The game of baseball seems to have entrenched competitive parity, writes MLB.com's Mike Bauman. He cites the Pirates, A's, Rays, Indians, and Royals as examples of small-market clubs having successful seasons, and notes that the Dodgers are currently the only team that lead a division in both the standings and media market size. Of course, that doesn't mean that salary capacity is without importance: The Tigers and Red Sox rank in the top five of MLB payrolls along with the Dodgers, and other likely playoff teams like the Cardinals, Reds, and Rangers are in the top half. And several other teams with top-15 payrolls — the Orioles, Yankees, and Nationals — are also still in the hunt. Let's take a look at some of the big-budget squads from the league's eastern divisions:
- The Yankees' injury woes are well-documented, and now seem a good bet to pervade the season. Alex Rodriguez is set for DH duties with a balky hamstring, the team just learned that an oblique injury will sideline Brett Gardner for a decent stretch, and now the Yanks have scratched Alfonso Soriano from today's game with a thumb sprain. New York's bullpen situation is arguably still more pressing than the outfield, however, and time is short to add temporary fill-ins. The club recently made one September-only acquisition to fill a gap with shortstop Brendan Ryan, and is just two games out of the Wild Card. It is possible, if unlikely, that GM Brian Cashman could look to add yet another replacement from the group of players that have cleared waivers.
- Still basking in his game-winning grand slam last night, Red Sox backstop Jarrod Saltalamacchia could be a candidate to receive a qualifying offer, writes John Tomase of the Boston Herald. With a top-10 OPS among catchers and an improving skill set behind the dish, says Tomase, Salty should be considered for a QO among the Sox' other candidates — Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli, and Stephen Drew. Of course, even if Boston decides it wants Saltalamacchia back, it is an entirely separate question whether to run the risk of a qualifying offer. The Munsey Sports Management client would seem likely to accept the offer if it is extended, as he would risk a tough market if signing teams had to sacrifice a draft pick to get him. Though the 28-year-old figures to be among the most desirable catchers available after Brian McCann, moreover, demand will be diluted somewhat by other established, power-hitting options like A.J. Pierzynski and Carlos Ruiz.
- Lucas Duda of the Mets is getting an unexpected opportunity to showcase himself for his club, writes Matt Ehalt of ESPNNewYork.com. As MLBTR's Mark Polishuk recently explained, Duda has a chance to snare a first base gig with the Mets or make himself a reasonably attractive trade commodity. The New York brass seems glad to give him the chance after watching Ike Davis struggle and ultimately go down with a season-ending injury. "Here's his shot to say, 'Hey, look, I'm going to be a legitimate candidate, you're going to have to think about me at that spot,'" explained manager Terry Collins. "That's why we're hoping as we finish the season out that Lucas does what we know he can do."
- Two young, NL East aces — Matt Harvey and Stephen Strasburg — have become emblematic of baseball's long struggle with the stress put on its best arms. But relief could be on the way, according to MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince, who explains that promising new conditioning methods could be employed to limit the occurrence of catastrophic arm injuries.