Wander Franco is hoping to hit the field at the 2020 Tokyo Games.
The 19-year-old Dominican professional baseball shortstop in the Tampa Bay Raysorganization, the top prospect in Major League Baseball, and longtime star Jose Bautista plan to play for the Dominican Republic as the country tries to qualify for the Olympics later this month, according to ESPN.
Franco, who turned 19 on Sunday, would strengthen a Dominican team jockeying for one of the remaining two qualifying spots in baseball’s return to the Olympics after a 12-year hiatus. He and Bautista, 39, would round out a roster that faces strong competition at the Americas Qualifying Eventon March 22-26 in Tempe and Surprise, Arizona.
Among the teams vying to win the tournament and its single qualifying spot: The Dominican Republic, the United States, Canada, Colombia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and Venezuela.
The winner will join host nation Japan, Israel, Mexico and South Korea, who already have qualified, while the second- and third-place teams at the event will have an opportunity to lock up the sixth spot at the final qualifying tournament.
Originally scheduled to be held in Taiwan from April 1-5, the tournament was postponed Sunday because of coronavirus fears until June 17-21 — barely a month before the Tokyo Games’ opening ceremony.
The additions of Franco and Arizona Diamondbacksinfielder Geraldo Perdomo, 20, to the Dominican roster will give the team perhaps the most dynamic middle infield in the tournament. Franco is a transcendent talent who evaluators believe could play in the major leagues today — a powerful, speedy, contact-oriented switch hitter whose slick glove and strong arm allow him to patrol shortstop with aplomb.
While not as highly touted, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Perdomo is an elite athlete whose eye and bat-to-ball talents were rare for someone who played all of last season at 19. A natural shortstop, he played about half his games during the Arizona Fall League at second base and will return there for the Dominican team.
Bautista is expected to play first base, a position he manned 30 times in more than 1,650 major league games during which he hit 344 home runs and drove in nearly 1,000 runs. He last played in the major leagues in 2018, though he spent this winter working out as a pitcher in hopes of returning as a two-way player, sources said. Bautista, who represented the D.R. in the 2009 and 2017 World Baseball Classic, may not pitch in the qualifier but is expected to play a significant role as the D.R. faces Puerto Rico, the United States and Nicaragua during the tournament’s round-robin first round. The two best teams from each four-team pool will face off in a final round that awards the winner and keeps the second- and third-place teams alive.
Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association agreed last week to allow players who are on teams’ 40-man rosters but not active in the major leagues to join their countries’ qualifying-event teams. The potential infusion of talent could theoretically help a team like the United States, which suffered an embarrassing loss to Mexico at the Premier12tournament in November that prevented Team USAfrom qualifying.
Hector Rondonis heading to the Grand Canyon State…
The 31-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball relief pitcher has reportedly agreed to a $3 million, one-year contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks, according to ESPN.
Rondon would get a $2.5 million salary next season and would include a team option for 2021 with a $500,000 buyout.
Rondon, a right-hander, is a seven-year veteran who helped the Chicago Cubs win the World Seriesin 2016. He pitched last season for the Houston Astrosand had a 3.71 ERA over 62 appearances, including one start.
Rondon has 92 saves and could be a candidate to close games for the D-backs, though Archie Bradleyreturns after handling the closer role for much of the second half of last season.
The Arizona Republic first reported Rondon’s signing.
The 32-year-old Cuban American Major League Baseball star didn’t opt out of his contract with the Boston Red Sox.
By staying with the Red Sox, Martinez can earn $62.5 million over the next three years: $23.75 million for 2020 and $19,375,000 for both 2021 and 2022.
He also has the option to opt out after each of the next two seasons, as long as he doesn’t spend a lengthy period on the injured list.
“J.D. has advised me that his decision is about assuring that he plays for a competitive team and wanting to continue to play in a place where he knows that he can be highly productive,” Scott Boras, Martinez’s agent, told The Boston Globe.
Over the past three seasons, Martinez leads the league in home runs with 124 and is second in RBIs at 339, batting average at .313, slugging percentage at .619 and OPS at 1.007 over that span.
The Red Sox, who had the highest payroll in baseball last season ($243 million), are looking to get below the luxury tax threshold ($208M). It remains to be seen how this will affect newly hired chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom‘s ability to also retain Mookie Betts, the 2018 MVP who will become a free agent after next season. Betts made $27.7 million last season and is likely to get more in arbitration this season.
Martinez led the Red Sox in home runs, RBIs and hits in 2018, on the way to winning his first World Seriestitle. His numbers in 2019 fell off as he battled back spasms, but in his two years in Boston, he hit 79 homers and drove in 235 runs. He has been an All-Starboth of his years in Boston.
Though he played 38 games in the outfield this year, Martinez is primarily a designated hitter.
Martinez takes a meticulous approach to hitting, analyzing at-bats and opposing pitchers, and several Red Sox players credited him with helping them improve their approach.
Martinez broke in with the Houston Astrosin 2011 and was released by the team in 2014. Martinez decided he had to change his swing, and worked with Robert Van Scoyoc, now the Los Angeles Dodgershitting coach, and Craig Wallenbrock.
He signed a free-agent deal with the Detroit Tigers in 2014, then was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacksin July 2017. In 62 games with Arizona, Martinez hit .302 with 29 home runs and 65 RBIs. That landed him the deal with the Red Sox.
The 28-year-old Puerto Rican and Cuban American Major League Baseball player has extended his streak of winning a Gold Glove Award in every season of his career on Sunday, when the Colorado Rockies star earned the award for National Leaguet hird basemen for the seventh consecutive year.
Arenado has won the award each year since he debuted in 2013. With this year’s win, he moved into sole possession of fourth place for the most Gold Glovesamong third basemen and just one behind Scott Rolenfor third place all time.
Only Baltimore Orioles legend Brooks Robinson, who won 16 Gold Gloves in a row from 1960 to ’75, and Mike Schmidt, who won 10, have more than Arenado. Robinson has the most Gold Gloves among all position players, but at just 28 years old, Arenado has a chance to catch him.
Kansas City Royals veteran Alex Gordon also won his seventh career Gold Glove, claiming the ALleft fielder award for the third straight year to move into a tie for 14th-most among outfielders.
2019 Gold Glove Winners
Roberto Perez, Indians
J.T. Realmuto, Phillies
Matt Olson, Athletics
Anthony Rizzo, Cubs
Yolmer Sanchez, White Sox
Kolten Wong, Cardinals
Francisco Lindor, Indians
Nick Ahmed, Diamondbacks
Matt Chapman, Athletics
Nolan Arenado, Rockies
Alex Gordon, Royals
David Peralta, Diamondbacks
Kevin Kiermaier, Rays
Lorenzo Cain, Brewers
Mookie Betts, Red Sox
Cody Bellinger, Dodgers
Mike Leake, Mariners
Zack Greinke, Diamondbacks
The Arizona Diamondbacks had four Gold Glove winners on their team this season, including both pitchers, Mike Leake and Zack Greinke, though the two never played with each other. Leake won the American League pitcher’s award for his time with the Seattle Mariners before Arizona acquired him at the trade deadline on July 31, the day the Diamondbacks dealt Greinke to the Houston Astros.
Shortstop Nick Ahmed, who won his second straight Gold Glove, and left fielder David Peraltawere the other Diamondbacks honored Sunday. Peralta was one of three National League outfielders who won their first Gold Gloves, joining the Milwaukee Brewers‘ Lorenzo Cain and the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ Cody Bellinger.
The Oakland Athletics had a pair of winners, as first baseman Matt Olsonand third baseman Matt Chapman both won for the second straight season. The Cleveland Indians had two Gold Glovers in shortstop Francisco Lindor, who won the second of his career, and catcher Roberto Perez, a first-time winner.
The second baseman awards went to the Chicago White Sox‘s Yolmer Sanchez and the St. Louis Cardinals‘ Kolten Wong, who both won for the first time.
Also in the American League, Boston Red Soxright fielder Mookie Betts won for the fourth straight season, and Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier won his third career Gold Glove after a two-year absence.
In the National League, Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo won his third career Gold Glove and second in a row, while catcher J.T. Realmuto earned his first award in his first season with the Philadelphia Philliesafter a preseason trade from the Marlins.
Managers and up to six coaches per team vote for the awards in their league and cannot choose their own players. For the first time, the defensive index from the Society for American Baseball Research was used, and it comprised about 25% of the vote, with the managers and coaches ballots the rest.
The 26-year-old Puerto Rican professional baseball player and shortstop for the Chicago Cubs, nicknamed “El Mago,” is slated to bat second for the National League in Tuesday’s MLB All-Star Game.
Baez, in his second straight All-Star Game, will follow lead-off hitter and Milwaukee Brewers slugger Christian Yelich, who bowed out of the Home Run Derbywith a back issue. Yelich leads the majors with 31 home runs.
He’ll befollowed by Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, Los Angeles Dodgersright fielder Cody Bellinger, Colorado Rockiesthird baseman Nolan Arenado, Pittsburgh Pirates‘ Josh Bell at designated hitter, Cubs catcher Willson Contreras, Arizona Diamondbackssecond baseman Ketel Marte and Atlanta center fielder Ronald Acuna Jr.
The National League has the youngest starting lineup in All-Star Gamehistory, with an average age of 25.75. The previous record was 26.4 by the 2017 ALstarters.
Houston Astros‘ George Springer leads off and plays right field for the American League and is followed in the order by New York Yankees second baseman DJ LeMahieu, Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout, Cleveland Indians’ first baseman Carlos Santana, Boston Red Sox designated hitter J.D. Martinez, Houston third baseman Alex Bregman, Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, Astros left fielder Michael Brantley and Minnesota Twins’ shortstop Jorge Polanco.
Cora joked about LeMahieu’s success against the Red Sox in his first season after leaving the Rockies for New York — especially when Boston played the Yankees in London last month.
“People in the offseason thought that he wasn’t going to be able to hit outside of Colorado. Well, he hits outside of Colorado and in Europe, too,” Cora said.
Jean Segura is headed to The City of Brotherly Love…
The Philadelphia Phillieshave acquired the 28-year-old Dominican Major League Baseball infielder and MLB All-Starfrom the Seattle Mariners.
The deal involves multiple players and required Segura to waive his no-trade clause to join Philadelphia.
First baseman Carlos Santana and shortstop J.P. Crawfordwere among the players headed to Seattle, while relievers Juan Nicasio and James Pazoshead to Philadelphia in the deal.
Segura batted .304 with 10 home runs, 91 runs and 63 RBIs in 144 games last season and was named an American League All-Star.
In June 2017, Segura agreed to a five-year, $70 million contract with the Mariners spanning 2018 to 2022. The deal has a $17 million option for 2023, with a $1 million buyout.
Segura was the centerpiece of one of Seattle’s biggest moves after the 2016 season, when he was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks as part of a five-player trade.
He will become the latest high-profile player traded away by the Mariners, who are tearing down their roster in an effort to rebuild the team.
Santana, the 32-year-old Dominican baseball first baseman, signed a three-year, $60 million contract with the Phillies last offseason and has a base salary of $17 million in 2019 and $17.5 million in 2020. His contract has a club option for the 2021 season worth $17.5 million with a $500,000 buyout.
He hit .229 with 24 home runs and 86 RBIs in 2018.
Nicasio, a 32-year-old Dominican right-hander, was 1-6 with a 6.00 ERA and one save in 42 relief innings in 2018. He pitched for the Phillies briefly in 2017 after they claimed him off waivers from the Pittsburgh Piratesand later traded him to the St. Louis Cardinals.
With Santana traded, Rhys Hoskins will return to first base for the Phillies after playing in left field last season.
The 43-year-old Puerto Rican Major League Baseball manager, the Boston Red Sox‘s first-year manager, has agreed to a new deal with the team that includes a one-year extension through the 2021 season and, most likely, a significant raise. Terms have not been announced.
Cora was one of the lowest-paid skippers in the MLB last season on his way to winning a franchise-record 108 games and the World Series.
“We have consistently been impressed by Alex at every turn,” said Red Sox chairman Tom Werner. “His knowledge of the game, ability to connect with our players, and his incredible instincts and decisiveness led us to an historic championship season. We know we are in good hands, and could not be more pleased to know he will be with us for the foreseeable future.”
“Alex did a tremendous job for our club all year long and we wanted to reward him for his efforts after an amazing season,” president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said. “We are extremely happy that he will be with us and leading our club on the field.”
Last season, Cora made $800,000, tied with the Braves’ Brian Snitker and the Mariners’ Scott Servais for the lowest salary among managers to start the season.
Snitker won Manager of the Year in the National League, and Cora finished second in voting for the American League award.
“Since day one, John and Linda Henry, Tom Werner, Mike Gordon, Sam Kennedy, and Dave Dombrowski have been incredibly supportive of me and my family, and for that I am extremely grateful,” Cora said. “For me, 2018 was not only historic, but it was special as well, both on and off the field. We have a great appreciation for our accomplishments this past year, but now our focus moves forward to the season ahead and defending our World Series title.”
Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon, San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy and Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who retired following the season, all made $6 million last season.
Cora became only the second Puerto Rican-born manager in major league history, joining Edwin Rodriguez, who managed the Florida Marlins for parts of the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
Cora was the fifth major league manager to win a World Series in his first season, joining Bob Brenly (2001, Arizona Diamondbacks), Ralph Houk (1961, New York Yankees), Eddie Dyer (1946, St. Louis Cardinals) and Bucky Harris (1924, Washington Senators).
Luis Gonzalez will play a special role at the memorial service for the late U.S. Senator John McCain.
The 50-year-old Cuban-American former Major League Baseball outfielder, an Arizona sports legend, will serve a pallbearer at Thursday’s service.
Gonzalez, who spent his best years with the Arizona Diamondbacks and was one of the most popular players in the organization’s history, released a statement after the death of McCain, praising the senator’s patriotism and friendship.
“Senator McCain was not only a great man and patriot but also a loyal D-backs fan. I’m proud to have called him a dear friend. On behalf of my entire family, our thoughts and prayers are with Cindy and the McCain family,” tweeted Gonzalez, who shot a television ad supporting McCain’s reelection bid for the U.S. Senate in 2016.
McCain, an avid Arizona sports fan, died Saturday at age 81.
Thursday’s ceremony will begin at 1 p.m. ET at North Phoenix Baptist Church in Phoenix. About 1,000 seats were made available to the public.
Gonzalez, nicknamed “Gonzo“, had the game-winning hit in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series against New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera to clinch the Diamondbacks’ first and only World Series championship to date.
He was a five-time MLB All-Star and won a Silver Slugger Award in 2001.