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Nationals vs. Astros – Live Game – October 22, 2019



The Astros still have just their two runs from the first inning on the board, but they continue to put Nats ace Max Scherzer through the meat grinder. He’s at 96 pitches after four innings, with Houston’s hitters averaging 4.8 pitches per plate appearance. The Astros have already fouled off 15 Scherzer’s pitches.

Bradford Doolittle, ESPN Staff Writer1h ago

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Hall of Famer Mike Piazza agrees to manage Italian baseball team



Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza has agreed to manage the Italian baseball team, he announced in a tweet Wednesday.

Piazza said he will manage the team for the 2020 European Baseball Championship and the 2021 World Baseball Classic.

This will be Piazza’s first managerial experience since the 12-time All-Star retired in 2008 after a 16-year baseball career.

He was the majority owner of AC Reggiana, a third-tier Italian soccer team, from 2016 until it ceased operations after the 2017-18 season.

Italy finished as the runner-up at the European Baseball Championship this year. It has never made it past the second round in four WBC appearances.

Piazza was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2016. With a career batting average of .308, he hit better than .300 in nine straight seasons and finished with 427 home runs, including a record 396 when he was in the game behind the plate.

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‘There are no untouchables’ — How Cubs’ retool will shape offseason across MLB



SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — It’s a good week for the Chicago Cubs‘ front office to reacquaint themselves with many of their counterparts from other teams. After all, they could be huddled together behind closed doors for hours this winter. After years of utilizing the free-agent market to augment a young position player core, the script has flipped in Chicago, where the Cubs hold some of the keys to the hot stove season.

“We enjoyed a lot of success and stability and good feelings all around,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said from the general managers meetings in Arizona. “And when things evolved to a place we’re not as proud of, there’s accountability for all of us. That means a lot of change and difficult decisions and trying to move forward and create something new. Change is not always easy, but it’s necessary.”

The change Epstein is referring to has come because of a few factors: The team came up short in the standings the past two years. The Cubs have a group of players who will all become free agents at the same time, after the 2021 season. Finally, there’s the competitive balance tax. Simply put, the Cubs’ payroll comes down if they subtract from their major league roster.

It means a New York Yankees-like retool could be in order, with the team’s front office using this winter and possibly next July to acquire younger, controllable players and stock a thin farm system. It also means opponents could be lining up for former All-Stars and MVPs, all of whom have championship experience.

“There are no untouchables,” Epstein said.

In truth, the Cubs boss has said the same every year, but it certainly sounds like he means it this time. “We’re in the ‘information collecting’ stages of the process,” one general manager put it on Tuesday.

No one, including the team, knows yet the course the Cubs will take, but the strategy is sound based on the situation they’re in: Lock up a few of the young stars, and trade a couple of others.

“Considering what those guys [Cubs players] have done, you’re going to have interest,” San Diego Padres general manager A.J. Preller said. “You’re going to want to have those conversations about those types of players.”

We’re talking about a group that includes Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Willson Contreras, Kyle Schwarber and Addison Russell. Not to mention pitchers such as Jose Quintana and even Craig Kimbrel.

“These guys that keep coming up in trade rumors have a done a ton for our franchise and are among the very best players in the world,” Epstein said.

They should be highly sought after by a large group of teams that includes rebuilders and contenders alike. That’s unusual.

“It’s not always natural for two contending teams to line up,” Philadelphia Phillies GM Matt Klentak said. “It’s not impossible, but it has to do with what kind of talent is going back in either direction.”

Take the Atlanta Braves, for example. GM Alex Anthopoulos admitted Tuesday that third base is wide-open for them. Plus, they have a need at catcher. Atlanta has one of the better farm systems, which should get the Cubs’ attention. There could be a match.

Even Chicago’s former playoff foe, the Los Angeles Dodgers, see the possibilities with a team such as the Cubs. The Dodgers aren’t looking for Double-A prospects — they want to win now. That environment can make trade partners out of those not previously thought of.

“We’re going in saying we want to add as many talented players as we can, and we can move things around,” Dodgers president Andrew Friedman said of his roster. “As we sit here today, we have some future flexibility, we have a deep pipeline of prospects, we have a talented major league roster. We like the position we’re in now. How we navigate things will be dictated by the market.”

That market will include the Cubs for the first time since they won the World Series in 2016. Friedman sees what the Cubs are doing, but it’s too early in the process to know how it will play out — meaning which Cubs are staying and which are going.

“To collect as much information as they can and figure out what makes sense for them balancing the short term and the long term,” Friedman said of Chicago. “I don’t think they know what that means right now. It’s important not to be too rigid in your thinking, and as you collect more information, it helps you navigate in different directions.”

It should make for a wild season of rumors, something the Cubs’ brass would love to suppress. They’re aware of what that could mean to their players, who will undoubtedly see their names all over social media. It’s not pleasant, but it’s reality.

“The nature of any offseason is there are going to be rumors about your major league players, even your best players,” Epstein said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true.”

But of course, some will be, though ultimately the only thing that matters is which deals get done. Although teams can start conversations now, they might not finish them until summer. The importance of the July 31 deadline wasn’t lost on Yankees GM Brian Cashman, who deftly used his assets to acquire Gleyber Torres from the Cubs for closer Aroldis Chapman in 2016. The Yankees also moved Andrew Miller that July. The moves hastened the Yankees’ retooling strategy. Now it’s the Cubs’ turn.

“If you have a number of teams looking for the same thing, they can exploit the market and take advantage of the competition for their services,” Cashman said of the Cubs. “That’s as creative and dynamic of a front office as you’re ever going to find.

“Whatever course they are plotting is the smart one. And even the courses in more recent years that haven’t played out the way they hoped, I can tell you sitting in my office, every decision they made makes a ton of sense. It’s still a game that comes with no guarantees.”

The harder deals might come with those teams just coming out of their rebuilds, unless a trade-and-sign is in order. Would teams such as the Padres or White Sox take two years of control just to see the player walk when the team is in its prime window to win? The match has to be just right.

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NL West offseason preview — Will anyone challenge Dodgers’ division dynasty?



With free agency underway, the offseason is going to pick up steam. What are the big questions facing all 30 teams?

We now turn to the NL West, where the Dodgers have a streak of consecutive titles going while the rest of the division ponders how to catch them.

2019 record: 106-56
2020 World Series odds: 5-1

The Dodgers have built a sustainable powerhouse largely through discipline. They excel in player development, focus on versatility, navigate toward youth and steer clear of the mega-contract. It’s an approach that has helped them win a major league-best 485 regular-season games since 2015 and has kept them on a path for continued dominance. The Dodgers could do nothing this offseason — literally nothing — and still field a roster capable of winning 90-plus games and capturing an eighth consecutive division title in 2020.

But, alas, that is not the ultimate goal.

The Dodgers are still in search of their first championship since 1988. They followed back-to-back World Series losses with a 106-win season in 2019, then suffered a gut-wrenching first-round elimination at the hands of the Washington Nationals. Now the Dodgers must ask themselves: Is their October misfortune the result of postseason randomness or do they need to construct their roster differently? Their depth is unparalleled, but do they need more high-end talent?

It would be overly simplistic to say they should just go after Gerrit Cole or Anthony Rendon. Cole fills their need for another top-of-the-rotation starter, but Andrew Friedman’s Dodgers don’t hand out nine-figure contracts to players nearing 30. Rendon is said to be interested in a short-term deal with a higher average annual value, which would be more appealing to Friedman. But the more likely route is the trade market. The Dodgers have the organizational depth to acquire virtually any player they choose, and they have shown a knack for creativity.

There’s no telling what they’ll do, but it seems as if a major shakeup could take place. — Alden Gonzalez

Arizona Diamondbacks: Are they ready to make a play for the crown?

2019 record: 85-77
2020 World Series odds: 60-1

Finishing above .500 again and earning a (distant) second-place finish in the division was a nice accomplishment for GM Mike Hazen in a season when he traded away both Paul Goldschmidt (before) and Zack Greinke (during). Three years in from inheriting an expensive mess, Arizona has never had a losing season on Hazen’s watch, and has the makings of a serious contender.

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