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.

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.

*

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.

*

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.