Tagged in: MLB

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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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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World Series 2020: Champs! The Dodgers end L.A.’s 32-year title drought

The Kirk Gibson home run had endured, but it had also run its course. The clip remained a constant presence around the Los Angeles Dodgers, consuming their broadcasts and playing on a near-constant loop at their stadium. It stood as the seminal moment from a bygone era, of a championship captured more than three decades earlier. A new memory had long been desired.

“We’ve heard it a lot, and we’ve seen a lot of highlights, and it’s fantastic,” Dave Roberts, the fifth-year manager, said. “But we wanna make our own mark on Dodgers history.”

On Tuesday night, in a neutral stadium 1,400 miles away, at the conclusion of a bizarre campaign played amid a global health crisis, these Dodgers ultimately made their mark.

Their 3-1 triumph over the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 6 of the World Series won them their first championship since Gibson famously hobbled to the batter’s box in 1988, a fitting coronation for a dominant franchise.

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Tony Gonsolin, counted on to function as a traditional starter, recorded only five outs.

But four relievers — Dylan Floro, Alex Wood, Pedro Baez and Victor Gonzalez — retired 13 of the next 14 batters, keeping the game within reach long enough for the Dodgers to get past an electric Blake Snell and tap into the Rays’ bullpen.

After Rays manager Kevin Cash turned to Nick Anderson with one on, one out and the top of the order due up a third time in the sixth, the Dodgers’ offense finally came alive. Mookie Betts doubled, Austin Barnes scored on a wild pitch, and Betts slid home safely on a grounder to the right side.

Betts, the offseason acquirement who has somehow exceeded expectations, tacked on an important insurance run with a solo homer in the eighth, and Julio Urias cruised past the finish line, leading the Dodgers to the title — 16 days after the Los Angeles Lakers did the same.

The Dodgers, division champions for eight consecutive years, are finally champions again.

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Washington Nationals re-signing Josh Harrison to one-year contract

The Washington Nationals have agreed to terms with utility player Josh Harrison on a one-year, $1 million contract, the team informed Thursday.

Harrison spent the 2020 campaign with the Nationals after signing with them in July, less than a week after he was released by the Philadelphia Phillies. The 33-year-old hit .278 with two doubles, three home runs, 14 RBIs, six walks and 11 runs scored for Washington. He hit .309 as a starter.

Harrison can make an additional $250,000 in performance bonuses as part of the deal: $50,000 for 200 plate appearances and additional increments of $50,000 up to 400. He made 91 plate appearances in 33 games during the 60-game 2020 season.

Harrison, a right-handed hitter, is a two-time All-Star who has started games at second base, third base, shortstop, designated hitter and both corner outfield spots during his 10 years in the majors.

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He played eight seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates before joining the Detroit Tigers in 2019 and has compiled a career .273 batting average with 56 homers, 291 RBIs and 384 runs.

He was a National League All-Star in 2014 and 2017 for Pittsburgh. But Harrison hit .175 with one homer in 36 games for the Tigers last year before getting released in August 2019.

He had signed a minor league contract with the Phillies in November before they let him go in July.

“You never know where you’re going to end up in this game,” Harrison said last month. “I’m blessed. I was fortunate enough to find a situation like this when it didn’t work out with Philly. I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better place, a better group of guys.”

Harrison is the first free-agent question addressed by the Nationals. Players entering free agency this offseason include infielders Ryan Zimmerman and Asdrúbal Cabrera, outfielder Michael A. Taylor, catcher Kurt Suzuki and pitchers Sean Doolittle and Roenis Elías.

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Tampa Bay Rays take game 2 to even the series one game apiece

Through all the struggles, all the moments when it looked like he should be dropped down in the lineup or out of it altogether, Brandon Lowe believed.

He had built himself into one of the American League’s best hitters, and no slump, not even one during the playoffs, could derail that. The Tampa Bay Rays kept believing in Lowe, too. And in Game 2 of the World Series, both were rewarded handsomely for their faith.

Lowe became the first player ever to hit two opposite-field home runs in one World Series match, and the Rays’ bullpen bent but didn’t break as they held on for a 6-4 triumph Wednesday night to even the series at one game apiece.

The 26-year-old Lowe, an All-Star two years ago as a rookie and a down-ballot MVP candidate this year, had endured a brutal postseason: 6-for-56 with 19 strikeouts and not one multi-hit game among the 15 the Rays had played. And yet Tampa Bay never wavered — he sat only one game and pinch hit in it — confident that Lowe would find his swing.

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Lowe, hitting in the No. 2 hole, punished a 95 mph fastball from rookie starter Tony Gonsolin out to left field, giving the Rays an early advantage. He piled on with a two-run shot off rookie Dustin May in the fifth inning, pushing the Rays’ advantage to 5-0.

In the meantime, Rays starter Blake Snell hadn’t permitted a hit, striking out two Dodgers in each of the first four innings.

Following the fourth, Snell bounded off the mound, shouting into the expanse of Globe Life Field, to no one and everyone among the crowd of 11,472. He looked like his Cy Young-winning self, his fastball, curve ball and slider confounding a group of Dodgers hitters who in Game 1 piled up eight runs through power, patience and proficiency wielding the bat.

Lowe’s multi-homer game was the 55th in World Series history, the seventh by a second baseman and the first by a Rays player. And it continued Tampa Bay’s trend of needing home runs to score. They set a record with 28 home runs this postseason, and entering the World Series, nearly 72% of their runs had come via the longball.

The return of the Lowe who helped lead the Rays to the AL East title was a welcome sign for a Tampa Bay team whose offensive struggles were of paramount concern — particularly with the prospect of falling down 0-2 to the Dodgers. Lowe had hit .269/.362/.554 with 14 home runs in 56 games during the regular season and ranked just behind Juan Soto and Ronald Acuña Jr. in wins above replacement.

Now, after a Thursday off-day, the teams return for Game 3 with the best pitching matchup of the series: Dodgers ace Walker Buehler versus Rays stalwart Charlie Morton.

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MLB owners approve New York Mets sale to Steve Cohen

Steve Cohen’s bid to buy the New York Mets was accepted by Major League Baseball’s Ownership Committee, all but assuring the hedge fund titan will be the team’s new owner, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Ownership Committee, chaired by Pittsburgh Pirates Chairman Bob Nutting, reviewed the vetting of Cohen and details of the proposed transaction, said the people, who were granted anonymity because the matter is private.

MLB refused to comment.

The next step in the process is a review by the commissioner’s Executive Council, after which the proposed sale will be voted on by a full slate of owners.

Cohen needs 23 votes for approval.

The final vote may take place soon after the World Series. Also on the Ownership Committee are Chicago White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, Chris Ilitch of the Detroit Tigers, Paul Dolan of the Cleveland Indians and Fred Wilpon of the Mets. Wilpon likely had to recuse himself.  Cohen met virtually with the Ownership Committee weeks ago.

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Cohen, who already holds an 8% stake in the Mets, has agreed to pay a record $2.42 billion for the team he grew up rooted for as a kid on Long Island.

Under terms of the deal Cohen will hold a 95% stake in the team. The current owners, the Katz and Wilpon families, will keep 5%.

Cohen will assume control of a franchise that even in a non-COVID season loses at least $50 million annually.

That said, with a net worth of more than $10 billion, according to Bloomberg, Cohen has the resources to sustain annual losses while still investing in players.

His facility to finance the purchase without investors was key in his winning an auction that included Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils owner Josh Harris and a group led by former big-league Most Valuable Player Alex Rodriguez.

The sellers gained control of the Mets for $391 million in 2002. Cohen has already said he would name former Mets executive Sandy Alderson as the team’s president once approved.

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Houston Astros survive to force Game 6 vs Tampa Bay Rays in ALCS

The Tampa Bay Rays had a shot to advance to the World Series and send the Houston Astros packing for the second consecutive night at San Diego’s Petco Park on Thursday. And for the second straight night, they did not get it done.

The Astros have prevailed with a 4-3 Game 5 triumph in dramatic fashion as Carlos Correa hit a walk-off homer in the ninth inning.

Let’s dive in on the key storylines and things to know from Game 5. 

Correa’s been possibly the most vocal Astros player this postseason when it comes to wanting to silence the team’s critics. After a lackluster offensive regular season (.264 average with a 92 OPS+ and five homers), Correa is now hitting .342/.457/.816 with six homers in the playoffs.

Yes, more home runs in the postseason than regular season. He’s now two homers away from tying the record for the most homers in a single postseason (see the note in the Arozarena section below for more on this). 

Further, Correa’s clutch exploits in the playoffs are notable. His three career walk-off hits tie David Ortiz for the most ever in the postseason (via ESPN Stats and Info). Correa also hit a walk-off homer the ALCS last year, coming vs. the Yankees in Game 2.

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The Astros went with a bullpen game, which is just a game full of relievers. Luis Garcia started the game and worked two innings, he was followed by Blake Taylor, Enoli Paredes, Andre Scrubb, Brooks Raley (it was all rookies through this point, by the way), Josh James and Ryan Pressly. They got through the nine innings permitting just three runs on seven hits. All this with their backs against the wall. 

The Rays used John Curtiss as an opener.

That is, a pitcher who throws around one inning before giving way to the pitcher — usually of the opposite hand — who is designed to pitch the most innings in the game. That was Josh Fleming, who was usually a starter in 2020. Curtiss went 1 1/3 innings before Fleming went three. 

Overall, it was a commendable effort from both pitching staffs. Lots of the big names were either unavailable of carrying in big postseason workloads. 

The Astros are trying to run this thing to the distance after trailing 0-3 while the Rays are looking to avoid facing the chance of joining the 2004 Yankees in making dubious history and losing four consecutive games after taking a 3-0 lead.

The pitching matchup is the same as Game 1 with Blake Snell going for the Rays and Framber Valdez getting the ball for the Astros.  Of the 39 teams in the MLB playoffs to ever face a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series, the Astros now join the 1998 Braves, 1999 Mets and 2004 Red Sox as the only teams to force a Game 6.

Both the Braves and Mets lost Game 6. The Red Sox won out to make history. The Astros are looking to be the second team to do that, but they’ll need to get Game 6 first. 

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