For a Detroit team that's already dealt with its share of injuries, the steady production of Yoenis Céspedes has been a big help.
Both at the plate and in left field.
"He's been very good in left field — much better than anticipated," manager Brad Ausmus said. "Everyone knew about the arm, but I think he covers more ground than we expected. He takes pride in his defense."
Céspedes has been known for his prodigious strength — home runs sailing well beyond the wall, and baserunners thrown out from almost impossible distances. But in his first season with Detroit, it isn't the highlights that have been crucial.
Instead, it's his dependability. Detroit's Justin Verlander and Victor Martinez have been limited by injuries, but Céspedes has played all 75 games this season and is hitting .300 with 10 home runs and 42 RBIs. Not bad for someone who hit .292 as a rookie in 2012 but hasn't been particularly close to that figure since.
Céspedes may not stay around .300 for long — his batting average on balls in play is .355, which suggests he's been a bit fortunate so far. But he's certainly provided good value to this point from Detroit's offseason deal with Boston. The Tigers sent right-hander Rick Porcello to the Red Sox, and he's 4-8 with a 5.54 ERA this year.
It may be a while before we can determine who "won" this trade. The Red Sox signed Porcello to a four-year, $82.5 million contract that runs from 2016-19, while Céspedes can leave Detroit as a free agent after this season. But thus far in 2015, the Tigers have benefited from the deal.
As for some of the other big trades this offseason, some early returns are in. Matt Kemp was traded from the Los Angeles Dodgers to San Diego, and he's hitting .250 with only six home runs. Yasmani Grandal, who went to the Dodgers in that deal, is at .259 with 10 homers — and he's a catcher.
And then there's the deal that sent Josh Donaldson from Oakland to Toronto. Donaldson is having an MVP-type first half, hitting .301 with 18 homers so far. The Athletics did get some value in return — right-hander Kendall Graveman has a 3.86 ERA in 11 starts for Oakland, and third baseman Brett Lawrie is still only 25. But right now Oakland is in last place while Toronto is contending for a playoff spot.
Here are a few other developments from around the majors:
The New York Mets are using a six-man rotation now that Steven Matz is in the majors. That should help the team avoid overworking its talented young starters.
Fatigue shouldn't be too much of an issue as the Mets chase a playoff spot. None of their starters has thrown a complete game in 2015. Jacob deGrom leads the team in pitches thrown — and he hasn't gone over 109 in any game this season.
José Fernández and Matt Cain are both on the verge of returning from injuries, and the potential reward is high for owners who have waited patiently. Cain may have more to prove. He hasn't posted an ERA under 4.00 since 2012.
Line of the week
Just when it seemed safe to rename this the Max Scherzer Award, the Philadelphia Phillies battered the Washington right-hander with an offensive onslaught — two runs and five hits — on Friday night. So the honor goes to a hitter instead. Maikel Franco of the Phillies went 4 for 5 with two homers, three runs and five RBIs in an 11-8 win over the New York Yankees on Monday.