HBT First-Half Awards: American League MVP

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With no baseball on Wednesday or Thursday, we’re taking stock of the best performances of the first half of the season by handing out midseason awards. Maybe someday we’ll have the budget for an actual Midseason Award Trophy, but for now they merely get our kind and admiring words. Next up: American League MVP.

Aaron Gleeman‘s ballot:

1. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
2. Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles
3. Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays

Angels center fielder Mike Trout is the reigning MVP and, in my opinion, also should have won the award in 2012 and 2013. He’s having perhaps his best season yet, leading the league in homers, slugging percentage, and runs scored–and OPS, among players not on the disabled list–while playing an up-the-middle position defensively and playing it well. It just doesn’t get any better in terms of all-around value. We’re seeing something truly special in Trout, who may end this season as the most valuable player in the history of baseball through age 23.

Manny Machado of the Orioles and Josh Donaldson of the Blue Jays are much different players stylistically, but they’re both providing very good offense and elite defense at third base. They narrowly beat out Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis and injured Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera to round out my top three, with a little nod to the handful of starting pitchers who also warranted strong consideration for their great first halves.

Craig Calcaterra‘s ballot:

1. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
2. Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians
3. Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles

It’s Mike Trout’s world and we’re all just living in it. He’s probably going to win the MVP award again and, like Aaron said, it should probably be his fourth. And contrary to the bizarre anti-Trout narrative so many people feel obligated to perpetuate, saying Trout is the best player in the game does not require one to know the first thing about advanced metrics. He’s leading the league in homers and runs. He’s slugging better than anyone. He has scored more runs and has more total bases than anyone. He plays eye-popping center field. His skills and numbers are such that they would be every bit as understood by an awards voter in 1935 as they are in 2015, and to suggest otherwise makes you sound silly.

Beyond him things get fun. Miguel Cabrera is an all-offense candidate, but a really good one. His calf injury will take him out of the actual MVP conversation — and he doesn’t make my top three here — but one must nonetheless tip their cap to how dang good he was in the first half.

But when it comes to actually casting a ballot, I am an all-around-player partisan, and Jason Kipnis’ all-around game has been second best to only Trout’s this year in the AL in my view. After a sort of slow start he has been astounding at the plate this year while playing a nifty second base while rapping doubles off the wall, walking a heck of a lot for guy with only six homers and playing every dang day. As I wrote yesterday, the Indians aren’t dead yet and have a chance to make some noise in the second half. The fact that they’re not totally dead yet with everything else that has gone wrong has an awful lot to do with Kipnis.

Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson are also having fantastic seasons, of course. But we decided to only go top three, so there we are.

Report: Yankees acquire Edwin Encarnación from Mariners

Edwin Encarnacion
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The Mariners are in the midst of reconstructing their roster, a process which most recently resulted in the trade of first baseman/DH Edwin Encarnación to the Yankees, per a report from ESPN’s Jeff Passan. While the teams have yet to publicly confirm the deal, the Mariners are expected to receive pitching prospect Juan Then and will likely eat a significant portion of Encarnación’s salary as well.

Encarnación is a sizable get for the Yankees, who could benefit from the veteran’s power and consistency in their ongoing drive toward the postseason. The 36-year-old infielder missed some time with a bout of lower back tightness, dental issues, and soreness in his left hand, but has still maintained a decent .241/.356/.531 batting line with an AL-best 21 home runs, an .888 OPS, and 1.7 fWAR through his first 289 plate appearances of the year. Per Mark Feinsand of MLB.com, Encarnación has another $11-12 million left on his contract in 2019, with a $20 million option for the 2020 season and a $5 million buyout.

Then, 19, was acquired by the Yankees in a three-person trade with the Mariners during the 2017 offseason. The right-hander currently ranks no. 27 in the Yankees’ system and made his last pro ball appearance for New York’s rookie-level affiliate in 2018, pitching to a 2.70 ERA, 2.0 BB/9, and 7.6 SO/9 across 50 innings. It’s not clear if any other players are involved in the trade, though USA Today’s Bob Nightengale notes that no other prospects are thought to be included in the package for Encarnación.