Major League Baseball should feel ashamed. The purpose of an all-star exhibition is to see the league's elite talents regardless of uniform. It’s a travesty that long-distance dialer Travis Hafner will not be in Pittsburgh despite ranking third in the AL with 74 RBI and sixth in batting average hitting a robust .322. In order for the game to really mean something, it's time for the baseball think tank to tighten their belts and eliminate the outdated player per team rule. You hear me, Mr. Selig? This year, the Midsummer Classic is a Royal joke. Here are the news and notes that hit for the cycle over the weekend:
WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
- Two tilt-altering trades went down late last week. The first sent tumbling starter Jeff Weaver from the Los Angeles Angels to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for cash and power-hitting outfield prospect Terry Evans. The 29-year-old Weaver had a 6.29 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, .309 BAA and three wins in 88.2 awful innings this season for the Angels. Cardinals' general manger Walt Jockety felt that "Weaver is someone who can come in and lend immediate help and depth to our rotation. One of the scouts who saw him thought he was using his breaking ball too much and wasn't using his fastball. He's got a pretty good fastball, and there might be a chance we can make a change that makes him better." Weaver is expected to make his St. Louis debut July 17th against Atlanta.
Oh to be a fly on the Jell-O mold at the Weaver family picnic. Replaced in the Angels rotation by budding superstar sibling Jered Weaver, Jeff is hoping to defibrillate his career in a city that reversed the pitching fortunes of Mark Mulder, Woody Williams and Jason Marquis in previous seasons. This year, Weaver has been plagued by the long-ball, giving up 18 homers thus far – one shy of his entire total in 34 starts in 2004. If St. Louis pitching coach Dave Duncan can retool his approach, Weaver could be a very profitable player capable of an ERA around 4.00, 1.25 WHIP and seven or more wins. Rostered on a mere 45 percent of Yahoo! leagues, he will turn a nice profit in the second half for those willing to take the risk. The best part of the deal: Sidney Ponson has finally been harpooned. Good riddance to the beluga whale.
- Deal numero dos sent "Everyday" Eddie Guardado from Seattle to Cincinnati in exchange for cash and a guy who probably enjoys Sex and the City reruns, minor league pitcher Travis Chick. One of the AL's most accomplished closers since 2002 averaging 35 saves per year and a sparkling 2.84 ERA, Guardado has flopped terribly this season, allowing eight homers and 11 walks in just 23 innings. The 36-year-old stopper commented jubilantly, "It's going to be fun. We're going to have fun. No matter what, I have fun. I'm excited." Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky wasted no time in determining Guardado's new role saying, "He's our closer. He's going to close as many games as possible for us." The Reds newly appointed stopper looked sharp in his debut on July 7th, striking out one while walking none in one-inning of work against Atlanta.
Guardado sounds like a giddy school girl who just scored tickets to an Ashlee Simpson concert. The first true Reds closer since Danny Graves vacated the spot two years ago, Guardado's high-80s cheese couldn't overpower your grandmother, but his fearless yet "fun" attitude will get the job done in the Queen City. Pitching better of late, allowing just three walks since May 8th, he could be very fruitful in his new threads. NL-only leaguers in search of saves should blow a significant amount of FAAB cash for his services. For the rest of you, pick him up immediately and trust him as a No. 3 closer capable of 12-15 saves down the stretch.
- Injury News and Notes: Speed racer Jose Reyes was sidelined over the weekend with seven stitches in his left pinky after belly-flopping into first-base on Friday. "X-rays were negative. Everything is fine. The doctor says `Let's see how it feels in the next couple of days.," said Reyes. Although he is out for Tuesday's All-Star game, it appears the missed time was only a precaution as he pinch ran twice against the Marlins. Keep him active for the short week … Reyes' teammate Pedro Martinez was placed on the disabled list retroactive to June 29th with an injured hip. Pedro was confident he could have taken the mound in his last start stating, "If there was any kind of emergency, without a doubt I would have taken the ball. My teammates pulled me aside and said, 'Let's play it safe. We need you for the long haul." He is eligible to return July 14th, but will likely have his spot skipped to get some additional rest. Lanky rookie Mike Pelfrey will get another chance to showcase his stuff … Brewers injury-plagued sensation Ben Sheets made a rehab start on Sunday for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds. He threw 65 pitches giving up three runs in three innings. After the start Sheets said, "I just needed to get some innings in. Confidence in my fastball is the biggest key, and my location was off a little bit. I was rushing through my delivery, but overall I felt about 99.5 percent. Once I get my fastball located, I'll be good to go." His next start will be for Phoenix of the Arizona League on Friday. If all goes well, he could be activated approximately July 20th. If you need a marquee starter for the stretch run, Sheets is the solution … Toronto phenom Alex Rios was released from the hospital on Friday where he had been for a week recovering from a staph infection in his lower left leg. On crutches and 10 pounds lighter, Blue Jays bench coach Ernie Whitt said that Rios is "on the road to recovery. Now it's just a healing process." With no timetable set for his return it could take an additional two weeks for Rios to regain full strength. Unless a miraculous rebound occurs, look for him to struggle when he returns. Realistically, it may not be until early August before Rios is fantasy starter material … Notorious cry baby Milton Bradley went 4-for-6 in a rehab game with Triple-A Sacramento on Saturday. Out of action since June 6th with a shoulder injury, he is likely to be activated sometime late next week. But temper your expectations. Ken Macha has indicated Bradley will split time with the red-hot Jay Payton in right … Much-maligned starter Mark Prior strained an oblique in batting practice on Sunday and was scratched from his scheduled start. Cubs' trainer Mark O'Neal said, "These things are very tricky. You have to be able to sneeze, cough, normal things without any soreness. It's really not that sore, but there's enough soreness that whenever he rotates – it's on the left side. He has to hit here. It's unfortunate we had to pull him out today, but it's better today than cost us four to six weeks." Prior added "The goat's curse is starting to look real." You're gosh darn right it is, Mark. Keep him benched until more definitive information hits the wire … Last and certainly least, Kerry Wood is again done for the year with a partial thickness tear of the infraspinatus tendon – what the heck is that? – and a rotator cuff strain. Well, at least we know he's consistent at something. Wood is in the final year of his contract with the Cubs and will likely become an all-star with someone else next season.
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
- Chuck James, Atl, SP
If only his middle name were Rick. Inserted into the Braves rotation back on June 25th, James has won his first three decisions while tallying a respectable 3.15 ERA and 1.20 WHIP as a starter. The top left-handed pitching prospect in the Atlanta organization, James is a command maestro with an incredible change that offsets his low-90s fastball very effectively. The biggest knock against him is his proneness for serving up homers, giving up four in his past 20 innings. If he can keep the rawhide down and continue to exude the superb command he showcased at Triple-A Richmond – he had a 25:6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 33.2 IP – James will be a super freak capable of a sub 4.00 ERA, 6-8 wins and a WHIP around 1.25 after the break. Owned in only 7 percent of Yahoo! leagues, tomahawk-chop one of your struggling starters for his services.
PROSPECT WATCH: Top players down on the farm
- Jeremy Sowers, Cle, SP, (ETA: Now)
Ignore the 7.47 ERA, Sowers will be an AL-only power in the very near future. The reigning Indians minor league pitcher of the year, Sowers is one of the brightest pitching prospects in baseball. Projected to become a high-tiered No. 2 starter capable of winning 15-20 games annually, the southpaw has a solid slider, but an average fastball that only hovers around 90 MPH. To compensate for his lack of velocity, he uses a cerebral concoction of quick wit and intelligence to get outs. In 15 starts at Triple-A Buffalo, the 23-year-old yielded a line that would make any fantasy owner's heart go pitter-pat – 97.1 IP, 1.39 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 54:29 K:BB. Although tagged for seven runs versus Baltimore July 8th, his previous effort against the Yankees demonstrates his true potential – 7 IP, 1 ER, 6 H, 1 BB, 4 K. Although still learning the ropes like St. Louis' Anthony Reyes, Sowers is a great addition to benches in keeper leagues. Plug him into your lineup when the matchup is favorable.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Yahoo! Experts League Update
A log-jam remains behind the vapor trail that is RotoWire_Liss, who has reached new heights this week with a point tally above the century mark (103). Meanwhile, see-saw battles continue for spots 2-5, with Y!-Romig, Y!-Funston, KFFL-Wasserzieher and KFFL-Anderson the teams jockeying for those positions. League additions made just prior to the All-Star break include Juan Rivera, Alex Escobar and Andre Ethier. A trade was also executed, with RotoWire-Erickson trading Brandon Webb, Brett Tomko and Ryan Freel to FantasyGuru-Pianowski for Tadahito Iguchi, Akinori Otsuka and Tom Glavine.
- Todd Coffey