Josh Willingham deal likely to start chain reaction

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The outfield market could start unfolding quickly now with the news that Josh Willingham is about to become a Minnesota Twin.

– Michael Cuddyer, who had been the Twins’ preference, appears likely to join the Rockies. Minnesota offered their veteran the three-year deal he desired, but it seems that last season’s experience was bad enough to give him doubts about re-signing. Cuddyer will probably put up better numbers than Willingham next year, but that will be all about the ballparks: Minnesota is getting the superior hitter out of this deal.

– The Rockies are also in on Carlos Beltran, but they’ve been much more aggressive in their pursuit of Cuddyer. Beltran has slipped through the cracks, even though he offers a much better glove than either Cuddyer or Willingham and greater offensive upside as well. Of course, the issue there is his history of knee problems. He’ll still probably get a higher annual salary than Cuddyer or Willingham, but he may have to choose between a one-year deal with a contender or a two-year deal from a lesser team. St. Louis, Boston, Texas and Detroit are candidates to get involved.

– Only once that trio is off the board will names like Cody Ross and Ryan Ludwick start to become attractive. The A’s and Mariners will rifle through the bargain bin looking for a starting outfielder. The Red Sox might as well.

– Of course, there is still one prize out there in the form of Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes. Complicating things there is that he’s not yet officially a free agent and eligible to sign. Detroit and Miami look like the early favorites to land the 26-year-old, who would slide right into a major league outfield in either center or right.

Video: Jaime Garcia hits a 399-foot grand slam

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Jaime Garcia has been at the center of trade talks for several days now, but on Friday night, he commanded center stage for an entirely different reason. The Braves’ southpaw went head-to-head with Dodgers’ lefty Alex Wood and mashed his first career grand slam: a two-out, 399-foot blast that cleared the wall in right field and put the Braves up 9-0 in the fifth inning.

The bases-loaded knock was the third career home run for Garcia, whose contributions at the plate have been few and far between over his nine-year track in the major leagues. Not only did the homer mark an impressive career first for the 30-year-old, but it was just the second pitcher grand slam in Braves’ history and the first since 1966.

Garcia looked almost as impressive on the mound during Friday’s series opener, issuing one run, four hits and three strikeouts through his first six innings. The Braves currently lead the Dodgers 12-1 in the top of the seventh inning.

As for whether the slam will affect negotiations between the Braves and Twins? MLB.com’s Mike Petriello put it best:

Ryon Healy exits game after taking a ground ball to the face

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Athletics’ first baseman Ryon Healy had a scary moment during Friday’s loss to the Mets. Lucas Duda smacked a single to the first base side, where the ball took a high hop and caught Healy in the left temple. He crumpled to the ground after getting struck by the one-hopper, but was eventually able to stand and walk off the field with assistance from a trainer.

Prior to the injury, Healy went 2-for-3 at the plate with an RBI single in the first inning. He was replaced by Yonder Alonso, who finished off the rest of the night’s 7-5 loss with a walk in two plate appearances.

Following the game, manager Bob Melvin told reporters that Healy did not appear to have sustained a concussion as a result of the hit. Healy said he thinks he’ll be good to go for Saturday’s game, though a final decision likely won’t be made until tomorrow.