As we reach the 2015 All-Star break, we take a look at some trade scenarios that might make some sense for the Cardinals and Royals, some unofficial mid-season awards, and more.
Mid-Season Award Winners (which are worth squat and diddly):
- AL MVP: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels. The best player in the AL, teaming with Albert Pujols to form a dynamite 1-2 lineup punch. Will have to keep it up too, because the Angels’ pitching isn’t pulling its weight.
- NL MVP: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals. Probably the biggest no-brainer of all the awards. Carrying the Nats’ on his back with Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth and Denard Span missing significant time with injuries. Finally reaching the potential predicted when he was drafted.
- AL Least Valuable Player: Omar Infante, Kansas City Royals. It was simultaneously hilarious and absurd that he led the All-Star voting for as long as he did, as he has been one of the worst everyday players in the game this season. His .236/.247/.308 slash line is actually an improvement over what it was in mid-June, when he his OPS slid below .300.
- NL Least Valuable Player: Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies. Not a good year for aging second basemen. Much has been written about how awful he’s been this year, but the callous comments by Ruben Amaro last week about Utley were just insult to injury. He deserved better.
- AL Cy Young: Sonny Gray, Oakland Athletics. His performance is the biggest reason the A’s haven’t started trading away players like Ben Zobrist and Scott Kazmir. Chris Archer, Chris Sale and Felix Hernandez have all been oustanding, but Gray gets the nod.
- NL Cy Young: Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals. He’s been worth every cent of that $210 million dollar contract thus far. With Stephen Strasburg on and off the disabled list and Jordan Zimmermann not being as dominant as previous years, Scherzer’s brilliance has been needed.
- AL Cy Yuck: Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels. A primary reason why Trout and Pujols are having to lug the team around on their backs. Weaver was doing little more than tossing batting practice fastballs before landing on the DL in June. Making $18 million this season, $20 million next year and has a full no-trade clause. Yuck.
- NL Cy Yuck: Kyle Kendrick, Colorado Rockies. We mentioned him in last week’s Triple Play. A flyball pitcher at Coors Field. It’s been as bad as everyone expected.
- AL Rookie of the Year: Carlos Correa, Houston Astros. Arguably the best shortstop in the AL already – and he’s been in the majors just over a month.
- NL Rookie of the Year: Joc Pederson, Los Angeles Dodgers. No offense to Kris Bryant, but Pederson has had the greatest impact of all the NL rookies this year – and it’s a deep group. Prodigious power, great defense. He’s going to anchor the Dodger outfield for a long, long time.
- AL Surprise Player: Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees. Did anyone really expect him to hit this well after being away for so long?
- NL Surprise Player: Justin Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers. As good as he was last year, he has taken it up a notch this year. Think the Mets wish they still had him?
- Hoover Award: (tie) Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies and Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays. Can’t choose between them. They catch everything they should and a whole lot of stuff they shouldn’t. They’re both pretty fair at the plate too. Donaldson is a top-3 MVP candidate. Arenado would be too if he wasn’t stuck on one of the five worst franchises in baseball.
- Frying Pan Award: Marcus Semien, Oakland Athletics. He’s played 90 games and made 28 errors. Cue up the Keystone Kops music. Yikes.
- Dunce of the Year: Matt Joyce, Los Angeles Angels. In case you forgot, Joyce is the player who FORGOT WHAT TIME THE GAME STARTED back on May 18 and showed up to the ballpark during play. You see, it was Victoria Day in Canada, which meant the Angels-Blue Jays game was a day game instead of a night game. Here’s your pointy hat, please go sit over there. And read your team’s schedule.
Wading into Trading
The Royals and Cardinals have the best record in their respective leagues, but each team has some holes to fill if they want to maintain their standing. Here are some suggestions, some more realistic than others (hey, everyone else does it too):
- Ben Zobrist would be a perfect fit to fill the crater at second base currently occupied by Infante. He could also play right field and replace Alex Rios, who has been awful this year. How realistic is this? Probably not very. Zobrist is coveted by many teams who are likely willing to offer more than the Royals.
- Justin Upton would be a HUGE boost for Kansas City’s outfield. An outfield of Alex Gordon (once he returns from the DL in 6-8 weeks), Lorenzo Cain and Upton would be stellar and perhaps make it easier to hide Infante’s limp bat at the bottom of the lineup. He would strictly be a rental. Not much more realistic than Zobrist, but would be a bold, aggressive move.
- Acquiring someone to play first base is rapidly becoming a necessity for St. Louis. Mark Reynolds is a solid bench player, but is just not a viable starter for a team with its sights on October baseball. Any combination of Reynolds, Xavier Scruggs and Dan Johnson is, shall we say, less than ideal. Players like Adam Lind or Mitch Moreland would be excellent fits, given their success against right-handed pitching. The Cardinals need to avoid extra low-hanging fruit such as Ike Davis or – yikes! — Ryan Howard. It might cost them a decent prospect or two, but sometimes you have to overpay a bit. I’m more than okay with that if it cleans up the Reynolds/Scruggs/Johnson landfill.
- As good as someone like Johnny Cueto would look at the front of Kansas City’s rotation, I think they would be better off with someone like Scott Kazmir or Mike Leake. They should get Kris Medlen back by the end of this month. It’s a calculated risk to depend on him, but it could pay off in a major way if he is able to regain his effectiveness (2.95 career ERA, 3.23 career FIP).
- The Cardinals’ starters have been tremendous thus far, particularly considering the absence of Adam Wainwright, but I think it’s time to start wondering about Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha wearing down. GM John Mozeliak has said that he has no qualms about Wacha reaching 200 innings this season, but the Cardinals can ill-afford to lose him to another injury. Meanwhile, Martinez is already nearing a career-high in innings pitched for a season and it just seems unreasonable to expect him to continue pitching to a 2.52 ERA without some fatigue and regression. Mozeliak says he plans to give them extra rest over the next several weeks to allow them to stay fresh later in the season, but some depth sure couldn’t hurt. Aaron Harang would have been a nice back-of-the-rotation innings eater (before he went on the DL, that is). Marco Gonzales might be able to provide that, but he needs to get healthy first.
- Last year, the Royals demonstrated how important a strong bullpen is in October. The Cardinals have a potent tandem in Trevor Rosenthal-Kevin Siegrist, but they need help. Getting Jordan Walden back should help, but another arm or two are needed. Do you want to trust critical late-season games to Miguel Socolovich or Sam Tuivailala? Me either, and not just because I can’t pronounce either name. Maybe they can make a deal with Milwaukee for Lind and one of the Brewers’ relievers (Will Smith, Jeremy Jeffress, Neal Cotts or even Francisco Rodriguez).
Clearing the Bases
- As entertaining as the Home Run Derby was with the time clock, it still has one major problem: having to listen to Chris Berman and John Kruk. It’s a little like watching a game while listening to that “most annoying noise in the world” that Jim Carrey made in Dumb & Dumber.
- This is the first All-Star Game since 1945 without a Yankee or Red Sox player in the starting lineup. We should all be eternally grateful.
- Instead of enjoying all the amazing young talent (20 All-Stars age 25 or under), we are subjected to WAY too much Pete Rose. Sometimes baseball just leave well enough alone.
- Kirk Nieuwenhuis is the first Mets player ever to belt three home runs at home? I find that stat amazing. Darryl Strawberry never did it? Mike Piazza? Carlos Beltran? David Wright? Heck, not even Ed Kranepool or Dave Kingman? Go figure.
- News: Pittsburgh rallied to win back-to-back games in extra innings against the Cardinals over the weekend. Views: Payback is a real you-know-what sometimes.
- In related news, the Pirates are a deep, solid team without a major weakness. They might be the best all-around team in the National League. The Jolly Roger is going to be raised a lot the rest of the season.
- As the Angels usurp the Astros in the AL West, it feels a bit like the Astros are crashing back to Earth. Probably not a coincidence there are rumors now about them looking hard at Johnny Cueto. Do the Astros have it in them to bounce back from this?
- Speaking of Cueto, how long after the All-Star Game ends will the Reds start officially taking offers for him? And who gets dealt first – Cueto, Cole Hamels, Jeff Samardzjia or Scott Kazmir? This is purely a guess, but I’m going with the Samardzjia. Maybe then I don’t have to keep trying to spell his name correctly.
- Last year, four of the six division winners were in first place going into the All-Star break (exceptions being the Cardinals and Angels), and eight of the 10 eventual postseason teams were in postseason position at the break. Your postseason teams right now are: Yankees, Royals, Angels, Twins (WC), Astros (WC), Nationals, Cardinals, Dodgers, Pirates (WC), Cubs (WC). How those 10 teams fare the rest of the way will make for fascinating viewing. I can’t wait.