Position-by-position trade deadline preview: Second base

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This is the third in a series of articles looking at players who might be available in the days leading up to the July 31 trade deadline.
Dan Uggla (Marlins) – The current suspicion is that Uggla isn’t available, even though he’s due to make around $10 million next season and the Marlins don’t look like contenders at this point. The teams that wanted him last winter appeared to prefer him as a third baseman, but he wasn’t interested in switching positions and he’d definitely remain a second baseman if traded now. His bat would provide a significant boost to the lineups of any number of contenders. The Rockies, in particular, have often been mentioned in connection with him, though it doesn’t appear as though anything is going on at the moment. He’s probably staying.
Rickie Weeks (Brewers) – Completely healthy for once, Weeks has turned in an exceptional season, hitting .277/.376/.482 with 19 homers in 394 at-bats. It puts the Brewers in a tough spot. It doesn’t look like they’ll play any part in the NL Central race, and Weeks is going to be a lot more expensive to retain going forward if this keeps up. Plus, there are still questions about whether their top prospect, Brett Lawrie, will be able to make it as a second baseman or if he’ll need to be moved elsewhere. If the Brewers could get a couple of quality young arms back, it’d make sense for them to move Weeks now. He’ll be a free agent after next year, and he’d be a big risk on a long-term deal. Still, indications are that he isn’t currently available.
Kelly Johnson (Diamondbacks) – Johnson is back tearing it up of late, though it’s worth noting that the vast majority of his production has come at Chase Field. He’s hitting .310/.430/.598 at home and .238/.317/.375 on the road. Still, he has to be fairly attractive in trade talks. He’s making just $2.35 million this year, he’s under control as an arbitration-eligible player for another season and he probably wouldn’t cost as much in terms of prospects as Uggla. He’d have been a great get for the Mets a month ago, and he’d still make a lot of sense for them now. AL teams figure to shy away. Not only has Johnson never played in the league, but he’s really struggled during the interleague schedule the last couple of years.
Mark Ellis (Athletics) – Ellis remains an awfully solid player when he’s in the lineup, but he’s 33 and injury prone. He’s played in 130 games just twice in his career, and that’s not going to change this season, since he’s already missed 37 games, primarily due to a hamstring strain. The Athletics’ first choice is to bring him back for 2011, but probably not at the $6 million he’s due to earn under the terms of the option on his current deal. If they don’t think he’ll be amenable to a cheaper deal, they could send him elsewhere. The White Sox and Tigers are among the teams that could use him as a stopgap.
Adam Kennedy (Nationals) – The Nationals signed Kennedy because he was cheap and they thought he might come in handy. However, he struggled as the team’s primary second baseman initially and he hasn’t fared a whole lot better as a bench player. He’s currently hitting .250/.329/.328 with 17 RBI in 192 at-bats. His play on defense has been disappointing as well. The Nats are plenty open to moving him, but even though several contenders have dealt with injury problems at second base, no one has made a play for him yet.
Mike Fontenot (Cubs) – Fontentot has been a non-factor for the Cubs the last two months, but before Starlin Castro was called up, he hit .324/.373/.481 in 108 at-bats through the end of May. Paired with someone capable of hitting lefties, he’d make for a very solid platoon second baseman, and he’s helped his stock by gaining experience at shortstop and third base this season. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Cubs were getting more inquiries about him than they are regarding Ryan Theriot (he’ll be listed with the shortstops).
Jeff Keppinger (Astros) – Keppinger has found a little pop this month, hitting three homers in July after coming up with jus one over the first three months. His game is hitting for average, though, and he’s typically been a liability against right-handers over the course of his career. The Astros would want more than he’s worth in order to part with him.
Akinori Iwamura (Pirates) – Iwamura was one of the worst players in the majors during April and May, but since getting dropped by the Pirates and assigned to Triple-A, he’s hit .300/.456/.457 in 70 at-bats. The Pirates have little reason to give him another opportunity, and they’d probably pick up most of the rest of his $4.25 million salary in order to get a prospect in return for him. Iwamura has experience at third as well as second, so if he’s truly regained his swing, he’d make a lot of sense for the Tigers, Twins, White Sox and others.
Craig Counsell (Brewers) – Counsell’s offensive revival hasn’t carried over. After turning in one of his best seasons in 2009 and starting off 2010 by hitting .333/.385/.583 in April, he’s come in at .208/.286/.217 in 106 at-bats since the beginning of May. On the plus side, even at age 39, Counsell can still handle shortstop on a part-time basis and he’s a plus defender at both second and third. He’d be an upgrade off the bench for the Reds and Phillies, and he might be a starter in San Diego.
Willie Bloomquist (Royals) – Bloomquist is on pace to finish with a sub-700 OPS for the eighth straight season, but he has pummeled lefties to the tune of a .304/.360/.522 line in 46 at-bats. That and his ability to play anywhere give him value as a 25th man. He’s been mentioned in connection with the Red Sox several times, and he could also be a fit on the Yankees.
First base

Jacob deGrom outduels Clayton Kershaw, Mets take 1-0 NLDS lead

Jacob de Grom
AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Jacob deGrom put together one of the best post-season starts in Mets history, outdueling three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw to pitch his team into a 1-0 NLDS lead. The right-hander fanned 13 over seven shutout innings, holding the Dodgers to five hits and a walk as the Mets won 3-1.

deGrom’s game score of 79 is the fifth-best by a Mets starter in the playoffs, behind Jon Matlack, Mike Hampton, Bobby Jones, and Tom Seaver, according to Baseball Reference. As Katie Sharp notes on Twitter, deGrom is one of three pitchers to hold the opposition scoreless on 13 or more strikeouts and one or fewer walks. The other two are Tim Lincecum and Mike Scott.

In the eighth inning, reliever Tyler Clippard allowed a one-out double to Howie Kendrick followed by an RBI single to Adrian Gonzalez as the Dodgers finally got on the board. Closer Jeurys Familia entered and recorded the final out of the eighth inning by inducing a weak line out from Justin Turner. In the ninth, Familia worked a 1-2-3 frame to wrap up the game.

Kershaw remains winless in the post-season since Game 1 of the 2013 NLDS, a span of seven starts. He gave up a solo home run to Daniel Murphy in the fourth inning, then walked the bases loaded in the seventh inning before departing with two outs. Reliever Pedro Baez entered and allowed two of his inherited runners to score when David Wright lined a single to center field. On the evening, Kershaw was on the hook for three runs on four hits and four walks with 11 strikeouts. Though he lost his command a bit towards the end of his start, the lefty pitched quite well and will be on the receiving end of some unnecessary criticism as a result of taking another post-season loss.

deGrom and Kershaw both struck out 11 batters, the first time that has happened in a major league post-season game.

Michael Cuddyer didn’t look too good out in left field for the Mets.

Game 2 of the NLDS will continue on Saturday at 9:00 PM EDT. Noah Syndergaard will start for the Mets opposite Zack Greinke of the Dodgers.

Clayton Kershaw, Jacob deGrom create MLB first with 11 strikeouts each in the playoffs

Jacob deGrom
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

For the first time in major league history, both pitchers in a playoff game have struck out at least 11 batters, per MLB.com’s Paul Casella. Mets starter Jacob deGrom has pitched just a hair better than Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw overall. deGrom has blanked the Dodgers over six frames on five hits and a walk. Kershaw made one mistake, resulting in a solo home run to Daniel Murphy in the fourth inning. He’s allowed four hits and four walks total in 6 2/3 innings.

The last time opposing starters each struck out 10 in a post-season game was back in 1944 in Game 5 of the World Series when Mort Cooper of the St. Louis Cardinals struck out 12 and Denny Galehouse of the St. Louis Browns struck out 10.

Michael Cuddyer not shining in left field early in NLDS Game 1

Michael Cuddyer
AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek

Mets outfielder Michael Cuddyer has already made a pair of mistakes in left field and he’s only four innings into the first game of the best-of-five NLDS against the Dodgers.

Leading off the second inning, Justin Turner sent a well-struck liner to Cuddyer which was quite catchable, but the ball clanked off of the veteran’s glove. Turner was credited with a double. Mets starter Jacob deGrom was able to work around the misplay, striking out Andre Ethier, A.J. Ellis, and Clayton Kershaw to close out the frame.

With two outs in the third inning, Corey Seager sent a fly ball down the left field line. Cuddyer took an inefficient route and the ball bounced about a foot inside the foul line, then into the stands, giving Seager a ground-rule double. To add insult to injury, Cuddyer ended up tumbling over the fence. deGrom, again, worked around Cuddyer’s mistake, striking out Adrian Gonzalez to end the inning.

Because he bats right-handed, Cuddyer got the start in left field over the left-handed-hitting rookie Michael Conforto against Kershaw, a southpaw. Conforto mustered only a .481 OPS against lefties this season compared to Cuddyer’s .698. Despite the batting disparity, one wonders how short a leash manager Terry Collins has on Cuddyer given his defense.