Position-by-position trade deadline preview: First base


This is the second in a series of articles looking at players who might be available in the days leading up to the July 31 trade deadline.
Prince Fielder (Brewers) – Fielder has overcome a slow start in grand fashion: by month, he’s posted OPSs of 741, 880, 956 and now 1074 so far in July. Still, one gets the feeling that his trade value isn’t what it was a year ago. That’s in part because he’s going to be very difficult to get signed to an extension before he becomes a free agent following next season. It also doesn’t help matters that he could ask for about $20 million in arbitration over the winter. Since the offers won’t overwhelm, the Brewers will probably be better off keeping him and hoping for better luck in 2011. The White Sox are thought to be interested, but unless they offer up Gordon Beckham — and they probably won’t — there wouldn’t seem to be a potential match.
Adam Dunn (Nationals) – I led off the NL notes on Rotoworld with my thoughts on a possible Dunn deal. There’s a chance the Nationals will move Dunn if they don’t think he’ll come down from his request for a four-year, $60 million contract. Still, the odds are against it right now. The White Sox and Yankees have shown the most interest.
Derrek Lee (Cubs) – Lee posted the second-best OPS of his career as a 33-year-old in 2009, but at .247/.337/.391 right now, he’s currently on pace to finish below 800 for the first time since 1999. Maybe there is still time for that to change: he’s gone 11-for-26 with five extra-base hits and eight RBI in six games since the All-Star break. Lee has a no-trade clause and likes Chicago, so it’s not simply a matter of the Cubs finding a taker for him. It’s possible he’ll accept a trade, but far from a given. An August deal could be a possibility here.
Lance Berkman (Astros) – Berkman and Lee are basically in the same boat: both are former All-Stars having down years and both have no-trade clauses and no huge desire to move on. The two are also free agents at season’s end, though Berkman has a $2 million buyout attached to a $15 million option for 2011 that makes him a more expensive proposition. Berkman came out last week and said he didn’t expect to be traded, but because of his salary, he’s another player who could potentially be available during August.
Adam LaRoche (Diamondbacks) – LaRoche would seem to have about as much to offer as Lee and Berkman, but with fewer strings attached. He doesn’t have a no-trade clause, and while his contract includes a $1.5 million buyout attached to a mutual option for 2011, he’ll be owed just $1.5 million over the final two months of this season. The Diamondbacks may be willing to pick up a portion of that buyout anyway, since it’s money they expected to be on the hook for all along. LaRoche, typically a second-half player, is hitting .259/.332/.453 at the moment. It seems doubtful that the Giants would bid for him after he spurned them last winter, but he’d make a lot of sense for the Angels.
Lyle Overbay (Blue Jays) – Overbay isn’t going to be anyone’s top choice, but there are worse platoon first basemen around. He’s gotten better every month since a dreadful April, and while his overall .251/.331/.414 line is still pretty unimpressive, he’s hit a respectable .271/.363/.449 against righties. Odds are that he’ll clear waivers and remain available into next month. If the Angels, Giants, Rangers or another contender is sweating its first base situation then, Overbay could be a fit.
Xavier Nady (Cubs) – While Nady could step in at first base for the Cubs if Lee is traded, he’s actually the more likely of the two to get dealt. He’s struggled in his return from Tommy John surgery, but that’s in part due to a lack of at-bats. He’s had just 141 this season, hitting .220/.289/.340 in the process. No contender should be looking to pick him up to play regularly, but he could probably help a team starting three times per week between first base, the outfield and maybe DH.
Russell Branyan (Mariners) – Branyan has been laid up with another back injury of late, making a trade a whole lot less likely. The Mariners, who just picked him up from the Indians last month, weren’t going to get much for him anyway, so they’ll probably just keep him and hope his power will help them avoid a 100-loss season.
Casey Kotchman (Mariners) – It didn’t figure that anyone would want Kotchman a month ago, but he’s bounced back to hit .333/.422/.692 with three homers in 39 at-bats during July. Like Overbay, he’s a potential fallback for a team that fails to get its top choice. It helps his case that he’s the slickest fielder in this group.
Dan Johnson (Rays) – In Johnson and Chris Richard, the Rays have a couple of the International League’s top performers stashed away at Durham. Johnson, 30, is hitting .300/.413/.603 with 25 homers in 307 at-bats, and he’s been playing plenty of third base and left field, which might make him more interesting to teams. The 36-year-old Richard is batting .297/.387/.514 in 286 at-bats. The Rays may yet decide to give Johnson a look as a part-timer, but if he’s not in their plans at all, letting him go to a team that would use him would be the kind thing to do.

There’s no one to blame in Yankees’ loss

Joe Girardi
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You’re going to boo All-Star Brett Gardner for striking out against a Cy Young contender?

You’re going to bash Alex Rodriguez for going hitless in another postseason game, three years after his last one?

Maybe you’d prefer to put it all on Masahiro Tanaka for giving up two solo homers to a lineup full of 20-homer guys?

The truth is that the Yankees were supposed to lose tonight. They were facing an outstanding left-hander with their forever-lefty-heavy lineup, and they simply didn’t have anyone pitching like an ace to set themselves up nicely for a one-game, winner-take-all showdown. The 3-0 result… well, that’s how this was supposed to go down.

It didn’t necessarily mean it would; what fun would it be if the better team always won? And the Astros might not even be a better team than the Yankees. However, the Astros with Dallas Keuchel on the mound were certainly a better team than the Yankees with whoever they picked to throw.

I just don’t see where it’s worth putting any blame tonight. Joe Girardi? He could have started John Ryan Murphy over Brian McCann against the tough lefty, but he wasn’t willing to risk Tanaka losing his comfort zone by using a backup catcher.

The front office could have added more talent, perhaps outbidding the Blue Jays for David Price or the Royals for Johnny Cueto, and set themselves up better for the postseason. However, that would have cost them Luis Severino and/or Greg Bird, both of whom went on to play key roles as the Yankees secured the wild card. Would it really have been worth it? I don’t think so.

Tanaka gave the Yankees what they should have expected. Had Keuchel’s stuff been a little off on short rest, Tanaka’s performance would have kept the Yankees in the game.

Keuchel, though, was on his game from the first pitch. The Astros bullpen might have been a bit more vulnerable, and late at-bats from Gardner, Carlos Beltran, Rodriguez and McCann definitely left something to be desired. Still, on the whole, the lack of offense was quite a team effort.

The Yankees got beat by a better team tonight.  I’m not sure the Astros would have been better in Games 2-7 in a longer series, but they had everything in their favor in this one.

Keuchel, Astros cruise past Yankees in AL Wild Card Game

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Dallas Keuchel faced the Yankees two times during the regular season and was fantastic in each outing, striking out 12 in a complete-game shutout on June 25 and whiffing nine batters over seven scoreless frames on August 25.

The 2015 Cy  Young Award candidate continued that trend in Tuesday night’s American League Wild Card Game, limiting the Yankees to three hits and one walk over six innings of scoreless ball as the Astros earned a 3-0 win and advanced to a best-of-five ALDS with the top-seeded Royals.

Keuchel was working on three days of rest but didn’t show very many signs of fatigue, whiffing seven and needing only 87 pitches to get through six. He sure looked like he could have gone an inning longer, but Astros manager A.J. Hinch decided to turn the game over to his bullpen and they added three more big zeroes to the scoreboard at a very loud then very boo-heavy Yankee Stadium. Tony Sipp worked around some early jitters to throw a scoreless seventh, Will Harris kept the Yankees off the bases entirely in a scoreless eighth, and closer Luke Gregerson went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth.

Impending free agent outfielder Colby Rasmus provided the first burst of offense for the Astros in the top of the second inning with a leadoff homer against Masahiro Tanaka. And then deadline acquisition Carlos Gomez, who missed a bunch of time down the stretch with an intercostal strain, got to Tanaka for another solo shot in the top of the fourth. Houston scored its third run on a Jose Altuve RBI single in the top of the seventh.

This is a young, talented Astros team with an ace at the head of its rotation.

Kansas City could have a problem.