Tag Archives: SF Giants

MLB Hot Stove: Brewers add to the outfield, Hall of Fame announces ’18 class

The slow offseason news cycle picked up a bit this week, starting with the announcement of the 2018 Hall of Fame class on Wednesday. But the bigger news as it relates to on-field moves came on Thursday, when the Brewers added to the outfield via a trade and the biggest free-agent signing to this point of the hot stove season.

The trade was announced first, with the Brewers acquiring OF Christian Yelich from the Marlins — who continue to trade their stars as they begin what looks to be a lengthy rebuilding process — in exchange for a package of four prospects led by OF Lewis Brinson. Also going to Miami in the deal are OF Monte Harrison, IF Isan Diaz and P Jordan Yamamoto. Shortly after that trade was announced, the Brewers announced the signing of OF Lorenzo Cain to a five-year, $80 million contract.

In Yelich, the Brewers get a 26-year-old who is a career .290 hitter in five MLB seasons. He has started to show some power in the last couple of seasons, hitting 21 home runs in 2016 and 18 homers last season. He’s also had double-digit steals in four of his five seasons and has steadily increased his walk totals over the last three seasons. Yelich was expected to be traded by the Marlins after he and his agent have publicly shown his displeasure for the Marlins’ trading teammates Giancarlo Stanton, Dee Gordon and Marcell Ozuna earlier in the offseason. Yelich is under team control through 2021, with a team option for the 2022 season.

Cain is the first player this offseason to sign a contract of longer than three years. Signing with the Brewers is a homecoming for the former All-Star, who was drafted by the Brewers and played his rookie season there before being traded to the Royals in December 2010. He spent the last seven season with the Royals, with whom he was part of the team that won the 2015 World Series. He is also a .290 career hitter but doesn’t have much power, hitting a total of 57 home runs in his eight seasons. He does have speed, though, averaging nearly 16 steals per season, with 26 last season. He made the American League All-Star team in 2015, when his career year — .307 average, 16 HR, 72 RBI, 28 steals — helped him finish in third place in AL MVP voting.

With these additions, the Brewers’ regular outfield will likely consist of Yelich in right field, Cain in center and Ryan Braun in left field. The acquisitions also give the Brewers depth in the outfield, allowing them to potentially use someone like Domingo Santana or Brett Phillips as trade bait to try to add to the starting rotation, which is the weak spot on the team as it stands. The Brewers were already an 86-win team in 2017 and finished just a game out of the playoffs and look to improve upon that record with these moves, which give them a bump on offense.

Other deals that have been made in the last couple weeks include the Blue Jays trading a couple minor league pitchers to the Cardinals for OF Randal Grichuk and signing OF Curtis Granderson, the Cubs signing P Brian Duensing, the Giants inking OF Austin Jackson and the Mets re-signing SS Jose Reyes. That leaves names like pitchers Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta, along with hitters such as J.D. Martinez, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer remaining in free agency.

The other big news of the week was the announcement of the 2018 Hall of Fame class. The BBWAA voters elected four members to the Hall — 3B Chipper Jones, 1B/DH Jim Thome, OF Vladimir Guerrero and RP Trevor Hoffman. They join P Jack Morris and SS Alan Trammell, who were elected to the Hall of Fame by the Modern Baseball Committee in December. Jones and Thome were in their first year of eligibility on the ballot, while Guerrero was in his second year and Hoffman his third.

Jones spent his entire 19-year career with the Braves, finishing his career with a .303 average, 468 home runs and 1,623 RBI. He was an eight-time All-Star and a member of the Braves team that won the 1995 World Series. He was named the National League MVP in 1999. He earned 97.2% of the vote.

Thome spent 13 of his 22 seasons with the Indians. He played more than 2500 games in his career, swatting 612 home runs to go along with a .276 career average and 1,699 RBI. He was a five-time All-Star who finished fourth in NL MVP voting in 2003 (with the Phillies). He earned 89.8% of the vote.

Guerrero played 16 seasons, spending the majority of his career with the Expos (eight seasons) and Angels (six seasons). He hit .318 in his career with 449 home runs and 1,496 RBI. He was elected to nine All-Star teams and won the AL MVP in 2004, his first season with the Angels. He earned 92.9% of the vote, a significant jump from the 71.7% he got his first time on the ballot in 2017. He has announced that he will go into the Hall of Fame as an Angel, becoming the first inductee to represent that team in the Hall.

Hoffman spent 16 of his 18 seasons on the Padres, amassing a then-record 601 saves by the time he retired in 2010. In 1,035 appearances, he threw 1,089.1 innings, with a 2.87 ERA and 1,133 strikeouts with a 61-75 record. He was named to seven All-Star teams and finished in the top 10 in NL MVP voting in 1998 and 2006. He earned 79.9% of the vote.

Just missing election was DH Edgar Martinez, who got 70.4% of the vote, falling a few votes shy of the 75% needed. That means he likely has a good chance to get elected next year in what will be his 10th and final year on the BBWAA ballot. Also on next year’s ballot will be a list of first-timers that includes RP Mariano Rivera (who surpassed Hoffman’s saves record), 1B/OF Lance Berkman, 1B Todd Helton, OF Juan Pierre, and SPs Andy Pettitte, Roy Oswalt and the late Roy Halladay.

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MLB Hot Stove: Giants acquire McCutchen as Pirates rebuild continues

Earlier in the offseason, the Marlins were in fire-sale mode when they traded the likes of OFs Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna. Now, the Pirates seem to be dismantling their team to build for the future. Just two days after trading SP Gerrit Cole to the Astros, they are getting rid of another centerpiece of the team, sending OF Andrew McCutchen to the Giants.

The Giants were one of the teams who were reportedly interested in acquiring Stanton before he went to the Yankees, they and later turned their attention to McCutchen. Although he hasn’t hit higher than .300 since 2014, McCutchen is still a good hitter and had a bounceback year last season after a down year in 2016, hitting .279 last season with 28 home runs, the second-most of his career. He joins 3B Evan Longoria, who the Giants acquired earlier in the winter, to provide a power boost for a team that hit the fewest home runs in the majors last season. With the additions, the Giants seem to be heading in the right direction to compete in the NL West.

Although what players the Pirates are getting in return has not yet been announced, it is not expected to be much since McCutchen is entering the final year of his contract and will be a free agent next winter. Along those lines, two of the Giants’ top prospects — OF Chris Shaw and P Tyler Beede — are reportedly not part of the trade.

Also since our last update, the Twins signed RP Addison Reed to a two-year deal to further solidify their bullpen after already adding RPs Fernando Rodney and Zach Duke earlier in the offseason. And the Nationals have agreed to a two-year deal with OF Howie Kendrick, who they acquired from the Phillies in a July trade.

There’s still a month until pitchers and catchers report to spring training, with many players still out there in free agency and on the trade block — including potentially Pirates 3B Josh Harrison if they continue to move veterans — so there are still many moves to be made on the hot stove.

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MLB Hot Stove: Longoria goes west, Phils nab Santana

It’s been less than two weeks since our last hot stove update and there haven’t been many big names that have changed teams in that time, but the biggest name of the bunch was the centerpiece of a five-player trade, with the Rays, who appear to be in rebuilding mode, trading all-star 3B Evan Longoria to the Giants.

In that trade, the Rays sent Longoria and cash to San Francisco in exchange for veteran OF Denard Span and a trio of young players, led by SS Christian Arroyo, who didn’t do much of note in 125 MLB at-bats last season. Trading Longoria opens up a spot at the hot corner for Ryan Schimpf, who the Rays acquired in a trade with the Padres earlier in December. Schimpf has some power — with 34 home runs in 142 games over the last two seasons — but has hit just .195 in the majors during that span. For the Giants, adding Longoria provides power in the middle of the lineup for a hit that hit the fewest home runs in the majors in 2017.

Other moves in a slow period since our last post include the Phillies signing 1B Carlos Santana to a three-year contract and his former team, the Indians, signing 1B Yonder Alonso as his replacement on a two-year deal. The Dodgers signed P Tom Koehler to help in the bullpen, the Brewers signed Ps Jhoulys Chacin and Yovani Gallardo, the Nationals inked 1B Matt Adams, the Reds signed RP Jared Hughes, the Twins picked up P Zach Duke, and the Yankees finalized the previously reported one-year contract with SP CC Sabathia.

Activity should pick up early in the new year when the notable players who remain free agents start signing, including Ps Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Greg Holland, Wade Davis and Alex Cobb, along with hitters like J.D. Martinez, Mike Moustakas and Jay Bruce. There should also be some more trades made in the coming weeks, with one that seems to be percolating being the Pirates making a deal to send SP Gerrit Cole to the Yankees. There’s still the possibility of the Orioles pulling the trigger on the oft-rumored Manny Machado trade as well. Other players who could be available in trades are Marlins OF Christian Yelich and C J.T. Realmuto as the new owners continue to try to trim the team’s payroll, and the Rays could move a pitcher like Chris Archer.

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MLB Hot Stove: Marlins fire sale continues, Angels keep building around Trout

The MLB Winter Meetings are now over and while some coveted free agents — including Yu Darvish, J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Wade Davis and Jake Arrieta — are still on the market, there have been some transactions of note made since our last hot stove report, including the Marlins continuing to trim payroll and the Angels adding to the team beyond the signing of Shohei Otani.

As far as the Marlins are concerned, after trading 2B Dee Gordon and OF Giancarlo Stanton, they shipped OF Marcell Ozuna out of town, sending him to the Cardinals in exchange for four minor leaguers, including OF Magneuris Sierra and P Sandy Alcantara. Ozuna had a career year last season, hitting .312 with 37 home runs 124 RBI on the way to being named to his second straight National League all-star team. He’ll be joining an outfield in St. Louis that includes Tommy Pham and Dexter Fowler. The Cardinals also traded OF Stephen Piscotty to the A’s for a couple minor leaguers and added RP Luke Gregerson to provide late-inning work out of the bullpen, and potentially compete for the closer role.

The Angels made the first big splash of the winter when they signed Ohtani, known as the Japanese Babe Ruth for his ability to both pitch and hit, but that didn’t stop them from acquiring other players. They made a trade with the Tigers to get 2B Ian Kinsler for a couple minor league players and they signed SS Zack Cozart, who hit a career-high 24 home runs in 2017, to a three-year deal. The Angels, who finished five games out of a playoff berth in October, appear to be going all-in in an attempt to make a World Series run while they still have OF Mike Trout, who will be a free agent after the 2020 season. It won’t be easy, though, being in the same division as the defending World Series champion Astros.

The Cubs have been focused on adding to their pitching staff this offseason. After having already signed Tyler Chatwood, this week they added SP Drew Smyly and RPs Brandon Morrow and Steve Cishek to their team. The addition to their rotation and bullpen are likely in anticipation of losing Arrieta and Davis in free agency.

A day after finalizing their trade for Stanton, the Yankees shed some salary by sending 3B Chase Headley, along with RP Bryan Mitchell, to the Padres — with whom Headley played the first several seasons of his career before being traded to the Bronx — in exchange for OF Jabari Blash. And, although it’s not official yet, the Yankees are reportedly going to re-sign SP CC Sabathia on a one-year, $10 million contract.

In addition to getting Headley, the Padres traded for Phillies SS Freddy Galvis and are rumored to be pursuing Hosmer as they continue to remake their infield as they look to improve upon their 71-91 record from last season.

There were a couple more notable trades made in the last couple of days, both involving other NL West teams. The Giants traded veteran SP Matt Moore to the Rangers, who lost out on the Ohtani sweepstakes, for a couple of minor leaguers. And the Dodgers — who came a game short of winning the World Series — made a salary dump, sending 1B Adrian Gonzalez, SS Charlie Culberson, and Ps Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy to the Braves in exchange for OF Matt Kemp, who played for the Dodgers from 2006-2014. The Braves have already designated Gonzalez for assignment.

Among other signings that have taken place over the last week, the Twins signed SP Michael Pineda and RP Fernando Rodney, who will likely serve as the team’s closer when the season begins; the Rockies re-signed RP Jake McGee and added RP Bryan Shaw to their bullpen; the Phillies reached an agreement with RP Pat Neshek; and the Astros added to their bullpen, inking RPs Joe Smith and Hector Rondon.

There were rumors during the Winter Meetings that the Orioles might trade 3B Manny Machado, who will be a free agent following the 2018 season. While they didn’t reach a deal to move him, that’s something to keep an eye on in the coming days and weeks as the team continues to consider its options, knowing that they will likely lose him to free agency in a year if he isn’t traded now. The Yankees are reportedly interested in acquiring Machado, but the Orioles probably aren’t interested in trading him within the division, especially to the team that just acquired the reigning NL MVP. They’re likely not going to make the playoffs in 2018, though, so they should probably trade Machado this offseason to get something for their best player.

The next couple of weeks of the hot stove could be quiet as team executives and the players’ agents take some time off, but then the activity should pick up again in January as guys like Martinez and Darvish start to sign deals. Other lesser-but-notable names still available include pitchers Greg Holland, Alex Cobb, Jaime Garcia and position players Mike Moustakas, Jay Bruce and Lorenzo Cain.

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MLB Hot Stove: Ohtani to the Angels, Stanton in pinstripes

It’s been more than a month since the Astros won their first World Series title, but it’s been a slow start to player signings and trades in the offseason. Part of that is probably teams and players waiting to see where the winter’s two biggest available names — Japanese sensation Shohei Otani and reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton — would land. They have now both found new homes in the last two days, which means the hot stove should start to heat up, especially with the Winter Meetings now upon us.

Ohtani was the first domino of the two to fall, signing with the Angels on Friday. Earlier in the week, his camp announced that he had narrowed his choice to seven teams, and the Mariners were thought by many to be the frontrunners of that group. The 23-year-old, who comes to Major League Baseball from Japan’s Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, signed a six-year deal with the AL West runners-up that will pay him just $2.3 million (with a $20 million posting fee paid to his former team) due to the way MLB’s international free agency rules work.

Ohtani has been referred to as the Babe Ruth of Japan for his ability to both pitch and hit. Joining an American League team gives him the chance to hit as a DH on some days when he isn’t the starting pitcher. He was hampered by injuries last season, but Ohtani was named the MVP of Japan’s Pacific League in 2016. That season, he went 10-4 with a 1.86 ERA on the mound and at the plate he hit .322 with 22 home runs and a 1.004 OPS. Joining an Angels rotation that includes SPs Garrett Richards and Matt Shoemaker, Ohtani is expected to serve as the No. 1 guy in the rotation. Offensively, he’s joining former MVPs Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. Pujols has served as the team’s DH in the majority of the games he’s played over the last two years, but if Ohtani is in that role a couple games a week, that will force Pujols to play first base more often, which could hurt the team defensively as he will be 38 years old by Opening Day on March 29.

The other coveted player who was expected to be on the move this winter was Stanton. News came out Saturday morning that the Marlins reached an agreement in principle, pending physicals, to send the right fielder and approximately $30 million to the Yankees in exchange for 2B Starlin Castro and minor leaguers Jorge Guzman and Jose Devers. Stanton had a full no-trade clause so could choose where he wanted to go. He would not waive his no-trade clause to the Giants or Cardinals. His first choice was reportedly to go to the Dodgers, but they couldn’t agree to terms of a deal with the Marlins. The Yankees were reported to be second on Stanton’s wish list, and they were able to reach a deal with the Marlins’ new co-owner Derek Jeter.

Stanton hit .289 last season with a MLB-best 59 home runs and 132 RBI on the way to earning the first NL MVP  honors of his eight-year career. Over that time, he is a .268 hitter with 267 home runs and 672 RBI. He does have a history of missing time with injuries, however. He played in 159 games last season, the first time he surpassed 150 games played in his career; he played 119 in 2016 and just 74 in 2015. Going to the AL could help his durability as it gives him a chance to take a break from playing the field and settle in at DH some days, but the Yankees have other players who split time in that role.

Stanton joins a Yankees lineup that includes OF Aaron Judge, who hit 52 home runs in his rookie season in 2017, and C Gary Sanchez, who launched 33 homers in 122 games last season. There’s no question that the Yankees have power hitters in their lineup but also some guys who strike out a lot — including Judge who led  the majors in that category last season.

Other transactions that have been made since the conclusion of the World Series include the Diamondbacks trading for RP Brad Boxberger, the Mariners acquiring 1B Ryon Healy in a trade with the A’s, the Rangers signing Ps Doug Fister and Mike Minor, the Tigers signing P Mike Fiers and OF Leonys Martin and the Cubs inking P Tyler Chatwood. The Mariners also traded for 2B Dee Gordon and international signing money from the Marlins in a deal that was thought to help them land Ohtani, which of course didn’t come to pass.

The Winter Meetings, which is traditionally when a lot of signings and trades happen, begin in Orlando on Sunday and last through Thursday. Notable free agents still on the market include pitchers Yu Darvish, Wade Davis, Jake Arrieta, Greg Holland, Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb, Brandon Morrow, CC Sabathia, Jaime Garcia and position players J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Jay Bruce, Lorenzo Cain, Carlos Gonzalez, Jonathan Lucroy and Mitch Moreland.

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MLB Weekly: One more week

Teams are making a final playoff push as the last week of the regular season begins in this week’s MLB Weekly.

Next Sunday, October 1, is the final day of the MLB regular season, which means teams in the playoff picture have just a week left to either qualify for the postseason or improve their playoff seeding.

All but one of the playoff spots have been clinched in the American League, with just one Wild Card spot up for grabs. But playoff seeding is still left to be decided among the Indians, Astros, Red Sox and Yankees, who are the four teams who have guaranteed their spots in October baseball. The Indians and Astros have clinched the Central and West, respectively, but they are fighting for the top seed in the American League, which would guarantee home-field advantage in the ALDS, ALCS and possibly World Series. The Indians currently lead the Astros by 1.5 games for the best record in the AL.

The Red Sox currently lead the AL East, but the Yankees still mathematically have a slight chance to pass them in the division, sitting four games back entering Sunday. The Twins are in possession of the league’s second Wild Card and are 4.5 games ahead of the Rangers, Royals and Angels, who have slipped in the standings after losing six in a row. In both cases, that kind of lead is hard to make up with fewer than 10 games remaining on the schedule. The Rays and Mariners are also technically still alive but need a lot to go right for them to make it to the postseason.

AL standings

In the National League, there is more uncertainty. The Nationals and Dodgers have locked up the East and West, respectively, but the Central and the two Wild Cards still haven’t been clinched. The Cubs, who have won eight of their last 10 games, lead the Brewers by 4.5 games and appear to be headed to their second straight division title on the way to defending their World Series championship. The Brewers are more likely to make the postseason as a Wild Card rather than a division winner. They are one game out of landing one of the NL’s two Wild Card spots that are currently held by the Diamondbacks and Rockies. The Cardinals are also part of the four-team race for the NL Wild Cards, just 1.5 games behind the Rockies. Every other team in the National League has been mathematically eliminated from contention.

As far as the seeding goes, the Dodgers still hold the best record in the NL despite being just 7-16 in the month of September. They are 4.5 games better than the Nationals and, barring another extended losing streak like they had earlier this month, should be able to hold on to the No. 1 seed in the National League playoffs.

NL standings

The coming week is critical to teams like the Brewers and Cardinals still hoping to make it to October. In the National League, the Cardinals host the Cubs for a four-game series starting Monday that could give St. Louis a chance at closing the gap in the division race if they can win at least three games, and that would also help them stay alive in the Wild Card race. The Brewers have Monday off before playing three games at home against the Reds from Tuesday to Thursday. The Diamondbacks and Rockies begin the week hosting the Giants and Marlins, respectively, Monday through Wednesday before getting their final off-day on Thursday. Then for the final weekend of the season, the Brewers and Cardinals play each other in St. Louis, while the Rockies host the Dodgers — who likely will have the top seed wrapped up and may be resting some of their stars — and the Diamondbacks visit the Royals.

Probable pitchers are more in flux during the last week of the season than usual, depending on how all the playoff positioning works out as the week progresses, but here’s how it currently looks. The Diamondbacks have their three best starters slated to go against the Giants, with SPs Zack Godley, Robbie Ray and Zack Greinke set to take the mound on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. They likely could have the first Wild Card wrapped up by the time the series with Kansas City gets underway. The Rockies are set to have SPs Tyler Chatwood, Tyler Anderson and Jon Gray go against the Marlins, with SPs Chad Bettis and German Marquez currently scheduled to face the Dodgers. For the Brewers, SPs Zack Davies, Brandon Woodruff and Brent Suter are scheduled to start in the Reds series, with SPs Chase Anderson and Aaron Wilkerson penciled in for the Cardinals series. The Cardinals have SP Luke Weaver scheduled to begin the all-important Cubs series on Monday, followed by SPs Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha and Lance Lynn. SP John Gant is currently slated to begin the Brewers series, with Weaver then set for a second start in the seven-game week for the team.

The schedule for the American League contenders sees the Red Sox hosting the Blue Jays Monday through Wednesday, then the Astros come to Boston for the final four games of the regular season. Interestingly, those two teams could also play each other in one of the two American League Division Series. Before the Red Sox series, the Astros are on the road against the Rangers for three games starting Monday. After an off-day Monday, the Indians have six home games — three against the Twins and another three against the White Sox. After visiting the Indians, the Twins host the Tigers for their final series of the regular season. And the Yankees have a makeup game against the Royals in the Bronx on Monday, followed by three-game series against the Rays and Blue Jays at home as they look to overtake the Red Sox in the division.

The Red Sox have a mixed bag of starters set to go this week, starting the week with SPs Drew Pomeranz, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello scheduled to face the Blue Jays and SPs Eduardo Rodriguez, Doug Fister and Pomeranz again set to go against the Astros. Indians SPs Mike Clevinger, Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer are on tap to face the Twins with SPs Carlos Carrasco and Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber penciled in for the White Sox series, but if the Indians have the top seed locked up by then don’t be surprised to see that change. The Astros have set up their rotation to avoid having aces Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander pitch at Fenway Park, so they’ll take the mound against the Rangers, along with SP Collin McHugh, who’s slated to get a second start in Boston along with SPs Charlie Morton and Brad Peacock. The Twins have SPs Bartolo Colon, Adalberto Mejia and Kyle Gibson facing the Indians, with SPs Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios set to go against the Tigers. As the Yankees look to catch the Red Sox, they’ll send SPs CC Sabathia, Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka and Sonny Gray to the mound against the Rays, with SPs Jaime Garcia and, potentially, Sabathia facing the Blue Jays.

With all of that in mind, I don’t think the Brewers or Cardinals will be able to sneak into the playoffs and all of the teams that would make the playoffs if the season ended today will actually make the postseason when the season does end in a week.

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MLB Weekly: Trades, injuries highlight the week

Looking Back

Some big-name players were moved before the non-waiver trade deadline and more stars went on the DL in this week’s MLB Weekly.

The non-waiver trade deadline was on Monday afternoon, and there was a flurry of activity as contenders tried to improve for the playoff push and October baseball, while struggling teams did their best to build for the future. The Yankees focused on improving their pitching staff leading up to the deadline, trading for RPs David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle from the White Sox, as well as SP Jaime Garcia from the Twins — who acquired him from the Braves earlier in July — and A’s SP Sonny Gray, who was one of the most-sought-after players on the market. Adding Gray gives the Yankees a formidable top of the rotation of SP Luis Severino, SP Masahiro Tanaka and Gray, which would suit the Yankees well in the postseason, if they make it there and the starters are all pitching to expectations at the time. With the bullpen the Yankees have built up, the starters only have to pitch six innings and hand a lead over to the relievers, who should be able to hold the lead more often than not with the likes of RPs Dellin Betances, Robertson and Kahnle acting as a bridge to closer Aroldis Chapman.

With the trades the Yankees made, they seemingly closed the gap between themselves and the Astros, who hold the best record in the American League but only made one — relatively insignificant — trade. They made a deal with the Blue Jays to add RP Francisco Liriano as a lefty coming out of the bullpen. Liriano — who now has a 6.02 ERA entering Sunday after getting the loss in both of his appearances with the Astros — was a starter in Toronto. Given his lack of success this season, he isn’t much of an improvement for the Astros, who reportedly had a deal agreed to with the Orioles for RP Zach Britton before the deadline, but the deal was nixed by Orioles owner Peter Angelos. Britton would have been a nice addition for a bullpen that has been overworked in recent weeks due to injuries to SPs Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers, who went back on the DL with back discomfort shortly after the deadline passed. McCullers’ latest DL stint makes the lack of action by the Astros even more perplexing, given the fact that with injuries to and subpar performances from their rotation of late, the Astros pitching doesn’t look like it’ll be good enough for a deep playoff run.

Other AL contenders who made trades this week include the Red Sox acquiring RP Addison Reed from the Mets, the Royals getting OF Melky Cabrera from the White Sox and the Indians getting RP Joe Smith from the Blue Jays.

In the National League, the Dodgers have the best record in Major League Baseball, but they weren’t content to stick with what they had. Their big move was getting SP Yu Darvish from the Rangers, but they also added to the bullpen by getting RP Tony Watson from the Pirates and RP Tony Cingrani from the Reds. Adding Darvish to a rotation that includes SPs Clayton Kershaw — when he comes off the DL — and Alex Wood gives the Dodgers what could be the top starting rotation in the playoffs.

The other NL team that is virtually assured of making the playoffs also got help for what had been a very mediocre bullpen. In the last two weeks of July, the Nationals traded for RPs Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle — who has seemingly settled into the closer’s role — from the A’s and RP Brandon Kintzler from the Twins. They also added some outfield depth, acquiring OF Howie Kendrick from the Phillies.

Other trades made by NL contenders include the Cubs getting RP Justin Wilson and C Alex Avila from the Tigers, to go along with SP Jose Quintana, who they traded for during the All-Star break. The Diamondbacks added RP David Hernandez from the Angels and SS Adam Rosales from the A’s, and the Rockies got C Jonathan Lucroy from the Rangers, who also traded RP Jeremy Jeffress to the Brewers.

The biggest takeaways from the trade deadline are that the Yankees, Dodgers and Nationals positioned themselves for success in October, while the Astros allowed the rest of the AL contenders to close the gap that the Astros had built up in the first half of the season and make the AL postseason more open than it looked a few weeks ago.

More trades could be made before the end of the month for players who pass through waivers. The biggest name to look out for in an August trade could be Tigers SP Justin Verlander.

As has been the case virtually every week this season, some stars landed on the disabled list. Among the bigger names are Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia, who is out with left knee inflammation; Indians RP Andrew Miller, who is suffering from knee tendinitis; Tigers SP Michael Fulmer, with an elbow injury; Cubs SS Addison Russell, with a foot strain; Mariners SP Felix Hernandez, with bicep tendinitis; and Astros C Evan Gattis and Giants 1B Brandon Belt, both with concussion symptoms. It also appears that Royals C Salvador Perez will be placed on the DL Sunday with an intercostal strain.

Other injuries from this week include: Astros RP Michael Feliz (shoulder) and Tony Sipp (calf), Reds OF Scott Schebler (shoulder), Brewers C Jett Bandy (rib), Blue Jays C Miguel Montero (groin), Rockies SP Kyle Freeland (groin), Phillies OF Aaron Altherr (hamstring), and Yankees DH Matt Holliday (lumbar strain).

The Week Ahead

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Series to watch this week include a four-game interleague home-and-home between the Cardinals and Royals, with both teams looking to stay alive in the playoff race. They play in Kansas City Monday and Tuesday, then shift to St. Louis Wednesday and Thursday. It’s a similar setup for the Twins and Brewers, who play two in Minneapolis, followed by a couple in Milwaukee. The Red Sox visit the Rays for two games Tuesday and Wednesday in a series between AL East contenders, and the Diamondbacks host the Dodgers for three games starting Tuesday in a series between the top two teams in the NL West. Later in the week, the Red Sox head to the Bronx for a weekend series with the Yankees starting Friday. The Texas teams also have a three-game series over the weekend when the Rangers host the Astros. The Diamondbacks week of games against NL contenders continues Friday when the Cubs visit.

Some notable pitching performances to look for this week include Cubs SP Jake Arrieta looking to follow-up one of his best performances of the season with another good start against the Giants and SP Matt Moore. Red Sox SP Chris Sale, on the other hand, had one of his worst outings the last time he took the mound, but he’ll try to improve upon that Tuesday at the Rays, who are starting SP Austin Pruitt. Keuchel was charged with his first loss last week and he’s still looking for his first win since returning from the DL. He’ll look to get it Tuesday at SP Derek Holland and the White Sox. Astros SP Collin McHugh, who also came off the DL recently, is looking for his first win of the season Wednesday when he pitches against the White Sox, with SP Miguel Gonzalez on the mound. Darvish makes his second start for the Dodgers on Thursday, opposing the Diamondbacks. White Sox SP Reynaldo Lopez, one of the club’s top prospects, is slated to make his season debut on Friday at home, taking on the Royals.

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