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.

Eloy Jimenez Hoping to Reclaim Outfield Role Over Designated Hitter Slot

Eloy Jimenez is hoping to head out(field)…

While the 26-yearold Dominican professional baseball player could spend a lot of time at designated hitter for the Chicago White Sox, he has other plans.

Eloy JimenezJimenez says he’s preparing to play more games in the outfield, especially in right, after Chicago signed left fielder Andrew Benintendi to a $75 million, five-year contract. The White Sox also have Luis Robert in center, to go along with Gavin Sheets and prized prospect Oscar Colás in the mix in right.

Jimenez was sidelined for a couple of months last season after he had surgery in April to repair a torn hamstring tendon behind his right knee. He returned in July and finished with a career-high 50 starts at DH — not exactly his favorite opening in the lineup.

Asked whether he would embrace the DH role this year, Jimenez responded: “I don’t know.”

“Last year, when I was DH’ing more than [playing] the outfield, it was because I got surgery. And I understand that,” he said. “But this year, I’ve been working really hard to play the outfield more than DH. So I don’t really think that I’m going to accept it, because if I’m working hard, I’m going to get better, and I want to play in the outfield.”

Jimenez has been a bit of an adventure in the outfield since he made his major league debut with Chicago in 2019. He missed the start of the 2021 season after he ruptured his left pectoral tendon trying to make a defensive play during an exhibition game.

But he remains a force at the plate, and there is no questioning his importance to the White Sox.

After Jimenez returned last year, he hit .305 with 15 homers, 47 RBIs and an .895 OPS in his last 73 games. He bashed 31 homers during his rookie year in 2019, and then batted .296 with 14 homers and 41 RBIs in 55 games during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

Chicago went 81-81 in 2022 and missed the playoffs after reaching the postseason in the previous two years.

“We just need to be healthy; that’s the key right now,” Jimenez said. “If we’re healthy, we can do whatever because we are good on paper. But if we don’t play together as a team because of the injuries, we’re not going to do it, you know? We’re not going to make it.”

Jimenez said he has had “good communication” with Pedro Grifol since he took over as White Sox manager in November. Asked about his offseason conditioning, Jimenez playfully brushed off the question.

“I’m going to give you a surprise. I’m not going to answer right now,” said Jimenez, who plans to play for his native Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.

“You’re going to see me in spring training.”

Left field was Jimenez’s only defensive position in his first four years in the majors, as he made 235 starts at the spot among 316 big league games. But Benintendi has spent most of his career in left, winning a Gold Glove in 2021 with the Kansas City Royals.

So Jimenez and Grifol have talked about him playing right, but the 24-year-old Colás is expected to get a long look at the position in spring training after he batted .314 with 23 homers last year in the minors.

Still, Jimenez has focused at least some of his work on learning how to play right.

“It feels way different because most of the contacts in left field you don’t know where it’s going to go,” he said. “Right field is a lot different because every ball the right-handed hitter hits most of the time has some backspin. It’s way better being there.”

In addition to the new position, Jimenez is preparing for his first season without Jose Abreu after the first baseman left Chicago for a $58.5 million, three-year contract with the Houston Astros in free agency.

Abreu has been a key figure in Jimenez’s career.

“It’s going to be a little bit weird but this is the business,” Jimenez said. “We need to move forward and play with what we have.”

Chicago White Sox Acquire Gregory Santos from San Francisco Giants

Gregory Santos is heading to the Windy City.

The Chicago White Sox have acquired the 23-year-old Dominican professional baseball relief pitcher from the San Francisco Giants for minor league pitcher Kade McClure on Thursday.

Gregory SantosSantos has made five appearances over the past two years for San Francisco. The right-hander has a 4.63 ERA over 35 appearances – two starts – between Triple-A Sacramento and the Arizona Complex League Giants Black last season.

He has a 3.56 ERA over 97 appearances, including 44 starts, in six minor league seasons with the San Francisco and Boston organizations.

The 28-year-old McClure has a 4.03 ERA over 108 games and 59 starts in five minor league seasons with the White Sox.

Carlos Rodon Agrees to 6-Year, $162 Million Deal with New York Yankees

Carlos Rodon is the 162-million dollar man…

The 30-year-old Cuban American left-handed pitcher has agreed to a 6-year, $162 million deal with the New York Yankees, according to ESPN.

Carlos RodonRodon was the top pitcher left on the market after he opted out of a contract with the San Francisco Giants after last season. He was 14-8 with a 2.88 ERA in 2022, pitching a career-high 178 innings over 31 starts.

Rodon was the third pick in the 2014 draft by the Chicago White Sox but battled injuries during the first portion of his career before undergoing Tommy John surgery. He returned to elite form in 2021 when he compiled a 2.37 ERA over 24 starts though the White Sox were careful with him down the stretch. He never pitched more than five innings over the final two months of the season.

Even with his success that year the White Sox non-tendered Rodon that offseason leading to a two-year deal with the Giants. It included an opt-out which he chose to exercise in November.

Rodon joins holdovers Gerrit ColeNestor CortesLuis Severino and Frankie Montas in the Yankees rotation which ranked fourth overall in ERA last year. That ranking wasn’t indicative of some second-half struggles as the Yankees were eliminated in the postseason by the Houston Astros.

The signing, which was first reported by the New York Post, is the latest for agent Scott Boras who once again is having a rich off-season. Other deals for his clients include Carlos Correa ($350M), Xander Bogaerts ($280M), Brandon Nimmo ($162M), Masataka Yoshida ($90M), Taijuan Walker ($72M), Sean Manaea ($25M) and Cody Bellinger ($17.5M).

According to ESPN Stats & Information research, the deal is the second-largest contract the Yankees have ever given a pitcher in total value, exceeded only by Cole’s $324 million deal in 2019. Rodon gets $1 million more than CC Sabathia‘s $161 million deal with the Yankees in 2008.

Between Rodon and Aaron Judge, who signed a nine-year, $360 million deal to stay with the Yankees earlier this month, the team has guaranteed $522 million in contracts this offseason.

Rodon won’t have to wait long to face his former Giants team, with the Yankees set to host the San Francisco Giants on Opening Day of the 2023 season.

Rodon is 56-46 with a 3.60 ERA in 152 major league appearances over eight seasons. He has 947 strikeouts in 847 1/3 innings.

José Abreu Agrees to Three-Year Contract with Houston Astros

José Abreu is celebrating an Astros-nominical deal…

The 35-year-old Cuban professional baseball player, who plays first base, and the Houston Astros have agreed to a three-year contract, according to ESPN.

José AbreuAbreu will add another run-producing bat to the World Series champions’ lineup that’s already filled with them.

Abreu, who turns 36 in January, won the American League MVP award in 2020 and is second in baseball with 863 RBIs since his first season in the major leagues, 2014. He hit .304/.378/.446 this year with the Chicago White Sox, for whom he had played all nine of his big league seasons after defecting from Cuba.

Following a dreadful first five weeks, Abreu was one of the best hitters in baseball over the final three-quarters of the season, batting .335/.405/.479, though his 15 home runs over the entire year were a career low.

He joins an Astros lineup with fellow Cuban Yordan ÁlvarezJose AltuveKyle TuckerAlex Bregman and World Series MVP Jeremy Peña.

Abreu will replace Yuli Gurriel, a longtime rival in the Cuban National Series.

Abreu and Gurriel, along with Yoenis Cespedes, were widely regarded as the best players of their generation from Cuba, both high-contact hitters — though Abreu’s power was the separator.

The White Sox extended him for three years and $50 million after 2019, when he led the AL with 123 RBIs. Over his nine seasons, Abreu hit .292/.354/.506 with 243 home runs and an adjusted OPS 34% better than league average.

He’s the second signing for this winter for the Astros, who reupped reliever Rafael Montero on a three-year, $34.5 million contract. The Astros’ projected payroll is currently in the $175 million range — they’ve exceeded $187 million each of the previous five seasons — and they still hope to sign ace Justin Verlander, who could command upward of $40 million a year.

Pedro Grifol Lands First MLB Manager Job with Chicago White Sox

Pedro Grifol is headed to The Windy City for his first Major League Baseball manager job…

The 52-year-old Cuban American former-professional-baseball-player-turned-coach has been named the new manager of the Chicago White Sox.

Pedro Grifol,Grifol has been brought in to help restore the swagger that disappeared during a disappointing season this year.

“It’s essential,” general manager Rick Hahn said.

The White Sox made it official on Thursday, announcing Grifol is taking over for Hall of Famer Tony La Russa. Grifol had agreed to take the job earlier in the week.

Hahn also said pitching coach Ethan Katz and bullpen coach Curt Hasler are being retained. The White Sox hired former Toronto Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo as bench coach.

Grifol brings experience in a variety of coaching and scouting roles at the major and minor league levels. He spent the past three seasons as the Kansas City Royals‘ bench coach. And now, he has his first managing job in the majors.

“This is an extremely talented ballclub,” Grifol said. “And it was a really difficult club to prepare for because if the energy was high, they can beat anybody in the game. And if the energy wasn’t, we were able to have some success against them. My job — and my staff’s job — is gonna be to make sure that that energy is high every night and we’re prepared to win a ballgame.”

The White Sox came into the season with soaring expectations coming off back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time in franchise history. Instead, they were one of baseball’s biggest disappointments.

They went from running away with the division to finishing second in the AL Central at 81-81 and missing the postseason. La Russa missed the final 34 games because of health problems and announced he would not return, ending a disappointing two-year run with the franchise that gave him his first job as a big league skipper.

It’s now up to Grifol to help restore the vibe the White Sox had following the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. That team led by AL MVP José Abreu and young stars like Tim Anderson gave Chicago its first playoff appearance since 2008.

The White Sox then fired manager Rick Renteria and made a surprising choice to replace him. Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf lured his longtime friend La Russa out of retirement even though he hadn’t filled out a lineup card since leading the St. Louis Cardinals to the 2011 World Series championship.

“We were extremely proud of what we were able to accomplish in the early parts of this rebuild and the position that we were in a few years back,” Hahn said. “Even though we decided that we had to make a change after 2020, I think it was pretty clear that the arrow was pointing up for us. And thus far, what we’ve been able to show for that is one division title and a first-round exit. That’s not who we envisioned ourselves being, and part of that disappointment I think permeated the way the clubhouse was viewed — and viewed itself.”

The White Sox were hit hard by injuries, with Anderson and sluggers Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert missing significant time because of injuries.

Catcher Yasmani Grandal and third baseman Yoán Moncada also had health issues, and they underperformed when they were on the field.

There were embarrassing breakdowns on the bases. The defense was a problem, and an unbalanced lineup that was heavy with right-handed hitters had issues. Even so, the White Sox believe they have the core to compete, that their window isn’t shut.

Hahn said an initial list of candidates for the managing job swelled from about 22 or 24 to 30. Grifol was the second of eight to get first-round interviews before the list was whittled down.

The finalists met in Arizona with Hahn, Reinsdorf and executive vice president Ken Williams.

Grifol, a former minor league catcher, spent the past 10 seasons in a variety of coaching roles with Kansas City under former managers Ned Yost and Mike Matheny. He was part of teams that captured back-to-back pennants and won the World Series in 2015. He also worked for the Seattle Mariners for 13 years as a coach, scout and manager.

Grifol said getting the call from the White Sox that the job was his was “extremely emotional.”

“I’ve been in this game for a long time,” he said. “All I’ve ever wanted to do was manage a baseball team. It didn’t matter if it was the minor leagues or the big leagues, I wanted to manage. This game has a tendency to kind of grab you and take you other places, and if you don’t check yourself, you’re gonna end up somewhere where your passion doesn’t sit. That’s where I was.”

Luis Arraez Wins 2022 American League Batting Title

Luis Arraez is celebrating a banner year…

The 25-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball utility player for the Minnesota Twins won the American League batting title, hitting a third-inning double after walking twice to finish the season at .316, as the Minnesota Twins rolled to a 10-1 victory on Wednesday over the Chicago White Sox.

Luis ArraezArraez was all but assured of topping the Yankees’ Aaron Judge for the batting crown when the day began. He removed any doubt by walking in his first two plate appearances and then hit a drive that barely cleared the glove of right fielder Gavin Sheets before he was lifted for a pinch-runner.

“It’s amazing,” Arraez said. “This was one of my goals. I’m living a dream right now. This is amazing for me because I worked hard for this.”

Judge, who sat out the New York Yankees‘ season finale, batted .311 with an AL-record 62 homers and a league-leading 131 RBIs.

“I couldn’t sleep last night, just thinking and thinking about it,” Arraez said.

Arraez becomes the fifth Twin to win a batting title, joining Rod Carew (seven), Tony Oliva and Joe Mauer (three apiece) and Kirby Puckett (one).

“I think he achieved what he was hoping to do,” Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said. “And he’s not a guy who normally thinks about things on a personal level like that. He’s a team player and here to win and compete.”

Arraez received a hug at the top of the dugout steps from Carlos Correa, who planned before the game to give him a Louis Vuitton roller bag in recognition of his achievement.

“[Correa] is amazing,” Arraez said. “He sets an example for us. He’s a leader, and I love that guy a lot.”

Arraez batted .361 (13-for-36) during a nine-game hitting streak to end the season.

“It wasn’t easy,” Arraez said. “But my mind is strong.”

Gary Sanchez and Jermaine Palacios homered during a six-run first inning for Minnesota, which snapped a four-game skid. The Twins finished at 78-84, a six-game improvement over 2021.

The White Sox (81-81), last year’s AL Central champions, had their three-game winning streak snapped and finished 12 games worse than their 2021 record.

Framber Valdez Ties MLB Quality Start Record with Career-First Shutout

Framber Valdez is on a monumental streak… And, he’s capping it off with a historic night.

The 28-year-old Dominican professional baseball pitcher threw his first career shutout and the Houston Astros beat the Detroit Tigers 7-0 on Monday night.

Framber ValdezValdez (15-5) posted his 24th straight quality start, tying New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom (2018) for the longest single-season streak.

“This means a lot to me, because it means I’m helping the team when I’m pitching,” Valdez said through a translator. “They help me with their great defense and their offense, and I know I’m giving them a chance to win.”

The All-Star left-hander gave up six hits and struck out eight with one walk.

“That’s a monumental streak — a lot of great pitchers have never come close to getting there,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “Players know when they are getting close to something like that, and that doesn’t bother me, because I know it motivates them to excellence.”

Valdez became the 12th major league pitcher to throw a shutout this season — on track for the fewest in a full season since eight in 1873. No pitcher has more than one.

It was just the 28th complete game in the big leagues this year — down from 50 during the entire 2021 season.

The Tigers were shut out for the second day in a row and club-record 21st time this season, tying them with the 1973 New York Yankees and 1976 Chicago White Sox for most by a team with a designated hitter.

Detroit had runners thrown out at the plate in the first and third innings.

“We made a couple young mistakes early, because we’re struggling to score and we’re trying to make things happen,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “That’s 91 wins for them, and a lot of that comes from elite defense.”

Jeremy Pena had three hits for the Astros and scored twice.

“We scored quite a few runs and I think we could have more,” Baker said. “I’m just happy with the results.”

Tigers starter Eduardo Rodriguez (3-5) allowed five runs on 10 hits and a walk in five innings.

“They just keep the line moving when they get something going,” Hinch said. “Eduardo wasn’t sharp and they got to him.”

Jose Altuve started the game with a single, stole second and scored on Pena’s single. Pena also stole second and Alex Bregman’s RBI single made it 2-0.

Valdez said the two outs at the plate inspired him to go for his first shutout.

“Once I got out of the third inning, I knew I had a chance,” he said. “That’s always a goal of mine, and today I wanted to get it because I was getting such great defensive plays.”

In the third, the Astros managed to add a run on an inning-ending double play. With the bases loaded, Kyle Tucker hit a grounder to shortstop Javy Baez, who was shifted to the right side. Bregman froze between first and second, preventing Baez from tagging him. Detroit turned the 6-3-4 double play, but Pena scored from third before the Tigers could retire Bregman.

Tucker made it 4-0 with an RBI groundout in the fifth and Yuli Gurriel followed with a run-scoring double.

Tucker added a two-run single in the ninth.

As usual, Valdez picked the team’s navy blue jerseys for his start, but said it wasn’t for superstitious reasons.

“I don’t know why, but they feel lighter to me,” he said. “We’re going to keep wearing them when I pitch.”

Oakland A’s Pitcher Frankie Montas Acquired by New York Yankees

Frankie Montas is heading to the Northeast…

The 29-year-old Dominican professional baseball right-handed, starting pitcher has been acquired by the New York Yankees, alongside part-Latino closer Lou Trivino in a deal with the Oakland Athletics.

Frankie MontasThe A’s are receiving left-handers Ken Waldichuk and J.P. Sears, right-hander Luis Medina and second baseman Cooper Bowman from the Yankees. Waldichuk, 24, was the fifth-highest-ranked prospect in the Yankees’ farm system, according to MLB.com.

The American League-best Yankees have had a busy deadline, acquiring outfielder Andrew Benintendi and rookie reliever Scott Effross before solidifying an already strong rotation and bullpen with the acquisitions of Montas and Trivino.

The trade for Montas is the second involving a highly sought-after starting pitcher this week, following Seattle’s acquisition of right-hander Luis Castillo from the Cincinnati Reds for a four-prospect package.

Montas, who is not eligible for free agency until after the 2023 season, has shown flashes of excellence since signing with Boston in 2009. He was traded to the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers before moving to Oakland, where he blossomed over the past six seasons into the pitcher who this season has 104⅔ innings of 3.18 ERA ball with 109 strikeouts, 28 walks and a dozen home runs allowed.

“His level of talent, especially with how he’s pitched the last couple years, just excited to get him in the mix,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “He’s got the full arsenal and stuff you look for top of the rotation guy. Gone out and proved last couple years he is that kind of caliber pitcher.”

A shoulder injury sidelined Montas for a mid-July start, but he returned with three shutout innings, followed by a five-inning, two-earned-run start against Houston. That was enough of a sample to draw a broad range of teams — large-market and small.

”I think we’re comfortable with where he’s at shoulder-wise,” Boone said.

Montas joins a rotation headed by MLB All-Stars Gerrit Cole (9-3, 3.30 ERA) and Nestor Cortes (9-3, 2.53 ERA) that has faltered of late.

Left-hander Jordan Montgomery is 0-2 with a 5.36 ERA in his last eight starts and right-hander Jameson Taillon is 1-1 with a 5.04 ERA in his last five. Luis Severino has not pitched since July 13 because of a lat strain and was moved to the 60-day injured list Monday along with right-handed reliever Miguel Castro, out since July 10 with a strained right shoulder.

Going into Monday night’s series opener against Seattle, Domingo German had an 8.22 ERA in his first two starts after recovering from a right shoulder impingement.

By winning the Montas sweepstakes, the Yankees add a starter who will slot into a playoff rotation with a fastball-slider-splitter pitch mix that has proved effective all season. Montas went at least five innings in 15 of his first 16 starts, with the only exception being a game in which he got hit in the hand on a comebacker and left the game after 1⅔ innings.

Trivino, a 30-year-old right-hander, is 1-6 with a 6.47 ERA — double his 2021 figure — and 10 saves in 13 chances. Right-handed batters are hitting .289 against him this year while lefties are hitting .392 with nine walks in 60 plate appearances.

“Little bit down year statistically but we don’t think it lines up with what we’re seeing on some underlying things and who we think he is,” Boone said. “He’s been a very good reliever for them on some playoff-caliber teams.”

Trivino joins one of the better bullpens in the majors, but one that has struggled with injuries of late. Chad GreenMichael King and Zack Britton are all on the 60-day injured list with Green and King expected to miss the rest of the season.

Waldichuk, who is pitching at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, is 6-3 with a 2.71 ERA overall in 17 starts for two clubs in the Yankees’ minor league system this season and has 116 strikeouts in 76⅓ innings.

Sears, 26, is 3-0 with a 2.05 ERA in 22 innings for the Yankees in the majors this season and is 1-1 with a 1.67 ERA in 43 innings in Triple-A. Medina, 23, is 4-3 with a 3.38 ERA in 17 starts for Double-A Somerset this season.

Bowman, 22, is hitting .217 with eight home runs and 35 RBIs for Class-A Hudson Valley this season.

The Yankees also optioned right-hander Clarke Schmidt to Scranton and promoted right-hander Carlos Espinal from the RailRiders.

Albert Pujols to Participate in This Year’s MLB All-Star Game

Albert Pujols is getting another All-Star moment…

The 42-year-old Dominican-American professional baseball first baseman and designated hitter for the St. Louis Cardinals will take part in the 2022 MLB All-Star Game, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has announced.

Albert PujolsBut he isn’t the only living baseball legend getting called up…

Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers will also participate.

Pujols, Cabrera and Hall of Famer Hank Aaron are the only players in MLB history to register 3,000 hits, 500 home runs and 600 doubles.

“I am delighted that Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera have agreed to participate in the All-Star Game,” Manfred said in a statement. “Albert and Miguel are two of the most accomplished players of their generation. They have also represented the baseball traditions of the Dominican Republic and Venezuela with excellence for the last two decades. Albert and Miguel are two all-time greats whose achievements warrant this special recognition.”

It’s the 11th MLB All-Star selection for Pujols, who is in his 22nd MLB season. He ranks fifth in MLB history with 683 home runs and ninth with 3,326 career hits.

“If there is one game for the fans to celebrate the history and longevity, it’s the All-Star Game,” said Chicago White Sox manager Tony LaRussa, who was Pujols’ manager in St. Louis for seven years. “Anything like that [being selected to participate in the All-Star Game], I’m all in favor of.”

Cabrera, 39, reached 3,000 career hits earlier this season. He’ll be appearing in his 12th All-Star Game.

The slugger called Pujols “one of the best hitters I’ve ever seen in my life.”

“To be part of this together is going to be great,” he said Friday.

The All-Star Game will be held at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Tuesday, July 19.