Rafael Montero Agrees to Three-Year, $34.5 Million Contract with Houston Astros

Rafael Montero isn’t leaving Houston in the near future…

The 32-year-old Dominican professional baseball pitcher has agreed to a three-year, $34.5 million contract that will bring the right-handed reliever back to the Houston Astros‘ dominant bullpen a week after the team rode its pitching staff to a World Series title, according to ESPN.

Rafael Montero,  Montero thrived in his first full season with the Astros, posting a 2.37 ERA in 68⅓ innings and allowing just three home runs while striking out 73.

Re-signing Montero deepens an Astros bullpen that already will return closer Ryan Pressly, right-handed flamethrowers Ryne Stanek and Bryan Abreu, and solid righties Hector Neris and Phil Maton.

It likewise continues the early trend in free agency of high salaries for relief pitchers, after the New York Mets signed Edwin Diaz to a five-year, $102 million contract and San Diego gave right-hander Robert Suarez a five-year deal worth $46 million.

Houston acquired Montero in a July 2021 trade from the Seattle Mariners and watched him blossom into the hardest-throwing version of himself yet, with a fastball that averaged 96.5 mph. Of the remaining relievers available in free agency, Montero topped a number of teams’ lists.

The contract is a bet on Montero’s 2022 more than his previous seasons. Once a well-regarded starting-pitching prospect, Montero bounced from the Mets to the Texas Rangers to the Mariners before landing in Houston, where he allowed two runs in 9⅓ innings this postseason and struck out 10.

With a ground-ball rate of greater than 50% and high strikeout numbers, Montero was bound to generate widespread interest and took advantage of it with a deal that exceeded industrywide expectations. In 182 career games, Montero has a 4.43 ERA as a reliever and struck out 213 in 201⅓ innings.

Edwin Diaz Agrees to Five-Year, $102 Million Contract with New York Mets

Edwin Diaz isn’t going anywhere…

The 28-year-old Puerto Rican professional baseball pitcher, a star closer for the New York Mets, has agreed to a five-year, $102 million contract, pending a physical, according to ESPN.

Edwin DiazThere’s an opt-out and a full no-trade clause plus a sixth-year option in the contract, sources said.

The Diaz deal is the first nine-figure contract ever for a closer, and for the first time, it takes the position into the $20 million-plus range.

Diaz, who made $10 million this year, earned the big payday after a dominant 2022 season that saw him finish with 32 saves, a 1.31 ERA and 118 strikeouts in 62 innings for a Mets team that won 101 games.

New York’s bullpen finished 10th in the majors in ERA, and its top relievers in innings pitched (Adam OttavinoSeth LugoTrevor Williams and Diaz) were among the 131 players across the major leagues who were declared free agents Sunday, the day after the 2022 season ended.

Keeping Diaz is a massive move for the Mets to start the offseason, as one of baseball’s top free agents is now off the board.

Diaz was part of a blockbuster trade with the Seattle Mariners in December 2018, one that saw him and veteran second baseman Robinson Cano go to the Mets for a prospect-heavy package.

Diaz had starred in Seattle, leading the majors with 57 saves in 2018 — which tied Bobby Thigpen (1990) for the second most in a single season in baseball history, trailing only Francisco Rodriguez‘s 62 in 2008.

But his early tenure in New York was anything but successful. In his debut season in the Big Apple, he had a 5.59 ERA (seventh worst among relievers), 15 homers allowed and -0.6 bWAR in 58 innings, as Mets fans routinely booed him while on the mound.

Diaz has righted the ship since, culminating with the dominant 2022. And he’s become a fan favorite in New York, with the hit song “Narco,” by Australian musician Timmy Trumpet, played at Citi Field every time he exits the bullpen before an appearance.

Robinson Cano Signs Deal with San Diego Padres

Robinson Cano has landed a padre deal…

The 39-year-old Dominican-American professional baseball second baseman and veteran infielder has signed with the San Diego Padres.

Robinson Cano

The New York Mets released the 39-year-old Cano on Sunday after designating him for assignment a week earlier. He was not in the Padres’ lineup for Friday’s 11-6 win over the Atlanta Braves.

The Padres plan to use Cano as a left-handed bat off the bench. Acting manager Ryan Christenson said he could get some occasional starts at second base and designated hitter.

“I’ve got a lot left in the tank,” Cano said. “I know I can still play this game and just go out on top.”

Entering Thursday’s games, Padres designated hitters were batting .206 with two home runs and 12 RBIs this season. Both home runs came via Luke Voit, who bats right-handed, in Wednesday’s 7-5 loss to the Chicago Cubs.

When Cano plays second base, it would move Jake Cronenworth to shortstop and Ha-Seong Kim to the bench.

Cano sat out last season while serving his second suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. He batted .195 (8-for-41) this season with one home run, three RBIs and a .501 OPS in 43 plate appearances for the National League East-leading Mets.

He is owed $44,703,297 by the Mets from the remainder of the 10-year, $240 million contract he signed with the Seattle Mariners. He has lost $35,741,935 because of the two drug suspensions.

He will earn a prorated share of the $700,000 minimum with the Padres.

Cano, who was acquired in a multiplayer trade with the Mariners that also sent closer Edwin Diaz to New York, ended up playing 168 games for the Mets, batting .269 with 24 homers, 72 RBIs and a .765 OPS.

An eight-time MLB All-Star, Cano has a .302 career batting average with 335 home runs, 1,305 RBIs and an .842 OPS in 17 seasons. He has 2,632 hits, including 571 doubles.

Edwin Encarnacion Traded to the Seattle Mariners

Edwin Encarnacion is headed to the Emerald City…

The 35-year-old Dominican professional baseball player has been acquired by the Seattle Mariners from the Cleveland Indians, sending Carlos Santana back to Ohio as part of a three-team trade that also includes the Tampa Bay Rays.

Edwin Encarnacion

The Indians will receive first baseman Jake Bauers from the Rays, while Tampa Bay will get third baseman Yandy Diaz from Cleveland. The Indians also are sending minor league pitcher Cole Sulserto the Rays and the 77th pick in the 2019 competitive balance draft to the Mariners.

Tampa Bay will send $5 million to Seattle, and the Mariners will pay $6 million to Cleveland.

Encarnacion hit .246 with 32 home runs for the Indians last season. He was third in the American Leaguewith 107 RBIs. His streak of seven consecutive seasons with at least 30 home runs leads all active players.

“We’re excited to add a proven offensive performer in Edwin Encarnacion,” Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a statement. “In addition, by adding another draft pick for 2019, we have another opportunity to add to the talent in our minor league system.”

However, with the Mariners having made a flurry of moves — recently trading star second baseman Robinson Cano and closer Edwin Diaz — the team wouldn’t tip its hand if Encarnacion would be staying.

“We’ll see how it goes with Edwin, whether he stays with us or he moves on to another destination,” Seattle assistant general manager Justin Hollander said.

Santana returns to the Indians, where he started his career in 2010 before signing with the Philadelphia Phillies in free agency prior to last season. He was traded to the Mariners on December 3.

Encarnacion mostly served as the Indians’ designated hitter in 2018 but also started 23 games at first base. Cleveland ranked 23rd in the majors last season with a .312 on-base percentage from their first basemen. Santana provides an immediate upgrade in that department, as he had a .365 OBP during his eight seasons with the Indians and a .352 OBP with the Phillies.

Overall, Encarnacion has 380 career home runs with 1,156 RBIs and a .264 batting average.

He is guaranteed $25 million: $20 million next season and a $5 million buyout of a $25 million club option for 2020.

Santana signed a three-year, $60 million contract with the Phillies last offseason and has a base salary of $17 million in 2019 and $17.5 million in 2020. His contract has a club option for the 2021 season worth $17.5 million with a $500,000 buyout.

He hit .229 with 24 home runs and 86 RBIs in 2018.

Coming off their third straight AL Central, the Indians had been expected to make a move at the meetings, presumably with ace Corey Kluber or pitcher Trevor Bauer.

“Not sure how to feel,” Indians star Jose Ramirez tweeted.

Yonder Alonso hit 23 homers with 83 RBI last season as the Indians’ first baseman. He’s signed for 2019 with an option for 2020 — with the additions of Santana and Bauers, perhaps Alonso could end up in a trade along with one of Cleveland’s star pitchers.

Tampa Bay was eager to get Diaz, who hit .283 with 28 RBIs in 88 games for Cleveland in the last two seasons. Highly regarded at 27, his opportunities were limited with the Indians because they already had a talented infield.

“The key to this deal for us is how we feel about Yandy Diaz,” Rays vice president Chaim Bloomsaid. “We really like his bat. He hasn’t gotten an opportunity to show it regularly at the major league level just being blocked by some of the players that the Indians have had.”

Bauers made his major league debut last season and hit .201 with 11 homers and 48 RBI in 96 games for Tampa Bay.

Sulser spent last season in Triple-A and Double-A, going a combined 8-4 with a 3.86 ERA in 47 relief appearances.

Tampa Bay will send the Mariners $2.5 million in two installments by May 1 and Aug. 1 next year. Seattle will send Cleveland a pair of $1 payments on or before May 1 and Aug. 1 next year, and $2 million on or before each of those dates in 2020.

The Seattle Mariners Trade Edwin Diaz to the New York Mets

Edwin Diaz has Metshis match…

The Seattle Mariners have officially completed a blockbuster trade that will send the 24-year-old Puerto Rican MLB All-Star closer and former All-Star Robinson Cano to the New York Mets.

Edwin Diaz

In exchange, the Mariners will receive outfielder Jay Bruce, reliever Anthony Swarzak, right-hander Gerson Bautista and prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn.

“This trade bolsters our player development system with the additions of Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn, while also providing immediate impact to our major league club in Jay Bruce, Anthony Swarzak and Gerson Bautista,” Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a statement. “We view Kelenic as a true 5-tool player with a very high ceiling. Dunn is another former first-round draft pick, who we think has a bright future on our pitching staff. Bruce and Swarzak both bring proven production in the field and a veteran presence in our clubhouse. Bautista has demonstrated an impressive high-velocity pitch mix.”

The Mariners are also sending cash to the Mets to offset the money remaining on Cano’s contract, but they didn’t reveal the exact amount.

Diaz is considered the prize in the deal. Armed with a 100-mph fastball, he had a 1.96 ERA and led the majors with 57 saves last season — tied with Bobby Thigpen (1990) for the second-most in a single season in Major League Baseball history, trailing only Francisco Rodriguez‘s 62 in 2008.

Diaz also comes to New York cheaply.

He made just $571,000 in 2018, isn’t eligible for arbitration until 2020 and won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2022 season.

Cano, 36, has five years, $120 million remaining on the 10-year, $240 million contract he signed with Seattle in December 2013, when current Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen served as his agent, along with Jay-Z‘s Roc Nation.

Cano was suspended for 80 games last season for violating baseball’s joint drug policy. He hit .303 with 10 home runs and 50 RBIs in 80 games.

An eight-time All-Star at second base who starred for the New York Yankees from 2005 to 2013, Cano reportedly was happy to return to New York and waived his no-trade clause for the deal to be completed.

“I want to thank the Seattle Mariners organization, the city of Seattle, & the fans who are some of the best in our game. 5 years ago, you welcomed me to your city and embraced me from day one. Playing for you was a privilege, & I’m grateful for your support throughout the years,” tweeted Cano.

Seattle, which finished 89-73 this past season, has since decided to go into rebuilding mode. The Mariners have already traded ace James Paxton to the New York Yankees, catcher Mike Zunino to the Tampa Bay Rays and reliever Alex Colome to the Chicago White Sox, and Monday they sent All-Star infielder Jean Segura to thePhiladelphia Phillies.

Edwin Diaz Becomes 17th Player in Major League Baseball History with 50 Saves in a Season

Edwin Diaz has earned a spot in Seattle Mariners history…

The 24-year-old Puerto Rican baseball pitcherhad a rare night of struggles, facing runners on the corners with no outs in a one-run game. A rundown and two fly outs later, the Seattle closer reached a rare milestone.

Edwin Diaz

Diaz worked out of a jam in the 10th inning to become the 17th player in Major League Baseball history with 50 saves in a season and Denard Span hit a solo home run in the top half to lift the Mariners to a 4-3 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday night.

Arizona took a 3-1 lead in the seventh on A.J. Pollock‘s broken-bat, two-run single, but the Diamondbacks couldn’t hold it.

Brad Boxberger walked a batter and gave up a single to put runners at the corners in the ninth. Kyle Seager hit a two-run double just inside the line in right to tie it.

“He just hit it in the right spot and that’s what happened,” Boxberger said. “It just didn’t work out today.”

Jake Diekman (0-1) got the first out of the 10th before Span sent a drive onto the pool deck in right-center for the go-ahead run.

Arizona had runners at the corners after a pair of singles off Diaz in the 10th, but Paul Goldschmidt got caught in a rundown trying to score on David Peralta‘s grounder to third. Diaz got Nick Ahmed and Ketel Marte to fly out to reach the 50-save milestone.