Have the Cardinals benched Oscar Taveras?

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When the Cardinals traded Allen Craig to the Red Sox for John Lackey the assumption was that the move had two goals for St. Louis: One was to bring in rotation help with Lackey and the other was to clear an everyday spot in the outfield and the lineup for stud prospect Oscar Taveras.

However, now the 22-year-old rookie is struggling with a .206 batting average and .530 OPS through 45 games and it seems as though manager Mike Matheny has decided to bench him. And it’s not the first time, as Matheny has previously held Taveras out of the lineup more often than Cardinals fans would like, before and after the Craig trade.

With a right-handed pitcher on the mound for the Padres in Tyson Ross the Cardinals have the left-handed-hitting Taveras on the bench for the second straight game in favor of the right-handed-hitting Shane Robinson.

Robinson is a 29-year-old career .232 hitter with a .615 OPS who has barely been able to stick around with the Cardinals as a fifth outfielder, so clearly something is up. Taveras, who was Baseball America’s third-ranked prospect both this season and last season, hit .318 with an .872 OPS at Triple-A this year.

Report: Phillies interested in Manny Machado; Orioles have done homework on Phillies’ minor league system

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Orioles third baseman Manny Machado will become a free agent after the 2018 season and there hasn’t been much in the way of progress on a contract extension between the two sides. It seems as if Machado will test the open market next offseason.

The Phillies, currently with relatively minuscule obligations for the 2018 season and beyond, are expected to be big players for Machado, as well as other potential free agents like Bryce Harper. In fact, the Phillies may not even want to wait until next offseason, as Roch Kubatko of MASN reports that the club has expressed interest in Machado to the Orioles. In return, the O’s have been doing their homework on the Phillies’ minor league system.

Kubatko notes that the Orioles like, in particular, Phillies prospects Sixto Sanchez and Scott Kingery. The Phillies may be hesitant to part with either considering they can get Machado for a lot of cash but no prospects next winter. MLB Pipeline rates Sanchez as the Phillies’ best pitching prospect and the second-best prospect overall in the system. Kingery is third overall and the top infielder. While the Phillies’ system is among the best in baseball, its notable weakness is pitching, so parting with Sanchez — who throws in the upper 90’s and can hit triple digits — would be a big ask. Kingery is seen as the club’s next second baseman of the future, so much so that the Phillies are shopping Cesar Hernandez at the Winter Meetings.

As usual with rumors during the Winter Meetings, there may be some smoke but no actual fire here. The Orioles are likely to get continued interest in Machado from many teams between now and the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. They are simply doing their due diligence by seeing what the Phillies and others have to offer for Machado.