Some things to talk about as we wish all of you a happy Independence Day...
1) Trade winds blowing
Lots of things going on in the trade market, including a pair of deals going down recently that saw Scott Feldman traded to the Orioles and Carlos Marmol dealt to the Dodgers. We'll get to why those are significant in a moment, but Brian T. Smith checked in with Jeff Luhnow to see how this year is shaping up:
"It's active. It's probably as active as it is any year and as early as it is any year," Luhnow said. "Clubs increasingly recognize there is some value doing early deals because you get the player for longer. But at the same time, there's value in waiting to see what all your options are."
Yes, things are active, but usually for trades to be consummated, there has to be a deadline of some sort. Why do you think the Ricky Nolasco trade was happening five minutes ago at one point and now is back in a holding pattern? Without a reason to make it happen, the Marlins are ready to field the offers they can, even if Henderson Alvarez is coming off the DL soon.
That's why those first two trades were made ahead of schedule. It was another deadline: the July 2 international signing deadline that caused it. I'm not sure we can take those two trades as a sign that deals will be happening hot and heavy all month. But, things will probably happen quickly and I bet the Astros will act sooner rather than later on the two guys most likely to move: Jose Veras and Bud Norris.
2) Great piece on Altuve
Big tip of the cap to Astros County for this great look at what's going on with Jose Altuve this season. He's not a lock for the All-Star Game this year because he hasn't played like an All-Star of late. How has he played?
Since May 1, Altuve is hitting .262/.295/.330. He has more GIDPs (10) than walks (9) in that span. But I do expect him to get better as he gets familiar with the league.
Okay, so maybe that's an unfair pull-quote. You should really go check out the whole thing for some solid analysis on his struggles. But, his line recently is exactly the reason why I'm so down on Matt Dominguez and his walk rate. Players who don't get on base regularly have to make good contact repeatedly to survive in the majors. Jose Altuve has done that spectacularly in the past, but since the first of May, he's been really bad.
He's still just 22, however, so we'll give him some time.
3) Jonah Keri on the Brewers
Why, you ask, are we discussing Houston's former division mate? Well, Jonah Keri over at Grantland put together a fascinating piece chronicling the Brewers' rise and fall through drafting under Jack Zduriencik, through the trades for big-name pitchers and through almost getting to the World Series.
It's worth a read for a lot of reasons, but many of them stuck out to me. Namely this:
They'd developed a passel of excellent, young position players, but few pitchers of note other than Gallardo and Manny Parra, though Parra's '08 campaign would prove to be the highlight of his otherwise unremarkable career.
Doesn't that sound awfully like what Bobby Heck did in his tenure on the team? He drafted lots of good, young position players, but lacked any real pitching sucesses (outside Jordan Lyles). The top pitchers in the system all really came from trades.
But, it seemed like Jeff Luhnow and his staff realized this should be a priority last year, when they went on a trade barrage and took every young pitcher they could find in a trade. They drastically increased the pitching depth in the system at one deadline and figure to add to it more once these July trades go down.
That balance is what has really made Houston's minor leagues one of the best in the game. Lacking that balance (and lacking star players) is what has sent the Brewers to the bottom of those lists.