Inside Baseball news and notes from around the National League.
- After acquiring J.D. Martinez, they are looking to upgrade the pitching staff. Someone like Marco Estrada could make sense. Their weak farm system would seem to take them out of the Sonny Gray sweepstakes.
- Good to see the D-backs making a commitment to try to win, and spending the money for Martinez, a very good hitter. Their order suddenly looks very imposing.
- Martinez came out of his last game with the Tigers with lower back tightness, but he had been penciled into the next game, and the D-backs received medical clearance that he was OK. He came out of his first game with the D-backs after being hit by a pitch on the left hand. It was ruled a contusion and he’s considered day-to-day, the team announced.
- Torey Lovullo was having a perfect season when he took hits for letting Taijuan Walker bat. Agreed, that wasn’t the best. But a near perfect season is still pretty good.
- While it doesn’t seem the Braves are fully committed to the Freddie Freeman move to third base (he’s split time between third and first since his return despite looking OK at the hot corner), the Braves haven’t seemed very anxious to deal Matt Adams, either, and have told teams that. They like the way he fits the team and the park – even if he doesn’t fit it perfectly in terms of position.
- Sensing he is the best rental option out there, the Braves have set a high price on Jaime Garcia. Should they trade Garcia, they have plenty of candidates for the rotation, starting with Kris Medlen. They also have Matt Wisler, Lucas Simms and Aaron Blair.
- Brandon Phillips is drawing interest from “three or four” teams. Teams looking at second base generally include the Jays, Angels, Royals and Phillies (though Philly wouldn’t want a rental now).
- Closer Jim Johnson has the third best FIP among relievers since the middle of last year, behind Kenley Jansen and Andrew Miller.
- Meantime, the Braves are playing like a contender, shocking everyone by reaching .500 after their sweep of the Diamondbacks before falling back against the now hot Cubs.
- Speaking of the Diamondbacks, the Braves may not admit this but they have to be a bit disappointed by the play of Dansby Swanson this year. Johan Camargo started a few games over Swanson past couple weeks, and there are hints Swanson could be sent down for seasoning.
- There’s a nice debate going on over who has the best system. Many favor the White Sox after all their trades. But the Braves have some big ones too – with Mike Soroka, Ronald Acuna, Luiz Gohara and Ozzie Albies all primed to reach the Braves by next year.
- They never came close on Jose Quintana, though they did talk about him (they talk about everyone). Chris Sale was really the ChiSox pitcher they liked, however.
- The Braves do like Jurickson Profar, who they see having a good chance to still become an everyday player at the major-league level even after his rough last few years.
- Manager Brian Snitker continues to do an excellent job.
- Great going by Sean Rodriguez to get back so soon after major shoulder surgery following a horrific winter car accident in Miami that injured his whole family. He was supposed to miss the whole year. Terrific to see Sean-Rod back.
- The Cubs can surprise again on the trade market. But there’s no evidence they are a strong player for Sonny Gray after getting Jose Quintana.
- Their track record in trades is excellent, and Quintana may be another good one. He is off to a big start on the North Side. He was also thrilled to go. He became the ninth pitcher to pitch for both the Cubs and Sox in the same year, and the third to start for both teams, joining Steve Renko and Bob Miller, according to Christopher Kamka.
- It was only a few days ago someone close to the Cubs who was panicked and told me “they had no sense of urgency” and are “a mess.” Well, they’ve won six straight since. Some mess.
- Maybe the head-first slide needs to be outlawed. Kris Bryant is the latest superstar to go down with a hand injury, following Mike Trout and Carlos Correa. Bryant is said to only have a bruise however.
- The Reds are in a tough spot with star shortstop Zack Cozart, says a rival. There’s pressure to get something good back, yet no contenders need a shortstop. Could Houston be a possibility with Carlos Correa out a couple months?
- Scott Feldman’s injury could take him out of the trade talk, for once.
- Everyone loved the Ray vs. Romano matchup this week. (Though at least one person didn’t love “Raymond.” That show made no sense. Sportswriters at Newsday don’t just sit around the house all day. They interview athletes, they go to games, they write. The “Odd Couple” was much more realistic.)
- Jeff Hoffman looks like a star in the making.
- Teammates marvel at Greg Holland’s ability to focus. Shall we say he has Holland tunnel vision?
- Chad Bettis is a terrific story. He’s made two rehab starts, and is on his way back. What a nice story that is, and he’s determined to write a happy ending.
- They’ve been concerned about the production of Carlos Gonzalez. They’ve vowed to stick with him, suggesting they need him if they’re going to win. But they did take a look at J.D. Martinez.
Los Angeles Dodgers
- They want to add a lefty for the pen, so Justin Wilson is a good candidate as well as Zach Britton and Brad Hand. Felipe Rivero would be terrific as well, if the Pirates would deal him.
- They are on a 128-win pace over a two-month period. They are also 57-18 since the promotion of Cody Bellinger, who deserves the MVP to this point, no matter what anyone says (well, in my opinion).
- In a span of almost no time Yasiel Puig had that good/bad dichotomy on display. He hit a game-winning home to beat old friend Don Mattingly’s Marlins, then the next day he over-reacted to an inside pitch by Jose Urena. Overall, they have to be happy with what he’s doing.
- James Loney signed with the LG Twins in Korea for $350,000.
- Teams are kicking the tires on Giancarlo Stanton, but a trade is unlikely — for now.
- Naturally, there’d be a feeding frenzy if any of Yelich, Realmuto or Ozuna was put out there. There’s no sign of that, though.
- Local businessman Jorge Mas, who is said to be the best funded of the three main contenders to buy the team, is said to be “frustrated” by failing to get a deal when it seemed he was the only one with the money for weeks, or even an exclusive negotiating window. There have been reports Mas may withdraw altogether. But he’d probably have to know his chances are nil as he is believed to do so as he badly want the team.
- Small world department: Mas was a second baseman at Christopher Columbus High in Miami. His coach? Former Cubs GM Jim Hendry. Said Hendry: “Jorge was a good solid infielder. Good makeup guy. Good teammate.”
- Derek Jeter could possibly retain high-ranking Marlins officials. Is that helping him in the bidding process?
- Mas, the local billionaire who has been seen as the favorite, is said to have a couple mystery partners. Some say they aren’t in yet, and nothing’s official, but Emilio and Gloria Estefan, who are very close family friends, are possibilities to join his bid at some point. The Estefans are prominent in the community, were former limited partners in the Dolphins and are said to be worth upwards of $500 million to $1B.
- Guys are moving in and out of the Jeter and Romney groups. One new name that emerged as a player in the Romney group is Frank Martire, the chairman of Fidelity National Information Services out of Jacksonville, Fla.
- The Marlins were talking to the Nats about a package of Phelps and Ramos, reports Joe Frisaro of MLB.com, before Washington got the two relievers from Oakland. Phelps has since been traded to the Mariners.
- A.J. Ramos should be drawing more interest than he is. The Marlins seek one decent prospect back.
- The Marlins are willing to include some money to trade Brad Ziegler, Junichi Tazawa and Tom Koehler. Which is a switch for them.
- It isn’t known yet whether they’d do the same to deal Dee Gordon. But one more indication that they are serious about trading Dee Gordon: Miguel Rojas played mostly second base on rehab.
- Sonny Gray makes the most sense for the Brewers. There is a very strong connection between Gray and Brewers pitching coach Derek Johnson, whom Gray has described as “like a father figure” to him. Johnson was his pitching coach three years at Vanderbilt, and the pair remain extremely close. The Brewers want controllable pitching so he definitely fits.
- Orlando Arcia is such a magician at shortstop, someone with the team said he may be “the best player on the team.” He’s also a whiz on the basepaths.
- Their lead in the NL Central over the Cubs is down to 1.5 games.
New York Mets
- It was reported by Bob Klapisch of the Bergen Record that the reason Amed Rosario hasn’t been called up has to do with wanting to keep Asdrubal Cabrera happy. Cabrera is an important piece in the clubhouse, but that seems like a stretch. Shortstop Jose Reyes pointed out that it would be him, not Rosario, who’d be losing his job, since he is the current shortstop. The story wasn’t denied very hard, though, seeming to give it some credence.
- Zack Wheeler’s occasional loss of the strike zone is keeping him from taking that next step forward.
- Addison Reed might bring back the biggest take in trades.
- Jerry Blevins would bring back a decent return, but the Mets, happy to pick up his $6.5-million option, aren’t anxious to trade him.
- The Mets can’t expect to get too much for their position players but the Tigers’ J.D. Martinez deal was a stark reminder that it’s a major buyers market for position players, even very good ones. Jay Bruce is a pretty fair comp to Martinez, in fact. The Indians may make sense for Bruce.
- The Phillies are very honest where they stand – “right now we are the worst team” – and while they’ve built a decent farm system in a hurry, they will try to use their financial might to add pieces. That’s why they can’t be ruled out for Giancarlo Stanton, Manny Machado, Bryce Harper or others. (Stanton’s probably the biggest long shot – no pun intended – due to the fact he already has the big contract, plus a full no-trade.)
- Pat Neshek is their most popular trade piece.
- The Phillies are willing to pay down some of Jeremy Hellickson’s $17.2-million salary if someone would give them a decent prospect. So they are in the same position as last year (except Hellickson makes twice as much).
- Howie Kendrick should be back soon, and he could be a bench piece for someone.
- Dee Gordon certainly would be an interesting call, although there’s no evidence the Phillies are seriously interested. The Phillies currently have one player signed long-term, and that is Odubel Herrera.
- Freddy Galvis, a beloved figure throughout the organization, is showing a better thought process on the offensive side of the ball, but folks marvel why he’s such a great instinctual player defensively, but not on offense.
- Nick Williams (.360) has impressed since his call up.
- Nick Pivetta (95 mph) has shown promise and just needs to refine his secondary stuff.
- Word is the Pirates are asking a lot for All-Star Josh Harrison. That shouldn’t be seen as a surprise. The Red Sox are one team interested. Word is, if he were traded, he wouldn’t mind the Red Sox.
- The Pirates are on the outskirts of the race, but one team source suggested it’s unlikely they trade Andrew McCutchen. And even more unlikely they trade Gerrit Cole.
- That doesn’t mean they wouldn’t trade Felipe Rivero. If they put him out on the market, there’d be a feeding frenzy.
- Starling Marte’s explanation was incomplete and unsatisfying. “I have no memory of anything being injected or and steroid or anything like that.” He sounded like a politician. The reality is, he was caught with Nandrolone, which is almost always injected. No memory? He’s a young man.
- On the plus side, the Pirates let McCutchen stay in center field, and made Marte go back to left field. Good call.
St. Louis Cardinals
- Some are doubtful the Cardinals would spend the big money on Giancarlo Stanton, though they have been (slightly) connected to him. But there’s a strong belief they might consider spending it on Manny Machado if given the opportunity. There is nothing to suggest Machado is available now, though the Orioles do appear to be in sell mode.
- They do like Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna as Jon Morosi of MLB.com has reported. Of course, who doesn’t?
- Paul DeJong looks like he can hit. He is the latest Mets killer starting 10-for-15 with four home runs and four doubles against them. He became the first player ever to homer in each of his four games against the Mets.
- In another season of surprises, Tommy Pham continues to be a pleasant one. He also brings energy.
- We usually defend Mike Matheny but the call to use Brett Cecil as a closer seems an odd one. He got away with it when Yoenis Cespedes, as the potential tying run, swung on 3-and-0 and grounded into a game-ending double play. From here, we’d say Trevor Rosenthal should be back closing.
San Diego Padres
- The Padres have aimed high in trades for reliever Brad Hand, and no one should blame them. They tried to go to school on the Yankees’ trades last year apparently, asking for Gleyber Torres and Alex Verdugo is separate trades for Hand. The Yankees got big takes for relievers Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller last year, but while Hand is good, he isn’t in that category. Someone tweeted to me that “they want an arm and a leg for Hand.” And someone else said they are “overplaying their Hand.” Good puns, but you may as well aim high. You never know.
- Mackenzie Gore, the No. 3 overall pick, hit 95 mph in his debut.
San Francisco Giants
- The Giants have too many nice guys and have lost their edge, one long-time Giants observer said. It’s true most of their edgier guys are gone – including Brian Wilson, Aubrey Huff, Sergio Romo and Pat Burrell. But Hunter Strickland, who carried a grudge against Bryce Harper, should qualify as edgy. Sandoval should be a step toward bringing back that edge. His signing should be official Friday, and he’ll report to Sacramento.
- Eduardo Nunez was identified by Bob Nightengale of USA Today as a possible Red Sox target.
- Good to see Madison Bumgarner back on a mound.
- The Giants sellout streak ended at 530.
- The Nats are still looking to upgrade the pen even after their double-play trade netted them both Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle, and while Madson and Doolittle are possibilities to close, word is the Nats would consider looking at importing a bona fide closer. Possibilities would include Zach Britton, Justin Wilson and maybe Raisel Iglesias.
- It isn’t known whether the Nats-Orioles terrible current relationship would impede the chances for Britton, who’d be the best option if they could swing it.
- Credit to Nats ownership, which sees an excellent opportunity at a pennant, and made a steep financial commitment. Madson will make $7.5 million next year when he turns 38. Madson’s contract and Doolittle’s injury history limited the prospect package the Nats had to provide, and they held onto their very best guys.
- With Joe Ross out, they could look at the starting market, too.
- Some in the organization actually think young outfielder Juan Soto is better than Victor Robles, Either way, they have an excellent pair of outfield prospects.
- Continuing their hot hitting after the be break are All-Stars Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Ryan Zimmerman, plus Anthony Rendon, who should have been an All-Star.
- RIP Bob Wolff, 96, the beloved Hall of Fame announcer who had an eight-decade career (yes, you read that right). Wolff was the Senators’ announcer from 1948-60.
- Victor Robles hired Wasserman to represent him.
- There’s concern about Michael Taylor (oblique), so they could look at the outfield, too. Jayson Werth is also on the DL. Though, rookie Brian Goodwin has played well.
- If Max Scherzer wins a second straight Cy Young in a league with Clayton Kershaw that would be quite an accomplishment.