Paul Konerko and Shane Victorino went wire-to-wire in winning the All-Star Game Final Vote and will be the 34th men on their respective teams next week.
With no Yankees nor Red Sox making the cut, Konerko’s path to claiming the AL opening was clear. He held off Victor Martinez, Alex Gordon, Adam Jones and Ben Zobrist for the much-deserved nod. Konerko ranks fourth in the AL with 22 homers and 64 RBI and sixth with a .319 average.
Victorino also looked like the right choice, if only because the NL couldn’t even put fellow center fielder Andrew McCutchen on the ballot. Victorino, who also won the final vote in 2009, beat out Andre Ethier, Todd Helton, Michael Morse and Ian Kennedy.
Unfortunately, Victorino is currently sidelined with a sprained right thumb that could keep him out of next week’s contest. But maybe that just means McCutchen will take his spot. The NL squad had just one legitimate center fielder in Matt Kemp before Victorino was added, so it’s make more sense to replace him with another center fielder than with Ethier.
7:25 p.m. EDT update: A cool note from MLB.com’s Scott Merkin:
Konerko was to get $15,000 bonus for making the All-Star team. As a thank you for the fan vote, he’s donating it to White Sox Charities
An interesting tidbit today from The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, who noted that ongoing talks between agent Scott Boras and the Padres have focused more on starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel than slugger Bryce Harper. Earlier this week, there were conflicting reports on the Padres’ level of interest in Harper — MLB Network’s Jon Heyman heard the club had not ruled out another big signing after getting Manny Machado, while Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune talked to multiple sources who believed otherwise — but any agreement between the two is looking unlikelier by the day.
As for Keuchel, Rosenthal cautions that a potential deal is still a “longshot,” especially as the team has other, cheaper options in mind. The 31-year-old southpaw turned down a qualifying offer from the Astros last year and is likely angling for something north of the five-year, $90 million contract extension he rejected from the club in 2016. He’s coming off of another solid performance in Houston, where he went 12-11 in 34 starts with a 3.74 ERA, 2.6 BB/9, 6.7 SO/9, and 3.6 fWAR through 204 2/3 innings in 2018.
While Keuchel has failed to garner substantial interest around the league this offseason, Heyman points out that the Phillies are looking to establish themselves as frontrunners for the lefty — and they’re far less likely to have hang-ups about his asking price, too.