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Trade Talk: Potential snag in Machado deal?

The latest news and rumors leading up to July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline
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.

Latest: Potential snag in Machado deal to Dodgers?
July 18: While the expectation since late Tuesday night has been that the Dodgers will be the winners of the Manny Machado sweepstakes, nothing has been finalized yet.

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

Latest: Potential snag in Machado deal to Dodgers?
July 18: While the expectation since late Tuesday night has been that the Dodgers will be the winners of the Manny Machado sweepstakes, nothing has been finalized yet.

In fact, there may be a snag involving an issue with the physical of one (or more) of the prospects headed to Baltimore, according to MLB Network Radio host and former Mets GM Steve Phillips.

Tweet from @StevePhillipsGM: Possible snag in Machado deal to Dodgers. Sources indicate that one or more of prospects coming to #Orioles have some issues in their physicals. Surprise surprise. May open door for other clubs. Stay tuned.

A source tells MLB.com that the holdup is pertaining to the medical info for one of the secondary pieces in the deal, but at this point it does not seem like enough to prevent the trade from happening. However, that could change if the two sides can't reconcile the issues regarding the physical or find another player to sub in to the transaction.

MLB Network insider Jon Heyman echoes that via Twitter.

Tweet from @JonHeyman: the medical holdup in the Machado trade isn't over top OF prospect Yusniel Diaz, the key prospect in the trade and one real name that's out there & confirmed. since it's apparently over a complementary piece (at least compared to Diaz), the chances to work it out are much better.

MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal, who reported that the trade was "happening" last night, made it a point to note earlier yesterday that the O's have a history of finding problems with physicals.

Tweet from @Ken_Rosenthal: Important to remember with #Orioles: Any deal in place is tentative based upon medical reviews. Such reviews have scuttled O���s deals in past, including perhaps Britton to HOU last year. Reduced input of Peter Angelos might make team���s standards less stringent; difficult to say.

The Orioles have been down this road before, with deals for Grant Balfour, Yovani Gallardo, Adam LaRoche and Dexter Fowler having been nixed or altered over injury or other concerns.

Ramos may not return by Trade Deadline
July 18: A strained left hamstring already cost Wilson Ramos a chance to start the All-Star Game. Now it could impact the Rays' chances to trade the backstop.

Ramos, who was voted in at catcher but missed the Midsummer Classic due to the injury, is having a strong season with a .297/.346/.488 line to go with 14 home runs. The 30-year-old, however, was placed on the 10-day DL Wednesday and appears likely to be out beyond the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Tweet from @TBTimes_Rays: #Rays officially put Ramos on DL with left hamstring strain, as expected. He is likely to miss extended time, past July 31 trade deadline. Also reinstated LHP Jose Alvarado from family medical emergency list.

While Ramos' trade value already had taken a hit, it's now even lower, which is a tough outcome for the Rays. Not only could Ramos have brought back a nice return in a depleted catching market, but he also is a free agent at season's end, thus limiting the Rays' opportunity to get anything of real value for him. Perhaps they'll revisit shopping him in August, before the waiver Trade Deadline at the end of next month.

Phillies' options include Moustakas, Escobar
July 18: After heavy pursuit, the Phillies may be missing out on Manny Machado -- who is expected to be headed to the Dodgers, according to multiple reports -- but that doesn't mean they're going to sit still. As they exit the All-Star break with a half-game lead over the Braves in the National League East, the Phils are aiming to add ahead of the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Among their top targets now? Mike Moustakas of the Royals and Eduardo Escobar of the Twins, MLB.com's Todd Zolecki writes. The Phillies are looking for an upgrade on the left side of their infield, where youngsters Maikel Franco, Scott Kingery and J.P. Crawford have struggled with injuries and inconsistency. Although both Moustakas and Escobar primarily play third base, Escobar has experience at shortstop.

Both Moustakas, who has 19 homers and a .772 OPS, and Escobar, who owns an .834 OPS and an MLB-high 35 doubles, can be free agents at season's end. As rental players, they could help the Phillies' quest to make it back to the postseason for the first time since 2011 -- and may not require a huge return that would dent their promising future. More >

Video: Slugger Moustakas delivering at the plate, in field

Cardinals among clubs on buy-or-sell bubble
July 18: The second half is about to start and the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline is less than two weeks away, but there still are a handful of teams who can't clearly be labeled as buyers or sellers … yet.

The Cardinals -- sitting four games out of a National League Wild Card spot at 48-46 and coming off the dismissal of longtime skipper Mike Matheny just before the break -- are one such club. St. Louis has a few intriguing trade chips, as MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi points to versatile infielder Jedd Gyorko (signed through next season with a club option for 2020) and 2017 breakout outfielder Tommy Pham (under club control through 2021).

The 29-year-old Gyorko's power is down this season -- he's slugging .411 after posting .495 and .472 marks in 2016 and '17, respectively -- but his ability to play all four infield positions could prove useful to a contender.

Pham is an especially interesting name to float, given that he came from nowhere to slash .306/.411/.520 while compiling 23 homers and 25 steals last year. He is, however, already 30 years old and has slumped to a .243/.326/.396 line so far in a streaky 2018 campaign. Morosi notes that the Cardinals' outfield depth, including rookie Harrison Bader's emergence, could make Pham worth dangling for a sizable return. More >

Britton's market picking up
July 18: Manny Machado is their biggest chip -- and the biggest one on the trade market -- but the Orioles have another key piece in Zach Britton, who is likely to be moved soon after Machado. Interest in the lefty reliever has increased, according to MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli.

Tweet from @Britt_Ghiroli: When Machado is officially traded, Orioles could move quickly on Britton. Interest in him has picked up steam.

Britton has made 15 appearances this season after returning from offseason surgery to repair a ruptured right Achilles. Though he got off to a rough start, the 30-year-old has not given up a run over his past seven outings (seven innings) while showing a dramatic increase in velocity.

As many as eight teams have been connected to Britton, an industry source recently told Bruce Levine of Chicago radio station 670 The Score, including the Cubs, Phillies and Red Sox.

Dodgers' Diaz among top prospects who could be traded
July 18: It's not yet official, but Manny Machado is expected to be headed to the Dodgers in a blockbuster trade. While we await the final word, multiple reports indicate that young outfielder Yusniel Diaz, the Dodgers' No. 4 prospect, is a big part of the return headed to Baltimore. He's just one of a number of MLB Pipeline's Top 100 prospects who could be traded this month.

Tweet from @DodgersLowDown: Yusniel Diaz took to Instagram this morning to thank the #Dodgers organization for everything they have done for him in his career and express his happiness for his opportunity now with the #Orioles. pic.twitter.com/D79Mb20JGm

The 21-year-old Diaz is slashing .314/.428/.477 at Double-A this season, and he showed off his power by homering twice in Sunday's SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game, joining Alfonso Soriano (in 1999) as the only players to pull off that feat in the showcase's 20-year history. More >

Video: WLD@USA: Diaz clobbers 2-run jack, game-tying HR

Will teams wheel and deal well before Trade Deadline?
July 18: Conventional wisdom says front offices tend to wait until the last week -- or even the last day -- before making massive moves at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. But that no longer appears to be the case, as activity has picked up sooner over the past several years, including during the All-Star break on occasion.

With Manny Machado reportedly going to the Dodgers soon, this could be the latest in a recent run of blockbuster-caliber trades to happen well ahead of the Deadline. In fact, we could see a big-name player change teams before the second half resumes for the third straight season, after Jose Quintana (to the Cubs) and Drew Pomeranz (to the Red Sox) did so in 2017 and '16, respectively. More >

Hand retires all three batters faced in All-Star Game
July 18: Brad Hand showed why he's one of the most coveted relievers on the trade market with a strong performance in Tuesday night's Midsummer Classic.

After Josh Hader surrendered Jean Segura's tiebreaking three-run homer and allowed a Mitch Moreland single, Hand entered with one out in the top of the eighth inning. He struck out Yan Gomes and got Michael Brantley to ground out to end any potential further scoring threat.

Making his second straight All-Star appearance, the Padres lefty stayed in to open the top of the ninth and proceeded to get Jed Lowrie to pop out before giving way to Ross Stripling. All told, it was a perfect performance from the 28-year-old, who has garnered interest from a number of teams for his stellar track record and team-friendly contract.

Tweet from @jcrasnick: Add the #Indians to list of teams with interest in #Padres closer Brad Hand. He's signed for $6.5M and $7M the next two years, with a $10M club option for 2021. So he could be a nice hedge against Andrew Miller and Cody Allen leaving through free agency. Price very high, though.

Happ picks up save in Midsummer Classic
July 18: J.A. Happ had never made an appearance in the All-Star Game or a notched a save in his 12-year MLB career, but both of those changed Tuesday night.

The Blue Jays lefty, who hadn't pitched in relief since one outing in 2015 with the Mariners, came into the game in the bottom of the 10th with the American League ahead of the National League, 8-5. After giving up a home run to Joey Votto on his first pitch, the first-time All-Star settled down to register his first career save by striking out Christian Yelich, then getting Charlie Blackmon to ground out and Lorenzo Cain to fly out.

Although Happ has hit a bit of a rough patch with a 9.75 ERA in his past three starts, the 35-year-old free-agent-to-be remains one of the bigger trade targets for teams seeking mid-rotation help, including the Yankees, Phillies and A's.

Machado appears bound for LA
July 17: We may have a winner in the Manny Machado sweepstakes, as MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported "with more certainty" on Tuesday night that Machado will be dealt to the Dodgers.

Among the few remaining hurdles, according to Rosenthal, was the exact return heading to Baltimore beyond outfield prospect Yusniel Diaz, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 84 prospect in the game and the Dodgers' No. 4 prospect. MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli said sources have told her the same information.

Tweet from @Ken_Rosenthal: Can report with more certainty: Machado to #Dodgers happening. Among remaining questions, in addition to specifics of return beyond OF Yusniel Diaz: How much money, if any, #Orioles will send #Dodgers to secure a better package and help ease LAD���s luxury-tax concerns.

According to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, the Dodgers are believed to be sending four other prospects to Baltimore in the deal, but will not receive any cash from the Orioles in exchange. He notes that Los Angeles will nevertheless remain under the luxury tax threshold. 

Tweet from @JonHeyman: Machado deal to dodgers is agreed upon, tho could be still some medical/approval to go. Press conference slated for Wednesday or Thursday. Many prospects going to orioles (believed to be 5). No $ in deal (LA will remain under threshold anyway)

As recently as Tuesday morning, the battle over Machado included the Brewers and Phillies, who seemed to move to the front of the pack on Monday night, when they indicated they were willing to include right-handed pitching prospect Adonis Medina in a deal, per a report from MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi.

Though Machado represented the O's in Tuesday's All-Star Game presented by Mastercard, MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli was told it would be a "major upset" if he is still with the club when the regular season resumes on Friday, and USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported via Twitter that a Machado deal is expected to come on Wednesday, "barring a last-minute snag." More >

Video: Machado talks trade rumors, craziest one he's heard

Phillies interested in Happ, not currently pursuing Hamels
July 17: While they remain among the front-runners for Manny Machado and are also discussing Zach Britton with the Orioles, the Phillies have "definite interest" in veteran Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ as well, according to Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia

Though Happ, 35, has struggled of late (6.84 ERA over his past five starts), he was nevertheless selected to the American League All-Star team following a strong start to the season (3.48 ERA through June 13). The southpaw, who is in the final season of a three-year, $36 million contract with Toronto, was selected by Philadelphia in the third round of the 2004 MLB Draft.

The Phillies have also been connected to the Rangers' Cole Hamels, another lefty who began his career with Philadelphia, but Salisbury notes "there has been no evidence to date that the Phils are pursuing Hamels." The 34-year-old has a $20 million team option with a $6 million buyout for 2019.

Choo drawing little trade interest; Hamels, Beltre also lacking suitors
July 17: While the Rangers are expected to be Trade Deadline sellers, they may have trouble finding attractive deals for many of their key trade chips. Even Shin-Soo Choo, who entered the All-Star break on a 51-game on-base streak, is drawing little interest, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News.

Choo is owed $42 million over 2019-20 as well as the remainder of the $20 million on his deal for this season, and he also offers little defensive value, which may be why teams aren't lining up to deal for the 36-year-old.

Per Grant, the market is also tepid for starter Cole Hamels and third baseman Adrian Beltre.

Hamels has struggled some this season, allowing 21 homers in 109 1/3 innings (1.7 HR/9), and he won't come cheap. The left-hander is owed the remainder of the $23.5 million on his contract for 2018 ($2.5 million of which is being paid by the Phillies), and he has a $20 million team option with a $6 million buyout for '19.

Meanwhile, Beltre has been spending more time as the designated hitter due to injuries, and his OPS is just .739. There's also the question of whether he will consider waiving his full no-trade clause, which comes from him having 10-and-5 rights (10-plus years in the Majors, at least five with current team). The impending free agent reportedly would like to play with the Rangers in 2019 and may approve a trade only if it's the perfect situation.

O's also listening on Gausman, Bundy, Schoop?
July 17: In case you haven't noticed -- yeah, right -- most of the trade focus surrounding the Orioles has been on Manny Machado. But Baltimore has plenty of other assets that could be moved ahead of the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Lefty reliever Zach Britton and outfielder Adam Jones -- both free agents at the end of the 2018 season -- are chief among those names, but the club isn't limiting itself as it faces a rebuilding process. In fact, the O's reportedly are listening to offers on right-handed starters Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy, along with second baseman Jonathan Schoop, MLB Network insider Joel Sherman notes in a New York Post story.

"I think their goal is to trade their walk-year guys, Machado, Britton, [Brad] Brach and Adam Jones, but they are not hanging up the phone if you ask on Gausman, Bundy or Schoop," a baseball executive told Sherman.

Given the O's desire to address their pitching, it would be surprising to see them deal either Gausman, who is 27 and under club control through 2020, or Bundy, a 25-year-old who won't reach free agency until after the 2021 season. Schoop, on the other hand, is due to hit the open market following the 2019 campaign, although his disappointing season so far (.229/.263/.389) means the club would be selling low on a 26-year-old who was an All-Star a year ago.

Padres getting calls on Ross, Yates, Hand
July 16: Brad Hand isn't the only Padres pitcher to be highly coveted by contending clubs. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports San Diego has been "getting a lot of hits" on starter Tyson Ross and several relievers, including Hand and Kirby Yates. Sherman notes the Yankees are among the teams that have checked in with the Padres.

Ross, who can become a free agent at the end of this season, has posted a 4.32 ERA in 2018, though he had a much more impressive 3.32 mark through the end of June before allowing 15 runs over his first two starts of July.

Hand, 28, is among the best relievers in baseball, as he has posted a 2.66 ERA with a 1.04 WHIP and an 11.8 K/9 rate since the outset of 2016. In exchange for the two-time All-Star, who is signed through 2020 with a $10 million team option for 2021, the Padres are believed to be asking for a package similar to those the Yankees got for Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller in two separate deals during 2016.

The Cubs also reportedly have Hand on their wish list, according to Bruce Levine of Chicago radio station 670 The Score.

Yates, meanwhile, has quietly recorded a 1.47 ERA with a 0.90 WHIP and an 11.5 K/9 rate this season. The 31-year-old is controllable through 2020.

Rosenthal: 'Almost no doubt' Dodgers will add reliever
July 16: The Dodgers are expected to be a major player in the relief pitching market before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, as MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal noted in a Twitter Q&A session for FOX Sports.

The Dodgers are seeking a bullpen arm who can pitch the eighth inning and also spell closer Kenley Jansen from time to time, according to Rosenthal, who said "there's almost no doubt" the club will trade for a reliever.

Tweet from @MLBONFOX: .@kryptonic05 #AskKen pic.twitter.com/y7foYiKfyU

Los Angeles leaned heavily on Brandon Morrow during the 2017 postseason as a setup man for Jansen, but Morrow signed with the Cubs in the offseason.

Though Josh Fields, Tony Cingrani and Pedro Baez have had solid campaigns, all three are on the disabled list with arm injuries, and none is on the level of someone such as Zach Britton, Raisel Iglesias, Jeurys Familia or Kyle Barraclough.

Will Archer be traded?
July 16: The Rays face an interesting decision with Chris Archer, whose name has been floated among trade rumors for years. On one hand, they have a young core that has them above .500 and looks promising going forward, especially if Archer is a part of it. On the other, Tampa Bay could take advantage of a weak market for starters and put Archer in play.

"Given the state of the starting pitching market, the incentive for [the Rays] to move him might never be higher," MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal suggested in a Twitter question-and-answer session on @MLBONFOX.

Tweet from @MLBONFOX: .@jboy819 #AskKen pic.twitter.com/Gm4QrCgP7Y

That said, Archer just came off the DL a week ago for a left abdominal strain that cost him more than a month of action and his performance so far this season has been somewhat inconsistent (4.29 ERA, 1.38 WHIP). In other words, making Archer available now might be undercutting his full value.

As a 29-year-old making $6.25 million this year and under contract for $7.5 million next year with club options for 2020 ($9M) and 2021 ($11M), Archer would be appealing to just about any club looking for rotation help -- not just 2018 contenders. His team-friendly contract also allows the cost-conscious Rays to be patient with their prized right-hander.

Amid trade rumors, deGrom addresses his future
July 16: As Jacob deGrom continues to be at the center of trade speculation, the All-Star right-hander made it clear he's open to staying with the Mets long term.

deGrom's agent Brodie Van Wagenen of CAA Sports initially suggested Monday that the Mets might consider trading their ace sooner than later if they don't plan to offer him a contract extension, according to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal.

Tweet from @Ken_Rosenthal: More from Van Wagenen: ���If the Mets don���t share same interest, we believe their best course of action is to seriously consider trade opportunities now.The inertia of current situation could complicate Jacob���s relationship with the club and creates an atmosphere of indecision.���

The 30-year-old deGrom, who leads MLB with a 1.68 ERA and is under club control through 2020, responded to questions at All-Star media day in Washington, D.C., by stating: "We've said multiple times that we're open to talking [about an] extension. It's kind of up to [the Mets] what they want to do." More >

Video: deGrom on his future with the Mets, trade rumors

Astros might stand pat at Trade Deadline
July 16: The Astros have reportedly discussed dealing for a catcher and a reliever, but there's a chance they won't make any major moves before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, according to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in a Twitter Q&A session for FOX Sports.

Tweet from @MLBONFOX: .@nnickk22 #AskKen pic.twitter.com/4gWhpCLIMM

With backstop Brian McCann (right knee surgery) expected to return by September and Max Stassi providing solid production (.792 OPS), Rosenthal notes the Astros are more likely to get a reliever than a catcher.

Per Rosenthal, Houston is seeking someone who can be a "true difference-maker" in the bullpen, such as Zach Britton, Brad Hand or Raisel Iglesias.

But with the ability to shift either Lance McCullers Jr. or Charlie Morton to the 'pen during the postseason, as they did last year when they won the World Series, the Astros may not feel a sense of urgency to add a big-name reliever.

Braves not expected to pursue big-name rentals
July 16: The Braves have been one of the biggest surprises of the 2018 season, unexpectedly putting the team in the "buyer" category as executive vice president and general manager Alex Anthopoulos prepares for his first Trade Deadline at the helm. But judging by Anthopoulos' comments in a two-part Q&A with Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Braves aren't planning to mortgage their bright future for a short-term boost.

"We would prefer not to go after rentals unless the acquisition cost just makes so much sense for us," Anthopoulos said. "There's a lot of pain that has gone into putting together this young talent. We're not ready to throw that all away just because of one season."

MLB Pipeline: Braves Top 30 prospects

Earlier this month, the Braves were mentioned among the contenders for Orioles shortstop Manny Machado, but they appear to have fallen out of the race as the Dodgers, Phillies and Brewers are reportedly leading. Atlanta has also been connected to Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas. Both players can become free agents after this season.

One area Anthopoulos could look to address is the bullpen, especially with closer Arodys Vizcaino going back on the DL on Saturday with right shoulder inflammation. The Braves entered the All-Star break with the 19th-best bullpen ERA in the Majors (4.24), and many of their key relievers are inexperienced. However, Atlanta could have limited options if free-agents-to-be such as the Orioles' Zach Britton and the Mets' Jeurys Familia are off the table. More >

Angels unlikely to deal Skaggs or Heaney
July 16: With a 49-48 record at the end of the first half, the Angels remain on the fringe of postseason contention, but they are nine games out of an AL Wild Card spot. That has sparked speculation that the club might consider selling by the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, with southpaw starters Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney mentioned as potential pieces.

That no longer appears to be the case, however, as MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reports via Twitter.

Tweet from @Ken_Rosenthal: #Angels have no interest in trading Heaney or Skaggs, per source - team needs them to compete in ���19. As I said Saturday, LAA drawing interest in controllable relievers - Parker, Alvarez, Bedrosian, Anderson. Open on any of them, but will want good returns to give up control.

With superstar Mike Trout smack in the middle of his prime and under contract through 2020, the Angels want to win in this window while they can. Both Skaggs (through '20) and Heaney (through '21) are under club control beyond this season, meaning they can be a part of that direction.

It had previously been reported by MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi that the Yankees have recently been scouting Angels games with eyes on Skaggs and Heaney, in particular.

Nationals could 'revisit' Realmuto trade discussions
July 15: The Nationals were believed to have moved on from Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto due to Miami's lofty asking price, but league sources say that Washington could "revisit" its pursuit of the backstop, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman in an article for Fancred Sports.

Some think the Nats might consider including top prospect Victor Robles (No. 5 overall, per MLB Pipeline) in a package for Realmuto, who will start at catcher for the National League in Tuesday's All-Star Game presented by Mastercard.

Per Heyman, the Marlins have long sought Robles and/or infielder Carter Kieboom (Washington's No. 2 prospect, No. 62 overall) from the Nationals, who discussed Realmuto with Miami in the offseason and reached out again several weeks ago but have been unwilling to include the aforementioned prospects to this point.

The Nationals have also been connected to Rays catcher Wilson Ramos, who played in Washington from 2010-16, but Ramos suffered a left hamstring injury Saturday and will miss the All-Star Game.

Listen: Mark Feinsand joins the Morning Lineup Podcast to discuss latest rumors

Are Pirates still on track to sell at Trade Deadline?
July 16: The Pirates were seemingly en route to be Trade Deadline sellers just over a week ago, but the club has ripped off an 8-1 stretch -- including a five-game sweep over the Brewers -- to potentially change its plans.

As Tim Benz of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review notes, general manager Neal Huntington said before this past week that a 4-4 record in the next eight games wouldn't be enough to convince him to keep the team together beyond the Trade Deadline. But Pittsburgh's red-hot run has put pressure on Huntington to hold off on a major teardown.

True, the Bucs are still only 48-49, putting them in fourth place in the National League Central, and their financial resources remain limited, so it's unlikely they'll significantly add to the roster between now and July 31.

But if Pittsburgh continues to play well coming out of the All-Star break, the onus will be on Huntington to keep veterans such as Jordy Mercer, Corey Dickerson, Ivan Nova, David Freese and Josh Harrison past July 31. The Pirates are also without one of their most valuable trade chips, as catcher Francisco Cervelli returned to the 7-day disabled list Saturday with recurring concussion symptoms.

Cardinals could sell if struggles continue after All-Star break
July 15: The Cardinals picked up a win in their final game before the All-Star break after dismissing manager Mike Matheny on Saturday, but if their recent struggles continue to begin the second half, the expectation is that St. Louis will "seriously consider selling," according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

And if that happens, the Cardinals could shake up the starting pitcher market in a big way by making right-hander Carlos Martinez available.

As Sherman notes, St. Louis' strength is young arms, so the club could use Martinez to address other problems on the roster. Per Sherman, outside executives believe the Cardinals can get peak value for Martinez in a market lacking an ace. The 26-year-old is in the second year of a five-year, $51 million contract with team options for 2022 ($17 million) and 2023 ($18 million).

The Cardinals will enter the All-Star break with a 48-46 record, 7 1/2 games behind the first-place Cubs in the National League Central (five games behind the second-placed Brewers) and four games out in the NL Wild Card race. They'll open the second half with eight games on the road, including five at Wrigley Field.

Trade Deadline strategies for all 30 teams

MLB.com

All great things start with a solid foundation. Now that we're halfway through the season, and the groundwork is set, buyers, sellers and hopefuls are coming into focus ahead of the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Teams are assembling hard-throwing, hot-hitting armies in a merciless push toward postseason contention. And we have you covered -- delivering blueprints and midterm reports for all Major League Baseball teams -- before flipping the page from July to August.

Here is MLB.com's projected Trade Deadline strategy for every MLB team.

All great things start with a solid foundation. Now that we're halfway through the season, and the groundwork is set, buyers, sellers and hopefuls are coming into focus ahead of the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Teams are assembling hard-throwing, hot-hitting armies in a merciless push toward postseason contention. And we have you covered -- delivering blueprints and midterm reports for all Major League Baseball teams -- before flipping the page from July to August.

Here is MLB.com's projected Trade Deadline strategy for every MLB team.

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

Blue Jays: After beginning the 2018 campaign with great promise, Toronto entered the All-Star break with a 43-52 record. The Blue Jays are expected to sell at the Trade Deadline in hopes of acquiring prospects to match the next wave of talent, re: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. More >

Orioles: More >

Rays: Tampa Bay put the naysayers to rest when an innovative strategy of using relievers to start bullpen days brought winning results. Will it lead the Rays to postseason contention? More >

Red Sox: Boston is living in its glory days, showcasing a bullish first-half performance with few shortcomings. How will its president of baseball operations look to make a potent team even stronger? More >

Video: Martinez talks about Red Sox's success this season

Yankees: The Yankees are performing just as we predicted, using a star-studded lineup to boast MLB's best home run total. Despite that, they head into the second half as MLB's second-best team (62-33), focused on starting pitching. More >

AL CENTRAL

Indians: Deja vu, as the Indians sit atop the AL Central, poised once again to make a push for a World Series title. Will they swing an impact arm to boost their bullpen? More >

Royals: Kansas City is one of a handful of teams in its early stages of rebuilding, aiming to restock its Minor League system with top prospects. More >

Tigers: Detroit took a ride on an emotional roller coaster, overperforming to start the season, then falling victim to the injury bug. The Tigers seek young hitters at the Trade Deadline, but what do they have to offer? More >

Twins: The brewing returns of two key players in Ervin Santana and Byron Buxton make the Twins seller-avoidant, but that depends on how well they do out of the gate in the second half. More >

White Sox: The South Siders are sticking to the approach of maintaining talent development. How will All-Star Jose Abreu and veteran James Shields play into their Trade Deadline outlook? More >

Video: KC@CWS: Renteria on Shields' outing, Abreu's offense

AL WEST

A's: This young core of A's is a hot topic in the postseason conversation, pushing Oakland to be buyers. For an October run, the club seeks affordable arms to complement its bold flair. More >

Angels: The Halos may have no choice but to part with their hard-earned offseason assets in order to save a highly anticipated, and consistently delayed, postseason run for another year. More >

Astros: The reigning World Series champs have lived up to their hype so well that they don't have enough weaknesses to warrant losing prospects for a major pickup. Unless they want to be greedy. More >

Video: Must C Clutch: Astros go back-to-back in 10th

Mariners: Seattle finally has the assets to end MLB's longest playoff drought. But will the impending return of Robinson Cano, and the position he'll patrol, be a cause for concern? More >

Rangers: The Rangers, as sellers, will look for structure to their pitching staff, becoming the latest team to throw their hat into the rebuilding ring. More >

NATINAL LEAGUE EAST

Braves: Already a threat in the NL East, the Braves are one key upgrade away from making a legitimate postseason run. Can Atlanta's offer of high-quality prospects provide the support it needs? More >

Marlins: The Fish still have plenty of work to be done before the fog clears in their ongoing rebuild under a Derek Jeter-owned franchise. Which players are they willing to bestow? More >

Mets: The Mets -- continually plagued by injuries -- seesaw between contending in 2019 and dumping their current roster for a full-fledged rebuild. Will a former trade partner supply the missing pieces? More >

Video: deGrom on his future with the Mets, trade rumors

Nationals: The preseason favorite looks like it is in position to make a run for October; the Nats enter the second half with high aspirations. More >

Phillies: The Phils open the second-half in first place in the NL East, and they're so close to being complete that the club is homing in on definitive reinforcements. More >

NL CENTRAL

Brewers: A revamped roster led Milwaukee to set a franchise record number of wins (55) before the All-Star break. What are the Brewers seeking to sustain their success? More >

Cardinals: As evidenced by replacing managers midseason, the Cards are committed to making a final push for the postseason. Now, St. Louis hangs in the balance of buying or selling before the Trade Deadline. More >

Cubs: The two-time defending division champs are competing without the phenomenal pitching staff they expected. Will they make another blockbuster move, or a series of acquisitions, before time is up? More >

Pirates: The Bucs' Trade Deadline plans depend on how well they perform at the start of their second act. If they pick up where they left off -- winning eight of their past nine contests -- Pittsburgh could make a run for it. More >

Video: Pirates sweep 5-game series against the Brewers

Reds: Cincinnati painted a pleasant picture of what's to come in 2019. A key trade chip in Matt Harvey will boost its chances of acquiring younger starting pitchers. More >

NL WEST

D-backs: The D-backs amplified last season's postseason berth with another strong run for contention. Strong arms in both the rotation and bullpen involve their Trade Deadline decisions, as headliners A.J. Pollock, Patrick Corbin and Paul Goldschmidt near free agency. More > 

Dodgers: Equipped with a stuffed roster, the Dodgers are on track for a sixth straight first-place finish. Is one of the deepest farm systems in the game willing to part with its top prospects? More >

Video: Kemp, Jansen discuss first half of season

Giants: Time and time again, San Francisco has proven to be a buyer at the Trade Deadline. The Giants' possession of a formidable bat off the bench could be a possible trade chip for interested teams. More >

Padres: No shot at contending in 2018 and a stacked farm system leaves the Padres with many questions nearing the Trade Deadline. One: Which pieces can San Diego acquire to become a part of its future? More >

Rockies: The Rockies made a major statement, winning 13 out of their 16 final first-half games. Will Colorado benefit by holding or buying at the Trade Deadline? More >

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

MLB

Ramos to DL, likely out past Trade Deadline

Lefty reliever Alvarado reinstated in corresponding move
MLB.com @mattkellyMLB

MLB.com's Bill Chastain has learned that the Rays placed catcher Wilson Ramos on the disabled list Wednesday (retroactive to Sunday) with a left hamstring strain, and they also reinstated left-handed reliever Jose Alvarado from the family medical emergency list.

The 30-year-old Ramos strained his hamstring during the Rays' 19-6 rout of the Twins on Saturday, and the injury kept him out of Tuesday's All-Star Game. Ramos won the fan vote and was originally slated to start the Midsummer Classic behind the plate. Ramos told reporters Saturday that he expected to go on the disabled list, and Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported Wednesday that the strain is likely to keep Ramos out of Major League action beyond the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

MLB.com's Bill Chastain has learned that the Rays placed catcher Wilson Ramos on the disabled list Wednesday (retroactive to Sunday) with a left hamstring strain, and they also reinstated left-handed reliever Jose Alvarado from the family medical emergency list.

The 30-year-old Ramos strained his hamstring during the Rays' 19-6 rout of the Twins on Saturday, and the injury kept him out of Tuesday's All-Star Game. Ramos won the fan vote and was originally slated to start the Midsummer Classic behind the plate. Ramos told reporters Saturday that he expected to go on the disabled list, and Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported Wednesday that the strain is likely to keep Ramos out of Major League action beyond the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Ramos was in the midst of a strong offensive season, as he appeared fully healthy in his recovery from a torn ACL in his right knee sustained in 2016. The ninth-year backstop finished his first half batting .297 with 14 home runs and 53 RBIs to earn his second All-Star Game nod.

Ramos' extended injury timetable could influence the Rays' plans leading into the upcoming Trade Deadline. Tampa Bay sits two games over .500 at 49-47, but it is 8 1/2 games back of Seattle in the hunt for the American League's second Wild Card spot. Ramos figured to be a significant trade chip if the Rays decided to become sellers at the Deadline. Ramos will be a free agent this offseason, as he finishes up the two-year, $12.5 million deal he inked before the 2017 season.

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

Tampa Bay Rays, Wilson Ramos

Five teams on the 'buy or sell' bubble

MLB.com @jonmorosi

The distinction between non-waiver Trade Deadline buyers and sellers rarely has been sharper than it is this year.

Before the Mariners lost four straight to conclude the first half, the American League was on pace to have four teams finish with winning percentages of .600 or better for only the second time in the Modern Era (1977 was the other year, per STATS).

The distinction between non-waiver Trade Deadline buyers and sellers rarely has been sharper than it is this year.

Before the Mariners lost four straight to conclude the first half, the American League was on pace to have four teams finish with winning percentages of .600 or better for only the second time in the Modern Era (1977 was the other year, per STATS).

Meanwhile, the last-place Orioles have entertained trade offers on four-time All-Star Manny Machado for what seems like an eternity.

Still, indecision lingers for several teams in the middle. Here's a look at five front offices facing difficult choices as the sport gears up for the second half.

Athletics
Earlier this season, the A's appeared destined to trade prospective free agent Jed Lowrie and suddenly dominant closer Blake Treinen. Slugger Khris Davis was another candidate to be dealt. It was even possible that executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane and general manager David Forst would take advantage of a thin starting pitching market to sell high on left-hander Sean Manaea.

Not anymore. Oakland has been one of the best teams in baseball since the beginning of June. It ended the first half by playing three consecutive contenders -- the Indians, Astros and Giants -- and won every series. The A's are only three games behind the Mariners for the second AL Wild Card spot and could thwart the narrative behind Seattle's storybook season.

Video: TB@NYM: Eovaldi K's 9 over 7 shutout, drives in a run

Oakland's inspired play entering the All-Star break means the A's are very likely to add, rather than subtract, Major League talent at the Deadline. They are considering rental starting pitchers such as Nathan Eovaldi, Lance Lynn and J.A. Happ.

Angels
The Angels were tied for first in the competitive AL West as recently as May 14, but they have played sub-.500 baseball since then while losing starter Garrett Richards and closer Keynan Middleton to Tommy John surgeries.

Mike Trout is due to become a free agent after the 2020 season, and the Halos will be reluctant to concede any opportunity to reach the playoffs between now and then. But the Athletics' ascent in the AL West -- in addition to the established Astros and Mariners -- makes it harder to envision a second-half rally by the Angels.

Video: SEA@LAA: Skaggs K's 5 over 6 innings of 1-run ball

If general manager Billy Eppler embraces the concept of selling, GMs around the industry will come calling. Left-handers Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney are particularly valuable given the shortage of available starters, and new closer Blake Parker has been effective for a second straight year.

Rockies
On June 17, the Rockies' bullpen surrendered seven earned runs in a 13-12 loss to the Rangers that seemed to shatter any hopes of a second straight postseason appearance for Colorado. And yet the Rockies quietly have been one of the National League's best teams since then. They entered the All-Star break on a five-game winning streak to pull within two games of the second NL Wild Card spot.

Video: TB@MIN: Gibson fans 9 over 8 innings of 1-run ball

Unless they stumble terribly out of the break, the Rockies will look to add pitching help before the Deadline. The Twins -- with starters Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi and Lynn -- are a potential trade partner if Colorado prioritizes rotation help. Among relievers, Reds right-hander Jared Hughes has good career numbers at Coors Field.

Giants
The Giants weren't set up to have an especially active Deadline, even before they dropped two of three games to the A's last weekend. San Francisco has the largest payroll in the NL, and there's precious little room to maneuver under the luxury tax threshold.

Video: OAK@SF: Samardzija returns to DL with shoulder issue

It's possible the Giants could buy and sell, by trading expensive players in order to clear the payroll space for a bat or bullpen arm. To that end, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported recently that starter Jeff Samardzija was available. But after Samardzija landed on the disabled list again Sunday with right shoulder inflammation, the chances of him being traded by July 31 are nearly zero.

Cardinals
If the season ended today, the Cardinals would miss the playoffs for a third straight year. That has not happened in nearly two decades (1997-99). For an organization that values consistency, Saturday night's dismissal of manager Mike Matheny ushered in a period of change.

In that way, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak could decide to move veteran players for reasons apart from the team's third-place standing in the NL Central. A surplus of outfielders created by the emergence of Harrison Bader may result in Tommy Pham or Dexter Fowler being traded. Jedd Gyorko, signed through next year with a team option for 2020, has value in the market as a utility player.

Jon Paul Morosi is a columnist for MLB.com.

There's a new NL leader in latest MVP poll

MLB.com @RichardJustice

Mike Trout remains firmly in control of the American League MVP Award race. Even with Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez and Jose Ramirez having monstrous seasons, Trout continues to lead our writers poll by a wide margin.

As for the National League race, it couldn't be more wide open, as six players received first-place votes. Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado overtook Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman for the top spot in the overall NL voting.

Mike Trout remains firmly in control of the American League MVP Award race. Even with Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez and Jose Ramirez having monstrous seasons, Trout continues to lead our writers poll by a wide margin.

As for the National League race, it couldn't be more wide open, as six players received first-place votes. Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado overtook Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman for the top spot in the overall NL voting.

Arenado moves into first place at a time when the Rockies have sprinted into the All-Star break with a 13-3 run that has them within two games of the first-place Dodgers in the NL West.

Arenado has won virtually every other personal award except Most Valuable Player. He's a four-time All-Star and a five-time Gold Glove winner at third base. He finished fifth in NL MVP voting in 2016 and fourth in '17.

Arenado entered the break with 21 doubles, 23 home runs and a .981 OPS. At 27, he has long since established himself as one of baseball's elite talents.

Meanwhile, Trout got 28 out of 35 first-place votes in the AL, with Martinez getting four and Betts three. Ramirez was the only other American Leaguer to receive votes.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

1. Mike Trout, Angels (159 points)
Trout leads the Majors with a .454 OBP, but his name is dotted along the leaderboard in virtually every category, including total bases, home runs, etc. He leads the bigs with 17 intentional walks. 

2. Mookie Betts, Red Sox (73 points)
Betts hasn't closed the gap on Trout in the voting. Statistically, though, he has passed Trout in wRC+, slugging, OPS and wOBA. Betts, Trout and Ramirez are tied at 6.5 WAR, according to FanGraphs. Betts also leads the AL with a .359 batting average.

3. J.D. Martinez, Red Sox (45 points)
Martinez leads the Majors with 29 home runs, 80 RBIs and 228 total bases as he enters the second half of another huge season. Since being traded from the Tigers to the D-backs a year ago Thursday, he leads the bigs with 58 home runs and a 1.065 OPS in 154 games.

Others receiving votes: Ramirez, Indians

NATIONAL LEAGUE

1. Nolan Arenado, Rockies (108 points)
Arenado has been so good for so long -- averaging 40 home runs and 131 RBIs over the previous three seasons -- that an NL MVP Award probably is a better question of when, not if. He's batting .323 during the Rockies' hot streak.

2. Freddie Freeman, Braves (90 points)
Freeman's power numbers dropped off a bit, with one home run in 99 at-bats leading into the break. But his batting average hasn't dropped below .300 since late April, and his 3.9 WAR is second only to Arenado's 4.1 in the NL.

3. Lorenzo Cain, Brewers (61 points)
Cain's 3.5 WAR is third in the NL, reflecting the defensive contributions that are part of his overall game. He's tied for the top spot in Defensive Runs Saved in the NL. Cain is hitting .337 since June 5 and has multihit games in 13 of his past 24 contests.

Others receiving votes: Jesus Aguilar, Brewers; Eugenio Suarez, Reds; Jacob deGrom, Mets; Javier Baez, Cubs; J.T. Realmuto, Marlins

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.

Nolan Arenado, Mike Trout

These Top 100 prospects could be traded

MLB.com

With the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline less than two weeks away, most of the focus is on which Major Leaguers are expected to be swapped and make an impact for contenders in the second half. But for every big leaguer who changes teams, there often are multiple prospects involved in a trade.

That's the focus here, as we identify 10 elite youngsters -- specifically, Top 100 prospects per MLB Pipeline -- who are most likely to be dealt between now and the end of the month.

With the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline less than two weeks away, most of the focus is on which Major Leaguers are expected to be swapped and make an impact for contenders in the second half. But for every big leaguer who changes teams, there often are multiple prospects involved in a trade.

That's the focus here, as we identify 10 elite youngsters -- specifically, Top 100 prospects per MLB Pipeline -- who are most likely to be dealt between now and the end of the month.

:: Complete prospect coverage ::

Picking which prospects are trade bait isn't an exact science, but the names below -- listed in order of their Top 100 ranking -- are prime candidates for a variety of reasons, including their performance and pedigree, their standing within their organization's depth chart, and their franchise's level of desperation to make it to October.

Francisco Mejia, C/OF, Indians
Top 100 Ranking: No. 15
A switch-hitter with pop and backstop with a big arm, Mejia entered 2018 as the top catching prospect in baseball according to MLB Pipeline, making him a valuable commodity at a premium position. Mejia, 22, first gained mainstream attention for his historic 50-game hitting streak in the Minor Leagues in 2016.

Mejia made his big league debut last September and has been up with the Indians this season, too, although he has just 18 plate appearances in 12 MLB games overall. After a slow start at Triple-A this year, he has hit .385/.424/.585 since June 1. In an effort to increase his versatility, the Tribe has moved Mejia around, putting him in the outfield and even at third base in the Arizona Fall League.

That indicates the Indians like Mejia's bat enough to try to get him into the lineup at different positions, but it also might suggest some uncertainty in his ultimate position. For a title-starved team whose window of contention is now, Mejia might be best utilized as a trade chip to bring back a high-end reliever with multiple years of club control, like Raisel Iglesias or Brad Hand, as ESPN's Jerry Crasnick noted Tuesday. Remember, we've seen Cleveland pull off a blockbuster deal for just that when it acquired Andrew Miller for a package fronted by Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield in July 2016.

Video: CLE@COL: Mejia belts a three-run jack in the 3rd

Estevan Florial, OF, Yankees
Top 100 Ranking: No. 37
As a dynamic outfielder with loads of potential but more than a few obstacles ahead of him on the depth chart, Florial's future ultimately may be as a trade piece. The toolsy 20-year-old's follow-up campaign to his breakout 2017 hasn't been as impressive (.246/.353/.343 at Class A Advanced), in part because he missed about six weeks after having surgery to repair a broken hamate bone in his right hand.

Plus, the Yankees are so stacked in an outfield that features Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks, that Frazier -- a former top prospect himself -- hasn't been able to stick on the 25-man roster.

Sheffield would get consideration here, but the 22-year-old southpaw -- who is No. 39 on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list -- might be off limits because he's already throwing well at Triple-A and could help solidify the Yanks' rotation in the second half. If they decide to look outside the organization for a starter with years of control (maybe Michael Fulmer?), Florial would be a name to entice sellers.

Kolby Allard, LHP, Braves
Top 100 Ranking: No. 48
The Braves still have oh-so-much pitching depth in their farm system, but we'll pick Allard as the most likely to be moved in a significant deal. The 20-year-old lefty has zoomed to Triple-A, where he owns a 2.85 ERA this year, living up to his pedigree as a 2015 first-round pick.

Dangling Allard would help Atlanta address its biggest needs: an elite late-inning arm with years of control, like Hand or Iglesias; or a third baseman (perhaps Mike Moustakas or Adrian Beltre?) who can help this year before prospect Austin Riley is ready, likely by early 2019.

With other prospect arms like Luiz Gohara and Max Fried, who already have big league time, and Kyle Wright, Ian Anderson, Joey Wentz and 2018 breakout pitcher Touki Toussaint, who are quickly moving through the Minors, the Braves could move Allard and still have more prospect pitching depth than just about any organization.

Besides, there's only so much room in Atlanta's rotation for 2019 and beyond. "With Mike Foltynewicz, Sean Newcomb and Julio Teheran returning next year," as MLB.com's Mark Bowman writes, "they really only need two of these MLB-ready prospects for the start of next season."

Video: Top Prospects: Kolby Allard, LHP, Braves

Yordan Alvarez, 1B/OF, Astros
Top 100 Ranking: No. 51
Given that the Astros don't have any glaring need outside of the bullpen, it's unlikely that they would be interested in trading either outfielder Kyle Tucker or righty Forrest Whitley, the Nos. 8 and 9 overall prospects, respectively.

Enter Alvarez, a 21-year-old listed at a towering 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds who has posted a .952 OPS with 13 taters across Double- and Triple-A this season. With good athleticism for his size, Alvarez is capable of handling an outfield corner with first base as a fallback option.

Those spots are pretty well stocked in Houston, however, with Tucker now in town to go with George Springer, Josh Reddick and Marwin Gonzalez in an outfield that leaves little playing time for Jake Marisnick. Meanwhile, the Astros have Yuli Gurriel signed through 2020, so Alvarez could be the catalyst if they seek a reliever with multiple years of control.

Corbin Burnes, RHP, Brewers
Top 100 Ranking: No. 55
Sure, Keston Hiura -- Milwaukee's No. 1 prospect and No. 30 overall -- could be swapped. Heck, he's already acknowledged the ever-present rumors this time of year, as MLB.com's Adam McCalvy writes. But the No. 9 pick in the 2017 Draft already has rocketed to Double-A and looks to be the Brewers' long-term solution at second base.

Burnes' name has been mentioned as a trade chip this month, and as McCalvy notes, the Brewers are "more likely to move Burnes, because they seem pretty confident in their stock of prospect pitching with Freddy Peralta, Brandon Woodruff and others. Generally, they believe they don't get enough credit for the pitching they have in their system."

Milwaukee needs help in the rotation and middle infield, and while Burnes was brought up recently to help the pitching staff, the club also could be showcasing him for suitors.

Video: MIL@MIA: Burnes goes 2 scoreless in debut to get save

Kyle Lewis, OF, Mariners
Top 100 Ranking: No. 57
The case for Lewis as a likely trade piece is pretty simple. The Mariners have a mediocre-at-best farm system and are very much in win-now mode as they try to end the longest active postseason drought -- dating back to 2001 -- among the four major pro sports.

That desperation, combined with the fact Seattle's stranglehold on the second AL Wild Card spot has loosened to a mere three-game lead over Oakland as the second half gets underway, means GM Jerry Dipoto is likely to be aggressive, as usual, to improve his rotation and/or bullpen. The 23-year-old Lewis, a 2016 first-rounder who has battled numerous knee injuries as a pro, might be the only option if the Mariners are going to do something of significance.

Jon Duplantier, RHP, D-backs
Top 100 Ranking: No. 59
Speaking of organizations in win-now mode with shallow systems, the D-backs fit the bill, too. That makes Duplantier, their top prospect, a key component if they're looking for a needle-moving addition to the rotation or at shortstop.

Duplantier's name has been bandied about as is, with MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi pointing out recently that the O's showed interest. The 24-year-old righty has been out of action since the end of May with biceps tendinitis, perhaps making him less likely to be a trade target, but suitors will focus on Duplantier's stellar stats as a pro (1.62 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 10.9 K/9), as well as the fact that he's reached Double-A.

Carter Kieboom, SS, Nationals
Top 100 Ranking: No. 61
Is there a chance the sought-after Victor Robles gets dealt? Sure, but he's the No. 5 prospect in the sport and could be Bryce Harper's replacement in 2019, so it would take something super special.

Kieboom, who is also highly coveted as shortstop hitting .300/.381/.479 with 13 long balls between Class A Advanced and Double-A, seems a more likely trade candidate because the Nationals have Trea Turner under control through 2022.

The 20-year-old has been mentioned as a potential piece the Nats could use to go after a big-name backstop like the Marlins' J.T. Realmuto, who has multiple years of control left and would fix Washington's primary area of weakness beyond just 2018.

Video: Top Prospects: Carter Kieboom, SS, Nationals

Adonis Medina, RHP, Phillies
Top 100 Ranking: No. 73
In Medina and Sixto Sanchez, the Phillies have a pair of right-handed pitchers with 80-grade names, but the former appears to be more available than the latter -- who is Philly's top youngster and No. 23 overall -- in trade talks. In fact, Sanchez may be "off limits," according to MLB.com's Todd Zolecki.

Given that, as well as how much young pitching the Phils possess (JoJo Romero, Franklyn Kilome, Ranger Suarez, etc.), they certainly have the ability to make a move with Medina as the centerpiece to address their bullpen or the left side of their infield.

Considering the Phillies indicated a willingness to discuss Medina in a possible deal for Manny Machado, as Morosi reported Monday, it shouldn't be shocking if they swap him this month. The 21-year-old has 75 strikeouts in 71 1/3 innings at Class A Advanced after a breakout 2017.

Yusniel Diaz, OF, Dodgers
Top 100 Ranking: No. 84
Diaz has been linked heavily over the past 24 hours as part of a Dodgers-O's blockbuster for Machado. In fact, the 21-year-old is on the table in discussions, as MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reports. That shows how serious the franchise is in its quest win it all for the first time since 1988 after falling short in Game 7 last fall.

Diaz also made news Sunday when he smashed a pair of home runs in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game, joining Alfonso Soriano (in 1999) as just the second player to do so in the event's 20-year history.

Hitting .314/.428/.477 at Double-A this season, Diaz is an advanced hitter with strong plate discipline (41 BB, 39 Ks) and the ability to play center field. His path to Los Angeles is blocked by the Dodgers' glut of outfielders in spark plug Yasiel Puig, resurgent Joc Pederson and surprise 2018 All-Star Matt Kemp, among others. Not to mention, fellow outfielder Alex Verdugo -- a 22-year-old who is hitting .350/.394/.517 at Triple-A and checks in as the No. 27 overall prospect -- already has seen time in The Show this year and last.

Jason Catania is a reporter for MLB.com.

Cespedes plays first, hits HR in rehab game

MLB.com @mattkellyMLB

Mets slugger Yoenis Cespedes hit a three-run home run and played first base for the first time as a professional player on Wednesday as he participated in his second Minor League rehab game with the Rookie-level GCL Mets.

The 32-year-old Cespedes, who has been on the disabled list since May 16 while he recuperates from a strained right hip flexor, went 1-for-4 and played an error-free game at first base as part of the GCL Mets' 6-3 victory over the GCL Astros at First Data Field in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Cespedes' three-run shot came off GCL Astros starter Angel Macuare with one out in the fifth. He also struck out swinging in the first inning, reached via an error in the third and flied out to right in his final trip to the plate in the seventh.

Mets slugger Yoenis Cespedes hit a three-run home run and played first base for the first time as a professional player on Wednesday as he participated in his second Minor League rehab game with the Rookie-level GCL Mets.

The 32-year-old Cespedes, who has been on the disabled list since May 16 while he recuperates from a strained right hip flexor, went 1-for-4 and played an error-free game at first base as part of the GCL Mets' 6-3 victory over the GCL Astros at First Data Field in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Cespedes' three-run shot came off GCL Astros starter Angel Macuare with one out in the fifth. He also struck out swinging in the first inning, reached via an error in the third and flied out to right in his final trip to the plate in the seventh.

Tweet from @mikemayerMMO: First baseman Yoenis Cespedes rehabbing in the GCL today. Photos by @ed880 pic.twitter.com/1erZSR9DTi

Cespedes returned to game action Tuesday and went 1-for-4 while playing seven innings in left field for the Rookie-level club. Cespedes also participated in a simulated game Monday, hitting two home runs and logging seven plate appearances along with five innings in the outfield.

The Mets were 19-18 with Cespedes in the lineup, but they have stumbled to a 39-55 record that ranked as the National League's second worst entering the All-Star break. Playing in the second season of his four-year, $110 million deal with New York, Cespedes hit .255 with eight home runs and 28 RBIs over 37 games before landing on the DL.

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

New York Mets, Yoenis Cespedes

Baseball's evolution keeping game in balance

Batting averages may be down, but offense remains robust and hitters are making harder contact than ever
MLB.com @JPosnanski

So let's talk about how baseball's offense is down. This is one of the hottest conversations in the sport right now. You know the song. Strikeouts are out of control. The shift is choking the life out of offense. Batting averages are way, way down. Everyone has a solution. Lower the mound. Shrink the strike zone. Ban the shift. Limit the pitchers. And so on.

Let me make a bizarre but fervent counterargument here.

So let's talk about how baseball's offense is down. This is one of the hottest conversations in the sport right now. You know the song. Strikeouts are out of control. The shift is choking the life out of offense. Batting averages are way, way down. Everyone has a solution. Lower the mound. Shrink the strike zone. Ban the shift. Limit the pitchers. And so on.

Let me make a bizarre but fervent counterargument here.

Without the huge strikeout numbers and whatever value the shift provides, offense would be so out of control that the game would be hardly recognizable.

Here's what I mean: You might know that this year, hitters are batting .247, which is the lowest it has been across baseball since 1972. That's the talked-about number. It suggests a problem in the game, a problem that has been building for the last seven or eight years. And I'm not saying it isn't a problem. You might call it an entertainment problem; we as fans might prefer the rhythms of baseball with more balls in the field of play and more hits scooting past fielders.

I am saying it isn't an OFFENSIVE problem.

In 2017, when hitters connected with baseballs they hit .336. How good is that? Well, I'll tell you: It's the best in baseball history. In 2016, when hitters connected they hit .334, which is the second-best in baseball history. This year, when batters connect they are hitting .329, which is in the Top 10 all-time.

Best batting averages when hitters connect:

2017: .336
2016: .334
1999: .334
2000: .333
2006: .332
1996: .332
2007: .332
1997: .330
2018: .329
2008: .329

Over the last three years, even with all the strikeouts, even with the shifting, teams are averaging 4.5 runs per game, which is higher than baseball's all-time average, and significantly higher than it was in the 1960s, '70s and '80s, the glory years so many people point to. It's not far off the scoring average of the 90s and 2000s, when the game leaned toward offense.

Video: DET@HOU: Verlander collects 12 strikeouts in 6 frames

In other words, hitters are delivering. Offense is robust. It might not be the kind of offense you or I personally enjoywatching, but that's a different discussion. From a pure baseball effectiveness standpoint, hitters are mashing the ball.

Look at it this way: Baseball is built around the epic conflicts between offense and defense, pitcher and batter, fielders and balls in play. We are all acutely aware whenever pitchers and defenders gain an advantage: A new pitch like the split-fingered fastball is popularized, more pitchers with extreme velocity fastballs are used, shifting takes away a few batting average points, etc. Strikeouts go up. Fielders steal outs on balls that were always hits. What will hitters do? How can they respond?

Hitters respond by quietly developing advantages themselves. They work out and get much stronger. They study video. They change their swing angles. In recent years, batters have been less concerned with quantity of contact and more concerned with quality. They hit the long ball. It's a smart counter to a world of 100-mph fastballs and designer defensive positioning. You can't defend the homer.

This is the evolution of the game.

Video: NYY@TOR: Stanton nets hardest hit of '18 at 120.3 mph

And the game evolves both ways. Hitters are now cracking baseballs harder than they ever have in the long history of this game. So what are pitchers and fielders to do? What would happen to baseball if relievers STOPPED throwing 100-mph fastballs or infielders were pushed back to their traditional spots on the field?

Well, it's pretty easy to guess. Let's say that you could magically cut strikeouts across baseball by 20 percent -- say you lower the mounds. What do you think would happen? That would be 5,000 more at-bats to play with. Batting averages would go way up -- I figure this year it would go up into the .260s, which much more like what most would consider "normal." But there would probably be 200-plus more home runs hit. Teams would likely be scoring five-plus runs per game or more, which is up there with 1999 and 2000 numbers when offense was deemed out of control.

Now, take away the shift, too. Averages would presumably go up even higher. So would offense in general. We'd be in crazy offensive world with runs scoring at an all-time rate.

See, it isn't just hitters. Pitchers and fielders are also on the edge, just holding on, doing what they can do to survive. If they don't get the strikeout these days, they pay like pitchers have never paid before. If fielders don't shift, they will watch baseballs get pulled and scorched to the same spots repeatedly.

Video: OAK@HOU: Astros turn double play by using shift

So, yes, it's a sensible thing to want more baseballs put in play. People spend a lot of time pointing out that the average time between balls getting put in play is 3:45, which is a long time, and that this year for the first time ever there might be more strikeouts than hits and so on.

But there's a reason for all this. The game is teetering, like it always teeters, between pitcher and hitter. Traditionalists like George Will might pine for the days of Rod Carew spraying baseballs in all directions, but when it comes to scoring runs, hitters are doing fine. When it comes to crushing baseballs hard, hitters are doing better than ever. Pitchers better go for the strikeout. Fielders better shift. With the power of hitters these days, that's the only way they can keep the game in balance.

Joe Posnanski is a columnist for MLB.com.

Hader apologizes for offensive tweets from past

Brewers reliever to participate in sensitivity training, diversity and inclusion initiatives
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

WASHINGTON -- Brewers reliever Josh Hader answered for a series of offensive tweets from 2011 and '12 after they surfaced in the wake of his appearance in Tuesday's All-Star Game.

"I was young, immature and stupid," Hader said. "There's no excuses for what was said."

WASHINGTON -- Brewers reliever Josh Hader answered for a series of offensive tweets from 2011 and '12 after they surfaced in the wake of his appearance in Tuesday's All-Star Game.

"I was young, immature and stupid," Hader said. "There's no excuses for what was said."

Addressing reporters after the National League's 8-6, 10-inning loss at Nationals Park, Hader said he didn't vividly remember sending the messages, which were racist, sexist and homophobic in nature.

Major League Baseball said on Wednesday that Hader will participate in sensitivity training and MLB's diversity and inclusion initiatives.

"It was something that happened when I was 17 years old, and as a child, I was immature and obviously I did some things that were inexcusable," Hader said. "That doesn't reflect on who I am as a person today."

The tweets preceded Hader being drafted by the Orioles in 2012 out of high school in Millersville, Md., just 30 minutes from Nationals Park. He rose to prospect status in the Astros' and Brewers' Minor League systems before making it to the Majors with Milwaukee last year.

"I was in high school," Hader said. "We're still learning who we are in high school. You live and you learn. This mistake won't happen again."

Hader said he learned the messages had surfaced prominently on Twitter when he returned to the clubhouse after his appearance in the eighth inning "and my phone was blowing up." An official had summoned him from the NL dugout to alert him to the situation.

"There's no excuse for what was said, and I'm deeply sorry for what I said and what's going on," Hader said. "Like I said, that doesn't reflect on my beliefs going on now."

The Brewers issued a statement from general manager David Stearns on Wednesday.

"We have been in contact with Josh and he is fully aware of the severity of the situation related to his social media comments, regardless of the timeline of his posts," Stearns said. "His comments are inexcusable, and he is taking full responsibility for the consequences of his actions. In no way do these sentiments reflect the views of the Brewers organization or our community.

"Those of us that have come to know Josh do not believe that these posts are representative of his beliefs. He has been a good teammate and contributor to the team in every way.

"We will continue to work through this issue with Josh as we prepare to resume games after the break."

MLB issued the following statement:

"During last night's game we became aware of Mr. Hader's unacceptable social media comments in years past and have since been in communication with the Brewers regarding our shared concerns. After the game, Mr. Hader took the necessary step of expressing remorse for his highly offensive and hurtful language, which fails to represent the values of our game and our expectations for all those who are a part of it. The Office of the Commissioner will require sensitivity training for Mr. Hader and participation in MLB's diversity and inclusion initiatives."

Hader was one of five Brewers players in the All-Star Game, and his teammates -- including Lorenzo Cain and Jeremy Jeffress, who are African-American -- were still catching up on the matter when the clubhouse opened to media.

Hader spent several moments talking to Cain before Cain answered questions.

"He's young, we all say some crazy stuff when we're young," said Cain. "That's the reason I don't have social media, things like this. You always get in trouble for things you say when you're younger. We'll move on from it. The situation is what it is. I know Hader, he's a great guy. I know he's a great teammate. I'm fine. Everybody will be OK. We'll move on from it.

"At the end of the day, we've all said crazy stuff growing up, even when we were 17, 18 years old. If we could follow each other around with a recorder all day, I'm sure we've all said some dumb stuff. We're going to move on from this."

Asked whether Hader specifically apologized, Cain said, "I didn't ask for an apology. I wanted to understand the situation before I talked to you guys. … I heard about the hate comments, that's all I heard. We'll talk more about it once we get on the plane."

Video: Cain talks about Hader's past tweets

Another of Hader's teammates, All-Star slugger Jesus Aguilar, came to the reliever's defense with a pair of tweets on Wednesday afternoon in which he highlighted Hader's capacity to learn from past mistakes.

Tweet from @JAguilarMKE: First of all I want to show my support to my friend and teammate, Josh Hader. He made a mistake 7 years ago. He admitted, he apologized and most important: He learned from it.

"First of all I want to show my support to my friend and teammate, Josh Hader," Aguilar tweeted. "He made a mistake 7 years ago. He admitted, he apologized and most important: He learned from it. Regarding accusations of racism: I'm Venezuelan and with the skin color that I have, can tell you that it is a lie. Obviously he's not racist. He's a great player and a better person. Great teammate. And you know it."

Tweet from @JAguilarMKE: Regarding accusations of racism: I���m Venezuelan and with the skin color that I have, can tell you that it is a lie. Obviously he���s not racist.He���s a great player and a better person. Great teammate.And you know it

In the game, Hader took over after Rockies shortstop Trevor Story's home run in the bottom of the seventh inning pulled the NL into a 2-2 tie. Hader surrendered three runs (one earned) on four hits, including Jean Segura's tiebreaking three-run home run.

Hader has a 1.50 ERA in 31 regular-season appearances and 89 strikeouts in 48 innings. He is on pace to join Aroldis Chapman (Reds, 2014) and Craig Kimbrel (Braves, 2012) as the only qualified relievers in Major League history to strike out more than half of the batters they face.

Asked whether he was worried about a suspension, Hader said, "I just live up to what happened and move on from it. We all make mistakes. I'm ready for any consequences for what happened seven years ago."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

Milwaukee Brewers, Josh Hader

On record-setting night, AL outslugs NL

MLB.com @castrovince

WASHINGTON -- The ball wasn't flying out of Nationals Park quite as frequently as it did during Bryce Harper's heroic hometown homer binge a night earlier, but it was flying all the same in a dinger-driven, record-breaking 89th All-Star Game presented by Mastercard on Tuesday night.

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WASHINGTON -- The ball wasn't flying out of Nationals Park quite as frequently as it did during Bryce Harper's heroic hometown homer binge a night earlier, but it was flying all the same in a dinger-driven, record-breaking 89th All-Star Game presented by Mastercard on Tuesday night.

Video: 2018 All-Star Game sets new record with 10 home runs

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In the end, the two standout swats were the back-to-back solo shots hit by Astros teammates Alex Bregman and George Springer -- off a Dodgers pitcher (Ross Stripling), no less -- in the top of the 10th inning of what became an 8-6 victory for the American League.

Video: 2018 ASG: Bregman wins MVP, gives car to his mother

Bregman was given the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet for his role in the AL's sixth straight win in the Midsummer Classic.

"I took a cutter down the middle of the first pitch and kind of went into battle mode and just was trying to put a line drive in play, and