Midseason AL Most Valuable Player

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I went with Zack Greinke as AL MVP one-third of the way through the season,
but he’s fallen back to the pack by posting a 3.97 ERA since the
beginning of June. The focus will return to the position players this
time around.

Here’s the top 16, according to VORP:

1. Joe Mauer – 46.2
2. Jason Bartlett – 38.2
3. Ben Zobrist – 36.9
4. Ichiro Suzuki – 35.3
5. Derek Jeter – 34.8
6. Justin Morneau – 34.8
7. Torii Hunter – 32.7
8. Adam Lind – 32.4
9. Kevin Youkilis – 30.2
10. Shin-Soo Choo – 29.8
11. Evan Longoria – 29.4
12. Carl Crawford – 28.7
13. Jermaine Dye – 28.4
14. Marco Scutaro – 28.3
15. Jason Bay – 28.0
16. Russell Branyan – 28.0

And here is the OPS leaderboard, along with how many games each player has played:

1. Joe Mauer – 1069 – 64 games
2. Ben Zobrist – 1012 – 81 games
3. Kevin Youkilis – 985 – 74 games
4. Justin Morneau – 965 – 88 games
5. Russell Branyan – 956 – 79 games
6. Jermaine Dye – 942 – 81 games
7. Torii Hunter – 938 – 77 games
8*. Jason Bartlett – 930 – 68 games
9. Adam Lind – 928 – 87 games
10. Miguel Cabrera – 926 – 85 games
11. Jason Kubel – 914 – 77 games
12. Mark Teixeira – 913 – 84 games
13. Jason Bay – 908 – 86 games
14. Evan Longoria – 898 – 84 games

Bartlett actually falls just short of qualifying.

WPA
is also interesting in this case. I’m now going to go too far down the
list, but the stat does add to the candidacy of a few of our top
candidates.

WPA, for those who don’t know, measures how much every at-bat in every game increased or decreased a team’s chances of winning.

1. Johnny Damon – 3.12
2. Jason Bay – 3.10
3. Ben Zobrist – 2.91
4. Franklin Gutierrez – 2.47
5. Joe Mauer – 2.29
6. Mark Teixeira – 2.24

Gutierrez really sticks out like a sore thumb, but he has his OPS up
to 801 now and he’s one of the game’s most valuable defensive players.
He isn’t far away from deserving serious consideration for down-ballot
votes.

OK, enough lists. Let’s try to figure this out. I do have a top 10 in mind:

Mauer
Bartlett
Zobrist
Youkilis
Bay
Jeter
Longoria
Morneau
Hunter
Ichiro

Teixeira’s numbers are Yankee Stadium inflated, so I’m comfortable
leaving him out. Cabrera doesn’t offer much defensively, and he has
just 50 RBI. Aaron Hill and Brandon Inge were the next two players on
my list, and considering their gloves, there’s pretty good arguments
for including both in the top 10.

In terms of quality, Mauer is undeniably the AL’s MVP to date. The
problem is that he’s played in only 72 percent of Minnesota’s games.
Then again, several other top candidates have missed time, Bartlett
most notably. Youkilis has sat out 14 games, and while Zobrist has
played in 81 games, he’s started only 64.

Quantity is important, so I think it’s worth looking at the RBI
list. Bay leads with 72, followed by Morneau at 70, Longoria at 66 and
Hunter at 65. Hunter may well be overrated with the glove at this point
in his career, but he’s still contributing quite a bit on defense, as
is Longoria. Bay and Morneau are the only ones in the top 10 who really
aren’t. Hunter and Ichiro are Gold Glove locks, and Mauer, Bartlett and
Longoria are top contenders. The numbers say Jeter is playing an
average shortstop, which is plenty valuable. Youkilis and Zobrist both
add a great deal to their value by playing multiple positions.

I have to say that after all of this, I’m just about as confused as
I was going in. I’m ready to put Mauer at the top of the list, though
I’d feel more comfortable about it if he had played an additional 8-10
games. I also believe that Greinke has to be on there somewhere, and
Ichiro is the most logical candidate to get the boot. While he’s
currently sporting a career-high 873 OPS, he hasn’t been nearly as good
with runners on. And, yeah, it’s mostly the fault of his teammates, but
he has fewer runs+RBI than Bay or Morneau have RBI alone.

AL MVP

1. Mauer
2. Zobrist
3. Bartlett
4. Youkilis
5. Jeter
6. Greinke
7. Bay
8. Morneau
9. Hunter
10. Longoria

Yankees in, Red Sox out on Edwin Encarnacion

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 19:  Edwin Encarnacion #10 of the Toronto Blue Jays looks on against the Cleveland Indians during game five of the American League Championship Series at Rogers Centre on October 19, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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In light of the Astros’ deal for veteran designated hitter Carlos Beltran on Saturday, the Yankees are thought to be intensifying their pursuit of free agent Edwin Encarnacion, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. The Yankees never made an official offer to Beltran, but remain in need of a DH/first baseman to give them a little more power outside of a Tyler AustinGreg Bird combo in 2017.

The Red Sox, on the other hand, are reportedly withdrawing their interest when it comes to the Encarnacion sweepstakes. According to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, they will look for a hitter to beef up their lineup without taking a “big plunge” on the 34-year-old.

Encarnacion enjoyed another All-Star run with the Blue Jays in 2016, hitting at a .263/.357/.529 clip with 42 homers and a league-leading 127 RBI in 702 PA. He’s expected to command a significant contract in free agency, and agent Paul Kinzer said that a potential deal is unlikely to be finalized before the Winter Meetings as Encarnacion is not close to agreeing to any offer. Interested teams include the Blue Jays and the Astros, though Beltran’s signing appears to have effectively taken Houston out of the running for the slugger.

Report: The Nationals are still in on Chris Sale and Andrew McCutchen

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 05: Chris Sale #49 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning on September 5, 2016 at U. S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
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The Nationals are trying to go big this offseason, and FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal notes that they are still in trade talks for White Sox’ left-hander Chris Sale and Pirates’ center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Both players figure to command a big return, as Sale delivered another Cy Young-worthy performance in 2016 and, despite a downturn in his production rate, McCutchen is still one of the more coveted sluggers in the National League.

In 2016, Sale led the league in complete games, with six, and turned in a 3.34 ERA and 5.2 fWAR in 226 2/3 innings. While teams have been sniffing around the White Sox’ ace since the trade deadline, the club is expected to maintain a high asking price — so high, said FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, that it may keep the left-hander in Chicago for the foreseeable future.

According to Heyman, four other teams are reportedly in the mix for Sale, including the Red Sox, Astros, Rangers, and Braves, though parts of Rosenthal’s tweet hinted that the Red Sox were maintaining their interest in hopes of striking a more affordable deal. Should the Nationals pursue a deal for Sale, it’s likely that they’d have to move shortstop/center fielder Trea Turner, which they appear reluctant to do.

McCutchen, meanwhile, is also drawing interest around the league after batting .256/.336/.430 with 24 home runs in 675 PA during 2016. He didn’t appear to lose much power in his eighth season with the Pirates, but took considerably fewer walks and struck out at a career-high clip.

The Nationals were said to be in the lead for McCutchen on Thursday, and there was some expectation that the club would wrap up a trade for the center fielder by the non-tender deadline on Friday. FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi pointed out that the Rangers were also talking to the Pirates, however, and no deal has come to fruition as of yet.