Daily Dose: Giants get Garko from Indians

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Giants general manager Brian Sabean has talked about wanting to bring
in some offense for weeks now and finally pulled the trigger Monday by
sending Single-A pitching prospect Scott Barnes to the Indians for Ryan
Garko. San Francisco first basemen are 12th in the league with a
.283/.320/.440 line and Garko is a career .283/.355/.450 hitter, so he
certainly represents an upgrade offensively.

However, he’s far from an elite bat, especially against right-handed
pitching, and much of the improvement at the plate will be wiped away
by the steep dropoff in defense from Travis Ishikawa to Garko. As a
low-key pickup Garko makes sense for the Giants, but the problem is
that Barnes is actually a legit prospect, posting a 2.85 ERA and 99/29
K/BB ratio in 98 innings at high Single-A as a 21-year-old.

Cleveland did well to pick him up for a 28-year-old first baseman
with a mediocre .805 OPS and poor glove who’s about to get fairly
expensive via arbitration. Matt LaPorta is the obvious choice to
replace Garko and is hitting .306/.386/.541 in 73 games at Triple-A,
but for some reason the Indians will keep holding him back in favor of
giving Andy Marte one last chance to show that he’s not a total bust.

While the Giants pay a premium for slight improvement and the
Indians get good value for a spare part, here are some other notes from
around baseball …

* Three weeks ago, when Kevin Slowey went on the disabled list, the
Twins said that he’d “battled pain in his wrist for a while” and had
issues “opening doors and things like that.” At the time the hope was
that he’d return in a couple weeks, but unsuccessful throwing sessions
were followed by a canceled minor-league rehab assignment and now
Slowey is going under the knife.

He’ll have surgery to remove bone chips from his wrist, which while
innocuous in the grand scheme of pitching injuries will sideline him
for 2-3 months and end his season at 10-3 with a 4.86 ERA and 75/15
K/BB ratio in 91 innings spread over 16 starts. Slowey’s great record
obviously doesn’t match his mediocre ERA, but he had a 4.04 mark before
struggling in his final two starts while hurting.

Slowey remains a nice long-term bet, but his injury means that
Anthony Swarzak will stay in the rotation after going 3-3 with a 3.74
ERA and 26/17 K/BB ratio over 46 innings through eight career starts.
Swarzak’s poor strikeout-to-walk ratio and extreme fly-ball tendencies
are a bad combination and suggest that he’s headed for a trip back down
to earth eventually, but he’s still worth an AL-only pickup.

AL Quick Hits: Josh Beckett became the AL’s first 12-game winner
Monday while striking out 10 … Cito Gaston said Monday that Scott Downs
will remain the Blue Jays’ closer despite recent struggles … Billy
Butler went 5-for-5 and knocked in three runs Monday, giving him 31
doubles and a .295 batting average … Russell Branyan and Jose Lopez
were out of Monday’s lineup with back problems … A.J. Burnett allowed
two singles, two walks, and an unearned run over seven innings Monday …
After another rough outing Monday, Rich Hill revealed that he’s been
pitching through shoulder “issues” … Mike Lowell was a healthy scratch
Monday, with Adam LaRoche getting another start … Juan Rivera
(hamstring) rejoined the lineup Monday after missing eight straight
games … Nick Swisher homered twice Monday, going deep for the first
time in July … Josh Hamilton dropped to No. 7 in the lineup Monday
after batting third or fourth in every game with the Rangers.

NL Quick Hits: Wandy Rodriguez and Carlos Zambrano matched gems
Monday before Alfonso Soriano’s walk-off grand slam in the 13th inning
… Tim Lincecum set a new career-high with 15 strikeouts in Monday’s
complete-game win … Josh Willingham launched a pair of grand slams
Monday after entering the game with just 31 RBIs despite 14 homers …
Back spasms knocked Troy Glaus (shoulder) from a rehab game Monday at
Double-A and further delays his timetable … Josh Geer fell to 1-7 while
serving up three long balls Monday, giving him 27 in 102.2 innings
overall … Tim Hudson (elbow) threw just 21 of 47 pitches for strikes in
a four-inning rehab start Monday at Triple-A … Chris Carpenter allowed
one run in seven innings Monday to end July at 4-0 with a 1.75 ERA …
Aaron Rowand has a slightly torn forearm, but will try to avoid the
disabled list … Jonny Gomes went deep twice Monday and has homered five
times in seven games … As rumors swirl, Freddy Sanchez was scratched
from Monday’s lineup with knee soreness.

Should Dave Roberts have taken Clayton Kershaw out of Sunday’s game?

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 29:  Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers delivers a pitch in the first inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field on May 29, 2016 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Dodgers manager Dave Roberts will likely be second-guessed heavily during tomorrow’s news cycle. Starter Clayton Kershaw had pitched a terrific ballgame, as is his tendency, but with 114 pitches to his name, Roberts decided to pull him from the game in the eighth inning with two outs and a runner on first base.

Roberts opted not for closer Kenley Jansen, who hasn’t pitched since Wednesday, but for another lefty in Adam Liberatore. He was playing the numbers, with the left-handed-hitting Curtis Granderson coming up. Liberatore, much to Roberts’ chagrin, served up what turned out to be a game-tying triple to Granderson, hitting a rocket to right-center just out of the reach of a leaping Yasiel Puig.

Jansen has, for six years, been one of the game’s elite relievers. Kershaw, though at a high pitch count, doesn’t seem to suffer from the times through the order penalty like most pitchers. Kershaw’s opponents’ OPS facing him for the first time was .525 coming into Sunday. Twice, .597. Three times, .587. Four times, .526 (but this suffers from survivorship bias so it’s not exactly representative).

Furthermore, Kershaw held lefties to a .546 OPS over his career. Liberatore, in 99 plate appearances against lefty hitters, gave up a .575 OPS. Jansen? .560. It seems that, faced with three decisions, Roberts arguably made the worst one. Playing conservative with Kershaw at 114 pitches is defensible, but only if Jansen comes in. If Roberts wanted the platoon advantage, Kershaw should have stayed in.

Luckily for the Dodgers, Mets closer Jeurys Familia didn’t have his best stuff. He loaded the bases with one out in the top of the ninth on a single and two walks, then gave up a two-run single to Adrian Gonzalez, giving the Dodgers a 4-2 lead. Jansen came on in the bottom half of the ninth and retired the side in order to pick up his 15th save of the season.

Royals sweep White Sox over the weekend on three late rallies

KANSAS CITY, MO - MAY 28:  Brett Eibner #12 of the Kansas City Royals celebrates his game-winning RBI single with teammates in the ninth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium on May 28, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. The Royals won 8-7. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The Royals had themselves a pretty good weekend. The quickly fading White Sox, not so much.

On Friday, the Royals fell behind 5-1 after the top of the sixth. They would score once in the bottom of the sixth, four times in the seventh, and once in the eighth to steal a 7-5 win facing pitchers Miguel Gonzalez Dan Jennings, Matt Albers, Zach Duke and Nate Jones.

On Saturday, the Royals entered the bottom of the ninth down 7-1. They scored seven runs on closer David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to win 8-7.

On Sunday, the Royals were down 4-2 after the top of the eighth. They plated three runs in the bottom half of the eighth against Jones and Albers, going on to win 5-4.

Coming into the weekend, the Royals were 24-22 in third place. The White Sox were 27-21, a half-game up in first place. Now the Royals are in first place by a game and a half, and the White Sox are in third place, two games out of first.

Here’s video of the Royals’ comeback on Saturday, since it was so unlikely:

Report: Ryan Braun is “the hot name out there”

ATLANTA, GA - MAY 24: Ryan Braun #8 of the Milwaukee Brewers waits to hit during the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on May 24, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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In Saturday’s column for The Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo notes that, according to a scout, Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun is “the hot name out there.” Braun has been bothered by neck and back issues this year, missing on Sunday his eighth start out of the Brewers’ last 14 games, but he has still put up a quality .351/.424/.583 triple-slash line in 170 plate appearances this year.

More importantly for an acquiring team, Braun is in the first year of a five-year, $105 million contract. He’s earning $19 million this season and in the ensuing two seasons, and then his salary decreases slightly to $18 million in 2019, $16 million in 2020, and $15 million if both sides pick up his mutual option (else a $4 million buyout would be exercised).

Per Cafardo, the Astros, Cardinals, Red Sox, Phillies, Mets, Giants, and White Sox are potential landing spots for Braun.

Mets unhappy with Dodgers’ request to make outfield markings to position fielders

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 28:  The 1986 New York Mets are honored before the game between the New York Mets and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citi Field on May 28, 2016 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.The New York Mets are honoring the 30th anniversary of the 1986 championship season.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Mets have asked MLB for clarification on the Dodgers’ use of a laser rangefinder for defensive positioning over this weekend’s series at Citi Field. The Dodgers notified the Mets’ ground crew that they wanted to mark certain positions in the outfield grass after determining positions with the rangefinder. The grounds crew said they could leave two marks in center field and one in left field.

However, the grounds crew then went to their superiors and told them that the Dodgers threatened to dig holes in the outfield grass with their cleats, so the grounds crew was then instructed to “erase or obliterate” any of the Dodgers’ markings.

According to Rosenthal, Major League Baseball reinforced a few weeks ago that teams aren’t allowed to use markers to aid defensive positioning. The Dodgers haven’t been accused of doing anything nefarious during a game. Howie Kendrick was seen pulling something out of his pocket in the outfield, but Brett Anderson clarified on Twitter that it was just a piece of paper with notes for defensive positioning.

The series between the Mets and Dodgers has been heated, as Noah Syndergaard was ejected for throwing at Chase Utley on Saturday. Utley then responded by hitting two home runs, one of which was a grand slam. The Mets may have a legitimate concern, or it may just be gamesmanship.