Albert Pujols Named National League’s ‘Comeback Player of the Year’

Albert Pujols is this year’s Comeback King…

The 42-year-old Dominican slugger for the St. Louis Cardinals has won the National League’s Comeback Player of the Year award.

Albert PujolsPujols came back to St. Louis for his farewell season and posted his biggest numbers in years at the age of 42. The three-time MLB MVP compiled an .895 OPS for the NL Central champions and became the fourth Major League Baseball player to reach 700 career home runs.

Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander was the American League recipient.

The winners were chosen in voting by the 30 team beat reporters at MLB.com.

Pujols batted .270 with 24 homers and 68 RBIs in 109 games for the Cardinals after getting released by the Los Angeles Angels in May 2021 and finishing last year with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

His OPS was his highest since his last season with the Cardinals in 2011 (.906) before joining the Angels, and his home runs were his most since hitting 31 in 2016 for the Angels.

The 11-time MLB All-Star hit 18 home runs in the second half and retired after the Cardinals were eliminated from the playoffs by Philadelphia in the wild-card round.

He finished his career fourth in major league annals in home runs (703), second in RBIs (2,218) and total bases (6,211) and ninth in hits (3,384).

Sandy Alcantara Sweeps All First-Place Votes to Win National League Cy Young Award

It’s a clean sweep for Sandy Alcantara

The 27-year-old Dominican professional baseball pitcher for the Miami Marlins has become the first unanimous Cy Young Award winner in the National League since Clayton Kershaw in 2014.

Sandy Alcantara Alcantara, a right-hander, swept all 30 first-place votes to beat out Atlanta Braves lefty Max Fried and Los Angeles Dodgers southpaw Julio Urias to become the first Cy Young winner in Marlins history.

With Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander also winning the AL Cy Young by unanimous vote, this marks just the second time that both Cy Young winners were unanimous. Bob Gibson and Denny McLain also won unanimously in 1968, one year after the award started to be given out to both leagues.

In this age of five-inning starters, Alcantara stood out like a unicorn: He pitched 228⅔ innings, 23⅔ more than other pitcher in the majors, and the most innings since David Price threw 230 in 2016. He threw six complete games — more than any other team. He pitched at least eight innings in 14 of his 32 starts, the most such games since 2014. His 8.0 WAR easily topped Aaron Nola’s 6.0 as the best in the NL and ranked as the best in Marlins history, ahead of Kevin Brown‘s 7.9 in 1996.

“I’m very happy with the type of season I was able to have this season,” Alcantara said in a video released when he won the Players Choice Award as the outstanding NL pitcher. “It’s like I’ve always told the media: My mentality is to be a lion on the mound, finish all my starts.”

Here’s another way to view Alcantara’s award: He had 16 starts of more than seven innings when you add in his two 7⅔-inning outings. Fried and Urias combined for just two outings of more than seven innings. It wasn’t just his ability to pitch deep into games that made Alcantara the Cy Young winner, however. His 2.28 ERA ranked second in the NL behind Urias’ 2.16, and he held batters to a .212 average with some of the most electric stuff in the majors.

“He’s throwing 100-plus mph and he’s got movement on that fastball,” St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt said.

Indeed, Alcantara averaged just under 98 mph with his fastball (he throws both a four-seamer and sinker), but his game plan is a little different from a lot of modern pitchers. He induces a lot of soft contact rather than just racking up strikeouts — and thus avoids the high pitch counts that result from a lot of deep counts. As a result, he led all starters in averaging just 14.2 pitches per inning, allowing him to go deep into games. He still managed 207 strikeouts, including a season-high 14 in an eight-inning win over the Braves on May 28. “Sometimes with Sandy it looks like pitch and catch,” then-Marlins manager Don Mattingly said after that dominating victory.

Originally signed by the Cardinals out of the Dominican Republic, the Marlins acquired Alcantara after the 2017 season in a trade that sent Marcell Ozuna to St. Louis. Alcantara made the MLB All-Star team in 2019, his first full season in the majors, when he finished with a 3.88 ERA, and then had a big breakout in 2021, when he went 9-15 with a 3.19 ERA in 205 innings.

An improved changeup took him to another level this season, as batters hit just .145 against it with no home runs in 248 at-bats. It’s a power change that averaged 91.8 mph — yes, a 92 mph changeup. According to Statcast metrics, his changeup saved 25 runs, the most valuable changeup in the game in 2022.

Maybe the highlight of Alcantara’s season wasn’t one of his seven scoreless outings, but a 4-3 victory over the Cardinals on June 29. Leading 4-3 with runners at first and second and one out in the ninth and Alcantara at 115 pitches, Mattingly came out to apparently remove him from the game. Alcantara talked himself into staying in and two pitches later induced to a double play to end it.

“When he came to me, I said, ‘I got it. I got it.’ I think he has too much confidence in me to finish the game,” Alcantara said after that win. “I don’t have to worry when I have men on base. I know I can throw a strike and get a double play.”

“He said he had it, and he did,” Mattingly said. “I wasn’t going to promise him two hitters, but I gave him that one. He’s pretty special.”

Special enough that the extension the Marlins signed him to last November that runs through 2027 now looks like a bargain. With the Marlins now having a Cy Young winner, the only franchises without one are the Texas Rangers and Colorado Rockies.

Yordan Alvarez Among This Year’s American League MVP Finalists

Yordan Alvarez is still in the running…

The 25-year-old Cuban professional baseball designated hitter and left fielder for the Houston Astros has been named a finalist for this year’s Major League Baseball’s American League MVP honor.

Yordan AlvarezAlvarez, who hit a home run in Game 6 of the World Series to give the Astros the trophy, will face off against Aaron Judge (OF, New York Yankees) and Shohei Ohtani (RHP/DH, Los Angeles Angels)

From both the American League and National League, 24 players and managers were shortlisted as finalists for four different awards as voted on by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Manny Machado (3B, San Diego Padres) has been named a finalist in the National League MVP race. He’ll face off against Paul Goldschmidt (1B, St. Louis Cardinals) and Nolan Arenado (3B, St. Louis Cardinals).

Sandy Alcantara (RHP, Miami Marlins) and Julio Urías (LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers) are up for the National League Cy Young 2022 Awards alongside Max Fried (LHP, Atlanta Braves).

The American League Rookie of the Year finalists include Julio Rodríguez, (CF, Seattle Mariners), who is competing against

Steven Kwan (LF, Cleveland Guardians) and (Adley Rutschman, C, Baltimore Orioles) for the title.

The winners for Most Valuable Player, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year will be announced next week, with one category going live each day on the MLB Network beginning at 6:00 pm ET.

Monday, Nov. 14: Jackie Robinson Rookies of the Year
Tuesday, Nov. 15: Managers of the Year
Wednesday, Nov. 16: Cy Young Awards
Thursday, Nov. 17: MVP Awards

Here’s a look at all the candidates from each league:

AL Rookie of the Year 2022 Finalists:
Steven Kwan, LF, Cleveland Guardians
Adley Rutschman, C, Baltimore Orioles
Julio Rodríguez, CF, Seattle Mariners

NL Rookie of the Year 2022 Finalists:
Brendan Donovan, UTIL, St. Louis Cardinals
Michael Harris II, CF, Atlanta Braves
Spencer Strider, RHP, Atlanta Braves

AL Manager of the Year 2022 Finalists:
Terry Francona, Cleveland Guardians
Brandon Hyde, Baltimore Orioles
Scott Servais, Seattle Mariners 

NL Manager of the Year 2022 Finalists:
Dave Roberts, Los Angeles Dodgers
Buck Showalter, New York Mets
Brian Snitker, Atlanta Braves

AL Cy Young 2022 Finalists:
Dylan Cease, RHP, Chicago White Sox
Alek Manoah, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
Justin Verlander, RHP, Houston Astros 

NL Cy Young 2022 Finalists:
Sandy Alcantara, RHP, Miami Marlins
Max Fried, LHP, Atlanta Braves
Julio Urías, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers 

AL MVP 2022 Finalists:
Aaron Judge, OF, New York Yankees
Shohei Ohtani, RHP/DH, Los Angeles Angels
Yordan Alvarez, DH/LF, Houston Astros

NL MVP 2022 Finalists:
Manny Machado, 3B, San Diego Padres
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals
Nolan Arenado, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals’ Nolan Arenado Earns 10th Consecutive Gold Glove Award

Make that a perfect 10 for Nolan Arenado

The 31-year-old Puerto Rican and Cuban American baseball player, a third baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals, has become the fourth infielder to win 10 consecutive Rawlings Gold Gloves, when baseball’s winners for the sport’s most prestigious fielding awards were announced on ESPN2 before Game 3 of the World Series.

Nolan ArenadoArenado has won the National League‘s Gold Glove at third base in each of his 10 seasons in the major leagues. That streak ties former Seattle Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki for the longest by a player at any position to start a career.

The only infielders who put together longer streaks were Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson (third base, 16 straight Gold Gloves) and Ozzie Smith (shortstop, 13 straight) and former Cardinals and New York Mets first baseman Keith Hernandez (11 straight).

The Gold Gloves once tended to favor repeat winners, but this year’s list of honorees marked a season of unprecedented change. A record 14 players won their first Gold Gloves, including all but one of the winners in the American League.

The AL‘s first timers were Cleveland Guardians pitcher Shane BieberNew York Yankees catcher Jose TrevinoToronto Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cleveland Guardians second baseman Andres GimenezBaltimore Orioles third baseman Ramon UriasHouston Astros shortstop Jeremy Pena, Guardians left fielder Steven Kwan, Guardians center fielder Myles Straw and Astros right fielder Kyle Tucker.

The AL’s only repeat winner was the Yankees’ DJ LeMahieu, who was recognized as a utility player.

There was a little more familiarity among those who joined Arenado as Gold Glovers on the National League side. The first-time winners included Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Christian WalkerColorado Rockies second baseman Brendan Rodgers, Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby SwansonChicago Cubs left fielder Ian Happ and Cardinals utility player Brendan Donovan.

Philadelphia Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto won his second Glove Glove, joining Houston’s Pena and Tucker in learning of their honor during the lead-up to their World Series contest.

“It’s a pretty cool moment, for sure,” Pena said. “[Getting] congratulated by our teammates. We know the focus is the game, so we’re going to enjoy this for a little bit and then get ready for the game.”

Pena joined Kwan and Donovan as winners during their rookie seasons, another record. The only other time in which there has been even two rookie Gold Glovers was 2020 (Luis Robert and Evan White).

In taking the honor, Pena continued to prove a worthy successor at the position in Houston to Carlos Correa, who won the award last season. Pena became the first rookie shortstop to win a Gold Glove.

“I heard that today and I was in shock because I didn’t know that was a thing,” Pena said. “But it’s pretty cool.”

San Diego Padres center fielder Trent Grisham won for the second time, while Los Angeles Dodgers star right fielder Mookie Betts won his sixth Gold Glove. Atlanta Braves pitcher Max Fried was honored for the third time.

Here’s a look at the 2022 Gold Glove winners:

American League
P: Shane Bieber, Cleveland
C: Jose Trevino, New York
1B: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto
2B: Andres Gimenez, Cleveland
3B: Ramon Urias, Baltimore
SS: Jeremy Pena, Houston
LF: Steven Kwan, Cleveland
CF: Myles Straw, Cleveland
RF: Kyle Tucker, Houston

National League
P: Max Fried, Atlanta
C: J.T. Realmuto, Philadelphia
1B: Christian Walker, Arizona
2B: Brendan Rodgers, Colorado
3B: Nolan Arenado, St. Louis
SS: Dansby Swanson, Atlanta
LF: Ian Happ, Chicago
CF: Trent Grisham, San Diego
RF: Mookie Betts, Los Angeles

Nolan Arenado Opting to Stay with St. Louis Cardinals

Nolan Arenado is planning to stay put…

The 31-year-old Puerto Rican and Cuban American professional baseball player and St. Louis Cardinals third baseman won’t opt out of his contract with the team, according to ESPN.

Nolan ArenadoArenado has five years and $144 million left on his deal, a nine-year, $275 million contract he signed in 2019 with the Colorado Rockies. Arenado was traded to the Cardinals before the 2021 season after spending eight years with the Rockies, and Colorado is paying $31 million of the deal.

Arenado is set to make a base salary of $35 million next season on the contract that runs through the 2027 season.

The contract contained two opt-outs, with the second one coming after the 2022 season. Arenado has informed the Cardinals he won’t use the opt-out to become a free agent, which was first reported by The Athletic.

Arenado hit .293 with 30 home runs, 42 doubles and a .891 OPS this season. He is likely to finish in the top five in National League MVP voting along with teammate Paul Goldschmidt, who is signed through 2024.

A 10-year veteran, Arenado has indicated often how much he likes playing in St. Louis, making it no surprise he decided to stay.

New York Mets Reportedly Calling Up Top Prospect Francisco Alvarez This Weekend

Francisco Alvarez is thisclose to Met-ing his moment…

The New York Mets are calling up the 20-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball catcher and MLB top prospect  for this weekend’s pivotal three-game series against the Atlanta Braves, according to multiple reports.

Francisco Alvarez Alvarez was ranked as the No. 4 overall prospect in ESPN‘s midseason list published in August.

Signed as an international free agent out of Venezuela in 2018, Alvarez has had a meteoric rise through the Mets’ minor league system over the past two years. He slashed .260/.374/.511 with 27 home runs this season while splitting time between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Syracuse.

The Mets enter Friday’s game against the Braves clinging to a one-game lead over Atlanta in the National League East.

El Extrabase was first to report that Alvarez is getting called up.

Giancarlo Stanton Named MLB All-Star Game’s Most Valuable Player

It’s a (most-valuable) performance to remember for Giancarlo Stanton

The 32-year-old part-Puerto Rican professional baseball designated hitter and New York Yankee outfielder was named MVP 2022 MLB All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday, after leading the American League to a 3-2 win over the National League squad.

Giancarlo StantonStanton earned the honor after going 1-for-2 with a two-run homer that tied the game in the fourth inning.

It was the American League’s ninth consecutive win over the National League.

Byron Buxton of the Minnesota Twins followed with the go-ahead solo blast. Stanton, a Los Angeles native, was given the nod in his hometown.

Stanton was playing in his fifth career All-Star Game and his first since 2017, which is the same season he was named NL MVP. He is now the third Yankees player ever to be named All-Star Game MVP, joining Derek Jeter in 2000 and Mariano Rivera in 2013.

Tuesday’s game was expected to be an offensive showcase but instead was dominated by pitching. The NL took a 2-0 lead in the first inning but failed to record another hit until the eighth inning. The AL totaled eight hits, but never really threatened to put more runs on the board outside of the fireworks in the fourth inning.

For Stanton, Tuesday’s performance continued a strong 2022 season. He is batting .237 this year with 24 home runs, 61 RBI and a .835 OPS. He’s been a key part of New York’s success.

The Yankees have the best record in the majors at 64-28 with a 13-game lead in the AL East. With the second half of the season on the horizon, New York has its eyes set on the postseason as it hopes to make it back to the World Series since its last championship win in 2009,

With Stanton helping to lead the charge, the Yankees are in position to do just that.

Atlanta Braves Acquire Robinson Cano from San Diego Padres

Robinson Cano believes he’s still got game…

The 39-year-old Dominican-American professional baseball remains confident in his skills as he has been given an opportunity to revive his career while starting — at least on a fill-in basis — for the defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves.

Robinson CanoCano carries a .301 career batting average with more than 2,600 hits, but he struggled in short stints with the New York Mets and San Diego Padres this season.

The Braves, in need of a left-handed hitter who can help at second base, obtained Cano for $1 in a minor league deal with the Padres on Sunday.

Cano instantly joined Atlanta’s starting lineup, playing second base and batting ninth as the Braves opened a series on Monday night against his former team, the NL East-leading New York Mets.

“I know what work I’ve put in the offseason and I’ve always believed in myself and the stuff that I do to prepare myself,” Cano said following batting practice on Monday. “I feel that I can still play this game.”

The Braves trailed the Mets by 1½ games going into the three-game set at Truist Park.

Cano gives the Braves another option at second base after Ozzie Albies went down with a broken foot.

With the Mets in town, Cano attracted a large crowd of reporters with no shortage of questions about his past and future.

Asked if he felt he received a fair shot with the Mets, Cano said “I don’t want to go back to the past. … There’s no hard feelings. I’ve got friends on the other side and I always wish them the best.”

Cano hit .256 with New York in 2019 and .316 in only 49 games in 2020.

Cano hit a combined .149 with one homer and four RBI in 74 at-bats for the Padres and Mets this season. He batted .333 with three homers and 20 RBI in 96 at-bats for Triple-A El Paso after the Padres released him and re-signed him to a minor league deal last month.

“I think he was rusty when he was here for the first two times,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said of Cano’s early season struggles. “You’re just hoping you get what Robinson Cano is capable of. It’s worth a try. He’s been playing a month in Triple-A and doing well, so we’ll see. He’s in a great shape.”

Snitker managed Cano’s father, Jose Cano, who was a minor league pitcher for the Class A Durham Braves in 1984.

“He was one of my starters in Durham,” Snitker said.

The younger Cano arrived in Atlanta equipped with stories about Snitker from his dad. He said he’s also heard about the Braves from friends on the team, including his offseason workout partner Marcell Ozuna.

“Everything they’ve said about this team is good,” Cano said.

“I’m excited for the opportunity and also happy to be here. I’ve seen from the other side, the energy and the chemistry and the fans show up every day to support this team.”

Albies fractured his foot last month in an at-bat, and Atlanta has been relying on Orlando Arcia as his replacement.

Arcia was hitting .252 with three homers and 17 RBI in 123 at-bats this year. Snitker said he’s been pleased with Albies’ replacement, especially his defense.

The Mets owe Cano nearly $45 million remaining on his original contract signed with Seattle. He was earning a prorated share of the $700,000 minimum in his major league deal with San Diego. He sat out last season in serving a second suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.

Cano was an eight-time MLB All-Star while with the New York Yankees and Seattle. He is a two-time Gold Glover with 335 home runs and 1,306 RBI in 17 seasons.

The San Diego Padres signed him to a minor league deal on June 10, eight days after releasing him.

In addition to adding Cano to the 26-man roster, the Braves reinstated outfielder Adam Duvall from the paternity list.

First baseman Mike Ford was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett and infielder Phil Gosselin was designated for assignment.

Harold Ramirez Traded to Tampa Bay Rays

A ray(s) of light for Harold Ramirez.

The 27-year-old Colombian professional baseball outfielder has been acquired by the Tampa Bay Rays in a trade with the Chicago Cubs.

Harold RamirezRamirez batted .268 with seven homers and 41 RBI in 99 games with Cleveland last season. He was acquired by the Cubs for cash in November.

Chicago got minor league infielder Esteban Quiroz in the deal with Tampa Bay. The 30-year-old Quiroz hit .268 with 12 homers and 48 RBI in 68 games with Triple-A Durham last year.

A native of Cartagena, Colombia, Ramirez is a .271 hitter over parts of three seasons with Miami Marlins and Cleveland.

He ranked sixth among National League rookies with 116 hits for the Marlins in 2019.

Javier Baez Agrees to Six-Year, $140 Million Deal with Detroit Tigers

The Detroit Tigers have found what they’ve been searching for in Javier Baez

The Major League Baseball team has agreed to a six-year, $140 million deal with the 29-year-old Puerto Rican professional baseball player and free-agent shortstop, according to ESPN sources.

Javier BaezThe deal also includes an opt-out, according to the source.

It would be the second-largest free-agent deal in Tigers franchise history, behind Prince Fielder, who signed a nine-year, $214 million deal with Detroit in January 2012.

While he struck out a league-high 184 times last season, Baez hit .265 with 31 homers, 87 RBIs and 18 steals. He also brings Gold Glove defense to Detroit with his signature no-look tags.

The Tigers had been looking for a shortstop since it went 77-85 last season, finishing third in the AL Central behind the Cleveland Guardians and the Chicago White Sox.

Baez was selected in the first round of the 2011 draft. The two-time National League All-Star had been close to signing a long-term extension with the Chicago Cubs before the 2020 season, but the COVID-19 pandemic put negotiations on hold.

Those contract talks never resumed, and the Cubs traded Baez to the New York Mets this past July.