Phillies

MLB Notes: Red Sox honor David Ortiz by retiring his No. 34

MLB Notes: Red Sox honor David Ortiz by retiring his No. 34

BOSTON -- David Ortiz stepped up to the microphone, wiped the tears from his eyes and waited for the sold-out Fenway crowd to shout "Papi!" a few more times.

The Red Sox waited at the top of their dugout. The Los Angeles Angels tipped their caps. Friends and family and dignitaries from two countries lined the infield. Three World Series trophies glistened in the twilight sun.

Hall of Famers Carl Yastrzemski, Pedro Martinez, Wade Boggs and Jim Rice -- whose numbers preceded Ortiz's to the Fenway facade -- were the only ones who could know how he felt.

"It's an honor to get to see my number right next to all those legends," Ortiz said before his No. 34 was unveiled along the right-field roof boxes on Friday night.

"I remember hitting batting practice on this field; I always was trying to hit those numbers. But I never thought about having my number up there," he said. "Every player that is up there did things that are very, very special for this ballclub and this community" (see full recap).

Braves: Freeman progressing from broken wrist
ATLANTA -- Braves slugger Freddie Freeman says his broken left wrist is healing much faster than expected.

After undergoing a CT scan and meeting Friday with team physician Dr. Gary Lourie, Freeman was told his wrist is 80-90 percent healed, up from 50 percent last week.

The improvement led Freeman to move up the timetable of his return from July 14, the day after the All-Star break against Arizona, to July 6 at NL East-leading Washington.

"They're all pretty shocked it got to that point, too, especially with me stressing it the last couple of days catching balls and all that stuff," he said. "It's actually great news."

Freeman's prognosis was a surprise, though maybe not as much as his announcement Wednesday that he's moving from first to third base to keep Matt Adams in the lineup.

Even so, Lourie's report was encouraging enough that Freeman was cleared to swing a bat for the first time since getting hit by a pitch on May 17. Freeman hopes to begin a three- to four-game rehab assignment next weekend.

"Everybody's been saying they really didn't think I was going to be back in eight to 10 weeks," he said. "Obviously I had a different mindset going in to it. But we're just at two days over five weeks right now so I'm pretty ecstatic with how the recovery has gone" (see full story).

Marlins: Jeb Bush, Romney join forces to pursue purchase of team
MIAMI -- Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has switched sides in pursuit of the Miami Marlins, and he's trying to beat out former teammate Derek Jeter.

Bush has joined forces with businessman Tagg Romney in a group trying to buy the Marlins, two people familiar with the negotiations said Friday. The people confirmed Bush's new role to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the parties involved in the sales talks aren't commenting publicly.

One of the people said South Florida businessman Jorge Mas has contacted the Marlins to say he's leading a group interested in buying the franchise, meaning at least three groups are pursuing a deal.

Bush and Jeter, the 14-time New York Yankees All-Star shortstop, led rival groups earlier this year. They then joined forces, but Bush dropped out in May.

Now they're rivals again, and Jeter is still exploring financing options.

The Romney-Bush group also includes Quogue Capital investment fund founder Wayne Rothbaum, Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Glavine and former Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart.

The Romney and Jeter groups have bid about $1.3 billion to buy the team from Jeffrey Loria but have not yet raised the money needed. Jeter met Thursday with Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred and Marlins president David Samson, and told them he doesn't yet have the necessary money and is still seeking help from other investors.

Loria bought the Marlins for $158.5 million in 2002 from John Henry (see full story).

Gore: Padres agree to $6.7 million signing bonus
SAN DIEGO -- Left-hander MacKenzie Gore, the third overall pick in this year's amateur draft, has agreed to a minor league contract with the San Diego Padres that includes a $6.7 signing bonus.

San Diego called a Saturday news conference with Gore, general manager A.J. Preller and director of scouting Mark Conner to announce the agreement.

An 18-year-old from Whiteville High School in North Carolina, Gore was 11-0 with 0.19 ERA this year as a senior. He struck out 158 strikeouts and walked five in 74 1/3 innings.

Aaron Nola overpowers Mookie Betts, Mike Trout in All-Star Game debut

Aaron Nola overpowers Mookie Betts, Mike Trout in All-Star Game debut

Aaron Nola vs. Mookie Betts, Jose Altuve and Mike Trout. Welcome to the All-Star Game.

Nola made his ASG debut Tuesday night in D.C., pitching the top of the fifth inning with the National League trailing 2-1.

He opened the frame by striking out Royals catcher Salvador Perez on a low-and-away curveball well off the plate.

Next up was Betts, the AL MVP favorite. On a 3-2 count, Nola struck Betts out swinging on a high-and-tight 96 mph fastball.

The next batter, 2017 AL MVP Altuve, singled to right-center on the first pitch. 

And that brought up Trout, who had homered in his previous at-bat against Jacob deGrom. 

Trout had no such luck against Nola, popping up to first base in foul territory on the third pitch he saw.

Nola threw 15 pitches, 10 strikes. 

This was a pretty cool moment for Nola, facing arguably the three best hitters in baseball and retiring two of them. Looked like he belonged.

He made some new friends, too. Here's Nola planning an offseason sleepover with Max Scherzer, Zack Greinke and Patrick Corbin.

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Phillies' other trade options if they can't land Manny Machado

Phillies' other trade options if they can't land Manny Machado

There's no player on the trade market who could replicate for the Phillies the impact Manny Machado would make in August and September. 

There's definitely no player who would invigorate the fan base as much.

But if the Dodgers do end up beating the Phillies' offer for the best available player, the Phils will still look to make other upgrades.

That could involve acquiring a solid, non-star player for the left side of the infield, in addition to pitching help.

If the Phils can't add huge run production to their lineup, their focus could shift to players who'd assist in run prevention.

Here are some names to keep in mind:

Royals super-utilityman Whit Merrifield

There has been reported interest from the Phillies in Merrifield, and the two organizations have already scouted each other because of the earlier interest in Mike Moustakas.

Merrifield can play all over the diamond — first, second, third and all three outfield spots. If Maikel Franco is going well, you could play him in the outfield. If Franco is slumping, he could play third base. But acquiring Merrifield would be just as much about the future as this year.

Merrifield doesn't have nearly the raw power of a Machado or a Moustakas, but he's a proven .290-.300 hitter with gap power, speed and defensive versatility. He led the AL in steals (34) last season and has the third-most doubles (30) in the majors this season.

He would not be cheap to acquire. Merrifield is making $570,000 this season and will be inexpensive again in 2019 before his arbitration years begin. All told, Merrifield is under club control through the end of 2022. These are his prime years and he'll be underpaid for them relative to his performance.

Merrifield is not the same caliber player as Machado, but the cost in trade could end up being similar because Machado is a two-month rental and Merrifield comes with 4½ years of team control. That is a major, major difference that might offset the gap in talent between the two players.

Twins 3B/SS/2B Eduardo Escobar

Another name connected to the Phillies. Escobar, 29, is having a career year, hitting .271/.327/.507 for the Twins with a majors-leading 35 doubles, 14 homers and 57 RBI. 

He's been one of the most clutch players in baseball this season, hitting .367 with a 1.112 OPS with runners in scoring position. That's not exactly a sustainable long-term skill, but it's worth mentioning.

The switch-hitting Escobar would be a rental. He's a free agent at season's end. Thus, it would be cheaper to acquire him than Merrifield.

Top-tier relievers

If the Phils don't get Machado, they could instead land a combination of a bat and a bullpen piece to try to match his overall value.

Zach Britton. Jeurys Familia. Brad Hand. Raisel Iglesias. Felipe Vazquez.

Britton would be the cheapest option because he's a free agent after the season. We've known the Phillies have interest in him, and they could still pursue him even if Machado heads out West.

Britton's velocity has returned. He's back to throwing that power sinker in the mid-to-high 90s. His left-handedness would give the Phillies the matchup reliever they need, along with an experienced ninth-inning option that could allow Seranthony Dominguez to be used in a high-leverage role earlier in the game.

If you can't make a move that allows you to comfortably outscore your opponents moving forward, shortening the game is another way to remain in contention.

Baseball has changed. Having upper-echelon relievers in October is more meaningful now than ever before.

Blue Jays pieces

Jim Salisbury reported Monday that as the Phillies await an answer from the Orioles, they're also interested in Blue Jays lefty and former Phillie J.A. Happ.

Acquiring Happ would give the Phils a left-handed starting pitcher, which they haven't had since September 2016. That move could then allow them to move a Vince Velasquez or Nick Pivetta to the bullpen. Both are high-velocity, strikeout pitchers and both could thrive in a bullpen role. Their velocity and K-rates may even increase.

Imagine the Phillies being up 3-2 with two outs in the sixth inning and their starter at 105 pitches. A combination of Pat Neshek and Velasquez or Pivetta could get you all the way to the ninth. It would also give the Phillies a look at one of those young starting pitchers in that different role to gauge whether it makes the most sense for them long term.

Happ isn't the only Blue Jay to monitor, though. Yangervis Solarte has power and can play every infield position. He also has fair-market club options beyond this year — $5.5 million next season, $8 million the following season.

Curtis Granderson could help, too, as the missing power bat off the bench. Granderson was 0 for 13 heading into the All-Star break, but from June 7 to July 7, he hit .319/.373/.623 with six doubles and five homers.

No, he's not some big-time difference-maker in 2018, but Granderson is a markedly better and more dangerous hitter than the Phillies currently have on the bench.

It's not nearly as sexy of a trade, but acquiring a package of Happ, Granderson and Solarte could improve the Phillies in four different areas: rotation, bullpen, infield and bench.

Josh Donaldson, a much bigger name and more impactful power bat when healthy, is also worth keeping in the back of your mind. Donaldson has been out with a calf injury since Memorial Day but has resumed running and doing baseball activities and could be back by the end of the month. 

He's a free agent after the season as well. The contract status combined with all the time missed over the last two seasons will decrease the price tag. 

But if he's healthy and ready to go, this is a former MVP who hit .282/.377/.524 over the last five seasons with an average of 33 homers and 98 RBI.

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