Five teams that need to make a deal

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There are no teams that are 100% happy with where they stand right now and everyone can improve. And while some teams on the margins of the playoff race may need the most improvement, the following five teams are the ones who could and should do something to preserve their playoff hopes and dreams between now and the trading deadline tomorrow afternoon:

1. Atlanta Braves:  They just watched the Phillies add an ace pitcher and call up a young stud prospect. In a few weeks they’ll get their all-world second baseman back. Meanwhile, the Braves have been struggling and continue to run out an outfield consisting of Jason Heyward, a can of sliced pears and belly button lint.  If they want to stand pat, great, stand pat. Just don’t expect to win the NL East doing it.  Josh Willingham would be a great pickup for them, but it’s doubtful the Nats would deal in the division. Luke Scott? Jim Edmonds? Cody Ross?

2. St. Louis Cardinals: They may have a nice big three in Carpenter, Wainwright and Garcia, but you need a competent four or five to make the playoffs if you’re in a tight race.  Their interest in Oswalt was not just a ploy for postseason dominance: things fall off precipitously after those three.  They could use a starter. Jake Westbrook anyone?

3. Chicago White Sox: The stuff this morning about the Chisox wanting to trade Edwin Jackson and actually keep him makes no sense to me. They want — and need — a big bopper like Adam Dunn, and the White Sox should flip Jackson for him if the deal with Arizona goes down. I’m inclined to believe that’s their real plan anyway, and the talk of keeping Jackson is designed to make the Nationals feel like they have less leverage than they really do.

4. Los Angeles Dodgers: Like the Cardinals, the Dodgers have a couple of good starters at the front end of the rotation and a black hole at the back end. Can they take on any payroll at all?  Can they pry Ted Lilly away from the Cubs? They should certainly try.

5. New York Yankees: Surprising? Sure, because they’re the best team in baseball. But the Yankees’ have two big enemies, and I’m not talking about the Red Sox and the Rays: complacency and injuries. They could insure against both of those with a deal right now. The Bombers are talking big about wanting to use the DH slot to rest Old Men Posada, Rodriguez and Jeter down the stretch, but maybe they should get in on the Adam Dunn thing between now and tomorrow, no?  Also, while I think Joba Chamberlain will be fine over the long term, it may not be the worst plan in the world for them to pick up a reliever like Scott Downs (at least if his price comes down).

Will any of these teams make a move? I’d say only two probably will, with my guess being the White Sox and the Yankees.  But rust never sleeps, my friends, and any team that thinks the status quo is just dandy right now risks watching the playoffs from their rumpus room come October. 

Aledmys Diaz is trying to improve his defense with strobe glasses

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MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports that Cardinals’ shortstop Aledmys Diaz has been sporting a new look around Busch Stadium with a pair of “strobe glasses,” technology-enhanced specs designed to help athletes focus on the ball. Like a strobe light, the lenses of these glasses affect a player’s vision by rapidly changing opacity, giving its wearers the illusion that the objects they see are moving more slowly than normal. Once a player adjusts to the new speed of play, they gain a greater sense of control and are able to time their actions with more precision.

Diaz isn’t the first MLB player to utilize the technology, just the first Cardinals’ player to do so. It’s been tested by Bryce Harper, Corey Brown, Tommy Joseph, Austin Hedges and Joe Mauer, among others around the league, and has been used for everything from refining a catcher’s reflexes behind the plate to tweaking a hitter’s ability to track a pitch. Per Langosch, Diaz has been using the glasses to hone in on the ball during pregame drills, increasing both his confidence and response time on the field and improving his defense at short.

The shortstop has been the focus of some concern this season after seeing a sizable dip in his production at the plate, and his five fielding errors, 0.6 UZR and 0.6 fWAR haven’t helped matters, either. He sustained a minor thumb injury during an at-bat on Friday night, and was left off of the Cardinals’ starting lineup on Saturday, though manager Mike Matheny didn’t rule out his ability to pinch-hit during the series. While the strobe glasses are a good start, Diaz will need more than a pair of specs to match the spotlight-worthy performance he turned out during his rookie season in 2016.

Eduardo Rodriguez could rejoin the Red Sox rotation in July

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Red Sox’ left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez may finally get a chance at cracking the rotation again, assuming all goes well in Double-A Portland first. Rodriguez took the field prior to the club’s afternoon session with the Angels, firing 68 pitches in a simulated game as he prepared for an upcoming rehab assignment in Portland on Thursday.

The 24-year-old southpaw suffered a right knee subluxation during pregame warmups on June 1, and it’s been a slow path to recovery ever since. It’s not the first time Rodriguez has had issues with his right knee — he sustained a similar injury during spring training last year — and this time around, the Red Sox weren’t about to gamble with their starter’s health. Ian Browne of MLB.com reports that Rodriguez was put in a knee brace and underwent exercises designed to help him regain some mobility and stability while he worked back up to full strength on the mound.

He’ll still need to prove he can throw a 75- to 80-pitch outing in Double-A, and barring any significant setbacks, will likely rejoin the Red Sox’ pitching staff when they visit the Rangers next month. In the meantime, the club will continue to cycle starters through the No. 5 spot, which has seen no fewer than three different pitchers since Rodriguez hit the disabled list. The lefty is 4-2 in 10 starts this season after logging a 3.54 ERA, 3.1 BB/9 and career-high 9.6 SO/9 through his first 61 innings.