Position-by-position trade deadline preview: First base

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This is the second in a series of articles looking at players who might be available in the days leading up to the July 31 trade deadline.
Prince Fielder (Brewers) – Fielder has overcome a slow start in grand fashion: by month, he’s posted OPSs of 741, 880, 956 and now 1074 so far in July. Still, one gets the feeling that his trade value isn’t what it was a year ago. That’s in part because he’s going to be very difficult to get signed to an extension before he becomes a free agent following next season. It also doesn’t help matters that he could ask for about $20 million in arbitration over the winter. Since the offers won’t overwhelm, the Brewers will probably be better off keeping him and hoping for better luck in 2011. The White Sox are thought to be interested, but unless they offer up Gordon Beckham — and they probably won’t — there wouldn’t seem to be a potential match.
Adam Dunn (Nationals) – I led off the NL notes on Rotoworld with my thoughts on a possible Dunn deal. There’s a chance the Nationals will move Dunn if they don’t think he’ll come down from his request for a four-year, $60 million contract. Still, the odds are against it right now. The White Sox and Yankees have shown the most interest.
Derrek Lee (Cubs) – Lee posted the second-best OPS of his career as a 33-year-old in 2009, but at .247/.337/.391 right now, he’s currently on pace to finish below 800 for the first time since 1999. Maybe there is still time for that to change: he’s gone 11-for-26 with five extra-base hits and eight RBI in six games since the All-Star break. Lee has a no-trade clause and likes Chicago, so it’s not simply a matter of the Cubs finding a taker for him. It’s possible he’ll accept a trade, but far from a given. An August deal could be a possibility here.
Lance Berkman (Astros) – Berkman and Lee are basically in the same boat: both are former All-Stars having down years and both have no-trade clauses and no huge desire to move on. The two are also free agents at season’s end, though Berkman has a $2 million buyout attached to a $15 million option for 2011 that makes him a more expensive proposition. Berkman came out last week and said he didn’t expect to be traded, but because of his salary, he’s another player who could potentially be available during August.
Adam LaRoche (Diamondbacks) – LaRoche would seem to have about as much to offer as Lee and Berkman, but with fewer strings attached. He doesn’t have a no-trade clause, and while his contract includes a $1.5 million buyout attached to a mutual option for 2011, he’ll be owed just $1.5 million over the final two months of this season. The Diamondbacks may be willing to pick up a portion of that buyout anyway, since it’s money they expected to be on the hook for all along. LaRoche, typically a second-half player, is hitting .259/.332/.453 at the moment. It seems doubtful that the Giants would bid for him after he spurned them last winter, but he’d make a lot of sense for the Angels.
Lyle Overbay (Blue Jays) – Overbay isn’t going to be anyone’s top choice, but there are worse platoon first basemen around. He’s gotten better every month since a dreadful April, and while his overall .251/.331/.414 line is still pretty unimpressive, he’s hit a respectable .271/.363/.449 against righties. Odds are that he’ll clear waivers and remain available into next month. If the Angels, Giants, Rangers or another contender is sweating its first base situation then, Overbay could be a fit.
Xavier Nady (Cubs) – While Nady could step in at first base for the Cubs if Lee is traded, he’s actually the more likely of the two to get dealt. He’s struggled in his return from Tommy John surgery, but that’s in part due to a lack of at-bats. He’s had just 141 this season, hitting .220/.289/.340 in the process. No contender should be looking to pick him up to play regularly, but he could probably help a team starting three times per week between first base, the outfield and maybe DH.
Russell Branyan (Mariners) – Branyan has been laid up with another back injury of late, making a trade a whole lot less likely. The Mariners, who just picked him up from the Indians last month, weren’t going to get much for him anyway, so they’ll probably just keep him and hope his power will help them avoid a 100-loss season.
Casey Kotchman (Mariners) – It didn’t figure that anyone would want Kotchman a month ago, but he’s bounced back to hit .333/.422/.692 with three homers in 39 at-bats during July. Like Overbay, he’s a potential fallback for a team that fails to get its top choice. It helps his case that he’s the slickest fielder in this group.
Dan Johnson (Rays) – In Johnson and Chris Richard, the Rays have a couple of the International League’s top performers stashed away at Durham. Johnson, 30, is hitting .300/.413/.603 with 25 homers in 307 at-bats, and he’s been playing plenty of third base and left field, which might make him more interesting to teams. The 36-year-old Richard is batting .297/.387/.514 in 286 at-bats. The Rays may yet decide to give Johnson a look as a part-timer, but if he’s not in their plans at all, letting him go to a team that would use him would be the kind thing to do.
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Braves sweep Mets, take 2-game lead in East with 3 remaining

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Adam Hagy/Getty Images
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ATLANTA — Matt Olson knew the Atlanta Braves were too talented to stay in a season-long slump.

That’s why no one panicked when the New York Mets’ division lead swelled to double digits in May. Now the Braves are on the cusp of another NL East title.

“It’s a clubhouse full of guys who want to win,” Olson said. “That’s all it’s been since the moment I walked in. That’s No. 1 on the program.”

Dansby Swanson and Olson homered for the third straight game, Travis d'Arnaud hit a go-ahead two-run single in the third inning, and Braves beat New York 5-3 on Sunday night, completing a three-game sweep of their NL East rival and taking a two-game lead in the division with three games to play.

The defending World Series champion Braves have been chasing the Mets the entire season. In the final series of the season, any combination of one Atlanta win or one Mets loss would give the Braves their fifth straight division title.

New York plays its final three games of the season against worst-in-the-majors Washington. Atlanta closes out the regular season with a three-game set in Miami. Should the season end Wednesday in a tie, Atlanta would win the division after claiming the season series 10-9 with Sunday’s victory.

“We’ve felt this confidence since the beginning of the year,” d’Arnaud said. “It just didn’t go our way early in the year, but pulling on the same rope, having each others’ backs, not trying to do too much. We’re just trying to play the game of baseball and have fun with it.”

The Braves won five of the last six games in the series, outscoring the Mets 42-19 over that stretch. New York had a 10 1/2-game lead on June 1 but now is the lower in the standings than at any point this season.

It was a lost weekend for New York, which came to Atlanta hoping to clinch its first division title since 2015. Instead, aces Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer lost Friday and Saturday before Chris Bassitt lasted just 2 2/3 innings on Sunday.

“We still have three games left in the regular season, we’re still going to the postseason, that doesn’t change, but there’s a lot of learning points that we can take from this series moving forward,” Mets slugger Pete Alonso said. “I thought we played well, but the Braves played better. They played excellent baseball this entire weekend.”

Swanson took Bassitt deep to right-center in the first with his 25th homer, and Atlanta took charge with a three-run third. Bassitt (15-9) issued a bases-loaded walk to Olson before d’Arnaud delivered a single up the middle to score Ronald Acuna Jr. and Austin Riley for a 4-3 lead. That chased Bassitt, who was charged with four runs, three hits and three walks.

Olson connected for his 33rd homer to make it 5-3 leading off the sixth, his 410-foot shot landing in the seats in right-center. Olson, in his first year with Atlanta, surpassed 100 RBIs for the second straight season.

“Everyone knew we were underperforming when we were flirting around that .500 range,” Olson said. “It was one of those things where it was trusting the talent we have and the guys in the clubhouse. Everybody was solid, head down, do your work, it’ll turn around and you wind up winning.”

Charlie Morton stranded runners on first and second in the first, but he gave up Daniel Vogelbach‘s 18th homer that tied it at 1 in the second. The righty struck out Francisco Lindor with runners on first and second to end the threat.

Jeff McNeil went deep off Morton in the third and Vogelbach followed with an RBI single to put the Mets up 3-1. Morton entered the game having allowed 28 homers, sixth-most in the NL.

Morton scuffled throughout his start, giving up three runs and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings as the 38-year-old made his first start since signing a $20 million, one-year contract to remain with Atlanta next season.

Dylan Lee (5-1) relieved Morton and pitched 1 1/3 innings, leaving after a walk to Brandon Nimmo with two outs in the sixth. Collin McHugh entered and struck out Francisco Lindor.

Raisel Iglesias faced four batters in the seventh, A.J. Minter faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen converted his third save of the series with a clean ninth.

Jansen leads the NL with 40 saves in 47 chances.

The Braves’ bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA last month, pitched 8 2/3 scoreless innings the last two nights.

BIG NUMBERS

Atlanta leads the NL with 241 homers. And the Braves have their first 100-victory season since 2003.

TWO, DARN HOT

McNeil went 3 for 5 and has multiple hits in five straight games. His average is .326, one point behind the Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman for the NL batting title. In 23 career games at Truist Park, McNeil is hitting .395 with 12 runs, nine doubles, two homers, seven RBIs and four walks. … Jansen tied Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley for eighth place on the career list with 389. He’s also is the 10th closer to have four different seasons with at least 40 saves.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. … Braves 2B Ozzie Albies (broken right pinky finger) is still wearing a cast. … Braves RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique.

ATTENDANCE

The Braves drew 42,713 in their regular season finale, the club’s 42nd sellout of the season. Overall. that’s 3,129,931 for the season – and the most tickets sold since 2000. In 2019, the team’s last full season before the COVID-19 pandemic, Atlanta drew 2,655,100.

UP NEXT

Mets: RHP Carlos Carrasco (15-7, 3.95 ERA) will face Nationals RHP Cory Abbott (0-4, 5.11).

Braves: RHP Bryce Elder (2-3, 2.76 ERA) will face Marlins LHP Jesus Luzardo (3-7, 3.53).