Renegades OF Jackson making adjustments in pro ball

Hudson Valley Renegades OF Bralin Jackson hugs a fan prior to a game at Dutchess Stadium earlier this season. (Will Montgomery photo/Times Herald-Record)

Hudson Valley Renegades outfielder Bralin Jackson is in the midst of a breakout season. He had a pair of lackluster pro campaigns after signing as a 5th round draft pick out of a Missouri High School in 2012.

I caught up with Jackson for a story that appeared in today’s paper. Follow the link for the full story.

You can check out the rest of the Renegades coverage from this season by clicking on the HV Pro Sports tab on www.recordonline.com.

As for the Renegades, Monday is a rare day off. Tuesday, the team’s coaching staff and seven All-Star players head to Brooklyn’s MCU Park to compete in the annual New York-Penn League All-Star game.

The regular season starts again with a 7:05 p.m. road game at Aberdeen. Hudson Valley plays last-place Aberdeen seven times over its final 13 games. The Renegades hold a six-game lead over Brooklyn in the McNamara Division, so a playoff spot looks quite likely for Hudson Valley.

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Manfred elected MLB comissioner

Major League Baseball Chief Operating Officer Rob Manfred speaks to reporters after team owners elected him as the next commissioner of Major League Baseball during an owners quarterly meeting in Baltimore, Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)

It was a story pulled from the pages of a book about the old, smoke-filled rooms of political conventions in years gone by. As the Major League Baseball owners convened to vote again and again, finally, ultimately, Rob Manfred’s name came out on top.

Manfred, 55, has been a full-time employee of MLB since 1998. With a background in law, Manfred, a Harvard Law grad, was in many ways Bud Selig’s right-hand man through many of the negotiations with the Player’s Association over the last 16 years.

The New York Times has some background info on Manfred here.

It’s a move that certainly won’t rock the boat in baseball. With so many teams thriving financially, and with Atlanta the latest club to announce a new stadium deal, the sport seems to be doing quite well economically. As the only major American sport without a salary cap, the players are also pretty happy, it’s fair to say. Since 1994, baseball is the only major sport in the U.S. that hasn’t endured a work stoppage of some sort.

Let’s take a quick look at the other two candidates for the job.

Tom Werner, a part owner of the Boston Red Sox, has a background as a television executive. His main selling point was his expertise in entertainment and how he would have continued to push MLB’s distribution of content online and through mobile devices, spreading the game further around the world. Although he has a strong resume for his work in Boston, Werner was part owner of the Padres in the early ’90s and oversaw a firesale in which San Diego traded away Fred McGriff, Gary Sheffield and others. That probably didn’t help his cause with the other owners who were voting for commissioner.

Tim Brosnan, like Manfred, has been a long-time MLB employee. Brosnan has played a key, under-the-radar role in securing large contracts for baseball broadcasts. He also was a major player behind the creation of the World Baseball Classic, which filled a void when baseball was dropped from the Olympics.

Manfred, however, won just enough support over a series of votes to earn the 23 of 30 he needed to earn the job. The final vote was 30-0, a sign of unity from owners whose candidates failed to win enough support.

One fun note…all four major sports commissioners in the U.S. are New York natives: Manfred (Rome), Roger Goodell (NFL, Jamestown), Adam Silver (NBA, Rye) and Gary Bettman (NHL, Queens).

So, what’ll be Manfred’s biggest tasks during his tenure as commissioner?

  • I think the first issue is still PEDs. To a certain extent, the old issues, the Biogenesis case and the rest are water under the bridge for Manfred. Still, MLB has to show that its policy works and is being enforced. Baseball will never be able to take back what happened in the ’90s and early 2000s, but it can make a stand that PEDs are not going to play a role in the game moving forward. Really solidifying that would be a fine first step for Manfred’s legacy.
  • Length of games. This is something that I’m not really personally concerned about, but many people do care. And if it’s something that’s determining television ratings and popularity of the sport among the next generation of fans, then it’s something that must be fixed. How? Well, that’ll be up to Manfred and his people to figure out. A pitch clock might be one idea, better enforcement by umpires is another. It seems like a pretty easy problem, if not to solve, at least to alleviate a little bit.
  • Lack of offense/rise of pitching injuries. I’m going to combine these two factors, even if they really aren’t related. The last few seasons in baseball have seen two trends arise. One, offense has dipped pretty consistently across the board. Strikeouts are up and home runs are down. I, however, wonder if this is somehow tied to the second trend, the flood of major arm injuries to pitchers. Are pitchers throwing too hard or going to breaking balls too often? Is this how they’re racking up giant strikeout totals? Is it also why they’re ending up on the disabled list and the operating table so often? It’s impossible and unrealistic for baseball to limit what kind of pitches and how many pitches its pitchers can throw. Baseball’s top office, however, certainly can start to work with the lower levels of baseball, Little League, school ball and the NCAA, to ensure that pitchers who find themselves in pro ball have the physical strength and the mental know-how to avoid injury, as best as we can figure it out.
  • Stadiums. Nearly every team in baseball is playing in a brand-new ballpark or a neat retro stadium with historic value (Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, Dodger Stadium). The two teams that stand out on this list are Tampa Bay and Oakland. Are there viable new stadium options for the A’s and Rays? Could they possibly be relocated to another market entirely? Or will they have to endure playing in brutal ballparks that undoubtedly cut into their revenue streams? The Giants certainly wouldn’t be happy if the A’s got a brand-new stadium in San Jose, but it would be a big plus for the A’s. What if Tampa Bay relocates a few miles to the east to bring in the Orlando market as well? Or are these teams destined to be linked to Montreal, Charlotte, Portland and Las Vegas rumors for years to come?
  • Multimedia. The MLB At-Bat app and MLB.TV allow fans to watch every game around the world on a nightly basis. It’s been a huge boost to the league’s popularity, as has MLB’s expanding presence on social media. Will this continue? What’s the next step? How can baseball stay one step ahead of the NBA, the NFL and the growth of soccer, both MLS and top European leagues, here in the U.S.? Can efforts here keep young fans interested in the game?
It’s a short list, but that’s likely what’s on Manfred’s plate as he gets set to start his new job.

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Huge Yanks-O’s series starts tonight

The Yankees enter perhaps the most pivotal point of the season tonight, as a 3-game series opens in Baltimore. New York, 61-56, sits six games behind Baltimore in the AL East standings. The teams will play 10 games from now until the end of the season, so the Yankees certainly have plenty of opportunities to make up the ground. Toronto is currently in second place in the AL East, five games behind Baltimore.

A series win would be huge for the Yankees – obviously a 3-game sweep would be even better – but Baltimore has been the hottest team in baseball since the All-Star break, so it won’t be easy.

Here are the pitching matchups:

  • Monday
  • Chris Capuano vs. Bud Norris
  • Tuesday
  • Shane Green vs. Wei-Yin Chen
  • Wednesday
  • Michael Pineda vs. Chris Tillman

Yes, that’s Pineda set to make his return to the rotation. He’s hasn’t pitched in the majors since he was infamously ejected for using pine tar in a game against the Red Sox back in April. Pineda did make a recent rehab start in the minors and pitched pretty well – the question is, how much length can he give Joe Girardi? Could he go 100 pitches or is he on the shorter leash than that? I would imagine Esmil Rogers – if he isn’t bumped from the roster – would be ready to pitch a significant chunk in relief on Wednesday if Pineda doesn’t last long.

After an off day on Thursday, the Yankees close out the week with a road series at Tampa Bay.

The week is full of possibilities for the banged-up Bronx Bombers. Win all three games in Baltimore and all of a sudden, they’re within striking distance of the division lead. Lose all three and they’d be nine games out and further behind Seattle, Toronto and a surging Kansas City in the race for the second wild card.

It’s tough to call any game in a 162-game schedule a “make-or-break” contest, but the Yankees and their slim playoff hopes really rest on how the team fares this week at Camden Yards.

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Big stretch upcoming for the Renegades

Hudson Valley Renegades utility player Grant Kay watches the opposing pitcher from the on-deck circle during a New York-Penn League game against the Williamsport Crosscutters at Dutchess Stadium on August 6, 2014. (Will Montgomery photo).

The Hudson Valley Renegades enter play on Thursday night with a 37-15 record, the best in the New York-Penn League. The Renegades are a remarkable 20-3 at Dutchess Stadium this season.

Starting Saturday, Hudson Valley plays Tri-City six times in six days, with three games at Dutchess Stadium followed by three games at Bruno Stadium in Troy. Tri-City, 36-16, is Hudson Valley’s top competition for the No. 1 seed in the NY-PL playoffs. State College, 33-19, is also a division leader. No other NY-PL team has more than 27 wins.

Those six games might not mean a ton in the grand scheme of things, as Hudson Valley, Tri-City and State College are all pretty comfortably looking like division winners barring a major collapse. The key in the NY-PL playoffs, however, may be locking up the best record and the No. 1 seed, which means a semifinal playoff series against the Wild Card winner. That figures to be an easier matchup than semifinal pitting two division winners against each other.

Hudson Valley enters Thursday’s game against Williamsport on a five-game winning streak, and a continuation of that streak or at least a six-game split with Tri-City would keep the Renegades in the driver’s seat for the top playoff seed.

Keep your eyes open for Friday’s paper, as I’ll have a story on the Renegades’ success on the basepaths this season. Hudson Valley leads the league, with a gap of 29 steals between it and second-place Lowell, and the Renegades also feature the NY-PL’s top three individual base-stealers in Coty Blanchard, Jace Conrad and Bralin Jackson.

Check out their thoughts on being aggressive on the basepaths in Friday’s paper.

On Sunday, I’ll have a profile of reliever Justin McCalvin, who picked up a sidearm style in college and has turned that into a pro career.

And plenty more coverage of the Renegades in the weeks to come as they look to lock down a NY-PL playoff berth.

For the latest, check out my Twitter feed: @THR_Montgomery.

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Tanaka, Harvey play catch

New York Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, left, who is on the disabled list, shares a laugh with Yankees starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda as the National Anthem is sung before a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers at Yankee Stadium in New York, Monday, Aug. 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Matt Harvey and Masahiro Tanaka made some news this week when they played catch, although not with each other, which would have been awesome.

No, Tanaka and Harvey are both on the road to recovery from elbow injuries, so it’s a positive sign for the Yankees and Mets aces, respectively.

Tanaka, who went on the DL with a partial tear of the UCL in his right elbow that was discovered in early July, threw 25 pitches on Monday and 50 more on Tuesday. He said afterward that his arm felt fine. Tanaka plans to throw again on Thursday.

Getting Tanaka back for the stretch run would be a huge boost for the Yankees. He’s 12-4 with a 2.51 ERA in his 18 starts this year with 135 strikeouts against 19 walks. If the Yankees hope to win a playoff berth – and for that matter, win anything in the postseason – they’re going to need Tanaka back as soon as possible.

However, if the injury does wind up being serious, if Tanaka turns that partial tear into a full tear, he’ll need Tommy John surgery and would miss 12-16 months. So it’s a matter of short-term vs. long-term thinking for the Yankees. Resting Tanaka might mean he’d be fully healthy and ready to go in 2015. Pushing him might lead to some sort of success in 2014, but may cost him a season or more in his prime.

We’ll see how Thursday’s throw session goes before there’s any decision on Tanaka’s return.

As for Harvey, he’s already undergone Tommy John surgery. When he went down with elbow troubles at the end of the  2013 campaign, Harvey pledged to be back in the Mets uniform sometime during the 2014 season. The Mets pretty quickly squashed that idea and we almost certainly won’t see Harvey in the bigs this season, but it does look like he’s progressing well after surgery.

Harvey threw 20 pitches off a mound on Tuesday in Port St. Lucie, Fla. at the Mets’ spring training complex. He had also thrown a bit at Citi Field last Friday.

Mets GM Sandy Alderson has said that Harvey may pitch in the fall instructional league in Florida in September or October.

Whatever happens the rest of this year, it looks like Harvey is on track to return in 2015. Harvey, however, will likely be on some sort of innings limit, probably in the neighborhood of 150 innings. Mets fans, would you rather have Harvey ready to go on Opening Day and have to shut down in July or have him start up in June and be ready for a possible Mets’ playoff run?

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A look at the newest Yankees: Drew and Prado

Boston Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew throws his bat after striking out against the Toronto Blue Jays during the sixth inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, July 22, 2014 in Toronto. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

The Yankees should have a bit of a new-look lineup tonight in Fenway Park following an off day on Thursday on which the team added two new position players: Stephen Drew and Martin Prado.

We’ll start with Drew, who was acquired in a deadline day trade for Kelly Johnson, another struggling infielder. Drew has played in 955 career major league games with Arizona and Boston, all at shortstop. He also played exclusively at short in 193 minor league games. I can’t find any position-specific fielding stats for college, but Drew was listed as a shortstop on the Florida State roster from 2003.

Point being, Drew probably hasn’t played second base since Little League, but that’s what the Yankees are going to ask him to do for the rest of the 2014 season. With Derek Jeter and Brendan Ryan still on the Yankees’ roster – Kelly Johnson (traded) and Brian Roberts (released) are gone – Drew won’t get an opportunity to play short. So his defensive adjustment is going to be interesting to watch these first few games. Ultimately, I don’t think it’s going to be a problem, but one wonders if Drew makes a defensive mistakes that costs the Yankees a game down the stretch run.

The real concern with Drew is his bat. Drew was offered a one-year, $15 million qualifying offer by the Red Sox following the 2013 season, but he turned it down hoping he would get a multi-year deal instead. Well, no one signed Drew and he sat on the free agent market through spring training. The Red Sox signed him to a one-year pact on May 21 and he didn’t join the big league roster until June 2. So it was understandable when Drew got off to a rusty start, but he’s never quite gotten out of that slump.

Through 39 games, Drew is hitting .176 with six doubles, one triple and four home runs to go along with 11 RBI and 11 runs scored. He is starting to heat up a little bit, as his average bottomed out at .128 on July 10.

Will he be an upgrade over Kelly Johnson? We’ll see about that. His defense should be a plus, as Drew has always been an above average fielder at shortstop, but the transition to second base is a question mark. Johnson had underwhelmed in New York, so perhaps it’s a case of both teams hoping a change of scenery leads to a turnaround.

Prado came up with Atlanta and broke up with a strong half season at the major league level in 2008, playing a variety of positions. He became a mainstay in the Braves’ lineup in the years to follow, making an All-Star game and finishing ninth in NL MVP voting in 2010. He was part of the Justin Upton trade prior to the 2013 season and has spent the past year and a half playing mostly at third base for the Diamondbacks.

Like Drew, Prado is going to find himself in a new position. With Chase Headley comfortably at third, Drew figuring at second and Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury in left and center fields, respectively, Prado will get a shot at playing time in right field.

For all his versatility, Prado has played just two innings in right field in the majors.

A right-handed swinging bat, Prado probably falls into some sort of platoon with Ichiro and/or Drew if there is a lefty on the mound. Carlos Beltran is supposedly nearing outfield assignments again, so that might shuffle Prado around as well. Prado has also played 56 career games at first base, so he offers a bit of insurance there if Mark Teixeira goes down with an injury again.

Prado isn’t having a terrible year at the plate (.270 average, 17 doubles, five homers and 42 RBI in 106 games), but his on-base percentage has dipped to .317 and his slugging percentage is down to .370, well below his career averages in both categories.

Basically, he’s a poor man’s version of Ben Zobrist – a versatile player in the field who also swings a decent bat. And that’s just the kind of player the Yankees needed to patch up some holes and fit into a few platoons over the final weeks of the season. He’s also under contract through the end of the 2016 season, so he could be a key player for the Yankees in the years to come with question marks at second and third base for 2015.

These moves aren’t going to do a whole lot for the Yankees, most likely.

Roberts had a 1.3 Wins Above Replacement value through 91 games played. Prado has a 1.3 WAR in 106 games. So that’s a push. Kelly Johnson had a 0.5 WAR through 77 games. Stephen Drew is at 0.3 WAR through 39 games.

Prado, however, will give Joe Girardi a significant boost of versatility, something the idea of Kelly Johnson had promised but had never quite panned out.

And in Drew, the Yankees might not get a huge boost in production, but they might find Derek Jeter’s replacement for 2015. Perhaps Prado becomes the everyday third baseman next year as well. So these trades weren’t about 2014 and the Yankees’ hopes of clinching a playoff berth as much as they were with 2015 in mind.

Arizona Diamondbacks' Martin Prado throws to first against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, July 23, 2014, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

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Trade deadline wrap-up

Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher David Price delivers to Milwaukee Brewers' Ryan Braun during the seventh inning of an interleague baseball game Wednesday, July 30, 2014, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Well, there was certainly plenty of action in that final hour before the trade deadline this afternoon.

I’ll have a column in tomorrow’s paper – here’s the link.

It’s way too early to really name any winners and losers, but what Oakland and Boston did this month really stands out. The A’s made themselves a scary playoff team by adding some top-flight pitchers. Boston brought in a bunch of position players that could help the team bounce back in 2015 (as long as they find some starting pitchers to fill in for Jake Peavy, Jon Lester and John Lackey).

The Rays also made a big splash by sending ace David Price to Detroit in a three-way trade that also involved Seattle. The Mariners picked up center fielder Austin Jackson, who fills a big need for the M’s. Detroit got an ace of aces to go along with Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez. Like Oakland, look out for the Tigers in a playoff series. Tampa Bay, on the other hand, added Seattle super prospect Nick Franklin, who like Ben Zobrist, can play all over the field. Drew Smyly, who has had some good years in the Tigers’ bullpen and starting rotation, will take Price’s spot for now. They also add Willy Adames, a highly regarded 18-year-old shortstop prospect from the Tigers’ system. Time will tell on this one, but Tampa Bay got younger and got cheaper, which was the plan since they had no shot to resign Price after 2015. The question is, did the Rays get better?

As for the local teams, the Mets, as predicted, stood pat on deadline day. That doesn’t mean they can’t move Bartolo Colon in August, but it looks like the Mets will wait until the offseason before getting active on the trade market again.

The Yankees made a pair of small trades. From Boston, the Yankees acquired Stephen Drew for Kelly Johnson in a swap of struggling players. Drew, who takes the roster spot of Brian Roberts, who was released, figures to be the Yankees’ everyday second baseman for most of the rest of the season. In a separate deal, the Yankees added super utility guy Martin Prado from Arizona, sending power-hitting minor leaguer Peter O’Brien to the Diamondbacks. Prado has played almost exclusively at third base this season, but it sounds like the Yankees plan to use him mostly in right field for the remainder of the regular season. Prado can also play second base and even has some experience at first.

On the pitching front, the Yankees apparently didn’t have the talent to pick up any of the pitchers that moved today. Michael Pineda figures to return at some point in August, which will feel like a “trade,” so maybe that’s why the Yankees held off today. There will be options available in August as well, so perhaps the Yankees aren’t done quite yet.

On the minor league front, I caught up with the Hudson Valley Renegades earlier this week to ask about their tremendous season so far. You can check out that story here.

Be sure to keep your eyes open for Sunday’s paper, in which I’ll have a story on Renegades outfielder Braxton Lee, who like many of his teammates, is having a season to remember.

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Red Sox not done, ship Lackey to St. Louis

Boston Red Sox's John Lackey delivers a pitch against the Houston Astros in the first inning of a baseball game Friday, July 11, 2014, in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

We’re now less than two hours away from the trade deadline and the Boston Red Sox have continued to be active on the trade market.

Hours after sending Jon Lester and Johnny Gomes to Oakland for Yeonis Cespedes, the Red Sox traded starting pitcher John Lackey to St. Louis for OF/1B Allen Craig and SP Joe Kelly.

Boston had traded Jake Peavy to San Francisco last week, so the Red Sox have dealt 60 percent of their starting rotation in recent trades.

Lackey has had a few bounce-back years after his Red Sox career got off to a rocky start when he came over as a free agent from the Angels in 2010. Lackey, 11-7 with a 3.60 ERA in 21 starts, will help solidify a Cardinals rotation that also recently added Justin Masterson in a trade from Cleveland.

Craig figures to get some playing time in the corner outfield for Boston – perhaps with Cespedes moving to right field – but he’s in the middle of a down year. Craig was an All-Star in 2013 and has been a postseason hero for the Redbirds in the past, especially the 2011 World Series. His right-handed bat should play well at Fenway Park.

Joe Kelly, at the least, will be a warm body to fill in the gaps in the Red Sox rotation for the time being.

It’s an interesting rebuild for the Red Sox, who picked up some nice middle-of-the-order hitters in Cespedes and Craig. The question now is, what does the Red Sox pitching situation look like in 2015? Is this contingent on the Red Sox hopes of resigning Jon Lester in the offseason? Or do they have more moves in store?

In some other moves today, Oakland sent starting pitcher Tommy Milone to Minnesota for outfielder Sam Fuld. Fuld figures to fit into a platoon with Gomes to make up for the loss of Cespedes.

The Brewers also picked up outfielder Gerardo Parra from the Diamondbacks for a pair of minor league prospects. Parra is an elite defensive outfielder and will give Milwaukee some depth behind Ryan Braun, Khris Davis and Carlos Gomez.

We’ll see what the next few hours hold. The Yankees and Mets have been quiet so far. New York Post columnist Joel Sherman has tweeted that he believes the Rays will move David Price before 4 p.m.

This just in…the Mariners have acquired Chris Denorfia from the Padres. He will help a thin Mariners outfield.

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Boston, Oakland make blockbuster swap

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester (31) delivers during the first inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston, Thursday, July 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

The Boston Red Sox and the Oakland Athletics got the ball rolling on trade deadline day, making a deal that could have huge playoff implications.

Boston sends starting pitcher Jon Lester and outfielder Johnny Gomes to Oakland for slugging outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.

For Oakland, it’s a move that solidifies an already strong starting rotation. The A’s acquired Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Cubs earlier this month. Oakland will be very hard to beat in a short playoff series if their top pitchers come through.

For Boston, it’s a move that gives them a power-hitting outfielder who should add plenty of offense this season and next. Cespedes, who has won the last two home run derbies, will be eligible for free agency following the 2015 season. Imagine how many home runs that guy will hit over the Green Monster the rest of this year and next.

Lester has said he’s open to resigning with Boston following this season. I’m not sure how serious he is about that, especially since the Red Sox lowballed him on an extension offer prior to the 2014 campaign. I doubt he stays in Oakland – the A’s don’t have the money – but it will be interesting to see how the remainder of the season plays into his offseason decision. Lester will be one of the top free agents this winter.

Really, this trade cements Oakland’s status as an all-in team for 2014. It’s a major shift in organizational philosophy from a team lauded for its Moneyball foundation. Still, the window is open now for the A’s and they’re going for it. And they managed to snag another rotation ace without depleting the farm system, opting instead to trade a star who was likely to bolt for another team and more money after 2015 anyway. When we look back on the season in late October, this trade will be a major part of the 2014 storyline. Is Lester raising the World Series trophy in Oakland green and gold? Or will some other team knock off the now heavy favorites in the American League?

American League's Yoenis Cespedes, of the Oakland Athletics, holds the trophy after winning the MLB All-Star baseball Home Run Derby, Monday, July 14, 2014, in Minneapolis. Cespedes defeated National League's Todd Frazier, of the Cincinnati Reds, in the finals. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

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Indians send Masterson to St. Louis

Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Justin Masterson delivers in the first inning of a baseball game against the New York Yankees, Monday, July 7, 2014, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

The MLB trade deadline is tomorrow at 4 p.m. EST – although players who pass through waivers can be traded until the season ends in September – and there will likely be a flurry of deals made in the next 24 hours.

Cleveland kicked things off this afternoon, trading starting pitcher Justin Masterson to the St. Louis Cardinals. The details of the trade have yet to be announced, but the Indians likely get back a mid-level prospect or two. (Joel Sherman of the New York Post says its outfield prospect James Ramsey).

Masterson, an All-Star in 2013, has had a rough year in 2014. He’s currently on the disabled list with a knee injury. In 19 starts this year, Masterson is 4-6 with a 5.51 ERA. If you take a look at his FIP of 4.08 (fielding independent pitching), Masterson probably should be doing a little bit better than he has so far. So the Cardinals are buying low here and hoping he can turn things around.

Some trouble signs for Masterson. 1) He’s walking 5.1 batters per nine innings, his highest rate since 2009. He’s striking out 8.5 batters per nine innings, down from last year’s 9.1 per nine, but still above his career average of 7.5/9.  2) His velocity is also down. He threw his 4-seam fastball around 94 MPH last year, but he’s throwing it at just around 91 MPH this year. His sinker and slider have also lost some bite. Perhaps that’s due to the knee problem and perhaps it shoots up again if he returns healthy. He’s expected off the DL by the end of the week.

Masterson is a ground ball pitcher with his heavy stuff and he’s getting 58.5 percent of hitters to put it on the ground this year, which is in line with his career track record. As long as he’s healthy and manages to get outs on the ground, he could be a sneaky good pickup for the Cardinals down the stretch run.

We’ll see what happens over the next 24 hours with the New York teams.

The Yankees are reportedly kicking the tires on some starting pitching options, most notably Brett Anderson of the Colorado Rockies. Anderson has had some nice years with Oakland, but injuries have sidetracked his career. He has an option left for 2015, so like the Brandon McCarthy trade, Anderson could be a low-risk, medium-reward type of pickup who wouldn’t cost much in terms of prospects.

With an all-lefty hitting outfield of Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and Ichiro Suzuki – at least until Carlos Beltran can prove he can play the field again – the Yankees are also looking at right-handed hitting outfielders. The easiest to acquire would be Josh Willingham of the Twins, who fits the profile the Yankees are looking for. Willingham, however, is hitting .222 with 10 homers and 30 RBI in 58 games, so it’s debatable how much of an upgrade he’d be.

The Mets, on the other hand, look like they’re going to stand pat. Bartolo Colon and Daniel Murphy have plenty of suitors, but the Mets don’t quite seem to like the returns they’ve been offered in return. Since they’re basically out of the Wild Card race barring a huge surge, it’s a logical move for the Mets. They don’t have a ton of other pieces to sell to contenders at this point, but I could see the Mets making a bunch of offseason moves to gear up for Matt Harvey’s return in 2015.

We’ll see. More updates as they happen right here on the blog.

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    Will Montgomery

    Will Montgomery covers boys' soccer, girls' basketball, boys' and girls' swimming and diving, boys' lacrosse and baseball (including the Hudson Valley Renegades) for Varsity845.com and the Times Herald-Record. Prior to joining the TH-R in November ... Read Full
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