The Opener: Guardians, Giants, Cubs/Brewers

As an eventful month of August winds down, here are three things we’ll be keeping an eye on around the baseball world throughout the day today:

1. Who will replace Thor?

The Guardians designated right-hander Noah Syndergaard for assignment yesterday, ending his tenure in Cleveland after just six starts. Upon announcing the move, the club indicated that a corresponding move would be made today, before this evening’s game against the Twins in Minnesota. Syndergaard’s departure leaves the club with just four pitchers in the starting rotation: right-handers Gavin Williams, Tanner Bibee and Xzavion Curry as well as lefty Logan Allen. Left-hander Joey Cantillo and righties Peyton Battenfield and Hunter Gaddis are the club’s starting options already on the 40-man roster, though with Syndergaard’s depature the club will have the opportunity to explore other options as well without the need for a 40-man roster move.

Of course, with an off-day on Thursday and right-hander Cal Quantrill nearing a return from the shoulder inflammation that’s kept him off the big league mound since early July, the club could simply decide to wait on adding a starter until Quantrill is ready or the schedule forces the issue. In that case, a reliever currently at Triple-A like lefty Tim Herrin or righty Cade Smith could be called up for the interim to help out in the club’s bullpen.

2. Giants getting healthy:

The Giants are expecting to welcome back a pair of outfielders into the mix during the club’s series against the Reds, which starts today. Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area relayed yesterday that both Mike Yastrzemski and Mitch Haniger are nearing a return, with Haniger having participated in what could be his final rehab game last night while Yastrzemski ran the bases. Both players will be welcome additions to a beleaguered offense in San Francisco; as a team, the Giants slashed just .209/.289/.343 in July, and their slash line of .230/.299/.348 in August is only marginally better.

Yastrzemski has been a slightly better than league average bat with the Giants this year, slashing .233/.314/.439 in 77 games before going on the IL with a hamstring strain. Haniger, on the other hand, struggled badly to a .230/.281/.372 slash line in 40 games with his new club before he was sidelined due to a forearm fracture that required surgery. The Giants will need both Yastrzemski and Haniger to play closer to their career wRC+ numbers of 113 and 119 respectively if they are to get back into the NL Wild Card mix, as the club has fallen a game and a half behind the Diamondbacks for the last spot in recent days.

3. Brewers head to Wrigley:

The Cubs and Brewers will meet for their third series of the season today. The three-game set will have major implications for the NL Central race headed into the season’s final month. Milwaukee, riding an eight-game winning streak, heads to Chicago with a four-game lead over the Cubs in the division, meaning even a sweep by the north siders wouldn’t end their reign at the top of the division standings. That being said, a series win by the Brewers would put the club firmly in the driver’s seat for a division title headed into the season’s final month, as they’d extend their lead over the second-place Cubs to five or six games with only three more games against Chicago on the schedule this season. Brewers lefty and former Cub Wade Miley (3.18 ERA) will take the mound at 7:05pm CT this evening opposite Cubs right-hander Jameson Taillon (5.60 ERA) for the first game of the series.

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