MLB Trades 2014: Recap and Grades for Latest Transactions Before Deadline

The MLB trade deadline is July 31 at 4 p.m. ET, but a number of teams did not wait until the last minute to complete deals.

With two months remaining in the regular season, a high percentage of organizations still believe they are in the hunt for a playoff spot. As a result, these squads have turned into buyers in an attempt to fill one or more major needs to become true contenders.

Although more transactions are likely to occur on the final day before the non-waiver deadline, here is a look at the deals that went down in the days prior with full grades for each.

 

Cubs Acquire from Red Sox LHP Felix Doubront for PTBNL

Most deadline trades involve at least one team fighting for a playoff spot, but both the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs are in last place in their respective divisions.

Still, the Cubs made a move to acquire 26-year-old pitcher Felix Doubront for a player to be named later, as confirmed by the team's official Twitter account:

Doubront has displayed plenty of potential early in his career, winning 11 games in each of the past two years as a starter. However, his effectiveness greatly reduced when he moved into the bullpen this season.

Red Sox manager John Farrell explained that his role caused problems, via Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago:

I don’t think he’s disinterested. There are others who have moved ahead of him in the rotation and opportunities presented themselves coming out of the bullpen. But if the role is not sitting well and affecting his pitching, there needs to be a different focus to realizing his potential and capabilities.

Doubront should now be able to get a chance at a fresh start for the Cubs. With his talent and youth, he has plenty of time to turn his career around.

Even better for Chicago is that the return for the trade is not expected to be too great, according to Jesse Rodgers of ESPN Chicago:

This is a low-risk, high-reward move for the Cubs, which is a good thing for a team in desperate need of young pitching.

On the other hand, the Red Sox might have given up too soon on a player still under team control for a few more years. His recent struggles are reason enough to trade him, but this is clearly an example of selling too low.

Grades: Boston B-, Cubs A-

 

Indians Trade RHP Justin Masterson to Cardinals for OF James Ramsey

After posting a 5.51 ERA in 19 starts in 2014 while dealing with injuries, Justin Masterson did not represent much value for the Cleveland Indians, especially as a pending free agent this offseason. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports previously reported that they were trying hard to deal the 29-year-old pitcher:

The organization was able to find a trade partner in the St. Louis Cardinals, as it reported on Twitter:

James Ramsey does not represent tons of upside as a 24-year-old outfielder in Double-A. However, he is hitting .300 this season and should be able to at least reach the majors, even if it is as a bench player.

Considering Masterson was not helping Cleveland much, this is a good way to get some value for a player on his way out.

Meanwhile, this is also a good deal for the Cardinals as they are able to bolster their rotation going forward. The squad has dealt with numerous injuries to the pitching staff and can use an experienced player who can provide an upgrade.

Even though Masterson has struggled this season, he is only a year removed from posting a 3.45 ERA with 14 wins while earning an All-Star appearance. If he can regain some of his ability from last season, he could be a steal for the Cardinals.

No matter what happens, both sides made a smart move in this trade.

Grades: Indians A, Cardinals A

 

Dodgers Get 2B Darwin Barney from Cubs for RHP Jonathan Martinez

The Cubs were quite active this week, dealing Darwin Barney for what at the time was a player to be named later. The Los Angeles Dodgers later confirmed Jonathan Martinez would be on the other side of the trade:

Of course, Jesse Spector of Sporting News speculated on the returning player before it was announced:

Barney batted just .208 in a full season in 2013 and then managed a .230 batting average before being sent down to Triple-A. He is a great fielder at second base, but that does not make up for his lack of ability at the plate.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers are already set in the middle infield with Dee Gordon and Hanley Ramirez. Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports that Barney is not even going to help out the major league club:

The deal would make sense if Los Angeles was keeping him as a late-game defensive replacement, but he is obviously not needed in this role. 

On the other hand, Martinez has shown good potential as a 20-year-old pitcher in Single-A. He posted a 3.47 ERA in 19 starts for the Great Lakes Loons and has done a good job of keeping walks low. 

Even if Martinez does not become a star, this should still end up being a quality trade for the Cubs, who have more than enough middle infielders ready to play in the future.

Grades: Los Angeles C-, Chicago A

 

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

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This Borg Cube Fridge Is All The Refrigeration A Trekkie Needs

star_trek_borg_cube_fridge_1

“The first officially publicized Federation contact with a Borg cube took place in 2365, when the USS Enterprise-D encountered a single cube in System J-25.” This much we know thanks to Google and the first wiki we came across, but we’ll confess to not being familiar with Borg cubes. Seeing as it does look rather cool though, we decided to tell the Trekkies in our audience that they can get a tiny one that doubles as not only a fridge, but also a food warmer. Measuring only 11.5″ on each side, this cube won’t hold a ton of food, and we don’t even really know how it keeps food warm… but we suppose a cramped dorm room might be appropriate for something like this. It does glow green behind the Borg coating, as well as inside. The door does lock to prevent spillage, while the rubber feet prevent it from sliding around. It’s… as good as things are going to get for a mini Borg cube fridge we suppose, and we’re glad Thinkgeek is only asking $150 for it.

1cb0_borg_cube_fridge

[ Product Page ] VIA [ TheAwesomer ]

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Great Scott! This Flux Capacitor USB Car Charger Will Juice Up Two Devices At Once

flux

There’s something about movie-themed merchandise that makes it almost irresistible to make movie-related puns and references. They’re usually really tacky, unless the writers are top notch. I’m bottom notch… so I’m not finding an elegant way to tie 88mph, Great Scott, and “Roads … where we’re going, we don’t need roads” all in one article. So I’ll just tell you that this USB car charger plugs into your cigarette lighter socket, charges two devices at once, and looks like the flux capacitor from BTTF. It’s $25.

1ba1_flux_capacitor_car_charger_inuse

[ Product Page ]

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Modbook Turns Your MacBook Pro Into A Tablet

modbook1

The Retina MacBook Pro is a lean, mean, working machine. But alas, it only comes in a laptop form factor, and not even a convertible laptop at that. What are you gonna do about it? Well, how about dropping an additional $2k for a kit to convert the MBP into a tablet? The ModBook Pro X takes a regular MBP, disassembles it and reassembles it into tablet form.

The Modbook Pro X sports a 15.4-inch (diagonal) Apple Retina display with a 2,880 x 1,800 pixel resolution at 220 pixels per inch. Its digitizer pen offers 2,048 pressure levels, pen tilt and rotate functionality, programmable dual side-switches, a digital eraser and replacement nib set. The Modbook Pro X is configurable with up to a 2.8GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor, integrated Intel Iris Pro Graphics with an optional NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M GPU, and up to 32GB of 1600MHz random-access memory.

Of course, the mods will void Apple’s warranty, so ModBook offers you the option to purchase up to 3 years of their own for an undisclosed sum. Yeah… that’s a lot of money to fit a round peg into a square hole. We suppose if you are a graphic artist in dire need of raw computing power, then go to town. But considering $4,000 can buy you a couple of Cintiq tablets, an iPad, and an MBA, with money left over… we’ll pass.

modbook2

[ Project Page ] VIA [ Engadget ]

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Previewing the Detroit Tigers’ 2nd Half

Despite a 53-38 mark at the All-Star break, the Detroit Tigers had a topsy-turvy first half of the season, one that saw them win 27 of their first 39 games then drop 20 of their next 29.  However, Detroit is well-positioned to win the American League Central for the fourth consecutive season and advance deep into the playoffs.

In a year that has been fraught with drama, the Tigers' biggest highlight occurred on June 30 courtesy of Rajai Davis' bat. Down 4-1 in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Oakland A's and their fire-breathing closer Sean Doolittle, Detroit loaded the bases with one out before Davis launched a projectile toward the left field bleachers and the Tigers completed an improbable four-run comeback.

In addition to the thrilling nature of Davis' grand slam, the victory came at a crucial point for Detroit. 

The team was not even two weeks removed from emerging from a 9-20 stretch, one which saw manager Brad Ausmus' squad briefly relinquish its hold on first place to the Kansas City Royals.  The Tigers rode the wave of ecstasy from this hard-fought win to sweep the A's and cement their AL Central lead.  Since this victory, Detroit has remained atop the division.    

The aforementioned 9-20 stretch was easily the Tigers' worst in the first half and was punctuated by a 11-4 loss to the Royals on June 17.  In the blowout, Kansas City roughed up ace Max Scherzer for 10 hits and 10 earned runs in just four innings to move into first place, albeit temporarily. 

Many analysts thought Detroit's hold on first place was history.  In fact, just two days before this thrashing, David Schoenfield of ESPN.com stressed the importance of this series and chimed in that the Royals had the wherewithal to hang with the Tigers all season.

On a $164 million roster filled with superstars and established veterans, it was rookie shortstop Eugenio Suarez who helped right the Tigers' ship. 

Called up to the parent club on June 4, Suarez's ascension to The Show marked general manager Dave Dombrowski's most recent attempt to plug Detroit's gaping hole at shortstop.  Suarez's bat (an above-league-average 103 OPS+) and glove (an outstanding per-game range factor of 4.33, per Baseball-Reference.com) represent an enormous improvement from the players who manned the left side of the keystone before his arrival. 

Suarez seems more mature than his 23 years would suggest.  In a recent interview with Lynn Henning of The Detroit News, he cited the importance of staying relaxed and not trying to overswing at the platea tough mantra to follow during your first stint in the majors.

Alex Gonzalez, 37, was acquired from the Baltimore Orioles in the waning days of spring training when it became apparent that 24-year-old incumbent and defensive whiz Jose Iglesias would miss significant time with stress fractures in both shins.  Gonzalez, however, quickly became an ex-Tiger after he proved to be a mere shell of his former self with a .452 OPS and severely diminished range.

The same week he traded for Gonzalez, Dombrowski swung a deal with the Los Angeles Angels for Andrew Romine.  Despite an excellent glove, Romine has struggled mightily at the plate, which should come as no surprise considering his .212/.287/.252 career slash line.  Organizational soldier Danny Worth also saw time in the lineup, but like Romine, his offense was far below major league-caliber.

Most of the Tigers' top players lived up to expectations during the season's first half with two notable exceptions. 

Justin Verlander, long a bastion of stability in Detroit's rotation, was having his worst big league season.  Prior to the start of 2014, Verlander boasted a sub-3.50 ERA, sub-1.20 WHIP and struck out about 8.5 batters for every nine innings he pitched.  However, in the first half these numbers atrophied to 4.88/1.46/6.7. 

On the flip side, designated hitter Victor Martinez has enjoyed a tremendous resurgence.  From his first full big league season in 2004 through last year, the Venezuelan slugger averaged about 17 home runs a year with a slugging percentage under .470.  This year, the 35-year-old had hit 21 dingers in the first half alone and was slugging .599.

Detroit was lucky with injuries during the first half of 2014. 

In addition to shortstop Iglesias, who we mentioned above, reliever Bruce Rondon and outfielder Andy Dirks were the only players of note to miss significant playing time. 

Rondon, a young fireballer, needed Tommy John surgery prior to the season and will miss all of 2014, and Dirks, a solid hitter who can play anywhere in the outfield, required back surgery but should return in August.  His lefty bat should help a team whose .758 OPS against righties was 32 points lower than it is against southpaws.

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Previewing the Detroit Tigers’ 2nd Half

Despite a 53-38 mark at the All-Star break, the Detroit Tigers had a topsy-turvy first half of the season, one that saw them win 27 of their first 39 games then drop 20 of their next 29.  However, Detroit is well-positioned to win the American League Central for the fourth consecutive season and advance deep into the playoffs.

In a year that has been fraught with drama, the Tigers' biggest highlight occurred on June 30 courtesy of Rajai Davis' bat. Down 4-1 in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Oakland A's and their fire-breathing closer Sean Doolittle, Detroit loaded the bases with one out before Davis launched a projectile toward the left field bleachers and the Tigers completed an improbable four-run comeback.

In addition to the thrilling nature of Davis' grand slam, the victory came at a crucial point for Detroit. 

The team was not even two weeks removed from emerging from a 9-20 stretch, one which saw manager Brad Ausmus' squad briefly relinquish its hold on first place to the Kansas City Royals.  The Tigers rode the wave of ecstasy from this hard-fought win to sweep the A's and cement their AL Central lead.  Since this victory, Detroit has remained atop the division.    

The aforementioned 9-20 stretch was easily the Tigers' worst in the first half and was punctuated by a 11-4 loss to the Royals on June 17.  In the blowout, Kansas City roughed up ace Max Scherzer for 10 hits and 10 earned runs in just four innings to move into first place, albeit temporarily. 

Many analysts thought Detroit's hold on first place was history.  In fact, just two days before this thrashing, David Schoenfield of ESPN.com stressed the importance of this series and chimed in that the Royals had the wherewithal to hang with the Tigers all season.

On a $164 million roster filled with superstars and established veterans, it was rookie shortstop Eugenio Suarez who helped right the Tigers' ship. 

Called up to the parent club on June 4, Suarez's ascension to The Show marked general manager Dave Dombrowski's most recent attempt to plug Detroit's gaping hole at shortstop.  Suarez's bat (an above-league-average 103 OPS+) and glove (an outstanding per-game range factor of 4.33, per Baseball-Reference.com) represent an enormous improvement from the players who manned the left side of the keystone before his arrival. 

Suarez seems more mature than his 23 years would suggest.  In a recent interview with Lynn Henning of The Detroit News, he cited the importance of staying relaxed and not trying to overswing at the platea tough mantra to follow during your first stint in the majors.

Alex Gonzalez, 37, was acquired from the Baltimore Orioles in the waning days of spring training when it became apparent that 24-year-old incumbent and defensive whiz Jose Iglesias would miss significant time with stress fractures in both shins.  Gonzalez, however, quickly became an ex-Tiger after he proved to be a mere shell of his former self with a .452 OPS and severely diminished range.

The same week he traded for Gonzalez, Dombrowski swung a deal with the Los Angeles Angels for Andrew Romine.  Despite an excellent glove, Romine has struggled mightily at the plate, which should come as no surprise considering his .212/.287/.252 career slash line.  Organizational soldier Danny Worth also saw time in the lineup, but like Romine, his offense was far below major league-caliber.

Most of the Tigers' top players lived up to expectations during the season's first half with two notable exceptions. 

Justin Verlander, long a bastion of stability in Detroit's rotation, was having his worst big league season.  Prior to the start of 2014, Verlander boasted a sub-3.50 ERA, sub-1.20 WHIP and struck out about 8.5 batters for every nine innings he pitched.  However, in the first half these numbers atrophied to 4.88/1.46/6.7. 

On the flip side, designated hitter Victor Martinez has enjoyed a tremendous resurgence.  From his first full big league season in 2004 through last year, the Venezuelan slugger averaged about 17 home runs a year with a slugging percentage under .470.  This year, the 35-year-old had hit 21 dingers in the first half alone and was slugging .599.

Detroit was lucky with injuries during the first half of 2014. 

In addition to shortstop Iglesias, who we mentioned above, reliever Bruce Rondon and outfielder Andy Dirks were the only players of note to miss significant playing time. 

Rondon, a young fireballer, needed Tommy John surgery prior to the season and will miss all of 2014, and Dirks, a solid hitter who can play anywhere in the outfield, required back surgery but should return in August.  His lefty bat should help a team whose .758 OPS against righties was 32 points lower than it is against southpaws.

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Dan Uggla Not Released by Giants: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

Despite MLB.com's Chris Haft initially reporting the Giants had released Dan Uggla, it appears that is not the case. 

Shortly after his initial report, Haft apologized for the error:

FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal was the first to dispute that report:

What an unbelievably quick fall it has been for Uggla. He hit at least 30 home runs each season from 2007 through 2011, and in 2012 he hit 19 home runs and led the NL with 94 walks in what was his third All-Star season. 

But he hit an atrocious .179/.309/.362 with the Braves last season, failing to make the playoff roster. After somehow seeing those numbers decline (.149/.229/.213) to a comically bad level through 52 games, he was mercifully released by Atlanta. 

Now, just two years after being named an All-Star, he has struggled to latch on to a team desperate for infield help. 

According to FanGraphs.com, Giants second basemen are hitting .181/.268/.282 this season. Marco Scutaro has spent much of 2014 on the disabled list, Ehire Adrianza has joined him there and Joe Panik is hitting just .212. 

"For the life of me, I can't tell you why, but we're just having a hard time putting together some good at-bats," said manager Bruce Bochy, via the San Francisco Chronicle's Steve Kroner. 

Haft reports that both Emilio Bonifacio and Asdrubal Cabrera are on the Giants' radar, although they would likely welcome any available second baseman.

Fox Sports' Jon Morosi noted Gordon Beckham is also in the mix:

Uggla clearly needs to improve his game, but it appears the Giants are willing to be patient for now.

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Phillies’ Rollins and Utley Homer in Same Game for 23rd Time

Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins of the Philadelphia Phillies set a new major league record Tuesday, becoming the first duo to homer in the same game 23 times, per Lee Sinins of Complete Baseball Encyclopedia.

Dan Uggla and Hanley Ramirez were the previous record holders, having homered in the same game 22 times while with the Florida Marlins, per Complete Baseball Encyclopedia (via GammonsDaily.com).

This keystone combo played in Florida from 2006-2010, most recently homering in the same game on August 7, 2010 against the St. Louis Cardinals. The duo went deep in the same game on five different occasions during their final campaign together.

Utley and Rollins are currently in the midst of their 12th season together in Philadelphia, so they've had plenty more time to work on this milestone. The two are gradually climbing their way up the Phillies record books, as both players are in the top 10 of the all-time franchise lists for hits, home runs, runs scored and RBI.

With respect to home runs, Utley is sixth on the franchise leaderboard with 226 four-baggers, while Rollins hit No. 214 Wednesday afternoon against the New York Mets. Current Philly Ryan Howard is second on the list with 327, while Mike Schmidt reigns atop with 548.

At 35 years old, Utley needs just one more long ball in 2014 to reach a double-digit total for the 11th straight season. He's had three 30-plus homer seasons, hitting 32, 33 and 31 in 2006, 2008 and 2009, respectively. 

Rollins' totals have been a bit more about longevity, as the 35-year-old made his MLB debut in the 2000 season. He went yard 30 times just once in his career, which occurred during his MVP-winning 2007 campaign.

In an uncharacteristic reversal of trends, Rollins has actually outhomered Utley in two of the last three seasons and is on pace to do it once again this year. The dynamic duo will look to add on to their record-setting totals during the final months of 2014.

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New York Mets Game Is Postponed Due to a Storm in ‘Sharknado 2: The Second One’

After Syfy struck gold with the cult classic Sharknado, more prominent actors jumped on board to join the cast of the science fiction epic's sequel about a shark-tornado hybrid. 

New York Mets fans are affected in the second installment of the series when a "sharknado" appears outside Citi Field, forcing the game to be postponed and the stadium to be evacuated. 

Expect to see more and more of these sequels until people stop talking about them. Then, expect a few more. 

[Syfy]

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Giants’ Jake Peavy, Former Cy Young Winner, Drops 10th Consecutive Decision

San Francisco Giants pitcher Jake Peavy dropped his 10th consecutive decision in Sunday's 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, marking the longest losing streak by a former Cy Young Award winner in MLB history, per ESPN Stats & Info (via Elias Sports Bureau).

Sunday marked Peavy's first appearance as a member of the Giants after being traded by the Boston Red Sox earlier in the week. The trade reunited Peavy with his old skipper, Bruce Bochy, who managed the right-hander on the San Diego Padres from 2002 to 2006. Peavy won his Cy Young Award with the Padres in 2007, one year after Bochy's departure for San Francisco.

On Sunday, the Giants gave Peavy a 2-1 lead after four innings, but he was unable to hold on to his good fortune, as the Dodgers scored three runs in the top of the fifth to hand the 33-year-old hurler his 10th consecutive loss.

Though he's having a poor season, Peavy deserves a bit better than the ongoing 10-game losing streak.

While he did receive three runs of support from the Giants, it was the first time he had gotten at least three runs from his offense since June 3rd this year. The Red Sox scored two or fewer runs in support of Peavy in each of his final eight starts with the team, per ESPN Stats & Info

Peavy's next opportunity to break his losing streak will come Saturday, when the Giants face the New York Mets at Citi Field.

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Derek Jeter Surprised by President George W Bush During Rangers Pregame Ceremony

It's not every day that you get to meet an American icon. Former President George W. Bush must have been honored when he got to rub shoulders with Derek Jeter.

Throughout the season, the retiring New York Yankees shortstop has received the Mariano Rivera treatment, as he's been showered with gifts at every road ballpark. What he hasn't done is shake hands with the 43rd president of the United States.

Before the Yankees took on the Texas Rangers on Wednesday night, Jeter was presented with a plaque by "Dubya" himself that commemorated Bush's first pitch before Game 3 of the 2001 World Series.

The Rangers just set the bar for the Jeter farewell tour.

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MLB Trade Rumors: Latest Whispers Surrounding Asdrubal Cabrera and More

There were 21 teams across Major League Baseball entering play Wednesday that were either in first place or within 10 games of first place. That means there could be plenty of buyers as the trade deadline approaches, which is perfect for those squads looking to sell off their assets with an eye toward the future.

The only question remaining now is which players actually get moved by Thursday. 

With that in mind, let’s take a glance at some of the latest rumors from around the league.

 

Asdrubal Cabrera

Jon Morosi of Fox Sports filled fans in on the latest regarding Asdrubal Cabrera:

The Cleveland Indians were 6.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central entering play Wednesday, but they already traded Justin Masterson. It doesn’t appear as if they will be buyers at the deadline, although it doesn’t necessarily mean they are giving up on the season because there was a health risk involved with Masterson.

Still, if Cleveland trades Cabrera as well, it may be time to focus on LeBron James and Johnny Manziel.

As for rumored pursuers, the Toronto Blue Jays and San Francisco Giants are both in second place in their respective divisions. Adding a solid bat like Cabrera, who has a history of production, would certainly help down the stretch.

However, he is only hitting .248 on the season with nine home runs and 40 RBI. He is a career .270 hitter who usually has more pop in his bat, so perhaps a change of scenery would do some good. 

Whichever team lands Cabrera will certainly hope that’s the case.

 

John Lackey

Andy McCullough of The Kansas City Star provided an update on John Lackey:

Lackey has dipped into the fountain of youth this season for the Boston Red Sox and sports a 3.60 ERA, 11-7 record, 1.23 WHIP and 116 strikeouts. It is certainly understandable from Kansas City’s perspective that it likes those young arms, and it’s always important to have an eye on the future in baseball.

Still, how often does Kansas City actually have a chance at a postseason run?

It may be time to give up a prospect or two as the Royals try to hunt down the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central and the Seattle Mariners, New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays in the race for the second wild-card spot.

Lackey would provide a boost for a rotation that already ranks ninth in the league in quality starts. The saying goes that you can never have too much pitching, and it may be in Kansas City’s best interest to test that out down the stretch this year.

 

Emilio Bonifacio 

Dan Connolly of the The Baltimore Sun noted that Emilio Bonifacio may be heading to the Royals:

As we just mentioned in the Lackey section, it may just be time to go for it if you are Kansas City. Bonafacio certainly isn’t a complete game-changer, but he can be a valuable and versatile piece in a postseason run. He is hitting .279 for the Chicago Cubs with 14 steals and speed in the outfield, so there is certainly room for him in the Royals lineup.

From Chicago's perspective, this makes total sense.

The Cubs are not going to compete this year or (probably) next year, so any young talent they can get back in trades right now will help in the future.

General manager Jed Hoyer commented on the strategy, via Patrick Mooney of Comcast Sportsnet Chicago: "You’re sort of trying to find a dance partner on the 30th and 31st. People cast a wide net early and then they sort of hone in on what they think is realistic. As you get towards (Wednesday) evening, people want to make deals and they’re a little more willing to sort of pair up." 

The Cubs are certainly looking for a number of dance partners at the deadline this season.

 

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Home Run at Giants-Pirates Game Takes out Woman’s Beer

"Awwwww, that's expensive."

A woman at the San Francisco Giants-Pittsburgh Pirates game, who was clearly trying to stay out of the way, caught a home run in the stands from Pittsburgh's Jordy Mercer. While this is normally something to boast about, the woman likely wasn't thrilled, as the ball landed directly in her beer. 

This $8 accident adds insult to injury because the woman didn't even manage to end up with the ball. At least she'll always have the memory and the beer-stained clothes.

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Deal Of The Day: 95% Off On Productive Design Mac Bundle

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Are you a graphic designer? There are tons of tools that will not only make your life easier, but that some may actually consider essential to the carrying of your art. In today’s deal, you’re looking at an awesome Productive Design Mac Bundle which includes $943 worth of applications and subscriptions, for which you’re only being asked to pay $39! That includes applications like Anime Studio Pro 10, which normally costs $200. And the Design Hacker Bundle, which includes subscriptions to services like InVision, 99designs, Swiftly, Divshot, Piktochart, and more. That alone would cost $500. Toss in Ember, Pixa, and Poser 10, a $130 3D modelling app, and you’ve got yourself a heck of a deal.

[ 95% Off On Productive Design Mac Bundle ]

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Pirates Run into Double Play on the Bases After Drawing a Walk

No matter how many times you go to a baseball game, there's a chance you will see something that you have never seen before.

For example, you may see a base on balls get turned into a double play one day. 

In the sixth inning of Wednesday's Pittsburgh Pirates-San Francisco Giants game, we found out that it is indeed possible to record two outs even if the batter walks. Unfortunately for the Pirates, it came during a time in which they held a slim 5-4 lead.

With Travis Snider on second base and Gaby Sanchez on third, the Pirates' Chris Stewart drew a walk against the Giants' Jean Machi. That should've loaded the bases with one out and given Pittsburgh a chance to extend its lead. Things didn't go as planned.

The Pittsburgh-Tribune Review's Rob Biertempfel summed up the play best:

Snider's baserunning blunder put Sanchez in a tough spot, but the lead runner did not have to go anywhere on the play. The Pirates could've had runners on the corners with two outs, but instead, the mistakes piled up.

It's not every day that you see a walk turn into a double play. 

[MLB.com]

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Orioles’ Adam Jones Records 4th Straight 20-Homer Season

Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones hit a solo home run in the first inning of Tuesday's 7-6 win over the Los Angeles Angels, thus becoming the first Oriole since Rafael Palmeiro (1994-1998) to record four straight seasons with 20 or more homers, per ESPN Stats & Info.

According to GammonsDaily.com (via Complete Baseball Encyclopedia), Jones is the eighth player in Baltimore Orioles/St. Louis Browns franchise history to hit 20 home runs in four or more consecutive seasons.

If Jones is able to record 20 long balls once again in 2015, then he'll tie both Palmeiro and Boog Powell (1968-1972) for third place on the franchise list for most consecutive 20-homer campaigns.

The 28-year-old center fielder has quite a bit of work ahead of him if he's going to tie Cal Ripken, who sits atop these rankings with 10 consecutive 20-plus homer campaigns from 1982 to 1991. Eddie Murray (1977-1985) is in second place with nine seasons of this sort.

Jones' feat is also unique in the sense that he's tops among all Orioles/Browns center fielders. With Tuesday's solo shot, he became the only player at his position in franchise history to accumulate this type of streak.

Jones was previously tied with Fred Lynn, who homered 20 or more times in the '85, '86 and '87 seasons while primarily playing center field.

Jones' streak could have easily been longer, as he fell just one long ball shy of 20 in both the 2009 and 2010 seasons. His 2009 campaign was particularly impressive, as he managed to hit 19 home runs in just 119 games during his second season as a full-time major leaguer.

If the center fielder can rack up just 10 more homers through the rest of 2014, then he'll reach 30 four-baggers for the third consecutive year. This may be tougher than expected for the soon-to-be 29-year-old, as his career .416 slugging percentage in August is lower than in any other month.

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MLB Trade Deadline: Starting Pitchers St. Louis Cardinals Should Target

Amidst all the ballyhoo in every general manager's office is a soft cadence:

Tick...tick...tick. 

Each strike of the clock heightens this thrill ride known as major league baseball's non-waiver trade deadline, set for 4 p.m. ET Thursday. 

In the middle of this drama sits St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak, contemplating his next move(s), which could impact his club for years to come. 

Mozeliak's biggest priority is a starting pitcher to fill the fifth slot in the Cardinals' shaky rotation. And it's no secret what he's looking for. The Cardinals have not disclosed who will start Saturday against the Milwaukee Brewers in what will be the biggest series to date. 

While the Cardinals continue on their current six-game road trip, Mozeliak must pull the trigger on a starter, preferably a marquee arm. 

Mozeliak added depth to his staff Wednesday afternoon by acquiring Justin Masterson in a trade with Cleveland. This minor deal surely comes as an appetizer to the main course. That's my thought process, anyway. 

Let's take a look at some top-name targets on the market.

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Former Art School Student with 100-MPH Fastball Signs with Minnesota Twins

“He’s like Ivan Drago...‘Whatever he hits ... he destroys.’”

Such were the words of Elliott Strankman, the Minnesota Twins scout who discovered a dormant giant in the unlikeliest of places. 

Strankman’s Drago remark, as told to Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan, centered on Brandon Poulson, a 6’7”, 240-pound student he discovered playing baseball at a small San Francisco art school. Passan's feature story, which published Wednesday morning, focused on Poulson and his implausible journey to a pro baseball contract.

Poulson’s trip into the orbit of Major League Baseball began in the fall of 2013, when a handful of bored MLB scouts gathered around for what promised to be a fruitless pro day at the Academy of Art University.

Scouts watched as the unheralded baseball team’s position players ran middling 60-yard dashes, ostensibly scribbling notes from time to time in order to look busy.

The only curiosity of the day was Poulson. The towering pitcher stepped up, asked if he could run and proceeded to astound the scouts by blazing a 60-yard streak in nothing but socks. Strankman and his cohorts clocked the run between 6.59 and 6.61 seconds—a time more typical of shortstops. 

Strankman claims this as the moment of freakish athleticism that sparked the Drago connection.

Poulson proved to be more brawler than boxer, however. The intrigued scouts gathered around as the tall talent unleashed a barrage of wild fastballs from the mound. His mechanics were atrocious. His arm topped out at 91 mph.

Poulson couldn’t find the strike zone, and as it turned out, he was already 24. The scouts shuffled off, but the hot-rod goliath stuck in Strankman’s mind. 

Earlier this July, Strankman said he received a tip from a friend about a hard-throwing monstrosity playing for the Healdsburg Prune Packers in northwest California. His source mentioned that the kid had once played for some art school and boy, was he enormous. 

Strankman’s thoughts darted to Drago, and the scout soon found himself watching Poulson pitching at the Prune Packers' ancient wooden stadium, Recreation Park. 

Scouts from the Oakland A’s, the Atlanta Braves and the San Francisco Giants stood by and watched in awe as Poulson’s arm lit up their radar guns. 

Many of the guns read “99,” with an outlier clocking Poulson’s fastball at 100 mph. The kid had broken the barrier. 

What Poulson did to improve, it turns out, was the same thing he’d done his entire life: master his body as an artist would master a brush. Passan’s telling of Poulson’s past paints the picture of a young man with physical gifts and dedication to honing them.

[Poulson] was always an athlete. Brandon Poulson never played basketball, and he can do a 360-degree spinning dunk. He's the size of an NFL tight end, and he can almost do the splits thanks to hours spent in Bikram yoga classes. Poulson dabbled with baseball at Piner High in Santa Rosa, Calif., and played football for a couple years at Santa Rosa Junior College before decamping to the real world.

This real-world trip included driving 18-wheelers for his family's excavation business. Poulson toiled away, learning to work heavy equipment with the expectation that he’d one day take over the company. His father had different plans, and he told his son that it was now or never if he wanted to pursue a career playing professional sports.

The raw righty chose baseball and started pitching in the Wine Country men’s league, throwing 80-mph-to-low-90-mph fastballs. His speed caught the attention of an umpire, who brought the tall hurler’s presence to the attention of Academy of Art University coach Brian Gwinn. 

Gwinn didn’t hesitate to bring Poulson on board, offering him a scholarship and an opportunity to mold his expansive physical skill set into a devastating art.

Poulson’s legend grew in the local baseball community, and he eventually met Joey Gomes, manager of the Prune Packers and brother to Red Sox outfielder Jonny Gomes. Joey introduced Poulson to pitching coach Caleb Balbuena, who worked with the young man to improve his creaky, robotic form.

“He was the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz,” Balbuena told Passan. “Very stiff and methodical. I didn’t even know there was a baseball team in at the art school when I first met [Poulson]. I’m thinking of Step Up...And then I meet this 6’7”, 240 guy, and I don’t think he’s a dancer.”

Once the Tin Man, Poulson is now throwing triple-digit heat and appears poised to become a force in the minor leagues. After witnessing Poulson throw 18 pitches for the Packers, Strankman convinced the Twins to take a chance on a burgeoning talent. The team responded by offering a $250,000 contract. Poulson, who went undrafted in June, signed it in under 30 minutes. 

“I probably don’t realize what this means yet,” Poulson told Passan. “But I’m starting to.” 

This Wednesday, Poulson flew down to Elizabethton, Tennessee, to join the Twins’ rookie-level affiliate in the Appalachian League. 

The tall right-hander will be playing alongside a crop of strong, young talent in Tennessee, including another 100-mph thrower in Michael Cederoth.

It’s a long way to come for a truck-driving former Tin Man fresh out of art school. Poulson’s mentors think he can handle it. 

“He’s so close,” Balbuena said. “He’s so close where you can wrap him up in a bow and hand-deliver him as that dude that’s gonna be in the big leagues for a long time.”

Will Poulson be the next big thing? A real-life Sidd Finch?

That's the gamble the Twins are making, and as usual, it all comes down to whether or not Poulson can keep his UCL intact and his heat over the plate.

Tall is good. Fast is better. But none of it's worth a dime without control. Poulson chose the hurler's life, and like the thousands of other talents clawing to make the league, he's going to have to prove his stuff can outlast the rest. 

 

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Is Justin Masterson Trade Enough to Steady Shaky Cardinals Roster?

The St. Louis Cardinals have acquired right-handed starter Justin Masterson from the Cleveland Indians, reports Peter Gammons.

 

Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweeted that the Cardinals are sending outfield prospect James Ramsey to the Indians in exchange for Masterson.

With Jaime Garcia and Michael Wacha both on the disabled list and Shelby Miller struggling to find himself in the rotation, the Cardinals were rumored to be in the market for starting pitching before the deadline, with Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch suggesting that the team would make a run at either David Price, Jon Lester or Cole Hamels. However, with the acquisition of Masterson, a deal for either left-handed ace now appears less likely.

But is Justin Masterson the missing piece that the Cardinals need to reach the postseason, or is this just the first of several moves they’ll make before tomorrow’s non-waiver trade deadline?

Masterson, 29, was the Tribe’s ace last season, posting a 3.45 ERA, 9.1 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 193 innings spanning 29 starts. The right-hander also established new career highs in wins (14), shutouts (three) and strikeouts (195) while registering a 58.0 percent ground-ball rate. Meanwhile, his strong performance earned him a spot on the AL All-Star team.

In general, Masterson served as the Indians’ top pitcher from 2011-2013, going a combined 37-35 with a 3.86 ERA (3.60 FIP), 7.5 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 615.1 total innings. He averaged 32 starts and more than 205 innings per season during that stretch.

However, the 2014 season has been a much different story for Masterson.

In 19 starts this year spanning 98 innings, Masterson has pitched to a disappointing 5.51 ERA (4.08 FIP) to go along with a 5.1 BB/9 and a career-worst 1.653 WHIP.

More concerning is the fact that Masterson has dealt with a knee issue for a majority of the season, an injury which currently has him on the 15-day disabled list, though he’s expected to be activated over the weekend.

Besides his poor numbers, Masterson’s injury also has seemingly affected the quality of his stuff, as his fastball has averaged 90.5 mph this season after averaging 93.1 mph in 2013, per FanGraphs.

A strong case also can be made that Masterson’s knee injury also has affected his vertical release points this season.

As a result of his lowered release, Masterson has seen a decrease in vertical movement across the board, which, when combined with his drop in velocity, could explain why he’s been so hittable.

Meanwhile, Masterson’s individual pitch values, courtesy of FanGraphs, show just how much those factors have hindered his success:

As you can see, Masterson has still been effective with his slider and changeup this year, though considerably less than he was in 2013. At the same time, it’s clear that his fastball issues have directly influenced his poor performance this season.

The good news is that Masterson won’t have to pitch like an ace with the Cardinals. Plus, manager Mike Matheny is a firm believer that Masterson still has "it."

Via Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com:

You also can't get too far away from what this guy did last year, not just statistically but look at his stuff a year ago. It was just filthy. You don't lose it that quick, especially when you're 29. Maybe there is a little bit of alterations. I know his previous team was doing the exact same thing, trying to get him back to the pitcher he was in 2013. There are very, very talented people over there. But if we have an opportunity here to put our best foot forward, we'll see how we can help him. Hopefully it brings out the best.

Given the team’s current rotation of Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly, Masterson figures to slide in as a No. 3 or 4 starter for the Cardinals. Of course, that projection doesn’t factor in right-handers Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez, both of whom have endured their struggles in the rotation, as well as phenom Michael Wacha, whom the organization believes will be fully healthy come September.

Therefore, even if Masterson doesn’t meet expectations with his new team, it still gives the organization the flexibility to manage the workloads of its young arms more cautiously.

A deal for either Price, Lester or Hamels would have cost the Cardinals a big piece of their future, as it presumably would have involved them trading at least two young players from a list of outfielders Oscar Taveras, Stephen Piscotty, Miller and Martinez. However, by setting their sights a bit lower and targeting Masterson, the organization only had to part with outfielder James Ramsey rather than its other highly coveted young talents.

Ramsey, the No. 23 overall pick in the 2012 draft, has hit for both average and power since beginning his professional career, with a .266/.368/.434 batting line, 30 home runs, 39 doubles and 101 RBI in 235 games over the last three seasons.

At the time of the trade, the 24-year-old Ramsey, a left-handed batter, was enjoying a breakout campaign at Double-A Springfield—where he played 93 games in 2013—with a vastly improved .300/.389/.527 batting line, 13 home runs and 14 doubles through 67 games. However, despite his impressive numbers this season, Ramsey still projects as more of a fourth outfielder than an everyday player, due to his lack of consistent power and struggles against left-handed pitching.

Additionally, Ramsey was also without a clear path to the major leagues anytime soon due to the presence of Taveras, Piscotty and Randal Grichuk, not to mention the team’s other outfielders at the major league level, ahead of him on the organizational depth chart. As a result, he became perfect trade bait for the Cardinals in their pursuit of Masterson.

Overall, trading Ramsey for Masterson is a great deal for the Cardinals, even if the right-hander fails to regain his form from previous seasons. In addition to offering St. Louis a veteran presence and depth in its starting rotation, the decision to acquire Masterson also means that the organization won’t have to rely on its young arms down the stretch as heavily as it did last season.

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Felix Doubront to Cubs: Latest Trade Details, Comments and Reaction

Following struggles throughout the 2014 season, the Boston Red Sox have reportedly traded Felix Doubront to the Chicago Cubs ahead of the MLB trade deadline.   

The Cubs confirmed the deal on their Twitter account:

Jeff Passan of Yahoo originally reported the trade Wednesday:

Jim Bowden of ESPN passes along more information:

The former starter currently touts a 6.07 ERA, 43 strikeouts and 1.60 WHIP through 17 appearances this season. After opening the season as a starter, Doubront was moved to the bullpen and has started just 10 games in 2014.

As a reliever during July, Doubront has been tattooed with a 14.14 ERA through seven innings pitched. That includes a two-walk, six-run outing on Monday in 0.2 innings against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Ricky Doyle of NESN provided his thoughts on the pitcher after his final outing with Boston:

Doubront’s career with the Red Sox has been a rollercoaster ride, but he has shown flashes of being a valuable pitcher. This season, however, has been somewhat nauseating, and the situation is unlikely to solve itself. 

Doyle also notes that the final performance was an "all-time low" for the former starter.

Speaking of his career as a starting pitcher, Doubront apparently wants to get back on the mound to open games. The 26-year-old Venezuelan explained what he wanted if traded to a new team, via Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com:

If something happens, it’s going to happen because it’s going to be the best for me. I just want to be a starter and stay there. If I stay (with the Red Sox), they have to know I have to be a starter. If I go, the other team is going to give me this chance to be a starter.

... For me, they don’t see the numbers, they don’t care what I’ve done in the past. It’s hard to be happy like that with these guys.

Though the player potentially coming over to the Red Sox hasn't been mentioned, it's clear they are working toward next year. After falling well off pace in the AL East, this might be the first of several moves from the team—including ace starter Jon Lester, who was scratched from his Wednesday start amid swirling trade rumors, per Matt Snyder of CBSSports.com.

While Doubront has struggled mightily this season, he has proved over the last few seasons that he deserves another shot as a starter. From 2012 to 2013, Doubront collected a 22-16 record, 4.59 ERA and 306 strikeouts over 323.1 innings pitched.

Those numbers aren't staggering, but they show he can get the job done. On a young team like Chicago that is slowly working toward the future, Doubront might have a shot to contribute.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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