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MLB Week 17: A Look Ahead at Key Storylines and Matchups

Red Sox Rays Matchup
Red Sox Rays Matchup

Jun 18, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox player Shane Victorino slides in safely with an RBI triple as Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria awaits the throw during the sixth inning at Fenway Park. Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to post-All-Star break Major League Baseball. One of the most exciting times of the year is the time leading up to the trade deadline. Rumors run rampant as the contenders try to acquire the piece or pieces that will put them over the top and propel them into the postseason. In addition to that, an unknown pitcher may impact the pennant race, a former Cy Young Award winner follows up his no-hitter, and, of course, A-Rod is back in the news.

Trade Deadline Update – The non-waiver trade deadline is just nine days away, so the action is really going to be picking up this week. As we mentioned a week ago, Matt Garza appears to be on the move. There were reports the Rangers were close to a deal with the Cubs over the weekend, but that fell through. Though it seems as if it came together again Monday afternoon. Assuming this does get completed, which sounds much more expected this time, Garza will make his Texas debut sometime this week. That deal leaves White Sox starter Jake Peavy as the best pitcher readily available and he could be on the move soon, too. Many teams in contention are also looking for relief help, and that could become the most active market of this trading season, especially with offensive options so sparse. On top of it all, for teams like the Yankees and Phillies, their success this week, or lack thereof, could impact whether they are buyers or sellers.

International Bidding War – One of the biggest pieces to help a contender down the stretch may not even be in a major league organization right now. Cuban pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, who is currently playing in Mexico, is reportedly ready to sign with a MLB team this week. Gonzalez has been granted free agent status, meaning he is not subject to international signing guidelines. He is a hard-throwing righty, with a fastball in the mid-90s, to go along with a changeup, forkball, and curveball. Scouts believe it wouldn’t take him long to be ready to help a team down the stretch. The suitors are among the teams you’d expect — the Dodgers, Rangers, Red Sox, Cubs, Phillies, Blue Jays, and Braves. And, unlike a Garza or a Peavy, all it would cost a team to acquire him would be money, and not prospects.’s Peter Gammons reported the Dodgers are prepared to go to $50MM over five years, which would be enough to land him, however’s Ken Rosenthal says L.A. may not actually be quite that serious. Either way, Gonzalez could land somewhere soon and be a key player in August, September, and maybe even October.

A-Rod Watch – Monday was supposed to be a big day for the Yankees. New York was supposed to move on from the rotation of underperforming third basemen to a singular underperforming third baseman. But after planning for the return of Alex Rodriguez to start the new week, things have changed. A-Rod had just wrapped up his rehab stint with 13 games in the minors, but developed stiffness in his left quadriceps over the weekend. An MRI on Monday determined a Grade 1 strain. Now, there’s no timetable on his return and there is a potential Biogenesis punishment looming, which’s Jon Heyman reports will be at least a 50-game suspension, and quite possibly even more. A lot could happen for A-Rod within the next week, for better or for worse.

Lincecum’s Encore – While it has been nine days since Tim Lincecum threw his no-hitter against the Padres, the San Francisco righty hasn’t been back on the mound since, due to the All-Star break. On Monday night, he will attempt to replicate that performance. He’ll face a tough Reds team in an effort to become the only pitcher aside from Johnny Vander Meer to throw consecutive no-nos. Lincecum faced Cincinnati on July 2nd and went 5.1 innings, while allowing six hits and five runs. The Reds’ own Homer Bailey had a no-hitter of his own in that same game. He followed that up his next time out by giving up a hit to the second batter he faced.

Matchups of the Week – As many great series as there are this week, there might be none bigger than in the A.L. East. There is a realistic possibility that there could be a change at the top of the division for the first time all season. The scorching-hot Rays are just 1.5 games back of the Red Sox and visit Fenway for four games starting on Monday. That series will feature pitching matchups of David PriceFelix Doubront on Wednesday, followed by Jeremy HellicksonJohn Lackey in the series finale on Thursday. The Orioles then host the Sox for three over the weekend. Other important series on the schedule this week are Yankees-Rangers, Pirates-Nationals, Dodgers-Blue Jays, Reds-GiantsRays-Yankees, Rangers-Indians, Phillies-Tigers, Cardinals-Braves, Angels-Athletics, and Reds-Dodgers. If you’re interested in some marquee pitching matchups, the Tigers-White Sox, while not an overly enticing series, will boast two good ones. On Monday, Max Scherzer and Chris Sale square off, and Justin Verlander and Jake Peavy will headline Thursday’s meeting. In the National League, Francisco Liriano and Stephen Strasburg meet on Wednesday and Matt Harvey and Jordan Zimmermann duel on Friday.

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