Lego Microscope That Can Zoom Micro Objects to 10 Times Their Size

Lego microscope by Carl Merriam

Carl Merriam has been working on making a fully-functional Lego microscope since last year, inspired by the LEGO X-Pod sets, and now the microscope is capable of achieving 10x zoom using actual Lego magnifying glasses. It is not the first time that Carl has been grafting Lego bricks into functional objects. He has been a Lego artist for the last 27 years and during this time he has made projects like Brownie Hawkeye. Amazingly, this project has been up on Lego Ideas for quite some time now, but managed to gain little attention.

Lego microscope by Carl Merriam

However now that it has caught our eye, let’s acquaint you more on this well-crafted project. According to Carl, the microscope has a magnifying glass and fiber optic light connected to the adjustable focus. And since the microscope isn’t as powerful as a high-end microscope, there is ample room for improvement as Marc plans to fine-tune the design a tad further.

Each and every part of this microscope is made from Lego parts and that is what makes this project so interesting. Lego Ideas requires a minimum of 1000 backers to fund the project and with 271 days still left to go, we might very well be seeing an Official Lego microscope in the making.

Lego microscope by Carl Merriam

Lego microscope by Carl Merriam

Source: Lego

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Man Born Without Arms Throws out 1st Pitch at Kansas City Royals Game

Lifelong baseball fan Tom Willis was born without arms, but that hasn't stopped him from throwing out first pitches in ballparks around the country.

Willis has learned to do things, such as throwing a baseball, with his feet.

On Thursday, Willis threw out the first pitch at the Minnesota Twins-Kansas City Royals game. It's remarkable to see how easy he makes pitching out of the windup look.

According to the broadcast, Willis has thrown out a first pitch at 22 different ballparks as part of his Pitch for Awareness tour.

[MLB]

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Top Moves MLB Teams Should Have Made at the 2014 Trade Deadline

As the MLB trade deadline came and went, many players found themselves dealt to new teams. Big names like David Price, Jon Lester, Yoenis Cespedes and others headed out to different clubs.

However, after the dust settled and the deadline passed, it seemed as if some teams missed out on great trade opportunities. Which potential moves did teams whiff on? Which players should have been dealt?

Find out as MLB Lead Writer Zach Rymer breaks down some moves teams missed the boat on.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

For the Person Who Transformed You: Transformers Bumblebee Ring

Transformers Bumblebee Ring

Bumblebee is one of the most beloved Autobots from the Transformers franchise. He was the one of the first bots that we were introduced to in the first movie. It’s also worth mentioning that he’s been in every one of the movies, and that’s saying something, seeing as how Michael Bay doesn’t think twice about killing off some of the bots to get a point across.

That said, it makes perfect sense to feature Bumblebee on a Transformers-inspired ring–not only for his marketability, but for his bright and aesthetically-pleasing design. That and the fact that he turns into a snazzy Camaro seals the deal for me. The ring features Bumblebee’s playful mug right smack in the middle of an adorable sterling silver and gold-plated band.

It’s available from CustomMade for $299.

[ Product Page ] VIA [ TIWIB ]

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Leatherdos: Every Tool a Girl Needs That She Can Wear on Her Hair

Leatherdos Multitool Clip

This might just be the one accessory girls (and dudes with long hair) can’t live without: the Leatherdos. It’s a typical hair clip that can keep bangs and stray hair away from your face. It also happens to be a one-of-a-kind multitool that can do more than what you’d expect to be able to do with a hair accessory.

Designed by industrial design student Yaacov Goldberg, the Leatherdos packs in a wrench, screw driver, ruler, mini saw, and trolley coin. When you need to tighten a screw or measure something, just unclip and use as you please.

Leatherdos1

 

You can also keep this on your keychain if you don’t want it on your hair. The Leatherdos retails for $9.

[ Product Page ] VIA [ Laughing Squid ]

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Pixelated Sunglasses: Through 8-Bit Lenses

Deal With It Pixelated Sunglasses

 

So the world won’t be transformed to pixels when you’ve got this pair of pixelated sunglasses on, but it does look like it came straight from one of those 8-bit video games. These novelty specs will shield your eyes from the rays of the bright summer sun and give you a low-res look in this high-resolution world.

The Deal With It Pixelated sunglasses are available for €22.90 (about $30).

[ Product Page ] VIA [ TIWIB ]

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Tweet a Coke to Show Loved Ones You Care

Tweet a Coke

 

Sometimes, all a person needs is an ice-cold bottle of Coca-Cola. You don’t have to be close by to hand them their Coke, because all you’ll need is Twitter. The beverage company’s marketing team has upped their social media interactivity by allowing users to send friends, loved ones, and random strangers a bottle of coke…straight from Twitter!

To get started, users will have to authenticate their account and enter their credit card information. When they’re ready to send some Coke, all they have to do is tweet a link to their intended recipient. When opened, this link lets the receiver redeem their bottle of coke from participating Regal Cinemas locations. Pretty neat, huh?

VIA [ Mashable ]

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Grading the St. Louis Cardinals’ Trade Deadline Performance

John Mozeliak sent a loud wake-up call to his club Thursday afternoon. His message was clear; his team was underperforming, and the current trend could not continue.

Change was in order.

Mere hours before the non-waiver trade deadline expired, the Cardinals general manager broke up a once tight-knit clubhouse by dealing veteran outfielder Allen Craig and starting pitcher Joe Kelly to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for John Lackey

The deal was announced shortly before the Cardinals took the field against the Padres for the finale of a three-game series.

Like it or not, Mozeliak came out on top during this year’s player-swapping extravaganza, which is why the GM gets an “A.”

When Mozeliak prioritized his needs, starting pitching took precedent over everything else, including offense. A day before the deadline, Mozeliak acquired Cleveland righty Justin Masterson in exchange for outfield prospect James Ramsey.

This move addressed two problems: a clustered outfield and the rotation. The Cardinals did Ramsey a favor by allowing him to further his career. Despite being ranked high in the organization, Ramsey was still in Double-A Springfield, due to the overly crowded outfield at the Triple-A and major league levels.

With Masterson, the Cardinals get an established veteran pitcher to accommodate Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn. Masterson has been on the disabled list since July 8 with a knee injury, but he’ll start Saturday against division-leader Milwaukee. At 29 years old, Masterson will help shore up the backend of the rotation, steal some wins in the final two months of the regular season and keep the bullpen fresh.

The right-hander has emerged as a reliable starter over the last three seasons with a record of 41-41 and a 4.08 ERA.

In acquiring Lackey, the Cardinals receive a workhorse. Lackey, 35, is a proven winner. He got the win in Game 6 of last year’s World Series against the Cardinals. Moreover, Lackey won’t be a rental, and the Cardinals will exercise his option for next season at $500,000.

Along with Lackey, the Cardinals received more than $1.5 million in cash and minor league left-hander Corey Littrell.

Was the trade worth it? Absolutely.

I’m sure many fans have questioned this trade, considering the Cardinals gave up a so-called cornerstone player and a promising young pitcher.

However, I don’t label Craig as a cornerstone for the future of this team. Yes, he had three good seasons here. His most impressive one was last year when he posted a .315 average and a .373 on-base percentage in just 134 games. He led the league with an absurd .454 average with runners in scoring position.

By the same token, this season has been a nightmare for Craig, who hit .237. He never found his groove at the plate, never looked comfortable and became an easy out for opposing pitchers.

Mozeliak didn’t pull a fast one on Craig. He waited and waited and waited for Craig to get out of his funk. So too did manager Mike Matheny, who kept Craig in the lineup on a consistent basis until there was no realistic alternative.

Craig wasn’t going to play first base with Matt Adams hitting as well as has been. Moreover, Craig was platooning in the outfield with rookie Oscar Taveras, Jon Jay and Peter Bourjos.

With Craig gone, Taveras will be cemented in the lineup for years to come.

The other part of the trade was Kelly, a talented starter in the early stages of his career. Kelly was a classy guy, a competitor and a good pitcher. But Mozeliak deemed Kelly expendable.

The Cardinals weren’t going to part ways with Shelby Miller or any of their other top pitching prospects because it’s too early to forecast what they will become.

The Lackey trade outrages many fans. The Masterson deal puzzles more. But these two pitchers have a combined 206 wins, the same number as the entire Cardinals’ Opening Day rotation prior to Thursday’s 6-2 win over the Padres.

Mozeliak has flexed his muscles. His message is clear. He wants to win now. His work is done. It’s up to the players now.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

What Does the Future Hold for the Boston Red Sox’s Lineup?

The Boston Red Sox had a trade deadline to remember, trading away five vital pieces of the 2013 championship team after jettisoning two other pieces earlier in the week.

Instead of going after prospects, Boston focused on acquiring major league assets, especially on the hitting side. All told, five pitchers and two hitters saw their Red Sox tenure come to an end leading up to the deadline, while three hitters currently in the majors now call Boston home.

These players are outfielders Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig, along with backup Kelly Johnson, a pending free agent currently on the disabled list. The additions of Cespedes and Craig represent major additions to the lineup.

The question is: What does the future hold for the lineup? Two outfielders joined the squad, but no everyday outfielders departed the team. How is Boston going to arrange its lineup for the rest of the season and, most importantly, in 2015?

Yoenis Cespedes' case is the easiest to figure out. He's going to be a fixture in the starting lineup from day one and could bring some serious firepower to the team. Red Sox outfielders this season have combined for 14 homers, while Cespedes more than doubled that in one day alone when he smacked 31 long balls in the Home Run Derby.

The back-to-back Home Run Derby champion had 17 long balls for Oakland on the season. In 2013, he set a career high with 26 home runs.

In 2015, Cespedes could net over 30 homers.

Neil Greenberg of The Washington Post looked at Cespedes' hit chart and noted that if Cespedes had played all his home games in Fenway Park instead of O.co Coliseum this season, he would have 24 home runs instead of 17. That would put him on pace to easily surpass 30 homers by the end of the season.

Right-handed power is the biggest deficiency in the game these days, as Joe Lemire of Grantland noted. "This is the Bronze Age of right-handed hitters," a scout told Lemire

Cespedes is enormously valuable with such a paucity of right-handed power and will be a linchpin in the middle of the order for Boston until he becomes a free agent after 2015.

While David Ortiz continues to defy the aging process, he will begin the 2015 season at 39 years of age. The cliff could come at any time for Big Papi, while Cespedes can be expected to retain his value in 2015 at age 29.

The Cuban could even be in store for bigger things, as Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe wrote, noting that A's manager Bob Melvin "commented that at some stage of his career he’s going to pull all facets of his game together and become an even greater force."

For the time being, Cespedes and his gun for an arm will patrol right field with Shane Victorino on the disabled list, but he figures to move to left field once Victorino returns, giving Boston perhaps the best defensive outfield in the game.

Cespedes' arrival marginalizes Mike Carp's roster spot and will also send Daniel Nava's playing time into a nosedive to the point the team might be better served trading him in the offseason. However, there are other trades that could take place that will all hinge on one thing: Allen Craig.

Allen Craig's arrival in Boston is a bit more complicated to figure out as far as lineup implications are concerned. While he can technically play right field, it's best if he never steps foot in Fenway's right field, which is the biggest right field in baseball and tough to patrol, as MLB.com's Ian Browne wrote.

That leaves left field for Craig, where he figures to play in 2014 with Ortiz at DH and Mike Napoli at first base, per Brian MacPherson of The Providence Journal.

However, Boston has already been linked to Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo, holding a private workout for the 26-year-old last week, according to NESN's Mike Cole. Even if Boston doesn't sign Castillo for more outfield depth, the team will have a decision to make with its outfield corps.

Boston has five outfielders for three spots. Jackie Bradley, Jr. is firmly in center field, while Cespedes will absolutely be part of the outfield, leaving Craig, Victorino and Nava to battle it out for the final spot. 

It's also possible Boston opts to move Craig to first base, which would leave Mike Napoli without a job and put him on the trading block. Or there's always the option of flipping Craig himself or converting him into a backup who can offer depth at DH, first base and the outfield. 

It doesn't seem like Boston acquired Craig just to sit him on the bench in 2015, however. Red Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen told Dennis & Callahan on WEEI that the team believes Craig can "impact the baseball in the offensive side."

Craig's best position is first base, which would open up a spot in the outfield for Victorino or Nava. With the shortage of right-handed power league-wide, that could result in a hot trade market for Napoli and fetch a return that Nava or Victorino would not receive.

And again, can the team really lean on David Ortiz to produce next season? Should they keep all their chips to prevent against a decline from the Red Sox slugger, even if it forces someone into a backup role, which would lead to discontent?

Lots of questions, not many answers.

Fortunately for Boston, the team has the rest of 2014 to evaluate the performances of its hitters and decide which direction to go in for 2015.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

On a vote and a prayer: how evangelical groups could influence the election

Labour does not “do God”, in the words of Alastair Campbell, but a group of believers from Luton do – and they won the party the seat. Could their success be replicated? 

How do you do God? David Cameron and Ed Miliband
How do you do God? David Cameron and Ed Miliband

Luton South in Bedfordshire is not the most glamorous of constituencies, but in every election from 1951 onwards it went to the party that formed the government. It was, in the words of the trade, a “bellwether”. What was good for Luton South was good for the rest of Britain.

Then came 2010 and Lutonians ruined everything. They voted Labour when the country didn’t and were bellwethers no longer, just ordinary voters again. In losing statistical prestige, however, they gained something more interesting. Their constituency bore witness to the kind of power organised religion can have if mobilised behind one of the parties.

Before the last election, the local Labour Party in Luton was in trouble. Not only did it have to overcome the unpopularity of Gordon Brown, it had the added disadvantage of having been represented by Margaret Moran. Moran had enthusiastically backed the Iraq war and then became one of the most egregious abusers of the parliamentary expenses system. She had been deselected, but residual unpopularity would surely doom any successor. As if that wasn’t tough enough, the television presenter Esther Rantzen chose to run in Luton South, too, attracting much publicity.

Labour’s central office in effect gave up. Over the course of the campaign, the Conservatives spent almost half as much again as the incumbents, and Rantzen and the Lib Dems were not far behind. When all the spending was tallied up, every vote in Luton South cost more than £3 – the most expensive in the country.

Into this hostile arena walked Gavin Shuker, Labour’s 28-year-old candidate, a Luton boy with no political experience. He had alienated many leading figures in the local party: first, by putting himself forward from outside the constituency’s usual hierarchy; and second, by winning selection (by just two votes).

“The party chair’s first words were: ‘You have just lost us Luton South,’ ” Shuker told me over coffee at a café near Luton train station, where we were joined by Fiona Green, leader of the “broadly evangelical, broadly charismatic” City Life Church in the town, and John Whittaker, the current chair of the local Labour Party, who is another member of the congregation. Shuker led the church until his selection as candidate.

Labour does not “do God”, in the words of Alastair Campbell, but this group of believers does, and they won the party the seat. With minimal funding from the centre, and no expectation of victory, they created a strategy on the fly.

In hours spent on doorsteps, they realised that techniques honed telling sceptics about their faith worked well on potential voters, too. Often that involved “sucking up” a voter’s 15-minute rant about Moran’s expenses and the Iraq war, but it also made a lot of friends. Or, as Whittaker put it: “We worked our arses off for five months knocking on doors.” Green recalled: “You do not expect people to change their minds on the doorstep but they did. It was amazing.”

On the eve of the poll, bookies were offering odds of 5/1 against the Labour candidate, but the team was right to be confident. Turnout was up 11 per cent on 2005. Labour’s percentage share declined, but the swing against it was below average. Shuker won and Rantzen lost her deposit. The two Luton seats are now Labour’s only representation in eastern England.

“When I came into parliament, I had about ten MPs who came up to me to say their second-favourite result was Luton South,” Shuker said. “The party had written off the seat and I genuinely don’t think we could have held on to it if we hadn’t done what we did.” In short, a small, tight-knit group of politicised believers took on the combined spending power of the Tory party and a celebrity, and won. The question is whether this is a one-off, or something that can be repeated elsewhere.

“When I was leading at church, I was thinking: how do I build a church with people who do not go to church?” Shuker said. “How do I attract people aged 18-35 and how do I make it seem normal? And that’s the same challenge the party is facing. If people feel welcomed, if they feel valued, if they don’t feel guilt-tripped, if they feel that what they can contribute at this time is sufficient, if they have fun, then you are doing it right.”

With less than a year to go until the next election, it is worth asking whether Christians could have a decisive impact on the vote, especially as we are witnessing a general shift leftwards in pronouncements by church leaders.

In search of a mission: as congregations of many mainstream churches shrink, evangelical groups have been expanding rapidly

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has made repeated political interventions since his appointment. In March last year, just before he was formally elevated to the See, he lambasted a government attempt to cap welfare increases at 1 per cent a year. Since then, he has criticised energy companies and promised that the Church of England will drive the payday lender Wonga out of business (although, after the Church was discovered to have invested £80,000 in the company, he had to soften his rhetoric). In Rome, Pope Francis has been pushing a similar message.

Ed Miliband and his party should not assume, however, that this means believers will necessarily follow the bishops in the polling booths. Research by Linda Woodhead of the University of Lancaster shows that most Christians who attend church don’t much care what their religious leaders think. Only one in 50 Anglicans, and one in 25 Catholics, takes guidance from church leaders in reaching moral judgements.

Besides, Christianity is a waning faith in Britain. Between the 2001 census and that of 2011, the number of people calling themselves “Christian” fell by 4.1 million while those declaring themselves to have “no religion” rose by 6.4 million. Christians have the oldest age profile of any faith and are ageing rapidly. And although 33.2 million British people still called themselves Christian in 2011, few of them turned up to church on Sundays, the average attendance dropping from 1.04 million to 898,000 over the decade.

Yet the political parties should not see these figures as reason to dismiss Christians, because even though congregations are declining, the parties are declining even faster. Party members account for just 1 per cent of the electorate – a quarter of the level of the early 1980s. And, like Anglican churchgoers, they are ageing. Committed young activists with the time and inclination to spend trooping from doorstep to doorstep are in ever shorter supply, which is why Shuker’s congregation had such an extraordinary effect in Luton South.

It will not be enough to win over clerics, however, because the traditional denominations cater for a dwindling share of Britain’s believers. The country lost more than 800 Anglican, Baptist, Presbyterian and Methodist churches in the second half of the past decade. The growth area is at the charismatic end of the faith – Pentecostals and similar, smaller groups, which opened more than 2,000 churches over the same period. This has a parallel with politics, too. New organisations such as Make Poverty History, Stop the War, UK Uncut, Citizens UK and the People’s Assembly have made much of the running, while party conferences increasingly resemble bingo halls.

The successful political party will be the one that best harnesses the energy now being expressed outside conventional hierarchies. As such, it is not surprising that Andy Flannagan – an Irish singer who doubles as the head of Labour’s Christian affiliate, Christians on the Left (previously called the Christian Socialist Movement) – wants to grab some of that energy for the party and re-create a Christian socialist wing that was present at Labour’s formation but has since fallen away.

“There has been a lack of inclusiveness, a lack of tolerance of Christians, which is dangerous, because you slide towards a Democrat/Republican separation and none of us want to go down that path,” Flannagan told me when we met at Portcullis House in Westminster. “The Labour Party is stronger when formed from a broad coalition.”

The Conservative Party laughs that off, saying that it is the natural home for believers. “There’s a massive difference between a party that set the tone and said, ‘We do not do God’ . . . and a party that says, ‘No, we do do God.’ Whether you have a faith, or no faith, and whether it’s a Christian faith or whatever, we want you to join in,” says Colin Bloom, leader of the Conservative Christian Fellowship.

At the election next year, the “big society” party will be competing with the “one-nation” party for the activists and energy of faith groups, but doing so with very different messages. The Conservatives, Bloom says, will stress how they have handed control of local services to faith groups and left them to get on with it. Labour will explain how Christians share their ideas of social justice and appeal for a broad coalition.

The difference in emphasis between the two parties reflects a theological divide in Christianity that opened up under the influence of Tom Wright, Welby’s immediate predecessor as bishop of Durham. Although outside the Church Wright is known chiefly for his opposition to gay marriage, among left-leaning believers he is praised for urging Christians to engage in the world more and worry about saving souls less.

The seeds of Wright’s doctrine fell on well-prepared soil, thanks to an Anglican shift to urban areas in the 1980s. A new social mission consciously opposed to the harsher variant of Thatcherism inspired vicars and believers.

If that sounds like Barack Obama-style community organising, Citizens UK, for one, would be delighted. An umbrella organisation that brings together 250 civil society groups – half of them faith-based and half of them secular – it has proved a powerful mobilising force. Among its victories, it counts a pledge by the government to cap the rates payday loan companies can charge. It invented the “living wage” and is pushing for better conditions for care workers.

“We have no ambitions to be a Westminster power, but we have ambitions to be a power broker . . . we have to do politics,” says Neil Jameson, executive director of Citizens UK. Its 2010 national assembly attracted Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg, yet no amount of wooing will make it line up behind any one party.

“Our links with the wider community offer faith groups an opportunity to reach out beyond their walls and tackle concerns they share with a broader congregation of local citizens,” Jameson told me. “Crucially, this work is non-partisan: our interest is in the health and well-being of civil society and increasing the participation of ordinary people in public life – whatever their political persuasion.”

His is a recipe for making politics messier and more uncertain, for turning bellwethers into battlegrounds, and for making politics far more fun. At the next election, politicians might just start “doing God” again. 

MLB Waiver Wire 2014: Assessing Big Names Likely to Be Traded in August

Talk about a blockbuster non-waiver trade deadline.

On Thursday, a bevy of MLB's most talented players suddenly found themselves in new homes for the remainder of the season. A three-team megatrade for pitcher David Price headlined the day's action, as per CBS Sports' Jon Heyman (via Mike Axisa of CBSSports.com).

Although the deadline has passed, there's no guarantee the trades have stopped. Now comes the month-long process in which most of the league's players will be put on waivers, and teams will get a chance to wheel and deal once more.

So, are there any big names we should expect to move in August?

Based on recent rumors circulating around the Web and current team situations, a few players are likely to be dealt.

 

Marlon Byrd

Well, the Philadelphia Phillies were quiet at the trade deadline once more. The team's already been plagued by its decision to keep Cliff Lee around, as the pitcher could be headed back to the DL after leaving Thursday night's game with an apparent elbow injury, according to Bill Evans of the South Jersey Times.

The team may now want to rethink its asking price on Marlon Byrd to avoid maintaining his steep salary as well. After all, according to Heyman, "the Yankees have checked in, as have the Royals and some others."

Heyman also wrote that Philadelphia was asking a bit much for the outfielder, however: "The asking price for Marlon Byrd is said to be extremely high, with interested teams saying the Phillies would have to lower it to move him. Byrd should be among the Phils' most movable pieces, but there's no certainty he goes at this point."

This could be tricky. Byrd is due $8 million in 2015, and Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports tweeted that he's looking to have his 2016 option exercised as well:

Perhaps there aren't many suitors on the market for Byrd at the moment; however, depending on how this next month goes for contending teams such as the Seattle Mariners, the New York Yankees, the Pittsburgh Pirates or the San Francisco Giants, talks could heat up once more.

 

Ian Kennedy

Leading up to the trade deadline, San Diego Padres pitcher Ian Kennedy was garnering plenty of interest. However, despite that fact, the team did not move him Thursday.

Rosenthal reported three teams looking at the right-hander on Wednesday:

Jon Morosi of Fox Sports had previously reported the Yankees were also scouting Kennedy:

This makes things interesting. The Marlins may be out of the picture at this point after acquiring Jarred Cosart from the Houston Astros, but other interested teams are still in need of starting pitchers.

Kennedy is having a fine year despite a lack of run support in San Diego. He's currently boasting a 3.66 ERA, allowing 123 hits and 56 runs while striking out 143 batters in 135.1 innings this season.

He did recently miss a start due to a strained oblique, but he's only considered day to day, and that shouldn't hinder the interest of any aforementioned teams.

 

Alex Rios

For many teams looking to acquire a hitter, veteran outfielder Alex Rios appeared to be a home run leading up to the trade deadline. However, 4 p.m. ET came and went Thursday, and Rios remained with the Texas Rangers.

That came as a big surprise, as Rios had the attention of multiple teams, according to a report from Heyman.

He wrote, "The RoyalsGiantsMariners and to a lesser degree the Reds and Indians are in on Rangers outfielder Alex Rios, one of the better hitters on the market."

Calling Rios "one of the better hitters on the market" was right on. The righty is batting .304 this season while accumulating 120 hits, 22 doubles, eight triples, four home runs and 43 RBI. While his power may not be there in the home run department, he still has a .430 slugging percentage.

Just before Thursday's deadline, Morosi tweeted about ongoing trade talks involving Rios with the Giants:

San Francisco general manager Brian Sabean decided to remain quiet and allowed the deadline to pass. However, the team could still use a hitter going forward, and perhaps it will rekindle these discussions in August.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Manny Machado Throws Missile to First, Foils Albert Pujols Again

Once again, it's Manny Machado’s arm strength stopping the presses and beating Albert Pujols to the bag.

For the second game in a row, the Baltimore Orioles third baseman torched the ozone between third and first after snagging a Pujols bouncer.

Machado had enough time to catch the ball, admire its cool, creamy curvature and then unchain the hounds on the Angels first baseman.

How does this keep happening?

Pujols isn’t the quickest colt in the stable, but something about the Angels first baseman’s very presence seems to offend Machado.

This very same play occurred Wednesday, with Pujols whacking another bouncer down the left field line and suffering a similar fate.

In this instance, Machado caught the ball and—in his patented, Kobe Bryant-fadeaway style—launched a Scud missile to Steve Pearce at first. Roughly four minutes later, Pujols slid for the bag and was called out.

Pujols would have his revenge, however.

The Angels first baseman wrapped up Thursday night’s game with an RBI single to center field in the 13th inning. The hit gave the Angels a 1-0 win over Baltimore and helped the team avoid a three-game sweep.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia complimented both players after the game, per David Ginsburg of The Associated Press (h/t ABC News).

"[Pujols] hit the ball hard every time except one popup but had nothing really to show for it until he lined that single to center," Scioscia told the media. "That’s what Albert is about. He keeps playing. Machado is a magician out there, took a couple of hits away from [Pujols]."

Machado is a magician—the kind who spends his entire show making one unlucky guy in the front row disappear.

 

Follow me on Twitter for more sports and pop culture news.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Grading the Oakland A’s Trade Deadline Performance

The trade deadline is officially over, and Oakland A's fans can finally go take the shower they've been avoiding while hovering over Twitter. 

In the last month, the A's have pulled off two major blockbusters, a minor move and three non-moves that lit social media up. Today, Oakland looks like a popular pick for this year's World Series title. After the first trade alone took place, it became clear general manager Billy Beane decided to go all in. Another league-shaking deal later, and he's clearly not bluffing about stacking his cards.

But while the moves are great for 2014, are they worth it in the longer run?

Here are the most significant moves and non-moves, with grades and reaction.

 

Acquire Jeff Samardzija (SP) and Jason Hammel (SP) for Addison Russell (SS), Billy McKinney (OF) and Dan Straily (SP)

The move that set it all off.

Not many inside Oakland hate this trade. Or, at least, they didn't on July 4 when it happened. The first major blockbuster of the summer came as a complete shock. Beane has coveted prospects for years, rarely trading marquee minor leaguers away for big names. But in this case, he gave up Oakland's two best prospects and a former starter for two marquee trade candidates.

On paper, the A's immediately owned one of the best rotations in the game.

Short term, this is a win for the A's.

However, it's long term that is now a concern. Since coming to Oakland, Hammel has suffered four losses in four starts and currently owns a 9.53 ERA. Samardzija has been dynamite. But he's arbitration eligible soon and should command a huge salary.

To get these two, Oakland gave up Russell, a top prospect in all of baseball and its shortstop of the future. With the additions of McKinney and Straily, the A's minor league depth took a hit.

Grade: B+

The move for now is an A. Factoring in the future, it dips into a B. Hence, the B-plus. Hammel has been disappointing, and the A's gave up so much talent. Luckily, Samardzija has been that good for the A's so far.

 

Designated Jim Johnson (RP)

This move—or lack thereof—is included because A's fans expected something to materialize and it didn't.

With a $10 million salary in tow, many hoped Oakland could receive anything back in return for one of the most memorable busts in recent years. The Miami Marlins apparently came close, but that door closed and the A's simply designated Johnson for assignment instead. So far, there have been no takers, and because of the contract, there likely won't be any.

Grade: D+

Moving Johnson was going to be difficult, but the fact that anyone was interested at all means a deal could have gotten done. Oakland should have pushed a bit harder on this one. Instead, they'll pay him to pitch elsewhere should he get picked up.

 

Acquired Sam Fuld (OF) for Tommy Milone (SP)

According to Ken Rosenthal of ESPN, Tommy Milone has been traded to the Minnesota Twins. Jerry Crasnick of ESPN confirmed the A's received outfielder Sam Fuld in return.

This one's a bit of a head-scratcher.

Fuld—with the A's to begin the season—ran out of options earlier in the year, and the A's had no choice but to cut ties with him.

Now with Minnesota, he's hitting .274 in 53 games.

Oakland searched for outfield help before the deadline. With Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick on the field and Coco Crisp and Craig Gentry injured, they simply needed a reliable reserve. Sam Fuld is just that. But if Crisp is injured long term and Cespedes is now with Boston, the team may need more than Fuld.

What's more, Fuld should have been extremely cheap.

The fact that the A's gave up Tommy Milone—frustrated or not—seems like grand theft with the Twins making out like bandits. They receive a young back-end starter locked up for several years on the cheap. The A's get a role-playing outfielder for a few months.

Grade: C

More should have been had for Milone, but Fuld is by no means awful.

 

Acquired Jon Lester (SP) and Jonny Gomes (OF) for Yoenis Cespedes (OF)

Alex Speier of WEEI.com provided big news as dawn broke the morning of July 31 (via MLBTradeRumors.com), reporting Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes.

Jon Lester is an A-plus pitcher. Yoenis Cespedes is at least worth an A by himself. A one-for-one swap of these two should just about cancel each other out and becomes a win for both sides. Throw in the fact that Oakland receives Jonny Gomes, and you can bump the grade up in favor of the A's.

So what's bad about this trade?

Well, for starters, the A's had depth at starting pitching. Sure, the addition of Lester gives them a beast of a rotation. And come playoffs, they'll only need four guys, so a rotation of Lester, Samardzija, Gray and Kazmir sounds video game good.

But Cespedes carried the offense quite a bit.

Yes, other guys can hit. But Oakland lost a hitter with the third-most home runs and third-most RBI on the team. After him, there's a steep drop-off (after his 67 RBI, the next best is 40).

Grade: B+

A rotation that was already really good becomes tops in the game. An offense that—though it leads the league in runs scored—can be shaky at times (see the recent Houston series) just lost a superstar. Hard to call that kind of move an A-worthy move.

One could argue the A's weren't going to be able to keep Cespedes after next season. But it's doubtful they'll keep Lester after 2014. If he goes back to Boston as a free agent, the Red Sox will then have both pieces in 2015.

 

No Movement on Second Base, Jason Hammel

Apparently the A's "fielded tons of calls" for Hammel. With an 0-4 record and a near 10 ERA, it's mind-boggling why Oakland didn't jump at the opportunity to get something for him. Something, such as a second baseman.

Without Hammel, the rotation would feature Lester, Samardzija, Gray, Kazmir and Chavez. Drew Pomeranz is capable in an emergency once healthy. Josh Lindblom and Arnold Leon are in Triple-A as well. Heck, even Brad Mills worked out on a temporary basis.

Additionally, the obvious hole in the lineup is at second base.

Eric Sogard is hitting .267 in July, better than his .202 average on the year. But there are two full months left, and there were much better options available.

Grade: D

If Oakland is all in, why not upgrade second? Likewise, if other teams call about Hammel, why not move him?

 

Overall Grade: B

The major moves heavily outweigh the minor and non-moves.

First, the designation of Jim Johnson is weighted much less here than the rest. He was a hard sell, and there are still a few days left for someone to claim him.

Next, Milone didn't want to be in the organization anymore. The A's get rid of a disgruntled employee and add some outfield depth (needed) and a solid clubhouse guy.

They chose not to do anything regarding second base and/or Hammel. That seems like a poor decision; one of the poorest of the trade deadline for Oakland.

The major takeaway is the rotation.

This staff is World Series-contender quality. Two of their five starters are in the top 10 for ERA. Four of five are in the top 25. Teams are going to have a difficult time scoring against this squad.

But to get to this point, they had to sacrifice plenty.

The Cuban Missile, La Potencia, the two-time, back-to-back Home Run Derby champion—Yoenis Cespedes—gone. The No. 1 and No. 2 prospects. Gone. A fan favorite now and part of the future will suit up elsewhere. And the men the A's have to show for it may be gone in just three or four months as well.

So right now it's worth it. The A's are all in with a straight flush. Incredibly strong but still beatable with the right counter cards.

If they lose, not only is now heartbreaking, but later could be painful too.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

6 Boston Red Sox Prospects Who Will Help the Team in 2015

The 2014 MLB Trade Deadline has come and gone, and the Boston Red Sox have undergone an organizational face-lift unlike any we've seen in recent years.

Gone are Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jake Peavy, Felix Doubront, Andrew Miller and Stephen Drew. Here to stay are Yoenis Cespedes, Allen Craig, Joe Kelly, Kelly Johnson and an influx of close-to-the-majors pitching prospects adding to already impressive depth. 

The sweeping changes have led to a much younger, much less defined Red Sox roster moving forward. The deals have created an abundance of opportunity for the Sox's promising prospects, and we're going to see plenty of MLB debuts over the next two months.

While the dust has yet to clear and the organization's path has yet to be fully revealed, it's clear that the Sox want to compete in 2015. With that in mind, it's helpful to look at the prospects most ready to help them achieve that goal and decide who will most help the Red Sox next year. 

For this exercise, I'm going to exclude prospects currently playing in the majors. So while Christian Vazquez, Allen Webster and Anthony Ranaudo are still rookie eligible and would all rank here otherwise, I'd prefer to shine some light onto the players who don't have a defined role with the Red Sox right now. 

With that caveat out of the way, let's take a look at six names who could play major roles in Boston in 2015.

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It’s not you, Leyton Orient: why a sexist song means I’m walking away from my football club

After tweeting his disapproval of a sexist song sung in the stands, James McMahon found himself on the receiving end of a social media onslaught.

Outside the Matchroom Stadium. Photo: Getty
Outside the Matchroom Stadium. Photo: Getty

There is a football song you may have been unlucky enough to have heard if you’ve ever attended a British football match. It’s not the worst – if you believe a certain sort of Tottenham fan, the Met Police are wasting their time in Portugal and know exactly where Madeleine is. And that’s not to say that Tottenham fans aren’t without being a victim of the same sort of bile. The elements of the West Ham fan base who hissed throughout the two clubs’ encounter two Novembers ago – the hiss resembling the sound of a gas chamber, Tottenham being a club famous for Jewish support – know that, I’d hope, somewhere in their souls. As for Brighton fans? I honestly don’t know how any Brighton fan can be bothered with going to games any more, it can’t be fun having your sexuality dictated to you by thousands of strangers every Saturday.

Yet people can be bothered, because football fandom isn’t largely about choice. Club allegiances are bound to family ties. Emotional ties. Catchment, to a sadly dwindling extent. Even in this age of football gentrification, when you’re told where to sit and God forbid if you want to stretch your legs, it informs social groups. Being a football fan is a commitment to something you have little control over, but follow with the conviction akin to something you might. This is why when I say I’ve decided to stop following my team (well, my local team anyway – as a South Yorkshire-born man living in Leyton, east London, I somehow juggle space for both Leyton Orient and Doncaster Rovers in my complicated heart), it should mean that it hasn’t been a choice so much as a violent separation of heart and mind.

I went to see Orient vs QPR in a pre-season friendly on Tuesday night. It was fun, to a point. Joey Barton had done something pretty eccentric with his hair. Then, some people sang a song. The song. The song that has been sung for years and years and years and goes, “Oh East London, is wonderful, Oh East London is wonderful, full of tits, fanny and Orient, Oh East London is wonderful”. Not the worst song, but not one I can find any merit in singing in 2014 either. Perhaps the father of the little girl sat in front of me on Tuesday night, who on request, had to explain to his child what words he most likely hoped she wouldn’t have to hear until she’d grown into a person who could hear whatever words they want, on her own terms, will agree with me. I didn’t want to ask. He looked pretty much done throughout the rest of the game.

I admit it. I snapped. Then I left early. And, as is the modern way, instead of filling out a form that may or may not exist, I tweeted how embarrassed I was to be a Leyton Orient fan whenever that song was sung. And then over a period of four days, everything I loved about Leyton Orient – the club I turned to in 2007 upon moving to London, faintly lost, very lonely, so grateful for the sense of community, less of a hobby than a lifeline – was torn from me. The tweet I woke up to this morning, declaring, “Leyton Orient don’t need fans like you now that we’re rich!” (after a fairly uneventful 20 odds years, give or take a few ups and a few downs, Orient were recently bought by ambitious Italian multi-millionaire waste mogul Francesco Becchetti). It was a sentiment that hurt me far more than a tweet should have the power to. When I was sat on the train up to Hartlepool or down to Plymouth to see the team play I never thought I was so… disposable. I always thought fans were lifeblood, owners were custodians.

For the past two days I’ve been deluged with hundreds of messages of abuse on Twitter, on Instagram and the Leyton Orient Messageboard (the unofficial one, the club took down the official one last month after years of problems with right-wing polemic). They have said I “look like a nonce”. I’m a “fat cunt”. All of which have been justified by saying, “it’s just banter”. Apparently, people like me are “ruining football”, that what I said is “political correctness gone mad”, that I shouldn’t be offended because I’m “not a woman”. And then, as if to hit the nail squarely on the head, they found my girlfriend on Twitter and tweeted her asking if she “takes it up the arse”. The question begs, if a man can receive this kind of abuse for questioning this kind of misogyny, what on earth would a woman be on the end of…

I’m quite idealistic about football at the best of times. I had punk polemic burnt upon my fandom during Doncaster Rovers “troubled” late 90s period where we picketed games and staged mid-game protests (the chairman burnt down the mainstand, they only caught him because two ex-SAS men left first-gen mobile phones on the floor – their last text, to him being, “the job has been done”) I believe in football as a source for good as much as I believe it’s the greatest game ever invented. It’s why I increasingly enjoy going to watch Clapton FC in the Essex Senior League, and standing with the Clapton Ultras under their dilapidated scaffolding. They sing the same song as the one I was offended by incidentally, only they change the word “tits” to “pie” and “fanny” to “mash”. Funnily enough, the world didn’t stop when they first did that. They also sing songs about feminism, socialism and Palestinian liberation. And just because they’re inclusive and progressive in their thinking, doesn’t mean they all don’t have an absolute hoot every week.

Like Clapton, I always viewed Leyton Orient as a special club. A different club, one that bore Laurie Cunningham, the most pioneering black footballer player of the 1970s, who sent (and lost) the most young soldiers to fight in the First World War. And, in many respects, I can still view Orient this way. I met many brilliant people through the club; clever, humble, emotionally savvy people. Nurses, poets, plumbers, politicians and teachers. The players are decent men, who’ll stop you on the street and talk to you in a way that has been long lost from the summit of British football. And yet, what has touched me most, are the hundreds of tweets and messages from Orient-supporting women, saying, Wwe always hated this song, we just never dared say it – do you see why now?”.

It’s going to break my heart walking away from my football team. But it’s not you, Leyton Orient, it’s them.

You can find James on Twitter @jamesjammcmahon

Grading the Cincinnati Reds’ Trade Deadline Performance

Another trade deadline has passed and the Cincinnati Reds have once again opted not to participate in the massive swap. It doesn't mean they weren't active. Just hours before the 4 p.m. deadline on July 31, MLB.com's Jayson Stark tweeted that the Reds were "dangling" starting pitcher Mat Latos: 

The Reds dangled Latos, and we dangled our expectations alongside him. But when nothing happened, our sights turned to Walt Jocketty, as if he suffered some diffusion of responsibility. As if he missed a golden opportunity to...to do something. Yeah?

Let's start with what we know: The Cincinnati Reds have precisely one valued, rare commodity: starting pitching. From ace to No. 5 in the rotation, the Reds have talent that could occupy a spot in virtually any team's rotation.

Its collective ERA is 3.31. That's the third-best ERA in baseball.

The Reds can largely attribute this rotation to any recent success it has endured, minus 2010. In 2010, the team's collective ERA ended seventh-best in the NL while their offense was the very best in the NL. 

That NL No. 1 offense didn't win a single playoff game.

2011 was familiar. The 2011 Reds ended the year with the NL's No. 2 offense, right behind the St. Louis Cardinals. Their pitching was No. 12, in the NL. That No. 2 offense didn't even make the playoffs.

But 2012 introduced Mat Latos to the rotation, a prized, talented arm from the San Diego Padres. So talented that it took three major Reds prospects to get him. That year, the Reds' collective ERA would end tied for third with the Los Angeles Dodgers in all of baseball, just .001 behind the Washington Nationals. 

Its offense? No. 9 in the NL. And forgettable.  

It was the year of Johnny Cueto and Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg. But neither would throw a single inning for their teams in the NLDS. Unsurprisingly, neither team would advance.

But the results were obvious. 2012 is the very best the Reds had been since The Big Red Machine and their offense finished No. 9 in the NL. 97 wins, two playoff-game victories, no ace to hand the ball to when the Reds needed him most.

2013 wasn't much different. No. 4 pitching in baseball, not just the NL, the NL's third-best offense, 90 wins and a playoff berth. Unfortunately, the team would once again miss its ace, who admirably rushed back to "health" to pitch that pivotal game. 

The result was what it was. But anyone who follows Johnny Cueto knows that there's an exponentially better Johnny Cueto at 100 percent. That probably wasn't him. He hadn't pitched since June 28th.

Which, of course, brings us back to 2014. For the Reds to stay competitive either this year or be serious contenders in the ever-pivotal 2015 season, they needed to keep its cornerstone intact. The Reds needed to ensure it had the starting pitching necessary to not only move beyond 162 games, but succeed in October.

This product, a team that has dropped 10 of its last 13 games as of July 31, is not the product. You don't just incur the injuries that the Reds have and resume business as normal. That "backup" plan everyone blames Walt Jocketty for not having doesn't exist. There is no backup plan for losing a former MVP, All-Star and Gold Glover. There's no backup plan for a Gold Glove second baseman who also drives in 100-plus RBI and hits for average.

To expect a worthy backup plan for a former MVP would be like expecting DerMarr Johnson to replicate the production of Kenyon Martin after he broke his leg before the 2000 NCAA tournament.

If you think there are just bench players who can produce at the rate of Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips or Jay Bruce—when Bruce isn't somewhere off in space on the Starship Enterprise—then you probably expected Jon Kitna to just waltz in and shred the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2005 following the shredding of Carson Palmer's knee in the playoffs.

Point being, there is no Plan B for losing that caliber of player. And until this recent stretch of futility, the Reds had endured in the face of numerous losses. Jay Bruce had knee surgery in May. Devin Mesoraco pulled a hamstring in April. The Reds would have to survive Votto's first quad injury.

The Reds bullpen? You wouldn't recognize it if you saw it now with the likes of Nick Christiani, Trevor Bell (who, to this day, still owns the NL's worst reliever ERA). The Reds had to turn to J.J. Hoover in tight situations, along with Logan Ondrusek to fill late-inning voids.

Remember, the Reds would start the year without the entire back end of the bullpen. Jonathan Broxton, Sean Marshall, Aroldis Chapman—all on the DL to begin the year. Marshall will most likely be there until 2015.

The Reds had one of the worst bullpens in baseball. It was, at the time, well-documented. And even though guys eventually got healthy, the bullpen had already inflicted considerable damage on a young 2014 season.

2014 is not an organizational failure. It's an organizational emergency. Point to any other team in baseball and compare injuries. From top-of-the-rotation starting pitching to hitter(s) batting anywhere from Nos. 2-6, to the guys behind the gate.

And on July 31, 2014, before the 4 p.m. deadline, we're disappointed that Walt didn't sell?

Why? What did you want Walt to sell? A proven, battle-tested product that demonstrated it could win 90 games a year and make the playoffs?

I will agree that relief pitching could have been moved. Broxton's salary, $9 million in 2015, per Rotoworld.com, would have been especially refreshing to be rid of, and you'd have to believe he could have brought back a decent prospect in return because of the year he's having. 

Jumbo Diaz has made Broxton expendable, at least in a short sample size. The Reds could have used the financial flexibility to add a bat in the offseason. Perhaps they still will.

But to trade either Cueto, Latos or Mike Leake would have instantly made the 2015 Reds weaker. And isn't that what this is about now?

You can't possibly equate this product to the 2015 Reds. It's at least reasonable to assume the Reds won't suffer the quantity or caliber of injuries they suffered this year again. Right?

Why strip the team, in quite possibly its last season with this talented core, of its strongest asset?

The Reds can always grab a bat for left field in the offseason. But a starting pitcher? Remember what it took to get Latos?

If the 2014 trade deadline has demonstrated nothing, it's that starting pitching is the bee's knees of baseball. Jon Lester, David Price, Jeff Samardzija, Justin Masterson, John Lackey. That's the most prized, sought-after asset in the game. Every GM in baseball is scrambling for it, trading away the future to get it.

And the Reds are oozing with it.

Just two weeks ago, the Reds were 1.5 games out of first place and seven games above .500. That is in the absence of a former MVP. That's in the midst of Jay Bruce's worst professional season to date. That's after starting the season with eight guys on the DL.

The product isn't worth disassembling and selling the parts off. Who knows what happens if Phillips doesn't roll over his wrist before the break. Who knows what happens if and when Votto's quad stops hurting or when Bruce returns to the back of his Topps Card.

What happens when the Reds aren't trotting out Chris Heisey, Brayan Pena, Skip Schumaker and Kris Negron in a starting lineup every night? And no disrespect to any of those athletes, but they aren't starters. They're fine substitutes.

That's why I'm giving Walt Jocketty a solid B for the deadline. There was at least opportunity to shed salary in Broxton, and even though the Reds are just 3.5 games from a Wild Card spot and 5.5 back of first place, I don't think they'll be able to seriously compete this season and therefore aren't in much need of a $9 million set-up man.

Besides, Jumbo Diaz is proving himself to be a viable candidate to take that spot in 2015.

Alfredo Simon was another name that could have been dealt. Despite the fact he's had an All-Star season to this point, every other team in baseball can see that he's pitching into, literally, uncharted territory. 

If there was ever a candidate for second-half regression, he fits the bill. Maybe GMs knew as much.

Still, as of this day, the 2015 Reds are still in the discussion as NL favorites. Disable their top payroll guys again, and maybe they aren't. But at this juncture, 2015 may be the last shot this uber-talented Reds team is going to have to win a championship. 

Right now, 2015 is all the Reds have. At the 2014 trade deadline, Walt Jocketty at least kept it that way.

 

Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Big-Name MLB Waiver Trade Targets Who Could Still Move by August 31

If you happened to follow the action of the MLB July 31 non-waiver trade deadline in real time Thursday, there is no doubt that when 4 p.m. ET hit, you weren't sure what had just happened.

It was a maelstrom of activity from the time the Oakland A's acquired Jon Lester until the very end, when the Tampa Bay Rays sent David Price to the Detroit Tigers in a three-team trade and Emilio Bonifacio and James Russell ended up with the Atlanta Braves.

It was glorious.

What about the players who didn't switch teams, though—guys like Alex Rios, Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham?

And what happened with the Philadelphia Phillies? They had four All-Stars on the block and didn't move any of them.

They have all become prime candidates for an August waiver trade. If you're unfamiliar with the process, please see this piece by Bleacher Report's Joel Reuter, which lays it out.

Here are eight big-name MLB waiver trade targets (four on the same team) who could still move this August based on their production and contract status, along with at least two teams that each player could help.

To be sure, there are countless more that will be put on waivers, but these eight have a realistic chance of switching teams.

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Grading New York Yankees’ Trade Deadline Performance

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman had a very busy month of July.

The 2014 non-waiver trade deadline has come and gone. The Yankees weren't the talk of the deadline—the Boston Red Sox were, however—but Cashman made some very good moves to bolster his roster and prepare his squad for the stretch run.

Cashman made two trades on Thursday and five others during the month of July. High profile or not, most of the moves he made have paid dividends already.

We won't be able to dish out final grades for these moves until the season ends. That said, we'll give grades to how things have shaken out so far.

Those players who were acquired earlier in the month have been given grades based on their performances in pinstripes so far. Those who were acquired on Thursday have been graded based on the packages it took to get them.

Let's get started.

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Grading Braves’ Trade Deadline Performance

The Atlanta Braves waited until the 51st minute of the last hour of baseball’s trade deadline to finally make a trade. As ace pitchers were being dealt around the league, and everyone in a Boston uniform had their bags packed and ready to move on, there was no news from the Braves.

While the Braves’ previously rumored top trade targets, reliever Andrew Miller and outfielder Chris Denorfia, were gobbled up by the Orioles and Mariners, respectively, there was no news about the Braves.

Then, with less than 10 minutes left, Hall of Fame writer Peter Gammons delivered the news.

It was still a "maybe" at that point, and fans had to wait another 40 minutes until the trade was confirmed by Braves writers.

With all this excitement, what exactly did the Braves get, and what did they give up?

Atlanta received left-handed relief pitcher James Russell and infielder/outfielder Emilio Bonifacio from the Cubs, and sent Low-A minor league switch-hitting catcher Victor Caratini to Chicago.

Atlanta has been looking for another super-utility-type player all season, and Bonifacio fits the bill. He’ll serve in that role, backing up both infield and outfield positions while also coming off the bench as a pinch hitter and pinch runner.

 

The Newest Braves Hitter

The newest Braves hitter will be a big upgrade on the bench over Jordan Schafer, who has been disappointing this year in a pinch-hitting role. Bonifacio may also take some starts away from current center fielder B.J. Upton—especially against left-handed starting pitchers.

A switch-hitter, Bonifacio is hitting .408/.432/.592 against left-handed pitchers this season while hitting .234/.280/.298 against right-handers. Meanwhile, B.J. Upton is hitting just .165/.311/.188 against lefties and .228/.273/373 against righties. Bonifacio should be a huge upgrade when a lefty is on the mound, while B.J. can still get regular at-bats against righties.

Add to those splits the speed of Bonifacio, and the decision to begin a center field platoon should be an easy one and should be a good offensive upgrade with a lefty on the mound.

Bonifacio could also find himself filling in for Jason Heyward when a left-hander is pitching. J-Hey’s splits this season against lefties have been bad, with a .152/.220/.232 slash line, as opposed to his good work against righties (.296/.391/.428).

 

The Newest Braves Pitcher

The Braves also get another piece they’ve been seeking all season—a left-handed reliever—and by most accounts, they got a pretty good one in James Russell. The 28-year-old southpaw has a 3.51 ERA and .202 batting average against this season, but his platoon splits have been flipped.

Against right-handed batters, Russell is dominating this season with a .103 batting average against. But against left-handed batters, he’s been far too hittable with a .295 BAA.

Those numbers run contrary to his numbers last season, when he dominated lefties with a .183 BAA and got beaten up by righties to the tune of a .321 BAA. This shows how inconsistent relief pitchers can be.

But the Braves know they are acquiring a pitcher with five years of big league bullpen experience who is also durable enough to top 70 appearances each of the last two seasons. Russell is a big addition who can be another setup option out of the Braves bullpen in much the same way that Eric O’Flaherty was when he was in Atlanta.

 

The Prospect Cost

To acquire Russell and Bonifacio, the Braves gave up a talented minor league switch-hitter in Victor Caratini. The 20-year-old catcher is hitting .279/.352/.406 this season for the Low-A Rome Braves. He was drafted just last year in the second round (No. 65 overall), had a great debut at short-season Danville and has handled the jump to full-season ball this year.

I ranked Caratini as the Braves' No. 8 prospect at midseason, which is up a few spots from my preseason ranking of him as the No. 10 prospect. Some of that increase comes from other prospects graduating from the list, as well as prospects above Caratini falling below him due to their lack of performance.

The Braves played Caratini at third base last year after they drafted him and had him shuttling between catcher and third base to begin this season. They finally let him exclusively play catcher about two months ago. Caratini played both positions at Miami-Dade Junior College.

Caratini’s range at third base was one of the big reasons the Braves moved him behind the plate, but he’s got a lot of work to do to refine his receiving skills. Some scouts see Caratini as a bit of position-less player, not ideally suited for catcher or third base.

As a 20-year-old in Low-A, there’s plenty of time for Caratini to develop a positional affinity and improve on the offensive side of the ball. A switch-hitting catcher with good contact skills who could develop some power is pretty rare, and the Cubs did a good job getting a quality prospect.

 

Grade the Trade

While Caratini has plenty of potential in his prospect pedigree, the fact remains that he’s still three or four years away from the majors and was traded for two major league players who will help the Braves this season—and James Russell is also under team control through next season.

Atlanta was able to replace the disappointing Schafer on the bench with Bonifacio and add a solid left-handed reliever to their bullpen, essentially replacing a guy—Luis Avilan—who they gave up on a few weeks ago.

The Braves traded from an area of good depth within their minor league system, basically exchanging a spare part in Caratini, who was blocked by Evan Gattis and Christian Bethancourt at catcher.

This trade gets a solid "A" grade from me. Two for the price of one, something I predicted last week that the Braves would do.

This wasn’t a big blockbuster trade like many of the other deals at this year’s deadline, but it quietly addressed the needs of the team while not paying a large cost in terms of dollars or prospects.

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