Daily Dose: Carpenter healthy and thriving

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Some time on the disabled list has kept Chris Carpenter off the NL
leaderboards and All-Star team, but the St. Louis right-hander is
pitching as well as ever in his comeback from significant elbow and
shoulder injuries. Carpenter tossed seven innings of one-run ball
Sunday afternoon to beat the Reds while improving to 6-3 with a 2.32
ERA through a dozen starts.

Carpenter is sporting a fantastic 58/11 K/BB ratio in 78 innings
that would qualify as the best mark of his career, has induced 55
percent ground balls to rank fifth in the league behind only Joel
Pineiro, Jason Marquis, Aaron Cook, and Derek Lowe, and has averaged
92.3 miles per hour with his fastball after never clocking in with an
average above 91.5 mph during his Cy Young-winning prime.

While the Cardinals reclaim the NL Central lead, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* It’s rare to see a last-place team swapping prospects for a
veteran in July, but that’s exactly what the A’s did Sunday by
acquiring outfielder Scott Hairston from the Padres for Craig Italiano,
Ryan Webb, and a player to be named later. Webb is a marginal relief
prospect and Italiano hasn’t really panned out since being a second
rounder in 2005, so it seems likely that the PTBNL will have good
value.

Hairston has hit .273/.332/.524 with 35 homers in 667 plate
appearances for the Padres, which is impressive production while
calling Petco Park home. Oakland isn’t a whole lot better for offense,
but Hairston could play every day and should be immediately picked up
in AL-only leagues. His arrival likely hurts Travis Buck, but opens the
door for prospect Kyle Blanks to see more action in San Diego.

* Chien-Ming Wang left Saturday’s game in the sixth inning and
landed on the disabled list Sunday with a strained right shoulder.
Wang’s overall numbers look miserable because of his historically awful
first three starts in April, but he hasn’t been a whole lot better
since rejoining the rotation last month, going 1-3 with an ugly 6.43
ERA and 20/11 K/BB ratio in 28 innings spread over six outings.

There’s no getting around a 9.64 ERA, but the nuts and bolts of his
performance suggest that Wang is far from a lost cause. He remains one
of the league’s most extreme ground-ball pitchers and his average
fastball of 92 mph nearly matches his career norms. The big changes are
a high rate of fly balls leaving the ballpark and a low rate of runners
stranded, both of which are somewhat luck-based.

AL Quick Hits: Vladimir Guerrero homered Sunday for the second
straight game after going deep just twice through 42 games … Derek
Jeter celebrated getting the nod for his sixth All-Star start by going
4-for-5 with a homer Sunday … Justin Morneau homered Sunday for the
fifth time in seven games … General manager Mark Shapiro said Sunday
that manager Eric Wedge is not in danger of losing his job despite
being the first AL team to 50 losses … Joba Chamberlain was knocked
around for eight runs in 3.2 innings Sunday, although five of them were
unearned … After overtaking Ian Kinsler at the last second in the
All-Star voting, Dustin Pedroia went 3-for-5 on Sunday with his first
homer since May 31 … Nick Blackburn allowed only two ninth-inning runs
in Sunday’s complete-game victory, lowering his ERA to 2.94 … Already
out for the season following surgery on his right shoulder, Coco Crisp
will have his left shoulder operated on as well.

NL Quick Hits: Bronson Arroyo was rocked again Sunday and has
now allowed 37 runs in 38 innings since June 1 amid talk of wrist
problems … Manny Ramirez received Sunday off to rest his sore legs with
Juan Pierre filling in … Joe Blanton shut out the Mets for seven
innings Sunday to help hand Johan Santana another tough-luck loss … Roy
Oswalt allowed just one run Sunday for the third straight start, this
time lasting eight innings … Jimmy Rollins went 2-for-3 with a homer
Sunday and has started this month 7-for-18 (.389) with four extra-base
hits and four walks … Randy Johnson suffered a shoulder injury while
hitting Sunday and left after giving up two homers in the next inning …
Mark Reynolds hit his 24th homer Sunday, moving into a tie for second
place in the NL … Nyjer Morgan was hitless through seven at-bats with
the Nationals, but had two doubles and a steal Sunday … Hanley Ramirez
was scratched from Sunday’s game with a hip flexor.

Dallas Keuchel, Astros did talk long-term contract

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Dallas Keuchel‘s agent Darek Braunecker told MLB Network Radio in early January that he had not engaged in any long-term contract negotiations with the Astros’ front office. Two weeks later, the sides reached a one-year, $7.25 million agreement, avoiding a salary arbitration hearing. So was a bigger financial commitment ever discussed?

Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle has the answer, writing in his offseason review that the “Astros and Keuchel have had substantial talks about extensions [this winter] … but to no avail.”

Keuchel carries all the leverage in the world after winning the 2015 American League Cy Young Award with a 2.48 ERA, 1.017 WHIP, and 216/51 K/BB ratio in 232 innings. He also made three appearances in the postseason to a 2.57 ERA in 14 frames.

Keuchel’s $7.25 million salary for 2016 will be a record for a player in his first year of arbitration eligibility. Locking up some of his free agent years (2019, 2020, 2021, etc.) would likely take a commitment of $120 million or more.

Houston has the 28-year-old left-hander under contractual control through 2018, and it sounds like the plan is to go season-to-season with his salaries.

He’ll remain a huge value to a good-looking Astros team.

Yadier Molina gets cast removed from surgically-repaired thumb

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Yadier Molina underwent surgery to repair a ligament tear in his right thumb shortly after the Cardinals were eliminated from the NLDS by the Cubs, and then he needed a followup procedure two months later.

It’s been an offseason of rest and rehab for the seven-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glover, though he’s about ready to ramp up the intensity of workouts with the beginning of spring training approaching …

Brayan Pena was signed to a two-year, $5 million free agent contract this winter to provide more reliable depth behind the plate. He’ll be the Cardinals’ starter at catcher come Opening Day if Yadi isn’t quite ready.

Molina started a whopping 131 games behind the plate in 2015.

Jose Fernandez wants $30 million a year, Marlins don’t plan on paying

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You’ve heard the stories by now. Jose Fernandez does not get along with Marlins management and is doubtful to sign a long-term contract with the team.

There’s still time for those relationships to be repaired — Fernandez can’t become a free agent until after the 2018 season — but we also have a monetary issue at play.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes Sunday that the Marlins are “under the impression” Fernandez and his representatives want $30 million per year on a long-term deal, a figure the Marlins “have no plans to meet.”

If the Marlins won’t pay, Fernandez and his reps will seek that number when the ace right-hander reaches free agency. That could be the same offseason Bryce Harper tries for $500 million.

A friend of Fernandez told Jackson that the 23-year-old native of Cuba was upset about some of the trades the Marlins made last summer and the removal of pitching coach Chuck Hernandez. You probably heard talk of Miami shopping Fernandez this winter, but the asking price was predictably sky-high.

Fernandez has been limited to 19 starts over the last two years because of Tommy John surgery and a biceps injury, but he boasts a stellar 2.40 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 10.5 K/9 in 289 career major league frames. He will make $2.8 million in 2016 and carries two more years of arbitration eligibility.

If he can put together a run of 30-start, 200-inning seasons, Fernandez will get that $30 million per year and probably much more.

Michael Brantley’s timetable off shoulder surgery is “hazy”

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Paul Hoynes at the Cleveland Plain Dealer has an in-depth look at how the Indians will manage their outfield during the early part of the 2016 season, in the absence of star Michael Brantley.

Brantley underwent labrum surgery on his right shoulder this past November and has not picked up a bat all winter. “In the off-season people know I love to hit,” Brantley acknowledged to Hoynes late last week. ”I hit a lot. It’s just been a change in my timetable.”

Hoynes says the projected date for Brantley’s 2016 debut is “hazy,” guessing that it might happen around late April or early May if everything continues to go smoothly. Shoulders can be tricky, for hitters and pitchers.

Rajai Davis, Abraham Almonte, and Lonnie Chisenhall figure to make up Cleveland’s primary starting outfield while Brantley is finishing his rehabilitation. Collin Cowgill and Joey Butler could also be in the mix. It’s a lacking group, tasked with replacing one of the most productive players in baseball.

Brantley, 28, has slashed .319/.382/.494 over the last two seasons, tallying 35 home runs, 90 doubles, 181 RBI, and 38 stolen bases in 293 games.

Could the talented Tribe be in for another slow start?

Shouldn’t this club be spending more money?