Blue Jays ask about Zack Greinke

June 30, 2010: Starting pitcher Zack Greinke  of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch during a game against the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. The Royals won 7-6.

The Royals have let it be known that Zack Greinke is available this winter and the first club that has come knocking on their door (that we know of) is the Blue Jays.

According to Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun, the Jays have inquired about the availability of Greinke, who struggled last year after winning the 2009 AL Cy Young Award.

With Cliff Lee the top free agent on the market, Greinke would appeal to also-rans in the Lee sweepstakes such as the Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels.

The Royals are looking for two “can’t-miss prospects” as a starting point in talks on the 2009 American League Cy Young award winner.

Greinke’s contract includes a limited no-trade clause through the 2011 season and he has a “no-trade list” that includes big market teams like the Yankees and Red Sox. It’s not known if Toronto is on that list.

The Jays have to do something if they want to compete with the Yankees, Rays and Red Sox in the ultra-competitive AL East. Greinke is coming off a down year but obviously he has the talent. With more help around him, one would think that he would blossom into a consistent performer so we’ll have to see if Toronto can put something together.

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Braves trade Escobar for Hello Kitty notebook and 5 packs of nacho cheese sunflower seeds

July 10, 2010 - Flushing, N.Y, United States of America - 10 July, 2010: Atlanta Braves shortstop Yunel Escobar.

I know Yunel Escobar is a maddening player, but is Alex Gonzalez and two minor leagues the only thing the Braves got in return for him? Holy smokes.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting that the Braves have dealt Escobar and minor-league pitcher Jo-Jo Reyes to the Blue Jays in exchange for Gonzalez, minor-league pitcher Tim Collins and minor-league shortstop Tyler Pastornicky.

Escobar entered the All-Star break hitting just .238 with no home runs and 19 RBI, while Gonzalez is currently hitting .259 with 17 dingers and 50 RBI. Obviously Gonzalez’s numbers are better, but at only 27, Escobar still has plenty of potential left in him. He was a worthwhile risk for Toronto, especially if all he needs is a change of scenery to help turn his career around.

There’s no doubt that Escobar has been in and out of Bobby Cox’s doghouse over the years, but the Braves sold low here. He has a tremendous glove, has proven in the past that he can hit for average and he’s under team control until 2013. Why the Braves dumped him for a player in Gonzalez (who may be having a great year, but whose career numbers reek) is a little puzzling to say the least.

That said, anything can happen. Collins is tiny (5’7, 155 pounds), but has a 2.40 ERA in parts of four seasons in the minor leagues and is averaging an outstanding 15.3 K/9 over 43 innings. Pastronicky projects to be a leadoff hitter, although not that the Braves have a need for one right now with Martin Prado developing into an All-Star.

There’s also no guarantee that this is a fluke year for Escobar. He may be as bad as he’s shown and in that case, it was better that the Braves got something for him. I don’t retract what I wrote earlier about them selling low, but nobody can predict how a deal will turn out in the end. (Plus, history has shown that once I try and get cute with a title like the one in this post, I get usually get burned. So torch me, Alex Gonzalez – I’m ready.)

NL East providing some exciting baseball

Going into the new baseball season, all eyes were once again set to watch the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays duke it out in the AL East. As it’s become customary, we assumed the division would deliver both the AL leader in wins, but also the Wild Card. Of course, this will probably still happen, but the hallowed division has turned into a head-scratcher given Boston’s poor start. I’m not lamenting this by any means (I’d love to see the Blue Jays in the playoffs, actually), but I’m here to tell you that there’s another division worth your interest: the NL East.

What? The NL East doesn’t just consist of the the Phillies and a handful also-rans? Well, not yet, anyway. Currently, three of the the division’s five teams have winning records (Mets, Phillies, Nationals), and the two others (Braves, Marlins) have enough talent to contend for the rest of the year. While I’d like to provide high-brow sabermetrics and detailed graphs, it’s really quite simple: The pitching and hitting on each of these teams are both decent at the very least. That’s it really, just decent. As long as one of these components isn’t woeful, a club should expect to hover above a .500 winning percentage. That may not satisfy a die-hard fan who has everything riding on their team making it to the World Series, but it sure does encourage neck-and-neck competition.

This is what we have in the NL East — an intriguing balancing act. The Mets surprisingly sit atop the leaderboard in the division, on the strength of their pitching no less. Mike Pelfrey has been sensational — who knows how — boasting a 4-0 record and a 0.69 ERA. With Johan Santana, Jon Niese and Oliver Perez performing well on the mound, the Mets have reason to be feel comfortable. And look, the hitting has not been phenomenal — merely decent. Jason Bay isn’t knocking blasts out of the park left and right, but guys like David Wright, Jose Reyes, Jeff Franceur and Ike Davis are getting on base. On base percentage can sometimes be the most feared statistic in the game. The Mets may not keep it up for long — there’s far too many question marks. Still, it’s nice to see the Phillies getting some guff from within.

Now, the Phillies will make the playoffs — there’s no way around it. Roy Halladay tops an intimidating rotation, and not even Brad Lidge or Ryan Madson will be able to consistently blow the countless leads provided by their hitting. I just think the NL East went a bit overlooked during the offseason. If it continues to play out as it has, this division could yield two playoff teams. None of the other teams look entirely vulnerable: the Braves quietly put together a solid unit during the offseason; the Nationals are stunning opponents with both power and unheard of pitchers; the Marlins are the Marlins, meaning we know nothing about them and they’ll still finish with a winning record.

I know, it’s strange, but the NL East had us fooled from the start. There’s some dramatic baseball in there.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

MLB Report: Granderson lifts Yanks, Jones & Wells off to great starts

Yankees 3, Red Sox 1
It’s only been three games, but new addition Curtis Granderson is already making a huge impact for the Yankees. After homering in his first at bat of the season on Sunday night, Granderson delivered the go-ahead solo home run in the top of the 10th inning Wednesday as the Bombers beat the Red Sox 3-1. With Granderson’s help, New York was able to take two of three games in Boston. (I wonder what people are going to complain about seeing as how the Yankees didn’t “buy” Granderson – they traded for him.)

Pirates 4, Dodgers 3
Do the Bucs have a star in the making in Garrett Jones or what? The 28-year-old hit his third homer in two games with a three-run shot off of Clayton Kershaw to help the Pirates down the Dodgers 4-3 on Wednesday. Roger Cedeno played the hero in the 10th inning when he singled home Lastings Milledge for the winning run, as Pittsburgh is surprisingly in position to sweep L.A. to start the season.

Giants 10, Astros 4
The Giants might as well petition the league to play the Astros every night, because they own Houston. The G-Men completed a three-game sweep of the Stros on Wednesday night, as Edgar Renteria went 5-for-5 in a 10-4 San Francisco victory. (Stop laughing – I’m seriously…yes…it really was that Edgar Renteria.) With their pitching, if the Giants can continue to swing the bats as well as they have, they’re going to be serious contenders in the NL West.

Blue Jays 7, Rangers 4
Is that Vernon Wells up in Toronto or did the Blue Jays make a move for Albert Pujols and didn’t tell anybody? Wells went 2-for-3 with two dingers and three RBI on Wednesday night as the Jays beat the Rangers 7-4. Wells now has three homers in two games and while it’s a little early for Toronto fans to be doing back flips about his production, he’s certainly off to a great start.

Phillies 8, Nationals 4
Plenty of Philadelphia fans were on board Wednesday in Washington, D.C. to see Ryan Howard go 2-for-5 with a home run and three RBI in the Phillies’ 8-4 win over the Nationals. Apparently the Nationals’ front office didn’t restrict the number of tickets that the well-organized Philadelphia faithful could buy and Phillie fans traveled down to D.C. in buses in order to invade Washington. It was essentially a home series for the Phillies, so nice work, Washington front office.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

MLB Report: Heyward homers in first AB, Pujols, Lincecum dazzle

Braves 16, Cubs 5
Rookie Jason Heyward had a picture-perfect start to his MLB career when he belted a three-run home run off Carlos Zambrano in his first at bat on Monday. Heyward finished the day with two hits, four RBI and two runs scored to lead Atlanta in the rout. Zambrano had a nightmarish debut, allowing eight runs on six hits in just 1.1 innings of work.

Cardinals 11, Reds 6
MLB might as well start the engraving process for the MVP award, because Albert Pujols is already making a claim that he deserves the honor. The best hitter in baseball went 4-for-5 with three RBI and two home runs in the Cards’ 11-6 victory over the Reds.

Giants 5, Astros 2
Concerns about Tim Lincecum after his so-so spring were put to rest on Monday in Houston after the two-time Cy Young winner blanked the Stros over seven innings. Lincecum held a weak Houston lineup to four hits and no runs, while also striking out seven. Outside of a small jam in the sixth inning, he was nearly flawless.

Phillies 11, Nationals 1
It didn’t take long for Roy Halladay to impress his new teammates. He pitched seven innings against the Nationals on Monday, allowing one run on just six hits while striking out nine. The lone run actually scored in the first inning, but Washington looked overmatched after that point.

Rangers 5, Blue Jays 4
Shaun Marcum had a no hitter through six innings on Monday before the Rangers finally got to him in the seventh. Texas erased a 3-0 and 4-3 deficit to win 5-4 with two runs in the ninth. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia came through in the clutch, delivering a bases-loaded, walk-off single to win it for the Rangers.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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