UPDATE: Hank Blalock signs minor league deal with Rays

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UPDATE: Blalock has agreed to a minor league contract with the Rays, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com. He’ll receive a $925,000 base salary if he makes the team plus $350,000 in performance incentives.
Monday 11:58am: MLB.com’s Bill Chastain reports that “the Rays appear to be close to signing Hank Blalock to a minor-league deal.” And manager Joe Maddon all but confirmed the move when asked this morning, saying: “I anticipate that it’s going to get done relatively soon.”
Blalock smacked 25 homers in 462 at-bats last season, but hit a career-worst .234 with a putrid .277 on-base percentage and 108/26 K/BB ratio in the process, missed most of 2007 and 2008 with injuries, and may not be able to play third base any longer thanks to shoulder problems. In other words, a minor-league pact sounds about right.
He’ll likely compete with Pat Burrell for playing time at designated hitter, with a strict lefty-righty platoon being an option. Blalock reportedly also had a similar offer from the Marlins, but the Rays probably represent a better chance for significant action as well as a better team.

Nick Markakis leads all NL outfielders in All-Star voting

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I would hope by now that I no longer have to preface All-Star talk with my usual “none of this matters” disclaimers, but please keep all of that in mind when I mention that Nick Markakis is leading all National League outfielders in All-Star voting.

Markakis, with 1,173,653 votes, has surpassed the slumping Bryce Harper in that category. Harper has 1,002,696 votes. The third place outfielder is Matt Kemp of the Dodgers with 925,697. Fourth place — Charlie Blackmon of the Dodgers — is like 300,000 votes back of Kemp.Yes, Markakis, Harper and Kemp may be the starting NL outfield. Brandon Nimmo — not on the ballot — should be grumpy, but he’ll get his chance I’m sure.

The thing about it: Markakis, for as unexpected as his appearance may be on this list, deserves to at least be in the top three. He’s second in WAR among National League outfielders behind Lorenzo Cain. He’s slowed down a good bit in June and he’s coming off of a 2017 season in which he had a 96 OPS+ and 0.7 WAR, but he’s having quite an outstanding season. I write that mostly so that there is a record of it come October and we’ve all forgotten it.

Seriously, though, good for Markakis, who has never made an All-Star Game. Good for Kemp too for that matter, who most people assumed was a walking — well, limping — corpse heading into this season. Good for Harper because anything that can keep up the guise of him having a good year when, in reality, he’s really not, will help his confidence as he heads into free agency.

Finally, good for the American League, who will likely get to face a far, far inferior National League team next month in Washington.

The rest of the voting: