Colby Lewis Expresses Anger Over Colby Rasmus’ Bunting with Lead vs. Rangers

The Blue Jays beat the struggling Rangers 4-1 Saturday, but the bigger story involved Toronto outfielder Colby Rasmus and Texas pitcher Colby Lewis.

With two outs and none on in the bottom of the fifth inning and the Blue Jays holding a 2-0 lead, Rasmus decided to beat the Rangers' defensive shift with a bunt down the third-base line. Lewis attempted to make the play but couldn't catch the Toronto outfielder in time on his throw to first.

As Rasmus reached safely, Lewis let Rasmus know how he felt. You can see a replay of the incident on MLB.com.

Lewis offered his thoughts after the game, per ESPN.com:

I felt like you have a situation where there is two outs, you're up two runs, you have gotten a hit earlier in the game off me, we are playing the shift, and he laid down a bunt basically simply for average. ...

... [Rasmus] didn't steal within the first two pitches to put himself in scoring position. That tells me he is solely looking out for himself, and looking out for batting average. And I didn't appreciate it.

Some are criticizing Lewis on social media for his stance.

Sports Illustrated's Joe Sheehan noted that Lewis is having enough trouble getting left-handed batters out as it is, so maybe he should keep his thoughts to himself in this situation:

Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com believes that Adam Wainwright is now off the hook for his comments about easing up on Derek Jeter at the All-Star Game. He can thank Lewis for that:

Baseball is famous for its unwritten rules, and this is another occasion when they're taken to the extreme. Rasmus made what looked like an objectively smart baseball play, and yet the opposing pitcher took exception.

The 39-58 Rangers and 50-48 Blue Jays will finish their three-game set on Sunday.

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

Updates from Sunday, July 20

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

Original Text

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

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

The Rockies' public relations team provided an update:

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

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

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

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

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We Remember: Nolan Ryan Puts Robin Ventura in a Headlock, Lays the Beatdown

There was bad blood between the Chicago White Sox and Texas Rangers' Nolan Ryan, and after this 1993 beatdown from Ryan on Chicago's Robin Ventura, there's no doubt who came out on top.

Ryan, then 46 years old and 20 years older than Ventura, told the Austin-American Statesman (via Wikipedia) he used the same move on the steers on his Texas ranch as he grabbed Ventura, put him in a headlock and started whaling. 

Ventura was thrown out of the game while Nolan was not. 

[MLB]

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Chicago Cubs Trade Deadline: Preview and Predictions

Even though the Chicago Cubs have unloaded their biggest trade pieces in Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, they still might have moves to make before the July 31 trade deadline. They have some veteran outfielders and relievers that still figure to be on the block, but not all of them are going to be dealt in all likelihood. 

Based on future needs at the various positions of the players on the block, what prospects they can get in return and what players are ready to take over at the positions of the players on the trade block, here are five players on the block and if they will still be on the team or not come August 1.

By the time it's all said and done, the Cubs are likely to be done rebuilding and will then be retooling on their way to contention in 2015 and beyond.

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Adam Dunn Denied Home Run After Ball Bounces off Wall Twice, Stays in Play

What are the odds of this? 

On Friday night, Chicago White Sox outfielder Adam Dunn got about as close to hitting a home run as one can get, with the ball bouncing off the top of the outfield wall twice while still remaining in play. 

While it's not completely clear whether or not the ball hit Houston outfielder L.J. Hoes' glove, it looks like it hits the wall first and bounces on it again, which is absolutely mind-boggling. 

The White Sox went on to win 3-2.

[MLB]

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Foul Ball Shatters Glass, Angels Fan Enjoying Dinner Wants the Check

All one Los Angeles Angels fan wanted was to enjoy a nice night out at the ballpark, but a very rude foul ball quickly put an end to that.

When Seattle Mariners shortstop Brad Miller's ball went foul, it shattered the glass next to where this fan and her date were eating. Judging her (fairly justified) look of contempt, she wanted to remove herself from the situation immediately, quickly asking the waiter for the check.

It looks like the next time these two get dinner, it will be at a place where errant fly balls aren't a possibility.

[MLB]

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MLB Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz Surrounding Ian Kennedy, David Price and More

That infamous time of year has rolled around. The MLB trade deadline is fast approaching, and we should see plenty of familiar faces in new places in short order.

While some teams are aiming to bolster their rosters in an effort to make pushes for the postseason, others are looking to the future and will trade current assets with expensive contracts.

Needless to say, the rumor mill has already begun to spin, and many notable names around the league are already involved in trade discussions.

So, which players are rumored to be on the trade block? Which teams are interested in acquiring their services? Let's speculate on a few of these situations based on recent buzz to surface around the Web.

 

Angels and Padres Talking Pitchers

As of Friday morning, the Los Angeles Angels are 57-37, while the San Diego Padres are 41-54. It only makes sense that these two teams would be doing business at this point in the season.

While the Angels are looking to improve their rotation and depth on the mound, the Padres make the perfect trade partner due to some nice arms currently on the roster.

On Wednesday, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported the sides weren't seeing eye-to-eye on Ian Kennedy but continued to talk about Houston Street:

Well, that appears to have changed once again, according to a tweet from Ollie Connolly of MLB.com:

Now, it appears the two sides are not only talking about both Kennedy and Street once again, but Tyson Ross is also in the conversation.

All three of these arms would improve the Angels' chances of going deep into the postseason and making a push for each one would certainly keep things very interesting before the trade deadline.

 

Mariners and Rays Trade Talk

The Seattle Mariners are sitting nicely with a 51-44 record; however, they are in the ultra-competitive AL West and need to make up some ground. The Tampa Bay Rays are floundering with a 44-53 record and appear willing to negotiate.

According to a tweet from Jon Morosi of Fox Sports 1, the Mariners are interested in acquiring both David Price and Ben Zobrist:

Price is having a nice season with a 3.23 ERA and 167 strikeouts while allowing 61 runs on 137 hits in 20 appearances. Zobrist is having another solid year at the plate, batting .266 with 85 hits, 19 doubles, three triples, six home runs and 24 RBI.

Seattle is going after this duo due to its failed attempt at acquiring Marlon Byrd, as Morosi noted on Twitter:

It sounds as if these discussions are only in the preliminary stages, so we'll have to wait and see how this develops.

 

Dodgers Don't Want Papelbon

Philadelphia Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon has expressed his desire to play for a contender. Obviously, he's not too thrilled about his team's 42-53 record.

Well, it appeared as though the 54-43 Los Angeles Dodgers were willing to fulfill the pitcher's request, according to a tweet from Mark Saxon of ESPN:

That's changed in a big way, as Saxon rescinded his previous information:

Papelbon is having a nice season in Philadelphia, and it can be expected that he'll garner some interest before the trade deadline passes. Although, as it looks right now, the Dodgers will not be in play for the closer.

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Second-Half Guides for Disappointing MLB Teams to Get Back into Race

The second half of Major League Baseball's season is just getting underway. For a batch of teams who either went to the playoffs last year or had such aspirations this October, that's good news.

With a little more than two-fifths of the year, not to mention the July 31 trade deadline, still to go, both time and opportunity remain for such teams to try to turn it around by getting better performances, better health or even better players via trade.

Here's how a quartet of clubs who have disappointed so far can improve and/or get back into the postseason race from here on out.

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2 Trades That Could Take the Cincinnati Reds to the Next Level

With the Major League Baseball trade deadline rapidly approaching—July 31, in case you were unaware—it's become increasingly clear that the Cincinnati Reds need something, anything to get them to the next level in order to compete for a division title and possibly a World Series championship.

The team has concerns surrounding the level of production it's received from several key areas, including left field, shortstop and the bullpen. Until it addresses at least one of these issues, the Reds are not a championship-caliber team, much less a division winner, or even a wild-card team.

With that, the Reds have a few options. Should they buck their recent trend of twiddling their thumbs at the deadline, then they will likely choose to pursue a reliever and a bench bat while shipping off underperforming prospects—e.g. Daniel Corcino—who still have upside and value if moved to a new team.

But, this article isn't about what they will do, it's about what they should do. What the Reds should do is make a trade to address one of the weaknesses mentioned above.

Outlined below are two trades the Reds could feasibly make. Both trades are doable in terms of the salaries the Reds would take on and the perceived availability of the incoming players, as well as the package assembled to acquire them.

Let's start with an in-division deal involving a familiar trade partner.

 

Want to make a splash at the deadline? This is the way to do it.

It can be tough to justify acquiring Starlin Castro, a player well known for his lackadaisical work on the field. However, the Reds are in grave need of an offensive upgrade at shortstop, and this is the best way to fill that hole.

Offensively, Castro is a great fit for the Reds. The 24-year-old is slashing .274/.325/.436 through his first 406 plate appearances to go along with 26 doubles, 11 home runs, 52 RBI and 43 runs scored.

Zack Cozart's offensive contributions pale in comparison to Castro's. In 90 games as the Reds' shortstop, Cozart has managed just a .236/.287/.307 slash line with 18 extra-base hits—two home runs—22 RBI and 31 runs scored.

In addition to Castro, the Reds would also do wonders for their bullpen by acquiring left-handed reliever James Russell.

The Reds' left-handed relief situation has been a mess. With Aroldis Chapman manning the ninth inning, the Reds were left with Manny Parra and Sean Marshall as their two remaining left-handed relievers.

Unfortunately, the club lost Marshall to a season-ending shoulder injury, and Parra has regressed significantly from his outstanding 2013 season—3.96 ERA and 1.40 WHIP, up from 3.33 and 1.20 in 2013.

Russell, on the other hand, has been outstanding. On the season, the 28-year-old has allowed a 2.54 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP with a 7.0 strikeout rate, a 4.1 walk rate, a 1.69 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 5.4 hits per nine innings. Russell's numbers would make him the third-best reliever on the Reds roster, behind Chapman and Jonathan Broxton.

Giving up Tony Cingrani would be tough, as the 25-year-old has shown some promise since being called up during the 2012 season.

However, for the Chicago Cubs, Cingrani could be a great fit. The Rice University product would be a cheap, controllable option through the 2019 season, and he would provide the Cubs with a high-upside lefty—something their system is lacking.

Jesse Winker would slot in as a surefire top-10 prospect in the Cubs' system—likely toward the back end of the group—and presents the Cubs with a solid outfield prospect with the ability to post .300/.350/.500 seasons with 20-plus home runs at the big league level.

The third piece of the Reds' return package, Amir Garrett, provides the Cubs with another high-upside lefty with legitimate mid-rotation potential.

Garrett is still raw, thanks largely in part to his pursuit of a career in professional basketball. However, he has a fresh, live arm, capable of ramping up a mid-90s fastball. His curveball and changeup are, understandably, behind his other two offerings, but they both have the potential to be at least big league average.

Garrett's curveball has the best potential of his two secondary offerings. He's inconsistent with the pitch's release point, but with repetition and the improved ability to stay on top of the pitch, it could be an above-average offering at maturity.

At worst, Garrett can be a late-inning relief option, where his fastball could operate as a plus pitch from the left side. The inefficiencies he experiences with his secondary offerings would also become less of an issue, as he'll only really need one to develop in order to become an effective option out of the pen.

The package could be tough for a lot of fans to process as it would give up the team's perceived No. 6 pitcher, along with arguably the best prospect in its system—and a third with some impressive upside.

 

This trade is much more conservative than the first and, in all likelihood, a move the Reds may actually make.

Ben Zobrist was a near-buy-low candidate earlier in the year, and after missing some time with an injury, he had been struggling at the plate. More recently, however, Zobrist has been on point. Over the month of July, Zobrist has seen his batting line skyrocket up to .267/.356/.410, on the back of a .360/.450/.500 performance through his last 55 plate appearances.

Aside from his current slugging percentage—a mark that would represent the second-lowest full-season figure of his career—Zobrist has rebounded back toward his career averages, and he looks to be a pretty safe bet for the remainder of the 2014 season.

Zobrist is a free agent at the end of this season, so the team would have to look to re-sign the 33-year-old at the end of the year. However, it's a price worth paying when you consider some of the offensive woes the team has experienced this season.

Zobrist's versatility would afford the Reds a wealth of opportunities. The veteran super-utility man could lock down second base with relative ease until the return of Brandon Phillips, upon which he would slot quite nicely into left field.

Perhaps more important than the defensive versatility Zobrist offers is his ability to hit second in the Reds lineup.

With Joey Votto out for an undetermined length of time and Phillips dealing with his own injury, two of the more important pieces to the Reds' offensive attack are on the shelf. The injuries have caused first-year manager Bryan Price to do a lot of lineup shuffling, and the Reds' most recent game saw Cozart operate from the 2-slot.

Zobrist could remedy some of the lineup concerns, and when Votto and Phillips do return, he'd still be a great option to hit second. Zobrist makes contact at a very high rate, and even with an in-play percentage of 72 percent this season—nine-year MLB average is 69 percent—Zobrist has managed to sneak his on-base percentage up over the .350 mark—something the Reds could desperately use behind Billy Hamilton.

Hit-and-run opportunities would be plentiful for the Reds with Zobrist batting behind Hamilton, and the middle of the order would be presented with numerous chances to hit with both runners on base.

Acquiring Zobrist won't cost nearly as much as his teammate David Price, but he still won't be cheap.

Tampa Bay Rays general manager Andrew Friedman isn't the type of GM to sell low on a player, and he's content with waiting until he gets exactly what he wants for Zobrist. He's also likely to be content with keeping Zobrist and trying to sign him to a multiyear deal following the 2014 season.

So, the Reds will have to pay full price for Zobrist. But what exactly is full price?

The Rays' farm system isn't quite as deep as it used to be, as Tampa Bay has seen top prospects such as Alex Cobb, Chris Archer, Matt Moore and others graduate to the big league level. With Price likely on his way out—at least next year, if not this one—the Reds could part with a combination of mid-level pitching prospects such as Chad Rogers and Sal Romano.

Romano, a 6'4", 250-pound right-hander, possesses a solidly average fastball, which possesses above-average potential as he continues to log minor league innings. His breaking ball and changeup figure to be average offerings.

Romano has shown some improvement over his 2013 campaign, logging a 4.01 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP over 19 starts. As he continues to improve his command and control, Romano can be a solid option at the back end of a contending team's rotation.

Where Romano has shown vast improvement, Rogers has been somewhat disappointing. The 24-year-old is still an attractive piece, though.

While he doesn't have overpowering stuff—his fastball sits right around 91-92 mph—Rogers works well out of the bullpen, utilizing a three-pitch arsenal that includes a slider and changeup, as well as the aforementioned fastball.

Rogers' arsenal and velocity suggest that he'll be a middle-relief option when he reaches the big leagues.

If the Rays balk at Rogers, Jon Moscot—a surefire rotational option—may be enough to make them pull the trigger.

 

All stats are current through play on July 18, 2014, and are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

Trade suggestions, comments, outraged? Start the debate in the comment box below.

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Huston Street to Angels: Latest Trade Details, Comments and Reaction

The Angels have made a serious push for the playoffs after adding Huston Street to solidify the bullpen. The San Diego Padres provided details on the six-player trade to that transpired late Saturday night:

The San Diego Padres today announced that they have acquired infielders Taylor Lindsey and Jose Rondon and right-handed pitchers R.J. Alvarez and Elliot Morris from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in exchange for right-handed pitchers Huston Street and Trevor Gott.

The Padres provide Street's comments on the trade:

ESPN's Jim Bowden first reported that the move was close:

With the deal now completed, the Angels were able to upgrade the biggest weakness on the roster. The squad has one of the best offenses in the majors with a starting rotation that ranks 11th in the league in ERA.

The problem is that the team also ranks 24th in baseball in reliever ERA. Joe Smith has done a solid job as the closer after taking over for Ernesto Frieri, but more help is clearly needed for the team to be legitimate contenders.

Street provides a major boost in this area and is certainly excited to join his new team. According to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times, the veteran was previously asked about possibly being traded to the Angels and responded:

"I would love it," he said.

Street cited the chance to "play with guys like Albert Pujols and Mike Trout" as well as to play for Manager Mike Scioscia. Street broke into the major leagues with the Oakland Athletics from 2005-08, when the Angels won the American League West three times in four years. 

"I was probably too young to realize how good he was at the time," Street said of Scioscia. "That's one of the best managers, maybe, of all time. If I went there, I'd have a real chance to win."

While not all traded players become good fits on their new teams, this seems like it will work out just fine.

 

Street is in the midst of one of the best seasons of his career. The 30-year-old closer was named to his second All-Star game thanks to his 1.09 ERA and 24 saves in 25 opportunities through the break.

Cody Derespina of Newsday points out that this success is not new:

The veteran is signed through the 2014 season, but he has a relatively inexpensive team option for $7 million. Although there is time to make a decision, it would not be surprising to see his new team work to keep him for another year.

Considering how far San Diego is back in the standings, this remains a good move for the rebuilding team. Friar Wire provides details on the haul the Padres received in the trade:

Prior to the start of the 2014 season, Lindsay was rated as the 93rd top prospect by Baseball America. So far this season, he is batting .274 with 73 hits and 30 RBI’s for the Salt Lake Bees.

Rondon, a top ranked prospect and native of Venezuela, recently represented the Angels for the World team at the 2014 XM Futures game and is hitting.327 for the Angels high-A affiliate.

This appears to be a smart maneuver for both sides, although the Angels will be the immediate winner with an elite reliever for the rest of the year.

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

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Huston Street Trade Puts Angels 1 Giant Step Closer in AL West Hunt

During the All-Star break, Huston Street told Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times he'd "love to" play for the Los Angeles Angels.

Wish granted.

On Friday, the Angels and the San Diego Padres consummated a deal that will send Street and minor league pitcher Trevor Gott to the Halos, per Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal.

In return, the Padres get a package of prospects, including shortstop Taylor Lindsey and pitcher R.J. Alvarez—ranked by Baseball America prior to the season as the Angels' best and fourth-best prospects, respectively—and shortstop Jose Rondon, per ESPN.com's Jim Bowden.

Street immediately bolsters a bullpen that got off to a rocky start. On June 22, the Angels pen had posted a 4.48 ERA and blown 12 of 28 save opportunities. The relief corps has since steadied itself. Mike Morin, a 23-year-old right-hander called up in April, began blanking hitters. And Joe Smith supplanted Ernesto Frieri as closer.

On June 27, the Angels dealt Frieri to the Pittsburgh Pirates for another underperforming reliever, Jason Grilli.

As it turns out, that was merely a prelude to the main event.

Now, with the arrival of Street, the Angels have turned their biggest weakness into a strength.

Street posted a 1.09 ERA and converted 24 of 25 saves in the first half. At 30 years old, he's still in the prime of his pitching career and has another year left on his contract, a team option, at a relatively affordable $7 million.

Los Angeles is locked in a tough race with the Oakland A's, who went all-in with the blockbuster trade that brought pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel over from the Chicago Cubs.

By raiding their modestly stocked farm system to bring in Street and address their most glaring weakness, the Angels clearly showed they aren't backing down.

And why would they? With a top-notch starting rotation and an offense anchored by Mike Trout, arguably the most exciting hitter in the game, the Halos are poised to make a run at their first championship in more than a decade.

Predictably, there are doubters. Keith Law tweeted his reservations about the Angels sacrificing Rondon, who was hitting .327 at High-A ball:

The bottom line, though, is that one of the best teams in the American League just added one of the best closers in all of baseball, mortgaging possible future glory for a clear shot now. And an AL West race that also includes the surprising Seattle Mariners just got a whole lot more interesting.

As for Street, look for him to settle quickly into his new home. A former member of the A's, he's familiar with the division and the Angels franchise.

"I was probably too young to realize how good he was at the time," Street said of Angels skipper Mike Scioscia as trade speculation was heating up over the break, per Shaikin. "That's one of the best managers, maybe, of all time. If I went there, I'd have a real chance to win."

Now he has that chance. Time to see if he, and his new club, can take advantage.

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Can Yankees’ CC Sabathia Still Be an Impact Pitcher After Latest Surgery?

There's seldom good news when a player is ruled out for the rest of the season. For CC Sabathia and the New York Yankees, there's actually very good news in the announcement that he'll miss the remainder of the 2014 season due to impending knee surgery, as noted by Bryan Hoch of MLB.com.

Sabathia has been out since mid-May with knee problems. He made a rehab start and had a setback. Instead of heading back to Dr. James Andrews, Sabathia checked in with several surgeons, leading many to expect Sabathia to have microfracture surgery. Instead, the Yankees announced that Sabathia will have an articular cartilage debridement, which is a cleanup and smoothing. This type of procedure is far less problematic than microfracture

Sabathia saw several surgeons, but when it was announced he was seeing doctors that did not specialize in microfracture, such as Dr. Dick Steadman, who pioneered the procedure, there was some hope. After seeing Yankees team physician Dr. Chris Ahmad and Rangers physician Dr. Keith Meister, Sabathia chose to go with Dr. Neal ElAttrache

All are qualified surgeons, but ElAttrache has a great track record with knees. One of ElAttrache's best known cases is not in baseball, but the return of Tom Brady after an ACL reconstruction is one of the best results we've seen. ElAttrache also put Zack Greinke's collarbone back together aggressively, getting him back on the mound quickly, and repaired Kobe Bryant's ruptured Achilles.

The normal recovery period for this type of surgery is varied. In some situations, a player could return in as little as two months, but the Yankees realize that Sabathia's size and the internal damage in his knee are significant enough that rushing him back for this season would be counterproductive. Instead, they'll focus on getting him ready for next season, much as they did with Derek Jeter late in 2013.

"Because we're in July, I think he'll come into spring training, in theory, ready to go," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said via Hoch of MLB.com. "Given the number of things that have gone on, we'll have to be careful with him nonetheless."

The rehab for this type of operation is relatively straightforward. Sabathia will have around eight weeks of normal therapy as they focus on making sure the knee heals up well after the procedure. There will likely be a focus on making sure his secondary stabilizers are strong and that his pitching mechanics will not put an undue stress on the repaired portion of the knee. 

Past that, the Yankees will focus on maintenance. Making sure Sabathia doesn't have problems between starts or at least making sure the problems are manageable will be key. Overall conditioning is not likely to be a major concern, but if any specific mechanical changes are needed, the Yankees want to give Sabathia plenty of time to adjust.

The fact that Sabathia has avoided microfracture is a major positive. While the procedure has been used for nearly 20 years in helping certain knee issues, it still has a very low percentage of success in baseball. There's really no explanation for that, but the fact remains that there are few successes. Avoiding the procedure, at least for now, gives the Yankees one less thing to worry about heading into 2015. 

The best comparable situation in baseball is not a pitcher. Instead, it's Chase Utley, the Philadelphia Phillies second baseman who had two straight years of problems with damage inside his knees. The Phillies struggled to get Utley back to function, unable to find a maintenance program that would keep him on the field without significant swelling.

It took some time, but Utley has been very solid since coming back. Utley faces a different situation than Sabathia. He has less specific demands on his knees, but he has to play every day in the field. Sabathia will have the normal off time between starts, so some swelling wouldn't be devastating, though it would indicate that there are further issues.

While the Yankees can't count on having Sabathia back for 2014, they certainly have to feel better about the chance of having him take his turns in 2015. If they can get Sabathia at the top of the rotation alongside Masahiro Tanaka (who is still hoping to avoid Tommy John surgery, per Howie Kussoy of the New York Post) and keep them both healthy, they'll be a far better team.

To do so, New York's medical staff will have to overcome a lot of challenges and show better results with maintenance than it has in the past. As Mike Axisa of RiverAveBlues suggests, Cashman and the Yankees should take a hard look at their plan for 2015.

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Not Signing Brady Aiken Will Come Back to Haunt Houston Astros

The signing deadline for 2014 draft picks officially passed Friday at 5 p.m. ET, and the Houston Astros were not able to sign No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken, according Jim Callis of MLB.com (via Twitter). He also reports that the Astros failed to sign fifth-rounder Jacob Nix and 21st-rounder Mac Marshall.

It wasn’t long after the draft, two days to be exact, that Aiken reportedly agreed to a $6.5 million bonus with the Astros. On June 23, the Cathedral Catholic High (San Diego) left-hander arrived in Houston to make his signing official, which obviously didn’t happen.

After two weeks of speculation as to why Aiken was yet to sign, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that the Astros saw something they didn’t like in a post-draft MRI of the 17-year-old’s left elbow. As a result, the team immediately reduced its offer to Aiken from $6.5 to $5 million, well below the $7.9 million slot value for the No. 1 overall pick.

However, it wasn’t until earlier this week that we learned the specifics of Aiken’s elbow issue. According to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle:

A person with knowledge of the situation told the Chronicle on Tuesday that there is a ‘cut-and-dry’ issue with the anatomy of Aiken’s ulnar collateral ligament, even though he is currently able to pitch. Aiken has visited five doctors, the person said: two affiliated with the team and three who were not, including the renowned Dr. James Andrews.

He may have some (of the UCL), but not much, the person said, adding that Tommy John surgery, which has become common in baseball, would not be a straightforward solution in this instance.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports confirmed in a separate report that the Astros believe “Aiken’s physical revealed a ‘significant abnormality’ in the area of his elbow ligament,” and he also added the team once again had made a revised offer to the southpaw of $3,168,840.

However, Aiken’s adviser, Casey Close, has maintained throughout the ordeal that his client is fully healthy, despite reports of an elbow issue, via Rosenthal:

Brady has been seen by some of the most experienced and respected orthopedic arm specialists in the country, and all of those doctors have acknowledged that he’s not injured and that he’s ready to start his professional career.

Aiken’s personal trainer, Paul Flores, also said that the left-hander was healthy and ready to begin his professional career, via Drellich:

When it comes to throwing off a mound, that’s not my area of expertise. But I know he’s throwing, so. He’s not in pain. He comes to me after, and I always ask, as a trainer, the first question I ask any of my clients or athletes is, ‘How do you feel today?’ Just to make sure that whatever it is they’re feeling is going to dictate how the intensity is going to be. He always tells me he feels great — and not good, great.

He’s in incredible shape.

Furthermore, the Astros handling of the situation with the No. 1 overall pick was widely criticized by industry members, including MLBPA executive director Tony Clark, though technically it did not break any rules outlined in Major League Baseball’s current collective bargaining agreement.

A $3,168,840 bonus (40 percent of his slot value) would have been the lowest figure the Astros could have offered Aiken in order to guarantee they receive the No. 2 overall pick in next year’s draft. Because Aiken chose not to sign, the Astros lost his slot value ($7,922,100) from their bonus pool, giving the team considerably less to spend on its other unsigned first-round picks, according to Rosenthal.

The uncertainty surrounding Aiken’s signing also affected contract negotiations with their remaining unsigned draft picks, including fifth-rounder Jacob Nix, who previously had agreed with the Astros on a well-above-slot bonus of $1.5 million and already passed his physical, and 21st-rounder Mac Marshall, who also was a candidate to sign an above-slot deal thanks to the money saved with Aiken.

Since the Astros failed to sign Aiken, it presumably left them unable to sign Nix without incurring a defined penalty in next year’s draft, let alone Nix and Marshall.

Based on Fridays news that the team came up empty with all three pitchers, it would seem as though thats precisely what happened.

Meanwhile, the Astros now face another public relations nightmare after failing to sign Aiken, whom general manager Jeff Luhnow claimed (in the above video) is “the most advanced high school pitcher he’s ever seen in his entire career,” before the deadline.

Needless to say, not signing Aiken is a major disappointment for the franchise, whom Sports Illustrated expects to win the World Series in 2017, and especially when considering the ongoing struggles this season of 2013 No. 1 overall pick Mark Appel at the High-A level.

But with the news that Aiken won’t be joining the Astros organization, at least not this year, the team will shift its focus to the 2015 draft, as it’ll now have the No. 2 overall pick after failing to sign the prep left-hander.

While they’ll still be able to land a top-flight amateur prospect next year, the Astros won’t find a player more talented than Aiken, argues Jim Callis of MLB.com:

If the Astros cant land Aiken today, theyll get the second choice in the 2015 Draft and be in position to grab a premium talent. Thats not a bad consolation prize, though its not optimal, because theyll have to wait a year and wont get someone quite as gifted as Aiken.

Former big league All-Star Mike Camerons son Dazron, an outfielder from Eagles Landing High in McDonough, Ga., is the consensus No. 1 talent for next years Draft. Theres no clear No. 2 prospect, especially not one who stands out like Aiken does.

Furthermore, after striking out with No. 1 picks Appel and Aiken in back-to-back years, it’ll be interesting to see whether or not the Astros alter their draft strategy in 2015.

While they obviously would benefit from adding more high-ceiling arms to their already-impressive farm system, their success in developing shortstop Carlos Correa, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft, could push the organization to target another impact hitter next year rather than a pitcher, even if he’s not perceived to be the best player available.

Unfortunately, the Astros 2014 draft now will forever be remembered as a complete and utter failure. That said, only time will determine how the organization’s inability to sign Aiken (as well as Nix and Marshall) will impact its long-term success.

One thing is certain, however: Failing to reach an agreement with the No. 1 overall pick is a crushing blow for an Astros franchise that’s in the midst of a rebuilding process and potentially a few years away from playoff relevancy.

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MLB Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz Surronding David Price, Joakim Soria and More

The MLB All-Star break came and went, and now the 30 major league franchises have no choice but to stare down the rest of the season and decide whether they are in the buyers or sellers camp in 2014.

July 31 is the trade deadline, and teams would be loathe to linger on the deals that can either set them up for future success or bring in the high-caliber talent that will put them over the top in their respective divisions. 

Pitching, as always, it as a premium this late in the season. Let's check out the buzz on some of the better pitchers who could be on the move this month.

 

Rays Continue to Engage in David Price Trade Talks

Let's start off with David Price, the man who's seemingly led the charge when it comes to midseason trade rumors in the major leagues. According to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, the Seattle Mariners may be looking to deal a few high-profile prospects to secure Price and/or Ben Zobrist from the Tampa Bay Rays:

The Rays are said to have talked to the Mariners about pitching prospect Taijuan Walkerplus two or three other top young players in talks involving pitcher David Price, league sources said. Talks are ongoing and fluid, and deals being discussed could include just Price from Tampa Bay, Price plus Ben Zobrist or Zobrist alone.

Price is 9-7 on the year with a 3.23 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP, per Baseball-Reference.com. The Rays are 44-53 on the season and operate on a very limited budget. To his credit, Price has been very understanding about all the talk surrounding his situation with the team.

"Since 2012, (the Rays and I) both understood that for Tampa to continue the kind of success we've had over the past five or six years, this is the way they operate. I would love to stay there and for us to continue to be successful. But I don't know if that's a possibility," he said, via ESPN's Jerry Crasnick.

The Mariners have a wealth of prospects to offer. Taijuan Walker is a tall, right-handed pitcher with a bright future ahead of him. The 21-year-old has thrown just 10 innings so far this year with the big club, giving up seven hits and four earned runs while striking out nine. He would be a tantalizing replacement for Price, especially if the Rays are looking for like-for-like players from other teams.

Developing young players is a hallmark of the Rays' recent success, and this could be a trade that is too good for the team to pass up, as it looks to move one expensive player for several cost-effective building blocks.

 

Phillies Would Rather Move Lee Over Hamels

According to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, the Philadelphia Phillies would be more inclined to trade starting pitcher Cliff Lee than Cole Hamels this season.

The Phillies are dead last in the NL East and could be looking to bolster their farm system, which was ranked 25th by Baseball Prospectus' Jason Parks in February 2014.

As Heyman writes, both pitchers have no-trade clauses, and Hamels is more likely to use his in a possible trade: 

Both Lee and Hamels have no-trades with at least 20 teams on them, but people around the team suggest Hamels is more likely to invoke his, as he wants to remain in Philly. Lee, like closer Jonathan Papelbon, would likely choosing winning over city, they say.

If the Phillies are willing to sell a top-of-the-line starter to revamp the organization, they would almost certainly get more for Hamels than Lee.  

Both pitchers are left-handed, always a plus, but Hamels is having the better season and is five years younger than Lee. 

Lee is currently on the disabled list and is 4-4 on the year with a 3.18 ERA. At 35 years old, franchises around the league may not be looking to get much more out of him than a solid performance down the stretch run this season. Hamels, sporting a 3-5 record and a 2.93 ERA, would be a blockbuster move that could land the Phillies a wealth of excellent prospects.

  

Tigers Are Looking at Joakim Soria

The Detroit Tigers are looking for a reliever to bolster the bullpen for the second half of the season. According to Fox Sports' Jon Morosi, they have their eyes on Texas Rangers reliever Joakim Soria:

The Rangers are in an interesting position. They've won at least 90 games over the past four seasons, but injuries to the likes of Prince Fielder and inconsistent performances have them in last place in the AL West this season.

They may not be quite ready to start giving up solid veterans in the hopes of turning their play around over the next couple of seasons.

The right-handed Soria boasts a 2.60 ERA with 16 saves and 40 strikeouts in 30.1 innings pitched this season. He could fill the role of set-up man for the Tigers or perhaps supplant closer Joe Nathan, who has five blown saves and a 5.61 ERA on the year.

Soria is used to taking on the closer role, as his 176 career saves will attest to, so he may not be best suited for a typical reliever role where he is called upon to eat innings. The Tigers will likely have to give up players or prospects that the Rangers believe will set them up for a bounce-back season in 2015.

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Derek Jeter’s Retirement Ceremony Announced by New York Yankees

New York Yankees fans will want to clear their calendars on Sept. 7 as the team will celebrate the career of Derek Jeter.

The Yankees announced on their official website that they will be honoring their retiring captain before the final game of a three-game series with the Kansas City Royals. New York will also be giving every fan at Yankee Stadium a commemorative coin.

After last year's Mariano Rivera bobblehead fiasco, the Yankees will certainly be hopeful that Jeter's night goes off without a hitch.

This is the cherry on top of an already good week for the 40-year-old. First, he went 2-for-2 in his final All-Star Game, scoring the first run of the game for the American League. Jeter was removed during the top of the fourth inning, allowing him one more All-Star victory lap before heading to the dugout for the final time. The Target Field crowd gave him a standing ovation.

"It was a special moment and it was unscripted," he said, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com. "I was unaware of it."

In addition to that, on Friday night, he's poised to set the record for most games started at shortstop, surpassing Omar Vizquel, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post:

This is just another highlight to add to Jeter's farewell campaign.

Although the team doesn't wrap up its regular season on Sept. 7, it is the penultimate Sunday home game for the team, which still leaves Sept. 21 against the Toronto Blue Jays as a possible backup in case of a postponement.

The Yankees' last game of the 2014 season will be at Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox on Sept. 28 in what is a fitting bit of irony—Jeter's last hurrah will be against New York's most hated rival. Jeter's last home game will be on Sept. 25 against the Baltimore Orioles.

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Breaking Down the 1 Trade Deadline Deal the Boston Red Sox Have to Make

The July 31 MLB trade deadline is less than two weeks away.

For the 43-52 Boston Red Sox, who are currently sitting in fourth place in the American League East—and 9.5 games back from the first-place Baltimore Orioles—the time has come for them to determine whether they'll be on the buying or selling side of the trade fence come deadline day.

We could have a lengthy debate about which direction the Red Sox should go. 

A 9.5-game deficit within the division is daunting, even with over two months remaining in the season. But we have seen crazier things happen before, and bottom-dwelling teams can light up at the right moment.

Perhaps this is exactly what Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington is hoping for.

In a way, Boston hasn't even decided about its future this season.

Manager John Farrell described this position further via Julian Benbow of The Boston Globe:

Time will tell. I'm not privy to every conversation Ben has. This is a busy time of year for the entire industry. So I'm sure there will be additional rumors continuing to grow, but until we know something concrete, our job is to maintain our focus on the field each and every day with the intent to win each and every night. ... No one has given up anything. No one has conceded anything. But we also have been in the game long enough to know that over the next two weeks names are going to start getting bantered about.

This conundrum leaves Boston at the aforementioned crossroads.

What if there was a move, however, that would be beneficial to either direction? What if the Red Sox could execute a deal that would not hinder their chances of salvaging 2014, but would also serve as a bonus if Boston decides that its postseason prospects have waned?

There is such a deal—the kind that would make sense on either side of the fence.

In short, Boston needs to trade incumbent closer Koji Uehara.

Let's get the numbers out of the way first. Uehara's 2014 statistics aren't indicative that his age is catching up with him.

Over the course of 42 games and 43.2 innings pitched, Uehara has posted a 1.65 ERA along with a 0.756 WHIP—and he's 39 years old.

His strikeout-to-walk ratio is down slightly from last year—9.50 in comparison to 11.22—but all other signs point to Uehara being as effective as ever.

So why trade the most venerable member of the Red Sox bullpen?

First, there are contractual considerations—Uehara is set to become a free agent no matter how Boston's season ends. Having signed a one-year contract for the 2013 season with an option for 2014 that vested last August, Boston will have to determine his future with the team sooner or later.

Given his age, it is hard to judge where Uehara sees himself a year from now, but the fact that he is still pitching effectively suggests that he will want to retain a prominent role next season.

The only real question is whether or not it will be with the Red Sox.

In 2014, their lineup of batters has gradually transformed from that of aging veterans toward a younger cast of characters, who should comprise the team for years to come.

Outfielder Mookie Betts and catcher Christian Vazquez are two examples of Boston's young talent breaking into the big leagues.

Since the Red Sox also have a plethora of pitching prospects awaiting their eventual debuts, they should also consider applying this theory to the pitching staff in general.

Granted, finding an effective reliever to serve in Uehara's stead would be tough. Few closers have equaled Uehara's performance in his two seasons with the Red Sox.

There are those analysts—like ESPN's David Schoenfield—that would argue the closer position is overrated. 

"The point isn't that a closer isn't important; of course he is," he writes. "The point is that a lot of guys can do that job—and that the job is extremely volatile."

This isn't to suggest that Uehara is overrated or that his contributions are no longer needed, but if one wants to strike a balance between a quick fix and a long-term solution, then dealing Uehara makes sense.

Contending teams are almost always looking for pitching help, and they become even more desperate as the trade deadline approaches. Adding serviceable relievers can often be the difference between success and failure in the playoffs.

And how many postseason games are decided in the later innings? This author has seen more than a few.

Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles (h/t Ben Shapiro of MassLive.com) pointed out a possible buyer in the relief-pitching market via Twitter, suggesting that the Los Angeles Dodgers might be pursuing added bullpen help—namely former Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. 

But Papelbon has a year remaining on his four-year, $50 million contract—with an option for 2016. While the cash-laden Dodgers have little concern over the price tag, a considerably cheaper move for Uehara seems much easier to pull off. 

The trade package would also appear more amenable from both parties' standpoints.

As only a matter of speculation, a possible trade-chip commodity is Dodgers' outfield prospect Joc Pederson.

With a loaded outfield consisting of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig, Pederson's chances of making the Dodgers' big league roster appear distant.

In an article on ESPN.com back in November, Saxon pointed out this dilemma even after listing Pederson as the No. 2 prospect in the Dodgers' farm system.

The Red Sox need outfield help—we know that all too well. Los Angeles has an overload of outfielders, and they want relief pitching, according to Saxon.

This sounds like a plausible trade opportunity. Of course, Boston could be enticed by a possible exchange for veteran outfielder Ethier, who is another rumored target, according to Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe (h/t Marc Normandin of SB Nation).

But why not go after a younger player with incredible upside?

Ethier is 32 years old, and his numbers have fallen considerably from the All-Star caliber stats he posted in 2010 and 2011.

The Dodgers, however, aren't the lone entity when it comes to a potential trade partner. Other teams certainly come to mind when discussing the acquisition of relief help.

The Detroit Tigers are another contender with bullpen needs; Chris Iott of MLive.com suggests the Tigers will be aggressive when it comes to upgrading this component.

We might as well add Uehara to that discussion as well.

Additionally, teams like the St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Angels are other teams that could possibly be in the same boat.

Any plausible transaction like this begs two questions—will it actually happen and, if so, who will take over the closer's job in Boston?

Let's address the second question first.

Lefty Andrew Miller would be the best option to fill the void, in this author's opinion. He has been as serviceable a reliever as the Red Sox could have hoped for over the past two-plus seasons. Both righties and lefties are batting under .200 against him this year.

Miller is a pending free agent, and the Red Sox would like to keep him into 2015, per Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe. Miller's current contract is worth a little over $1.9 million, making him a much cheaper commodity than Uehara.

Why not preview what an increased role would do for Miller's future in Boston?

The bigger question, of course, is whether or not the Red Sox would actually execute this idea. One could make the argument either way.

Cafardo reasons that Boston would like to retain Uehara for just one more season, based on the fact that Uehara has shown no signs of slowing down. Cafardo also points out the obvious—Uehara's age alone could thwart a potential transaction, and the Red Sox would not be likely to get much in return.

We also know too well that teams get desperate as the playoffs draw closer. Exchanging highly touted prospects for two-month rentals is nothing new.

Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston shares this perspective—he suggests the Red Sox should trade Uehara if they can get something of value in return.

Edes' statement is essentially our conclusion.

Boston won't trade Uehara for some mid-range prospect or major league platoon player. The deal would have to be lucrative enough to convince Cherington that it's the right one to be had.

As we have stated numerous times, however, teams in need of bullpen help at the deadline can be too aggressive—sometimes even overpaying for the talent they want.

From the Red Sox's perspective, dealing Uehara would not mean conceding the 2014 season: As mentioned, Boston has bullpen options. More importantly, any upside addition to Boston's beleaguered outfield would be nothing short of a bonus.

In addition, the Red Sox could secure at least something for Uehara if they decide that retaining him for 2015 is no longer worthwhile.

This is more speculation, of course. Trades can be a tricky thing to evaluate. While it is nice to play fantasy GM and swap excess components for the best players out there, the reality is that both teams involved need to come to a mutual agreement.

The complex nature of such agreements is nearly impossible to ascertain, which is why so many trade rumors never materialize.

Still, the Red Sox would be wise to shop Uehara. Given the fragile nature of the closer role, combined with Uehara's age and contract status, we can deduce that the six-year veteran is not a part of Boston's long-term plans.

From that vantage point, why not try to get something in return?

 

All statistics, records and accolades courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com—and contractual information via Cot's Baseball Contractsunless otherwise indicated.

Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report covering the Boston Red Sox. Be sure to check out his entire archive for Red Sox news, insight and analysis. Follow him on Twitter @PeterMcShots.

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MLB System Check 2014: Milwaukee Brewers’ Top Prospects

The Milwaukee Brewers Systems Check video offers a quick overview of the team's farm system, addressing its strengths and weaknesses and how it can improve moving forward. The video also provides a breakdown of the Brewers' top prospects for 2014, right-hander Jimmy Nelson and outfielders Tyrone Taylor and Mitch Haniger, including each player's ETA in the major leagues and potential long-term role within the organization.

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Deal Of The Day: 150 Duracell Batteries For $56, Ending Soon

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Last time we posted about this deal, you guys stocked up on batteries in droves. Well, the deals is ending soon, so if you missed out the first time, now’s your chance. You’re looking at 100AA and 50AAA batteries from a trusted company for $56, which works out to $0.37 per battery. If you’ve ever bought batteries in a convenience store, you know they can fetch upwards of $2 each, so this represents significant savings.

[ 150 Duracell Batteries For $56, Ending Soon ]

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