Matt Holliday is emerging as an NL MVP candidate

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It’s time Matt Holliday starts getting his due as one of the game’s very best hitters.

Holliday went 4-for-5 with a double, a triple and four RBI as the Cardinals topped the Reds 8-2 today to move within six games of the NL Central lead. The Cardinals are currently in position as the No. 2 wild card, with the Dodgers and Pirates nipping at their heels.

Holliday upped his RBI total to 89, wrestling the NL lead away from teammate Carlos Beltran and the Brewers’ Ryan Braun. With an average 37 points higher that Beltran’s, he’s probably going to be recognized as the Cardinals’ best MVP candidate at season’s end. Yadier Molina also has a case, but even though he’s the league’s premier defensive catcher, it’s going to be hard for him to catch the voters’ attention when his power numbers are likely to come in well below Holliday’s and fellow catcher Buster Posey’s.

Holliday is currently batting .309/.384/.527. If the season ended today, he’d be the only player in baseball to post a .900+ OPS in each of the last seven years. Albert Pujols has also done it six in a row and may well make it seven, but he’s sitting at .877 right now. Miguel Cabrera has done it every year but one: he barely missed in 2008, coming in at .887.

Holliday did go to a sixth All-Star Game this year, but he’s finished in the thick of the MVP race just once; a 2007 season in which he hit .340-36-137 for the Rockies and ended up in second place. If he leads the league in RBI, he’s destined for a top-five finish this year, and rightly or wrongly, he’ll probably have a good chance of winning it if his Cardinals reach the postseason and Andrew McCutchen and Posey stay home.

Padres trade Brad Hand, Adam Cimber to the Indians for Francisco Mejia

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Ken Rosenthal reports that the San Diego Padres have traded closer Brad Hand and reliever Adam Cimber to the Cleveland Indians. In return the Padres are getting top catching prospect Francisco Mejia.

Hand, the Padres’ All-Star closer, has a 3.05 ERA and 65/15 K/BB ratio and 24 saves over over 44.1 innings of work this season. In addition to helping an Indians bullpen which has struggled mightily this season, Hand will provide an insurance policy for the next two seasons given that both Andrew Miller and Cody Allen are due to hit free agency this winter. Hand, meanwhile, is under contract for this year and next for a total of $13.5 million, with a $10 million club option for 2021.

Cimber is another fine reliever who, along with Hand, suddenly transforms the Indians’ bullpen. He’s a 27-year-old rookie, but he’s been a very useful one this year, posting a 3.17 ERA in 42 games, with a K/BB ratio of 51/10 in 48.1 innings. He’s pitched even better than that of late and has been particularly hard on righties. He’s under team control through 2023.

In Mejia, the Padres are getting the Indians’ top hitting prospect. A catcher — though not necessarily a great defensive one — Mejia has struggled in brief stints in the big leagues thus far but is a .291/.344/.438 hitter in six minor league seasons and, at times, has shown star potential. He turns 23 in October.

A nice piece for the Padres in the long term and an immediate upgrade to the Indians’ bullpen in the short term. In short: a baseball trade.