Inside Baseball MLB Notes: A.J. Hinch gets the extension he richly deserves

Taking our weekly trip around the Majors …

Arizona Diamondbacks:

— If the D-Backs hang onto the NL West, the reason might be defense. Their 124 runs saved via defense is easily the best mark in baseball …
— Yes, Clay Buchholz has a 2.12 ERA. Yes, that Clay Buchholz.


RELATED: Braves sign Tyler Flowers to 2019 extension with 2019 option


Atlanta Braves:

— Kevin Gausman has been an innings eater, and more, since going to the Braves. Looks like a great pickup …
— Dansby Swanson may have had a breakthrough in August: five homers in the month …
— The extension for Tyler Flowers, for one year plus an option (and $6M guaranteed), first reported by Fancred, doesn’t preclude a pursuit of J.T. Realmuto, who apparently remains a target, as mentioned here a couple weeks ago
— Nick Markakis and Freddie Freeman lead the NL at .311 and .310, respectively (as of Aug. 29), which could be the lowest figure for a batting title winner (Tony Gwynn won at .313 in 1988), points out Larry Stone of the Seattle Times. The Braves, always working, won the claim for Mark Reynolds before the division rival Nats pulled him back, as Fancred first reported. Reynolds wouldn’t have minded going to a contender …
— Ronald Acuna Jr. has a .732 slugging percentage in the second half, tied with Oakland’s Matt Chapman for best in baseball …
— The Braves weathered 22 games in 20 days. A lot of good things happening there …
— Ozzie Albies had four walks in five games after having only three in the previous 40 (h/t David O’Brien, The Athletic) …
— Ender Inciarte is in a base stealing slump, having been thrown out eight times in his last 15 attempts (h/t Mark Bowman, MLB.com). He’s starting to hit, however. And he’s one of the best defenders in the game.


Baltimore Orioles:
— There’s no word that either GM Dan Duquette or manager Buck Showalter has been informed about the team’s plans for them beyond this year. However, that Duquette carried out the sale (and did it well) is leading folks to speculate he has a chance to be back …
— The Orioles have been talking to teams about Craig Gentry, who cleared waivers …
— Adam Jones is going nowhere, one source suggested. While he has cleared waivers, he has a no-trade clause and apparently loves Baltimore …
— Alex Cobb has been hot since finding his change up, but the Orioles would have to pay some of the $57-million, four-year deal down to facilitate a trade. He also cleared waivers …
— Chris Davis is downright hot. But it may be too late to get to .200.


Boston Red Sox:
— Chris Sale is feeling better, reports Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe …
— The MVP race should be quite interesting. There are several very good candidates. But it should be between J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts. Betts’ WAR number may give him an edge. But Martinez is the key to the improvement throughout the lineup …
— The Red Sox had their first mini slump, lessening the chances that they can match the 1998 Yankees’ record of 125 wins (or their 114 regular season wins).




Chicago Cubs:

— The Cole Hamels trade looks like the deal of the deadline, as he has reclaimed his old form. Some believe now that all he needed was a contending team, and that may be right. He has a 0.69 ERA through eight starts with the Cubs …
— He was said to have wanted his $20-million option picked up (rather than the $6 million buyout), though financially speaking, he’d almost surely be better off as a free agent. Hard to see that option not being exercised now …
— Some other teams who could have blocked Daniel Murphy may have erred. He is all-time great at Wrigley …
— The Cubs are establishing themselves as the NL favorite, and Kris Bryant is on his way back …
— Javy Baez is a legit MVP candidate …
— Anthony Rizzo is red hot …
— Condolences to Ferguson Jenkins who announced on Twitter that his wife of 28 years Lydia died unexpectedly.


Chicago White Sox:
— Michael Kopech impressed in his first two starts. James Fegan of The Athletic wrote a nice story on the White Sox’s exciting young pitcher
— Carlos Rodon looks like an ace since his return, which could give the Chisox two aces …
— James Shields passed Jim Palmer for career strikeouts, which is pretty impressive (h/t  Christopher Kamka).


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Cincinnati Reds
— Owner Bob Castellini is said to have made the call to keep Matt Harvey rather than trade him to the Brewers. Castellini must have designs on re-signing Harvey, though he’s a free agent so there's nothing to say their chances would be great …
— John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer says he believes the Reds will try to sign Harvey … 
— The Reds are an almost unbelievable 1-17 in Homer Bailey’s starts …
— Billy Hamilton has been on the block a lot. That’s another player Castellini is said to like very much …
— While Castellini also like interim manager Jim Riggleman, the Reds are busy considering all options — both Riggleman and outside possibilities.


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Cleveland Indians

— The Indians would appear to be a logical player for Josh Donaldson, as they could lengthen their lineup. But manager Terry Francona recently threw a bit of cold water on that possibility …
— The Indians were indeed the main player on Bryce Harper at the first deadline, but they wouldn’t part with top pitching prospect Triston McKenzie, killing their chances (if the Nats really would have pulled the trigger) …
— Best of luck to Leonys Martin, who it is said will miss next year, too, after battling a bacterial infection. He is out of the hospital and improving, however …
— Trevor Bauer spoke about his recovery to Jordan Bastian of The Athletic. Sadly, there is no talk about CIA nanites …
— Andrew Miller (shoulder) having to go on the 10-day DL is quite a blow …
— The Indians are only 0-6-3 vs. AL contenders …
— They are 39-19 vs. the AL Central but only 35-37 vs. others (h/t Jim Ingraham).


Colorado Rockies
— Matt Holliday’s ascension is a big lift for the Rockies. He also won Players Weekend with his uniform back: “I Touched Home.” …
— The Rockies are 10-1 in Kyle Freeland’s last 11 starts.


Detroit Tigers
— Is Lou Whitaker next for the Hall? Jason Beck of MLB.com has the story
— The Tigers are 19-45 on the road, as Chris McCosky of the Detroit News points out.




Houston Astros
— Multiple stories have suggested that A.J. Hinch is a free agent after the year. But, according to our sources, the Astros held an option for 2019 even before the Astros extended him beyond that, as reported by Mark Berman on Wednesday. His new deal is for four years, through 2022. Hinch is one of the best in the game ...
— Jake Kaplan of The Athletic wrote about what happened to Tyler White after his red-hot start ...

— Catcher Martin Maldonado has hired Scott Boras to represent him.


Kansas City Royals
— Brad Keller, a Rule 5 pickup from the Royals, has been a revelation …
—Rustin Dodd of The Athletic took a look at six top Royals prospects.


Los Angeles Angels:
— The Angels are encouraged by Ohtani’s first two simulated games since returning from the UCL concern, and will chart the next course of action by the end of the week …
— Alex Meyer recently received a cortisone injection in his shoulder. The poor Angels have used 14 starting pitchers this year, which seems to be par for the course for them.


Los Angeles Dodgers:

— There’s no evidence the Dodgers made a big play for Bryce Harper at the deadline, so their main objective may have been to block. But with Matt Kemp struggling, had they gotten Harper, that would have been a huge boost. It’s believed they could have made room to stay below the luxury tax threshold with another move …
— Kenley Jansen obviously hasn’t been quite his himself since returning from the DL. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that the real story is that he’s healthy enough to play. Jansen was taking medicine that made him feel like he was “sleepwalking,” writes Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register …
— Manny Machado is willing to play third base for the right team, sources again suggest. As was written here a few weeks back, the Yankees are a top choice. One reason he wanted to play shortstop for the Orioles is that they didn’t have another established excellent shortstop …
— Machado is heating up now. He has nine RBI in his last three games …
— Walker Buehler is a star. He also has a good twitter handle: @buehlersdayoff …
— Yadier Alvarez, meantime, a highly rated prospect, is someone whose star is falling. Barry Lewis of the Tulsa World pointed out in a recent game that while some pitches were “electric,” he doesn’t field his position well, has no move, didn’t cover first, works slow and has bad body language. One AL scout who saw him last year told us he didn’t think his command was good enough to merit his press clippings.




Miami Marlins:
— Dan Straily was blocked on waivers and pulled back by the Marlins, reports Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald …
— Magneuris Sierra has no walks for the year. He almost had one recently, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reported …
— Victor Robles, who was offered as the main piece in a package for J.T. Realmuto, is “legit,” according to a rival GM …
— There isn’t a lot of belief around the league that the Marlins will be able to sign Realmuto long-term. He has said he’ll listen, but folks suggest they believe he is mostly being polite – barring a stunningly above-market offer …
— Top Marlins prospect Monte Harrison has 19 home runs for the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (great name).


Milwaukee Brewers:

— Jonathan Schoop has started to heat up after a very slow start with the Brewers. How slow was it? There was speculation early that they could non-tender him …
— Zach Davies is coming back Sunday …
— Junior Guerra is struggling big-time …
— They still need help in the rotation …
— Javier Guerra has been struggling …
— One thing that cost them: Sources suggest they were runners-up for Miles Mikolas, who has become an All-Star for the rival Cardinals …
— Christian Yelich was mistakenly omitted from my list of 10 NL MVP candidates. (At least it was supposed to be 10). The others: Matt Carpenter, Paul Goldschmidt, Javier Baez, Freddie Freeman, Eugenio Suarez, Jacob deGrom, Aaron Nola and Max Scherzer.


RELATED: Forget the injuries, Joe Mauer has been worth it


Minnesota Twins:
— Joe “milestone” Mauer, who seems to reach a Twins milestone every other week, still hasn’t said whether he intends to return for another year. Mauer, a free agent at year’s end, wouldn’t play for anyone else. The Twins would be happy to have him back for another year, it is believed …
— Byron Buxton, who’s battled wrist and toe injuries, not to mention migraines this year, could be a candidate for a September call up. But there’s also the possibility they might just shut him down, let him rest for the winter and have him return refreshed next year …
— Jake Cave has done some nice things for an unheralded pickup …
— Tyler Austin is opening some eyes with mammoth home runs and a little swagger …
— Logan Morrison is rehabbing after hip surgery but hoping to play somewhere next year …
— Michael Pineda suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee, ending his hopes to pitch this year …
— Mitch Garver has stepped up to become the starting catcher, LaVelle Neal of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune writes. Garver’s offense is solid but his defense is a work in progress ...

— Pitcher Gabriel Moya has hired Cesar Suarez to represent him.


RELATED: Mets vascillating on old school v. new school GM | Mets expected to go outside for next GM


New York Mets: 

— A return for David Wright to the big leagues would confirm what we’ve long known about him: He is as persistent and determined as they come. However, the Mets are saying he isn’t ready yet. Nice story by Marc Carig of The Athletic on the great Met …
— They don’t appear to have gotten much for Jose Bautista, whose August slump lowered his trade value. Back in July the price was a lot higher than cash or a player to be named later …
— There isn’t much market for Jerry Blevins or Devin Mesoraco, reports Matt Ehalt of the Bergen County (N.J.) Record. The value of Mesoraco is actually such that the Mets tried to attach him to a player of value to save money in at least one trade scenario …
— Jeff McNeil has impressed, especially with the bat since his call up …
— Some are speculating that Omar Minaya may wind up as the GM of the team again. The official word is that Minaya is part of the search committee, and it is well known Minaya has the ear of Mets owner Fred Wilpon. There’s doubt as to whether Minaya even wants the job back, and the guess here is that he does not. Ex-GM Sandy Alderson has received outside job offers. His contract is up this year … 
— Peter Alonso, who has a .953 OPS this year, deserved a call up. No excuse for not giving him one. He told Anthony DiComo of MLB.com it’s “disappointing and disheartening” he isn’t getting a call up …
— Jacob deGrom’s brilliant year is getting more brilliant by the start. In one at-bat of MVP candidate Javy Baez, deGrom got him on consecutive fastballs of 99.1, 99.2 and 99.7, the fastest pitch of deGrom’s career (h/t David Adler of MLB.com) …
— deGrom also used a 93.4 mph slider to whiff former teammate Daniel Murphy (also from Adler) …
— Brian Kenny of MLB Network made the case for deGrom as Cy Young. We agree … for the moment … 
— Good news: Amed Rosario is looking much better now.



New York Yankees:

—There is clear concern over Greg Bird’s continuing slump. Luke Voit has produced filling in …
— Ken Davidoff of the New York Post wrote on the challenge facing Rookie of the Year candidates Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres: Namely Shohei Ohtani. Stay tuned here to see who we endorse (hint: It's not Andujar or Torres) …
— J.A. Happ has been a big pickup, starting 5-0 for the Yankees, the first to start that way for the organization since Bullet Bob Turley in 1955 (thanks Elias) … — The three-week estimate for Aaron Judge’s absence is one of the worst estimates since Hippocrates took the oath …
— Giancarlo Stanton has been huge in Judge’s absence. But he seems stuck on 299 home runs. (There are worse places to be) …
— Aaron Boone has been over-criticized this year. To be where they are, with all their injuries and an average rotation, should be praised, not criticized …
— They were smart to stick with Neil Walker when he was down.


Oakland Athletics:
— The double hit the A’s took this week, with Sean Manaea (shoulder) and Brett Anderson (forearm) going on the DL is a reminder what they’ve weathered this year already. Really, it’s just been amazing job to play their way into playoff position. They keep getting hurt, and they keep winning …
— Top prospect Jesus Luzardo is nearing his innings limit, so he doesn’t seem like a viable rotation alternative, as Jane Lee of MLB.com reports …
— GM David Forst tells Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle they may try to bring them out of the bullpen … 
— I received a lot of ridicule by saying Matt Chapman has been one of the best players in the AL this year on the Joe and Evan show on WFAN. But here’s a stat: Chapman leads the majors with a .732 slugging percentage in the second half. (And obviously, he’s been brilliant in the field) …
— Ramon Laureano is quite a talent. No one has an arm to match him from the outfield …
— The A’s are a remarkable 27-11 in one-run games. It isn’t just luck, either. Their pen is fantastic (and better with the deadline pickups).



Philadelphia Phillies:
— Aaron Nola needs to receive serious Cy Young consideration. In addition to  his other accomplishments, he is 7-0 with a 1.48 ERA in 11 starts after losses …
— Nola has allowed four hits or fewer in 16 starts, the first Philly to do that since Grover Cleveland Alexander (via Meghan Montemurro, The Athletic) …
— Nola is also 7-0 with a 1.48 ERA in his 12 starts after Phillies losses …
— There’s been a debate going on about which of the Phillies’ recent losses has been most painful, but the vote seems to go to the 5-4 defeat to the Nats in which a great Nola effort was wasted and pinch-running pitcher Vince Velasquez became the last out when he left early tagging from second base to third. Phillies people have been worried about a lack of offense. Hence the deals for Wilson Ramos, Asdrubal Cabrera and even Jose Bautista …
— The Phillies wound up getting Bautista much cheaper than the asking price from late July. Of course, he's hitting .155 in August, down from .193 in July …

— If they don’t make the playoffs, the reason might be a lack of defense. Their -106 runs is the worst defensive rating in baseball, worse even than the Orioles'  -86 runs …
— Odubel Hererra has Max Scherzer’s number (.341 lifetime). He’s practically the only one.




Pittsburgh Pirates:

— Josh Harrison, who cleared waivers, as Fancred first reported, is a candidate to be traded, particularly in the winter. Ron Biertempfel of The Athletic suggested wintertime might be the Pirates’ best chance to make a deal. Harrison has seemed interested in a deal himself. He’s missed a couple games with a hamstring tweak, lessening the chances for a trade now …
— The Pirates are one of the most average teams ever, according to a review by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


RELATED: Interim Shildt may be the right man to manage Cardinals full-time | Friends say Joe Girardi wants Cardinals job badly


St. Louis Cardinals:
— Jed Gyorko has a minor groin injury, and Kolten Wong is on the DL. Could this be the impetus to make a play for Josh Donaldson, who’s on the one-day trading block after being placed on waivers Wednesday? They do have Patrick Wisdom, Jairo Munoz and Greg Garcia, and they could also move Matt Carpenter to third since they have Matt Adams back. So they aren’t desperate ….
— The Cardinals got the common managerial-change bump, and then some, with the appointment of Mike Shildt, a relative unknown, who got a deserved three-year extension (at 26-12 it was inevitable). But, perhaps more importantly, they’ve shown more energy and (somewhat) better fundamentals, which was expected to be his calling card, thanks to his George Kissell apprenticeship ...
— This may not have been a consideration, but Shildt’s predecessor Mike Matheny is still owed $5.3 million through 2021 when he was let go, potentially making a cost-effective hiring more appealing. But the reality is, the key consideration for a team that demands winning like the Cardinals is exactly that – winning … 
— Paul DeJong offered an interesting explanation for why the Cardinals are playing better now. “We just got rid of some pieces that didn’t always quite fit. It feels like we have a better-meshed group than we did before.” He didn’t name names, but Tommy Pham was the big surprise subtraction …
— The importance of Harrison Bader’s rise can’t be overstated …
— Jack Flaherty has been more impressive each start out …

— Stubby Clapp is PCL Manager of the Year a second straight year for Memphis. The Cardinals are one team that seems to be developing managers at the minor-league level. Good for them …
— Mark Saxon of The Athletic wrote about Shildt being a hiring away from the norm …
— Michael Wacha had to leave a rehab start early. That’s too bad He began the season so promisingly.


 San Diego Padres:
— Luis Urias, on-base machine, has debuted …
— Chris Paddack in 90 innings had 120 strikeouts this year (h/t Dennis Lin, the Athletic) …
— Jacob Nix continues to be effective, even without a big fastball. He got to the ninth inning in a 2-1 win over the Mariners without a strikeout or walk.


San Francisco Giants:
— Good luck to Buster Posey. The future Hall of Famer underwent hip surgery. The ailment explains his season …
— New call up Aramis Garcia played on a travel team with Dereck Rodriguez. Both were catchers at the time. Rodriguez, the son of Pudge, is now a pitcher …
— The Giants are playing a lot of kids, which is refreshing.




Seattle Mariners:
— SI jinx? On July 27, Sports Illustrated wrote a glowing article on the M’s ways. The headline said: “Will it work: A week with the Mariners as they try to end the Longest Playoff drought in Pro Sports.” Since then, they have fallen behind the A’s in the race for a Wild Card spot …
— Edwin Diaz, with 50 saves, has a shot at the all-time saves record held by Francisco Rodriguez (62). Corey Brock of MLB.com wrote on this. K-Rod is currently a Long Island Duck ...

— Ichiro still has interest in playing next year according to his agent, John Boggs.



Tampa Bay Rays:

— “They are the one team I really don’t get,” one scout said. Join the club …

— According to the scout, Wily Adames is “the one player” who looks like a star in the making while most of the rest of the team is “the type that grabs your leg and won’t let go.” … 


— The one big strength is the bullpen, says the scout, mentioning several, including Sergio Romo, who has “remade himself” … 


— They made some great trades at the deadline, too. They pulled the trigger on the Chris Archer deal at just the right time.

— They said they’d be better than folks (including us) believed. And they weren’t kidding. Give them credit, I guess … 



Texas Rangers:

— Danny Knobler of Bleacher Report has a nice story on the great Adrian Beltre
— Elvis Andrus’ up-and-down year means he probably can’t opt out with $60 million and four years to go. Had he repeated his 2017 season he likely would have opted out to test the market.




Toronto Blue Jays:

— Toronto is still hoping to do multiple trades, but it might not be easy …
— Marco Estrada is believed to have cleared waivers. But with his radar readings down, the desire may not be there. Teams could be making a mistake, as he has a history of coming up big in big spots …
— The Jays are still hoping to trade Josh Donaldson, who returned just in time for that to be theoretically possible. Scouts were in Dunedin to see him. The Indians and possibly the Cardinals seem like logical landing spots, but word is there are a couple others teams to have expressed interest. Still, the chances of a Donaldson move may have taken a major hit Wednesday when he sat out what would have been just his second game back with leg and calf soreness …
— Kendrys Morales might be able to help someone based on his incredible recent hot streak that included home runs in seven straight games. But with a year to go, the Jays would still have to offset the contract.


Washington Nationals:

— GM Mike Rizzo never wanted to trade Bryce Harper, insiders say. Harper isn’t just the Nats’ best player but people close to the situation say he’s Rizzo’s favorite player, which might explain the wonderful way he’s been treated by the Nats throughout his tenure. There seems to be little doubt they will make a big play to keep him this winter …
— Barry Svrluga writes in the Washington Post that the team needs to sign Harper now. Makes sense, though that is easier said then done … 
— The Nats remain a bit over the luxury tax threshold, with the only remaining player with a decent chance to be traded Gio Gonzalez. The Brewers are the one team that’s been connected to Gonzalez, a well-known innings eater …
— Ryan Madson went on revocable trade waivers Tuesday, his 38th birthday …
— Kelvin Herrera suffered ligament damage covering first, ending his season. Tough timing since he’s a free agent …
— Some wonder why the Nats didn’t wait until after their series with the Phillies before placing Daniel Murphy, Matt Adams and even Harper on revocable waivers. There were still 10 days to go. Of course, the reality is they have been flat terrible all year (with the exception of May) …
— Max Scherzer is tied with Sandy Koufax with three Cy Young Awards and 2,396 strikeouts (h/t Andrew Simon, MLB.com).

Jon Heyman is Fancred's baseball insider. He publishes his weekly Inside Baseball column each Thursday on the App and FancredSports.com. You can download the App here and interact with Jon by following him right here.

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