Daily Dose: Smoltz hooks on with Cardinals

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John Smoltz landed on his feet Wednesday, signing with the Cardinals immediately after he cleared waivers. That he had multiple suitors isn’t a big shock, as apparently a handful of teams agreed with me that he can still get major-league hitters out, but finding a contender willing to hand him a rotation spot is surprising. Smoltz will make his Cardinals debut Sunday against the Padres, which is a very favorable matchup.
However, there’s already speculation that Smoltz may eventually head to the bullpen as a setup man for closer Ryan Franklin, which is interesting given that the Red Sox were told that he didn’t want to work in relief for them. Whatever the case, Smoltz is definitely worth grabbing in NL-only leagues. Expectations should obviously be held in check, but don’t be surprised if he looks like a totally different pitcher in the NL.
While the Cardinals get Smoltz for $100,000 after the Red Sox dropped $5 million on him, here are some other notes from around baseball …


* It sounds like Matt LaPorta will finally get an extended chance in Cleveland, as the Indians called him up Wednesday and manager Eric Wedge promised regular starts between the outfield corners and first base. LaPorta was on the bench for 12 of 24 games during his previous stint with Cleveland and has been stuck at Triple-A for the past three months despite hitting .299/.388/.530 with 17 homers in 93 games.
Cleveland has been out of contention for months now, yet LaPorta has stayed in the minors while guys like Trevor Crowe, Chris Gimenez, and Jamey Carroll get starts at his positions. Better late than never, of course, but the Indians’ treatment of LaPorta is odd given that he’s one of the top MLB-ready outfield prospects in baseball, turns 25 years old in January, and has crushed to the tune of .291/.384/.557 in the minors.
* Perhaps remembering how useless he was trying to play through a leg injury earlier this season, the Reds quickly put Willy Taveras on the disabled list with a strained quadriceps suffered Tuesday. They won’t miss Taveras much, as the speedster has hit just .238/.273/.284 in 93 games as the team’s primary leadoff man, and his injury provides an opportunity to look at 24-year-old prospect Drew Stubbs.
Stubbs was the No. 8 pick in the 2006 draft following a great career at the University of Texas, but has hit just .269 while showing little power as a pro. One thing he can do is run, with 46 steals in 107 games at Triple-A, and Taveras is evidence of Dusty Baker needing to see little else to deem someone a capable leadoff option. Stubbs is absolutely worth an NL-only pickup, but don’t expect much aside from steals.
AL Quick Hits: Clay Buchholz tossed six innings of one-run ball Wednesday, winning for the first time since his season debut … Justin Morneau remained out of the lineup Wednesday with dizziness from an inner-ear infection … Jake Peavy (ankle) plans to make at least two more rehab starts before joining the White Sox … Jered Weaver hurled his second complete-game shutout of the year Wednesday, cutting his ERA to 3.89 … Daisuke Matsuzaka (shoulder) is slated for a bullpen session Friday, with a rehab assignment next on the docket … Dustin Pedroia is expected to rejoin the team Thursday following the birth of his first child … Jeff Niemann leads the Rays with 11 wins after allowing one run in 7.1 innings Wednesday … David Ortiz took Roy Halladay deep Wednesday, homering for the third straight game … Dontrelle Willis exited his Wednesday rehab start at Triple-A with a knee injury … Paul Byrd allowed three runs over four innings in a Triple-A start Wednesday.
NL Quick Hits: Cliff Lee struck out 11, walked zero, and allowed just an unearned run in a complete-game two-hitter Wednesday … Joey Votto left Wednesday’s game in the first inning with blurred vision, which is a concern given his various maladies this season … Dan Haren served up three homers Wednesday and now has a 4.91 ERA since the All-Star break … Carlos Beltran (knee) ran in the outfield and took batting practice Wednesday, but there’s no timetable for his return … Barry Zito tossed six shutout innings Wednesday and has a 2.36 ERA in the second half … Gary Sheffield revealed Tuesday that he doesn’t expect to finish the season with the Mets … Mike Hampton has been diagnosed with a partially torn left rotator cuff, but will try to pitch through the career-threatening injury … Scott Rolen (concussion) is slated to begin a rehab assignment Thursday at Triple-A … Paul Maholm threw 7.2 innings of one-run ball Wednesday for his first win since July 7.

Yankees trade Sonny Gray to the Reds

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The deal was much talked about all weekend and now the deal is done: The Cincinnati Reds gave acquired starter Sonny Gray and lefty Reiver Sanmartin from the Yankees in exchange for second base prospect Shed Long and a 2019 competitive balance pick.

The key to making the deal happen: Gray agreeing to a a three-year, $30.5 million contract extension. The Reds will likewise hold a $12 million club option for 2023. The deal had been struck and a window granted through close of business today to get Gray to agree to the extension and, obviously, he has.

The Reds will get a pitcher coming off of a bad season in which he posted a disappointing 4.90 ERA in 23 starts and seven relief appearances. He was hammered particularly hard in Yankee Stadium but pitched better on the road. Great American Ballpark is not a great pitcher’s park itself but any change of scenery would be nice for Gray, who had become much unwanted and unloved in New York. In Cincinnati he has the assurance of a spot in the rotation and, even better for him, he will be reunited with his college pitching coach, Derek Johnson, who joined new manager David Bell’s Reds staff earlier this offseason. If he bounces back even a little bit, the Reds will have a useful starter at a below market price for four years. If he doesn’t, well, they haven’t exactly gone bankrupt taking the chance.

The Reds will also get Reiver Sanmartin, 22, who started in the Rangers system before being traded to the Yankees. He’s a soft-tosser who figures to be a reliever if he makes the big leagues. He played at four different levels last season, with one game at Double-A and the rest below that, posting a composite 2.80 ERA in 10 starts and 13 overall appearances while striking out 7.8 batters per nine.

The Yankees will get Shed Long, who is ranked as the Reds’ seventh best prospect. The 23-year old second baseman hit .261/.353/.412 at Double-A in 2018 and has hit very close to that overall line for his entire six-year minor league career. He strikes out a bit and may not stick at second base long term, shifting to a corner outfield slot perhaps, but he’s a legitimate prospect.

The Reds get another starter with some upside. The Yankees get rid of a problem and gain a prospect and a draft pick. Sonny Gray gets some job and financial security at a time when it is not at all clear what his future holds. Not a bad baseball trade.

UPDATE: Welp, the Yankees don’t have a prospect anymore. They just traded long to the Mariners for outfielder Josh Stowers. Stowers was a second-round pick in last year’s draft. He’s 21 and batted .260/.380/.410 with five homers and 20 steals over 58 games in Short-Season ball in 2018. He’s ranked by MLB.com as the Mariners’ No. 10 prospect, but now he’s New York bound.