Pete Alonso Ready for This Year’s Home Run Derby

Pete Alonso is ready to take a swing at the title…

The 26-year-old Spanish-American New York Mets slugger is in for this year’s Home Run Derby at hitter-friendly Coors Field.

Pete Alonso

Alonso won the contest the last time it was held, in 2019, edging fellow rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at Cleveland’s Progressive Field for his first derby title.

“I’m all-in,” Alonso said Thursday afternoon from Wrigley Field, where the Mets finish up a three-game series with the Chicago Cubs. “I’m ready. If I get invited, I’d love to do it. I’d love to defend my title.”

Last year’s Home Run Derby was canceled amid the coronavirus pandemic. The 2021 edition will take place July 12 at Colorado’s Coors Field after Major League Baseball moved the All-Star Game and related festivities from Atlanta.

Alonso committed to the derby the day after hitting a monster home run that landed on the street beyond the left-center-field bleachers at Wrigley Field. It was measured at 429 feet.

“I’m very happy that ball went far,” Alonso said. “I think Statcast kind of stumped me. I think that ball did not go [only] 429 feet, but that’s what the computer says, and I think the computer is wrong.”

Alonso’s longest home run of his career was measured at 485 feet. He thinks Wednesday’s long ball was closer to that figure than 429 feet.

“If that ball went 429 feet, that’s the shortest ball that’s ever left this stadium,” Alonso said. “I’ve hit plenty of balls here that have gone 430 feet, but if a ball leaves the stadium, there’s no way that ball went only 429 feet.”

Alonso has three home runs this season entering Thursday night’s game against the Cubs. He led the majors with 53 in 2019, his rookie year.

He enjoyed Wednesday’s homer as much as any he has hit.

“That was one of my favorite home runs I’ve hit,” he said. “That’s top five for me.”

Houston Astros Agree to One-Year Contract Extension with Martin Maldonado

Martin Maldonado is staying put…

The Houston Astros have reached a one-year contract extension with the 34-year-old Puerto Rican professional baseball catcher, according to general manager James Click.

Martin Maldonado

Under terms of the deal, Maldonado will make $5 million in 2022, according to sources. The deal, which includes a $500,000 buyout, also has a $5 million vesting option for 2023 that becomes guaranteed if Maldonado plays in 90 or more games this season.

Maldonado has served two stints with the Astros and has emerged one of their core vocal leaders over these last couple of years. He’s making $3.5 million in 2021, the second season of a $7 million, two-year contract.

He’s off to a slow start offensively this season — with only three hits and 17 strikeouts in 34 at-bats — and has batted only .216/.291/.352 throughout an MLB career that spans 11 seasons. But his value comes in his handling of the pitching staff and his defense, particularly his arm strength.

Maldonado won a Gold Glove Award in 2017 and ranks as the game’s best pitch-framer in 2021.

He would have been eligible for free agency after the World Series.

Alex Rodriguez Finalizing Deal to Buy the Minnesota Timberwolves

It looks like Alex Rodriguez is ready to get in the basketball business…

The 45-year-old Dominican American former MLB slugger Alex Rodriguez and billionaire Marc Lore are finalizing a deal to purchase the Minnesota Timberwolves from majority owner Glen Taylor, according to ESPN.

Alex Rodriguez

The purchase price in the deal is expected to be in the $1.5 billion range, sources said.

Taylor will continue to hold full control of the team for two years before Rodriguez and Lore take over in 2023.

“We look forward to entering this phase of the process with Glen Taylor,” Rodriguez and Lore said in a joint statement on Saturday. “Our respect for him and the legacy he has built lays an amazing foundation for what is to come. We are excited by the prospect of getting to know the Timberwolves organization.”

Taylor announced in July 2020 that he was looking for a buyer. The terms of the sale are similar to talks Taylor had in the past year with billionaire Ryan Smith, who walked away from a potential deal to ultimately purchase the Utah Jazz for $1.66 billion in October.

Taylor, 79, saved basketball in Minnesota when he bought the team for $88 million in 1994 after it nearly moved to New Orleans. But he has had an unspectacular ownership run in the 16 years since, reaching the playoffs only once.

Taylor has discussed keeping the Timberwolves in Minnesota with new ownership, but Rodriguez’s ties to Seattle and that city’s desire for a return of an NBA franchise could become an issue in the long term.

Rodriguez was also part of a group that bid unsuccessfully for the New York Mets.

Chicago White Sox’s Yermin Mercedes Makes MLB History in Game Against Los Angeles Angels

Yermin Mercedes has earned his place in the annals of Major League Baseball history… 

The 28-year-old Dominican professional baseball catcher became the first player in the modern era to go 5-for-5 in his first career start, leading the Chicago White Sox to a 12-8 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Friday night at Angels Stadium.

Yermin Mercedes

Mercedes, playing in his second career game, also drove in four runs in an extraordinary performance as Chicago’s designated hitter.

“I’m so excited right now,” Mercedes said. “I don’t even know what to say right now, or what I want to say, but I’m just so happy.”

The only players since 1900 to get five hits in their first career start are Mercedes and Cecil Travis of the Washington Senators, who went 5-for-7 in 1933. Fred Clarke also did it for the Louisville Colonels in 1894.

Mercedes singled in his first at-bat in the third, delivered a two-run single in the fourth, then singled in the sixth and eighth innings before capping his night with a two-run double in the ninth.

“There were a lot of great things that happened, and the greatest thing was the designated hitter,” said manager Tony La Russa, who got the first victory of his second stint running the White Sox.

After failing to catch on during three years in the Washington Nationals‘ system, Mercedes played independent ball in 2014 before grinding his way up the minors with Baltimore and Chicago, which snagged him as a Rule 5 pick in 2017. Mercedes got just one plate appearance as a pinch-hitter for the White Sox last season.

“I just want to cry every time I see I’m in the majors right now,” Mercedes said. “It’s a long time. I’ve got a big history, so it’s about time, but it’s hard for me because just looking around, and I’m like, ‘It’s real. I’m here.'”

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.”

Maikel Franco Agrees to One-Year Deal with Baltimore Orioles

Maikel Franco is flying high…

The 28-year-old Dominican professional baseball infielder has agreed to an $800,000, one-year contract with the Baltimore Orioles.

Maikel Franco

Franco hit .278 with 16 doubles, eight homers and a team-high 38 RBIs for the Kansas City Royals during last year’s coronavirus pandemic-shortened season.

Franco would get a $200,000 performance bonus if he reaches 400 plate appearances. He would get a $250,000 assignment bonus if traded.

He earned $1,092,593 in prorated pay from a $2.95 million salary.

Franco has a .253 average with 110 homers and 381 RBI in seven major league seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies (2014-19) and the Royals.

He was originally signed for the Phillies by Koby Perez, now Baltimore’s senior director of international scouting.

Sixto Sanchez Throws First Pitches for Miami Marlins

Sixto Sanchez is officially in the game for Miami…

The 22-year-old Dominican professional baseball pitcher threw his first pitch for the Miami Marlins in the first spring training game of his career, squarely meeting Jose Altuve‘s bat.

Sixto Sanchez

The Houston Astros star grounded a leadoff single on Monday, but Sanchez shook off the setback on his way to 1 2/3 scoreless innings in West Palm Beach, Florida.

The season debut by the highly regarded right-hander was delayed by a visa issue and then a false positive on a COVID-19 test.

“I don’t feel frustrated, but it was a weird feeling,” Sanchez said via a translator. “That false positive spoiled my momentum, but I’m not that far behind. I just can’t pitch as many innings as the other guys.”

Because of off days, the Marlins could skip Sanchez’s first two turns of the season. But he’s expected to join the rotation by mid-April and is widely projected as a future ace.

“We know what we have with Sixto,” manager Don Mattingly said. “It’s just a matter of getting the process started for him. … It looked like his stuff was good. He was throwing strikes for the most part.”

Sanchez, acquired in the trade two years ago that sent catcher J.T. Realmuto to the Philadelphia Phillies, made his MLB debut last August. He went 3-2 with a 3.46 ERA in seven starts and pitched five shutout innings against the Chicago Cubs in the playoffs.

Against the Astros, Sanchez threw 30 pitches and topped out at 100 mph, which didn’t faze Altuve.

“He was ready, waiting for that fastball,” Sanchez said. “They’re going to be ready for that heat.”

As an alternative, Sanchez has been trying to polish his changeup this spring. He’ll get a chance to do so again Saturday, when he is tentatively scheduled to pitch three innings in his next start.

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.