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.”

Toronto Blue Jays to Celebrate Tony Fernandez with Special Uniform Patch This Season

Tony Fernandez is being honored in a special way by his old team…

The Toronto Blue Jays will celebrate the late Dominican professional baseball player and Major League Baseball legend, who passed away earlier this year, by wearing a patch with his No. 1 on the left sleeve of uniform jerseys this season.

Tony Fernandez

A member of Toronto’s 1993 World Series champions who had nine RBIs in the six-game win over the Philadelphia Phillies, Fernandez had kidney problems and died on February 16 at age 57.

He is the Blue Jays’ career leader in games (1,450), hits (1,583) and triples (72). He spent 12 seasons with Toronto in four stints and had a .288 batting average and 2,276 hits over 17 big league seasons. Fernandez also played for the San Diego Padres, the New York Mets and New York YankeesCleveland IndiansCincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers. He was a five-time MLB All-Star.

“There are few players in the game who can impact a team and a fan base the way Tony did in Toronto,” Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro said in a statement. “Beyond his impressive career numbers, achievements, and accolades, Tony resonated with baseball fans because of how he played the game and conducted himself as a teammate.”

Francisco Liriano Signs Minor League Contract with the Philadelphia Phillies

Francisco Liriano isn’t leaving The Keystone State… 

The Philadelphia Phillies have signed the 36-year-old Dominican professional baseball left-handed pitcher to a minor league contracts with invitations to attend major league spring training.

Francisco Liriano

Liriano was 5-3 with a 3.47 ERA in 69 relief appearances for the Pittsburgh Pirateslast season. Liriano is 112-114 with a 4.15 ERA and has averaged 9.01 strikeouts per nine innings over 419 career games.

During his career, he has played for the Minnesota TwinsChicago White Sox, the PiratesToronto Blue JaysHouston Astrosand Detroit Tigers.

Liriano was an MLB All-Star in 2006, and is a two-time winner of the MLB Comeback Player of the Year Award.

Cesar Hernandez Agrees to One-Year Deal with the Cleveland Indians

Cesar Hernandez is heading to Cleveland…

The 29-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball player and second baseman has agreed to a one-year, $6.25 million contract with the Cleveland Indians, according to ESPN.

Cesar Hernandez

Hernandez became a free agent when he wasn’t tendered a contract by the Philadelphia Philliesafter a season in which he hit .279 with 14 home runs and a career-high 71 RBIs.

He avoided arbitration in 2019 by reaching a one-year, $7.75 million deal with Philadelphia, and he was again eligible for arbitration had he signed after the season.

Hernandez had been a starter with the Phillies since 2015, when he replaced Chase Utley. He led the team with a .294 batting average in both 2016 and 2017, then had a career-high 15 home runs in 2018. He has averaged 2.5 wins above replacement over the past four seasons.

Hernandez had been with the Phillies since signing with them out of Venezuela in 2006 at the age of 16. He has a .277 career average with 253 RBIs and a .352 on-base percentage.

With the addition of Hernandez, the Indians will likely keep Jose Ramirezat third base. The club considered sliding Ramirez over to the right side of the infield and pairing him with All-Starshortstop Francisco Lindor, whose name continues to be bounced around in trade rumors.

Gio Gonzalez Agrees to One-Year, $5 Million Deal with the Chicago White Sox

It’ll be a White (Sox)Christmas for Gio Gonzalez

The 34-year-old Cuban American MLB player and veteran free-agent left-handed pitcher has agreed to a one-year, $5 million deal with the Chicago White Sox, the team has announced.

Gio Gonzalez

The White Sox will pay Gonzalez $4.5 million in 2020 and hold a $7 million option for the 2021 season, with a $500,000 buyout. He can make an additional $500,000 with incentives over the two years, according to ESPN.

Gonzalez will finally get a chance to pitch for the team that took him with the No. 38 overall pick in the 2004 amateur draft. Chicago dealt Gonzalez to the Philadelphia Philliesfollowing the 2005 season as part of the trade that sent Aaron Rowandto the Philliesfor Jim Thome, then reacquired Gonzalez a year later along with Gavin Floydfor Freddy Garcia.

The White Sox traded Gonzalez to the Oakland Athleticsfor Nick Swisherin January 2008.

Gonzalez debuted with the Athletics in 2008 and is 130-99 with a 3.68 ERA over 12 years with Oakland (2008-11), the Washington Nationals (2012-18) and the Milwaukee Brewers(2018-19). 

He was an All-Starin 2011 and 2012, when he won a career-high 21 games and had a 2.89 ERA.

“We view Gio as an important addition to our pitching staff,” general manager Rick Hahnsaid in a statement. “He brings an impressive resume to our club as a veteran left-hander who has enjoyed success and should have a positive impact on our younger pitchers in terms of competing, battling and helping us win games at the major league level.”

Gonzalez was 3-2 with a 3.50 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 17 starts and 19 appearances last season for the Brewers, who signed him last year to a second option on a contract that wound up being worth $65.5 million over seven years.

He made only six starts before spending more than a month on the injured list with left arm fatigue, recording a 2-1 record with a 3.19 ERA and 25 strikeouts. But he did return to make 11 more starts and log 56⅓ innings in the second half as the Brewers won the wild card.

Gonzalez also spent the final month of the 2018 season with the Brewers, who acquired him in an August 31 trade with the Nationals. He was 3-0 in five starts for the Brewers down the stretch, then started Games 1 and 4 of the NLCSagainst the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was pulled after two innings of the opener and one inning of his second appearance, allowing one run in each.

Chicago went 72-89 in its seventh straight losing season and missed the playoffs for the 13th time in 14 years since its 2005 World Seriestitle. But with young players establishing themselves in the majors and promising prospects in the minors, the White Sox expect to contend for a postseason spot.

Right-hander Lucas Giolitowent from the highest ERA among qualifiers in 2018 to his first All-Star season, going 14-9 with a 3.41 ERA in 29 starts.

Maikel Franco Agrees to One-Year Deal with the Kansas City Royals

Maikel Francois officially Royal-ty

The 27-year-old Dominican professional baseball third baseman has agreed to a one-year, $3 million deal with the Kansas City Royals, according to ESPN.

Maikel Franco

Franco, who became a free agent when he was non-tendered by the Philadelphia Philliesearlier this offseason, is expected to be the Royals’ everyday third baseman.

Hunter Dozier(.279, 26 homers, 84 RBIs) primarily manned third base (91 starts) for the Royals last season, but Kansas City will take advantage of his versatility and move him around the field in 2020. Dozier also had starts at first base and in the outfield last season.

Franco hit .234 with 17 home runs and 56 RBIs in 123 games last season for Philadelphia.

Before 2019, Franco had hit at least 22 home runs for three consecutive seasons for the Phillies, the only team he has played for in six major league seasons.

He is a .249 hitter with 102 home runs and 343 RBIs in 656 career games.

MLB.comwas first to report to Franco’s agreement with the Royals.

Jake Arrieta Accepts $20 Million Player Option to Stay with Philadelphia Phillies Next Season

Jake Arrieta isn’t leaving The Keystone State

The 33-year-old part-Puerto Rican Major League Baseball pitcher is staying with the Philadelphia Phillies, exercising a $20 million player option for 2020.

Jake Arrieta

A right-hander, Arrieta was 8-8 with a 4.64 ERA in 24 starts this year. He didn’t pitch after August 11 because of surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow.

Arrieta was the 2015 National League Cy Young Awardwinner with the Chicago Cubs. He made the MLB All-Starteam the following season and helped the Cubs win their first World Seriestitle since 1908. 

He left as a free agent after the 2017 season and signed a deal with the Phillies that will wind up paying $75 million over three seasons.

Arrieta was 10-11 with a 3.96 ERA in 31 starts for Philadelphia in 2018.

Ronald Acuna Jr. Hits Historic Homer to Earn a Place in MLB History

Ronald Acuna Jr. is making his MLB mark…

The 21-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball outfielder, who plays for the Atlanta Braves, has become only the third player in baseball history to hit 40 homers in a season at 21 years old or younger.

Ronald Acuna Jr.

Acuna’s historic homer came with a flourish in the third inning of Atlanta’s 5-4 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday. He launched a 432-foot drive into the second deck at SunTrust Park, standing at home plate to admire his shot off Aaron Nola before tossing the bat away and slowly rounding the bases.

Acuna was pumped to join a very exclusive club, but even more thrilled about the Braves clinching at least a tie for first place in the National League East.

“That’s the most exciting thing up to this point,” Acuna said through a translator. “That’s what we’re all looking for. I think for all of us, it’s just come out with that same energy, that same enthusiasm, get that win and hopefully celebrate. That’s something we’re all looking forward to.”

Mel Ott, who was 20 when he hit 42 homers for the New York Giantsin 1940, was the only player younger than Acuna to post a 40-homer season. Eddie Mathewsalso was 21 but about two months older than Acuna when he hit 47 homers for the Milwaukee Bravesin 1953.

Ott and Mathews are both members of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

“It feels incredible,” said Acuna, who was born December 18, 1997. “To be compared to superstars and Hall of Famers like that, especially at such a young age, wow.”

Acuna had gone five games since hitting his 39th homer.

“He might relax now and really go off,” manager Brian Snitkersaid. “That’s an unbelievable accomplishment at this stage of his career.”

Acuna is still three stolen bases shy of another milestone. He has 37 steals in his quest to become just the fifth 40-40 player in baseball history, following Jose Canseco(1988), Barry Bonds(1996), Alex Rodriguez(1998) and Alfonso Soriano(2006).

Brandon Gomes Named Assistant General Manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers

Brandon Gomesis movin’ on up in management…

The 34-year-old Latino former Major League Baseball pitcher has been promoted to vice president and assistant general manager with the Los Angeles Dodgers, continuing the former Tampa Bay Rays player’s climb up the front-office ranks.

Brandon Gomes

Gomes had been serving as director of player development since 2016. He joined the Dodgers’ front office after a five-year career with the Rays.

Gomes began with the Dodgers as their minor league pitching coordinator under then-director of player development Gabe Kapler, who now manages the Philadelphia Phillies

Gomes answers to president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, who like Gomes, is a Tulane Universitygraduate. Friedman was general manager in Tampa Bay for much of Gomes’ pitching career there.

Farhan Zaidi, who had been the Dodgers’ GM, left in November to join the rival San Francisco Giants. Friedman had said the team wouldn’t necessarily be filling his position.

Jorge Alfaro Traded to the Miami Marlins

Jorge Alfarois headed to the Sunshine State…

The Philadelphia Phillieshave traded the 25-year-old Colombian professional baseball catcher to the Miami Marlins, in a deal that includes pitching prospects Sixto Sanchez and Will Stewart, as well as an international bonus slot.

Jorge Alfaro 

In exchange, Miami will send All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto to Philadelphia.

Alfaro is a power-hitting, cannon-armed catcher who will join a young group in Miami. 

Sanchez is the most well-regarded prospect in the deal, a 6-foot right-hander whose fastball sits in the high 90s and tops out over 100 mph. The 20-year-old missed a majority of the 2018 season with elbow inflammation. 

Stewart, 21, excelled in Class A last season, going 8-1 with a 2.06 ERA in 20 starts.

“We did not have to trade J.T.,” Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hillsaid. “But our goal is to build a long-term sustainable championship organization.”

Miami is hopeful Sanchez and Alfaro can blossom into stars. Sanchez especially has incredible upside, though the list of short, right-handed starters with huge velocity who have succeeded in the major leagues is not long.

“In Sanchez, we saw a front-of-the-rotation starter,” Hill said. “Electric stuff — a pitcher we think can develop and lead a championship rotation.”