One of the more interesting stories of this trade deadline is whether the Boston Red Sox are willing to deal left-hander Jon Lester. Boston is asking for a substantial offer for three-time All-Star, something they might not be able to get. This does not make any sense. If I was general manager Ben Cherington, I would deal Lester for the best offer I can get, and as soon as possible.
Lester has made it clear that no matter what happens during the trade deadline season, his top priority is to return to Boston at the end of the year. That should be the cue for Cherington to go ahead and deal the hurler, but as we all know, nothing goes as planned for a baseball team. But Lester returning to the Red Sox seems like it could actually happen.
Lester has been a member of the Boston Red Sox his entire career. They drafted him back in 2002, and have already agreed to one extension with him, signing a six-year, $42.75 million deal that started in 2009. Lester has won two World Series championships with the Red Sox in 2007 and 2013. He's a homegrown Red Sox talent, and there is no reason to believe as to why he should go elsewhere when he becomes a free agent.
Cherington would likely get a pretty good deal for Lester, regardless if the team that acquires him believes that he is going to stay after this season or not. When you look at the stats, Lester is one of the best pitchers in baseball, and next to David Price and Cliff Lee, he could be the biggest trade target of the trade deadline.
On the season, the 30-year-old Tacoma, Washington native is 10-7 with a 2.52 ERA and a 2.62 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) in 143 innings pitched. His 155 ERA+ suggests that his ERA is 55% percent better than the average pitcher. He will net the Red Sox prospects, guaranteed.
The only reason I could see as to why Cherington is skeptical of dealing Lester is if he has such a good time wherever he goes, he could be willing to stay with them or go back to Boston. Then it could become a bidding war. If Boston keeps Lester, then he will not have the feeling of being in another clubhouse, and therefore a re-signing is more likely. However, as a general manager in baseball, almost everything you do has some risk attached, and Cherington has to take this risk.
If that scenario does play out, however, Cherington needs to be satisfied with the prospects he gets. He cannot name a price on Lester and expect teams to line up for him; that just will not happen. These days, teams are less willing to give up their best prospects to get the best talent. He needs to understand what teams are willing to offer, negotiate a deal that works for him, and hope that Lester comes back in the offseason. I strongly believe that will be the case.
Here's an excerpt from an article written by Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com about Jon Lester and the Red Sox situation:
"Red Sox ace Jon Lester on Friday night sounded as if he is prepared to be dealt, saying GM Ben Cherington has to do what’s right for the organization and adding that he would bear no hard feelings. Lester said he would consider re-signing with the Sox as a free agent even if they traded him."
We will have to see what happens during the trade deadline in regards to what happens with Lester. One possible destination for him is the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have been rumored to be in discussions for a mega-deal that could include Matt Kemp. For the latest news and rumors, be sure to follow me on Twitter @CoverThoseBases and stay tuned here at CoverThoseBases.com.
Woodbridge, Virginia - The Potomac Nationals came into Friday's game 17-15 since the beginning of the second half, and after playing their longest contest of the year on Thursday, clocking in at 3:41, they took on the Carolina Mudcats, who came off of a rainout, getting a good night of sleep.
The slugfest in this one started early on.
The rested Mudcats jumped out on top early on in the first inning, scoring six runs off of Nationals starter Brian Rauh, highlighted by the second grand slam of the season by catcher Jeremy Lucas, his ninth shot of the 2014 campaign. Ruah went two-thirds of an inning, allowing five hits, six runs (five earned), striking out two and walking two. Rauh, who had been good through his fast few starts, could not locate the zone, walking Yandy Diaz, scoring the first run of game in Todd Hankins.
The tired Nationals came back in the bottom of the first with four runs, as Shawn Pleffner hit a double to center field, scoring Tony Renda, and opening the scoring for the Potomac Nationals. The very next batter, Oscar Tejada, hit a liner to left field scoring Pleffner. After Stephen Perez grounded out to third, Randolph Obuder delivered the highlight of the inning, driving the ball to deep center field. After it hit off of the glove of Mudcats' center fielder Todd Hankins, Oduber raced around the bases, hitting a two-run inside-the-park home run to make it a 6-4 game.
Washington Nationals number eight overall prospect, catcher Pedro Severino, added to the scoring himself, hitting a solo shot to center field, cutting Carolina's lead to 6-5. And after Khayyan Norfork hit a double in the fourth that scored Oduber, it was a brand new ballgame, tying the game at six apiece. Nationals reliever Kylin Turnbull shut down the Mudcats for four fantastic innings, and although he allowed six hits, he did not surrender a single run.
The Mudcats battled back in the sixth inning, loading the bases off of Nationals pitcher Cody Davis. James Roberts, the second baseman, hit a hard ground ball right back up the middle, on which Stephen Perez made a fantastic stop. However, the ball got stuck in the webbing of Perez's glove, and he could not get the ball cleanly to second baseman Tony Renda. The grounder was scored as a hit. The very next batter, Luigi Rodriguez, hit a grounder to the pitcher Davis, who flipped to first for the second out, scoring Jeremy Lucas. Davis ended the threat by getting Todd Hankins to ground out to shortstop.
By the middle of the sixth inning, the crowd of 3,084 had already seen 14 runs, 21 hits, and 26 base runners. Mudcats starter Ryan Merritt went five plus innings, allowing seven earned runs on seven hits, walking one and striking out five. Merritt has been a stud for the Mudcats all year, coming into the game 10-3 with a 2.13 ERA. However, he did have a 3.38 FIP coming into this game. His ERA ballooned to 2.55.
The oscillation in this game continued in the bottom of the sixth. The Nationals battled back once again, as Randolph Oduber recorded his third hit of the evening, driving in Stephen Perez, cutting the Mudcats lead to 8-7. He advanced to second on the throw. After Khayyan Norfork grounded out, advancing Oduber to third, right fielder Justin Miller hit a screamer back to pitcher Ben Heller, who snagged it and doubled off Oduber at third base, ending the seventh inning.
In the bottom of the seventh, Pedro Severino hit a hard ground ball to second baseman James Roberts, who fielded the ball cleanly, but threw the ball into the crowd, allowing Severino to advance to second on an error. He was given an infield single. The next batter, Issac Ballou, hit a RBI double, tying the game once again. The see-saw battle continued. Ballou was able to score on an infield single from Shawn Pleffner, who got to second base on an error. Pleffner stole third base and scored on a double from Stephen Perez, pushing the Nationals lead to their largest of 10-8 at the end of the seventh inning.
Cody Davis took the win in this one, pitching two and a third innings, allowing two runs on four hits, striking out and walking one. Davis' record improves to 1-0. Rob Nixon took the loss, pitching the bottom of the seventh. He was charged with only one earned run, but three scored while he was on the mound for only two-thirds of an inning. That was his second blown save of the season as his record becomes 1-5.
Bryan Harper, the older brother of Nationals outfielder Bryce, tossed a scoreless eighth inning, retiring the Mudcats' six, seven, and eight hitters in order, striking out one.
The Nationals threatened again in the eighth inning, as with one out in the inning the right fielder Justin Miller hit a double. Pedro Severino got hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second. Then, after a wild pitch, Miller moved to third and Severino followed him up at second. After Issac Ballou was retired, another wild pitched scored Miller, extending the Nationals' lead even further to 11-8.
Harper came back out for the ninth. Luigi Rodrguez, the leadoff batter, grounded to shortstop for the first out. Todd Hankins followed Rodriguez, who hit a high fly ball to first base in foul territory for the second out. Then came Yhoxian Medina, the shortstop. Medina hit a hard grounder to hard to the first baseman Pleffner, who recorded the final out of the ballgame. Harper, with his two scoreless innings, recorded the save. This is the largest deficit overcome by the Nationals this season, as they best their previous record of five runs on two occasions.
"The guys just went out and they competed throughout the whole game," Harper told me after the game. "Obviously with the six spot coming in the first inning, they gotta come back and battle back. It was great. I just had to do my job and come in and throw a couple zeros and we were fortunate enough to get the win."
This is Harper's third save of the year. While he has appeared in many roles this season, he just does what ever needs to be done.
"I've kind of done everything this year. I've set up, I've closed obviously, this is my third save of the year. I just do what needs to be done. I truly enjoy everything. As long as I'm throwing, I'm happy being out there."
The Nationals will continue the three game series with the Mudcats tomorrow. But for now, their resilience and perseverance will net them a "w" for tonight. And it could not have come in any better fashion - with a good old comeback victory.
Every contender wants David Price. Not every contender can get David Price, but everyone does want him. Put Price on any roster and he makes them automatically better. That is why his name is the one to watch for as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches. The former Cy Young award winner and four-time All-Star has had a fantastic season, but the Tampa Bay Rays, however, have not. Who is the most equipped to get David Price before the 31st?
The Cleveland Indians have the pieces the Rays covet. They are already in talks over the hurler, as Robert Murray of Sports Rumor Alert reported last week. As always, the Indians would have to deal a few top prospects to get Price. Outfielder Tyler Naquin, the Indians first round pick in 2012 and their fourth-best prospect (via MLB.com), is a trade target, as could be Carlos Santana, who's on-base percentage has been historically good. The Indians' top prospect, Francisco Lindor, is off-limits, per Murray, who's source told him, "No way we give him up."
Danny Salazar, who has not pitched in the big leagues since May 15, could also be apart of any David Price deal. However, his value is likely at its lowest right now. He was fantastic last season, going 2-3 with a 3.12 ERA and a 123 ERA+ in 10 starts, netting him a postseason start, but he does not look like a guy who could be a headliner in a deal for David Price. It would take Salazar plus a lot more to acquire him. The Rays want a lot for Price (who wouldn't?) and are content on keeping him if they cannot get a deal done. That's where I believe the Indians fall short.
While the Indians do have some intriguing pieces for Price, the two sides do not match up without Francisco Lindor. The Rays are beginning to contend, meaning that they are not in a hurry to deal Price. The Indians do have a lot to offer, but it is not exactly what the Rays are looking for, thus it seems hard to see Price headed out to Cleveland. If Price was in the final year of his contract, which he will be next year, the Rays would have more intentions to move him. If they do not move him this year, keep your eyes open on Cleveland next year if this does happen again.
St. Louis Cardinals
Nick Cafardo reported on Sunday that the St. Louis Cardinals would like a financial commitment before going all out on David Price. To translate that, the Cardinals would like Price, but his contract is too short for them to really go out for him. If they do decide to bolster their pitching staff, well, very nicely, David Price is definitely out there for them. The Cardinals might just have the minor league depth to go get the biggest prize at the July 31st trade deadline.
First there is Oscar Taveras. One of the best prospects in all the minor leagues, Taveras would be the highlight of any deal for David Price. However, just like the Indians, I doubt that there is any chance the Cardinals deal him. Actually, the chances are zero. Taveras will not be moved. If the Cardinals would like a "financial commitment" before committing to Price, there is no chance they will move perhaps their entire future in Oscar Taveras.
Besides Taveras, the Cardinals do have some intriguing minor league prospects. Lefty Marco Gonzalez seems to be on the fast track to the major leagues, as is outfielder Stephen Piscotty. Both are very underrated, which could make a great foundation for a deal with the Rays. However, the Rays probably want Taveras, who they are not likely going to get. And if the Cardinals do not budge, it is the same story, the Rays will be content on keeping the lefty. That is why this whole situation is even more interesting.
If we did not learn from Robinson Cano's $200 plus million contract, the Mariners are willing to overpay. Is it possible that they go out and get David Price? I do not know. Of the three teams, they likely are the most needy. They play in what seems to be the strongest division in baseball, including the three-headed monster of the Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles Angels, and them. In order to go capture a playoff spot, and go deep into the playoffs, the Mariners need to get some pitching.
David Price might be that option. However, righty Taijuan Walker, the Mariners top prospect, would have to be included in a deal for him. I believe that Walker, of the three teams' top prospects, is the most likely to be moved in the event of a David Price trade. Which is why the Mariners could be the best suitor for the starter. They do not want a financial commitment and they need to keep up with both their division rivals in the A's and the Angels, who have made some big trades already this deadline season.
Other players in a foundation for a deal could be lefty James Paxton or third baseman D.J. Peterson. The Mariners, while might not have the best prospects, may be the highest bidders for the Rays on David Price, which is why I think they ultimately go and get him. They are willing to spend and they want to continue to fight for the playoffs. This is the perfect match for the Rays and David Price.
Within the next ten days, we will find where David Price gets dealt, or even if he gets dealt. But for now, it is all speculation, as anything can happen during trade deadline season.
The Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft is a time for young players to follow their dreams and begin playing professional baseball. However, the draft is not as clear-cut as it seems. It seems that players get picked by a team and work their way through the minors to perhaps one day make the major leagues. With anything, money is the one issue that can hurt these players' dreams.
In 2013, the Philadelphia Phillies selected left-hander Ben Wetzler in the fifth round out of Oregon State University. In the sixth round, the team selected outfielder/first baseman Jason Monda out of Washington State. Neither players signed and returned to their respective schools for their senior seasons. Everything was fine; players are able to do that.
However, in February, a report surfaced that the Phillies turned in both Wetzler and Monda to the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) for using agents during the negotiation process. While that is forbidden per NCAA rules, many players use "advisors" to help them through their negotiation process, which is considered okay, as long as they are not doing the actual negotiating of the contract.
The Phillies turned in Wetzler and Monda to the NCAA not because they were doing anything wrong, but because the Phillies were sour that they did not sign with the team. By doing that, they gave "payback" in a sense. Wetzler was suspended for 20 percent of Oregon State's season -- or 11 games. Monda, however, was cleared by the NCAA and was off the hook.
Just this June, the Houston Astros selected Brady Aiken, a high school left-hander out of San Diego, California, with the first overall pick in the MLB Draft. The Astros have found Aiken's elbow to have a ligament problem and offered the pitcher a discounted contract of $5 million, $1.5 million less than the originally agreed-to $6.5 million. Since Aiken cannot have a true "agent," the Astros can pressure him into signing for less, because he is the one doing the negotiations.
However, Aiken does have an advisor, Casey Close, a very respected agent for many current superstars in the game. Close had Aiken evaluated by many top doctors around the nation. The result? The doctors felt that Aiken was "not injured and ready to start his professional career," Close told Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports about the situation. Here is the complete quote:
"We are extremely disappointed that Major League Baseball is allowing the Astros to conduct business in this manner with a complete disregard for the rules governing the draft and the 29 other clubs who have followed those same rules," said Close, who serves as a family adviser to Aiken. ... "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," Close said.
The Astros are like a "bad salesman" in their negotiations with Aiken. They are pressuring him into signing a discounted deal just because they think he has a bad elbow. That is not right. Even worse, the Astros used the extra money from lowering Aiken's deal to sign another Close "client" Jacob Nix, to a $1.5 million deal weeks ago. But if the Astros cannot sign Aiken, they might also back out of Nix's deal, as "payback" to Close in general. This is just a mess. And what's worse is that all deals have to be done within the next day.
Following these issues, I (along with @AntonJoe_VAVEL on Twitter -- give him a follow) have thought about how to fix the issues with the MLB Draft.
First off, give the players some representation! These guys are going to become professional baseball players, and some are negotiating contracts in the millions of dollars. How are these guys, some as young as 18-years-old, expected to negotiate a deal with a huge organization. At least get them a guy that knows what he's doing. Agents have been negotiating contracts with many different players for years! As the contracts become more pricey, these players need someone to negotiate on their behalf.
Let me ask you this: if you were 21-years-old, knew nothing about the negotiations about baseball, and were told to negotiate your own contract worth millions of dollars, how would you react? You would probably want some representation. You probably would want someone to help you with the negotiation process. But, you are unable to do it. How would you feel? Not good, I'd expect.
Second, players should have to declare for the MLB draft. This way, players who get representation know they will definitely be drafted and have to negotiate a contract. You would not want a player to get an agent, not reach a deal, and return to school. What would happen; would a player have to fire their agent, and then rehire him when the player is ready to get drafted? Imagine all the issues that could arise. If an agent does not like a specific player, he could not negotiate as hard for him, and not reach a contract with a team, just to get "fired." To avoid this, force players to declare for the draft and sign. If a deal is not reached, they cannot return to school, or sign elsewhere as a free agent (I'll explain later).
Lastly, players must go to college before turning professional. The only reason I say this is because of the two previous fixed issues. Say a high school player declares for the MLB Draft, and cannot come to an agreement with a team. He now has an agent, but should he be allowed to go to college and play baseball? It again brings up the same "agent while the player is in college" issue. To avoid this completely, make players have to go through at least two years of secondary schooling before they're allowed to declare for the draft. The price should not be an issue. If the player is truly good enough to play professionally, getting a scholarship to a school should not be an issue.
Without high school players involved in the draft, the draft could be cut down to 25 rounds or even 20 rounds. Currently, there is a slot value allotted for every pick in the draft. With a new format, the MLB could create an overall amount that each team can spent, similar to the amount that each team can spend with 40 rounds. This way, the teams have more money to negotiate with their players, and more contracts can be reached. They do not have to worry about a "slot value" that is assigned to the individual pick. But the rich cannot get richer. A first overall pick cannot be given over 10% of the team's overall amount. A team must reach a deal with, per se, 20 of 25 picks in order to be considered "fair." If not, a team can be fined or lose future draft picks.
However, if a contract is not reached, a player is given an amount of time to sign on with a different team. If a player cannot reach a deal with the team that drafts him, and he signs on elsewhere, the money he signs for counts against the new team's overall "draft spending" amount. But if a player cannot find any team to sign with, he cannot return to school.
Obviously, there is a lot more that could be "fixed" with the MLB Draft. Following the Aiken issue, I just felt that some ideas should be thrown out as to ways that the draft could be improved. I just think some things could be changed to avoid teams "using" players by pressuring them into signing smaller deals and whatnot. If the MLB made just a few small changes, they could get really big results. And that could really help the draft signing process.
Boy, has this season gone by fast. It feels like just yesterday the Boston Red Sox were hoisting the 2013 World Series trophy, and everyone else was waiting for the season to start again. It feels like just yesterday that Opening Day was here and that the teams were back on the field to start a new season with a clean slate. But this first half of the season has gone by fast. Really fast. Now we are at the All-Star break, and it is time to give out some "first-half awards," talk about some surprise teams, and just recap what went on during this fantastic first half of the 2014 season.
National League Awards:
MVP: Jonathan Lucroy, C, Milwaukee Brewers
Jonathan Lucroy has been the best player in the National League this season. He's more valuable to the Brewers than Troy Tulowitzki is to the Rockies. It is not only his offense that is near the top of the National League, but his handling of the Brewers pitching staff is arguably just as good as Yadier Molina's handling of the Cardinals pitching staff. While Lucroy's 3.7 WAR is tied for fifth in the National League and his OPS ranks 9th. So far on the season, Lucroy is batting .315/.385/.494 with nine homers and 44 runs batted in. Those are MVP worthy numbers on any level.
Honorable Mentions: Troy Tulowitzki, Andrew McCutchen, Carlos Gomez, and Giancarlo Stanton
Rookie of the Year: Billy Hamilton, OF, Cincinnati Reds
Only two rookies, Hamilton and Chris Owings, have WARs above one. While Owings has had a good season, Hamilton has been more impressive. He's hitting a slash line of .285/.319/.423 with 38 stolen bases, which ranks second in the National League to only Dee Gordon, who has an astounding 43 stolen bases. Hamilton's 4.7 percent walk rate is not great, but he is getting on-base on a fine rate. One other plus to Hamilton's game is his defense; he boasts a 9 defensive runs saved this season and a 23 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) prorated to 150 games. Hamilton's case is better than anyone else's.
Honorable Mentions: Chris Owings and Tommy La Stella
Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
A no-hitter, a 40+ innings scoreless streak, and a sub-2 ERA. That's enough to be not only a Cy Young award winner, but also MVP. On the season, Clayton Kershaw is 11-2 with a 1.78 ERA and a 1.60 FIP in 96.1 innings pitched. Kershaw leads all National League pitchers with a 3.7 WAR, 1.72 xFIP, and ranks third in the National League in left-on-base percentage with an 83.6 mark. Kershaw also has a 126 to 13 strikeout-to-walk ratio. In terms of FIP, Kershaw is having the greatest seasons of his career. The Dodgers are fantastic in his starts, as they are 11-3 when Kershaw is on the hill.
Honorable Mentions: Adam Wainwright and Stephen Strasburg
Manager of the Year: Ron Roenicke, MGR, Milwaukee Brewers
Ron Roenicke has dealt with the issues surrounding Jean Segura quite well. Not to mention, he took the Brewers, a team that was supposed to be around the bottom of the National League Central, into contention, with one of the hottest starts of the season. While they have cooled off greatly, they still are playing very good baseball, which has to come back to the managerial experience of Roenicke. Not to mention, Roenicke has challenged 14 calls this season, and nine were overturned, for an astounding 64.2% success rate. His work for the Brewers has taken them far and could take them further.
Honorable Mentions: Matt Williams and Bryan Price