If Devin Mesoraco hadn’t missed a few weeks of the season, he would be right in the thick of things in the NL MVP discussion. The Reds’ catcher homered twice in Sunday’s 7-2 win over the Marlins, helping his club avoid a series sweep at home.
In the first inning, Mesoraco took lefty Brad Hand out to left field for a two-run home run, putting his team on top by a 2-1 score. In the fifth, he padded the Reds’ lead to 7-2 when he took Hand out again, skying a grand slam over the fence in left field.
Mesoraco, in 309 plate appearances, has a ridiculous .293/.366/.580 slash line with 20 home runs and 61 RBI. Most of the 15 players ahead of his 3.4 WAR (via FanGraphs) have between 450-500 total plate appearances. His HR and RBI totals come out to 42 and 128 over 650 plate appearances — a full season’s worth. Quietly, he has been among the game’s best at the plate.
The Reds, at 60-58, are still in the thick of things despite ranking fourth in the NL Central. They sit just five games behind the first-place Brewers and 2.5 games behind the Pirates for the second National League Wild Card slot.
Here are Sunday’s box scores and recaps…
Indians 4, Yankees 1
Reds 7, Marlins 2
Tigers 5, Blue Jays 6 (19 innings)
Mets 6, Phillies 7
Rangers 6, Astros 2
Padres 8, Pirates 2
Red Sox 3, Angels 1
Dodgers 5, Brewers 1
Twins 6, Athletics 1
Rockies 5, Diamondbacks 3 (10 innings)
White Sox 2, Mariners 4
Cardinals 8, Orioles 3
Giants 4, Royals 7
Rays 2, Cubs 3 (12 innings)
Nationals 1, Braves 3
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.