The best moves of the MLB offseason so far

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. 1 of 20

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. 2 of 20

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. 3 of 20

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.

4 of 20

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. 5 of 20

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.

7 of 20

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.

10 of 20

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. 11 of 20

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. 12 of 20

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. 13 of 20

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. 14 of 20

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. 15 of 20

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. 19 of 20

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. 20 of 20

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.

By: Seth Trachtman

https://www.yardbarker.com/mlb/articles/the_best_moves_of_the_mlb_offseason_so_far/s1__30857315#slide_1

Braves sign Cole Hamels to one-year, $18M deal

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 (Twitter link) 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.

By: Jeff Todd

https://www.yardbarker.com/mlb/articles/braves_sign_cole_hamels_to_one_year_18m_deal/s1_13237_30713651

Stargazing: A Baseball Hall of Fame crystal ball

Here are major leaguers with three or fewer service years, minor leaguers, collegiate and high school stars and international prospects who could end up in Cooperstown in the distant future.  1 of 23

Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta Braves OF

After a breakout rookie year as a 20-year-old, Acuna became the youngest $100 million man in baseball history. He etched his name in the history books when he became the youngest player to hit a postseason grand slam, in Game 3 of the 2018 NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. During his Rookie of the Year campaign, Acuna hit 25 home runs and stole 15 bases, becoming the fourth 20-or-younger player to accomplish the feat. (He joined Alex Rodriguez, Orlando Cepeda and Mike Trout.) 2 of 23

Jo Adell, Los Angeles Angels OF prospect

Adell has put on a five-tool talent show early in his professional career, rising to become the top homegrown Angel prospect since Mike Trout. His game is reminiscent of that of his potential future teammate, as Adell is a gifted defender who makes high-quality contact at the plate. He hit 20 home runs across three different levels in his first full pro season as a 19-year-old. 3 of 23

Pete Alonso, New York Mets 1B

Alonso has wasted no time making an impact as rookie. His 26th home run, on June 22, set the National League first-half rookie record. In the process, “Polar Bear” tied Darryl Strawberry’s full-season rookie home run record. He has 31 HRs, more than halfway to Aaron Judge’s 2018 rookie record of 52. 4 of 23

Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers 1B/OF

Bellinger’s career is off to a torrid start. The third-year big-leaguer captured NL Rookie of the Year honors in 2017, after hitting an NL-rookie-record 39 home runs. In 2019, Bellinger set an April record with 97 total bases and tied the record for home runs (14) and runs (32). 5 of 23

Walker Buehler, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher

Buehler made an immediate impact upon arrival in L.A., becoming the latest in an increasingly long line of recent Dodger prodigies. In 2018, he capped a terrific rookie year (8-5, 2.62 ERA, 151 strikeouts) with a dominant, seven-shutout-innings performance in Game 3 of the World Series. On June 21, he became the first Dodger pitcher to turn in a 15-plus strikeout outing (16 overall) with no walks. 6 of 23

Matt Chapman, Oakland Athletics 3B

A dazzling defender on the hot corner, Chapman has turned into one of the most dependable highlight creators in the game. Chapman’s presence at the plate has continued to grow as well, as he has produced an .870 OPS since 2018. 7 of 23

Jasson Dominguez, Dominican Republic OF

The 16-year-old Dominguez is widely considered the top international amateur prospect. The multiskilled outfielder is a switch-hitter with a strong, 5-foot-10, 190-pound frame and the ability to hit for power from both sides of the plate. He’s also fast. The Yankees gave him a $5 million signing bonus earlier this month. 8 of 23

Wander Franco, Tampa Bay Rays SS prospect

The game’s next great prodigy, Franco has been sensational in his first year-and-a-half as a pro. As a 17-year-old, he hit .351 with 11 home runs and seven triples to claim MVP of the Appalachian League. He was three years younger than the league average age. He has kept his foot on the gas in Year 2, recently inheriting the mantle of the game’s top prospect despite just turning 18 in March. 9 of 23

MacKenzie Gore, San Diego Padres pitching prospect

Injury plagued last season, Gore has firmly established himself as one the game’s top coming attractions on the mound. The southpaw — who drew comparisons to Clayton Kershaw en route to becoming the third overall pick in 2017 — is dominating minor league foes as a 20-year-old. 10 of 23

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays, 3B

There may be no more naturally talented hitter to emerge in the past 20 years than Vlad Jr. He famously destroyed minor league pitching over the past two years, hitting .323 and .381, respectively, with a number of tape-measure homers mixed in. Few 20-year-olds feel like they are overdue to reach the majors when they did, but Guerrero Jr. fit that bill. On May 14, he became the youngest Blue Jay to homer. For good measure, he hit another one that night.

https://www.yardbarker.com/mlb/articles/stargazing_a_baseball_hall_of_fame_crystal_ball/s1__29546267#slide_1

By: Matt Whitener

Top storylines heading into MLB Opening Day

After a long winter, MLB Opening Day is upon us. Now that the games are here, our attention shifts from a brutally slow offseason to the season itself.

With the 2019 season set to begin, these are the top storylines to follow on Opening Day and the early months of the season.

Who will sign Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel?

Dallas Keuchel may not be the pitcher he once was, and Craig Kimbrel’s shaky postseason didn’t help his cause. Still, it’s ridiculous that these two remain unsigned. The addition of Keuchel would improve the top end of most rotations and there are few better closers in the game than Kimbrel.

How will the revamped Phillies look?

The Philadelphia Phillies were the talk of the offseason thanks to the signing of Bryce Harper and the additions of Andrew McCutchen, J.T. Realmuto and David Robertson.
On paper, Philadelphia should be one of the best teams in the National League, but it won’t be easy. The NL East is one of MLB’s best divisions, and we count nine NL teams that should be in the postseason mix. This team should play well, but nothing is guaranteed in baseball.

What does the Red Sox bullpen look like?

The defending champs have few weaknesses. The biggest concern for Boston entering 2019 is its bullpen. Red Sox relievers consistently made their fans nervous in 2018, and there are certainly more questions now on that front than before.

Kimbrel is gone (though he could still be re-signed), and last year’s bullpen stabilizer, Nathan Eovaldi, has moved to the starting rotation. Make no mistake, the Red Sox are well-positioned to make another championship run, but few things can sink a team like a bad bullpen. This will be something to watch closely in the early weeks of the season.

The encore performance of 2018’s top rookies

Shohei Ohtani, Ronald Acuna Jr., Juan Soto and Gleyber Torres turned the heads of baseball fans everywhere last year. Now it’s time for an encore.

Ohtani won’t pitch this year as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, and we probably won’t see him hitting at the MLB level until May. The other three are ready to roll. They won’t catch anyone off-guard this time around, however. The scouting reports are out; now it’s time to see how last year’s rookie stars adjust.

Clayton Kershaw’s rehab and health 

Kershaw will start the year on the injured list as he deals with an injury to his throwing shoulder. Any setbacks would be troubling for the 31-year-old pitcher, especially considering his recent injury history.

Unlike past seasons, the Dodgers rotation depth will allow the team to be patient with Kershaw’s recovery, but they’ll need him back healthy and pitching at a high level if this squad is finally going to get over the hump and win the World Series.

Is this Joe Maddon’s last run in Chicago? 

The 2019 season is the last on Maddon’s contract with the Chicago Cubs. He’s helped the Cubs win a World Series (the first for the team in 108 years, no less) and has been to four straight postseasons.

Chicago could try to extend his contract. If not, teams around the league are going to give a long look at making room for the highly regarded manager. Chances are that Maddon’s status beyond 2019 won’t be known in the early weeks of the season, but how the Cubs perform early on can and will drive a lot of speculation.

How soon other top prospects join Eloy Jimenez in MLB 

The Chicago White Sox deemed Eloy Jimenez MLB-ready right after he signed a contract extension. Whiich top-tier prospects will soon join him?

The two that come immediately to mind are Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Vladmir Guerrero Jr. (who is currently out with an injury) and San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. Others who can make a big impact include Houston’s Forrest Whitley, Colorado’s Brendan Rodgers, Toronto’s Bo Bichette and Chicago’s Dylan Cease, just to name a few. After such an impactful rookie class of 2018, we can’t wait to see what 2019’s group will offer.

Full Storyline List

By: Michael Dixon

11 MLB players in contract years who will crush it in 2019

Athletes in any sport wants to perform at their best the year before they’re eligible to hit free agency, and baseball players are certainly no different. This winter alone has shown how much money can be gained or lost in a contract year, with high-profile names standing out on both sides of the spectrum. Manny Machado used the best season of his career to secure a $300 million long-term guarantee from the Padres, while longtime Astros’ lefty Dallas Keuchel struggled in his walk year and finds himself still unsigned with two weeks to go until Opening Day.

Impending free agents on losing teams always deal with a degree of uneasiness around the trade deadline, when clubs hope to bring back something before letting a player leave for nothing, and it takes a certain level of professionalism to block out the noise and perform. In 2019 several players jump off the page as candidates to enjoy a big walk year. Let’s examine the list.

1. Justin Smoak 1B Toronto Blue Jays

Two years ago the switch-hitting Smoak hit .270 with 38 home runs and 90 RBI while adding 29 doubles and making the All-Star Team. Unfortunately he was unable to come close to replicating that success a year ago. In 505 at-bats, the veteran watched his stat line dip to .242 with 25 homers and 77 RBI, still a solid season but not nearly as eye-opening as his prior campaign. Entering 2019 both the Blue Jays and Smoak would benefit from a renaissance, as Toronto is exceedingly unlikely to be in the mix in a difficult AL East and would love to move him to a bat-needy team at the deadline. Smoak understands the monetary difference between his ’17 and ’18 seasons is massive.

2.  Jose Abreu 1B Chicago White Sox

Abreu has spent his entire career in the Windy City after defecting from Cuba prior to the 2014 campaign, and during his first four years in the big leagues he was one of the best run producers in the entire sport. From 2014-17 the right-handed slugger hit over .290 with 25-plus homers and 100-plus RBI in each season, but last year didn’t go nearly as swimmingly. A lower abdominal injury limited the 32-year-old to a career-low 128 games, and his .265 average, 22 homers and 78 RBI were evidence of just how bothered he was by the discomfort. Now back and healthy, Abreu is a prime candidate for a huge year, as he is a proud man who fancies himself as one of the most productive hitters in the American League. A big winter payday is quite the carrot at the end of the proverbial stick.

3. Zack Wheeler SP New York Mets

After spending the majority of his career taking two steps forward and one step back, the right-hander finally arrived in a big way in 2018. In 29 starts, Wheeler dominated for much of the year, turning in a 3.31 ERA with a 1.12 WHIP in 182.1 innings while striking out 179 men and holding the opposition to just a .225 batting average. There had been some minor chatter of New York trying to extend the 28-year-old during camp, but Wheeler spoke candidly about understanding he and Gerrit Cole are the top two free agents to be starting pitchers, and it’s clear he has his eyes on the prize heading into the new season.

4. Gerrit Cole SP Houston Astros

Speaking of Cole, the former Pirates first-round pick landed in Houston as part of an offseason trade prior to last year, and while he often found himself overshadowed by teammate Justin Verlander, he was one of the best pitchers in the American League in his own right. In 32 outings the veteran turned in a 2.88 ERA with a career best 1.03 WHIP while holding the opposition to a sub .200 batting average for the first time and eclipsing the 200 innings pitched plateau for the third time in four years. His 276 strikeouts finished second to only Verlander in the AL, and the UCLA product earned a selection to his second All-Star Team. Entering 2019 Wheeler was 100 percent right that he and Cole will be the two most sought-after pitchers next winter, and provided Cole avoids serious injuries moving forward, his bank account can expect to expand by several zeroes.

5. Josh Donaldson 3B Atlanta Braves

Perhaps no offensive player is more motivated at the outset of 2019 than the 2015 AL MVP, who struggled through a miserable injury-plagued 2018 season and ultimately settled for a high value one-year, prove-it deal in Atlanta. The Braves could be getting themselves a steal as they attempt to win their second consecutive division crown, as from 2015-17 Donaldson launched 111 homers and drove in 300 runs while consistently hitting around .280 and getting on base at close to a .385 clip. Taking the pillow contract was a strategic play for the veteran, as he understood he would be overshadowed by Machado and Bryce Harper on the free-agent market this season. And if he can re-establish himself as a premier run producer in 2019, he just may break the bank next winter.

6. Scooter Gennett 2B Cincinnati Reds

In just two seasons in western Ohio, Gennett has transformed himself from a solid role player in Milwaukee to one of the best offensive second basemen in the league. Last year the 28-year-old hit .310 with 23 homers and 92 RBI while setting a new career high with a .357 OBP and eclipsing 30 doubles for the third time in his career. By all accounts the veteran is someone the Reds should want to keep around for the long haul, but in mid-February he expressed frustration over not receiving a contract extension, a potential rift to pay attention to as the summer unfolds.

7. Marcell Ozuna OF St. Louis Cardinals

When the Marlins were selling off everyone and everything that wasn’t nailed down prior to last season, the Cardinals were happy to swoop in and take the right-handed-hitting Ozuna off their hands. The Dominican Republic native had just completed a season that had watched him hit .313 with 37 homers and 124 RBI while earning a trip to his second straight All-Star Game, taking home his first Silver Slugger award and even winning his first Gold Glove. St. Louis fantasized about adding that type of production to the middle of its lineup, but unfortunately it took the veteran some time to get used to his new surroundings. When all was said and done, Ozuna’s numbers slid to .280 with 23 homers and 88 RBI, still solid but not what the Cardinals were expecting. Entering Year 2 in Missouri, this lineup is now home to slugging first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who will take pressure off Ozuna to be the premier right-handed bat and, in theory, add a substantial amount of RBI opportunities. It should come as no surprise if the 28-year-old delivers a monster season.

Ranking the 15 most significant MLB trades in July

A lot went down prior to Major League Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline. More deals could be coming in August, but for now, let’s rank July’s trades by how much impact the moves will have on each team’s roster:

T-Mobile Home Run Derby tonight

WASHINGTON — Steps from the United States’ seat of power, Major League Baseball will bring the power to Nationals Park tonight in the T-Mobile Home Run Derby. Homer-hitting host Bryce Harper leads a fascinating — and young — field of Derby entrants who will look to beat the clock and each other in the sport’s most swinging showcase at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Harper is the only one among the eight participating sluggers who has done the Derby before, having finished as the runner-up to Yoenis Cespedes in 2013 at Citi Field. So, Harper has the experience, and he’s got the comfort of competing in his own confines. But he’s also got some of the season’s biggest stars — and biggest surprises — to contend with.

Here are the seedings and first-round matchups for what is the youngest Home Run Derby field ever:

Left side of bracket
1. Jesus Aguilar, Brewers vs. 8. Rhys Hoskins, Phillies
4. Alex Bregman, Astros vs. 5. Kyle Schwarber, Cubs

Right side of bracket
2. Harper, Nationals vs. 7. Freddie Freeman, Braves
3. Max Muncy, Dodgers vs. 6. Javier Baez, Cubs

That’s the field, and the rules and format will be the same as they’ve been since 2015, which is to say the ticking clock and the importance of not just going deep but extra deep — with the dinger distances measured by Statcast™ having an impact on extra time allotments — are in full effect.

The average age of the participants is 26.39. As a matter of fact, this year’s oldest participants, the 28-year-old Freeman and Aguilar, weren’t even born when the Derby was first held in 1985.

• Home Run Derby history

Three of the participants — Hoskins, Schwarber and Muncy — are competing in the Derby despite not being selected for the National League All-Star squad. So we’ve got dingers, and we’ve got ringers.

Given the relative youth and the specific inexperience involved here, it’s difficult to know what to expect from this group. Harper can only hope that the groove he got into five years ago, when at 20 years old he became the youngest player to reach the Derby final, will be replicated.

Continue to full article

By Anthony Castrovince

Braves Make 5 Player Trade to Dodgers, Sending Matt Kemp Back to LA

Written by ESPN News Staff at ESPN.com

The Atlanta Braves traded outfielder Matt Kemp to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir and Charlie Culberson, the teams announced Saturday.

The Braves, who also received cash considerations in the deal, immediately designated Gonzalez for assignment after the veteran waived his no-trade clause since Atlanta already is set at first base with Freddie Freeman.

“This allows him the opportunity to go and find some playing time,” new Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos said of Gonzalez.

There also is the question of whether Kemp, who is owed about $43 million over the next two seasons, will even play for the Dodgers. He could again be traded as Los Angeles tries to further lower payroll after moving quickly to dump nearly $50 million in salary committed to Gonzalez, Kazmir and McCarthy for 2018.

“I was very open and honest with him about what the future might hold,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman told reporters in a conference call Saturday. “It’s just too difficult to say, definitively, at this point.”

With the deal, Los Angeles, which had baseball’s highest payroll last season at $240 million, has gotten below the luxury tax threshold of $197 million. After five seasons on the wrong side of the threshold, the Dodgers were penalized 50 percent on every dollar spent above the luxury tax figure last season.

“This deal is a little more subtle than most,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said in a conference call Saturday. “Obviously, one of the main considerations in this deal was economic. But they’re part of the bigger picture, the longer-term plan. It’s a necessary, strategic part of moves yet to come.”

To continue reading this article, click here.

Atlanta Braves Lose Prospects And Have Former GM Banned From Baseball

Written by the AP at ESPN.com

The Braves lost 13 prospects and former general manager John Coppolella was banned for life by Major League Baseball on Tuesday for circumventing international signing rules from 2015 to 2017.

Former Atlanta special assistant Gordon Blakeley, who was the team’s international scouting chief, was suspended from baseball for one year by commissioner Rob Manfred.

Sanctions imposed by Manfred leave the Braves unable to bargain at full strength for a top Latin American prospect until 2021.

Manfred said MLB’s investigation determined the Braves funneled extra signing bonus money to five players in 2015-16 by giving the funds first to another player considered a foreign professional under baseball’s rules and having the money redistributed to the other five. If the money had been counted for the other five, the Braves would have exceeded their pool by more than 5 percent and been restricted to signing bonuses of $300,000 or under for international amateurs through June 15, 2019.

Because of that, MLB voided the contracts of nine players the Braves would have been ineligible to sign: Venezuelan infielder Kevin Maitan ($4.25 million signing bonus), Venezuelan catcher Abrahan Gutierrez ($3.53 million), Dominican shortstop Yunior Severino ($1.9 million), Dominican right-hander Juan Contreras ($1.2 million), Dominican shortstop Yenci Peña ($1.05 million), Dominican right-hander Yefri del Rosario ($1 million), Cuban outfielder Juan Carlos Negret ($1 million), Venezuelan shortstop Livan Soto ($1 million) and Colombian right-hander Guillermo Zuniga ($350,000).

Three players the Braves signed for $300,000 bonuses were set free because the Braves gave additional money to their agents by signing others to deals with what MLB called “inflated” bonuses: Venezuelan outfielder Antonio Sucre, Dominican outfielder Brandol Mezquita and Dominican shortstop Angel Rojas.

To continue reading this article, click here.

John Coppolella Resigns From Braves GM Position

Written by ESPN News Staff at ESPN.com

Atlanta Braves general manager John Coppolella, who oversaw the construction of baseball’s top-rated farm system, was forced to resign Monday after an investigation by Major League Baseball revealed serious rules violations in the international player market.

The Braves announced Coppolella’s resignation Monday, citing a “breach of Major League Baseball rules regarding the international player market.” Gordon Blakeley, a special assistant to the GM who was the team’s international scouting chief, also has resigned.

Coppolella’s surprising resignation came just two years and one day after he was promoted to GM and signed a four-year contract. John Hart, the Braves’ president of baseball operations, will perform GM duties until the team hires a replacement for Coppolella.

Sources confirmed to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick that multiple team executives have filed complaints with the commissioner’s office recently over Coppolella’s conduct, and that MLB is investigating Coppolella for a number of infractions in areas beyond the international realm.

One source told Crasnick that the breach of etiquette regarding the international player market could be just “the tip of the iceberg.” Yahoo! Sports, which first reported the scope of the investigation Monday, also reported that the probe includes Atlanta’s domestic draft practices.

Hart said during a news conference Monday that the Braves cooperated with MLB when they first learned of the investigation “in the past couple weeks.” He wouldn’t reveal details of the rules violations but he did say they did not involve criminal activity.

Hart didn’t know if the Braves would be penalized by MLB, but he acknowledged there was no agreement for lesser organizational penalties in exchange for Coppolella’s resignation.

“We didn’t bargain, if you will, on that,” Hart said. “The decision that was made here internally was it just wasn’t right and it wasn’t going to fit for what worked with the Braves going forward.”

To continue reading this article, click here.