Halladay trade waits on extension, other details

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ESPN’s Jayson Stark, who still has some of the best Phillies sources in the business from his days in Philadelphia, appears to have the best handle on the Roy Halladay trade at the moment.
According to his sources, the deal isn’t yet done. Besides the need for Halladay to agree to an extension — reportedly in the three-year, $60 million range — the Jays and Phillies are still fighting over a prospect.
It breaks down like this at the moment:
Phillies: Roy Halladay, Mariners prospect, Mariners prospect
Mariners: Cliff Lee
Blue Jays: Phillippe Aumont (20, from Sea), Travis d’Arnaud (20, from Phil), Phillies prospect
Outfielder Michael Taylor might be that last prospect going to Toronto, though Stark believes the Jays are holding out for fellow outfielder Domonic Brown, the Phillies’ top position prospect. Taylor is no slouch — he ranks as one of top 10 outfield prospects in the minors — but it makes sense that the Phillies would want more. Aumont was turned into a reliever last year, and he’d be an injury risk if thrust back into the rotation. He could be a dominant late-game reliever, but he’s hardly a sure thing. D’Arnaud, a 2007 supplemental first-round pick, has been something of a disappointment and doesn’t currently project as a starting catcher in the majors, though he’s just 20 and there’s plenty of time for that to change.
There’s been little word about the other Mariners properties in the deal. The assumption when the reports leaked was that Brandon Morrow would be involved, and he could make sense in Philadelphia as a setup man. However, if Stark is right that it’s prospects going to the Phillies, then he wouldn’t qualify. Reliever Shawn Kelley also doesn’t fit the prospect description, but he’s another pitcher the Phillies should be interested in. Young outfielder Michael Saunders would be a nice piece for Toronto, but not for the Phillies. Carlos Triunfel’s upside would play anywhere.
That there’s still so much we don’t know makes it too early to name winners and losers here. However, I don’t think it’s going out on a limb to suggest that the Mariners did a great job managing to acquire Cliff Lee when they have so few star prospects to deal from. Also, I’ll be very disappointed with the Jays’ haul if they only end up with Aumont, Taylor and D’Arnaud.

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.