Are the Dodgers the NL team to beat after adding Manny Machado?

Are the Dodgers the NL team to beat after adding Manny Machado?

The Manny Machado trade watch finally came to an end Wednesday. As Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reported, the Los Angeles Dodgers officially acquired the four-time All-Star from the Baltimore Orioles in a deal that could shift the NL’s balance of power back to California.

The Dodgers were able to meet the Orioles lofty asking price, parting with five prospects to get the deal completed. There were reported medical hurdles involved too, but when the dust finally settled the Dodgers got their man.

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It’s the second straight year Los Angeles has dealt for the biggest name on the trade market. At the July 31 deadline last season, the Dodgers pulled off a buzzer-beating trade to land pitcher Yu Darvish from the Texas Rangers. That deal helped get the Dodgers to the World Series, where they ultimately lost in seven games to the Houston Astros. 

Like Darvish, Machado will be a mere two-month rental. The Dodgers are so close to the luxury tax threshold already that they wouldn’t be afford Machado in free agency this winter without making other big moves. It’s an all-in move for 2018. 

Now the questions become: Does adding Manny Machado make the Dodgers the National League team to beat again this season? Or better yet, will it boost them to the franchise’s first World Series championship since 1988?

Let’s take a closer look.

How does acquiring Manny Machado help the Dodgers?

Machado is arguably the second best player in MLB right now behind Mike Trout. The 26-year-old is an offensive force, and has remained productive this season despite being the focus of relentless trade rumors. Machado entered the All-Star break hitting .315/.387/.575 with 24 homers in 413 plate appearances.

From a production standpoint, adding Machado will further boost the Dodgers top 10 offense in runs scored and home runs. Where it might help them most though is that it blocked another National League contender from possibly acquiring him. Both the Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers were reported to be finalists in the Machado sweepstakes. Either team could have easily vaulted to the top of the NL had they acquired Machado.

How could acquiring Manny Machado hurt the Dodgers?

There could be some concerns surrounding Machado defensively. According to most advanced defensive metrics, he’s graded poorly since moving to shortstop this season. He was a two-time Gold Glove winner as a third baseman, but his heart is set on playing shortstop during the next stage of his career. The Dodgers might have to sacrifice a bit defensively for the upgrade Machado brings offensively.

Manny Machado poses with new Dodgers teammate Matt Kemp during the All-Star Game. (AP)

How good were the Dodgers before adding Manny Machado?

The Dodgers were surprisingly slow starters this season, only finally getting over the .500 mark in mid June. Since then, they’ve looked more like the contenders we expected them to be coming into 2018. Los Angeles will take a half-game lead in the second half as it bids to win its sixth straight NL West title.

Injuries have been the root of the Dodgers problems. Justin Turner missed the first six weeks with a broken wrist. Corey Seager played 26 games before undergoing Tommy John surgery. Clayton Kershaw has missed nearly two months with back issues. Now Yasiel Puig is out with an oblique strain. Obviously Seager isn’t coming back, but with better health this team was starting to look pretty good. With Machado and potentially better health coming down the line, they could be scary good. 

Which NL teams could give the Dodgers problems?

The Dodgers have split the last two NLCS with the Chicago Cubs. As it stands now, Chicago figures to be their No. 1 nemesis again. Joe Maddon’s squad has a deep lineup as well, but will probably need an upgrade or two to the pitching staff to solidify their standing.

The Phillies and Brewers were reportedly aggressive on Machado. They were already teams to be taken seriously. Now they can possibly use their Machado prospects to add two or three more players to the mix.

What are the Dodgers current World Series odds?

According to Bovada, the Dodgers are now the class of the NL. They still have a ways to go though to catch the American League’s elite trio consisting of the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and reigning World Series champion Houston Astros.

Machado is clearly the biggest addition the Dodgers could have made right now. Maybe they’ll have one more big move up their sleeves to take them to the next level.

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Down on the Farm: Giants' second-round pick living up to his historic height

Down on the Farm: Giants' second-round pick living up to his historic height

For good reasons, Joey Bart has earned all the headlines with his big bat and eye-popping stats. The Giants’ top pick in the 2018 MLB Draft now has seven home runs and 18 RBI in 11 games for the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. 

Bart, however, isn’t the first player that makes you stop in your tracks when looking at San Francisco’s draft picks this year. The Giants’ second pick in this year’s draft and biggest player (by height) has been quite impressive himself. 

Bart’s battery mate Sean Hjelle is living up to his 6-foot-11 frame. The second-round pick has posted three straight scoreless outings for Salem-Keizer. 

In fact, Hjelle has only allowed one earned run to start his professional career. That came in his first start, the only time Bart has not caught him.

Over Hejelle’s scoreless streak, he has allowed just two hits in five innings with four strikeouts and no walks. Through six innings with Salem-Keizer, Hjelle is 0-0 with a 1.45 ERA and has five strikeouts to no walks. 

“We love the way he’s handled himself. He doesn’t move like he’s a 6-foot-11 pitcher,” Giants scouting director John Barr said after drafting Hjelle. “You expect him to be gawky but he moves his feet. When he walks past you or you shake his hand, you realize how tall he is. When he’s on the mound he controls his body. He really controls his body well, which shows his athleticism. He’s a good athlete.”

The Giants selected Hjelle No. 45 overall out of the University of Kentucky. In three seasons as a Wildcat, Hjelle went 22-10 with a 3.68 ERA and 222 strikeouts in 228.2 innings pitched. He was also named the 2017 SEC Pitcher of the Year.

If Hjelle reaches the major leagues, he would tie Jon Rauch as the tallest player in MLB history. 

Angels back Mike Trout after Rob Manfred said he has a marketing problem

Angels back Mike Trout after Rob Manfred said he has a marketing problem

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said that Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout would be a bigger star if he marketed himself better. (Getty Images)

Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout is one of the best players across Major League Baseball, and one of the biggest names in the sport.

Though, according to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, his brand isn’t big enough. But it’s not the league’s fault for failing marketing its best player. It’s Trout’s.

Manfred was asked on Tuesday ahead of the MLB All-Star game about Trout and his lack of visibility outside of the sport. If he spent a little more time marketing himself, Manfred said, Trout’s brand — and the Angels’ brand — would be much, much bigger.

“Mike is a great, great player and a really nice person, but he has made certain decisions about what he wants to do, and what he doesn’t want to do, and how he wants to spend his free time, and how he doesn’t want to spend his free time,” Manfred said. “That’s up to him.

“If he wants to engage and be more active in that area, I think we could help him make his brand really big. But he has to make a decision that he is prepared to engage in that area, and it takes time and effort.”

Trout’s visibility outside of baseball

Trout certainly has proven himself on the field throughout his eight-year MLB career. He’s been an All-Star in seven of his seasons with the Angels, and is a favorite to win the American League MVP award this season — something he’s already done twice before. The 26-year-old is about the perfect player for the MLB to market the game around.

Now, Trout has done promotional things in the past — including a major shoe deal with Nike and advertisements for Subway. But according to Henry Schafer, the vice president of Q Scores, just more than one in five Americans even knows who Trout is.

Q Scores, a firm that measures the consumer appeal of personalities, said that Trout scored a 22 in its awareness category, according to the Washington Post.

His closest comparison in the NBA in terms of awareness, Schafer told the Washington Post, is Brooklyn Nets forward Kenneth Faried. Based on Schafer’s research, that means that someone on the street would be just as likely to recognize Faried — who averaged just 14.4 minutes over 32 games last season — as they would Trout, who is arguably the best player currently in professional baseball.

“In general, baseball does not do as good a job as other major sports in the U.S. as far as promoting their stars nationwide, especially compared to NFL and NBA,” Schafer told the Washington Post. “[Trout is] basically not a well-known commodity among the general population.”

The Angels back Trout

The Angeles backed Trout up on Wednesday afternoon, though, commending him for his work both on and off the field and applauded him for “prioritizing his personal values over commercial self-promotion.”

“Mike Trout is an exceptional ambassador for the game,” the Angels said in a statement. Combined with his talent, his solid character creates a perfect role model for young people everywhere. Each year, Mike devotes a tremendous amount of his time and effort contributing to our organization and marketing Major League Baseball.

“He continually chooses to participate in the community, visiting hospitals, schools and countless other charities. One of Mike’s traits that people admire most is his humility. His brand is built upon generously spending his time engaging with fans, both at home and on the road, while remaining a remarkable baseball player and teammate … We applaud him for prioritizing his personal values over commercial self-promotion. That is rare in today’s society and stands out as much as his extraordinary talent.”

Trout could certainly do more to promote both himself and the Angels nationally, as Manfred wants. After all, it would only be beneficial for the MLB to do so.

Trout’s reasoning, at least in part, behind not doing more, though, is solid.

He’s simply focused on playing the game.

“I try to do as much as I can, but keep it to a point where I can still play baseball,” Trout told USA Today on Monday. “Obviously you want to get out there, but you’ve got to pick and choose for sure.”

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The biggest surprises and disappointments of the 2018 MLB first half

The biggest surprises and disappointments of the 2018 MLB first half

Things were so much easier in March. The Washington Nationals looked like sure World Series contenders, Matt Kemp was definitely going to be released by the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Minnesota Twins were ready to go even deeper into the postseason after shocking the world in 2017.

Then the regular season began.

The unexpected is one of the best things about baseball. No matter how much we study rosters and critically analyze teams and players, there will always be developments that shock and surprise us.

Below, our Yahoo Sports MLB writers listed some of the best surprises and disappointments from the first half of the 2018 MLB season. Tim Brown and Jeff Passan explain their picks in the video above. Enjoy.

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Many believed the Athletics would finish last in the AL West. Now, they might by playoff contenders. (AP Photo)

Surprise: Oakland Athletics

The Oakland Athletics were supposed to be the doormat of the American League West. They were only supposed to exist so the Houston Astros and revamped Los Angeles Angels could beat up on them. That hasn’t been the case. Despite the lowest opening day payroll in the majors, the Athletics have been shockingly good thus far. The club got off to a decent start, but has exploded in the summer. Since June 1, the A’s have gone 26-14. Jed Lowrie has been fantastic, Matt Chapman has provided Gold Glove defense and the bullpen — led by closer Blake Treinen — has dominated opposing hitters.

The A’s aren’t perfect. The rotation could use work and the offense still isn’t elite. But the club may have turned itself from afterthought to legitimate deadline buyer. (Chris Cwik)

Disappointment: Bryce Harper and the Washington Nationals

You can’t talk about Bryce Harper’s disappointing season without mentioning the Nationals’ expectations. Both came into the year expecting big things. Harper has hit .214/.365/.468, with 23 home runs, over 414 plate appearances in his walk year. While his on-base percentage and slugging numbers would be acceptable for other players, they represent a major downgrade for Harper. A massive second half could be on the horizon, but teams will use Harper’s poor first half against him once he hits the free-agent market.

Harper is one reason the Nationals have struggled in the first half, but he’s far from the only reason. Ryan Zimmerman hid an injury and has missed time. Michael A. Taylor’s numbers have lagged after a breakout season. Tanner Roark has an ERA near 5.00. The Nationals fired Dusty Baker because merely making the postseason wasn’t good enough for them. They might not even make it that far in 2018. (Chris Cwik)

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Matt Kemp is off to a blazing start in 2018. (AP Photo)

Surprise: Matt Kemp

Remember when the Dodgers traded for Matt Kemp and literally everyone thought it was a short-term move because they’d just trade him — or even release him. As it turns out, the Dodgers may owe their season to Matt Kemp. As the Dodgers got off to a terrible (and very injured) start, Kemp was their savior. At 33, he’s hitting .310/.352/.522 with 15 homers and 60 RBIs. He was an All-Star starter. If the Dodgers can complete their midseason turnaround and make the postseason again, they’ll owe a lot of that to Kemp. (Mike Oz)

Disappointment: Minnesota Twins

What is it with the Minnesota Twins? They’re surprisingly good one year and surprisingly bad the next? That’s been their roller-coaster last four years — and right now, it’s not the fun part of the roller coaster. The Twins are eight games under .500 at the All-Star break after making the playoffs last year. They were supposed to be better this year. They made a few bold offseason moves and were expecting Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton to keep improving. Instead? They have the eighth-worst ERA in baseball and their offense is nothing special. Maybe they’re only good in odd years? (Mike Oz)

Surprise: Philadelphia Phillies

It wasn’t really supposed to be a contending year for the Phillies in 2018. With so many newly-graduated prospects in the majors, as well as a starting rotation that had some big question marks in the back end, improvement is what they were hoping for. Halfway through they season, they got that and so much more. A year ago, they were 31-61 and dead last. Now? The Phillies are 53-42 and are in first place in the National League East. That’s a 22 game improvement, which not even the most optimistic Phillies fan would have predicted.

The team is full of young players who are establishing themselves and coming into their own. Aaron Nola has emerged as a true ace, while Zach Eflin has enjoyed a breakout season as a starter. Flame-throwing reliever Seranthony Dominguez has been lights out. Rhys Hoskins hasn’t continued his torrid home run pace from 2017, but he’s established himself as a natural leader and a steadying presence. Everyone contributes, which is just how the Phillies front office imagined it would be — just not so soon. (Liz Roscher)

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Jacob deGrom is sick of losing with the Mets. (AP Photo)

Disappointment: New York Mets

Things started out so hopeful for the 2018 Mets. They won 11 of their first 12 games, and seemed positioned to battle with the resurgent Atlanta Braves while the Phillies and Nationals stumbled. And then the dream died as quickly as it had been born. The culprit, as usual, was injuries. It almost doesn’t matter who the Mets put on their team, you can bet they’re going to be significantly injured at some point in the season. Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier, who were signed last offseason, are both on the disabled list. So is Yoenis Cespedes, and (now) former GM Sandy Alderson took that opportunity to say that he regretted signing Cespedes due to his frequent injuries. Travis d’Arnaud and Juan Lagares are done for the season. Jason Vargas is hurt, and when he wasn’t, he was a disaster. Noah Syndergaard has been out of commission since the end of May, which might have been the death blow to the Mets season.

There are even more injuries to list, but it’s more than just injuries. New manager Mickey Callaway has seemed completely lost at times, like when he submitted a batting order that was different from the one he had in the dugout and had to be punished by the umpires. Players like Cespedes continue to be tossed under the bus by the front office, which is currently in flux as Alderson departed indefinitely to receive treatment for cancer. The most likely candidate to replace him? Mets executive Omar Minaya, who was already fired from that job once before. Three months after that hot start, the Mets are in last place and their season is in shambles. There is but one universal truth about New York’s second baseball team: The Mets are gonna Mets. (Liz Roscher)

Surprise: Jesùs Aguilar

Jesús Aguilar came out of nowhere to become a first-time All-Star this season. Aguilar was voted in by the fans during the Final Vote, which is quite an accomplishment for a player most fans couldn’t name four months ago.

The 28-year-old veteran entered the All-Star break with 24 home runs, which leads the National League. He’s been the main offensive source for a Milwaukee team that already had Ryan Braun and Eric Thames, and went out to sign Lorenzo Cain in free agency and acquire Christian Yelich from the Miami Marlins in an offseason trade.

Not bad for a player who was plucked off waivers from the Cleveland Indians prior to the 2017 season and figured to be nothing more than a bench player. (Mark Townsend)

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The Cardinals outfield hasn’t had many reasons to celebrate in 2018. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Disappointment: Cardinals outfielders

Now in the second year of a five-year, $82.5M contract, Dexter Fowler has taken a big step back in 2018. He was a slow starter in 2017 too, but rebounded to have his best all-around season offensively, finishing with a .264/.363/.488 batting line, to go along with 18 homers and 64 RBIs.

This year though, he’s been an utter disaster. After 74 games, Fowler is slashing .176/.270/.297 with seven homers and 26 RBIs.

You could argue that Marcell Ozuna has been every bit as disappointing given the expectations placed on him. He was acquired from the Miami Marlins in an offseason trade that saw Cardinals part with a more impressive batch of prospects than what Miami received from the New York Yankees for Giancarlo Stanton.

Ozuna is on pace for just 20 home runs this season after mashing 37 one year ago. He’s slashing .268/.309/.385, which is 44, 67 and 163 points lower respectively. Considering what the Cardinals gave up, they obviously wanted and needed more from Ozuna. (Mark Townsend)

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter!

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Cubs, Bears, Bulls among the top 25 wealthiest sports teams in the world

Cubs, Bears, Bulls among the top 25 wealthiest sports teams in the world

What Chicago sports team is worth the most money in 2018?

As reported by Kurt Badenhausen in a Forbes article about the 50 richest teams around the globe, the Cubs are the most valuable organization in the Windy City.

Chicago’s North Side baseball team ranks as the 16th wealthiest team in the world, valued at $2.9 billion, an 8 percent increase from 2017. The Cubs are the third-most affluent franchise in Major League Baseball, behind the New York Yankees ($4 billion) and the Los Angeles Dodgers ($3 billion).

This year, the baseball club owned by the Ricketts family surpassed the wealth of the Boston Red Sox ($2.8 billion), who the Cubs were ranked behind last season at $2.68 billion. In the span of a year, the North Siders gained two spots in the top 50 from 18 to 16 on the list.

What could be the reason for this increase?

Could it be that the Cubs are in first place in the NL Central? Or could it be the incredible performances from players like Jon Lester and Javy Baez?

Whatever the reason is for the Cubs’ prosperity, the team is doing something right.

The club also surpassed the Bears on the list this year. In 2017 the Bears (worth $2.7 billion last year) were tied with the Red Sox as the 16th most valuable sports team on Earth. The McCaskey-owned football team has fallen to a tie at 17 with the San Francisco Giants, both valued at $2.85 billion in 2018. The Bears even increased by 6 percent in the last year, making the Cubs’ jump seem greater.

The Bulls, owned by Jerry Reinsdorf, are the last team from Chicago to make the cut. They stand at 23 in the top 50, tied with the Denver Broncos. Both franchises are worth $2.6 billion. Chicago’s NBA team even fell a spot from 2017, but they still increased their value by 4 percent (worth $2.5 billion last year).

The Bears are the seventh richest team in the NFL, while the Bulls are fourth wealthiest in the NBA.

Cal Ripken Jr.: MLB should supplement the Home Run Derby with a skills challenge

Cal Ripken Jr.: MLB should supplement the Home Run Derby with a skills challenge

Cal Ripken Jr. flips a bottle at FanFest. (Joy Asico/AP)

Orioles legend Cal Ripken Jr. has some thoughts on how to spice up baseball’s All-Star Game, and they include Major League Baseball borrowing a page from the NBA and NHL.

“I always liked the skills challenge concept and idea,” said Ripken, who played in 19 Midsummer Classics during his Hall of Fame career. “I know I participated in a few of them early, when we had the relay-throwing contest, and I think they had the fastest around the bases. . . . It’s interesting to know who’s the fastest to first, or who’s the fastest in a split.”

Speaking at MLB’s FanFest on Tuesday as he prepared for an entirely different sort of skills competition — a Snapple-sponsored bottle-flipping challenge against fellow former major leaguer Cliff Floyd — Ripken recalled participating in the relay-throwing contest and watching Blue Jays second baseman Damaso Garcia win the fastest-player challenge at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park before the 1984 All-Star Game.

Baseball’s all-star skills competition didn’t receive much attention from the media in those days, but The Post’s Richard Justice documented the exhibition the day before the 1989 All-Star Game at Anaheim’s Angel Stadium:

“In today’s workout, the NL all-stars won the skills competition for catcher’s throwing accuracy, throwing relay accuracy and the home run derby. Tony Pena of the Cardinals and Benito Santiago of the Padres won the catcher’s throw accuracy over Terry Steinbach of the Athletics and Mickey Tettleton of the Orioles. The relay throw competition was tied after the first two runs, but a one-throw playoff was won by the NL trio of Andre Dawson, Ryne Sandberg and Mike Scioscia. They beat Mike Greenwell, Julio Franco and Tettleton.”

Not mentioned in Justice’s dispatch: Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin tore a ligament in his right elbow during the relay-throwing competition, which caused him to miss two months.

“I heard a pop off in the distance like a gun shot had gone off,” Larkin told the Cincinnati Enquirer in 2015. “I was like something is going on here. Then I realized it was my elbow. That wasn’t good.”

The skills competition was discontinued.

“Now the issue always is, are you risking injury by doing something like that, but I think if you gave some creative thought to some of the skills, I think the fans would be interested,” Ripken said.

SB Nation’s Grant Brisbee proposed some ideas for an all-star skills challenge should the concept be revived, the best of which is the pitcher’s Home Run Derby. How great would it be to see the likes of Madison Bumgarner and Max Scherzer swing for the fences?

The (hitter’s) Home Run Derby is the extent of baseball’s skills competition at the All-Star Game these days, and Ripken knows the competition well. In 1985, he participated in the first modern-day derby and finished with one home run at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. Six years later, he won the Home Run Derby at the SkyDome in Toronto with 12 dingers, a record at the time.

“I was just trying to take regular [batting practice] because I was hitting pretty good at the time,” Ripken on Tuesday said of his approach in Toronto. “I didn’t want to mess my swing up. Balls just kept flying out there pretty easy, so you can get on a roll.”

When Ripken participated in the Home Run Derby, hitters had 10 “outs” to hit as many home runs as they could. Any ball that didn’t clear the fence was considered an out. The Home Run Derby’s format has evolved over the years to include multiple rounds, a timer and a reward for hitting especially long home runs.

“It’s way more exciting when you put a clock on it,” Ripken said. “It’s more action-oriented. I think the clock is a really good addition, and the bonus balls and stuff like that. It’s fun to watch, and I’m sad I missed it [Monday] night.”

(Ripken was at another promotional event Monday and learned that Bryce Harper won the Home Run Derby via an alert on his phone, so he couldn’t comment on the allegations, primarily from Cubs fans, that Harper and his dad cheated to beat Kyle Schwarber in the final round.)

Ripken, who lost his first bottle-flipping challenge to Floyd, also weighed in on the pressure and scrutiny that Harper and soon-to-be-former Orioles third baseman Manny Machado face given the uncertainties about their futures. Baltimore was expected to finalize a deal to send Machado to the Dodgers on Wednesday, while Harper is set to become a free agent after the season.

“Sometimes the uncertainty of what’s going to happen at the end of your time can figure into your day-to-day and rob you of your focus, or make you try harder,” Ripken said. “[The Orioles] fired my dad in ’88, and I was a free agent at the end of that year, too. They just assumed that I wouldn’t sign back, so they were taking all kinds of trade offers. It was the most unsettling time in my life.”

Ripken signed a three-year, $6 million deal in late July of that season, which provided him some peace of mind.

“Some players deal with it differently and better than others,” Ripken said. “I know it bothered me not to have any certainty of where I was going to go.”

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At the Home Run Derby, Bryce Harper and D.C. fell back in love — at least for one night

‘That’s gone’: Mic’d up Bryce Harper had a great view of Mike Trout’s home run

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