If Braves Dangle Dansby, They Might Get Decent Return in Trade

ALSO: HERE ARE ALL-STAR CHOICES FROM NON-CONTENDERS

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Pregame Pepper

Did You Know?

Good news and bad news: when Washington shortstop Trea Turner hit for the cycle Wednesday, he tied a record by doing it for the third time but also injured his fingers by sliding head-first trying for a triple to complete the cycle (sliding head-first is NOT recommended) . . .

Six-time All-Star CC Sabathia, who twice led the American League in wins, is out with a book revealing his years-long bout with alcoholism . . .

Struggling Yankees closerAroldis Chapman is the fourth pitcher in baseball history to be on the mound for multiple triple plays in the same season . . .

Losing their first six games against the arch-rival Red Sox does not bode well for a Yankees team with division titles hopes . . .

Rookie lefty Kyle Muller, making his second straight solid big-league start, not only blanked the Reds on one hit for five innings at hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark but solidified his grip on Atlanta’s vacant No. 5 starter spot . . .

Commissioner Rob Manfred is way off base again in ruling that the 2021 All-Stars will wear special uniforms rather than their regular team jerseys.

Leading Off

Dansby Swanson Is Best Trade Bait Braves Have

By Dan Schlossberg

Bludgeoned by an injury bug that has assumed Godzillic proportions, the Atlanta Braves figure to be active dealers this month.

Before the July 30 trading deadline, the team must decide if it is a buyer or a seller — in contention or in wait-til-next-year mode.

That’s not easy for a club that came within a whisker of a World Series berth last year and has won three consecutive division titles.

My guess is that the injury wave has been so overwhelming that the Braves cannot mount a challenge to the resilient and pitching-rich New York Mets. Serious injuries have sidelined Mike Soroka, Travis d’Arnaud, Marcell Ozuna, Huascar Ynoa, and breakout star Tucker Davidson, among others, and Ozuna’s legal problems complicate the situation further.

But anybody who wants something good in a trade has to give up something solid in return.

For the Braves, that probably means pulling the plug on the Dansby Swanson experiment.

Still just 27, the former first-round draft choice is now in his sixth season with the Braves. But he won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2022 season.

It makes sense to trade him now because a slew of standout shortstops will be available as free agents and any of them would be a suitable replacement.

So here are some possible destinations for the smooth-fielding but strikeout-prone infielder:

Minnesota Twins — How about Swanson and Kyle Wright for Andrelton Simmons and Alex Colomé? The Twins, the biggest disappointment in the majors, would be giving up two high-priced free agents on expiring one-year contracts but would be getting a younger shortstop they can control through next season as well as a young pitcher who desperately needs a change of scenery. Atlanta would get the best-fielding shortstop in the majors plus a closer who fell off a cliff after starring for the 2020 White Sox.

New York Yankees — Gleyber Torres is only 24 but has worn out his welcome in New York, both offensively and defensively. His attitude isn’t too great either, with his lack of hustle on ground balls as Exhibit A. But Torres had 38 home runs in 2019 and could form a fine double-play tandem with Ozzie Albies, who also speaks Spanish. So how about Swanson and veteran lefty Drew Smyly, a free agent this fall, for Torres and Deivi Garcia, a compact 22-year-old right-handed pitcher who is still struggling to realize his potential?

Oakland Athletics — After losing Marcus Semien to free agency, the A’s have been drooling over Trevor Story, whose bloated Colorado contract they can’t afford. But Swanson would be perfect, especially if he only costs a couple of bullpen arms (the Braves have lost 19 games because of rocky relief work this season).

Colorado Rockies — The Braves would love to land Story, even if he’s only a two-month rental, but the Rox would probably have to part with slugging outfielder Charlie Blackmon too. Story, 28, is a year older than Swanson but superior in every facet of the game, especially power (he’s had two seasons of at least 35 home runs each). The Rockies need pitching and the Braves have a plethora of powerful young arms at AAA Gwinnett. They might even consider moving switch-hitting outfielder Drew Waters if that’s what it takes to get both Rockies stars.

Miami Marlins — Atlanta has dealt within its division before and would love to lay claim to Adam Duvall again. A streak hitter with enormous power, he’s also a dependable outfielder with a good arm. So maybe Swanson plus pitchers Luke Jackson, a journeyman reliever having an unexpectedly good year, and Bryse Wilson, a talented right-handed starter with a minimal salary, for Duvall and shortstop Miguel Rojas? Both are 32 and carrying bigger salaries than the players the budget-conscious Fish would receive.

HERE’S THE PITCH weekend editor Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ also covers baseball for Latino Sports, forbes.com, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, and Sports Collectors Digest. The author of 38 baseball books, he’s at ballauthor@gmail.com.

Cleaning Up

How to Pick All-Stars From Non-Contenders

By Tom Stone

[Editor’s Note: Statistics reported in this article are slightly outdated because it was written several weeks before publication.]

In Major League Baseball, like it or not, the All-Star game has a rule that every team must have at least one player selected to the team. Because of that I always like to consider early on who might be chosen from the teams that don't really have any obvious all-stars. This isn't necessarily the teams with the worst records, as some of those teams -- this year I'd include the Twins, Marlins, and Pirates in that category -- do have at least one player whose stats make them an obvious All-Star candidate. But there are a handful of clubs where you really need to squint to guess at who the lone All-Star might end up being. Here are the four teams I am wondering about:

Colorado Rockies

Trade-bait star SS Trevor Story is not having a typical season, with 5 HR, 9 SB, and a .242/.315/.399 slash line. Ditto for star OF Charlie Blackmon who has 4 HR, 0 SB, and .280/.375/.410. Ryan McMahon has played both 2B and 3B, and started out pretty strong before cooling off more recently. That said, he does lead the team with 15 HR (no one else has more than five, and that is odd given that these are the Rockies with Coors field!). But McMahon has a .252/.302/.500 slash line and only a 108 OPS+ so is not producing that far above average in terms of OBP and SLG.

Pitchers are rarely All-Star candidates for the Rockies, and this year is no different: all of their starting pitchers have even or losing records, with Austin Gomber (3.95), John Gray (4.29), and German Marquez (4.60) posting the best ERAs so far. As of now, I guess I'd go with McMahon as their all-star selection, but we'll see.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Like the Rockies, the Diamondbacks have only one hitter with double-digit HR, and that is 3B Eduardo Escobar with 15. Unfortunately his .240/.287/.457 slash line and league-average 100 OPS+ is less impressive. CF Ketel Marte has only played 27 games, but has hit .356 with 8 doubles and 4 HR in 104 at-bats. If he can stay on the field and keep playing well, then maybe he is the guy? Catcher Carson Kelly has also missed some time, but in 44 games and 136 at-bats has hit 7 HR, with a .257/.382/.441 slash line and 126 OPS+... pretty darn good for a catcher these days.

Like the Rockies, the Diamondbacks pitching is not doing well this year. Yes, Madison Bumgarner pitched a 7-inning no-hitter, but he has 5.73 ERA overall so clearly is not an all-star candidate. Other than Bumgarner and Merrill Kelly (5.14 ERA), Arizona has suffered a lot of pitching injuries, leading to the use of 11 pitchers as starters/openers. The bullpen isn't any better, so as of now I guess I'd look at Kelly as a backup catcher or Marte if he keeps playing well for the NL all-star squad.

Detroit Tigers

With an overall .224 batting average and .294 OBP, the Tigers offense is not doing much in 2021. Akil Baddoo had an impressive start, but at this point he has 5 HR, 7 SB, and only a .246 average. It would be nice if Miggy was doing better to see him as an All-Star one more time, but with you can really justify that given his 5 HR and .199/.268/.301 line.

No one impresses from the Tigers' bullpen, but their starting pitchers, though inconsistent, are clearly a future area of strength. Matthew Boyd is having a good year, with a 3.56 ERA and 1.171 WHIP so far. Spencer Turnbull tossed a no-hitter and has a 2.88 ERA, but has only started 9 games and is currently injured. Tarik Skubal has a 3-7 record and 1.467 WHIP, but has a respectable 4.35 ERA and 74 K in 60 IP. So perhaps the top all-star candidate for now is likely future-ace Casey Mize, who has a 3.44 ERA and 1.061 WHIP over 12 starts.

Seattle Mariners

If you thought the Tigers’ .224 team average was bad, the Mariners this year are batting .209 (with a .286 OBP). SS JP Crawford is leading the team with a .274 mark, but that is nothing special and he has little power or speed. The best overall hitter has been Mitch Haniger with 16 HR and 15 doubles, though a .259 average and .310 OBP aren't as impressive.

Like the other teams discussed here, none of Seattle's pitchers are distinguishing themselves in 2021, with Yusei Kikuchi I guess being the best they have with his 3.67 ERA and 1.045 WHIP over 12 starts. I'd go with Haniger as a spare outfielder for now, but hopefully someone will catch fire over the next few weeks.

Tom Stone is a long-time SABR member and newcomer to IBWAA who is working on new editions of his 2019 ACTA Publications book Now Taking the Field: Baseball’s All-Time Dream Team for All 30 Franchises.

Timeless Trivia

Gerrit Cole had more strikeouts (123) in his first 15 starts than any pitcher in Yankees history . . .

Maybe it’s the Green Monster factor but the Boston Red Sox had nine more outfield assists through June 25 than any AL team . . .

Albert Pujols was a .328 lifetime hitter when he left St. Louis 10 years ago but carries only a .297 career mark now . . .

Reds prospect Hunter Greene hit 104 mph on the radar gun in Triple-A . . .

The Red Sox lead the majors in come-from-behind victories this season . . .

Streaky Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant could be trade bait again after a horrific 3-for-37 streak that included 11 strikeouts.

Know Your Editors

HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Brian Harl [bchrom831@gmail.com] handles Monday and Tuesday editions, Elizabeth Muratore [nymfan97@gmail.com] does Wednesday and Thursday, and Dan Schlossberg [ballauthor@gmail.com] edits the weekend editions on Friday and Saturday. Readers are encouraged to contribute comments, articles, and letters to the editor. HTP reserves the right to edit for brevity, clarity, and good taste.

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