Whether caused by a hamstring injury, distractions related to his impending free agency, or simply the aging process, Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols had a disappointing first two months.
He’s on a mission to make June, July, August, September and October far more fruitful.
Pujols finished 3-for-4 with four RBI in the Cardinals’ extra-innings defeat of the rival Cubs on Saturday afternoon in a muggy St. Louis. He ripped a two-run shot to right-center field in the fourth inning, an RBI double in the sixth inning and then played the hero in the 12th inning with his first walkoff home run of the season. It was the ninth game-ending homer of his career.
Pujols is now 10-for-23 with four home runs, nine RBI and nine runs scored since the Cardinals arrived home from a western road trip on Monday. His OPS rose from .761 to .807 on Saturday alone and has jumped over 70 points in the past 10 days. The slugger is still miles from his historically exceptional career offensive pace, but Pujols is capable of going on a tear that can last until autumn and is certainly showing signs of life.
The Cardinals are 10 games above .500 and sit alone atop the National League Central standings.
The Blue Jays acquired Yankees’ infielder/outfielder Rob Refsnyder for first base prospect Ryan McBroom, the teams announced Sunday. Refsnyder was designated for assignment by the Yankees earlier in the week and is expected to report to Triple-A Buffalo, while McBroom could find a landing place on the Blue Jays’ Double-A roster in Trenton.
Refsnyder, 26, had trouble heating up at the plate during his third campaign with the Yankees. He batted .135/.200/.216 with a double and two stolen bases through his first 40 PA in 2017 and was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre coming out of the All-Star break. His numbers solidified during a 38-game stint in Triple-A, where he posted a .312/.390/.464 batting line with 15 extra-base hits in 159 PA. He’s not slated for a major league gig with the Blue Jays just yet, but could see some time at second base behind Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney, especially with Devon Travis and Troy Tulowitzki still on the mend.
McBroom, 25, was ranked No. 30 among the Blue Jays’ top prospects in 2017. He profiles as a bat-only first baseman with little speed or range in the infield, and was working through his second season at Double-A New Hampshire prior to the trade. He entered Sunday slashing .243/.321/.402 with 12 home runs through his first 392 PA of the year.
Marlins’ president of baseball operations Michael Hill told reporters Sunday that he has no intention of dealing Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Justin Bour, J.T. Realmuto, Marcell Ozuna or Dan Straily at the trade deadline this July. That’s a decision he feels would be better left in the hands of the Marlins’ new ownership, though the hand-off may still be a ways away.
That doesn’t mean that teams aren’t interested in the club’s core players, however. From Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald:
It’s not stopping calls from coming in,” Hill said of the interest. “It’s been fairly consistent, with people checking in to see where we’re at to see if we may be open to expanding the players we’re talking about. But we haven’t put any of those guys in play.
ESPN’s Buster Olney adds that there’s a catch-22 when it comes to moving superstars like Stanton. He represents the face of the franchise and one of the team’s most significant assets, but the remainder of his 13-year, $325 million contract also makes up a sizable portion of the Marlins’ debt.
While the club may not be ready to deal some of their marquee players just yet, they don’t intend to sit pat at the deadline, either. They’re still looking to shed some payroll in the bullpen after dealing right-handed reliever David Phelps to the Mariners and appear to be listening to multiple offers on fellow righty A.J. Ramos. Ramos, 30, has seen mixed results over his first 37 1/3 innings of 2017 with a 3.86 ERA, 4.8 BB/9 and 11.1 SO/9, though Hill appears optimistic that the Marlins can extract considerable value from a trade.