Category Archives: MLB

New York Yankees to tender offer to veteran catcher Gary Sanchez

Gary Sanchez turned 28 years old Wednesday and obtained the ultimate birthday gift: a contract tendered by the New York Yankees.

Longtime MLB insider Jon Heyman reported the Bronx Bombers would offer the contract to the polarizing backstop.

This is the best news Sanchez could’ve received. He posted an awful line of .147/.253/.365 in 49 matches. He hit ten home runs but only recorded 23 hits on the season.

His strikeout rate (K%) was a horrific 36%. Sanchez also struggled defensively again and was ultimately benched for backup Kyle Higashioka in the playoffs. As for money, it’s difficult to say. Sanchez was awarded $5 million in his first year of arbitration, which shrunk to $1.85 million due to the pandemic. Spotrac estimates his 2021 earnings at $5.75 million, which is fair given his subpar performance from last campaign.

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All in all, expect Sanchez to be the most heavily scrutinized player on the team once spring training comes along. Forget Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton’s never-ending hailstorm of injuries. Don’t worry about the state of the pitching rotation and who lines up behind ace Gerrit Cole.

Sanchez and his ability to rebound from a bad season, yet again, will be the story.

This is something of a gamble by general manager Brian Cashman. The Yankees employ no promising catching prospects anywhere close to MLB-ready. Higashioka can step up and start if things become detrimental, but doesn’t sport the power that describes Sanchez’s presence in the lineup.

Simply put, the Yankees are at a crossroads. One path leads to Sanchez finally righting himself and potentially becoming New York’s next franchise catcher.

The other, however, leads to the struggles continuing and the Yankees needing to trade for a backstop, likely at the cost of top prospects. Hopefully, tendering Sanchez a contract proves to be the right move.

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DeMarlo Hale replaces Brad Mills on Terry Francona’s Cleveland Indians coaching staff

Indians manager Terry Francona has assembled his coaching staff for the 2021 season, but it won’t contain his longtime friend and bench coach Brad Mills.

Francona, who missed much of this past shortened season with significant health issues, will replace Mills with DeMarlo Hale. Hale, 59, joins the Indians after spending the past two seasons with the Braves.

Hale previously worked on Francona’s staff in Boston from 2006 to 2011, serving as bench coach in 2010 and 2011. Hale has also been with Texas, Baltimore and Toronto. Mills, who opted out of the 2020 season for personal motives, will remain with the Indians in a yet-to-be determined capacity.

“DeMarlo was one guy that I kind of thought that if I ever get back to managing again, this is a guy I’d like to have on my staff. He’s really good. He has an unbelievable way of not just communicating, but connecting with everybody,”

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Francona stated on a call from his home in Arizona.

Francona intends to return for his ninth season with the Indians.

He managed only 14 games this year due to a gastrointestinal issue requiring surgeries as well as blood-clot complications that landed him in the hospital for several days.

“I feel good. I’ve spent the last six weeks really working hard,” Francona said. “I told (Indians president of baseball operations) Chris (Antonetti) I needed to do that. I said, ‘Hey, give me until Thanksgiving just to make sure I’m OK.’ We’re coming up on Thanksgiving now and I’m doing pretty well.

“I’ve been active, lost some weight and feel like I’m putting myself in a better position to succeed physically over the course of a long season.”

With first-base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. filling in for Francona, the Indians clinched a wild-card spot but were eliminated by the Yankees.

Alomar, who has been a Cleveland coach for more than a decade, figured to be a candidate for a managerial job but didn’t get one.

That shocked Francona.

“I was borderline stunned that somebody didn’t try to hire him away from us this winter, because I thought he basically did a 54-game interview process and did it under the most difficult of circumstances and kind of aced it,” he said. “Now, for personal reasons, I’m glad he’s staying. I love having him on our staff.

“I guarantee you Sandy has as much or more responsibility than any first base coach in baseball, and there’s a reason, and that’s because he’s really good. … When you spend eight years with somebody you get to trust them a lot. So for personal reasons, I’m thrilled he’s back, but I am really surprised.’

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Cincinnati Reds, Colorado Rockies involved in four-player trade

The Colorado Rockies and Cincinnati Reds agreed to a four-player trade on Wednesday, the teams declared. The Rockies will get right-handed pitcher Robert Stephenson and outfielder Jameson Hannah in exchange for a pair of right-handed pitchers, in Jeff Hoffman and Case Williams.

Stephenson, 28 come February, is the most seasoned of the four personalities involved. He’s appeared in more than 100 big-league games to date, accumulating a 5.15 ERA while walking nearly five batters per nine.

Stephenson, who appeared on a handful of top-100 prospect lists before debuting in 2016, has turned into a two-offering pitcher: a slider that coerced whiffs on nearly half the swings taken against it last campaign, and a rising mid-90s fastball. He’s out of options but should make the Rockies’ Opening Day bullpen.

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Hannah, on the other side, will join his third organization since being drafted in the second round in 2018.

He had previously been part of the trade that sent Tanner Roark to Oakland in 2019. Hannah has some bat-to-ball skills, but he lacks the power projection necessary to forecast him as a starting corner outfielder. He also lacks the arm strength to play right field.

On the other side of the ledger, the Reds could give Hoffman another chance to make it as a big-league starter. He’ll turn 28 in January, and he’ll enter the new season with a career 6.40 ERA in 68 appearances.

Hoffman threw three pitches more than 10 percent of the time in 2020: a mid-90s rising fastball, a mid-80s changeup, and a curveball. Both of his secondary pitches posted whiff rates exceeding 30 percent. Hoffman is also out of options and will have to be on the Reds’ Opening Day roster or otherwise will be exposed to the waiver wire.

Williams was chosen in the fourth round of the 2020 draft. He’s yet to make his professional debut. 

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Free agent Adam Wainwright uncertain of his future with St. Louis Cardinals

Longtime St. Louis Cardinals star and current free agent Adam Wainwright is in wait-and-see mode.

“I know the nature of the business of baseball with salaries, and not sure what the revenues will be like next year,” Wainwright told ESPN this week. “Or the fan situation.

“St. Louis is very dependent on their fan situation to bring in revenues to offset player costs. They said that, and I really believe them. They don’t have the billion, billion, billion dollar TV deals that some other teams do.”

Between 2013 and 2019, the Cardinals ranked second in the National League in attendance, behind only the Los Angeles Dodgers, despite playing in the 23rd-largest market in the country.

Like many teams, St. Louis is trying to thread the needle of putting a winning product on the field while being cognizant of revenue uncertainty, meaning the futures of both Wainwright and fellow longtime Cardinal Yadier Molina are up in the air.

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“They’re going to put a winning team on the field,” Wainwright stated. “It’s going to be interesting to see what they do, though. Yadier is a free agent too. We just don’t know what they’re going to be offering — or if they will offer.”

It’s the existing situation many free agents find themselves in, and they’re bound to have some company come Dec. 2, the deadline for arbitration-eligible players to be offered contracts for 2021.

Those who are non-tendered on or before Dec. 2 become free agents, meaning the market could be flooded with players who are in their peak years along with the older free agents like Wainwright. The expectation is teams will lighten their payroll obligations this offseason by letting go more players than ever.

“That’s what I’m expecting, yes,” Wainwright said. “There’s so much uncertainty among teams and players, it’s just going to be a wild ride. This is whole situation is different than anything we’ve ever faced.”

Wainwright broke in with the Cardinals in 2005, spending the entirety of his 15-year career with them. But that relationship is in jeopardy for the 39-year-old right-hander, who pitched well in 2020 despite all the difficulties, including a COVID-19 outbreak on his team.

“Every player has an expiration date,” Wainwright stated. “It’s just the nature of the game. You will never hear me say a bad word about the city of St. Louis or the Cardinals organization. They’ve done so much for me. They’re amazing people from top to bottom. I’ve been so blessed.”

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DeMarlo Hale replaces Brad Mills on Terry Francona’s Cleveland Indians coaching staff

Indians manager Terry Francona has assembled his coaching staff for the 2021 campaign, but it won’t contain his longtime friend and bench coach Brad Mills.

Francona, who missed much of this past shortened season with significant health problems, will replace Mills with DeMarlo Hale. Hale, 59, joins the Indians after spending the past two seasons with the Braves.

Hale previously worked on Francona’s staff in Boston from 2006 to 2011, serving as bench coach in 2010 and 2011. Hale has also been with Texas, Baltimore and Toronto. Mills, who opted out of the 2020 season for personal reasons, will continue with the Indians in a yet-to-be determined capacity.

“DeMarlo was one guy that I kind of thought that if I ever get back to managing again, this is a guy I’d like to have on my staff. He’s really good. He has an unbelievable way of not just communicating, but connecting with everybody,” Francona said on a call from his home in Arizona.

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Francona intends to return for his ninth season with the Indians.

He managed only 14 games this year due to a gastrointestinal issue requiring surgeries as well as blood-clot complications that landed him in the hospital for several days.

“I feel good. I’ve spent the last six weeks really working hard,” Francona said. “I told (Indians president of baseball operations) Chris (Antonetti) I needed to do that. I said, ‘Hey, give me until Thanksgiving just to make sure I’m OK.’ We’re coming up on Thanksgiving now and I’m doing pretty well.

“I’ve been active, lost some weight and feel like I’m putting myself in a better position to succeed physically over the course of a long season.”

With first-base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. filling in for Francona, the Indians clinched a wild-card spot but were eliminated by the Yankees.

Alomar, who has been a Cleveland coach for more than a decade, figured to be a candidate for a managerial job but didn’t get one.

That shocked Francona.

“I was borderline stunned that somebody didn’t try to hire him away from us this winter, because I thought he basically did a 54-game interview process and did it under the most difficult of circumstances and kind of aced it,” he stated.

“Now, for personal reasons, I’m glad he’s staying. I love having him on our staff. “I guarantee you Sandy has as much or more responsibility than any first base coach in baseball, and there’s a reason, and that’s because he’s really good. … When you spend eight years with somebody you get to trust them a lot. So for personal reasons, I’m thrilled he’s back, but I am really surprised.’

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Brewers Promote Matt Arnold To General Manager

The Brewers announced Thursday that they’ve promoted assistant general manager Matt Arnold, giving him the title of senior vice president and general manager.

David Stearns, the team’s president of baseball operations and general manager, still sits atop Milwaukee’s baseball operations hierarchy but has had the “GM” portion dropped from his title in light of Arnold’s promotion.

The timing of the move likely isn’t a coincidence, as multiple clubs around the game have had GM vacancies open up — with a few still to be filled.

Arnold is a well-respected executive who’d surely have generated interest for clubs looking to lure him away with a promotion to a GM post in their own organization.

Arnold’s promotion won’t give him the autonomy over baseball operations decisions he might’ve been granted with another club, but it’s a notable bump in stature (and presumably in salary) that will make it more difficult for other teams to hire him away.

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“For the past five years, Matt has served an invaluable role in helping to guide our baseball operations group,” Stearns stated in a press release announcing the move.

“He has contributed to every significant decision we have made and has offered indispensable advice and support throughout that time with the Brewers. Today’s announcement formalizes how we have operated over the last few years. This move provides Matt with the deserved recognition of his tireless work and ensures that our baseball operations leadership group remains intact.”

The 41-year-old Arnold initially came to the Brewers from the Rays organization, where he spent nine campaigns in a variety of roles, including director of player personnel.

He’s also worked for the Dodgers, Rangers and Reds over the course of a 20-year baseball operations career, occupying roles in scouting, player development and player analysis along the way.

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Los Angeles Dodgers expect Cody Bellinger to be ready for spring training

Cody Bellinger’s pennant-winning home run in Game 7 of the NLCS proved costly. The Dodgers outfielder on Tuesday had surgery on the right shoulder he dislocated during the celebration of said home run.

The surgery was performed in Los Angeles by Dr. Neal ElAttrache, the team informed. Bellinger is expected to start rehab in Arizona next week.

Bellinger’s home run off Braves right-hander Chris Martin in the seventh inning of Game 7 of the NLCS gave the Dodgers a 4-3 lead, which a few innings later became the third National League pennant in four years for Los Angeles.

After hitting the home run, Bellinger exchanged forearms with A.J. Pollock, then did so more aggressively with Kiké Hernández near the on-deck circle. The forearm bash was so hard, Bellinger dislocated his right shoulder, something he’s done before in his career, but on defense at first base.

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After the home run, Bellinger played the final two innings of Game 7 on defense after trainers popped his shoulder back into its socket.

Bellinger and the Dodgers downplayed the injury, and he was cleared to play all six matches of the World Series. But he was just 3-for-22 (.136/.208/.273) versus the Rays, after hitting .250/.365/.545 in the Dodgers’ first 12 playoff games. That Fall Classic performance included a home run in Game 1, after which Bellinger toned down the celebration, opting to exchange toe taps with his teammates.

“I said it before the game, if I hit one today, I’m not touching anyone’s arm. I’m going straight foot,” Bellinger said at the time. A 10-week recovery time for Bellinger would have him ready by the end of January, still with some time before spring training initiates.

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Chicago White Sox slugger Jose Abreu wins AL MVP award

Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu won the American League MVP award Thursday after helping power the team to its first playoff berth in 12 years.

The 33-year-old slugger got 21 of 30 first-place votes and 374 points in voting announced by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Cleveland Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez was second with eight first-place votes and 303 points, and New York Yankees second baseman DJ LeMahieu, who won the AL batting crown (.364), followed with one first-place vote and 230 points.

Voting by the BBWAA was completed by the start of the playoffs. It has voted for the award since 1931.

Abreu led the majors with 60 RBIs and 148 total bases, and topped the AL with 76 hits and a .617 slugging percentage. He played in all 60 matches during the virus-shortened season as Chicago claimed a wild-card spot. Surrounded by family members, Abreu put his head down for a minute after hearing he’d won and teared up.

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“That was a very special moment,” he said through an interpreter.

Abreu batted .317 with 19 home runs, connecting six times in a three-game series versus the Cubs in late August. That barrage of long balls at Wrigley Field was part of his 22-game hitting streak, the longest in the majors this year.

Abreu gave credit to manager Rick Renteria, who left the team after the season in what was labeled as a mutual decision. Recently hired Hall of Fame skipper Tony La Russa is now facing charges in a drunken driving arrest; Abreu said he was eager to play for La Russa.

“Keep pushing forward, keep moving forward,” Abreu said.

Abreu was the 2014 AL Rookie of the Year and is a three-time All-Star.

He became the fourth White Sox player to collect the AL MVP, joining Frank Thomas (1993-94), Dick Allen (1972) and Nellie Fox (1959).

Abreu was the third Cuban-born player to be an MVP, along with Jose Canseco and Zoilo Versalles.

Smooth around the bag, Abreu ended an MVP drought for AL first basemen. None had won the award since Justin Morneau for Minnesota in 2006; Cincinnati first baseman Joey Votto won the National League MVP in 2010.

Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman’s receipt of the NL MVP prize also makes this the first time since Ryan Howard and Morneau that a pair of first basemen won the MVPs.

Freeman got a $185,185 bonus and Abreu received $37,037 for winning in contract bonuses prorated because of the shortened season.

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Tampa Bay Rays’ Kevin Cash named AL Manager of the Year

Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash was selected American League Manager of the Year on Tuesday, receiving 22 of the 30 first-place votes.

Cash guided the Rays to a division title as well as the AL’s best regular-season record at 40-20. The Rays’ .667 win percentage was by far the best in franchise history.

Tampa Bay overcame a rash of pitching injuries to clinch the AL pennant before losing in six games to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series.

Cash, who turns 43 on Dec. 6, hit .183 with 12 homers and 58 RBIs in 246 major league games as a catcher for five teams, including Tampa Bay. After his playing career, he worked as an advance scout for Texas and Toronto before joining Terry Francona’s staff in Cleveland as the bullpen coach.

The Tampa, Florida, native and Florida State alum was hired as Tampa Bay manager the day before his 37th birthday. “There is a sense of pride being a Tampa guy,” stated Cash, who is 454-416 in six years as manager of the Rays.

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Tampa Bay had a $29 million prorated payroll as of Aug. 1, which ranked 28th out of 30 teams.

Still, the Rays obtained the AL East for the first time since 2010.

Cash became the second manager in Rays history to win the AL Manager of the Year award, joining Joe Maddon, who won the award in 2008 and 2011. Cash ended third in the balloting for AL Manager of the Year each of the past two seasons.

Cash was roundly criticized for pulling ace left-hander Blake Snell in the sixth inning of the decisive Game 6 of the World Series versus the Dodgers. However, the Rays leaned heavily on their bullpen throughout the pandemic-shortened season, with 12 pitchers recording at least one save — matching the major league record. Cash has insisted that if he were to face the same situation again, he would trust his bullpen to close it out.

“Yes, I would do it the same way all over again. I would plead for a different outcome, that’s for sure,” Cash said. “That decision was not reflective of my confidence in Blake. It was very reflective of my confidence in Nick [Anderson], and that’s [what] I felt was, at the moment, the best chance for us to win the game.”

Voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America concluded before the start of the playoffs. Rick Renteria of the White Sox finished second, and Charlie Montoyo of the Blue Jays finished third.

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Milwaukee Brewers reliever Devin Williams named NL Rookie of the Year

Milwaukee Brewers reliever Devin Williams won the National League Rookie of the Year award on Monday night.

Featuring a devastating changeup and a four-seam fastball that gets into the upper 90s, Williams was practically unhittable during the pandemic-shortened campaign. The 26-year-old right-hander went 4-1 with a microscopic 0.33 ERA, striking out 53 in just 27 innings.

Williams is the first pitcher to gain the award without recording a save or making a start during his award-winning season — reflecting the increased importance of the bullpen in today’s game. He is the first reliever to take home the honor in either league since Craig Kimbrel did so for Atlanta in 2011, and the first Rookie of the Year for Milwaukee since Ryan Braun in 2007.

“I don’t really think that saves are the end-all be-all,” Williams said on a conference call during a vacation in Jamaica. “If I come up in the seventh inning and I go through one through five, I think that that can be pretty valuable, as well.”San Diego Padres second baseman Jake Cronenworth and Philadelphia Phillies infielder Alec Bohm ended tied for second in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

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Williams permitted just one run in 27 innings in the shortened season and struck out 53% of the batters he faced, the highest percentage in MLB history by a pitcher with at least 20 innings pitched.

His changeup was arguably the most dominant pitch in all of baseball in 2020. Opponents batted 2-for-62 (.032) against it, the lowest opponent average on a single pitch this season (minimum 50 plate appearances against).

Williams missed Milwaukee’s loss to the champion Dodgers in the first round of the playoffs because of shoulder soreness.

“I’m doing a little bit of rehab still, but it’s feeling good,” Williams said.

Williams, a St. Louis native, was selected by Milwaukee in the second round of the 2013 draft. Williams teamed with closer Josh Hader to form a shutdown tandem at the back end of the Brewers’ bullpen.

Williams broke into the majors last year, finishing with no record and a 3.95 ERA in 13 relief appearances. He struck out 14 in 13⅔ innings. Cronenworth hit .285 in 54 matches for San Diego, helping the Padres reach the playoffs for the first time since 2006. Bohm, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 amateur draft, batted .338 with four homers and 23 RBIs in 44 games for the Phillies.

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