Tag Archives: NL East

3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Washington Nationals

We finish out the first division in our continuing previews of all 30 MLB teams with the Washington Nationals, who  won the NL East last season.

 

The Nationals had a busy offseason, trying to improve a team coming off a division title — its third in the last five seasons — but couldn’t get out of the NLDS. With C Wilson Ramos moving to the Rays in free agency, the Nationals looked to acquire a veteran presence with a proven offensive track record behind the plate rather than relying on light-hitting C Jose Lobaton as the starter. Early in the winter, they acquired C Derek Norris in a trade with the Padres. He will likely serve as a backup, though, because just days before spring training the Nats signed C Matt Wieters, who has spent his entire career in the region as a member of the Orioles. Wieters should get the starting job at catcher. The Nationals also made a trade with the White Sox, getting OF Adam Eaton in exchange for a trio of prospects, led by Lucas Giolito, who saw some time in the majors last season. The Nationals also traded away 2B Danny Espinosa, who didn’t have a starting role in a crowded infield that includes 2B Daniel Murphy and young SS Trea Turner up the middle. And early in spring training, they signed veteran P Joe Blanton, who may compete for a spot at the bottom of the rotation but will likely provide bullpen depth if he doesn’t get a starting role.

While not excelling on offense in 2016, the Nationals finished in the top half of MLB in most offensive categories, including batting average, home runs and OPS. Leading the offensive attack was Murphy, who had a career year in his first season with the team. He hit .347 with 25 home runs, and he led the National League with 47 doubles, .595 slugging percentage and .985 OPS. Murphy’s offensive WAR of 5.7 was good for third best in the NL. Those numbers helped him finish second in NL MVP voting, behind Cubs 3B Kris Bryant. Murphy’s performance helped pick up the slack for the disappointing year from OF Bryce Harper, the 2015 MVP, who hit .243 with 24 home runs and a .814 OPS — all career lows for a year in which he played in more than 100 games. HIs 1.6 WAR was also the lowest of his career, save for injury-shortened 2014, and a big drop-off from the 9.9 WAR he had in 2015. 3B Anthony Rendon and OF Jayson Werth each hit at least 20 home runs while hitting .270 and .244, respectively. In 73 games after being called up from the minors, Turner hit .342 with 13 home runs and 33 steals in 307 at-bats. With the Orioles last season, Wieters hit .243 with 17 home runs.

On the mound, SP Max Scherzer led a pitching staff that posted a 3.51 ERA, which ranked as the second-best in the majors behind the eventual World Series champion Cubs. The Nationals’ 1,476 strikeouts was also second, and their 155 home runs allowed were the third fewest in the majors. Where the pitching wasn’t as good was in the bullpen, with the Nationals’ 46 saves slotting in near the middle of the pack. In his 34 starts, Scherzer struck out a career-best and NL-leading 284 batters en route to posting a 2.96 ERA over 228.1 innings, earning him the NL Cy Young Award. Scherzer also led the NL with 20 wins, a 0.968 WHIP and a 6.2 WAR for pitchers. Pitching behind Scherzer in the rotation, SP Tanner Roark went 16-10 with a 2.83 ERA and 172 strikeouts and SP Stephen Strasburg won 15 of his 24 starts, posting a 3.60 ERA with 183 strikeouts. RP Jonathan Papelbon — currently a free agent — led the team in saves. RP Shawn Kelley had 7 saves last season to go along with his 2.64 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 67 appearances.

The Nationals should be improved with the additions they made to their roster, but there are some question marks that could hamper expectations for the team that won 95 games last year. One is injury-related, with Scherzer dealing with a hand injury that could cause him to miss the beginning of the regular season. A bigger worry is the bullpen and the Nationals’ lack of a bonafide closer. Kelley looks like he’ll get the first shot at the role, but his limited experience closing games could limit his success at the end of games.

The team also shouldn’t expect to get a repeat performance from Murphy, who played well above the level people have come to expect from him. In his 32-year-old season, he should regress back toward his career averages of .296 batting average and 13 home runs. On the other hand, Harper should bounce back from his down year in 2016. The 24 home runs he hit last year is around what he typically does — 2015’s 42 homers are definitely an outlier in his career stats — but he should be able to raise his .243 average significantly. Turner is a wild card with his limited experience in the majors, but if he can keep up the strong pace he got off to in his rookie season, he could be a 20-homer, 40-steal guy if he can keep up the power and speed he showcased in the second half of last season.

The Nationals look like they have a good chance of winning back-to-back division titles for the first time in franchise history, including the Montreal days. The Mets are still a good team, but the Nationals remain the class of the NL East. It may be hard to win 95 games again but the Nationals appear to be on track for another season of 90-plus victories, which should be enough for another division title. If that happens, the question becomes whether the Nationals can advance out of the NLDS for the first time since moving to D.C.

Be sure to check back every day around 12pm Eastern for another team preview, see them all here, and follow me on Twitter for a link to each new post when it’s posted.

Sources: http://www.nationals.com, http://www.baseball-reference.com

 

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3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Philadelphia Phillies

Continuing with our previews of all 30 MLB teams, leading up to the start of the 2017 season, it is the Philadelphia Phillies, who finished in fourth place in the NL East last season.

 

The Phillies won 71 games last season, which — despite being 20 games under .500 — was an eight-game improvement over 2015. The Phillies weren’t active signing big names on the free-agent market this offseason but did trade for a couple of pitchers and a veteran hitter who could have an impact on the team this season. The Phillies traded a couple of players to the Dodgers in exchange for OF Howie Kendrick. The more notable name of the two pitchers is SP Clay Buchholz, who the Phillies acquired from the Red Sox for a minor leaguer. Early in the winter, they added an arm to the bullpen by trading for veteran RP Pat Neshek from the Astros. They also signed another veteran reliever, Joaquin Benoit, in free agency to help bolster the bullpen in addition to signing OF Michael Saunders to add another veteran to the offense. Outside of the veterans acquired this winter, much of the core of the Phillies’ roster consists of young players as part of the team’s continued rebuilding efforts.

The Phillies’ offense ranked near the bottom of MLB last season, with their .240 batting average finishing next-to-last in the majors while their 161 home runs were better than just six other teams. Their hitters weren’t patient at the plate, either, finishing with the seventh-most strikeouts and second-fewest walks last season. If you’re looking for a bright spot on the roster, the team’s 96 steals were better than the league average of 85. 2B Cesar Hernandez led the team’s regular starters with a .294 average while 3B Maikel Franco’s 25 home runs tied 1B Ryan Howard — who is currently a free agent — for the most on the team. Franco hit just .255, though. It was a similar story with SS Freddy Galvis, whose 20 home runs came with a .241 average in his second full major-league season. The pitching wasn’t great, either, with the staff’s 4.63 ERA ending up as the fifth-worst in the majors. Their 1,299 strikeouts matched up exactly with the league average, as did the 43 saves recorded by the bullpen. No regular starting pitcher had a better ERA than 3.65, which was posted by SP Jerad Eickhoff. SP Jeremy Hellickson wasn’t far behind him at 3.71. SP Vince Velasquez, who was limited by injuries to 24 starts, had a strong start to the season but regressed in the second half to finish with a 4.12 ERA. He managed to strike out 152 batters in 131 innings while Eickhoff’s 167 strikeouts and 197 innings led the team. RP Jeanmar Gomez recorded 37 saves but didn’t do well in other categories, posting a 4.85 ERA and just 47 strikeouts in 68.2 innings.

The Phillies don’t look to be a much-improved team from last season and most of their young players will have to improve considerably if they want to have a chance of contending for anything. Hellickson and Buchholz will have to anchor the rotation that apart from them consists of young pitchers in Velasquez, Eickhoff and Aaron Nola if they want to give the team a chance to win games because the offense can’t be counted on to score a lot of runs. But even if the starters can give a lead to the bullpen, it’s not certain that Gomez would be able to successfully close out the games because the numbers he put up last season aren’t indicative of what you would expect to see from a closer. I wouldn’t be surprised if he loses the closer’s role at some point during the season — possibly to Benoit, who has some closing experience in his career. Or RP Hector Neris, who struck out 102 batters last season, could get a chance to close out games.

The Phillies finished in fourth place in the division last season and that is likely the best they can hope for this year, as it’ll likely be them and the Braves at the bottom of the East. There are too many question marks on the team — including a lack of a true ace and closer — to expect them to improve much from 2016. They’ll probably be around the 70-win mark again this year as their young players aren’t quite ready to take the next step yet and the players they added during the offseason probably won’t do much to help the team approach .500.

Be sure to check back every day around 12pm Eastern for another team preview, see them all here, and follow me on Twitter for a link to each new post when it’s posted.

Sources: http://www.phillies.com, http://www.baseball-reference.com

 

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3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: New York Mets

Up next in our preview of all 30 MLB teams, leading up to the start of the 2017 season, are the New York Metswho finished in second place in the NL East last season

 

A season after losing to the Royals in the World Series the Mets had an 87-win season in 2016, finishing behind the Nationals in the division, and losing to the Giants in the National League Wild Card game in the playoffs. The Mets didn’t make any notable moves in the offseason. They lost SP Bartolo Colon in free agency, opening up a spot in their starting rotation, which has high upside with the likes of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey, who is coming off an injury that limited him to 17 starts last season and ending his season in early July. Barring an injury SP Steven Matz should be able to get 30-plus starts for the first time in his major league career, which could provide a boost to the pitching staff if he can pitch well out of the No. 4 spot in the rotation. OF Yoenis Cespedes will likely be relied upo to lead the offense with injury questions surrounding veteran 3B David Wright, who had to leave spring training early to head back to New York to have doctors look at a shoulder injury, which could prevent him from being ready for Opening Day.

The Mets ranked near the bottom of the majors with a .246 average last season but their 218 home runs were fifth-best among the 30 teams. Cespedes and OF Curtis Granderson led the team with 31 and 30 home runs, respectively, while 2B Neil Walker‘s .282 average was tops among the team’s starting position players. Cespedes’ 31 home runs put him in a tie for the ninth most in the National League and his .530 slugging percentage was also ninth in the NL. 3B Jose Reyes, who played 60 games with the team as a midseason free-agent signing, had one of his best seasons in recent years, hitting .267 with 8 home runs. Young OF Michael Conforto showed some power last season, hitting 12 home runs in 304 at-bats, but hit just .220 and struck out 89 times. On the mound, Syndergaard had one of the best seasons among all major league pitchers, posting a 2.60 ERA with 218 strikeouts in 183.2 innings while compiling a 14-9 record. His 6.0 WAR ranked sixth among all players in the NL. The Mets also saw a good year out of deGrom, who had a 3.04 ERA in an injury-shortened season during which he threw 148 innings in 24 starts, striking out 143. Harvey, who was limited to just 92.2 innings put up a disappointing 4.86 ERA and struck out just 76 batters. Closer Jeurys Familia recorded 51 saves in 56 opportunities. He notched 84 strikeouts and a 2.55 ERA over 77.2 innings.

Heading into this season, the Mets need to get more consistent at getting on base, they can’t rely on the long ball as much as they did last year. A key piece to the offense will be OF Jay Bruce, who struggled at the plate after being traded by the Reds to the Mets at the trade deadline. Bruce is the projected starter in right field, but he may not hold that job long if he doesn’t improve upon the .219 he hit in his 50 games with the team last season. Conforto is lurking behind Bruce on the depth chart, waiting to take over for the veteran if he can’t perform to the Mets’ expectations. It might be hard for Syndergaard to repeat his performance from last season, but if he can even come close to that he’ll be a strong ace of a young rotation. The questions come with the rest of the starters, including whether Harvey is fully recovered from his injury and can make it through the full season and if Matz can handle a full-season workload after throwing 132 innings in the majors last season. The Mets shouldn’t have much concern about their bullpen, with Familia coming off two seasons with 43 and 51 saves. The caveat with that is a possible suspension looming for Familia, who was arrested for domestic violence last year. If he misses time for that, RPs Addison Reed or Hansel Robles would likely to get the bulk of the save opportunities in his absence.

The Mets and Nationals should continue to fight for the top spot in the East this season, though the Mets are likely going to be on the worse end of that battle if the offense doesn’t pick things up. The team will likely have to rely on the starting rotation to keep them in games and help them get victories if they want to make it to the playoffs for a third straight season.

Be sure to check back every day around 12pm Eastern for another team preview, see them all here, and follow me on Twitter for a link to each new post when it’s posted.

Sources: http://www.mets.com, http://www.baseball-reference.com

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3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Miami Marlins

Over the course of 30 days (or so) I am previewing all 30 MLB teams, leading up to the start of the 2017 season. The previews continue with the Miami Marlins, who finished in third place in the NL East last season.

The Marlins suffered a devastating loss last September when ace SP Jose Fernandez was killed in a late-night boating accident. Not even taking into account the on-field effect, it likely hasn’t been easy for the players to cope with the loss of a friend and teammate. The team didn’t make any major moves in the offseason, with the biggest names joining the team being SPs Edinson Volquez and Dan Straily via free agency and a trade, respectively. They also signed C A.J. Ellis to serve as a veteran backup to C J.T. Realmuto. The young offense will continue to run through RF Giancarlo Stanton, who has put up some of the best power numbers in the majors in recent years.

The Marlins’ 79 wins in 2016 was an eight-win improvement over the year before. The offense had its ups and downs, with a .263 batting average ranking fourth in MLB, but the offense ranked next-to-last with just 128 home runs for the season. With their lack of power, the Marlins ranked near the bottom of the majors with a .716 OPS. More than half of the Marlins’ 128 homers came off the bats of three players — Stanton, who hit 27, and OFs Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich, who mashed 23 and 21, respectively. Realmuto and veteran 3B Martin Prado both finished the season with batting averages above .300, and Yelich hit .298 on the season to add to his power numbers. Yelich had a team-best .859 OPS, followed by 1B Justin Bour’s .824 OPS. Yelich had a WAR of 5.3, which was the seventh-best among position players in the National League. The pitching staff ranked in the top half of the majors with a 4.05 ERA and 1,379 strikeouts. The bullpen’s 55 saves — 40 of those from RP A.J. Ramos — was tied for the second most in the majors. SP Wei-Yin Chen, who is expected to be the team’s No. 1 starter without Fernandez, is coming off the worst season of his five-year career; he posted a 4.96 ERA and had 100 strikeouts over 123.1 innings in 22 starts. Volquez, who should slot in as the No. 2 behind Chen, also had a disappointing 2016 with the Royals, with a 5.37 ERA and 139 strikeouts in 34 starts and 189.1 innings. In addition to his 40 saves, Ramos put up a 2.81 ERA and struck out 73 in 64 innings. RP Kyle Barraclough performed well as the setup man in his first full season in the majors, racking up 113 strikeouts over 72.2 innings in 75 appearances to go along with his 2.85 ERA.

Without any major additions on offense, you shouldn’t expect much of an improvement at the plate. One hitter who should give the team better production this season is 2B Dee Gordon, who played in just 79 games last season after serving an 80-game suspension for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. He doesn’t hit many home runs, but he has a career .289 batting average, which can lead to more runs for the team given his speed and ability to steal bases. The starting rotation will see a big change this season, with Chen and Volquez at the top and Straily likely at the bottom of the rotation. SPs Adam Conley and Tom Koehler should get a chance to hold down the middle of the rotation for the Marlins. The Marlins should have a chance to win games if the starters can get a lead to the bullpen if Barraclough and Ramos can repeat what they were able to do late in games last season.

The Marlins finished just three games under .500, a mark they haven’t surpassed since 2009. I’m expecting it to be another sub-.500 season for the Marlins. The offense should be decent, but the lack of home runs will make it difficult to put runs on the board. The team also has question marks among its starting pitchers without a clear ace on the roster. I’m expecting the Marlins to be about a 75-win team this year, a bit of a drop-off from last season. In the NL East, they’re still likely the third-best team in the division and probably won’t do better than that in the standings.

Be sure to check back every day around 12pm Eastern for another team preview, see them all here, and follow me on Twitter for a link to each new post when it’s posted.

Sources: http://www.marlins.com, http://www.baseball-reference.com

 

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3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Atlanta Braves

Over the course of the next 30 days (or so) I will be previewing all 30 MLB teams, leading up to the start of the 2017 season. The series begins with a preview of the Atlanta Braves, who finished in last place in the NL East last season.

The Braves may be looking to the future by opening a new ballpark this season, but they were looking at the past with their offseason additions by acquiring veteran pitchers. In November, the Braves signed 40-something SPs R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon. Then in December, the Braves traded three prospects to the Cardinals in exchange for SP Jaime Garcia, who is coming off of a rare healthy season. That trio will slot into the middle of the rotation, behind SP Julio Teheran at the top of the rotation and a No. 5 role that will likely be determined during spring training. Just days before the start of spring training, the Braves sent a couple of minor leaguers to the Reds in exchange for veteran 2B Brandon Phillips. More exciting for Braves fans is SS Dansby Swanson, a former No. 1 draft pick who the Braves acquired from the Diamondbacks prior to the 2016 season, who should get his first full season in the majors in 2017.

The Braves are in rebuilding mode, coming off a 68-win season and last-place finish a year after winning just 67 games. The Braves’ .255 batting average last season was a slight improvement from 2015 and right on the average among all 30 MLB teams last season. They ranked last in the majors with just 122 home runs on the season and next-to-last with 615 RBI. They also ranked near the bottom of the league in OPS, which all helped lead to a second-worst 649 runs on the season. Their best hitter was 1B Freddie Freeman, who hit .302 with 34 home runs and a .968 OPS that was the third-highest in the National League. His 6.5 WAR also placed him third among all players in the NL. Swanson showed some promising signs in his limited time in the majors, hitting .302 with 3 home runs in 129 at-bats.

Teheran led a starting rotation that was among the worst in the majors. Despite posting a 3.21 ERA over 188 innings, he had his first sub-.500 season with a 7-10 record due in large part to the lack of run support from the Braves’ struggling offense. Teheran’s 1.053 WHIP was the fifth-lowest in the NL and his 4.8 WAR ranked 10th among National League pitchers. None of the team’s other regular starters finished the year with an ERA better than 4.31, with that mark held by SP Mike Foltynewicz, who appears to be the favorite to land the No. 5 spot in the rotation to begin the season. The team’s 39 saves was a few below the MLB average, with RP Jim Johnson leading the team with 20 saves over 65 appearances. His 3.06 ERA was higher than you’d like to see from a closer.

Looking ahead to 2017, the Braves will be relying on Swanson and Phillips — who they traded for to replace 2B Sean Rodriguez, who is expected to miss three to five months after being injured in a car accident — to help their offense have a better season than the production their hitters put up in 2016 because the rest of their lineup is the same as last year and not very inspiring. Likewise with the rotation. Teheran should put up good numbers at the top of the rotation, but the recently acquired starters all have question marks associated with them. Dickey and Colon are both in their 40s and the former is coming off his worst season since 2013. And while Garcia started 30 games last season — just the second time in his seven-year career he made at least 30 starts — he had a career-worst 4.67 ERA and gave up 26 home runs. If he can’t get his ERA closer to the 3.00-3.50 range, that won’t be good for a Braves team that is expecting him to be able to perform well in the middle of the rotation. Johnson had his best season in a while in 2016 but he’s not an elite closer and probably doesn’t have a long leash if he doesn’t get off to a good start in the season because RP Arodys Vizcaino, who saved 10 games in 14 chances last season, is lurking behind him on the depth chart.

With the moves the Braves made this offseason, they are an improved team and should do better than they have the past couple seasons, but that doesn’t mean they’ll compete for the NL East title. The Mets and Nationals are still the cream of the crop of the division and the Braves will likely be fighting with the Phillies for the bottom two spots in the rotation. The Braves are probably about a 75-win team this season. Better than last season but still a year or two away from competing for a playoff spot.

Be sure to check back every day around 12pm Eastern for another team preview, see them all here, and follow me on Twitter for a link to each new post when it’s posted.

Sources: http://www.atlantabraves.com, http://www.baseball-reference.com

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MLB Postseason Preview: National League Wild Card game — Giants at Mets

It’s October, which means it’s time for the MLB postseason, and we’re previewing the wild card games that get the playoffs underway. We previewed the American League Wild Card game last night, now it’s time to do the same with the National League game. The New York Mets (87-75) host the San Francisco Giants (87-75) in this year’s NL Wild Card game, with SP Madison Bumgarner (15-9, 2.74 ERA) taking the mound for the Giants and SP Noah Syndergaard (14-9, 2.60 ERA) drawing the start for the Mets.

With the numbers Bumgarner and Syndergaard put up during the season, you can expect a pitcher’s duel in this one. Syndergaard and Bumgarner finished third and fourth, respectively, in the majors in ERA this season. Bumgarner started to stumble a bit in the latter part of the season, giving up at least 3 earned runs in four of his last five starts, including a 5-run outing at the Padres in his penultimate start on September 24. Bumgarner struggled a bit on the road, going 6-5 in 17 road starts, with a 3.39 ERA away from San Francisco. Other than a 5-run outing against the Braves in his second-to-last start of the season, Syndergaard finished the year strong, allowing 2 earned runs or fewer in seven of his last eight starts. He was 6-6 in 16 home starts this season, with a 2.87 ERA at Citi Field.

The pressure of postseason baseball typically doesn’t faze Bumgarner. In 13 career postseason starts, he is 7-3 with a 2.14 ERA. In his most recent postseason appearance in 2014, Bumgarner 4-1 with a 1.03 ERA in seven appearances, including six starts. In his four postseason appearances last year, including three starts, Syndergaard was 2-1 with a 3.32 ERA. Despite Syndergaard’s numbers trending better of late than Bumgarner’s, I give the Giants the advantage in starting pitching because the pressure of the big stage doesn’t seem to affect him as much as it does other players.

The Mets have the advantage in the bullpen. Their 55 saves this season were second in the majors, behind only the Rangers’ 56. The Giants were middle of the pack with 43 saves. Led by closer Jeurys Familia, the Mets’ 3.53 bullpen ERA was sixth best in the majors, while the Giants’ 3.65 ERA was 15th best. Familia was 51-for-56 in save opportunities with a 2.55 ERA for the Mets, and RP Santiago Casilla saved 31 games for the Giants in 40 chances while posting a 3.57 ERA. If the game is decided by the bullpen, the Mets have the advantage there.

Offensively, the Mets have a distinct advantage over the Giants in the power department, hitting 218 home runs compared to San Francisco’s 130, which was the third fewest in the majors. Mets OF Yoenis Cespedes was tied for ninth in the National League with 31 home runs, while the Giants’ leading home-run hitter, 1B Brandon Belt, had just 17. The Giants are better when it comes to making contact with the ball, though, with a .258 average vs. the Mets’ .246.

In the playoffs, good pitching usually beats good hitting. I think Bumgarner gives the Giants a decisive advantage in that area and I think he’ll be able to keep the Mets hitters from getting the ball into the stands of Citi Field. I say Bumgarner leads the Giants to the win in a low-scoring game as they try to make it to the World Series in a fourth-straight even-numbered year.

The winning team moves on to play the NL Central champion Chicago Cubs in one NLDS on Friday; the NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers play the NL East champion Washington Nationals in the other NLDS, which also begins Friday.

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MLB Weekly: A-Rod and Teixiera announce retirements, Story’s season ends

In this week’s MLB Weekly, two notable Yankees announce their retirements, a home run-hitting rookie undergoes season-ending surgery and the Dodgers send a once-promising slugger to the minors.

Looking Back

This morning Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez and the team announced that the final game of his major league career will be this Friday, August 12 at Yankee Stadium against the Rays, the team’s next home game after today. He will be released from his player contract with the team but will sign a new contract to serve as a special advisor to the team, acting as a mentor to young players, through 2017. In his 22-year career, Rodriguez has hit 696 home runs but has not seen much playing time this season as he is hitting just .204 in 62 games this season. Earlier in the week, Yankees 1B Mark Teixiera announced that he will retire at the end of the season. Teixiera is a 14-year veteran who is hitting .199 this season, which has included some time on the disabled list. He is in the final year of his contract, while Rodriguez had a year remaining on his deal.

Rockies SS Trevor Story was expected to begin the season in the minors but a suspension to SS Jose Reyes changed those plans, as Story landed the starting gig by way of an impressive spring training. And he really took advantage of the opportunity, hitting 7 home runs in the first six games of his major-league career. He continued to hit home runs throughout the season, getting up to 27 by July 30, which ended up being his final game of his rookie campaign. Story tore the UCL in his left thumb in that game, an injury that required a surgery that is expected to keep him out for the remainder of the season — a loss that hurts the Rockies’ already-slim hopes of making the playoffs.

Like Story, Dodgers OF Yasiel Puig put up big offensive numbers in his rookie season back in 2013, hitting .319 with 19 home runs in 104 games. His production has dropped off each season since then, though, eventually bottoming-out this year with .260 average and just 7 home runs in 81 games. That lack of production, combined with reported issues in the locker room, led the Dodgers to demote Puig to Triple-A Oklahoma City this week. The team made the move after acquiring OF Josh Reddick from the A’s at the trade deadline, giving them less of a need to use Puig in the majors. The Dodgers reportedly tried to deal Puig to another team but came up short before Monday’s non-waiver deadline. It’s possible Puig could still be traded this month if he is able to clear waivers, but he’ll probably have to produce in the minors before another team would want to take a chance on him. If he’s still in the Dodgers organization at the end of the season, don’t be surprised if they try again to trade Puig this winter.

Elsewhere in MLB, there is a three-way battle going on for first place in the AL East, with the Orioles and Blue Jays tied atop the division and the Red Sox two games behind them. The same two-game margin separates first place and second place in the AL Central, with the Indians ahead of the Tigers, who have won nine of their last 10 games. The Rangers have a bit more of a cushion in the AL West, 6.5 games clear of the Astros. Baltimore/Toronto sit atop the American League Wild Card, with the Tigers in the second Wild Card spot, with the Red Sox just .5 game behind them. In the hunt are the Astros and Mariners, at four and five games back, respectively.

In the National League, the Nationals and Cubs continue to hold significant leads in their divisions. The Nationals’ margin in the NL East is 6.5 games ahead of the second-place Marlins, while the Cubs — who still hold the best record in the majors — have a 10.5-game cushion over the Cardinals in the NL Central. Things are much tighter in the NL West, as the Giants’ lead over the Dodgers is down to two games as San Francisco has gone just 4-6 in the last 10 games. The Dodgers currently hold the first Wild Card in the NL, with the Marlins in control of the second Wild Card. In the hunt are the Cardinals, Mets, Pirates and Rockies — all within four games of landing one of the Wild Cards.

The Week Ahead

The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry continues this week

The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry continues this week at Fenway Park

There are a couple of rivalry series in the coming week. The first is a three-game set between the Red Sox and Yankees in Boston beginning Tuesday. The other sees the Cardinals visiting the Cubs for four starting Thursday. Other series to look out for include a short series between playoff contenders as the Nationals host the Indians Tuesday and Wednesday. Later in the week, the Astros look to stay alive in the Wild Card race when they visit the Blue Jays for a weekend series north of the border starting Friday. That same day, the Orioles host the Giants in another interleague series featuring teams that could be playing well into October.

Pitching performances to look for this week include the Giants-Marlins game on Monday, with SPs Johnny Cueto and Jose Fernandez — who both hold sub-3.00 ERAs for the season — scheduled to take to the mound. Diamondbacks SP Zack Greinke is scheduled to return from the disabled list Tuesday and get the start against the Mets and SP Steven Matz. Rays rookie SP Blake Snell looks to continue his stretch of good starts Wednesday when he gets the ball against Blue Jays SP J.A. Happ, who has already won a career-high 15 games on the season. Mets SP Bartolo Colon gets a home start on Wednesday against the Diamondbacks, the only major league team he has never gotten a win against in his 19-year career; SP Robbie Ray is slated to start for Arizona.