The Week Ahead: Stuff the All-Star ballot box

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Do you think Chris Davis should start at first base for the AL in the
All-Star game? Would you like to see Manny Ramirez in the NL outfield?
Well you better get busy, because time is running out on your
ballot-stuffing opportunities.

The cutoff mark for voting for the July 14 game in St. Louis is Thursday night at 11:59 p.m. ET.
That gives you four full days to get Willie Bloomquist a spot in the AL
lineup. If it doesn’t happen, it’s all your fault, because you won’t
find an election this easy to influence outside of Iran.*

*This is not true: Everyone is allowed to vote 25 times, which
really only serves to inflate the total numbers. Now if only, say,
Pirates fans were allowed to vote 25 times, and everyone else only
once, then we would have a scandal. (pick a LaRoche brother, any
LaRoche brother!)

So log on to MLB.com and let your voice be heard. Rock the vote!

From a more serious angle, there are some interesting races in the final days of voting. (You can see the AL numbers here), and the NL numbers here.)

In the AL, you have the Yankees’ Mark Teixeira with a lead of less than
40,000 votes over the Red Sox’s Kevin Youkilis at first base. And
Texas’ Ian Kinsler with about a 60,000-vote lead on Boston’s Dustin
Pedroia at second base.

The NL appears to be more settled, with the closest race being
between Carlos Beltran and Alfonso Soriano for the third outfield spot.

The aforementioned Ramirez, currently on suspension and starring for
the Inland Empire 66ers, is languishing in 6th place among NL
outfielders. Though he does have the most votes of any current member
of the California League. So he’s got that going for him, which is
nice.

FIVE SERIES TO WATCH

  • Rays at Blue Jays, June 29-July 1: The great Roy
    Halladay returns from the DL for Toronto on Monday. Both of these teams
    are solid, but neither one has been able to mount an attack on the Red
    Sox in the AL East. This series could give us an idea if it will happen
    at all.
  • Angels at Rangers, June 29-July 1: The
    Angels, riding a five-game winning streak, have finally take over first
    place in the AL West. Now Texas has a chance to take it back.
  • Brewers at Cubs, July 2-5:
    If ever there was a chance to throw the simmering Cubs’ clubhouse into
    a full-blown meltdown, the Brewers have it with this four-game series.
  • Mets at Phillies, July 3-5:
    For all their struggles and injuries the Mets still enter the week only
    two games behind their NL East rivals. Can they make up ground?
  • Mariners at Red Sox, July 3-5:
    The Mariners should have been preparing a fire sale. Yet here they are,
    entering the week just three games out of first place despite dealing
    with a host of injuries and a two-man offense (Ichiro and Russell
    Branyan). Will they still be there after this week?

ON THE TUBE
Monday, 7:08 p.m. ET: Mets at Brewers (ESPN)
Wednesday, 8:15 p.m.: Giants at Cardinals (ESPN)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Tigers at Twins (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Mets at Phillies (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Dodgers at Padres (FOX)
Sunday, 1 p.m.: All-Star selection show (TBS)
Sunday, 2 p.m.: Brewers at Cubs (TBS)
Sunday, 8:05 p.m.: Rays at Rangers (ESPN)
*Check local listings

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

Screenshot 2016-02-07 at 10.16.43 AM
Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.