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Around the NL East: Second-half showdown

Jul 15, 2014, 12:34 PM EDT

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

ATLANTA BRAVES 

At the All-Star Break, this division’s starting to shake out the way most expected it to — with the Braves battling the Nationals down the stretch for the NL East crown. After a nine-game win streak briefly vaulted Atlanta into first place, Washington came right back and both teams enter the break tied atop the division.

So what will be the thing that separates these two teams come the end of the season? Probably what usually does: Pitching. The Braves have managed to survive a bevy of injuries to their starting rotation going back to spring training, and have received gutsy performances by pitchers they weren’t counting on earlier in the season. Perhaps they make a move to upgrade the rotation at the trade deadline, but even if they don’t they’ve still managed to lead the league in quality starts with 65. As for the Nats, they need the trio of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and (a healthy) Jordan Zimmermann to collectively step up and lead the rotation the rest of the way.

And if the pitching performances are comparable, then it’ll probably come down to the nine games (8/8-10, 9/8-10, & 9/15-17) these two teams have left against each other. It’s definitely shaping up to be an entertaining second half of the season in the NL East.

MIAMI MARLINS  

The Marlins got a pleasant surprise over the weekend as it was announced starting pitcher Henderson Alvarez would replace the injured Jordan Zimmermann on the All-Star team. His selection along with Giancarlo Stanton’s gives Miami two members on the National League team for the first time since 2010. Alvarez may have joined the roster because of an injury, but his 2.63 ERA is fourth-best among starters in the NL, so he’s certainly deserving of the nod. As for Stanton — who was a slam-dunk All-Star selection —  he wowed early in the Home Run Derby before eventually bowing out in the second round.

Unfortunately for the Marlins as a team, things are rapidly falling apart. They stayed in it for the majority of the season’s first half, but a rough June and early July have all but doomed their chances for the season. They are now fallen to fourth place and sit 7.5 back of the division lead.

NEW YORK METS

The good news for the Mets? They’ve started to put things together recently, winning seven of their last eight games. The bad news? It’s probably too little, too late. Despite their recent hot streak, they’re still seven games back and have a tough second half schedule ahead. They also may have already labeled themselves as sellers at the trade deadline, with rumors that starter Bartolo Colon is available for any team that wants him. This potential trade would make a lot of sense, as the Mets have a surplus of young arms in the starting rotation who are all under contract for the next few seasons, while Colon is an aging veteran whose contract expires after 2015.

And even though the future might be bright for New York’s rotation, they still have issues elsewhere that cost them a chance to be in contention this season. Obviously the Mets would like to finish the year on the upswing regardless, but this division will belong to either the Braves or the Nationals when it’s all said and done.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

The fire sale many have expected is about to begin in Philly. With the trade deadline just a few weeks away, the rumor mill is buzzing around the City of Brotherly Love. From Marlon Byrd to Chase Utley to Cole Hamels, it seems like everyone on the Phillies roster is up for grabs. However, if there’s one roadblock, it’s that most if not all of the chips have some form of a no-trade clause in their contracts. Jimmy Rollins and Utley, for instance, have 10-5 rights, and Hamels owns a no-trade clause where he can block a deal to 20 MLB teams.

We’ll see how much that matters in the end; if players want to be traded, they’ll waive the clause and move on regardless. But for the time being, it may limit the team’s trade partners. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has a golden opportunity in front of him, with many high-priced veterans drawing interest from around the league. The only question now is if he’ll be able to make the most of it as the Phillies roster is in desperate need of a reboot.

  1. Zona - Jul 15, 2014 at 12:57 PM

    🔩 the braves!

  2. Theophilus T.S. - Jul 15, 2014 at 1:12 PM

    “Both teams enter the break tied …” in most circumstances I can imagine would be redundant.

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jul 15, 2014 at 1:22 PM

      … as opposed to “one of the teams is tied, and the other is percentage points behind them.”
      ; )

  3. NatsLady - Jul 15, 2014 at 1:19 PM

    Nats Stats for Week 15

  4. Sec 3 My Sofa - Jul 15, 2014 at 1:24 PM

    Wait, Bartolo Colon is available? They have to trade for this guy, whatever it takes! I think Michael Taylor, Giolito, and … shoot, no second baseman available. Probably don’t have enough to pull this off.

    • water47 - Jul 15, 2014 at 2:31 PM

      Hmm… Anthony Rendon plays second. ;) That would make it about the same as last time!

  5. rayvil01 - Jul 15, 2014 at 1:32 PM

    Braves are not being quiet about wanting a lefty reliever. It may cost them that good-looking catcher prospect Bettancourt. Will be interesting to watch. In the meantime they are seriously stuck with Uggla.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 15, 2014 at 2:43 PM

      They will have to DFA Uggla because nobody will trade for him unless he agrees to go to Japan.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jul 15, 2014 at 2:51 PM

        I don’t suppose we could get the whole franchise to move to Japan?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 15, 2014 at 2:59 PM

        Wishful thinking!

  6. needanatsfix - Jul 15, 2014 at 1:33 PM

    Do players with the ability to block trades to certain teams get to change that list regularly (perhaps before every season starts) or typically only when the original contract is signed?

    If it is possible to change teams annually, it seems Hamels would be able to almost create a full no-trade clause. Of the 29 teams, this year he could leave open the possibility to be traded to San Diego, Houston, Colorado, Tampa, Miami, Cubs and Mets and have almost no chance any of those teams would be contending or willing to give up prospects. Add in two more teams that have almost no talent in their farm systems (Milwaukee and Detroit?) and you effectively have created a full no-trade clause.

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jul 15, 2014 at 2:39 PM

      It’s a contract, they can agree to almost anything that doesn’t contradict the CBA or the law, but like all contracts, both parties have to agree.

      So if they put that in there at the beginning, that the list gets re-negotiated, then I suppose so.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 15, 2014 at 2:46 PM

        Exactly right Sec3. They can waive their rights and accept another opportunity. The Orioles are trying to do just that.

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jul 15, 2014 at 2:44 PM

      He could leave open the possibility to be traded to San Diego, Houston, Colorado, Tampa, Miami, Cubs and Mets and have almost no chance any of those teams would be contending or willing to give up prospects.

      But as described, it might be like making a qualifying offer to a guy the team expects to decline it, and then when he takes them up on it, they’re stuck with someone they didn’t really want. He could wind up traded to a team with no chance, but a batguano-crazy GM. That would suck.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jul 15, 2014 at 2:45 PM

        Although, in Hamels’s case, it would be “out of the frying pan, into the other frying pan.”

  7. water47 - Jul 15, 2014 at 2:40 PM

    For this year, Hamels has a specific list. The only teams he can be traded to

    Dodgers, Padres, Angels, Cardinals, Nationals, Braves, Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers
    Cole Hamel’s no trade list

    As the article notes, the teams are either contenders(Next year for Rangers) or West Coast teams. But in reality, no way the Padres make a deal and it is unlikely that the Phils trade him to the Barves or Nats.

  8. Hiram Hover - Jul 15, 2014 at 2:48 PM

    Is it my imagination, or did Mark have a post about Bud and MASN that has now disappeared?

    And if so – who’s the culprit: a voracious Word Press that has now moved on to eating whole posts, or a vindictive Bud Selig who has eyes everywhere?

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jul 15, 2014 at 2:53 PM

      HH, that happens sometimes when Mark & al. are working on a post and accidentally make it public too soon, then pull it back.

      • Hiram Hover - Jul 15, 2014 at 3:01 PM

        Thanks, Sofa. Still not sure I’m ready to absolve Bud, however.

  9. Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 15, 2014 at 2:48 PM

    The “annual” MASN update dispute is hilarious. Selig wants us to believe it could be resolved by January 2015 which is before he retires.

    • ArVAFan - Jul 15, 2014 at 3:02 PM

      It could happen without repealing any laws of physics. So yes, it “could” be resolved. And Congress could pass immigration legislation before the next election, Queen Elizabeth could abdicate, or the Post Office and Amtrak could report a profit in the same year.

      But I’m not betting on any of those happening.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jul 15, 2014 at 3:07 PM

        I’ve been trying to get DC to merge several problem departments into one, to cut down on overhead. In my plan, the Water & Sewer Authority, Metro, and University of the District of Columbia would be merged into one department,

        WASA-MATA U.

        #I’mHereAllWeek!

      • Hiram Hover - Jul 15, 2014 at 3:08 PM

        Exactly.

        I thought it was very weird that Kilgore is reporting this as “Bud sets a target date.” He did nothing of the kind. He responded to a question that contained a specific date (“your retirement”) with a vague answer (“I would say there’s a good chance”).

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 15, 2014 at 3:19 PM

        Yep, I will believe it when I see it.

      • 6ID20 - Jul 15, 2014 at 3:22 PM

        Not only can Kilgore not ask a coherent question, he can’t comprehend an answer either.

  10. micksback1 - Jul 15, 2014 at 2:59 PM

    we did get Frandsen from Phillies via free agency, and I am sure the Phils knew befre then that the nats would get him so it is conceivable that the Phils may not care if Hamels watned to go to DC and perhaps they could work something out. it is an intriguing thought

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jul 15, 2014 at 3:03 PM

      As I recall, the Phillies FO expected Frandsen to accept the minor league assignment, and (it was reported) they were surprised when he walked away from a guaranteed $900,000 to take his chances on the open market. Given that they were going to send him to AAA, they probably don’t value him in the same ZIP Code as Hamels.

      That said, there’s no such thing as too much pitching. Of course, there is such a thing as too many long, expensive contracts for aging stars, and Hamels’s contract fits right in with that.

      • micksback1 - Jul 15, 2014 at 3:06 PM

        your probably right, what if Hamels took a 1 year deal?

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jul 15, 2014 at 3:10 PM

        Hamels signed a six-year extension two years ago, for a [large amount] of money.

        “Hamels [in July 2012] signed a six-year contract worth an average of $24 million per season that prevents the 2008 World Series MVP from becoming a free agent. The deal includes a club vesting option for 2019 and a limited no-trade provision.”

      • natsjackinfl - Jul 15, 2014 at 3:15 PM

        You beat me to it, Sofa. Plus there is no way Rizzo is adding payroll.

        He has to make room for the players he has.

      • 6ID20 - Jul 15, 2014 at 3:23 PM

        Also, the last thing the Nats need more of right now is pitching.

  11. micksback1 - Jul 15, 2014 at 3:14 PM

    got it, thanks sofa, oh well

  12. coop202 - Jul 15, 2014 at 3:21 PM

    So span is popping up in mlb trade rumors?

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 15, 2014 at 3:33 PM

      I don’t buy it as current news. That’s old news.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jul 15, 2014 at 4:04 PM

        Old rumors. Not even old news.

  13. natsguy - Jul 15, 2014 at 3:33 PM

    Any info about draft signings?

    Today is the deadline.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 15, 2014 at 3:35 PM

      Check your calendar again. 3 more days.

    • NatsLady - Jul 15, 2014 at 3:40 PM

      No, 5 p.m. Friday, and you know Boras and Rizzo will take it to the last minute. That’s how they get their jollies.

  14. NatsLady - Jul 15, 2014 at 3:38 PM

    Does anyone know what’s going on here? Because our guy (Fedde) had his surgery already, and I don’t believe he’s signed yet. What is Houston doing that has the union in a knot? The article doesn’t give much background.

    http://blog.chron.com/ultimateastros/2014/07/15/players-union-astros-at-odds-over-draft-picks-brady-aiken-jacob-nix/#24048101=0

    • Hiram Hover - Jul 15, 2014 at 3:44 PM

      He and the team agreed on $6.5M 3-4 weeks ago and he flew there to sign the contract. Then, they found problems with his medicals, put it on hold for weeks, and finally cut the amount by more than half, to ~$3.2M–which is the minimum they have to offer him to get a comp pick next year if he turns it down.

      http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/brady-aiken

      • NatsLady - Jul 15, 2014 at 4:16 PM

        Thanks. Boy that is one big mess. You really feel sorry for Nix, who had nothing to do with anything and sees his deal possibly go down the drain. I don’t get that at all.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Jul 15, 2014 at 4:17 PM

        Yeah, but you gotta admit, the headline possibilities are juicy.

      • Eugene in Oregon - Jul 15, 2014 at 4:34 PM

        When you have the first overall pick in the draft, don’t you address/resolve these issues beforehand?

      • Hiram Hover - Jul 15, 2014 at 5:21 PM

        Grrr. I think WP is back to eating comments.

        Eugene – I think it’s common to do a final physical after terms have been agreed in principle. Happens with FA too, sometimes with bad results – remember Grant Balfour and what the Os did to him, and Mike Napoli and the Red Sox a few years back.

      • Eugene in Oregon - Jul 15, 2014 at 5:25 PM

        Agreed, but having the first overall pick often allows teams to do some of those things earlier — assuming they had any sort of indication this might be a problem (and maybe they didn’t?).

  15. tcostant - Jul 15, 2014 at 4:08 PM

    What happen to the post about the MASN issue???

    • Eugene in Oregon - Jul 15, 2014 at 4:35 PM

      We all imagined it?

  16. secretwasianman - Jul 15, 2014 at 4:34 PM

    The king of negative ( myself ) says Nats will be up 7 games by Labor Day and win the division by 4 games. Bank it.

    • Eric - Jul 15, 2014 at 7:37 PM

      Feel good post of the summer!

    • Jeff - Jul 17, 2014 at 2:07 AM

      The phillies have to help by besting braves ala Mets.
      Gattis is not McCann
      Upton bros together are not one
      Werth!

  17. Jeff - Jul 17, 2014 at 2:03 AM

    The cream is at the top for the Nats.
    Solid pitching staff while below the surface the commish office promises resolution to the MASN pct play,
    Rizzo keeps us in suspense with
    His top two draft picks from draft
    And on the farm several affiliates are
    Putting together good win pcts despite
    The two starters a night concept ( is Austin Voth the only guy going 6-7 IP
    Above Hagerstown ?) along with
    Harrisburg enduring an extensive disabled list year causing 6-8 minor
    League free agent arms to be brought
    On board. Talk about weAthering a storm before Mayfly season.
    That’s baseball
    Beat ATL. That’s simple .

Archives

NLDS: NATIONALS VS. GIANTS

FRI: Game 1 at Washington, 3:07 p.m. (FS1)
SAT: Game 2 at Washington, 5:37 p.m. (FS1)
MON: Game 3 at San Francisco, TBA (MLBN)
TUE: Game 4 at San Francisco, TBA (FS1)*
THU: Game 5 at Washington, TBA (FS1)*
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