Albert Pujols Reportedly Heading to the Los Angeles Dodgers

Albert Pujols will be heading back to the field sooner than expected…

The 41-year-old Dominican professional baseball first baseman and designated hitter, a future MLB Hall of Famer, and the Los Angeles Dodgers have reportedly agreed on a major league contract, according to ESPN.

Albert Pujols

The deal, first reported by the Los Angeles Times, isn’t expected to become official until Monday, a source said.

When it does, the Dodgers will pay Pujols only the prorated portion of the major league minimum salary for the rest of the season, roughly $420,000, a sum that will be subtracted from the $30 million salary that is being paid to him by the Los Angeles Angels.

Pujols, in the last year of his 10-year, $240 million contract, was designated for assignment by the Angels on May 6 and was officially released after clearing waivers on Thursday. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts declined to comment on Pujols prior to Saturday’s game because the deal hasn’t been officially announced.

With the defending World Series champion Dodgers, Pujols is expected to be mostly used as a late-game pinch hitter. But he could also get some playing time at first base with everyday first baseman Max Muncy capable of playing second and third base.

Only 41 of Pujols’ 12,486 career regular-season plate appearances have come as a pinch hitter, but the Dodgers expect him to help a young, inexperienced bench.

His right-handed bat might also help a team that entered Saturday with a .663 OPS against left-handed pitchers, 136 points fewer than its OPS against righties. Pujols is batting only .198/.250/.372 in 92 plate appearances this season and has been a below-average hitter by park-adjusted OPS since 2017. But he owns an .878 OPS against lefties in 2021, and his .513 expected slugging percentage suggests he has also been running into some bad luck.

In 18 plate appearances under what Baseball-Reference identifies as late-and-close situations, Pujols owns a .313/.389/.500 slash line.

Pujols, who hasn’t ruled out the possibility of playing beyond 2021, ranks fifth in career homers (667), second in RBIs since they became an official stat in 1920 (2,112) and 14th in hits (3,253). He has won three National League MVP awards, two Gold Gloves and six Silver Sluggers and has been invited to 10 All-Star Games.

His first decade with the St. Louis Cardinals — consisting of a .331/.426/.624 slash line, 408 home runs and 1,230 RBIs — stands as arguably the greatest 10-year run in baseball history. In Year 11, he finished fifth in NL MVP voting and won his second World Series ring.

He becomes the fourth former MVP on the current Dodgers roster, joining Cody BellingerMookie Betts and Clayton Kershaw. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, the Dodgers are the fourth team in MLB history to feature four former MVP winners, joining the 1978 Reds, 1982 Angels and most recently the 1996 Red Sox.

Marcell Ozuna Agrees to Four-Year, $64 Million Deal with Atlanta Braves

Marcell Ozuna is returning to a Brave world…

The Atlanta Braves are bringing back the 30-year-old Dominican professional baseball outfielder and designated hitter, signing Ozuna to a $64 million, four-year contract.

Marcell Ozuna

The Braves announced the deal for the 2020 NL home run and RBI leader on Friday night, less than two weeks before pitchers and catchers are set to report for spring training.

The contract includes a fifth-year club option for $16 million that would take it to $80 million with a $1 million buyout, which would yield Ozuna $65 million in guaranteed money.

Ozuna took a gamble on himself after the 2019 season, turning down a $17.8 million qualifying offer from the St. Louis Cardinals, and signed a one-year, $18 million deal with the Braves in late January.

The move paid off handsomely, as the slugger finished sixth in the National League MVP voting after leading the league with 18 home runs, 56 RBIs and 145 total bases. He was third in the NL with a career-best .338 batting average and .636 slugging percentage.

The bet? The $17.8 million qualifying offer by the Cardinals would’ve represented 41% of his career earnings to that point.

While considered somewhat of a defensive liability after suffering a shoulder injury in 2018, Ozuna, who turned 30 in November, did see some action in left field for the Braves while playing all 60 games during the pandemic-shortened season.

However, most of his at-bats for Atlanta came as the team’s designated hitter, slotted after MVP Freddie Freeman in the lineup as the Braves won the NL East title after putting up some of the best offensive numbers in team history.

Before joining the Braves, Ozuna spent two seasons with the Cardinals, protecting Paul Goldschmidt in the lineup as they made it back to the playoffs in 2019. Over the past five seasons, including the 60-game season in 2020, Ozuna has hit 130 home runs, making two All-Star Games on the strength of his bat.

Since the start of the 2017 season, Ozuna has 357 RBIs, second only to the Colorado Rockies‘ Nolan Arenado (384) and just ahead of Freeman (343) among National League players, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

In eight MLB seasons, he has a .276 batting average with 166 home runs, 594 RBIs and 505 runs scored for the Seattle Marlins, Cardinals and Braves.

Manny Machado Named National League MVP Finalist

Manny Machado has proven his most valuable status…

The 28-year-old Dominican-American professional baseball player and San Diego Padres third baseman and shortstop has been named a finalist in the MLB’s National League MVP race.

Manny Machado

Machado, who hit .304 with 16 homers and 47 RBIs for the Padres this season, is nominated alongside Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts and Atlanta Braves star Freddie Freeman, after balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Meanwhile, New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom is going for his third consecutive National League Cy Young Award. He’s facing off Trevor Bauer and Yu Darvish for the honor.

The top three finishers for each BBWAA award were revealed Monday. The winners will be announced next week.

Balloting for the BBWAA awards was completed before the start of the postseason.

Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, Cleveland Indians infielder Jose Ramirez and New York Yankees leadoff man DJ LeMahieu are the top three finishers in voting for the American League MVP award.

LeMahieu, who hit a big league-best .364, and Bauer are free agents after starring during the pandemic-shortened season.

Indian’ pitcher Shane Bieber joined Minnesota Twins right-hander Kenta Maeda and Toronto Blue Jays left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu as finalists for the American League Cy Young Award.

The top finishers in voting for American League Manager of the Year are Tampa Bay RaysKevin Cash, Toronto OriolesCharlie Montoyo and Rick Renteria, who was let go by the Chicago White Sox after the team made the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

Miami’s Don Mattingly, San Diego’s Jayce Tingler and the Cubs’ David Ross are the finalists for NL Manager of the Year. Tingler and Ross just completed their first seasons as big league skippers.

The finalists for AL Rookie of the Year are Houston Astros right-hander Cristian Javier and center fielders Kyle Lewis of the Seattle Mariners and Luis Robert of the White Sox. Philadelphia Phillies infielder Alec Bohm, Padres infielder Jake Cronenworth and Milwaukee Brewers reliever Devin Williams are the top finishers for the National League rookie award.

ESPN Films Orders Documentary Series on Keith Hernandez & His 1986 World Series-Winning New York Mets

Keith Hernandez is getting documented…

The 1986 World Series-winning run by the 66-year-old half-Spanish American former professional baseball player’s New York Mets will get the multi-part documentary treatment by ESPN in a project under the 30 for 30 banner, whose executive producers include Jimmy Kimmel.

Keith Hernandez

ESPN Films said the series will chronicle the team’s exploits on and off the field. 

In the World Series, the Boston Red Sox were one strike away from victory before a two-out rally and a ground ball hit by Mookie Wilson slipped through the legs of Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner

The comeback, ESPN said in a press release, “was merely the climax of an epic tale of ambition and swagger set in a city that was synonymous with excess.”

ESPN promises “hours of never-before-seen footage” of the team, a group of disparate, larger-than-life characters who made a big impression on and off the field. 

Keith Hernandez

Many members of the team went on to generate headlines long after 1986, among them Darryl StrawberryDwight Gooden, Hernandez, a five-time MLB All-Star, and Lenny Dykstra

The team already has been the subject of a dishy non-fiction book,The Bad Guys Won, written by Jeff Pearlman, whose L.A. Lakers book, Showtime, has been turned into a scripted drama on HBO.

Hernandez played the majority of his career with the St. Louis Cardinals and Mets. He shared the 1979 National League MVP awardand won two World Seriestitles, one each with the Cardinals and Mets.

Hernandez retired as an active player after spending one year with the Cleveland Indians in 1990. Since 2006, he has served as a television broadcaster for Mets games on SportsNet New York and WPIX, as well as a studio analyst for MLB on Fox since 2017.

Anthony Rendon Considered the MLB’s Top Mega-Dollar Free Agent

It looks like all bets are on Anthony Rendonto be the first of the mega-dollar free agents to come off the board this winter…

The 29-year-old Latino third baseman has already had meetings with teams, including the Los Angeles Dodgers and Texas Rangers, according to ESPN. And before Rendon reached the open market, the Washington Nationals made an offer in an effort to keep him.

Anthony Rendon

Rendon helped lead the Nationals to the World Seriestitle and finished third in the National League MVPballoting last month.

As reported in September, friends of Rendon believe he’s not going to take the conventional path through free agency. Rather than look for a long-term deal that lasts into his late 30s, they think he’s more interested in a deal in the range of five years, presumably for a higher average annual salary. In fact, some executives believe that Rendon’s forthcoming contract could establish a record for highest annual value.

The Rangers will move into a new ballpark next spring, and Rendon, a Texas native, could be the big marquee name on the revamped team.

The Dodgers have coveted Rendon because of his perfect fit with their hitting approach and their financial strategy. Under baseball operations chief Andrew Friedman, they have shied away from doling out deals of more than three-to-five years. Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner has one more year left on his contract, but he has told reporters that he’d be willing to change position. 

The Dallas Morning Newswas the first to report Rendon’s meeting with the Rangers.

Pujols Slugs His Way Into the World Series History Books…

St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols produced one of the greatest hitting performances in World Series history during last night’s game against the Texas Rangers.

The 31-year-old Dominican-born baseball star tied the records of Reggie Jackson and Babe Ruth in hitting three home runs in a single World Series game.

But Pujols didn’t stop there… The three-time National League MVP also drove in six runs and finished with five hits—tying a Series record with each feat. In the end, he set a Series mark with 14 total bases.

So what does Pujols think of what many are calling the defining game of his career?

“Just pretty special,” proclaims Pujols. “Hopefully, at the end of my career, I can look back and say, ‘Wow, what a game it was in Game 3 in 2011.'”

Its’ no wonder Pujols is one of the most feared sluggers in the majors. After all, he became the first player in Series history to get hits in four straight innings.

“When the opportunity presents itself to put him on the bag, I’m not going to let him swing the bat,” said Rangers manager Ron Washington.
“But tonight, we just couldn’t get the ball out of the middle of the plate and up, and he just didn’t miss.”

In the end, Pujols’ mind-blowing batting helped lift the Cardinals past the Rangers 16-7. St. Louis now leads the series 2-1.

Image courtesy of Rob Carr/Getty Images.