The Astros’ sign-stealing scandal has shaken Major League Baseball to its core.
After a lengthy investigation, MLB came down hard on Houston, suspending manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow for a season, taking away first- and second-round draft picks over the next two years, and fining the team $5 million. Subsequently, Astros owner Jim Crane fired Hinch and Luhnow. The fallout wasn’t limited to Houston: Managers Alex Cora of the Red Sox and Carlos Beltran of the Mets were fired. Both were with the Astros in 2017 — Cora as a bench coach and Beltran as a player — and each was implicated in MLB’s investigation.
The Astros’ illegal scheme raises numerous questions, among them:
Here are potential ripple effects:
Veterans Buck Showalter, Dusty Baker may get managing jobs
In today’s age of analytics, with more game-day decisions coming from upstairs in the front office rather than in the dugout, the job of Major League manager has evolved. Baseball lifers are being phased out, replaced by advocates for analytics. Four rookie managers were hired over the winter: Jayce Tingler (Padres), David Ross (Cubs), Derek Shelton (Pirates) and Beltran (Mets). Showalter and Baker have impressive resumes, but neither has landed another MLB position since recent exits from the game. More than ever, the Astros, Red Sox and Mets need the calming influence of an experienced manager. Either Showalter or Baker would be ideal. Showalter has interviewed with the Astros; Baker will soon.
Houston will face extreme pressure
The scandal will be an epic distraction all season for the defending American League champion Astros, who lost ace Gerrit Cole to the Yankees in free agency in the off-season. His defection tilted the balance of power in the American League toward New York. Houston still may be the best team in the West, but it will face a stiff challenge from the Angels, who have added superstar third baseman Anthony Rendon and get back pitcher/DH Shohei Ohtani and outfielder Justin Upton from injuries. Allegations the Astros were stealing signs last season opens up even more issues. What happens if Houston stars Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, George Springer and Yuli Gurriel regress? Accusations they benefited from sign-stealing will be omnipresent. Bench-clearing brawls
Opposing players, particularly pitchers, are pissed. When Houston was alleged to have transitioned from trash can banging to the use of buzzers in 2019 to signal pitches, the league collectively lost its mind. The outrage will manifest itself with pitchers throwing at Astros hitters. Prediction: This will get very ugly.
Cora won’t get a baseball job
According to the commissioner’s report on the scandal, the sign-stealing camera in center field in Houston was Cora’s idea. He allegedly came up with trash can banging as a way to communicate pitches to Houston hitters. Following the 2017 season, he became Red Sox manager, and Boston won the World Series in 2018. Now the league is in the midst of an investigation into whether Boston was sign stealing then. Hinch got a year’s suspension; what will the ringleader face? Cora could go down as one of the greatest cheaters in the sport’s history. No matter the length of his suspension, he’ll be radioactive.
The MLB offseason saw a flurry of activity during and immediately following the December winter meetings, and the hot stove stayed warm all through the holidays. We’re currently about a month out from the opening of spring training camps in Florida and Arizona, and most clubs would still like to add one or two more pieces before then. Here’s what each team still has on its wish list.
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New York Yankees: left field
Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire
The Bombers feel they’ve already positioned themselves as the favorites in the American League thanks to their free agent addition of ace starter Gerrit Cole, and they very well may be right. In a lot of ways New York is loaded on paper, but the one area the Yankees could stand to upgrade is left field. With starting center fielder Aaron Hicks not due back until after the All-Star break following October Tommy John surgery, Brett Gardner is going to have to begin the season in center. That leaves left field to the likes of Mike Tauchman and Clint Frazier. While the duo could very well form a serviceable platoon, it wouldn’t be stunning if the Yankees brought another outfielder into the mix.
Options: Bigger names like Marcell Ozuna and Alex Gordon are still available on the free agent market, but so is Cameron Maybin, who played well for the Yankees a season ago. Veteran Curtis Granderson may decide to retire, but he could be a potential short-term option as well.
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Boston Red Sox: bench
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Boston suffered through a disappointing 2019 that only grew more frustrating after the season ended. While their archrivals in the Bronx were busy positioning themselves to make a run for a championship, the Red Sox were busy exploring ways to slash payroll to get under the luxury tax. While a trade involving a high-profile Boston star like Mookie Betts or David Price has not come to pass, new GM Chaim Bloom has not done all that much to give them more help in the increasingly likely event they stay. The weakest part of the Red Sox projected opening day roster is hands down their bench, where Marco Hernandez, Tzu-Wei Lin, Kevin Plawecki and Rule 5 addition Jonathan Arauz create a far from imposing quartet.
Options: An experienced free agent outfielder like Hunter Pence or Curtis Granderson would seemingly fit well in Boston. Both would bring veteran leadership to the clubhouse and at this point in their careers, they could be amenable to a bench role. On the infield, somebody like Adeiny Hechavarria would be a nice glove addition.
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Tampa Bay Rays: bullpen
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The Rays are the innovators behind the current opener trend that’s become more widespread over the past couple of years. Tampa Bay is confident in its top three starting pitchers, Blake Snell, Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow, but after that the Rays like to mix and match their pitching. To that end, they could stand to add one more reliever to help navigate the middle innings and get the ball to late-inning righties Nick Anderson and Emilio Pagan.
Options: A free agent flier on somebody like Pedro Strop, Arodys Vizcaino, Anthony Swarzak or Josh Tomlin would be a reasonable addition. But the Rays have always liked to get creative in their efforts to improve. Trading for Pittsburgh’s Keone Kela would represent a high-upside addition, but it’s far to wonder if the Pirates would even consider doing business with Tampa after the Rays fleeced them in the Chris Archer trade a couple of summers ago. Detroit’s Joe Jimenez and Baltimore’s Mychal Givens would fall into the same category, though those clubs may prefer to hold their assets until the trade deadline.
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Toronto Blue Jays: bullpen
Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire
Toronto looks like a team on the rise in the American League. The Blue Jays boast an enviable young core with the likes of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and they invested heavily in the rotation this winter by bringing in Hyun-Jin Ryu and Tanner Roark. Their bullpen though leaves quite a bit to be desired. Ken Giles is a good closer and one the Blue Jays trust at the end of games, but they don’t have much in the way of quality setup men. Toronto needs to decide if it thinks it can seriously compete for a playoff spot this season or if it is a year away, because if the Blue Jays want to go for it this year, there are bullpen upgrades available.
Options: Experienced arms with closing experience like Pedro Strop, Fernando Rodney and Addison Reed are all available on the free agent market, and all would fit in tremendously north of the border.
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Baltimore Orioles: rotation
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The Orioles are going to have a hard time competing in a difficult division for a long time, but that doesn’t mean they have to be absolute punching bags. If they’re going to be at least a little competitive though, they’re going to have to seriously upgrade their starting rotation. After trading Dylan Bundy to the Angels, Baltimore’s starting five is beyond thin, and the team desperately needs a reliable innings eater. Behind John Means and Alex Cobb, the Orioles are prepared to enter the season with Asher Wojciechowski, Kohl Stewart and Rule 5 addition Brandon Bailey in the rotation, and none of them are all that inspiring.
Options: Baltimore is not going to attract high-impact talent right now, but a veteran free-agent like Clayton Richard could help bring stability to a starting five that needs it.
The Red Sox announced Tuesday evening that manager Alex Cora will not return as their manager in 2020. The news comes one day after MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced the results of his investigation into the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal, wherein Cora was revealed to be one of the architects of Houston’s trash-can system. The Red Sox organization issued the following statement:
Today we met to discuss the Commissioner’s report related to the Houston Astros investigation. Given the findings and the Commissioner’s ruling, we collectively decided that it would not be possible for Alex to effectively lead the club going forward and we mutually agreed to part ways.
The Red Sox’ usage of “mutually agreed to part ways” notwithstanding, there’s no way that Cora would’ve been ousted as manager were it not for his role in the sign-stealing scandal. It’s been extraordinarily difficult to fathom a scenario in which Cora would’ve stayed on as manager after Houston GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch were fired by the Astros yesterday, given his involvement in the Astros’ scandal as well as the current investigation of the Red Sox’ 2018. The now-former manager issued a statement of his own:
“I want to thank John, Tom, Sam, the players, our coaching staff and the entire Red Sox organization. I especially want to thank my family for their love and support. We agreed today that parting ways was the best thing for the organization. I do not want to be a distraction to the Red Sox as they move forward. My two years as manager were the best years of my life. It was an honor to manage these teams and help bring a World Series Championship back to Boston. I will forever be indebted to the organization and the fans who supported me as a player, a manager and in my efforts to help Puerto Rico. This is a special place. There is nothing like it in all of baseball, and I will miss it dearly.”
As was the case when Houston let go of its GM-manager tandem, this represents a stunning turn of mid-winter events for Boston. In terms of wins and losses, the two-year Cora era was especially fruitful for the Red Sox. As Cora mentioned, he helped the club to a championship in 2018 – his first year on the job and one in which it piled up a whopping 108 regular-season victories before steamrolling the Yankees, Astros and Dodgers in the playoffs. Of course, now that the league’s investigating Cora, there are perhaps questions about the legitimacy of that title.
A massive brawl broke out in a Venezuelan baseball league game on Wednesday night that was reminiscent of the infamous Juan Marichal-Johnny Roseboro fight.
In a game between Aguilas del Zulia and Caribes de Anzoategui on Wednesday, Caribes pitcher Angel Nesbitt threw behind Alex Romero on a 3-0 pitch with his team up 13-1. Romero responded by swinging his bat at catcher Gabriel Lino twice. Lino took off his glove and threw it at Romero, and by that point, both benches had cleared.
Here is the breakdown of the incident from internet favorite Jomboy:
The background to the fight is that the teams are in a playoff series and there were previous issues in the seventh inning. Aguilas threw at César Valera following home runs by two Caribes players, leading to a brawl.
10 people were ejected from the game, which Caribes won 13-2. Aguilas leads the series 3-2.
While most of the prominent MLB free agents have found their homes already this offseason, there are still plenty left who can help teams. Here’s the ideal landing spot for the top remaining free agents.
Cashner looked good early last season in Baltimore, going 9-3 with a 3.83 ERA in 17 starts before he was traded to Boston. The move to Boston was a nightmare, with an ERA above 6.00, but Cashner’s comfort with the O’s was apparent. He would give a team some much-needed innings as he tries to get back on track at age 33.
Castellanos went on a tear after getting traded to the Cubs last year, hitting .321-16-36 with a 1.002 OPS in only 51 games. He’s obviously comfortable at Wrigley Field and would give the team a big bat it needs, especially if the rumors of a Kris Bryant trade come through. Of course, Chicago’s apparent hesitance to spend money this offseason is a major obstacle.
Houston has already re-signed Martin Maldonado, but he’s hardly a viable starting catcher at this point. Chirinos did an excellent job for the Astros last year, hitting .238-17-58 with improved defense. Entering his age 36 season, Chirinos isn’t a great long-term option but should have another good year as a starter remaining.
As Texas opens its new ballpark, the Rangers have already spent big this offseason with additions like Corey Kluber, Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles. The offense still needs a boost, and Donaldson can certainly provide it. The Rangers fell short in their attempt to sign Anthony Rendon, but Donaldson is a nice consolation after rebounding from a calf injury to hit 37 home runs last year.
Dozier has fallen out of favor late in each of the last two seasons, but he still has something left, as shown by his .771 OPS last year. While his defense has slipped in his early 30s, Dozier can still be a nice addition for a needy team like the Red Sox. Signing him would allow the team to move Michael Chavis to first base full time and use new acquisition Jose Peraza in a utility role. Perhaps the Green Monster would also help Dozier’s home run total.
The Nationals have a deal with infielder Starlin Castro, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. It’s a two-year arrangement, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The deal promises Castro $12M, per Jeff Passan of ESPN.com.
Castro will be tasked with handling second base for the defending World Series champs. Fellow free agents Brian Dozier and Asdrubal Cabrera handled most of the work at that position last year in D.C.
The Nationals have seen plenty of Castro over the past several seasons, as he has appeared with the division-rival Marlins. He has had ups and downs over the years but has mostly delivered approximately league-average offensive production with average glove work. Poorly graded baserunning has long been a bit of a drag on his overall value.
It’s not an exciting signing, by any stretch, but it does check a box for the Nats. And perhaps the club sees reason to hope for a bit more out of Castro. He’s still just 29 years of age and vastly increased his offensive productivity in the second half of the 2019 campaign. In his final 285 plate appearances of the year, he slashed a hefty .302/.334/.558 with 16 long balls. He’s never going to draw many walks, so the question is if Castro can continue to make better contact — both harder and higher — and thus maintain a meaningful portion of that second-half power outburst.
Even if Castro enters the season as the presumptive second baseman, he could ultimately move into a more flexible role — especially if top prospect Carter Kieboom forces his way into an everyday role. Castro has plenty of experience on the left side of the infield and could become part of a timeshare at third base if that becomes desirable (whether in the first or second year of the deal). Castro would pair well with a lefty hitter, as he has long been much more dangerous against southpaws.
As things stand, the Nats would rely upon the switch-hitting Wilmer Difo to spell Castro and shortstop Trea Turner. The team could pursue an upgrade over Difo. It might also add a more offensive-oriented player who can spend time at first base. There could be some overlap there, as well. The team’s ultimate moves at third base — Josh Donaldson remains the chief target, with a few major trade candidates also possible — may end up dictating the finishing touches on the bench. Whether or not Ryan Zimmerman ends up returning will also be a factor.
Originally posted on MLB Trade Rumors | By Jeff Todd | Last updated 1/3/20
The early part of the MLB offseason has already brought with it some blockbuster moves, as well as some under-the-radar signings that could have a big impact in 2020. Here’s a look at the best moves of the early offseason, as of Dec. 20.
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Angels hire Joe Maddon
The Angels last made the playoffs in 2014, and their one year with Brad Ausmus at the helm didn’t go well. The organization continues to waste Mike Trout’s talent, but Maddon is as capable as any manager to get L.A. back to the postseason. He started to wear thin with the Cubs recently but should be able to give the Angels a jolt of energy and new-age thinking.
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Angels acquire Dylan Bundy
Seemingly over the injury issues that plagued him early in his career, Bundy was a massive disappointment in Baltimore over the last two years and fetched only a group of middling prospects from Anaheim. Much of his issues have been directly related to the long ball, and getting out of Baltimore’s hitter-friendly confines can only help. The Angels desperately needed to beef up their rotation this offseason, and Bundy is a nice start.
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Braves sign Will Smith
Smith was a dominant closer for the Giants last season, and he’s been one of the league’s best left-handed relievers since returning from Tommy John surgery in 2018. A three-year contract for any reliever is a risk, but Smith is still only 30 and has seen nothing but success in the majors since converting to the pen in 2013. He can serve well in any bullpen role for a Braves team with World Series aspirations.
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Brewers sign Josh Lindblom
Lindblom has a history of MLB experience and some success, which is important to remember after three terrific seasons as a starter in Korea. He returns to the majors on a three-year, $9.125 million contract with Milwaukee, which seems like a minimal risk for a pitcher with excellent control and the ability to pitch in multiple roles. For the cost, there’s nothing but upside.
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Brewers acquire Omar Narvaez for Adam Hill and draft pick
Milwaukee remedied the loss of Yasmani Grandal by acquiring Narvaez. The catcher is in no way comparable to Grandal, but he did prove to be one of the league’s best offensive catchers in Seattle last year by hitting .278-22-55. Poor defense is a concern, but the price was right for the Brewers. 6 of 20
Brewers acquire Eric Lauer and Luis Urias for Zach Davies and Trent Grisham
Milwaukee is always in search of undervalued assets and stuck with that mindset in this deal. Lauer is a former first-round pick who is unproven at the major league level, but he has a good minor league track record and has been serviceable in two seasons with the Padres. Urias was considered a top prospect just one year ago and gives the Brewers insurance at shortstop with Orlando Arcia continuing to struggle. Davies would seem like a big cost with a career 3.91 ERA in 111 starts, but he doesn’t miss bats and became strictly a five-inning starter late last season. Grisham is a former first-round pick who didn’t hit in the minors until last year, so the jury is still out on him.
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Cardinals sign Kwang-Hyun Kim
The Cardinals seem to be going for values more than splashes this offseason, a product of spending big money on the extensions of Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter and Paul Goldschmidt. Signing Kim to a two-year, $8 million contract brings with it minimal risk with plenty of upside, after the lefty posted a 2.51 ERA in 190.1 innings in Korea last season. He has an MLB-quality slider and could contribute in a variety of roles. 8 of 20
Diamondbacks sign Stephen Vogt
The pending expansion to a 26-man roster will enable many teams to carry three catchers, a strategy that the Diamondbacks have already liked to employ. Vogt gives the team a veteran backup for Carson Kelly, and he was able to reestablish his health last year as Buster Posey’s backup in San Francisco by posting a career-high .804 OPS. Not only could Vogt be used as a backup catcher, but he also is a strong pinch-hitter for only $3 million. 9 of 20
Dodgers sign Blake Treinen
It’s no mystery that the bullpen was L.A.’s biggest weakness last year, and Treinen gives the team a big boost. He fought shoulder issues in Oakland last season but was one of MLB’s best relievers in 2018, with an 0.78 ERA and 38 saves in 68 appearances. An extreme groundball pitcher, he gives the A’s another setup option and potentially a closer alternative if Kenley Jansen struggles again.
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Giants sign Kevin Gausman
Gausman clearly isn’t the pitcher he was when he was first promoted by the Orioles, and he is coming off the worst season of his career. The silver lining is that he was terrific as a reliever for the Reds late last year and posted a career-high 10.0 K/9. San Francisco clearly saw that upside when it signed Gausman, and the move to a larger park will help the home run-prone right-hander. There’s no such thing as a bad one-year contract, and this is one of the highest upside one-year deals so far this offseason.
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Giants acquire Zack Cozart and Will Wilson
San Francisco took Cozart’s contract off the Angels hands to bring on Wilson, the 15th overall pick in the 2019 draft. The Giants are effectively paying $12.7 million for Wilson, a middle infielder out of NC State. That’s a hefty price for a prospect, but the Giants have some spare change now that they’re in rebuilding mode. If Wilson turns into an MLB regular, the trade is easily a win for San Francisco.
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Marlins claim Jesus Aguilar off waivers
Aguilar was one of the league’s top offensive first basemen in 2018, hitting .274-35-108, but he fell flat last year. After continuing to struggle late in the season with Tampa Bay, Aguilar was waived and claimed by the nearby neighbors in Miami. As the Marlins continue to rebuild, they have at-bats to provide players like Aguilar who are looking to revitalize their careers as the former minor league veteran tries to prove his 2018 season wasn’t a fluke.
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Marlins select Sterling Sharp in Rule 5 draft
There aren’t many treasures to be had in the Rule 5 draft these days, but Sharp could be one. The former Nats prospect missed much of last season with a back injury, though he has a career 3.71 ERA in the minors and is coming off a great showing at the Arizona Fall League. An extreme groundball pitcher, Sharp has a chance to not only make the Marlins out of spring training but also to serve in their starting rotation.
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Rangers sign Kyle Gibson
Gibson has regained the former talent he showed as a top prospect with the Twins recently, posting a 3.62 ERA in 32 starts during 2018. He struggled late last season after stomach issues but has shown an uptick in velocity lately to go along with an excellent slider. He also had a career-best 2.86 K/BB ratio last year, showing enough upside to be worthy of the three-year, $28 million contract he signed with Texas. The contract is strikingly similar to the one Lance Lynn signed with the Rangers last offseason, and there’s similarly interesting upside.
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Rangers acquire Corey Kluber for Emmanuel Clase and Delino DeShields Jr.
It’s rare that a two-time Cy Young winner can be had for what’s effectively a salary dump, but the Rangers were able to pull it off. In fairness, Clase looks like an outstanding bullpen arm and DeShields can really track the ball in center field, but neither player is a true impact performer in the short term. Kluber missed most of last season with a fractured elbow and struggled before the injury, but he’s entering only his age 34 season and was an elite pitcher as recently as 2018. The Rangers rotation looks terrific with Kluber added to Lance Lynn, Mike Minor and Kyle Gibson. 16 of 20
Rays acquire Hunter Renfroe and Xavier Edwards for Tommy Pham
Tampa Bay got a great 2019 season out of Pham but might have sold high on the soon-to-be 32-year-old by acquiring Renfroe and Edwards. Renfroe struggles defensively, but he hit 33 home runs in only 494 plate appearances last season and is just entering his prime. Edwards is the kicker in the deal, a first-round pick from 2018 who hit .322 between Low-A and High-A last season at age 19. He very well could be the Rays’ second baseman of the future next to top shortstop prospect Wander Franco. 17 of 20
Red Sox sign Jose Peraza
Cincinnati’s shortstop of the future just one year ago, Peraza was non-tendered after an awful 2019 season. Boston signed him to a one-year, $3 million contract, and he will effectively replace Eduardo Nunez on the roster. He brings the upside of a young Nunez, as shown by his 2018 season in which he hit .288 with 14 home runs, 23 stolen bases and appearances at multiple positions. The Red Sox can use some defensive versatility as they figure out the futures of Michael Chavis and Mookie Betts. 18 of 20
Twins re-sign Michael Pineda
Pineda’s market was hurt by the 60-game PEDs suspension that he will continue to serve at the start of 2020, but he looks like a bargain on a two-year, $20 million contract. No team knows him better than Minnesota after employing the big right-hander last year, and the Twins were able to get a lot out of him after a slow start to the season. With great control and a 5.00 K/BB ratio last year, Pineda shows huge potential.
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White Sox sign Yasmani Grandal
Chicago didn’t waste much time in the offseason, signing Grandal to a four-year deal in November. He’s been one of the leagues best and most consistent catchers in recent seasons, providing plus-plus ability both offensively and defensively. He should still have some life left as he enters his age 31 season, and he gives the team a nice middle of the order hitter to add to its young talent.
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Yankees sign Gerrit Cole
Cole signed a record-breaking nine-year deal with a Yankees organization that has been surprisingly patient and restrained in recent seasons. Clearly an elite starting pitcher, he gives the Yankees the one missing piece that could put them over the top, and he is potentially capable of offsetting the hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium dimensions after posting a 13.8 K/9 and 6.79 K/BB ratio last season.
The New York Yankees are ready to go big in their pursuit of free-agent pitcher Gerrit Cole.
According to Bob Klapisch of the New York Times, the Yankees have made a seven-year, $245 million offer to Cole. That would break the record for the highest AAV on a pitcher’s contract, a mark that is currently held by Zack Greinke.
As impressive as the offer is, it’s not a done deal. The Los Angeles Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers are still involved, and could win Cole over with nine- or ten-year offers.
It is no secret that the Yankees have made Cole their primary target of the offseason, and they look like they’ll do anything to beat the competition and land their man. Whether that means adding a couple of extra years if someone else does remains to be seen, but the Yankees want Cole and appear determined to get him at any cost.
To be clear, it’s easy to understand why — Cole posted a 2.50 ERA with 326 strikeouts in 212.1 innings in 2019.
The Braves have struck a one-year deal with lefty Cole Hamels, per ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan (via Twitter). It’s said to include a $18M guarantee.
This match has long made sense — for all the reasons the team decided last year to ink fellow veteran southpaw Dallas Keuchel to a rental contract. MLBTR predicted Hamels to land in Atlanta in our ranking of the top-50 free agents.
Entering the winter, we believed Hamels could command a two-year deal at a $15M AAV. But it emerged soon after the market opened that the veteran southpaw actually preferred a single-season mercenary arrangement. That’s just what he’ll get, and he’ll command a bit of a salary premium by foregoing any long-term security.
Hamels drew widespread interest over the past month. That continued into the month of December, with Bob Nightengale reporting (Twitterlink) that a half-dozen organizations were still involved as of Tuesday. The Phillies, White Sox, Rangers and — surprisingly — the Giants were among the teams in the market, per the report.
That Philadelphia link only further increases the NL East intrigue that we’re bound to see in 2020. While he is a few years removed from his tenure with the Phils, Hamels will always be known first and foremost as a long-time Phillies hurler who was one of the team’s key players during its last run of success.
Now, Hamels will try to help the Braves get over the hump. The Atlanta org has won the past two division crowns, but hasn’t yet managed to translate that success into the postseason. Hamels promises to step in for Keuchel as a durable veteran who has been there and done that plenty of times over a long and prosperous career.
The 2010s for Major League Baseball were full of many moments that moved the sport ahead in ways that were previously unimaginable. The way the game was played and managed changed more than it had in decades prior. Championship droughts were ended with regularity, and new management introduced previously unimaginable elements to the game. Between it all, some amazing players made their debuts, while others had the signature moments of their already legendary careers. It was a busy decade for the national pastime; here’s a look at the signature events that defined it.
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25. The extension of safety nets
While the chance at grabbing a foul ball has long been one of the most enticing parts of the live MLB experience, at the same time the chance of injury became far too frequent of an occurrence. An increasingly alarming number of fans — including some young ones — were being injured by foul balls, and the vast majority of Major League Baseball teams began taking action. By 2018 all teams had extended netting completely around the home plate area, but in coming years, there is the possibility that netting will be extended foul pole to foul pole, which the Chicago White Sox have already done. 2 of 25
24. Clayton Kershaw dominates for Dodgers
Although his postseason struggles continue to haunt him, there is no disputing that Kershaw had one of the greatest pitching runs of all time. An eight-time All-Star with three NL Cy Young Awards and league MVP honors in 2014, Kershaw was the most decorated hurler of the decade. He had the lowest ERA in the majors five times, becoming the first player to ever do so in four consecutive seasons, from 2011 to 2014. His 2.44 career ERA since 2011 is 1.63 runs below the league-wide ERA for the decade.
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23. Indians 22-game winning streak
Already in first place with a 5.5 game cushion on Aug. 24, following their 13-6 victory over the Boston Red Sox, the 2017 Indians wouldn’t lose again for nearly a month. Over the next three weeks, the Indians would win 22 straight games, a run that included seven shutouts and was capped by a thrilling 10-inning victory to clinch the second-longest streak of all time, outright. It was the longest winning streak in 82 years and pulled Cleveland 13.5 games up in the AL Central en route to a second consecutive AL Central title.
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22. Shohei Ohtani does double duty
He seemed too good to be true: a two-way talent with a 98-mph fastball who can hit home runs with ease and can do both full time? But Shohei Ohtani showed as advertised upon his arrival in America in 2018, becoming the first player since Babe Ruth to hit at least 15 home runs and pitch at least 50 innings in the same season. On his way to the AL Rookie of the Year Award, Ohtani hit 22 home runs and went 4-2 on the mound while averaging 11 strikeouts per nine innings on the mound. 5 of 25
21. The improbable run of the Washington Nationals
After being 12 games under .500 in late May, the Nationals won 65 percent of their games from June on and advanced to the World Series from the wild-card game. In the postseason they defied the odds to extraordinary levels, sandwiching an NLCS sweep of the Cardinals by beating two of the best teams in the NL and AL respectively, the Dodgers and Astros. Riding the potent rotation of Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin and eventual 2019 World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg, Washington became the first team in history to win all of its World Series games on the road.
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20. Decade of the prodigy
The youth was indisputably served in the 2010s, as there was a huge uptick in ready-to-play prospects reaching the majors. The single-season rookie home run record was broken twice in three years’ time, with Aaron Judge hitting 52 in 2017…before Pete Alonso hit 53 in 2019. Mike Trout became the youngest player to have a WAR of 9.0 or greater, in 2012, and Bryce Harper became the third-youngest MVP of all time, in 2015. Add in Ronald Acuna, Juan Soto, Jose Fernandez, Mookie Betts, Nolan Arenado, Corey Seager and Kris Bryant, and it was as potent of an early-career impact era as ever.
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19. The death of Roy Halladay
A two-time Cy Young Award winner and one of the two pitchers in history with a postseason no-hitter, Halladay was one of the greatest players of his era. Just shy of four years after his retirement, Halladay tragically crashed a plane he had recently purchased off the Florida coast. He was only 40 years old. In 2019, Halladay would go on to become the first posthumous first-ballot Hall of Fame selection since Roberto Clemente in 1973. 8 of 25
18. The end of the All-Star Game/World Series advantage
The controversial decision to award home-field advantage to the victorious league in the All-Star Game came to an end heading into the 2017 season. It also ushered in an era in which regular-season merit meant more than ever for the first time. The 2017 World Series was the first one ever to be hosted outright by the winningest regular-season team. From 1903 to 2002, home-field advantage was determined via a mixture of coin flips and alternating between leagues, and, as mentioned, from 2003 to 2016, the All-Star Game winner earned the rights.
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17. The Giants win three World Series
In the first half of the decade, the Giants made capturing World Series championships a bi-annual event. Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner and manager Bruce Bochy were the mainstays for the franchise, as they captured the pennant in 2010, 2012 and 2014, their first since moving to San Francisco in 1958. Built around strong starting pitching, bullpen depth and defense, the Giants never won more than 94 games in any of their championship seasons but rose to the occasion in the postseason, going 12-4 in World Series play.
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16. The video game baseball of the 2017 World Series
The Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers squared off in one of the biggest thrill rides the Fall Classic has ever seen. Over the course of the seven-game showdown, a record 25 home runs were hit, including a record-tying five by George Springer. The Astros hit a single-game record of eight in Game 2. The signature game of the series came in Game 5, a 13-12 thriller that featured five lead changes from the seventh inning on and had six game-tying home runs before a walk-off Alex Bregman single in the 10th inning. 11 of 25
15. Albert Pujols signs with the Anaheim Angels
Shortly after winning the 2011 World Series in St. Louis, Pujols headed into free agency for the first time in his career. Interest was obviously high in the three-time National League MVP, but it was hard to imagine him leaving the franchise he was synonymous with. But when negotiations with the Cardinals stalled, Angels owner Arte Moreno swooped in with a record 10-year, $254 million contract to bring Pujols west in one of the most stunning free agent coups of all time. 12 of 25
14. The deaths of Jose Fernandez, Oscar Taveras, Yordano Ventura and Tyler Skaggs
The decade also saw a string of tragic deaths to promising young talents still well shy of their 30th birthdays. Promising Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras died in a car accident in the Dominican Republic at 22 years old in 2014. Three years later, promising Kansas City pitcher Yordano Ventura suffered the same fate. In 2016 Jose Fernandez, already a two-time All-Star at age 24, died via a boating crash in Miami Beach. Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs died suddenly in July due to complications from an accidental drug overdose.
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13. Tanking a regular event
Over the course of the decade, it became more prevalent than ever for non-competitive teams to sell off to extents never seen before. “Tanking” led to teams that struggled at times to resemble minor league rosters, as down-and-out teams broke up and jockeyed for draft pick positioning harder than trying for real-time wins. In the process parity hit all-time lows, as records were set for number of 100-win and 100-loss teams co-existing in 2018 and again in 2019.
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12. Miguel Cabrera completes the Triple Crown
Since Carl Yastrzemski last completed the Triple Crown in 1967, many had accomplished two legs of the pursuit but none had finished it. That was until Miguel Cabrera did so in 2012, completing what was becoming believed to be impossible in the contemporary game. In claiming the crown, the Detroit Tigers slugger hit for a .330 batting average, with 44 home runs and 130 RBI en route to the American League MVP Award as well. 15 of 25
11. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado cash in
The dual free agency of Harper and Machado was a spectacle that was over a year in the making, as the two precocious talents reached free agency together in the winter of 2019. While neither reached the rumored $400 million level during their time on the open market, both did set new records for free agent pacts. Machado struck first, getting 10 years and $300 million from the San Diego Padres, followed by Harper’s $330 million over 13 years from the Philadelphia Phillies.