Position-by-position trade deadline preview: Center field

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This is the seventh in a series of articles looking at players who might be available in the days leading up to the July 31 trade deadline.
B.J. Upton (Rays) – Upton has frustrated the Rays with his lack of effort at times and this makes two straight years in which he hasn’t hit much at all, but it looks like the team still isn’t ready to give up on him. While his name came up in the Cliff Lee rumors and he’s been mentioned in connection with the Nationals, Phillies and Dodgers, the belief is that he’s staying. The Rays aren’t ready to turn center field over to top prospect Desmond Jennings just yet.
Chris Young (Diamondbacks) – Young certainly would have been a lot easier to acquire over the winter. With a .269/.334/.468 line, 17 homers and 63 RBI in 98 games, he’s currently living up to the contract that will pay him $5 million next year, $7 million in 2012, $8.5 million in 2013 and either $11 million or a $1.5 million buyout in 2014. The Diamondbacks as a whole, on the other hand, have continued to disappoint and want to cut back payroll, which is why Young might be available. It’d still be quite a surprise if he were dealt.
Cody Ross (Marlins) – Ross fits better in a corner, but he remains an option in center field. It’s where the Marlins have been using him since they called up Mike Stanton to take over in right. After back-to-back years of 20 homers and OPSs right around 800, Ross is currently hitting .270/.325/.404 with nine homers through 374 at-bats. The Phillies, Braves, Red Sox and Dodgers have expressed interest in him anyway, though the Dodgers would seem to be out of the mix after picking up Scott Podsednik. Because of the Chris Coghlan injury, the Marlins are leaning towards keeping him, at least for a couple of more months. He’ll be a prime non-tender candidate in the offseason if he fails to put up a strong second half.
Coco Crisp (Athletics) – Crisp has had big problems staying on the field the last two years, but he’s the one legitimate leadoff-hitting center fielder potentially available and that would seem to give him some trade value. The Padres bid on him in the offseason and still have a need for him now, and he’d be quite a weapon as a part-timer for the Braves, White Sox, Yankees or Rays. The A’s could choose to retain him and exercise his $5.75 million option for 2011, but as much time as he’s missed, he should come cheaper than that next year.
Jim Edmonds (Brewers) – Back after a year off, Edmonds has posted an impressive .289/.353/.513 line in 197 at-bats for Milwaukee this year. He’s no everyday center fielder at this stage of his career, but his bat makes it worth living with his diminished range, at least when the opponent is throwing a right-hander. He can also serve as a backup first baseman. This is probably his last season, but he hasn’t expressed a desire to finish his career with a World Series contender. The Brewers figure to keep him unless he requests a move next month.
Corey Patterson (Orioles) – Patterson filled in admirably as the Orioles’ leadoff hitter with Brian Roberts on the shelf, and though his production has tailed off recently, he’s still at a respectable .274/.325/.404 in 223 at-bats. He’s also stolen 17 bases in 20 attempts. No contender is going to want him as a regular, but he’d be awfully useful off the bench if he could maintain that kind of line. Too bad most suspect that he can’t.
Willie Harris (Nationals) – Not that he would have brought a king’s ransom in return, but the Nationals missed out on their chance to sell high on Harris a year ago. After three straight seasons in which he proved quite valuable while racking up about 350 at-bats a year, he’s fallen all of the way to .184/.287/.355 in 141 at-bats in 2010. Given that he plays left and right very well, center adequately and second and third if necessary, he could still be a fit for several contenders. A return to Chicago with the White Sox would make some sense.
Chris Dickerson (Reds) – Dickerson, who has been on the DL since the end of April with a broken hamate bone, is hitting .429/.515/.821 through nine games in a rehab assignment with Triple-A Louisville. The strong showing might prompt the Reds to have him replace Laynce Nix on the bench, but they’d likely still be willing to send him elsewhere in return for a prospect. Dickerson is out of options, so sending him down until rosters expand isn’t an option.
First base
Second base
Third base
Left field & right field

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.