Cal League Shake Up Has Rockies Moving

The High-A California League is undergoing a makeover, and it appears it will result in the Rockies moving their affiliate from Modesto to Lancaster.

There are two factors to the new-look Cal League. It will be reduced from 10 teams to eight teams. The Rangers and Astros are reportedly agreed to sign working agreements with teams in the Carolina League. And the Mariners are buying controlling interest in the Modesto affiliate, and will move their Cal League team from Bakersfield to Modesto.

Texas has an affiliation with High Desert, and Houston is in Lancaster. Both cities appear left out in the new alignment.

Lancaster has its concerns — it is a hitter’s dream and pitcher’s nightmare — but would seem to be preferred over Bakersfield or High Desert because of facilities.

Royals Face Decision Time

The Kansas City Royals are coming off back-to-back American League championships, having won their first World Series championship in 30 years last October. They have control of the bulk of their roster through at least 2017, and for the first two and a half months of this season, they appeared primed to take a shot at becoming the first team in this century to win back-to-back World Series titles.

And then came a 39-day stretch that has seen Kansas City fall from contention in the AL Central. The Royals woke up Thursday having lost 20 of their past 31 games. They have seen a half-game deficit to the Indians expand to 8 1/2, and have fallen behind the Tigers and White Sox not only in the division, but also in an AL Wild Card race, where there are five teams ahead of them.

It has forced Kansas City to re-evaluate its plans leading up to Monday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline. The Royals aren’t just looking to fine-tune for the next two months. General manager Dayton Moore has to embrace a bigger picture.

That’s why Wade Davis has emerged in trade rumors, with reports having the Dodgers making a very strong push. What the Dodgers, however, have to understand is this isn’t a fire sale. Davis is one of the elite closers in the game, and if the Royals were to give him up, they would need an elite return.

10 Teams Needing to Add Before Monday’s Trading Deadline

Every team in the Majors faces pressure to win. With Monday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline approaching, that pressure is mounting.

These are the five teams in each league under the most scrutiny to make something happen before the Deadline:

Starstruck Deadline Dealing

The Cubs woke up on Monday morning with a 7 1/2-game edge on the second-place Cardinals in the National League Central, the biggest lead of any of the six first-place teams. And yet they entered the final week before next Monday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline at the top of the list of potential dealmakers, then showed why by acquiring left-handed closerAroldis Chapman from the Yankees on Monday afternoon.


Nope. Looking ahead.

There are no guarantees, but the Cubs, much like the Astros back in 1998, are looking for ways to improve their chances come October, not August or September. It didn’t work for the Astros, who got all they could have wanted out of their Deadline deal that year for ace Randy Johnson but were first eliminated in the NL Division Series.

That trade, however, was a headline grabber, arguably the biggest Deadline Day deal in the 30-year history of the non-waiver Trade Deadline.

What is interesting is that the bulk of the attention-grabbing deals on Deadline Day are centered around pitchers. Here’s a look at 10 star-studded deals from past Deadlines.

Balderson Remembers Decision to Draft Griffey

Dick Balderson had a three-year tenure as the general manager of the Seattle Mariners, and former Mariners president Chuck Armstrong said that during that time, Balderson made the two most significant moves in the franchise’s history.

Balderson swung the trade that brought Jay Buhner to the Mariners from the Yankees for Ken Phelps on July 21, 1988, days before he was fired by then owner George Argyros. Just a year earlier, Balderson was behind the Seattle’s selection of Ken Griffey Jr., with the first pick of the 1987 Draft.

It wasn’t easy.

Argyros was pushing for Mike Harkey, a college pitcher, but Balderson and scouting director Roger Jongewaard were sold on Griffey. They were so sold that when Griffey and Harkey both came up with scouting scores of 80, they had senior scout Bob Harrison, who had the trust of Argyros, make adjustments that had Griffey emerge as the clear favorite.

The other player in consideration was outfielder Mark Merchant, a high school player from Orlando, Fla.

The Mariners hit the jackpot. Griffey put together a Hall of Fame career, and he will be inducted into Cooperstown on Sunday. Coverage of the induction begins on MLB Network and at 11 a.m. ET/8 PT, with the ceremonies beginning live at 1:30 p.m. ET/10:30 a.m. PT.

Another Chapter in Story HR Tale

Trevor Story homered in the fourth inning Sunday, his 27th of the season. That extends his NL record for a rookie shortstop.  He also is one one home run shy of the Rockies overall home run record for a rookie, which is held by Wilin Rosario.

Story has appeared in 89 games, and still has more than two months of playing time to try to break the major-league record for a rookie shortstop of 30 set by Nomar Garciaparra of the Red Sox. Troy Tulowitzki is third on the NL list for home runs by a rookie shortstop with 24 in his first season with the Rockies. Carlos Correa of the Astros last year and Bobby Crosby of the A’s in 2004 are tied for fourth with 22. Correa was an in-season call up and reached 22 in 99 games, which is 11 more games than Story has played so far.

Cal Ripken Jr., ranks sixth with 20 home runs as a shortstop in 1982.Now Ripken did hit 28 home runs that season, but eight of them came as a third baseman.

The all-time leader for home runs as a rookie, any position, is Mark McGwire, who hit 49 in 1987 for the A’s. Wally Berger in 1930 with the Braves and Frank Robinson in 1956 with the Reds are tied for second at 38, and Albert Puljos with the Cardinals in 2001 and Al Rosen of the Indians in 1950 are tied for fourth with 37.

On the all-time rookie home run list, Story is among nine players tied for 38th.

Cargo Fits in Rockies Plans Beyond This Season

DENVER — Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich got the attention of the baseball world in advance of the non-waiver Trade Deadline a year ago.

Bridich dealt shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, the face of the franchise, to the Blue Jays for pitching prospects Jeff Hoffman, Jesus Tinoco and Miguel Castro and shortstop Jose Reyes.

That has created an anticipation for what Bridich might do to add some life to the Deadline party this year, and the focus has been on the possibility of moving Carlos Gonzalez.

There are no guarantees in baseball. But as of today, the odds are Gonzalez will still be in a Colorado uniform come Aug. 2.

Here are five reasons why the Rockies would keep Gonzalez instead of moving him at the Deadline:

Indians Hit Free Agent Trifecta

KANSAS CITY — There are dreams. And there is reality. Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti understands the difference.

So in an offseason where the likes of David Price was signing a seven-year, $217 million deal in Boston and Zack Greinke agreed to a six-year, $206 million deal with the D-backs and Jason Heyward picked up an eight-year, $184 million guarantee with the Cubs, Antonetti never even pretended to be a player in that market.

Nope. He had his budget. He had his holes. And with his guidance, the Indians, more than any other team, turned their offseason bargain hunting into as big a bonanza as any team could want.

Check out the standings. With a 7-3 victory against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium on Tuesday night, the Indians have an American League-best record of 55-38, a 6 1/2-game lead over the second-place Tigers, and an eight-game lead on the defending World Series champion Royals.

They do have a sterling starting rotation, which leads the AL with a 42-23 record and 3.61 ERA and is second in the league with 573 2/3 innings pitched, helping ease the demands on a bullpen they would like to improve before the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Do not, however, overlook the impact of offensive free agents Mike Napoli, Rajai Davis andJuan Uribe, who signed one-year deals for a combined investment of $16.24 million. That’s less than half the annual average value of $34.4 million that Greinke is earning, a bit over half of the $31 million Price will average in his time with the Red Sox, and well below the $23 million AAV the Cubs owe Heyward.

Terry Ryan: A Man of Integrity

For the better part of the past 44 years, Terry Ryan had been with the Minnesota Twins in various roles ranging from a Minor League pitcher, signed out of high school, to two terms as the club’s general manager.

Through it all, Ryan never lost touch with reality.

And so it was earlier this month when he learned of the plans to replace him as the general manager at season’s end, Ryan asked that the move be made sooner to open the door for ownership to begin working on its plan to restructure the team’s front office.

Not wanting to take away from the Twins Hall of Fame ceremonies during the weekend, in which outfielder Torri Hunter was honored on Saturday and broadcaster John Gordon on Sunday, the decision was made to make the move on Monday.

Rob Antony, who had been Ryan’s assistant, assumed the GM duties for now, but the feeling within the organization is a major overhaul will ensue. Among the first names to surface was Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer, Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine and J.J. Piccolo, assistant general manager of the division-rival Royals, who face many of the same small-market challenges as the Twins.

All the right things were said by the team’s management, and Ryan issued a statement in which he expressed his gratitude to an organization he originally joined as a 35th-round Draft choice out of high school, who then spent three years finishing up a degree from the University of Wisconsin and five years scouting for the Mets before returning to the Twins in a front-office capacity.

Incaviglia: An Independent Type

Pete Incaviglia didn’t waste time getting to the Major Leagues.

He went directly from the campus of Oklahoma State in the summer of 1985 to hitting fourth in the lineup for the Texas Rangers on Opening Day in 1986. Oh, there were a few rough spots in between.

A first-round Draft choice of the Montreal Expos in 1985, Incaviglia never reached agreement on a contract — leading to the Expos to trade his rights to the Rangers, and prompting baseball to invoke what was known as the “Pete Incaviglia Rule.” The measure, which was rescinded by Major League Baseball a year ago, prohibited teams from trading a Draft pick until a year after he signed.

Incaviglia spent nine years in the Majors before going to Japan in 1995 to play for Chiba Lotte. He didn’t make his Minor League debut until two years later, when he appeared in three games for the Yankees’ Triple-A team at Columbus.

When Incaviglia initially retired from playing, he coached and managed in the Minor Leagues in the Tigers organization for three years and then spent a year at home in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. After a year out of the game, Incaviglia caught the bug for life in baseball’s independent leagues.

Incaviglia took the job as manager of the Grand Prairie AirHogs, a Texas-based expansion team in the American Association, in 2008. He has managed in that league ever since — except during the 2011 season, when he was busy helping to create another Texas-based club, the Laredo franchise he currently helms. With his club 32-23 entering Saturday, he is likely on his way to compiling a winning record for the seventh time in eight seasons as a skipper.

Incaviglia has had former Major Leaguers like Pat Mahomes and Nook Logan continue their careers on his team, and he has also provided the opportunity for Jordan Tata, Michael Holliman, Chris Martin, Chaz Roe and Fernando Hernandez to rejuvenate their careers.

Incaviglia is the subject of this week’s Q&A: