Projecting the NL All-Star roster

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The current NL All-Star balloting totals are out,
and it looks like shortstop and the third outfielder may be the only
spots still up for grabs. So, with still six weeks left to go before
the Midsummer Classic, let’s try to guess the NL roster.

Catchers

Starter: Yadier Molina
Backups: Brian McCann, Bengie Molina

Yadier has a 157,000-vote lead over Jason Kendall and is more than
200,000 votes up on McCann, so it certainly seems as though he’ll be
the choice. At least he’s a strong enough defender that it’s not such
an embarrassing pick. McCann will surely be picked as a backup. Jesus
Flores and Carlos Ruiz have been the next most productive catchers, but
they’ve both logged DL time, as has Chris Iannetta. Bengie Molina’s big
RBI total will make him a strong candidate, though with Matt Cain and
Tim Lincecum around, it’s doubtful that he’d have to make the team as
the Giants’ lone rep.

First basemen

Starter: Albert Pujols
Backups: Adrian Gonzalez

Pujols had to settle for a backup role behind Lance Berkman last
year, but he’s easily the NL’s leading vote-getter so far this year and
he’s a full 700,000 votes up on Prince Fielder at first base. With 20
homers already, Gonzalez is practically assured of a bench spot. Joey
Votto seemed like the best choice for a third first baseman, but since
he’s on the shelf, Ryan Howard and Fielder are in the mix if another is
taken. Also, Jorge Cantu is a possibility if the Marlins need a rep and
neither Hanley Ramirez nor Josh Johnson is taken.

Second basemen

Starter: Chase Utley
Backups: Orlando Hudson, Freddy Sanchez

It should work out that there is room for five middle infielders.
I’m going with three second basemen and two shortstops, though it could
easily work out the other way. Utley, who is second to Pujols in the
overall voting, is a lock to start, and Hudson would seem to have the
obvious edge on the backup job. I’m picking Sanchez over Brandon
Phillips here, making him the lone Pirate on the squad.

Third basemen

Starter: David Wright
Backups: Ryan Zimmerman, Chipper Jones

Wright leads Zimmerman in the balloting by 200,000 votes, with
Chipper in fourth. Casey Blake is also playing very well, but that
doesn’t figure to last. Mark Reynolds has a chance of going if no other
Diamondbacks make the team. Arizona does have Justin Upton and Dan
Haren as alternatives, though.

Shortstops

Starter: Jimmy Rollins
Backup: Hanley Ramirez

Ramirez currently has a 17,000-vote lead over Rollins in the
balloting, but I’m guessing that won’t hold up, even with Ramirez
possessing 350 points of OPS on Rollins. If Ramirez does win the vote,
then Rollins won’t make the team and Miguel Tejada would seem to be the
clear favorite to act as the backup. Tejada could potentially be the
lone Astro unless Wandy Rodriguez or Carlos Lee is selected.

Outfielders

Starters: Ryan Braun, Raul Ibanez, Alfonso Soriano
Backups: Carlos Beltran, Justin Upton, Adam Dunn, Brad Hawpe

Soriano is currently 33,000 votes up on Beltran for the last starting
spot. Cubs tend to do extremely well in the voting, so I’m guessing
he’ll increase that lead, even though Beltran is the more deserving
player. If Beltran does get it, then Soriano wouldn’t seem to have a
very good chance of making the club as a reserve, potentially opening
up a spot for Mike Cameron or Nate McLouth.

The other reserves seem like clear choices. The top six outfielders
in OPS are all represented here (Ibanez, Hawpe, Upton, Beltran, Dunn
and Braun), and Hawpe would probably be the only Rockie. If Dunn gets
ripped off again, that could open up a spot for Cameron. Cameron has
been to just one All-Star Game, that coming in 2001, and this would
seem to be his last good chance to go to a second.

Pitchers

Starters: Johan Santana, Chad Billingsley, Tim Lincecum, Yovani Gallardo, Wandy Rodriguez, Josh Johnson, Johnny Cueto
Relievers: Francisco Rodriguez, Jonathan Broxton, Heath Bell, Trevor Hoffman, Francisco Cordero

Obviously, when it comes to pitchers, a great deal will depend on
who is scheduled to work the Sunday before the All-Star Game and who
isn’t. Odds are that either Lincecum or Cain will go from the Giants,
but not both. Other starting pitchers shaping up as options are Dan
Haren, Jair Jurrjens, Zach Duke, Jake Peavy, Adam Wainwright, Derek
Lowe and Ted Lilly.

Bobby Valentine on short list to be U.S. Ambassador to Japan

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12:  Former MLB player Bobby Valentine attends Annual Charity Day hosted by Cantor Fitzgerald, BGC and GFI at BGC Partners, INC on September 12, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Cantor Fitzgerald)
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There is literally nothing you could tell me that the incoming administration is considering which would shock me anymore. As such, I saw this story when I woke up this morning, blinked once, took a sip of coffee, closed the browser window and just went on with my morning, as desensitized as a wisdom tooth about to be yanked.

Rob Bradford of WEEI reports that Former Red Sox, Mets and Rangers manager Bobby Valentine is on a short-list of candidates for the job of United States Ambassador to Japan:

The 66-year-old, who currently serves as Sacred Heart University’s athletics director, has engaged in preliminary discussions with President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team regarding the position.

When contacted Thursday night, Valentine refused comment.

Huh. Given his history, I’d have assumed Valentine would be a better choice for the CIA, but what do I know?

Valentine managed the Chiba Lotte Marines of Japan’s Pacific League for six seasons, leading the team to a championship in 2005. He also knows the current prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, as both went to USC. Assuming championship teams meet the country’s leader in Japan like they do in the United States, Valentine has at least twice the amount of experience with top political leaders than does, say, Ned Yost, so that’s something.

The former manager, more importantly, is friends with Donald Trump’s brother, with the two of them going way back. Which, given how this transition is going, seems like a far more important set of qualifications than anything else on this list.

Report: Dexter Fowler will take a physical in St. Louis on Friday

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Dexter Fowler #24 of the Chicago Cubs reacts after lining out during the third inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Update (8:51 PM EST): The deal is in place, according to Heyman.

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Update (8:27 PM EST): Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals made an “over-the-top offer” to Fowler to ensure he’d sign.

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Frank Cusumano of KSDK Sports reports that free agent outfielder will take a physical in St. Louis on Friday. Presumably, that means that Fowler and the Cardinals have gotten pretty far along in negotiations.

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports recently reported that Fowler was looking for $18 million per year. The Blue Jays reportedly made an offer to Fowler in the four-year, $16 million range several days ago. The Cardinals’ offer to Fowler, if there is indeed one, is likely somewhere between the two figures.

Fowler, 30, is coming off of a fantastic year in which he helped the Cubs win their first World Series since 1908. During the regular season, he hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 home runs, 48 RBI, 84 runs scored, and 13 stolen bases in 551 plate appearances.

Fowler rejected the Cubs’ $17.2 million qualifying offer last month. While the QO compensation negatively affected Fowler’s experience in free agency last offseason — he didn’t sign until late February with the Cubs — his strong season is expected to make QO compensation much less of an issue.