Making my Midseason Award picks
There are some great debates being set up already for the major awards. Jose Reyes, Matt Kemp, Prince Fielder or even Lance Berkman for NL Most Valuable Player? Adrian Gonzalez or Jose Bautista for AL MVP? In the Cy Young races, any of three Phillies starters could win in the NL while In the AL, a strong case could be made for Justin Verlander or Jered Weaver. And as for NL Manager of the Year, well, there are several worthy candidates.
But in the less-coveted Least Valuable Player awards, there is one obvious candidate in each league at this point. Here are the Midseason Awards, for good and bad.
1. Clint Hurdle, Pirates. Incredible job to date to guide the Pirates to a 45-41 mark, good for second place in the NL Central, just 1 ½ behind the Cardinals.
2. Kirk Gibson, Diamondbacks. The same could be said of Gibson, who has Arizona within a game of defending World Series champion San Francisco in the NL West.
3. Tony La Russa, Cardinals. Has weathered some setbacks,like injuries to Adam Wainwright, Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols to steer St. Louis to the top of the NL Central.
• The Astros' Wandy Rodriguez may be as good as it gets among starting pitchers on this trade market, and that's assuming Houston consents to trading him, which is no certainty. The Astros are talking to other teams, but they remain something of a wild card because they have been reluctant to sell in the past and have a new owner coming in.
• Some controversy has surrounded Jim Crane's candidacy to buy the Astros, but he is expected to win approval. GM Ed Wade would seem to be in trouble if new ownership looks at what's been done there.
• Word is that Cubs manager Jim Quade is safe but GM Jim Hendry's fate seems not to have been decided. Some in baseball don't blame Hendry for some of the Cubs' bigger contracts, saying he may have been under orders. Owner Tom Ricketts is seen as cautious, which may help Hendry, as well.
• Of course the Mets will make an offer to retain Jose Reyes. They can't afford to look like they aren't trying. The big question is whether they can be competitive for him. One competing GM said of Reyes, "He will get more than Carl Crawford.'' As we know, Mets owner Fred Wilpon opined earlier that Reyes wouldn't get the $142 million Crawford got from the Red Sox last winter, so it would look funny for the Mets to offer it.
• Reyes looks almost a certainty to stay with the Mets this summer, though. And one GM said of the Mets, "How can they trade (Carlos) Beltran either?'' That GM said Francisco Rodriguez's vesting option -- he'll make $17.5 million in 2012 if he finishes 55 games -- puts him in another category, as one player the Mets will probably try hard to trade.
• One interesting scenario would be for the Phillies to go after Reyes this winter. If the Phillies have a weakness, it's their inconsistent offense. And they have Raul Ibañez, Brad Lidge and potentially incumbent shortstop Jimmy Rollins coming off the books.
• Closer Ryan Madson's contract also expires, but the Phillies would like to re-sign him.
• Albert Pujols is amazing. To return after 15 days with a broken wrist might be his greatest achievement to date.
• One more person in the know said he believed there was no way the Brewers would be able to retain Prince Fielder.
• If the Rockies continue to fade, look for Huston Street to hit the trade market, improving an already strong relief market.
• Recently-released pitcher Scott Kazmir has drawn decent interest despite poor performance in his last days in the Angels organization. He is expected to pick a team soon.
• The Mets' Jason Bay showed serious courage running into the same leftfield wall in Dodger Stadium that caused his concussion last year.
• One competing GM said he believed the Royals would trade Wilson Betemit, Jeff Francoeur and Jeff Francis and that Francis could succeed in the NL, where he had the best years of his career for the Rockies. That exec said he believed the Royals want to keep Melky Cabrera.
• The Dodgers are telling folks they don't expect to consider dealing away players for another 2 ½ weeks. If they do, they have some attractive starting pitchers and infielders. "Jamey Carroll's going to be a pretty good target for a lot of teams,'' one GM said.
• The Tigers may look at a starting pitcher and a hitter. One positive addition for them could be Carlos Guillen, who hasn't played for Detroit all year after offseason knee surgery, might be back right after the All-Star break. The Tigers could also decide to call up top pitching prospect Jacob Turner, who's more talented than anyone they'd find on the starting pitching market.
• The back ailment of Clay Buchholz and underperformance of John Lackey means the Red Sox could be a surprise team looking for a starting pitcher, too. Ace Jon Lester had to leave his start on Tuesday night with a back ailment but it's not being portrayed as serious.
• Omar Minaya, whose Mets tenure is looking better with the fine play of the team this year, is expected to pick a different team to work for in 2012. The Mets' new regime hasn't used him this year.
• Roger Clemens' perjury trial begins Wednesday. He only has himself to blame for this mess he's in.