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BREAKING: Michael Wacha lands on DL

MLB.com @JoeTrezz

MILWAUKEE -- The Cardinals placed right-handed pitcher Michael Wacha on the 10-day disabled list (left oblique strain) and recalled right-handed pitcher John Gant from Triple-A Memphis on Thursday.

Wacha, who exited Wednesday's game in the fourth inning, is leading the Cardinals in wins (8) and strikeouts (71) and in his 15 starts this season, he's posted a 3.20 ERA.

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MILWAUKEE -- The Cardinals placed right-handed pitcher Michael Wacha on the 10-day disabled list (left oblique strain) and recalled right-handed pitcher John Gant from Triple-A Memphis on Thursday.

Wacha, who exited Wednesday's game in the fourth inning, is leading the Cardinals in wins (8) and strikeouts (71) and in his 15 starts this season, he's posted a 3.20 ERA.

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Gant, 25, is being recalled for a third time this season. He's 5-1 with a 1.65 ERA in eight starts for Memphis this season, striking out 42 in 49 innings.

Wacha's start against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park came to an abrupt end on Wednesday when he walked off the mound in the fourth inning with the oblique injury. A velocity dip telegraphed that something was awry. Wacha then confirmed as much when pitching coach Mike Maddux visited him on the mound.

"I went out there to slow him down, and we got more than we bargained for," Maddux said after the club's 4-3 loss. "You could see his last few pitches were a little sloppy. ... He's been our horse, our bell cow. Oblique strains are not good."

Wacha has had previous seasons interrupted by shoulder troubles, but an oblique strain is a first. Wacha is hopeful that his absence will be measured in weeks, not months, but such injuries have been known to linger.

This becomes the latest test of the Cardinals' rotation depth. Veteran Adam Wainwright has been out since May with a right elbow injury. He's not expected to resume a throwing program for at least another two weeks. The club also doesn't have Alex Reyes as a rotation reinforcement, as a right shoulder injury ended his year after one appearance.

The setback also comes during what's been a challenging stretch for the team's starters. After anchoring the club early, the rotation is winless with a 6.55 ERA over the past seven games. It's been eight days since St. Louis had a starter finish six innings.

Things got complicated for Wacha in the fourth inning, which is when he started feeling some discomfort. After allowing a two-out homer to Cesar Hernandez, Wacha walked Rhys Hoskins on five pitches. That drew Maddux out for a mound visit. Manager Mike Matheny and athletic trainer Adam Olsen were summoned soon after.

"Whenever I first felt [the strain], I didn't really think too much of it," Wacha said. "I was still making pitches and getting outs. Then, toward the end of that inning, it kept getting gradually worse."

That was evidenced not just by Wacha's command, but also by his velocity. After averaging 93.4 mph on his four-seam fastball through the first three innings, he averaged 91.7 mph on that pitch in his final inning.

Gant, who has made three fill-in starts this season, will likely provide the Cards with bullpen coverage until June 25, the next time they will need a starter.

Gant could be a candidate to start that game if he does not pitch in the days to come, though the club has considered promoting Dakota Hudson -- its No. 3 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline -- for that start, and possibly a more permanent place in the rotation. Right-hander Daniel Poncedeleon is another option.

Of the three, Hudson would be the only one who would need to be added to the 40-man roster, though the Cardinals have some flexibility there with Alex Reyes and Ryan Sherriff not yet on the 60-day DL. Hudson is also by far the most polished prospect.

While Gant and Poncedeleon have both pitched well at Memphis this season, Hudson was in the midst of a particularly sensational run. The 23-year-old paces the hitter-happy Pacific Coast League in wins (9) and ERA (2.13), while also ranking among the league leaders in innings and WHIP (1.33). A sinkerballer with a plus slider, Hudson has allowed one home run across 80 1/3 innings this season.

Gant is 1-2 with a 4.74 ERA across seven appearances in the Majors this season, and 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA in three starts.

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York.

St. Louis Cardinals, Michael Wacha

Judge, Andujar homer, but Stanton robbed in 1st

MLB.com @BryanHoch

NEW YORK -- Fifteen hours after Giancarlo Stanton claimed a share of the Yankees' home run lead with the first walk-off blast of his pinstriped career, Aaron Judge pushed ahead of his slugging teammate with a two-run homer in the first inning on Thursday afternoon.

Judge's 19th homer, a two-run shot off Mariners left-hander James Paxton, came on a full-count 95.8-mph fastball. It rocketed off of Judge's bat at 107.8 mph, and it traveled 382 feet over the wall in right-center field, according to Statcast™.

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NEW YORK -- Fifteen hours after Giancarlo Stanton claimed a share of the Yankees' home run lead with the first walk-off blast of his pinstriped career, Aaron Judge pushed ahead of his slugging teammate with a two-run homer in the first inning on Thursday afternoon.

Judge's 19th homer, a two-run shot off Mariners left-hander James Paxton, came on a full-count 95.8-mph fastball. It rocketed off of Judge's bat at 107.8 mph, and it traveled 382 feet over the wall in right-center field, according to Statcast™.

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Stanton made a bid to even the competition two pitches later, crushing a 96.4-mph heater to deep center field, where Mitch Haniger brought the drive in with a leaping catch.

Video: SEA@NYY: Haniger leaps to rob Stanton of a home run

Balls hit with Stanton's exit velocity and launch angle combination of 108.6 mph and 29 degrees were homers 41 times out of 41 from 2015-17; thanks to Haniger, it went as a loud out.

Miguel Andujar extended the Yankees' lead to 4-0 later in the inning, slugging a two-run drive to right field. It came on a 93.4-mph fastball, and it was Andujar's 10th homer, making him the seventh Yankee to reach double digits in that department this season.

Video: SEA@NYY: Andujar drills a 2-run shot to right field

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Andujar is the fifth Yankees rookie to hit 10 homers before the All-Star break; Judge hit 30 in last season, Torres has 14 this season, Joe DiMaggio hit 11 in 1936 and Nick Johnson cracked 11 in 2002). Andujar and Torres are the first Yanks rookies to accomplish the feat in the same season.

The Yankees entered play on Thursday on pace to hit 274 homers in 162 games, which would break the 1997 Mariners' record of 264.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.

New York Yankees, Miguel Andujar, Mitch Haniger, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton

Mookie heating up, ropes opposite-field homer

MLB.com @IanMBrowne

MINNEAPOLIS -- Now that Mookie Betts is starting to heat up again, perhaps the Red Sox's offense will follow suit.

Betts hammered an opposite-field solo homer to right in the fifth inning on Thursday afternoon to give the Red Sox a 2-0 lead against the Twins.

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MINNEAPOLIS -- Now that Mookie Betts is starting to heat up again, perhaps the Red Sox's offense will follow suit.

Betts hammered an opposite-field solo homer to right in the fifth inning on Thursday afternoon to give the Red Sox a 2-0 lead against the Twins.

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It was the 19th homer of the season for Betts, and second in 34 at-bats since coming off the disabled list.

In an encouraging development, Thursday was the second straight multihit game for Betts.

Prior to Thursday's contest, Betts slashed .226/.351/.323 with one RBI in his first eight games back from the left abdominal strain that kept him out of action from May 27 to June 10.

Betts is Boston's most dynamic player, so it shouldn't be viewed as a coincidence that the offense had slumped along with him of late.

In four of the six games that preceded Thursday, Boston had scored two runs or fewer.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, Mookie Betts

Hot market for hot corner: Machado leads buzz

MLB.com @jonmorosi

How intriguing is the trade market for third basemen right now?

Consider this: The Indians have the best production at the position in the Majors this year, thanks to Jose Ramirez's historic season. With 22 home runs, he is on pace to eclipse Adrian Beltre's single-season Major League record (48) among third basemen 25 and younger.

How intriguing is the trade market for third basemen right now?

Consider this: The Indians have the best production at the position in the Majors this year, thanks to Jose Ramirez's historic season. With 22 home runs, he is on pace to eclipse Adrian Beltre's single-season Major League record (48) among third basemen 25 and younger.

More Trade Talk

Yet the Tribe is among the teams considering the acquisition of a third baseman.

How is that possible? Well, if the Indians land Manny Machado, Ramirez can move across the diamond to second base -- his best defensive position, and where Jason Kipnis has a .610 OPS this season.

Machado has a trade market unto himself, because of his power (18 home runs, .925 OPS) and defensive versatility. The Orioles' three-time All-Star is the best player available at both third base and shortstop. If the O's act decisively in their trade conversations, they'll draw multiple compelling offers for Machado; if they wait until shortly before the non-waiver Trade Deadline to establish a clear direction, they could stifle the activity on third basemen around the Majors.

The D-backs' interest in Machado goes back to last offseason, and sources told MLB.com this week the sides have been in contact about a possible trade at least once since Opening Day. The Braves have yet to seriously pursue Machado, but they have the prospects to entice the Orioles. Atlanta also leads the National League East and has shown no sign of fading, giving new general manager Alex Anthopoulos plenty of motivation to make the sort of bold moves for which he was known in Toronto.

Along with Machado, one future Hall of Famer (Beltre) and two recent All-Stars (Mike Moustakas and Josh Donaldson) are available at third base. All four are free agents after the season, increasing the chances that trades will occur.

Beltre has a full no-trade clause, and it remains unclear if he'd waive it for the chance to play on a contender. Beltre, 39, has yet to win a World Series ring. A trade in the coming weeks could represent his last chance at one.

Crucially, Beltre is playing well enough that teams are interested. He's batting .302 and is revered for his clubhouse influence. At least some within the Indians organization would like to acquire Beltre, particularly given his history playing for Cleveland manager Terry Francona during his one season in Boston.

The Phillies also have interest in Beltre, sources say, as much for his professionalism as his production. The Phils have the youngest group of position players in the Majors, and team officials see long-term value in Beltre's influence on an emerging core. Plus, the recent injury to J.P. Crawford has opened up more at-bats on the infield.

Moustakas isn't on track to equal last year's Royals record-setting home run pace, but his OPS+ is nearly identical to where it was in 2017. Improved health also has allowed Moustakas to return to his high defensive standard, according to Kansas City manager Ned Yost. Moustakas is a 2015 World Series champion who is regarded as an excellent teammate and is on a priced-to-move team-friendly contract. Especially after the Royals traded reliever Kelvin Herrera and outfielder Jon Jay, it will be a major surprise if Moustakas isn't dealt. 

Donaldson is a different case: His lack of playing time due to multiple injuries (only 36 games this year) is creating uncertainty in the minds of suitors about the 2015 American League MVP Award winner. Teams will want to see Donaldson play every day for multiple weeks before investing prospects and money in acquiring him, and he's running out of time to do so.

In fact, it's possible that Donaldson could clear August trade waivers if he's still on the disabled list then, by virtue of his $23 million salary. As a result, we still could be two months away from a Donaldson trade.

One more name to monitor: Matt Duffy of Tampa Bay. While there hasn't been much national buzz surrounding his season, Duffy is having a career offensive year. He also is in his salary arbitration years. Given the Rays' precedent, they'll be open-minded if a strong offer comes.

This season, though, Tampa Bay may find the supply of third basemen is simply too great to receive the right return for Duffy. At the 2018 Trade Deadline, there's no corner of the market quite like this.

Jon Paul Morosi is a reporter for MLB.com and MLB Network

Adrian Beltre, Josh Donaldson, Manny Machado, Mike Moustakas

On eve of 1,000th game, Trout remains peerless

MLB.com @mi_guardado

ANAHEIM -- On Thursday night, Mike Trout will play the 1,000th game of his brilliant MLB career. Since debuting with the Angels in 2011 at 19 years old, Trout has crafted one of the greatest peaks in baseball history -- and he's still finding ways to get better.

The 26-year-old center fielder is in the midst of his best season to date, leading the Majors in home runs (23), walks (64), runs scored (60), OPS (1.158) and WAR (6.6). The next-highest MLB player on the 2018 WAR leaderboard is the Mets' Jacob deGrom at 4.8.

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ANAHEIM -- On Thursday night, Mike Trout will play the 1,000th game of his brilliant MLB career. Since debuting with the Angels in 2011 at 19 years old, Trout has crafted one of the greatest peaks in baseball history -- and he's still finding ways to get better.

The 26-year-old center fielder is in the midst of his best season to date, leading the Majors in home runs (23), walks (64), runs scored (60), OPS (1.158) and WAR (6.6). The next-highest MLB player on the 2018 WAR leaderboard is the Mets' Jacob deGrom at 4.8.

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"This is not an easy game, and this guy makes it look easier and easier every year," Halos right fielder Kole Calhoun said. "It's a special talent that we're not going to see too many times, so enjoy it now."

Video: TEX@LAA: Trout belts 19th HR, triples, swipes base

Trout's greatness becomes even more discernible when you take a look at what he's done cumulatively so far and where that places him within the greater context of baseball history. Through his first 999 games, he is slashing .308/.414/.574 with 224 home runs and 178 stolen bases. Trout is the first player to hit 200 home runs and steal 175 bases before his age-27 season.

Trout has more home runs and walks (635) than all-time leader Barry Bonds (172 home runs, 603 walks) did through his first 1,000 games. Since 1960, only four players have debuted with a higher OPS than his .989 through their first 1,000 games: Frank Thomas (1.055), Todd Helton (1.041 OPS), Albert Pujols (1.040) and Manny Ramirez (1.006).

No metric better encapsulates Trout's all-around dominance than WAR, though. According to Baseball Reference, his 60.8 career WAR ranks 10th among active players, one spot ahead of Ichiro Suzuki (59.3), a future Hall of Famer who has 1,652 more MLB games under his belt than Trout.

In fact, Trout has already amassed a higher career WAR than 69 Hall of Fame position players, including Harmon Killebrew (60.4), Mike Piazza (59.6), Yogi Berra (59.4) and Vladimir Guerrero (59.4).

Only two players have a higher WAR through their age-26 seasons than Trout: Ty Cobb (63.4) and Mickey Mantle (61.4).

Video: TEX@LAA: Trout makes the catch and runs into the wall

Last year, Trout surpassed left-hander Chuck Finley (52.1) to become the most valuable player in Angels history, as measured by WAR. Finley, a five-time All-Star, pitched for 17 seasons in the Majors; Trout is in only his seventh full big league season. On the franchise leaderboard, Trout ranks fourth in home runs, eighth in hits, third in steals and fourth in walks.

The summits figure to only grow in prestige as Trout continues his unprecedented climb in the months and years to come.

"You always thought Mike had the potential to do what he's done so far in his career, and he just keeps going," Halos manager Mike Scioscia said. "You see a lot of talented guys come up, but Mike is one of those guys that's coming up here and certainly doing what he's capable of doing. It turns out to be some very special things."

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Los Angeles Angels, Mike Trout

A case for Realmuto as MLB's best catcher

Leads catchers in pop time, caught stealing, wRC+ and WAR
MLB.com @mike_petriello

Last year, we crowned Miami's J.T. Realmuto as baseball's "most athletic catcher," thanks to a combination of Statcast-based metrics that showcased his speed on the bases and skill behind the plate.

A year later, it's becoming clear that title might not have been enough. What if Realmuto is simply 2018's best all-around catcher? He may not have the name recognition of Buster Posey or Yadier Molina, but it's actually an easier case to make than you might think. Let's count down all the things Realmuto is shining at, shall we?

Last year, we crowned Miami's J.T. Realmuto as baseball's "most athletic catcher," thanks to a combination of Statcast-based metrics that showcased his speed on the bases and skill behind the plate.

A year later, it's becoming clear that title might not have been enough. What if Realmuto is simply 2018's best all-around catcher? He may not have the name recognition of Buster Posey or Yadier Molina, but it's actually an easier case to make than you might think. Let's count down all the things Realmuto is shining at, shall we?

It matters that Realmuto has been baseball's best hitting catcher this year (he has) and that he's baseball's fastest catcher (he is), and we'll get to those. Let's start with what's happening behind the plate, about how he's been cutting down opposing baserunners, since that's what people think of when they think of catchers. Let's start with pop time.

Realmuto has the fastest pop time and the best caught-stealing percentage.
There's a lot that goes into being a good catcher. Some of it we can quantify very well, and some of it, like calling pitches or handling pitchers, we can't. (Realmuto is "the leader of the team ... the leader of the staff, the hitters," said Marlins reliever Kyle Barraclough. "Not much more I can say.")

One of the things we can measure very well is pop time, which is simultaneously very new and extremely traditional. It's only been available publicly via Statcast™ leaderboards for about a year, but it's something scouts have been hand measuring with stopwatches for decades. It's intended to express how quickly a catcher gets the ball out of his glove (referring to the "pop" of the pitch hitting his mitt) to the infielder receiving the throw on a steal attempt (another "pop" of the throw reaching the fielder), though it's technically measured to the midpoint of the intended base.

It's a combination of two things, really: "How fast can you get the ball out of your glove?" which we call "exchange"; and "How fast can you throw it to the base?" -- which we express as "arm strength." This doesn't capture every facet of preventing steals (like throw accuracy, for example), but it's a good way to measure skills.

Among catchers who have faced five steal attempts of second base, Realmuto has 2018's fastest pop time, at 1.86 seconds, well below the Major League average of 2.01 seconds. While he's been above average from the day he arrived in the big leagues, he's actually gotten faster, dropping from 1.92 seconds in 2015 to 1.91 in '16 to 1.90 last year, then to 1.86 this season. Since '15, Realmuto is tied with Austin Hedges for first among those with 50 steal attempts, at 1.91. He's been in the top two every year.

Of catchers with at least 20 steals attempted against them, Realmuto has the best caught stealing percentage at 44 percent. We know that a catcher is not entirely responsible for that -- a pitcher's ability, or lack thereof, in holding a runner on plays a big part -- but we also learned last year that 0.1 seconds of pop time changes the caught stealing rate by 10 percentage points, so it matters.

So how does a catcher get to be good in pop time? You can have a cannon of an arm like the Phillies' Jorge Alfaro, who leads the Majors with a 90.4-mph average on his throws. You can have an elite exchange time like Welington Castillo of the White Sox, who got rid of the ball in just six-tenths of a second. Or you can be Realmuto, who's good at both. He's got the third-best arm strength, 87.6 mph, behind only Alfaro and Martin Maldonado. He's got the third-best exchange time too, at 0.68 seconds, behind Castillo and Carlos Perez.

Thanks to that combination, Realmuto has three of the five fastest individual pop times to catch a runner at second base this year, led by this 1.76-second laser to catch Amed Rosario on May 23.

Video: MIA@NYM: J.T. Realmuto throws out Amed Rosario

Realmuto has been baseball's best hitting catcher.
In 2016-17, Realmuto (.290/.337/.440) was the fifth-best hitting catcher among the 17 who had at least 750 plate appearances. This year (.300/.358/.531), he's been the best of the 14 catchers with at least 200 plate appearances so far. It's not that Realmuto has changed his strikeout or walk rates, because they've stayed similar to his past years. It's that he's hitting the ball much harder, and he's hitting it off the ground.

Realmuto's hard-hit rate has hovered in the 34-35 percent range for each of the past three years. This year, that's up over 43 percent, similar to Francisco Lindor or Jose Ramirez. He's also cut his ground-ball rate from 49 percent to 43 percent, allowing him to take more advantage of that power.

Video: MIA@BAL: Realmuto belts 2 homers, notches 4 RBIs

We can't guarantee that Realmuto will outhit Posey, Gary Sanchez, Yasmani Grandal and the rest all year. But he has so far.

Realmuto is baseball's fastest catcher.
"I've always been fast, from playing football, basketball," Realmuto said last year. "It didn't matter, whatever sport I was playing, I was always running. I tried to do my best to keep my athleticism with where it's at."

We have four years of data in Statcast™'s speed metric, Sprint Speed, and Realmuto has been the fastest catcher every year. This year, his average top speed has been faster than Yasiel Puig, Mookie Betts or Albert Almora Jr. While he stole 20 bases over the past two years, this speaks more to his overall athleticism than anything else.

Realmuto may be baseball's best all-around catcher.
Putting it all together, Realmuto leads all catchers in two very different versions of Wins Above Replacement. He's No. 1 at FanGraphs, just ahead of Francisco Cervelli, in a version of WAR that does not account for pitch framing. Realmuto is No. 1 at Baseball Prospectus, just ahead of Grandal, in a version that does. (While he's never been considered an elite framer, he was solidly above average last year, 13th, at plus-nine runs.)

So is Realmuto baseball's best catcher? It helps him that it's been a down year for backstops, that Salvador Perez, Molina and Tyler Flowers have been injured, that Sanchez has struggled, that Posey is now 31 and Russell Martin is 35.

But Realmuto will almost certainly represent the Marlins in the All-Star Game, and he's got a strong case to be the National League's starter, even though he's unlikely to win the vote. He's a pop time star, and he's good at almost everything. Realmuto is almost certainly the best catcher that not enough people know about.

Mike Petriello is an analyst for MLB.com and the host of the Statcast podcast.

Miami Marlins, J.T. Realmuto

MLB Buzz: Will Mets deal their 2 aces?

MLB.com

As the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches, we'll keep you up to date with the latest news, buzz, rumors and more.

Mets more likely to trade Wheeler than deGrom, Syndergaard?
June 21: The Mets have been calling around to gauge other teams' trade interest in their players, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman in an article for FanRag Sports.

As the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches, we'll keep you up to date with the latest news, buzz, rumors and more.

Mets more likely to trade Wheeler than deGrom, Syndergaard?
June 21: The Mets have been calling around to gauge other teams' trade interest in their players, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman in an article for FanRag Sports.

While rivals are dubious the Mets will trade either Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard, the club is finding interest in Zack Wheeler, per Heyman. Meanwhile, there hasn't been much chatter yet regarding Steven Matz.

MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported Monday that the Mets are "open for business" as it relates to prospective trade offers ahead of the non-waiver Trade Deadline.

• Non-waiver Trade Deadline explained

However, it will likely take a major haul to acquire either deGrom or Syndergaard. A Mets source told Heyman the club would need to get Gleyber Torres back to trade deGrom to the Yankees, which provides a sense of the asking price the club has placed on the ace. Of course, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has already nixed the idea of trading Torres, joking that he still has to "walk around this city."

Wheeler will surely cost teams less than it would take to acquire deGrom or Syndergaard. The righty owns a 4.82 ERA this season and has an extensive injury history, but his FIP is a promising 3.80. He was also hitting 99 mph with his four-seam fastball in his most recent start on June 17 against the D-backs.

Padres a potential trade suitor for Machado?
June 21: The list of potential trade destinations for Orioles shortstop Manny Machado could surprisingly include San Diego, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman in an article for FanRag Sports.

The Padres have certainly shown a willingness to make bold moves during general manager A.J. Preller's tenure, trading for Justin Upton, Matt Kemp and Craig Kimbrel prior to the 2015 season and signing Eric Hosmer to a club-record $144 million, eight-year contract in February 2018. And with the No. 1 farm system in baseball, per MLB Pipeline's preseason rankings, the Padres certainly have a prospect group that will entice the Orioles.

Video: Morosi discusses Machado trade possibilities and more

A trade between the Padres and Orioles remains unlikely, however, as San Diego is in last place in the National League West and would have little chance of re-signing Machado after this season, given their sizable commitment to Hosmer and Machado's preference to remain at shortstop long term. San Diego's top prospect is shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr.

Per Heyman, a Padres source downplayed the possibility of a Machado deal and said the club is simply doing its "due diligence."

Phillies a potential landing spot for Beltre
June 21: With J.P. Crawford set to miss 4-6 weeks due to a fractured left hand and both Maikel Franco and Scott Kingery carrying sub-.700 OPS marks, the Phillies will likely look to acquire a veteran to upgrade the left side of their infield, according to MLB Network insider Jon Paul Morosi.

While the Phillies have long been linked to the Orioles' Manny Machado, Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre is another option the club could pursue, per Morosi.

Morosi: Hot market for hot corner

Beltre will be a free agent after this season, making him a prime candidate to be moved by the Rangers, who are in last place in the American League West and sit 15 games behind in the race for the second Wild Card spot.

Video: Phillies GM Klentak talks bullpen, Trade Deadline

Beltre has spent substantial time on the disabled list with various leg injuries over the past two years, but he remains a productive hitter. Over 45 games this season, the 39-year-old owns a .302/.357/.428 slash line.

And while the Rangers have used Beltre as the designated hitter more often lately, the five-time Gold Glove Award winner can still handle himself at the hot corner. In 32 games at third base this season, Beltre has recorded three defensive runs saved.

Of course, Beltre has a full no-trade clause, and it remains to be seen if he'll waive it to join a contender.

Red Sox looking to upgrade bullpen; Hand an option?
June 20: The Red Sox are interested in bolstering their relief corps, according to MLB Network insider Jon Paul Morosi, and Padres closer Brad Hand may be a target for the club.

However, San Diego's asking price for Hand could be prohibitive. Per Morosi, the Padres are expected to seek a young everyday player, such as Rafael Devers, in exchange for the left-hander.

Hand, who has a National League-leading 21 saves with a 2.43 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP this season, is signed through 2020 with a team option for 2021, so the Padres are in no rush to deal him.

Boston has the sixth-best bullpen ERA (3.17) in the Majors, but the club's 'pen lacks depth with Carson Smith out for the season following shoulder surgery and Steven Wright currently starting in place of the injured Drew Pomeranz (left biceps tendinitis).

Video: DeRo discusses his Top 5 trade candidates

O's, D-backs have talked Machado trade
June 19: The Orioles and D-backs have engaged in discussions regarding a potential trade for Manny Machado, according to MLB Network insider Jon Paul Morosi, and dialogue remains open between the two clubs.

Morosi described the trade talks as "due diligence on Arizona's part as the team's needs become clear." The two clubs also reportedly discussed a Machado trade this past offseason. Arizona currently holds the top spot in the National League West, but the second-place Dodgers narrowed the gap when they defeated the Cubs in Game 1 of a doubleheader Tuesday afternoon.

It's unclear whether the D-backs are interested in acquiring Machado to play shortstop or third base.

The 25-year-old would be an offensive upgrade over starting third baseman Jake Lamb and shortstop Nick Ahmed, as he's hitting .310 with 18 homers, 53 RBIs and a .945 OPS over 69 games for the Orioles in 2018 and owns a lifetime 118 wRC+.

But Machado has struggled defensively in his first season as the O's primary shortstop, recording -15 defensive runs saved (DRS). Ahmed, meanwhile, has notched six DRS. Machado has proven to be a stellar defender at the hot corner in the past, posting 81 DRS as a third baseman during his career and winning two AL Gold Glove Awards at the position.

Video: MLB Tonight on the D-backs' interest in Machado

Are Mets 'open for business?'
June 18: The Mets are reportedly "open for business" as it relates to prospective trade offers ahead of the non-waiver Trade Deadline, including on ace Jacob deGrom, according to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal. The club would be more inclined to move Noah Syndergaard, per Rosenthal, but it might be inclined to part with deGrom given the right return.

deGrom would cost a "boatload" in return, one source told Rosenthal, and likely for a combination of Major League talent as well as highly touted prospects, which perhaps only a handful of clubs could fulfill. deGrom has two years of arbitration eligibility remaining before he becomes a free agent, while Syndergaard wouldn't hit the market until after the 2021 season.

deGrom is firmly in the mix for the National League Cy Young Award, with the Majors' best ERA (1.55) over 87 1/3 innings in 14 starts. He's currently on pace for career bests in strikeout rate (32.8 percent), opposing batting average (.206) and WHIP (1.01), as he's one of the few glimmering spotlights for a Mets team that tumbled out of first place in early May. The right-hander did avoid a significant injury scare nearly seven weeks ago when he hyperextended his pitching elbow on an awkward swing, landing on the 10-day disabled list.

Syndergaard hasn't pitched since May 25 due to a strained ligament on his right index finger. The high-velocity right-hander missed nearly the entire 2017 season due to a partial tear in his right lat. Over 11 starts this year, Syndergaard is 4-1 with a 3.06 ERA.

Monday's report surfaced less than two weeks after general manager Sandy Alderson called the liklelihood of a teardown "very remote" in an interview with USA Today.

"Just because you tear it down doesn't mean you're going to have a great rebuild. It doesn't work that way. It just doesn't," Alderson said at the time.

In Rosenthal's report, he indicates that the club would ideally like to retain most of its controllable nucleus -- shortstop Amed Rosario, outfielders Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto and right-handers Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman -- but those chips are likely the most coveted by other clubs.

Yanks, M's looking to acquire Happ
June 18: As the Yankees and Mariners have emerged as true contenders in the American League pennant race, so, too, have their roster voids -- specifically within their starting rotations. Both clubs are believed to be in the market for an available arm over the next six weeks, and MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reported on Monday that each is interested in Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ.

In the midst of an All-Star-caliber season, Happ has a 3.48 ERA over 82 2/3 innings in 14 starts. He is in the final year of a three-year, $36 million contract, and due to his lingering free agency, he might not be as costly a return in what is shaping up to be a thin trade market for starters.

Both Seattle and New York have gotten above-average production from their starting staffs, though each has shown signs of vulnerability.

Video: Morosi on potential trade fits for J.A. Happ

Beyond AL Cy Young Award candidate Luis Severino, the Yankees have gotten inconsistent results from Sonny Gray and Masahiro Tanaka, Jordan Montgomery was lost for the season because of Tommy John surgery and Domingo German hasn't yet exhibited enough to warrant the fifth spot for good. CC Sabathia has been reliable, when healthy. To complement their elite offense and lights-out bullpen, the Yankees have long been speculated to retool their rotation ahead of the Deadline.

Morosi noted that the Yankees might have more incentive to go after a lefty given that the division-rival Red Sox have an MLB-best .813 OPS against righties but only a .672 mark against southpaws. In addition to their 13 regular-season meetings remaining, there's a strong chance the Yankees could go through Boston in the postseason.

The Mariners' rotation has also proven to be top heavy, with arguably the AL's best starter in James Paxton. However, No. 2 starter Felix Hernandez has struggled to a career-worst 5.44 ERA, and he has given up five or more earned runs in five of his 15 starts. No. 5 starter Wade LeBlanc has been a pleasant surprise, but at 33 years old, there have been questions about his sustainability.

In a loaded AL East, Toronto entered 2018 with its most realistic avenue to the postseason via an AL Wild Card berth, but it entered Monday 12 1/2 games back of the second AL's spot. The Jays are 32-38 despite winning seven of their last 10, including sweeps of the Nationals and Orioles.

Giants going after Harper?
June 14: The Giants lost out on the Giancarlo Stanton sweepstakes in the offseason, despite being perhaps the most aggressive in pursuing the National League MVP Award winner via a trade from the Marlins. The Giants wound up filling out their lineup elsewhere -- trading for Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria -- but they may not be out of the market in acquiring a power-hitting corner outfielder, as MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported recently that they could be a "main player" for Bryce Harper in free agency.

"They do make some sense," a friend of Harper's told Heyman.

Harper has been speculated to land a potentially historic deal, though the Giants were believed to be willing to take on the entire $295 million remaining on Stanton's contract. And general manager Bobby Evans has made it clear the club doesn't intend to rebuild in the immediate future despite a depleted farm system.

"We're going to be focused in the market as much as anybody ... the trade market as we get to the winter," Evans said in a recent interview with MLB Network Radio. "But that's so far ahead of us now. But yeah, there's always an eye on the free-agent market."

McCutchen will be a free agent this offseason, and 35-year-old left fielder Hunter Pence has struggled to stay healthy and remain productive, hitting .183/.236/.207 in 30 games. The Giants appear to be all-in on the immediate, and pursuing Harper would certainly fit that strategic mold.

Archer likely to be moved
June 13: This is far from the first time that the Chris Archer has been floated as a trade candidate, but a rival executive told MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal that he believes that a seller's market this year will make the Rays likely to move Archer before the Trade Deadline.

Archer is a two-time All-Star with a 3.67 ERA in his seven seasons in the Majors, but his current injury and struggles this year might affect his trade value -- he has a 4.24 ERA in 13 starts and is on the disabled list with a left abdominal strain without a definite timetable for his return. And Rosenthal reports that the Rays don't like the thought of trading the 29-year-old due to his team-friendly contract.

Archer could be under club control through 2021, with one year remaining on his contract plus two more years of club options. That makes him different than, for example, David Price, who was only under team control when the Rays traded him, or Evan Longoria, who had a much larger contract.

Hamels might want trade partner to pick up option
June 13: Cole Hamels has been one of the most prominent names in early-season trade buzz -- most notably as a potential trade target for the Yankees, who for all their success so far are in need of starting rotation depth. The Rangers have struggled this season, but Hamels has a 3.86 ERA and 79 strikeouts in his 13 starts.

But the veteran left-hander has a 20-team no-trade list, and a source told Rosenthal that even though Hamels recently called that protection "kind of a formality," he could still use it as leverage to ask a trade partner from that list to pick up his $20 million option for 2019. That makes sense for the 34-year-old, as the alternative to picking up his option is a $6 million buyout that would leave him facing the uncertainty of free agency in his mid-30s.

MLB.com's Jon Morosi has reported that the teams not on Hamels' no-trade list are the Astros, Braves, Cardinals, Cubs, Mariners, Nationals, Phillies, Rays and Royals.

Per Rosenthal, Hamels could be a difficult fit for a team trying to remain under the luxury tax threshold, as he'll still be owed close to $8 million at the Trade Deadline, unless the Rangers include significant cash in a deal.

24 hours of games underway in Alaska

Summer solstice brings 113th Midnight Sun Game to Fairbanks
MLB.com

Major League Baseball is celebrating the 113th Midnight Sun Game today by organizing an unprecedented 24 Hours of Play Ball events around this year's game in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Throughout the 24-hour period of daylight during summer solstice, MLB and its partners -- the American Legion, PONY Baseball and Softball, USA Baseball and USA Softball -- are hosting a number of baseball and softball activities for both adults and kids.

Major League Baseball is celebrating the 113th Midnight Sun Game today by organizing an unprecedented 24 Hours of Play Ball events around this year's game in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Throughout the 24-hour period of daylight during summer solstice, MLB and its partners -- the American Legion, PONY Baseball and Softball, USA Baseball and USA Softball -- are hosting a number of baseball and softball activities for both adults and kids.

During the "Open Session" Play Ball events, approximately 600 youth players, ages 6 to 12, will run through informal baseball and softball stations. The day's other activities include games featuring baseball and softball organizations -- including the Armed Forces Softball League, American Legion, Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) and USA Baseball and USA Softball -- which culminates with the Midnight Sun Game.

The main event is between collegiate summer baseball teams, the Alaska Goldpanners and the Orange County Surf at Fairbanks' Growden Park. It's scheduled to begin at 10 p.m. local time and does not use any artificial light. The Midnight Sun Game was first played in 1906 and has been hosted annually by the Goldpanners since 1960, their first year of competition.

Billy Bean, a former big leaguer and MLB's vice president and special assistant to the Commissioner, will be in attendance. Bean was named the Goldpanners' Most Valuable Player in 1985.

Check back throughout the day for updates on this one-of-a-kind event.

Fairbanks, June 21 -- 9 a.m
Based here in Alaska, these men and women serve our country in the Air Force and Army. Today, we salute them as they take the diamond.

Fairbanks, June 21 -- 8 a.m.
Little League is serious business up in Alaska. With limited months to play the game outside, two teams from the Anchorage Boys & Girls Club made the eight-hour bus trek up to Fairbanks to play with local PONY and RBI teams to celebrate a full day of sunlight. That's Fairbanks in red, with Anchorage in blue.

 

Fairbanks, June 21 -- 1:00 a.m.
How's this for a baseball sky at one o'clock in the morning?

Fairbanks, June 21 -- 12:01 a.m.
The first of many pitches on the day is thrown as American Legion Post 30 faces American Legion Post 11 in Game 1 of 24 Hours of Play Ball.

Video: Riccobono excited for 24 Hours of Play Ball in Alaska

Fairbanks, June 20 -- 11:56 p.m.
Bean, Rick Riccobono (chief development officer, USA Baseball) and David James (vice president, baseball and softball development, Major League Baseball) throw out the first pitch to begin the 24 hours of Play Ball in Fairbanks, Alaska in celebration of the summer solstice.

Shannon Ford is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @Shannon__Ford.

Who might be this year's Andrew Miller?

Every October, the postseason starts and, with the biggest games of the year on the line, relievers you may have missed emerge to shock and surprise. Last year saw Chad Green and Brad Peacock break out. The year before, Andrew Miller re-established the fireman role.

So, who are the middle-innings hurlers who will make or break the pennant race this year? Here are nine to know.

Trout or Altuve? Maybe there's room for both

MLB.com @MikeLupica

As historic and wonderful and wonderfully watchable as Mike Trout is, we have seen baseball models like this before, all the way back to the young Mickey Mantle. One of these years -- maybe this year -- Trout might produce numbers across the board like Mantle did in 1956, when he won the first of his three American League MVP Awards, hit 52 homers, had 130 RBIs, scored 132 runs, had an OPS of 1.169, batted .353 and looked as if he were on his way to being the best all-around baseball player who had ever lived -- even playing in the same generation and same city at the time as Willie Mays.

You look at Trout, the way he looks on a baseball field, and of course you make comparisons to the young Mantle. The 1956 Mickey was 25. Trout is just 26. So his model, in so many exciting ways, fits that model.

As historic and wonderful and wonderfully watchable as Mike Trout is, we have seen baseball models like this before, all the way back to the young Mickey Mantle. One of these years -- maybe this year -- Trout might produce numbers across the board like Mantle did in 1956, when he won the first of his three American League MVP Awards, hit 52 homers, had 130 RBIs, scored 132 runs, had an OPS of 1.169, batted .353 and looked as if he were on his way to being the best all-around baseball player who had ever lived -- even playing in the same generation and same city at the time as Willie Mays.

You look at Trout, the way he looks on a baseball field, and of course you make comparisons to the young Mantle. The 1956 Mickey was 25. Trout is just 26. So his model, in so many exciting ways, fits that model.

But we've never seen anybody quite like the 5-foot-6 Jose Altuve.

Nope. Never seen anybody like Altuve, and that means even if you throw him into the same baseball conversation with the great Joe Morgan, also a second baseman, a guy who played his way to Cooperstown at 5-foot-7. Morgan was my favorite player. The most home runs he hit in a season was 27. Altuve has hit 24 twice. The highest batting average Morgan had was .327. Altuve has beaten that three times already and will probably do it again this year.

Altuve is well on his way to being the greatest athlete of his size -- not just in baseball history but the history of American professional sports. He is one of the best players of his time. Altuve is already playing like one of the best of all time. I understand that he is doing what he is doing in Trout's time. But Altuve is about to lead MLB in hits for the fifth consecutive season, and he has a batting average of .347 after the Astros won their 50th game on Wednesday, a night that included him hitting a home run off Nathan Eovaldi of the Rays that looked as if the 6-foot-7 Aaron Judge or the 6-foot-6 Giancarlo Stanton had hit it.

Video: TB@HOU: Altuve crushes a solo homer to left

There was a time when the place the Astros used to play their games, the Astrodome, was called "The Eighth Wonder of The World." Now, in that same city, you sometimes think it is Altuve, the reigning AL MVP Award winner, playing second, who is the eighth wonder.

As another baseball summer officially begins, it is worth remembering something Morgan said to me last summer about Altuve. This was a 5-foot-7 second-base immortal talking about the 5-foot-6 second baseman who plays in Houston the way the guy they called L'il Joe once did, before his true fame and Hall of Fame bona fides came in Cincinnati.

I asked Morgan if he thought it was insulting to qualify Altuve's greatness by always referencing his size.

"I think you do insult him," Morgan said. "You know what they used to say about me? 'He's a good little player.' But then they look at Trout and say, 'That's what a great player is supposed to look like.' And trust me, this is nothing against Mike Trout. I love watching him play baseball, too. But right now, I honestly believe [Altuve] is the best all-around player. I don't know what box you don't check with him. … I don't think of him being small anymore. Because nothing about his game is small."

Video: TB@HOU: Altuve shows off his speed, legs out a single

There are other athletes Altuve's size who have thrilled the sports world, but they usually come from other parts of the world and usually play soccer, sometimes with the kind of magic Lionel Messi always has. It is different for Altuve, who comes from Venezuela and whose own sports dreams were about playing baseball. Now he is ours. He is baseball, and all of its possibilities.

One of my favorite images of all time, in my whole life loving baseball, was Altuve standing next to Judge during the 2017 AL Championship Series. No image has ever demonstrated more vividly one of the enduring beauties of a sport where there are no size requirements for greatness, and never have been. You can be Altuve's size. You can be Judge's size. You can pitch your way to Cooperstown at 5-foot-11 the way Pedro Martinez did, or do the same at 6-foot-10 the way Randy Johnson did.

Tweet from @MLB: Dreams do come true. #ALCS pic.twitter.com/16I1SqRjHj

We talk all the time -- at least I do -- about how all sports fans, not just baseball fans, don't talk nearly enough about Trout, who in so many ways is the game's LeBron James. Well, if he is LeBron, then that makes Altuve baseball's Steph Curry, who still looks like a kid who just wandered into the gym looking for a good pickup run with the bigger kids. Watching Altuve play baseball the way he does, at his size, sometimes feels exactly like watching Curry make three-pointers from the concession stands.

At this time when there is so much brilliant young talent all over the baseball map, Altuve remains unique. Three more hits Wednesday night. A rousing home run. Trout's time in baseball is Altuve's time, too. Easy to lose sight of that sometimes. Way too easy to lose sight of the little big man in Houston.

Mike Lupica is a columnist for MLB.com. He also writes for the New York Daily News.

Houston Astros, Jose Altuve, Mike Trout

While going through old Facebook messages, Pat Neshek discovered a contract offer for 2014

If you've ever found yourself sorting through old mail, you've probably discovered that you've missed out on some opportunities. Maybe it was a great coupon for discounted chicken wings, or maybe it was a free car wash. Chances are that none of us have ever stumbled upon a professional baseball contract offer, though.

Well, that happened to Phillies reliever Pat Neshek.

Most pressing questions facing AL East teams

While the Yanks and Red Sox look to add, the other three will weigh offers for current stars
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

The decision-makers for each team are entering the busy season, and their phones should be buzzing with possibilities. The non-waiver Trade Deadline is July 31, and the buyers and sellers are crystal clear in the American League East.

The Yankees and Red Sox are in search of the final pieces that can turn their already strong squads into juggernauts, while the Blue Jays, Orioles and Rays will likely look to turn enticing trade chips into future gains.

The decision-makers for each team are entering the busy season, and their phones should be buzzing with possibilities. The non-waiver Trade Deadline is July 31, and the buyers and sellers are crystal clear in the American League East.

The Yankees and Red Sox are in search of the final pieces that can turn their already strong squads into juggernauts, while the Blue Jays, Orioles and Rays will likely look to turn enticing trade chips into future gains.

• Non-waiver Trade Deadline explained

Here are the key questions for all five AL East clubs as the Deadline draws near.

BLUE JAYS
The question: Will Josh Donaldson recoup enough value in the coming weeks to justify a trade prior to the Deadline?

Donaldson hasn't played since May 28 because of a sore left calf muscle. Before that, a right shoulder injury caused him to miss three weeks in April. As a result, Donaldson has just five home runs and 16 RBIs as the end of June quickly approaches.

The 2015 AL Most Valuable Player Award winner is expected to return soon, but he'll need to bounce back in a hurry if the Blue Jays want to jumpstart a potential rebuild with a big July trade. A qualifying offer at the end of the year remains a possibility, but if Toronto can get a haul for Donaldson before the Deadline, that's the course of action it is expected to take.

ORIOLES
The question: Will superstar Manny Machado be traded?

Machado is a hot commodity on a last-place team, so it seems like a no-brainer that he will be moved. But it's not necessarily a sure thing, as the O's didn't like any of the offers they received during the offseason for their prized shortstop, who can be a free agent after the season.

So what will it take? Young, controllable talent -- preferably pitching -- is what Baltimore wanted last offseeason. Given that Machado is essentially a rental for the team that acquires him, the Orioles won't get an organization-changing haul, but there still will be a lot of pressure to get something of substance in return. Further complicating matters is that O's vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette is also in the final year of his contact.

Video: MLB Tonight on the D-backs' interest in Machado

RAYS
The question: Will Chris Archer get traded?

Archer, who is on the disabled list with a left abdominal strain, has a deal that pays him $6.4 million this season and $7.7 million in 2019, which is relatively affordable compared to other pitchers of a similar talent level. So the question is, will Archer be healthy by the time the Deadline rolls around, and if he is, can the Rays find a suitable trade partner who values the right-hander enough to part with the prospect haul that they would want in return?

Of course, a trade for Archer, who is one of Tampa Bay's most popular players, would further signal the Rays' decision to get younger, which could have an adverse effect on the team's efforts to get public funding for a new stadium.

RED SOX
The question: Will the Red Sox get another impact arm in 'pen?

In his first two pennant races running Boston's front office, vice president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski bolstered his bullpen. In 2016, the Red Sox got Brad Ziegler, and he helped the team win the AL East. Addison Reed was similarly effective in helping Boston close out the division last year. With Carson Smith out for the season after injuring his shoulder and Tyler Thornburg still an uncertainty in his rehab from thoracic outlet syndrome, Dombrowski is likely going to have to hit the bullpen market again.

A power left-hander would be a particularly good fit for manager Alex Cora, considering all his best relief arms are right-handed. The cost for Padres southpaw Brad Hand could be exorbitant, but Dombrowski will stay in touch with San Diego all the way up to July 31. Baltimore's Zach Britton is another possibility.

YANKEES
The question: Can they add a starting pitcher?

General manager Brian Cashman has been searching for a starter since the offseason, when the team settled for re-signing CC Sabathia to a one-year contract with a belief that they could upgrade in late July if necessary. As anticipated, the rotation has proven to be a concern, with second-year lefty Jordan Montgomery out for the year due to Tommy John surgery and right-hander Masahiro Tanaka expected to miss a month after straining both hamstrings while running the bases in a game against the Mets.

Video: NYY@NYM: Tanaka feels stiffness in legs after scoring

The Yankees have patched things together by summoning righties Domingo German and Jonathan Loaisiga from the Minors, but with a postseason berth in sight, Cashman is open to dipping into the club's prospect reserves to add a stabilizing veteran like the Rangers' Cole Hamels or the Blue Jays' J.A. Happ. Cashman recently said that he has touched base with 20 of the 29 other clubs on some level, a number that will certainly inch closer to 29 as July 31 nears.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Rays