Atlanta Braves to Open Season with Reynaldo Lopez as Team’s Fifth Starter

It’s a Braves new season for Reynaldo Lopez

The Atlanta Braves will open the season with the 30-year-old Dominican professional baseball pitcher as their fifth starter.

Reynaldo López,López, who signed a $30 million, three-year deal with the Braves in November, earned the rotation spot by allowing just four earned runs over 16 ⅔ innings in five spring appearances.

He surrendered 10 hits, walked six and struck out 13.

This marks a return to a starting role for Lopez after he was used exclusively as a reliever the past two seasons by the Chicago White SoxLos Angeles Angels and Cleveland Guardians. He thrived out of the bullpen, posting a 3.02 ERA with 146 strikeouts in 131⅓ innings over 129 appearances.

But the Braves signed López early in free agency with an eye toward using the hard-throwing right-hander as a starter again. He made a total of 65 starts for the White Sox over the 2018 and ’19 seasons, going 17-22 with a 4.64 ERA.

López joins a rotation that also includes MLB All-Star Spencer Strider, Max Fried, Charlie Morton and another newcomer, Chris Sale.

It also makes sense for the Braves to use López as a starter early in the season, even if he winds up returning to the bullpen. If he began as a reliever, it would have been difficult to stretch out his arm later in the year for a starting role.

Atlanta, which has won six straight NL East titles, opens the season March 28 at Philadelphia.

Yasmani Grandal Reportedly Agrees to One-Year, $2.5 Million Contract with Pittsburgh Pirates

It’s all hands on deck for Yasmani Grandal.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are adding the 35-year-old Cuban professional baseball catcher, a two-time MLB All-Star, according to multiple ESPN reports.

Yasmani GrandalThe Pirates and Grandal have agreed to terms on a one-year contract worth $2.5 million, according to the reports.

Pittsburgh is searching for depth at catcher with Endy Rodriguez — who started 57 games in 2023 as a rookie — already ruled out for 2024 after undergoing Tommy John surgery in December. He got injured while playing winter ball in his native Dominican Republic.

Grandal would join a catching situation that includes 2021 first overall pick Henry Davis, Jason Delay and Ali Sanchez.

Grandal is a career .237 hitter while playing for four teams across 12 seasons, including the past four years with the Chicago White Sox.

Grandal hit .234 with eight home runs and had 33 RBIs in 118 games with the White Sox in 2023.

The Pirates have remained bullish that Davis can become an every-day catcher even though he spent the vast majority of his rookie season playing right field. Adding Grandal gives the Pirates a little bit of flexibility as Davis continues to refine his work defensively.

Grandal provided power at the plate during his prime. He has topped 20 home runs in a season five times, most recently with Chicago in 2021. He made a pair of All-Star teams earlier in his career, first in 2015 while playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers and again in 2019 while with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Chicago White Sox Trade Gregory Santos to Seattle Mariners

Gregory Santos is headed to the Seattle Mariners.

The Chicago White Sox traded the 24-year-old Dominican professional baseball pitcher, a right-handed reliever, to the American League West division team.

Gregory SantosFrom Seattle, the White Sox received a package that includes a pair of players on the Mariners’ 40-man roster — hard-throwing right-hander Prelander Berroa and outfielder Zach DeLoach — as well as the 69th pick in the 2024 draft.

Santos, a well-regarded player, joins a Mariners bullpen that already boasts Andres Muñoz and Matt Brash, two of the nastiest relievers in Major League Baseball.

With a fastball that sits at 99 mph and a 92-mph slider, Santos thrived in his first full season with the White Sox, posting a 3.39 ERA and a 2.65 Fielding Independent Pitching number on account of allowing just two home runs with a nearly 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 66.1 innings.

With five years of team control on Santos, the Mariners were willing to give up Berroa, 23, whose stuff is similar to Santos’, with a fastball that hits triple digits and a hard-breaking slider. A starter for most of his minor league career, Berroa spent last season mainly as a reliever and debuted with Seattle toward the end of the 2023 season after posting a 2.89 ERA and striking out 101 in 65.1 innings at Triple A.

Seattle had added DeLoach, 25, to their 40-man roster this winter after a standout season at Triple A, where he hit .286/.387/.481 with 23 home runs and 88 RBIs. The left-handed-hitting DeLoach was a second-round pick. The 69th choice, with a slot value of around $1.1 million, was eligible to be traded because it is a competitive-balance pick.

Cristian Mena Traded by Chicago White Sox to Arizona Diamondbacks

Cristian Mena is headed to The Grand Canyon State.

The Chicago White Sox have traded the 21-year-old Dominican pitcher and right-handed prospect to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Cristian MenaIn the deal, which was announced on social media by the White Sox, outfielder Dominic Fletcher goes to Chicago from Arizona and should be in the mix for playing time this year.

Mena throws a hard curveball, a low-to-mid-90s fastball and will provide upper-level rotation depth after striking out 156 in 133.2 innings between Double A and Triple A last season.

At 5-foot-6, 185 pounds, Fletcher has nevertheless managed to cut an imposing figure at the plate since Arizona drafted him in 2019. In more than 1,600 minor league appearances, he has hit .295/.366/.474 with 42 home runs and 201 RBIs, and in 28 games with the Diamondbacks last season, Fletcher hit .301/.350/.441 with a pair of home runs and 14 RBIs. The younger brother of Atlanta utilityman David Fletcher, the left-handed hitter will compete for right-field at-bats, with MLB All-Star Luis Robert Jr. in center and Andrew Benintendi in left.

Arizona traded from a position of strength, with MLB All-Star Corbin CarrollYuli GurrielAlek ThomasJake McCarthy and the recently signed Joc Pederson all outfielders.

Mena throws a hard curveball, a low-to-mid-90s fastball and will provide upper-level rotation depth after striking out 156 in 133.2 innings between Double A and Triple A last season.

Under new general manager Chris Getz, the White Sox have been aggressive in turning over their roster after dealing a handful of veterans at the trade deadline last year.

Jackson Chourio Signs Eight-Year, $82 Million Contract with Milwaukee Brewers

Things are brewing for Jackson Chourio

The 19-year-old Venezuelan center fielder and the Milwaukee Brewers have agreed to an eight-year, $82 million contract with two club options and escalators that can take the total value of the deal to $142.5 million, according to ESPN.

Jackson ChourioThe deal guarantees Chourio more money than any player before his Major League Baseball debut.

Chourio, a Venezuela native who signed with the Brewers in 2021 as a 16-year-old, spent most of 2023 at the Double-A level, where he hit .280/.336/.467 with 22 home runs and ascended to the No. 3 prospect in baseball in ESPN’s rankings.

Pre-debut long-term deals are rare, and all five of the previous players to sign one — Eloy Jimenez with the Chicago White SoxScott Kingery with the Philadelphia Phillies, Luis Robert with the White Sox, Jon Singleton with the Houston Astros and Evan White with the Seattle Mariners — were either 22 or 23 years old.

If both options are exercised, Chourio would hit free agency at 29.

The deal significantly increases the likelihood of Chourio breaking camp with the Brewers. A small-market team whose payroll last finished in the upper half of Major League Baseball in 2012, Milwaukee would have been incentivized to keep Chourio at Triple-A — where he played his final six games this season — to delay his eventual free agency by a year.

Even if he began the season in the minor leagues, Chourio could have won a full year of service finishing first or second in Rookie of the Year voting.

Reynaldo López Agrees to $30 Million, Three-Year Contract with Atlanta Braves

It’s a Brave(s) new world for Reynaldo López.

While keeping up their search for starting pitching, the Atlanta Braves added another reliever to their bullpen Monday by agreeing to $30 million, three-year contract with the 29-year-old Dominican professional baseball pitcher.

Reynaldo López,The deal calls for López to make $4 million in 2024 and $11 million in the next two seasons. There is an $8 million club option for 2027, with a $4 million buyout.

López, a right hander, pitched for three teams in 2023, combining to go 3-7 with a 3.27 ERA and six saves over 68 appearances with the Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Angels and Cleveland Guardians. He had 83 strikeouts in 66 innings — a career-best average of 11.3 Ks per nine innings — with a fastball that averaged 98.2 mph.

The Braves, who had an MLB-leading 104 wins this past season but were eliminated in the NL Division Series for the second year in a row by Philadelphia, have been retooling their roster with an eye toward getting over the hump in the postseason.

They re-signed relievers Joe Jimenez and Pierce Johnson to multiyear deals, acquired left-handed reliever Aaron Bummer from the White Sox in a six-player trade and dealt former 21-game winner Kyle Wright, who is set to miss the entire 2024 season with a shoulder injury after sitting out most of this past season.

In exchange for Wright, the Braves landed former first-round draft pick Jackson Kowar, who has struggled with the Royals pitching mostly in relief. In a separate deal with Kansas City, Atlanta traded reliever Nick Anderson for $100,000.

All the moves have left the Braves with solid depth in a bullpen that also includes closer Raisel Iglesias and lefties A.J. MinterDylan Lee and Tyler MatzekDaysbel Hernandez and Huascar Ynoa are other bullpen candidates.

“They just looked like they knew they wanted to win at all times,” López said through a translator. “It’s great to be part of that and can’t wait to be out there.”

The only clear move to address a dearth of starting pitching depth was exercising a $20 million option for 40-year-old Charlie Morton, who went 14-12 with a 3.64 ERA last season.

That is, unless they’re planning to move López back to the rotation. He held that role with the Chicago White Sox from 2017-20, going 21-31 with a 4.76 ERA over 81 starts.

He made his MLB debut with the Washington Nationals in 2016, and has also played for the Los Angeles Angels and Cleveland Guardians.

Other than one appearance as an opener, López has been used exclusively as a reliever the last two seasons, with much more success.

“I was open to both options, someone who was looking for a starter or reliever,” López said. “Both options were open.”

The Braves’ rotation is led by MLB All-Star Spencer Strider (20-5, 3.86, a franchise-record 281 strikeouts) and Max Fried, who is heading into his final season before becoming eligible for free agency. The other starting candidates are Bryce Elder, who was selected for the All-Star Game but struggled down the stretch, and 21-year-old top prospect AJ Smith-ShawverDarius VinesAllan WinansDylan Dodd and possibly 2023 first-round pick Hurston Waldrep could also be in the mix.

General manager Alex Anthopoulos appeared to be clearing payroll space to make a run at a starter with a series of moves that sliced 10 players off the Braves’ 40-man roster in the past couple of weeks.

Atlanta declined a $9 million option for outfielder Eddie Rosario, cut ties with relievers Kirby Yates, Brad Hand and Collin McHugh, did not tender a contract to reliever Michael Tonkin, and dealt away arbitration-eligible players such as former ace Michael Soroka, infielder Nicky Lopez and Anderson.

One possible target is out of the running after Aaron Nola agreed to a seven-year deal to remain with the Phillies. Sonny Gray is thought to be another starter on Atlanta’s wish list.

Houston Astros Star Jose Altuve Notches 2,000 Career Hits

Jose Altuve has 2,000 reasons to smile…

The 33-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball player and Houston Astros star has notched 2,000 career hits, becoming the third player in franchise history to reach the milestone.

Jose AltuveAltuve hit a leadoff single in the fifth inning against the Seattle Mariners right-hander Logan Gilbert on Saturday night.

He was thrown out trying to stretch the play into a double, but the Minute Maid Park crowd was ready to celebrate.

As Altuve trotted toward the dugout, a 2,000-hit graphic was displayed on the jumbotron and the eight-time MLB All-Star tipped his helmet to the roaring crowd. With the fans still cheering, Altuve stepped up out of the dugout for a curtain call, once again tipping his helmet.

“We did a little champagne toast and they said some things about me and then I had to say some things about me, too,” Altuve said about the postgame clubhouse celebration. “It was good.”

Hall of Famers Craig Biggio (3,060) and Jeff Bagwell (2,314) also reached 2,000 hits with the Astros. They were both in attendance on Saturday night.

Altuve also singled on Gilbert’s first pitch of the game and singled in the seventh, ending the day with 2,001 career hits. He finished 3-for-5 in a 10-3 loss to Seattle.

“That’s quite an accomplishment,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “A couple other Hall of Famers here got 2,000 hits. … Hopefully he can stay healthy and be around for the next 1,000.”

Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman, Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen and Chicago White Sox infielder Elvis Andrus also reached 2,000 career hits this season. Andrus got his milestone hit on April 5. Freeman accomplished the feat on June 25, and McCutchen reached the milestone on June 11.

There are seven active MLB players with at least 2,000 hits: Miguel CabreraJoey Votto, Nelson Cruz, Andrus, McCutchen and Freeman.

LA Angels New Addition Eduardo Escobar Placed on Restricted List as He Prepares for U.S. Citizenship Test

Eduardo Escobar is hitting the U.S. history books, not baseballs, these days…

Three days after the Los Angeles Angels acquired him from the New York Mets, the 34-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball player has been placed on the restricted list.

Eduardo Escobar,The reason: Escobar is scheduled to take his United States citizenship test on Tuesday in Miami.

Escobar hails from Venezuela and now lives in Miami with his wife and children. The citizenship test was already in his plans before the Mets executed the trade.

The Angels have a home series against the Chicago White Sox beginning Monday night. Escobar could return Wednesday in time for the third game of a four-game series.

The Mets traded Escobar and cash considerations to the Angels on Friday night in exchange for Double-A right-handed pitchers Landon Marceaux and Coleman Crow.

Escobar’s Angels debut came in the team’s 25-1 thrashing of the Colorado Rockies on Saturday. Escobar did his part by going 2-for-4 with four runs and one RBI. He had another two hits in Sunday’s series finale, including a triple.

In 42 games with the Mets and Angels this season, Escobar is batting .254 with four home runs, 17 RBIs and 20 runs.

In a related move, Los Angeles recalled outfielder Jo Adell from Triple-A Salt Lake.

Adell, 24, has spent most of the season at Triple-A after playing 161 games for the Angels in his first three MLB seasons. In Adell’s lone major league game of 2023, he hit a solo home run in three at-bats during a 3-1 win over the Chicago Cubs on June 8.

Angels catcher Chris Okey also cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment to Salt Lake.

Elvis Andrus Agrees to One-Year, $3 Million Contract with Chicago White Sox

Elvis Andrus is staying in the Windy City

The 34-year-old Venezuelan-American professional baseball player, an infielder, and the Chicago White Sox have agreed to a one-year, $3 million contract, pending a physical, according to ESPN.

Elvis Andrus  Andrus spent the final two months of the 2022 season with the White Sox, filling in for the injured Tim Anderson at shortstop. Andrus is expected to play second base with Chicago, sources said, after playing all 1,914 of his career games at shortstop.

After struggling with the Oakland Athletics over the first four months of the 2022 season, Andrus found his power stroke in Chicago, slashing .271/.309/.464 with nine home runs in 191 plate appearances. Over his 14-year career, Andrus has slashed .270/.326/.371 with 96 home runs and 335 stolen bases.

The White Sox are hoping to rebound from a disappointing 2022, when they went 81-81 and finished in second place in the American League Central division. They signed left fielder Andrew Benintendi to a five-year, $75 million deal and will move Andrew Vaughn from left field to first base, where he’ll take over for Jose Abreu, who went to Houston on a three-year, $58.5 million deal.

Chicago also signed right-hander Mike Clevinger, who is currently under investigation by the Major League Baseball for potentially violating the league’s domestic violence policy after being accused by the mother of his young daughter of throwing tobacco spit at both. Clevinger denied the accusations and threatened to sue a Chicago radio station that aired an interview with her.

Andrus joins a lineup with plenty of potential with Anderson, Benintendi, Vaughn, center fielder Luis Robert, designated hitter Eloy Jimenez and third baseman Yoan Moncada.

The White Sox’s starting rotation, which includes Cy Young candidate Dylan Cease, Lucas GiolitoLance Lynn and Michael Kopech, is expected to keep them competitive in an AL Central race with defending champion Cleveland and Minnesota, which re-signed shortstop Carlos Correa.

Yoan Moncada to Represent Cuba at Upcoming World Baseball Classic

Yoan Moncada is going native

Cubans signed with Major League Baseball organizations or other foreign clubs, including the 27-year-old Cuban professional baseball third baseman for the Chicago White Sox, will for the first time join local stars on the national team that’ll play in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, according to officials.

Yoan MoncadaThe Cuban Baseball Federation long defended the idea of amateurism and punished those who left the island to seek their fortunes in professional baseball.

But that changed when a program on state television announced the roster of 30 players for Cuba’s national team that will play in the international tournament that begins March 8 in Taiwan.

In addition to Moncada and his teammate Luis Robert, plus three players from Triple-A rosters: infielder Andy Ibanez of Detroit Tigers affiliate Toledo Mud Hens, right-hander Miguel Romero of the Oakland Athletics’ Las Vegas Aviators and right-hander Ronald Bolanos of the Kansas City Royals‘ Omaha Storm Chasers.

Also on the team will be outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who played for the New York Mets but has not been in the majors since 2018.

Two Cubans who play in Japan were picked, outfielder Yurisbel Gracial of the Pacific League‘s Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks and catcher Ariel Martinez of the Central League‘s Chunichi Dragons.

To arrange participation of the MLB players, Cuba had to get special permission from the U.S., since Washington maintains sanctions on Cuba. Under the agreement, those players are barred from coming to Cuba to work with the team.

Baseball is the national sport in Cuba but economic difficulties, the philosophy of restricting the movement of athletes and the temptations of professional contracts abroad have decimated the game on the island.