What is Albert Pujols really waiting for?

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Great piece in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch today by Bernie Miklasz wondering what Albert Pujols really means when he says he wants to wait to sign an extension with St. Louis so he can make sure “he’s playing somewhere that’s competitive.”  Bernie’s take: whaddaya mean? What team has been more competitive than St. Louis over the past decade? You got the Yankees, the Red Sox, and that’s kind of it, isn’t it?  St. Louis is certainly in the upper tier of competitiveness, so what kind of commitment does Pujols really want?

Miklasz speculates that it may have to do with whether or not the Cardinals will give Jose Oquendo the managers’ job after Tony La Russa retires because (1) they are close; and (2) nobody was cooler in the 1980s than the play-every-position genius that was Jose Oquendo. OK, that last part is more my thinking than Albert’s, but I’m sure he’d agree.

Anyway, if I’m the Cardinals brass, I’m probably a bit peeved by this. Despite living in a small, relatively depressed city, the Cardinals always put a quality product on the field and do way more to keep the mojo flowing than a lot of teams in much bigger cities.  They’d never get into a public spat with someone as important as Pujols over this, but you gotta have a lot of chutzpah to suggest that the Cardinals, of all teams, have something to prove in the commitment-to-winning department.

And yes, even someone as otherwise as admirable like Pujols is capable of chutzpah.

Dodgers acquire Manny Machado from Orioles for five minor leaguers

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The Orioles and Dodgers finally completed the trade involving Manny Machado, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports. The Orioles will receive five prospects from the Dodgers: Yusniel Diaz, Dean Kremer, Zach Pop, Rylan Bannon, and Breyvic Valera.

Machado, 26, is in the final year of his contract, so this is currently a rental for the first-place Dodgers. Machado ended the first half batting .315/.387/.575 with 24 home runs, 65 RBI, 48 runs scored, and eight stolen bases in 413 plate appearances. In Los Angeles, he will handle shortstop, allowing Chris Taylor to move over to second base.

MLB Pipeline rated Diaz as the Dodgers’ No. 4 prospect and No. 84 across baseball. Kremer was No. 27 in the Dodgers’ system and Bannon was No. 28.

Diaz, 21, is considered the centerpiece of the trade. The outfielder hit .314/.428/.477 with 20 extra-base hits, 30 RBI, and 36 runs scored in 264 plate appearances at Double-A Tulsa this season.

Kremer, 22, was selected by the Dodgers in the 14th round of the 2016 draft. He spent most of his season with High-A Rancho Cucamonga before earning a promotion to Tulsa earlier this month. Overall, in 17 starts, the right-hander posted a 3.03 ERA with a 125/29 K/BB ratio in 86 innings.

Pop, 21, was selected by the Dodgers in the seventh round of the 2017 draft. He has spent his season between Rancho Cucamonga and Single-A Great Lakes. Overall, he compiled a 1.04 ERA with 47 strikeouts and 13 walks in 43 1/3 innings of relief.

Bannon, 22, was selected by the Dodgers in the eighth round of the 2017 draft. With Rancho Cucamonga this season, the infielder batted .296/.402/.559 with 20 home runs and 61 RBI in 403 PA.

Valera, 26, has appeared in 20 games at the major league level for the Dodgers this season, batting a meager .172 with a .445 OPS in 34 PA. Valera has versatility, having played second base, third base, and corner outfield this year while also having experience in center field, shortstop, and first base.