A new feature here at isportsweb.com, we polled several of our MLB writers to get their thoughts on several big story lines in baseball. They each got asked five questions and gave a “Rapid Reaction” to what they thought. Be sure to check out each of the writers bio’s to see their other work, and give them a follow on Twitter.
1. The MLB trade deadline is coming up soon and there have not been any big trades yet. Who in your opinion, is definitely going to be traded in the next two weeks?
Dan Lagnado. Twitter: @dlag1995
I see the Phillies completely cleaning house. Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon are the two names I can see them definitely moving. The Reds are also a team to watch. They’ve been surprisingly subpar this season sitting in fourth place of a strong division. Mike Leake, Johnny Cueto and Aroldis Chapman all would net decent returns and all would be big helps a playoff team down the stretch.
In the American League, Ben Zobrist of the A’s is garnering a lot of interest. There are rumored to be 7 different teams that have inquired on the versatile switch-hitter. If he isn’t moved to one of those 7 teams I would be shocked.
Jimmy Troderman. Twitter: @SaturdaySection
Johnny Cueto staying in Cincinnati makes sense for nobody. I would be utterly shocked if he were not to be traded by when the deadline hits on July 31st. Cueto will be a free agent this off-season, and the Reds likely are not a contender for his services in the future. Essentially every team in contention for the playoffs is drooling over the potential addition of Cueto, who will provide an immediate boost to any pitching rotation.
We see this happen every year. An impending free agent on a small-market team is traded to a playoff team, looking for an increased chance at a World Series championship. We have seen it before, and we will see it again with Johnny Cueto.
AJ Garcia. Twitter: @GarciaAJordan
Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Gerardo Parra’s overall numbers would be ridiculous if you eliminated the month of April. After a slow start, he’s been one of the best in baseball in terms of batting average, posting over .300 averages in each May and June, and has over a .400 average through the first 19 days of July. Also, Parra is a proven defensive outfielder with a Gold Glove Award under his belt. The Milwaukee Brewers will be big sellers before August 1st, and I expect Gerardo Parra to be the hottest commodity on his way out of Mil-Town.
Ben Zobrist. The A’s are 10 games behind in the AL West and 8 back in the Wild Card race. It’s safe to say that barring a miraculous run, Oakland’s playoff chances are all but gone. Thus, they will try to get some value out of their tradable assets before the trade deadline passes. One of these assets is the versatile Zobrist. With the Yankees, Mets, Royals, and Pirates among the handful of teams interested in the 34-year-old, there will likely be at least one team that will offer the A’s a sufficient enough package to acquire the switch-hitter.
Cosmo Mills. Twitter: @CMills10
Its got to be Johnny Cueto. He is going to be a free agent at the end of this season anyway and its not likely that he would re-sign with the Reds. He is one of the best players available and will get the Reds a solid package of younger players in return should he be traded. The only thing going against him is he would only be a 3-month rental before being a free agent, but that shouldn’t scare teams from offering up top prospects for the chance to get him.
2. What is one trade you want to happen?
As a fan, the more moves the Marlins and Phillies make, the happier I’ll be considering how often the Mets have to play them down the stretch. As I said the Phillies are likely to dump Hamels and Papelbon if not more while the Marlins may be looking at another fire sale, which could include Dan Haren and Mat Latos. As an analyst the Mets need to get an outfielder, whether it’s Gerardo Parra, Jay Bruce or Yoenis Cespedes doesn’t matter but a move for a major league talent is a move that I want to see get done.
I have voiced this opinion before, but as a Red Sox fan, it is imperative they bring in a big-time pitcher, such as Scott Kazmir from the Oakland A’s. His contract is due to expire, and he is much more likely to re-sign with the Red Sox than he would be with the A’s, who do not have the financial means to maintain him. It is possible to acquire Kazmir without giving up any starters, but I would be happy for us to trade any of our pitchers not named Clay Buchholz or Eduardo Rodriguez. Currently, there is doubt as to whether the red Sox are interested, but by when the deadline approaches, I believe the Sox will be in the hunt for this starting pitcher.
I’d like to see Cole Hamels finally pitch his way out of Philly. I’ve always had mixed emotions about Hamels’ abilities and personality, but he hasn’t been part of a decent organization for a few seasons now. His 113-90 career record is deceiving when you don’t put it next to his lifetime 3.29 ERA. It would be a lot of fun to see him in a playoff race, trying to back up his recent “my track record speaks for itself” comment.
Cole Hamels to the Dodgers. The NL West leaders already boast one of the best 1-2 punches atop their rotation in Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. With serviceable back-end rotation options in Mike Bolsinger and Brett Anderson, could you imagine how good the Dodgers would be with Hamels? They would challenge the Nationals and the Cardinals as the best team in the NL. Sure, Hamels hasn’t pitched in the postseason since 2011 but assuming they do not give up any big, established stars to get him, the Dodgers will have one of the most feared rotations in baseball.
I want to see the Red Sox make any type of trade. For months now the rep on this team is they are planning to trade some young talent for a top of the rotation starter to boost this starting staff. Well with the deadline less than two weeks away, nothing has happened yet and they are falling further out of the playoff race. They need to decide quickly if they are going to try to salvage a disappointing season, or give up and trade veterans to start building for next year. Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa could get the Sox a few solid prospects back in return should the decide to go that route.
3. What are your biggest takeaways from the first half of the season?
Last year was not a fluke for the Kansas City Royals. The Royals currently have the best record in the American League and could set themselves up for another deep playoff run. Getting Alex Gordon back in August will only help.
Albert Pujols is back. He really struggled in the power department in his first few years after heading to the Angels but now he and Mike Trout make one of the most formidable duos in baseball.
How about the Twins? I’d like to see them make a playoff push this season after surviving and thriving in the first half in a good division.
The Cardinals don’t know how to lose. Injuries to three key players like Adam Wainwright, Matt Holliday and Matt Adams for most of the first half have not set this team back at all and they sit atop their division with the best record in baseball.
Mets fans are spoiled. The offense may not be able to hit the broad side of a barn but the young pitching is top notch. Jacob deGrom is emerging as one of the best pitchers in baseball. Matt Harvey deserves more wins than he has and is ahead of the mark for a first season back from Tommy John surgery. Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz already look like they can be the real deal and Zack Wheeler is set to return in July. They’ll be a team nobody will want to face in 2016.
The emergence of young stars. Twenty of the players in last week’s All Star Game were under the age of 25. This is unheard of in the sport of baseball. So long are the days of the stars of the MLB being the players chasing 600 home runs; instead, it is the likes of Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Kris Bryant who are catching the eyes of baseball fans. With several more young superstars in baseball, I believe we are witnessing the beginning of a Golden Age of MLB, a resurgence of sorts for a league that has struggled as of late.
Rebuilding trumps purchasing All-Stars in today’s game. San Diego Padres vs. Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs. The NL Central Cubs and their former division rival Astros have been regrouping for a while now, and both would be in the midst of a Wild Card spot if the season was days away from ending. The game is changing, and teams like this are proving that success comes from your own farm system, not purchasing high profile talent like the Padres are doing, who sit in a tie for third place in the NL West.
The Houston Astros have finally arrived. No one ever gave thought that a team that was seemingly mired in cellar-dwelling in the standings would pull it together this quickly and be right in the middle of the playoff race. With a true ace in Dallas Keuchel and budding young stars in Carlos Correa and George Springer, the Astros are in a position to be competitive for quite some time.
A-Rod can still pose a threat at the plate. No one knew for sure what Rodriguez would do for the Yankees after being suspended for all of last season. I think now it is safe to say that A-Rod has surpassed even the most optimistic of expectations. At the All-Star break, he was second on the team in homeruns, RBIs, and slugging %, while also leading the team in OPS. The DH has been a prime reason for the Yankees’ success this season and is a strong candidate for Comeback Player of the Year.
Alex Rodriguez has still got it. Coming into this season, expectations were not that high for the former MVP award winner. He sat out all of last season for suspension and no one really knew what to expect. He came out of the gate hot and has been one of the Yankees better hitters this season. Getting his 3000th hit and 661st homerun out of the way early in the season was a nice added touch for Yankee fans as well. He is one of baseballs most polarizing players, and I don’t think anyone was expecting him to be a borderline All-Star this season.
4. Who do you think was the MVP of the first half?
Bryce Harper. Considering the injuries the Nationals have faced to Ryan Zimmerman, Denard Span, Jason Werth and Stephen Strasburg, Harper is the main reason the Nationals are still leading their division.
It has to be Bryce Harper. The most important individual stat in baseball is on base percentage–ask Billy Beane–and Harper does that better than any other player in baseball, getting on base at a rate of .463. The Washington Nationals lead the NL East by three games currently, and there is no disputing that Harper is the main force behind their success. He is also top five in the MLB in home runs, batting average, and RBIs a feat that no other player can claim. While Paul Goldschmidt, Miguel Cabrera, Giancarlo Stanton and Zack Greinke deserve recognition, I could not imagine picking anyone above Harper at this point in the year.
I’m that guy that will always back up pitchers for an MVP award, despite the fact that they only play in 35 games; therefore, I would give it to Zack Greinke of the Los Angeles Dodgers. His 1.30 ERA in 19 starts is unreal, and his 9-2 record should be 11-0 because he allowed just 3 runs in 14 combined innings in his two losses. I look at ERA and innings pitched when I consider a pitcher for this award, because limiting your team’s bullpen use, and keeping your manager comfortable for 6-8 innings with each quality start is crucial to success.
Mike Trout. No one may ever rival Derek Jeter’s influence on the game but if there is anyone that can come close, it is Trout. The five-tool center fielder is only 23 and yet he has already proven himself as one of the most complete players in the game, ranking in the top 5 in almost every offensive category. Highlights both offensively and defensively are commonplace to him and coupled with a true love and appreciation for the game, the New Jersey native should be a perennial MVP candidate for years to come.
Bryce Harper. Finally 100% healthy, he is showing why he was a number one overall pick five years ago. He is top-5 in the whole league in the Triple Crown categories (Hr’s, RBI’s, Avg.) and playing solid defense in right field as well. It’s scary to think he is only 22 years old and seems to just be hitting his stride as a player and could dominate for the next 10+ years.
5. Who do you predict will play in the World Series?
The St. Louis Cardinals out of the National League. They’re getting healthier with Holliday returning early in the second half, they just called up their top prospect and as mentioned earlier, they really just have a winning culture. The acquisition of Jason Heyward has been huge and they’ve gotten great pitching from Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha and Lance Lynn even without Wainwright.
In the American League my preseason pick was the Angels and I feel like I want to stay with them. Trout and Pujols do the heavy lifting to carry this team deep into the playoffs and the pitching, led by Garrett Richards does just enough.
Baseball is a very unpredictable sport, so I will just throw two teams out there that I think have the makings of a strong playoff run. I will go with the Kansas City Royals from the AL and the Los Angeles Dodgers from the NL. The Royals have pretty convincingly taken the top spot on the AL this season, and they proved last year that they have what it takes to make it far. The Dodgers might come as more of a surprise. The playoffs are all about pitching, though, and with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke pitching with higher frequency in the playoffs, it is entirely conceivable that they could beat out the Cardinals and Pirates.
That said, one cannot count out the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals have four starters with ERAs below a 3.00 and they have dominated the regular season. It would be cool to see the two teams from Missouri battle it out in the World Series, but I am placing my best prediction on the Dodgers, who I believe have a superior top three in the pitching rotation.
The Los Angeles Angels. Albert Pujols is barely over the .250 clip, but has power numbers that resemble his St. Louis days with 26 long shots, and Mike Trout is, well, Mike Trout. They play defense, they have two of the best hitters in baseball, as well as other guys like David Freese who have been to the biggest stage before. If the Angels make a move to bring in another solid piece to their pitching rotation, I see very few teams capable of taking a series from them when they are at their best.
Additionally, if you look at the best teams in the National League, they are best at home (like the Angels), but have nothing more than tolerable road records. Game 7 will take place in an AL park, so if the Angels can get themselves to the last game of the year, I would put my money on them over whomever they match up against in the NL.
Royals vs. Nationals. Even though the Royals’ starters have struggled throughout most of the season, their offense and bullpen have still propelled them to the best record in baseball. Even if they stand pat at the trade deadline and don’t add a starter, Kansas City is a good bet to return to the World Series with almost all of their core pieces. However, they will fall in the World Series to the Nationals, who have a Cy Young candidate in Max Scherzer and a potent lineup to match, led by superstar Bryce Harper. If Stephen Strasburg can come back and provide the team with better outings than he did before getting injured, there should be no doubting Washington’s chances of winning it all.
Angels vs. Nationals. The resurgence of Albert Pujols and continued dominance by Mike Trout make this a scary offense, especially in the post-season. Their pitching rotation has been excellent as well, and now with Jered Weaver scheduled to return from injury, the tough choice will be who will he replace in the starting rotation. The starters boast an ERA of 3.56, good for third best in the American League and look for that to continue. On the other side, have to go with the Washington Nationals. Bryce Harper is carrying a team that has had several key players miss time from injury and they are still in first place in their division. Max Scherzer has been almost unhittable over his past couple starts and is a scary pitcher to face, especially come post season time. And besides, a Mike Trout vs. Bryce Harper matchup would amazing to see as they are the most exciting players in the whole game.
And that concludes everyones “Rapid Reactions” for trade rumors, big stories, and World Series predictions. We are thinking of making a couple more of these as the season progresses so if you have any questions you want answered, feel free to comment or tweet at any of the writers and we can work on that for the future.