Position-by-position trade deadline preview: Third base

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This is the fourth in a series of articles looking at players who might be available in the days leading up to the July 31 trade deadline.
Jose Bautista (Blue Jays) – Bautista has played twice as much right field as third base this year and it’s quite possible that he’d be a full-time outfielder if traded, but since he remains a solid defender at the hot corner — and certainly a better one than the Jays’ nominal third baseman, Edwin Encarnacion — I’m listing him here. It was Bautista’s ability to hit left-handers that seemed to be keeping him in the league prior to this year, but he’s come through with a 916 OPS against right-handers in 2010, and he is, of course, leading the majors with 26 homers. The Giants, White Sox, Tigers and Braves have asked about Bautista, according to Yahoo’s Jeff Passan. The Jays have to decide whether it’s worth trading him at the probable peak of his value or risk paying him $7 million-$8 million next year in his final season before free agency. I think he’ll go, quite possibly to San Francisco.
Jorge Cantu (Marlins) – Cantu has been a full-time third baseman this year, but he fits best at first base. Unfortunately, he just doesn’t hit like a top-flight first baseman. While he’s on pace to drive in 90 runs for the third straight season, his OPS is just 723, down from 808 in 2008 and 788 last year. He could still be useful if he comes cheap, but the Marlins will want legitimate prospects in return and he’s not worth it. The Giants, Angels and Rockies have displayed limited interest, though the Angels may have lost theirs when they brought in Alberto Callaspo. He figures to stay in Florida for now.
Ty Wigginton (Orioles) – Wigginton has played more first base and second base this year, but no contender should want him as a regular at second and his bat plays better at third than at first. The 32-year-old free-agent-to-be followed up the best two-month run of his career with a pretty awful June and first half of July, but he’s bounced back with six extra-base hits in eight games since the All-Star break. The Orioles placed a pretty astronomical price tag on his head after his brilliant start, but they’ll likely be willing to accept quite a bit less as the deadline nears. The Phillies, Yankees, Rangers and Rockies are believed to have discussed him with the Orioles. Detroit is another obvious fit now with Brandon Inge absent.
Jose Lopez (Mariners) – Lopez’s transition from second base to third has gone better than anyone could have imagined, as he’s played some exceptional defense at his new position. His bat, though, hasn’t nearly caught up. He’s hitting just .235/.266/.336 through 387 at-bats, a huge decline from the respectable 760-770 OPSs he amassed over the previous two seasons. Lopez is still just 26, and his contract includes a reasonable $4.5 million option for next year. He might not make sense for a contender, but maybe a team like the Royals or Blue Jays could take a flier and let his August/September performance dictate whether he’s brought back. The Mariners are clearly ready to move on.
Edwin Encarnacion (Blue Jays) – Of course, Lopez would only work for Toronto if the team admitted that last year’s gamble has proven a failure. Encarnacion figures to have more 25-homer seasons in his future, but he’s not a third baseman and the Jays really should have tried him in the outfield back in spring training. Encarnacion has already cleared waivers once this season, and a trade seems pretty unlikely because of his lack of defensive value. One would think he’s athletic enough to make it in the outfield, but he’d need to get some work there before a major league team could plug him in.
Jhonny Peralta (Indians) – At .251/.313/.396, Peralta is having another underwhelming season. Still, he has a couple of advantages over several of the other third basemen here. For one, he’s spent most of his career at shortstop, and though he lacks range there, he could still fill in as a starter for a couple of weeks if needed. I also get the feeling that teams think he’d fare better as a bench player than most other regulars suddenly taken out of a starting role would. The Indians have no intention of picking up his $7 million option for 2011, so he’s a strong candidate to go, perhaps in August if not before the deadline. The Yankees, Tigers and Reds should be interested.
Andy LaRoche (Pirates) – With Pedro Alvarez up, LaRoche hasn’t made a start for the Pirates in three weeks. It’s not as though he didn’t deserve to be replaced — he’s hit just .232/.300/.310 in 203 at-bats — but he probably is worthy of one more opportunity. In 2009, he was pretty much an average regular while hitting .258/.330/.401 and playing very good defense at third. The Indians are one team that might be willing to give him a shot during the final two months, assuming that they can find a taker for Peralta first. The Pirates probably won’t require much in return.
Mike Lowell (Red Sox) – Lowell’s injury issues essentially took him out of Boston’s plans and have made him pretty much impossible to deal so far. He’s currently on a rehab assignment after going on the DL with his chronic hip problem, and he believes he’s ready to come back and contribute. His bat would help any number of contenders if only he could be counted on to remain in the lineup. The Red Sox, though, have extra incentive to move him with their luxury-tax issues and probably will get something done, even if it means eating every penny that he’s still owed. Detroit and Texas are the most obvious suitors.
Pedro Feliz (Astros) – Feliz has been a disaster for the Astros this year, hitting just .216/.240/.307 in 264 at-bats. He’s still a pretty good defensive third baseman at age 35, but he’s not what he used to be, and given his lack of versatility, it’s hard to imagine that any team would want him as a bench player.
Wes Helms (Marlins) – Strictly a bench player, the veteran Helms has hit .242/.305/.383 in 120 at-bats for the Marlins this season. Money is a non-factor here, as Helms is making $950,000 in the second year of a two-year deal. The Yankees and Rangers have been mentioned in connection with him, but his only real strength is pinch-hitting and there are several better backup first basemen/third basemen wasting away in Triple-A.
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And That Happened: Sunday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Braves 10, Marlins 9: The Braves rallied for six runs, all with two outs, in the bottom of the ninth to walk off winners on getaway day against the Marlins. The Marlins took a 6-0 lead in the fourth inning after Lewis Brinson cracked a grand slam down the left field line. Miguel Rojas hit a two-run homer in the seventh to bring the Marlins’ lead back to six runs at 8-2. The Braves entered the bottom of the ninth trailing 9-4, but Marlins relievers Brad Ziegler and Tayron Guerrero both melted down. Here’s what happened. It’s the Braves’ largest ninth-inning comeback in exactly eight years, when this happened:

Red Sox 5, Orioles 0: J.D. Martinez homered twice, tying teammate Mookie Betts for the major league lead in home runs with 15. Andrew Benintendi also homered and picked up three hits. Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out seven. The Orioles had their opportunities, racking up 13 hits, but went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and only one of their 13 hits went for extra bases. The Orioles’ 13 hits were the most compiled by a team that was shut out since August 25, 2008 when the Dodgers racked up 13 while being shut out by the Phillies. It’s only the 22nd time it’s happened dating back to 1908, according to Baseball Reference.

Athletics 9, Blue Jays 2: Daniel Mengden was magnificent for the A’s, tossing seven scoreless frames on two hits and a walk with two strikeouts. Marcus Semien hit a two-run home run and Matt Chapman picked up three hits. The Jays committed four errors on what was a very forgettable afternoon.

Cubs 6, Reds 1: Things haven’t been going well this year for Yu Darvish, but they did go well at least on Sunday afternoon. The right-hander held the Reds to a lone run on two hits and three walks with seven punch-outs across six innings, lowering his ERA on the season to 4.95. Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez hit back-to-back homers in the second inning off of Tyler Mahle. Joey Votto was the only Red to have more than one hit.

Mets 4, Diamondbacks 1: Clay Buchholz made his first start in over a year and it went well. He held the Mets to one run, which came on Amed Rosario‘s solo home run in the top of the sixth, ultimately the hit that knocked Buchholz out of the game. Rosario added another homer in the seventh, when the Mets scored three runs to take a lead they’d never relinquish. Noah Syndergaard fanned seven in seven innings, giving up one run on six hits and a walk. D-Backs first baseman Paul Goldschmidt remains mired in a season-long slump. He went 1-for-4 with a single and now owns an uncharacteristic .690 OPS.

Padres 8, Pirates 5: The Padres rallied for four runs in the top of the ninth, turning a 5-4 deficit into an 8-5 lead. They rapped out five singles and benefited from an error as well. Christian Villanueva hit his 12th homer of the season, a two-run blast in the fourth inning. Austin Meadows knocked his first major league homer.

Dodgers 7, Nationals 2: This was mostly a clinic on power, as the Dodgers hit three homers, one each from Yasmani Grandal, Enrique Hernandez, and Yasiel Puig. Trea Turner hit one for the Nationals. Alex Wood pitched well, holding the Nationals to two runs on three hits and a walk with four strikeouts, but left the game after apparently injuring himself warming prior to the bottom of the seventh inning. Stephen Strasburg gave up three runs on five hits and four walks with seven strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings.

White Sox 3, Rangers 0: This one was all Reynaldo Lopez. The 24-year-old fired eight shutout frames, yielding only two hits and two walks while striking out eight. In doing so, he lowered his ERA to 2.98. The three runs came on a solo homer from Welington Castillo in the second and a two-run Leury Garcia single in the third.

Yankees 10, Royals 1: Tyler Austin blasted a pair of homers, giving him eight on the season. Miguel Andujar and Austin Romine also homered for the Yankees in what was a drubbing of the lowly Royals. Sonny Gray went eight innings, giving up a lone run on four hits and a walk with five strikeouts. The Yankees now have a major league-best 30-13 record while the Royals drop to 14-32. Only the White Sox (.302) have a worse winning percentage than the Royals (.304).

Cardinals 5, Phillies 1: Jack Flaherty was phenomenal for the Cardinals, striking out 13 batters while limiting the Phillies to a run on two hits and a walk over 7 2/3 innings. 21-year-old Freddy Peralta also struck out 13 earlier this season. Before Flaherty and Peralta, the last pitcher younger than 23 years old to strike out 13 in a game was Noah Syndergaard nearly three years ago against the Diamondbacks. Aaron Nola, who has been ace-like all year for the Phillies, didn’t have his best stuff on Sunday, surrendering four runs over six innings to the Cardinals. Rhys Hoskins homered but Odubel Herrera‘s on-base streak finally ended at 45 consecutive games. It’s tied for the fourth-longest in Phillies history.

Twins 3, Brewers 1: Logan Morrison knocked in two runs with a single to right field in the bottom of the eighth, breaking a 1-1 tie. That proved to be the game-winning hit as Fernando Rodney came in and struck out the side in the top of the ninth to seal the deal.

Giants 9, Rockies 5: The Giants scored nine runs for a second consecutive day. Gorkys Hernandez, Brandon Belt, and Nick Hundley each homered, accounting for six of the nine runs. Nice. The Rockies got three hits each from Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story but it wasn’t enough. Starters Ty Blach and Tyler Anderson both had forgettable days on the mound, giving up five and four runs in 5 1/3 and 4 1/3 innings, respectively.

Angels 5, Rays 2: Shohei Ohtani continued to pitch well, holding the Rays to a pair of runs on six hits and a walk with nine strikeouts. With seven major league starts under his belt, he’s sporting a 3.35 ERA. He’s also batting .321/.367/.619. Sergio Romo started for the Rays for a second day in a row. He pitched an inning yesterday before giving way to Ryan Yarbrough. This time, he got four outs before Matt Andriese relieved him. Martin Maldonado homered for the Angels; Johnny Field went yard for the Rays. Matt Duffy collected three hits as well.

Tigers, Mariners (11 innings): Mitch Haniger hit a game-tying two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to send the game into extras. Jean Segura broke the 2-2 tie in the bottom of the 11th with an RBI single. Tigers starter Francisco Liriano brought a no-hitter into the seventh inning but lost it when Haniger singled to center. Liriano ended up giving up the one hit and walking three while striking out five on 102 pitches over eight scoreless innings.

Astros 3, Indians 1: Lance McCullers had his best stuff working, bringing a bid for a no-hitter into the sixth inning. He ended up going seven frames, giving up just a hit and two walks with eight strikeouts. Brian McCann broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the seventh with a two-run home run off of Carlos Carrasco.