Everybody's working for the weekend. Except baseball players, who work on the weekends.
- The plan to shut down Washington Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg once he'd reached about 160 innings has been controversial for some time now. Of course, when it was first announced, it was much more casually accepted. That's because it was originally announced before the season - you know, before Strasburg was absolutely obliterating the baseball landscape, and before the Nationals were expected to be near contention, let alone leading the NL East (handily). So, when that controversy set in, it's been fair to wonder whether the Nats would actually stick to the plan. After all, the reason they want to protect Strasburg is to help win future championships, but they might have one laying out right in front of them this year. On the other hand, the 24-year-old (today is his birthday, actually) is still just a couple years removed from Tommy John surgery, and trotting him out there past 160 innings could be a penny wise, pound foolish strategy. GM Mike Rizzo says the shut down plan remains in effect, even if he no longer espouses a particular innings limit. And once Strasburg is shut down, he isn't coming back in September or for the playoffs. Good plan? Bad plan? Makes you wonder if the Nats wouldn't mind picking up a quality veteran starter at the deadline, even if their rotation otherwise looks full.
- SI takes a high level look at the trade deadline plans for each of the teams in the NL Central. Everything reads as you might expect, but if you haven't been following the latest rumors obsessively, this might be a good place to start.
- Rather than deal them for prospects this month, the Padres are reportedly readying extension offers for outfielder Carlos Quentin and closer Houston Street. Are they actually going to make serious extension offers, or is this a leverage ploy? Each has expressed a desire to remain in San Diego, but can the Padres really afford not to take the best offer they can get right now? That is to say, do they really think they'll be competitive in, for example, 2013?
- Beyond the Box Score looks at which teams have been the most and least "clutch" (determined by some fancy-schmancy calculation based on Leverage Index and Win Probability Added). The Mets have blown every other team away, and the Twins, Cardinals, and Astros have been the laggards. The Cubs come in 22nd place.
- Dustin Pedroia has finally returned from a second thumb injury, and it's coming at the right time. Although David Ortiz just went down with an achilles injury, the Red Sox have won five of seven after the All-Star break.
- On the flip side, Brett Gardner won't be returning for the Yankees from his elbow injury. Instead, he'll have season-ending surgery to remove inflamed tissue.
Brett Taylor is the Lead Writer at Bleacher Nation, and a Contributor here at Bleed Cubbie Blue.