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Shohei Ohtani could remain a two-way player if he signs with the Mariners. (AP)
Shohei Ohtani could remain a two-way player if he signs with the Mariners. (AP)

Shohei Ohtani is about to become the most pursued free agent in baseball. After Major League Baseball, the MLB Players Association and Nippon Professional Baseball came to an agreement on a new posting system, the Japanese superstar could be posted by Dec. 1 and signed by the end of the year.

All 30 teams are expected to inquire on Ohtani. Because the new CBA limits international free agents under 25 years old to signing minor league deals, and because spending on such players is limited, the maximum bonus Ohtani can receive is $3.535 million from the Texas Rangers. That means his signing won’t be about the money as much as it is opportunity. And the main opportunity Ohtani is reportedly looking for is the chance to continue as a two-way player.

We haven’t heard much from teams on whether they’ll be willing to allow Ohtani to continue pitching or hitting, or if they’d prefer to focus on one over the other. But let there be no doubt where the Seattle Mariners stand.

On the team’s new weekly podcast with club broadcaster Aaron Goldsmith, Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto clearly stated his willingness to let Ohtani do both. In fact, Dipoto said the team would be willing to use usual designated hitter Nelson Cruz in the outfield if it meant freeing up time for Ohtani to hit. Here’s more from MLB.com:

In the wide-ranging podcast, Dipoto said the club would be willing to play designated hitter Nelson Cruz in the outfield several times a week to open a spot for Ohtani to hit next season if he signed with the Mariners. Dipoto acknowledged last week’s trade of hard-throwing relief prospect Thyago Vieira to the White Sox for international bonus money was made largely with the goal of accumulating more money to compete for the Japanese star.

Dipoto is clearly going all in to land Ohtani. The always active general manager has already made three trades this winter, and will gladly make more if it opens up more money and more opportunity.

The Mariners have $1.55 million in international bonus money now available, which is below the $3.5 million of the Yankees and Rangers, but more than the vast majority of Major League teams. Dipoto noted Ohtani seems motivated by more than just cash, but said he’ll continue pursuing every avenue possible, including further trades for slot money.

“We’re not going to leave a stone unturned in the efforts to do it again if the opportunity arises,” Dipoto said. “We’ll be responsible in how we do it, but we understand this is a one-time buying opportunity and you have to be prepared.

“To me, the worst thing we can be is sitting on the sideline being too conservative, sitting on our hands when an opportunity to change the history of the organization comes along. Because this is what this might be.”

With the Ohtani sweepstakes about to take off, it will be interesting to see how aggressive Dipoto gets and how willing other general managers will be to share their plans to pursue Ohtani.

Dipoto’s honesty is nice to hear. It might also put more pressure on him to close the deal, seeing as he’s admittedly been moving assets for a player he’s not guaranteed to land. Who knows, it could be a make or break moment for him as GM. If he doesn’t get Ohtani and the Mariners long postseason drought is extended in 2018, that might be difficult to overlook when it’s time to evaluate his position. .

That’s a conversation for later. For now, at least know the Mariners will be putting on a full-court press once Shohei Ohtani is posting.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: November 23, 2017, 3:18 pm
Shohei Ohtani is preparing for the challenge of Major League Baseball by studying video of Bryce Harper. (AP)
Shohei Ohtani is preparing for the challenge of Major League Baseball by studying video of Bryce Harper. (AP)

Major League Baseball, the MLB Players Association and Nippon Professional Baseball have come to an agreement on a new posting system that will finally open the door for Japanese superstar Shohei Otani to make the jump. The next step will be ratification of the agreement by the league’s owners, followed by the Nippon HamFighters officially making Ohtani available.

That means Ohtani could be on the free agent market as early as Dec. 1 and signed by the end of the year. In the meantime, it’s clear that Ohtani is keeping his focus on getting even better as a pitcher and a hitter in hopes that his next team will allow him to remain a two-way player.

According to Jon Morosi, that preparation includes watching tapes of one of MLB’s very best hitters: Bryce Harper.

When I asked Shohei Ohtani to name his favorite players, he first mentioned Ichiro and Yu Darvish. Then he said he likes to watch @Bharper3407 and has studied video of Harper at the plate. @MLB @MLBNetwork

— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 22, 2017

Don’t let Scott Boras hear this. If he knows the biggest free agent in this winter’s class is studying his top client’s approach at the plate, he might add another $50 million to his demands for Harper’s contract next winter.

Washington Nationals' star Bryce Harper is already influencing his peers. (AP)
Washington Nationals’ star Bryce Harper is already influencing his peers. (AP)

Ohtani, 23, is looking to fulfill his dream of playing in MLB. He’ll immediately jump to the top of every free agent list because of his two-way ability. Ohtani has been an elite pitcher in Japan, posting a 2.69 ERA and 624 strikeouts over 543 career innings. Offensively, he’s a .296 career hitter with 48 home runs. He’s coming off back-to-back seasons hitting .322, which signifies his development into an all-around hitter.

When examining those numbers, keep in mind that Ohtani started his professional career at 18 years old. He’s already a phenom, and he’s nowhere near his prime. Of course, a steep curving is to be expected. There’s no guarantee his transition will be smooth or even successful long term, but we think looking up to guys like Ichiro Suzuki and Yu Darvish while studying the likes of Bryce Harper will undoubtedly help.

Beyond that, there should be no shortage of teams that will be willing to take the chance on a player this talented.

Not bad, right?

Whoever signs Ohtani will certainly get a mega-talent. If he’s willing to continue learning and to be a student of the game, there might be no limit to his potential.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: November 23, 2017, 3:52 am
You might be surprised at where hot dogs ranks on our list. (AP Photo)

Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time of joy. It’s a chance to gather around with friends and family and discuss what you’re thankful for this year.

But let’s face it, things are rarely perfect. Maybe one of your family members forgot to bring your favorite dessert. Perhaps the house you’re at doesn’t have the football game on. And you know one of you relatives is just itching to bring up politics at the dinner table.

We here at The Stew are here to help … at least where that last part is concerned. Instead of talking politics, why don’t you guide the conversation toward our list of the 10 best ballpark foods.

We asked the Big League Stew crew to rank 10 different items available at every Major League Baseball park. We’ll reveal our list from best to worst, and then provide you with everyone’s individual rankings at the bottom of the post.

These rankings are absolutely definitive and cannot be argued in the comments. Sorry, if you hate them, you’ll have to express that to your family and friends around the table Thursday. Here we go:

Nachos were our surprise No. 1. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

1 — Nachos
Right off the bat, we’re hit with a surprise at No. 1. Nachos get the nod based on consistency. The lowest they ranked on anyone’s list was fourth. They did not, however, rank first on anyone’s list. Nachos are generally not polarizing, unlike this ranking.

2 — Hot dogs
There is it. The favorite for the No. 1 spot was defeated by nachos by a single point in our rankings. Three of our voters had them No. 1 overall … but the fourth had hot dogs all the way down at No. 10. That was enough to skew the rankings.

3 — Peanuts
Perhaps this is just us carrying over our propensity to munch on sunflower seeds during Little League. It’s ingrained in every kid’s mind that they must crack and then eat some type of nut or seed while playing baseball. Apparently, that carries over into adulthood. We didn’t ask whether our writers consumed the entire shell because we just assumed they aren’t total monsters.

4 — Pizza
Here’s the thing … you’re probably getting below replacement level pizza at every baseball game you attend. By ballpark standards, though, that’s enough to elevate it to fourth on our list. It’s tough to totally screw up a pizza unless you live in St. Louis.

5 — Burgers
Can you remember the last time you ordered a burger at a baseball game? We can’t either, but here they sit at No. 5. We’ve noticed a bit of a trend near the top of our ranks. It appears our writers have favored foods that are entrees over snacks or sides. Peanuts are the exception, probably because they are in the song.

Ice cream may have been criminally underrated in our poll. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

6 — Ice cream
A seventh or eighth inning staple. How many games have you gone to where you’ve loaded your stomach with nachos and hot dogs early, but then forced yourself to eat a giant bowl of ice cream later? All of them, right? Ice cream probably should be higher. It’s versatile. You can eat it while celebrating a lead or consume it to drown your sorrows during a loss. Plus, sometimes you get a souvenir helmet out of it.

7 — Soft pretzel
We can hear the soft pretzel truthers in the comments already. The soft pretzel is a food item you either love or hate, and it appears more of us here at The Stew fall into the latter category. If you want to consume copious amounts of gooey yellow “cheese,” just get nachos.

8 — Cracker Jack
When you’re a kid, Cracker Jack seems like a good idea because it’s sweet, you remember it from “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” and you get a small prize. At some point, you realize the toy is lame and Cracker Jack just isn’t all that tasty. We can’t even remember the last time we saw it at a baseball game. We only included it here out of respect to the song.

9 — Popcorn
Who knows, maybe we’re just biased against different types of popcorn? The reason ballpark popcorn ranks so low is that it’s just a salt bomb. It’s dry, sometimes stale and just loaded with salt. We know it’s a ploy to get us to keep buying beverages at the park. It also hurts that movie popcorn is tremendous and highly addictive. You can drown that in butter until you hear your arteries clogging themselves. This is nothing like movie popcorn, and that really brings it down.

10 — Cotton candy
You can question the maturity of our writers, but we’re not children. Unless you’re between the ages of three and six, cotton candy is not an acceptable snack at a baseball game. We would say we’re sorry, but that just wouldn’t be the truth.

For anyone so furious they have to contact us individually, here’s how all four of our writers voted.

Buy us some peanuts, but forget the Cracker Jack.

Enjoy the holiday. And if these rankings make you angry, just use it as an excuse to treat yourself to another slice of pie.

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik

Author: Chris Cwik
Posted: November 23, 2017, 12:33 am
2017 was another record-setting year for MLB in terms of revenue. (AP)

With some massive free agent contracts about to be handed out over the next two winters, it’s a good thing Major League Baseball’s revenue is through the roof.

According to a Forbes report, the league’s gross revenue increased for the 15th straight year in 2017. Gross revenues surpassed $10 billion for the first time in league history, according to the report. That’s up from $9.5 billion in 2016. The league first reached $9 billion in 2014, so the increase has been pretty steady.

MLB’s consistent increase in revenues is fueled by several different factors that cover a lot of ground on the business scale. The biggest money continues to be generated by the league’s media rights, which Forbes’ Maury Brown notes includes both traditional television and digital platforms.

Brown also notes the league’s continued labor peace as a driving force that has kept interest in the game strong. But there are many other factors that perhaps fly under the radar for casual fans. Brown went into further details on those in his Forbes report.

The league continues to benefit from the realignment of the various business arms of the league. Under commissioner Rob Manfred, the league has created what is called “One Baseball” by which digital, sponsorships, television, and others cross pollinate to allow partners to promote across the platforms.

That alignment has helped grow league-wide sponsorships in double-digits for 2017.

Growth for the league continues around its digital media interest, MLB Advanced Media. The league spun off an arm of MLBAM in 2015 named BAMTech. The league sold its majority stake to the Walt Disney Co. to for $2.58 billion while retaining a 15% minority stake. It is possible that MLBAM could see a major restructure with the departure of its CEO and visionary Bob Bowman departing at the end of the year.

Television media rights continues to play a part in revenue growth for the league. The regional sports networks that support regular season broadcasts for the 30 clubs continue to be a ratings success and ratings were up significantly at the national level in 2017.

As the revenue continues trending upward, so too will be the money that’s spent. This winter’s top free agents, such as Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta and J.D. Martinez, will certainly benefit. As will the historic class that hits the market next winter. It also backs up Giancarlo Stanton’s statement from last week when he said that every team in MLB has money to spend, even the Marlins.

Increased revenue is expected to continue as more television deals and streaming options are ironed out. MLB’s business is very healthy, and the outlook remains strong for a long time to come.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: November 23, 2017, 12:07 am
Mike Francesa would like to manage the Yankees. (Getty Images)

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman refused to rule out any names for the team’s vacant manager position, but we’re not sure this is what he had in mind. Long-time New York radio host Mike Francesa threw his hat into the ring during his radio show, saying he “would love to try” and manage the team.

While hosting his show, Francesa was asked whether he thought he could manage the Yankees. Here’s how he responded:

Mike Francesa says he could definitely manage the @Yankees. Unfortunately, they won’t hire him. pic.twitter.com/0PdHztXBb8

— Ƒunhouse (@BackAftaThis) November 21, 2017

“Sure,” Francesa says right off the bat, but then admits it would never happen. He goes on to say that he “could” do it, and would “love to try,” but that the team wouldn’t hire him. He compares it to WFAN looking for his replacement. The company isn’t going to hire someone with zero experience behind a microphone.

We have to applaud Francesa for taking the Joe Sportsguy take to the max here. Any time a manager fails, it’s not uncommon to hear fans say they could do a better job than the current guy. That’s not exactly what Francesa is doing here, but it’s close.

We don’t think he’s joking either. When asked whether he was serious about those comments on Wednesday, he doubled down, saying it’s just sports, not brain surgery.

Francesa does have experience talking about sports, we’ll give him that. But we’re not sure he’s the ideal candidate to manage a professional team. This is the same guy who said José Altuve was nothing special last year.

Before 700 more people request it, here’s Mike Francesa letting you know that José Altuve is nothing special.#WorldSeries pic.twitter.com/jCaL0uGz7A

— Ƒunhouse (@BackAftaThis) October 26, 2017

He also refused to believe relief pitcher Al Alburquerque was a real person. We’re willing to look past one of those two mistakes.

There are a few aspects in Francesa’s favor, though. First off, he’s retiring from his radio gig next month, so his schedule is wide open. Second, he’s dealt with angry and argumentative New York fans for years now, so he could probably handle the media.

Is merely entertaining the thought of Francesa as the next Yankees manager a terrible idea? Yes. Do we still want the team to interview him anyway? You know it!

(BLS H/N: CBS Sports)

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik

Author: Chris Cwik
Posted: November 22, 2017, 11:10 pm

Derek Jeter’s Marlins continue to make missteps. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

The Miami Marlins haven’t played a single game since Derek Jeter took over as the team’s owner, but they’ve already taken plenty of losses. The former New York Yankees legend has faced a lot of backlash and criticism after taking over in Miami, and those cries only got louder Wednesday.

Early in the day, it was revealed that Fox Sports Miami had parted ways with at least three analysts from the Marlins’ broadcasting crew. Play-by-play man Rich Waltz — who held the job for 13 years — was among those let go. He was joined by both Jeff Conine and Preston Wilson, who both served as studio analysts.

Fox Sports said it was 100 percent responsible for the cuts, but Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald explained some aren’t so sure about that.

Fox Sports insisted on the record that decisions on these dismissals were made entirely by Fox, not by the Marlins.

But several people close to the situation were highly skeptical of that, noting that Fox loved Waltz all the way until the time Derek Jeter bought the team. A source very close to Conine said Jeter did not want Conine to remain with the broadcast crew.

As Jackson notes, cutting Waltz has had the biggest impact. He wasn’t just loved by Fox, he also had the support of both his peers and Marlins fans. Awful Announcing compiled a couple tweets from fans upset and angry that Waltz was let go. 

Things got even worse in the afternoon after Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports revealed the Marlins are already looking for additional investors. According to Heyman, the team is seeking an additional $250 million, though the team would not confirm that figure.

Heyman acquired slides from a presentation being prepared for potential investors that outlined the team’s plans going forward. It’s filled with most of the usual “rah rah” positive statements, but also contains some hints at how the team plans to operate in the coming years.

There’s a section on “player payroll discipline,” which is both an interesting phrase and confirmation that the club is planning to cut down on payroll. The document mentions a focus on the farm team, hinting at another massive rebuild.

Heyman notes that it’s believed the team will want to reduce payroll to between $85 million and $90 million. The Marlins were at about $115 million at the start of 2017.

Cutting payroll shouldn’t come as a major surprise, as the team is currently entertaining offers for slugger Giancarlo Stanton. Still, that range seems fairly extreme. Only three teams spent less last season.

As for the team already seeking more investors, it’s tough to fully parse through exactly what that means. It’s possible that the current investors are already worried about how much money they put into the club, and are hoping to lighten the load. The team also has to pay back roughly $100 million. It’s possible they are concerned about meeting that figure. Heyman notes it’s possible they are just looking to pay that back sooner.

Given that this is the Marlins, the prevailing notion will always trend toward the negative. Jeter and his group were supposed to finally change that. Somehow, they’ve only made things worse thus far.

There’s still time for Jeter to recover and turn the Marlins into a model franchise. There’s also a chance fans will actually start to miss Jeffrey Loria … and that’s saying something.

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik

Author: Chris Cwik
Posted: November 22, 2017, 8:54 pm

Even though it seems like 1989 wasn’t too long ago and we were all chasing Ken Griffey Jr. Upper Deck rookie cards, today is actually is Griffey’s 48th birthday. The Kid ain’t exactly a kid anymore.

To honor one of baseball’s all-time greats, we put together a special edition of 25-Year-Old Baseball Cards showing some of the best moments when we found Griffey cards in our series and the trades that happened or almost happened involving Griffey.

It includes fellow Hall of Famer Andre Dawson, Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, Cincinnati Reds coach Delino DeShields and comedian Joel McHale.

“The Kid” Ken Griffey Jr. turned 48 on Tuesday. (AP)

If you love “25-Year-Old Baseball Cards,” be sure to check out some of our great episodes below:

Previously in 25-Year-Old Baseball Cards
MUST-SEE EPISODESPedro Martinez | Bronson Arroyo | Eric Davis | Dusty Baker | Hank Azaria | Alex Rodriguez | Scott Boras | A.J. Ellis | Bernie Williams | Chase Utley | John Smoltz

MANAGERS/COACHESTerry Francona | Joe Maddon | Bruce Bochy | Clint Hurdle | Buck Showalter | Brad Mills | Bob Melvin | Dave Roberts

CURRENT PLAYERS: Curtis GrandersonNoah Syndergaard | Kyle Hendricks | Clayton Kershaw | Todd Coffey | John Axford | Dee Gordon | Adam Eaton | Rajai Davis | Brad Ziegler & Tyler Clippard

STARS FROM BACK IN THE DAYFrank Thomas | Sandy Alomar Jr. | Delino DeShields | Cliff Floyd | Dan Plesac | Aaron Boone | Bobby Bonilla | Andre Dawson  | Ivan Rodriguez | Jack Morris | Jeff Nelson | Mark Teixeira

CELEBSAlyssa Milano | Josh Duhamel | Joel McHale

ETC: Josh Kusnick | Jeff Passan | Ken Kendrick

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @MikeOz

Author: Mike Oz
Posted: November 22, 2017, 1:15 am
Giancarlo Stanton could be giving a press conference in a Giants uniform soon. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

The San Francisco Giants think they may have found a quick fix for last year’s home run problems. According to the oddsmakers, the club is currently the favorite to land slugger Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Marlins in a trade this offseason.

That prediction comes courtesy of Bovada. The sportsbook and casino believes the Giants are in the lead to land Stanton, but the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox are also in the hunt.

The Giants are considered the favorite to land Stanton … for now. (Image via Bovada)

Behind those three teams, Bovada also lists the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies as possible favorites to deal for the slugger. You can also bid on “any other team,” which is going off at 12/1. So, if you think the San Diego Padres are a big dark horse here … you can put your hard-earned cash down on them.

It shouldn’t be a huge surprise to see the Giants leading the way at the moment. The team has been mentioned recently as an interested party. They were even rumored to have made an offer for Stanton, though the reported deal seemed to be lacking for the slugger.

MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi reported that the Cardinals also submitted an offer for Stanton, and that the Red Sox and Dodgers were expected to do the same soon. It’s no mistake those were the top-four teams mentioned by Bovada. The oddsmakers read the same stuff as the rest of us.

The Yankees and Phillies are both popular teams with young, promising players. While Stanton might make more sense for the Yankees considering they are coming off a playoff appearance, many believe the Phillies are ready to make a big splash in their rebuild now that most of their prospects are ready.

The Giants’ interest in Stanton is obvious, though the team has a number of issues to address if it wants to get back into playoff contention. Then again, maybe they see Stanton as a possible savior.

For a while there, Stanton singlehandedly had the 2017 Marlins on the verge of a playoff spot. That’s proof that anything’s possible when he’s healthy.

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik

Author: Chris Cwik
Posted: November 22, 2017, 1:09 am
Yankees slugger Aaron Judge played through an injured left shoulder in 2017. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge’s second-half slump may have been caused by an injury after all. The 25-year-old rookie underwent surgery Tuesday to repair his left shoulder, the team announced. He’s expected to be ready to go by spring training.

Judge had a loose body removed and cartilage cleaned up in his left shoulder. The procedure was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache.

That’s the same shoulder that came into question when Judge was in the midst of a brutal slump in August. In his first 35 games after the All-Star break, Judge hit just .169/.329/.355. On Aug. 20, MLB.com reporter Bryan Hoch noticed Judge was icing his left shoulder following a game. When asked about his shoulder, just told reporters it wasn’t bothering him.

The possible injury may have turned into a bigger story had Judge not immediately turned things around. The rest of the way, Judge hit .291/.452/.752, with 15 home runs, over his final 36 regular season games.

His postseason performance was up and down, but that could have more to do with small sample fluctuations than injury. Judge did hit three home runs during the American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros, so the injury didn’t prevent him from being productive.

It’s unclear when Judge first suffered the injury, though the New York Post speculates it could stretch back to a game in late April when Judge ran into an outfield wall trying to make a catch. If that’s the case, Judge spent the majority of his Rookie of the Year season playing through some pain.

Aside from the August slump, Judge’s injury didn’t appear to impact his stats much. He still hit .284/.422/.627, with 52 home runs, during the regular season. That performance led to Judge finishing runner-up for the American League MVP award.

The issue didn’t really impact him in 2017, and won’t hinder him in 2018, so Yankees fans shouldn’t worry too much about the surgery. If anything, they should dream about how much better Judge will be at 100 percent next season.

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik

Author: Chris Cwik
Posted: November 22, 2017, 12:04 am
MLB banned former Braves GM John Coppolella for life. (Hyosub Shin/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, File)

Former Atlanta Braves general manager John Coppolella has been banned for life. As part of the punishments handed down by commissioner Rob Manfred for the team’s mishandling of players on the international market, Coppolella was placed on the permanently ineligible list.

Manfred released a statement Tuesday, detailing the results of Major League Baseball’s investigation into the Braves’ questionable tactics on the international player market. The final paragraph of that statement begins, “With respect to individual discipline, former Braves General Manager John Coppolella will be placed on the permanently ineligible list, effective immediately.”

Former Braves special assistant Gordon Blakeley will receive a year-long suspension as well. Manfred will also discipline other Baseball Operations employees who were involved in the team’s misconduct.

With the move, Coppolella joins former New York Mets reliever Jenrry Mejia and former St. Louis Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa as the only individuals to be permanently banned from baseball during Manfred’s tenure as commissioner. Mejia was banned after failing three drug tests. Correa’s punishment came as a result of the Cardinals hacking scandal.

The decision to ban Coppolella was one of the many harsh penalties handed out to the Braves on Tuesday. The team lost 12 prospects the league deemed they signed illegally, was charged a third-round draft pick and will face severe limitations on their spending on the international market over the next few seasons.

Coppolella rose through the ranks of the Braves’ organization, eventually being named the team’s general manager in 2015. He resigned in Oct. 2017 after it was revealed the league was investigating the team.

Manfred’s statement does not address whether Coppolella will be allowed to apply for reinstatement in the future.

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik

Author: Chris Cwik
Posted: November 21, 2017, 9:41 pm
The Braves received a harsh punishment after former GM John Coppolella violated international prospect market rules. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

The Atlanta Braves got hit hard Tuesday. Major League Baseball handed down punishments to the organization following its investigation of former general manager John Coppolella’s mishandling of the international player market.

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred delivered harsh penalties to the organization. The team will lose 12 prospects to free agency, including highly-coveted infielder Kevin Maitan. On top of that, the team will be docked a third round draft pick and face heavy restrictions during the international signing periods for the next couple years.

It’s a strict ruling that finally attempts to address the shady practices used by teams on the international player market in Latin America.

Coppolella’s Braves are far from the first team to be punished for improper conduct in this area. In November, the Pittsburgh Pirates parted ways with their director of Latin American scouting Rene Gayo for receiving an improper payment from a Mexican Summer League team. Last July, the Boston Red Sox were banned from signing players during the 2016-17 international signing period after attempting to manipulate bonus pools. The team also lost five prospects.

These aren’t just recent issues, either. In a 2008 ESPN article framed around three members of the Chicago White Sox who took kickbacks from Latin American signings, Dominican Republic baseball commissioner Porfirio Vera said these tactics have “been going on forever.”

Over the past few years, the questionable nature of signing prospects in Latin America has become MLB’s worst kept secret. Type “MLB Latin America scandals” in any search engine, and you’ll have your pick of articles detailing the unsavory side of recruitment in Latin America.

These practices have been widely known for some time, but the league has consistently passed the buck on the issue. The White Sox fired the three members of the organization who were found in violation of the rules. A year later, the Washington Nationals fired Jose Rijo after he was involved in an age-changing scandal. General manager Jim Bowden resigned amid bonus skimming allegations just days later.

Until recently, that was enough to satisfy the league. The individuals being investigated would be leave the organization, and little else would happen. Teams would lose members of their scouting departments, but that was it.

Clubs got off without extreme punishments, so there was no reason to discourage scouts from engaging in this type of behavior moving forward. If they violated the rules, they would be fired. The team would be just fine.

The Braves ruling seems to be a sign that things are finally changing. This wasn’t a slap on the wrist. It will take years for the Braves’ organization to fully recover from Manfred’s punishment. If Manfred’s goal was to finally stop these practices in Latin America, this seems like a step in the right direction.

It’s fair to approach that conclusion with some skepticism. Much of Manfred’s role as commissioner has been filled with well-meaning promises that fall short in practice. He called for and instituted a domestic violence policy, but many have felt the punishments issued to players haven’t been harsh enough. The same can be said of Houston Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel, whose suspension for making a racial gesture toward Yu Darvish was pushed to the start of the 2018 season, instead of being enforced during the World Series. Even the St. Louis Cardinals punishment for hacking the Astros’ database seemed light.

There’s reason to think Manfred’s approach to the international market might be different. The Red Sox’s penalties in 2016 served as a warning to teams that things were changing, and the Braves’ punishment followed through on that threat.

There’s still plenty of work to do, but the Braves’ ruling sends a strong punishment to teams around the league. After years of ignoring exploitative and abusive practices in Latin America, the league is finally willing to take significant action to combat the issue.

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik

Author: Chris Cwik
Posted: November 21, 2017, 9:03 pm

Roy Halladay’s father was one of the speakers at the late pitcher’s memorial service last week, but he nor any of the other eulogists brought up the plane crash that claimed his son’s life.

That changed on Monday when Roy Halladay Jr., a pilot himself, opened up to a local Denver television station about his son’s love of flying and the plane that Roy Halladay III was flying when he died.

[RELATED: Brandy Halladay’s brave and emotional eulogy for her husband]

In the days following Halladay’s death, the Icon A-5 plane was called a “Jet Ski with wings.”

Footage of Halladay attempting risky moves in the plane also surfaced. The NTSB released a report this week that said Halladay was flying just 11 feet above the water during his final flight.

Roy Halladay Jr. told the ABC affiliate in Denver that he had “a few discussions” with his son before he purchased the plane in early October.

“I said be careful because I don’t want anything to hurt you,” Halladay Jr. said.

I keep telling my dad flying the Icon A5 low over the water is like flying a fighter jet! His response….. I am flying a fighter jet!! pic.twitter.com/30eVjz9eS6

— Roy Halladay (@RoyHalladay) October 31, 2017

Halladay Jr., a flight instructor, helped his son obtain his pilot’s license and said he has no regrets about getting his son into flying.

“I think it would’ve left a hole in his life if he hadn’t,” Halladay Jr. told Denver 7. “I wish that he had not done this of course. I miss him a lot.”

Halladay Jr. says he wishes his son would’ve been more careful.

“I think he could’ve exercised a little more caution in how he was flying it,” he told Denver7. “I don’t think we’d be in this situation.”

Despite the disappointment, Halladay Jr. wanted to express one dominant thought about his son.

“I’m extremely proud of him,” he said. “He was an All-Star in everything that he did.”

Roy Halladay Jr. at his son’s memorial service on Nov. 14. (AP)
Author: Kevin Kaduk
Posted: November 21, 2017, 4:59 pm
Joe Morgan, seen here waving his hat to the crowd at a Reds game in 2017, has very strong feelings about steroid users in the Hall of Fame. (AP Photo)

Every Hall of Fame season brings the same debate: should admitted steroid users be allowed in the Hall of Fame? There are many valid positions on that issue, but we now know how Hall of Famer Joe Morgan feels about it. And make no mistake: he does not want steroid users in the Hall of Fame.

Morgan made his feelings known in an email he sent to Hall of Fame voters, and reported by Cincinnati Reds beat writer C. Trent Rosecrans. The (lengthy) email is below.

Dear C. Trent:

 

Over the years, I have been approached by many Hall of Fame members telling me we needed to do something to speak out about the possibility of steroid users entering the Hall of Fame. This issue has been bubbling below the surface for quite a while.

 

I hope you don’t mind if I bring to your attention what I’m hearing.

 

Please keep in mind I don’t speak for every single member of the Hall of Fame. I don’t know how everyone feels, but I do know how many of the Hall of Famers feel.

 

I, along with other Hall of Fame Baseball players, have the deepest respect for you and all the writers who vote to decide who enters Baseball’s most hallowed shrine, the National Baseball Hall of Fame. For some 80 years, the men and women of the BBWAA have cast ballots that have made the Hall into the wonderful place it is.

 

I think the Hall of Fame is special. There is a sanctity to being elected to the Hall. It is revered. It is the hardest Hall of Fame to enter, of any sport in America.

 

But times change, and a day we all knew was coming has now arrived. Players who played during the steroid era have become eligible for entry into the Hall of Fame.

 

The more we Hall of Famers talk about this – and we talk about it a lot – we realize we can no longer sit silent. Many of us have come to think that silence will be considered complicity. Or that fans might think we are ok if the standards of election to the Hall of Fame are relaxed, at least relaxed enough for steroid users to enter and become members of the most sacred place in Baseball. We don’t want fans ever to think that.

 

We hope the day never comes when known steroid users are voted into the Hall of Fame. They cheated. Steroid users don’t belong here.

 

Players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League Baseball’s investigation into steroid abuse, known as the Mitchell Report, should not get in. Those are the three criteria that many of the players and I think are right.

 

Now, I recognize there are players identified as users on the Mitchell Report who deny they were users. That’s why this is a tricky issue. Not everything is black and white – there are shades of gray here.  It’s why your job as a voter is and has always been a difficult and important job. I have faith in your judgment and know that ultimately, this is your call.

 

But it still occurs to me that anyone who took body-altering chemicals in a deliberate effort to cheat the game we love, not to mention they cheated current and former players, and fans too, doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame. By cheating, they put up huge numbers, and they made great players who didn’t cheat look smaller by comparison, taking away from their achievements and consideration for the Hall of Fame. That’s not right.

 

And that’s why I, and other Hall of Famers, feel so strongly about this.It’s gotten to the point where Hall of Famers are saying that if steroid users get in, they’ll no longer come to Cooperstown for Induction Ceremonies or other events. Some feel they can’t share a stage with players who did steroids. The cheating that tainted an era now risks tainting the Hall of Fame too. The Hall of Fame means too much to us to ever see that happen. If steroid users get in, it will divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn’t bear.

 

Section 5 of the Rules for Election states, “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”

 

I care about how good a player was or what kind of numbers he put up; but if a player did steroids, his integrity is suspect; he lacks sportsmanship; his character is flawed; and, whatever contribution he made to his team is now dwarfed by his selfishness.

 

Steroid use put Baseball through a tainted era where records were shattered. “It was a steroidal farce,” wrote Michael Powell in the New York Times. It is no accident that those records held up for decades until the steroid era began, and they haven’t been broken since the steroid era ended. Sadly, steroids worked.

 

Dan Naulty was a journeyman pitcher in the late 1990s who admitted he took steroids, noting that his fastball went from 87 to 96. He told Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci in 2012, “I was a full-blown cheater, and I knew it. You didn’t need a written rule. I was violating clear principles that were laid down within the rules. I understood I was violating implicit principles.”

 

The Hall of Fame has always had its share of colorful characters, some of whom broke or bent society’s rules in their era. By today’s standards, some might not have gotten in. Times change and society improves. What once was accepted no longer is.

 

But steroid users don’t belong here. What they did shouldn’t be accepted. Times shouldn’t change for the worse.

 

Steroid users knew they were taking a drug that physically improved how they played.  Taking steroids is a decision. It’s the deliberate act of using chemistry to change how hard you hit and throw by changing what your body is made of.

 

I and other Hall of Famers played hard all our lives to achieve what we did. I love this game and am proud of it. I hope the Hall of Fame’s standards won’t be lowered with the passage of time.

 

For over eighty years, the Hall of Fame has been a place to look up to, where the hallowed halls honor those who played the game hard and right. I hope it will always remain that way.

 

Sincerely,
Joe Morgan
Hall of Fame Class of 1990
Vice Chairman

 

P.S. Families come to Cooperstown because they know it’s special.  To parents, it’s a place they can take their kids for an uplifting, feel-good visit. It’s a place where kids can see what true greatness is all about. It’s a place where youngsters can dream that one day they too might get in. This place is special.  I hope it stays that way.

Joe certainly has some very strong feelings. But first and foremost, how did Morgan get the email addresses of every Hall of Fame voter? It turns out he didn’t. According to Rosecrans, the email was written by Morgan but sent out by the Hall of Fame itself. That doesn’t leave a lot of question about the stance of the Hall of Fame on the steroid issue, and it makes you wonder: if a prominent Hall of Fame member wanted to send out an email asking voting members to please consider steroid users, would they have sent it?

When asked whether Morgan’s comments are representative of the Hall’s views on steroid users, a spokesperson told Yahoo Sports “This is a Hall of Famer initiative. The Hall of Fame’s role was to support our players who feel so strongly about this that they decided to speak out. They took the lead in putting the piece together, and asked for us to help them get their message out.”

One thing that Morgan and his fellow Hall of Famers are forgetting here is that there is really no need for him to bring this issue to anyone’s attention, let alone the writers who vote for the Hall of Fame. This issue is never far from their minds when they’re casting their Hall of Fame votes. It is THE preeminent question of this generation of writers, not to mention players and fans. It’s discussed at length every November and December, because it’s an issue that many writers take seriously, whether they agree with Morgan or not.

Morgan is also conveniently forgetting that steroids aren’t the only body-altering chemicals a ballplayer can take. Many players of his generation took amphetamines, which are stimulants used to treat attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy. They make you more awake and alert. Amphetamines like Adderall are now a banned substance in baseball, which they weren’t when Morgan was playing for the Big Red Machine. So there are already players in the Hall of Fame who cheated, Morgan just doesn’t look at it that way.

Morgan obviously thinks the tide is turning on the opinion of steroid users in the Hall of Fame, especially with Barry Bonds gaining more and more ground every year. So he’s using what power he has to try and influence the vote, because he (and other Hall of Famers) don’t think that steroid users belong. But it’s not his choice. Or the choice of any enshrined player. The power to vote a player into the Hall of Fame belongs to the writers. And we’ll all just have to wait and see if Morgan’s letter helps his cause, or hurts it.

More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at lizroscher@yahoo.com or follow her on twitter! Follow @lizroscher

Author: Liz Roscher
Posted: November 21, 2017, 4:37 pm

Have you ever thought to yourself “I wonder what Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant would look like in lederhosen?” If you’ve ever had that thought, or even if you haven’t, this is your lucky day.

While Bryant and his wife, Jessica, were on vacation in Salzburg, Austria, they both donned traditional Austrian clothing. Jessica wore a dirndl, and Kris put on a pair of lederhosen and a very cute hat. Bryant endorses Red Bull, which snapped some photos of the two in their garb. The only thing that’s missing is an accordion.

Kris Bryant tries on lederhosen while on vacation in Austria. (Photo via Red Bull)
Kris Bryant and his wife, Jessica, pose in traditional Austrian clothes while on vacation in Salzburg. (Photo via Red Bull)

And Bryant seemed to enjoy the experience! Here’s what he said about it, via Red Bull:

“I felt like I was back in time in the shorts, long socks, hats…it was fun,” Bryant said. “If I can convince my teammates, maybe we’ll wear the outfits for a road trip next season,” joked Bryant.

Good luck with that one, Kris.

Bryant didn’t just try on the clothes. He also interviewed locals (and tourists) about baseball, which none of them were very familiar with. That’s not terribly surprising, considering that baseball isn’t very popular in that part of Europe. (Or in most of Europe in general.) That’s soccer country, so they really don’t have a reason to know baseball, or even who Kris Bryant is. For his part, Bryant seemed a little relieved that he was virtually unrecognizable in that part of the world.

The highlight of the video was definitely Bryant playing catch with a tourist. It’s snowing pretty hard, but there they are, in the shadow of a castle, playing catch with two gloves and a ball. I mean, why not?

Salzburg is also the home of the real life Von Trapp family, made famous by the Julie Andrews musical “The Sound of Music,” i.e. the greatest movie musical of all-time. Someone will have to ask Kris and Jessica if the hills were alive, or if the nuns were singing, or if children were in riverboats wearing clothes made of drapes.

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at lizroscher@yahoo.com or follow her on twitter! Follow @lizroscher

Author: Liz Roscher
Posted: November 21, 2017, 3:31 pm
The 2018 Hall of Fame ballot adds some interesting names to the list. (AP Photo/File)

The announcement of the baseball Hall of Fame ballot always inspires some hot Internet takes. Anyone who has followed along in recent years should be no stranger to those by now. The baseball community has dealt with the candidacy of Barry Bonds, Curt Schilling and Edgar Martinez lately.

This year should add more of the same. Among the new names to hit the ballot, Cleveland Indians infielder Omar Vizquel should be one of the more polarizing candidates. He’s not the only one. The 2018 Hall of Fame ballot also contains first-timers like Johan Santana, Andruw Jones and Scott Rolen.

Of the 33 players on the ballot, we counted 17 that elicit passionate arguments from both sides. This doesn’t include Chipper Jones, who everyone agrees is a consensus first ballot Hall of Famer. We’re talking about controversial candidates.

We’ve decided to break some brief cases for and against those candidates below, beginning with the newest players to reach the ballot.

Indians infielder Omar Vizquel should be a controversial Hall of Fame candidate. (AP Photo)

FIRST-TIMERS
OMAR VIZQUEL
THE CASE FOR: The case for Vizquel is mostly based on intangibles. He was considered one of the best defensive shortstops of his era, played 24 years and was a leader on the field. He won 11 gold gloves and was a three-time All-Star.

THE CASE AGAINST: Vizquel falls short in pretty much every statistical category. He hit just .272/.336/.352 over his career. His career OPS+ was just 82, meaning he was 18 percent worse at the plate than his peers on offense. He reached 400 steals, but never got to any other significant offensive milestones. The defensive metrics love Vizquel, but even they don’t think his fielding was good enough to make up for his offensive deficiencies.

JOHAN SANTANA
THE CASE FOR: For close to eight seasons, Santana was the best pitcher in baseball. During this period, he won two Cy Young awards, led the league in strikeouts and ERA three times and made four All-Star teams. He finished his career with a 3.20 ERA over 12 seasons.

THE CASE AGAINST: Santana’s peak was strong but short-lived. He was only at the height of his power for eight seasons. At that point, injuries struck and he failed to return to form. Sandy Koufax is often the default go-to player when discussing guys with strong peaks who burned out quickly and Santana pitched 300 fewer innings than Koufax.

Scott Rolen has support from sabermetricians. (AP Photo)

SCOTT ROLEN
THE CASE FOR: Rolen is a sabermetric candidate. He was consistently great over his career, hitting .281/.364/.490 over 17 seasons. That’s good for a 122 OPS+, meaning he was 22 percent better than the league-average on offense. The thing that really pushes Rolen ahead is his defense, though. The metrics loved him at third. Jay Jaffe’s JAWS system, which is used to evaluate Hall of Fame candidates, has Rolen just above the threshold at third. Notoriously, voters have been tough on the position.

THE CASE AGAINST: Rolen comes off as a Hall of Very Good player. He was a seven time All-Star and won eight Gold Gloves, but rarely challenged for MVP. He was overshadowed on his own team by Albert Pujols, so he was never considered the best player in St. Louis. He doesn’t come close to hitting many statistical benchmarks that voters like to lean on.

ANDRUW JONES
THE CASE FOR: Jones’ case is based on his exceptional defense in center field. When he was young, his defense carried him. He eventually blossomed into a strong hitter and even went on to crush 51 home runs in a single season.

THE CASE AGAINST: His offensive numbers weren’t overly impressive throughout his career. He was 11 percent better than the league-average according to OPS+. While his defense was elite early, Jones experienced a massive drop-off once he hit 30.

JIM THOME
THE CASE FOR: One of the best sluggers of his era. Ranks eighth all-time in home runs with 612. Finished with a .272/.402/.554 slash line over 22 seasons in the majors.

THE CASE AGAINST: Thome spent the majority of his career at DH, and voters haven’t fully embraced those players yet. He also played during the steroid era, though he’s never come up as a suspected user. It seems likely he’ll get in, but some voters could hold those things against him.

Trevor Hoffman might get into the Hall of Fame in 2018. (AP Photo)

THE MAYBE THIS YEAR GUYS
TREVOR HOFFMAN, VLADIMIR GUERRERO
THE CASE FOR: Hoffman was one of the best relievers of his era and ranks second all-time on the saves list with 601. Guerrero was among the best hitters of his era, hitting .318/.379/.553 over 16 seasons.

THE CASE AGAINST: With Hoffman, it’s the advanced stats undervaluing relievers. The position changed so much that his numbers (aside from saves) don’t stack up to relievers who pitched in the ’70s. Everyone seems to think he was one of the best closers of his era, but some question how much a one-inning reliever should be valued. Many will admit Guerrero is a fringe candidate, but boost him up based on personal stories and anecdotes. People are quick to cite an impressive home run he hit or a time he showed off his unreal arm strength in the outfield. It’s their way of justifying his case as a Hall of Fame player.

Barry Bonds is once again up for Hall of Fame induction. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, file)

THE SUSPECTED STEROID GUYS
BARRY BONDS, MANNY RAMIREZ, ROGER CLEMENS, SAMMY SOSA, GARY SHEFFIELD
THE CASE FOR: Every player above has the stats to waltz into Cooperstown, though people debate about Sosa and Sheffield.

THE CASE AGAINST: Many were suspected of taking steroids during their careers. Ramirez actually failed two tests while playing. Bonds and Clemens have seen their vote totals rise in recent years, but some voters still refuse to get on board.

The stats are good, but everything else about Curt Schilling makes voters cringe. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)

THE CURT SCHILLING CATEGORY
CURT SCHILLING
THE CASE FOR: Schilling posted a 3.46 ERA over 20 years in the majors. While that figure doesn’t seem impressive at first glance, he put it up during the height of the steroid era. His 127 ERA+ is a better measure of his impressive numbers. He was a six-time All-Star, finished as the runner-up for the Cy Young award three times and was unbelievable in the postseason. He’s a fringe candidate, but his 2.33 postseason ERA in 133 1/3 innings give him an edge.

THE CASE AGAINST: His Twitter account. The Hall of Fame does have a character clause, which judges a player based on whether they are a decent person. Admittedly, the character clause is not well-defined, and is often used as a crutch by voters who simply don’t want to vote for a guy because they don’t like him. Still, Schilling has tweeted some unsavory things over the past couple years — we’re not just talking politics here. He was already a fringe candidate and his outspoken opinions may have been the slight nudge that convinced some voters to push him off their final 10.

Edgar Martinez is looking for a late surge on the Hall of Fame ballot. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

STILL HANGING ON, BUT NEED HELP
EDGAR MARTINEZ, FRED MCGRIFF, MIKE MUSSINA, LARRY WALKER
THE CASE FOR: Martinez, Mussina and Walker are all fringe candidates based on advanced stats. All have flaws, but stats generally help their cases. McGriff is more of a traditional candidate who many feel was undervalued during his career. All of them have been on the ballot for multiple years and would need a late swell from voters to make the Hall.

THE CASE AGAINST: All fall short in some way. Martinez was never considered a bonafide star. McGriff’s numbers don’t stack up against elite first basemen. Mussina was considered more of a compiler who was never an elite performer. Walker gets dinged for playing in Colorado.

More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik

Author: Chris Cwik
Posted: November 20, 2017, 11:43 pm
The Baseball Hall of Fame will not make ballots public. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

You may never figure out the three writers who left Seattle Mariners outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. off their Hall of Fame ballot. The National Baseball Hall of Fame announced Monday that it would not publicly reveal ballots after the results are announced.

The news comes just hours after the 2018 Hall of Fame ballot was announced. Chipper Jones, Jim Thome and Johan Santana are among the biggest names to debut on the ballot.

It comes as a pretty big shock to anyone following the Hall of Fame proceedings. A few years ago, the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) voted to make all the ballots public. It was expected that would go into action in 2018, but the Hall of Fame stepped in and said it would keep the ballots private.

Again, this was not the writers’ decision. According to those who were present at the BBWAA at the time of the vote, the motion passed overwhelmingly.

This is absurd. The vote, which I was a part of, was like 90% in favor. https://t.co/ZiGY9wAkrD

— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) November 20, 2017

This doesn’t mean that every writer needs to keep their ballots private. Writers are still allowed to publicly release their ballots. The BBWAA has a section on its website where writers can share their ballot if they choose to do so.

You’ll still likely see ballots revealed in the usual places. Some writers use Twitter, some write columns and many submit their ballots to Ryan Thibodaux — who tries to tally totals before the results are announced. You’ve definitely seen his name, and probably looked at his spreadsheet, around Hall of Fame time the past few years.

The Hall of Fame did not reveal its reasoning behind the decision, making the whole ordeal both disappointing and puzzling.

The writers voted to pass the motion because they wanted some level of accountability among their peers. In the situation outlined above — where some writers didn’t vote for Griffey — those people could choose to remain private. By making ballots go public, those writers wouldn’t be able to hide behind that vote, and could at least explain themselves for leaving Griffey off their ballots.

It’s not about personally attacking those writers, and we here at The Stew would advise against that. It’s about making sure those people provide some type of explanation for making egregious choices with their ballot.

In the end, things will remain status quo … and that’s mostly good. Many writers are transparent with their ballots. They explain their choices, even when they make controversial decisions.

But those few who buck common sense and then hide in anonymity will continue to be allowed to do so. Some voters are going to leave Altanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones off their ballot in the next few months, and the public will never know why.

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik

Author: Chris Cwik
Posted: November 20, 2017, 7:45 pm
Chipper Jones is one of 19 newcomers on the 2018 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot. (Getty Images)

It’s everyone’s favorite time of year: Baseball Hall of Fame time! The Baseball Writers Association of America released the 2018 Hall of Fame ballot on Monday, and as we all expected, it’s a doozy.

There are 19 newcomers on this year’s ballot, but there are four big names that everyone will want to talk about. Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel and Johan Santana. Those four represent some of the best sluggers, pitchers, infielders and all-around players of their generation.

Jones spent 19 years in the majors, and spent all of them as the third baseman for the Atlanta Braves. There are no sure things on a Hall of Fame ballot, but Chipper is as close as it gets. He was an eight-time All-Star, and he was the NL MVP in 1999. And beyond that, he was part of those terrifying mid-’90s Braves teams that just kept winning and winning and winning, including the World Series in 1995.

Jim Thome hit an ungodly number of home runs over his 22-year career. He hit 612 to be exact, which ranks eighth all-time. The five-time All-Star played for six different teams, but spent 13 years with the Cleveland Indians, who even have a statue of him outside their stadium. But Thome is beloved by pretty much everyone, and is one of the great home-run hitters of all-time.

If you’re looking for defense of the highest caliber, look no further than Omar Vizquel. He won 11 Gold Gloves at shortstop, went to the All-Star Game three times, and played for 24 years. He also stole 404 bases, has more defensive games at shortstop than anyone ever (2,709), and has the highest ever fielding percentage (.985) at that position.

Johan Santana’s Hall of Fame case is one of the most interesting. Santana was a flat-out incredible pitcher, but his career lasted just 12 years before a shoulder injury forced him into retirement. His decline was sharp, but he deserves consideration. He threw over 200 innings for five seasons in a row, won two Cy Young awards (both with the Minnesota Twins), and had an undeniable peak. He also gave the New York Mets their very first no-hitter in 2012.

Beyond those four, there are fifteen other players who will be appearing on the ballot for the first time: Chris Carpenter, Johnny Damon, Livan Hernandez, Orlando Hudson, Aubrey Huff, Jason Isringhausen, Andruw Jones, Carlos Lee, Brad Lidge, Hideki Matsui, Kevin Millwood, Jamie Moyer, Scott Rolen, Kerry Wood and Carlos Zambrano.

Those 19 new players will join 14 players from last year’s ballot. And those names are fraught with excitement and drama as well. Trevor Hoffman fell just five votes short of induction, and Barry Bonds made more progress toward that coveted 75 percent. There’s also Edgar Martinez, Vlad Guerrero, Roger Clemens, Billy Wagner, Curt Schilling, Mike Mussina, Fred McGriff, Jeff Kent, Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield, Sammy Sosa and Larry Walker.

The 2018 ballot is stacked, and that means one thing: a very interesting Hall of Fame season.

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at lizroscher@yahoo.com or follow her on twitter! Follow @lizroscher

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Author: Liz Roscher
Posted: November 20, 2017, 5:41 pm
MLB and New Era got together to create some new spring caps. (New Era)

Major League Baseball players will look stylish under the Arizona sun next year. The league has teamed up with New Era to unveil some new lightweight spring training and batting practice caps to be worn next season.

The goal here was to create a much lighter cap. The caps, officially named the PROLIGHT 59FIFTY, are made of a polyester material. These aren’t made with the typical fabric fans have come to expect from New Era. These caps are 26 percent lighter.

Every team will have a new PROLIGHT 59FIFTY cap, but roughly one-third of the league will feature different variations with the design. Eight clubs — the Baltimore Orioles, Cincinnati Reds, Colorado Rockies, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, Oakland Athletics, Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals — will feature caps with alternate logos.

One of the alternate logo caps for the Royals. (New Era)

The caps will be worn during spring training and during batting practice throughout the 2018 season.

You may also notice the logos on the caps look a bit different. They aren’t embroidered on as usual. Instead, the main logos are made on little rubber badges. The spring training versions of the caps will feature logos of either the Grapefruit League or Cactus League on the side as well.

If you would like to purchase the caps — which, of course you do — they are available for preorder online at NewEraCap.com, MLBshop.com and Lids.com. They’ll be available to pickup in stores Nov. 24, but you’ll only be able to get them at Lids or at MLB park stores.

If you aren’t a fan of fitted caps, Dick’s Sporting Goods will carry a stretch-fit version of them.

According to MLB executive vice president of business Noah Garden, both Buster Posey and Bryce Harper have given the league positive feedback on the new caps.

Let’s be honest, there’s no greater compliment than Harper approving a cap. If he’s willing to cover up his luscious head of hair for these new designs, we should probably all pay close attention.

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik

Author: Chris Cwik
Posted: November 20, 2017, 5:30 pm
David Freese has a new son, and that son had to meet the family dog. (AP Photo)

If you have a dog, introducing that dog to the new baby in the family can be stressful. You love the dog, and you also love the new baby so much. You just want them to get along, or at least for the dog to not bite the baby.

Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman David Freese and his wife Mairin have a good dog named Bobdog (which is just the most excellent name). And they had to introduce Bobdog to the newest member of their family, a little baby boy named Kai.

What would Bobdog do? Would he be interested in the baby? Would he want to lick little Kai? Or would Bobdog think the baby was a snack? Let’s find out.

Bobdog, such a gentleman meeting his little bro for the first time… but Mom are we still best friends???

A post shared by David Freese (@davidfreese) on Nov 18, 2017 at 2:55pm PST

Bobdog wins the Good Dog of the Year Award, in the category of Infant Introductions. Because Bobdog handled it like a pro. He gets close and smells the baby, because he wants to know what it’s all about. He puts his tongue out a little, but he doesn’t give the baby any big, wet, sloppy dog kisses. Then Bobdog backs up, almost like he knows it’s a brand new tiny human, and he has to be careful.

Good job, Bobdog. I have no doubt that you and little Kai will be the best of friends soon enough.

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at lizroscher@yahoo.com or follow her on twitter! Follow @lizroscher

Author: Liz Roscher
Posted: November 20, 2017, 3:03 pm
Free agent catcher Welington Castillo will be a good offensive and defensive addition. (AP)
Free agent catcher Welington Castillo will be a good offensive and defensive addition. (AP)

The 2017-18 free agent class pales in comparison to the historically deep class that’s coming next winter. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t good players available or difference-making deals to be found on the open market.

We wouldn’t necessarily say this winter’s class is filled with hidden gems. Just about every one of the 184 players on Jeff Passan’s Ultimate Free Agent Tracker has established himself in MLB. But the truth is, once you get past the first dozen or so the list goes from marquee names to journeymen. That means most of this winter’s signings will fall under the category of unheralded, rather than headline news.

Those are the guys we’ll be focused on here. Good but often overlooked players with good upside, be it short-term or long-term, who we think will immediately boost whichever team signs them. On Saturday, we looked at three pitchers who fit that bill. Today, we’ll zero in on three unheralded hitters that we’d put in the same category.

You won’t find any predictions or rumors about where these players might go. We’ll just explain why we think the signing team could end up very happy they made the deal.

Welington Castillo, catcher

The veteran catcher is high on everyone’s free agent rankings, but he’s not a superstar. In fact, Castillo has spent most of his career splitting playing time behind the plate. In eight seasons, he’s yet to play in more than 113 games in any season.

Still, Castillo has been remarkably productive on both sides of the ball. He’s hit double-digit home runs six times, including a career best 20 in just 96 games in 2017. He’s hitting .259 for his career, which is more than respectable for his position. Now entering his age 31 season, he very well could be a top 10 offensive catcher.

He’s pretty underrated on the defensive side too. He’s improved his pitch-framing a lot over the years, which makes his defensive skills well-rounded. He already had a strong arm, which he backed up by catching 24-of-49 attempted base-stealers in 2017. His pitch-blocking is considered good too. He might not be a guy teams want to trust as a 130-game type player, but he’ll make his 100 games count. He might fit best with a team trying to bring along a younger catcher.

Jeff Passan Ultimate Free Agent Ranking: 15

Veteran outfielder Jon Jay was a valuable contributor for the Cubs in 2017. (AP)
Veteran outfielder Jon Jay was a valuable contributor for the Cubs in 2017. (AP)

Jon Jay, outfielder

The veteran outfielder will not be viewed as a long-term solution, but his next team will have a difficult time keeping him out of the lineup just like the Cubs did last season. There were stretches when Jay truly looked like their best or at least their most consistent player. Not because he’s great at any one thing, but because he does all of the little things very well.

Jay gets on base, as his career .288 batting average and .355 OBP shows. He’s not a Gold Glove defender, but he can play all three outfield positions, make all of the routine plays while mixing in some spectacular ones too. He’s not a power guy or a speedster, yet he’s still a guy managers want to have involved in key situations.

Call him a “glue guy” if you want, but the truth is he softened the blow of the Cubs losing Dexter Fowler last winter. Chances are he’ll make a similar impact next season.

Jeff Passan Ultimate Free Agent Ranking: 37

Howie Kendrick (No. 4) is a versatile and valuable bench player. (Getty Images)
Howie Kendrick (R) is a versatile and valuable bench player. (Getty Images)

Howie Kendrick, infielder/outfielder

Kendrick was a good get for the Washington Nationals at the trade deadline. In 52 games with them, he hit .293/.343/.494 with seven homers. Overall Kendrick hit .315/.368/.475 after spending the first half with the Philadelphia Phillies. Point being, Kendrick can still flat out hit as he enters his age 34 season.

He offers some versatility too on defense. He can still handle second base, which was his primary position for many years. He’s more of a corner outfielder now, but could probably play up to six positions in a pinch while still providing that solid bat. Any team looking for a dynamic bench player who’s especially good against left-handed pitching, which honestly should be all 30 of them, would be wise to check in on Kendrick.

Jeff Passan Ultimate Free Agent Ranking: 60

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Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: November 19, 2017, 4:53 pm
Veteran Mike Minor has overcome shoulder issues to find his niche as Andrew Miller-type reliever. (Getty Images)
Veteran Mike Minor has overcome shoulder issues to find his niche as Andrew Miller-type reliever. (Getty Images)

The 2017-18 free agent class pales in comparison to the historically deep class that’s coming next winter. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t good players available or difference-making deals to be found on the open market.

We wouldn’t necessarily say this winter’s class is filled with hidden gems. Just about every one of the 184 players on Jeff Passan’s Ultimate Free Agent Tracker has established himself in MLB. But the truth is, once you get past the first dozen or so the list goes from marquee names to journeymen. That means most of this winter’s signings will fall under the category of unheralded, rather than headline news.

Those are the guys we’ll be focused on here. Good but often overlooked players with good upside, be it short-term or long-term, who we think will immediately boost whichever team signs them. Today, we’ll look at three pitchers who fit that bill. On Sunday, we’ll look at three unheralded hitters in the same mold.

You won’t find any predictions or rumors about where these players might go. We’ll just explain why we think the signing team could end up very happy they made the deal.

Mike Minor, relief pitcher

One of the best stories in MLB is about to get even better. Minor, a 29-year-old left-hander, enjoyed a career resurrection with the Kansas City Royals after wondering if his career might be over. Shoulder issues wiped out his 2015 and 2016 seasons entirely, and the truth is before that he’d yet to really establish himself as anything special while spending four-plus seasons in the Atlanta Braves organization.

When the Royals signed Minor before the 2016 season, they allowed him to focus on getting healthy before offering an opportunity that has changed his career. A reliever in 2017, Minor became a reliable and versatile arm for Ned Yost, appearing in 65 games. Better yet, Minor was very effective, posting a 2.55 ERA and a career best 10.2 strikeouts per nine.

According to Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan, who described Minor’s season as a poor man’s version of Andrew Miller, some teams are looking at him as a starter. The reality is Minor will have enough healthy offers to make bank and decide what the best path for him is moving forward. And whichever team gets him will likely be glad they did.

Jeff Passan’s Free Agent Ranking: 25

Reliever Steve Cishek brings closing experience and a groundball rate over 50 percent. (Getty Images)
Reliever Steve Cishek brings closing experience and a groundball rate over 50 percent. (Getty Images)

Steve Cishek, relief pitcher

Though rarely mentioned among the game’s best relievers, Cishek has proven to be a reliable option for every team that’s employed him. Cishek hit his stride as the Marlins closer from 2012-14, earning 88 saves that stretch. He’s since changed uniforms three times, but mainly because he’s been in demand for contenders down the stretch.

In 2015, the 31-year-old right-hander was traded to St. Louis, where he posted a 2.31 ERA over 27 appearances. In a year-plus with the Seattle Mariners, earned another 25 saves before Edwin Diaz took over the closer’s role. Cishek may have been at his best though at the end of the 2017 season, when he allowed three runs in 24 and two-thirds inning after being traded to the Rays.

His velocity was down last season, but Cishek still offers a filthy sinker-slider combination. He also gets a ton of ground balls. He’ll be a good fit in anyone’s bullpen come 2018.

Jeff Passan’s Free Agent Ranking: 34

The
The “Final Boss,” Seung-Hwan Oh, is a good bounce-back candidate in 2018. (AP)

Seung-Hwan Oh, relief pitcher

Equipped with undeniably good stuff and an epic nickname, “The Final Boss,” Oh enters free agency coming off a disappointing season. Everything seemingly went wrong for the South Korean right-hander as he was rotated in and out of the Cardinals closer role.

Oh went 1-6 with a 4.10 ERA and 20 saves in 62 appearances. Along the way he contributed to some crushing losses. He was far from alone in his struggles, but given his role his bad moments stood out more than most. But that only figures to motivate him moving forward.

We’ve seen how good Oh can be. In his rookie season in 2016, he dominated the league by posting 19 saves and a 1.92 ERA. He was a go-to man for manager Mike Matheny. With a few adjustments and some patience from his next team, we see no reason why he can’t be that guy again.

Jeff Passan’s Free Agent Ranking: 57

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: November 19, 2017, 2:03 am

Back from their wedding in Italy, Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander and wife Kate Upton traveled to New York for an appearance on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” on Friday night and ended up stealing the show.

The happy couple had plenty to talk about, including their whirlwind week that saw them go from celebrating a World Series championship in Los Angeles to exchanging wedding vows in Tuscany, Italy three days later. Verlander talked about being taken around the wedding venue on FaceTime while preparing to potentially pitch in Game 7.

The discussion naturally turned to Verlander’s proposal. It wasn’t quite as dramatic as Verlander’s teammate Carlos Correa proposing to girlfriend Daniella Rodriguez on the field and on live television following the Astros dramatic World Series victory. However, as Upton hilariously explains it, it would have made for good TV.

“It was this great elaborate proposal,” Upton said. “He’s very romantic. He gets down on one knee and he pops open the ring box. In my mind I’m like, ‘Don’t look at the ring. He’s going to think you’re materialistic. Just look in his eyes; listen to what he’s saying. Listen! You’re not listening, Kate!’ This was my internal dialogue. And then finally I’m like, ‘He stopped talking, just say yes.’ I said yes, and he stands up and he’s like, ‘Did you not like the ring? You didn’t look at it once.’”

Verlander said the couple considered the possibility of their wedding overlapping with the World Series when initially planning it. But that was during his time with the Detroit Tigers, when a World Series appearance was a definite long shot. Things got a little more complicated once he was traded to Houston in August. Everything ended up working out though, even if some people were mad they missed the team’s championship parade.

Justin Verlander and Kate Upton celebrate the Houston Astros World Series championship at Dodger Stadium before traveling to Italy for their wedding three days later. (AP)

Upton also noted her superstitions while Verlander is pitching. Upton, who’s used to having control of the situation in her modeling career, says she’s created a routine that she carries out every game that in her mind helps Verlander. Of course, his mind is elsewhere, but it’s appreciated nonetheless.

You can catch the highlights of the interview in the video above. Even if you’re not an Astros or Justin Verlander fan, it’s a pretty fun interview that shows a side of him we don’t often see.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: November 18, 2017, 5:34 pm

The Miami Marlins are already fielding trade proposals for National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported on Friday. But don’t expect a trade to be finalized anytime soon.

According to Rosenthal, the San Francisco Giants are the one known team to send a proposal to Miami. If they haven’t already, the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox are expected to follow suit. Several other clubs are reportedly in the early stages of putting together their initial offer. But the Marlins won’t be in a hurry to accept a proposal as they’re only beginning the process of evaluating their needs and what might be available.

From The Athletic:

Other, unidentified clubs also have told the Marlins they will submit offers for Stanton, but the process is just beginning, sources said. Marlins general manager Michael Hill said this week he wanted teams to inform him of the kind of proposals they were willing to make for Stanton before determining how he will proceed.

An initial offer does not necessarily indicate serious interest; some bidders might simply be trying to gauge the Marlins’ price. Any trade for Stanton is expected to include a combination of financial relief for the Marlins and prospects the team will use to rebuild. Under the sliding scale often used in such discussions, the more money the acquiring team absorbs, the lesser the cost in prospects.

This feels like a situation that could drag out and really dominate the headlines all winter long. Unless one team gets really aggressive by offering the farm, extreme financial relief, or both, the Marlins sound prepared to pick through this detail by detail in order to maximize their return.

The trade drama surrounding Giancarlo Stanton and the Marlins is just getting started. (AP)
The trade drama surrounding Giancarlo Stanton and the Marlins is just getting started. (AP)

Another factor that could extend this process is Stanton’s ability to veto any trade. Not only do the Marlins have to find a match for them, they have to find a place where Stanton is willing to go. At this point, there have only been vague reports that Stanton prefers to play on either coast.

Stanton, who just turned 28 last week, is guaranteed $295 million over the next 10 seasons. His contract includes an opt-out after 2020. That’s yet another factor that will have to weigh on any team looking to acquire him. Though Stanton would obviously be giving up huge money, it’s a gamble he might be willing to take at that point in his career. Especially with Bryce Harper preparing to set a new bar for free agent contracts next winter.

There’s also the chance the Marlins don’t find a deal to their liking and ultimately hold on to Stanton. It feels like a remote possibility right now, but there’s no guarantee it will happen. It would certainly make for an awkward situation, but how much more awkward could it get considering Stanton has yet to hear from new owner Derek Jeter?

Beyond that, Stanton appears to be keeping a professional perspective. He sounds open to returning to Miami and hopefully competing there, though he wasn’t hesitant to note what the new ownership’s role would have to be in making that happen.

We thought all of the drama was coming next winter, when some of the game’s brightest stars are set to reach free agency. It’s possible none of that will compare to what could play out with Stanton and the Marlins.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: November 18, 2017, 2:19 am
Astros player Tyler White (right) helped fund a party at Waco High School after seeing a tweet. (AP)

Here is one of those moments that makes you grin, feel good and forget about all the horribleness that happens on the Internet. Because sometimes it brings us things like this — a pro athlete interacting with a diehard fan and eventually brightening the lives of kids at a high school in Texas.

This is the story of a Houston Astros superfan who lives in Texas Rangers country, who teaches high school history and who promised his classes a pizza party if the Astros won the World Series — even though many of them weren’t Astros fans. But he was and he thought this was the year.

And it’s the story of one Astros player who saw a tweet about the pizza party, then answered with a few swipes on his phone and a little bit of money from his bank account to give those kids another party, because as he says, high school is “always better when you have a little extra fun.”

The player is Tyler White, the second-year Astros first baseman/outfielder, and the fan is James Yasko, who teaches 11th grade history at Waco High School. And this is how their paths crossed and what happened. Be warned, it might just make you smile.

LAST FRIDAY
Back when the Astros were slumping midseason, Yasko — who runs AstrosCounty.com and a fun Twitter account of the same name — told the students in his AP history class he’d buy everyone pizza if the Astros won the World Series.

Well, pizza day came and he sent out a tweet about it, joking to the Astros: “That’ll be $54, guys.”

Told my AP US History students I’d buy them pizza if the @Astros won the World Series. So that’ll be $54, guys. pic.twitter.com/EWDbcsKn68

— Thickie Don (@AstrosCounty) November 10, 2017

“I was messing around on Twitter,” Yasko told Yahoo Sports this week. “I wasn’t serious. It’s not like I missed my mortgage because I had to spend $50 on pizza. I was looking for the retweets and likes. I just wanted something funny on Twitter.”

It was fun, so the tweet spread around a bit. That’s when White’s girlfriend Alli saw it and pointed it out to him. So White replied with two simple words that immediately gained him massive credibility with Astros fans: “Got Venmo?”

Got venmo?

— Tyler White (@twhite409) November 10, 2017

“I just saw the tweet and thought it would pretty cool if I offered to pay,” White told Yahoo Sports. “I just thought it was a nice and fun gesture.”

Yasko responded as you’d expect: OMG.

He tweeted back that morning: “If you’re serious, I’ll set up a Venmo account. These kids would flip if they found out a member of the World Champion Astros bought them pizza.”

Yasko didn’t hear from White the rest of the day and went to sleep early that night, but while he was sleeping, things started to take off.

SATURDAY MORNING
Yasko woke up to a tweet from White that said: “Of course I’m serious.” Not only that, but a few other people on Twitter wanted to send money too. The whole thing had taken off and, hey, that was pretty cool.

So he set up a Venmo account and White sent the money along, but there was just one thing. Instead of paying himself back, he could do something else with the money, right?

“He had already bought the pizza,” White said. “Why don’t you let them have another good day?”

And that’s just what Yasko decided to do.

“It’s gonna be Tyler White Day,” he decided.

MONDAY
Yasko was excited to come to school and tell his students about what had happened. But guess what? They didn’t believe him.

His students, he says, aren’t exactly used to people doing nice things for them. Seventy-seven percent of the students at his school get free or reduced lunch, which is more than 20 percent higher than the state average and 30 percent higher than the national average.

“I had to screenshot the confirmation e-mail and projected it onto my board,” he said.

He also pulled up White’s page on Baseball Reference.

“This guy,” he told his students, “is actually doing this for y’all.”

Happy #TylerWhiteDay pic.twitter.com/qzCq4eJI0u

— Thickie Don (@AstrosCounty) November 15, 2017

WEDNESDAY
Tyler White Day had arrived and Yasko decided it wasn’t just for his AP classes with whom he’d made the pizza deal. This would be for all his students.

With the money that White had sent plus the other donations, Yasko arrived with 15 dozen donuts and kolaches, milk and orange juice for his students. This is what followed:

Thanks for the party @twhite409 pic.twitter.com/gRlsFOpkHx

— Samuel Barron (@sambam_29) November 15, 2017

Lol at my sad Rangers fan student throwing up the H (he let me take the picture) pic.twitter.com/RjIxtkHw7Z

— Thickie Don (@AstrosCounty) November 15, 2017

Impressive #EarnedHistory pic.twitter.com/YJslq8NijQ

— Thickie Don (@AstrosCounty) November 15, 2017

It was a small moment compared to some of the goodwill we see from big famous athletes. This wasn’t J.J. Watt raising millions of dollars for Houston hurricane relief. But it was still important and impactful. It still put smiles on the faces of kids, which is never ever a bad thing.

As for White, he told Yahoo Sports, he was just happy to have a cool moment with one Astros superfan and maybe some future Astros fans.

“Everything right now is all positive,” White said “For the fans and for us. Most teams lose their last game of the season. We were lucky enough to win the whole thing. Everybody’s on cloud nine and it’s a beautiful relationship between the fans and the players. They stuck with us for a long time, so it’s awesome to see them happy and to be able to help them out.”

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @MikeOz

Author: Mike Oz
Posted: November 17, 2017, 9:22 pm
Atlanta Braves President of Baseball Operations John Hart, center, talks with reporters in the dugout before a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, May 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

It’s a tough time to be an Atlanta Braves fan. The team is under investigation by Major League Baseball for extensive international signing improprieties, the penalties of which are rumored to be “severe,” and executives are dropping like flies.

As of Friday, there’s one more departed Braves executive to add to the list. John Hart, the team’s (now former) president of baseball operations, has left his position at the Braves to “pursue other opportunities.”

John Hart Leaves the Braves to Pursue Other Opportunities: pic.twitter.com/FDEUFaFEio

— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) November 17, 2017

This isn’t totally surprising. It hasn’t really been clear what Hart’s new job would be since new vice president and general manager Alex Anthopoulos was introduced Monday. Anthopoulos would be taking full control of the baseball operations department, which had been Hart’s job. And the Braves were emphatic about Hart no longer being in the baseball ops department, which they put in a news release on Monday. 

Jon Heyman of FanRag Spots reported on Thursday that Hart would be a “consultant” with the Braves, but it was unknown what his responsibilities would be. Hart didn’t seem to know much either, and was apparently under the impression that he was still in the baseball ops department despite the Braves saying he was very much not.

Either way, Hart told Heyman that he was “all good.” And then a day later, Hart resigned completely.

It’s not clear if Hart’s demotion from president of baseball ops to consultant, or his subsequent resignation, is related to MLB’s ongoing investigation into the Braves. But this definitely won’t be the last we hear of it. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported on Thursday that while commissioner Rob Manfred is still deciding what the Braves’ full punishment should be, it will definitely include the loss of prospects, and could also include large fines and heavy restrictions on international market activity.

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at lizroscher@yahoo.com or follow her on twitter! Follow @lizroscher

Author: Liz Roscher
Posted: November 17, 2017, 6:29 pm
Giancarlo Stanton thinks the Marlins could compete, but ownership wants to slash payroll instead. (AP Photo)

Right now, Giancarlo Stanton is The Man. All the trade rumors at the GM meetings have been about him, and on Thursday he won one of the tightest NL MVP races in history. With his full no-trade clause, the Miami Marlins slugger can decide if he wants to stay in Miami or go to another team. And if the team he’s presented with isn’t to his liking, he can turn that down too.

Stanton went on MLB Network after the results were announced, and he had a lot to say about his current situation, and about the Marlins’ desire to trade him. Rick Hummel at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch caught all the juicy quotes.

On the Major League Baseball television network, Stanton allowed that his immediate future “seems pretty open right now. It just depends on which way we want to go. I think our lineup can match up with just about anyone. We need a couple of pieces on the pitching side. We’ll have to see.”

So Stanton doesn’t have his bags packed yet. He obviously enjoys his team and thinks they have a chance to compete if the new owners (including Derek Jeter) are willing to invest in a few more pieces.

Hummel also caught some quotes from Stanton on the conference call that followed the announcement, and Stanton emphasized that ownership needs to seriously invest in the team if they want success — and Stanton wants success.

“[Pitching] needs to be thoroughly addressed, not just somewhat addressed,” he said. “It needs to be a huge push now and a definite contending-addressed matter.”

But Stanton knows that the Marlins don’t want to do that. Jeter has said the main priority is to cut payroll, and if that’s the team mandate, they won’t be making any investments that will lead to winning in the next few years.

But did he really think the new Miami ownership, plotting to cut deeply into payroll, would make any significant pitching moves that would satisfy him?

“I’m not entirely sure, to be honest,” he said. “But I know all teams have plenty of money.”

Some more than others, of course. “Yes, that’s true,” he said. “But plenty, nonetheless.”

Nothing that Stanton is saying here is unreasonable (or untrue). He wants the Marlins to make significant pitching moves, but he’s pretty sure they don’t want to. And “don’t want to” is a lot different than “we can’t.” No matter how badly Jeter claims the Marlins have been run, the new ownership group clearly has money — they just bought the team for over a billion dollars. But at least some of Stanton’s comments seem to be a direct response to a truly bizarre comment that commissioner Rob Manfred made on Thursday.

Rob Manfred says it’s unfair to criticize Derek Jeter and #Marlins ownership group if they trade Stanton since they weren’t ones who negotiated contract

— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) November 16, 2017

It’s true that Jeter and the new ownership group didn’t negotiate the contract for one of the most powerful, exciting, talented players in baseball. But it’s not like they went into the process blind. They knew about the contract. And considering how adamant Jeter has been about cutting payroll since the moment he became an owner, trading Stanton has probably always been in their plans.

Which brings up why the new ownership group is deciding to cut payroll at all when they just spent a whopping $1.2 billion buying the team. Uber agent Scott Boras shed some much-needed light on that issue on Wednesday when he spoke to USA Today.

“Basically the idea is to reduce the debt service to pay for the franchise by reducing all major league payroll, not being competitive, basically using the argument that we’re going to build a successful team through development.

“That has nothing to do with the fans. It has nothing to do with winning. It has nothing to do with anything other than a financial plan that suits ownership without consideration of the impact it has on Major League Baseball.’’

In short, the owners just spent $1.2 billion buying a baseball team, and since they didn’t back up hundreds of trucks stuffed with cash, they accrued debt. And to pay off that debt faster, they’re slashing payroll so the team makes a larger profit, and then they use that profit to pay off the debt, which enables them to make a real profit even quicker. They could keep the payroll right where it is if they wanted to, and even add to it to make a competitive team, but just like nearly every team owner, they’re concerned with making money and not necessarily with winning.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter what Jeter and the rest of the ownership group decide to do with Stanton. They can put together whatever deal they want, but it’s up to Stanton to approve it. No-trade clauses are getting rarer and rarer in baseball, and Stanton’s contract is a great example of why they’re important. So often players have no power over where they go — they’re subject to the whims of owners who want to pay players as little as possible while charging fans massively for the privilege of going to their ballpark. Team owners should definitely be able to make money, but pretending to be “poor” when you just bought an entire baseball team is pretty ridiculous.

Stanton will decide if he stays or goes. If Jeter’s a smart man, he’ll finally pick up the phone and talk to one of the biggest baseball stars on the planet. And then create a deal for Stanton that he might actually want to take, because otherwise, he’s not going anywhere.

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at lizroscher@yahoo.com or follow her on twitter! Follow @lizroscher

Author: Liz Roscher
Posted: November 17, 2017, 4:52 pm

Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve was the overwhelming choice as 2017 American League MVP, earning 27 first-place votes compared to three for New York Yankees rookie Aaron Judge.

It was the expected outcome in what boiled down to a two-man race between a 5-foot-6 infielder who can do everything and a 6-foot-7 outfielder whose prodigious power set records and made him the AL’s unanimous Rookie of the Year. As such, there were clearly no hard feelings from Judge. In fact, the Yankees superstar appeared to be genuinely thrilled with the outcome based on this gracious congratulations he wrote to Altuve.

M-V-P!!! Nobody more deserving than you!! Congrats on an unforgettable 2017!! @JoseAltuve27 pic.twitter.com/tEMy9u8qGc

— Aaron Judge (@TheJudge44) November 17, 2017

That’s pretty cool to see.

Altuve and Judge shared the field many times during the 2017 season, including a memorable seven-game ALCS that the Astros won on their way to the franchise’s first World Series championship. They both provided many great moments, and a few excellent photos too.

AL MVP Jose Altuve (left) stands alongside runner-up Aaron Judge during the 2017 season. (AP)

Most importantly, they clearly earned each other’s respect.

The respect thing is nothing new for Altuve. He’s quickly become one of the most respected players in MLB, but that isn’t just limited to baseball. He’s earned it from athletes in other sports, and especially from Houston Texans all-pro and Astros supporter J.J. Watt. Those two share a bond that has united two franchises, so it wasn’t surprising to see Watt offer his congratulations as well.

MVP!!!!! Congrats brother!!!@JoseAltuve27

— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) November 16, 2017

Every nod of appreciation no doubt means a lot to Altuve. But we’re guessing Judge’s will mean just that much more given the battles their teams had and the respect that was earned.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: November 17, 2017, 2:49 am

An already awkward situation for the Miami Marlins became even more so on Thursday. Giancarlo Stanton, the slugging outfielder who blasted 59 home runs in 2017, was named the franchise’s first ever MVP in a close vote over Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto.

Now the focus goes right back to what appears to be the inevitable. In the coming months, weeks and perhaps even days, the Marlins new ownership group led by Derek Jeter is going to trade Stanton for the best possible return package. The trade will have to earn Stanton’s seal of approval to be completed, but conversations are already reportedly intensifying to the point where a deal almost certainly will be agreed upon and presented to Stanton.

It’s an odd predicament for all parties involved. Overall, only two reigning MVPs have ever been traded. The first The first was Eddie Collins, whose contract was sold from the Philadelphia Athletics to the Chicago White Sox for $50,000 in 1914. The most recent occurred in 2003, when Alex Rodriguez was traded from the Texas Rangers to the New York Yankees.

Looking to get out from under the remainder of A-Rod’s 10-year, $250 million contract signed before the 2001 season, the Rangers traded him to New York for Alfonso Soriano and Joaquin Arias. While there, Rodriguez would win two more MVPs and a World Series while teaming up with Jeter.

Like the Rangers, the Marlins are looking to escape the clutches of a massive contract that threatens to drain their resources. Stanton will be entering year four of a 13-year, $325 million contract that was agreed to under Jeffrey Loria’s ownership. Stanton has an opt-out after the 2020 season, but Jeter’s group isn’t waiting around for that decision. They want to mold the organization within their vision, and their vision doesn’t include paying one player in upwards of $25 million per season.

Giancarlo Stanton could be the second reigning MVP traded since Alex Rodriguez. (AP)
Giancarlo Stanton could be the second reigning MVP traded since Alex Rodriguez. (AP)

Ironically, and perhaps also fittingly, the Yankees are reportedly one of several teams to have inquired on Stanton. It would be a total Yankees move to swoop in again and absorb a contract like they did with Rodriguez 14 years ago. Given the Jeter connection and the potential of pairing Stanton with Aaron Judge, that’s a storyline that could reach epic proportions.

The possibility of Stanton to the Red Sox would be interesting too, especially with Jeter being one of the figureheads behind a move that would strengthen the Yankees biggest rival.

There’s also still a chance Stanton goes nowhere. While seemingly remote on the surface, the Marlins asking price is reportedly “shockingly high.” If they don’t budge, Stanton could easily be back next season. Take this as a reminder that when it comes to baseball trades, nothing should be assumed. It’s never over until it’s over.

For Stanton, that means a lot of waiting, a lot of thinking and a lot of planning.

Stanton on trade rumors: “It’s an interesting feeling and situation for me. We’re going to try to figure out a plan.”

— clarkspencer (@clarkspencer) November 17, 2017

Hopefully he’s able to put that off until Friday. For one day anyway, the MVP announcement should give Stanton and Marlins’ loyalists a much-needed distraction from reality.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: November 17, 2017, 1:28 am

We were expecting drama in this year’s Major League Baseball MVP awards and we got it: Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton won the NL award by just two points, the third-closest race of all time, and Jose Altuve, the Houston Astros dynamo, beat out Aaron Judge for the AL award.

Stanton received 10 of the 30 first-place votes cast by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds finished second, also receiving 10 first-place votes. Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks finished third. Colorado Rockies duo Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon finished fourth and fifth respectively.

Stanton beat Votto in overall points 302 to 300, in the third-closest MVP race of all time. The only closer votes were Marty Marion over Bill Nicholson in 1944 by one point, Joe DiMaggio over Ted Williams in 1941 by one point and Keith Hernandez and Willie Stargell tying in 1979.

Altuve received 27 of the 30 first-place votes. Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees, who won Rookie of the Year, finished second after getting two first-place votes. Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians finished third and got one first-place vote. Mike Trout finished fourth and Francisco Lindor finished fifth.

Here are the full standings for both awards. You can see individual ballots for the AL and the NL on the BBWAA site:

(BBWAA)
(BBWAA)

In the NL, this was all about dingers, as Stanton hit 59 of them, falling one short of the famous mark of 60, but still hitting the most in MLB since 2001, when Barry Bonds hit 73. Ryan Howard hit 58 in 2006. It was Stanton’s potential fully realized. He’s been a scary slugger his whole career, but in 2017 he played in a career-best 159 games and the results followed.

Stanton not only led MLB in homers, but his 132 RBIs were tops in the league too. In a final three with no bad candidate, Stanton’s power numbers ultimately topped the all-around production of Goldschmidt and Votto’s other-worldly ability to get on base.

Get ready to hear a lot about more Stanton too, as he’s already been the talk of the offseason as the most desirable trade chip on the market. The Marlins are expected to move him this winter — and the price might have just gotten a little higher.

Your 2017 MVP winners: Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Altuve. (AP)

Altuve isn’t going anywhere, not after a World Series ring as a token of his best season so far in the big leagues. Altuve, the 5-foot-6 second baseman, has been defying the odds his whole career, but in 2017, he turned himself into, without question, one of the best players in the league.

He’s also made good contact at the plate, but his stats this year were at another level. He hit .346 with a .410 on-base percentage, plus he hit 24 homers, knocked in 81 runs and stole 32 bases. He’s like a great lead-off hitter and great No. 3 hitter combined into one player.

He was the backbone of an Astros team that won 101 games. Postseason doesn’t count in the BBWAA awards, but Altuve thrived there too, helping the Astros to win their first World Series win in franchise history.

Judge had a great rookie season, no doubt, and would have been a worthwhile MVP, but the difference in his candidacy was a post-All Star break slump. He turned it back on in September and fueled the Yankees’ playoff run, but Altuve was good from the Astros first game to their last one. And that’s made helped him win his first MVP award.

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @MikeOz

Author: Mike Oz
Posted: November 16, 2017, 11:51 pm
Rob Manfred talks pace-of-play changes and other things at the quarterly MLB owners meetings. (AP Photo)

Many games over the course of the playoffs were fun, exciting, thrilling, and suspenseful. But many games were also really, really long, sometimes dragging past the four (or five) hour mark. And Major League Baseball thinks it has a way to combat that. Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk reported on Wednesday that MLB is interested in drawing up a new pace-of-play agreement with the MLB Players Association to be ready for the 2018 season, and pitch clocks could be a big part of that.

A pitch clock sounds like a big, intrusive addition to the game, but of all the fixes that MLB could implement, the pitch clock is the least likely to materially affect the flow of the game. The clock has been around in the minors since 2015, and it’s changed nothing that anyone would notice (if anything at all). Most people don’t even realize it’s there. It may only end up shaving seconds off each at-bat, but there is the possibility that it could truly help the pace of MLB games by keeping pitchers to a steady time between pitches. Either way, it’s worth trying.

But it’s worth mentioning that there’s already a rule on the books about time between pitches. Why haven’t you heard of it? Because the umpires don’t enforce it. It’s rule 5.07(c) in the 2017 Official Baseball Rules, and it’s been on the books for at least a few years.

When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call “Ball.”

The 12-second timing starts when the pitcher is in possession of the ball and the batter is in the box, alert to the pitcher. The timing stops when the pitcher releases the ball.

A rule is no good if it’s not enforced. But asking the umpires to start counting in their heads between pitches seems like a disaster waiting to happen. A clock just makes more sense, since then no one is relying on Umpire King Joe West’s counting skills. (For the record: the pitch clock in the minors is 20 seconds, and we have no idea whether or not the major league pitch clock would be 12 seconds or 20 seconds or a different duration all together.)

Calcaterra mentioned another possible pace-of-play improvement that’s on the table, and it already debuted during the playoffs. At various points during the game, usually when there was no need for any announcing or commentating (like mound visits), Fox split the screen, putting the game in a box on one side and showing an advertisement on the other. It was a neat, tidy way to keep the game on the screen while satisfying the desires of their advertisers.

But it’s not the ready-made, elegant solution that it seems. As they were used in the playoffs, the split-screen advertisements didn’t really shorten the duration of any games, they were used to provide additional advertising opportunities during mound visits. If these split screen advertisements are supposed to actually improve pace-of-play, they’d have to be used between innings and during pitching changes, and the commercial breaks themselves would have to be shorter.

Commissioner Rob Manfred said on Thursday that pace-of-play regulations will get done with or without the MLBPA’s cooperation, which is an interesting stance to take since according to Calcaterra, the MLBPA indicated in August that they would work with MLB on a pitch clock. Here’s exactly what Manfred said to the Associated Press:

Speaking Thursday after a quarterly owners’ meeting, Manfred says “my preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, but if we can’t get an agreement we are going to have rule changes in 2018 one way or the other.”

So either the MLBPA is already pushing back, or Manfred is just anticipating pushback. Either way he’s being pretty aggressive about it, but I guess that’s just how much he wants pace-of-play changes.

Though if Manfred wants changes that badly, he might want to consider something a little more drastic than a pitch clock. Mound visits have become excessive, and they take up so much time. During the playoffs, several mound visits would happen during a single at-bat, which is just  insane. Limiting mound visits wouldn’t be a small move for Manfred to make, and it’s likely that the MLBPA would have some serious problems with it, but it should at least be considered. It would force catchers and pitchers to communicate in different ways, and to possibly have a more concrete plan for each hitter. And everyone would have to be more strategic about when to visit the mound.

Regardless of what the pace-of-play changes look like, Manfred seems determined to get something done this offseason. It’s up to him to decide if it’s going to be to be more window dressing like the time limits on replay challenges that were introduced for the 2017 season, or if it’ll be something more significant.

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at lizroscher@yahoo.com or follow her on twitter! Follow @lizroscher

Author: Liz Roscher
Posted: November 16, 2017, 10:52 pm
Shohei Otani might not be coming to the MLB as soon as we thought.. (AP)

Only a week ago it seemed like Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani was going to sail through to the majors. Nippon Professional Baseball and MLB had worked on a deal to extend the expired posting system for a year, allowing Otani’s team the Nippon Ham Fighters to collect the $20 million posting fee while Otani himself will get a fraction of that.

With NBP and MLB deciding to extend the posting system, all they needed to move forward was the approval of the MLB Players Association. And Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports is reporting that the MLBPA isn’t ready to give the green light yet.

MLB had been hoping to receive approval Wednesday for its one-year extension arrangement. But the players union has the right to approve – or reject – any foreign protocol agreement. And the union decided not to accept, and instead to counter.

There’s no reason given that the MLBPA has decided to counter and negotiate, but it’s not hard to guess. The issue here is the massive disparity between what Nippon Ham Fighters will get for Otani ($20 million) and what Otani himself will get (a onetime bonus of less than $4 million).

What’s a little harder to figure out is what the MLBPA hopes to accomplish with this gambit. They have the power to derail the entire Otani transfer, so they’re coming to the table from a position of power. But it’s not clear what they hope to do with it. They could be trying to get Otani more money, since he’ll be getting so little. Or as Heyman suggests, they could even be trying to discourage Otani from coming to the U.S. now instead of in two years from now.

While Otani clearly doesn’t care about the money he’s giving up by coming to the United States now instead of in two years, there’s a bigger issue at hand. The MLBPA’s job is to protect their players, and that includes their income. Otani many not care about the money, but not all players are like him. Others might care, and rightly so, and the MLBPA is using this opportunity to try and help other international players in the future.

Without restrictions, Otani could command as much as Masahiro Tanaka did when he signed with the Yankees. But because of the new rules about international free agents in the 2016 collective bargaining agreement, he can’t until he’s 25. Before then, he’s considered an amateur, which means he needs to sign a standard minor league contract and and his bonus is limited to what teams can pay him from their international bonus pool (up to $4 million).

Granted, the MLBPA negotiated and approved the CBA, but it seems clear now that these rules were the best they could do if they wanted to avoid an international player draft, which is what the owners were pushing for. But the very purpose of these new rules (and of the international player draft) was to cut down on the big contracts being given to international players. The purpose was to save owners money by paying players less.

The MLBPA has reportedly set a deadline of Monday for this issue to be resolved. And who knows how it might be. The rules in the CBA are pretty airtight, and Commissioner Rob Manfred has said in the past that he has no interest in bending them for Otani. And it seems unlikely that the Nippon Ham Fighters will take less money in exchange for their star player. At this point, all we can do is watch and wait.

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at lizroscher@yahoo.com or follow her on twitter! Follow @lizroscher

Author: Liz Roscher
Posted: November 16, 2017, 8:31 pm
MLB has appointed a committee of physicists and scientists to determine if the baseballs used in 2017 were different from past seasons. (AP)

After commissioner Rob Manfred spent the entire 2017 season denying the baseballs were “juiced,” Major League Baseball has appointed a committee to conduct a study to determine whether that’s actually the case.

According to Kristie Ackert of the Daily News, Mets assistant general manager John Ricco confirmed the league’s study after it was revealed during this week’s general managers meeting in Orlando. Ricco adds that the league’s early findings have yet to suggest any notable changes to the baseball, but the investigation is still on-going.

“They talked to us about the committee they put together that is currently in the midst of studying it,” Ricco said. “They have put together a high-level panel of physicists and scientists to study the ball and early returns are that really not much has changed. But we’ll see what they say at the end.”

Several pitchers have charged that baseballs used in MLB games over the last year and a half have felt different than in years past. The changes, they say, were noticeable right after the 2015 All Star Game. That coincides with a significant increase in home runs in MLB. During the 2017 regular season, a record 6,104 home runs were hit. That shattered the previous record of 5,693 in 2000.

The feeling that the baseball had changed gained more momentum throughout the season before peaking during the postseason. The baseball seemed harder and slippery, some suggested, with the seams being more difficult to grip. Managers and pitching coaches have backed their pitchers up, suggesting that the changes have led to an increase in blisters forming.

If you’ve been paying attention to the injury reports, it does seem like more pitchers than usual weren’t force to leave starts early and miss time with blister-related issues. Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman attributed his blisters issues this season directly to the perceived change in the baseball. That led to a short-lived MLB investigation during the season that went nowhere.

Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman was one of several pitchers impacted by blister issues during the 2017 season. (AP)

“I’ve never had a blister in my life, nothing even remotely close to having a blister. It’s crazy. It’s extremely frustrating, extremely frustrating,” Stroman said at the time. “I feel like it’s an epidemic that’s happening across the big leagues now, a bunch of pitchers getting blisters, guys who have never had blisters before. For MLB to turn their back to it, I think that’s kind of crazy.”

At this point it seems like there’s too much evidence for it not to be true to some degree. We’re not just talking about a minor hike in home runs here. The previous record was topped by over 400, which amounts to an average of two more home runs every day during the season. That’s significant, and the number is even bigger in comparison to recent seasons.

Not everyone will scoff at more home runs. They should be concerned though if changes to the baseball are truly leading to blister issues for pitchers. In that case, it’s more than changing the game, it’s impacting pitchers ability to do their job. If nothing else, we should hope MLB’s study can shed light on that issue one way or the other.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: November 16, 2017, 3:54 am
Athletics trade slugger Ryon Healy to Mariners in three-player trade. (AP)
Athletics trade slugger Ryon Healy to Mariners in three-player trade. (AP)

It doesn’t feel like the offseason until a notable trade or free agent signing crosses the wire.

Leave it to Jerry Dipoto to get the party started.

The always active Seattle Mariners general manager completed a trade with the division rival Oakland Athletics on Wednesday, acquiring infielder/designated hitter Ryon Healy.

The Mariners announced they’ll be sending right-handed pitcher Emilio Pagan and minor-league infielder Alexander Campos back to Oakland.

#Mariners acquire INF Ryon Healy from Oakland in exchange for RHP Emilio Pagan and minor league INF Alexander Campos.

Read: https://t.co/74n5TnK4jj pic.twitter.com/7YahNGWleG

— MarinersPR (@MarinersPR) November 16, 2017

Healy, who turns 26 in January, figures to shoot directly to the top of Seattle’s depth chart at first base. He possesses good pop, having homered 38 times in 221 MLB games. Seattle didn’t get much from its first basemen last season before acquiring Yonder Alonso, also in a trade with Oakland. Alonso is now headed for free agency, though it’s possible the team will look to bring him back.

Seattle was also believed to be in the market for free agent first baseman Carlos Santana. That might not change as Dipoto was quick to point out the versatility Healy brings to the table.

“Ryon brings a power bat to our line-up at first base, while providing the flexibility to play third base,” Dipoto said in a statement following the trade. “He adds to a growing core of productive young players who impact our present and future.”

Given his age, ability and price tag, the trade doesn’t appear to make much sense for Oakland. A deeper look though shows a logjam that was forming with the emergence of fellow corner infielders Matt Chapman and Matt Olson in 2017. Both players showed power similar to Healy’s and are controllable for a longer time. Figuring Healy’s trade value wouldn’t get much higher, the A’s pulled the trigger.

Now the A’s have some flexibility with their lineup. Reports suggest they’d like to move Khris Davis to designated hitter. They’re reportedly in the market for a more athletic outfielder to fill out that group. The addition of Pagan to their bullpen is pretty interesting too. The 26-year-old posted a 3.22 ERA during his rookie season in 2017 and could have upside as a late-inning reliever.

It’s certainly not what you’d consider a blockbuster trade. With that said, any trade between division rivals is pretty interesting. And this one in particular better positions both teams to execute their offseason plans.

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Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: November 16, 2017, 2:53 am

Baseball is a game with very few sure answers to any specific question. That truth is part of what’s made Clayton Kershaw’s stay atop the list of the greatest active pitchers so special.

For years, no one could argue with the notion that Kershaw was setting the pace among his peers. With each passing Cy Young Award — three in total — Kershaw’s position as the best pitcher in MLB was only further cemented.

Now though, we’re being forced to re-examine what we’ve long known to be true. It’s not that Kershaw is dramatically fading. He’s still dominated at a level few pitchers can, as evidenced by his runner up finish in this year’s NL Cy Young voting.

Clayton Kershaw's position as baseball's best pitcher is being challenged by Max Scherzer and Corey Kluber. (AP)
Clayton Kershaw’s position as baseball’s best pitcher is being challenged by Max Scherzer and Corey Kluber. (AP)

But two pitchers who have been comfortably positioned behind Kershaw on that very short list, are now poised to pass him. If they haven’t already. Those men are Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals and Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians.

On Wednesday, Scherzer received 27 first-place votes to Kershaw’s three to win his second straight NL Cy Young Award. As the old saying goes, to be the man you gotta beat the man. Scherzer’s done that two straight years, and has done so convincingly. Overall it’s Scherzer’s third. He also took home the AL’s Cy Young while with the Detroit Tigers in 2013.

In the AL, Kluber received 28 first-place votes to win his second award since 2014. The wins put both he and Scherzer into elite company historically, and the numbers they’ve put up definitely put them in the conversation as baseball’s best pitcher.

Some people were already putting Scherzer in that position before he topped Kershaw again in the voting. At least a portion of that was no doubt influenced by Kershaw’s reputation as a poor postseason pitcher. Kershaw has made strides towards wiping that out, but it seems there’s at least one outing every postseason that allows that seed to grow a little more.

Other Scherzer supporters point to his production over the past three seasons. The 33-year-old right-hander has found another level of brilliance since joining the Nationals in 2015, combining dominance with durability that Kershaw simply hasn’t been able to match. Scherzer has made 98 starts during that stretch, posting a 2.76 ERA. Kershaw has been limited to 81 starts, though it hasn’t hampered his effectiveness as his 2.07 ERA supports.

When you’re attempting to separate two elite pitchers, which one is there more often for his team has to be a factor. Scherzer’s consistency is also notable. According to Baseball Reference, Scherzer’s 20.6 WAR over the last three seasons is the highest among pitchers. During that same time Kershaw has seen his WAR dip each season, from 7.5 to 5.6 to 4.6. In fact, this marked the first season since 2009 that Kershaw’s WAR was under 5.0.

If we’re being honest, that makes it difficult to argue against Scherzer being the man right now. Just don’t expect Scherzer himself to make that argument.

Does Max Scherzer think he’s on Clayton Kershaw’s level now? “That’s not for me to say,” Scherzer replied. “If I want to be an MLB analyst, I’ll go work for @mlbnetwork.”

— Tyler Kepner (@TylerKepner) November 16, 2017

We have no problem making the argument for him, or for Corey Kluber for that matter.

The Indians ace has pitched his way into the picture with his own brand of consistency, dominance and durability in the more hitter-friendly American League. In addition to winning two Cy Youngs, Kluber has a third and ninth place finish during the past four seasons. He’s logged an MLB-high 486 and one-third innings during that time, to go along with 737 strikeouts.

Max Scherzer and Corey Kluber win Cy Young awards. (AP)

Kluber’s 18.6 WAR over the past three seasons is second only to Scherzer’s, which makes this a genuine three-man race.

By no means is this a closed case. Even the best designed stats and formulas don’t tell the whole story. What we see with our own eyes matters too, as do the playing conditions and other factors that simply can’t be measured. That’s why this debate will rage on and into the 2018 season, and possibly well beyond.

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Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: November 16, 2017, 1:59 am

Let the debates begin. Major League Baseball wraps up its awards week with the most contentious — and prestigious — of all its honors. The 2017 MVP will be decided, and there’s no easy choice in either league this year.

Let’s start in the American League, where at least it’s a two-man race. José Altuve and Aaron Judge will go head-to-head — or head to shoulder — in what could be a tight race. José Ramírez is the third finalist, and that’s where he’ll likely finish in the voting. That takes nothing away from him. He was exceptional, but many consider this a fight between Altuve and Judge.

Over in the National League, it’s even more difficult. Each of the three finalists have a legitimate shot at the award. Paul Goldschmidt, Giancarlo Stanton and Joey Votto all bring different things to the table too. Stanton brings immense power, Votto has great plate discipline and Goldschmidt has the best all-around game (and he plays on a winning team … which matters to some voters).

MLB Network will reveal the winners in a special at 6 p.m. ET on Thursday. You can check in with The Stew for coverage when the news is official. Until then, we’ll do our best to break down all six contenders for the awards, complete with our picks for the award at the bottom of the post.

One thing to keep in mind, all of these awards are voted on prior to the start of the postseason. The voters turned in their ballots before the first wild-card game. Altuve doesn’t get extra credit because he won the World Series.

José Altuve once again racked up a ton of hits to lead the league in batting average. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

AMERICAN LEAGUE
José Altuve — 2B, Houston Astros
In brief: It’s weird to think José Altuve can really get better, but that’s precisely what he did in 2017. His .348/.410/.547 slash line established a new career-high for Altuve in average, on-base percentage and slugging. His 24 home runs tied a career-high, and he swiped 32 bases. He played 153 games on one of the best teams in the majors.

Key stats: Altuve’s whole Baseball Reference page sticks out here, but the major focus of the MVP award will hinge on strikeouts. Altuve’s 12.7 percent strikeout rate ranked as the seventh lowest among qualified hitters in the AL. Making contact allows Altuve to hit for such a high average. That’s where a lot of his value came from early in his career. Improving his patience and hitting for power has turned him into a perennial MVP candidate, but he’s always been a strong contact hitter.

Case for: Altuve’s case is mostly built on an exceptional batting average and a lack of strikeouts. Those are the two areas where he holds a big advantage over Aaron Judge. He’s also a better baserunner. That’s born out in the metrics and with his solid 32-6 stolen base to caught stealing rate. He’s one of the best all-around players in the game.

Case against: Altuve is fantastic, but Judge may have been better. Sure, hitting for average is fun, but Judge reached base more often and cranked 52 home runs. 52! Oh, and Judge hit .284, so it’s not like he’s a slouch there either. They are incredibly different hitters, but both approaches work. Judge’s lead in home runs could be the difference.

Aaron Judge hit 52 home runs as a rookie. (AP Photo)


Aaron Judge  — OF, New York Yankees
In brief: What a hell of a way to introduce yourself to the majors. Aaron Judge exploded onto the scene with one of the best rookie seasons ever. His 8.2 fWAR ranked tied for fourth all-time, ahead of Fred Lynn and Albert Pujols. Maybe that’s not surprising. Judge did hit .284/.422/.627, with 52 home runs. For much of the year, he was the biggest story in baseball. This shouldn’t count toward the ballot, but he put on an absolute show in the Home Run Derby. No matter what happens, this was an unbelievable start to his career.

Key stats: Everything related to Judge’s power. His 52 home runs led the AL, and was good for second in baseball. His .627 slugging percentage ranked fourth overall. He also excelled in patience, as his 18.7 percent walk rate was good for second, behind only Joey Votto. His .422 on-base percentage was good for third in baseball.

Case for: Judge led Altuve in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, home runs and fWAR. If you’re a traditionalist, he also led in runs and RBI. And keep in mind both guys hit in the No. 3 hole, so it’s not like Altuve missed out on RBI chances because he hit leadoff. There’s a very strong case that Judge was the best player in baseball during his rookie season. Altuve is more established, but Judge might have been better.

Case against: It’s batting average and strikeouts. Altuve led average by a sizable margin, though Judge did hit .284. This is likely to come down to whiffs, though. Altuve is one of the best in baseball at making contact. Judge is the polar opposite. His 30.7 percent strikeout rate was fourth highest in baseball. If you hate strikeouts, and love batting average, Altuve is your guy.

José Ramírez turned himself into a legitimate MVP candidate in 2017. (AP Photo)

José Ramírez  — 3B, Cleveland Indians
In brief: José Ramírez proved his 2016 was no fluke. Instead, he somehow built on a tremendous breakout by increasing nearly all his numbers. His .318/.374/.583 slash line represented a new career high in all three categories. He also smashed a career-high 29 home runs. He also played two positions — third base and second base — for Cleveland, and was above average at both spots.

Key stats: Compared to Judge and Altuve, Ramírez’s stats aren’t going to really stand out. The one area where he might have them beat is defense, which is tough to fully quantify. The metrics liked Ramírez this year, but those can be spotty and unreliable. Still, Altuve and Judge are considered average if not above average at their positions. Ramírez is considered above average and can play multiple spots well. Versatility matters.

Case for: There’s not one. Ramírez has become a great player. He might be the most fun player to watch in baseball, and hey, that’s gotta be worth something. His defense and versatility gives him something neither Judge or Altuve have, but both of them have better offensive numbers. Based on both his 2016 and 2017, Ramirez might have established himself as a perennial MVP contender, and that’s an unbelievable accomplishment for a player who never ranked on Baseball America’s top-100 prospect list.

Case against: Judge and Altuve were just better. Altuve holds an edge in average and on-base percentage. Judge blows both out of the water in slugging and home runs. Let’s not take anything away from Ramírez. He’s great, and we love watching him. But he was the third best player in the AL this year.

Paul Goldschmidt helped lead the Diamondbacks to the playoffs in 2017. (AP Photo)

NATIONAL LEAGUE
Paul Goldschmidt  — 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks
In brief: It was another typical Paul Goldschmidt season. He hit .297/.404/.563, with 36 home runs, in 155 games. By fWAR, it was only his third-best season, but that just speaks to how great and consistent he’s been over his career. A “typical Paul Goldschmidt season” shouldn’t be viewed as a negative. It means he once again was good enough to contend for the MVP award.

Key stats: Goldschmidt is going up against two players with some pretty extreme offensive performances, so he’s more of the all-around dude. All his stats are impressive, though none are otherworldly. The one area he separates himself is speed, where he stole 18 bases and is considered a strong base-runner. It’s weird to praise a first baseman for his speed, but Goldschmidt breaks the mold there.

Case for: Goldschmidt feels more like the traditional choice for MVP. All of his stats are great. What he lacks in offense compared to the other finalists, he makes up for with base-running and defense. Nothing major sticks out, but everything is above average. But the main reason Goldschmidt may take home the award is that he plays on a winning team. The voters have valued that in the past, so that may be enough to sway them his way even though the stats aren’t over-the-top impressive.

Case against: Stanton his 59 home runs. Votto matched Goldschmidt in home runs, and topped him in average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, walk rate and had a better strikeout rate. You can’t make a strong case for Goldschmidt based on stats. Not against these two.

Giancarlo Stanton flirted with 60 home runs during an MVP-caliber year. (AP Photo)

Giancarlo Stanton  — OF, Miami Marlins
In brief: We got to finally see Giancarlo Stanton healthy for an entire season, and it was glorious. He crushed an absurd 59 home runs, and went on a run in August that rivaled 2001 Barry Bonds. Opposing pitchers — and a few baseballs — haven’t recovered yet.

Key stats: All the power numbers. His 59 home runs led baseball. As did his .631 slugging percentage. Not surprisingly, he also led the league in RBIs. Let’s face it, that’s going to happen when you hit close to 60 home runs. His 12.3 percent walk rate was among the top-25 hitters in baseball. And while his strikeouts were still an issue, he cut six percent off 2016’s rate, helping him hit above .280 for the first time since 2014.

Case for: Dingers! Stanton’s lofty home run total is the only thing that stands out when compared to Goldschmidt and Votto. And we shouldn’t simply write that off. It’s a substantial lead. He belted 13 more homers than those two. He was the first player since Bonds and Sammy Sosa topped it in 2001. For about a month, it seemed like every ball he hit left the park. He also had a slight lead over the other finalists with a 6.9 fWAR.

Case against: When you start to look at the rest of his numbers, his candidacy falls apart. Goldschmidt had a slightly better average and a decent lead in on-base percentage. Votto was even more dominant in both categories. Goldschmidt and Votto even walked more, and Stanton struck out the most of the trio. He also didn’t hit 60. That’s an unfair argument, but some people value round numbers and seeing Stanton get there may have helped his candidacy. Oh, and his team was bad. People care about that too.

Joey Votto led the league in on-base percentage by a large margin in 2017. (AP Photo)

Joey Votto  — 1B, Cincinnati Reds
In brief: To say Votto had a typical year is both fair and unfair. His .320/.454/.578 slash line was eerily similar to what he put up in 2016. But Votto added slightly more pop, and somehow showed an even better walk rate. But, perhaps most impressively, he just stopped striking out.

Key stats: Votto finished sixth in average, first in on-base percentage and ninth in slugging percentage. His 19 percent walk rate was tops in the majors. His 11.7 strikeout rate was ninth-best in the majors. During his MVP year in 2010, Votto’s 19.3 strikeout rate tied for 30th worst in baseball. He struck out less than Jose Altuve in 2017. Joey Votto!

Case for: Votto posted the best batting average and on-base percentage of the three candidates, and it wasn’t really close. His 36 home runs matched Goldschmidt. His 6.6 fWAR was close enough to Stanton’s to make it debatable, and a full win higher than Goldschmidt’s. Getting on base is arguably the most valuable skill in baseball. Votto got on more than anyone. But his value wasn’t just due to leading the league in walks, his 168 OPS+ also led the NL.

Case against: His team didn’t win. If you compare Votto and Goldschmidt’s numbers, Votto easily comes out ahead, but his team didn’t make the playoffs. Goldy’s did, and that matters to some voters. Stanton’s immense power also speaks loudly. He falls short everywhere else, but challenging 60 homers — and doing so in a manner people find “legitimate” — could prove to be too much for either guy to overcome.

OUR PICKS
Chris Cwik
AL: Aaron Judge — Strikeouts be damned. Judge had a better on-base percentage and hit twice as many home runs as Altuve. It’s close, but I give Judge the slight edge.

NL: Joey Votto —The dude holds a .050 lead in on-base percentage over Goldschmidt. He hit for the best average of the trio and was no slouch with power. He also stopped striking out. He’s somehow under-appreciated.

Mike Oz
AL: Jose Altuve — While Judge was great, he slumped for a while. Altuve was consistently great all year long.

NL: Giancarlo Stanton — Fifty-nine homers and 132 RBIs are too hard to deny, even if his team didn’t make the playoffs like Goldschmidt’s and he couldn’t match Votto’s great on-base numbers.

Liz Roscher
AL: Jose Altuve — Altuve has sustained a frankly insane level of play for several years now. It’s always tough to choose between him and Mike Trout, but with Trout missing out on the final three, it’s Altuve all the way.

NL: Joey Votto — He might be more machine than man at this point. How has he been so good for so long? How does he keep getting better? Like the man himself, it’s a mystery.

Mark Townsend
AL: Jose Altuve — This isn’t just about Altuve’s performance in 2017, which was incredible. It’s about his consistent brilliance over several seasons.

NL: Joey Votto — If Votto played for a contender, I don’t think there would be a debate. I love Stanton and Goldschmidt, but Votto’s production was ridiculous.

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik

Author: Chris Cwik
Posted: November 16, 2017, 1:00 am

Here’s hoping Corey Kluber and Max Scherzer still have room in their trophy cases, because they’re gonna need it, to fit another Cy Young in there.

Max Scherzer won the NL Cy Young award again Wednesday, and the Kluber took home the AL version again, as this generation’s greatest MLB pitchers keep adding to their legacies. For Kluber, it’s his second win in four seasons and for Scherzer, it’s his third Cy Young and second in a row — which puts him in elite company historically.

In the AL, Kluber received 28 of the 30 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers Association of America. Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox finished second with the other two first-place votes and Luis Severino of the New York Yankees finished third. Carlos Carrasco, Kluber’s teammate in Cleveland, finished fourth and Justin Verlander finished fifth.

In the NL, Scherzer received 27 of 30 first-place votes. Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers finished second with the other three first-place votes. Scherzer’s teammate with the Washington Nationals, Stephen Strasburg, finished third. Zack Greinke finished fourth and Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen finished fifth.

Here are the final vote tallies, via the BBWAA. You can see individual ballots on their site. As always, we should remind you that voting took place after the regular season and doesn’t include postseason performance.

(BBWAA)
(BBWAA)

Scherzer enters high company with his third Cy Young award. He’s now the 10th pitcher in history to win three Cy Youngs, a group that includes Kershaw, Tom Seaver, Pedro Martinez, as well as Greg Maddux and Steve Carlton, who have four, Randy Johnson (five) and Roger Clemens (seven).

Scherzer, 33, has been great for a while, but 2017 ranks as one of the best seasons of his career. He was 16-6 with a career-best 2.51 ERA, and an NL-best 6.0 Wins Above Replacement, according to Fangraphs.

Kluber, 31, took home the Cy Young in 2014 and finished third last season. He’s now the 19th pitcher in MLB history to win multiple Cy Young awards. The Indians won an AL-best 102 games this season and Kluber’s performance — especially down the stretch — was a big part of that.

His post-All Star break numbers were just silly. He was 11-1 with a 1.79 ERA, which is as dominant as you can be in a year when offense was up around baseball and homers were leaving the yard at a record pace. Kluber’s full body of work — 18-4 with an AL-best 2.25 ERA in 203.2 innings — was remarkable considering the way hitters dominated 2017.

Now the question is, will they win another? Both Scherzer and Kluber have plenty of time to make that happen.

2017 Cy Young winners: Max Scherzer and Corey Kluber. (AP)

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @MikeOz

Author: Mike Oz
Posted: November 16, 2017, 12:06 am
Sports agent Scott Boras is firing on all cylinders this offseason, as he showed Wednesday at the GM Meetings. (AP)
Sports agent Scott Boras is firing on all cylinders this offseason, as he showed Wednesday at the GM Meetings. (AP)

Baseball’s Hot Stove season is Scott Boras season. You know Boras as baseball’s most powerful agent and the most aggressive advocate for his clients. If you didn’t already, you’ve got to give Boras credit for his gift of gab.

Boras is famous for propping up his clients, producing comprehensive data points and reports about why MLB teams should give his clients ALL THE MONEY. He’s repping some of this winter’s biggest free agents — including J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer and Jake Arrieta — so Boras is on the campaign trail giving them the treatment for which he’s famous.

And lately? The dude is simply on fire with his quotes. Over the weekend, he called J.D. Martinez “The King Kong of Slug,” which is a great one. And Wednesday at MLB’s General Meetings in Orlando, he was on a roll again.

Here’s what he said about Arrieta:

Scott Boras just referred to Jake Arrieta as a “big squirrel with a lot of nuts in his trees.” Don’t ask why.

— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) November 15, 2017

Yes! We are *here* for this kind of Boras. More J.D. Martinez? Sure.

Scott Boras compared JD Martinez’s defensive metrics to getting an oil change. You have to check them every year.

— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughTimes) November 15, 2017

Ohhh, do Hosmer next, Scott!

Scott Boras says teams have to spend to live in Playoffville. He described Eric Hosmer as Federal Express for Playoffville. He delivers.

— Rustin Dodd (@rustindodd) November 15, 2017

Oh, Playoffville is a thing. And Boras has some tips for getting there — or not getting there, as the case may be.

In order to move to Playoffville, Scott Boras says, you have to pay the property tax.

I️ believe this is a metaphor, but you can never be too sure.

— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughTimes) November 15, 2017

Boras was asked about #Mets and other teams seemingly spending below their means. “This is not about the ability to pay. It’s about the choice to pay. They’re not living in the gated community of Playoff-Ville.”

— David Lennon (@DPLennon) November 15, 2017

That last one isn’t just about the Mets either. Boras scolded the Marlins for having new ownership come in and immediately want to cut payroll instead of trying to win. He didn’t call out the Marlins by name, but it’s the only ownership change in MLB this season. Here’s what Boras said, via USA Today:

“When you’re looking at building a market and you have an All-Star outfield with all the dynamics,’’ Boras said, “and you have a club being purchased at $1.2 billion, what happens is that you got a marketplace saying the new owners are coming in here and saying they’re making the franchise better. We’re excited. And then where we are now creating a plan where we are not going to win five or six years.

“We’re going to basically reduce our payroll. We’re going to rid our team of our substantial stars. We’re going to set up this five, six year plan. We basically have a system in baseball where we have sales of franchises, and we have a reduction.

“Basically the idea is to reduce the debt service to pay for the franchise by reducing all major league payroll, not being competitive, basically using the argument that we’re going to build a successful team through development.

“That has nothing to do with the fans. It has nothing to do with winning. It has nothing to do with anything other than a financial plan that suits ownership without consideration of the impact it has on Major League Baseball.”

At this point in the offseason, when the deals are scarce and the negotiations are just beginning, it’s good to know we have Scott Boras around to entertain us so wonderfully.

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @MikeOz

Author: Mike Oz
Posted: November 15, 2017, 9:48 pm

Harold Reynolds is a man with plenty of stories to tell, as we learned on this week’s brand new episode of 25-Year-Old Baseball Cards.

On this week’s episode, Reynolds tells us about the time Nolan Ryan threw at his head to start a game and, when he pulls a Mike Macfarlane card, about one of his favorite all-time stories involving an umpire. It’s a great episode filled with great stories.

You can see Reynolds all over your TV this week, as MLB Network is the home of the BBWAA award announcements. You can find Reynolds daily on MLB Network’s Hot Stove (9-11 a.m. ET) and as part of the awards coverage, which airs at 6 p.m. ET Wednesday (Cy Young) and Thursday (MVP).

Two-time MLB All-Star and MLB Network analyst Harold Reynolds looks through packs of baseball cards from 1992. (Yahoo Sports)
Two-time MLB All-Star and MLB Network analyst Harold Reynolds looks through packs of baseball cards from 1992. (Yahoo Sports)

If you’re new to this year — and hello, if you are — we open up old baseball cards that had been sitting in my garage for years with baseball players, coaches and famous fans. We provide the cards, they provide the stories. The cards aren’t worth much these days, but some of the stories we get about players of the yesterday are priceless. If you dug this, please check out some of our previous episodes below.

Previously in 25-Year-Old Baseball Cards
MUST-SEE EPISODESPedro Martinez | Bronson Arroyo | Eric Davis | Dusty Baker | Hank Azaria | Alex Rodriguez | Scott Boras | A.J. Ellis | Bernie Williams | Chase Utley | John Smoltz

MANAGERS/COACHESTerry Francona | Joe Maddon | Bruce Bochy | Clint Hurdle | Buck Showalter | Brad Mills | Bob Melvin | Dave Roberts

CURRENT PLAYERS: Curtis GrandersonNoah Syndergaard | Kyle Hendricks | Clayton Kershaw | Todd Coffey | John Axford | Dee Gordon | Adam Eaton | Rajai Davis | Brad Ziegler & Tyler Clippard

STARS FROM BACK IN THE DAYFrank Thomas | Sandy Alomar Jr. | Delino DeShields | Cliff Floyd | Dan Plesac | Aaron Boone | Bobby Bonilla | Andre Dawson  | Ivan Rodriguez | Jack Morris | Jeff Nelson | Mark Teixeira

CELEBSAlyssa Milano | Josh Duhamel | Joel McHale

ETC: Josh Kusnick | Jeff Passan | Ken Kendrick

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @MikeOz

Author: Mike Oz
Posted: November 15, 2017, 7:35 pm
Could Giancarlo Stanton be headed to Los Angeles? (AP Photo)

Trade rumors about Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton are pouring in every day. Things are practically changing by the hour. When you’ve hit 59 home runs in a season, everybody wants you. So what are the latest rumors about where The Mighty Giancarlo Stanton might go? Chad Jennings of the Boston Herald has one, and it’s about Stanton’s no-trade preferences.

A baseball source said yesterday that he’s been told Stanton will not accept a trade to either the Red Sox or the Cardinals, another team linked early and often in trade rumors. Perhaps there’s some flexibility in that stance, but Stanton’s preference is a factor.

Maybe Stanton just doesn’t like the color red?

It’s important to take this, and all other rumors, with a boulder-sized grain of salt. Especially when a conflicting rumor surfaces just a few hours later, which is exactly what happened. This one comes from Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston.

The Marlins slugger, a bona fide star, is said to have a “completely” open mind about teams interested to trade for him, and is actively trying to be thoughtful about the process — one he ultimately controls because of a full no-trade clause.

So Giancarlo Stanton either won’t accept a trade to the Boston Red Sox or the St. Louis Cardinals, or he will. That’s … confusing. But if Stanton has ruled out the Cards and the Red Sox, that makes a trade more difficult for the Marlins. They represent half of the teams that are rumored to be interested in Stanton (two-thirds if you’re not counting the Philadelphia Phillies, which you shouldn’t). That doesn’t leave much left.

But it does leave the San Francisco Giants. That doesn’t mean that Stanton would be fine with going there, but at least no one has said he doesn’t want to. (Yet.) And apparently the team has been making some progress in trade talks.

Source: Outfield prospect Heliot Ramos, #SFGiants No. 4 prospect according to @MLBPipeline is being discussed as a potential trade piece in a deal for Giancarlo Stanton. The Giants are among at least 4 teams interested in Stanton.

— Joe Frisaro (@JoeFrisaro) November 14, 2017

If they’re actually talking about a prospect by name, that means that things are getting serious. And if the rumor about Stanton not accepting a trade to St. Louis or Boston is true, that puts the Giants at an advantage.

That advantage lasted all of five hours, because a new team wants to be in the Stanton business. And the Giants aren’t going to like who it is.

The Dodgers are indeed in the mix for Giancarlo Stanton, according to a source.

— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) November 14, 2017

It was almost inevitable that the Los Angeles Dodgers would enter the race for Stanton. It makes too much sense. Despite their massive payroll (the largest in baseball), they still have money to play with, and they have prospects to move as well. That gives them a lot of flexibility to put together an attractive deal for the Marlins, who are trying to cut payroll.

It’s definitely not that simple, though. The Dodgers have a very competent offense, and Yasiel Puig and Chris Taylor already have starting jobs in the outfield. There are three players vying for the third position, including the Dodgers’ No. 2 prospect Alex Verdugo. Of course, part of the logjam could clear up if the Dodgers include Verdugo in a trade for Stanton.

Besides money and prospects, the Dodgers have another advantage: Stanton grew up a Dodgers fan. Plus, when he was on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” in late October, he gave a generous shrug when Kimmel suggested he play for the Dodgers. “If that’s where [the Marlins] want to go, then [shrug].”  That’s certainly not definitive, but it’s better than the face he made when Kimmel suggested he play for the Mets. (Stanton looked like he just smelled a dirty jock strap from a 6-month-old gym bag.)

When Stanton was on Kimmel, he gave up another interesting nugget: he had yet to speak with Derek Jeter, the new part-owner of the Marlins. That was on Oct. 24. And on Wednesday, Jeter spoke to the media on day 3 of the annual GM meetings and revealed that 22 days later, the two still hadn’t talked.

Derek Jeter said he hasn’t spoken with Giancarlo Stanton since taking over the Marlins, though president of baseball operations Michael Hill has been in contact with the slugger. “If there’s a reason to call him, I’ll call him.” Implicated a trade is not an absolute certainty.

— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) November 15, 2017

That answer from Jeter is more than a little surprising. Stanton hit 59 home runs for the Marlins in 2017, and he’s by far their best player and most valuable trade asset. Isn’t that reason enough to call him and say “Hi, I’m Derek, I’m the new part-owner of the Marlins, it’s nice to meet you?” I guess not. Jeter also said that while the team is listening to offers for Stanton, the Marlins have yet to decide if Stanton is even going to be traded.

So publicly, no one is saying anything of note. And the rumors we have all conflict with each other. Yup, it’s definitely hot stove season.

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at lizroscher@yahoo.com or follow her on twitter! Follow @lizroscher

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Author: Liz Roscher
Posted: November 15, 2017, 6:35 pm
Brad Peacock celebrated the Astros’ World Series Championship by taking his wife to see the Backstreet Boys in concert, and they both had a ball. (AP Photo)

It’s been two weeks since the Houston Astros earned their World Series championship, and members of the team are still celebrating the club’s first ever title. Players have made stops at Disney World, “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “Saturday Night Live” and Houston Texans and Houston Rockets games. It’s been a non-stop thrill ride.

[Yahoo Store: Get your Houston Astros World Series championship gear right here!]

Let’s check in with Game 3 savior Brad Peacock. Where did he decide to celebrate this past weekend?

Shoutout to @astros @BradPeacock41 for celebrating with us at #BSBVegas this weekend! Here’s to your big win! pic.twitter.com/Kzq730ppHY

— backstreetboys (@backstreetboys) November 13, 2017

That’s right: A BACKSTREET BOYS CONCERT. Peacock and his wife flew to Las Vegas to see their show. And as you can tell, the Backstreet Boys knew that Peacock and his wife would be there. That led to this treasure of a photo.

Thank you to the @backstreetboys for everything this weekend and for making my wife’s dream come true! pic.twitter.com/HkFo9XzIUf

— Brad Peacock (@BradPeacock41) November 14, 2017

There is nothing not to love about this. First, Peacock’s tweet tells us that seeing the Backstreet Boys in concert is one of his wife’s dreams, so brownie points to him. And then you get to the actual photo, which looks to be after the concert. At least I hope it is, because otherwise why are they wearing outfits that look like weird, futuristic medical scrubs? And if you’re having trouble locating Peacock himself in the photo, that’s because he eerily blends in with the rest of the band. Put him in one of those white suits and he could be the sixth Backstreet Boy.

The Backstreet Boys were clearly thrilled to have Peacock there, and for good reason: they rooted for the Astros in the World Series. They even shouted out the Astros and Jose Altuve before Game 6.

Thanks for the support @backstreetboys … Let’s make it happen My Favorites #worldseries

A post shared by Jose Altuve (@josealtuve27) on Oct 31, 2017 at 1:26pm PDT

Now all that’s left is for the Backstreet Boys to rewrite one of their songs as an Astros celebration anthem. I’m sure the lyrics to “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” or “Larger Than Life” could be changed to fit the Astros. Just not “I Want It That Way.”

The best video to ever hit the Internet #Htown #backstreetboys #ShowStros @josealtuve27 @mikefbaby54

A post shared by Lance McCullers Jr. (@lancemccullers43) on Jul 18, 2016 at 3:41pm PDT

That one belongs to Jose Altuve.

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at lizroscher@yahoo.com or follow her on twitter! Follow @lizroscher

Author: Liz Roscher
Posted: November 15, 2017, 4:03 pm
Torey Lovullo and Paul Molitor won the 2017 Manager of the Year awards. (AP)

They say the Manager of the Year award, for better or worse, usually goes to the manager whose team most surpassed expectations. That was certainly the case in 2017 as Paul Molitor of the Minnesota Twins and Torey Lovullo of the Arizona Diamondbacks each won the award for the first time after guiding their teams to huge turnarounds.

Between them, the Twins and D-backs lost 196 games in 2016 — and in 2017, both clubs made the postseason. The Twins were more of a surprise than the D-backs, but both accomplishments were good enough to earn Manager of the Year awards for Molitor and Lovullo.

The second day of Major League Baseball’s postseason awards held a lot more mystery than the first, as all six Manager of the Year finalists had legit cases for winning. There was no sure-thing like when Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger won the Rookie of the Year awards.

In the NL, Lovullo, the first-year D-backs skipper, was honored for turning a 93-loss, fourth-place team into to a 93-win postseason team in just one season. In the AL, Molitor was praised for guiding the Minnesota Twins to a postseason spot after losing 103 games in 2016.

Lovullo earned 18 of 30 first-place votes cast by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts finished second. Colorado Rockies manager Bud Black finished third. Craig Counsell of the Milwaukee Brewers finished fourth and Dusty Baker, who was fired by the Washington Nationals, finished fifth.

Molitor earned 18 of 30 first-place votes. Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona finished second. Houston Astros skipper A.J. Hinch finished third. Joe Girardi, who wasn’t brought back by the Yankees, finished fourth. Here are the standings in each race. The individual ballots are available on the BBWAA site.

(BBWAA)
(BBWAA)

Lovullo, 52, made the most of his first season as a big-league manager, taking that D-backs team that underachieved so much in 2016 and helping it realize its potential. The D-backs finished second in the NL West, but made the postseason as a wild-card team.

This win by Lovullo means that a first-year manager has won a Manager of the Year award the past four seasons.

Molitor, 61, already put his name in the record books this year because his Twins team was the first to ever go from a 100-loss season to the playoffs the next season. Nobody expected a postseason berth for the Twins — perhaps not even their front office, because they were sellers at the trade deadline. Turns out it was enough to give Molitor this award too.

By winning, Molitor is now just the second person in baseball history to make the Hall of Fame as a player and win the Manager of the Year award.

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @MikeOz

Author: Mike Oz
Posted: November 14, 2017, 11:52 pm

The Cy Young is where baseball’s year-end awards really start to get fun. The Rookies of the Year were no-brainers. Manager of the Year doesn’t hold the same weight. And in the Cy Young vote this year, we have six great finalists in both leagues and no sure-thing winners.

In both the AL and NL, we have very close races between the top two pitchers, with different stats favoriting different hurlers — so it’s no sure thing which way the vote could swing.

In the AL, with apologies of Luis Severino, it’s a tight race between Chris Sale and Corey Kluber, who were both great in different ways. In the NL, all three finalists were excellent, but Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer seem to have an edge on Stephen Strasburg. Kershaw vs. Scherzer will be tight too, with one of them adding to their already ample trophy case.

As always, we should remind you that voting for these awards happened at the end of the regular season, so postseason performance isn’t included. Save your Kershaw jokes there, because excluding the postseason actually helped a few of these guys.

And now, here’s our rundown of the six finalists. The awards will be handed at 6 p.m. Wednesday on MLB Network, as the Baseball Writers Association of America reveals the results.

Chris Sale delivered after being traded to Boston. (AP)
Chris Sale delivered after being traded to Boston. (AP)

AMERICAN LEAGUE
Chris Sale – Boston Red Sox
In brief: Sale came to the Red Sox after a winter trade from the White Sox and fulfilled every bit of hype that surrounded the deal. Sale immediately became the Red Sox’s ace — and it’s a good thing he was there with Rick Porcello taking a step back and David Price being injured. Sale was 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA, a similar version of what we’d seen from him in Chicago — which is to say dominant and great — just with a better team behind him.

Case for: A vote for Sale is a vote for two things — strikeouts and Wins Above Replacement. His 308 strikeouts led all of MLB, likewise his 12.93 K/9 ratio was the best in baseball. According to Fangraphs’ WAR, Sale was the most valuable pitcher in MLB this season. His 7.7 WAR was second to only Aaron Judge in all of MLB. Both sound like great points on a Cy Young résumé.

Case against: Sale looked like a sure-thing Cy Young for most of the season, but as he got closer to the finish line, things got a little less sure. His final two months of the season were rough by Sale’s standards. He still finished with a sub-three ERA, but it went from 2.37 at the end of July to 2.90 at the end of the season. He had a 4.38 ERA in August and was only slightly better in September, 3.72. He was 4-4 in his final 11 games.

Corey Kluber's fantastic second half makes him a Cy Young favorite. (AP)
Corey Kluber’s fantastic second half makes him a Cy Young favorite. (AP)

Corey Kluber – Cleveland Indians
In brief: Kluber is looking for his second Cy Young, having won it in 2014. The Indians ace — 18-4 with a 2.25 ERA — was every bit as good in 2017 as he was then, making for a tight Cy Young race between him and Sale. Their stories are a little different. Kluber was good but not great early, but really turned it on at the end of the season, while Sale trailed off.

Case for: Kluber’s 2.25 ERA was the best among MLB starters in 2017 and that alone makes him a strong choice here. But it was really Kluber’s work in the second half, as the Indians accelerated past the rest of the AL Central that makes his case. He was 11-1 after the All-Star break with a 1.79 ERA, which was a full run lower than his first-half ERA, a still-very-good 2.80. He was also tied for the AL lead in wins (18) and complete games (5).

Case against: If we’re simply looking at this as Sale vs. Kluber, which is the right way to look at it, then the stats that hurt Kluber’s case are strikeouts (he had 265, so Sale bested him by 43), innings pitched (203.2 vs. Sale’s 214.1) and WAR (7.3 compared to Sale’s 7.7). It’s really a matter of what stats a voter values more.

Yankees pitcher Luis Severino had a breakout season after a disappointing 2016. (AP)
Yankees pitcher Luis Severino had a breakout season after a disappointing 2016. (AP)

Luis Severino – New York Yankees
In brief: Severino is the young gun of this pack and deserves credit for turning a disappointing 2016 season into a much-needed breakout season in 2017 for the Yankees. He assumed the role of staff ace at just 23, going 14-6 with with a 2.98 ERA.

Case for: A first-place Cy Young vote for Severino is, well, pretty tough to justify statistically. He might be the best story of the bunch, going from 3-8 with a 5.83 ERA in 2016 to a front-line starter in 2017. But a vote for that would be a vote based on emotion, and that’s not how these awards are supposed to work.

Case against: Severino doesn’t rank with Sale and Kluber in very many categories. He’s fourth-best in the AL in strikeouts, third-best in ERA and didn’t crack 200 innings. It was a great season, no doubt, but didn’t quite measure up to the others in the top three.

Can Clayton Kershaw win his fourth Cy Young? (AP)
Can Clayton Kershaw win his fourth Cy Young? (AP)

NATIONAL LEAGUE
Clayton Kershaw – Los Angeles Dodgers
In brief: The Dodgers ace has three of these Cy Young awards already and making it four isn’t a sure thing. Kershaw had another stellar season, going 18-4 with a 2.31 ERA. Were Kershaw to win another, he’d enter hallowed ground as just the fifth pitcher to win four. Also on that list: Greg Maddux (4), Steve Carlton (4), Randy Johnson (5) and Roger Clemens (7).

Case for: Kershaw has two stats in his favor — wins, because his 18 led the NL, and ERA, because his 2.31 was also the best in the NL. Kershaw’s ERA is better than Scherzer’s by .20 and that’s two more wins than Scherzer (if you care about pitcher wins, that is).

Case against: The true case against Kershaw is the workload. He only made 27 starts, since he missed all of August because of injury. As such, he doesn’t measure up in innings (175) and strikeouts (202). If a Cy Young can be won on wins and ERA alone, then Kershaw might have a chance here.

Max Scherzer is looking to win back-to-back Cy Young awards. (AP)
Max Scherzer is looking to win back-to-back Cy Young awards. (AP)

Max Scherzer – Washington Nationals
In brief: Scherzer is the reigning Cy Young winner and seems to have the best odds to repeat. He had another stellar season at the front of the Nats’ rotation, going 16-6 with a 2.51 ERA. His two complete games were also tied for most in NL. A win here would be Scherzer’s third Cy Young, a feat only nine players have accomplished.

Case for: Scherzer was great across the board. His 268 strikeouts were the most in the NL. His 200.2 innings pitched were tops among the three finalists. His 2.51 ERA wasn’t as good as Kershaw’s, but it was the third-best in MLB, so still excellent. There’s no real knock on Scherzer’s season. The real separator between Scherzer and the others here is innings pitched. He topped the all-important 200-innings threshold while neither Kershaw nor Strasburg did.

Case against: While there’s no solid case against Scherzer, it’s all a matter of degrees. If a certain voter really values ERA or wins, then he or she might pick Kershaw over Scherzer.

Stephen Strasburg finally had a great season in the big leagues and is a Cy Young finalist for it. (AP)
Stephen Strasburg finally had a great season in the big leagues and is a Cy Young finalist for it. (AP)

Stephen Strasburg – Washington Nationals
In brief: In 2017, Strasburg finally produced like the ace that he’s been hyped as for years. He’s always been good, but in 2017, Strasburg had the best season of his big-league career. That wasn’t just about production in the right categories — he was 15-4 with a 2.52 ERA — but he also made 28 starts and logged 175.1 innings. Strasburg, 29, has been limited by injuries through much of his career. He was injured for a spell this year too, but he managed to put together his most complete and most effective season to date.

Case for: The best stat in Strasburg’s advantage here is how few homers he allowed compared to everyone else. His 0.67 homers-per-nine inning was the best in the majors and significantly better than both Scherzer (0.99) and Kershaw (1.18).

Case against: Homers-allowed is the most important thing in Strasburg’s favor, because in most every other meaningful stat he’s bested by Kershaw and Scherzer. Like Kershaw, Strasburg’s 175.1 innings don’t measure up to Scherzer. His ERA is only a tick behind Scherzer (2.52 to 2.51), but it’s still not as good. It was a great season for Strasburg, it just doesn’t look great enough.

OUR PICKS
Chris Cwik:
AL:
 Kluber – The ERA difference was enough for me to go with Kluber despite Sale’s slight innings lead and strong strikeout total. Kluber’s ERA+ was 202. The league-average is 100.

NL: Scherzer – With all other stats being pretty even, Scherzer gets the nod for me based on his higher innings total.

Mike Oz:
AL:
 Kluber – Kluber’s strong finish is what makes him my pick. Sale isn’t a bad choice, but his team was playing meaningful games until the end and he struggled in some of them.

NL: Scherzer – The innings matter here. Scherzer giving his team a full season while Kershaw missed a month is a big deal even though the Dodgers were able to survive without Kershaw. Give me Max.

Liz Roscher:
AL
: Sale – It’s hard to believe that Sale hasn’t won a Cy Young yet. Hopefully this is the year that corrects this grievous error.

NL: Kershaw – Kershaw’s missed starts don’t matter to me. He’s too good for that to matter.

Mark Townsend:
AL:
 Kluber – If you look close enough you’ll realize Kluber bettered his Cy Young season from 2014. I didn’t think that was possible, but Klubot proved me wrong.

NL: Kershaw – This one is pretty much a coin flip with Max Scherzer. I give Kershaw the edge because he’s MLB’s best even when he’s not entirely healthy.

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @MikeOz

Author: Mike Oz
Posted: November 14, 2017, 10:23 pm
Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins could be traded this offseason, and the price could be huge. (Getty Images)

Shohei Otani may be the most exciting free agent of this baseball offseason, but Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins is the most exciting trade possibility. With the Marlins trying to cut their payroll down to $90 million this offseason, Stanton and the nearly $300 million remaining on his contract is at the top of their “must-trade” list.

The yearly general manager meetings started on Monday, and with a few days to chat and talk deals with other clubs, how are the Marlins doing so far in their efforts to trade The Mighty Giancarlo Stanton?

Some rival execs view the Marlins’ prospect asking price for Giancarlo Stanton as shockingly high and somewhat out of touch with reality, and not discounted nearly enough given the whopping $295 million he’s owed (with the forthcoming out clause after the 2020 season).

— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) November 14, 2017

So not that great, then. “Shockingly high” aren’t words you want to hear from someone you’re trying to make a deal with.

That seems pretty discouraging, but it’s important to note that a lot of this can be optics and posturing. It’s how negotiations work. The Marlins are starting with their ideal, dreamworld package for Stanton, and they can negotiate down from there. Other teams are leaking to the media that the Marlins’ price is astronomical in the hope that the Marlins will get scared and lower the price out of the gate. The Marlins want to get as much as possible, and other teams want to give up as little as possible.

What we don’t know is the makeup of that “shockingly high” asking price. Are they asking for a huge amount of salary relief and prospects? A team isn’t going to take on a massive portion of Stanton’s enormous contract and also give up several possible future impactful players, especially since Stanton has an opt-out coming in two years.

That opt-out after the 2019 season is what’s really throwing a wrench into the works. Teams are essentially trying to trade for two guaranteed years of Stanton, with a possible option of more depending on what he wants to do. Two years of Stanton is better than two years from many other players, but it comes with a lot of risk. He had a fantastic 2017, but he spent big chunks of 2016 and 2015 injured, and there’s no guarantee that won’t happen again.

All of this may end up being completely moot, though. The Marlins can create any deal they want with whatever team they want, but it doesn’t matter unless Stanton himself wants to go there. As part of his giant contract, Stanton has full no-trade protection, meaning he can turn down any deal the Marlins present to him simply because he doesn’t want to play there.

Now the big question: what are the teams that Stanton has to choose from? Thus far, there are four in the mix.

Sources: In Giancarlo Stanton trade talks, #Marlins have had preliminary communication with #RedSox, #STLCards, #SFGiants, #Phillies. Talks expected to intensify at GM Meetings next week. @MLB @MLBNetwork

— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 11, 2017

The St. Louis Cardinals are interested, because missing the playoffs two years in a row is definitely not part of The Cardinal Way. The San Francisco Giants are also rumored to be serious about Stanton, with the team needing a major shot in the arm if they’re to avoid a slow slide to a rebuild. The Philadelphia Phillies have been connected to Stanton for years, though trading for him now makes little-to-no sense for a team that’s still at least two years away from contending. The Boston Red Sox have emerged as suitors as well, and at least that rumor makes sense: the Red Sox hit the fewest homers in all of baseball last season, and adding Stanton would fix that quickly.

There are four possible landing spots, but we have no idea which one Stanton prefers, if any. Stanton himself has said nothing about his preferences, and probably won’t in the future. The Miami Herald reported that Stanton wants to play for a winner, which knocks the Phillies out of contention (if they were ever really there to begin with). Beyond that, there’s nothing concrete.

In the end, it’ll be Stanton’s choice. It’s hard to imagine the Marlins passing up the chance to trade him, especially since there aren’t a lot of other options to shear their payroll. They’ll pick a team and hope Stanton wants to go there. If he doesn’t, the Marlins are out of luck, and when opening day 2018 comes along the Marlins team taking the field might be Giancarlo Stanton and eight mannequins.

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at lizroscher@yahoo.com or follow her on twitter! Follow @lizroscher

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Author: Liz Roscher
Posted: November 14, 2017, 6:35 pm
Former Red Sox second baseman and Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr, pictured here in 2007, died in Oregon on Monday at age 99. (AP Photo)

Bobby Doerr, legendary Boston Red Sox second baseman and member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, died on Monday at age 99. Doerr was the oldest living major leaguer and the only Hall of Famer to live to 99.

Doerr played in the majors for 14 seasons, from 1937-51, and spent all of it with the Red Sox. Doerr was the last living major leaguer to have not just debuted in the 1930s, but to have played in the 1930s at all. He was on teams with baseball greats like Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky, Jimmie Foxx and Dom DiMaggio, but among them Doerr was known as the “silent captain,” a title coined by Williams.

Out of a 14-year career, Doerr was an All-Star nine times. He had a career .288/.362/.461 triple slash, along with 381 doubles and 223 home runs. He also hit for the cycle twice in his career, and in 1948 had a span of 73 games with no errors, which was an AL record at the time. He was an elite defenseman, and according to the Associated Press, Doerr credited his skills to a childhood spent bouncing a rubber ball on the steps outside his house in Los Angeles.

Doerr led the AL in slugging in 1944 with .528, but took a year away from baseball in 1945 to enlist in the military. He returned in 1946, the year the Red Sox went to the World Series. Doerr hit .409 with a homer and three RBIs in the Fall Classic, but with the famous Babe Ruth curse still in full force (as it would be for more than a half century), the Sox came up short against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Doerr’s time on the diamond was shorter than most. He retired at 33 due to a back injury, but his career in baseball was far from over. After taking a few years off to fish, ranch cattle and meet his wife, he returned to the Red Sox as a scout in 1957. He’d hold that job for ten years, and then became Boston’s first base coach and hitting instructor until 1969. In 1977, he became the hitting coach for the Toronto Blue Jays, a job he’d hold until 1981.

Thanks to the Veterans Committee, Doerr was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986, and the Red Sox retired his No. 1 jersey in 1988. When the Red Sox opened their own Hall of Fame in 1995, Doerr was in the inaugural class. He was inducted alongside teammates Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky and Dom DiMaggio, and is considered to be the franchise’s all-time best second baseman.

Beyond retiring his jersey and inducting Doerr into their own Hall of Fame, the Red Sox organization was never shy in telling Doerr how important he was to them. In 2004, they presented Doerr with his own World Series ring, recognizing his effort in trying to end the curse in 1946.

In a news release from the Red Sox, several members of the organization had kind and thoughtful things to say about Doerr’s death, but the words of Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy reflect on Doerr’s place in the great family of baseball.

“There is something fitting about Bobby Doerr becoming the patriarch of baseball, outliving all of those he played with and against,” said Red Sox President/CEO Sam Kennedy. “Bobby was a special player, to be sure, a Hall of Famer, but he also commanded universal respect from all those fortunate enough to have crossed his path. We celebrated his return every time he came back to us here at Fenway Park, and we now mourn his passing, grateful for the wonderful memories he left.”

Doerr’s death marks the final end to a great era in baseball history. In addition to being the oldest living major leaguer and the last player from the 1930s, Doerr was one of just three living players to have debuted before World War II. As far as Red Sox history, he was the only player left who could legitimately say that he outlived the famous Red Sox curse. That’s a testament not just to his long life and great career, but to the place he earned in baseball history.

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at lizroscher@yahoo.com or follow her on twitter! Follow @lizroscher

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Author: Liz Roscher
Posted: November 14, 2017, 4:24 pm
Sammy Sosa last week in Paris and during his playing days. (AP)

There’s no lack of opinions in the baseball world about Sammy Sosa — the ex-Cubs slugger whose home-run records have been mired by performance enhancing drugs allegations for years. But Sosa is apparently even the target of criticism from the hip-hop community these days.

Sosa has mystified the baseball world in his retirement because of a startling change in his appearance. His skin has gotten A LOT whiter in recent years. Many people theorize that he’s bleached his skin. Sosa himself said in 2009 that it was the result of a skin-softening cream.

Whatever the reason, the change is quite noticeable. Take these pictures posted last week by Dominican sports journalist Franklin Mirabal that show Sosa in Paris in the days before his 49th birthday on Sunday.

Faltan 5 días para el Cumpleaños de Sammy Sosa… Aquí lo vemos desde Londres!!! pic.twitter.com/yFQSkVE0m8

— FRANKLIN MIRABAL (@Elreydelaradio) November 6, 2017

Faltan 4 días para el Gran Cumpleaños de Sammy Sosa en París!!! pic.twitter.com/gnHzn1BqWl

— FRANKLIN MIRABAL (@Elreydelaradio) November 7, 2017

For some reason, TMZ caught up with rapper T.I. and asked him to weigh in on Sosa’s pigment change. T.I. — the Atlanta-bred rapper known for hits such as “Live Your Life,” “Whatever You Like” and “What You Know” — has a take for Sosa’s transformation and it’s not “live your life, Sammy.”

“Self hate,” he told TMZ.

Maybe. Maybe it’s something else. Until Sosa opens up about it — which he may never do — we’re all just left to wonder whether there’s a true motivation behind all this. That goes for T.I., people on Twitter, you here in the comment section or anyone else, really. Sosa is the only one who truly knows.

Still, the first thing that came to mind when T.I. got brought into this conversation was the famous Dave Chappelle bit about MTV calling up Ja Rule after 9/11 to get his thoughts on things.

“Oh my God, this is terrible,” Chappelle says in his routine. “Can somebody please find Ja Rule … so I can make sense of all this.”

Well, we certainly wouldn’t mind hearing Ja’s take on Sammy Sosa.

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @MikeOz

Author: Mike Oz
Posted: November 14, 2017, 1:18 am
The 2017 Rookies of the Year: Aaron Judge of the Yankees and Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers. (AP)

There wasn’t much drama to be had in this year’s Rookie of the Year awards in baseball. We knew the American League award would go to the New York Yankees’ home-run swatting star Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger of the Los Angeles Dodgers would take home the NL award. The question was whether both would be unanimous.

The answer: Yes.

That was confirmed Monday, as the Baseball Writers Association of America revealed the winners and the ballots. Judge and his rookie record 52 homers were unanimous. So were Bellinger and NL rookie record 39 homers. It’s the first time in 20 years that both Rookie of the Year winners were unanimous and fourth time it’s happened in MLB history.

With Judge in first place, Andrew Benintendi of the Boston Red Sox finished second with 23 second-place votes and Trey Mancini of the Baltimore Orioles finished third with five second-place votes. Matt Olsen of the Oakland Athletics finished fourth and Yuli Gurriel of the Houston Astros finished fifth.

In the NL, Paul DeJong of the St. Louis Cardinals finished second with 15 second-place votes and Josh Bell of the Pittsburgh Pirates finished third with 10 second-place votes. Rhys Hoskins of the Philadelphia Phillies finished fourth and German Marquez of the Colorado Rockies finished fifth.

At least the voting could provide some drama, because Judge and Bellinger had their respective awards all sewn up by July 1, as both of them homered at historic rates and played big parts in their teams’ success.

Judge, 25, was the biggest no-brainer of any awards category this year. He broke the rookie home run record by blasting 52 of them. He hit 284/.422/.627 on the season and is a strong finalist for the MVP award too. He was an integral part of the Yankees’ surprising run to the postseason in 2017. So Judge not winning this award would have been the most dumbfounding thing to happen in sports this decade.

You can knock Judge for his strikeouts, which were plentiful and record-setting in a different way, and his post-All Star game slump, which got pretty ugly around August. But his September was a return to form, hitting 15 homers with 32 RBIs and helping the Yankees to the postseason. Now that it’s official, Judge is the ninth Yankees player to win the Rookie of the Year award and second to win it unanimously. Derek Jeter was the other. Not bad company.

Bellinger, 22, gives the Dodgers back-to-back Rookie of the Year winners, following Corey Seager’s award in 2016. Like Seager, Bellinger wasn’t even a question. His 39 homers set an NL rookie record. That they came in just 132 games is even more impressive. Bellinger also hit .267/.352/.581 for the Dodgers and played above-average defense.

Like Judge, Bellinger struck out a good amount — enough to earn some critics, but not nearly enough to consider giving this award to anyone else. Now Bellinger is the 18th Dodgers player (no, that’s not a typo) to win Rookie of the Year, including Jackie Robinson, for whom the award is named.

Here’s a look at the full rundown of AL and NL Rookie of the Year vote-getters:

(BBWAA)
(BBWAA)

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @MikeOz

Author: Mike Oz
Posted: November 13, 2017, 11:51 pm

Award season is back again. If the World Series serves as the official end of the baseball season, then this week is our last good chance to reflect on the 2017 season and to honor those who produced, or in this case, directed at an elite level.

Youth will be served Monday night with the announcement of MLB’s top rookies from the American and National League. On Tuesday, our attention shifts to the dugout generals, as the Baseball Writers Associated of American reveals its choices for Manager of the Year.

This year’s group of finalists boast a pair of former winners in Terry Francona of the Cleveland Indians and Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Both are actually looking to make it two in a row after taking home the award in 2016.

The AL is rounded out by A.J. Hinch of the Houston Astros, who led his team to its second ever 100-win season, and Paul Molitor, who oversaw an improbable and historic Twins return to the postseason. In the NL, it’s all about the wild, wild West. Rookie skipper Torey Lovullo of the Arizona Diamondbacks and veteran Bud Black of the Colorado Rockies join Roberts. Both engineered the end of nearly a decade-long postseason drought.

That’s just a quick rundown of the names to know. Now here’s a breakdown of the three finalists in each league to help set the stage for what should be an unpredictable unveiling. The winners will be announced Tuesday in an MLB Network special that begins at 6 p.m. ET. It’s worth remembering: The voting took place at the end of the regular season.

Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona is two-time World Series winner and two-time AL Manager of the Year. (AP)

American League
Terry Francona — Cleveland Indians
In brief: Francona is a two-time World Series champion as manager of the Boston Red Sox (2004 and 2007) and a two-time Manager of the Year winner. Oddly, both awards have come during his Cleveland tenure. Francona won in his first season with the Indians in 2013 and then again in 2016. Now he’s back in the mix after leading the franchise to its first 100-win season since 1995. Francona could become the first back-to-back winner since Bobby Cox in 2004 and 2005.

Case for: The Indians came into the season with their highest expectations since dominating the American League in the late ’90s. They also came in off the disappointment of blowing a 3-1 lead in the World Series. There was no appearance of added pressure or a hangover. Francona kept his squad sharp, level-headed and ultimately successful.

Case against: The Indians did what they were supposed to do. With a more talented roster than the one that went to the World Series in 2016, the Indians dominated a division that lacked a true threat to their crown. It might not be fair, but there’s a good chance some voters held those expectations against him.

Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch oversaw the franchise’s second 100-win season. (AP)

A.J. Hinch — Houston Astros
In brief: Though never considered to be in the hot seat, 2017 was an important season for Hinch. After lasting less than two seasons as Diamondbacks manager, and after his Astros surprisingly missed the postseason in 2016, Hinch needed a bounce-back season to cement his position. Boy, did he get it. The Astros finished with their second 100-win season in franchise history. And though it won’t factor into this vote, he would ultimately manage Houston to the World Series championship.

Case for: It will go overlooked, but the Astros battled through tough injuries this season. George Springer, Carlos Correa, Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers Jr., just to name a few, were lost for long stretches with injuries. The Astros never wavered, maintaining control of a deeper AL West all season long.

Case against: Like Francona, Hinch could be judged a little tougher because he was working with a roster that was masterfully crafted throughout the team’s rebuild. The Astros were supposed to be contenders in 2017. It’s not necessarily fair that could be held against him, but again, it’s part of the process.

Paul Molitor’s Minnesota Twins went from 103 losses to a wild-card team. (AP)

Paul Molitor — Minnesota Twins
In brief: In his third season as Twins manager, Paul Molitor oversaw a historic turnaround. After losing 103 games in 2016, the Twins became the first team to follow a 100-loss season with a postseason appearance. Overall, Molitor is 227-259 as Minnesota’s manager, but has posted winning records in two of three seasons.

Case for: Leading Minnesota to its first postseason appearance since 2010 is a pretty big deal. Doing it on the heels of such disappointment one year prior takes it to another level. The Twins probably weren’t one of baseball’s 10 best teams in 2017 from a talent standpoint, but they were definitely one of the best feel-good stories.

Case against: It’s possible we’re overvaluing the Twins turnaround based on how poorly 2016 went for them. Remember, they were an 83-win team in 2015 and expectations were high in 2016. They were a difficult team to read coming into the season, so it’s tough to say if they truly overachieved.

New Colorado Rockies skipper Bud Black adapted well to managing at Coors Field. (AP)
New Colorado Rockies skipper Bud Black adapted well to managing at Coors Field. (AP)

National League
Bud Black — Colorado Rockies
In brief: In his first season with the Rockies, Bud Black cemented his position among the league’s best managers by leading them back to the postseason for the first time since 2009. It was Black’s third winning season in 10 as a manager. The first nine years were spent with a sputtering Padres team. Now that he has talent to work with, Black is shining.

Case for: Managing 81 games a year at Coors Field is not for everyone. Just ask Jim Leyland. Black, perhaps better than anyone in franchise history, navigated his first season in Denver very well. It helped that he had the most talented rotation in franchise history to work with. Then again, some would say he’s responsible for getting the most from them.

Case against: As successful as the Rockies’ season was, they still finished third in their division. That’s a tough hump to get over in a competitive field. Though they held a postseason spot for the entire season, Colorado looked tired as it limped to the finish.

Rookie manager Torey Lovullo led the Diamondbacks back to the postseason. (AP)

Torey Lovullo — Arizona Diamondbacks
In brief: The rookie manager immediately injected new life into a Diamondbacks team that had seemingly stagnated under the previous regime. Arizona finished with the NL’s second best record (93-69) behind the Dodgers. The impressive season included a 13-game winning streak that featured home and away sweeps of those Dodgers. Not to mention the D-Backs reached the postseason for the first time since 2010.

Case for: Lovullo proved to be a perfect fit in his first season in Arizona. Under his watch, several key players took big steps forward. Most notably, pitchers Robbie Ray, Taijuan Walker and Zack Godley. The Diamondbacks 24-win improvement was second only to Moiltor’s Twins. With or without this award, it’s clear Arizona hired the right man for the job.

Case against: Lovullo lacked polish as an in-game manager, which is something that will improve with experience. What he lacked in that regard though was more than made up in other areas. The Diamondbacks already had an elite offense led by MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt. That could be viewed as the true driving force behind Arizona’s success.

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has started his career with two NL West championships. (AP)

Dave Roberts — Los Angeles Dodgers
In brief: The second-year skipper is keeping the Dodgers NL West dominance going. Roberts is two-for-two winning the division, extending the team’s streak to five straight division titles. After winning a league-best 104 games in 2017, Roberts record is remarkable 195-129. Like Francona, he’s looking to make history with back-to-back Manager of the Year wins.

Case for: For awhile the Dodgers were on pace to challenge the Mariners single-season win record of 116. They settled for 104. Considering the NL West boasted three playoff teams and three candidates in this category, no one could possibly question how good a job Roberts has done. He’s helped mold a talented team that at times seemed to be coasting into a relentless force.

Case against: Did anyone expect 104 wins? Probably not. But the Dodgers success was more expected than that of Arizona or Colorado. That’s the biggest thing that could work against Roberts. It may also be the only thing.

OUR PICKS
Chris Cwik
AL: Paul Molitor – If you take a team that lost 103 games the previous season to the playoffs, you deserve this award.

NL: Torey Lovullo – He oversaw a complete revamp of the franchise. Not just on the field, but in the clubhouse as well.

Mike Oz
AL: Paul Molitor — Considering he could have been on the hot seat entering this season, Molitor deserves credit for turning things around in Minnesota.

NL: Torey Lovullo — From 69-93 to 93-69? With a first-year manager? That’s enough for me.

Liz Roscher
AL: Paul Molitor – I’m a sucker for a worst-to-first story. 103 losses to a wild-card berth? It’s the stuff movies are made of. Molitor earned this.

NL: Torey Lovullo – The Diamondbacks are another bad-to-good story, and I am on board. Lovullo’s Diamondbacks played like different team. They were irresistible and fun, and that’s the best kind of baseball.

Mark Townsend
AL: A.J. HinchHinch gets the edge because the Astros remained steady all season despite injuries and extremely high expectations.

NL: Dave Roberts – Even with the Dodgers crazy depth, you can’t look past 104 wins.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: November 13, 2017, 10:28 pm
Adrian Gonzalez and the Dodgers will play a regular-season series in Mexico this season. (AP)
Adrian Gonzalez and the Dodgers will play a regular-season series in Mexico this season. (AP)

For the first time since 1999, Major League Baseball will play regular-season games in Mexico in 2018, the league announced Monday. The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres will meet in a three-game series in Monterrey, Mexico from May 4-7 at Estadio de Béisbol Monterrey.

MLB has made expansion out of the U.S. a priority in recent years, and while this isn’t as drastic as playing in Australia, for instance, it’s still a departure from baseball’s norm. MLB teams last played in Mexico in 2016, but that was the Padres and Astros playing exhibition games in Mexico City.

The Padres were also part of the 1999 International Opening Day, which was the last time regular-season games were played in Mexico. In all, this will be the third time the Padres have played in Monterrey. The Dodgers last played internationally in 2014, when they met the Arizona Diamondbacks in Australia.

Execs and players from both teams expressed their excitement about playing in Mexico, including the Dodgers’ Adrian Gonzalez, who is the most successful Mexican-bred MLB player in recent history:

“As a team with a bi-national fan base and reach that extends into Baja California and throughout Mexico, we are excited to once again play regular season games in Monterrey and help grow the popularity of our great game,” said Padres COO Erik Greupner. “Baseball fans in Mexico are passionate about the game and we look forward to deepening our connection with them.”

“The Dodgers are excited and extremely proud to be returning to Mexico as a team for the fourth time in our history,” Dodger President and CEO Stan Kasten said. “These games will also mark the first time that the Dodgers are playing regular season contests in Mexico, something long overdue, given our rich player history and strong community ties to the country. The Dodgers have always been at the forefront of growing the game of baseball internationally and this trip reinforces this commitment, while at the same time giving our many fans in Mexico a chance to see us compete.”

“I’m extremely excited about returning home to Mexico to play a series against my former team, the Padres,” said Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. Born in the U.S. and raised in Tijuana, Mexico, Adrian added, “This series will be memorable for all involved, as we visit Monterrey to repay the baseball fans in Mexico for their never-ending support of the game we all love.”

“We look forward to playing in Mexico in front of some of the most passionate and knowledgeable baseball fans in the world. Both teams have a strong following south of the border and we anticipate a very warm and spirited reception when we visit Monterrey,” said Padres first baseman Wil Myers.

Gonzalez’s involvement will hinge on him still being a member of the Dodgers. He’s under contract until the end of 2018, but injuries kept him sidelined at the end of the 2017 season. He wasn’t on the Dodgers’ postseason roster and even left the team for a while to help his wife move to Italy. So his spot in a May 2018 series — even if it’s in his home country — isn’t exactly a sure thing.

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @MikeOz

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Author: Mike Oz
Posted: November 13, 2017, 10:13 pm
Royals manager Ned Yost said he could have died after fall from a tree last week. (AP)
Royals manager Ned Yost said he could have died after fall from a tree last week. (AP)

Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost was in a lot of pain last week when he was fixing a deer stand at his home in Georgia and fell from a tree. Yost broke his pelvis and some ribs in the fall, but we’re learning now that doctors and even Yost himself feared it was going to be much worse. Perhaps even fatal.

Yost said if he didn’t have his cellphone and wasn’t able to call for help, he could have bled out. Later, a surgeon told Yost a number of people have died from similar falls.

Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com talked to Yost on Monday, who described everything that happened after the fall. If you thought this was “Man falls out of tree and hurt himself,” it was a lot more serious:

Ned Yost is back at home after his horrific fall that shattered his pelvis. He told me, “There’s no doubt I would have bled out if I didn’t have my cellphone with me. There was nobody that was coming. Nobody would have found me. I would have been dead by nightfall.”

— Jeffrey Flanagan (@FlannyMLB) November 13, 2017

Ned Yost also told me, “The trauma surgeon said, ‘Man, Ned, I was really scared about you. We’ve seen these things before – this is a 25-30 percent mortality rate. You were crashing on the table. We couldn’t get the bleeding stopped. I thought we were going to lose you.'”

— Jeffrey Flanagan (@FlannyMLB) November 13, 2017

Ned Yost also said he will be in a wheelchair for at least two months but hopes to be able to move around normally by Spring Training. He tells me he feels “like a lucky man” right now.

— Jeffrey Flanagan (@FlannyMLB) November 13, 2017

That’s pretty brutal. Yost, 63, is an avid outdoorsman and hunter, so we can assume it wasn’t his first go-round with a deer stand. Reports at the time said the deer stand just gave way as Yost was working on it.

Hurray for cellphones — and for Yost being all right.

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @MikeOz

More from Yahoo Sports:
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Author: Mike Oz
Posted: November 13, 2017, 7:01 pm
Carlos Beltran in December 2016 after signing a one-year contract with the Astros that would bring him the crown jewel of his career: a World Series victory. (AP Photo)

Most fans knew this news would be coming, and on Monday it became official: After 20 years in the big leagues, outfielder and designated hitter Carlos Beltran is hanging it up and retiring from the game. He announced his decision on The Players’ Tribune, in a beautiful piece that recalls his long career and the meaningful moments that stood out to him.

[Yahoo Store: Get your Houston Astros World Series championship gear right here!]

Beltran, 40, is a native of Puerto Rico, and broke through to the majors with the Kansas City Royals in 1998, winning Rookie of the Year honors in 1999. He played for seven different teams throughout his career, but had never won a World Series — until he did this year with the Houston Astros. He did have a few close calls, though. He got close in 2013 with the St. Louis Cardinals, and with the New York Mets in 2006.

To win your first World Series in a long career and then retire, it’s a storybook ending to a Hall of Fame career. And it’s one that Beltran was ready for. When Beltran spoke to Yahoo Sports after Game 7 of the World Series, he didn’t explicitly say that he was going to retire, but he admitted that as a 40-year-old designated hitter, his options were limited. As far as making the choice to lay down his glove and bat, he said, “I don’t think it’s gonna be a hard one after winning a World Series.”

But Beltran isn’t ready to leave baseball. He may be done as a player, but he’s got more to give to the game. He’s open to coming back as a coach, and even wants to manage a team someday. In fact, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow has said that having Beltran around this season was like having a player-coach on staff.

Beltran retires with a lifetime .279/.350/.486 triple slash, which includes 2,725 hits, 565 doubles and 435 home runs. He played 2,586 regular season games in the majors, and until he won that World Series, he was one of just three players with more than 2,500 games and no ring.

Enjoy retirement, Carlos. We can’t wait to see what you’ll do next.

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at lizroscher@yahoo.com or follow her on twitter! Follow @lizroscher

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Author: Liz Roscher
Posted: November 13, 2017, 5:33 pm
Mookie Betts flashed a smile just like this one after he was done rolling a perfect game at the World Series of Bowling. (Getty Images)

As it happens in the playoffs, not every team could make it to the World Series. Mookie Betts and his Boston Red Sox were one of those teams. Eliminated in the American League Division Series, the Red Sox outfielder had to watch the World Series from his couch.

But Mookie Betts is getting another shot at the World Series this year. Just not in baseball.

[Yahoo Store: Get your Houston Astros World Series championship gear right here!]

Over the weekend, Betts took part in the qualifying round for the World Series of Bowling, held by the Professional Bowlers Association in Reno, Nevada. And for one game, he wasn’t just good. He wasn’t just great, either. He was perfect.

On Sunday night, Betts bowled a perfect game. In bowling, a perfect game is a 300 score, which means you get a strike (and knock down all the pins) in every single frame you bowl. And this wasn’t Betts’ first trip to the World Series of Bowling, or his first perfect game. He participated in the World Series of Bowling back in 2015, and has bowled several 300 games before.

Bowling isn’t a new hobby for Mookie — it’s always been part of his life. Betts did an interview with the Reno Gazette Journal last week, and revealed that it was his mother, Diana Benedict, who got him interested in bowling. And he takes it seriously, too. Leading up to the tournament, Betts began practicing every day to get himself up to snuff. He even set a goal for himself: he wanted to finish in the top 150.

Sadly for Mookie, his perfect game wasn’t enough to get him into the next round of the World Series of Bowling. As he mentioned in his postgame interview (on the YouTube video above), his scores during the weekend hadn’t been near that perfect game level, and he finished 158th out of 188 bowlers — just outside of his goal. But just like a true athlete (which Betts most certainly is), he told the announcers during that interview that he knows what he needs to do: keep learning, keep practicing and keep listening to his mentors. Hey, just like baseball!

– – – – – –

Liz Roscher is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at lizroscher@yahoo.com or follow her on twitter! Follow @lizroscher

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Author: Liz Roscher
Posted: November 13, 2017, 4:09 pm
Alex Anthopoulos, shown in 2015 as Blue Jays GM, will reportedly get the same post with the Braves. (The Canadian Press)
Alex Anthopoulos, shown in 2015 as Blue Jays GM, will reportedly get the same post with the Braves. (The Canadian Press)

The Atlanta Braves have reportedly made the biggest decision that’s lingering over their offseason and will hire Alex Anthopoulos as their next general manager.

Multiple outlets, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the New York Post, are reporting that the Braves have settled on Anthopoulos to lead them out of a surprising controversy that ended the reign of previous GM John Coppolella and oversee the next stage of their rebuild. Anthopoulos, 40, was the Toronto Blue Jays’ GM from 2009 to 2015, and spent the last two seasons as vice president of baseball operations for the Los Angeles Dodgers, working under Andrew Friedman.

It’s expected that the Braves will make the move official this week during the GM Meetings in Florida. The Braves had reportedly tried to lure away Dayton Moore from the Royals, since he cut his teeth in Atlanta, however the Royals wouldn’t give the Braves permission to interview Moore.

Mark Bowman of MLB.com says Anthopoulos’ role with the Braves will go beyond normal GM duties:

Confirmed Alex Anthopoulos will be named Braves GM. Though he won’t have the title, Anthopoulos will also likely handle the president of baseball ops duties

— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) November 13, 2017

The Braves’ front office has been in limbo since Oct. 2, when Coppolella was forced to resign amid an MLB investigation into his practices regarding international free agents and the draft, infractions for which the Braves as a whole are still awaiting punishment. At that time, Gordon Blakeley, the Braves’ international scouting supervisor and a special assistant to Coppolella, also resigned.

In Anthopoulos, the Braves are getting a GM who is still young and analytics-minded — and also not afraid to pull off a big trade. In his time in Toronto, he pulled the trigger on many exciting deals, including bringing Josh Donaldson, David Price and Troy Tulowitzki to Toronto near the end of his Blue Jays tenure. He also traded Roy Halladay and Vernon Wells earlier in his Toronto days.

The Braves have one of the richest farm systems in the game and a new stadium that opened in 2017, but they lost 90 games last season. In other words, Anthopoulos has lots of work ahead of him.

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @MikeOz

Author: Mike Oz
Posted: November 13, 2017, 6:09 am
The work is just getting started for determined Yankees' slugger Aaron Judge. (AP)
The work is just getting started for determined Yankees’ slugger Aaron Judge. (AP)

On Monday, New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge should be named the unanimous choice for American League Rookie of the Year. The 25-year-old slugger will have earned that award after setting numerous records, including the most notable one for a rookie. Judge’s 52 home runs topped Mark McGwire’s 49 in 1987 to make him the rookie home run king.

That accolade alone is quite impressive. But as Judge told MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch this week, he’s far from satisfied with his performance. Judge has no plans to rest on his laurels or rely on his power to carry him through his formative years and into his prime. Instead, he has visions of becoming one of baseball’s best all-around players.

Judge’s first step towards achieving that goal is his willingness to acknowledge his shortcomings. He’s had no problem doing that, most recently telling Hoch that he still sees himself as a “work in progress” in all facets of the game.

While true, this has to be a scary thing for the rest of the league to hear.

“I’m still a work in progress; there’s a lot of things I need to improve on,” Judge said. “Defensively, hitting-wise, running the bases. There’s always room to improve. That motivates me to get a little better every day.”

Judge led all AL rookies in games played, plate appearances, homers, runs, RBIs, walks, on-base percentage, wOBA (.430), wRC+ (173) and WAR (8.2), among other categories. No matter how you slice the numbers, new school or old school, he rose to the top.

The story notes that Judge joined Ted Williams as the only rookies to score at least 100 runs, drive in another 100, while collecting 100 walks.

Making that production even a bit more impressive is the fact that Judge struck out 208 times in 678 plate appearances. That included a record 37-game streak with at least one strikeout. It does not, however, include his postseason total. Judge struck out 27 times in 57 plate appearances. That set a postseason record, though one that only lasted 12 days thanks to likely National League rookie of the Year Clay Bellinger breaking it during the World Series.

The takeaway is that Judge is nearly unstoppable when he’s doing anything other than striking out. Though he doesn’t specifically mention cutting down on his whiffs while speaking to Hoch, that will undoubtedly be part of his work this winter. Then again, if he can produce at that level in spite of those strikeouts, maybe his approach isn’t one that needs to be messed with too much.

As for his non-hitting outlook, Judge played some impressive defense at times this season. He used his 6-foot-8 frame to rob more than one home run at Yankee Stadium. He also showed remarkable mobility for a man his size. The next step might be improving his first step and his reads off the bat, which would allow him to increase his range. Baseball is all about winning those small battles within the game. Even if it won’t show up in boxscores, that might be where Judge can improve his game the most.

It’s worth saying again that Judge is already an impact player. If he had the exact same season or even a slightly less productive season in 2018, few would complain. But his focus is clearly on elevating his play, which could make the Yankees most dangerous weapon even more so.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: November 12, 2017, 5:24 am
Twins prospect LaMonte Wade hospitalized after taking impact to
Twins prospect LaMonte Wade hospitalized after taking impact to “head and neck” in scary Arizona Fall League collision. (AFL)

Minnesota Twins outfield prospect LaMonte Wade was briefly hospitalized on Saturday night after being injured in a violent collision with Surprise Saguaros teammate Oscar Mercado.

According to MiLB.com’s Gerard Gilberto, Wade sustained a blow to the “head and neck area” during the Arizona Fall League’s Military Appreciation Game that left trainers and teammates concerned. It’s reported Wade never lost consciousness on the field and was able to move all extremities. Wade was stabilized and taken to a local hospital for further evaluation. Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports Wade was diagnosed with concussion-like symptoms and discharged later Saturday evening.

Wade should consider himself a lucky man. The scary scene played out during the second inning. Austin Riley of the Peoria Javelinas hit a fly ball that both outfielders had a chance at, but was a much easier play for center fielder Mercado. Replays show Mercado under the ball when Wade dives into the picture, crashing head and neck first into Mercado’s hip.

Both players remained down initially. Wade stayed down until a stretcher was brought out.

Here’s a look at the play, though we warn you again that it’s a difficult to watch.

Here’s the play. Thoughts and prayers. pic.twitter.com/kkIt5Af1xr

— Morrie Silver (@MorrieSilver8) November 12, 2017

As #Twins LaMonte Wade is carted off the field, his Saguaro teammates gather. Wade gave thumbs-up to crowd as he left. pic.twitter.com/pMXJM9Mz2V

— Griffin Fabits (@fabits_griffin) November 12, 2017

Wade is ranked as the Twins’ No. 17 prospect according to MLB Pipeline. He’s hitting .238 with two homers in 63 AFL after hitting .292/.397/.408 with seven homers in 117 games at Double-A Chattanooga.

Being sent to the AFL typically means your home club has hopes for a player contributing to the big league club sooner than later. The 23-year-old was hoping to use the AFL as a springboard to that opportunity. Hopefully, Wade will make a quick recovery so he can continue his push.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: November 12, 2017, 4:03 am

There’s not a more respected person in the city of Houston than Texans defensive end J.J. Watt. The All-Pro NFL star has become a pillar in the community. Some might even say he’s achieved iconic status after stepping up and raising over $37 million to help with Houston’s relief efforts following Hurricane Harvey.

On the sports side of things, Watt is always the first one to step up and support Houston’s other sports franchises when they find success. That relentless support of all things Houston has led him to become a part of the entire city’s extended family, which is one of the reasons why Astros star Jose Altuve wrote a heartfelt letter to thank Watt after winning the World Series.

On Friday, Watt shared that letter on Twitter.

And yes, that’s a bottle of whiskey included in Altuve’s delivery.

Much love @JoseAltuve27!!! #MVP pic.twitter.com/uEa1tLd1Ux

— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) November 10, 2017

The letter reads:

“From one H-Town brother to another, thanks for all you’ve done this year for the city we call home.”

“Your support for all things Houston – from hurricane relief, to being our number one fan – has been nothing short of incredible.”

“So I hope you’ll accept this fine whiskey gift I gave all my teammates following our championship win because to me, you’re absolutely part of the squad.”

J.J. Watt (L) and Jose Altuve hang out before an Astros exhibition game in 2013. (AP)

Watt’s relationship with the Astros dates back pretty much to the beginning of his NFL career. The Wisconsin native has been invited to take batting practice with the Astros several times in the past, and has actually looked the part of a George Springer-like slugger. Watt’s power and athleticism is evident in everything he does.

Unfortunately, Watt is currently recovering from a broken leg that ended his season on the football field. But that didn’t stop him from throwing out the first pitch at World Series Game 3 in Houston. With the assistance of a crutch, Watt took the field and brought the house down.

It was a cool sight to see, and it obviously meant a lot to the Astros to have Watt there. Altuve’s classy gesture echoes that, while further cementing an already strong relationship between two of Houston’s biggest heroes.

BLS H/N: For The Win

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: November 12, 2017, 1:06 am
Former MLB pitcher Josh Beckett was arrested early Saturday after tackling a country music singer at an open mic night in Texas. (AP)
Former MLB pitcher Josh Beckett was arrested early Saturday after tackling a country music singer at an open mic night in Texas. (AP)

Former MLB pitcher Josh Beckett was arrested early Saturday after he allegedly charged the stage and tackled a country singer while his band was performing at an open mic night at a Texas country club.

According to TMZ, the 37-year-old Beckett was arrested and charged with public intoxication. Upon their arrival on the scene, officers determined Beckett to be a danger to himself and those around him.

Beckett reportedly admitted to stage diving in the police report. His lawyer told TMZ that his client was simply engaging in “horseplay” when the incident occurred.

TMZ posted a photo of a blurred figure, reported to be Beckett, just before tackling the singer. The photo shows Beckett airborne while other band members looked on.

@MikeTaylorShow Josh Beckett can play for Rod Marinelli. That’s a hell of a tackle on that country singer haha pic.twitter.com/dDvU8mdoja

— L.J. in Laredo (@LJinLaredo) November 11, 2017

That photo indicates a rather aggressive form of horseplay.

Not helping Beckett’s case in the band’s singer reported multiple injuries resulting from the incident. Those include torn rotator cuff and dislocated shoulder. Beckett reportedly banged his knee on a speaker during the alleged incident.

Beckett last pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2014. In one of his final outings on May 25, Beckett pitched the first and only no-hitter of his career against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Beckett also pitched for the then Florida Marlins and Boston Red Sox, leading both to World Series championships in 2003 and 2007 respectively.

Saturday’s incident remains under investigation.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: November 11, 2017, 7:54 pm
Japan star Shohei Otani confirms his intentions to compete in MLB. (AP)

It’s only a matter of time now before Shohei Otani is under contract to a Major League Baseball team. The Babe Ruth of Japan, as he’s widely known for his ability to pitch and hit at the highest level, will be posted this winter, the Nippon Ham Fighters announced this week. That means MLB teams will have a chance to sign a potential instant impact player, and for well below his presumed market value thanks to MLB’s international bonus pool restrictions.

Before that process begins though, Otani took some time to meet with the media in Japan early Saturday morning to confirm his intentions to compete in MLB, to discuss his motivation for pursuing this opportunity and to lay out his overall goals.

Among the topics most frequently asked about was Otani’s ability as a two-way player. The prevailing thought is that MLB teams will want him to focus on either pitching or hitting,  with his pitching ability being considered most attractive. As for Otani’s perspective, he’s on record now saying he’d like to continue doing both in MLB, but he also says he’ll listen to what each team has to say on the matter.

About playing both ways: Ohtani says he will listen to MLB have to say.

— Dylan Hernandez (@dylanohernandez) November 11, 2017

Whether Otani remains a two-way player full-time or even part-time is as big a part of the intrigue here as where he actually signs. Since money isn’t going to be the biggest factor here, perhaps there will be more flexibility on both sides to compromise on a role that makes Otani happy and allows the team to evaluate him on both sides.

Another factor, at least initially, could be Otani’s health. Playing through an ankle injury that required October surgery, the 23-year-old Otani still won the Pacific League MVP after posting a 3-2 record with a 3.20 ERA this year. At the plate he hit. 332 with eight homers and 31 RBIs in 65 games.

Despite the award, the injury clearly hurt his numbers. Whichever team signs him will want to keep him effective over a 162-game schedule, so it’s difficult to envision more than one role at least early on. The good news is he’s expected to be healthy in time for the new season, but again probably not to the point where he’d be used four or five times a week.

The other big takeaway from Otani’s media gathering was his humility. It’s not a surprise given previous reports from those who know him best, but it really came through in one response in particular.

Ohtani on whom he would like to face in MLB: “I don’t think I’m good enough to be calling out anyone.”

— Dylan Hernandez (@dylanohernandez) November 11, 2017

Despite his desires to be a two-way player, he’s not likely to make a fuss one way or the other way. He knows he’ll have to earn his opportunity and role, whether that leads him to facing the Bryce Harper’s and Mike Trout’s of MLB, or even the Clayton Kershaw’s and Justin Verlander’s.

Here’s another glimpse into Otani’s humble personality.

Ohtani thanked everyone imaginable, including his family dog “Ace,” who recently died.

— Dylan Hernandez (@dylanohernandez) November 11, 2017

We can already tell Otani will be impossible to dislike. We just can’t wait to see his remarkable talent on display.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: November 11, 2017, 5:24 pm

For 56 years the most difficult challenge the Houston Astros faced was winning the World Series. Now that they’ve done it, the next biggest challenge will apparently be keeping the Commissioner’s Trophy in one piece.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the championship trophy took a hard fall at the men’s gala charity event on Wednesday night at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. Astros owner Jim Crane brought the trophy so that attendees could catch a glimpse, but apparently one person tried to get a little too close. That led to the table collapsing and several of the trophy’s flags being bent.

The trophy was quickly returned to its place and the event continued without any acknowledgment of the damage. The museum has since released a statement explaining what happened, while noting the trophy was restored to its original form before the night was over.

“Mr. James Crane, principal owner of the Houston Astros, brought the World Series Trophy to the Museum’s annual fundraiser, ‘One Great Night in November.’

“The trophy was set on a table, and guests were invited to be photographed with it. Later in the evening, the table shifted and the trophy started to slide as a photograph was being taken. A guest grabbed it quickly, and several of the flagpoles on the trophy were bent as a result.

“Immediately afterward, the museum’s conservation specialist for decorative arts, who was a guest at the event, took the trophy to his laboratory at the museum, and straightened the bent flagpoles. It was returned, fully restored to its original appearance, to Mr. Crane, who returned home with it that evening.”

Carlos Correa of the Houston Astros holds the Commissioner’s Trophy during the team’s championship parade. (AP)

This isn’t the first time a version of the Commissioner’s Trophy has shown its resilience.

In the aftermath of the Chicago Cubs World Series victory last season, the Cubs trophy was damaged during a charity event when team president Theo Epstein passed it around while Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder was performing. In that case, a few of the gold-plated flags were snapped off. That fix was a little more complicated, but the trophy was eventually restored.

Given the circumstances surrounding both teams, it’s understandable why the teams are eager to show the trophy off. It’s just as understandable why fans are eager to get close to it. If there’s a lesson to be learned here though, it might be that too much access isn’t good for the trophy’s long-term prognosis. When it comes to protecting the most important piece of the team’s history, some better protection might be in order.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @Townie813

Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: November 11, 2017, 3:37 am
Agent Scott Boras has the hype machine rolling. (AP)
Agent Scott Boras has the hype machine rolling. (AP)

It’s that time of year again. Baseball free agency.

We know this not because of the change in weather outside, or the date on our calendar. We know this because super-agent Scott Boras, the negotiator of some of baseball’s biggest and craziest contracts ever, is firing up his hype machine.

Boras represents a wide-range of players. His biggest client at the moment is Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper. With Harper due to hit the open market following the 2018 season, in addition to several other key clients, Boras is no doubt looking ahead to his most lucrative winter ever. In the meantime, he’s looking to do best by his clients currently searching for big deals, while apparently preparing his best sales pitches.

Among those relying on Boras this winter is free agent outfielder/designated hitter J.D. Martinez. The 30-year-old slugger signed with Boras on Nov. 1 after raising his value with a terrific second half in Arizona. After being traded from Detroit to Arizona in July, Martinez hit 29 home runs over 62 games. Those absurd numbers have now led Boras to turn the hyperbole up to previously unseen levels by anointing Martinez as baseball’s King Kong of Slug.

Scott Boras on J.D. Martinez: “High atop the MLB Empire rests the King Kong of Slug — a 50-point lead.” Boras said Martinez’s pace with DBacks would project to 70 HR and .741 SLG over 150-game season. Boras: “That’s how dominant J.D. Kong is.” @MLB

— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 10, 2017

Those are real quotes, folks.

Boras and Martinez are reportedly seeking a $200 million contract this winter. That seems far-fetched for a player that seems best suited for designated hitting duties. His defensive skills are limited to say the least. He also hasn’t been a model of durability, playing in more than 123 games just once in seven seasons.

At the same time, Martinez is an offensive force. There’s no denying that. He just hit 45 homers in 119 games, so he makes his time count. But questions and concerns about his all-around game will likely keep him from his desired deal. That’s why Boras is doing everything he can to dress up Martinez as an attractive target.

In this case, it’s easy to see through Boras’ intentions. But that doesn’t mean he’ll let up. With other top free agents like Jake Arrieta, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, this is only the beginning of the Scott Boras hype machine.

More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @Townie813

Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: November 11, 2017, 12:48 am

It’s MLB awards time once again! And Big League Stew is here for you, ready to tell you everything you need to know before the awards are given out. Appropriately, the first one being handed out in 2017 is Rookie of the Year.

You could say that it’s quite the race this year, but if you said that, you’d be wrong. Some years the field is wide open, and this just isn’t one of them. There’s a clear winner in both the American League and the National League, and they staked their claims early. In the AL, Aaron Judge dominated pretty much everyone while swatting a ridiculous amount of home runs. But that’s not to say that his competition isn’t worthy. Trey Mancini had a fantastic rookie campaign, and Andrew Benintendi’s great plate discipline led to a solid year.

Over in the National League, it’s a similar situation. Cody Bellinger is all but guaranteed to win the award, and with good reason. Bellinger had an exceptional year and even set an NL record. But Josh Bell and Paul DeJong are accomplished in their own right, with Bell providing consistency and pop, and DeJong impressing over a shortened season.

MLB Network is hosting a live special to announce the winners at 6 p.m. ET on Monday, and don’t forget to come by Big League Stew for full coverage. But before any of that happens we’re going to break down the six contenders, and get picks from our four writers.

Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi is in the running for AL Rookie of the Year. (AP Photo)

American League
Andrew Benintendi — LF, Boston Red Sox

In brief: The preseason Rookie of the Year favorite, 23-year-old Benintendi was more than able to keep up with his young, talented teammates. After a brilliant debut at the end of 2016, Benintendi came into 2017 as a starter, and showed impressive plate discipline along with a key ability to get himself out of slumps. It was a solid rookie effort, especially for a guy on an offensively challenged team.

Key stats: Benintendi triple slashed .271/.352/.424, but more impressively, his on-base percentage led all qualified Red Sox hitters. He also struck out less than 20% of the time, and hit 20 homers.

Case for: Benintendi held his own on the Red Sox, and showed flashes of the complete player he could grow to be. He has plate discipline, an above average walk rate, and great contact skills. Those may not be the sexiest qualities in the game, but they’re important, and Benintendi showed them off.

Case against: He’s not Aaron Judge. And get used to hearing that. Benintendi had a fine rookie year, but it pales in comparison to what Aaron Judge did. It’s a tough break for Benintendi, who might’ve had a bit more luck with his candidacy if Aaron Judge hadn’t come along.

Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees reacts after hitting a home run, something he did quite a lot in 2017. (AP Photo)

Aaron Judge — RF, New York Yankees
In brief: He’s the guy you’ve been waiting for. Judge had an absolutely otherworldly first half, hitting homers seemingly at will and destroying parts of Yankee Stadium in the process. He’s one of the players responsible for energizing and powering the Yankees to a wild-card spot. Oh, and he’s also one of the three AL MVP candidates. When a player is up for both Rookie of the year and MVP, you know he’s pretty incredible.

Key stats: I could just put “52 home runs” here and leave it at that. But he also hit .284/.422/.627 and broke the MLB record for home runs by a rookie. He also broke Yankees home run records that had been set by guys you might have heard of: Joe DiMaggio and Babe Ruth. Oh, and there’s more! He had his own fan section at Yankee Stadium, and also beat Giancarlo Stanton in the Home Run Derby.

Case for: Look above at the “key stats” section if you’ve got a question. Judge did things that rookies just don’t do. Every one of his at-bats were can’t miss. You never knew when he’d yank the ball clear out of the park. He was just better than everyone else for at least half the year, and even when he wasn’t, he was still pretty impressive.

Case against: The case against Judge winning RoY is legitimate, but it doesn’t amount to much. His second half was pretty dismal, and he batted .228 with 99 strikeouts. But he also hit 22 homers and had an OBP of .391 during that time. Even when he wasn’t doing great, he was still doing just fine.

The Baltimore Orioles’ Trey Mancini had an excellent and surprising rookie year. (Getty Images)

Trey Mancini — LF/1B, Baltimore Orioles
In brief: Mancini was far from a sure thing when the season started. The 25-year-old wasn’t a lock to make the team out of spring training, and when he did, he wasn’t even playing every day. That changed quickly once Mancini showed what he could do. He could hang with the best of the Orioles’ established stars, and the first baseman provided much-needed depth in the outfield.

Key stats: A .293/.338/.488 triple slash is a good look for a rookie. He tied with Jonathan Schoop for the highest batting average on the team, and hit 24 home runs to boot. In fact, those 24 homers are third-most for an Orioles rookie. He also had a 17-game hitting streak, which outpaced every other rookie in Orioles history.

Case for: There’s something to be said for being both good and surprising. Mancini didn’t just have a fantastic rookie season, he had a season that no one expected of him. It’s exciting when a player defies expectations, and that’s just what Mancini did. He made history as one of the best Orioles rookies ever.

Case against: Again, he’s not Aaron Judge. In another year, Mancini would be the favorite. It’s not that what Mancini did isn’t impressive, it’s that Judge was just so good. There’s no shame in losing to the best.

Pittsburgh Pirates’ Josh Bell bats during a baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mark Tenally)

National League
Josh Bell — 1B, Pittsburgh Pirates

In brief: In his first full season, the 25-year-old Bell looked solid. He played in every Pirates game but three, and overcame an early-season slump to become the first baseman the Pirates have been looking for. Bell is a converted outfielder who worked hard on his defense at first base, and he improved enough during the year that he stopped being replaced in the later innings.

Key stats: Bell hit 26 home runs, which tied the Pirates’ record for homers by a rookie. He also set a National League record of his own — 26 homers is the most ever by a switch-hitting rookie. He also played 159 games and stayed healthy the entire season, something that’s becoming rarer and rarer these days.

Case for: It feels a little awkward to say it, but there almost isn’t a case for Bell winning. Bell was more than decent in 2017, turned in a solid rookie campaign, and will give the Pirates some much-needed security at first base, but it feels like he might be here by default.

Case against: Just like Aaron Judge’s competitors for AL RoY, the case against Bell is roughly the same: Bell isn’t Cody Bellinger, who was just so good. When you look at rookie accomplishments throughout the year, you simply cannot deny that Bellinger is better. That doesn’t diminish what Bell did in 2017, but he just simply wasn’t as good as Bellinger.

Cody Bellinger of the Los Angeles Dodgers has the NL Rookie of the Year award all sewn up. (AP Photo)

Cody Bellinger — 1B/LF, Los Angeles Dodgers
In brief: Following in the footsteps of Corey Seager before him, 21-year-old Bellinger didn’t miss a step in the transition between Triple-A and the majors. He came out and started swinging, and never looked back. He had a pretty sharp slump at the end of his first month, but he found his way out and delivered consistency the rest of the way.

Key stats: His .267/.352/.581 triple slash is good, but the big news here is Bellinger’s home run power. He hit 39 dingers in 132 games, breaking the record for homers hit by a National League rookie. His first two homers came in the same game, and he’d go on to have a total of six multi-homer games in 2017, the third most ever for a rookie. He also hit for the cycle, and even had an inside-the-park home run.

Case for: Bellinger is just good. Right out of the gate, he was good. Home runs are enchanting, and they are no doubt helping his case, but they’re not hiding anything. Bellinger started the year in the minors, but found his way in the majors very easily. He set a slew of Dodgers rookie records, and it looks like he’s about to follow in Corey Seager’s footsteps with the RoY award.

Case against: Bellinger’s strikeout rate is pretty breathtaking. And he’s lucky that voting for this award happened before he set a new postseason strikeout record. But despite that, he’s widely expected to be unanimously voted the NL RoY, and that’s because he played the best rookie baseball in the National League.

The St. Louis Cardinals’ Paul DeJong didn’t get promoted until the end of May, but he got a lot done in the majors anyway. (Getty Images)

Paul DeJong — SS, St. Louis Cardinals
In brief: Just add DeJong to the list of Cardinals players who just seem to work out. It was a tough year for the Cards, but DeJong was one of the bright spots. Promoted at the end of May, he became the team’s starting shortstop in June and never gave it back. And you’d never be able to tell he missed the first two months of the season — in 108 games, he got a lot accomplished, and sits at the top of several rookie stat categories.

Key stats: 25 home runs in 108 games is pretty impressive, but he also led NL rookies in doubles with 26, and was second in slugging percentage at .526. His average wasn’t too shabby either, hitting .285 in 443 plate appearances.

Case for: DeJong really did a lot in a short time. Given a full season he might not have outpaced Bellinger in homers, but he would have made a stronger case in every other category. DeJong’s breakout is a bit of a surprise, and a welcome one for Cardinals fans.

Case against: Sounding like a broken record here isn’t the intention, but it’s impossible not to: DeJong isn’t Bellinger, and Bellinger was just better overall. DeJong had great success in 2018, but in a shorter time than Bellinger. Bellinger had a head start, and sometimes that’s what makes the decision.

OUR PICKS
Chris Cwik
AL: Aaron Judge: The easiest award pick in years. No rookie came close to matching Judge.
NL: Cody Bellinger: Unless you rooted for their teams, you probably didn’t hear anything about Bellinger’s competition all season.

Mike Oz
AL: Aaron Judge: Picking anyone else would be like picking Flo-Rida for best rapper.
NL: Cody Bellinger: Picking anyone else would be like picking Kid Rock for best singer.

Liz Roscher
AL: Aaron Judge: I love home runs. I just love them so much. Trey Mancini had a great year, but good Lord do I love home runs. 
NL: Cody Bellinger: Since none of these guys are named Rhys Hoskins, might as well pick Bellinger.

Mark Townsend
AL: Aaron Judge: When you’re a rookie with your own fan section in the stands at Yankee Stadium, a spot in the Home Run Derby and your at-bats are must-see events, this award belongs to you.
NL: Cody Bellinger: While not quite the showstopper Judge was in 2017, Bellinger was the driving force behind the Dodgers remarkable regular season.

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at lizroscher@yahoo.com or follow her on twitter! Follow @lizroscher

Author: Liz Roscher
Posted: November 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

It was on this day in 1888 that the New York Giants arranged to sell future Hall-of-Famer John Montgomery Ward to the (NL’s original) Washington Nationals for $12K, then a record sum.  Whereas no-trade clauses give players control over their movement in today’s era, Ward had a simpler solution back in the 19th century —…
Author: Mark Polishuk
Posted: November 23, 2017, 9:32 pm
With rumors continuing to swirl around 2017 NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton, Craig Edwards of Fangraphs took a close look at the value of the Marlins outfielder’s opt-out clause, and how it might suppress his trade value. It’s well-known by now that after the 2020 season, Stanton will have the power to opt out of the remaining seven…
Author: Kyle Downing
Posted: November 23, 2017, 6:19 pm
Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins joined Ben Nicholson-Smith and Arden Zwelling on Sportsnet’s At the Letters podcast. There’s lots to listen to — including the Sportsnet team’s discussion of other subjects — but we’ll look at a few key takeaways here: The Jays are still committed to “putting a winning product on the field,” says Atkins,…
Author: Jeff Todd
Posted: November 23, 2017, 4:58 pm
Though the free agent market has basically not yet budged, that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been movement behind the scenes. The Mets, for instance, are working hard to land multiple veteran relievers, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post. There’s particular interest, Puma writes (expanding upon his prior report), in veteran righty Bryan…
Author: Jeff Todd
Posted: November 23, 2017, 2:43 pm
In the first episode of a new Mariners podcast, The Wheelhouse, general manager Jerry Dipoto joined host Aaron Goldsmith to discuss a plethora of topics regarding his team. The 41-minute, must-listen interview is packed with candid assessments of the Mariners’ roster, trade anecdotes and, perhaps most appealing to the general MLBTR audience, more than 15…
Author: Steve Adams
Posted: November 23, 2017, 5:19 am
When it comes to the starting pitching market this offseason, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb will hold some of the widest appeal of any names on the market. Both right-handers would be an upgrade to virtually any rotation in the Majors, and both figure to be more affordable to interested parties than top-of-the-market names like…
Author: Steve Adams
Posted: November 23, 2017, 3:02 am
Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter are still seeking additional investors for their ownership group even after being formally approved as the new owners of the Marlins, reports Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. The Sherman/Jeter group is still looking to add about $250MM from outside investors, though Heyman notes that the league is “quite comfortable” with…
Author: Steve Adams
Posted: November 23, 2017, 1:19 am
Click here to view the transcript for MLBTR Chat With Jason Martinez: November 22, 2017
Author: Jason Martinez
Posted: November 23, 2017, 12:25 am
Here are Wednesday’s minor moves from around the league… The Indians announced that they’ve signed left-hander Jeff Beliveau, right-hander Leonel Campos and infielder Drew Maggi to minor league contracts with invitations to Major League Spring Training. Both Beliveau and Campos pitched out of the Blue Jays’ bullpen in 2017. The 30-year-old Beliveau tossed 15 2/3…
Author: Steve Adams
Posted: November 22, 2017, 10:58 pm
Over at Fangraphs, Dave Cameron has identified his five best potential free agent values and, on the other hand, five most worrisome open-market landmines. Those posts are always interesting and are well worth a read as we wait for the market to get started in earnest. Here are a few free agent notes on Thanksgiving Eve:…
Author: Jeff Todd
Posted: November 22, 2017, 9:17 pm
The Orioles have acquired outfielder Jaycob Brugman from the Athletics, per a club announcement. A player to be named or cash will go to Oakland in return. Brugman, 25, was just designated for assignment by the A’s. He reached the majors for the first time last year, posting a .266/.346/.343 slash over 162 plate appearances.…
Author: Jeff Todd
Posted: November 22, 2017, 7:11 pm
The Padres have announced the signing of righty Colten Brewer to a MLB contract. To clear a 40-man spot, the organization designated fellow right-hander Kyle Lloyd for assignment. Brewer, 25, was a minor-league free agent from the Yankees system. He struggled last year in his first attempt at Triple-A, coughing up 13 earned runs on…
Author: Jeff Todd
Posted: November 22, 2017, 6:07 pm
The Astros have placed catcher Juan Centeno on outright waivers in order to remove him from the team’s 40-man roster, according to a report from Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle. Centeno is still on the waiver wire, but Kaplan writes that Houston is hoping he’ll clear and remain with the organization at Triple-A. It’ll be…
Author: Jeff Todd
Posted: November 22, 2017, 5:41 pm
Just in case there was any doubt, MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon writes in response to a fan inquiry that there’s no indication whatsoever that Reds first baseman Joey Votto will end up being moved this winter. The polished batsman, who very nearly took home National League MVP honors for the 2017 season, has given every indication that “he doesn’t…
Author: Jeff Todd
Posted: November 22, 2017, 4:37 pm
Yesterday brought final word on the long-awaited penalties for the Braves’ amateur signing infractions. Among other things, the Atlanta organization has been stripped of a dozen prospects who were brought in through improper means. Many of those players were part of a highly-regarded crop of international talent, so they will be of keen interest to other teams.…
Author: Jeff Todd
Posted: November 22, 2017, 2:34 pm
Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported yesterday that the Brewers have shown interest in Jake Arrieta, and in a followup column he writes that they’ve expressed interest in most of the top starters on the market, including right-hander Lance Lynn. Milwaukee will be without Jimmy Nelson for a yet-undetermined portion of the 2018 season due to…
Author: Steve Adams
Posted: November 22, 2017, 5:48 am
9:53pm: Jim Allen of the Kyodo News hears that the current expectation is that Ohtani will formally be posted on Dec. 2 (Twitter link). That’d give teams until Dec. 23 to strike a deal with Ohtani, based on the three-week window reported by Sherman. 5:40pm: After a lengthy negotiation period, Major League Baseball, the players’…
Author: Steve Adams
Posted: November 22, 2017, 3:53 am
Here are the day’s minor moves from around the league… Infielder Niko Goodrum has agreed to a minor league deal with the Tigers, according to his agents at Reynolds Sports Management (on Twitter). The longtime Twins farmhand made his big league debut as a September callup in 2017 but logged just 18 plate appearances for a…
Author: Steve Adams
Posted: November 22, 2017, 3:50 am
The Twins are known to be on the hunt for rotation upgrades and have already been linked to top free agents Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta, but they’re also poking around the trade market. Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that Minnesota has spoken to the Pirates about Gerrit Cole and also…
Author: Steve Adams
Posted: November 22, 2017, 2:43 am
The Angels are set to hire former Tigers skipper Brad Ausmus as a special assistant to GM Billy Eppler, reports Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. In further Angels news, George A. King III of the New York Post tweets that they’ve also settled on Yankees minor league catching coordinator Josh Paul as their…
Author: Steve Adams
Posted: November 22, 2017, 1:15 am
The Cubs announced on Tuesday that they’ve named former big league outfielder Will Venable their new first base coach and hired Jim Benedict as a special assistant to the baseball operations department. The team also confirmed Brandon Hyde’s move to bench coach and the hiring Jim Hickey as its new pitching coach. The 35-year-old Venable…
Author: Steve Adams
Posted: November 21, 2017, 11:06 pm
Major League Baseball has instituted a lifetime ban on former Braves general manager John Coppolella, according to an announcement from commissioner Rob Manfred. The heavy punishment comes as the league moves to punish his former organization for amateur signing infractions during his tenure as GM. Coppolella had already resigned from the Atlanta organization. Beyond the…
Author: Jeff Todd
Posted: November 21, 2017, 9:09 pm
Last night, we learned that the Major League Baseball Player’s Association had extended its deadline to finalize an agreement regarding the transfer system for players moving between Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and Major League Baseball. With a new union-imposed stopping point at 8pm EST today, the parties in interest — including the three entities just…
Author: Jeff Todd
Posted: November 21, 2017, 9:00 pm
The Braves are slated to lose their rights to a dozen young prospects as punishment for international signing violations. Additionally, the Atlanta organization will face limitations on their amateur signing rights in the future. Most notably, perhaps, the Braves will lose their rights to highly regarded prospect Kevin Maitan, as Jon Heyman of Fan Rag…
Author: Jeff Todd
Posted: November 21, 2017, 8:54 pm
Breakout Yankees slugger Aaron Judge has undergone arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder, according to a club announcement. Per the announcement, Judge received a “loose-body removal and cartilage clean-up.” Fortunately for New York, the surgery does not seem to be a major concern for the young outfielder. He is expected to wrap up his rehab…
Author: Jeff Todd
Posted: November 21, 2017, 8:23 pm
Click here to read a transcript of Tuesday’s live chat with MLBTR’s Steve Adams.
Author: Steve Adams
Posted: November 21, 2017, 8:03 pm
The offseason is off to a sluggish start, due perhaps to the ongoing trade talks involving Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton and the as-yet unresolved posting situation of Shohei Ohtani. Resolution on both matters may well come before long. In the meantime, we’re left to wonder which dominoes might be first to be knocked over thereafter…
Author: Jeff Todd
Posted: November 21, 2017, 7:36 pm
The Orioles have added an arm in a swap with the Rockies, picking up righty Konner Wade in exchange for an unknown amount of international bonus pool money. Roch Kubatako of MASNSports.com first reported the prospective swap, with Jon Heyman of Fan Rag tweeting that it has in fact gone though. Wade, who’ll soon turn 26,…
Author: Jeff Todd
Posted: November 21, 2017, 6:31 pm
NOVEMBER 21: An announcement could come today, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman adds on Twitter. Notably, he says to expect a “severe” punishment that strips the Braves of “many” recent international signees. NOVEMBER 20: League action seems to be imminent, as Ben Badler of Baseball America reports that MLB has set meetings for tomorrow with certain Braves prospects.…
Author: Steve Adams
Posted: November 21, 2017, 4:27 pm
It’s possible the Blue Jays could weigh a run at star free agent outfielder J.D. Martinez, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag writes. At the moment, that seems like a fairly tenuous connection; Heyman explains that the team has “at least considered” Martinez but may also be hesitant to participate in a bidding war to get him.…
Author: Jeff Todd
Posted: November 21, 2017, 2:33 pm
We saw a run of transactions today as teams tweaked their 40-man rosters in advance of the deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 draft by selecting their contracts. We have compiled all of the day’s action right here. Of course, one of the most important aspects of the decisions that were made is…
Author: Jason Martinez
Posted: November 21, 2017, 5:35 am
Veteran righty Hisashi Iwakuma told reporters in his native Japan that he is weighing an offer to return to the Mariners, as the Japan Times reports (h/t MLB.com’s Greg Johns). The precise nature of the team’s proposal is not known. The 36-year-old Iwakuma says that, while there’s nothing official at the moment, he may “be able to make a…
Author: Jeff Todd
Posted: November 21, 2017, 4:25 am
9:24pm: Ravin has now been dealt to the Braves in exchange for cash considerations, Shaikin tweets. He joins fellow reliever Grant Dayton in following executive Alex Anthopoulos from Los Angeles to Atlanta. 7:31pm: The Dodgers have designated righty Josh Ravin for assignment, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times was among those to tweet. As he departs the…
Author: Jeff Todd
Posted: November 21, 2017, 3:25 am
The Athletics have designated lefty Sam Moll and outfielder Jaycob Brugman for assignment, as MLB.com’s Jane Lee tweets. Oakland also added right-handers Heath Fillmyer and Lou Trivino to its 40-man roster, she adds. Moll got a look in the majors after a mid-season claim from the Rockies organization. While he recorded seven strikeouts in his six…
Author: Jeff Todd
Posted: November 21, 2017, 1:36 am
The Braves have claimed lefty Grant Dayton from the Dodgers, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times was among those to tweet. He underwent Tommy John surgery this August. Atlanta is also adding two lefties to its 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. Adam McCreery and Ricardo Sanchez both had their contracts selected,…
Author: Jeff Todd
Posted: November 21, 2017, 1:29 am
The Giants have designated infielder Micah Johnson and utilityman Orlando Calixte for assignment, as Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle was among those to report on Twitter. San Francisco also removed righty Dan Slania from the 40-man via outright assignment. He cleared waivers. Another 40-man casualty, infielder Engelb Vielma, did not. Joining the Giants’ MLB roster are catcher Aramis…
Author: Jeff Todd
Posted: November 21, 2017, 1:27 am
The Cubs have outrighted outfielder Jacob Hannemann, per a club announcement. Chicago has made three 40-man additions as well, selecting the contracts of righties Adbert Alzolay and Oscar De La Cruz as well as infielder David Bote. Hannemann, 26, had been claimed recently from the Mariners. He briefly debuted with Seattle — after they claimed him…
Author: Jeff Todd
Posted: November 21, 2017, 1:18 am
The Tigers have signed lefty Ryan Carpenter to a MLB deal, per a club announcement. He’ll join the 40-man roster along with a long list of players whose contracts were selected to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. Detroit has selected the contracts of the following players: catcher Grayson Greiner outfielder Mike Gerber infielder…
Author: Jeff Todd
Posted: November 21, 2017, 1:14 am
As detailed earlier this morning at MLBTR, the deadline for Major League clubs to add players to the 40-man roster in order to protect them from next month’s Rule 5 Draft is tonight. Because of that, there will be literally dozens of moves between now and 8pm ET as teams make final determinations on who…
Author: Steve Adams
Posted: November 21, 2017, 12:47 am
The Marlins have struck a deal to acquire first baseman Garrett Cooper and lefty Caleb Smith from the Yankees. New York will receive righty Michael King and $250K of international bonus pool money in the swap. A deal involving Cooper and another player was first reported by Robert Murray of Fan Rag (via Twitter); the…
Author: Jeff Todd
Posted: November 21, 2017, 12:11 am
Negotiations regarding a new posting agreement between Major League Baseball and Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball have been postponed, according to an announcement from the MLB Player’s Association. While the MLB and NPB seem largely on the same page, the union has the right to authorize any agreement and has engaged on the subject. It’s a one-day…
Author: Jeff Todd
Posted: November 21, 2017, 12:04 am
The Mets have discussed trade scenarios involving veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler with the Tigers, according to a report from MLB Network’s Jon Morosi (via Twitter). Those talks are preliminary in nature, per the report. Kinsler, 35, is expected to draw wide interest from teams that are looking for a quality veteran to plug into…
Author: Jeff Todd
Posted: November 20, 2017, 11:44 pm
The Athletics have acquired outfielder Ramon Laureano from the Astros, per MLB.com’s Jane Lee (via Twitter). Houston will receive right-hander Brandon Bailey in return. Oakland additionally outrighted right-hander Bobby Wahl off of its 40-man roster. That move will create space for Laureano to be added to the A’s roster to protect him from the Rule…
Author: Jeff Todd
Posted: November 20, 2017, 11:19 pm
The Phillies have claimed infielder Engelb Vielma off waivers from the Giants, per a team announcement. Philadelphia also designated righties Mark Appel and Alberto Tirado for assignment while outrighting lefty Elniery Garcia. To round out a busy day of 40-man moves, the Phillies also added righties Seranthony Dominguez, Franklyn Kilome, and Jose Taveras, as well…
Author: Jeff Todd
Posted: November 20, 2017, 11:04 pm
The Blue Jays have acquired infielder Gift Ngoepe from the Pirates, per club announcements. The talented defender changes hands as the clubs go about trimming their 40-man rosters in advance of the Rule 5 draft. A player to be named later or cash will head to Pittsburgh in return. Ngoepe, 27, became the first African-born…
Author: Jeff Todd
Posted: November 20, 2017, 10:50 pm