6 Biggest Takeaways from This Week's MLB Action
The final weekend before the trade deadline is upon us, so all the rumors and speculation are dominating the discussion points across Major League Baseball at the moment.
That doesn't mean everything over the past week has been centered on what may or may not happen by July 31, though. Numerous players may be swapping shirts in the coming days, but there is still plenty of action on the field.
After watching the games, analyzing the numbers and dissecting the rumors, the most important narratives of the week have emerged. And here are the biggest takeaways.
The Phillies and Red Sox Are the Teams to Watch Between Now and July 31
With the trade deadline looming, a number of players will be changing teams in the next few days. While there aren't too many teams in "seller" mode, the two that have the most trade chips to play between now and July 31—that's Thursday!—are the Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Red Sox.
The 45-58 Phillies could make a move involving any of the following: left-handers Cole Hamels or Cliff Lee, closer Jonathan Papelbon, first baseman Ryan Howard, second baseman Chase Utley, shortstop Jimmy Rollins or outfielder Marlon Byrd.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox have lost four straight to fall to 47-56 and last place in the AL East. The defending world champs could shake up the market by offering up lefty Jon Lester, a free-agent-to-be who recently tabled any contract talks until the end of the year, in addition to righty Jake Peavy and closer Koji Uehara.
Depending on how aggressive they want to be, the Phillies and Red Sox could be at the center of trade talks—and actual transaction action—this week.
The Tigers Had to Fix a Problem They Thought They'd Already Fixed
The Detroit Tigers' six-game lead in the AL Central is the largest among the six divisions, but this is a team built to win more than just the Central. After making it to three straight playoffs and coming oh-so-close to a title each time, it's now World Series-or-bust for the Tigers.
That's why Wednesday's trade in which Detroit acquired Texas Rangers closer Joakim Soria in exchange for a pair of its top prospects (right-handers Corey Knebel and Jake Thompson) was absolutely necessary.
The Tigers thought they'd already solved their perennial late-inning problems by bringing in Joe Nathan—the active career-saves leader—in the offseason, but his five blown saves and near-6.00 ERA threatened to undermine what is one of the more complete clubs in the majors.
The price to obtain Soria was steep, but if he helps get them to the World Series again—and win it this time—it will have been well worth it.
Troy Tulowitzki's Chance to Win MVP—or Get Traded—Is Gone
Troy Tulowitzki's annual vacation on the disabled list is especially tough this time around.
A left hip flexor strain is robbing the 29-year-old, who leads all of baseball in batting average (.340) and on-base percentage (.432) and ranks second in slugging (.603), of what was left of his dwindling chances to win NL MVP for an already-out-of-the-race Colorado Rockies.
But it's more than just that. There has been speculation that Tulowitzki could be traded before the July 31 deadline, but the timing of his latest ailment all but wipes out the slim possibility that he could be swapped.
Tulo is stuck in Denver—for now—and he won't have any individual hardware to help ease the pain from being part of a struggling team that only seems to be getting worse.
The Team That Doesn't Win the AL West Is in Trouble
It's not a stretch to say that the two best teams in MLB at this point appear to be the Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels. That'll make for quite the entertaining race over the final two months.
The shame of this, though, is that both clubs can't win the AL West, which means one of baseball's very best will have to play in the win-or-go-home Wild Card Game. That could rob the sport of a full series involving a team that would be worth watching for more than (potentially) just one game.
Not only that, the side that doesn't go on to win the West could wind up facing—gasp—Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners, whose team is right in the mix for that second wild-card spot.
There are other division races that involve more teams fighting for the crown (think: AL East and NL Central), but the outcome of the AL West very easily could have the biggest impact on October.
The Yankees Are Doing Their Darnedest to Get Derek Jeter to 1 Last October
The New York Yankees are an old team that's only getting older, as their batters' average age of 32.9 is easily the oldest in MLB. No player personifies this more so than shortstop and captain Derek Jeter, the future first-ballot Hall of Famer who turned 40 earlier this season.
Perhaps spurred on by the hope of getting Jeter, who is set to hang 'em up at the end of 2014, to one final October—it would be his 17th in 19 seasons—the Yankees are doing just about anything in their power to improve the team.
In the past week or so, they've traded for right-hander Brandon McCarthy (2-0, 1.45 ERA with New York), left-hander Chris Capuano and third baseman Chase Headley, who had the walk-off winner in his very first game in pinstripes on Tuesday.
These acquisitions aren't necessarily big names, because general manager Brian Cashman doesn't have a lot to work with in terms of big leaguers with tradable contracts or high-end prospects to part with. But the newcomers can help prop up an aging, injury-prone roster. And so far, they have.
That might be enough to win the wide-open AL East or at least put Jeter in a wild-card play-in game in his last year.
The Padres Could Break Their Own Record for Futility
Speaking of Chase Headley, even though he's not the offensive force he was for the second half of 2012, his departure leaves the San Diego Padres, already the worst lineup in baseball, with a chance to make some history—and not the good kind.
This is a club with a collective .217/.277/.377 triple-slash line for the year, and each of those three categories represents the worst in baseball this season—by, like, a lot.
But that .217 average and .277 on-base percentage also would be the worst in the sport since—get this—1969, which is when MLB had to lower the mound to stop the pitchers from just pwning (yes, with a "p") batters all the time.
This isn't the first time San Diego has been this inept with the sticks either. The two lowest OBPs in that time frame (.283 in 1972 and .285 in 1969, respectively) both belong to—you guessed it—the Padres.
All of this, by the way, includes the Padres' season-high 13-run outburst against the Chicago Cubs on Thursday.
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