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The Trailing Runner: July 17-July 23

Breaking down the biggest baseball stories of the past week.

Every Sunday, The Trailing Runner recaps the past week’s biggest headlines and most exciting performances. On Mondays, keep an eye out for The Leadoff, which breaks down the week ahead.

Welcome to the second half of the 2022 season. With the All-Star break occupying Monday through Wednesday, most teams only played a few games this week, but some exciting moments emerged regardless.

 

J-Rod Steals Show at HRD

 

In the midst of a 14-game win streak that has catapulted his Mariners back into playoff contention, rookie sensation Julio Rodríguez continued his remarkable season by putting on a show to remember at the Home Run Derby. Rodriguez, who hit 16 home runs and stole 21 bases in the first half, got the hype going himself when he launched a massive grand slam in the final series before the break.

 

Of course, J-Rod delivered. In the first round of the night, he launched 32 home runs to take down Rangers’ shortstop Corey Seager. It was the most hit in a single round by a rookie in the derby’s history (not counting swing-offs). Next, he dispatched two-time reigning champion Pete Alonso, hitting another 31.

Rodriguez ultimately fell to Juan Soto in the final round, but his 81 home runs marked the second-highest total ever and he became the first player with two 30+ rounds in a single derby. He may not have won the night, but akin to Josh Hamilton in 2008 and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in 2019, his performance is the one that will be remembered.

Hopefully, it didn’t come at a price — J-Rod has missed Seattle’s first two games coming out of the break with wrist soreness, although both he and the team say it’s unrelated to the Home Run Derby.

 

Juan Soto Rejects $440M Extension

 

Speaking of Soto, his derby win came on the heels of the dramatic news that he’d rejected a massive $440 million contract extension offer from the Nationals. The 15-year deal would have been the largest in baseball history in total dollars. This is the third offer Soto has rejected this year.

The situation sets the stage for a one-of-a-kind trade deadline, as Soto is a one-of-a-kind trade chip. He remains under team control for the remainder of this year as well as 2023 and 2024, which is unusually long. The blockbuster trade that sent Mookie Betts to the Dodgers (perhaps the best comparison point) was essentially a one-year rental, although the Dodgers quickly gave Betts a long-term extension. Just as David Price’s inflated contract was attached to Betts, the Nationals will likely require Patrick Corbin to be included in a Soto deal, along with his 6-year $140M contract and 6.02 ERA.

However, Soto is only 23 years old, while Betts was 27. Soto also arguably has a higher ceiling than Betts, with frequent (and data-driven) comparisons to Ted Williams.

In all, the youth, talent, team control, and frankly, willingness of the Nationals make this (potential) trade unlike any other. Of course, there needs to be emphasis on “potential”; any deal would require a wealth of top prospects as well as major league-ready talent. There aren’t many teams able or willing to part with the quantity of talent the Nats will be looking for … but there are some, and getting 2.5 seasons of Juan Soto could be a dynasty-defining move.

 

Blue Jays Score Many Runs

 

The Blue Jays wiped the floor with the Boston Red Sox in historic fashion on Friday, beating them 28-5. The game marked the most runs scored and allowed by the respective teams, and that’s about all my New England heart can stand to write about it. Steve Drumwright recapped the game in our daily MLB News and Moments You Should Know article, which you can find here.

 

Players of the Week

 

Some top offensive performances of the week:

  • Aaron Judge wasted no time getting back to business, homering in the first game back and then launching two more the next day. He leads baseball with 36.
  • Lourdes Gurriel Jr. went 6-7 in a certain aforementioned blowout, adding 5 RBI and 3 R. He tied the Blue Jay’s single-game hits record with the performance.
  • DJ LeMahieu has been excellent lately, posting a .500/.636/.750 slash line over his last five games.

And their counterparts on the mound:

 

Around the League

 

  • The Yankees sit atop the AL East and pace the American League at 65-31. The Twins are the best team in the Central at 51-44. The Astros lead the West at 63-32.
  • The Mets pace the NL East at 58-37. The Brewers are atop the Central at 52-43. In the West, the Dodgers lead at 63-30, the best record in the NL.
  • Aaron Judge leads hitters with 5.4 fWAR, overtaking Manny Machado.
  • The Marlins’ Sandy Alcantara tops pitchers for the first time this year with 4.0 fWAR, overtaking both Carlos Rodón of the Giants and Toronto’s Kevin Gausman.

 

Featured image by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)

Ethan McCollister

Diehard Red Sox fan. Vermonter in Philly. Harvard alum. Cat dad. In Chaim we trust...but I miss Mookie.

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