Category Archives: MLB

Marcus Semien, Toronto Blue Jays reach agreement on 1-year, $18M deal

Infielder Marcus Semien is in agreement with the Toronto Blue Jays on a one-year, $18 million contract, a source familiar with the deal told ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

Semien will become the second star and fourth free agent added by the Blue Jays during a slow offseason amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Toronto gave outfielder George Springer a $150 million, six-year deal. Toronto also agreed to one-year contracts with right-handers Kirby Yates ($5.5 million) and Tyler Chatwood ($3 million) and re-signed left-hander Robbie Ray to an $8 million, one-year contract.

Coming off a career year in 2019, Semien struggled in 2020 while dealing with a rib injury, as the shortstop hit just .223 with 7 home runs, 28 runs, 23 RBIs and 4 stolen bases for the Oakland Athletics. His production was down largely due to his strikeouts being up, as he fanned on 21.2% of his plate appearances.

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It was a different story for Semien in 2019, when he concluded third in AL MVP voting after posting personal bests with 33 home runs, 92 RBIs and a .285 batting average while playing in all 162 matches. His WAR (8.9) was third in the majors that season, and he parlayed that into a one-year, $13 million deal — more than double his contract after earning $5.9 million in 2018. He earned $4,814,815 in prorated pay for 2020.

Semien was tied for 190th among batters in WAR in 2020, with 0.5. Even with the decline in 2020, he is one of just six hitters to account for at least 9.0 WAR in the past two seasons combined.

Semien’s 151 runs scored since the start of the 2019 season rank second among all American League players, and his 100 extra-base hits rank fifth.

In eight MLB campaigns, Semien, who is above average when it comes to base running, has a .254 batting average with 115 home runs, 380 RBIs, 467 runs scored and 66 stolen bases — but with 731 strikeouts in 3,266 at-bats — for the Chicago White Sox and A’s.

Toronto went 32-28 during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, concluding third in the AL East behind the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees and qualifying for the expanded postseason despite behind forced to play home matches in Buffalo, New York, due to Canadian government restrictions on travel. The Blue Jays were swept in two games by the AL champion Rays in a first-round series.

Toronto has an emerging young core and is adding major contracts, while younger players such as Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. have relatively low salaries because they remain shy of eligibility for arbitration.

It is not clear where the Blue Jays will play home games when the 2021 season starts.

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Jameson Taillon excited to join Yankees, reunite with Gerrit Cole

As Jameson Taillon’s trade from Pittsburgh to the New York Yankees started to sink in, he thought about reuniting with former roommate Gerrit Cole.

“Every night you get a five-star cooked meal,” Taillon stated. “Even if he’s cooking for himself, he’s going to marinate whatever he’s cooking properly. He’s going to do everything with the perfect execution. He’s going to have a perfect wine pairing for it.”

Taillon, recuperating from his second Tommy John surgery, was acquired Sunday for four prospects. He joins a revamped rotation headed by Cole and projected to include Deivi García, Jordan Montgomery and Corey Kluber, who’s pending $11 million, one-year deal is expected to be finalized this week.

A 29-year-old right-hander, Taillon has not pitched since May 1, 2019. In addition to the elbow operations with New York Mets medical director Dr. David Altchek on April 9, 2014, and on Aug. 13, 2019, he also had procedures for a sports hernia on July 8, 2015, and for testicular cancer on May 8, 2017.

He was hit on the head by a 105 mph line drive off the bat of Milwaukee’s Hernán Pérez on July 19, 2016, and stayed in the game.

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“When you’re going through it, it doesn’t seem like as much as it sounds. That sounds crazy. But each injury is separate. Each experience is separate,” he said.

Taillon felt he didn’t fulfill the confidence Pittsburgh showed when he was selected with the second overall pick in the 2010 amateur draft.

He was disappointed the Pirates blew up a group that came through the minors together and admitted “seeing all my good friends get traded in Pittsburgh and to see the direction we were headed … didn’t necessarily light a fire” and he thought a trade “was necessary.”

“I’m jumping into a legendary franchise, a legendary organization,” he said. “I overnight went from a rebuilding organization to a team like the Yankees where I’m stepping in and the only thing they care about is to win. So that’s kind of lit a fire under me.”

When he awoke from his last operation, he decided he needed to relieve pressure on his elbow, putting more work on his legs and shortening his arm motion. He reworked his mechanics with Ben Fairchild, a sports performance manager in Houston who has assisted Andy Pettitte, Mark Melancon, and Anthony Rendon; Pirates director of sports performance A.J. Patrick; Pirates pitching coach Oscar Marin; Pirates bullpen coach Justin Meccage and the Florida Baseball Ranch in Lakeland.

He started throwing bullpen sessions last July and got up to about three innings of batting practice. Taillon thinks his fastball velocity is about 95 mph, where it was before the latest injury, and he gained deception. Taillon plans to leave heavily on his four-seam fastball, alternating curveballs and sliders along with occasional changeups.

Taillon was inspired watching former Pirates teammate Daniel Hudson overcome two Tommy John operations and strike out Houston’s Michael Brantley for the final out of the 2019 World Series for Washington. Taillon looks forward to getting the big league playoffs for the first time with the Yankees.

“New York’s one of those organizations where it’s all about winning. From what I’ve heard, nothing else matters in that clubhouse,” he said.

“It’s a group of guys trying to make each other better, trying to push for October. And I mean, seriously, ever since I got the news that the Yankees are where I was headed, I can’t stop thinking about that. I’ve heard Yankee Stadium in October is just absolutely incredible.”

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Utilityman Daniel Robertson agrees to one-year deal with Milwaukee Brewers worth $900,000

Utilityman Daniel Robertson has agreed to a $900,000, one-year contract with the Milwaukee Brewers that allows him to earn an additional $400,000 in performance bonuses.

Robertson batted .333 with no homers and two RBI in 17 games with the San Francisco Giants last season while making appearances at shortstop, second base, third base and the outfield.

His contract was purchased from Tampa Bay on Aug. 23, and he had $157,808 in prorated earnings during the shortened season. “I feel like the game’s kind of evolving that way,” Robertson stated Thursday.

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“Organizations like to carry a couple of guys that are kind of that Swiss Army knife, who can do a bunch of things. I feel like five years ago, maybe a little bit longer, you had that one kind of guy, that (Ben) Zobrist kind of guy. The game’s evolving and there’s more guys that are putting themselves in that kind of situation or position.”

Robertson, who turns 27 on March 22, had spent the past three seasons with Tampa Bay and had played at least 74 games in each of them.

The Oakland Athletics drafted him in the first round with the 34th overall pick in 2012.

He has a career batting average of .234 with 16 homers and 74 RBI in 249 games. He has a .342 on-base percentage and .354 slugging percentage.

Robertson has made 109 career appearances at second base, 81 at third base and 74 at shortstop. “I would say if any position is my most natural and just instinctual, I love playing third,” Robertson stated.

“But obviously I really have put a lot of work in to play the other two positions and still enjoy those other opportunities as well. I’m just going to keep working, show up to spring ready for any position and just kind of see what happens.”

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Boston Red Sox to be cautious with Chris Sale’s rehab from Tommy John surgery

Chris Sale is under contract for four more years with the Boston Red Sox — plus an option for 2025 — and with the team hoping that he can contribute throughout the length of the contract, the pace for his return from Tommy John surgery is expected to be deliberate, according to sources.

Sale had the elbow reconstruction on March 30, his 31st birthday, and typically pitchers require 12 to 15 months to recuperate from that procedure. There was speculation in December that within that timeline, Sale might be back sooner rather than later — which would fit the pitcher’s aggressive personality.

But Sale is about to embark on Year 2 of his five-year, $145 million deal that was finalized early in the 2019 season, and so both the team and the pitcher have reason to take a long view on his recovery.

The bulk of the left-hander’s production for the Red Sox will happen in the last three years of the deal, and while sources say the team would love for Sale to come back and be a factor at some point in 2021, the Red Sox are apt to take a conservative approach.

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The New York Mets and pitcher Noah Syndergaard, however, are taking a more forceful approach. Though Syndergaard also had his Tommy John surgery in late March, both he and the Mets want to push the timeline on recovery.

Syndergaard will be eligible for free agency in the fall and stands to immediately benefit from a productive season, and the team, in control of Syndergaard for only 2021 before he hits the open market, could use some return on investment from a homegrown player making $9.7 million this year.

The Red Sox acquired Sale in a trade with the White Sox during the 2016-17 offseason, and in the three regular seasons that followed, he made 84 starts and generated a 3.08 ERA, with 763 strikeouts in 519⅔ innings.

Arm trouble forced him to the disabled list late in the 2018 season, but he wound up finishing Boston’s championship-clinching victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers, spinning hard sliders.

After battling more physical problems in 2019, Sale tried to come back in spring training of 2020 before breaking down once and for all.

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New York Mets acquire Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco from Cleveland Indians

Francisco Lindor is moving to a new city and team that is willing to meet his salary demands.

The four-time All-Star shortstop — and one of baseball’s best all-around players — was traded Thursday by the Cleveland Indians along with pitcher Carlos Carrasco to the New York Mets, who have a new owner willing to spend at baseball’s highest levels.

“They did not come cheaply,” Mets president Sandy Alderson stated. “What we’re trying to do is create a new reality rather than deal with perception.”

The cash-strapped Indians sent Lindor and Carrasco to the Mets for infielders Andres Gimenez and Amed Rosario, right-hander Josh Wolf and outfielder Isaiah Greene — a move Cleveland hopes will keep it competitive and capable of ending baseball’s longest World Series title drought.

Dealing Lindor, who will be eligible for free agency after the 2021 season, was inevitable for the midmarket Indians, who are unable to compete financially with MLB’s big spenders and dropped roughly $30 million in dealing two prominent players and fan favorites.

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“These are people we care about, not just players, and guys that loved the organization and have great memories here,” said Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti, who said he was in tears when he spoke with Lindor and Carrasco. “Trades like this are really tough. But it’s the right thing to do.”

For the Mets, landing Lindor is a home run and another major move by hedge fund owner Steven Cohen, who bought the team on Nov. 6 from the Wilpon and Katz families and has pledged to increase spending.

The 27-year-old Lindor can affect the game with his bat, glove and legs.

A two-time Gold Glove winner, he’s a career .285 hitter and has averaged 29 homers, 86 RBIs and 21 steals in his six major league seasons — all with the Indians, who drafted him in 2011 and developed him.

He has also been the face of the Indians franchise, with an infectious smile and joy for playing that has made him one of Cleveland’s most popular athletes. But he’s gone now, leaving the Indians without their best player and the team’s fans grumbling about owner Paul Dolan.

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Free agent Corey Kluber to throw bullpen session for interested teams next week

Free agent Corey Kluber, the two-time Cy Young Award winner who has been derailed by injuries over the past two years, is on calendar for a normal spring training and will throw for interested suitors next week.

Kluber will conduct a 30-pitch bullpen on the morning of Jan. 13 at Cressey Sports Performance in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, where the 34-year-old right-hander has spent half his offseason, his agent, B.B. Abbott of Jet Sports Management, told ESPN on Monday.

Kluber established himself among the game’s most dominant starting pitchers while with the Cleveland Indians from 2014 to 2018, winning 83 games, posting a 2.85 ERA and averaging 218 innings per season.

But he suffered a fractured ulna bone in his right arm on a comebacker in early May 2019, then strained his oblique as he neared a return in late August.

The Texas Rangers traded for him four months later, then watched him suffer a season-ending strain of his teres major muscle — near his right shoulder — 18 pitches into his Rangers debut on July 26, 2020.

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The Rangers declined their $18 million option on Kluber’s contract near the end of October.

Kluber was cleared to resume throwing shortly thereafter and has since thrown three bullpen sessions, Abbott said. He is expected to throw off the mound once more and receive a final MRI within the next nine days.

Kluber’s showcase comes amid a slow-moving offseason, particularly for pitchers.

Of the 30 starters who made up Kiley McDaniel’s top 120 free agents in early December, only seven have committed to teams for 2021 — two of whom did so by taking the qualifying offer.

In a time when teams are especially concerned about pitcher workloads coming off a shortened season and owners are hesitant to spend with another season without fans in attendance, Kluber can provide an established track record at a discount rate.

The risk, however, is obvious — Kluber has accumulated only 36⅔ innings over the past two years.

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Emotional Yu Darvish caught off guard by Chicago Cubs trade, excited about San Diego Padres

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As he was announced by his new team Thursday, Yu Darvish said he was shocked by his trade to the San Diego Padres and grew emotional talking about his time with the Cubs and the bonds he created in Chicago.

“With what’s happening with the coronavirus, and the money the Cubs have, I wasn’t thinking about being traded,” Darvish said Thursday through an interpreter. “And also, they are a winning team and I thought we would be able to compete.”

Darvish, however, is excited about joining a “strong” Padres team that should challenge for the National League pennant.

“I’ve been having my kids watch highlights of the Padres’ lineup on YouTube,” the right-hander said. “They’re a strong team, and I’m really excited to watch batting practice.”

Darvish stated he has pitched better over the past 18 months than at any time in his career. He ended second in Cy Young voting this past season after going 8-3 with a 2.01 ERA, and he credited his improvement to a decision to work slow and “be himself.”

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“The Cubs were telling me to prepare however I wanted to prepare,” Darvish said. “The Cubs let me be myself. That helped me back to form.”

He was traded along with Victor Caratini, his personal catcher, to San Diego for starter Zach Davies and four prospects earlier this week. The move came one day after the Padres acquired lefty Blake Snell from the Tampa Bay Rays.

Darvish’s mom once told him that she thought he would play for the Padres, but he said he didn’t think that would materialize after signing a six-year, $126 million deal with the Cubs.

With Chicago in cost-cutting mode, however, that premonition came true.

Darvish hopes to find the same chemistry with his teammates in San Diego as he did in Chicago.

“A lot of [Cubs] people reached out to me and everyone was pretty shocked and felt bad,” Darvish said. “So this reality is great. I’m excited to play for the Padres.”

The 34-year-old Darvish said he found out about the trade on Twitter, though his representatives knew there was a possibility he could be moved that day.

“My first year with the Padres, going into spring training, I really want to be open and meet everybody,” said Darvish, who already has a relationship with Padres general manager A.J. Preller from their days with the Texas Rangers.

Darvish was asked what his trade might mean for Japanese baseball fans who live in San Diego. “With coronavirus and everyone being a little down with what’s going on in the world, I just hope to build excitement and help build happiness to the Japanese people around me,” Darvish said.

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San Diego Padres set to acquire Yu Darvish from Chicago Cubs

The San Diego Padres are on the verge of making their second trade for a star pitcher in as many days, with the team expected to get righty Yu Darvish from the Chicago Cubs, according to sources familiar with the deal.

Darvish and catcher Victor Caratini, who emerged as the right-hander’s personal catcher in Chicago, will go to San Diego once the deal is completed, sources said.

In return, the Cubs are poised to get right-hander Zach Davies and four young prospects: outfielders Owen Caissie (18) and Ismael Mena (18), and shortstops Reggie Preciado (17) and Yeison Santana (20). Darvish, 34, is in the middle of six-year, $126 million contract he signed with the Cubs before the 2018 season.

After an elbow injury sidelined him that year, he started to come into his own in 2019, leading to a stellar 2020 campaign. He compiled a 2.01 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP in 76 innings, finishing second in NL Cy Young Award voting to Trevor Bauer.

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Sources told ESPN on Sunday that the Padres also are concluding a deal with the Tampa Bay Rays for former Cy Young winner Blake Snell.

Like Darvish, that trade has not been officially announced.

But once they are, the two star pitchers will join Dinelson Lamet and Chris Paddack to form a formidable rotation in San Diego. Righty Mike Clevinger also is on the team but will miss the 2021 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

For the Cubs, the Darvish trade starts a reset under new president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer. That reset will include salary relief as Darvish is owed $59 million over the next three seasons.

The team already non-tendered left fielder Kyle Schwarber, which also saved it money.

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Los Angeles Dodgers, Tommy Kahnle reach 2-year, $4.75 million deal

The Los Angeles Dodgers have reached a two-year deal with reliever Tommy Kahnle that is worth $4.75 million guaranteed, sources told ESPN on Wednesday, confirming multiple reports

The hard-throwing right-hander had Tommy John surgery on Aug. 4 with New York Yankees head physician Christopher Ahmad and is likely to return in late 2021 or at the start of the 2022 campaign.

He will make $750,000 this season as he rehabs as well as a $550,000 signing bonus, sources said, and his base salary for 2022 will be $3.45 million.

Kahnle’s absence was a factor in the Yankees’ loss to Tampa Bay in the AL Division Series, when Aroldis Chapman gave up a go-ahead home run to Mike Brosseau in the eighth inning of Game 5.

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Kahnle, 31, had been one of five key relievers in the bullpen, joining Chapman, Zack Britton, Chad Green and Adam Ottavino.

Manager Aaron Boone’s late-inning options became limited by Kahnle’s injury and Ottavino’s ineffectiveness.

Kahnle struck out 88 in 61⅓ innings and walked 20 in 2019, averaging 96.8 mph with his fastball. He had a 3.67 ERA.

He threw a 20-pitch eighth inning at Washington this year in his season debut on July 26 with three strikeouts, a hit and a walk, then felt discomfort while working out on July 28 and stopped a planned throwing session the following day. He didn’t pitch again this year.

The veteran reliever had declined an outright assignment to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and elected to become a free agent, Kahnle’s right as a player with at least three years of major league service. Kahnle is 9-9 with four saves and a 3.52 ERA in 285 appearances over seven major league seasons.

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Howie Kendrick retires after 15 MLB seasons

Howie Kendrick announced his retirement Monday after 15 major league seasons.

In an Instagram post, Kendrick thanked each of the teams he played for in the majors, concluding with the Washington Nationals, the team he won a World Series title with in 2019.

“To the fans, without your support and love for the game, our stage and lights would not shine as brightly as they do. Know you will be missed as well. I will always love the game of baseball and will constantly reflect on the lifelong memories made. For now, it’s time to drop the mic and enter a new stage of my life,” he wrote.

In 2019, Kendrick was the MVP of the National League Championship Series and hit the go-ahead homer in Game 7 of the World Series to help the Nationals victory the franchise’s first title.

Kendrick, 37, hit .275 with two home runs and 14 RBIs during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season for the Nationals. The team declined his $6.5 million mutual option for 2021 after the season, and he received a $2.25 million buyout from Washington.

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The veteran infielder went on the injured list with a left hamstring injury on Sept. 9 and was shut down for the season.

In four seasons with the Nats, Kendrick hit .316 with 30 home runs and 113 RBIs.

Overall, Kendrick was a career .294 hitter with 127 home runs and 724 RBIs. In addition to the Nationals, Kendrick played two seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, nine seasons with the Los Angeles Angels and 39 games with the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2017 season.

Kendrick, a Florida native, was initially drafted by the Angels with a 10th round pick in 2002. His steady production as the Angels’ regular second baseman for several seasons established him as a solidly underrated player. Kendrick’s later career saw him become a multi-position specialist and veteran bat for multiple teams.

Last season, Kendrick’s production slipped across the abbreviated 2020 season, but suffice it to say he’s securely a Nationals franchise legend for that home run above.

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