|Though his production is down from 2011's, Upton may be turning a corner with his hitting. (US Presswire)|
1. Justin Upton, Diamondbacks OF
Everyone on Arizona had a big series vs. the struggling Astros but Upton's recent streak should help quell any idea he's somehow losing it. Sure, it hasn't been the year he hoped for, but Upton is only 24 and still has a very bright future. He was nine for 26 with four extra-base hits and a 1.049 OPS this week, reminding folks of his considerable potential. The Yankees and many others have checked in on Upton, but there seemed to be at least some belief the Diamondbacks would wait until the winter to maximize the haul in a deal for Upton.
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The Diamondbacks may well wait, but whenever they trade him they should hold out for a haul. Also aiding general manager Kevin Towers in his trade talks were versatile infielder Willie Bloomquist (10 for his last 19) and third baseman Ryan Roberts (seven for 14). The Diamondbacks would love to somehow find a young shortstop and young third baseman for the future.
2. John Lannan, Nationals SP
The best-paid minor leaguer in baseball, Lannan, who makes $5 million, came up for a cameo and pitched such a great game in the heart of a pennant race that he touched teammates and Nationals officials alike. Lannan has handled his surprise late-spring demotion as well as could be expected, and turned in a superb outing in what he described as his first-ever truly meaningful major-league start, throwing seven two-run innings in a need victory by the Nationals, who had dropped the first two games of the series to the second-place Braves.
Lannan was immediately returned to the minors, and manager Davey Johnson says he believes he has what he needs for the rotation even after young star Stephen Strasburg is shut down in a month or so. However, it seems pretty clear Lannan isn't really in the Nats' long-term plans, so it's probably for the best if they can find a trade for him. So technically, he helped them out in two ways this week.
3. Josh Willingham, Twins OF
The Twins are sending signals that they really have little interest in trading Willingham, whom they signed to a very reasonable $21 million, three-year free-agent contract this winter. That makes sense, but with Carlos Quentin now off the market, a line a mile long would form for Willingham if they should change their mind.
His rare 0-for-4 collar Sunday vs. the Royals stopped a nine-game hitting streak in which he was 14 for 32. But it isn't the .275 batting average that will wow interested teams -- it's his power numbers. He has 23 home runs and 68 RBI, superb totals especially when considering he plays home games at expansive Target Field. He was just as good at Oakland Coliseum with the A's last year, hitting 15 of 29 home runs at that pitchers park. It would be nice to see what he could do in a smaller park in a pennant race. The Twins should at least listen.
1. Hanley Ramirez, Marlins 3B
It wasn't so much the way he played, but the reason he didn't play. Ramirez had to sit out after his hand became infected apparently after he failed to take his medication following an incident in which he injured himself while punching a fan (the mechanical kind) in anger. There is little doubt some Marlins people are equally as frustrated by his overall act.
While there are some detractors out there -– "He's not a third baseman, he's not a shortstop anymore. I wouldn't know where to hide him," one GM said -- there are very likely folks that believe he is young and talented enough that they could get the best out of him. Or at least much better than this. His contract once looked like a great deal for the team, but it still certainly isn't so bad that they'd have to take that terrible Carl Crawford contract to send Ramirez away, as was rumored. Ramirez is still young, and still has huge tools, so he may look OK to some. From a distance, anyway.
2. Kevin Millwood, Mariners SP
Millwood's 10-hit, seven-run, five-inning performance in an 8-7 defeat to the Royals made it six straight starts in which he's failed to win. He was looking for a while like he might make a solid bottom-of-the-rotation pickup for someone, but Millwood hasn't won since having to leave a no-hitter after six innings back on June 8 with a groin strain. Five Mariners relievers completed the 1-0 gem. But Millwood, unfortunately is 0-2 with four no-decisions since his return.
3. Wandy Rodriguez, Astros SP
With scouts in attendance (at least the Yankees, Royals and Tigers were there), Rodriguez was awful, allowing five runs in four innings at San Diego and reminding folks why they wanted to shy away from a contract that included an unusual $13 million team option for 2014 that transforms into a player option once he is dealt.
New Astros GM Jeff Luhnow did a very nice job with the draft and a pretty nice job with the trades for Carlos Lee, Brandon Lyon and Brett Myers, as well. But this one will be tricky unless Rodriguez can throw a better game soon. Scouts already don't love the fact that the lefthander doesn't throw hard, so the results have to be better than he showed. The Yankees aren't desperate for a starter and the Tigers don't generally like soft throwers, so the non-contending Royals, who are trying to gather veteran starters with contracts beyond this year, may make the most sense of the three teams known to watch him. The Cardinals are another team that could fit. But like most teams it's hard to imagine they love that unique contract now.