SEATTLE — Rafael Devers’ first major league hit — a home run, no less, in the third inning of Wednesday’s 4-0 win over the Mariners — traveled 427 feet.
There are nearly as many reasons for the Boston Red Sox to not send him back to the minors later this week.
Devers got called up three days ago from Triple-A. He joined the Red Sox in Seattle on Monday and made his debut one night later. He’s the youngest player in the big leagues, three months shy of turning 21, and acts like it, walking around with wide eyes and a perma-grin on his face.
Oh, and Devers can play, too. He worked two walks Tuesday night and made a smart read on a wild pitch in the dirt to help fuel a three-run rally. On Wednesday, he crushed a fastball from Mariners starter Andrew Moore to straightaway center field, becoming the youngest Red Sox player to homer since Tony Conigliaro in 1965, and later singled off tough lefty reliever Marc Rzepczynski.
But let’s go back to that smile. For a Red Sox team that has been characterized by David Price’s scowl, Devers’ baby face was as refreshing as the breeze off Puget Sound. It’s worth keeping around, too, even when veteran infielder Eduardo Nunez joins the team Friday after being acquired from the San Francisco Giants late Tuesday night.
Rafael Devers, a 20-year-old rookie, has given the Red Sox a shot in the arm since being called up Monday. Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports “[Devers] is fun to watch,” said ace Chris Sale, who stretched his post-All-Star break scoreless streak to 20⅔ innings by shutting out the Mariners for seven innings in a sweep-averting victory. “He’s a new face in the clubhouse. Everybody had their first day, second day in the big leagues. You go back to that time and think about what it was like. To see him here and doing what he’s doing, he’s the youngest guy in the big leagues by a pretty good margin. Just the way he handles himself, it’s fun to watch.”
Imagine that? These Red Sox haven’t been much fun lately. They’re still in first place in the American League East, but 12 losses in 19 games since the Fourth of July have trimmed their lead from four games to one. When Price isn’t sniping at members of the media, including Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley on the team plane, manager John Farrell catches heat for not apologizing on Price’s behalf and legitimate questions arise about a leadership void in the clubhouse.
Fun? Not quite.
But maybe Devers’ arrival can help change all that. Perhaps the infusion of a 20-year-old kid who wore braces as recently as last year can remind the Red Sox that things could be a lot worse than being 56-47 and leading your division.
“I think that as long as I’m playing the game I’m going to be happy because that’s just my style of baseball,” Devers said through an interpreter. “If I’m not having fun while I’m out there, there’s really no reason for me to be out there.”
The only reason Devers wouldn’t be out there in Fenway Park on Friday night against the Kansas City Royals is if the Red Sox determine that he won’t get enough at-bats in a third-base platoon with Nunez. The Sox acquired Nunez because they believe he can boost their struggling offense, and both Farrell and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski have said they expect him to play regularly.
But there are ways for that to happen while still giving Devers regular at-bats. Nunez also plays shortstop and second base, where he could spell both banged-up Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia, respectively, once a week. And with Hanley Ramirez playing first base more often lately, Nunez and Devers could rotate through the designated-hitter spot.
Here’s the bottom line: Are the Red Sox better with Devers on the roster?
Even after only two games, the answer is obvious.
“He’s cheap mlb jerseys authentic got something special in that bat,” Farrell said of Devers. “This is not an easy ballpark to hit a ball out of to center field. Then he gets the left-hander and stays in the middle of the field for the line drive. He’s been impressive in the two days he’s been on the field.
“We’ve talked quite a bit recently about the need to get offense, and today is a display of what he’s capable of doing. He hasn’t hurt his cause by any means with what he’s done in a very short look. He’s taking care of what he can on his end.”
Devers admits he was nervous in the first inning Tuesday night. After that, though, he was cool as could be, from drawing a five-pitch walk against Seattle ace Felix Hernandez to handling every ball that was hit to him at third base.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, Devers became the first Red Sox player since Daniel Nava in 2010 to homer for his first hit when he took Moore deep. He circled the bases quickly, and thanks to a few phone calls and a reliable clubhouse attendant, the ball was retrieved and sitting in Devers’ locker after the game.
“It was surreal,” Devers said. “When I got back to the dugout I could barely walk, to be honest with you. I was just so happy about it.”
It was only too bad Devers’ family wasn’t here. He said his father was all set to book a plane ticket from the Dominican Republic, but Devers suggested his family meet him in Boston rather than trekking all the way to the West Coast.
“I don’t know how, but I can guarantee my dad found a way to watch the game today,” Devers said. “And I’m sure that my whole family was watching it there with him.”
As he spoke, Devers smiled, of course. If he sticks around long enough, maybe the rest of the Red Sox will start smiling more, too.
DETROIT — The Kansas City Royals don’t play the Detroit Tigers again until September.
That might be the one thing that keeps them from making a postseason run.
The Royals extended their winning streak to eight games with a 16-2 rout of the Tigers on Wednesday night. Five of the eight wins have come against the Tigers, who they have outscored 40-10 in the last four games, including a 16-4 win on July 20.
“We feel good right now,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “It is great that we have an off day tomorrow, but the way we are playing, you kind of wish maybe we could have an off day three or four days from now.”
The winning streak is Kansas City’s longest since a nine-game run from Aug. 14-23 last season.
“Our offense is giving us so much right now,” Yost said. “They just keep plugging away.”
Detroit has lost six of eight as trade rumors swirl around several key players.
“That can’t matter unless you actually get traded,” Justin Upton said. “We all know how this game works, so it is pretty unprofessional if that’s hindering anyone’s performance.”
Eric Hosmer matched a career high with five hits, including his first grand slam. He had six RBI and scored four runs.
“We had a lot of guys who started out rough this year, including me, but now we’re in a good place,” he said.
Hosmer entered with 117 homers but had not hit one with the bases loaded until he connected off Warwick Saupold in a nine-run seventh inning.
“I think the last grand slam I hit might have been in high school,” he said. “I’m glad to finally get one up here.”
Bruce Rondon was ejected with one out in the ninth after hitting Mike Moustakas on the back with a pitch, which caused both benches to empty. Rondon declined to speak to the media after the game.
“I think he was trying to hit me,” said Moustakas, who took a couple of steps toward the mound before stopping. “I don’t really understand what happened, but I got hit. I’ve been hit before. It’s not a big deal.”
Utilityman Andrew Romine entered in his third big league pitching appearance and faced five batters, allowing a walk, RBI single, sacrifice fly, hit batter and fly out.
“You never want to do that, because you are risking a guy’s career,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “Unfortunately, Romie has had to do that before, so he knows not to try to do too much.”
Ian Kennedy (4-6) improved to 3-0 in his last six starts, allowing one run and three hits in six innings.
Anibal Sanchez (2-1) had his worst start since returning in mid-June from a month-long demotion to the minor leagues. He allowed four runs and nine hits in 3 2/3 innings.
“They just did a great job of hitting,” he said. “Every time they made contact, it wholesale jerseys found a hole, and I wasn’t able to stop them.”
Hosmer reached on an infield single in the second, stole second and scored when Alcides Escobar singled on a 66 mph changeup. Kansas City made it 4-0 in the third on run-scoring singles by Jorge Bonifacio, Hosmer and Brandon Moss.
Jose Iglesias doubled in Detroit’s first run in the fifth, and Moustakas’ RBI single off Chad Bell sparked the big inning. Hosmer homered on a changeup, a drive over the out-of-town scoreboard, for a 13-1 lead.
Royals: C Salvador Perez did not play, a day after leaving a game with right-side tightness in his ribs. “Could he have started tonight? Yeah,” Yost said. “In fact, he fought me about it, but with a day off tomorrow, we can give him two full days of rest.”
Tigers: LHP Daniel Norris (left groin) had a second MRI on an injury that has sidelined him since the All-Star break. The test showed no further damage. He received a cortisone shot and will rest for several days.
Romine has played every position except catcher this season. Ausmus said this week he might let Romine catch an inning on the last day of the season if the Tigers have been eliminated. With a ninth-inning single, Romine became the second player in Comerica Park history to get a hit and pitch in the same game. Shane Halter had four hits on Oct. 1, 2000, a game in which he played all nine positions.
Royals: LHP Jason Vargas (12-4, 3.08 ERA) is scheduled to start Friday’s series opener at Boston, which opens with LHP David Price (5-3, 3.82).
Tigers: RHP Jordan Zimmermann (6-8, 5.81) is slated to start at home Friday against Houston.
DETROIT — The Kansas City Royals are playing with confidence right now in the late innings.
Salvador Perez and Mike Moustakas hit consecutive homers in the 12th, and the Royals won their sixth straight game, 5-3 over the Detroit Tigers on Monday night. Six of Kansas City’s last eight victories have come in the team’s final at-bat, and on this night, the bullpen held off Detroit long enough for the Royals to break through.
“You knew if we could just keep getting good relief pitching to give us an opportunity, that we’d find a way,” Kansas City manager Ned Yost said.
Hours after the Royals helped their pitching staff by acquiring Trevor Cahill and two relievers in a trade with San Diego, Kansas City outlasted the Tigers to stay 1 1/2 games behind first-place Cleveland in the AL Central. Jorge Bonifacio also homered for the Royals, who won despite squandering a 3-0 lead in the sixth.
Jakob Junis (3-2), one of seven relievers used by Kansas City, pitched a hitless 11th for the win. Kelvin Herrera finished for his 20th save in 23 chances.
Drew VerHagen (0-1) took the loss, allowing the homers to Perez and Moustakas in his third inning of work.
Perez put the Royals up 4-3 with his 20th homer of the year, a line drive that stayed inside the foul pole in left field, to lead off the 12th. Moustakas followed with a drive to right for his 29th home run of 2017.
“VerHagen could have thrown 100 pitches if we needed him, and we were so short in the bullpen that we didn’t have many other options,” Detroit manager Brad Ausmus said. “I thought he did a very good job, except for hanging two breaking balls. You can’t do that to hitters like Perez and Moustakas.”
Amid ongoing speculation he could be traded soon, Justin Verlander allowed three runs and five hits in seven innings for Detroit. He struck out nine and walked two.
Kansas City starter Jason Hammel allowed three runs and five hits in 5 2/3 innings.
Kansas City scored first when Bonifacio came home on a wild pitch in the fourth. Moustakas added a sacrifice fly later that inning to make it 2-0.
Bonifacio led off the sixth with his 14th home run, but Detroit scored three runs in the bottom of the inning. cheap jerseys Miguel Cabrera hit an RBI single, and Alex Avila lined a two-out, two-run single to left-center off reliever Scott Alexander. It was Avila’s third hit all season off a left-hander.
Verlander made his 373rd start for the Tigers, moving into a tie with Hal Newhouser for fifth on the franchise’s career list. The right-hander’s uncertain future meant this may have been his final appearance in Detroit.
“These last two starts have been the first time I’ve pitched in front of this many scouts since college,” he said.
He received a standing ovation from fans behind the dugout when he came off the field after the top of the seventh.
“It was very nice, and I felt it, I heard it, and these fans have been nothing but stellar to me my entire career. And hopefully they can say the same about me,” Verlander said. “I guess there might be a fleeting moment where you say, `This might be the last time.’ But it’s very fleeting. It’s, `I appreciate it, but we’ve got to score a run here. We’ve got to win a game.”
The Royals announced their trade with San Diego about 40 minutes before the first pitch. They received Cahill and relievers Brandon Maurer and Ryan Buchter.
“They’re going to be welcome with open arms,” Hammel said. “We’re trying to do something special here, and I know that the front office is trying to help out this team.”
The Minnesota Twins could deal away ace Ervin Santana and new acquisition Jaime Garcia if they continue to struggle, sources tell MLB Network’s Jon Morosi.
Rumor CentralThe Twins, surprise contenders in the American League Central during the first half, were 2.5 games back of the Cleveland Indians in the division at the All-Star break. Minnesota started the second half 4-7 and entering play Wednesday had fallen to third place, surpassed by the red-hot Kansas City Royals.
In 20 starts this season, Santana is 11-7 with a 3.26 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. The 34-year-old leads the majors with four complete games and three shutouts, and earned the second All-Star nod of his career this wholesale mlb jerseys year.
Garcia, acquired on Monday, is 4-7 with a 4.30 ERA and 1.32 WHIP in 18 starts with the Atlanta Braves.
Santana has one more year of guaranteed club control remaining on his contract and a $14 million option, or $1 million buyout, for 2019. Garcia, 31, will be a free agent at the end of this season.
A few weeks before the trade deadline a year ago, the Cubs acquired Aroldis Chapman, a star reliever who would spend one-third of a regular season and one full postseason in Chicago before hitting free agency.
Earlier this month, the Diamondbacks acquired J.D. Martinez, a star outfielder who will spend one-third of a regular season and (most likely) one full postseason in Arizona before hitting free agency.
The way we ordinarily assess major leaguers — by their WAR, for instance, or their projected WAR or even by how much a major league team is willing to pay them to play baseball — Martinez and Chapman are comparable. Chapman signed an $86 million contract last offseason; Martinez looks poised to get roughly that much. They are of roughly equal value. This is truly basic analysis, but it’s basically true analysis.
The Cubs gave up far, far more in trade to get Chapman than the Diamondbacks did to get Martinez. The Cubs gave up one of the 10 best prospects in baseball; the Diamondbacks gave up one of the 10 best prospects in the Diamondbacks system, perhaps. It follows, then, that either the Cubs got suckered or the Diamondbacks got a steal, and the Yankees were brilliant or the Tigers blew it. Maybe to all of that.
I’m here to warn you against declaring suckers and bargains at the trade deadline. The trade deadline is a borderline irrational marketplace that defies the sort of precision analysis we typically apply to transactions.
What makes the July market so bonkers?
1. Supply and demand fluctuate wildly from year to year — or even week to week.
Unlike the offseason, when the vast majority of teams are trying to improve in a general and immediate sense, trade deadline teams’ incentives are narrowly tailored to the standings, and their rosters are largely already set. Meanwhile, there isn’t a batch of dozens of free agents to choose from; there is a small handful of players available from out-of-it teams.
As Dave Cameron wrote for FanGraphs after the Martinez deal, this month there just weren’t any teams with a big enough need to bid against the Diamondbacks.
You can basically go through every contender in baseball and not really find another team like the Diamondbacks. They’re the only team who had the obvious corner-outfield need and the incentive to upgrade for the rest of 2017. Other teams were probably interested, but likely not interested enough to really push that hard for Martinez.
The other side of pricing is, of course, supply. And while there don’t seem to be that many teams buying corner-outfield rentals, there are a bunch of teams selling them. Compare that to the 2014 trade deadline, when Boston was shopping Andrew Miller, who had recently broken out as a top setup man in his final season before free agency. There were no other premium relievers available on the market that week, and according to Boston GM Ben Cherington, every contender in baseball called about Miller. The result: Boston got back a top-100 pitching prospect (Eduardo Rodriguez) in a move that Keith Law called “the best value move of the day,” bumming out Orioles partisans.
2. One trading partner might be more motivated to make a deal than the other.
In the offseason, even a rebuilding team can justify keeping its players, knowing that they’ll have another chance to cash in at the trade deadline (and that they might sell some season tickets in the meantime). But the Tigers, pretty much out of contention and about to see Martinez hit free agency, had almost no choice but to move him.
They could have tried waiting to see if another buyer emerged — either because another team got hot and played itself into contention or because an established contender was hit by an injury — but they couldn’t really not trade Martinez. The only leverage they had over the Diamondbacks was to bluff; otherwise, the Diamondbacks had much more power to set the price.
3. Not all buyers have the same reasons to buy.
The vast majority of teams go into an offseason hoping to win their division, not sure (beyond a range of 10 or 15 or so victories) how many games they’ll end up winning and not sure how many victories will be necessary. With this broad uncertainty, every win added is valuable. More important, every additional win is equally valuable for all competitive teams. Their goals for the offseason are all more or less the same: Get good players to win as many games as possible.
The trade deadline, though, comes when two-thirds of the season is finished, and a lot of the standings are baked firm. For a team such as the Royals, one or two wins could be the difference between winning a division and missing the playoffs entirely, a difference that could mean tens of millions of dollars in revenue and a dramatically different mood all offseason. But for a team such as the Astros, up by 17 games in the AL West, even 15 extra wins probably change absolutely nothing. The Royals, then, would theoretically be rational if they put a much higher value on a veteran upgrade than the Astros would.
Or wait! Maybe it’s the opposite. The Astros know that they’ll be playing in the American League Division Series. They know that they have a reasonable chance of winning a World Series and that whomever they add will be playing incredibly important games. The Royals, meanwhile, might need upgrades to stay alive in this race — but even if they stay alive, they might not make it to the postseason, and even if they make it to the postseason, it might be for only one game. If the point is to win or get close to a World Series, there’s a much better chance that a Royals trade would turn out to be for nothing.
Which is to say that the incentives are complicated, and every contending team has its own variables that change every day: how close they are to the division title, how close they are to a wild card, how much they value home-field advantage in a possible wild-card game, how strong their outlook is after this season. In the offseason, 15 teams might look at J.D. Martinez and value him close to equally. That isn’t true 100 games into a season.
4. July standings rev up rivalries.
With fewer teams in contention, with less ambiguity about which teams you’re battling, with probable playoff matchups foreseeable and with a small number of teams looking to upgrade at any position, it’s easier in July to see an acquisition as also obstructing a direct competitor’s pursuit. A player’s value to a team could be, in the right circumstances, just about doubled.
This was certainly part of what made the Yankees’ acquisition last week of third baseman Todd Frazier and relievers David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle such a coup in their pursuit of the division-leading Red Sox: Those are “three players who could have helped address the Red Sox’s two most glaring needs,” as ESPN’s Scott Lauber put it, and Frazier in particular was probably the last true third baseman on the trade market.
5. The playoffs are a whole new ballgame.
At this point last year, Cleveland had a comfortable lead in its division and a 97 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to Baseball Prospectus. With such an easy path to October, giving up two top prospects for Andrew Miller — now a bona fide relief ace — didn’t mean much for the rest of the regular season. (They won their division by eight games.) But the Indians knew that when the postseason came around, they would be able to guarantee that Miller would be on the mound in some of the biggest moments of their season. The difference between acquiring him and not acquiring him would be dramatic; a World Series appearance might ride on a single at-bat Miller could be held back for.
This is not true for the Diamondbacks and Martinez. He’ll bat when his turn in the lineup comes up. The closer to the postseason we get, the more it might make sense to invest in October-specific value rather than an April-to-September roster.
6. Clubhouse chemistry is complicated.
The conventional wisdom around baseball these days is that good clubhouse chemistry is desirable and important but hard to engineer or anticipate or even assess. This is all amplified for a player added midseason, who joins a team that already has its culture, its narrative arc, its pregame music routines and its post-hit celebration memes. The player added midseason doesn’t go through the cheap mlb jerseys authentic team-building rituals of spring training. And the player added midseason joins a team that, mostly likely, has had success. If that success suddenly evaporates, he is the new variable who might well be blamed.
See, for instance, the panic that grew throughout the summer of 2014 after the A’s traded Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester and went 22-33 thereafter. It wasn’t Lester who was blamed, but the trade took on totemic significance in the collapse narrative — a narrative even the players bought into.
7. The future is unwritten.
The Cubs this month traded for Jose Quintana. As all players’ are, Quintana’s next few months and next few years are unpredictable. When Baseball Prospectus used its PECOTA projections to forecast him before the season, for instance, it figured that he was a three-WAR pitcher, but it also allowed that there was a 10 percent chance he’d be a five-WAR pitcher and a 10 percent chance he’d be a one-WAR pitcher. Knowing everything we knew about Quintana, we couldn’t really rule out that he’d be on Cy Young ballots, and we couldn’t rule out that he’d pitch like a lousy fifth starter.
That is a scale of uncertainty we can handle, though. The headline name the Cubs gave up for Quintana exists in a world of uncertainty that could make or break a franchise. Eloy Jimenez was the 14th-best prospect in baseball coming into the season, according to Baseball America. Carlos Beltran was once the 14th-best prospect in baseball, and he turned into a superstar who might make the Hall of Fame. Drew Henson was once the 14th-best prospect in baseball, and he retired with one major league hit. If the range of Jose Quintana outcomes spans, say, 10 WAR over the final two and a half years of his current contract, the range of Eloy Jimenez outcomes over the next seven years might be 30 or 40 WAR. To declare a winner or loser based on a player who might turn into Carlos Beltran or might turn into Drew Henson — with absolutely no clue yet which — is bold.
This is true even of the non-headline names. When Cleveland traded Jake Westbrook in a three-way deadline deal in 2010, it got back a fringy Double-A pitcher who had a career 4.29 ERA across the Padres’ minor league system and was barely even mentioned in the next day’s newspaper articles. Four years later, he won the Cy Young Award, and two years after that, he pitched the Indians to Game 7 of the World Series. He’s Corey Kluber, he was the best player traded that summer, and it radically altered two franchises.
Of course, none of this means we can’t analyze a trade. Better prospects — such as the ones the Yankees got for Chapman — are better than lesser prospects. Diamondbacks fans can be pleasantly surprised that they got Martinez for so little, and Tigers fans can be disappointed that their GM didn’t find a more robust market for such an excellent player. But it’s never harder than it is in July to call a GM a genius or a fool, and it’s never harder to anticipate who we’ll say “won” a trade when we look back 10 years from now.