With the Aug. 1 trade deadline five weeks away, 21 teams went into the weekend within five games of a playoff berth.
Four of those teams had losing records. The list doesn’t include the Padres, who were 5½ out in the wild-card race and certainly won’t give up on their season given their expensive roster.
Or the Mets, a built-to-win team that has struggled but isn’t likely to cash out. It’s hard to imagine owner Steve Cohen admitting defeat after approving a record payroll.
With so few teams in a place to be committed sellers, this trade deadline could be defined by how many times playoff contenders can match up with each other to make mutual improvements.
To use the Red Sox as an example, they could trade Adam Duvall knowing Jarren Duran can step into center field. The Brewers, Guardians, Marlins, Mariners, and Twins all need offensive help.
Duvall has played almost every day since coming off the injured list. Several executives from other teams believe the Red Sox are hoping he will get hot and become tradeable. Otherwise, what would be the point of decreasing Duran’s playing time at a time he was emerging as a valuable player?
The other interesting aspect of the deadline will be which teams follow the blueprint of Baltimore general manager Mike Elias from last season.
Elias traded All-Star closer Jorge Lopez to the Twins on Aug. 2, getting back four prospects. The Orioles were 52-51 at the time and 2½ games out of a wild-card spot.
The trade angered Orioles fans and players at the time, but it paid off. Yennier Cano is now a dominant setup man for the Orioles and 22-year-old Juan Lopez has pitched well in Single A. Baltimore is in second place in the AL East.
The Twins didn’t make the playoffs and Jorge Lopez had a 5.00 earned run average over 29 games and blew four saves before going on the injured list with mental health issues.
The Pirates are similar to the 2022 Orioles. Ben Cherington has done well building the talent base to feed what could be a multiyear window of contention. Team president Travis Williams said that ownership will allow Cherington “to do what he needs to do” to make the postseason.
The next few weeks will determine Cherington’s path. But his play could be to become a seller with the idea of making a more realistic run next season once Oneil Cruz is healthy and Henry Davis is established.
The Cubs (Marcus Stroman, Cody Bellinger), Guardians (Shane Bieber), Tigers (Eduardo Rodriguez, Michael Lorenzen), Mariners (Paul Sewald), and Red Sox (Duvall, Justin Turner, maybe others) are all teams that could ignore the false allure of the wild-card standings and take advantage of the market to trade veterans and set up the future.
TIP OF THE CAP
Duvall makes pitch for fellow diabetics
Every now and then, when an inning goes long and he’s standing in the outfield, Adam Duvall gets an unwelcome reminder of his Type 1 diabetes.
He starts to feel jittery or light-headed as his blood sugar level starts to drop.
“I get a little nervous sometimes,” he said. “Like, when is this inning going to end?”
It’s why Duvall always asks the Red Sox relief pitchers to bring an extra bottle of Gatorade or a protein bar out to the bullpen so he can get some help when needed.
“I’ll yell out, ‘Hey, I need some sugar,’ and they’ll get something to me during a pitching change,” Duvall said. “It can get a little scary if you’re out there a long time. I need that quick-acting sugar like from juice.”
Duvall discovered he had Type 1 diabetes in 2012 when he was a Single A player in the Giants organization. He rapidly lost weight, his mouth always felt dry, and he was waking up frequently at night to use the bathroom.
“Just always drained and tired,” he said. “I knew something was wrong.”
A blood test revealed he was a diabetic.
“It was like a smack in the face,” Duvall said. “But then it became finding a way to attack it.”
Duvall learned it was a genetic disease that caused the pancreas to stop producing insulin, the hormone that controls blood glucose levels. It can be controlled with insulin being administered via injection or through a pump, along with a proper diet and exercise.
Duvall plays with a quarter-sized sensor attached to his body and a pump in his back pocket. A thin tube delivers insulin via a small needle in the skin. The pump works continuously to deliver small amounts of insulin.
“I wear it every minute of every day besides when I shower,” Duvall said. “It’s hooked up 24/7.”
The sensor and pump communicate via Bluetooth and Duvall gets data on his phone to monitor his health. Diabetes doesn’t interfere with playing baseball at all provided Duvall stays alert to the readings from his sensor.
“Every time I’ve changed teams I get with their doctors and go through the process,” Duvall said. “I monitor myself, but they know what to do if I’m going low. I communicate with the medical staff as much as possible.”
Brewers outfielder Garrett Mitchell is a Type 1 diabetic, as were a number of former players, including Catfish Hunter, Ron Santo, Sam Fuld, and Dave Hollins.
“There are a few of us in baseball,” Duvall said. “We talk a lot and help each other out.”
One of the recent topics has been the rising cost of insulin. Duvall can afford his insulin prescription, but many others can’t with prices soaring in recent years.
Duvall has partnered with the American Diabetes Association and Eli Lilly, the nation’s largest manufacturer of insulin, to promote its $35 out-of-pocket monthly price cap on the drug.
“There needs to be increased awareness of this affordable insulin so that people who need it can get it,” he said. “This is an option.”
Lilly.com has more details.
“We need the information to be out there,” Duvall said.
Now 34, Duvall has played parts of 10 seasons in the majors. He was an All-Star in 2016 and won a Gold Glove in 2021 when he helped lead the Braves to a World Series title.
His accomplishments become more impressive when you consider Duvall missed his senior year of high school in Kentucky recovering from back surgery and barely played as a freshman at the University of Louisville.
He transferred to a junior college to get playing time, then returned to Louisville and was a 11th-round pick in the 2010 draft.
“I basically missed two years when you do a lot of development as a player,” he said. “That was the first hurdle and the second one was, of course, the diabetes.
“I’d think I’m mentally tougher because of everything that’s happened. I feel like I have a good perspective on things.”
A few other observations on the Red Sox:
▪ Connor Wong started a 2-6-3 double play against the Twins on Tuesday, jumping out from behind the plate to snare a ball tapped a few feet by Max Kepler and firing it to second base.
Globe teammate Alex Speier determined that it was the first such play made by a Red Sox catcher since May 5, 1967, also against the Twins in Minnesota. They played at Metropolitan Stadium then.
Twins pitcher Mudcat Grant hit a ball in front of the plate. Bob Tillman threw to Rico Petrocelli and the relay went to George Scott.
When Wong got back to the dugout, Jason Varitek joked that it would have taken him that long to get to the ball. Wong’s athleticism is something unusual in a catcher.
▪ Sports Info Solutions, which tracks injuries, reported that Tanner Houck was the 12th pitcher this season to be hit by a batted ball and suffer an injury that caused him to leave the game.
There were eight such instances in 2022 and six in 2021.
It could well be happenstance. But there is some concern that pitchers are putting themselves in danger by seeking extra extension when they release the ball. The farther down the mound they go, the less time they have to react to line drives.
▪ The Marlins will be at Fenway Park on Tuesday for a three-game series. Their third base coach is Jody Reed, who played for the Sox from 1987-92 and was a doubles machine.
Reed hasn’t been back at Fenway in uniform since 1997, when he was with the Tigers in the final year of his career. Here’s hoping he gets a nice reception from the fans.
▪ The Red Sox went from 1901 until nearly halfway through this season without having any players named Hamilton on their roster. Then David Hamilton was called up on Wednesday and Caleb Hamilton on Thursday.
According to Baseball-Reference.com, David Hamilton was the 22,985th player in major league history. It’s amazing to think every player in history could fit in Fenway Park with plenty of room to spare.
▪ Chris Sale threw a simulated game in Fort Myers, Fla., on March 15. He went five innings against four minor leaguers.
One of them was Chase Meidroth, a 21-year-old infielder who was a fourth-round pick last year from the University of San Diego.
Several of the Sox coaches watching Sale that day commented afterward about Meidroth not giving into Sale and having some good at-bats.
Fast forward three months later and Meidroth has an .885 OPS with Double A Portland. He had 22 walks and 22 strikeouts in his first 30 games with the Sea Dogs. Meidroth earned a promotion after only 20 games with Greenville.
Those tough at-bats against Sale in an empty ballpark were a sign of what was to come.
Arraez chasing magical .400 mark
Marlins second baseman Luis Arraez is not a national figure. That could soon change, or at least it should.
Through Friday, the 27-year-old was hitting .402 and had five-hit games on June 3, 16, and 19. Only four players — Ty Cobb (1922), Stan Musial (1948), Tony Gwynn (1993), and Ichiro Suzuki (2004) — have four such games in one season.
The last player with three five-hit games in a month was Dave Winfield from June 3-25, 1984. The last player hitting .390 or better this late in the season was Chipper Jones in 2008, when he took a .394 average into July.
Arraez has yet to strike out twice in a game this season and has never struck out three times in a game over five seasons in the majors. He leads the majors with 32 multi-hit games this season.
No player has hit .400 since Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941. The closest was Gwynn (.394) in 1994.
In an age when batting average has been devalued and strikeouts are overlooked as the price you pay for power, Arraez is a freak hitter. He rarely hits the ball hard and he’s not a particularly fast runner. But he strikes out in only 5 percent of his plate appearances and hits the ball to all fields.
Will Middlebrooks analyzed it well on his “Wake and Rake” podcast. “No one hits like this,” he said.
It’s also wild to consider that Arraez could hit .400 and not be named Most Valuable Player in the National League. Right now, you could make a good argument for Ronald Acuña Jr. or Corbin Carroll instead.
Say this for Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, he’s determined. His team has underachieved more than could have been expected, but Baldelli has maintained his belief in the roster. “It’s hard to muster something up when you’re playing probably the lowest level of baseball that you can play as a group,” he said. “It’s hard to sit there and go, ‘It’s going to get better.’ But I promise you, this team is going to get better from what we’re watching right now.” Given what has been strong pitching, the Twins need more from Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa to ignite what has been an inconsistent lineup. At 29, Buxton is now a full-time DH as the Twins try to keep him healthy. “Physically, he cannot play in the field,” Baldelli said. “I’ve said that from the first day until now. If we even thought it was possible, he could play the outfield right now, he would be out there. But he can’t.” Buxton’s two towering home runs against the Red Sox on Thursday were a sign of what he remains capable of. Correa’s .708 OPS has been a shock. Issues with his left foot have dimmed Correa’s power, but he’s also chasing pitches … The Rays are 23-6 in games started by Shane McClanahan and Zach Eflin … Giancarlo Stanton has hit .208 with a .744 OPS the last two seasons. There is occasional home run power, but his athleticism has vanished. As one scout noted, what should be doubles are often singles and playing the outfield brings too much injury risk. At 33, Stanton is sliding fast and still has four years left on his contract … Aaron Hicks had a .996 OPS in his first 18 games for the Orioles with the Yankees paying all but the prorated minimum of his $9.7 million salary. Will Josh Donaldson be next to go from the Yankees? He is hitting .211 with a .674 OPS over 152 games dating to the beginning of last season … The Reds are 11-5-1 in their last 17 series, surging from 8½ games behind to 1½ games in front … Baseball can be unforgiving. As part of their Father’s Day pregame ceremonies at Truist Park last Sunday, the Braves planned to have utilityman Charlie Culberson catch a first pitch from his father. But Culberson was designated for assignment before the game … West Roxbury’s Packy Naughton is set for season-ending elbow surgery on Monday. The 27-year-old Cardinals lefthander appeared in four games this season without allowing a run before going on the injured list … Worcester Academy righthander Mavrick Rizy was chosen to play in the MLB/USA Baseball High School All-American Game at T-Mobile Park on July 7. The game is a showcase for players in the high school class of 2024. The 6-foot-9-inch Rizy is committed to UConn but will be a prominent name on draft boards next year … Happy birthday to Dick Drago, who is 78. The righthander played for the Red Sox from 1974-75 and again from 1978-81. Drago appeared in 40 games for the 1975 Sox, posting a 3.84 ERA over 72⅔ innings. Drago took the loss in Game 2 of the World Series. He was next on the mound in Game 6 and was saved in the 11th inning when Dwight Evans made his memorable catch of Joe Morgan and doubled off Ken Griffey to end the inning. You know what happened next. Drago was traded to the Angels during spring training in 1976, then returned to the Sox as a free agent in 1978.