With less than two weeks left in the regular season, the NL playoff picture appears relatively stable, but there’s plenty left to be determined in the American League. That could result in any number of headache-inducing tiebreaker situations, as ESPN’s Jayson Stark explains. That includes the possibility that there could be a four-way tie between the Rangers, Astros, Angels and Twins for one spot atop the AL West and the last Wild Card spot. The number of possible scenarios are exhausting, but for the teams involved, the travel could be even more exhausting. For example, if the Astros and Twins were to tie for the final Wild Card and the Astros were to win, they’d potentially have to travel from Seattle to Phoenix to Minneapolis to New York to either Kansas City or Toronto, all in a span of about a week. Here’s more from around the league.
- Cliff Lee’s tenure with the Phillies is about to officially reach its end, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com writes. This is the last year of the $120MM contract to which the Phillies signed Lee before the 2011 season, and the Phillies will surely pay Lee a $12.5MM buyout rather than exercising his 2016 option for $27.5MM. Lee missed much of the 2014 season and all of 2015 with elbow trouble. “He helped us make the World Series in ’09 and the postseason in ’11. He pitched very well in ’12 and ’13. It just didn’t work out,” says Phillies interim GM Scott Proefrock. “It was a situation last year where we were looking to trade him and obviously his injury short circuited that.” Zolecki notes that the Phillies insured Lee’s contract, so they’ll get back part of the $25MM they’ve paid him for 2015. Lee was, of course, a huge part of the 102-win 2011 Phillies, ranking among the best pitchers in a brilliant rotation that also featured Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. He also pitched 200-plus excellent innings in both 2012 and 2013.
- The Diamondbacks and Padres have both had underwhelming seasons, but they’re taking diverging paths, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. The Diamondbacks have plenty of good young players under team control, including Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, David Peralta and Ender Inciarte, Lin writes. The Padres, meanwhile, have a veteran team that would be expensive to try to keep together even if it weren’t already disappointing. The D-backs entered the season with modest expectations and may have already surpassed them, while the Padres began with great expectations and fell well short. “For us, we have a nice core of talent that’s come through the minor leagues together, and now they’re getting this opportunity,” says Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale. “We have to make the decision this winter of where do we spice in some of those veterans, whether it’s a position player or a couple starting pitchers.”
- The Padres’ situation is such that more wins this season might actually diminish their flexibility for the future, writes Jeff Sanders of the Union-Tribune. Not only does fewer wins mean a higher draft position for 2016, but a bottom-ten finish in wins means the Padres can pursue top-tier free agents this winter without risking losing their top draft pick due to the qualifying offer system. Currently, the Padres are tied with the Tigers for the eighth-worst record in the big leagues at 72-81, but they’re within striking distance of improving upon the records of several other teams, including the White Sox, Diamondbacks, Red Sox and Mariners.