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Didi believes he'll return before end of season

MLB.com @_dadler

Didi Gregorius thinks he'll be back on the field before the end of the season.

The Yankees' shortstop, who tore cartilage in his right wrist Saturday while diving into home with the walk-off run that clinched New York a postseason berth, said Monday that he's encouraged by how much better his wrist feels and believes he'll be able to return this year.

Didi Gregorius thinks he'll be back on the field before the end of the season.

The Yankees' shortstop, who tore cartilage in his right wrist Saturday while diving into home with the walk-off run that clinched New York a postseason berth, said Monday that he's encouraged by how much better his wrist feels and believes he'll be able to return this year.

Gregorius had a cortisone injection in his wrist on Sunday, after an MRI revealed a small tear, which happened when his wrist got caught underneath him as he slid home. He'll be re-evaluated on Wednesday to see how his wrist has responded to the cortisone shot.

"He felt significantly better, obviously, with some of the range of motion things he's able to do," manager Aaron Boone said of Gregorius on Monday. "I would also temper it. The true indicator will come Wednesday when he's re-evaluated and we see how he does."

With the Yankees gearing up for a playoff run, having Gregorius on the field would of course be hugely important. He's the anchor of their infield and a key bat in the middle of the lineup, having hit a career-high 27 home runs this season, a record for a Yanks shortstop.

The Yankees will play in the American League Wild Card Game on Oct. 3. Gregorius said Sunday that "I would not want to sit out and watch that [Wild Card Game]."

While Gregorius is out, the Yanks will likely use Adeiny Hechavarria to fill in at shortstop -- as was the case for Monday's series opener against the Rays -- with Gleyber Torres potentially seeing time there as well.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.

New York Yankees, Didi Gregorius

Story back for Rockies after missing a week

MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

DENVER -- Shortstop Trevor Story is back in the Rockies' starting lineup, batting fifth, for Monday night's game against the Phillies -- the opener of a crucial seven-game, regular-season-closing homestand -- after missing five games with right elbow soreness.

Story has risen to National League Most Valuable Player Award consideration by hitting .288 with 33 home runs and 102 RBIs through 149 games, but he was injured after making a dive-and-throw attempt in last Monday night's 8-2 loss at Dodger Stadium. Story stayed in the game until his next at-bat, which he could not complete.

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DENVER -- Shortstop Trevor Story is back in the Rockies' starting lineup, batting fifth, for Monday night's game against the Phillies -- the opener of a crucial seven-game, regular-season-closing homestand -- after missing five games with right elbow soreness.

Story has risen to National League Most Valuable Player Award consideration by hitting .288 with 33 home runs and 102 RBIs through 149 games, but he was injured after making a dive-and-throw attempt in last Monday night's 8-2 loss at Dodger Stadium. Story stayed in the game until his next at-bat, which he could not complete.

View Full Game Coverage

The Rockies entered the night 1 1/2 games behind the NL West-leading Dodgers and the same distance behind the Cardinals, who hold the final NL Wild Card position.

MRI exam results showed inflammation but no ligament damage on Story's elbow. Story took ground balls and made throws, and he nearly returned to the lineup for Sunday's game, a 2-0 victory at Arizona, but he was left out in a game-time decision. Story was penciled into the lineup ahead of fielding and batting practice on Monday.

"I'm very excited," Story said. "It's tough, just sitting there and watching. It's not ideal. The timing of it was pretty brutal, but I keep my focus on my teammates."

The good injury news counterbalanced another issue on Monday. The Rockies scratched lefty starting pitcher Tyler Anderson with left shoulder inflammation and instead opted to start righty Jon Gray.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page.

Colorado Rockies, Trevor Story

Each team's all-time single-season ace

Which pitcher should take the hill with everything on the line?
MLB.com @williamfleitch

The thing about baseball is that you can have the best lineup in the history of the game, but if it runs up against a hot pitcher at the wrong time, it's essentially useless. Nothing happens until the pitcher throws the ball; we're all reacting to him. And when you have a truly great one, it doesn't matter how fantastic a hitter you are: He can get you out regardless. A true ace can be unhittable.

Imagine, then, a tournament of the future, one that transcends space, time and death, in which every franchise had to win one game, with its best pitcher ever, for its own survival. That'd be fun, right? Who would you want throwing in that game? This conversation happens a lot this time of year, when we look ahead to the Wild Card Games, where one dominant pitching performance can change everything. (Remember Madison Bumgarner in 2014 and '16?)

The thing about baseball is that you can have the best lineup in the history of the game, but if it runs up against a hot pitcher at the wrong time, it's essentially useless. Nothing happens until the pitcher throws the ball; we're all reacting to him. And when you have a truly great one, it doesn't matter how fantastic a hitter you are: He can get you out regardless. A true ace can be unhittable.

Imagine, then, a tournament of the future, one that transcends space, time and death, in which every franchise had to win one game, with its best pitcher ever, for its own survival. That'd be fun, right? Who would you want throwing in that game? This conversation happens a lot this time of year, when we look ahead to the Wild Card Games, where one dominant pitching performance can change everything. (Remember Madison Bumgarner in 2014 and '16?)

With all of this in mind, we take a look at each franchise's One Game To Live pitcher, the one pitcher, during his one peak season, who you'd put on the mound with it all on the line. You just get to pick one pitcher, and one season, when he was at the height of his game. Who's your pick? Here are mine.

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

Blue Jays: 1997 Roger Clemens
21-7, 2.05 ERA, 292 K

As tempting as it might be to pick a Dave Stieb or Roy Halladay season, Clemens was unbelievable in 1997; according to bWAR, this was, in fact, the best season of his career. This was the season in which he won the fourth of his seven Cy Young Awards; he won one each of his two seasons in Toronto. (Clemens was really good.)

Orioles: 1975 Jim Palmer
23-11, 2.09 ERA, 10 shutouts, 323 IP

Palmer was never a huge strikeout pitcher, all told, but as many innings as he pitched, he didn't need to be. This was the second of his three Cy Young Award-winning seasons. Palmer somehow threw 25 complete games.

Rays: 2018 Blake Snell
21-5, 1.90 ERA

Yeah, we'll opt for this year. David Price's 2012 was close, but Snell has struck out more batters a game and may end up even winning more games. And he's pretty much the only starting pitcher on his team!

Video: BO@NYY: Pedro throws shutout against the Yankees

Red Sox: 2000 Pedro Martinez
18-6, 1.74 ERA, 284 Ks, 2.17 FIP

This was peak Pedro, at the absolute apex of his powers. There may have never been a more viscerally enjoyable pitcher to watch than Martinez at the turn of the century.

Yankees: 1978 Ron Guidry
25-3, 1.74 ERA

Guidry got a relatively late start to his career and battled injuries in his mid-30s, so he never quite had the longevity to be a Hall of Famer. But 1978, at the age of 27, Guidry was as good as any Yankee has ever been.

AL CENTRAL

Indians: 1946 Bob Feller
26-15, 2.18 ERA, 348 K

We'll never know how hard Feller truly threw … but to batters, judging from the numbers, it must have looked about 150 mph.

Video: KC@SEA: Greinke throws a one-hit shutout

Royals: 2009 Zack Greinke
16-8, 2.16 ERA, 242 K

It's close between Greinke and a couple of late-1980s Bret Saberhagen seasons, but Greinke's lone Cy Young Award-winning season is probably the call. His ERA actually jumped two runs the next season.

Tigers: 1968 Denny McLain
31-6, 1.96 ERA

Advanced stats would argue this wasn't even McLain's best year, and there are some great Justin Verlander seasons not here, as well as the great 1976 Mark Fidrych year … but 31 wins are 31 wins.

Twins: 2004 Johan Santana
20-6, 2.61 ERA, 265 K

We're not counting the Washington Senators era here, obviously, or it would be any one of about nine Walter Johnson seasons.

White Sox: 1917 Eddie Cicotte
28-12, 1.53 ERA, 346 2/3 IP

Cicotte should have had 30 wins in 1919, but White Sox owner Charles Comiskey ordered him benched so he wouldn't get a 30-win bonus he would be owed. That led, of course, to Cicotte taking money to fix the 1919 World Series, the scandal that would get Cicotte banned from baseball.

AL WEST

Angels: 1977 Nolan Ryan
19-16, 2.77 ERA, 341 K

An argument could be made that teammate Frank Tanana had an even better year in 1977 than Ryan … but with one game to decide the fate of your franchise, you really would rather face Ryan than Tanana?

Video: SF@HOU: Scott's no-hitter clinches the NL West

Astros: 1986 Mike Scott
18-10, 2.22 ERA, 306 K

Apologies to some wonderful Roy Oswalt years, not to mention a couple of great Clemens ones, but Scott was otherworldly in 1986.

Athletics: 1931 Lefty Grove
31-4, 2.06 ERA

Grove threw 27 complete games in 1931 … and notched five saves to boot.

Mariners: 1995 Randy Johnson
18-2, 2.48 ERA, 294 K

One gets shivers just thinking about having Johnson staring down at you during this era. So much hair!

Rangers: 1974 Ferguson Jenkins
25-12, 2.82 ERA, 225 K

Jenkins has always been underappreciated. This was his first, better stint with the team.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

Braves: 1995 Greg Maddux
19-2, 1.63 ERA

Maddux was an absolute magician. It was unfair what he could do while making it look so simple.

Marlins: 1996 Kevin Brown
17-11, 1.89 ERA

Brown's general orneriness had a tendency to mask how dominating a pitcher he could be.

Video: Remembering Gooden's historic achievement in 1985

Mets: 1985 Dwight Gooden
24-4, 1.53 ERA, 268 K

Jacob deGrom is Jacob deGrom, and Tom Seaver was Tom Seaver … but no one was ever better than 1985 Dwight Gooden. At the age of 20!

Nationals: 2017 Max Scherzer
16-6, 2.51 ERA, 268 K

We're -- controversially! -- ignoring the Expos and sticking with the Nats here. It's possible this year has, in fact, been better.

Phillies: 1972 Steve Carlton
27-10, 1.97 ERA, 310 K

This was the year after the Cardinals traded him, by the way. And on a Phils team that had 59 wins. Carlton won 46 percent of their games!

NL CENTRAL

Brewers: 1986 Teddy Higuera
20-11, 2.79 ERA

It is very tempting to go with 2008 CC Sabathia, who, after all, only made 17 starts.

Video: 1968 WS Gm1: Gibson passes Koufax with 16th strikeout

Cardinals: 1968 Bob Gibson
22-9, 1.12 ERA, 268 K

How in the world did Gibson lose nine games?

Cubs: 1992 Greg Maddux
20-11, 2.18 ERA

Sorry John Clarkson, Pete Alexander and Three Finger Brown, but we had to stick with modern era. So it's Maddux again!

Pirates: 1945 Preacher Roe
14-13, 2.87 ERA

For such a storied franchise, the Pirates don't actually have a ton of incredible individual starting pitching seasons.

Reds: 1993 Jose Rijo
14-9, 2.48 ERA, 227 K

Kids, ask your loud uncle: Rijo is the greatest pitcher no one remembers was a great pitcher.

Video: SD@ARI: Big Unit completes Opening Day shutout

NL WEST

D-backs: 2002 Randy Johnson
24-5, 2.32 ERA, 334 K

Somehow, Johnson was 38 when he did this.

Dodgers: 1966 Sandy Koufax
27-9, 1.73 ERA, 317 K

It's probably too late for Clayton Kershaw to ever match this.

Giants: 1908 Christy Mathewson
37-11, 1.43 ERA, 259 K, 42 BB

We make an exception for our "modern era" rule because … jeez, look at the K/BB ratio.

Padres: 1998 Kevin Brown
18-7, 2.38 ERA, 257 K, 49 BB

Bet you didn't imagine seeing Brown on this list twice, did you?

Rockies: 2018 Kyle Freeland
16-7, 2.84 ERA

The only season that's even close is Ubaldo Jimenez's 2010 season … and Freeland may end up having considerably more staying power.

Will Leitch is a columnist for MLB.com.

Fasten your seatbelt: We could get a 4-way tie

Brewers, Cardinals, Dodgers, Rockies in for a wild final week
MLB.com @castrovince

We had dreams. Big dreams. Dreams of a three-way division tie. Or a five-way Wild Card tie. Or -- gulp -- an eight-way tie spanning all the division and Wild Card races. As recently as a month ago, the National League dared us to dream about these ridiculous scenarios with its peculiar cluster of clubs.

And then something happened. Math happened.

We had dreams. Big dreams. Dreams of a three-way division tie. Or a five-way Wild Card tie. Or -- gulp -- an eight-way tie spanning all the division and Wild Card races. As recently as a month ago, the National League dared us to dream about these ridiculous scenarios with its peculiar cluster of clubs.

And then something happened. Math happened.

OK, the eight-way fever dream was not meant to be (there's always next year). But we've still got some very realistic tiebreaker possibilities in play in this last week of the regular season, and foremost among them is that the Brewers, Cardinals, Dodgers and Rockies could all end up with the same record -- leaving both the NL West and the two NL Wild Card spots up in the air after Sunday's final out.

Those four clubs entered Monday's action within three games of each other in the loss column:

Brewers: 89-67, 2 1/2 games back of Cubs in NL Central, two games up in race for top NL Wild Card spot
Cardinals: 87-69, two games back of Brewers for top NL Wild Card spot, 1 1/2 games up in race for second NL Wild Card spot
Dodgers: 87-69, first place in NL West
Rockies: 85-70, 1 1/2 games back of Dodgers in NL West, 1 1/2 games back of Cardinals for second NL Wild Card spot

And here are their remaining schedules:

Brewers: at Cardinals (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday), vs. Tigers (Friday, Saturday, Sunday)
Cardinals: vs. Brewers (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday), at Cubs (Friday, Saturday, Sunday)
Dodgers: at D-backs (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday), at Giants (Friday, Saturday, Sunday)
Rockies: vs. Phillies (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday), vs. Nationals (Friday, Saturday, Sunday)

If the Brewers go 2-4, the Cardinals and Dodgers both go 4-2 and the Rockies go 6-1 -- voila! -- there's the kind of chaos this dual Wild Card format (which so far has only given us one tiebreaker game, back in 2013) has never seen before.

So what happens if there really is a four-way tie?

Monday, Oct. 1: Two tiebreaker games
The Rockies and Dodgers would play a game to determine the NL West winner. Los Angeles would host that game by virtue of winning the season series, 12-7.

And the Cardinals would play the Brewers (the site can't yet be determined because the season series is still unsettled) to determine one NL Wild Card spot.

Tuesday, Oct. 2: The consolation game
Monday's losers would face each other to determine the other NL Wild Card club. The site of this game would determined by the outcome of the regular-season series between the two clubs involved (intradivision record the next determining factor if the season series was a split, but that's not the case in any of these options).

So here's who would host in each potential scenario:

Brewers vs. Dodgers: Dodgers host (4-3 record in 2018 meetings)
Brewers vs. Rockies: Brewers host (5-2)
Cardinals vs. Dodgers: Cardinals host (4-3)
Cardinals vs. Rockies: Cardinals host (5-2)

Wednesday, Oct. 3: The real NL Wild Card Game
This game is scheduled to be played on Tuesday, but a four-way tie would make that schedule impossible to honor. The winner of Monday's Brewers-Cardinals game would face the winner of Tuesday's consolation game, with home-field advantage determined by the same factors as described above.

If we assume that the Cubs maintain the NL's No. 1 seed over the Braves (and for this four-way tie to even exist, Chicago would have to maintain its top spot in the NL Central), the winner of this game would then proceed to Wrigley Field for the start of the NL Division Series. As of now, the NLDS is scheduled to begin with Game 1 on Thursday, Oct. 4 and Game 2 on Friday, Oct. 5.

If you're scoring at home, there's a scenario that exists in which the Brewers, to use the most extreme example, end their season in Milwaukee on Sunday, play in St. Louis on Monday, play in L.A. on Tuesday, play in St. Louis again on Wednesday and play in Chicago on Thursday and Friday.

That's just "plane" crazy.

Of course, the four-way tie isn't the only remaining tie possibility. Here are some other scenarios still in play:

Scenario: The Dodgers and Rockies tie for the NL West title and tie the Cardinals for the second NL Wild Card spot (behind the Brewers)
The Dodgers and Rockies would play at Dodger Stadium on Monday, Oct. 1, to determine the NL West champion. The loser of that game would then travel to St. Louis to play the Cardinals the next day to determine the second Wild Card spot. The winner of that game would play the Brewers on Wednesday.

Scenario: The Dodgers win the NL West, and the Brewers, Cardinals and Rockies all finish with the same record
The Cards, Brewers and Rox would choose/receive A, B and C designations, based on head-to-head records. Club A would host Club B on Monday, Oct. 1, to determine one NL Wild Card spot. Club C would then host the loser of that game on Tuesday to determine the second NL Wild Card spot.

Scenario: The Dodgers and Rockies tie for the NL West title, and both clubs finish behind the Brewers and Cardinals in the Wild Card standings
Simple. A Monday tiebreaker game in Los Angeles between the Dodgers and Rox to determine who advances to face the Braves in the NLDS.

Scenario: The Cardinals and Brewers tie for the two NL Wild Card spots
Also simple. The winner of the season series (still undetermined, as of this writing) hosts the NL Wild Card Game.

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.

Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, Colorado Rockies

Select few have reached 300 K's in a season

Scherzer aims to be just 17th pitcher to accomplish feat since 1900
MLB.com

Max Scherzer won't get the chance to earn his first World Series ring next month, but he can check off one of the highest achievements on his career to-do list.

Scherzer is in contention for his third straight National League Cy Young Award, a streak that only Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson can currently boast. He could lead his league in wins for the fourth time in his career, and pace the league in innings for the second time in the past three campaigns. Scherzer has already clinched his NL-record fifth consecutive season with 250 strikeouts, and now he could go one step further.

Max Scherzer won't get the chance to earn his first World Series ring next month, but he can check off one of the highest achievements on his career to-do list.

Scherzer is in contention for his third straight National League Cy Young Award, a streak that only Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson can currently boast. He could lead his league in wins for the fourth time in his career, and pace the league in innings for the second time in the past three campaigns. Scherzer has already clinched his NL-record fifth consecutive season with 250 strikeouts, and now he could go one step further.

Scherzer enters the final week of the regular season with an MLB-most 290 strikeouts on his ledger. While baseball's obsession with round numbers runs deep, there's little denying the significance of a 300-strikeout season (even in today's K-friendly climate for pitchers). With the Nationals' ace on the verge of writing another big bullet point on a potential Hall of Fame resume, here's a rundown of the previous 16 pitchers who have reached the 300-K plateau within a single season.

SIX 300-K SEASONS

Randy Johnson, LHP
Years: 2002, '01, '00, '99, '98, '93

Few pitchers have ever intimidated on a mound as much as The Big Unit, and once the 6-foot-10 Johnson corralled the wildness that plagued him in Montreal and his first years in Seattle, it was lights out for hitters.

"I told Randy he could be the most dominating pitcher in baseball if he would just work on his game," fellow Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan said in 1992. "He was a lot like me when I was younger. He was just pitching and not doing a lot of thinking."

Video: Randy Johnson fans 250 for 6 straight seasons

Whipping his high-90s fastball and biting slider seemingly from first base, Johnson wiped out batter after batter in an astonishing run through a remarkable renaissance in his 30s and early 40s. Seven of the top 10 strikeout-rate seasons by a qualified starter through 2002 belong to Johnson, peaking with his banner '01 campaign in which the 37-year-old struck out 37.4 percent of hitters (still the second-highest rate in a qualified season since 1900) before dominating even further during the D-backs' postseason run. The 1,746 strikeouts Johnson accumulated in a five-year period from 1998-2002 might remain unmatched for a long, long time.

Nolan Ryan, RHP
Years: 1989, '77, '76, '74, '73, '72

Before Johnson came along, it was hard to foresee any pitcher striking out as many hitters over as many years as The Ryan Express. Ryan's trade from the Mets to the Angels in 1972 represents one of the most favorable changes of scenery for any player, as the hard-throwing righty blossomed from a back-of-the-rotation starter in Queens to the preeminent strikeout artist in baseball history.

"I've never been afraid at the plate, but Mr. Ryan makes me uncomfortable," said Hall of Fame slugger Reggie Jackson. "He's the only pitcher who's ever made me consider wearing a helmet with an ear flap."

Video: Check out Nolan Ryan's unreal career strikeout stats

Ryan averaged one strikeout per each inning of a ballgame, first through ninth, which might be the best stat to show his dogged determination to sit down each and every hitter he faced. He also averaged 10.1 strikeouts per nine from 1972-78 (when the average starter during that time averaged roughly five), and then he averaged 10.6 strikeouts per nine in his age 40-44 seasons at the end of the following decade. That's how one becomes the game's all-time K leader by a wide margin.

THREE 300-K SEASONS

Video: A look at Curt Schilling's first and last strikeouts

Curt Schilling, RHP
Years: 2002, 1998, 1997

Schilling is baseball's modern leader in strikeout-to-walk ratio among retired pitchers thanks to his innate ability to command the ball. His 33 walks in 2002 represent the fewest of any of the 300-strikeout seasons on this list, and all three of his 300-K campaigns rank within the top 10 of that list.

Schilling notched back-to-back season of 300 punchouts in 1997 and '98 with Philadelphia before joining forces with Johnson in Arizona midway through the 2000 season. Two years later, the pair made the D-backs the first (and thus far only) team in modern history to boast two 300-strikeout pitchers in the same rotation.

Video: 2015 ASG: Koufax throws out first pitch to Bench

Sandy Koufax, LHP
Years: 1966, '65, '63

"The Left Arm of God" was a completely appropriate nickname in the eyes of Koufax's opponents, as they watched impossibly hard fastballs rain down alongside hissing curveballs from the pitcher's mound. Koufax remains one of the most beloved and revered pitchers in history thanks in large part to his willingness to pitch through pain; he likely would have tallied many more 300-strikeout seasons had chronic arm and shoulder ailments not swayed him to hang up his spikes for good at age 30.

"It was frightening," said Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, who famously stated that Koufax would tip his pitches but batters still couldn't hit them. "He had that tremendous fastball that would rise, and a great curveball that started at the eyes and broke to the ankles. In the end you knew you were going to be embarrassed. You were either going to strike out or foul out."

The lefty peaked with 382 strikeouts in his penultimate 1965 campaign, a Major League record until Ryan did his idol one better in '73. Don Veale, the NL's next-closest strikeout pitcher that year, finished more than 100 punchouts behind.

TWO 300-K SEASONS

Video: Pedro strikes out 17 Yankees on Sept. 10, 1999

Pedro Martinez
Years: 1999, '97

Martinez's 1999 season has plenty of arguments for the greatest campaign by any modern-day hurler. His 37.5 percent strikeout rate that year is the best by any qualified starter, as is his 11.6 fWAR, while his 1.39 FIP rating in '99 ranks second behind Christy Mathewson (1.29) way back in '08. And this wasn't just the case of a pitcher trying to throw as hard as he could; Martinez walked just 37 hitters the entire year. And don't forget the one game that didn't count: When Martinez punched out five of the six batters he faced in an electric All-Star Game performance at Fenway Park.

"The '99 season, I think, was something different," said Martinez, who paced the American League in wins, ERA and strikeouts that year. "The triple crown as a pitcher, you can't top it. In such a difficult era to play, I would have to say that's the highlight."

Martinez's final season in Montreal wasn't too shabby, either. The Dominican righty led the Majors with a 1.90 ERA and struck out 305 to capture the 1997 NL Cy Young Award -- the first of his celebrated career.

J.R. Richard
Years: 1979, '78

It's safe to say Richard got the baseball world's attention when he tied a Major League record with 15 strikeouts in his debut against the Giants in September 1971. But Houston's righty really put it all together seven years later, when he placed fourth in the NL Cy Young Award voting with a 3.11 ERA and an MLB-most 303 strikeouts. Richard rode his triple-digit fastball and menacing slider to another strikeout crown (313) in '79, and was poised for more the following year before a blood clot in his neck and subsequent stroke brought his career to an abrupt end at age 30. He remains one of baseball's biggest "what if" aces based on what lay ahead in his unfinished second act.

Sam McDowell
Years: 1970, '65

McDowell was nicknamed "Sudden Sam" for a reason, as his rocking-chair motion from the left side could lull a hitter to sleep before his fastball got on top of hitters with purpose. Like Ryan, hitters could never really get comfortable in the box against McDowell, who led the Majors in walks on five occasions. But he also racked up five AL strikeout crowns with the Indians, beginning with a breakout 325-strikeout campaign in 1965.

McDowell's punchout prowess inspired Sports Illustrated to feature him on its cover in May 1966 with the headline "Faster than Koufax?" -- and the southpaws' heaters were a legitimate source of debate at the time. Control issues would keep McDowell from reaching that kind of level, but he did top 300 strikeouts once more in a 305-inning season with Cleveland in 1970.

Video: Harold and Al break down rare footage on Monday

Walter Johnson
Years: 1912, '10

Johnson's fastball was truly unprecedented when he came on the scene late in 1907, and he used that to his advantage for years to come. Whipping his signature heater from a dropdown delivery, The Big Train racked up a record 12 league strikeout titles in a span of 15 years from 1910-24, peaking with a pair of 300-strikeout campaigns at the beginning. Johnson's 313 strikeouts in '10 were just 130 shy of the Boston Braves' entire pitching staff that season, and his 7.6 strikeouts per nine innings were nearly twice as many as the league average.

"His fastball looked about the size of a watermelon seed," Ty Cobb once said of Johnson, "and it hissed at you as it passed."

Rube Waddell
Years: 1904, '03

Waddell might be remembered for his off-beat personality as much as his pitching prowess, as he occasionally missed starts while he was out of town on fishing trips, and he walked off the mound in the middle of a game. But when Waddell focused his attention toward the catcher, he could be downright dominant. The southpaw paced the nascent AL in strikeouts six years in a row (and led the Majors in each of those last five seasons), peaking with 349 for the Philadelphia A's in '04. That stood as baseball's single-season record for more than half a century before Koufax surpassed Waddell in '65.

ONE 300-K SEASON

Video: Must C Classic: Sale joins elite company with 300th K

Chris Sale
Years: 2017

Sale surged to the line, fanning the Orioles' Ryan Flaherty for his 13th strikeout in his second-to-last start of the regular season at Camden Yards. That made him the first AL pitcher to reach 300 since Martinez in 1999, and just the second southpaw after Johnson to hit the mark since the designated hitter was introduced in 1973.

"That's special," Sale said of joining Martinez in the Red Sox's 300-K club. "We all know that's about as good a company as you can get. Being here and having that name thrown around is special to me; I don't take it lightly."

Video: SD@LAD: Kershaw tallies his 300th K of the season

Clayton Kershaw
Years: 2015

Kershaw entered his final start of the year needing six strikeouts to reach the 300 plateau, and he was efficient in getting there, reaching the mark within the first 10 Padres he faced. The Dodgers' ace kept his typically stoic resolve as the Dodger Stadium crowd gave a standing ovation, but his teammates were certainly aware of the countdown.

"I know it meant a lot to him, even though he lied and said it didn't," said catcher A.J. Ellis. "I was counting from the first strikeout of the game. I knew what we needed to get to and where his pitch count was at, just hopeful he would execute so those strikeouts would pile up and get to that number."

Video: TEX@HOU: Scott talks about the Astros team from 1986

Mike Scott
Years: 1986

Scott and his split-fingered fastball were so dominant in 1986 that the Mets accused him of scuffing the baseball during the NL Championship Series. While that was never proven, Scott's overpowering stuff was undeniable. Scott had never topped 137 strikeouts coming into '86, making his 306 punchouts one of the more unexpected totals in recent history. His 11 starts with 10 or more strikeouts were just shy of half his career total, and his magical '86 also included a no-hitter against the Giants in his second-to-last start.

Video: 1972 Carlton-Wise trade was seen as fair at the time

Steve Carlton
Years: 1972

Cartlon's strikeout reputation was well established by 1972; he had set the single-game record with 19 strikeouts for the Cardinals three years prior. Still, Lefty's 310 K's in his debut season with the Phillies took his career to a new level. Carlton won an MLB-most 27 games and posted a 1.97 ERA for a Phillies club that lost 97 games, marking one of the best individual performances by a player on a losing team.

"Sometimes I hit him like I used to hit Koufax," Hall of Famer Willie Stargell once said of Carlton, "and that's like drinking coffee with a fork."

Eight years later, Carlton would help complete Philly's renaissance by winning the decisive Game 6 of the 1980 World Series.

Mickey Lolich
Years: 1971

Lolich's 308 strikeouts in 1971 probably aren't the most memorable achievement of his career -- that would be his three complete-game victories over Bob Gibson and the Cardinals in the '68 World Series) -- an indication as to how talented Lolich was in his prime. He worked hard for the honors in '71, leading the Majors with a total of 376 innings that has been topped just one time since. Lolich's 308 punchouts remain a Tigers record, and no Detroit pitcher has equaled his 25 wins from that year since.

Vida Blue
Years: 1971

The A's likely would not have won three straight World Series crowns without Blue in tow, but the lefty's best season came right before Oakland's title run. In his first full season as a Major League hurler, Blue compiled an AL-best 1.82 ERA and a Major League-best eight shutouts to go along with his 301 punchouts, topped that year only by Lolich. Sports Illustrated featured Blue in his day-glo yellow A's uniform in mid-May, labeling him the "hottest" pitcher of them all. With Blue, Rollie Fingers and Catfish Hunter leading the way, the A's punched their first postseason ticket in 40 years, eventually falling to the Orioles in the ALCS.

Bob Feller
Years: 1946

Feller's fastball ranks among the most revered in baseball history, and few could touch it in 1946. In his first full season back from World War II, "Rapid Robert" racked up 348 strikeouts to finish one shy of Waddell's record at the time. Feller tried hard to break the record down the stretch, starting two games on short rest and coming into another game in relief. The Hall of Famer finished with an MLB-most 26 wins, representing about 38 percent of the hapless Indians' total for the season.

Fellow Hall of Famer Bucky Harris, the longtime manager of the Washington Senators, probably summed up the best way to beat Feller: "Go on up there and hit what you see. If you can't see it, come on back."

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.

McCullers returns from disabled list

MLB.com

Astros right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. was reinstated from the disabled list on Monday, and the club also recalled lefty Reymin Guduan from Triple-A.

The 24-year-old will be available to pitch out of relief in Houston's series against Toronto. McCullers completed his third and final simulated game on Friday at the club's Spring Training facility in West Palm Beach, Fla. 

View Full Game Coverage

Astros right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. was reinstated from the disabled list on Monday, and the club also recalled lefty Reymin Guduan from Triple-A.

The 24-year-old will be available to pitch out of relief in Houston's series against Toronto. McCullers completed his third and final simulated game on Friday at the club's Spring Training facility in West Palm Beach, Fla. 

View Full Game Coverage

"I felt good over the three times I was out there," McCullers said. "There were some ups and downs, but that's part of getting back into pitching shape. I was happy with the way my body responded each time, and the way I looked and felt the last time [on Friday]. I want to pitch again."

On Friday, McCullers threw around 25 pitches, amounting to 1 1/3 innings. He said he was pleased with his breaking ball, worked on his fastball and changeup, and he was landing the pitches in the zone to both right-handed and left-handed batters. No Major League starting pitcher throws his curveball at a higher rate than McCullers.

McCullers, a 2017 All-Star, had been on the disabled list since Aug. 5 with a muscle strain in his right forearm. He is 10-6 with a 3.93 ERA in 22 starts with Houston, and he has 138 strikeouts in 126 innings.

Houston Astros, Lance McCullers Jr.

Crunch time: Crew, Cards start big final week

MLB.com @RichardJustice

Beginnings for some, endings for others. That's what makes the final week of baseball's regular season such a swirl of emotions. Awkward goodbyes here, uncertainty there.

First, though, the National League race. Wasn't it around mid-June when we wondered if this thing might go down to the last couple of weeks?

Beginnings for some, endings for others. That's what makes the final week of baseball's regular season such a swirl of emotions. Awkward goodbyes here, uncertainty there.

First, though, the National League race. Wasn't it around mid-June when we wondered if this thing might go down to the last couple of weeks?

Things are simpler now, but no less compelling: Five clubs are in contention for four spots. While the Braves have clinched the NL East and the D-backs and Phillies have been eliminated, all sorts of possibilities remain.

The Cubs and Brewers are in good shape to make the playoffs, and if that holds, the Dodgers, Cardinals and Rockies will spend this final week fighting it out for the final two spots.

Video: WSH@ATL: Harper belts a 431-ft. homer at 106.7 mph

Meanwhile, this could be the final week Bryce Harper plays for the Nationals as he prepares to enter his free-agent offseason. Other prominent players could be changing teams this offseason, and a bunch of managers -- Buck Showalter, Mike Scioscia, John Gibbons -- may not be back with their current teams.

Next Sunday, the regular season will again end with every game starting by 3:20 p.m. ET, and let's hope the NL playoff picture won't be settled by then.

With all of that in mind, let's check out the best game for each day for the final week of the regular season:

Video: STL@MIL: Benches clear after hard slide at second

MONDAY: Brewers at Cardinals (8:15 p.m. ET, MLB Network, MLB.TV)
This is playoff baseball. Both teams could still win the NL Central, but a Wild Card berth for one or both seems more likely. They begin the week leading the race for the NL's two Wild Card berths, with the Rockies 1 1/2 games behind the Cardinals in the fight for the second berth. The Brewers are trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2011, the Cards for the first time since '15.

TUESDAY: Phillies at Rockies (8:40 p.m. ET, MLB.TV)
The Phillies have had a dramatic turnaround season, having already won 12 more games than last season. They did not set out to play a spoiler role in the final week, but that's how it has worked out. The Rockies lost five of nine on this final road trip, but return to Coors Field for four games against the Phils and three against the Nationals. They begin the final week with a huge opportunity, and as manager Bud Black said, this is the kind of thing any team would sign up for on Opening Day.

Video: COL@ARI: Davis retires Escobar to seal Rockies' win

WEDNESDAY: Marlins at Nationals (4:05 p.m. ET, MLB.TV)
Harper made his Major League debut on April 28, 2012. Whether this is the final time he wears the Nationals uniform at Nationals Park is one of the largest questions that will be answered this offseason as he enters free agency. Harper was drafted to help remake the franchise, and in plenty of ways, he did just that. In seven seasons, only the Dodgers have won more regular-season games than the Nats. Washington went to the playoffs four times, and Harper was a six-time All-Star, won the NL Rookie of the Year Award (2012) and the NL MVP Award ('15). The Nationals say they would like to re-sign him, but they also know that free agency can be unpredictable.

THURSDAY: Yankees at Rays (1:10 p.m. ET, MLB Network, MLB.TV)
The Rays won't make the playoffs, but they finish the regular season energized about the future. They're 53-28 since late June with a roster dominated by kids and a pitching staff that thrived on an "opener" strategy. In 25-year-old Blake Snell, Tampa Bay has found a true ace along with an assortment of gifted kids dotted up and down the roster. Manager Kevin Cash established himself as one of the best in the game.

Video: TB@TOR: Snell K's Grichuk for his 10th of the game

FRIDAY: Cardinals at Cubs (2:20 p.m. ET, ESPN, MLB.TV)
Even if the Cubs have clinched the NL Central by the start of this series, the Cardinals could still be fighting for one of the NL Wild Card berths. St. Louis is 40-23 under manager Mike Shildt, and like the Rays, got better when the roster was turned over to young players like outfielder Harrison Bader and starters Jack Flaherty and John Gant. The Cubs haven't spent a day out of first place since the All-Star break and are playing their best baseball at the most important time of the season.

SATURDAY: Athletics at Angels (9:07 p.m. ET, MLB.TV)
If this is Scioscia's final weekend as manager of the Angels, it will end one of the great runs in baseball history. The Halos made the playoffs seven times in his 19 seasons, and some of his most impressive work was in recent seasons as the Angels remained competitive despite being decimated by injuries. The Athletics have done a great imitation of being baseball's best team the past three months by going 60-26. Their offense, defense and bullpen may be the industry gold standard.

Video: BOS@NYY: Kimbrel K's Stanton to clinch AL East title

SUNDAY: Yankees at Red Sox (3:05 p.m., MLB.TV)
The Red Sox lead the season series 9-7, but the fun could just be starting if these two end up in an AL Division Series against one another. They haven't played one another in the playoffs since 2004 when Boston rallied from an 0-3 deficit to start a run to its first World Series win in 86 years.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.

Is that Flyers' mascot? Or Justin Turner?

How does one create a mascot? Usually, it involves some dark magic combination of a lovable Muppet, the ooze from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II, a couple of giant googly eyes and a book of puns. When the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers looked to create their newest mascot, Gritty,  it was a much easier process: They seemingly based it off Justin Turner. 

Yuli, Yelich named Players of the Week

MLB.com @DeeshaThosar

Punching his club's ticket to a postseason berth, an Astros star refused to hit the brakes this week with an unstoppable offensive performance. In Milwaukee, a young star racking up awards may need to clear more shelf space for valuable hardware. For their efforts, the Astros' Yuli Gurriel and the Brewers' Christian Yelich were recognized on Monday as the American League and National League Players of the Week, presented by W.B. Mason.

Gurriel swatted two home runs with a career-high seven RBIs on Friday to lead the Astros to their third playoff spot in four seasons with an 11-3 win over the Angels. The first of Gurriel's two homers was a first-inning grand slam that went a projected 368 feet into the right-field seats at Minute Maid Park. The rocket marked Gurriel's third career grand slam and second of the season, also tying a single-season franchise record (2001, '07) as Houston's seventh slam of the year.

Punching his club's ticket to a postseason berth, an Astros star refused to hit the brakes this week with an unstoppable offensive performance. In Milwaukee, a young star racking up awards may need to clear more shelf space for valuable hardware. For their efforts, the Astros' Yuli Gurriel and the Brewers' Christian Yelich were recognized on Monday as the American League and National League Players of the Week, presented by W.B. Mason.

Gurriel swatted two home runs with a career-high seven RBIs on Friday to lead the Astros to their third playoff spot in four seasons with an 11-3 win over the Angels. The first of Gurriel's two homers was a first-inning grand slam that went a projected 368 feet into the right-field seats at Minute Maid Park. The rocket marked Gurriel's third career grand slam and second of the season, also tying a single-season franchise record (2001, '07) as Houston's seventh slam of the year.

• Past winners: AL | NL

In addition to his first Player of the Week honor, Gurriel took part in another first this week with help from his younger brother. Blue Jays shortstop Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Yuli each hit two home runs in their first two at-bats on Friday night, marking the first time in Major League history that a pair of brothers has accomplished that feat in the same day. Going 12-for-26, Gurriel slashed .462/.462/.923 with a 1.385 OPS, three home runs, 10 RBIs, three doubles and eight runs scored over his past six games for the Astros. Following Friday's clinch, Houston gathered around to make a toast and celebrate another postseason journey.

Video: Yuli Gurriel named American League Player of the Week

"I'm very happy we were able to make that toast, and we were able to unite at that moment and be able to clinch for the playoffs," said Gurriel.

Yelich garnered his third career Player of the Week honor, and second of September, while emerging as the favorite for the NL MVP Award. Yelich opened the week with his second career cycle, becoming the fifth player in Major League history to achieve the feat twice in the same season and the first to do it twice against the same team -- the Reds. In both cycles, Yelich needed a triple -- and got it.

Video: Christian Yelich named the NL Player of the Week

With two men on base on Sunday, the 26-year-old outfielder hit his 32nd home run of the season a projected 439 feet into the last row of PNC Park's right-center-field seats. It was Yelich's second-longest homer of the season, and he leads the NL in batting average (.322), slugging (.577) and OPS (.968) entering Monday.

The 2014 Gold Glove Award winner helped Milwaukee keep pace in the NL Central race, as the Brewers trail the Cubs by 2 1/2 games. The Brewers lead the Cardinals by two games for the top spot in the NL Wild Card race, with a magic number of four to clinch a postseason berth. Yelich slashed .545/.615/1.091 with a 1.706 OPS, two homers, seven RBIs, three walks, four doubles, a triple, two stolen bases and seven runs scored across his past six games. Yelich is making so much noise that he received an NL MVP Award endorsement from Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield on Thursday.

Video: Yelich on being named NL Player of the Week

"When our team's in it and we have so much at stake every night, it's easier to separate the two," Yelich said to reporters regarding his bid for the NL MVP Award. "In your head, you don't have it carry over because we're so focused on our team goals, what we have to go out and accomplish as a team and what we're on the brink of -- being able to clinch a postseason spot."

Deesha Thosar is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York City. Follow her on Twitter at @DeeshaThosar.

Milwaukee Brewers, Houston Astros, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Christian Yelich

Gurriel bros thrilled to share same MLB field

After following each other's careers from afar, Yuli, Lourdes Jr. compete in Majors for 1st time
MLB.com @gregorMLB

TORONTO -- The Gurriel brothers fulfilled a lifelong dream on Monday night when Yuli and Lourdes Jr. stepped onto the same Major League field for the first time in their careers.

Brotherly love was the focus of attention prior to the series opener between the Blue Jays and Astros. A journey that has been more than two decades in the making from one of the most prestigious baseball families in the world.

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TORONTO -- The Gurriel brothers fulfilled a lifelong dream on Monday night when Yuli and Lourdes Jr. stepped onto the same Major League field for the first time in their careers.

Brotherly love was the focus of attention prior to the series opener between the Blue Jays and Astros. A journey that has been more than two decades in the making from one of the most prestigious baseball families in the world.

View Full Game Coverage

Yuli and Lourdes have been keeping tabs on each other throughout their careers. Postgame routines always start with checking the boxscores and watching video of what their brother is up to, not wanting to miss a second of the action. In the series opener at Rogers Centre, they didn't have to turn on the TV; they got to witness it first hand.

"I've been following a lot," Yuli said through interpreter Josue Peley before the game Monday. "After every game, I watch every single at-bat and I make sure I follow everything he does. I'll be honest, I'm really proud that he's here, and I still don't believe it that he's here in the big leagues -- and that fast."

Tweet from @astros: Just a couple brothers with legendary hair. #Pi��aPower pic.twitter.com/otyV8IXgUs

Yuli and Lourdes defected from Ciego de Avila, Cuba, following the Caribbean Series in February 2016. Their father played for the Cuban national team for 15 years and won an Olympic gold medal, two batting titles and an MVP Award in his home country. Their older brother, Yunieski, spent 16 seasons in Serie Nacional and won a couple of MVP Awards.

The pedigree and talent immediately piqued the interest of Major League scouts after they left Cuba. Yuli signed a five-year deal with the Astros in July 2016 and was playing in Houston later that year. Lourdes' timeline took a little bit longer, as he signed a six-year deal with the Blue Jays in November 2016 and made his big league debut earlier this season.

Video: Gurriel brothers, Yuli and Lourdes, each hit 2 homers

The brothers have already made their mark on their respective organizations. Yuli embraced a starring role for an Astros team that won the 2017 World Series and was named American League Player of the Week on Monday, while Lourdes is a potential future cornerstone for a Blue Jays organization that is in the process of going through a youth movement.

Video: Yuli Gurriel named American League Player of the Week

"I'm the fortunate one here," said Lourdes. "I was the youngest one and I had a chance, not to look just at him, but also my other brother and my dad, and see how they went about their business. Not only on the field, but off the field, how disciplined and respectful they were with everybody. I'm very fortunate to have him."

There will be some conflicted feelings in the Gurriel household during this three-game series. Yuli joked that his mother didn't know which team to root for, so instead she got a jersey that is half Toronto and half Houston with the Gurriel name on the back.

Tweet from @BlueJays: No matter what happens tonight, Mama Gurriel is going to be proud. 💙 pic.twitter.com/RBYWsCmVgK

It will be about cheering for the name on the back of the jersey instead of the logo on the front of it, but make no mistake about it -- the two brothers might be close, but they're also extremely competitive and both know that bragging rights will be on the line this week at Rogers Centre.

"We're brothers, but whenever the game starts, between the lines, I'm going to try and be better than him and beat him," Yuli said. "We'll see how it's going to happen."

One of the biggest bragging rights of all was settled before the series opener. Yuli's unique hairstyle has made him somewhat of a cult hero in Houston. It gets plenty of camera time and teammates are frequently seen playing with it before games and after home runs.

Lourdes, like a lot of younger brothers, tried to emulate the guy he looked up to so much as a kid. As far as Yuli sees it, Lourdes succeeded.

"One morning I got up and my hair was like that," Yuli said. "People just started liking it. When his hair grew up, he started doing it, too. Now his hair is better than mine. There's nothing I can do about that."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays, Houston Astros, Yuli Gurriel, Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

Players set to become free agents in 2018-19 offseason

MLB.com

By now, you probably know the big names due to become free agents this offseason.

Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are the headliners. There's also Josh Donaldson, Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel. But what about the rest?

By now, you probably know the big names due to become free agents this offseason.

Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are the headliners. There's also Josh Donaldson, Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel. But what about the rest?

Below is a list of notable players who are on an expiring contract or have an opt-out clause, grouped by position -- using a player's most-played position in 2018 -- and ranked by '18 Wins Above Replacement (WAR). Each player's 2019 seasonal age and 2018 WAR total are included in parentheses next to his name. (WAR totals are through Monday, Sept. 3, per FanGraphs.)

Note: This doesn't include players with 2019 club options that are very likely to be picked up, such as Chris Sale, Madison Bumgarner and Cole Hamels, meaning the list could grow if options aren't exercised.

Catchers
Yasmani Grandal (30 years old, 2.6 WAR)
Wilson Ramos (31, 2.5)
Kurt Suzuki (35, 1.7)
A.J. Ellis (38, 1.0)
Martin Maldonado (32, 0.9)
Nick Hundley (35, 0.8)
Jonathan Lucroy (33, 0.5)
Devin Mesoraco (31, 0.5)
Rene Rivera (35, 0.4)
Matt Wieters (33, 0.4)
Jeff Mathis (36, -0.2)
Drew Butera (35, -0.4)

First basemen
Steve Pearce (36 years old, 1.3 WAR)
Joe Mauer (36, 0.9)
Matt Adams (30, 0.8)
Mark Reynolds (35, 0.4)
Lucas Duda (32, 0.0)
Hanley Ramirez (35, -0.2)

Second basemen
Jed Lowrie (35 years old, 4.8 WAR)
Ian Kinsler (37, 2.3)
Asdrubal Cabrera (33, 2.3)
Daniel Descalso (32, 1.9)
DJ LeMahieu (30, 1.3)
Brian Dozier (32, 1.2)
Daniel Murphy (34, 0.3)
Logan Forsythe (32, 0.2)
Sean Rodriguez (34, 0.0)
Andrew Romine (33, 0.0)
Neil Walker (33, -0.2)

Third basemen
Eduardo Escobar (30 years old, 3.2 WAR)
Adrian Beltre (40, 0.6)
Josh Donaldson (33, 0.6)
Pablo Sandoval (32, 0.1)
Chase Headley (35, -0.4)
Danny Valencia (34, -0.4)
Jose Reyes (36, -0.8)
Luis Valbuena (33, -0.9)

Shortstops
Manny Machado (26 years old, 5.7 WAR)
Jose Iglesias (29, 2.5)
Elvis Andrus (30, 1.2) --
Can opt out of the four years and $58 million remaining on his contract.
Jordy Mercer (32, 1.1)
Freddy Galvis (29, 0.6)
Adeiny Hechavarria (30, 0.4)
Alcides Escobar (32, -0.5)
Eric Sogard (33, -0.8)

Left fielders
Michael Brantley (32 years old, 2.6 WAR)
Marwin Gonzalez (30, 1.3)
Curtis Granderson (38, 0.6)
Craig Gentry (35, 0.5)
Cameron Maybin (32, 0.4)
Matt Joyce (34, 0.1)
Gregor Blanco (35, -0.4)
Hunter Pence (36, -0.8)

Center fielders
Leonys Martin (31 years old, 2.5 WAR)
A.J. Pollock (31, 1.9)
Adam Jones (33, 0.6)
Rajai Davis (38, 0.3)
Austin Jackson (32, -0.3)

Right fielders
Bryce Harper (26 years old, 3.1 WAR)
Nick Markakis (35, 2.6)
Jason Heyward (29, 2.2)
-- Can opt out of the five years and $106 million remaining on his contract.
Carlos Gonzalez (33, 1.9)
Andrew McCutchen (32, 1.8)
Jon Jay (33, 1.1)
Lonnie Chisenhall (30, 0.8)
Melky Cabrera (34, 0.4)
Jose Bautista (38, 0.4)
Carlos Gomez (33, -0.3)
Chris Young (35, -0.5)

Designated hitters
Nelson Cruz (38 years old, 2.4 WAR)
Evan Gattis (32, 0.3)
Pedro Alvarez (32, -0.2)

Starting pitchers
Patrick Corbin (29 years old, 5.7 WAR)
Dallas Keuchel (31, 3.4)
Clayton Kershaw (31, 3.2)
-- Can opt out of the two years and $65 million remaining on his contract.
Charlie Morton (35, 2.9)
David Price (33, 2.5)
-- Can opt out of the four years and $127 million remaining on his contract.
J.A. Happ (36, 2.5)
CC Sabathia (38, 2.2)
Lance Lynn (32, 2.2)
Trevor Cahill (31, 2.1)
Derek Holland (32, 1.9)
Clay Buchholz (34, 1.7)
Anibal Sanchez (35, 1.6)
Nathan Eovaldi (29, 1.5)
Gio Gonzalez (33, 1.4)
Hyun-Jin Ryu (32, 1.2)
Matt Harvey (30, 1.1)
Jeremy Hellickson (32, 1.1)
Wade Miley (32, 1.0)
Garrett Richards (32, 1.0)
Tyson Ross (32, 1.0)
Brett Anderson (31, 0.8)
Edwin Jackson (35, 0.8)
Marco Estrada (35, 0.5)
Bartolo Colon (46, 0.2)
Jaime Garcia (32, 0.0)
Adam Wainwright (37, 0.0)
Drew Pomeranz (30, -0.3)
Miguel Gonzalez (35, -0.3)
Francisco Liriano (35, -0.4)
Chris Tillman (31, -0.4)
Hisashi Iwakuma (35, N/A)
-- Hasn't appeared in the Majors in 2018.

Relief pitchers
Adam Ottavino (33 years old, 2.2 WAR)
Jeurys Familia (29, 1.8)
David Robertson (34, 1.3)
Craig Kimbrel (31, 1.2)
Sergio Romo (36, 1.0)
Jesse Chavez (35, 1.0)
Oliver Perez (37, 0.8)
Jake Diekman (32, 0.7)
Tony Sipp (35, 0.7)
Brad Brach (33, 0.7)
Zach Duke (36, 0.7)
Joe Kelly (31, 0.6)
Justin Wilson (31, 0.6)
Mark Melancon (34, 0.5)
-- Can opt out of the two years and $28 million remaining on his contract.
Tyler Clippard (34, 0.4)
Andrew Miller (34, 0.4)
Kelvin Herrera (29,0.4)
Tony Barnette (35, 0.3)
Aaron Loup (31, 0.3)
Bud Norris (34, 0.3)
Jonny Venters (34, 0.3)
Adam Warren (31, 0.3)
John Axford (36, 0.2)
Greg Holland (33, 0.2)
Shawn Kelley (35, 0.2)
Jerry Blevins (35, 0.1)
Santiago Casilla (38, 0.1)
Fernando Salas (34, 0.0)
Ryan Madson (38, 0.0)
Zach McAllister (31, 0.0)
Blake Wood (33, 0.0)
Daniel Hudson (32, -0.1)
Zach Britton (31, -0.1)
Jorge De La Rosa (38, -0.1)
Jeanmar Gomez (31, -0.1)
AJ Ramos (32, -0.2)
Jim Johnson (36, -0.2)
Matt Belisle (39, -0.2)
Randall Delgado (29, -0.2)
Boone Logan (34, -0.3)
Brad Ziegler (39, -0.3)
Cody Allen (30, -0.3)
Hector Santiago (31, -0.4)
Peter Moylan (40, -0.4)
Junichi Tazawa (33, -0.6)
Blaine Boyer (37, -0.9)
Josh Tomlin (34, -1.3)
David Phelps (32, N/A)
-- Hasn't appeared in the Majors in 2018.
Joaquin Benoit (41, N/A) -- Hasn't appeared in the Majors in 2018.

Thomas Harrigan is an editor for MLB.com.

Is Wright on Mets' Mount Rushmore?

Beat reporter Anthony DiComo answers questions from fans
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

Since David Wright is retiring and Jose Reyes might be done as well, where do Wright and Reyes stack up against other Mets all-time greats in your opinion?
-- @matthewpage24 via Twitter

Wright is certainly on the franchise's Mount Rushmore; I don't think there's a great argument against him as the top offensive player in Mets history. Wright's career WAR of 50.4, according to Baseball Reference, dwarfs that of Darryl Strawberry, who ranks second on the list at 36.6. Wright is the franchise record holder in hits, doubles, runs, RBIs, walks and total bases, and while some of that is due to the fact that he also leads in at-bats and plate appearances, his peak years were Hall of Fame-caliber. His best season, 2007, was good for an 8.3 WAR, best all-time in Mets history.

Since David Wright is retiring and Jose Reyes might be done as well, where do Wright and Reyes stack up against other Mets all-time greats in your opinion?
-- @matthewpage24 via Twitter

Wright is certainly on the franchise's Mount Rushmore; I don't think there's a great argument against him as the top offensive player in Mets history. Wright's career WAR of 50.4, according to Baseball Reference, dwarfs that of Darryl Strawberry, who ranks second on the list at 36.6. Wright is the franchise record holder in hits, doubles, runs, RBIs, walks and total bases, and while some of that is due to the fact that he also leads in at-bats and plate appearances, his peak years were Hall of Fame-caliber. His best season, 2007, was good for an 8.3 WAR, best all-time in Mets history.

Had Strawberry spent more than eight years in Flushing, this might be a different conversation. As it is, Strawberry, Reyes, Mike Piazza, Carlos Beltran and others simply weren't here long enough to challenge Wright's mantle.

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Pitching is another story. This is a franchise built around it, and no one was better on the mound than Tom Seaver. What Wright did as a hitter made him one of the best of his generation. What Seaver did as a pitcher made him one of the best of all-time. There's a reason why the former won't make the Hall of Fame, while the latter entered on the first ballot.

As for Reyes, his peak simply wasn't long enough to enter into that conversation. Reyes' total of 27.1 WAR with the Mets puts him between Edgardo Alfonzo and Keith Hernandez, the latter of whom enjoyed significantly more success outside New York.

(By the way, the Mets' Mount Rushmore, to me, consists of Wright, Strawberry, Seaver and Dwight Gooden. If you disagree, feel free to let me hear it.)

Has there been any discussion about the team changing its apparent policy of not retiring numbers unless the player is a Hall of Famer? There are a number of deserving guys already, and now with Wright retiring, I figure it's time.
-- @MGHeinz via Twitter

While Jeff Wilpon didn't exactly shout from the rafters that he intends to retire Wright's No. 5 when asked about it last week, the general expectation is that it will happen at some point in the coming years. If those gates open, however, expect noise from those who want Hernandez's No. 17 and Gary Carter's No. 8 retired, as well. It's possible Wright's departure may be the impetus for the Mets to grow a bit more liberal with their retired numbers.

Any rumblings on whether the Mets intend to sign Jacob deGrom long-term this offseason?
-- @onmylevels via Twitter

As of a few weeks ago, the Mets had not engaged deGrom in any meaningful long-term talks. When I asked deGrom about it for this profile, he wondered out loud that "at some point, do you bet on yourself?"

"I'm not going to sign some crazy, cheap deal," said deGrom, who has two years left under team control.

Those close to deGrom say he would have been happy to sacrifice future earning power for long-term security early in his career, but he has perhaps reached the point -- he's made $12.6 million, not including endorsements -- where that no longer makes sense. A market-value extension could probably still win him over, but the Mets have shown zero inclination to pony up the type of nine-figure deal that would be necessary. It appears all but inevitable that deGrom will hit free agency in two years, at age 32.

What are the Mets' biggest needs going into next season? And who should be the ideal targets at those positions?
-- @metfan722 via Twitter

Bullpen and catcher, in that order. If the Mets truly believe they can compete in 2019, they should be pursuing the absolute top of the relief market -- Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Miller, Zach Britton, Adam Ottavino and whomever else you want to put on that list. For the Mets to "win" the offseason, it's mandatory they sign at least one of those arms.

Catcher is a bit trickier. While the Mets absolutely need an upgrade, few exist for the taking. The team should make a run at Wilson Ramos and Yasmani Grandal, and not shy away from a bidding war for either.

Will Wright's contract and others coming off the books, plus Yoenis Cespedes' insurance money, mean more spending flexibility for Mets?
-- @degiap01 via Twitter

Wright's contract isn't coming off the books. He's still owed $27 million, and the Mets, presumably through an agreement with their insurance company, will continue to pay it. That's why the team has been careful to say he's not retiring, even though he won't be playing beyond this season. The Mets in the past have considered Wright's salary as part of their payroll even though he hasn't played in more than two years. They'll almost certainly take the same tact with Cespedes, who could return midway through next year.

Do you think Jay Bruce will be considered an outfielder or a first baseman going into next season?
-- @FuneralMadera via Twitter

Both. The Mets will go into next season with Bruce, Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo manning the outfield, and Juan Lagares as a platoon option. Bruce can also take some heat off the combination of Dominic Smith and Wilmer Flores at first base, assuming Peter Alonso doesn't start the season in the Majors. (For more on that, see the next question.)

In recent weeks, the Mets have more aggressively deployed Bruce at first, knowing they're going to use him there next year. But particularly until Cespedes returns, Bruce will remain a key component of the outfield, as well.

Do you think the Mets see Peter Alonso as a prime player to start at first base going into 2019?
-- @VetonsHotStove via Twitter

This is a tough one to predict. On the one hand, the Mets' strongest lineup probably includes Alonso at first base and Bruce in the outfield. On the other, the Mets have also stashed Alonso in the Minors for so long now that Super Two and team control factors will be relevant next April -- even if they think his defense is up to snuff.

Then there's the matter of Smith, who hasn't done a ton to prove he belongs in the big leagues, but who is of no use to anyone at Triple-A. I doubt we'll have the answer in February; expect plenty of ink to be spilled on what should be one of the leagues' more intriguing Spring Training competitions.

What do you think will be the role of T.J. Rivera next year? He was as good as Jeff McNeil when he came up.
-- @Alguera via Twitter

With all due respect to Rivera, he's never had a two-month stretch in the Majors like McNeil's current run. Assuming Rivera is healthy at the start of Spring Training, he'll compete for a job on the Mets' bench.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.

New York Mets, David Wright

Ichiro had pillow fight with mascot? Why, yes

No one can question how much Ichiro enjoys baseball. He loves it all -- the art of hitting, the athleticism of running down a ball in the gap, the pillow fights ... wait, what?

Before the Mariners' game against the Rangers on Sunday, Ichiro spied the mascot Rangers Captain menacing the visitors' dugout with a pillow and stepped up to the challenge.