Boston's failed bid for King Felix won't be its last

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felix.jpgSure, the Red Sox would have loved to add Roy Halladay had the price been right, but it seems clear now that he was never their No. 1 pitching target. As usual, while the media looked one way, the Red Sox thought outside the box and set their sights sky high. In this case, that meant targeting Felix Hernandez.
While I may have argued differently a year ago, Hernandez clearly trumps Halladay as a property now. It’s largely due to contract status and cash. When I ranked the top 50 pitchers for 2010-14 back in May, I had Halladay third and Hernandez fourth. However, money was left out of the equation then and it was close anyway.
The contracts play a huge roll. Halladay will earn $15.75 million next year and is eligible for free agency at season’s end. King Felix will ask for a huge raise from his current $3.8 million in arbitration, but he still probably won’t clear $10 million next season. Also, he’s under control for 2011.
The Mariners never seemed to have any intention of trading Hernandez now, though the return would have been impressive. Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times reported that they could have had Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard, Justin Masterson, Nick Hagadone and Michael Bowden from the Red Sox. I can’t think of a trade that ever brought a team a greater haul of young pitching. I’m not convinced that Baker has the list exactly right; my guess is that if the Mariners wanted both Buchholz and Bard from the list of eight players, then a couple of the other pitchers would have been ruled off limits. Still, in terms of quantity and quality, the Mariners would have faired quite well.
Alternatively, they apparently could have had Adrian Gonzalez from the Padres, along with Buchholz, though that would have required them surrendering three of their top youngsters in Brandon Morrow, Carlos Triunfel and Phillippe Aumont. Under the circumstances, the two-team deal with Boston seemed like the better option.
The Red Sox, and probably other teams as well, will again approach the Mariners about Hernandez this winter. There’s still not going to be any urgency to trade him, but they might be more open to it if another round of contract talks fails to result in a long-term agreement. While most of the game’s top young starters have been willing to give up a year or two of free agency in order to guarantee a lifetime of financial security, Hernandez has declined to sign a long-term deal. It’s turned out to be a smart strategy for him; in the wake of his breakthrough season, he’s in line to negotiate far better terms now than he might have a year ago. It might take something like $80 million for five years to lock him up now, and it’s possible that Hernandez would still prefer to wait and see if there’s a $200 million offer awaiting him in free agency.
The Mariners should have the cash to play ball with Hernandez, but they can’t risk having him depart in return for just two draft picks. The plan should be to make him a generous offer this winter and then consider moving him if he doesn’t take it. With so few elite free agents available this winter — particularly on the pitching side — there probably won’t ever be a better time to trade him.

The Mets are among six teams that help Dominican prospects earn high school diplomas

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - APRIL 19:  A detailed view of the blackboard with theoretical physics equations in chalk by Alberto Ramos, Theoretical Physics Fellow and visitor, Antonio Gonzalez-Arroyo from the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid (both not in frame) at The European Organization for Nuclear Research commonly know as CERN on April 19, 2016 in Geneva, Switzerland.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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In a special for USA TODAY Sports, Mike Vorkunov details how six teams — the Mets in particular — provide an education program that helps their Dominican prospects earn high school diplomas. It seems like an obvious win-win: smarter players make smarter decisions, making them more likely to achieve their potential as athletes. That, of course, requires spending money, which is why only six teams make the investment. For the players, if baseball doesn’t work out, they are better able to support themselves in other ways.

Vorkunov lists the Pirates, Tigers, Phillies, Diamondbacks, and Mariners as the other teams who provide an education program for their Dominican prospects. We learned earlier this month that the Phillies were also investing in making sure their minor leaguers eat healthy. As Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, “few teams” supply their minor league players with healthy food options.

Juan Henderson, the head of the Mets’ Dominican academy, said, “We see the benefit of it. I gotta tell you, we’re working with a new generation of baseball players. You see in the past that players just carry a bat and a glove and a helmet on the baseball field and in the academy. Those years, I think, are going to be pretty much over. Now they also do that, but they also carry books, they also carry an iPad, they also carry a laptop.”

Kudos to the six teams for making a great decision and here’s hoping the other 24 teams follow suit.

Video: Albert Pujols hits 569th career home run, tying Rafael Palmeiro

ANAHEIM, CA - MAY 22:  Albert Pujols #5 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim returns to the dugout after scoring in the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on May 22, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
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Angels first baseman Albert Pujols cranked out a two-run home run in the third inning against Rangers starter Derek Holland, breaking a scoreless tie. It’s the ninth homer of the season for Pujols and the 569th of his career, putting him into a tie with Rafael Palmeiro for 12th on baseball’s all-time home run leaderboard.

Harmon Killebrew is Pujols’ next target at 573, followed by Mark McGwire at 583 and Frank Robinson at 586.

Pujols hadn’t homered since May 13. He entered Monday night hitting a mediocre .228/.309/.395 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 188 plate appearances.

Alex Gordon to miss three to four weeks with a fractured scaphoid bone

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 22:  Alex Gordon #4 and Mike Moustakas #8 of the Kansas City Royals collide going for a foul ball against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on May 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The White Sox defeated the Royals 3-2.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Monday has unfortunately been a day of injury news. Royals outfielder Alex Gordon is the latest to hit the 15-day disabled list, as he has been diagnosed with a fractured scaphoid bone in his right wrist. The club has recalled infielder Cheslor Cuthbert from Triple-A Omaha.

Gordon suffered the injury colliding with third baseman Mike Moustakas attempting to catch a fly ball on Sunday afternoon. He is expected to miss three to four weeks, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan reports.

Gordon was having a tough 2016 campaign and the injury only makes it worse. He’s hitting .211/.319/.331 with four home runs and 10 RBI in 166 plate appearances on the year.

The Royals will likely use Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando in left field in Gordon’s absence.

Orioles trade reliever Brian Matusz to the Braves

BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 17:  Brian Matusz #17 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches against the Seattle Mariners during the fifth inning on May 17, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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The Orioles announced on Monday night that the club has traded reliever Brian Matusz to the Braves in exchange for minor league pitchers Brandon Barker and Trevor Belicek. The Braves are also receiving a Competitive Balance Round B pick (76th overall) in the 2016 draft.

Matusz, 29, made his season debut on April 23 after battling a back injury since early March. It’s been a struggle, as the lefty has yielded eight runs on 11 hits and seven walks with just one strikeout in six innings. He is earning $3.9 million and can become a free agent after the season.

MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports that the Braves are expected to designate Matusz for assignment. Essentially, the Braves bought the draft pick for Matusz’s remaining salary of $3 million of $3.9 million total.

Barker, 23, has been pitching at Double-A Mississippi after getting a taste of Triple-A last year. So far this season, the right-hander has a 2.00 ERA with a 40/12 K/BB ratio in 45 innings spanning eight starts and a relief appearance.

Belicek, a 23-year-old left-hander, has spent most of the year with Single-A Rome, compiling a 2.49 ERA with a 29/1 K/BB ratio in 25 1/3 innings over 11 relief appearances.