Five to keep an eye on

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Okay, so we’ve taken a look at some first-half
standouts and disappointments, now on to some players to watch for the

Howie Kendrick: I’m gonna go
out on a limb and say that Kendrick will hit better than .231 in the
second half. He did nothing but rake after being demoted to Triple-A
Salt Lake on June 13, compiling a .346/.414/.526 line with two homers,
six doubles and 11 RBI in 78 at-bats on the farm. While you can usually
count his walks on two hands, remember that Kendrick was a .306 career
hitter entering the 2009 season. It wasn’t too long ago that people
were touting him as a future batting champion. He’s one of the better
bounce-back candidates for the second half.

Jorge De La Rosa: Dan Haren has
been robbed of several wins already, but De La Rosa is among the
unluckiest pitchers in the sport right now. On the surface his 5-7
record, 5.14 ERA and 1.44 WHIP offers little hope for rebound, but if
you take a closer look you’ll see that his FIP (Fielder Independant
Pitching) is a more-palatable 3.81. Only two starters (Cole Hamels and
Carl Pavano) have a bigger disparity between their ERA and FIP.
Remember, De La Rosa averages 9.37 K/9 — only six pitchers are better
— while he has allowed three runs or less in four of his last six
starts, highlighted by a season-best eight shutout innings against the
Diamondbacks on Friday night.

Franklin Gutierrez: Watching
Adam Jones make his first All-Star team as a member of the Orioles is a
little less painful knowing that Gutierrez is showing signs of a
breakout season of his own. When the Mariners acquired him as part the
J.J. Putz trade over the winter, they knew they were getting an
excellent glove-man, but he’s been so much more than that. In addition
to the +12.0 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) to lead all center-fielders,
Gutierrez has a solid .300/.362/.447 line with seven homers and 22 RBI
since a poor .230/.299/.328 showing in April. He’s even hit
right-handers at a .274 clip. Maybe this guy can hit after all.

Joel Hanrahan: Hanrahan was in
the midst of a nightmare season for the Nationals (7.71 ERA and 1.96
WHIP in 24 appearances) before being dealt to the Pirates as part of
the Nyjer Morgan trade last week. The 27-year-old right-hander already
has a shaky appearance under his belt as a Bucco (two runs on three
hits and a walk on Friday night against the Marlins) but he stands to
benefit if the club decides to trade Matt Capps, as rumored. Keep in
mind that the hard-throwing Hanrahan is among the bullpen elite with a
9.21 K/9 in his career. He’s also gotten incredibly unlucky with a
64.1% strand rate and a 4.34 gap between his ERA (7.79) and FIP (3.44)
— the largest such disparity in the majors this season.

Bud Norris: This might be a
selfish choice considering I own him in my Scoresheet league, but the
2006 sixth-round pick from Cal Poly has absolutely picked apart the
hitter-friendly PCL this season, leading the league in ERA (2.52) and
all of Triple-A in strikeouts (92). He recently jumped Tommy Hanson,
who struck out 90 in just 66 2/3 innings with Triple-A Gwinnett. The
strong first half has earned the 24-year-old a start for the PCL
All-Star team on July 15. Norris, who was named second-best prospect in
the Astros system by Baseball America over the winter, features a
plus-fastball, slider and developing change-up. He’s just biding his
time in the minors.

Orioles interested in Denard Span

Denard Span
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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MASN’s Roch Kubatko is reporting that the Orioles have “some level” of interest in free agent outfielder Denard Span. The Nationals did not make a $15.8 million qualifying offer to Span, which means he doesn’t come attached with draft pick compensation unlike other free agents such as Alex Gordon and Dexter Fowler.

Span, who turns 32 in February, hit a solid .301/.365/.431 with five home runs, 22 RBI, 38 runs scored, and 11 stolen bases, but took only 275 plate appearances due to back and hip injuries. He underwent season-ending hip surgery in September but is expected to be ready to participate in spring training.

The Mets and Royals have also reportedly shown interest in Span’s services.

Blue Jays showing interest in Ryan Madson

Ryan Madson
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Blue Jays are on the prowl for relievers with closing experience. Ryan Madson is one of the names on their list.

Madson, 35, had a career rebirth with the Royals in 2015. He signed a minor league deal with the club that paid him a salary of $850,000 if he made it back to the majors. Due to a plethora of arm injuries, Madson hadn’t pitched in the majors since Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals as a member of the Phillies. For the Royals, he wound up becoming a crucial member of the bullpen, finishing with a 2.13 ERA and a 58/14 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

While Madson allowed five runs in 8 1/3 post-season innings, he pitched well when it mattered most, as he hurled three scoreless frames in three appearances in the World Series against the Mets.

Madson has closing experience, with 55 career saves. 32 of them came in 2011 when he took over the closer’s role from Brad Lidge.

After signing Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ, and trading for Jesse Chavez, the Jays have bolstered their rotation but it was reported on Saturday that interim GM Tony LaCava is still focused on upgrading the pitching staff.

Trevor Cahill considering the Pirates as a potential destination

Trevor Cahill
AP Photo/Paul Beaty

ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that free agent pitcher Trevor Cahill is looking for a one-year, bounce-back deal. The Pirates are one of the potential teams he is considering.

It’s no surprise that the Pirates are on Cahill’s list. Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage has garnered a reputation as a miracle worker after turning around the careers of a handful of pitchers, including Edinson Volquez, Francisco Liriano, and J.A. Happ. Volquez parlayed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Pirates into a two-year, $20 million deal with the Royals last December. Liriano signed with the Pirates on a one-year, $1 million contract and turned that into a three-year, $39 million deal. Happ, dealt to the Pirates from the Mariners at the most recent trade deadline, just signed a three-year, $39 million contract with the Blue Jays.

Cahill, once a highly-regarded pitching prospect, has scuffled over parts of seven seasons in the majors. The 27-year-old owns a career 4.13 ERA with a 754/427 K/BB ratio in 1,083 2/3 innings. Cahill had some brief success after signing with the Cubs as a free agent in mid-August, compiling a 2.12 ERA in 11 appearances out of the bullpen.

Blue Jays narrow GM search to two candidates: Tony LaCava and Ross Atkins

Tony LaCava
AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Blue Jays have narrowed their search for a new general manager down to two candidates: current interim GM Tony LaCava, and Indians vice president of player personnel Ross Atkins. Former Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos resigned last month.

LaCava was promoted to interim GM on November 2 and has already made a handful of moves along with new president Mark Shapiro. The club acquired Jesse Chavez in a trade and signed pitchers Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ to multi-year deals.

Atkins worked under Shapiro in the Indians organization for 15 seasons, so it is no surprise that he is a finalist for the open GM position.