Salvador Perez Breaks Johnny Bench’s Record for Home Runs by a Catcher in a Season

Salvador Perez is one hit ahead in the history books…

The 31-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball player for the Kansas City Royals hit his 46th home run on Monday, breaking Johnny Bench‘s record for home runs by a catcher in a season, as the Royals beat the Cleveland Indians 7-2.

Salvador Perez Perez hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning, topping Bench’s total from 1970 for the most by a player who played at least 75% of his team’s games at catcher.

“It was unbelievable,” he said. “I thank God for this. It’s amazing.”

Perez also moved into a tie for the major league lead in homers with Toronto Blue Jays‘ Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and leads the MLB with 115 RBIs, the first catcher with that many RBIs since Mike Piazza in 1999.

It has been a long road for Perez this season to put himself in contention for the home run title. He trailed Shohei Ohtani — the home run leader at the time — by 12 at the MLB All-Star break and made up the distance by hitting 25 homers since July 24.

Only Jimmie Foxx in 1935 has won the home run title after trailing the leader by at least 12 dingers at the All-Star break, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.

“It’s just hard to get your head around, to be honest,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “The long history in this game and how many great players have come through. For him to do something that nobody’s done, it’s amazing.”

Starting again behind the plate — the durable All-Star has seen some time at designated hitter — Perez drove a 1-2 pitch from Triston McKenzie into the left-field bleachers, a drive that traveled 429 feet. Perez pointed to the sky after crossing home plate and was hugged by several teammates as he entered the dugout.

“For a guy who’s so respected in this clubhouse, it was different than your normal home run,” Matheny said. “You could see the look on Salvy’s face. He’ll never forget it.”

Perez tied Bench on Thursday night in Kansas City as the Royals played Seattle. He went 1-for-13 at the plate in the final three games of the series but didn’t feel any pressure to set the record and was more focused on winning games.

“Perez is one of those rare individuals to find energy and passion just to keep playing,” Indians interim manager DeMarlo Hale said. “And the offensive year he’s having it’s even more special. People don’t talk about him in the MVP race, but I’ll tell you what, he’s there in my book.”

Perez also singled in the first and made his presence known defensively when he threw out Myles Straw trying to steal second base in the bottom of the inning.

“He’s a great hitter, to start,” McKenzie said. “Second of all, he’s a great catcher. Threw out Straw early in the game, kind of shut down some of our momentum. He’s a guy that can always make you pay for mistakes. He did just that. He has definitely caught fire toward the end of the season.”

Albert Pujols Hits First-Inning Home Run in St. Louis Return

It’s a memorable homecoming for Albert Pujols.

The 41-year-old Dominican professional baseball player hit a home run in his return to Busch Stadium, sending the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 7-2 win over his former St. Louis Cardinals team on Tuesday night.

Albert Pujols

The playoff-contending Dodgers won the sixth time in eight games. St. Louis has lost four in a row.

A star slugger who led the Cardinals to a pair of World Series championships, Pujols made his second appearance at Busch Stadium after playing for St. Louis from 2001 to 2011.

Pujols drew a 40-second standing ovation when his name was announced prior to a first-inning at-bat, with catcher and longtime teammate Yadier Molina stepping in front of the plate to prolong the cheer. They had a short embrace before Pujols stepped in. Pujols promptly drilled the fourth pitch from J.A. Happ on a line over the wall in left. It was his 679th career home run and 17th of the season.

“It’s one of those things that you hope could happen,” Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said. “But the likelihood is very improbable. Getting a standing ovation and then homering in that first at-bat. Storybook. I’m a firm believer that the game honors you. The way Albert’s played the game for so long, the right way, that’s the way it was supposed to go.”

Pujols tried to downplay the moment.

“When it happens, you just let it happen,” he said. “It’s part of the game. Embrace the moment. But try not to get caught up too much.”

His teammates had no problem enjoying the special moment.

“It was pretty surreal,” Turner said. “Pretty cool for everyone in the stadium — not just Albert. Every time he hits a homer, you’re watching history.”

The 10-time MLB All-Star drew a similar fan reaction when he returned to St. Louis with the Los Angeles Angels for the first time in 2019. He was given a standing ovation in all 12 plate appearances that series, including a one-minute tribute in his first trip to the plate. He also homered in the first game of that series.

Pujols, who did not play in the series opener Monday night, went 1-for-4. The first baseman signed a 10-year deal with the Angels after the 2011 season, then joined the Dodgers last May.

Yadier Molina Agrees to One-Year Extension with St. Louis Cardinals

It’s the last hurrah for Yadier Molina

The 39-year-old Puerto Rican professional baseball catcher has agreed to a one-year extension with the St. Louis Cardinals, with president of baseball operations John Mozeliak indicating it will be the MLB All-Star‘s final year with his longtime team.

Yadier Molina

Sources told ESPN the deal is worth $10 million, confirming a report by The Athletic.

“We are pleased to announce that Yadi has agreed to cement his career legacy with the Cardinals for a final season in 2022,” Mozeliak said in a statement. “His experience, leadership, work ethic and winning desire are all part of what we value as an organization.”

Molina has spent his entire career — 2,119 games over 18 seasons — with the Cardinals. The only two players to play more games in a Cardinals uniform are Hall of Famers Stan Musial (3,026) and Lou Brock (2,289).

“I’m so happy, so happy,” Molina told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch before Tuesday night’s game against the Detroit Tigers.

Molina, who is playing this season on a one-year, $9 million deal, said earlier this month that he did not want to enter free agency again this winter.

A 10-time All-Star, Molina broke into the majors with the Cardinals in 2004 and never left, helping lead the team to four National League pennants and two World Series titles in 2006 and 2011.

He was selected by St. Louis in the fourth round of the 2000 amateur draft. The Bayamon, Puerto Rico, native is a .280 career hitter with 168 homers and 983 RBIs heading into Tuesday’s game.

Molina’s 2,080 career games behind the plate are the most for any catcher with just one team, and he is a nine-time Gold Glove winner.

“On behalf of the Cardinals and our fans, it gives me great pleasure to announce that Yadier Molina will continue his franchise legacy for another season in 2022,” said Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. “Yadi has continued to play at an All-Star level this season, and has already established himself among the greatest players to have ever worn the birds on the bat.”

San Diego Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr. Hits Two Homers in Return from Injured List

Fernando Tatis Jr. is back in the game with a bang…

The 22-year-old Dominican professional baseball player, known as “El Niño“, wasted no time making his mark in his return from the San Diego Padres’ injured list on Sunday, hitting his 32nd and 33rd homers in an 8-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks while playing right field for the first time as a professional.

Fernando Tatis Jr.

Tatis had one thought running through his mind as he returned to San Diego’s lineup.

“Make them remember why they missed you,” he said grinning.

The MLB All-Star — batting leadoff — ripped a double down the left-field line in his first at-bat but was stranded at third in the first inning. He added a solo homer in the third on a towering fly ball that landed in the left-field stands and another solo shot in the fifth that easily cleared the wall in approximately the same spot.

“Fernando being Fernando,” Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer said. “It never ceases to amaze any of us.”

It was Tatis’ fifth multi-homer game this season and No. 8 for his career. He added a bases-loaded single in the eighth that brought home Victor Caratini and Trent Grisham.

Tatis also caught David Peralta‘s fly to right for the final out of the bottom of the first.

Tatis had been on the injured list since July 31 after partially dislocating his left shoulder for the third time this season.

The electrifying star usually plays shortstop, but the Padres decided to move him to the outfield for the time being. The hope is there’s less chance he’ll get hurt, allowing him to stay in the lineup for the rest of the season.

He wasn’t challenged much in the outfield on Sunday, but he made a few routine catches.

“It was pretty chill,” Tatis said.

Tatis suffered a partially dislocated left shoulder on a violent swing April 5 against the San Francisco Giants and went on the 10-day injured list. He reinjured the shoulder diving for a ball and left a game against the Cincinnati Reds on June 19 but missed only one game.

He left a spring training game after hurting the shoulder while making a throw but was back two days later. He revealed then that he had been dealing with shoulder discomfort since his minor league days. Tatis also missed eight games in mid-May after testing positive for COVID-19.

He became the first Padres player voted to start an All-Star Game since Tony Gwynn in 1999.

The return of Tatis is a huge boost for the Padres, who have 15 players on the injured list and have taken a nosedive in the National League West standings. They still occupy the second NL wild-card spot in the playoff race but are feeling pressure from the charging Cincinnati RedsPhiladelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves.

Tampa Bay Rays Acquire Nelson Cruz in Four-Player Trade with Minnesota Twins

Nelson Cruz is heading south for the winter… 

The Tampa Bay Rays have acquired the 41-year-old  Dominican professional baseball designated hitter and right fielder, one of baseball’s most proven sluggers, in a four-player trade with the Minnesota Twins.

Nelson Cruz

Cruz was well aware of the likelihood he’d be dealt this month, with the disappointing Twins well out of contention. Nonetheless he told reporters the news still felt “shocking” and “heartbreaking” to him after becoming fond of the organization over his 2 1/2 seasons in Minnesota.

“It’s a tough one,” Cruz said. “I guess it’s a new chapter, and I will embrace it the way I embrace everything in my life to go help the Tampa Bay Rays to win a championship.”

Moments before opening a four-game series at Cleveland, the Rays, who entered the night just one game behind the first-place Boston Red Sox in the AL East, announced they got Cruz and minor leaguer Calvin Faucher from Minnesota in exchange for minor league right-handers Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman.

Cruz is a seven-time MLB All-Star with 436 career homers and 1,202 RBIs. He’ll bring some needed pop to Tampa Bay’s lineup and should help the Rays against left-handers. They’re hitting .226 versus lefties.

Usually frugal Tampa Bay assumes $5.1 million remaining in Cruz’s $13 million salary. The Rays began the season with a $68.3 million payroll, 26th among the 30 teams.

Cruz also has plenty of playoff experience with 17 homers and 37 RBIs in 46 postseason games. He’s batting .294 with 19 homers and 50 RBIs this season, and over 258 games with the Twins he finished with 76 homers and a .984 OPS.

“People joke about how he’s ageless, and it really does feel that way,” Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said.

With a week until the trade deadline and no shot at making the playoffs, the Twins figured they’d get something for Cruz to begin building toward the future. Minnesota entered Thursday at 41-55.

A 17-year veteran, Cruz signed a one-year, $13 million deal with Minnesota in February. He has also played with the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Ramgers. He hit at least 37 homers per season from 2014-19. He belted a career-high 44 homers for the Mariners in 2015.

“We thought we should be in the playoff race,” Cruz said. “Never thought we should be in this situation. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. You never want to leave the places where you are, where you feel comfortable. It is what it is. That’s part of the business.”

Both Ryan and Strotman were in Triple-A Durham‘s rotation.

Ryan, a 25-year-old who will also pitch for Team USA in the Tokyo Olympics, had a 3.63 ERA with 75 strikeouts in 57 innings for the Bulls and was ranked by MLB.com as the No. 10 prospect in Tampa Bay’s system. He was a seventh-round draft pick in 2018.

Strotman, 24, had a 3.39 ERA with 62 strikeouts in 58 1/3 innings with Durham. He was the 17th-ranked Rays prospect after being drafted in the fourth round in 2017.

Faucher, 25, had a 7.04 ERA with 42 strikeouts in 30 2/3 innings for Double-A Wichita. He was a 10th-round draft pick by the Twins in 2017.

Carlos Correa Planning for Free Agency, Looking a “Big, Long Contract”

Carlos Correa is looking to go big

The 26-year-old Puerto Rican professional baseball shortstop for the Houston Astros says he hasn’t seriously discussed a long-term deal with Houston and plans to seek a big payday in free agency next offseason.

Carlos Correa

“We were not close at all. There were not really any negotiations,” Correa said Thursday before the Astros opened their season against the Oakland Athletics. “It’s another year with the Houston Astros. I’m going to go out there, give it my best and try to bring another championship to this city.”

Correa said last week he turned down a $120 million, six-year offer and said Thursday he also declined a $125 million, five-year bid — paltry compared to the $341 million, 10-year deal shortstop Francisco Lindor agreed to with the New York Mets on Wednesday night. Lindor and Correa were both eligible for free agency after this season.

“I love it, it’s a great contract,” Correa said of Lindor’s deal. “He deserves every penny of it. … He pushed the market for every shortstop coming after him.”

Correa set a deadline of Opening Day to reach an agreement. He’ll earn $11.3 million this season.

“The relationship is great. There are no hard feelings,” Correa said. “It’s a business. They made it very clear to me, they said: ‘We don’t believe in long contracts. We don’t believe in big contracts.’ So once I hit free agency I’m going to look out for a big, long contract. They made it very clear that they don’t believe in that.”

Correa was Houston’s No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft, a year the Astros experienced their second of three straight seasons with more than 100 losses.

He debuted in 2015 and was voted AL Rookie of the Year. Correa was an MLB All-Star in 2017, when he helped lead the Astros to their first World Series title.

During the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season, he batted .264 with five home runs and 25 RBIs.

Francisco Lindor Agrees to 10-Year, $341 Million Deal with New York Mets

Francisco Lindor has landed a big deal…

The 27-year-old Puerto Rican professional baseball shortstop and the New York Mets have agreed to a 10-year, $341 million deal.

Francisco Lindor

Lindor’s deal will be the third largest based on total value in Major League Baseball history, trailing only the deals for the Los Angeles AngelsMike Trout ($426.5 million) and the Los Angeles DodgersMookie Betts ($365 million).

The Mets were widely expected to sign Lindor to a long-term extension after acquiring the four-time MLB All-Star in a blockbuster trade with the Cleveland Indians this offseason.

The negotiations became a major storyline during spring training, with new Mets owner Steve Cohen writing on Twitter last week, “What do think Lindor will accept? I’m going to crowdsource the answer.”

“Lindor is a heckuva player and a great guy. I hope he decides to sign,” Cohen wrote on Tuesday.

Lindor had stated that he would “go to free agency” if he didn’t have a deal in place by Opening Day, saying he did not want to negotiate during the season. The Mets open Thursday against the Washington Nationals.

In January, the Mets avoided salary arbitration with Lindor by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $22.3 million. It was the fourth-biggest one-year contract for an arbitration-eligible player, trailing Mookie Betts ($27 million with Boston last year), Nolan Arenado ($26 million with Colorado in 2019) and Josh Donaldson ($23 million with Toronto in 2018).

A two-time Gold Glove winner, Lindor is a career .285 hitter and has averaged 29 homers, 86 RBIs and 21 steals in his six major league seasons — all with the Indians, who drafted him in 2011.

Salvador Pérez Lands Richest Deal in Kansas City Royals History

Salvador Pérez has landed a Royal(s) deal…

The 30-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball catcher has agreed to a four-year extension with the Kansas City Royals worth $82 million, according to ESPN, which makes it the richest deal in Royals history.

Salvador Perez

The Kansas City Star first reported the financial aspect of Perez’s extension.

The value of the new deal surpasses the four-year, $72 million contract the Royals gave outfielder Alex Gordon in 2016.

Perez’s extension, which begins with the 2022 season, comes after a 2020 season in which the six-time MLB All-Star was named the AL Comeback Player of the Year.

“It’s hard to believe where I’m coming from, where I grew up, to see the situation I have right now, it makes me feel super happy,” Pérez said from the Royals’ spring training home in Surprise, Arizona. “My mother is going to be happy. I know my grandma is going to be happy. I know they’re excited for me to be here for four more years, maybe five.”

“Nobody loves to play baseball more than Salvador Pérez. There are players that like it just as much but nobody loves it more,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. “Nobody can imagine him not being here.”

Pérez, who turns 31 in May, has not only established himself as one of the game’s premier catchers but also one of the most beloved players in Royals history. He was World Series MVP in 2015, when the club broke its 30-year title drought, and is coming off a season in which he hit .333 with 11 homers and 32 RBIs to win his third Silver Slugger.

He also has five Gold Gloves to his name, and the Royals are counting on his ability to bring out the best in their pitchers to help a young and promising starting rotation that they hope will lead them back to the playoffs.

“I mean, the catching position is without a doubt the most demanding position in our game,” Moore said. “It’s hard, I think almost impossible, to win championships unless you have somebody behind the plate, somebody at the catcher position, that’s a leader — that brings out the confidence in your pitching staff. And Salvy does all that.”

Indeed, Pérez also has proven to be durable behind the plate. He appeared in at least 129 games six consecutive seasons, often arguing against getting days off, until missing the entire 2019 season due to Tommy John surgery.

He returned to have one of the best seasons of his career during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

“It’s the same with everybody: You trust your medical people,” Moore said. “Of course we talked about Salvy, but at the end of the day, they all signed off on it because they believe in his work ethic. They believe in the condition of his body. They believe in his heart and mind to play. He puts himself in a position to go out there every single day.”

Pérez also happens to be a personal favorite of John Sherman, the former part-owner of the AL Central rival Cleveland Indians, who leads the ownership group that purchased the Royals from the late David Glass prior to last season.

Sherman called a summit in Florida in January that included Moore, Pérez and several other executives, and it was during that meeting that they began hashing out the framework for the new contract. It wound up getting done just weeks before Opening Day, when the Royals hope to welcome about 10,000 fans back to Kauffman Stadium for each game.

“You know, they believe in me and what I do on the field,” Pérez said, “and all the fans in Kansas City, you know?”

The small-market Royals have long had a reputation for being stingy with contracts, but Pérez’s new deal is the latest sign that Sherman and the new owners are willing to open the checkbook to put a winner on the field.

“I want to stay here,” he said simply. “I want to finish my career here.”

Gio González Agrees to Minor League Deal with Miami Marlins

Gio González is returning to his home state…

The 35-year-old Cuban American professional baseball player and veteran left-handed pitcher has agreed to terms on a minor league contract with the Miami Marlins and will take part in the team’s major league camp.

Gio Gonzalez

González, a South Florida native, pitched in 12 games last year for the Chicago White Sox with four starts and had an ERA of 4.83. He has a career record of 131-101 with a 3.70 ERA in 13 seasons for four teams.

At 35, González provides experienced depth for the Marlins’ talented young rotation. He is a two-time MLB All-Star, with the Oakland As in 2011 and Washington Nationals in 2012.

Aaron Sanchez Agrees to One-Year, $4 Million Deal with San Francisco Giants

Aaron Sanchez has agreed to a giant(s) deal…

The 28-year-old Mexican American professional baseball pitcher has finalized a $4 million, one-year contract with the San Francisco Giants, giving the club another experienced starter to join Johnny Cueto in the rotation.

Aaron Sanchez

The Giants said Sanchez could earn up to $2.5 million more in performance bonuses based on starts: $250,000 each for 16 and 18 starts and $500,000 each for 20, 22, 24 and 26 games started. He has been plagued by injuries in recent years.

Sanchez hasn’t pitched since 2019, sitting out last year’s shortened season while recovering from surgery on his pitching shoulder. He went 5-14 with a 5.89 ERA over 27 starts and 131⅓ innings playing for Toronto Blue Jays and Houston Astros.

A 2016 MLB All-Star for the Blue Jays, he made only 20 starts in 2018 and eight starts the year before because of a blister and split fingernail.

The Giants cleared room on the 40-man roster for Sanchez by designating right-hander Trevor Gott for assignment.