Exactly 11 weeks into the 2013 regular season, the Cardinals are the best team in the major leagues.
St. Louis was at it again Saturday evening in Miami, surviving a shaky Lance Lynn start with a big night of offense to beat the Marlins 13-7 at their own place. Carlos Beltran slugged his 15th and 16th homers of the year. A .283/.359/.498 career hitter, he is batting .311/.343/.546 in 61 games this season at age 36 and he’s on pace for 38 homers and 105 RBI.
David Freese went 3-for-4 with a home run. He’s batting .341 with an .898 OPS since the beginning of May. Yadier Molina was 2-for-5 with three RBI and is still pacing the National League with a .352 overall batting average — impressive offensive output from the best defensive catcher in baseball.
The Cardinals are 44-24 with a +107 run differential and the Pirates and Reds both lost on Saturday so their lead in the National League Central standings has grown to 3 1/2 games.
Your Saturday box scores and recaps:
Cubs 5, Mets 2
Red Sox 5, Orioles 4
Blue Jays 6, Rangers 1
Giants 5, Braves 6
Dodgers 5, Pirates 3 (11 innings)
Brewers 6, Reds 0
Phillies 5, Rockies 10
Cardinals 13, Marlins 7
Royals 3, Rays 5
Yankees 2, Angels 6
Nationals 7, Indians 6
Tigers 3, Twins 6
Mariners 4, Athletics 0
White Sox 3, Astros 4
Diamondbacks 4, Padres 6
Chris Cotillo of SB Nation reports the Nationals have agreed to terms with free agent reliever Kevin Jepsen.
Think of this as the latest in what will likely be a series of no-risk bullpen additions. The Nats, basically, collecting as many almost free arms they can find in an effort to fix their bullpen woes without having to give up anything valuable at the trade deadline. Just like the K-Rod signing earlier this week or the Edwin Jackson signing two weeks ago.
Jepsen pitched for Tampa Bay and Minnesota last year, posting a 5.68 ERA with the Rays and a 6.16 ERA with the Twins, appearing in 58 games in all. He went unsigned this past offseason.
Eh, it might work. It probably won’t, but it might.
About a month ago, a report circulated that if the Detroit Tigers weren’t above .500 by the end of June, they were going to chuck the season, look to trade off veterans and rebuild. It’s now June 29 and the Tigers are 34-42 and sit six games out of first place.
As such, we should not be too terribly surprised to see a report from Jeff Passan of Yahoo that multiple baseball executives expect Tigers ace Justin Verlander to hit the trade market sometime in the next two weeks. Passan notes that the Tigers haven’t formally offered him and that he’s just passing along speculation from rivals, but it’s pretty astute speculation.
The question is what the Tigers can get for Verlander. On the one hand, yes, Verlander is Verlander and has been one of the top starters in baseball for a decade. While he had struggled for a bit, last year featured a return to Cy Young form. He still has a blazing fastball and there is no reason to think he could not anchor the staff of a playoff caliber team.
On the other hand, as Passan notes, his 2017 has been . . . not so good. He looks amazing at times and very hittable at other times. Overall his walk rate is way up and his strikeout rate is down. There doesn’t appear to be anything physically wrong with him — various ailments contributed to his 2014-15 swoon — so it’s possible he’s just had a rough couple of months. Like I said, Verlander is Verlander, and it may not be a bad gamble to expect him to run off a string of dominant starts like he has so many times in the past.
The problem, though, is that anyone acquiring Verlander is not just gambling on a handful of starts down the stretch. They’re gambling on the $56 million he’s owed between 2018 and 2019 and the $22 million extra he’ll be guaranteed for 2020 if he finishes in the top five in Cy Young voting in 2019. Those would be his age 35, 36 and 37 seasons. There are certainly worse gambles in baseball, but it’s a gamble all the same.
If the Tigers don’t find any gamblers out there on the market, they’re going to have to make a gamble of their own: let Verlander go and get relatively little in return if another club picks up that $56 million commitment or eat it themselves and get prospects back in return to help kickstart a rebuild. Personally I’d go with the latter option, but I don’t work for the Illitch family.