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Buster Olney’s top 10 third basemen — Hot corner is a hot commodity

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A small army of third basemen was on the move last winter. Anthony Rendon got the biggest deal ever doled out by Arte Moreno and signed with the Angels. Josh Donaldson signed with the Twins for $92 million. The Cubs made it known they were open to dealing Kris Bryant for the right return.

In the midst of all that, the name of Nolan Arenado popped into the market, less than a year after he and the Rockies agreed to an eight-year, $260 million contract, with speculation mounting that a team like the Dodgers might explore the idea of dealing for him. But that was before the pandemic, and before the extraordinary shift in the financial landscape that leaves Arenado a distinct choice:

1. He could opt out of his deal after the 2021 season, but probably would have to accept far less in his next contract.

2. Stick with his current deal and make peace with the idea of staying with the Rockies (unless the Rockies are so financially strapped that they are compelled to move him).

The safe bet now is that Arenado will be with the Rockies for the foreseeable future. He’s among the top 10 third basemen, of course.

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Braves place Matt Adams, Ozzie Albies on IL, reinstate Nick Markakis

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ATLANTA — The Atlanta Braves are facing lineup changes after placing second baseman Ozzie Albies and designated hitter Matt Adams on the 10-day injured list.

In another move on Wednesday, outfielder Nick Markakis was reinstated from the restricted list. Markakis announced on July 29 that he was returning to the team, three weeks after opting out because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

Albies is batting only .159 after he was held without a hit in Tuesday night’s 10-1 win over Toronto. He is in a 2-for-21 slump as he tried to play with a bruised right wrist. The injury led the switch-hitter to bat left-handed against left-hander Anthony Kay in the seventh inning.

Adams has been the team’s primary designated hitter and has made two starts at first base. He hit a second-inning homer on Tuesday night before leaving the game with a strained left hamstring.

Among manager Brian Snitker’s options at second base are Johan Camargo, who replaced Adams as the designated hitter against the Blue Jays, and Adeiny Hechavarria.

The Braves also recalled catcher Alex Jackson, creating depth at the position if Tyler Flowers or Travis d’Arnaud is in the lineup at designated hitter.

Markakis, 36, opted out on July 6, when he said he was uneasy about playing the season without fans and then was swayed by his telephone conversation with teammate Freddie Freeman, who tested positive for COVID-19. Freeman returned for the start of the season.

The injuries to Adams and Albies follow the season-ending torn Achilles tendon suffered by Atlanta’s top starting pitcher, Mike Soroka, on Monday night. The Braves have not announced a replacement for Soroka in the rotation.

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In an MLB season short of celebrations, Jon Jay achieves a veteran’s milestone

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The pandemic has given us Major League Baseball like we’ve never seen it, on the field and off. No fans in the stands, extended dugouts for social distancing and pitchers carrying their own rosin bags to the mound are among the abnormalities of the 2020 season.

One other everyday aspect of the game that COVID-19 has taken away is celebrating — not just on the field but also off. Significant milestones by players are often met with festive nights out on the town with teammates.

Jon Jay might not be a star name that jumps out when you think of current big league ballplayers. He’s in his second spin with the Arizona Diamondbacks, having moved through six organizations and been traded twice. Since reaching free agency, he has played on four consecutive one-year contracts signed with four different teams, the latest a split deal in which he wasn’t guaranteed a spot on the active roster.

But Jay is about to join an exclusive fraternity on Wednesday. That’s the day he will reach 10 full years of major league service time, something only about 6% of the nearly 20,000 players who have worn a big-league uniform have achieved, according to the Major League Baseball Players Association.

“When you look at the history of this game and the names who have played and to be able to play for 10 years, the numbers are against you, so to reach that number is a huge accomplishment,” Jay said. “This is going to be the first individual accomplishment I’m very, very proud of. Winning the World Series is all about the team. Going to the playoffs is all about the team. But this is personal, and I will definitely cherish this.”

Players need 172 days on an active roster to register a full year of service time. Jay entered this season with nine years, 134 days. During the shortened 2020 season, MLB is using a formula of 2.72 service time days for every calendar day. Aug. 5 marks 14 days since the season started. Using the formula, it is Jay’s 38th service time day, pushing him to 172 days in his 10th season.

That translates into a full major league pension, which is $230,000 per year starting at age 62. Making this achievement more remarkable is that Jay hasn’t always been an everyday player. He isn’t the type of player who wows most fans. But fans aren’t the ones whose opinions matter most.

“From the opposing side, he’s just a solid major league player,” former Padres and Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “There’s not one tool that stands out, but he does everything well. He can play anywhere in the outfield. He’s a tough out at the plate. He’s hit around .300 so many times. He can bunt. He runs the bases well. He’s a solid addition to any team. If he didn’t start, he was so valuable off the bench as a pinch hitter or any way you wanted to use him. I didn’t like him up there against us. He rarely would strike out, and he put the ball in play. You couldn’t shift on him because he goes the other way so well. Without a doubt, guys like that are so important to a ball club. I’m very happy for him to reach 10 years.”

Jay, 35, was born and grew up in the baseball hotbed that is Miami. His parents share a story with many other Cuban families who made their way to the U.S. They emigrated from the island in the early 1960s — after the communist takeover — for the family’s next generation to have a shot at the American dream.

Jay was mostly raised by his maternal grandparents, who sacrificed and made sure Jay was at practices and games on time. He made his way from Miami’s Columbus High School to the University of Miami and then was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006.

“I always think about the sacrifices my entire family made so that me and my sister could have a new and different life from what they had,” Jay said.

Jay credits many former teammates and coaches for his reaching 10 years in the bigs. Tony La Russa, Jose Oquendo, Dave McKay, Skip Schumaker, David Freese, Edwin Jackson, Cris Carpenter, Allen Craig and Carlos Beltran are a few of the people in the game who Jay says played roles in his advancement.

“When I think back and look at this journey, the first thing I’m grateful for are the people that really helped me to get to where I am,” Jay said. “From my grandparents to my parents to the life they gave me as a kid. I reflect on all the things that had to come together for me to have accomplished everything I have. Looking up now after quarantine and to say, damn, 10 years in the big leagues.”

Jay might be somewhat representative of a dying breed. As Bochy said, Jay doesn’t possess jaw-dropping tools. But his intellect and intangibles have put him in this rarified company. Even so, analytics and a new way of judging players might keep guys such as Jay from being valued in the future.

“When you try to explain what an outstanding player he is, well, those are words,” said La Russa, a Hall of Fame manager. “But when you accumulate 10 years of major league experience, that’s a credential that not many guys reach. Another point — and I’m not taking a cheap shot — but if we’re not careful in this current environment of disrespecting scouts and coaches and teaching and how important the mental qualities are — how does your heart beat, how tough are you. People that are using formulas tend to disrespect and don’t find uses for guys like Jon. Those guys are invaluable to a roster.

“Jon has one of the highest baseball IQs of any player I’ve had on a team,” La Russa continued. “He brings it to all phases of the game. And once he got past a few years in the game, he became one of the leaders in the clubhouse, and that was one of the real strengths of our Cardinals teams. Having a voice in the clubhouse has everything to do with respect and trust and how sincere you are about embracing the team’s objectives. Everybody makes it a point to be accountable to everyone else. If you’re going about your business every day and getting ready to come off the bench, and when you play, you play with intensity — you don’t sit around hoping someone gets hurt or someone plays poorly — that’s when you gain that respect and trust. It doesn’t have to do with how many at-bats you get or how many innings you pitch. It has everything to do with earning the respect and trust of your teammates.”

Six times Jay’s clubs have reached the postseason. That, several baseball people said, is not a coincidence.

“He’s not going to put up glamorous numbers,” said Angels manager Joe Maddon, who had Jay on his 2017 Cubs club. “He’s not the fastest runner. He’s not going to be the guy you want to be your centerpiece to build a team around. He’s better served on really good teams because he’s that piece that helps get you over the top.”

In any other year, teams would recognize how special a moment such as this is. The Giants have a special-edition double magnum of wine made for a player, and every player signs the bottle, and they have a clubhouse-only moment before the game in which the player gets to the magic number. Other clubs have champagne celebrations postgame.

That can’t happen this year, but it takes nothing from Jay’s achievement in getting there.

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Nick Madrigal, Edwin Encarnacion exit with shoulder injuries for White Sox

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The Chicago White Sox lost both rookie second baseman Nick Madrigal and designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion to left shoulder injuries during Tuesday’s 3-2 victory against the Milwaukee Brewers.

The 23-year-old Madrigal left the game in the third inning after he was thrown out trying to get from first to third on a single up the middle, while Encarnacion left the game in the sixth inning after injuring his left shoulder on a swing in the fourth inning.

Manager Rick Renteria said both had soreness in their left shoulders and will be re-evaluated Wednesday.

The 23-year-old Madrigal is just five games into his major league career, hitting .294 with an RBI. He was selected by Chicago with the fourth overall pick in the 2018 draft after a standout collegiate career at Oregon State.

The 5-foot-8 Madrigal hit .311 with four homers and 55 RBIs in 120 games over three minor league stops last season, finishing the year at Triple-A Charlotte.

Encarnacion, 37, has a home run and 2 RBIs in eight games this season, hitting .200.

The White Sox also placed left-handed pitcher Carlos Rodon on the 10-day injured list with shoulder soreness Tuesday. The injury caused Rodon to leave after only two innings Monday. Renteria says he’s optimistic Rodon will return before the end of the season.

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