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.

Video: Nelson Cruz hits second-longest home run of 2016

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Nelson Cruz #23 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his solo homerun with Daniel Vogelbach #20 of the Seattle Mariners to take a 2-1 lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the seventh inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 14, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.

It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.

Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.

Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.

Report: John Farrell won’t rule out a postseason return for Pablo Sandoval

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 11:  Pablo Sandoval #48 of the Boston Red Sox looks on from the dugout before the Red Sox home opener against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on April 11, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Orioles defeat the Red Sox 9-7.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.

On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.

At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.

If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.

Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.

Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.