Rumor Central: Jose Bautista to remain a leadoff hitter?

June, 22, 2017
Jun 22

Jose BautistaDan Hamilton/USA TODAY SportsJose Bautista was back in the leadoff spot Wednesday after hitting first 40 times last season.

The Toronto Blue Jays used Jose Bautista as their leadoff hitter in Wednesday’s 7-5 win against the Rangers, and it looks like more than a one-game experiment.

Manager John Gibbons inserted Bautista in the top spot in place of Kevin Pillar as part of a series of lineup changes that will also see catcher Russell Martin moving into the No. 2 spot. According to Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun, Bautista will remain as the leadoff hitter "for the foreseeable future."

The top spot is nothing new to Bautista, who hit nine homers in 40 games in the leadoff role last season.

Pillar has been the leadoff hitter for most of the year, but has just four hits in his last 41 at-bats to drop his average to .249 with a .303 OBP.

Gibbons is taking a page out of the playbook of Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who moved Anthony Rizzo to the top spot in the order last week and has since watched the slugging first baseman belt four homers in eight games.

- Doug Mittler

Rumor Central: Will the Cardinals sell at the deadline?

June, 22, 2017
Jun 22

Trevor RosenthalKeith Gillett/Icon SportswireVeteran reliever Trevor Rosenthal could be an attractive trade chip if the Cardinals become sellers.

John Mozeliak faces a tough call in the coming weeks.

The general manager has watched his St. Louis Cardinals underperform with a 33-37 record, but the team is still just four games out of first place in the suddenly-mediocre National League Central. Do the Cardinals consider themselves legitimate contenders, or will a franchise that has had nine straight winning seasons become a trade deadline seller?

Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch suggests Mozeliak should entertain offers for starter Lance Lynn, a free agent after the season, and relievers Trevor Rosenthal and Seung-Hwan Oh, but he stops short of calling for a full-scale rebuild. "The Cardinals aren’t that far away. They don’t need a wholesale clearance to restock the farm system, which is already strong," writes Ortiz. "But let’s not kid ourselves and pretend this 25-man roster has World Series potential."

Ortiz suggests the Washington Nationals, who have had plenty of bullpen problems, are a logical fit for Rosenthal or Oh, and lists right-hander Carlos Martinez as one of the few "untouchables."

- Doug Mittler

Rumor Central: Chris Tillman's rotation spot in jeopardy?

June, 21, 2017
Jun 21

Chris TillmanPatrick Smith/Getty ImagesChris Tillman has a 8.39 ERA and a 2.17 WHIP in nine starts for the Orioles this season.

Is struggling right-hander Chris Tillman in danger of losing his spot in the Baltimore Orioles' rotation?

Tillman needed 94 pitches to get through four-plus innings against the Indians on Tuesday night and was charged with five runs and eight hits, raising his ERA to an unsightly 8.39. Tillman, Baltimore's Opening Day starter each season from 2014 through 2016, has allowed 19 runs over 10⅔ innings in his past three outings.

While Tillman remains on track to get the ball again on the road this weekend against the Rays, manager Buck Showalter conceded that the 29-year-old is under review. "I'm hoping Chris can solve this as a starter, but obviously, the return we're getting right now isn't as good as he needs to give us, and he knows that,” Showalter told Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun.

Tillman is not the only problem for Showalter. Baltimore starters rank dead last in the American League with a 5.60 ERA.

-- Doug Mittler

Rumor Central: Homer Bailey to return this weekend?

June, 21, 2017
Jun 21

Homer BaileyFrank Victores/USA TODAY SportsHomer Bailey has made three minor league rehab starts following February elbow surgery.

The long-awaited return of Homer Bailey to the Cincinnati Reds' rotation could come this weekend against the Nationals in Washington.’s Mark Sheldon reports “all signs were pointing” to a 2017 debut this week for Bailey, who has made three rehab starts, including a 91-pitch outing for Triple-A Louisville on Monday in which he allowed two runs and seven hits in 5T innings.

Bailey, who had Tommy John surgery in in May 2015 and was limited to eight starts in 2016, has yet to pitch this year following February surgery to remove bone spurs in his elbow.

Manager Bryan Price told reporters that Bailey will throw a bullpen session Wednesday. The Reds have yet to announce their pitchers for the Nationals' series, presumably to keep a spot open for Bailey if he comes through the bullpen session without a setback.

The 31-year-old Bailey owns a 60-54 record and a 4.24 ERA in 174 career starts. He threw no-hitters in 2012 and 2013.

- Doug Mittler

Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesFreddie Freeman last played third base in the Class-A Gulf Coast League in 2007.

The Atlanta Braves will have a surplus of first basemen when Freddie Freeman returns from the disabled list, and one option is moving the two-time All-Star across the diamond to third base.

Freeman has been sidelined since the middle of May with a fractured left wrist and is not expected back until sometime next month. In the meantime, the Braves have a more than capable replacement in Matt Adams, who is hitting .296 with 10 homers in 29 games since being acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Braves have had discussions about moving one of the two sluggers to third base and the more likely candidate is Freeman, reports’s Mark Bowman. While Freeman did play third base in high school, he has played the position just five times as a pro, and that was in the Class-A Gulf Coast League in 2007.

"We're discussing that internally, because the fact is, Freddie will be back," manager Brian Snitker told reporters Tuesday. "There are some options there, because it would be nice to have both of those guys in the lineup somehow."

One of the other options would be to trade Adams, whose batting average in Atlanta is 23 points above his career mark.

"This sounds like a classic smokescreen by the Braves to try to drive up Adams' trade value,” opines ESPN’s David Schoenfield. "Oh, no, we don't really want to trade him. We're going to play both him and Freeman."

-- Doug Mittler

Rumor Central: Will the Rangers shop Jonathan Lucroy?

June, 20, 2017
Jun 20

Jonathan LucroyGreg Fiume/Getty ImagesJonathan Lucroy has a .385 slugging percentage this season, 53 points below his career average.

The Texas Rangers could look to deal catcher Jonathan Lucroy if they fall out of realistic contention in the AL wild-card race, suggests Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.

The Rangers are among a group of eight teams within 1.5 games of one another in the wide-open wild-card competition.

Lucroy is hitting just .267/.311/.385 this season, and his trade value would be substantially less than last July when the Rangers sent a boatload of prominent prospects to the Brewers as part of the deal for the 2014 All-Star.

The 31-year-old Lucroy is the final year of a six-year contract that will pay him $5.25 million this season.

-- Doug Mittler

AP Photo/Morry GashEric Sogard has made the most of his opportunity in Milwaukee, hitting .350 with a .458 OBP in 32 games.

Eric Sogard has made a strong case to remain the starting second baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers even after Jonathan Villar returns from the disabled list, reports Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Sogard, signed to a minor league contract in December, is hitting .350 with a .458 OBP in 100 at-bats and has received steady playing time at second base after Villar was sidelined earlier this month with a strained lower back.

Villar will begin a minor league rehab assignment and could be activated soon, but is not assured getting his job back. “(Sogard) is playing at a really high level,” manager Craig Counsell told reporters. “I think there's space for us to give (Villar) some playing time. But we're looking for the players who are helping us win games.”

“We’d love to be able to get (Villar) back where he was, so he’s going to continue to get opportunities,” adds general manager David Stearns. "But Eric has made himself into a really meaningful part of our lineup."

Translation: Villar will need to hit better than his current .213/.283/.342 or he will be relegated to a backup role. Villar hit .285 last season and stole a league-high 62 bases.

- Doug Mittler

Mark MelanconMark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsMark Melancon has struggled in his first season in San Francisco with four blown saves and a 5.09 ERA.

The San Francisco Giants have little to show for the signing of Mark Melancon, but there apparently are no plans to cut the cord with the struggling closer.

The Giants viewed Melancon as one of the key pieces of a pennant contender when the right-hander agreed to a four-year, $62 million deal over the winter. San Francisco, however, is dead last in the NL West with a 26-45 record and Melancon has converted just 10 of 14 save opportunities with a 1.47 WHIP.

Assuming the Giants will be looking to sell off some pieces as the July 31 deadline approaches, they may be unwilling and unable to unload Melancon, even if there are plenty of clubs out there (including Melancon's former club in Washington) looking for bullpen help.

“[The Giants] are not wired for a rebuild. Realistic or not, they anticipate returning to contention next season -- and having a solid closer in Melancon will be a part of their plan,” writes Andrew Baggarly of the Bay Area News Group.

Baggarly also reports Melancon is dealing with a lingering forearm strain, an issue that would derail any deal.

-- Doug Mittler

Rumor Central: Will the Pirates deal Andrew McCutchen?

June, 19, 2017
Jun 19

Andrew McCutchenAP Photo/Gene J.PuskarAndrew McCutchen has a 1.157 OPS since moving to the No. 6 spot in the lineup on May 26th.

The odds of the Pittsburgh Pirates trading away outfielder Andrew McCutchen as the deadline draws closer are “good,” suggests Ken Rosenthal of

The Pirates are 31-38, but they are just six games out of first place in the National League Central.

Rosenthal makes his guess on recent history, noting that the Pirates were just three games out of the second wild card last July 30 when they dealt reliever Mark Melancon to the Nationals.

“McCutchen, the former MVP who sparked the Pirates’ renaissance, is more of an institution in Pittsburgh than Melancon was,” Rosenthal writes. “But the Pirates discussed McCutchen in trades last offseason; the shock value of dangling him is gone.”

McCutchen’s production declined dramatically last season and he started slow in 2017, but the four-time All-Star is hitting .375 with a 1.116 OPS this month.

ESPN’s Buster Olney wrote last week that the Pirates are in a “holding pattern,” and might move McCutchen if a suitable offer is presented.

-- Doug Mittler

Rumor Central: Jean Segura nearing return?

June, 16, 2017
Jun 16

Seattle Mariners shortstop Jean Segura's return to the club could come in the next few days.

While Mariners manager Scott Servais originally had hoped to have Segura back for this weekend's road series against the Rangers, it will likely take a little longer before the 27-year-old is ready to come off the disabled list, reports Shane Jackson of

"We will put him through a more complete workout tomorrow in Texas," Servais said Thursday. "If it goes good tomorrow, there is a chance we get him a game in [Triple-A] Tacoma. But probably not going to see him in the Texas series, that was my goal. But we are going to be close."

Segura was "moving well" during agility drills in Arlington on Friday, reports Greg Johns of

Prior to being placed on the 10-day disabled list June 2 with a right high ankle sprain, Segura was tied for the American League lead in batting average at .341, with 29 runs scored and a .391 on-base percentage.

-- Sarah Scrivens

Rumor Central: Yonder Alonso open to extension with A's?

June, 16, 2017
Jun 16

Yonder AlonsoDavid Richard/USA Today SportsYonder Alonso has hit 17 homers and leads first basemen in the latest AL All-Star voting.

Yonder Alonso may be willing to pass on free agency for the security of a long-term deal with the Oakland Athletics.

The 30-year-old Alonso tells Ken Rosenthal of that he does not want to be traded and is open to signing a long-term deal with the A’s. “I think that there is a great chance that I stay here. I really do mean that. The guys they have, the young core that they have, are all guys I can relate to,” Alonso tells Rosenthal.

Alonso has timed things just right by enjoying a career year (.306 BA, 1.043 OPS, 17 homers) just months before he can hit the open market. While established players are often traded away from the Athletics in the summertime, Alonso is open to staying put.

It is unclear whether the A’s feel the same way. Alonso has played third base and first base, where the A’s have younger options in Matt Chapman, and Ryon Healy, respectively.

As for potential trade partners, Rosenthal notes the Yankees have a need at first base, but they might be more interested in adding pitching help.

Alonso, who is in his second season in Oakland after stints in San Diego and Cincinnati, is the surprising leader at first base in the last update to the American League All-Star voting.

- Doug Mittler

Rumor Central: Could the Dodgers bid on Jose Quintana?

June, 16, 2017
Jun 16

Jose QuintanaJoy R. Absalon/USA TODAY SportsJose Quintana remains a valuable trade chip for the White Sox despite a 5.30 ERA.

The Los Angeles Dodgers might be “a surprise entry” in the summer pursuit of Chicago White Sox southpaw Jose Quintana, suggests Jon Heyman of

Heyman says the Dodgers have a deep farm system with prospects that may have caught the attention of the rebuilding White Sox.

The Houston Astros, Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Yankees have all been mentioned as possible suitors for Quintana. The Astros, who are dealing with numerous injuries to their starting staff, would appear to be a logical fit, but Heyman says the White Sox have been “frustrated” by Houston’s offers.

The 28-year-old Quintana has stumbled to a 5.30 ERA in 13 starts, but the White Sox can still keep the price high because of a team-friendly contract that pays the left-hander $7 million this year and keeps him under club control through the 2020 season. The Dodgers could be interested in Quintana as a way to add pitching insurance without adding a big salary to an already heavy payroll.

ESPN’s Buster Olney lists the White Sox as a team that is “ready to sell now,” noting they have been willing to listen to offers for Quintana, Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Jose Abreu.

- Doug Mittler

Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY SportsHyun Soo Kim is hitting .253 in limited playing time for the Orioles this season.

Hyun Soo Kim could be in line for some additional at-bats after the Baltimore Orioles placed first baseman Chris Davis on the disabled list with a strained right oblique.

Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun reports Kim, who has seen limited playing time in left field behind Trey Mancini and Seth Smith, could have an “expanded opportunity” if Mancini as used as the primary first baseman while Davis is sidelined.

Kim was in left field Wednesday against White Sox right-hander Miguel Gonzalez and had a key two-run single in a 10-6 Baltimore victory. While Smith normally starts against right-handers, manager Buck Showalter told reporters the outfielder was not “100 percent.”

The 29-year-old Kim is hitting .253 in 79 at-bats after batting .302 in 305 at-bats last season.

-- Doug Mittler

Rumor Central: Will the Brewers pursue pitching?

June, 15, 2017
Jun 15

Corey KnebelDan Sanger/Icon SportswireCorey Knebel has 10 saves and a 0.98 WHIP, but the Brewers need more bullpen help.

It is the middle of June and the Milwaukee Brewers remain in first place in the National League Central. Is it time to consider the Brew Crew a legitimate playoff contender?

An indication may have come Wednesday when the Brewers designated struggling reliever Neftali Feliz for assignment. Signed to a one-year, $5.35 million deal, Feliz saved eight of his first nine save opportunities before struggling badly and losing his ninth-inning role to Corey Knebel.

Feliz posted a 7.11 ERA in 29 appearances, allowing eight homers in 27 innings.

“Moving on from a high-priced mistake is something the Brewers might not have done so quickly in recent years,” writes Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “But with the team unexpectedly in first place in the National League Central and needing marked improvement in the bullpen, priority is now being placed on performance.”

Knebel has moved nicely into the closer role, striking out 15.77 batters per nine innings, but the Brewers’ overall bullpen ranks 20th in the majors with a 4.51 ERA.

ESPN’s Buster Olney suggests the Brewers are currently in a "holding pattern," adding owner Mark Attanasio has a competitive streak that could change things.

“While it may be somewhat premature for the rebuilding Brewers to spend assets to win now, Attanasio could push his front office to add the pitching it needs to seriously contend,” writes Olney.

-- Doug Mittler

Amed RosarioMike Janes/Four Seam Images/AP PhotosTop shortstop prospect Amed Rosario is hitting .333 at Triple-A Las Vegas.

Another infielder went down with an injury Wednesday night, but the New York Mets appear reluctant to promote top prospect Amed Rosario.

Second baseman Neil Walker injured his left leg running the bases against the Chicago Cubs and will undergo an MRI on Thursday.

Infielder Gavin Cecchini was scratched from the starting lineup for Triple-A Las Vegas and is likely headed to New York to replace Walker if a trip to the disabled list is necessary.

It is the second time in a week that the Mets passed on a call-up of Rosario, a shortstop who has a .333/.374/.496 slash line at Triple-A Las Vegas. When shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera landed on the DL with a thumb issue, the Mets opted for T.J. Rivera.

The clamor for a promotion is even greater given the Mets (30-34) are in the midst of a difficult stretch of schedule that includes series against the Nationals and Dodgers over the next seven days.

As for when the 21-year-old could be headed to Queens, Kevin Kernan of the New York Post reports the Mets “will at least discuss Rosario coming up earlier than expected.”

The Mets have a history of being cautious, most recently in 2015 when they waited until July before giving Michael Conforto his first taste of the major leagues.

-- Doug Mittler