MLB Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz Surrounding Joaquin Benoit and More

MLB teams have all of July to make deals with fellow organizations as the non-waiver trade deadline doesn't come until July 31, but with division titles and playoff spots on the line, clubs aren't wasting time courting their targets.

The fireworks started on July 4, when the Cubs sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Athletics for a package surrounding top prospect Addison Russell in the trading season's first big-time swap, as reported by Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal. That will be just the first of many sizable moves made over the month as teams jockey for positioning in their respective divisions.

Let's break down the latest trade rumors floating around the major leagues.

 

Joaquin Benoit Linked to Detroit Return

Detroit Tigers fans are no strangers to seeing Joaquin Benoit commanding the mound, as the relief pitcher played for the Tigers from 2011 to 2013 before the Padres signed him away last offseason.

Just months after he hit the road, though, he could be bound for a return.

Fox Sports' Jon Morosi has the news:

Right now, the Tigers (48-36) are sitting pretty with a four-game lead in the AL Central and looking destined for another run in the postseason. But with closer Joe Nathan struggling in recent outings, some insurance in the bullpen would be coveted.

Benoit has experience as the Tigers' main closer, but he can also make an impact coming out of the bullpen as a middle reliever or setup man. Any doubts Detroit had in failing to re-sign him over the offseason should be quelled with the monster numbers he's putting up in 2014 (1.23 ERA, 10.1 K/9, 0.682 WHIP, 1.80 FIP, 36.2 IP).

Contending ballclubs can't ever have too many formidable arms in the bullpen, and Benoit would immediately become one of the best Detroit has. For a team that looks sure to be in the postseason, trading for Benoit could pay dividends.

 

Josh Willingham, Kevin Correia Available for Twins

The Minnesota Twins are in last place in the AL Central. But at only 10 games out (8.5 back in the wild-card race), they aren't convinced yet that it's worth making moves to blow up the current roster.

But they know that failing to turn the tide soon will result in the inevitable—meaning no change in fortune will result in some changes to the roster.

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports is reporting that Josh Willingham and Kevin Correia will be the likely trade options for Minnesota after hosting the All-Star Game on July 15. And there's a good chance of the team getting a solid return for offering both on the market.

Willingham (.229/.377/.458, 8 HR, 24 RBI) plays the outfield but makes his biggest impact at the plate, and the 35-year-old has a few years left of decent hitting in him. With four seasons of 25-plus home runs, with the latest a 35-jack campaign in 2012, his value could be higher on a market that doesn't boast many top hitters.

The same can't be said for Correia in a loaded pitcher's market. But despite his 5-10 record and 4.95 ERA this season, he can be a low-end starter for teams looking to buy.

July is young, and there is still time left for the Twins to turn things around. In that case, Willingham and Correia will be needed in Minnesota. But barring the unlikely, look for the Twins to deal these two players before the deadline.

 

Trio of Teams in for Diamondbacks Infielders

Few teams are set up to be sellers like the Arizona Diamondbacks entering the deadline. With an MLB-worst 36-53 record and a heap of young infielders failing to produce, the trade rumors have churned.

Three teams have emerged as big players for the Diamondbacks' available names, per Morosi:

Those targeted infielders will likely be Aaron Hill (.245/.282/.364) and Martin Prado (.268/.315/.358), who have been underperforming in the D-Backs' lineup so far this season after carrying high expectations entering 2014. Didi Gregorius has played his way out of the lineup (.217/.329/.362 in 20 games) and could also be hitting the trade block.

With Tony La Russa taking over the baseball operations role in Arizona earlier this season, changes are on the horizon. He won't waste time before putting his stamp on this organization, especially with this season's woeful performance continuing to get worse.

Arizona has plenty of options in the infield, and few are producing, so expect changes to come over the coming days and weeks.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

MLB Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz Surrounding Joaquin Benoit and More

MLB teams have all of July to make deals with fellow organizations as the non-waiver trade deadline doesn't come until July 31, but with division titles and playoff spots on the line, clubs aren't wasting time courting their targets.

The fireworks started on July 4, when the Cubs sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Athletics for a package surrounding top prospect Addison Russell in the trading season's first big-time swap, as reported by Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal. That will be just the first of many sizable moves made over the month as teams jockey for positioning in their respective divisions.

Let's break down the latest trade rumors floating around the major leagues.

 

Joaquin Benoit Linked to Detroit Return

Detroit Tigers fans are no strangers to seeing Joaquin Benoit commanding the mound, as the relief pitcher played for the Tigers from 2011 to 2013 before the Padres signed him away last offseason.

Just months after he hit the road, though, he could be bound for a return.

Fox Sports' Jon Morosi has the news:

Right now, the Tigers (48-36) are sitting pretty with a four-game lead in the AL Central and looking destined for another run in the postseason. But with closer Joe Nathan struggling in recent outings, some insurance in the bullpen would be coveted.

Benoit has experience as the Tigers' main closer, but he can also make an impact coming out of the bullpen as a middle reliever or setup man. Any doubts Detroit had in failing to re-sign him over the offseason should be quelled with the monster numbers he's putting up in 2014 (1.23 ERA, 10.1 K/9, 0.682 WHIP, 1.80 FIP, 36.2 IP).

Contending ballclubs can't ever have too many formidable arms in the bullpen, and Benoit would immediately become one of the best Detroit has. For a team that looks sure to be in the postseason, trading for Benoit could pay dividends.

 

Josh Willingham, Kevin Correia Available for Twins

The Minnesota Twins are in last place in the AL Central. But at only 10 games out (8.5 back in the wild-card race), they aren't convinced yet that it's worth making moves to blow up the current roster.

But they know that failing to turn the tide soon will result in the inevitable—meaning no change in fortune will result in some changes to the roster.

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports is reporting that Josh Willingham and Kevin Correia will be the likely trade options for Minnesota after hosting the All-Star Game on July 15. And there's a good chance of the team getting a solid return for offering both on the market.

Willingham (.229/.377/.458, 8 HR, 24 RBI) plays the outfield but makes his biggest impact at the plate, and the 35-year-old has a few years left of decent hitting in him. With four seasons of 25-plus home runs, with the latest a 35-jack campaign in 2012, his value could be higher on a market that doesn't boast many top hitters.

The same can't be said for Correia in a loaded pitcher's market. But despite his 5-10 record and 4.95 ERA this season, he can be a low-end starter for teams looking to buy.

July is young, and there is still time left for the Twins to turn things around. In that case, Willingham and Correia will be needed in Minnesota. But barring the unlikely, look for the Twins to deal these two players before the deadline.

 

Trio of Teams in for Diamondbacks Infielders

Few teams are set up to be sellers like the Arizona Diamondbacks entering the deadline. With an MLB-worst 36-53 record and a heap of young infielders failing to produce, the trade rumors have churned.

Three teams have emerged as big players for the Diamondbacks' available names, per Morosi:

Those targeted infielders will likely be Aaron Hill (.245/.282/.364) and Martin Prado (.268/.315/.358), who have been underperforming in the D-Backs' lineup so far this season after carrying high expectations entering 2014. Didi Gregorius has played his way out of the lineup (.217/.329/.362 in 20 games) and could also be hitting the trade block.

With Tony La Russa taking over the baseball operations role in Arizona earlier this season, changes are on the horizon. He won't waste time before putting his stamp on this organization, especially with this season's woeful performance continuing to get worse.

Arizona has plenty of options in the infield, and few are producing, so expect changes to come over the coming days and weeks.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

MLB All-Star Voting 2014: Projecting Leaders and Final Results

The unique twist when it comes to fan voting for the MLB All-Star Game is the fact that it's an exhibition game that actually matters. Since home-field advantage for the World Series is decided by the winner, fans of contending teams are best off supporting the top players instead of just their favorite team.

Although there are always some cases where players enjoying great seasons are passed over, the fans tend to do a solid job overall. Based on the updated vote totals provided by ESPN (American League and National League), it seems that will be the case again this time around.

The All-Star selection show will air Sunday night at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. The game will take place at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on July 15. Knowing that, let's check out the projected lineups and top selections for both teams.

 

Predicted Starters

 

Projected Leading Vote-Getters

American League: Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels

If not for two outstanding seasons by Miguel Cabrera, we would be talking about Trout as a 22-year-old two-time defending Most Valuable Player in the American League. It would have put him on track to become one of the most decorated players in baseball history.

While he fell short, the Angels outfielder is well on his way to taking the crown away from Cabrera this season. His speed numbers are down, perhaps in an effort to keep him healthy, but his power numbers are on pace to be his best yet and he leads the majors in WAR, according to FanGraphs.

Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times passed along comments from Trout earlier in the voting process. He was thankful for the support and looked forward to his third chance to represent the American League:

It feels good to get all the support from my fans. It feels good to be up at the top. To be No. 1 is something special, for sure. It means a lot. [...]

I'm going out there and playing with some passion and some fun. I had a lot of fun at the last two All-Star games, so it would be a blast to go this year.

Trout is a perfect example of the widespread support of fans. The voting trends don't show any type of major Angels push, but anybody who watches the game understands he's the new standard and deserves to headline the AL squad.

Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays actually had the inside edge on him for the most votes heading into the final days. There's usually a surge in ballots leading up to the deadline, however, giving Trout a chance to make up the difference.

 

National League: Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies

There has never been any doubt about Tulowitzki's talent. The Rockies star is one of the best pure hitters in baseball. Unfortunately, injuries have held him back. He's appeared in more than 130 games just once over the past four years, appearing in just 47 in 2012.

The shortstop has been able to avoid the major injury bug so far this season. As a result, his numbers are terrific. He's leading the league in batting average to go along with a pace that would put him on target for around 35 home runs and 30 doubles.

One reason he's been such a tough out is because he covers the plate so well. Even if the plan is to nibble at the corners and attempt to pitch around him, he's dangerous. Mark Simon of ESPN passed along a stat to illustrate that point:

An argument can be made that Coors Field helps inflate Tulowitzki's overall numbers. It's impossible to say it doesn't help, but he still has a solid .830 OPS with seven homers away from home. So he's having a good season no matter how you slice it.

He had opened up a pretty solid lead in the overall NL voting. That's mostly because he's the clear choice at his position, while there are some pretty tight races elsewhere. It should allow him to finish atop the heap in the Senior Circuit with relative ease.

 

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2014 MLB All-Star Roster: Start Time, TV Schedule and Predictions for Selections

With more than half of the MLB season in the books, the focus now shifts toward baseball's Midsummer Classic in the form of the MLB All-Star Game.

While the game is an exhibition, it will be competitive since home-field advantage in the World Series will be up for grabs. Fans have been voting for the past several weeks, but the entire American League and National League rosters will be revealed during a special selection show Sunday night.

MLB's best players will converge on the Minnesota Twins' Target Field on July 15, but there will undoubtedly be plenty of controversy regarding who makes the cut and who doesn't.

With that in mind, here is everything you need to know about when and where to watch the All-Star Selection Show along with predictions for the 33-man rosters in both leagues.

 

When: Sunday, July 6 at 7 p.m. ET

Watch: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN

 

AL Roster Predictions

The potential American League roster is exciting to think about. It is stacked with powerful hitters and power arms. Big boppers like Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista and Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout are all virtual locks to make the team.

In addition to that, the American League boasts an impressive stable of pitchers that includes Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners, Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees and many more.

Perhaps the most controversial potential selection is Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. Although he isn't having a sparkling year, this is his final MLB season, and there are plenty of fans who would love to see him in the game.

According to Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com, he is in position to win the fan vote:

Despite his current standing, the Yankees' captain isn't convinced that his spot on the team is secure quite yet, per MLB.com's Bryan Hoch.

"You know me—I don't think about that before it happens," Jeter said. "I learned that a long time ago. I'll wait to see what happens."

Even if Jeter isn't the best shortstop in the AL currently, many players have made the All-Star Game in this manner before, with Cal Ripken Jr. and the late Tony Gwynn coming to mind. This game is for the fans, so Jeter making it would certainly be fitting.

 

NL Roster Predictions

It can be argued that the National League's potential roster isn't quite as impressive as the AL's from top to bottom, but there is still plenty of talent across all positions. That is especially true in the outfield, where there has been quite a battle in the voting.

With Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Milwaukee Brewers' Carlos Gomez seemingly entrenched, the final spot will come down to eccentric Los Angeles Dodgers star Yasiel Puig and Miami Marlins powerhouse Giancarlo Stanton.

According to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times, Puig still holds the advantage:

Regardless of which one of them gets voted in, it is almost a sure thing that they will both make the team as they are enjoying spectacular campaigns.

It will also be interesting to see how St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny handles the pitching situation. There are so many starters with great numbers in the NL right now that Matheny will have some extremely difficult decisions to make.

If he pulls the right strings, though, his team may have the arms necessary to counteract the American League's top-notch hitting.

 

Snub Predictions

Some players who don't make the initial All-Star Game rosters will still have an opportunity to get voted in by the fans in the last-chance 34th-man vote. With that said, there will inevitably be some great players left out in the cold.

The American League boasts four outstanding designated hitters, but one or two of them will have to stay home. Nelson Cruz, Edwin Encarnacion and Victor Martinez have all been too productive to leave out. That means perennial Boston Red Sox All-Star David Ortiz could be the odd man out.

He does have the advantage of Red Sox manager John Farrell serving as the AL's manager, though. According to Ryan Hannable of Metro Boston, Farrell admitted that Ortiz is in the running for a spot:

As much as Farrell would like to take his guy, though, he simply can't snub Cruz, Encarnacion or Martinez.

In the NL, catcher is a position of interest. While it is an extremely weak position in the AL, the opposite is true in the Senior Circuit. Yadier Molina and Jonathan Lucroy will likely make the team, but the third spot will come down to Devin Mesoraco and Buster Posey.

Posey is a key player for the San Francisco Giants and perhaps the best all-around backstop in the league, but Mesoraco is tearing the cover off the ball and will be tough to leave out. Whoever doesn't make it will know that they had a good enough resume to be on the team.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

2014 MLB All-Star Roster: Start Time, TV Schedule and Predictions for Selections

With more than half of the MLB season in the books, the focus now shifts toward baseball's Midsummer Classic in the form of the MLB All-Star Game.

While the game is an exhibition, it will be competitive since home-field advantage in the World Series will be up for grabs. Fans have been voting for the past several weeks, but the entire American League and National League rosters will be revealed during a special selection show Sunday night.

MLB's best players will converge on the Minnesota Twins' Target Field on July 15, but there will undoubtedly be plenty of controversy regarding who makes the cut and who doesn't.

With that in mind, here is everything you need to know about when and where to watch the All-Star selection show along with predictions for the 33-man rosters in both leagues.

 

When: Sunday, July 6 at 7 p.m. ET

Watch: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN

 

AL Roster Predictions

The potential American League roster is exciting to think about as it is stacked with powerful hitters and power arms as well. Big boppers like Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista and Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout are all virtual locks to make the team.

In addition to that, the American League boasts an impressive stable of pitchers that includes Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners, Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees and many more.

Perhaps the most controversial potential selection is Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. Although he isn't having a sparkling year, this is his final MLB season, and there are plenty of fans who would love to see him in the game.

According to Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com, he is in position to win the fan vote:

Despite his current standing, the Yankees' captain isn't convinced that his spot on the team is secure quite yet, per MLB.com's Bryan Hoch.

"You know me—I don't think about that before it happens," Jeter said. "I learned that a long time ago. I'll wait to see what happens."

Even if Jeter isn't the best shortstop in the AL currently, many players have made the All-Star Game in this manner before, with Cal Ripken Jr. and the late Tony Gwynn coming to mind. This game is for the fans, so Jeter making it would certainly be fitting.

 

NL Roster Predictions

It can be argued that the National League's potential roster isn't quite as impressive as the AL's from top to bottom, but there is still plenty of talent across all positions. That is especially true in the outfield, where there has been quite a battle in the voting.

With Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Milwaukee Brewers' Carlos Gomez seemingly entrenched, the final spot will come down to eccentric Los Angeles Dodgers star Yasiel Puig and Miami Marlins powerhouse Giancarlo Stanton.

According to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times, Puig still holds the advantage:

Regardless of which one of them gets voted in, it is almost a sure thing that they will both make the team as they are enjoying spectacular campaigns.

It will also be interesting to see how St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny handles the pitching situation. There are so many starters with great numbers in the NL right now that Matheny will have some extremely difficult decisions to make.

If he pulls the right strings, though, his team may have the arms necessary to counteract the American League's top-notch hitting.

 

Snub Predictions

Some players who don't make the initial All-Star Game rosters will still have an opportunity to get voted in by the fans in the last-chance 34th-man vote. With that said, there will inevitably be some great players left out in the cold.

The American League boasts four outstanding designated hitters, but one or two of them will have to stay home. Nelson Cruz, Edwin Encarnacion and Victor Martinez have all been too productive to leave out. That means perennial Boston Red Sox All-Star David Ortiz could be the odd man out.

He does have the advantage of Red Sox manager John Farrell serving as the AL's manager, though. According to Ryan Hannable of Metro Boston, Farrell admitted that Ortiz is in the running for a spot:

As much as Farrell would like to take his guy, though, he simply can't snub Cruz, Encarnacion or Martinez.

In the NL, catcher is a position of interest. While it is an extremely weak position in the AL, the opposite is true in the Senior Circuit. Yadier Molina and Jonathan Lucroy will likely make the team, but the third spot will come down to Devin Mesoraco and Buster Posey.

Posey is a key player for the San Francisco Giants and perhaps the best all-around backstop in the league, but Mesoraco is tearing the cover off the ball and will be tough to leave out. Whoever doesn't make it will know that they had a good enough resume to be on the team.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

MLB All-Star Selection Show 2014: Start Time, TV Coverage and Preview

That's it folks. The polls are closed, they're tallying the votes and, on Sunday night, baseball fans across the nation will see their favorite players selected for the 2014 MLB All-Star Game.

A collection of the league's best talent representing their teams and cities can be a truly wonderful sight. The selection show gives fans their first look at the rosters and lineups that may be used to determine which league gets home-field advantage in the World Series.

Here are the start time, television info and a quick preview of the program.

 

2014 MLB All-Star Selection Show

Date: Sunday, July 6

Start Time: 7 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN

 

Preview

The All-Star Game will take place in AL territory at Target Field, so the National League will have to select a designated hitter.

The best option might be the Miami Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton, ranked fourth in the last All-Star voting results, who leads the National League with 21 home runs and 62 RBI. Carlos Gomez isn't a bad option either, as he's hitting .303 with 13 home runs and 45 RBI.

St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny is in charge of the NL roster and told MLB.com's Alex Halsted "they're all under consideration."

Matheny also has a tough choice for starting pitcher. The Cincinnati Reds' Johnny Cueto is 8-6 with a microscopic 1.99 ERA and 130 strikeouts in 131.1 innings. The Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw has come on strong over the past two months; he is 10-2 with a 1.85 ERA and hasn't allowed a run in his last 36 innings pitched.

MLB's Buster Olney notes the league has had little chance against Kershaw since June began:

Might he be able to do the same against the American League's best?

The American League has some notable inconsistencies on its roster that expose the flaws in fan voting. Matt Wieters leads the vote for catchers despite getting shut down for the season to undergo Tommy John surgery.

One of the league's best all-around players, the Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, is a mere fourth in voting at second base. The diminutive second baseman boasts a .342 average, 121 hits and 37 stolen bases. If the fans can't vote him in, one might think Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell can definitely find some use for the dynamo on July 15.

ESPN Stats & Info points out he's coming off a mind-boggling June performance:

This isn't to say the process needs to be completely adjusted. Fan favorites such as Mike Trout, Yasiel Puig, Robinson Cano and Josh Donaldson are right at the forefront of their positional battles and deserve starting nods at the All-Star Game.

The Midsummer Classic has arguably lost some of its luster in recent years. The main draw of the game for several decades was the novelty of watching the American League's best stars take on the top players in the National League. With a preponderance of interleague play, baseball's summer jewel no longer has that special quality.

The game also determines home-field advantage for the World Series, a puzzling decision for an exhibition. This is a problem considering the best players aren't always selected for the game due to fan bias.

There are a few issues to sort out, but the anxieties usually melt away once the talent takes the field and shows that baseball still has plenty of its original charm and beauty.

 

(Note: Voting statistics courtesy of ESPN.com and updated as of July 4 for both the AL and the NL.)

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Exactly Who Is Edinson Volquez for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2014?

In starting pitcher Edinson Volquez's first four games with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2014, the righty went 1-0 with a 1.71 ERA.  

Suddenly, it looked like the Pirates made a great decision in signing him to a one-year deal during the offseason.  

In his next five, however, he took the loss in four of those games while surrendering 22 earned runs in 18.2 innings.  

He then won two straight decisions in his next three starts, putting him one game under .500 with a 3-4 record.  

After a loss on June 7 to the Milwaukee Brewers, Volquez bounced back and pitched brilliantly in his next start, shutting out the Chicago Cubs over 7.0 innings pitched.  

What happened in his very next start, however, had many critics raising the same question: In the strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which one is the true Volquez?

He pitched horribly in his next start, lasting just 2.1 innings while surrendering eight earned runs to the Cincinnati Reds.  

On Saturday, Volquez held the Philadelphia Phillies to just one run over 7.0 innings of work, and the victory was his third straight decision with a win.  

With the win, he climbed over .500 for the first time since he started the season 1-0. However, the same case still remains.  

He looked shaky in the top of the first inning Saturday, allowing three batters to reach base safely. 

However, with what seemed like the click of a switch, Volquez instantly settled down to escape the inning unharmed. From there, he was dominant.  

So, it remains uncertain what kind of pitcher he really is at this point in his career. He has shown flashes of greatness at times while looking lost on the mound at others.  

One thing is for sure, however: With a potential National League Central Division title on the line in the second half of the season, Volquez will have to prove his true identity.  

The Pirates have been dealt heavy blows throughout the season to their starting rotation, with Francisco Liriano and Gerrit Cole both spending time on the disabled list.  

Volquez is the veteran with the most experience in Pittsburgh's rotation, and now is the time for him to continue pitching well into the second half of the season and potentially even the postseason.  

So, while the question remains unanswered, you decide: Who is the real Volquez, and what do you predict his final statistics will be at the end of the regular season?

 

*Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference

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

Updates from Sunday, July 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

Original Text

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

MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm reported specifics:

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

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

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

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

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Rangers’ Trade Deadline Strategy Blueprint

With a record of 37-49, the Texas Rangers' 2014 season is all but lost. For all the hype and anticipation following the offseason acquisitions of Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo, things have gone too far south about as quickly as possible. 

That's right. It only took 86 games to completely bury this team that was a legitimate World Series contender on March 31. The day the Rangers acquired Choo and completed a monstrous offseason agenda, you'd be hard-pressed to find one living soul who would honestly tell you that he or she predicted death that quickly.

Right now, the Seattle Mariners are 10 games ahead of Texas. Ten games.

When was the last time you could say that? 2001?

Something like that.

And now with the July 31 trade deadline approaching, it's time for the Rangers to start selling some of the few attractive pieces they have on their roster.

We'll go through each tradeable candidate and discuss how likely they are to be dealt. Since we are still over three weeks away from the deadline—and given general manager Jon Daniels' history of pushing right up against the exact deadline before deals in the past have been completed—I won't speculate too much on what each of these guys could bring back to Texas.

Here we go. 

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Ranking Tampa Bay Rays’ Best All-Star Game Candidates

Who will represent the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2014 MLB All-Star Game?

This question is a reflection of how the team has played so far this season both individually and collectively. 

Since 2008 the question surrounding the Rays' All-Star selections has been how many players the team would send. The franchise has sent at least two players to the Midsummer Classic each season since changing the name to the Rays.

 

Tampa Bay Rays All-Stars Since 2008 (via MLB.com)

Year

All-Star (Pos.)

2013

Matt Moore (RHP), Ben Zobrist (INF/OF)

2012

David Price (LHP), Fernando Rodney (RHP)

2011

Matt Joyce (OF), David Price (LHP), James Shields (RHP)

2010

*Carl Crawford (LF), *Evan Longoria (3B), *David Price (LHP), Rafael Soriano (RHP)

2009

Jason Bartlett (SS), Carl Crawford (LF), ºEvan Longoria (3B), Carlos Pena (1B), Ben Zobrist (INF/OF)

2008

Scott Kazmir (LHP), Evan Longoria (3B), Dioner Navarro (C)

*Started game

ºVoted as starter but did not play due to injury

This year will likely be very different. Based on the recent voting results, the Rays will not have a player starting in this year's All-Star Game. Evan Longoria came the closest, but Josh Donaldson from the Oakland A's is running away with the lead in votes for third base.

It would be plausible to envision a scenario where the Rays have no player on the team if the rules did not guarantee representation from every team.

Since somebody has to go, who will it be?

This list will look at the most likely candidates to represent the Rays in the 2014 All-Star Game. 

The players were selected based on performance this year and popularity. The criteria for the list are the same as the criteria that usually factor into All-Star selections. 

Players like Derek Jeter do not have to be the best player at their position by statistics or perception. Due to his global popularity, he will receive a large quantity of fan votes each season. There is nothing wrong with that since it is the All-Star game, not the All-Stats game. Fans want to watch their favorite players. 

That does not mean that performance is unimportant. Players who are excelling at their position usually earn their way onto the roster.

This was the case for Fernando Rodney in 2012 on his way to his record-breaking .060 ERA season. He had a 0.93 ERA and 25 saves before the All-Star break and earned his first career All-Star selection that year.

Here is a look at the Rays' best candidates for the 2014 MLB All-Star Game.

Begin Slideshow

Ranking Tampa Bay Rays’ Best All-Star Game Candidates

Who will represent the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2014 MLB All-Star Game?

This question is a reflection of how the team has played so far this season both individually and collectively. 

Since 2008 the question surrounding the Rays' All-Star selections has been how many players the team would send. The franchise has sent at least two players to the Midsummer Classic each season since changing the name to the Rays.

 

Tampa Bay Rays All-Stars Since 2008 (via MLB.com)

Year

All-Star (Pos.)

2013

Matt Moore (RHP), Ben Zobrist (INF/OF)

2012

David Price (LHP), Fernando Rodney (RHP)

2011

Matt Joyce (OF), David Price (LHP), James Shields (RHP)

2010

*Carl Crawford (LF), *Evan Longoria (3B), *David Price (LHP), Rafael Soriano (RHP)

2009

Jason Bartlett (SS), Carl Crawford (LF), ºEvan Longoria (3B), Carlos Pena (1B), Ben Zobrist (INF/OF)

2008

Scott Kazmir (LHP), Evan Longoria (3B), Dioner Navarro (C)

*Started game

ºVoted as starter but did not play due to injury

This year will likely be very different. Based on the recent voting results, the Rays will not have a player starting in this year's All-Star Game. Evan Longoria came the closest, but Josh Donaldson from the Oakland A's is running away with the lead in votes for third base.

It would be plausible to envision a scenario where the Rays have no player on the team if the rules did not guarantee representation from every team.

Since somebody has to go, who will it be?

This list will look at the most likely candidates to represent the Rays in the 2014 All-Star Game. 

The players were selected based on performance this year and popularity. The criteria for the list are the same as the criteria that usually factor into All-Star selections. 

Players like Derek Jeter do not have to be the best player at their position by statistics or perception. Due to his global popularity, he will receive a large quantity of fan votes each season. There is nothing wrong with that since it is the All-Star game, not the All-Stats game. Fans want to watch their favorite players. 

That does not mean that performance is unimportant. Players who are excelling at their position usually earn their way onto the roster.

This was the case for Fernando Rodney in 2012 on his way to his record-breaking .060 ERA season. He had a 0.93 ERA and 25 saves before the All-Star break and earned his first career All-Star selection that year.

Here is a look at the Rays' best candidates for the 2014 MLB All-Star Game.

Begin Slideshow

Cardinals Ball Boy Jumps into Stands to Avoid Foul Ball

During Saturday afternoon's game between the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals, one ball boy had to get creative to avoid being hit.

In the bottom of the first inning, Matt Holliday hit a line-drive foul ball to right field. The ball was headed right towards one of the ball boys, but he quickly hopped out of the way and stumbled into the stands.

[MLB.com]

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

MLB All-Star Voting 2014: Predicting Fans’ Choice for AL and NL Starting Lineups

Since the MLB All-Star Game decides home-field advantage for the World Series, the fan voting takes on a far more important role than in other sports. It's fair to debate the merits of placing such importance on an exhibition game, but it's something contending teams are forced to deal with.

Many of the selections are pretty straightforward and the fans do a pretty solid job. The only major concern is a late surge by one fanbase that propels multiple members of that team into the starting lineup. With several close races, it's something that's possible this year.

With that in mind, let's check out predictions for how the lineups for both the American League and National League will look once the fan vote is complete. The most recent updated voting totals are available via ESPN (AL and NL).

The All-Star selection show on ESPN is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET on Sunday night.

 

American League

The American League lineup should be highlighted by Derek Jeter one last time. The longtime New York Yankees shortstop has been putting up mundane numbers by his old standards during the farewell tour, but nobody else at the position has played well enough to overcome the goodbye salute.

Jeter hasn't spent much time thinking about a potential trip to Target Field, though. Bryan Hoch of MLB.com passed along comments from the Yankee captain, who said he learned long ago not to pay much attention to early vote totals:

You know me—I don't think about that before it happens. I learned that a long time ago. I'll wait to see what happens. […]

Everyone was like, 'Oh, you're leading.' Then [Nomar] Garciaparra got like 100,000, 200,000 votes the last day, something like that. After that, I said, 'I'll just wait.'

Those late swings are always possible, but he should be safe this time around given the circumstances.

As for some positions that are more competitive, catcher is one of the most interesting.

Matt Wieters of the Baltimore Orioles charged out to an early lead. But he hasn't played since early May due to an elbow injury and is out for the rest of the season. It's allowed other backstops to make a charge, led by Derek Norris of the Oakland Athletics.

It would be nice to recognize him because he represents what's good about that entire organization. He wasn't a massively-hyped prospect and isn't even generating much attention now, but his on-base percentage is over .400 and he's helped guide a top-five pitching staff.

The other close battle throughout the process has been for the third outfield spot. Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels and Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays seem like locks.

Yoenis Cespedes (Athletics), Melky Cabrera (Blue Jays) and Adam Jones (Orioles) are among the top contenders in the wide-open race to join them.

Jones is having the best season of the bunch, but with Oakland fans motivated to vote given the close races involving both Norris and Cespedes, it probably gives their outfielder the edge.

 

National League

Once again the catcher position is a point of contention. In the National League, the race features five-time All-Star Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals and Jonathan Lucroy of the division-rival Milwaukee Brewers.

While there's no doubting Molina's value, especially when it comes to calling games and bringing an opponent's running game to a halt, Lucroy deserves the nod. His terrific performance at the plate is one of the major reasons Milwaukee has been a surprise team.

Evan Gattis of the Atlanta Braves also deserves strong consideration by helping save an otherwise struggling offense. It's unlikely he could make up the vote difference, however.

And just like the American League, the other hotly-contested race is in the outfield.

Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh Pirates) and Carlos Gomez (Brewers) appear safe, leaving Yasiel Puig (Los Angeles Dodgers), Giancarlo Stanton (Miami Marlins) and Ryan Braun (Brewers) to battle for the final starting spot.

Unlike the AL race, Braun isn't the favorite due to a Milwaukee vote surge because it's hard to imagine him getting much support from any other fanbase. It's always going to take at least some semblance of support from elsewhere to win out.

Stanton is trying to make a comeback on Puig, and he deserves it. Both players are having great seasons, but the Marlins outfielder has an edge in just about every offensive category despite not having nearly as much support in the lineup.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today also believes he's earned a trip to Minneapolis:

In the end, Stanton and Puig will likely each end up on the final roster, but getting the opportunity to start is a special honor.

That's what makes all of the races so interesting across the board.

 

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

MLB All-Star Voting 2014: Predicting Fans’ Choice for AL and NL Starting Lineups

Since the MLB All-Star Game decides home-field advantage for the World Series, the fan voting takes on a far more important role than in other sports. It's fair to debate the merits of placing such importance on an exhibition game, but it's something contending teams are forced to deal with.

Many of the selections are pretty straightforward and the fans do a pretty solid job. The only major concern is a late surge by one fanbase that propels multiple members of that team into the starting lineup. With several close races, it's something that's possible this year.

With that in mind, let's check out predictions for how the lineups for both the American League and National League will look once the fan vote is complete. The most recent updated voting totals are available via ESPN (AL and NL).

The All-Star selection show on ESPN is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET on Sunday night.

 

American League

The American League lineup should be highlighted by Derek Jeter one last time. The longtime New York Yankees shortstop has been putting up mundane numbers by his old standards during the farewell tour, but nobody else at the position has played well enough to overcome the goodbye salute.

Jeter hasn't spent much time thinking about a potential trip to Target Field, though. Bryan Hoch of MLB.com passed along comments from the Yankee captain, who said he learned long ago not to pay much attention to early vote totals:

You know me—I don't think about that before it happens. I learned that a long time ago. I'll wait to see what happens. […]

Everyone was like, 'Oh, you're leading.' Then [Nomar] Garciaparra got like 100,000, 200,000 votes the last day, something like that. After that, I said, 'I'll just wait.'

Those late swings are always possible, but he should be safe this time around given the circumstances.

As for some positions that are more competitive, catcher is one of the most interesting.

Matt Wieters of the Baltimore Orioles charged out to an early lead. But he hasn't played since early May due to an elbow injury and is out for the rest of the season. It's allowed other backstops to make a charge, led by Derek Norris of the Oakland Athletics.

It would be nice to recognize him because he represents what's good about that entire organization. He wasn't a massively-hyped prospect and isn't even generating much attention now, but his on-base percentage is over .400 and he's helped guide a top-five pitching staff.

The other close battle throughout the process has been for the third outfield spot. Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels and Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays seem like locks.

Yoenis Cespedes (Athletics), Melky Cabrera (Blue Jays) and Adam Jones (Orioles) are among the top contenders in the wide-open race to join them.

Jones is having the best season of the bunch, but with Oakland fans motivated to vote given the close races involving both Norris and Cespedes, it probably gives their outfielder the edge.

 

National League

Once again the catcher position is a point of contention. In the National League, the race features five-time All-Star Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals and Jonathan Lucroy of the division-rival Milwaukee Brewers.

While there's no doubting Molina's value, especially when it comes to calling games and bringing an opponent's running game to a halt, Lucroy deserves the nod. His terrific performance at the plate is one of the major reasons Milwaukee has been a surprise team.

Evan Gattis of the Atlanta Braves also deserves strong consideration by helping save an otherwise struggling offense. It's unlikely he could make up the vote difference, however.

And just like the American League, the other hotly-contested race is in the outfield.

Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh Pirates) and Carlos Gomez (Brewers) appear safe, leaving Yasiel Puig (Los Angeles Dodgers), Giancarlo Stanton (Miami Marlins) and Ryan Braun (Brewers) to battle for the final starting spot.

Unlike the AL race, Braun isn't the favorite due to a Milwaukee vote surge because it's hard to imagine him getting much support from any other fanbase. It's always going to take at least some semblance of support from elsewhere to win out.

Stanton is trying to make a comeback on Puig, and he deserves it. Both players are having great seasons, but the Marlins outfielder has an edge in just about every offensive category despite not having nearly as much support in the lineup.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today also believes he's earned a trip to Minneapolis:

In the end, Stanton and Puig will likely each end up on the final roster, but getting the opportunity to start is a special honor.

That's what makes all of the races so interesting across the board.

 

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Angels’ Mike Trout Crushes Walk-off Home Run vs. Astros

Los Angeles Angels phenom Mike Trout continues to have a terrific season, and he made another huge play for his team Friday night.

In the bottom of the ninth inning against the Houston Astros, Trout swung at a ball well below the belt on an 0-2 count. The 22-year-old got all of the ball, however, and ended up hitting the walk-off home run to give his team the win.

In 81 games, Trout already has 20 home runs and 63 RBI, as he's having yet another MVP-caliber season.

[MLB.com]

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Winners and Losers of Cubs-A’s Blockbuster Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel Trade

Chicago general manager Jed Hoyer and his counterpart in Oakland, Billy Beane, proved on Friday night that fireworks on the Fourth of July don't only explode overhead, completing a massive six-player swap that has wide-sweeping ramifications on the playoff picture in both leagues.

The first-place Athletics strengthened their rotation by adding two of the best pitchers available, Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija, while the rebuilding Cubs landed a trio of youngsters—shortstop Addison Russell, outfielder Billy McKinney and starting pitcher Dan Straily (along with a player to be named later)—to build a future contender around.

It's a deal that, on paper, seems to benefit both clubs. While it will be a few years before we can truly grasp which club came out on top, it's never too early to take a look at the immediate winners and losers in the aftermath of the first major trade of the regular season.

Begin Slideshow

MLB All-Star Voting Results 2014: Final Predictions for AL Starting Roster

Voting for the 2014 MLB All-Star Game has officially come to a close.

As the Midsummer Classic approaches, all we can do now is speculate which players will earn enough votes to make the team and a starting role in the game.

The American League featured several close positional battles from the last time MLB.com released the standings. We won't know the official results until rosters are announced on Sunday.

While we await the highly anticipated unveiling, let's take a stab at predicting the AL's starters for this year's All-Star Game.

 

Catcher

The last time these votes were tallied, Matt Wieters topped the list. Since then, he's unfortunately been forced to undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery.

This brings us to a two-horse race between Derek Norris and Brian McCann. The edge has to go to McCann. He's played in more games this season, has a better fielding percentage at .998—leading all AL catchers—and has been powerful at the plate, boasting 10 home runs and 37 RBI despite a .224 batting average.

McCann has been his own worst critic, according to a tweet from Bryan Hoch of MLB.com:

Perhaps a start in the Midsummer Classic would change his tune.

Prediction: McCann

 

First Base

There's really not much of a competition at first base. Miguel Cabrera is running away with the voting, and rightfully so.

Solid on offense and defense, Cabrera has a .316 batting average with 100 hits, 32 doubles, 14 home runs, 67 RBI and a fielding percentage of .993.

He's been showing no signs of slowing down lately:

Jose Abreu has been tremendous as well, displaying some great power, but Cabrera has been more consistent.

Prediction: Cabrera 

 

Second Base

Like the battle for first base, second base shouldn't be all that close. Robinson Cano is boasting an impressive .323 batting average, producing 101 hits, 19 doubles, six home runs and 51 RBI. He also holds a .991 fielding percentage with just three errors this season.

Here's a telling tweet from Bob Nightengale of USA Today regarding Cano and the Mariners' success:

Ian Kinsler and Dustin Pedroia have been solid as well, but the gap simply appears too large to close.

Prediction: Cano

 

Third Base

It appears power will win the right to start at third base for the AL. While David Freese has the position's best fielding percentage, he was nowhere near the top of the standings the last time they were released by MLB.com.

So, we turn to hitting.

Josh Donaldson is far and away the most powerful hitter at third base for the AL this season. He holds a .245 batting average and has accumulated 80 hits, 12 doubles, 18 home runs and 61 RBI. He's hit five more balls out of the park than anyone else at the position.

He has been clutch at the plate for the A's all season long:

Prediction: Donaldson 

 

Shortstop

The last time the standings were released, Derek Jeter had a slight lead on Alexei Ramirez.

Jeter has been playing well this year, holding a .975 fielding percentage and batting .268 with 80 hits, nine doubles, two home runs and 21 RBI; however, Ramirez has simply been much better.

He's playing well defensively with a fielding percentage of .976, but his hitting has been even better. Ramirez is batting .294 with 97 hits, 14 doubles, eight home runs and 41 RBI.

Here's yet another fine reason why Ramirez should be getting the start:

It would be nice to see Jeter take the field in what appears to be his last season in the league, but Ramirez is the right choice here.

Prediction: Ramirez

 

Outfield

With three starting spots up for grabs, the outfield becomes an intriguing race.

At center field, expect Mike Trout to get the nod. The 22-year-old phenom has continued his remarkable run this season with 95 hits, 23 doubles, five triples, 19 home runs and 62 RBI for a batting average of .314. No slouch on defense, he's also fielding .990.

He's certainly no slouch on defense at all:

At right field, Jose Bautista is running away with things. He has produced a stellar season at the plate with 86 hits, 15 doubles, 17 home runs and 51 RBI for a .303 batting average. His defense has been superb as well, as he holds a .986 fielding percentage.

So, who gets the third spot?

That would be Adam Jones. He ranks in the top 10 of AL center fielders with a .980 fielding percentage, but his prowess at the plate is what makes him stand out. With 107 hits, 18 doubles, 16 home runs, 53 RBI and a batting average of .308, he's far and away the most productive outfielder behind Trout and Bautista.

Prediction: Trout, Bautista and Jones

 

Voting results updated at MLB.com as of July 1.

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

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

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

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

 

Jose Altuve, Houston Astros

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

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

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

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

 

Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays

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

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

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

 

Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals

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

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

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

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

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

 

Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers

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

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

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

 

Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins

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

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

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

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

 

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

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MLB-Best Oakland A’s Prove They Are Going for It All in 2014

The Oakland A’s made fireworks with a blockbuster trade to land both Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel on the Fourth of July, according to ESPN insider Keith Law, giving up Addison Russell, Billy McKinney, Dan Straily and a player to be named later.

With it, they made one thing abundantly clear to the rest of baseball: The A’s are going for it all right now, and they are your 2014 World Series favorites.

This team already had MLB’s best record (53-33) and the American League’s best rotation before acquiring a dominant duo from the north side of Chicago. Oakland now has nothing short of an embarrassment of riches.

But let’s be honest—we’ve seen this all before. The A’s have always had arms for days, seemingly cornering the market in young, prized mound artists. What makes this the team that can finally break the playoff failures the franchise has seen during the Billy Beane run?

In a word: offense. Oakland is leading all of baseball with 430 runs scored and has a powerful trio of Brandon Moss, Josh Donaldson and Yoenis Cespedes leading the charge with a combined 51 home runs and 178 runs batted in before the All-Star break.

Throw in 72 more RBI from the remarkable catching trio of Derek Norris, John Jaso and Stephen Vogt, and you have a team that can shut you out and put up crooked numbers all over the scoreboard.

There is one key element of this trade that needs to be discussed, however.

In the deal, the A's sacrificed one of baseball's best prospects in Addison Russell, a shortstop soon to be ranked No. 6 in Baseball Prospectus' next top-50 list (per BP's own Jason Parks):

This would be fine and dandy if Samardzija were a legitimate piece of Oakland's future. The reality is, the ace pitcher will sprint away from the Bay Area for a $100 million contract in a little more than a year while the A's sit back and look to execute their next move.

Hammel is a free agent following the 2014 season as well, so this smells very much like a bold rental to push for a World Series title that has suddenly fallen right into their laps.

A feel-good story for one of MLB's most beloved underdogs has transformed into a Yankees-like championship-or-bust mentality, something this franchise is certainly not used to. A mediocre landscape of teams across the American League should give the A's confidence, but the overhanging pressure of a bull's-eye on their backs will be quite the hurdle to overcome.

If 2014's bright hopes end in failure, Oakland will be just fine. The team will let Hammel walk and replace him with what it hopes is the Jarrod Parker of old—and we have no reason to believe he won't be, even after undergoing his second Tommy John surgery.

And if all goes to hell, Billy Beane will simply hop on the telephone and trade Samardzija away to replenish the pieces he sacrificed to acquire him in the first place. The Matt Holliday experiment in 2009 provides a clear precedent there. (He was traded to St. Louis for Brett Wallace, Clayton Mortensen and Shane Peterson after appearing in 93 games with Oakland after signing on as a free agent.)

The benefit of acquiring a coveted pitching asset whose arm has very little mileage on it is that MLB teams will be no less desperate for his services a year from now. Samardzija can be flat-out nasty, and his body type and limited wear and tear should keep him healthy.

The A's have identified a rare opportunity to break their 25-year title drought, and they just made the deal they had to make to build a proper postseason-ready rotation.

Some will question the forfeiture of such a dynamic prospect for what essentially amounts to a one-year rental, but it's a rental that makes the difference between contender and clear-cut favorite in the American League, and that's always a deal worth making.

These are not the A's of 2002, when a 103-win team was just ninth in MLB in runs scored during the height of the steroid era. This team can mash, and it also has as deep a bullpen as anyone in the sport.

The A's are making a stand and going for it all in 2014. When you put the pieces together, it looks like they just might succeed.

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MLB All-Star Roster 2014: Breaking Down This Year’s Most Deserving Players

There are plenty of bubble players for the 2014 MLB All-Star rosters, but some have already locked up spots.

These players are not only guaranteed All-Stars, but they're MVP and Cy Young candidates as well.

 

4. SS Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies

Tulowitzki is on pace to finish with one of the highest batting averages since the turn of the century. He leads the majors with a .350 batting average. If he maintains it, he'll finish with the highest average since John Hamilton hit .359 in 2010. 

While there are several contact hitters on Tulowitzki's tail for the league lead in batting average, his power gives him a huge edge when it comes to who is most deserving of an All-Star roster spot. He also boasts 47 RBI and 18 home runs, which ties him for the ninth highest total in the league.

 

3. RHP Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees

Tanaka wasted no time not only becoming the Yankees' best pitcher but one of the best pitchers in baseball. He leads the majors with 12 wins in 17 starts this season. And in those 12 starts, he's established quite the stat line.

He has struck out 130 batters, tying him for fifth most in the league, and recorded a 2.27 ERA and 0.97 WHIP, ranking him fourth and fifth, respectively. He's also walked fewer batters than any pitcher with double-digit wins. The 25-year-old will be on this list for years to come.

 

2. 1B Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays

No one has created more runs for his team than Encarnacion this season. Entering Friday night's action, he's racked up a league-leading 69 RBI, many of which have come off his league-leading 26 home runs. While Nelson Cruz and Jose Abreu have produced comparable numbers in the race to be baseball's best power hitter, Encarnacion earns the edge with contact.

He has a higher batting average than both Cruz and Abreu. He also has a higher on-base percentage, having drawn 43 walks. He's the greatest reason why the Blue Jays are the fourth highest-scoring team in the league this year.

 

1. RHP Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners

Hernandez doesn't have as many wins as Tanaka (10), but that's about the only number of Hernandez's that isn't better. He's third in the majors with a 2.10 ERA, a 0.92 WHIP and 137 strikeouts. While he doesn't lead the league in those categories, no other pitcher is consistently rated as high across the board.

King Felix has also allowed just four home runs in 18 starts and 96 hits in 128.1 innings pitched. No pitcher with more than 100 innings has allowed fewer homers. Out of all the elite pitchers this season, no one has been better than Hernandez.

 

David Daniels is a columnist at Bleacher Report. He tweets, too.

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