Position-by-position trade deadline preview: Shortstop

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This is the fifth in a series of articles looking at players who might be available in the days leading up to the July 31 trade deadline.
Stephen Drew (Diamondbacks) – While Drew has largely shaken the injury-prone tag he earned before he even reached the majors, he hasn’t come close to reaching his offensive potential outside of a strong 2008 season. After posting an 836 OPS as a 25-year-old, he dropped to 748 last year and he’s at 738 through 332 at-bats in 2010. He’s a solid defensive shortstop, so he’s an above average regular, and there’s still reason to hope that he has more 820-850 OPS seasons in him. The Diamondbacks, though, may be willing to part with him for a big return. This isn’t a Dan Haren situation — Drew’s likely $5 million salary should fit into their 2011 budget — but he’s only going to get more expensive in 2012 and since he’s a Scott Boras client, a long-term contract seems highly unlikely. Still, a deal is more likely to come in the offseason than now. That’s particularly the case since the Tigers, thought to be Drew’s primary suitor, suddenly have bigger worries than shortstop.
Reid Brignac (Rays) – Supposed to be the Rays’ long-term shortstop, Brignac was quite a disappointment in 2008 and 2009 and he came up in trade rumors quite a bit following Jason Bartlett’s emergence. However, just when it seemed Brignac could fall out of the Rays’ plans, he made the team as a part-time player this spring and he’s done terrific work while playing second base and shortstop, hitting .282/.339/.431 with six homers and 35 RBI in 209 at-bats. The Rays could still decide to part with him if it helps brings in a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat, but it’s more likely that he stays and makes Bartlett expendable this winter.
Miguel Tejada (Orioles) – Tejada hasn’t made an appearance at shortstop all year, but if he’s traded, it could well be to a team that would slide him back to his old position. The Padres are thought to be interested, and he actually makes a lot of sense for the NL West leaders. He’s not much of a home run guy anymore, and Petco’s big alleys should be rather kind to his approach at the plate. Also, while he lacks range at shortstop these days, the singles that get by him would turn into fewer runs at Petco than they would anywhere else. The Tigers are another team that could use Tejada. An August deal is a possibility here.
Cristian Guzman (Nationals) – If the Nationals were thinking clearly, they would have let Guzman go when the Red Sox claimed him off waivers last summer. He’s done an adequate job with the bat these last two years, but he’s no $8 million-per-year player with his 700 OPS and subpar defense. Fortunately, he’s now in the final year of his deal, and the Nationals might be able to get a little something in return for him. Like Tejada, he makes some sense for the Tigers and Padres. He’s also been mentioned in connection with the Rockies, though that window has probably closed with Troy Tulowitzki ready to return.
Brandon Wood (Angels) – The Alberto Callaspo trade seemed to make it official: the Angels have given up on Brandon Wood. They can’t send him down, since there’s still no chance he’d clear waivers, but he’s entirely useless as a bench player. Given 173 at-bats this year, the 25-year-old has hit .168/.185/.225 with three homers and a 52/4 K/BB ratio. The only hope now is that a change of scenery/change in coaches does something for him. No contender is going to want him to come in any play a role, but the Pirates, Astros, Orioles and Indians are among the also-rans that should be open to giving him a shot.
Ryan Theriot (Cubs) – Theriot never projected as a major league regular, but he was a surprisingly capable one in 2008 and 2009. This year, he was pushed off shortstop by Starlin Castro and he’s struggled offensively as the Cubs’ second baseman. While his average is practically the same as last year (.281 vs. .284), his OPS is down 76 points because of a sharp drop in his walk rate and a complete lack of power. Odds are that Theriot will spend most of the rest of his career in a utility role. Still, if some team wants him as a regular for the final two months, the Cubs could oblige. He’s currently earning $2.6 million, which might make him too expensive to bring back as a part-time player next year.
Cesar Izturis (Orioles) – Izturis will subtract from an offense while hitting at the bottom of the order, but he remains a strong defender at age 30 and he only has a bit more than $1 million left on his contract. That makes him a realistic choice for the Padres, Tigers or any other contender that loses a shortstop between now and Aug. 31.
Jack Wilson (Mariners) – Any team that might acquire Wilson knows exactly what it would be getting: he’s one of the game’s most trustworthy defensive shortstops, but he’s also an offensive zero and he’s having more and more difficulty staying healthy now that he’s in his 30s. Since he’s owed another $2 million this year and $5 million in 2011, it’s doubtful the Mariners will be able to move him. They don’t have anyone ready to step in anyway.
Ronny Cedeno (Pirates) – The Pirates are likely open to trading either Cedeno or Bobby Crosby, though they’d want a bit more for Cedeno, who is back starting lately after losing time during his ugly June. He went from hitting .121/.136/.121 in 58 at-bats last month to .400/.441/.673 in 55 at-bats so far in July. Of course, that’s only gotten him to .255/.295/.381 for the year. He’d have to keep it up or risk being non-tendered this winter.
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Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar
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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.