Rosenthal: Nationals may offer Drew Storen for Twins’ Denard Span

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It worked last year, as the Nationals picked up their long-term catcher by sending their closer to the Twins.  Now they could make a similar move, only grabbing a center fielder instead, if FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal is correct.

According to Rosenthal, Drew Storen may be in play in the trade talks between the Nationals and Twins regarding Denard Span.  Previous reports had shortstop Ian Desmond as the possible return for Minnesota, but the Twins may prefer getting a long-term closer instead.

And Drew Storen is definitely that.  The 23-year-old has a 2.37 ERA and is 25-for-28 saving games for the Nationals this season.  He’s under control through 2016, and he’s about as good of a bet as any current closer in the major leagues to still be in that role five years from now.

But do the Twins really want to go this route again?  Last year, they sent Wilson Ramos to the Nationals for Matt Capps.  It worked out just fine initially, as Capps has a 2.00 ERA and was 16-for-18 saving games for Minnesota down the stretch.  Plus, Ramos was always viewed as expendable because of Joe Mauer’s presence behind the plate.

However, Ramos would have been of great use to the Twins this year while Mauer missed most of the first half, and Capps, having blown seven of 22 save chances, has been getting booed off the mound at Target Field.

This one probably wouldn’t work out so badly.  Span is a nice regular and he’s not going to be a free agent until after 2014, but the Twins do have Ben Revere behind him, and while Revere probably won’t match Span offensively, he could be a decent regular at a bargain price.  Plus, their top position prospect, Aaron Hicks, also possesses the range to play center field in the majors.

I’d still give the idea of a Span-for-Storen swap a thumbs down for the Twins; there are better ways to cash in Span than trading him for a closer.  However, at least in this case, they’d be getting a whole lot more than a Matt Capps in return.

Astros clinch AL West for third consecutive year

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For the third consecutive season, the Astros are AL West champions. The ‘stros clinched the division on Sunday afternoon with a convincing 13-5 win over the Angels. They were backed by three homers from leadoff man George Springer and individual homers from Alex Bregman and Aledmys Díaz.

Springer has the 22nd three-homer game in baseball this season. He’s the first Astro to hit three homers in a game since Yordan Álvarez last month, on August 10.

Justin Verlander lasted five innings in Sunday’s start, yielding two runs on six hits and a pair of walks with five strikeouts. The right-hander is arguably the frontrunner for the AL Cy Young Award, now 20-6 with a 2.53 ERA and a 288/42 K/BB ratio in 217 innings on the year. Verlander is 12 strikeouts shy of the 300-strikeout milestone and six strikeouts short of 3,000 for his career. If the Astros stay on schedule, Verlander would pitch the second-to-last game of the regular season against the Angels.

Sunday’s win marked No. 102 on the season for the Astros. The franchise record is 103 wins set last year. With six games remaining, it seems likely the Astros will set a new record.

The Astros and Yankees both won on Sunday, meaning the Astros remain a half-game ahead in the race for home field advantage. The No. 1 seed will also have the privilege of playing the Wild Card winner, which is down to the Athletics, Rays, and Indians.