Tackling the trade deadline: Los Angeles Angels

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Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
First-half record: 50-42
Standings: Trailing Rangers by 1 in AL West, Yankees by 5 in wild card

Needs

Catcher: Well, any reasonable person would think so.  Jeff Mathis is hitting .195/.241/.286, and while Mike Scioscia deserves credit for working Hank Conger into the mix, Conger hasn’t quite shined while batting .221/.305/.369.  The Angels should bring in a half-season stopgap and kick Mathis to the curb.

Bench: The Angels don’t really have any holes besides the catcher spot: the problem is that they’re not that good anyway.  They had the financial power to add a superstar last winter, but they took on Vernon Wells’ salary instead.  Now all they can do is fill in around the margins.  With just 18 homers from left-handed hitters this year, the Angels could really use a left-handed bat for the bench.  Russell Branyan was nice in theory, but he’s useless when he’s not playing fairly regularly.

Closer: With Rich Thompson looking good and Hisanori Takahashi having improved as the season has progressed, the Angels don’t need any sixth- and seventh-inning help.  So, there’s no point to upgrading the pen unless it’s to replace Jordan Walden in the closer’s role.  Heath Bell, though, wouldn’t be nearly as much of an upgrade here as he would be in some cases.

Target

Ramon Hernandez (C Reds): Stumbling along at 45-47, Cincinnati is a team in need of a bit of a shakeup, and a Hernandez deal, with top prospect Devin Mesoraco stepping into his place, would definitely create some upheaval.

Proposed deal

Hernandez for RHP Garrett Richards

Richards, a 2009 supplemental first-round pick, is 10-1 with a 3.14 ERA and a 79/31 K/BB ratio in 106 innings for Double-A Arkansas this season.  It’d be a high price to pay for a half-season rental, but the Reds aren’t simply going to make a change for change’s sake.  All Hernandez has done this year is hit .322/.377/.539 with 10 homers in 180 at-bats.

Video: J.D. Martinez hits league-tying 23rd home run

Seattle Mariners v Boston Red Sox
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The Red Sox and Mariners left nothing on the table Friday night, going head-to-head in a series opener that eventually ended 14-10 in the Sox’ favor. Led by Steven Wright and Wade LeBlanc — neither of whom made it past the fifth inning — the teams combined for 34 hits and four home runs, including two moonshots from Seattle’s Nelson Cruz and a five-run rally that gave Boston the edge in the seventh.

In the sixth inning, however, the Red Sox were still scrambling to make up a four-run deficit. Left fielder J.D. Martinez cut it in half with one swing, pouncing on an 89.5-mph fastball from Seattle right-hander Nick Vincent and posting it to dead center field for a two-run shot.

The 427-foot blast was Martinez’s 23rd of the season, tying Mike Trout for the most home runs in the league this year. While he still has a ways to go before eclipsing the career-best 45-HR mark he set in 2017, he’s off to a strong start this season: Entering Friday’s game, the 30-year-old slugger was batting .315/.386/.623 with a 1.009 OPS and AL-leading 55 RBI in 308 PA. He finished Friday’s game 4-for-5 with five RBI, just one triple shy of hitting for the cycle.

Heading into the All-Star Break, both Martinez and Trout still have some competition for the home run title. Jose Ramirez is sitting at 22 homers, while Nelson Cruz and Khris Davis are tied at 20 apiece.