Fernando Tatis Jr. Agrees to 14-Year, $340 Million Contract Extension with San Diego Padres

Fernando Tatis Jr. is a big deal… with a big deal…

The 22-year-old Dominican professional baseball shortstop, nicknamed “El Niño“, has agreed to a 14-year, $340 million contract extension with the San Diego Padres, securing one of the largest guarantees in American sports history and marrying himself to the team with which he quickly established himself as a star, according to ESPN.

Fernando Tatis Jr.

Tatis, the emerging face of baseball, will receive the third-biggest deal in baseball history — and do so at a far younger age than Mike Trout and Mookie Betts, both of whom signed their megadeals at 27.

The 6-foot-3, 217-pound Tatis, whose dazzling shortstop play is perhaps exceeded by his prowess at the plate, went to San Diego via trade and is now the player around whom the Padres will build a team equipped to win a championship.

Full of substance to back up his style, Tatis blitzed through the minor leagues after the Padres acquired him from the Chicago White Sox in a deal for aging starter James Shields. His talent in spring training was so apparent in 2019 that San Diego started him at shortstop on Opening Day, eschewing the standard play of sending supreme talents to the minor leagues to manipulate their service time and keep them under team control for an extra season.

The mutual admiration between the team and Tatis was clear enough that the Padres hoped it wouldn’t be a mistake. And with a deal that will lock him up for nearly a decade and a half, through his age-35 season, the Padres convinced Tatis that small-market San Diego is where he belongs.

Tatis wasn’t willing to relinquish control of that. He will receive a full no-trade clause, allowing him veto power over any potential deal. The $340 million marks the largest deal given to a player before he reaches arbitration — nearly $200 million more than Trout’s first contract extension. Trout’s second extension set a domestic sports record of $426.5 million guaranteed, and Betts’ $392 million deal is now followed by Tatis’ contract.

Tatis joins Manny Machado, who plays third base next to him, as Padres with $300 million-plus deals — and they join New York Yankees duo Gerrit Cole and Giancarlo Stanton as teammates with such gaudy contracts. Both Machado and Tatis are represented by agent Dan Lozano.

Machado’s agreement with San Diego before the 2019 season was a turning point for the organization, which has positioned itself as the greatest threat to the defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers, who happen to play in the Padres’ division. San Diego blossomed during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, with Tatis playing a front-and-center role after a dynamic rookie season that ended because of injury.

Hitting leadoff, with his trademark dreadlocked hair flowing out of his batting helmet and a bat flip at the ready, Tatis was the best player in the game for the first half of the season, an unstoppable combination of raw talent, polish and excitement, the sort that is evident even to the casual fan.

His appearances in more commercials — for Major League Baseball and products he was selling — illustrated that Tatis might be different than other would-be stars. The sport, starving for someone with wide appeal, struck gold with Tatis, who was raised in the Dominican Republic by his father, longtime major league infielder Fernando Tatis, and his mother, Maria.

Tatis wasn’t a highly touted prospect when he signed with the White Sox as a 16-year-old. The athleticism, the explosiveness, all of the skills he now wields — they were simply tools back then. Maybe they would arrive, maybe they wouldn’t.

San Diego saw something different — a player who, in his first year after signing, grew, gained muscle, started looking the part. After the trade, he grew another inch, then another, and by the time Tatis was embarrassing Double-A pitchers, he looked the part of a future star.

To become that so quickly, not just finishing fourth in the MVP voting in 2020 but compelling a team to guarantee $340 million, speaks to the Padres’ commitment to Tatis. They could have kept him for four more seasons before he reached free agency. Instead, after he hit .277/.366/.571 with 17 home runs and 45 RBIs in 59 games, they gave Tatis more than any free agent ever has received.

Talks between the sides picked up early this week, and sources familiar with the discussions expected a deal to get done. One of this size? One of this magnitude? Well, when Tatis does something, he tends to do it big.

Joe Martinez Joins Major League Baseball’s Senior Leadership Team

Joe Martinez is heading to the big league’s offices…

The 37-year-old Latino former baseball pitcher has been hired Monday by Major League Baseball.

Joe Martinez

Martinez will step into the role of senior director of on-field strategy.

Martinez will report to vice president of baseball economics Reed MacPhail.

Martinez, who turns 38 on February 26, will coordinate the management of experimental rule and equipment changes, support the competition committee and be a liaison to on-field personnel.

He pitched at Boston College and was 4-3 with a 5.82 ERA in four seasons with San Francisco Giants (2009-10), Pittsburgh Pirates (2010), Arizona Diamondbacks (2012) and Cleveland Indians (2013). He spent five years in mergers and acquisitions group at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

St. Louis Cardinals Finalizing Trade Plan to Acquire Nolan Arenado

It looks like Nolan Arenado is ready to fly east…

The St. Louis Cardinals are finalizing a trade to acquire the 29-year-old Puerto Rican and Cuban American third baseman from the Colorado Rockies, according to ESPN.

Nolan Arenado

Since the trade involves significant amounts of money — the Rockies are expected to send around $50 million to cover a portion of the six years and $199 million remaining on Arenado’s contract — as well as Arenado waiving his no-trade clause and deferring money, the deal isn’t yet official.

The remaining hurdles are expected to be merely procedural, and with Major League Baseball, the MLB Players Association and Arenado’s approval, the long-talked-about trade would become a reality.

The return for the Rockies is not expected to be significant, with pitcher Austin Gomber and low-level prospects among the names that have been discussed.

Arenado has won a Gold Glove in each of his eight seasons with the Rockies, where he developed into one of the best players in baseball. Before the 2019 season, he signed an eight-year, $260 million extension with the Rockies, who drafted him 2009 and were committing to build a contender around him.

The team almost immediately struggled, frustrating Arenado and carving the path for a deal to St. Louis, which tried to trade for him before the 2020 season and finally succeeded a year later.

In Arenado, the Cardinals get an across-the-diamond complement to Paul Goldschmidt, another veteran right-handed hitter they acquired via trade. The market for Arenado wasn’t altogether robust because of the significant money remaining on his deal. For months, the Cardinals and Rockies haggled before coming to an agreement Friday night.

The Cardinals locked up longtime starter Adam Wainwright on an $8 million deal on Thursday, and longtime catcher Yadier Molina has indicated in recent days he is likely to return to the Cardinals, particularly if they could acquire Arenado, sources said.

The Rockies were looking both to escape from the significant commitment to Arenado and avoid the possibility of him triggering the opt-out clause in his contract that follows the upcoming season. As part of a restructured deal — in which Arenado would also defer money — he could receive another opt-out clause and maintain his no-trade clause.

Because of the deferrals, the MLBPA needs to give the deal the go-ahead, and due to the cash exchanging hands, MLB must rubber-stamp it as well.

Colorado could receive Gomber, a 27-year-old left-hander who was excellent in a swing role last season. Multiple prospects have been discussed, according to The Athletic, which first reported the deal was done. While power-hitting first baseman Luken Baker‘s name was reported as part of the potential prospect package, he is not expected to be in the deal, according to a source.

With Colorado paying down a significant portion of Arenado’s future salary, St. Louis will pay him about $25 million a year and bump its payroll to around $160 million. The Cardinals also position themselves as the clear favorite in the National League Central a year after making the playoffs despite a frenzied schedule caused by a COVID-19 outbreak on the team.

A five-time MLB All-Star, Arenado struggled at the plate during the abbreviated 2020 season, hitting .253 with eight homers before missing the final nine games with a left shoulder bone bruise. The down year came after he hit a career-best .315 with 41 homers and 118 RBIs in 2019.

Chicago White Sox Star Jose Abreu Wins Hank Aaron Award

Jose Abreu is officially on of this year’s MLB stars…

The 33-year-old Cuban professional baseball player, a first baseman for the Chicago White Sox has won the Hank Aaron Award as the outstanding offensive performer in Major League Baseball’s American League, as voted by MLB.com.

Jose Abreu

Abreu, a three-time MLB All-Star, hit .317 with 15 doubles, 19 homers and 60 RBIs during 60 games in the pandemic-shortened season.

First basemen Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves won the Hank Aaron Award in the National League.

He was second in the NL in batting (.341), OBP (.462), slugging percentage (.640) and OPS (1.102).

“Congratulations to José Abreu and @FreddieFreeman5 on winning the 2020 A.L. And N.L. Hank Aaron Awards,” Aaron tweeted. “You are both so deserving and I’m proud of the season you both had.”

Abreu was voted AL MVP and Freeman won NL MVP.

Francisco Lindor Elected to Executive Subcommittee of Major League Baseball Players Association

Francisco Lindor is representing his fellow players…

The 27-year-old Puerto Rican Major League Baseball player, a shortstop for the Cleveland Indians, has been elected to the executive subcommittee of the Major League Baseball Players Association.

Francisco Lindor

Lindor joins a roster of newcomers to the executive subcommittee that includes New York Yankees pitchers Zack Britton and Gerrit Cole, free-agent catcher Jason Castro and free-agent shortstop Marcus Semien.

They join St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Andrew Miller, free-agent pitcher James Paxton and Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer on the union’s highest-ranking member body.

The newcomers replace Elvis AndrusCory GearrinChris IannettaCollin McHugh and Daniel Murphy on the executive subcommittee.

Lindor and Semien were elected alternate association player representatives, Britton a pension committee representative, and Cole an alternate pension committee representatives.

Britton, Cole, Paxton and Scherzer are clients of agent Scott Boras. Semien is represented by the Wasserman agency, Lindor by SportsMeter, Miller by Frontline Athlete Management and Castro by ISE Baseball.

Cole, at $324 million over eight years, and Scherzer, at $210 million over six seasons, are among baseball’s highest-paid players.

Britton has a $53 million, three-year deal and Miller a $34.5 million, three-year contract. Lindor is eligible for arbitration after making $17.5 million. Semien had a $13 million salary last season, Paxton $12.5 million and Castro $6.85 million.

Boston Red Sox Rehire Alex Cora as the Team’s Manager

Alex Cora is back in Boston…

The Boston Red Sox have rehired the team’s 45-year-old Puerto Rican former manager,.

Alex Cora

Cora led the Red Sox to the 2018 World Series title but mutually agreed to part with the club amid the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal. He was suspended for one season by Major League Baseball for his role in the scandal.

Boston, which ended the 60-game shortened season with a 24-36 record, decided not to retain manager Ron Roenicke, who replaced Cora in January after serving on his coaching staff.

The Red Sox were not allowed to speak to Cora until after the World Series, which ended October 27. The lack of activity before then was a sign that they were focused on Cora.

Cora agreed to a two-year contract that has a two-year team option for 2023 and ’24, the team said.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to manage once again and return to the game I have loved my entire life,” Cora said in a statement released by the team. “This past year, I have had time to reflect and evaluate many things, and I recognize how fortunate I am to lead this team once again. Not being a part of the game of baseball, and the pain of bringing negative attention to my family and this organization was extremely difficult. I am sorry for the harm my past actions have caused and will work hard to make this organization and its fans proud. …

“Boston is where I have always wanted to be and I could not be more excited to help the Red Sox achieve our ultimate goal of winning in October.”

The team he returns to bears little resemblance to the one he last managed.

Chaim Bloom is running the baseball side now, taking over last offseason just in time to part ways with Cora. He welcomed Cora back in a team statement Friday.

“Alex Cora is an outstanding manager, and the right person to lead our club into 2021 and beyond,” Bloom said. “The way he leads, inspires, and connects with everyone around him is almost unmatched, and he has incredible baseball acumen and feel for the game. …

“Because of all that had happened, I knew that I wanted to speak with Alex once his suspension ended, but I didn’t yet know if it made sense to consider him for the job as well. Our conversations were lengthy, intense, and emotional. Alex knows that what he did was wrong, and he regrets it. … He loves the Red Sox and the game of baseball, and because of that we believe he will make good on this second chance.”

Bloom’s other big move last offseason was to trade 2018 American League MVP Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers along with David Price as part of an effort to get the Red Sox under the threshold for baseball’s competitive balance tax.

With Betts and Price gone, Chris Sale out with Tommy John surgery and Eduardo Rodriguez recovering from a COVID-19-related heart problem, the Red Sox finished in last place in the AL East.

But Cora also has hope for improvement in the 2021 season.

Sale is expected to return in the first half. J.D. Martinez, an MLB All-Star his first two years in Boston before struggling in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, is also under contract for at least one more year.

And the Red Sox have plenty of salary flexibility gained in the deal that sent Betts and Price to Los Angeles.

Cora replaced John Farrell as Boston’s manager after the team twice finished last under Farrell, despite winning the 2013 World Series with him. With Cora at the helm in 2018, the Red Sox raced to a 108-54 regular-season record and an easy win in the AL East. They led the majors with a .268 team batting average and 876 runs scored.

Boston then dominated the postseason with an 11-3 mark, posting wins over the Yankees and Astros in the AL division and championship series, respectively, before defeating the Dodgers in the World Series.

The Red Sox couldn’t sustain 2018’s success in Cora’s second season, finishing 84-78 and third in the division, 19 games behind the Yankees.

Cora, who worked as an ESPN analyst before leaving for the Astros, played 14 MLB seasons, including parts of four seasons with the Red Sox, winning the 2007 World Series with Boston. He also played for the Dodgers, Cleveland Indians, New York Mets and Texas Rangers before finishing his career with the Washington Nationals in 2011.

Ronald Acuna Jr. Earns Second Career Silver Slugger Award

There’s certainly a silver lining for Ronald Acuna Jr. 

The 22-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball player is among four Atlanta Braves players to earn Silver Slugger Awards, which were unveiled Thursday by Major League Baseball in honor of the best offensive players at every position in each league.

Ronald Acuna Jr. 

Winning from the Braves were Acuna Jr., Freddie Freeman and Marcell Ozuna, who each won the award for the second time, and first-time winner Travis d’Arnaud.

The Chicago White Sox led the American League with three Silver Sluggers: shortstop Tim Anderson, left fielder Eloy Jimenez and first baseman Jose Abreu, who won the award for the third time after batting .317 with 19 home runs and 60 RBIs.

It was the first honor for both Anderson and Jimenez.

Los Angeles Angels star outfielder Mike Trout received his eighth Silver Slugger Award after batting .281 with 17 home runs and 46 RBIs this season.

2020 Silver Slugger Winners

POS. AL NL
C Salvador Perez, Royals Travis d’Arnaud, Braves
1B Jose Abreu, White Sox Freddie Freeman, Braves
2B DJ LeMahieu, Yankees Donovan Solano, Giants
SS Tim Anderson, White Sox Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres
3B Jose Ramírez, Indians Manny Machado, Padres
OF Mike Trout, Angels Juan Soto, Nationals
OF Eloy Jimenez, White Sox Mookie Betts, Dodgers
OF Teoscar Hernandez, Blue Jays Ronald Acuna Jr., Braves
DH Nelson Cruz, Twins Marcell Ozuna, Braves

Minnesota Twins designated hitter Nelson Cruz, New York Yankees second baseman DJ LeMahieu, Cleveland Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez, Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez and Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Teoscar Hernandez rounded out the American League winners.

World Series champion and Los Angeles Dodgers star Mookie Betts, Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto, San Francisco Giants second baseman Donovan Solano and San Diego Padres teammates Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado completed the National League list.

Selections are based on a combination of offensive stats, including batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, in addition to the managers’ and coaches’ views of a player’s overall offensive value.

Wonderfilm Media Developing Biopic About Tampa Bay Rays’ Breakout Star Randy Arozarena

Randy Arozarena’s life story is headed to the big screen…

The 25-year-old Cuban professional baseball outfielder and Tampa Bay Rays rookie, who broke the MLB record for most home runs and hits in a single postseason, will be the focus of a biopic from Wonderfilm Media.

Randy Arozarena

Arozarena, the Rays’ breakout star, came from Cuba and fueled his team’s run to the World Series, which eventually went to the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games.

Brad Gann, the screenwriter of the Mark Wahlberg-led Invincible and a co-writer of pro surfer Bethany Hamilton biopic Soul Surfer, will write the screenplay.

Arozarena’s story is inspiring. He escaped Cuba on a makeshift boat, landed in Mexico, and started a new life there before making his way to the U.S. and eventually, his Major League Baseball debut in 2017.

Arozarena currently holds the MLB record for most home runs in a single postseason with 10. In his rookie postseason, Arozarena broke Barry Bonds’ record for most home runs as well as Derek Jeter’s record for most hits by a rookie. He was also named MVP of the ALCS.

Randy Arozarena Named American League Championship Series MVP After Hitting Four Homers vs. Houston Astros

Randy Arozarena is the man of  the hour…

The 25-year-old Cuban professional baseball outfielder continued his historic postseason run on Saturday with his seventh homer, a two-run shot in the first inning that gave theTampa Bay Rays a lead it never relinquished against the Houston Astros in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series.

Randy Arozarena

Arozarena was named MVP of the ALCS, becoming the fourth rookie — and first rookie position player — to be named MVP of a league championship series.

He has homered seven times during this year’s playoffs, just one shy of the Major League Baseball record, and now has 47 total bases since the regular season ended.

Tampa Baywill now head to the World Series after holding off baseball’s most infamous team. The Rays beat the Astros 4-2 in Game 7, ending Houston’s bid to become the second team in baseball history to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a postseason series.

“It goes without saying this has been a weird year,” Rays Game 7 starter — and winner — Charlie Morton said. “It was pretty apparent early on the guys had bought into each other during this time.

“It was very challenging, because at first everything was about the protocols and trying to keep guys safe. Just guys come onto the field every day, knowing they could get sick, and staff coming in, and just a ton of work by people behind the scenes. I am so proud of these guys.”

The formula for the Rays is consistency, and it was very much evident in Game 7. They stifle the opposition. They catch the ball on defense. And they ride just enough home runs on offense to bring home the win.

The Rays now head to their second World Series in franchise history. The last time they played in the Fall Classic was in 2008, when they lost to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Tampa Bay entered the first 16-team playoff format in baseball history with a 40-20 record, tops in the AL, and thus earned the Junior Circuit’s No. 1 seed. That top seed held up, even though the Rays had to recover from losing three straight to Houston after winning the first three contests.

“Pretty special feeling,” Cash said. “I don’t know if I’ve had many better [moments] other than getting married and having three kids. This is right there below that. It can’t get much better than that. This is a special group to be a part of.”

For Houston, it was an emotional loss after a tumultuous season for the organization. The Astros were embroiled in a sign-stealing scandal last winter that tainted their 2017 World Series title and cost manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow their jobs.

“The legacy of this group is that these guys are ballplayers,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “These guys are men; they have been through a whole bunch other than on the ballfield. [Now] these guys can forget the problems they had that is out there and come together as a group and be forever friends.”

Hinch’s replacement, the 71-year-old Baker, helped restore some of the goodwill the Astros squandered. But with the Game 7 loss, Baker is still looking for the first championship of a managerial career that began in 1993. Yet, in 2020, there was much more that was brought into perspective.

“You go home and you regroup,” Baker said. “Personally, when I think of [former MLB executive Jimmie Lee Solomon, whose] funeral was today, and you think about the many friends I have lost over the last month, six months. That is the reality of life. Those are far greater losses than losing a ballgame.”

Deivi Garcia to Become Youngest Pitcher to Start a Playoff Game in New York Yankees’ Postseason History

Deivi Garcia is set to make baseball history…

The 21-year-old Dominican-born professional baseball player will start in Game 2 of the American League Divisional Series between the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night, making him the youngest pitcher to start a playoff game in Yankees’ postseason history and the 5th-youngest in AL postseason history, per ESPN Stats Info.

It’s a bold stroke for manager Aaron Boone. Garcia made just six starts during the regular season in his first taste of MLB action. Garcia held his own, going 3-2 with a 4.98 ERA/4.15 FIP and 8.7 K/9 to 1.6 BB/9. His command was particularly impressive, never having limited free passes at such a stringent rate at any point in his minor league career when it’s typical for young players to struggle more with their command upon promotion to the big league.

“We deliberated on that a lot over the last several days,” Boone said ahead of Game 1 of the ALDS at Petco Park. “Masa [Masahiro Tanaka] will now go in Game 3. So just like slot and Deivi in between Cole and Masa was the way we wanted to go.

“I think the way he’s pitched, and the way he’s handled himself and handled every situation so far. I felt like I wanted to go this way a couple days ago but wanted to continue to flesh it out because we could. Ultimately today, this morning, decided this the way I wanted to go. I just felt [we had] a lot of good options there, [different] ways we could have gone. I don’t worry about him not being able to handle it, mentally, emotionally and all those things and I know he’s looking forward to it.”

The rookie concurred.

“Super excited,” Garcia said of his reaction upon hearing the news from Boone. “When they finally told me that I was going to get the ball for Game 2. What can I say? Just so excited about it. At the same time, very thankful for the opportunity and I will try to go out there and do the best I can.”

Garcia’s 5’9″ stature and electric stuff has drawn comparisons to Pedro Martinez early in his career, and while that’s quite a lofty comparison at this stage, he certainly looks more and more like a player with cult potential in New York.

Over the small sample of major league innings we’ve seen so far, Garcia averages a 91.9 mph four-seamer that serves as the bedrock offering in his arsenal, throwing it about 60% of the time, often up. The Dominican righty utilizes an 80.6 mph change-up away against lefties while mixing in a breaking ball about 12.5% of the time. Against right-handed batters, he goes to a slider/curveball combo more frequently, giving equal love to the slider and curve for a total usage rate of about 33%. He was the Yankees No. 1 prospect coming into the season.