2015 MLB Free Agents: Rumors and Predictions for Marlon Byrd and Yoenis Cespedes

With the regular season coming to a close in the near future and the postseason almost ready to get underway, the focus for teams on the outside looking in is shifting toward next season.

Nailing the offseason is of the utmost importance for teams looking to rebuild or retool for next year, and with a number of impact players set to hit the open market—Steve Adams and Tim Dierkes of MLBTraderumors.com have gone through the trouble of compiling a list of said players—the rumor mill, while currently short on content, should pick up steam in the coming weeks.

Yoenis Cespedes and Marlon Byrd are two names swirling around the inner circles of Major League Baseball, and they just so happen to be among the biggest names available this offseason. So, as we turn our focus to the postseason and eventual offseason, here's a look at the most recent rumors regarding those two players as well as predictions of where they might end up.

 

Marlon Byrd to Stay Put in San Francisco?

Marlon Byrd may have no say in where he ends up playing in 2015. The 14-year veteran has a vesting option written into his contract, and that option takes effect if he reaches 550 plate appearances prior to the end of the 2015 season.

Byrd is dangerously close to crossing that plate-appearance threshold and needs just 23 more in the team's final five games to have that option vest. If it doesn't, then the option converts to a team option, which will likely be declined. 

Operating under the premise that Byrd fails to reach 550 plate appearances, let's assume the ensuing team option gets declined.

Even if all that happens, Byrd may end up back in San Francisco for 2016. According to Giants beat writer Henry Schulman, the Giants are interested in bringing back the 38-year-old:

Byrd has been solid in 2015 and has proved to be a worthwhile addition to the Giants roster despite the fact that they're going to miss the playoffs this year. Over 129 games played (527 plate appearances) Byrd has compiled a .249/.294/.454 batting line with 22 home runs, 24 doubles, 72 RBI and 55 runs scored.

Byrd's sub-.300 on-base percentage leaves a lot to be desired, and, as Schulman notes, whether he seeks a backup or starting role will be a major factor in his final landing spot. 

Prediction: Byrd re-signs with the Giants.

 

Yoenis Cespedes on the Giants' Radar too?

According to ESPN.com's Buster Olney, "There is speculation within other organizations that the Giants could be among the teams to pursue Yoenis Cespedes." That said, Olney wonders if Cespedes' incredible second half has sent his price skyrocketing to a level the Giants would find uncomfortable.

There's merit to both sides of the rumor.

Cespedes—with his plus defense and his ability to hit for power in pitchers' parkswould be a great get for the Giants, who rank 12th in home runs through this point in the year among National League clubs. Additionally, the 29-year-old would be an upgrade over current right fielder and potential free agent Marlon Byrd.

Cespedes outpaces Byrd by wide margins in practically every offensive measure available—for reference, their OPS+ marks settle in at 138 and 103, respectively, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

Unlike Byrd, though, Cespedes has taken off with his new club, logging an unbelievable 17 home runs, 44 RBI and 38 runs scored in just 52 games with the New York Mets. That, as Olney notes, might have pushed the price too high for the Giants, who have to worry about a Madison Bumgarner extension in a few years.

Whether the price has gone too high is irrelevant in this writer's mind, as Cespedes' play in the second half has possibly earned him a blank check from the Mets as well as several other teams.

If he can get that six-year deal he told ESPN's Marly Rivera about, then Cespedes won't be in San Fran or Queens. 

Prediction: Cespedes spurns the Mets and the Giants and sells his services to the highest bidder

 

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Cleveland Indians Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz Ahead of the Deadline

The MLB trade deadline is just a few short days away—two days, to be exact—and the Cleveland Indians are getting in on the fun.

In a deadline buildup that has seen big names like Scott Kazmir, Johnny Cueto and, most recently, Troy Tulowitzki move to potentially greener pastures, the Indians have...traded David Murphy. Murphy has been a solid piece for the Indians over the past two seasons, but it's an underwhelming move nonetheless.

That said, bigger moves could be on the way, and the potential is there for a major-ish roster shakeup in the next few days.

Before any big move comes the rumors, and the Indians have come up in some rather large rumors over the past few days. So, for a look at what might be coming down the pipeline, here's a quick rundown of the latest buzz surrounding the Indians as we head toward the trade deadline.

 

Indians Willing to Listen on Starting Pitching

The Indians, despite their less-than-desirable position in the standings, find themselves in an enviable position with three—and potentially four—starting pitchers worth trying to acquire.

Teams have taken notice of the Indians' starting pitchers, and according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the club is willing to listen on offers for their starters.

Fox Sports MLB insider Ken Rosenthal corroborated and expanded on that information, stating that the Dodgers and Red Sox were, at the time, two of the team's many suitors.

Then there was the missed deal with the Toronto Blue Jays.

The best guess as to why this deal fell through is that the asking price on Carrasco was too high for the Blue Jays' front office. Just last week, the Jays were a contender to land Scott Kazmir, but according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet, the team "balked at demands for their top prospectsthink Jeff Hoffman or Daniel Norris, who came up during the Josh Donaldson talks over the winterin return."

Presumably, the asking price on Carrasco would've been higher, as he's a young, talented and controllable asset. If the Blue Jays were reluctant to deal Hoffman or Norris—in general, not just for Kazmir—then it's easy to see why the deal might have fallen through.

The Indians will continue to listen to offers for their young starters, but so far, the biggest news has been the potential, then missed deal for Carrasco.

 

Indians in on Carlos Gomez

The Indians are looking at deals that benefit them both in the short term and the long term. One such deal could be to acquire Milwaukee Brewers' outfielder Carlos Gomez.

According to Rosenthal, the Indians—along with many other teams—are interested in the 29-year-old outfielder.

Gomez is a stud, and he would do wonders to bolster the subpar offensive output the team has received from their current crop of outfielders. Consider the contributions from the team's current starting outfielders compared to what Gomez has done this year, as illustrated in the chart below.

Gomez's numbers aren't what we've come to expect from the veteran outfielder, but a lot of that can be attributed to an early-season hamstring injury which cost him 16 games between April 15 and May 2. 

Gomez has been solid since returning from the DL, amassing a .270/.343/.426 batting line with seven home runs, 15 doubles, 36 RBI, 38 runs scored, seven stolen bases and a 64-22 K/BB ratio. Surely the Indians would like to see a little more pop out of Gomez if they were to acquire his services, but even with the missed time, Gomez would rank second in home runs, first in runs, third in RBI, second in steals and second in fWAR among Indians' outfielders, per FanGraphs.

 

Indians Have Interest in Marcell Ozuna

Another rumor, another outfielder. The Indians, according to Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald, are one of several teams that have checked in on the availability of Miami Marlins' outfielder Marcell Ozuna.

Both teams seem to be doing their due diligence regarding the others' top young players, and the idea of the two teams hooking up on a Santana-Ozuna or Carrasco-Ozuna trade is certainly within the realm of possibility.

Ozuna would be a slightly riskier but potentially better acquisition than Gomez, whom we discussed in the section above.

First off, Ozuna is younger—he's just 24 years old—and he's under club control through the 2019 season. Second, the potential is there for Ozuna to be a 30-plus home run hitter with above-average run-producing potential.

That said, there's also bust potential packed into that 6'1", 225-pound frame. Last year, the Dominican Republic native struck out at a whopping 26.8-percent clip—164 times in 612 plate appearances—and then was demoted this year after posting a .249/.301/.337 batting line with a 23-percent strikeout rate through 79 games played.

Whether anything comes of this rumor remains to be seen, but given the Indians' perceived interest in acquiring a talented, club-controlled outfielder, Ozuna is a strong possibility should the Marlins choose to shop him around.

 

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Cleveland Indians Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz Ahead of the Deadline

The MLB trade deadline is just a few short days away—two days, to be exact—and the Cleveland Indians are getting in on the fun.

In a deadline buildup that has seen big names like Scott Kazmir, Johnny Cueto and, most recently, Troy Tulowitzki move to potentially greener pastures, the Indians have...traded David Murphy. Murphy has been a solid piece for the Indians over the past two seasons, but it's an underwhelming move nonetheless.

That said, bigger moves could be on the way, and the potential is there for a major-ish roster shakeup in the next few days.

Before any big move comes the rumors, and the Indians have come up in some rather large rumors over the past few days. So, for a look at what might be coming down the pipeline, here's a quick rundown of the latest buzz surrounding the Indians as we head toward the trade deadline.

 

Indians Willing to Listen on Starting Pitching

The Indians, despite their less-than-desirable position in the standings, find themselves in an enviable position with three—and potentially four—starting pitchers worth trying to acquire.

Teams have taken notice of the Indians' starting pitchers, and according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the club is willing to listen on offers for their starters.

Fox Sports MLB insider Ken Rosenthal corroborated and expanded on that information, stating that the Dodgers and Red Sox were, at the time, two of the team's many suitors.

Then there was the missed deal with the Toronto Blue Jays.

The best guess as to why this deal fell through is that the asking price on Carrasco was too high for the Blue Jays' front office. Just last week, the Jays were a contender to land Scott Kazmir, but according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet, the team "balked at demands for their top prospectsthink Jeff Hoffman or Daniel Norris, who came up during the Josh Donaldson talks over the winterin return."

Presumably, the asking price on Carrasco would've been higher, as he's a young, talented and controllable asset. If the Blue Jays were reluctant to deal Hoffman or Norris—in general, not just for Kazmir—then it's easy to see why the deal might have fallen through.

The Indians will continue to listen to offers for their young starters, but so far, the biggest news has been the potential, then missed deal for Carrasco.

 

Indians in on Carlos Gomez

The Indians are looking at deals that benefit them both in the short term and the long term. One such deal could be to acquire Milwaukee Brewers' outfielder Carlos Gomez.

According to Rosenthal, the Indians—along with many other teams—are interested in the 29-year-old outfielder.

Gomez is a stud, and he would do wonders to bolster the subpar offensive output the team has received from their current crop of outfielders. Consider the contributions from the team's current starting outfielders compared to what Gomez has done this year, as illustrated in the chart below.

Gomez's numbers aren't what we've come to expect from the veteran outfielder, but a lot of that can be attributed to an early-season hamstring injury which cost him 16 games between April 15 and May 2. 

Gomez has been solid since returning from the DL, amassing a .270/.343/.426 batting line with seven home runs, 15 doubles, 36 RBI, 38 runs scored, seven stolen bases and a 64-22 K/BB ratio. Surely the Indians would like to see a little more pop out of Gomez if they were to acquire his services, but even with the missed time, Gomez would rank second in home runs, first in runs, third in RBI, second in steals and second in fWAR among Indians' outfielders, per FanGraphs.

 

Indians Have Interest in Marcell Ozuna

Another rumor, another outfielder. The Indians, according to Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald, are one of several teams that have checked in on the availability of Miami Marlins' outfielder Marcell Ozuna.

Both teams seem to be doing their due diligence regarding the others' top young players, and the idea of the two teams hooking up on a Santana-Ozuna or Carrasco-Ozuna trade is certainly within the realm of possibility.

Ozuna would be a slightly riskier but potentially better acquisition than Gomez, whom we discussed in the section above.

First off, Ozuna is younger—he's just 24 years old—and he's under club control through the 2019 season. Second, the potential is there for Ozuna to be a 30-plus home run hitter with above-average run-producing potential.

That said, there's also bust potential packed into that 6'1", 225-pound frame. Last year, the Dominican Republic native struck out at a whopping 26.8-percent clip—164 times in 612 plate appearances—and then was demoted this year after posting a .249/.301/.337 batting line with a 23-percent strikeout rate through 79 games played.

Whether anything comes of this rumor remains to be seen, but given the Indians' perceived interest in acquiring a talented, club-controlled outfielder, Ozuna is a strong possibility should the Marlins choose to shop him around.

 

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MLB Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz and Predictions for Top Players Available

Teams' scouting departments have been doing their due diligence over the past months in anticipation of this Friday's non-waiver trade deadline. Now, after deals earlier this week that saw former All-Stars like Aramis Ramirez and Scott Kazmir change teams, the MLB trade deadline is in full swing.

With the first big deals out of the way, we should expect a flurry of moves in the coming days. With those moves, we should also expect to see some of the game's biggest names move to potentially greener pastures.

Before we reach that Friday deadline, let's take a look at some of the latest buzz surrounding the top players available and also make a few predictions about their collective fates.

 

Johnny Cueto 

Arguably the best pitcher on the block this year, Johnny Cueto's second-half services are in hot demand around the league.

Most recently, according to ESPN's MLB insider Jim Bowden, Cueto is high on both the Kansas City Royals' and Toronto Blue Jays' wish lists.

The Royals and Blue Jays could feasibly get into a bidding war over Cueto, and if both are willing to give up a "top" prospect, then things could get interesting.

The Blue Jays boast a farm system that includes three of MLB.com's top 100 prospects—Daniel Norris (12), Dalton Pompey (33) and Jeff Hoffman (69)—and both Norris and Pompey should draw significant interest from the Reds. Hoffman would also be an interesting piece for the Reds, and his starts with the team's High-A and Double-A affiliates suggest that his 2014 Tommy John surgery is well behind him.

Meanwhile, in Kansas City, the Royals' farm system is well represented within MLB.com's top 100 prospects, with Raul Adalberto Mondesi (31), Sean Manaea (43), Kyle Zimmer (45) and Miguel Almonte (66) all laying claim to top-75 positions.

Cueto is going to fetch a price, and it could come down to whichever of these two teams is willing to pay more for him. Fortunately for the Reds—and unfortunately for the acquiring team—Cueto's value has rebounded to its' pre-All-Star-Game form.

After allowing five earned runs over his two previous starts—he walked a whopping seven batters over just nine innings between those two starts—Cueto bounced back in a big way Saturday night (Jul 25). The 29-year-old was outstanding in Colorado, tossing eight innings of shutout ball, allowing just four hits and one walk while striking out five.

Following that outing, Fox Sports MLB insider Ken Rosenthal reported that the Royals and Reds had a deal in place that fell through due to a medical issue with one of the players heading to Cincinnati.

This deal falling through doesn't preclude a deal being struck between the Reds and Royals, but it certainly doesn't help if a player that Walt Jocketty and Co. thought highly of is no longer considered healthy enough to acquire.

If the Blue Jays are wiling to offer up one of their top pitching prospects in return for Cueto—or a combination of Pompey and a lesser prospect—then the Reds could, and should, consider shipping the Dominican Republic native north of the border.

Prediction: Cueto is traded to the Toronto Blue Jays.

 

Cole Hamels

Cole Hamels' draft stock is on the rise. The 31-year-old made waves Saturday (Jul 25) after no-hitting the Chicago Cubs, lowering his ERA to 3.64 in the process.

One day prior to the no-no, TR Sullivan, the Rangers' beat writer for MLB.com, noted that the Texas Rangers had rejoined the discussion on the Phillies' star lefty.

The Rangers were in talks with the Phillies earlier in the year, but as Jon Heyman of CBS Sports noted back in March, the two teams weren't necessarily close to a deal then, as the Rangers were unwilling to part with top prospects Joey Gallo and Jorge Alfaro.

The tune has probably changed slightly in that time, as Gallo was on the cusp of a big league breakout earlier this year before fading hard en route to a demotion back to Triple-A Round Rock. Gallo, 21, currently ranks as the No. 7 prospect in baseball according to MLB.com.

Alfaro, meanwhile, ranks as as MLB.com's No. 34 prospect, and also as the best catching prospect in the game, per MLB.com. Assuming the Rangers are truly invested in the idea of acquiring Hamels, Alfaro will certainly be one of the first names mentioned by the Phillies front office. 

As for Hamels in Texas, the 31-year-old hasn't had the best luck against current American League West teams:

Over 14 appearances against AL West teams—not including the Rangers—Hamels has been dismal, allowing a 4.47 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP over 90.2 innings pitched. Hamels' numbers against the West are driven up by some poor starts against the Astros while they were still in the National League, and the teams he faced then are much, much different than the one he'd face as a Ranger.

As of now, though, there has been no news on any team being close to acquiring Hamels. Unless the asking price has indeed come down, then there's a strong chance Hamels stays in Philly through the remainder of the 2015 season.

Prediction: Cole Hamels does not get traded.

 

David Price

From one highly touted lefty to another, we arrive at David Price.

Price may not exactly be available yet, but there remains a strong possibility that the 29-year-old is moved before the non-waiver deadline.

According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the decision on Price's availability will be made sometime next week.

Nightengale also noted that the Los Angeles Dodgers are very high on the veteran lefty, which was corroborated by a later report from Fox Sports Jon Morosi, who noted that the Dodgers, Cubs and Blue Jays are all interested in the Tennessee native.

Price's contract status places him in the same boat as three of the four players discussed here, but it's worth noting that both the Cubs and Dodgers could get involved in the bidding.

Both teams have expressed interest in adding another starter as we move closer to the deadline, and the Cubs have been linked to Price as a possible offseason addition prior to the 2016 season. If the Dodgers get too close, it could compel the Cubs to pull the trigger on a deal in order to preserve their chances of signing Price this offseason.

That said, there's no guarantee that Price will be made available, and if there's one thing we've learned about Mike Ilitch and Dave Dombrowski, it's that they live to compete in the moment and not to retool for the future.

Prediction: David Price does not get traded.

 

Justin Upton

An All-Star for the third time in 2015, Justin Upton finds himself on the block after just 92 games with his current team.

The 27-year-old was acquired by the San Diego Padres back in December, but the team has been unable to compete this year—they're already 9.5 games back of the division-leading Dodgers and 7.5 games back of the second wild card. That's not a great position for the Padres, who hoped to compete for an NL West title this year, and the team now finds themselves in a position to sell.

Multiple reports have the club ready and willing to deal some of their top players, including James Shields, Andrew Cashner and Upton. That said, according to Morosi, Upton appears to be getting early play over the team's other options.

Upton, mired in a 40-game slump in which he's slashed just .169/.273/.254 with six extra-base-hits (three home runs) and 12 RBI, could make for an intriguing buy-low for teams looking to upgrade without mortgaging away their future for a half-season rental. Plus, getting Upton out of Petco Park and into a better lineup could help turn the young outfielder around, as he lacks both the ballpark and protection to be the All-Star-caliber player we saw through the middle of July.

The Pirates make sense for Upton, but after just having acquired Aramis Ramirez, the team seems to be pretty well set once Josh Harrison returns from the DL.

Houston, however, seems like a more realistic landing spot for the Virginia native.

The Astros currently sit just a half-game back of the AL West-leading Los Angeles Angels, and the club could use help in the outfield as they wait on the return of George Springer. Once he returns, the team could elect to shift one of Colby Rasmus or Jake Marisnick to a fourth-outfielder role, thereby boosting both the starting lineup and bench depth.

Prediction: Justin Upton is traded to the Houston Astros.

 

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MLB Trade Rumors: Latest on Teams Expected to Sell at the Trade Deadline

The 2015 MLB trade deadline is just around the corner, and the first domino could fall at any point.  

Last year, we had to wait several days for the first true blockbuster—the July 31 swap of Jon Lester and Yoenis Cespedes qualifies there—but this year, we may get something a whole lot sooner.

With several teams having already fallen out of contention, the potential for major shake-ups is there. Some of those fading teams' biggest names are already rumored to be available—e.g., Justin Upton, Aroldis Chapman, Jonathan Papelbon and others—so we should expect some high-caliber players to switch jerseys in the very near future.

The buzz around the 2015 trade deadline is already building, so to help sort out all the noise, here's a look at the latest rumors and news surrounding teams looking to sell at the trade deadline.

 

Cincinnati Reds

According to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer, the floodgates have opened, and the Reds are ready for a full-blown "fire sale."

Fay stated that "the fire sale is in full swing. The Reds have put all the players they (are) willing to part with on the shelf. Owner Bob Castellini has given go-ahead to trade as needed."

He also noted that "Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Aroldis Chapman, Jay Bruce, Marlon Byrd, Skip Schumaker and Brayan Pena could all be gone before the calendar turns to August."

Bruce and Chapman have done wonders to their trade stock in recent weeks, considering their individual performances over the last 30 and 10 games, respectively.

Bruce has been on a tear over his last 30. The 28-year-old has driven up his triple-slash components by 42, 20 and 73 points, respectively, on the back of a .319/.368/.584 batting line in that time. His improvements coincidentally coincide with speculation he could be available for trade.

Chapman, meanwhile, hasn't allowed a run through his last 10 appearances (10 innings) and has struck out a whopping 20 batters in that time compared to just three walks.

A proverbial sinking ship, the Reds are willing to part with anything not bolted down to the floor, according to Fay. Gigantic fixtures such as Joey Votto, Homer Bailey and Brandon Phillips are unlikely to move, and general manager Walt Jocketty stated to Fay that Frazier wasn't going anywhere.

The club's other young talent won't be going anywhere either, but the Reds are loaded with potential trade chips.

 

San Diego Padres

Meanwhile, on the West Coast, the San Diego Padres have had conversations about trading some of their starting pitchers, according to Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Sources told the Union-Tribune that the Padres and the Astros have held preliminary talks on starting pitchers, with right-handers Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner believed to be among those mentioned. There are no indications of anything imminent, and one source said the two sides had not spoken on the subject since early this month.

This report coincides with information that ESPN Insider Buster Olney received from a rival evaluator who placed "the odds of James Shields being dealt before July 31 anywhere from 75 to 90 percent, and he believes the Padres will move Craig Kimbrel by the end of this month."

That puts four of the Padres' top arms on the block—Ross, Cashner, Shields and Kimbrel—and according to Fox Sports' Jon Morosi, the Baltimore Orioles have been linked to outfielder Justin Upton.

With CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reporting the New York Mets have him "on their radar," it seems as though the 27-year-old may be on the block.

 

Philadelphia Phillies

Back on the East Coast, the Phillies are still discussing the possibility of trading starter Cole Hamels prior to the trade deadline.

According to ESPN Insider Buster Olney, "The Phillies have had trade discussions with multiple teams regarding Cole Hamels." Olney also noted that the team "could be pushing to finish a Jonathan Papelbon deal."

Hamels has been a trade candidate since the beginning of the season, but speculation has ramped up as we inch closer to the deadline.

That said, there is also a faction that still believes that the Phillies might elect to hold on to Hamels through the remainder of the 2015 season. In fact, Joel Sherman of the New York Post recently noted that he was "surprised" by how many felt that way about Hamels and the Phillies.

Papelbon seems like a sure thing for the Phillies to deal, but at this point, don't be surprised if they wait until the offseason, when rosters become a bit more flexible.

 

Milwaukee Brewers

If recent rumors hold true, then the Brewers are going to play a big hand at the trade deadline. According to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, "The Brewers are willing to trade not only star center fielder Carlos Gomez but even young shortstop Jean Segura, according to one person familiar with their thinking, who suggested it's somewhat likely they move both players."

Gomez has been linked to a team as recently as Sunday, when Fox Sports insider Ken Rosenthal broke news that the Baltimore Orioles had interest in the 29-year-old outfielder.

The Dominican Republic native was an All-Star in both the 2013 and 2014 seasons, and while he lost a portion of his 2015 season to injury, he's been effective while healthy. Over 64 games this year, Gomez boasts a .267/.322/.439 batting line with eight home runs, 18 doubles, 41 RBI, 38 runs scored and a 61-16 K/BB ratio.

Meanwhile, the other half of that Heyman report, Segura, is enjoying a slight bounce-back season after a disappointing 2014 campaign. Through 75 games Segura sports a .273/.302/.343 batting line with 12 extra-base hits, 24 RBI, 31 runs scored, 13 stolen bases and a 44-9 K/BB ratio.

Segura would be a solid addition for a team in need of an upgrade at shortstop—maybe the New York Yankees or Mets—but the acquiring team will be in line to give up quite a bit given his young age—he's only 25—and vast upside.

 

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MLB Trade Rumors: Latest on Teams Expected to Sell at the Trade Deadline

The 2015 MLB trade deadline is just around the corner, and the first domino could fall at any point.  

Last year, we had to wait several days for the first true blockbuster—the July 31 swap of Jon Lester and Yoenis Cespedes qualifies there—but this year, we may get something a whole lot sooner.

With several teams having already fallen out of contention, the potential for major shake-ups is there. Some of those fading teams' biggest names are already rumored to be available—e.g., Justin Upton, Aroldis Chapman, Jonathan Papelbon and others—so we should expect some high-caliber players to switch jerseys in the very near future.

The buzz around the 2015 trade deadline is already building, so to help sort out all the noise, here's a look at the latest rumors and news surrounding teams looking to sell at the trade deadline.

 

Cincinnati Reds

According to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer, the floodgates have opened, and the Reds are ready for a full-blown "fire sale."

Fay stated that "the fire sale is in full swing. The Reds have put all the players they (are) willing to part with on the shelf. Owner Bob Castellini has given go-ahead to trade as needed."

He also noted that "Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Aroldis Chapman, Jay Bruce, Marlon Byrd, Skip Schumaker and Brayan Pena could all be gone before the calendar turns to August."

Bruce and Chapman have done wonders to their trade stock in recent weeks, considering their individual performances over the last 30 and 10 games, respectively.

Bruce has been on a tear over his last 30. The 28-year-old has driven up his triple-slash components by 42, 20 and 73 points, respectively, on the back of a .319/.368/.584 batting line in that time. His improvements coincidentally coincide with speculation he could be available for trade.

Chapman, meanwhile, hasn't allowed a run through his last 10 appearances (10 innings) and has struck out a whopping 20 batters in that time compared to just three walks.

A proverbial sinking ship, the Reds are willing to part with anything not bolted down to the floor, according to Fay. Gigantic fixtures such as Joey Votto, Homer Bailey and Brandon Phillips are unlikely to move, and general manager Walt Jocketty stated to Fay that Frazier wasn't going anywhere.

The club's other young talent won't be going anywhere either, but the Reds are loaded with potential trade chips.

 

San Diego Padres

Meanwhile, on the West Coast, the San Diego Padres have had conversations about trading some of their starting pitchers, according to Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Sources told the Union-Tribune that the Padres and the Astros have held preliminary talks on starting pitchers, with right-handers Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner believed to be among those mentioned. There are no indications of anything imminent, and one source said the two sides had not spoken on the subject since early this month.

This report coincides with information that ESPN Insider Buster Olney received from a rival evaluator who placed "the odds of James Shields being dealt before July 31 anywhere from 75 to 90 percent, and he believes the Padres will move Craig Kimbrel by the end of this month."

That puts four of the Padres' top arms on the block—Ross, Cashner, Shields and Kimbrel—and according to Fox Sports' Jon Morosi, the Baltimore Orioles have been linked to outfielder Justin Upton.

With CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reporting the New York Mets have him "on their radar," it seems as though the 27-year-old may be on the block.

 

Philadelphia Phillies

Back on the East Coast, the Phillies are still discussing the possibility of trading starter Cole Hamels prior to the trade deadline.

According to ESPN Insider Buster Olney, "The Phillies have had trade discussions with multiple teams regarding Cole Hamels." Olney also noted that the team "could be pushing to finish a Jonathan Papelbon deal."

Hamels has been a trade candidate since the beginning of the season, but speculation has ramped up as we inch closer to the deadline.

That said, there is also a faction that still believes that the Phillies might elect to hold on to Hamels through the remainder of the 2015 season. In fact, Joel Sherman of the New York Post recently noted that he was "surprised" by how many felt that way about Hamels and the Phillies.

Papelbon seems like a sure thing for the Phillies to deal, but at this point, don't be surprised if they wait until the offseason, when rosters become a bit more flexible.

 

Milwaukee Brewers

If recent rumors hold true, then the Brewers are going to play a big hand at the trade deadline. According to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, "The Brewers are willing to trade not only star center fielder Carlos Gomez but even young shortstop Jean Segura, according to one person familiar with their thinking, who suggested it's somewhat likely they move both players."

Gomez has been linked to a team as recently as Sunday, when Fox Sports insider Ken Rosenthal broke news that the Baltimore Orioles had interest in the 29-year-old outfielder.

The Dominican Republic native was an All-Star in both the 2013 and 2014 seasons, and while he lost a portion of his 2015 season to injury, he's been effective while healthy. Over 64 games this year, Gomez boasts a .267/.322/.439 batting line with eight home runs, 18 doubles, 41 RBI, 38 runs scored and a 61-16 K/BB ratio.

Meanwhile, the other half of that Heyman report, Segura, is enjoying a slight bounce-back season after a disappointing 2014 campaign. Through 75 games Segura sports a .273/.302/.343 batting line with 12 extra-base hits, 24 RBI, 31 runs scored, 13 stolen bases and a 44-9 K/BB ratio.

Segura would be a solid addition for a team in need of an upgrade at shortstop—maybe the New York Yankees or Mets—but the acquiring team will be in line to give up quite a bit given his young age—he's only 25—and vast upside.

 

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MLB Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz Surrounding James Shields, Ben Zobrist and More

The MLB trade deadline is just two weeks away, and with the All-Star Game finally in the rearview mirror, the rumor mill is starting to heat up.

Big names like Johnny Cueto, Aroldis Chapman, Jeff Samardzija and numerous others are already rumored to be available, and new names seem to pop up every day in reported trade discussions. Here, we'll discuss some players who have already been linked to trade talks, along with relative newcomers like James Shields and Jay Bruce.

So, with the July 31 trade deadline finally in sight, here's a look at the latest buzz surrounding some of the biggest names being tossed around the rumor mill.

 

Johnny Cueto

At this point, it looks as though Cueto leaving Cincinnati is a relative lock. Recently, his name has been swirling around the insider circle, and recently, USA Today insider Bob Nightengale noted that three teams have been the most aggressive in their pursuit of Cueto.

Cueto is an ace in every sense of the word. To this point in the 2015 season, the 29-year-old righty boasts a 6-6 record to go along with a 2.73 ERA, a 0.90 WHIP and peripherals including 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings, 1.7 walks per nine and 5.14 strikeouts per walk.

All three teams mentioned by Nightengale look like legitimate landing spots for the former All-Star, but according to Jon Heyman, the Houston Astros are in hot pursuit. The CBS Sports insider stated, "The Astros just fell a half game out of first place after a very nice first half in which they led the AL West basically the whole way, and one person connected to their team said that 'they know they need a starter.'"

The Astros are easily the best match for the Reds, as their farm system is as deep as any in baseball. Fans' expectations for a return package should be reeled in a little, though, as Cueto is just a rental for the remainder of the season.

Fortunately for the Reds, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle notes that a half-year rental of a player like Cueto is exactly what the team is looking for:

But sources say a two- to three-month rental pitcher who will become a free agent this winter, or possibly someone whose contract runs for one more year, is the most likely acquisition for the Astros. In other words, [Cole] Hamels appears a long shot.

Cueto, sources said, is the most attractive potential acquisition to the Astros at the moment. The Los Angeles Dodgers, Yankees and Toronto are also interested in Reds pitching, a source said.

Cueto would be a perfect fit along with Dallas Keuchel atop the Astros' starting rotation, but he's going to cost a pretty penny. The Astros have a farm system deep enough to handle that sort of trade, though, so it's a scenario worth keeping an eye on moving forward. 

 

Toronto Blue Jays

Staying on the topic of starting pitching, according to Sportsnet's Shi Davidi, the Toronto Blue Jays have been asked routinely about the availability of young right-hander Marcus Stroman.

On the subject of making a trade to boost the starting rotation, Davidi noted that it's "easier said than done, when word is they're being regularly asked for Marcus Stroman in return by potential trade partners, even for rentals."

The Blue Jays, as noted by Drellich and Nightengale in the previous section, are very interested in Cueto. Any deal with Cueto will likely include one of the team's top pitching prospects—Daniel Norris, Stroman or Jeff Hoffman—but the team's reluctance to include Stroman could be a bugaboo in their quest for adding a starter.

Davidi goes on later to suggest that a more likely trade scenario is one similar to the Samardzija deal between the Chicago Cubs and Oakland A's last season.

The Blue Jays, Davidi reports, are more interested in acquiring a starting pitcher with extra years of club control, and he suggests a combination of soon-to-be free agents like Ian Kennedy or Joaquin Benoit along with Andrew Cashner or Tyson Ross, who have one and two years of club control left on their contracts, respectively.

Toronto needs help both in the starting rotation and the bullpen, but in order to keep pace with the rest of the American League East, they may need to relent and give up a starter like Stroman—or at least a top prospect.

 

Jay Bruce

Returning to the Reds rumor mill, Bruce is rumored to be available, according to multiple sources, including ESPN's Buster Olney

Fox Sports MLB insider Ken Rosenthal also made mention of Bruce's availability in a recent piece, stating, "For all the talk about Cueto, Chapman and right-hander Mike Leake, some around the Reds believe that right fielder Jay Bruce is as good a bet as anyone to be traded."

Cueto, Leake and Chapman seem like sure things to be moved at this point, but Bruce is arguably the most intriguing trade chip the Reds hold.

Bruce is under club control through 2016, with a $13 million team option for 2017 and a $1 million buyout for that season. Bruce, one of the game's premier right fielders when healthy, is affordable through the next two seasons and has been on a tear of late, averaging a .330/.385/.606 batting line with four home runs, 12 doubles, 13 RBI, 15 runs scored and 16-9 K/BB ratio over his last 25 games.

Bruce is peaking after having started the year off rather poorly, and adding him to the trade market could provide the Reds farm system with a huge boost.

This year's list of potential trade chips is loaded with starting pitchers, and Bruce would be one of the few marquis position players available at the deadline.

A quick perusing of Bruce's contract, via Baseball Prospectus, shows that he's able to veto trades to eight teams—the Diamondbacks, Red Sox, Marlins, Twins, Yankees, A's, Rays and Blue Jays—but several of those teams could work as potential landing spots anyway given their status as division-title contenders.

Bruce would be an attractive option for a number of teams given his relatively team-friendly contract status, making him a prime candidate to move at the deadline.

 

James Shields

Starting pitching rules the market this year, and according to MLB insider Peter Gammons, James Shields is another name to add to the long list of starting pitchers who figure to be available at the deadline.

The interesting thing about Gammons' story is that the Padres are the ones gauging teams' interest in trading for Shields, not the other way around. If the Padres are looking to deal Shields, then that, along with the bevy of trade rumors including prized outfielder Justin Upton, surely signals that they're looking to blow the whole thing up.

The Padres acquired Upton and Shields—among other acquisitions—prior to the 2015 season, and to this point, the moves haven't paid off. Through 90 games, Upton and the Padres own a 41-49 record, good for fourth place in the National League West and 10 games back of the division-leading Dodgers.

 

Ben Zobrist

Our final update comes in the form of more news on Oakland A's jack-of-all-trades Ben Zobrist. According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, Zobrist is drawing interest from multiple teams.

Despite not having the best of years, Zobrist remains sought-after, including by the Mets, Yankees, Giants, and Nationals. Zobrist, 34, has played three positions this season — 25 games in left field, 25 at second base, and three in right field. Zobrist has played only four career games at third base but could play there if needed.

Zobrist can literally do it all, and the team that would eventually acquire him would be getting one of the hottest players in the American League West. Over his last 30 games—he's only played 44 since returning from the DL in late May—Zobrist is slashing .308/.392/.495 with three home runs, nine doubles, 16 RBI, 21 runs scored and a 13-16 K/BB ratio.

Zobrist is a fit on any number of teams, as the 34-year-old can slot into practically any position on the field. The list of suitors keeps growing for Zobrist, and he's now been linked to the four teams above as well as the Cubs and Angels.

Zobrist figures to be a hot-ticket item as we approach the deadline, and we could be looking at a good ol' fashioned Yankees-Mets bidding war come July 31.

 

All stats current through play on July 16, 2015 and are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Scouting Reports for New York Yankees Prospects in the 2015 Futures Game

The All-Star Game is just around the corner, and some of the best players on the planet will take to Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. Two days before that, though, some of the best prospects in the world will take to that same field on July 12 in the 2015 Futures Game.

The game has produced a plethora of young talent, and recent MVPs of the Futures Game include Jose Reyes (2002), Aaron Hill (2004), Nick Castellanos (2012) and Joey Gallo (2014), per MLB.com.

Those are just the MVPs, though. Consider the players below who suited up for the USA and World teams in last year's game, along with their Baseball America prospect rankings for this season.

A proverbial who's who of top 100 prospects, the Futures Game is always an exciting event, and this year, the New York Yankees will send two representatives to the game: outfielder Aaron Judge and catcher Gary Sanchez.

These two will be up with the Yankees soon enough, so ahead of Sunday's game, here are full scouting reports on two of the club's top prospects.

 

Aaron Judge

Judge isn't the best prospect in the Yankees system, but he's a worthy No. 2. The 23-year-old outfielder has plus raw power, and his game power—though rated at 20 by FanGraphs—is progressing by the minute.

Over 236 minor league games—including Arizona Fall League games—Judge has belted 34 home runs, good for a 162-game average of 23.3. Judge's power should continue to progress as both his body and approach continue to mature. 

That said, it's worth noting that the Fresno State University product has seen his plate discipline challenged consistently as he moves up the ranks. Since being drafted last year, Judge is the owner of a 23.3 percent strikeout rate; it was 25 percent during his time at Double-A Trenton earlier this year.

Now, since moving up to Scranton, Judge's strikeout rate has leveled off a little, settling in at 21 percent over a small sample of 81 plate appearances.

Judge has been successful, however, in drawing walks, and he could fall into that Three True Outcomes mold that we've seen more and more in young players—e.g., Joc Pederson. Over 563 plate appearances last year, Judge walked at a steady 15.2 percent rate, and he's continued drawing walks at a 9.7 percent clip in 2015.

Whether Judge can cut back on his strikeouts remains to be seen, but his ability in the outfield is less of a question. Judge runs well enough to be a corner outfielder at the big league level. The California native figures to lose some speed as he continues to fill out, but that shouldn't force him out of the outfield.

In his prime, Judge figures to be a 25-plus home run hitter with below-average speed. His bat is a bit more of a question mark, but he shouldn't have a problem hitting for a .250-plus average.

Overall, Judge should make for a first-division outfielder on a competitive team.

 

Gary Sanchez

An oft-forgotten prospect in the Yankees system, Sanchez has the tools to be a top-tier catcher on a competitive roster.

Sanchez has a rocket for an arm, though he sometimes appears lackadaisical behind the plate and led the Eastern League in errors and passed balls last year, per Baseball America. Sanchez's arm is the only thing keeping him behind the plate at this point, but if he's able to keep his focus and cut down on his defensive lapses, the 22-year-old has the chance to be an above-average option behind the dish.

Sanchez's offensive game is much more polished. Though his strikeout rate has hovered around 21 percent for his career, it's taken a bit of a dip through 241 plate appearances in 2015, finally dropping below the 20 percent mark—19.5 percent in 2015.

Over 2,240 plate appearances, Sanchez owns a walk rate of 8.2 percent and has a decent feel for the strike zone, as evidenced by a career .273 batting average. That said, according to MLB.com, Sanchez "can lapse into an all-or-nothing approach at the plate at times, but he has enough offensive upside to profile as an everyday player if he has to move to first base."

Sanchez's calling card is his plus raw power. The young backstop has quick wrists and a strong lower half, and he is capable of generating above-average bat speed. To date, Sanchez has popped 83 homers in 527 games played, good for a 25 homer-per-year average.

At the big league level, Sanchez figures to be more of a 15-20 home run hitter, with the potential for 20-25 if he figures out how to limit his swings and misses.

The question for Sanchez's future as a catcher is whether or not he's able to figure things out behind the plate. Take the following excerpt from Baseball America's prospect handbook

"He's still working to become more adept as a receiver and a blocker—he led the Eastern League with 17 errors and passed balls—and some scouts felt he struggled to establish a proper rapport with his staff," Baseball America noted. "He also was benched for five games for issues away from the field."

Sanchez needs to get his act together, but if and when he does, he has the potential to click in a big way.

 

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

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MLB Rumors: Latest on Gerardo Parra, Ben Zobrist and More

The MLB trade deadline is just around the corner, and the rumor mill is churning out some interesting bits of information practically every day.  

Big names on the block this year include players like Johnny Cueto, Aroldis Chapman, Jonathan Papelbon and David Price, among others, and the deadline could feature an exciting flurry of moves. In this piece, we're going to look at a few players who, while their names don't carry the same notoriety as a Cueto or Papelbon, could have a huge impact on a team willing to bring them in.

 

The Giants Love Gerardo Parra

Gerardo Parra has done an impressive job of trying to shake the fourth-outfielder tag he was slapped with during his time in Arizona. Over 83 games played this year, Parra boasts a strong .309/.345/.487 batting line with eight home runs, 20 doubles, 26 RBI, 4- runs scored, six stolen bases and a 50-15 K/BB ratio.

This shouldn't come as much of a surprise to anyone who has watched Parra consistently over his seven-year career, and according to San Francisco Giants writer Andrew Baggarly, the Giants have liked Parra since his days with the D'backs, but they had no opportunity to acquire him from their division rival.

Conveniently enough, Parra is with a new team now—the Milwaukee Brewers—and according to ESPN's Buster Olney, the Giants have at least checked in on Parra, along with Atlanta Braves outfielder Cameron Maybin.

Parra's name has been showing up in rumors all over the league, and we should expect that trend to continue now that outfielder Khris Davis has returned from the DL. With Parra playing as well as he has been and their outfield at full strength, now would be a sensible time to sell high on him while teams like the Giants—they're playing with both Hunter Pence and Nori Aoki on the DL—are hurting for outfield help.

Whether he ends up playing his home games at AT&T Park or not remains to be seen, but the idea of the 28-year-old suiting up for the Giants has to be a welcome thought for fans who have seen the team's outfield suffer from more injuries than you can shake a stick at.

 

Mets in on Ben Zobrist

According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the Mets have interest in Oakland A's super-utility man Ben Zobrist. Sherman noted that the team's GM, Sandy Alderson, had "recently stated that he was willing to 'overpay' for the right hitter to help his lineup."

Alderson surely had at least one player in mind when making that statement, but according to Sherman, Zobrist is his man.

The 34-year-old missed an entire month of the season between April 24 and May 26, but he has been solidly productive over 39 games since returning from the DL. In said 39 games, Zobrist has logged 157 plate appearances with a .261/.358/.442 batting line with 16 extra-base hits (four home runs), 23 RBI, 26 runs scored and a 16-22 K/BB ratio.

Zobrist would be a solid fit for the Mets, who could use any bit of offense they can get. 

Currently, the Mets rank second to last in the National League in runs per game (3.45). In addition, they're almost completely devoid of players who can get on base—their .297 team on-base percentage ranks second to last in the NL.

If there's two things Zobrist does well, it's get on base and score runs. Over his 10-year-career, he is the owner of a .354 on-base percentage, and while his speed has all but dried up, the veteran utility man is still smart on the basepaths and takes the extra base 47 percent of the time, per Baseball-Reference.

 

But so Are the Angels

According to MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez, (h/t Ken Rosenthal), the Angels were rebuffed when they brought up Josh Reddick in trade discussions. Rosenthal expanded on that scenario, though, and noted that league sources also informed him the team inquired about Zobrist.

"The Angels, according to major-league sources, not only made a trade inquiry to the Athletics about outfielder Josh Reddick, as first reported by MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez, but also about Zobrist," Rosenthal said.

Zobrist would be a great fit for the Angels—honestly, he's a great fit for just about any team—as they rank 11th in the American League in runs scored, while their batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage marks rank 10th, eighth and 10th, respectively.

The Illinois native can play practically every position on the field—he's appeared at every position except first and third between 2014 and 2015—and would be a welcome upgrade over the struggling Matt Joyce in left field.

Unfortunately, as noted by David Lennon of Newsday, acquiring the 34-year-old is getting harder and harder, as he continues to excel with Oakland.

That's all good and well, but Zobrist is also slated to hit the free-agent market this offseason, and he may keep playing his way into a larger contract with a different team. If GM Billy Beane determines the team is unable to keep Zobrist in the fold long term, he may look to move him for more controllable assets.

 

All stats are current through play on July 8, and are courtesy of Fangraphs.com unless otherwise noted.

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2015 MLB All-Star Roster: Undeserving Selections and Biggest Snubs

The 2015 MLB All-Star Game heads to Cincinnati this year. The event stirs up controversy like it's its job, causing a frenzy of discussion over who should and who shouldn't be representing their respective leagues in the game.

This year is no different, and some players will, deservedly so, earn the "snub" title, while others will be deemed "undeserving" of their selection. In this piece, I'm going to help sort all that out.

After a brief look at each league's roster, we'll look at one player from each league who is totally undeserving of his being voted into the game. Following the section on undeserving players selected to participate in the All-Star Game, be sure to read on to find out who the biggest snubs are from this year's teams.

So, without further ado, here are your undeserving selections and biggest snubs from the 2015 All-Star Game.

 

Starting Position Players

 

Reserves

 

Pitchers

 

Undeserving Selections

One truly undeserving selection from each league. Unsurprisingly enough, the fans voted these two players in. 

First, our American League player: Alcides Escobar.

The 28-year-old shortstop has been solid but unspectacular. Through 71 games this season, Escobar boasts a .282/.323/.367 batting line with 19 extra-base hits (two home runs), 31 RBI, 41 runs scored, five steals and a 36-14 K/BB ratio.

Escobar's perceived ability to get on base—.321 OBP—is driven largely by his ability to put the bat on the ball. Unfortunately, Escobar is drawing walks at just a 4.4 percent rate and can't be trusted to get on base. Moreover, the Venezuela native has seen his stolen-base totals plummet this year, totaling just five steals on seven attempts.

The big thing keeping Escobar's 1.8 fWAR afloat is his above-average glove. To this point in the season, Escobar has logged two defensive runs saved, and his UZR/150—8.6—ranks third among American League shortstops, per FanGraphs.

That 1.5 fWAR I mentioned earlier ranks in a second-place tie with Brad Miller among AL shortstops behind a much more deserving player, and final vote candidate, Xander Bogaerts. Escobar probably deserves to be at the game, but definitely not as a starter.

Meanwhile, a player who hasn't suited up since June 8 is slated to start in the National League's outfield. 

Matt Holliday has no business startingnor playing inthe All-Star Game.

The 12-year veteran and now seven-time All-Star was having a decent season prior to succumbing to the injury bug. Over 52 games—218 at-bats, Holliday totaled a .303/.417/.421 batting line with just three home runs, 14 extra-base hits, 26 RBI, 20 runs scored and a 39-33 K/BB ratio.

All that was good for a 1.1 fWAR. It's good, not great. Not All-Star great, anyway.

With numerous players behind him in the polls who have played better, more complete seasons, it's not hard to see why Holliday is "undeserving" of his All-Star Game selection.

 

Biggest Snubs

Brian Dozier should be the recipient of the final fan vote in the American League. However, it never should have come to this in the first place.

Dozier is having a standout season, one of the best in the American League. Through 83 games played, the 28-year-old carries a solid .258/.331/.512 batting line with 17 home runs, 26 doubles, 43 RBI, 63 runs scored, seven stolen bases and a 74-33 K/BB ratio.

Dozier's fWAR—3.1—outpaces all AL second basemen not named Jason Kipnis, and his other numbers are well represented amongst qualified second basemen. In that group, Dozier ranks first in home runs, first in RBI, first in ISO, first in slugging percentage and second in wRC+, via FanGraphs.

By the numbers, Kipnis and Dozier should have been the top-two vote-getters at the position, but Dozier will now need the help of the same fans who burned him the first time around.

Charlie Blackmon our focus here as the National League's biggest snub. The 29-year-old has compiled some solid numbers through 82 games this year, and figures to be the next-best option to having Matt Holliday on the roster.

Through said 82 games, Blackmon ranks as the sixth-best outfielder in terms of fWAR—2.6—and his .280/.351/.452 batting line pairs well with his counting stats, which include 11 home runs, 36 RBI, 49 runs scored, 21 stolen bases and a 63-27 K/BB ratio.

Given Holliday's injury status, Blackmon easily outpaces him in every way imaginable, and his omission from the All-Star Game roster is rather egregious.

 

Advanced stats via FanGraphs.com unless otherwise noted.

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NL All-Stars 2015: Starting Roster and Top Snubs

Voters turned out in droves this year to support their favorite players in the 2015 MLB All-Star Game. In fact, according to MLB's communications department, the 620 million votes cast this year were a new record.

In addition to the record turnout, the group deserves credit for nailing the voting process on the National League side of things. The fans managed to reward the best player in the NL to this point in the season—Bryce Harper—with the most votes for any NL player in the history of the fan vote.

Nearly the entire group of players selected are deserving, and finding "snubs" is far more difficult with this group than it was for the American League team. That said, two players have legitimate gripes about their exclusions, and both are looking up in the standings at one player who, well, probably doesn't deserve to be there.

Before we talk snubs though, let's take a look at position players who will—mostly—take the field in Cincinnati, Ohio.

 

National League Starters

In addition to making sure they got the best player the most votes, the fans rewarded arguably the best player at each position with a justifiable spot in the NL's starting lineup.

Rarely do we say that a group of fans "nailed" their vote for an All-Star Game, but this year, aside from one spot—we'll talk about that soon enough—the fans were spot-on.

Moving on to the other outfielders, it's impossible to find fault in the fact that Giancarlo Stanton received enough votes to earn a spot in the NL's starting lineup. The 25-year-old slugger leads all of baseball in home runs, and his 158 OPS+ and 67 RBI are downright gaudy.

His injury came just a week ago, and aside from dropping him from the ballot completely, there was nothing that could have been done to keep him from earning a starting spot—in fact, he probably deserves it anyway, despite the hamate fracture.

Truthfully, there's only one spot to point to where the fans "snubbed" a more deserving player: in the outfield.

Matt Holliday has no business making the All-Star Team, let alone being voted in as a starter.

The 35-year-old and now seven-time All-Star outfielder hasn't suited up for the Red Birds since June 8, and, unlike Stanton, whose numbers merit inclusion on the roster despite an injury, Holliday wasn't having a great season to begin with. Aside from a strong .417 OBP, Holliday was having a rather mundane season, with just 14 extra-base hits and 26 RBI through 52 games and 178 at-bats.

 

Top Snubs

Behind Holliday in the polls, two rather notable snubs were that of Joc Pederson and a more under-the-radar option, A.J. Pollock.

Pollock, the Diamondbacks starting center fielder, has had an outstanding first half, posting a .303/.346/.464 batting line, while his 10 home runs and 18 stolen bases make him a 20-40 candidate.

Beyond that, the 27-year-old has tallied 38 RBI, despite hitting first or second in just over 90 percent of his plate appearances, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

Pollock has flashed outstanding speed on the basepaths, and while he isn't as prolific a bag-swiper as Dee Gordon or Billy Hamilton, the Connecticut native has carved out a nice niche for himself, ranking fourth in the category among qualified NL outfielders.

On top of that, Pollock's defensive contributions make him one of the league's more well-rounded players. Take a look at where Pollock ranks among qualified NL outfielders by advanced defensive metrics:

Top-five defensive outfielder? Check. Well-rounded offensive game? Check. NL All-Star... maybe? Pollock is arguably the next-best player available to take one of the two spots that will be vacated by Stanton and Holliday, so his status as a snub could be short-lived.

That brings us to Pederson, who looks like a shoo-in to replace one of those two injured starters.

Pederson's play this season is certainly deserving of starting consideration, and while the fan vote kept him from assuming that position right away, the injury bug could help open the door.

Either way, Pederson got ripped off. The rookie center fielder is pounding the ball this year, and while his status as a three-true-outcomes player may be a bit frustrating—he strikes out a lotPederson's numbers are arguably as good as any NL outfielder not named Harper or Stanton.

Through 82 games, the 23-year-old boasts a strong .234/.372/.504 batting line with 20 home runs, 38 RBI, 45 runs scored and a 98-56 K/BB ratio. Scoff at the .234 batting average all you want—OK, a little scoffing is fair—but Pederson knows how to get on base, and when he makes contact, he generally hits really, really hard.

So how does Pederson compare to other NL outfielders?

Well, forget about the batting average, and you have a player who, among qualified outfielders, ranks third in home runs, seventh in runs scored, third in ISO, fifth in OBP, third in slugging percentage, fourth in wRC+ and tied for third (with A.J. Pollock) in fWAR, according to FanGraphs.

Oh, and those categories where Pederson ranks third: Guess who he ranks behind? You guessed it: Harper and Stanton.

If you're willing to look beyond the batting average and 98 strikeouts—98 is a lot, Joc—then you've got a player who is, by the numbers, one of the top outfielders in the NL. Somehow, that top outfielder managed just a seventh-place showing in the voting, behind the likes of Jay Bruce and Nori Aoki.

 

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AL All-Stars 2015: Starting Roster and Top Snubs

The results are in, and the starting nine for the American League in this year’s MLB All-Star Game have been determined. This year’s lineup card, barring any unforeseen circumstances, will include four members of the Kansas City Royals as well as a record-setting turnout in favor of this year’s starting third baseman, Josh Donaldson.

Many deserving players were named to the team, including Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, the aforementioned Donaldson and superstar center fielder Mike Trout. However, three players are well-deserving of the “snub” title, and while they all may end up making the trip to the Queen City for the 2015 All-Star Game, it’s hard to argue they weren’t deserving of greater consideration for a spot on the team as a starter.

Before we get to talking about snubs, though, let’s take a look at the starters for this year’s American League All-Star Team.

 

American League Starters

Unsurprisingly, the Royals rostered a whopping four position players, those being Salvador Perez, Alcides Escobar, Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain. Several of these selections are rather questionable, though, and we’ll look at those in the section that follows.

Also of note is the fact that fans voted Miguel Cabrera to start at first base. The 13-year-veteran was well on his way to another MVP-caliber season, but, as noted by Fox Sports, the now 10-time All-Star is currently on the disabled list:

Cabrera went down with a strained calf late last week and will miss significant time. This is a bit of an anomaly, as the Venezuela native had never landed on the DL prior to this season.

We’ll find out Monday night who will replace Cabrera, but the most likely candidates include Eric Hosmer, Prince Fielder, Justin Smoak and Albert Pujols. Those four players finished second, third, fourth and fifth, respectively, behind Cabrera in this year’s voting, per MLB Communications.

Speaking of the final tally, let’s take a look at that quick before our final note on this year’s AL starters.

Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson set a record for most All-Star Game votes (14,090,188 votes) in a single season, and for good reason. The 29-year-old is having a standout campaign, and the numbers speak for themselves.

 

Top Snubs

Every year we talk about All-Star Game snubs, but this year’s AL roster is full of them. 

This year’s starting lineup will feature at least four members of the Kansas City Royals, and the case can be made that none of them deserve to be in that position. That said, shortstop is one of the thinnest positions in baseball this year, but the same can’t be said at the position behind the plate

Fans selected Perez as the starting catcher for this year’s All-Star Game, but behind him, two better options exist in Russell Martin and Stephen Vogt.

Sure, Perez is a great defender—he ranks second among AL catchers with five defensive runs saved (DRS)—and his pitch framing is some of the best in the American League—he ranks third in the league in called-third-strikes on pitches outside of the strike zone, per BaseaballSavant.com—but he’s not the best catcher in the AL this year.

That honor belongs to Martin…or maybe Vogt. Why not both? Co-snubs.

Martin and Vogt rank fifth and seventh, respectively, in called third strikes on pitches outside of the strike zone, per BaseballSavant.com, and their stat lines are off the charts.

Martin has been one of the best offensive threats on his third-place Blue Jays club. The Canada native ranks second among qualified catchers in home runs, third in RBI, first in runs scored, second in wRC+ and first in fWAR, per Fangraphs.com, and outpaces Perez in all of those categories, save home runs.

Meanwhile, Vogt has quietly been putting up yet another impressive offensive showing in 2015, leading AL backstops in RBI, batting average, OBP, slugging percentage and wRC+ while ranking second in fWAR and is tied for first in home runs, per Fangraphs.com. The 30-year-old has been downright outstanding, but  he went relatively unnoticed throughout the voting process, falling a whopping 6-plus million votes behind Perez.

So Vogt and Martin got snubbed, but J.D. Martinez tops the list of AL All-Star snubs this year.

The 27-year-old outfielder ranks fifth among qualified outfielders in fWAR while compiling an impressive stat line, including a .285/.340/.563 batting line with 23 homers, 56 RBI, 49 runs scored and an 89-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Martinez leads all AL outfielders in home runs, and his 145 wRC+, .563 slugging percentage and 56 RBI rank fourth, second and second, respectively, per Fangraphs.com.

Martinez has helped shoulder the load offensively alongside Miguel Cabrera in Detroit. He outpaces Gordon and Cain in nearly every offensive category, and while he doesn’t offer the defensive upside of either player, his offensive contributions certainly should have tipped the scales in his favor.

The Florida native is likely to find a spot on the roster, but it should have come as a starter.

 

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NL All-Stars 2015: Starting Roster and Top Snubs

Voters turned out in droves this year to support their favorite players in the 2015 MLB All-Star Game. In fact, according to MLB's communications department, the 620 million votes cast this year were a new record.

In addition to the record turnout, the group deserves credit for nailing the voting process on the National League side of things. The fans managed to reward the best player in the NL to this point in the season—Bryce Harper—with the most votes for any NL player in the history of the fan vote.

Nearly the entire group of players selected are deserving, and finding "snubs" is far more difficult with this group than it was for the American League team. That said, two players have legitimate gripes about their exclusions, and both are looking up in the standings at one player who, well, probably doesn't deserve to be there.

Before we talk snubs though, let's take a look at position players who will—mostly—take the field in Cincinnati, Ohio.

 

National League Starters

In addition to making sure they got the best player the most votes, the fans rewarded arguably the best player at each position with a justifiable spot in the NL's starting lineup.

Rarely do we say that a group of fans "nailed" their vote for an All-Star Game, but this year, aside from one spot—we'll talk about that soon enough—the fans were spot-on.

Moving on to the other outfielders, it's impossible to find fault in the fact that Giancarlo Stanton received enough votes to earn a spot in the NL's starting lineup. The 25-year-old slugger leads all of baseball in home runs, and his 158 OPS+ and 67 RBI are downright gaudy.

His injury came just a week ago, and aside from dropping him from the ballot completely, there was nothing that could have been done to keep him from earning a starting spot—in fact, he probably deserves it anyway, despite the hamate fracture.

Truthfully, there's only one spot to point to where the fans "snubbed" a more deserving player: in the outfield.

Matt Holliday has no business making the All-Star Team, let alone being voted in as a starter.

The 35-year-old and now seven-time All-Star outfielder hasn't suited up for the Red Birds since June 8, and, unlike Stanton, whose numbers merit inclusion on the roster despite an injury, Holliday wasn't having a great season to begin with. Aside from a strong .417 OBP, Holliday was having a rather mundane season, with just 14 extra-base hits and 26 RBI through 52 games and 178 at-bats.

 

Top Snubs

Behind Holliday in the polls, two rather notable snubs were that of Joc Pederson and a more under-the-radar option, A.J. Pollock.

Pollock, the Diamondbacks starting center fielder, has had an outstanding first half, posting a .303/.346/.464 batting line, while his 10 home runs and 18 stolen bases make him a 20-40 candidate.

Beyond that, the 27-year-old has tallied 38 RBI, despite hitting first or second in just over 90 percent of his plate appearances, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

Pollock has flashed outstanding speed on the basepaths, and while he isn't as prolific a bag-swiper as Dee Gordon or Billy Hamilton, the Connecticut native has carved out a nice niche for himself, ranking fourth in the category among qualified NL outfielders.

On top of that, Pollock's defensive contributions make him one of the league's more well-rounded players. Take a look at where Pollock ranks among qualified NL outfielders by advanced defensive metrics:

Top-five defensive outfielder? Check. Well-rounded offensive game? Check. NL All-Star... maybe? Pollock is arguably the next-best player available to take one of the two spots that will be vacated by Stanton and Holliday, so his status as a snub could be short-lived.

That brings us to Pederson, who looks like a shoo-in to replace one of those two injured starters.

Pederson's play this season is certainly deserving of starting consideration, and while the fan vote kept him from assuming that position right away, the injury bug could help open the door.

Either way, Pederson got ripped off. The rookie center fielder is pounding the ball this year, and while his status as a three-true-outcomes player may be a bit frustrating—he strikes out a lotPederson's numbers are arguably as good as any NL outfielder not named Harper or Stanton.

Through 82 games, the 23-year-old boasts a strong .234/.372/.504 batting line with 20 home runs, 38 RBI, 45 runs scored and a 98-56 K/BB ratio. Scoff at the .234 batting average all you want—OK, a little scoffing is fair—but Pederson knows how to get on base, and when he makes contact, he generally hits really, really hard.

So how does Pederson compare to other NL outfielders?

Well, forget about the batting average, and you have a player who, among qualified outfielders, ranks third in home runs, seventh in runs scored, third in ISO, fifth in OBP, third in slugging percentage, fourth in wRC+ and tied for third (with A.J. Pollock) in fWAR, according to FanGraphs.

Oh, and those categories where Pederson ranks third: Guess who he ranks behind? You guessed it: Harper and Stanton.

If you're willing to look beyond the batting average and 98 strikeouts—98 is a lot, Joc—then you've got a player who is, by the numbers, one of the top outfielders in the NL. Somehow, that top outfielder managed just a seventh-place showing in the voting, behind the likes of Jay Bruce and Nori Aoki.

 

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AL All-Stars 2015: Starting Roster and Top Snubs

The results are in, and the starting nine for the American League in this year's MLB All-Star Game have been determined. This year's lineup card, barring any unforeseen circumstances, will include four members of the Kansas City Royals as well as a record-setting turnout in favor of this year's starting third baseman, Josh Donaldson.

Many deserving players were named to the team, including Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, the aforementioned Donaldson and superstar center fielder Mike Trout. However, three players are well-deserving of the "snub" title, and while they all may end up making the trip to the Queen City for the 2015 All-Star Game, it's hard to argue they weren't deserving of greater consideration for a spot on the team as a starter.

Before we get to talking about snubs, though, let's take a look at the starters for this year's American League All-Star Team.

 

American League Starters

Unsurprisingly, the Royals rostered a whopping four position players, those being Salvador Perez, Alcides Escobar, Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain. Several of these selections are rather questionable, though, and we'll look at those in the section that follows.

Also of note is the fact that fans voted Miguel Cabrera to start at first base. The 13-year-veteran was well on his way to another MVP-caliber season, but, as noted by Fox Sports, the now 10-time All-Star is currently on the disabled list:

Cabrera went down with a strained calf late last week and will miss significant time. This is a bit of an anomaly, as the Venezuela native had never landed on the DL prior to this season.

We'll find out Monday night who will replace Cabrera, but the most likely candidates include Eric Hosmer, Prince Fielder, Justin Smoak and Albert Pujols. Those four players finished second, third, fourth and fifth, respectively, behind Cabrera in this year's voting, per MLB Communications.

Speaking of the final tally, let's take a look at that quick before our final note on this year's AL starters.

Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson set a record for most All-Star Game votes (14,090,188 votes) in a single season, and for good reason. The 29-year-old is having a standout campaign, and the numbers speak for themselves.

 

Top Snubs

Every year we talk about All-Star Game snubs, but this year's AL roster is full of them. 

This year's starting lineup will feature at least four members of the Kansas City Royals, and the case can be made that none of them deserve to be in that position. That said, shortstop is one of the thinnest positions in baseball this year, but the same can't be said at the position behind the plate

Fans selected Perez as the starting catcher for this year's All-Star Game, but behind him, two better options exist in Russell Martin and Stephen Vogt.

Sure, Perez is a great defender—he ranks second among AL catchers with five defensive runs saved (DRS)—and his pitch framing is some of the best in the American League—he ranks third in the league in called-third-strikes on pitches outside of the strike zone, per BaseaballSavant.com—but he's not the best catcher in the AL this year.

That honor belongs to Martin...or maybe Vogt. Why not both? Co-snubs.

Martin and Vogt rank fifth and seventh, respectively, in called third strikes on pitches outside of the strike zone, per BaseballSavant.com, and their stat lines are off the charts.

Martin has been one of the best offensive threats on his third-place Blue Jays club. The Canada native ranks second among qualified catchers in home runs, third in RBI, first in runs scored, second in wRC+ and first in fWAR, per Fangraphs.com, and outpaces Perez in all of those categories, save home runs.

Meanwhile, Vogt has quietly been putting up yet another impressive offensive showing in 2015, leading AL backstops in RBI, batting average, OBP, slugging percentage and wRC+ while ranking second in fWAR and is tied for first in home runs, per Fangraphs.com. The 30-year-old has been downright outstanding, but  he went relatively unnoticed throughout the voting process, falling a whopping 6-plus million votes behind Perez.

So Vogt and Martin got snubbed, but J.D. Martinez tops the list of AL All-Star snubs this year.

The 27-year-old outfielder ranks fifth among qualified outfielders in fWAR while compiling an impressive stat line, including a .285/.340/.563 batting line with 23 homers, 56 RBI, 49 runs scored and an 89-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Martinez leads all AL outfielders in home runs, and his 145 wRC+, .563 slugging percentage and 56 RBI rank fourth, second and second, respectively, per Fangraphs.com.

Martinez has helped shoulder the load offensively alongside Miguel Cabrera in Detroit. He outpaces Gordon and Cain in nearly every offensive category, and while he doesn't offer the defensive upside of either player, his offensive contributions certainly should have tipped the scales in his favor.

The Florida native is likely to find a spot on the roster, but it should have come as a starter.

 

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MLB All-Star Voting 2015: Predictions for Each League’s Biggest Snubs

Each year, a few select players have the misfortune of being labeled as "All-Star Game snubs." The fan vote to determine starting position players is an imperfect system, as evidenced by the current crop of potential starters in the American League. Eight Kansas City Royals players rank within the top three vote-getters at their positions.

Because of this glaring imperfection, we're stuck wondering what could have been. For the four players below, those "what if" moments could come sooner rather than later.

Players from each league will be labeled as "snubs," but the four below—two from each league—have the potential to be the biggest All-Star Game snubs this season.

Now the polls are closed, and tonight we'll get our first look at which players will make up each league's starting lineup. The selection show for position players takes place tonight at 7:00 p.m. ET on ESPN. So with just over a week separating us and the 2015 MLB All-Star Game, we found it prudent to take a look at four players who could miss out on a trip to Cincinnati for this year's mid-summer classic.

Before we get into that though, take a look at the chart below which details the projected starter at each position in each league, as determined by MLB.com's most recent voting results release.

 

All-Star Game Voting Leaders

 

American League Snubs

Every team has to have at least one representative, so several players are safe from "snub" status—e.g. Jason Kipnis of the Cleveland Indians—but a few players in the American League are going to get ripped off.

The first, and probably the most prominent, is Manny Machado. The 22-year-old is having a breakout season and is beginning to live up to the potential-hall-of-famer status that he was billed to as a prospect.

Over 80 games—344 plate appearances—the budding superstar boasts a .302/.357/.523 batting line, with 16 home runs, 18 doubles, 44 RBI, 51 runs scored, 11 stolen bases and a 55-28 K/BB ratio. Machado is leading the Orioles in their quest for a division title, and the Florida-prep product is an outside threat to log a 30-30 season.

Among qualified position players, Machado ranks in a fourth-place tie with Miguel Cabrera with a gaudy 3.6 fWAR. In addition to that, among third basemen, Machado ranks within the AL's top-three in batting average, OBP, slugging percentage, wRC+, RBI, runs scored and stolen bases, per Fangraphs.com.

The young third baseman is easily one of the most well-rounded third basemen in all of Major League Baseball, but he's going unrecognized in the polls, raking in just under 2 million votes thus far.

The Orioles are pleading their case to get Machado into the All-Star Game.

The team has worked to get "#VoteManny" trending, but it doesn't seem like O's fans are taking the hint, as the four-year-veteran ranks nearly 10 million votes behind position-leader Josh Donaldson.

Machado still has a great chance to make the team as the Orioles' lone representative on the AL roster, but he'll have to compete with teammates Adam Jones and Zach Britton for that honor.

Behind Machado, Mark Teixeira figures to be the league's second-biggest snub. The 13-year-veteran is the proud owner of a .245/.359/.537 batting line with 20 home runs, 15 doubles, 58 RBI, 37 runs scored and a 48-43 K/BB ratio.

Teixeira has been the biggest component to the success experienced by the New York Yankees' offense this season, but his accomplishments have gone rather unnoticed to this point in the year. The 35-year-old is nowhere to be found in the latest voting results, and he's sure to be passed over in favor of teammate Dellin Betances as the only Yankee player on the AL All-Star team.

Surprisingly enough, Teixeira has made just two All-Star teams in his 13 years, but his statistics this year may warrant a third showing. When pitted against other AL first basemen, Teixeira ranks third in fWAR (2.0), second in OBP, second in slugging percentage, third in wRC+, second in home runs and first in RBI, per Fangraphs.com.

A five-time Gold Glove winner in the American League, Teixeira has always been one of the position's premier defenders and, at the very least, would make a make a nice late-game replacement for manager Ned Yost. Unfortunately, it looks as though the two-time All-Star will miss out on a spot on this year's roster.

 

National League Snubs

Do you know who's having a huge year among National League catchers? Derek Norris. Know who's not? Yadier Molina, Francisco Cervelli and Miguel Montero, yet they all rank ahead of Norris in the voting.

Norris made the American League All-Star team last year as a member of the Oakland Athletics, and the 26-year-old should represent the National League and the San Diego Padres in Cincinnati this year. That said, it doesn't appear as though the young backstop will get the chance to assume his rightful spot on the NL All-Star team.

Norris strikes out quite a bit—23.9 K% this year—but that doesn't overshadow the fact that, among NL catchers, the Kansas-prep product boasts the position's second-best home run, RBI, runs scored and slugging percentage marks. Sure, his inability—or unwillingness—to draw a walk is a bit of a drawback, but Norris is an asset on both offense and defense, per Fangraphs.com.

Norris boasts an above-average caught-stealing percentage—36 percent, compared to the 29 percent league average—and ranks in a second-place tie when sorting qualified catchers by defensive runs saved. In short, he's pretty good defensively, and that sentiment is echoed by this Twitter user, who has done us all a major favor in highlighting Norris's pitch-framing abilities:

The Padres may send just one player to the All-Star Game—most likely Justin Upton—and if they do, then Norris will certainly qualify as a "snub."

As for the next biggest snub on the NL roster, it's tough to argue against A.J. Pollock as the league's biggest snub in the outfield.

Pollock, a 27-year-old Connecticut native, is having the breakout season that many expected from him as a first-round selection out of Notre Dame. Through 79 games, the four-year veteran finds himself slashing a strong .303/.347/.463, while popping 10 home runs, with 15 doubles, 36 RBI, 52 runs scored, 16 steals and a 54-22 K/BB ratio.

Pollock ranks fourth among NL outfielders in fWAR—3.3, behind Bryce Harper's 5.0 mark—while his batting average, runs scored and stolen base marks all rank within the league's top five at the position, per Fangraphs.com. Meanwhile, defensively, the Notre Dame product ranks as a top-tier outfielder as measured by UZR/150 and defensive runs saved.

That said, Pollock is nowhere to be found in the most recent ballot results. Discouraging voter turnout aside, the young outfielder keeps making his case for inclusion on the NL roster with plays like this:

All told, Pollock has had a standout season, and his bat and glove would be a welcome addition to the National League's roster come July 14.

 

All stats and advanced stats courtesy of Fangraphs.com unless otherwise noted.

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The Biggest Issues the New York Yankees Must Address at the Trade Deadline

The New York Yankees find themselves in an interesting position as we approach the trade deadline.

The team wasn't exactly expected to compete this year, at least not for a division title. However, after 63 games, the Yankees are just one game back of the division-leading Tampa Bay Rays and firmly in the running for a wild-card spot.

The team needs to keep pace with the rest of the division, and the best way to do so is through the trade market. A number of interesting options are thought to be available come the July 31 trade deadline, including a number of starting pitchers, as well as Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.

If the Yankees are serious about competing this year, then they'll have to show a slight change in the direction of their franchise and exhibit a willingness to deal off some of their more highly touted prospects. While the idea of doing that may scare a number of fans who grew fond of their newfound willingness to hold on to, and develop young players, it's important to keep in mind that this team, as presently constituted, has a very limited window to compete within.

So, assuming the Yankees take to the trade market in the coming weeks, here are a few areas the front office should look to improve upon before that July 31 deadline.

 

Shortstop/Second Base... Or Both

Let's be frank, the Yankees' middle-infield situation is arguably the least enviable in Major League Baseball.

Consider where each of Didi Gregorius and Stephen Drew rank in several key offensive metrics among qualified players at their respective positions—keep in mind, there are only 21 qualified shortstops and 22 qualified second basemen in Major League Baseball.

Sure, Drew is the second-leading home run hitter among second basemen, but outside of that, there's nothing to write home about with this duo. In fact, both Gregorius and Drew rank at or near the bottom of each category referenced above.

Meanwhile, look around the division, and it seems as though everyone else is much better offaside from maybe the Tampa Bay Rays.

Even on the Yankees' own roster, this stands out as arguably the biggest weakness.

Only three of the team's starting position players have a batting average below the .250 mark, those being Gregorius, Drew and Carlos Beltran. Similarly, the same three players sport on-base percentage marks below .300. 

Beltran could probably be replaced slightly easier given the lack of middle-infield depth around the league. That said, Gregorius and Drew have been some of the least productive players in baseball.

In fact, out of 167 qualified big leaguers, Gregorius and Drew rank 154th and 160th, respectively, in wRC+, per Fangraphs.com. In short, the Yankees need something to change with their middle-infield situation.

 

One More Starter

This idea went from more of a luxury to a bit of a necessity given the recent string of events surrounding the team's starting rotation.

So far this year, the team's rotation has been pretty much what everyone expected it to be, a mix of bad and good. Take a look at the chart below to see how the team's current rotation options have fared through the first 63 games of the season.

It's not bad, but it's not great either. 

Masahiro Tanaka, when healthy, has been downright dominant. Meanwhile, Adam Warren has been outstanding over his last seven starts, lowering his ERA from 4.78 to 3.78 in that time.

However, outside of that, a number of question marks exist.

CC Sabathia has been beyond hittable, allowing 11.2 hits per-nine, along with an unsightly 1.6 HR/9 ratio. Behind him, Nathan Eovaldi hasn't been what the team hoped he would be, and Michael Pineda has been streaky.

Pineda, in particular, is a troubling case, as his last five starts have been nothing short of awful. Pineda came into his May 15 start with a sparkling 2.72 ERA, but he has since seen that mark balloon out to 3.74 after allowing a whopping 17 earned runs over five starts—28.1 innings pitched.

Maybe the team waits it out with the hope that their five starters can hold down the fort long enough before they have a surplus of options—Ivan Nova is set to return sometime in the very near future. Or, maybe they make a move to put them over the top and set themselves up for immediate success.

According to Fox Sports' Jon Morosi, both the Yankees and Tigers had a scout at Wrigley to check in on Cincinnati Reds ace Johnny Cueto.

George A. King III of the New York Post expanded on those sentiments in his June 14 article. King noted that team scout Jeff Datz was sent to Wrigley Field on Friday (June 12) and Saturday (June 13) to observe right-handers Cueto and Mike Leake.

Both players are slated to hit the open market at the end of the 2015 season, with Leake being easily the more affordable long-term option of the two. That said, Cueto is easily the better option for a team hoping to make, and compete in, the 2015 playoffs.

Getting Cueto, well, that's not going to be cheap. So far, according to King, players like "Ramon Flores, Mason Williams and Bryan Mitchell might be attractive as part of a package."

The Reds are certainly searching for quality over quantity, as a trade of Cueto would signal a full-blown rebuild on their end. Don't take King's words out of context, though, as hoping for the Yankees to deal Flores, Williams and Mitchell, who rank as the team's No. 25, No. 26 and No. 14 prospects, respectively—per MLB.com—for Cueto is nothing short of a pipe dream.

In any event, the fact that the Yankees are checking in on Cueto and Leake shows that they aren't content with their current rotation options. So, it's fair to expect a move on this front.

 

All stats current through play on Jun 15, 2015 and are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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3 Biggest Takeaways for the Cleveland Indians Following MLB Opening Week

It's only six games! It's such a small sample size! Don't care.

Well, I mean, I do care, but there's always something you can take away from a couple of games, or one game, or one at-bat even. So, that's what I'm going to do here with the first few games of the Cleveland Indians' 2015 season.

Just six games into the regular season, and there are some things we can already point to as potential major storylines moving forward. The three I've chosen to highlight here seem to be the biggest, and most relevant to their chances at a successful postseason run in 2015.

Let's get started.

 

The Starting Rotation is Good...Well, the Top 3 Anyway

For most of the offseason, the Indians' starting rotation was billed as a semi-under-the-radar option in the conversation of baseball's best starting rotations. 

Between its top three members—Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer—the group has proved to be a rather formidable one. Kluber has been rock solid in his two starts, allowing just a 2.63 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP while striking out 17 and walking just three over 13.2 innings pitched.

Carrasco's lone effort this season was one of the best of his career. The 28-year-old threw 6.1 scoreless innings in a winning effort against the Houston Astros, allowing three hits and one walk while striking out 10.

Bauer, who has always been an enigmatic talent, flashed his more dominant side in his first start of the year. The 24-year-old held the Astros scoreless, and hitless, over six innings while walking five (ugh) and striking out 11 (yay).

So, the front three have lived up to their end of the bargain, but what about the back two?

In their first starts of the season, Zach McAllister and T.J. House allowed five and six earned runs, respectively. The chart below details the full stat lines to this point in the 2015 season:

Yes, it's only one start, and I think we're all well aware of that. However, there's something to be said for the fact that the two most suspect members of the rotation are the ones who underperformed.

McAllister and House were fringe candidates for the rotation even during spring training. If not for an early injury to Gavin Floyd, and a down performance from Danny Salazar, it's quite possible that neither one would have even been considered for a spot in the rotation.

That said, they're here now, and they need to figure things out if they're going to support what has been a rather stagnant offense in the season's early goings.

 

Yan Gomes Will Be Sorely Missed

He may not have been off to the hottest of starts in 2015, but Yan Gomes is a huge piece to the Indians lineup.

A Silver Slugger Award winner last season, Gomes put up a .278/.313/.472 batting line with 21 home runs, 25 doubles, 74 RBI and 61 runs scored. Arguably the best hitting catcher in the American League, Gomes was a major part of Cleveland's success last season, posting a 4.4 WAR over 518 plate appearances.

In his time with the Indians, Gomes has also been a solid defensive option, posting a caught-stealing percentage of 35 percent; the league average in that time (2013-15) was 27 percent.

In addition to the control he exhibits over the run game, Gomes has been worth 12 defensive-runs saved with the Indians, adding further to the idea that he's a great defensive catcher.

Unfortunately, this year, the 27-year-old could spend an extended period of time on the disabled list. On April 11, Gomes was the victim of a rather nasty collision at the plate, when Detroit Tigers outfielder Rajai Davis slid into Gomes' outstretched leg.

According to Sports Illustrated, the move has already been made to send Gomes to the DL:

A sprained right knee is the injury Gomes is said to be dealing with, but information is still coming in at a rather brisk pace.

According to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Gomes' injury is severe enough that he's using crutches to get around. In fact, Hoynes noted that the next day, the veteran backstop relied on them to go out and accept the aforementioned Silver Slugger Award:

Shortly after that, ESPN reported that the team expects to be without Brazilian native for at least six to eight weeks:

It's an unfortunate turn of events in the young catcher's blossoming career, but it's already becoming clear that he'll be sorely missed. In his first game as the team's starting catcher, Roberto Perez allowed three stolen bases and was saddled with a throwing error that allowed a run to score.

 

The Indians Bullpen Is...Suspect?

The Indians bullpen was, for the most part, very solid in 2014, allowing the fourth-best ERA among AL relief units. Across the board, the Indians were, more or less, able to neutralize opponents during the latter stages of games. That ability is displayed in the table below:

So, here we have a bullpen that was, for all intents and purposes, very successful, having ranked in the top half, and quite often the top third, of nearly every meaningful statistical measure of bullpen success.

This year, the team returned a group that looks eerily similar to the one they went with for most of the 2014 season, however, they haven't experienced similar results.

Take a look at how the 2015 bullpen ranks in the same categories we examined above:

Surely the Indians' bullpen will get better, right? Well, that's the hope anyway, because right now, they're borderline awful. Despite being used less frequently than both the average AL bullpen, and the majority of AL bullpens, they're putting up numbers that place them near the bottom-third of the league.

Will they bounce back? Possibly.

Will management look to shake up the bullpen's composition in 2015? Also possibly.

One thing's for certain, if the Indians are going to be successful, the bullpen will have to contribute a little more.

 

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and are current through play on April 13, 2015 unless otherwise noted.

Tyler Duma is a Featured Columnist covering the New York Yankees for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter. 

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New York Yankees’ Biggest Storylines to Follow at the Start of 2015

The New York Yankees are always one of the most divisive teams in Major League Baseball. It's also true, though, that the 2015 season brings about one of their most divisive on-field products in recent memory.

As is true of any professional sports team, there's always a divide between what fans of that team feel their chances for success are and what fans of other teams feel. However, with the 2015 Yankees, it feels as though the predictions for this team range anywhere from a sub-.500 record to 90-plus wins.

With such a wide gap between the predictions set forth by detractors and supporters, it stands to reason that a lot of moving parts are at work here. Because of that, there are numerous storylines to watch early on in the Yankees' campaign.

Over the course of this piece, we'll look at five such storylines, all of which could have a major impact (good or bad) on the Yankees' season.

So, let's get to it!

Begin Slideshow

St. Louis Cardinals vs Chicago Cubs: 2015 MLB Opening Night Live Score, Analysis

It's Opening Day!

It's time to ring in the new season in style with a St. Louis Cardinals vs. Chicago Cubs rivalry game.

This year, the rivalry has a renewed importance. The ever-consistent Cardinals have legitimate division-title aspirations (shocker), while the Cubs are on the upswing and are a sexy pick to win the National League pennant.

We're not yet there, though. Tonight, it's all about celebrating the new year, and these two teams should provide us with a great matchup.

When the two teams finally take the field at 8 p.m. ET, the Cubs and their revamped management crew will send Jon Lester to the mound, while the Cardinals will counter with their own ace, Adam Wainwright.

Meanwhile, the offenses for these two teams look as potent as ever. Newcomer Jason Heyward will try to help get the Cardinals off to a 1-0 start, while possible MVP candidate Anthony Rizzo will look to hold down the fort until super-prospect Kris Bryant comes up from Triple-A to take the baseball world by storm.

The starting lineups are up and can be viewed here thanks to Drew Silva of HardballTalk.com.

I'll be checking in until game time to update you on everything related to this game and the two teams playing in it, so keep us queued up in your browser and enjoy the show!

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Complete New York Yankees’ 2015 Season Preview

With Opening Day rapidly approaching, the New York Yankees find themselves looking to win their 28th World Series Championship—by far the most of any MLB franchise.

How realistic a goal is that? Well, that's what I'm here to help you figure out.

Over the course of this article I'll give you everything you need to know about the Bronx Bombers in 2015, including previews of the lineup, rotation and bullpen, as well as prospects to watch, predictions for the season's opening series and more.

The Yankees are projected to win 80 games this season according to the latest PECOTA win projections posted by Baseball Prospectus, but there's room for them to fall short, and also to exceed those rather modest projections.

I guess that's to say that this season of Yankee baseball is going to be very interesting, so, allow me to break it all down for you.

 

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and MLB.com unless otherwise noted.

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