Wander Franco Reportedly Agrees to 12-Year Contract with Tampa Bay Rays Worth Up To $223 Million

Wander Franco has a dozen reasons to smile…

The Tampa Bay Rays saw enough in the 70 major league games that 20-year-old Dominican professional baseball shortstop played to secure a massive contract with him.

Wander FrancoFranco has agreed to a 12-year contract that guarantees him around $185 million, according to ESPN sources. The deal is worth a maximum of $223 million.

That dwarfs the previous record contract for a player with less than one full year of service time. At age 21 in 2019, Ronald Acuna Jr. signed an eight-year, $100 million deal with the Atlanta Braves.

Franco hit .288 with seven homers and 39 RBIs last season and finished third in Rookie of the Year voting. He stepped up his game in the postseason, batting .368 with two homers and four RBIs in four games.

Franco wasn’t set to become arbitration eligible until 2024 and couldn’t become a free agent until 2027, but that was under the current collective bargaining agreement, which expires on December 1.

Randy Arozarena Named the American League’s Rookie of the Year

Randy Arozarena is celebrating a special honor…

The 26-year-old Cuban professional baseball outfielder, last year’s breakout postseason star, has been named this year’s American League Rookie of the Year.

Randy ArozarenaThe Tampa Bay Rays outfielder beat out teammate Wander Franco and right-handed starter Luis Garcia of the Houston Astros for the honor.

Arozarena received 124 points in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, including 22 for first place. Garcia had 63 points and Franco had 30 points.

Arozarena led all rookies with a 4.1 WAR while compiling a .815 OPS. He hit 20 home runs while stealing 20 bases becoming the third rookie (Mike TroutAndrew Benintendi) in the last decade to compile a 20-20 season.

Arozarena made only one error in 119 games played in the outfield. He and first baseman Jose Martinez were acquired in January 2020 from the St. Louis Cardinals for lefty Matthew Liberatore and catcher Edgardo Rodriguez.

Arozarena was the ALCS MVP that season while hitting 11 home runs during the playoffs.

“I know I was favored to be the rookie of the year,” Arozarena said through a translator. “But for me, my mind wasn’t set on the award or winning the award. My mind and my goal was to have another good season and continue what I had done the year before.”

Arozarena is Tampa Bay’s first rookie of the year since outfielder Wil Myers in 2013.

Franco, 20, made a late season run for top rookie honors as he reached base in 43 consecutive games, tied with Frank Robinson (1956) for the longest such streak by a player 20 years old or younger. Franco only played in 70 games after getting called up from the minors in June.

Garcia, 24, was an integral part of the division winning Astros. He appeared in 30 games including making 28 starts while compiling a 3.48 ERA. He gave up just 133 hits in 155.1 innings. He led all AL rookies in innings pitched and strikeouts.

Houston Astros Reportedly Offer Carlos Correa a Five-Year Contract Worth $160 million

Carlos Correa has a Astro-nomical offer to consider…

The 27-year-old Puerto Rican professional baseball shortstop, currently a free agent, has been offered a five-year contract worth $160 million by the Houston Astros, according to reports.

Carlos Correa

Correa, whose name has been brought up by many this offseason to potentially fill the New York Yankees’ need at shortstop, slashed .279/.366/.485 this past season with 26 homers, 34 doubles and 92 RBI in 148 games for the Astros’ high-powered offense.

Selected to the MLB All-Star team in 2017 and 2021, Correa has spent seven seasons in Houston and won the Rookie of the Year Award in 2015 with the Astros.

The former number one overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft, Correa is fresh off a World Series appearance against the Atlanta Braves where he hit .261 with one double, four RBI and no home runs.

In 2017, he helped the Astros win their first championship in franchise history against the Los Angeles Dodgers with a .276 average and two home runs.

Houston Astros Slugger Yordan Alvarez Named American League Championship Series MVP

Yordan Alvarez is celebrating his ALCS performance with a special trophy…

The 24-year-old Cuban professional baseball player, a designated hitter and outfielder for the Houston Astros was named the American League Championship Series Most Valuable Player (MVP) after almost single-handedly leading his team to the American League pennant.

Yordan Alvarez

In the final three games of the ALCS — a run that started with the Astros facing a 2-1 series deficit to the Boston Red Sox — Alvarez went 9-for-13.

In Games 5 and 6, he outhit the entire Red Sox roster on his own, 7-5. His ALCS performance peaked at Minute Maid Park in Game 6: 4-for-4 with a single, a double, a triple, a run and an RBI, as Houston finished off the series with a 5-0 victory over Boston.

“It was all about focus,” Alvarez told ESPN‘s Marly Rivera after the game. “That’s all I wanted to do. I wanted to do damage and that’s what happened.”

Alvarez’s showing in the ALCS surprised even himself, especially after a 2020 season when he only played two games and underwent surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon in his right knee, along with arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.

Yordan Alvarez“I didn’t really imagine myself being able to come out of that surgery on both knees and be able to do this as quickly as I did,” Alvarez said. “So it was really unbelievable for me to be able to come back and do what I did. Just super happy to be here and be able to contribute like that.”

Throughout the series, Astros manager Dusty Baker noted the exceptional impact Alvarez made in the middle of Houston’s lineup — and how his power bat changed the trajectory of the team’s season.

“He is a big boy in the middle,” Baker said.

Alvarez is the second Astros player with 11 hits in a playoff series, behind only Jose Altuve‘s 12 in the 2020 ALCS. He became the fifth player in MLB history with 11 or more hits in a single series against the Red Sox, joining a club with Hideki Matsui and Bernie Williams (2004), Lou Brock (1967) and Buck Herzog (1912).

Baker noted Alvarez’s all-fields approach, which has drawn comparisons to the way David Ortiz consistently drove pitches on the outer half of the plate the other way. During the 2021 season, Alvarez pulled baseballs 36.4%, and hit them up the middle and to the opposite field 36.3% and 27.3% of the time, respectively.

His average exit velocity of 93.2 mph ranked ninth in MLB, ahead of Manny MachadoJuan Soto and Bryce Harper, according to Baseball Savant.

“He hits the ball in the opposite field and it stays straight,” Baker said. “It doesn’t have a slice on it, and everybody knows he can pull the ball, but he also has power the other way. He is only going to get better. Like last year at this time, we didn’t have Alvarez, and we came close to going to the series last year without Alvarez. And now we have Alvarez, and we’re very, very grateful and thankful that we have him.”

After the game, Alvarez gave credit to Baker for his support throughout the season.

“He understands how it is to be a ballplayer,” Alvarez said. “He understands what guys go through every day. I got a chance to spend time with him in spring training as well. He has been really helpful to me, and I’m thankful for everything that he has given to me in this time together.”

Alvarez’s three extra-base hits in a potential series-clinching game tie Carlos Correa for the most in Astros history, and he joins Yuli Gurriel and Craig Biggio as the only Astros with consecutive three-hit games in the postseason.

That historic performance did not go unnoticed by his teammates.

“Yordan was, like, something else,” said Astros pitcher Luis Garcia. “He was really clutch, everything.”

Alvarez’s successful 2019 campaign for Rookie of the Year — where he hit .313/.412/.655 with 27 homers, 26 doubles and 78 RBIs with 3.7 bWAR in 87 games — served as his introduction to the national stage, but he cemented his place among the best designated hitters with his 2021 season, hitting .277/.346/.531 with 33 homers, 104 RBIs, 35 doubles and a triple with 3.2 bWAR this year.

But none of them meant as much as winning the ALCS MVP trophy.

“It means everything,” Alvarez said. “It means everything. I think there’s a lot of things that I could say that’s behind that trophy, but all I can say is it just means everything.”

As the spotlight got brighter, so did Alvarez’s performance at the plate. The ALCS MVP trophy served as a cherry on top.

Randy Arozarena Makes MLB Playoff History by Stealing Home & Hitting Homer in Same Game

Randy Arozarena has made MLB playoff history…

The 26-year-old Cuban professional baseball outfielder for the Tampa Bay Rays – the leading candidate for American League Rookie of the Year — made history Thursday by becoming the first player in playoff history to steal home and hit a home run in the same game during Tampa Bay’s 5-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox in Game 1 of the ALDS in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Randy Arozarena

The swipe marked the first steal of home in a playoff game since 2016, when Chicago Cubs infielder Javier Baez pulled off the feat in the National League Championship Series, and the first straight steal of home in a playoff game since Jackie Robinson‘s against Yogi Berra and the New York Yankees in 1955.

“I noticed the pitcher kind of wasn’t keeping attention to me. I was able to take a big enough lead and take that base,” Arozarena said through an interpreter. “That’s the first time I’ve ever stolen home.”

Arozarena, who is still a rookie despite setting postseason records with 10 home runs and 29 hits in 20 games during the 2020 playoffs, stole home against Boston reliever Josh Taylor to make the score 5-0 in the seventh inning after drawing a walk.

Rays manager Kevin Cash said Arozarena had been asking him about stealing home for weeks. During the 2020 World Series, Rays outfielder Manuel Margot was thrown out when he attempted a similar steal off Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw, but Arozarena kept insisting.

“He’s asked me all season long, ‘Verde, verde, verde’ — green light,” Cash said. “We finally gave it to him.”

Arozarena easily beat the throw home to catcher Christian Vazquez via headfirst slide.

Arozarena ranks second for the most home runs in a 20-game postseason span, tied with Carlos Beltran and Jim Thome with 11 and trailing just Babe Ruth, who leads with 12. His 11 career postseason home runs are five more than any other rookie in MLB history, with Evan Longoria ranking second with six.

Asked about his playoff success, Arozarena said the stakes create a desire to meet the moment.

“I just focus a little bit more,” Arozarena said. “Luckily it’s happening in October, when it means it’s closer to the World Series.”

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.

Nomar Mazara Agrees to One-Year, $1.75 Million Deal with Detroit Tigers

Nomar Mazara is roarin’ into the Motor City

The 25-year-old Dominican professional baseball right fielder has sealed the deal with the Detroit Tigers on a one-year, $1.75 million contract.

Nomar Mazara

Mazara, who turns 26 in April, hit .228 with one home run in 42 games during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. That was his first season with the Chicago White Sox after he spent four with the Texas Rangers.

“After a frustrating 2020 season, I’m looking forward to a fresh start and getting to work with the coaching staff, especially AJ Hinch, who I always enjoyed competing against during his time in Houston,” Mazara said. “I’ve come to really appreciate coming to Detroit as a visiting player and can’t wait to join their baseball community this season.”

Hinch took over as Detroit’s manager this offseason.

Mazara hit 20 home runs in each of his first three years with the Texas Rangers, then 19 in 2019. He tied for fifth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2016, the year Detroit pitcher Michael Fulmer won the award.

“Heading through the offseason we were looking to add a left-handed-hitting outfielder to provide AJ with more options for the lineup, and bringing Nomar on board does exactly that,” Tigers general manager Al Avila said.

Mazara’s deal includes $500,000 in performance bonuses based on plate appearances: $100,000 each for 350, 400, 450, 500 and 550.

To make room for Mazara, the Tigers designated right-hander John Schreiber for assignment.

Jose Abreu Named MLB’s American League MVP

Jose Abreu is this season’s American League star…

The 33-year-old Cuban professional baseball player, a first baseman for the Chicago White Sox, has won the American League MVP award after helping power the team to its first playoff berth in 12 years.

Jose Abreu

Abreu received 21 of 30 first-place votes and 374 points in voting announced by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Cleveland Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez was second with eight first-place votes and 303 points, and New York Yankees second baseman DJ LeMahieu, who won the AL batting crown, followed with one first-place vote and 230 points. 

Voting by the BBWAA was completed by the start of the playoffs. It has voted for the award since 1931.

Abreu led the majors with 60 RBIs and 148 total bases, and topped the AL with 76 hits and a .617 slugging percentage. He played in all 60 games during the virus-shortened season as Chicago claimed a wild-card spot.

Surrounded by family members, Abreu put his head down for a minute after hearing he’d won and teared up.

“That was a very special moment,” he said through an interpreter.

Abreu batted .317 with 19 home runs, connecting six times in a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs in late August. That barrage of long balls at Wrigley Field was part of his 22-game hitting streak, the longest in the majors this year.

Abreu gave credit to manager Rick Renteria, who left the team after the season in what was described as a mutual decision. Recently hired Hall of Fame skipper Tony La Russa is now facing charges in a drunken driving arrest; Abreu said he was eager to play for La Russa.

“Keep pushing forward, keep moving forward,” Abreu said.

Abreu was the 2014 AL Rookie of the Year and is a three-time MLB All-Star. He became the fourth White Sox player to win the AL MVP, joining Frank Thomas (1993-94), Dick Allen (1972) and Nellie Fox (1959).

Abreu was the third Cuban-born player to be an MVP, along with Jose Canseco and Zoilo Versalles.

New York Mets’ Slugger Pete Alonso Named National League Rookie of the Year

Pete Alonso is living proof that persistence pays off…

The 24-year-old part-Spanish American Major League Baseball player began the 2019 season fighting just to make the New York Mets‘ Opening Day roster. But he ends it as the National League Rookie of the Year after slugging a rookie record 53 home runs, driving in 120 runs and becoming a cult hero for Mets fans for his energy and enthusiasm and one memorable bare-chested postgame interview.

Pete Alonso

Alonso was a near unanimous selection of the award’s 30 voters, getting 29 first-place votes. Atlanta Braves starter Mike Soroka received the other first-place vote and finished second, with San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jrfinishing third.

Soroka posted a 2.68 ERA and won 13 games as the ace of the division-winning Braves. Tatis slashed .317/.379/.590 and dazzled fans with his defensive plays in the infield, but an injury ended his season at 84 games.

“To just win the award, doesn’t matter if it’s unanimous or not,” Alonso said on Monday night. “It’s still such a blessing.”

Alonso’s 53 home runs broke Aaron Judge‘s rookie record of 52 set in 2017, as Alonso became the sixth Rookie of the Year in Mets history, the first since Jacob deGrom in 2014. 

He joins Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Chris Davis as the only active players with 50 home runs in a season and he’s just the 30th player in MLB history to reach that mark. 

His 120 RBIs are the seventh most for a rookie in major league history and the most since Albert Pujols had 130 in 2001.

Alonso’s storybook season was no sure thing back in spring training, however. Although he led the minors with 39 home runs in 2018, the Mets had a glut of infielders with Robinson CanoJed LowrieTodd Frazier and Dominic Smith all in the mix at first, second and third base along with Alonso. There were also concerns about Alonso’s defense, and many teams start their top prospects in Triple-A for a couple of weeks to manipulate the player’s service time.

Alonso, however, earned a roster spot after hitting .352 with four home runs in spring training. It also helped that Lowrie and Frazier began the season on the injured list.

Alonso, a second-round pick in 2016 out of the University of Florida, ran with the opportunity, hitting .378 with six home runs in his first 12 games. He said he was challenged by first-year general manager Brodie Van Wagenento “show up in shape and earn your spot.”

“I felt like I answered the bell,” Alonso said.

He finished April with nine home runs, bashed 10 more in May and entered the All-Starbreak with 30 home runs. In Cleveland, he took home the $1 million prize for winning the Home Run Derby, upstaging fellow rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr.in the final round with a 23-22 victory after Guerrero had bashed 40 home runs in the semifinals.

“It’s survive and advance,” Alonso said after his win. “You’ve got to go in with kind of a killer instinct. It doesn’t matter how many you hit; you just need to have one more than the guy you’re facing.”

Alonso also won over fans when he pledged 5% of his winnings to the Wounded Warrior Projectand another 5% to the Tunnel to Towers Foundation.

Along the way, Alonso became a fan favorite, not just for his prodigious home runs — he hit 15 of at least 430 feet — but also for his infectious joy and his ability to win over New Yorkers. When the Mets began surging back into the playoff race in early August, he issued a not-safe-for-work rallying cry playing off the “Let’s go Mets!” chant. After a walk-off bases-loaded walk beat the Philadephia Phillies on September 6, Mets teammates ripped off Alonso’s jersey and he conducted interviews on SNY and MLB Network bare-chested.

“I’m not taking my shirt off for this one,” Alonso joked on MLB Network’s broadcast while accepting the award.

He wore custom-made cleats on September 11 to honor the victims of 9/11, even ordering a pair for each of his teammates. “For me, I just come from a place where I want to show support, not just for the victims but their families as well, because no one really knows how deep those emotional scars can be,” Alonso said at the time.

He smashed his 42nd home run on August 27, breaking the Mets’ team record shared by Carlos Beltran and Todd Hundley. With three games remaining in the regular season, Alonso was one homer away from tying Judge. He matched him with a home run at home against the Braves in Game 160 and then surpassed Judge in Game 161 with a third-inning home run off Mike Foltynewicz, a towering shot to right-center. Alonso raised both arms over his head in triumph, received hugs from teammates and a standing ovation from the crowd, and then he wiped tears from his eyes while playing first base the following inning.

“To me, it just means so much,” Alonso said after the game. “I didn’t know I was going to be overcome with all that emotion. At that point, I might as well just let it out.”

Houston Astros’ Yordan Alvarez Named American League Rookie of the Year

Yordan Alvarez has slugged his way to the top…

The 22-year-old Cuban Major League Baseball player and Houston Astros slugger has capped off his meteoric rise by becoming the franchise’s third Rookie of the Year winner and second since the club moved to the American League.

Yordan Alvarez

Alvarez was a unanimous selection of the award’s 30 voters. Baltimore Orioles pitcher John Means finished second, with Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Brandon Lowe third, Chicago White Sox outfielder Eloy Jimenez fourth and Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Cavan Biggio fifth.

Alvarez began the past season with Triple-A Round Rock after entering the year ranked as the 34th-best prospect by Baseball America and Houston’s eighth-best prospect by ESPN‘s Keith Law. He provided an early glimpse of things to come by hitting three homers for Round Rock in his second game of the season. By the end of April, Alvarez had mashed 12 homers, hit .354 and driven in 30 runs in just 22 games, spurring calls for a promotion to the big league club.

That call finally came in early June. In his big league debut against the Baltimore Orioles on June 9, Alvarez homered off of Dylan Bundy. He never stopped hitting, finishing with 27 home runs in 87 games, tying the mark for most home runs by a rookie who played in 100 games or fewer. He served as Houston’s designated hitter in 74 of his 87 outings and helped the Astros win the ALpennant.

Across two levels this season, Alvarez hit .324 with a .690 slugging percentage, 50 home runs and 149 RBIs in 143 games. His 1.067 OPS in the MLB was the highest ever for a rookie with at least 350 plate appearances.

Alvarez’s consistency was remarkable: He had an OPS of 1.140 at home and .985 away, 1.083 against righties and 1.038 against lefties and at least .999 in each of the four months in which he appeared in the majors.

“The humility he has in handling success at this level, and the coverage that he’s getting and all the attention, he’s just been very humble,” Astros manager AJ Hinch told ESPN during the season. “He’s also hungry to learn. He’s a quiet man by nature, and his demeanor is very low-key. But he’s always in tune with other players and other people and the information.”

Hinch also tweeted congratulations to Alvarez after he was announced as the winner on Monday.

An imposing 6-foot-5, Alvarez hit a 474-foot homer off Texas Rangers‘ Mike Minor on July 19. In early September, he homered into the third deck at Minute Maid Park, a shot so prodigious that the Astros wrapped the seat in vinyl to commemorate it.

After going just 1-for-22 during Houston’s six-game win over the New York Yankeesin the AL Championship Series, Alvarez rebounded to hit .412 with a home run during the Astros’ seven-game loss to the Washington Nationals in the World Series.

The Los Angeles Dodgers signed Alvarez out of Las Tunas, Cuba, on June 15, 2016. The Astros acquired him six weeks later in exchange for reliever Josh Fields. As Alvarez began to make his way through the Houston organization, his offensive reputation began to spread through one of baseball’s most bountiful farm systems.

“When he was brought over to the States, we started to hear some chatter from the backfields that, at one point, I think he hit a car with one of his home runs,” Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow told ESPN this season. “It was one of those things where if you’re around and you have a half day to go watch the back field, find this guy and watch him hit. Because it’s pretty special. It snowballed from there.”

Shortstop Carlos Correa was the Astros’ last AL Rookie of the Year winner, taking the honors in 2015. The only other Rookie of the Year recipient in franchise history was Hall of Famefirst baseman Jeff Bagwell, who won the award in 1991, when the Astros were in the National League.