Sunday night’s All-Star Selection Show will yield most of the answers as to how both teams will be structured.
But there are some interesting decisions to be made, especially by American League manager John Farrell, who might be faced with which of his own players to select.
Farrell said he’s had conversations with some of the players in the running.
What will the decision be on David Ortiz, if he’s not voted in by the players, with fellow designated hitters Nelson Cruz voted by the fans and Victor Martinez having a sensational season?
The Athletics-Cubs deal created a new problem: What happens to ex-Cubs Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel if they are selected to the National League team?
Neither would be able to pitch for the NL, according to a major league source, but they might be allowed to for the AL.
Here’s a look at this correspondent’s 34-man teams. The caveat, I don’t feel compelled to name one player from every team.
Catcher — Salvador Perez, Royals. Perez is having the best year of any catcher in the AL.
First base — Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays. Encarnacion has delivered. He has a .962 OPS, 26 home runs, and 69 RBIs. Dangerous hitter. Deserves nod over Miguel Cabrera.
Second base — Ian Kinsler, Tigers. He’s been more productive than Jose Altuve and Robinson Cano with a higher WAR (3.8). He’s given the Tigers a huge spark at the top of the order.
Third base — Adrian Beltre, Rangers. Amid injuries, Beltre is still the best in the league. Josh Donaldson is terrific and Kyle Seager is coming on like gangbusters.
Shortstop — Alexei Ramirez, White Sox. Fallen off from his torrid start, but among J.J. Hardy and Alcides Escobar, I’ll stick with Ramirez, whose 2.5 WAR and .745 OPS is best among shortstops.
Left field — Michael Brantley, Indians. Really emerged as a top player in the league with a good approach at the plate and very good defense.
Center field — Mike Trout, Angels. Is there any other choice? A 1.022 OPS.
Right field — Jose Bautista, Blue Jays. No swing is better when he’s on.
DH — Cruz, Orioles. Dan Duquette’s finest hour was signing Cruz for one year, $8 million. He has produced a .914 OPS, 26 homers, and 68 RBIs. Cruz has played some left field, and it’s tough to leave Martinez out of the starting nine, but rest assured Martinez is on the team.
Starting pitchers — Felix Hernandez, Mariners; Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees; Mark Buehrle, Blue Jays; Rick Porcello, Tigers; Jon Lester, Red Sox; Yu Darvish, Rangers; Scott Kazmir, Athletics; David Price, Rays; Garrett Richards, Angels.
Relief pitchers — Koji Uehara, Red Sox; Sean Doolittle, Athletics; Greg Holland, Royals; Dellin Betances, Yankees.
Reserves — Martinez, Tigers; Ortiz, Red Sox; Cano, Mariners; Derek Norris, Athletics; Cabrera, Tigers; Altuve, Astros; Jose Abreu, White Sox; Kurt Suzuki, Twins; Derek Jeter, Yankees; Alex Gordon, Royals; Donaldson, Athletics; Adam Jones, Orioles.
Catcher — Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers. Top-hitting catcher who has done a great job handling the Brewers’ pitching staff.
First base — Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks. This is pretty straightforward. Goldschmidt has emerged as the best all-around first baseman in the NL.
Second base — Chase Utley, Phillies. Utley has made a strong comeback from his injury-filled seasons and looks almost like the old Utley. He’s certainly having a better season than any second baseman in the league.
Third base — Todd Frazier, Reds. The numbers don’t lie. Frazier has become one of the best.
Shortstop — Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies. Extraordinary numbers, exciting player.
Left field — Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins. He’s the guy everyone wants to see in the All-Star Game. He’s hit some of the most vicious and prodigious home runs this season.
Center field — Andrew McCutchen, Pirates. Overall, one of the top three or four players in baseball.
Right field — Yasiel Puig, Dodgers. Plays at 120 miles per hour. Reckless.
DH — Adam LaRoche, Nationals. Quietly putting together a nice year.
Starting pitchers — Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers; Adam Wainwright, Cardinals; Johnny Cueto, Reds; Julio Teheran, Braves; Zack Greinke, Dodgers; Alfredo Simon, Reds; Tim Hudson, Giants; Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals; Cole Hamels, Phillies.
Relief pitchers — Craig Kimbrel, Braves; Francisco Rodriguez, Brewers; Huston Street, Padres; Aroldis Chapman, Reds.
Reserves — Yadier Molina, Cardinals; Buster Posey, Giants; Justin Morneau, Rockies; Anthony Rizzo, Cubs; Scooter Gennett, Brewers; Anthony Rendon, Nationals; Hanley Ramirez, Dodgers; Carlos Gomez, Brewers; Ryan Braun, Brewers; Hunter Pence, Giants; Billy Hamilton, Reds; Justin Upton, Braves.
Lots of tough pitching omissions, such as Madison Bumgarner, Josh Beckett, Wilfredo Simon, Corey Kluber, Michael Wacha, Kyle Lohse, Max Scherzer, and Fernando Rodney.
Plan should be in place
for Selig’s successor
There should have been a succession plan a year ago when it was known Bud Selig would be ending his tenure as commissioner. Just like Adam Silver succeeded David Stern as NBA commissioner and Roger Goodell succeeded Paul Tagliabue in the NFL. Oh, there were committees and formal approval by the owners, but it was pretty much known in advance who would be the next commissioner in those leagues.
Like Silver and Goodell were the backbones of those sports through labor negotiations and other major topics, Rob Manfred has been the equivalent in baseball.
Manfred, considered a tough cookie in the management ranks, negotiated the joint drug policy and its enhancements, changes in the amateur and international drafts, instant replay, and the Alex Rodriguez suspension.
He’s been at the forefront of every major issue in baseball, while at the same time fostering the good will that exists between the teams and the players, which has never been better.
There’s no doubt that Selig would pick Manfred to be the next commissioner. And owners have fallen in line with Selig’s recommendations and leadership, so it would seem out of character for them not to seriously consider Manfred when he would continue Selig’s vision.
When the search committee was formulated, White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf indicated that Selig should play only an advisory role. Reinsdorf never said anything against Selig or against Manfred. Reinsdorf just wanted the process to play out with candidates interviewed, etc.
Bill DeWitt Jr., principal owner of the Cardinals, is chairing the committee, which was organized May 14. Other members include Rockies owner Dick Monfort; Phillies president David Montgomery; Angels owner Arte Moreno; Pirates chairman Bob Nutting; Twins CEO Jim Pohlad; and Reinsdorf.
Selig has stayed on before at the urging of the owners, but this time he wants to retire, and he needs the committee to come up with a new commissioner.
Because there is no labor agreement to be settled, Selig staying on again wouldn’t be a bad thing. Nor would it be a bad thing for a new commissioner to come along before the start of negotiations on a new basic agreement next season.
According to one owner, “Everyone is trying to keep an open mind, but the lead horse is Manfred. The owners I speak to feel comfortable with him to keep things going in the right direction. Bud’s input is extremely important and we know that Rob would be Bud’s first choice.”
Apropos of nothing
1. Cubs assistant GM Jason McLeod sees a more athletic version of Troy Glaus when he watches prospect Kris Bryant. “Definitely 40-home run power,” McLeod said. “There’ll be some strikeouts, but he has a great eye at the plate. He’ll take his share of walks and work the count.” Bryant, the second overall pick in last year’s draft, is hitting .339 with six homers and 18 RBIs in 59 at-bats with Triple A Iowa. He hit .355 with 22 homers and 58 RBIs for a 1.160 OPS in 248 at-bats for Double A Tennessee. The Cubs see the 6-foot-5-inch, 215-pound Bryant, currently at third base, as a corner infielder. Righthanded power is so scarce in the minors that Bryant really stands out.
2. Manny Ramirez can roll out of bed after two years of inactivity and hit. He smacked a two-run homer and had three hits in his second game as a player-coach for the Iowa Cubs, but has gone 0 for 8 in two other games. Could he tear it up well enough to actually hook on with a major league team?
3. There’s a lovefest around here with Red Sox prospects. It’s fun to project what they might become, but as we’ve found out with other hyped (by local media) Sox prospects, let’s reserve judgment until they show us what they can do. Unfortunately, the hype machine is already churning on lefthander Henry Owens and, before long, shortstop of the future Devin Marrero, who has been promoted to Pawtucket.
4. Why can’t people just say Stephen Drew is off to a disappointing start rather than hurling personal insults at him? Red Sox fans should be better than that. After June 1 of last season, Drew hit .273 with a .824 OPS, and he helped the Sox to a championship. Only five shortstops had OPSs above .750 as of Friday: Troy Tulowitzki (1.049), Hanley Ramirez (.828), Starlin Castro (.804). Jhonny Peralta (.764), and Brandon Crawford (.755).
5. Updating our favorite Baseball Informations Solutions defensive stat (runs saved), Dustin Pedroia leads the majors with 11 runs saved at second base. Jackie Bradley Jr. has saved six runs in center, and Daniel Nava five in left (where Alex Gordon leads with 16). Brock Holt has saved five runs in right field, a minus-2 runs at third base, minus-1 run in left field, and zero in center. The worst-fielding Red Sox player has been Xander Bogaerts, who carries a minus-8 at shortstop and minus-2 at third base. A.J. Pierzynski is a minus-4 at catcher, while John Lackey is a minus-3 at pitcher.
Updates on nine
1. Addison Russell, SS, Cubs — Why would the Cubs obtain another shortstop in the Jeff Samardzija deal to go with Starlin Castro and Xavier Baez? Because Russell is a former first-round pick who is going to change positions, likely to third or the outfield, anyway. The Cubs got two former first-round picks (outfielder Billy McKinney the other), righthander Dan Straily, a Rookie of the Year candidate last season with Oakland, and what will be a significant player to be named. The Cubs are hoping to turn Straily into their next Jake Arrieta, who nearly no-hit the Red Sox last week.
2. Daniel Murphy, 2B, Mets — There’s probably a reason why contract talks have slowed. It’s because the Mets, torn about being sellers, could entertain dealing him. Murphy is having a good season and would fit a team like the Giants, who are looking for a veteran second baseman (we wrote earlier that Ben Zobrist would also be a great fit). Murphy is hitting .296 with a .347 OBP and playing very well in the field. He is one of the Mets’ biggest trade chips.
3. James Shields, RHP, Royals — Timing is everything, and Shields isn’t helping his free agent cause. He is sporting the rotation’s worst ERA (3.93), his strikeouts per nine innings is 7.1, his lowest since 2009, and his 1.329 WHIP is his worst since 2010. Since the start of May, Shields’s ERA is 4.93 and opponents are hitting .317. Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland thinks it’s all mechanical because there’s been no dip in velocity.
4. Josh Willingham, OF, Twins — When the Twins decide they should be sellers, Willingham will be one of their top chips. Kendrys Morales may be another. Willingham has had only 127 at-bats and is hitting .228 with seven homers. He’s hit more than 20 homers five times in his career. His righthanded bat could play in Kansas City or Boston. Morales has had good at-bats despite his .229 average. The Twins like his presence, but he could become a DH for a contender.
5. Grady Sizemore, OF, Phillies — Sizemore has hit well for Lehigh Valley, the Phillies’ Triple A affiliate, hitting .300 in his first 20 at-bats. It may not be long before Sizemore gets to come up to the parent team. Sizemore was released by the Red Sox after hitting .216, and spent a few days mulling his options. According to his agent, Joe Urbon, Sizemore had a few opportunities but thought the Phillies’ outfield situation presented the best opportunity.
6. Bartolo Colon, RHP, Mets — Talk of Colon being dealt appears real, as reported by the New York Post. The Mets have starting pitching, as well as Matt Harvey returning next season. It’s not out of the realm of possibility they could get some talent in return. Like many teams, they’re trying to decide whether they have a good enough second-half run in them to hold on to players such as Colon and Murphy. Colon would likely draw interest from AL East teams.
7. Jake Peavy, RHP, Red Sox — According to a major league source, a few teams in the NL would have interest in Peavy if the Sox would provide some salary relief for the prorated portion of the $16 million he’s owed this season. Peavy can be a free agent after the season. “No team is going to give up a lot for him, but if the Red Sox want to move him to make room for a youngster like [Rubby] De La Rosa, they could do that,” said the source. It seems the Red Sox will hold on to Peavy, who pitched better in his last outing in front of a lot of scouts.
8. Dellin Betances, RHP, Yankees — For a while, Betances was considered a starting prospect. But injuries and other issues prevented it. Now he’s one of the top relievers in the game. “Right now we’re leaving him where he is,” said Yankees GM Brian Cashman. “Not messing with the success he’s having.”
9. Blake Swihart, C, Red Sox — A lot of people are in love with Swihart’s ability behind the plate and in the batter’s box, which is going to make the Sox’ future decision — Christian Vazquez or Swihart — tough. As good as Vazquez’s arm is, “Swihart is going to be the All-Star of the two,” said one AL scout. “Don’t get me wrong, any team would take Vazquez, who has also come a long way with the bat. But Swihart has athleticism, hits well from both sides of the plate.”
From the Bill Chuck files — “Umpire Tim Welke has called 1,084 strikes, the most in the majors. He also has called 234 pitches strikes that were out of the strike zone, also the most in the majors.” . . . Also, “A.J. Pierzynski has taken only 100 strikes, the fewest in the majors.” . . . Happy birthday on Monday to Matt Mantei (41) and Glenn Hoffman (56).Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.