Wander Franco Finalizes 11-Year, $182 Million Deal with Tampa Bay Rays

It’s official… Wander Franco is staying with the Rays for more than a decade.

The 20-year-old Dominican professional baseball shortstop and the Tampa Bay Rays have finalized a $182 million, 11-year contract that includes a club option for the 2033 season.

Wander FrancoFranco’s deal, which could be worth up to $223 million if the club option is exercised and incentives are reached, was announced Saturday.

“This is a great day for Wander and for the Rays, and is evidence of the mutual trust between Wander and our organization,” Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg said in a statement. “We are committed to fielding competitive teams year in and year out, and we all expect that Wander’s presence and contributions will play a large part in maintaining our standard of excellence.”

Tampa Bay won the AL East in 2021, but was eliminated by Boston Red Sox in the ALDS.

The contract is the largest financial commitment to a player in the Rays’ 24-year history. It’s also the biggest deal in major league history for a player with less than a year of major league service time.

Franco is the fifth player with less than a year of big league experience to sign a long-term extension with the team. The others are third baseman Evan Longoria (2008), left-hander Matt Moore (2011), right-hander Chris Archer (2014) and second baseman Brandon Lowe (2019).

 

“The pace at which Wander has developed speaks to his potential,” Rays president of baseball operations Erik Neander said in a statement. “We have seen him do special things on the field, particularly for a player that is only 20 years old. He’s an exceptionally driven, budding superstar who can contribute to our success for a long time.”

Franco made his major league debut June 22 and hit a three-run homer. He batted .288 with 18 doubles, five triples, seven homers and 39 RBI in 70 games. He finished third in the American League Rookie of the Year voting.

Franco put together a 43-game on-base streak to tie Cincinnati’s Frank Robinson (1956) for the longest in major league history among players under 21. He went 7 for 19 (.368) with two homers and four RBI in four postseason games.

Franco would have been eligible for free agency after the 2027 season. He gets a $5 million signing bonus, with $2.5 million payments on Dec. 1 and June 1, 2022.

The yearly salary breakdown is: $1 million in 2022, $2 million in 2023 and 2024, $8 million in 2025, $15 million in 2026, $22 million in 2027 and $25 million in each of the last five seasons. The 2033 club option is $25 million, with a $2 million buyout.

Franco’s deal also includes salary escalators if he finishes in the top five in voting for AL MVP. If he is traded before April 2, 2029, Franco receives a $3 million assignment bonus. It drops to $2 million if he is dealt on or after that date.

Jhoulys Chacín Agrees to One-Year, Guaranteed $1.25 Million Contract with Colorado Rockies

The Rockies times will continue for Jhoulys Chacín

The 33-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball right-handed pitcher has agreed to a guaranteed $1.25 million, one-year contract with the Colorado Rockies that allows him to earn an additional $500,000 in performance bonuses.

Chacin was 3-2 with a 4.34 ERA in a career-high 45 relief appearances and one start for Colorado, which signed him on April 1 after he was released from a minor league contract by the New York Yankees near the end of spring training.

He became a free agent after the World Series.

Chacín is 81-89 with a 4.06 ERA in 227 starts and 76 relief appearances in 13 seasons with Colorado (2009-14, 2021), the Arizona Diamondbacks (2015), Atlanta Braves (2016), the Los Angeles Angels (2016), San Diego Padres (2017), Milwaukee Brewers (2018-19), Boston Red Sox (2019) and Atlanta (2020).

Chacín would earn $125,000 for making five starts and for each additional five through 20 and $125,000 for 30 pitching appearances and each additional 10 through 60. His total bonuses are capped at $500,000.

Jose Altuve Homers to Tie for Second on MLB’s All-Time Playoff Home Run Leaderboard

Jose Altuve has batted his way into the Major League Baseball history books…

During Game 2 of the World Series, the 31-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball player and Houston Astros second baseman hit a home run off a first-pitch fastball from Drew Smyly, leading off the bottom of the seventh by sneaking a fly ball just inside the left-field pole for a 7-2 Astros lead.

Jose Altuve

It was Altuve’s 22nd career home run in the postseason, tying him with Bernie Williams for second on the all-time list.

The two trail behind Manny Ramirez‘s 29 postseason homers.

While Williams did it in 121 games, Altuve has required just 75. Altuve had struggled in the ALCS, hitting .125 (although with two home runs), and then went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts in Game 1.

He then turned around and gave Houston two big swings in Game 2 on Wednesday night — including an historic one.

“To hit 22 homers in the playoffs and tie him — always every time that my name is mentioned, before it was Derek Jeter, now it’s Bernie Williams — it means a lot to me,” Altuve said. “It makes me keep going out there, hitting homers to help my team, to keep accomplishing things like this. As long as we win, everything’s good.”

Overall, the 2017 American League MVP Award winner is Houston’s all-time leader in postseason hits (88), runs (66) and home runs (22), and this year, he became the fastest player in MLB history to hit 20 postseason home runs when he went deep in Game 1 of the AL Championship Series against the Boston Red Sox.

Houston Astros Slugger Yordan Alvarez Named American League Championship Series MVP

Yordan Alvarez is celebrating his ALCS performance with a special trophy…

The 24-year-old Cuban professional baseball player, a designated hitter and outfielder for the Houston Astros was named the American League Championship Series Most Valuable Player (MVP) after almost single-handedly leading his team to the American League pennant.

Yordan Alvarez

In the final three games of the ALCS — a run that started with the Astros facing a 2-1 series deficit to the Boston Red Sox — Alvarez went 9-for-13.

In Games 5 and 6, he outhit the entire Red Sox roster on his own, 7-5. His ALCS performance peaked at Minute Maid Park in Game 6: 4-for-4 with a single, a double, a triple, a run and an RBI, as Houston finished off the series with a 5-0 victory over Boston.

“It was all about focus,” Alvarez told ESPN‘s Marly Rivera after the game. “That’s all I wanted to do. I wanted to do damage and that’s what happened.”

Alvarez’s showing in the ALCS surprised even himself, especially after a 2020 season when he only played two games and underwent surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon in his right knee, along with arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.

Yordan Alvarez“I didn’t really imagine myself being able to come out of that surgery on both knees and be able to do this as quickly as I did,” Alvarez said. “So it was really unbelievable for me to be able to come back and do what I did. Just super happy to be here and be able to contribute like that.”

Throughout the series, Astros manager Dusty Baker noted the exceptional impact Alvarez made in the middle of Houston’s lineup — and how his power bat changed the trajectory of the team’s season.

“He is a big boy in the middle,” Baker said.

Alvarez is the second Astros player with 11 hits in a playoff series, behind only Jose Altuve‘s 12 in the 2020 ALCS. He became the fifth player in MLB history with 11 or more hits in a single series against the Red Sox, joining a club with Hideki Matsui and Bernie Williams (2004), Lou Brock (1967) and Buck Herzog (1912).

Baker noted Alvarez’s all-fields approach, which has drawn comparisons to the way David Ortiz consistently drove pitches on the outer half of the plate the other way. During the 2021 season, Alvarez pulled baseballs 36.4%, and hit them up the middle and to the opposite field 36.3% and 27.3% of the time, respectively.

His average exit velocity of 93.2 mph ranked ninth in MLB, ahead of Manny MachadoJuan Soto and Bryce Harper, according to Baseball Savant.

“He hits the ball in the opposite field and it stays straight,” Baker said. “It doesn’t have a slice on it, and everybody knows he can pull the ball, but he also has power the other way. He is only going to get better. Like last year at this time, we didn’t have Alvarez, and we came close to going to the series last year without Alvarez. And now we have Alvarez, and we’re very, very grateful and thankful that we have him.”

After the game, Alvarez gave credit to Baker for his support throughout the season.

“He understands how it is to be a ballplayer,” Alvarez said. “He understands what guys go through every day. I got a chance to spend time with him in spring training as well. He has been really helpful to me, and I’m thankful for everything that he has given to me in this time together.”

Alvarez’s three extra-base hits in a potential series-clinching game tie Carlos Correa for the most in Astros history, and he joins Yuli Gurriel and Craig Biggio as the only Astros with consecutive three-hit games in the postseason.

That historic performance did not go unnoticed by his teammates.

“Yordan was, like, something else,” said Astros pitcher Luis Garcia. “He was really clutch, everything.”

Alvarez’s successful 2019 campaign for Rookie of the Year — where he hit .313/.412/.655 with 27 homers, 26 doubles and 78 RBIs with 3.7 bWAR in 87 games — served as his introduction to the national stage, but he cemented his place among the best designated hitters with his 2021 season, hitting .277/.346/.531 with 33 homers, 104 RBIs, 35 doubles and a triple with 3.2 bWAR this year.

But none of them meant as much as winning the ALCS MVP trophy.

“It means everything,” Alvarez said. “It means everything. I think there’s a lot of things that I could say that’s behind that trophy, but all I can say is it just means everything.”

As the spotlight got brighter, so did Alvarez’s performance at the plate. The ALCS MVP trophy served as a cherry on top.

Luis Garcia Helps Lead Houston Astros to American League Championship Title

Luis Garcia is celebrating an Astros-nomical feat…

The 24-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball pitcher helped shut out the Boston Red Sox to help lead the Houston Astros to 5-0 victory in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series on Friday night.

Luis Garcia

As a result, the Astros win the 2021 American League pennant and will advance to their third World Series in five years. The Red Sox, conversely, will head home for the winter, having lost the best-of-seven series by a 4-2 margin.

The Astros received a stellar start from Garcia, a rookie right-hander, who atoned for his poor performance in Game 2.

Garcia threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings, holding the Red Sox to a single hit (an Enrique Hernández triple in the sixth) and a walk. He struck out seven batters and showed no ill effects from the knee injury that plagued him earlier in the series.

The Astros were paced offensively by Yordan Alvarez, the ALCS MVP. He delivered a pair of doubles as well as a triple. He drove in one run and scored the other.

Nathan Eovaldi, pitching just two days after his Game 5 relief appearance, permitted five hits and a walk across 4 1/3 innings. He gave up a run and struck out four batters.

The Astros will await the winner of the National League Championship Series between the Atlanta Braves and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Braves lead that series by a 3-2 margin heading into Saturday’s Game 6 at Truist Park in Atlanta.

Randy Arozarena Makes MLB Playoff History by Stealing Home & Hitting Homer in Same Game

Randy Arozarena has made MLB playoff history…

The 26-year-old Cuban professional baseball outfielder for the Tampa Bay Rays – the leading candidate for American League Rookie of the Year — made history Thursday by becoming the first player in playoff history to steal home and hit a home run in the same game during Tampa Bay’s 5-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox in Game 1 of the ALDS in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Randy Arozarena

The swipe marked the first steal of home in a playoff game since 2016, when Chicago Cubs infielder Javier Baez pulled off the feat in the National League Championship Series, and the first straight steal of home in a playoff game since Jackie Robinson‘s against Yogi Berra and the New York Yankees in 1955.

“I noticed the pitcher kind of wasn’t keeping attention to me. I was able to take a big enough lead and take that base,” Arozarena said through an interpreter. “That’s the first time I’ve ever stolen home.”

Arozarena, who is still a rookie despite setting postseason records with 10 home runs and 29 hits in 20 games during the 2020 playoffs, stole home against Boston reliever Josh Taylor to make the score 5-0 in the seventh inning after drawing a walk.

Rays manager Kevin Cash said Arozarena had been asking him about stealing home for weeks. During the 2020 World Series, Rays outfielder Manuel Margot was thrown out when he attempted a similar steal off Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw, but Arozarena kept insisting.

“He’s asked me all season long, ‘Verde, verde, verde’ — green light,” Cash said. “We finally gave it to him.”

Arozarena easily beat the throw home to catcher Christian Vazquez via headfirst slide.

Arozarena ranks second for the most home runs in a 20-game postseason span, tied with Carlos Beltran and Jim Thome with 11 and trailing just Babe Ruth, who leads with 12. His 11 career postseason home runs are five more than any other rookie in MLB history, with Evan Longoria ranking second with six.

Asked about his playoff success, Arozarena said the stakes create a desire to meet the moment.

“I just focus a little bit more,” Arozarena said. “Luckily it’s happening in October, when it means it’s closer to the World Series.”

Teofimo Lopez to Fight George Kambosos in October

Teofimo Lopez is officially ready to rumble…

The 24-year-old Honduran American boxer and George Kambosos have signed contracts for an undisputed lightweight title fight that will take place on October 4 at New York’s Hulu Theater at MSG, Triller COO Thorsten Meier tells ESPN.

Teofimo Lopez

The fight was set for October 5, but Triller moved the fight to avoid competing with a potential wild-card playoff game between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox in New York. If the MLB season ended today, that game would take place on October 5.

“We want to make sure the sporting fans can see both amazing events,” Meier said.

Lopez-Kambosos will be the rare Monday evening boxing match in a sport that usually — with rare exception — holds its notable events on Saturday. It’s yet another date change for the seemingly snakebitten event.

Triller won the rights to the fight at a February purse bid with $6.018 million. The fight was planned for June 5 before it was officially set for June 19 in Miami. In the days leading up to the bout, Lopez tested positive for COVID-19.

Triller announced a rescheduled date of August 14 before it looked to stage the fight on October 17 in Sydney, Australia. Lopez balked at the government-mandated 14-day quarantine, leading to a legal battle. The IBF ultimately ruled the fight couldn’t take place in a location that requires quarantine.

The bout between Lopez, a Brooklyn native, and Kambosos, a 28-year-old Australian, was then planned for October 5.

Lopez (16-0, 12 KOs) is ESPN‘s No. 1 lightweight and No. 5 pound-for-pound fighter. He won the undisputed championship in October with a unanimous-decision victory over Vasiliy Lomachenko.

Kambosos (19-0, 10 KOs), ESPN’s No. 9 lightweight, earned the title shot with a split-decision win over Lee Selby later that month.

Juan Francisco Leads Dominican Republic to Country’s First-Ever Baseball Olympics Medal

2020 Tokyo GamesJuan Francisco is the Domincan Republic’s new hero…

The 34-year-old Dominican former professional baseball first baseman homered to help give the Dominican Republic a four-run, first-inning lead, then hit a tie-breaking, two-run double off Seunghwan Oh in a five-run eighth inning to help lead his team to a 10-6 victory over South Korea to claim the bronze in men’s baseball at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Juan Francisco

Melky Cabrera had four hits for the Dominicans (3-3), who won a baseball medal for the first time, and the country’s first-ever team medal.

South Korea (3-4), the 2012 London Games gold medalist, took a 6-5 lead in a four-run fifth inning against five pitchers. Kang Baek-Ho hit a go-ahead single.

Oh (2-1), a 39-year-old right-hander who pitched in Major League Baseball blew a save for the second time in the tournament.

Kansas City farmhands Jeison Guzman and Erick Mejia singled in the eighth, Seattle Mariners prospect Julio Rodriguez walked and Oh threw a wild pitch that tied the score.

Dominican Republic Baseball

Francisco, a six-year big league veteran whose last major league at-bat was in 2014, had struck out in his three previous plate appearances and nine times overall. The 34-year-old doubled to the left-center gap for an 8-6 lead, and Boston Red Sox prospect Johan Mieses followed with a long two-run homer to left.

Francisco hit .208 (5 for 24) with two homers and five RBIs during the tournament, the last for baseball in the Olympics until at least 2028.

Cristopher Mercedes (1-0), who pitches for the Central League‘s Yomiuri Giants, threw 3 1/3 shutout innings through the eighth as the fourth reliever out of the Dominican bullpen.

Jumbo Diaz, four years removed from his last big league appearance, relieved with two on in the ninth and got three straight outs for the save.

Rodriguez, a 20-year-old at Double-A Arkansas, put the Dominicans ahead 2-0 on an afternoon of intermittent rain when he sent a 0-1 pitch well over the left field wall. Francisco drove the next pitch in the last row of the right-field seats for his second Olympic homer and a 3-0 lead.

Mieses walked, and that was it for South Korea starter Kim Min-woo, who allowed four runs, three hits and a walk in one-third of an inning. Charlie Valerio added a sacrifice fly.

Dominican starter Raul Valdes, a 43-year-old left-hander who was the oldest player in the tournament, gave up five runs and nine hits in four-plus innings. Valdes’ last big league appearance was for Houston in 2014.

Rodriguez was hit on the right hand by a pitch from Park Se-Woong in the sixth but stayed in the game.

Jhan Marinez‘s first attempt to relieve was foiled when the bullpen cart started to the mound when he had just one leg on it, causing him to stumble. He got back on and walked his only batter.

Tampa Bay Rays Acquire Nelson Cruz in Four-Player Trade with Minnesota Twins

Nelson Cruz is heading south for the winter… 

The Tampa Bay Rays have acquired the 41-year-old  Dominican professional baseball designated hitter and right fielder, one of baseball’s most proven sluggers, in a four-player trade with the Minnesota Twins.

Nelson Cruz

Cruz was well aware of the likelihood he’d be dealt this month, with the disappointing Twins well out of contention. Nonetheless he told reporters the news still felt “shocking” and “heartbreaking” to him after becoming fond of the organization over his 2 1/2 seasons in Minnesota.

“It’s a tough one,” Cruz said. “I guess it’s a new chapter, and I will embrace it the way I embrace everything in my life to go help the Tampa Bay Rays to win a championship.”

Moments before opening a four-game series at Cleveland, the Rays, who entered the night just one game behind the first-place Boston Red Sox in the AL East, announced they got Cruz and minor leaguer Calvin Faucher from Minnesota in exchange for minor league right-handers Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman.

Cruz is a seven-time MLB All-Star with 436 career homers and 1,202 RBIs. He’ll bring some needed pop to Tampa Bay’s lineup and should help the Rays against left-handers. They’re hitting .226 versus lefties.

Usually frugal Tampa Bay assumes $5.1 million remaining in Cruz’s $13 million salary. The Rays began the season with a $68.3 million payroll, 26th among the 30 teams.

Cruz also has plenty of playoff experience with 17 homers and 37 RBIs in 46 postseason games. He’s batting .294 with 19 homers and 50 RBIs this season, and over 258 games with the Twins he finished with 76 homers and a .984 OPS.

“People joke about how he’s ageless, and it really does feel that way,” Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said.

With a week until the trade deadline and no shot at making the playoffs, the Twins figured they’d get something for Cruz to begin building toward the future. Minnesota entered Thursday at 41-55.

A 17-year veteran, Cruz signed a one-year, $13 million deal with Minnesota in February. He has also played with the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Ramgers. He hit at least 37 homers per season from 2014-19. He belted a career-high 44 homers for the Mariners in 2015.

“We thought we should be in the playoff race,” Cruz said. “Never thought we should be in this situation. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. You never want to leave the places where you are, where you feel comfortable. It is what it is. That’s part of the business.”

Both Ryan and Strotman were in Triple-A Durham‘s rotation.

Ryan, a 25-year-old who will also pitch for Team USA in the Tokyo Olympics, had a 3.63 ERA with 75 strikeouts in 57 innings for the Bulls and was ranked by MLB.com as the No. 10 prospect in Tampa Bay’s system. He was a seventh-round draft pick in 2018.

Strotman, 24, had a 3.39 ERA with 62 strikeouts in 58 1/3 innings with Durham. He was the 17th-ranked Rays prospect after being drafted in the fourth round in 2017.

Faucher, 25, had a 7.04 ERA with 42 strikeouts in 30 2/3 innings for Double-A Wichita. He was a 10th-round draft pick by the Twins in 2017.

Tampa Bay Rays Rookie Wander Franco Makes “Electric” MLB Debut

It appears the sky’s the limit for Wander Franco

In his Major League Baseball debut, the 20-year-old Dominican professional baseball player started at third base, doubled, homered, drove in three runs and showed a flair for the dramatic with a curtain call in the Tampa Bay Rays‘ 9-5, 11-inning loss to the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday.

Wander Franco

Franco, who walked in his first MLB plate appearance in the first inning, tied the game at 5 in the fifth with a 362-foot homer that drove in Kevin Kiermaier and Yandy Diaz.

 

He showed confidence — and some swagger — on the base paths and electrified the crowd at Tropicana Field.

 

Called up from Triple-A earlier in the day, Franco raised his right arm as he neared the plate and lifted both arms while crossing the plate to a roaring crowd when he connected in the fifth off Eduardo Rodriguez and drew his first curtain call in the majors.

 

“In that at-bat I actually knew I was going to hit a home run because that was the pitch I was looking for,” Franco said through an interpreter. “I ended up getting the pitch that I was looking for and I was able to help the team out.”

Franco pointed toward his father, who was at the game, while crossing the plate. His father, meanwhile, reacted with pure joy when the home run was hit.

Franco got the ball back and plans to display it at his home in the Dominican Republic.

“I felt super good,” he said through an interpreter. ”God sent me a surprise with all this.”

Franco even drew a nice ovation when he went on the field to run pregame, and got a partial standing ovation when the Rays’ lineup was announced over the public address system.

“Pretty electric player,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Win or loss, we’re trying to win them all obviously, but it had to be a great day for Wander and his family. A talented player that’s going to be fun to watch in the coming months.”

Red Sox manager Alex Cora agreed.

“What a good player he is,” he said. “The way he controls the at-bat for how young he is. They have a special one.”

Franco hit .315 with seven homers and 35 RBIs in 39 games this season at Triple-A Durham.