The Dodgers’ offense just got a major boost, as both Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier have been activated from the disabled list and are batting third and fourth respectively tonight against the Padres.
Kemp has been sidelined since aggravating his left hamstring strain on May 30. While he made it back from the initial injury after the minimum 15 days, he was extra cautious this time around in an effort to avoid another setback. The 27-year-old center fielder is hitting .355/.444/.719 with 12 home runs, 28 RBI and a 1.163 OPS in 36 games played this season.
Ethier hasn’t played since June 27 due to a strained left oblique, but he was cleared to return after playing in two rehab games with High-A Rancho Cucamonga this week. The 29-year-old outfielder still owns an impressive .291/.357/.491 batting line to go along with 10 homers and an .848 OPS this season, but he’s hitting just .203 with one homer and a .596 OPS over his last 23 games. It’s safe to say he’s thrilled to see Kemp’s name on the lineup card.
Despite the struggles of the offense, the Dodgers will begin the second half of the season at 47-40, one-half game ahead of the 46-40 Giants in the National League West.
According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals are keeping an eye on outfield prospect Luis Robert. The 19-year-old left his native Cuba last November and is expected to command interest from multiple MLB teams as he approaches free agency. Goold adds that the Cardinals sent scouts to evaluate Robert’s workouts in the Dominican Republic as recently as last week.
There’s still a good chance that the club won’t get a shot at signing him; as Craig mentioned last month, it seems likely that Major League Baseball won’t declare Robert a free agent until after June 15. By July 2, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s policies on international bonuses will go into effect, handcuffing teams with the maximum penalty for bonuses to a $300,000 signing figure for any available international prospect. It’s designed to effectively take away those teams’ abilities to sign additional international talent, and the Cardinals have already spent a reported $9.35 million in bonuses on Venezuelan outfielder Victor Garcia, Cuban outfielders Jonatan Machado and Randy Arozarena and Cuban right-hander Johan Oviedo.
Until the cutoff in mid-June, the Cardinals are likely to continue actively scouting other international talent, including Robert. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez quotes an anonymous National League scouting director who describes Robert as the No. 2 talent behind Japanese wunderkind Shohei Otani. The 19-year-old hit .286/.319/.397 with a .716 OPS during a 16-game run in the Canadian-American League in 2016, following up an impressive three-year tenure with the Ciego de Avila in the Cuban National Series from 2013-2015.
ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reported over the weekend that the Cubs and reliever Pedro Strop agreed to a contract extension. He’ll remain with the Cubs through 2018 and the new deal includes a club option for the 2019 season as well. Per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, Strop will earn $5.85 million in 2018 and the club option is worth $6.25 million with a $500,000 buyout. The two sides already avoided arbitration earlier this month, agreeing on a $5.5 million salary for the 2017 season.
Strop, 31, has been a very reliable reliever for the Cubs over the last three years. He has a combined 2.65 ERA with 212 strikeouts and 69 walks over 176 1/3 innings in that span of time.
The Cubs replaced Aroldis Chapman with Wade Davis, so Strop and Hector Rondon will be bridging the gap to Davis this coming season.
Strop joined the Cubs along with Jake Arrieta in the July 2013 trade that sent Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman to the Orioles. That trade panned out well for the Cubs.