Pirates cut Lastings Milledge rather than pay him $1 million

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Once upon a time Lastings Milledge was a top prospect whose on-field upside was clouded by his problematic personality. Three teams and 1,655 plate appearances later, it turns out maybe he just wasn’t all that good.

Milledge has hit just .269 with a modest .723 OPS in his five-season career, including .277 with a .712 OPS in 113 games this year, and last night the Pirates non-tendered him just before the midnight deadline.

The move came out of nowhere in part because Milledge is still just 26 years old, but mostly because he was arbitration eligible for the first time and would have been in line for a modest raise to around $1 million.

For the perpetually rebuilding Pirates to cut bait on him for that price shows that they soured on him completely in the 18 months since acquiring Milledge from the Nationals along with Joel Hanrahan for Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett.

General manager Neal Huntington told Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette that the Pirates “remain open to continuing dialogue with Lastings” and possibly re-signing him for a lesser salary, but that makes little sense given that his salary would have been just $1 million or so. You don’t cut a player projected to make $1 million and then try to re-sign him for, say, $500,000 if you think he has any kind of upside.

Video: Bryce Harper crushes a home run to the Chase Field concourse

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Aaron Judge may be the talk of the town right now, but let’s not forget some of Major League Baseball’s more established sluggers. Take the Nationals’ Bryce Harper, for instance, who jumped on a full count during the first inning of Saturday’s game and postmarked the ball to the center field concourse in Chase Field.

Harper’s mammoth hit was the first career home run allowed by Diamondbacks’ rookie Anthony Banda. Banda quickly recovered with an inning-ending strikeout to Ryan Zimmerman, but was booted from his big league debut after Harper, Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon combined for a three-run spread in the sixth.

The first-inning homer also served another purpose: it extended Harper’s hitting streak to 15 games, the longest current streak in MLB this season. He’ll need four more games to tie the 19-game streak Royals’ infielder/outfielder Whit Merrifield established back in June.

The Nationals currently lead the Diamondbacks 4-2 in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Chi Chi Gonzalez to undergo Tommy John surgery

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Rangers’ right-hander Chi Chi Gonzalez is slated for Tommy John surgery, according to a report by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Gonzalez was placed on the 60-day disabled list back in early April with a partial UCL tear and was working towards a throwing program before getting sidelined with more elbow pain. He’s expected to miss the entirety of the 2018 season while recovering from the surgery.

This is the second straight season that has been derailed for Gonzalez due to injury. The 25-year-old starter pitched just 10 1/3 innings in 2016 after recovering from a torn UCL, and was optioned to Triple-A Round Rock to finish out the year after compiling an 8.71 ERA, 7.8 BB/9 and 6.1 SO/9 in three starts with the club. He showed more promise in Triple-A with a 4.70 ERA, 2.9 BB/9 and 5.9 SO/9 through 24 starts and 138 innings.

It’s a tough blow for the Rangers, who have seen Gonzalez healthy in just one major league season to date. General manager Jon Daniels told reporters that a recent MRI showed signs of weakening in the ligament, which disrupted the team’s plans to have the right-hander stick to a six- to eight-week recovery timetable after getting a platelet-rich plasma injection (via Stefan Stevenson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram). The surgery is expected to take place next week and will put Gonzalez’s earliest return date sometime in September 2018.