons left in the tank, but he is struggling at the plate this year. As of Saturday, he is hitting .249 with nine home runs and 49 RBI, and he simply hasn’t been the same force he was in past years for Cleveland.

A trade to San Francisco could trigger a move to second base for Cabrera. Perhaps a change of scenery would spark his numbers again.

Cabrera could certainly warrant a solid package in return for his services if the Indians were to trade him. All they have to do is decide whether it is worth harming their chances at the postseason this year.

 

Brad Ziegler 

Morosi filled in fans on the latest regarding Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Brad Ziegler:

Arizona may not want to relinquish its productive bullpen piece, but it would make some sense. The Diamondbacks are not going to come anywhere near a postseason appearance in 2014, while the Tigers could use another arm.

Entering play Saturday, Ziegler had a 2.37 ERA, a 1.05 WHIP and 44 strikeouts in 49.1 innings. The Tigers pitching staff is a disappointing 22nd in the MLB in ERA, and Ziegler’s presence would help solidify the back end of the bullpen. 

Now all Arizona has to do is decide whether it wants to look to the future and deal Ziegler.

 

A.J. Burnett 

Morosi gave fans an update on a potential trade between the Baltimore Orioles and Philadelphia Phillies:

This is a classic case concerning buyers and sellers here. The Phillies are mired in last place and are simply playing out the string, while the Orioles are in the middle of a heated race with the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East.

A.J. Burnett has been solid at times but far from spectacular for Philadelphia this season while sporting a 6-9 record with a 4.08 ERA and 1.36 WHIP. He would give the Orioles pitching staff some more depth and, more importantly, a veteran presence going forward that would be useful in a pennant race.

Burnett discussed the rumors, via Todd Zolecki of MLB.com:

I signed here to play here. I'm not a guy who looks for an out or wants to get out because things aren't going the right way. If that happens, then it happens, but I'm not looking to move on. This is my team. I understand how things work, but I'm trying not to worry about it. I just try to go about my business and enjoy my teammates. 

He may have a whole new set of teammates to enjoy by the end of July.

 

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Troy Tulowitzki Injury: Updates on Rockies Star’s Leg and Return

Updates from Sunday, July 20

The Colorado Rockies' communications department reveal the team's lineup for Sunday's showdown with the Pittsburgh Pirates:

Original Text

The Colorado Rockies are not having the 2014 season they envisioned, and things took a turn for the worse Saturday with Troy Tulowitzki.

Will Graves of the Associated Press filled fans in on the details:

The Rockies' public relations team provided an update:

Tulowitzki commented on the injury after the game, per ESPN.com, saying, "Nothing serious. We'll see how I wake up (Sunday). The good news is I don't think I tore anything or did anything to where I'm going to miss an extended period of time."

Tulowitzki has been one of the few bright spots for the Rockies this year. The squad sits in last place in the National League West at 40-57 and at this point is just playing out the string.

That takes nothing away from his performance, though. He is raking at the plate with a .342 batting average, 21 home runs and 52 RBI. His OPS is an impressive 1.041, and his 5.7 wins above replacement rate, per ESPN, has helped the Rockies avoid an even worse record.

The question now becomes how serious this injury will be looking forward for next season or in a possible trade. It’s not as if Colorado is going anywhere, but any injury will hurt his value.

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MLB All-Star Game 2014: Results and Key Storylines from Midsummer Classic

When the American League team has an opportunity to win Game 7 of this year’s World Series in the bottom of the ninth inning in front of its home fans, don’t forget the 2014 All-Star Game. 

The American League won 5-3 and notched its 13th victory in the past 17 Midsummer Classics. Bleacher Report summarized the action, while SportsCenter pointed out just how important earning home-field advantage could be come October:

The victor will certainly matter when the World Series rolls around, but there were plenty of other storylines on display Tuesday. Here are a few of them.

 

Derek Jeter

There may have been stars all over the field, but one shone brighter than the rest Tuesday.

This was Derek Jeter’s night. He received an extended standing ovation from the crowd and his National League opponents when he stood in the batter’s box in the first inning, heard his name chanted throughout the proceedings and gave a curtain call after he was removed from the game in the fourth.

“New York, New York” even played over the speakers at Minnesota’s Target Field, and television viewers were treated to a goosebumps-inducing commercial for the legend from the Jordan brand. 

Bleacher Report and SportsCenter once again described the proceedings:

In true Jeter fashion, he seemed a bit uncomfortable with the whole thing and simply wanted to play the game. It was Jeter who urged Adam Wainwright to go ahead and pitch during the standing ovation in the first inning. 

National League manager Mike Matheny discussed as much, according to the Associated Press (via Fox Sports): "The guys on our side have the utmost respect for him and would like to have been standing out there for a little while longer. I think Derek was the one that was uncomfortable with it."

All Jeter did under the spotlight was record two base hits, including a first-inning double. He now sports a .481 All-Star Game average, which is second all-time for players with 20 or more at-bats in the Midsummer Classic.

 

Mike Trout

While the proceedings were all about Jeter, one of the game’s brightest young stars looked ready to accept the face-of-the-game torch from the Yankees shortstop.

Mike Trout earned MVP honors by going 2-for-3 at the plate with a tiebreaking triple in the first inning (that drove in Jeter) and a go-ahead double. He tallied two RBI and scored a run. Trout discussed how special it was to play so well alongside his childhood hero Jeter, according to the Associated Press (via Fox Sports): “Growing up and him being my role model, it's pretty special.” 

ESPN Stats & Info pointed out just how impressive Trout’s night was given his age:

Next up for Trout is a pennant chase. His Los Angeles Angels sit at a formidable 57-37 and will likely be battling the Oakland Athletics in the American League West the rest of the year. 

Home-field advantage will be waiting in the World Series for whichever team wins the division and the American League as a whole. That squad can thank Trout for that when the time comes after his All-Star Game MVP performance.

 

American League Bullpen

When the American League seized a 5-3 lead, it unleashed an army of shutdown closers from the sixth inning on, ending any hope the National League had at a late comeback.

Koji Uehara of the Boston Red Sox, Greg Holland of the Kansas City Royals, Sean Doolittle of the Oakland Athletics, Fernando Rodney of the Seattle Mariners and Glen Perkins of the Minnesota Twins combined for six strikeouts. What’s more, they only allowed a single hit and a single walk.

It was fitting that Perkins got the chance to close the game out in front of the home fans in Target Field.

Even a lineup of National League All-Stars didn’t have a chance against this bullpen.

 

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Mike Trout Wins 2014 MLB All-Star Game MVP

On a night that was all about Derek Jeter riding off into the sunset in his final MLB All-Star Game, Mike Trout stole the show and was named the contest’s Most Valuable Player.

MLB’s official Twitter page shared the news with baseball fans everywhere:

Trout finished 2-for-3 at the dish with a triple and a double. He also tallied two RBI and scored a run.

Trout’s triple drove in Jeter for the game’s first run to kick-start the American League’s first-inning rally. Trout then scored on Miguel Cabrera’s two-run home run.

Trout’s double came in the fifth inning and drove in Derek Norris.

The Los Angeles Angels official Twitter page was quick to point out that Trout isn’t the first player from its team to take home the All-Star Game’s MVP award, but he was certainly the youngest:

It was fitting that one of the game’s best young players shone on the stage alongside the elder statesman Jeter as something of a metaphorical torch passing. Veteran pitcher Tim Hudson of the San Francisco Giants ironically discussed just that before the game even began, via Matt Snyder of CBS Sports:

Whoevers career takes the biggest leap forward is going to be that guy. Jeters gonna pass the torch to someone. Trouts a great candidate. The talent and skills are there, no question about it. He seems like a very likeable guy and you dont hear bad things about him. Hes on the short list, for sure.

Trout talked about how it felt to play so well alongside Jeter, according to the Associated Press (via Fox Sports): “Growing up and him being my role model, its pretty special.”

If Trout continues to play and develop like he has early in his career, this won’t be the last time he takes home an All-Star Game MVP award. He is only 22 years old (and has played in three of these things already) and is arguably the game’s top player. As a five-tool superstar, there is very little he can’t do on the baseball field.

Trout would certainly love to parlay this performance into a successful second half of the year and his first postseason appearance. The Angels boast an impressive 57-37 record and appear ready to challenge the Oakland Athletics for supremacy in the American League West.

Now, thanks largely to the efforts of Trout, the Angels will have home-field advantage in the World Series if they get there.

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MLB Home Run Derby 2014: Full Results and Key Storylines from Event

The format may have been confusing, Yasiel Puig may have disappointed with zero home runs and the crowd may have been focused on other players, but Monday was Yoenis Cespedes’ night at the Home Run Derby.

He defended his crown with a 9-1 drubbing of Todd Frazier in the final round to become the first repeat winner in 15 years. Here is a look at the full results:

 

History is Made

It wasn’t just Cespedes’ win, though, that made headlines, it was the historical fashion in which he did it. 

ESPN Stats & Info pointed out the various aspects of Cespedes’ performance that helped etch his name in the history books:

If you’re going to win the Home Run Derby, you may as well shatter some records along the way.

 

New Format

The new format certainly had its ups and downs.

For one, each batter only received seven outs per round, which helped limit the actual time of the event. That turned out to be even more critical after rain delayed the start.

Using the new format, Jose Bautista and Giancarlo Stanton earned a bye to the semifinals after impressive first-round showings. Bautista blasted 10 home runs in that initial round and thrilled fans with a number of shots that went into the second deck. Stanton hit six, many of which were absolute moonshots that seemed to follow the trajectory of the rainbow above the stadium.

Still, both were eliminated before the final round after waiting for quite some time. Stanton didn’t even manage a single home run and lost to Frazier 1-0 in the National League final. 

ESPN Stats & Info noted a couple of irregularities that resulted from the new format:

Going forward, it is only natural to wonder if there will be more changes in store for next year.

The seven outs should probably stay because the event is often too long as it is, but Bautista had to wait nearly two hours to compete after putting on a show in the first round. It was almost like a punishment for having the best initial showing. 

On the National League side, Frazier only hit a single home run in the semifinals and found a way to advance. That seems a bit strange as well.

 

Justin Morneau Returns Home

Justin Morneau drew some of the biggest ovations Monday, and for good reason. He played 10-plus years in Minnesota and reached four All-Star Games during his time there.

Interestingly, Morneau was the only left-handed hitter in the event, which was not surprising because Target Field is much more suited toward right-handers with a shorter gap in left center. He managed to hit two in the first round but eventually lost to Frazier in a three-swing tiebreaker.

Morneau discussed his homecoming, via Tracy Ringolsby of MLB.com:

This was special, to be back in the park and to be able to say good-bye. … It is fun. Most guys dream when they are growing up about playing Home Run Derby in their backyard. Kids dream about hitting home runs. To be on that big stage in a Home Run Derby is something special. 

Even though he didn’t win, it was certainly nice for Morneau to come away with some positive memories in his old stomping grounds.

 

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2014 Home Run Derby Results: Yoenis Cespedes Makes History in Impressive Win

It was a brand-new format for the 2014 Home Run Derby, but it was Yoenis Cespedes who was making the history.

Fox Sports Live and ESPN Stats & Info pointed out just how the Oakland Athletics outfielder joined the record books with his impressive victory Monday:

Here is a look at the full results of the event from each round:

It was something of an anticlimactic final though, as Cespedes blasted nine home runs, while Todd Frazier only managed one. Still, that shouldn’t take away from Cespedes’ overall performance in that last round, which actually added to the historical element of the event, as ESPN Stats & Info noted:

It is no wonder then that Cespedes took home the trophy, given the focus he displayed heading into that championship round against Frazier. He took the time to point out to his Twitter followers that he was ready, and he even impressed ESPN college football announcer Kirk Herbstreit along the way:

Before meeting in the final round, Cespedes and Frazier had to win their own league finals in the third round. Cespedes knocked out Jose Bautista 7-4, while Frazier squeaked past Giancarlo Stanton 1-0. It was Bautista who hit the most home runs in the first round for the American League with 10, while Stanton blasted six of his own on the National League side.

Interestingly enough, Cespedes needed a tiebreaker against teammate Josh Donaldson just to reach the second round. All he did was win that and eventually capture the entire tournament. 

Chad Graff of the St. Paul Pioneer Press pointed out just what Cespedes received for his efforts:

In perfect world, at least from Oakland’s perspective, Cespedes got more than just a bunch of razors Monday.

The Athletics are arguably the best team in baseball and certainly have their mind on a pennant chase in the season’s second half. Cespedes displayed his raw power Monday, which may just give him a boost of confidence. He does have 14 home runs and 56 RBI, but he is only hitting .246 with a .299 on-base percentage.

Manager Bob Melvin certainly had the big picture in mind before the event began, via Matt Kawahara of The Sacramento Bee:

It was so entertaining last year and whenever you get an opportunity to do that as a player, I certainly understand that. At the end of the day, it is a very entertaining event, and the fact that he won it last year gave us a little more exposure, probably a good thing. You just hope nobody gets hurt.

Now that Cespedes has that win under his belt, he can focus on using that power in the actual games. If he just raises that average a bit more and drills some homers to go along with it, the middle of the Oakland lineup will be intimidating. 

It certainly was when Cespedes was setting history Monday night.

 

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Home Run Derby 2014: Last-Minute Info and Prediction for MLB Contest

The MLB season is a 162-game grind for players and fans alike. But for one night in July, everyone gets to stop worrying about the pennant race, the disabled list and trying to figure out Clayton Kershaw’s breaking ball and focus on the home run.

The 2014 Home Run Derby takes place Monday night, and here is the last-minute information you need to be ready for the event.

 

2014 Home Run Derby

Date: Monday, July 14, 2014

Time: 8 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

Location: Target Field (Home of the Minnesota Twins) 

Contestants:

Interestingly enough, the Home Run Derby features some new rules this year (courtesy of ESPN.com). All 10 players bat in the opening round and get seven outs each (instead of the usual 10), and the player with the most homers from each league receives a bye into the third round.

After that, the two players with the next-most home runs compete in head-to-head fashion in the second round and those winners face their league’s top seed in the third round. The winners from each league then go against each other in the last round.

Dayn Perry of CBS Sports pointed out just how difficult it is to hit home runs in Target Field:

As you're likely aware, Target Field is a tough environment for hitters. In fact, just five parks -- AT&T, Marlins, PNC, Busch and O.co -- have suppressed home run rates to a greater extent than Target has throughout recent history. As for specifics, Target is a bit easier on right-handed batters.

The thought here is that Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays takes home the trophy.

He has tormented the Twins with an incredible 11 home runs in 59 plate appearances there and was the runner-up in the 2012 event to Prince Fielder. That means Bautista has experience at Target Field and in the actual Home Run Derby, so he will understand how to conserve energy and approach the event.

He discussed his dominance at Target Field, via John Shipley of the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

I can't really point to one reason why. I know I've experienced success against this team even away from this park. They throw a lot of strikes. I know their pitching philosophy is based on the fastball, and I've managed to get to some good hitting counts and take advantage of some pitches when I've played against them.

Between the experience competing in something like this, and the fact that Target Field boasts a short power-alley in left-center field (377 feet), the right-handed hitting Bautista is in a favorable position entering the event. 

He will take advantage.

 

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Adam Lind Injury: Updates on Blue Jays DH’s Foot and Return

It was bad enough news for the Toronto Blue Jays when Edwin Encarnacion went to the disabled list with a strained right quadriceps, but Shi Davidi of Sportsnet updated fans with even more disappointment Wednesday regarding Adam Lind:

Lind has been a productive member of the Blue Jays lineup all season and sports a .320 batting average with four home runs and 27 RBI. Now that he is going to miss significant time, Toronto’s lineup has two gaping holes in it going forward.

Surprisingly enough, it was actually Lind's mother who got the ball rolling on the diagnosis of this injury, via Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com:

Scott MacArthur of TSN provided something of a potential silver lining to the situation:

It will certainly be interesting to see if the Blue Jays make any moves to compensate for this recent attrition as the trade deadline approaches, because they have a serious chance to win the American League East. 

The typically dominant Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have struggled this season, so the Blue Jays find themselves in second place within striking distance of the Baltimore Orioles.

Losing Lind certainly hurts the Jays' chances at reaching the postseason, but it may just spur them to make a move. Stay tuned for more updates as they develop.

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MLB Rumors: Latest Buzz Surrounding Cardinals, Red Sox, Padres and More

The sports world may be holding its breath in anticipation of the World Cup final and LeBron James’ impending decision, but baseball's hot-stove season is right around the corner.

That means rumors and speculation are running rampant as the contenders begin to establish themselves as legitimate World Series threats. With so many teams still in striking distance of a postseason appearance, expect a number of moves before the calendar turns to August. 

With that in mind, let’s dig into some of the latest MLB rumors.

 

Jake Peavy on the Market? 

Peter Gammons and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s David O’Brien described the latest on the potential pursuit of pitcher Jake Peavy:

There was once a time in Peavy’s career that he was a front-of-the-rotation starter, but he has been fairly inconsistent for Boston this season. He sports a 4.64 ERA in 18 starts and has a disappointing 1-7 record. The WHIP of 1.44 and the batting average against of .273 don’t exactly spin tales of a dominant pitcher either.

Still, there is something to be said for his experience and veteran guile in a pennant race, which could be why the Cardinals are interested.

What’s more, given the attrition with the pitching staff, Peavy makes sense as a possible option for St. Louis. It needs quality arms if it wants to keep up with the Milwaukee Brewers, Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League Central. 

The Braves, on the other hand, can afford to stand pat and possibly wait for better options.

 

Padres Asking Price High?

Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times pointed out that the San Diego Padres will be asking for a lot in return if you plan on dealing for some of their productive pieces:

As he notes, there aren’t a lot of sellers in the market as we get into the thick of July. There are only nine teams in the entire league that are double-digit games out of first place entering play Wednesday, and two of those squads are exactly 10 games back.

The Padres likely saw the boatload of prospects the Chicago Cubs received back for Jeff Samardzija and got excited about their position as one of the few sellers on the market.

Joaquin Benoit and Huston Street may not be front-of-the-line starters, but they are both incredibly valuable pieces in a bullpen. Benoit has a 1.91 ERA, 0.74 WHIP and is a strikeout machine, while Street boasts 23 saves and 1.13 ERA. 

A contender that is desperate for bullpen depth would likely overpay to land the quality pieces the Padres are offering.

 

Boston Looking to Lock Up Jon Lester?

Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston filled fans in on the latest news from the negotiations between the Red Sox and ace Jon Lester:

The Boston Red Sox are continuing "conversations" that could lead to another offer to free-agent-to-be Jon Lester, according to a major league source.

Presumably, those conversations are taking place at the ownership level, at which Boston's big-money decisions are always made. The source, however, said he wouldn't make any predictions regarding the outcome.

Boston offered Lester a four-year, $70 million deal in the spring, but that was significantly under market value for someone of his stature.

He has a 2.73 ERA and has continued to thrive while the team squanders. In fact, it is Boston’s struggles that make this such an intriguing situation because it could really use an ace like Lester if it hopes to bounce back and return to the playoffs next year.

Lester is also 30 years old, so there figures to be at least a few years of elite-level pitching in the tank if he stays healthy.

Peavy commented on the situation surrounding his teammate, via Edes:

This is somebody I'm very emotionally attached to. Jon, we'll be friends for life. We love each other. Kinfolk we are. Me speaking on his behalf, that needs to be understood.

I love the Boston Red Sox and respect everybody, but my heart and soul is with Jon Lester. This guy is as good as anybody in the game right now.

Lester’s been a dominant force when it's mattered most during his career (6-4 with a 2.11 ERA in 11 postseason starts and 3-0 with a 0.43 ERA in the World Series) and is a fan favorite in Boston. 

Eventually, the Red Sox will likely make the contract terms work.

 

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Home Run Derby 2014: Breaking Down Biggest Sleeper Participants

Sluggers Giancarlo Stanton, Yoenis Cespedes and Jose Bautista are all part of the 2014 Home Run Derby.

Big surprise.

American League captain Bautista selected Cespedes, Adam Jones and Brian Dozier, while National League captain Troy Tulowitzki chose Stanton, Yasiel Puig and Todd Frazier. All eight participants hit from the right side of the plate, which is likely a testament to Target Field’s pitcher-friendly dimensions in right and right-center field.

Each team will receive an addition fifth member Thursday.

Casual baseball fans who are used to the game’s most prolific sluggers in the Home Run Derby may be a bit confused to see that Frazier and Dozier are competing, but there is a reason these under-the-radar candidates are part of the field. 

Let’s dig into a few more details on the sleepers of the event.

 

Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins

Dozier’s selection was no doubt influenced by the fact that the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game will take place in Minnesota. After all, these types of events are for the fans, so credit Bautista for the pick.

That Dozier is a second baseman who stands at less than 6’0" only makes this more of a Cinderella story. 

Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com and Parker Hageman of Twins Daily offered Dozier’s response to the selection and a tidbit for his batting practice pitcher:

Dozier will become the sixth Minnesota Twin of all time to compete in the Home Run Derby, joining the likes of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Torii Hunter, Gary Gaetti and Tom Brunansky. Morneau famously won the event in old Yankee Stadium in 2008 in a contest that will always be remembered for Josh Hamilton’s power display in the early rounds.

Dozier has to be considered a candidate to win this thing because of his familiarity with the stadium. In fact, nine of his 16 home runs entering play Tuesday came at Target Field, and he has a particular affinity for driving the ball down the left field line.

He will be able to avoid the deep caverns in right-center field and stay in contention.

Dozier’s 16 home runs were tied for 12th in the American League entering play Tuesday, but his 31 homers since June 16 of last season are an impressive 15th in the majors. 

If nothing else, he will have the home crowd behind him as he puts on a show.

 

Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds

Frazier was chosen for his first All-Star Game this year in addition to this honor, and his 17 home runs were good enough for fifth place in the National League entering Tuesday’s action. 

Gregg Doyel of CBS Sports thinks Frazier just may take the whole thing:

Frazier will become the eighth different Cincinnati Red to compete in the event, joining Dave Parker (who won the first one in 1985), Eric Davis, Chris Sabo, Paul O'Neill, Ron Gant, Reggie Sanders and Ken Griffey Jr.

He certainly seemed pleased with his selection, via C. Trent Rosecrans of Cincinnati.com:

It's pretty cool. I'd like to thank Tulowitzki for even considering me. It's going to be a lot of fun, especially making the All-Star team, and now there's even more excitement the day before. Hopefully I don't put a goose egg up there, hopefully I can represent a little bit.

Perhaps adding to Frazier’s excitement is the fact that he will have his older brother as his batting practice pitcher.

Frazier may not win the Home Run Derby, but with him, it is more about the distance the homers travel than the actual frequency.

He averages 401 feet per home run and even drilled one an astounding 446 feet earlier in the year, via Matt Snyder of CBS Sports. What’s more, he once hit a home run when he lost control of the bat, and it appeared as if he simply threw his bat at the ball. 

Sure, the fans will be thrilled by the player who hits the most homers, but the one who can hit the longest will certainly earn their support as well. No pressure Frazier.

 

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MLB Trade Rumors: Latest Rumblings from White Sox, Blue Jays and More

It’s an annual rite of passage for every single MLB season—July rolls around and the contenders and pretenders start to talk shop.

After all, those who see a chance at the World Series will typically give up young talent for established veterans, and the struggling clubs are more than happy to look toward the future with prospects. The trade between the Chicago Cubs and Oakland Athletics that involved Jeff Samardzija was a perfect prototype for that exact situation.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the latest rumors as the trade deadline gradually approaches.

 

Chicago White Sox

Jon Morosi of Fox Sports filled fans in on some of the latest Chicago White Sox rumors:

The White Sox have struggled to stay near .500 all season, and they were on the wrong side of that line Monday.

The argument could be made that they are still in the American League Central race because they are less than nine games back, but given their inconsistency and the fact that the Detroit Tigers are in first place without a vintage season from ace Justin Verlander, it’s probably safe to say Chicago won’t be playing in October.

That’s why it makes some sense that Chicago is shopping Gordon Beckham. He isn’t that young anymore at 27, and he’s not exactly tearing up the league offensively at .244 with seven home runs and 24 RBI. If it can get anything in return in terms of young talent, Chicago has to jump on that.

It’s also smart for the White Sox to hang onto Jose Quintana.

He is only 25 years old and has a bright future ahead of him. He is pitching well this season and just shut out the Seattle Mariners in 7.2 innings in his last start. What’s more, young left-handed pitching is just so valuable in the league that even teams who are not in the race would be wise to hold onto it because it could help in future playoff pushes.

 

Aaron Hill and James Russell

The MLB Network's Peter Gammons provided the latest on Aaron Hill and James Russell:

This is a classic case of sellers looking to ship off veteran talent at the deadline. The Chicago Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks aren’t going anywhere this year as bottom-dwellers in their respective divisions and have an eye toward the future.

Hill is struggling a bit at the plate this year with an average south of .240 and six home runs. Perhaps a change of scenery could pay dividends for the career .271 hitter, who has always provided solid defense.

As for Russell, the southpaw seems to be the next domino in the Cubs’ fire sale.

They are clearly building for the future and loading up on prospects, and Russell could give a contender some much-needed help as a lefty specialist near the backend of the bullpen. Cubs team president Theo Epstein discussed the number of young prospects he has in the system because of moves that involved players like Russell, via Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago-Sun Times

We’re not smart enough to know how all the pieces fit together, but it’s easy to be excited about a lot of the different permutations. I think we have a chance to have really good homegrown solutions at a lot of positions.

Of course, if teams want to talk to us about trades at some point, we have a nice inventory to discuss.

If Russell could net the Cubs some more prospects, Epstein and company will not hesitate to move him.

 

Chase Headley 

Morosi noted that a trade could be in the works between the Toronto Blue Jays and San Diego Padres:

The Blue Jays likely see a golden opportunity to seize a division title this year because the typically dominant Yankees and Red Sox are struggling, but the Edwin Encarnacion injury is major setback. They could really use another bat in the lineup while he is on the disabled list.

Chase Headley has underperformed this season at the dish with a .229 average, six home runs and 27 RBI, but he would give Toronto a short-term fill-in who has a history of producing.

Headley is not that far removed from 2012, when he was one of the best hitters in all of baseball and slugged 31 home runs and drove in 115 RBI as a force in the middle of the Padres lineup. 

If Toronto could get even half of that while Encarnacion is out, it could make a charge at the Baltimore Orioles.

 

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MLB Power Rankings 2014: Where Every Team Stands as All-Star Game Approaches

The word parity gets thrown around far too often in sports, but it truly does apply to the 2014 MLB season.

Entering play Monday, there were the six first-place teams and 17 teams within 10 games of them. Given the extra wild-card spot in the playoffs now, it will be difficult to separate some of the buyers and sellers when the trade deadline rolls around.

With that in mind, here is a look at the updated power rankings with the All-Star Game right around the corner. 

 

No. 28 Chicago Cubs

Look at this as something of a therapy session, Cubs fans (and honestly, don’t all Cubs fans need some type of therapy?). 

Trading Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel was the final nail in the coffin to the 2014 season, but the future is about as bright as it comes in the majors. Starlin Castro is heading to the All-Star Game, and Anthony Rizzo is one of the candidates in the final fan vote, and they represent just two of the building blocks in the organization.

Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus pointed out just how many prospects are waiting in the wings after the acquisition of Addison Russell from the Oakland Athletics:

Hammel was never supposed to be anything more than a one-year rental, and Chicago got the most it possibly could out of him. Samardzija is certainly a bit more painful because he realistically could have been a building block, but the prospects weren’t going to peak at the same time as the 29-year-old hurler. 

With Russell, Castro, Rizzo, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler, among others, the Cubs won’t be this low for long in these power rankings. Now all they have to do is find some young pitching.

 

No. 16 New York Yankees

The New York Yankees stand out on this list simply because they aren’t supposed to be in the bottom half.

After all, it’s the Yankees.

They are looking up at the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays in a unusually weak American League East and still have a chance to make a postseason push, but they rank in the bottom half of the majors in runs, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

The pitching, outside of Masahiro Tanaka, has been just as mediocre, if not worse. Now it looks as if C.C. Sabathia is out for the year as well, as manager Joe Girardi said, via Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News: “I’m sure surgery is possible. They’ve got to talk about it and determine what’s next.”

New York is just mired in mediocrity, and it doesn’t look like things will improve much as the year continues. 

This season is and was all about Derek Jeter’s farewell tour, but it just doesn’t feel right that he may not make the playoffs in his final season.

 

No. 1 Oakland Athletics

The Oakland Athletics are going to be more than well represented at the All-Star Game.

They have seven All-Stars if you want to get technical about it. Samardzija was elected to the National League team as a Cub, so we are going to count him here. Josh Donaldson, Yoenis Cespedes, Derek Norris, Brandon Moss, Scott Kazmir and Sean Doolittle round out the rest of the list.

The A’s were arguably the best team in the majors before acquiring two pitchers with sub-3.00 ERAs. Now they are even better.

Oakland’s rotation will include Samardzija, Hammel, Kazmir and Sonny Gray, which is simply unfair. It will be incredibly difficult for anyone to top that in a playoff series, where pitching is so important.

The thought here is that the Detroit Tigers may represent the biggest challenge in the American League going forward, but that is only if Justin Verlander returns to his typical incredible form.

Oakland is second in the majors in ERA, and the no-name lineup leads the league in runs and is third in the Moneyball favorite on-base percentage. 

There is simply more talent in this club than any other in the league.

 

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AL All-Stars 2014: Biggest Snubs from the Junior Circuit

Perhaps the only thing more certain about the 2014 MLB All-Star Game heading into the year than the presence of Derek Jeter in the starting lineup was the fact that there would be a notable list of players left off the respective rosters.

After all, there is for every All-Star Game in every single sport every single year.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the biggest snubs from the American League side. For the purpose of this exercise, the players on the final fan vote are not considered snubs, and all stats are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and ESPN.com entering play Monday.

 

Ian Kinsler, Second Baseman, Detroit Tigers

Remember when the Detroit Tigers traded slugger Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler, and it looked like their lineup may suffer because of it?

Not so much.

Kinsler’s name is littered all over the American League leaderboard. His 3.7 wins above replacement (WAR) rank fourth among AL position players, his 1.3 defensive WAR ranks sixth, his 60 runs scored rank second, his 107 hits are good enough for fifth, his 170 total bases rank eighth, his 26 doubles rank second and his 39 extra-base hits rank seventh.

His .302 batting average pairs nicely with his 11 home runs and 45 RBI as well.

Kinsler breathed life into Detroit’s offense and is a major reason why the Tigers have a stranglehold on the American League Central. Yes, the Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians are within striking distance, but assuming good health, Detroit is going to win that division.

Kinsler is a superstar on defense and with the bat in his hands, and he deserves to be in the All-Star Game.

 

Wade Davis, Relief Pitcher, Kansas City Royals

Matt Snyder of CBS Sports points out just why Wade Davis should be an All-Star:

Davis is one of baseballs best setup men, sitting with a 1.23 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and 58 strikeouts in 36 2/3 innings. He has 16 holds against two blown saves. Get this: He hasnt allowed a single extra-base hit all season and is holding opposing hitters to a .120/.234/.120 line.

It’s not fair for Davis, but the deck is simply stacked against him when it comes to earning a spot on the roster.

He plays for Kansas City, so he isn’t in the spotlight very often. What’s more, he is a setup man, which is simply not as sexy of a position as closer in many baseball circles.

Davis is a strikeout machine who just doesn’t allow solid contact. If we are truly working under the assumption that this game means something with World Series home-field lingering over it, National League hitters will be relieved that they don’t have to face him with the game on line.

 

Erick Aybar, Shortstop, Los Angeles Angels

Erick Aybar’s name is not on this list to say that Jeter should or shouldn’t be in the game. There will be plenty of that type of debate throughout the week leading up to the event, and it’s really not the worst thing in the world if an all-time great player gets the All-Star recognition one last time from the fans and the media for an incredible career.

After all, we are still talking about what basically amounts to an exhibition game, even if World Series home-field advantage is on the line.

Jeter’s merits aside, Aybar deserves to be at the All-Star Game. In a Los Angeles Angels lineup that has so many marquee names in it, Aybar stands out on defense and offense. He does a little bit of everything and has a .278 batting average, .315 on-base percentage and .414 slugging percentage.

Throw in 21 doubles, three triples, six home runs, 43 RBI, 45 runs and 11 steals, and it’s clear what type of impact player we are discussing.

His head coach, Mike Scioscia, certainly thinks Aybar should be there, via Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register:

He should be an All-Star. ... There is no doubt he’s playing at the level he’s capable of defensively. This guy is a premium defender. And as he’s gotten into the season and gotten healthy, you are seeing his offensive side.

Hard to argue with the manager.

 

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Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel Sent to Athletics in Multi-Player Trade

The Oakland Athletics are sitting atop the American League West as the 2014 MLB season approaches the All-Star break. After reportedly acquiring Chicago Cubs pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel on Friday, their grip on the division may only grow stronger.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports and Keith Law of ESPN updated fans on the proceedings, while the MLB itself noted that the deal was official:

The Cubs and A's both took to Twitter to confirm the deal, as well:

Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan reports there will be a player to be named later sent to Chicago as well:

Joe Stiglich of Comcast SportsNet reports Tommy Milone has been sent down as a result of the trade:

MLB.com reports when we can expect Samardzija to make his A's debut:

John Hickey of Bay Area News Group confirms that expectation:

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports notes that the Yankees were in the hunt for the Cubs' talented pitchers:

The Cubs may be in last place, but it is of no fault of Samardzija and Hammel. Samardzija sports a sparkling 2.83 ERA despite his 2-7 record, while Hammel comes to Oakland with a 2.98 ERA and an 8-5 record.

Both pitchers will likely be thrilled if and when they receive more run support in Oakland. The A’s lead the MLB in total runs scored, which will be a nice change for the two hurlers. For perspective, Chicago ranks an abysmal 25th.

Jon Morosi of Fox Sports and Rosenthal provided some more updates:

The addition of Samardzija and Hammel makes what was already one of the league’s best pitching staffs all the more dangerous. The A’s already feature the likes of Scott Kazmir and Sonny Gray and rank fourth in the league in team ERA and fifth in quality starts. A starting rotation that possibly include those four names will be difficult to beat in the regular season and in any future playoff series.

Good luck to the Los Angeles Angels and Seattle Mariners trying to catch Oakland now.

As for the Cubs, this move was clearly made with the future in mind. Ever since Theo Epstein took over on the North Side, there has been a clear effort directed toward building a formidable farm system and solid foundation. Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus noted just how many talented prospects the Cubs have now, including the young and talented Addison Russell:

Interestingly enough, relief pitcher James Russell didn't seem too keen on the idea of the Cubs trading Samardzija recently, via Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times:

It’ll definitely be different if a guy like Jeff leaves. He’s been one of the staples around here. You just kind of put his face with the Cubs team. It’d be definite culture change.

It’d be like taking one step forward and 10 steps back.

Additionally, Javier Baez and Starlin Castro are assumed to be key pieces in the middle infield for years to come in Chicago, so the inclusion of shortstop Addison Russell in this trade is sure to raise some eyebrows. However, Matt Snyder of CBS Sports answered any possible questions that would arise from that logjam:

As for why the Cubs would want to trade for a shortstop when they have All-Star-caliber Starlin Castro in the majors and another top-10 prospect in Javier Baez at Triple-A, it's rather simple. First of all, sometimes prospects (Baez?) end up as busts. If they don't, position changes could be in order. And if there's a true logjam -- if no one is a bust and no one fits as a position change guy -- trades could be made to shore up other holes at that time. Essentially, if you can get a top-10 prospect, you get him without regard for where he plays.

For as loaded as the Cubs’ farm system is in the offense department though, they could use some more talented pitchers if they hope to one day snap their World Series curse.

Otherwise, Chicago may have to beat everyone 10-9 if it hopes to make its way back to the playoffs sooner rather than later.

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