Major League Baseball
MLB's greatest living HOFer? Braves still title contenders? Mets trade Pete Alonso?
Major League Baseball

MLB's greatest living HOFer? Braves still title contenders? Mets trade Pete Alonso?

Updated Jun. 27, 2024 8:54 p.m. ET

The Mets are no longer unbeaten in the Grimace era, but all their recent winning leaves them in a precarious position as the trade deadline looms. The Yankees also have a tough call to make involving phenom Luis Gil, who's a candidate for AL Cy Young and Rookie of the Year. The dual award push applies to fellow rookie Shōta Imanaga in the National League.

Meanwhile, the Braves, Brewers and Padres have all had surprising first halves — for very different reasons.

These six teams make up this week's FOX Saturday Baseball lineup, as the Cubs host the Mets (2:20 p.m. ET on FS1), the Yankees host the Braves (7:15 p.m. ET on FOX) and the Padres host the Brewers (7:15 p.m. ET on FOX).

Accordingly, FOX Sports MLB experts Rowan Kavner and Ben Verlander tackle these topics and more in this week's roundtable.


1. Do you think the Mets have been good enough to warrant possibly being buyers and keeping Pete Alonso through the trade deadline? What's your best guess on what president of baseball operations David Stearns will do?

Verlander: For me, the question isn't "Have the Mets been good enough?" It's more the fact that they play in the National League. In the NL wild-card race, only the Rockies and the Marlins are more than 1.5 games out of a playoff spot, while nine teams are within two games of the second wild-card spot. With Grimace on their side, the Mets should keep plowing forward. As for Alonso, I do believe the Mets will ultimately hold onto him and I think he will be on their roster next year, too.

Kavner: I don't think their play of late means they should suddenly start giving away prospects for a big push. They need more of those; not fewer. This was never supposed to be "their year," but they've demonstrated enough lately that playing it out with the current group and seeing what happens by October wouldn't be the worst thing. As constructed, it wouldn't surprise me at all if they end up with one of the last two wild-card spots, and at that point anything can happen.

That said, I still expect them to listen to offers on Alonso. The question now is how much has Alonso upped his trade value with his recent play? There are so few obvious sellers that a team making an elite first baseman available could get premium value back. If that offer comes, including at least one upper-level top prospect who can help them in the near future, I could see Stearns taking it. But the Mets' current run means they won't have to simply take the best deal offered if it doesn't bring back the value they covet. There's obviously a risk to letting Alonso reach free agency, but unlike many teams whose top talents are in a walk year, the Mets have the financial backing that if they want to ride this out, they can still make him the best offer this offseason.

2. Where do you currently have Shōta Imanaga in the NL Cy Young race? How big of a lead do you think he has in the NL Rookie of the Year race?

Kavner: Zack Wheeler's implosion against the Orioles opened the door for other contenders, but I think Wheeler's rotation mate Ranger Suárez has the inside track right now. Still, Imanaga is certainly in the mix. I'd currently slot him third, right behind Suárez and Reynaldo López. I always wondered if the long ball would eventually come back to bite Imanaga, but I've been impressed with the way he bounced back this month from his first real clunker.

Imanaga's the clear leader for NL Rookie of the Year right now, but I don't see him running away with it. Now that Yoshinobu Yamamoto's hurt, I expect a two-man race down the stretch between Imanaga and Paul Skenes. The other dark horse I'd keep an eye on is Joey Ortiz, but I just think the star power of the two pitchers will have one of those two win out. It should especially heat up if both the Cubs and Pirates are vying for a wild-card spot.

Verlander: Shota Imanaga is certainly in the top five of the NL Cy Young competition. I would have guys like Ranger Suárez, Zack Wheeler and Tyler Glasnow ahead of him currently. When it comes to the ROY award, I would put him and Paul Skenes neck and neck right now. Skenes may have gotten a late start, but he's been everything he was chalked up to be and more.

3. Do you still believe in the Braves as a 2024 title contender?

Verlander: The 2024 Braves are absolutely still a contender to win the World Series. They've proven before that they can do it without Ronald Acuña Jr., but they will need to add multiple pieces at the deadline that come up huge for them in October. Just as they did in 2021.

Kavner: Yes. They already demonstrated in 2021 that they can win a championship without Ronald Acuña Jr., and the additions of Chris Sale and Reynaldo López in the rotation should give them enough options on the mound to handle the loss of Spencer Strider. Now, they need the offense to pick up more consistently. But they still have the pieces to be a frightening threat, and I expect some deadline moves will give the group a boost.

4. What would be your plan for Yankees star rookie Luis Gil's workload for the remainder of the season?

Kavner: This is a tough call. There's no perfect science to this, as the Marlins found out after monitoring Eury Pérez's workload meticulously last year and still losing their phenom to injury, and I think sometimes we get too bogged down with strict innings limits when that doesn't guarantee health. But this is a particularly special case in that Gil, at 26, has never thrown 100 innings in a professional season before and had thrown fewer than 30 innings the past two years due to Tommy John surgery. For now, I'd monitor him closely, save some innings on his starts where I can, and when he shows signs of fatigue consider either a temporary move to the bullpen or brief shutdown. He hasn't been losing any velocity — even in Thursday's shellacking by the Orioles — but I'm doing whatever I need to do to make sure Gil is available and at his best in October.

Verlander: With Gerrit Cole back in the fold, if I'm the Yankees, I would roll out a six-man rotation for a while. It gives Luis Gil an extra day's rest between every start and would limit some starts over the course of the year. I'm never of the belief to do anything drastic to limit pitches. The Yankees need Luis Gil to be a big part of that rotation now and in the playoffs.

5. Which club do you expect to have a better record in the second half of the season, the Brewers or Padres?

Verlander: I'll be the first to admit that I was wrong this year about the Brewers. They have been much better thus far than I anticipated. I love the additions the Padres have made this season by adding Dylan Cease and Luis Arráez. They have been huge for the Padres and I think they can ultimately make it to the playoffs with the roster they have. I think the Padres will have a better second half than the Brewers.

Kavner: The Brewers — and that's with me still believing the Padres will find a way to sneak into one of those last two playoff spots. I know it may be hard to fully buy in, but this Milwaukee team is legit, and I just can't look at a team that's 44-30 with a plus-66 run differential and think they'll be worse than a team that currently has a losing record, regardless of the star power and potential in San Diego. William Contreras is one of the best catchers in baseball. Christian Yelich has looked exceptional when healthy. Joey Ortiz is one of the game's top rookies. Willy Adames, Brice Turang and Rhys Hoskins give the lineup depth. It's possible the Brewers can sustain this if they can add to their rotation at the deadline, and star closer Devin Williams should be back at some point in the second half.

Bonus: In light of Willie Mays' passing, who do you consider to be baseball's greatest living Hall of Famer?

Kavner: I think Sandy Koufax had the greatest four-year stretch — from 1963-66, he won an MVP, two World Series MVPs, three Cy Young Awards, struck out more than 300 batters three times and went 97-27 with a 1.86 ERA — but in terms of an overall career, it's between Rickey Henderson, Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Schmidt, for me. I want to say Griffey, because he was so influential in my love for the game (630 homers and 10 Gold Gloves don't hurt his cause, either), but the answer is probably Rickey, who leads that group in WAR. If we wanted to just talk greatest living player, it's Barry Bonds.

Verlander: Hard not to go from one Giant to another and hand Barry Bonds this honor. But unfortunately, he isn't in the Hall. Sandy Koufax is now the greatest living Hall of Famer — three Cy Young Awards and threw a shutout in the World Series on two days rest. Koufax is a legend.

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Rowan Kavner is an MLB writer for FOX Sports. He previously covered the L.A. Dodgers, LA Clippers and Dallas Cowboys. An LSU grad, Rowan was born in California, grew up in Texas, then moved back to the West Coast in 2014. Follow him on Twitter at @RowanKavner.

Ben Verlander is an MLB analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the "Flippin' Bats" podcast. Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Verlander was an All-American at Old Dominion University before he joined his brother, Justin, in Detroit as a 14th-round pick of the Tigers in 2013. He spent five years in the Tigers organization. Follow him at @BenVerlander.

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