Rafael Devers Reportedly Agrees to 11-Year, $331 Million Contract Extension with Boston Red Sox

Rafael Devers is thisclose to a historic MLB deal…

The 26-year-old Dominican professional baseball third baseman is finalizing an 11-year, $331 million contract extension with the Boston Red Sox, according to ESPN, a deal that will keep him from reaching free agency this year and constitutes the longest and largest guarantee ever given by the franchise.

Rafael DeversThe agreement, which would be the largest ever for a third baseman, comes in the midst of an arduous winter for the Red Sox, who lost longtime shortstop Xander Bogaerts to the San Diego Padres in free agency nearly three years after trading star right fielder Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Offering Devers to a deal far longer than Manny Ramirez‘s eight-year pact and more than 50% larger than David Price‘s $217 million contract was enough for the two-time MLB All-Star to accept shepherding the Red Sox out of last place in the American League East and back to contention.

The contract will start in 2023 and extend through the 2033 season, sources said. The one-year, $17.5 million contract Devers signed earlier in the week to avoid arbitration will be superseded by the long-term deal.

Devers debuted with Boston at 20 years old in 2017 and quickly illustrated why scouts so adored his bat. His left-handed swing was perfectly suited for Fenway Park, with doubles thwacking off the Green Monster and home runs carrying out to right field. Devers’ acumen has only grown. In 2022, he hit .295/.358/.521 with 27 home runs, 88 RBIs and a career-best OPS+ of 141.

It was similar to his 2021 season, in which Devers hit 38 home runs, and 2019, when he led the major leagues with 359 total bases as a 22-year-old. The consistency made him the perfect candidate to keep around long term with the losses of Bogaerts and Betts, whose steadiness was among their defining characteristics. Early negotiations on a deal bore no fruit, with Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Devers’ agent, Nelson Montes de Oca of Rep 1, far apart in their valuations.

Whether the backlash from losing Bogaerts and Betts — and just losing — had any effect on the consummation of the deal is unclear. But on Monday, with Fenway Park hosting the majestic Winter Classic, fans booed John Henry, a show of the sentiment toward the owner under whom the Red Sox broke their 86-year World Series drought before winning three more championships.

Seeing Bogaerts walk with an offer tens of millions of dollars short stung, especially with the Red Sox designating for assignment Jeter Downs, the main prospect return in the Betts deal, just days after. Bogaerts, 30, was, like Devers, a homegrown star: five Silver Sluggers, four All-Star appearances and two World Series rings. The notion of a long-term left side of the infield with Bogaerts and Devers felt natural to a Red Sox fan base coming to terms with last-place finishes in two of the past three seasons, sandwiched around an ALCS appearance.

When Bogaerts left, the focus turned naturally to Devers, who benefited greatly from the megadeals given out this winter. Aaron Judge topped the list with $360 million from the New York YankeesTrea Turner got $300 million from Philadelphia and Bogaerts $280 million from the Padres. And Carlos Correa agreed to a pair of $300 million-plus deals, though medical foibles have his status in limbo.

Beyond Bogaerts this offseason, World Series hero Nathan Eovaldi left for the Texas Rangers, and the Red Sox fell short of signing multiple free agent targets. Instead, the Red Sox redistributed the resources across the roster by adding Japanese outfielder Masataka Yoshida on a five-year, $90 million deal, relievers Kenley Jansen (two years, $32 million) and Chris Martin (two years, $17 million), third baseman Justin Turner at two years for $21 million and starter Corey Kluber at a year and $10 million.

Devers will be the roster’s cornerstone and the face of the franchise for the new era of the Red Sox. Though the third baseman has improved defensively over this career, he could potentially move to first base or designated hitter down the road. But as long as his swing and production are even a facsimile of what he has done, it won’t matter what position he’s playing.

Willson Contreras Agrees to Five-Year, $87.5 Million Deal with St. Louis Cardinals

Willson Contreras will meet you in St. Louis…

The 30-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball player and free agent catcher has agreed to a five-year, $87.5 million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Willson Contreras,Contreras will replace the Cardinals’ longtime catcher Yadier Molina.

Contreras has spent the past 14 seasons in the rival Chicago Cubs organization. In seven MLB seasons, he has hit .256 with 117 home runs and 365 RBIs.]

Known for his strong arm, Contreras has dealt with criticism about his game calling, but that may have been overblown. He helped oversee a Cubs pitching staff that went to the postseason in five out of six years from 2015 to 2020.

Contreras can also play left field and first base and will likely get some reps as the designated hitter when he’s not behind the plate.

He compiled a 128 OPS+ in 113 games last season for the Cubs but is the only free agent catcher with draft pick compensation attached to him after Chicago gave him a qualifying offer.

Molina retired after a career that spanned 19 seasons in the majors, all with the Cardinals. The 10-time MLB All-Star catcher was a two-time World Series champion, winning nine Gold Glove awards and a Silver Slugger award while registering 2,168 hits.

Seattle Mariners Acquire Teoscar Hernandez from Toronto Blue Jays

Teoscar Hernandez is headed to the Emerald City

The Seattle Mariners have acquired the 30-year-old Dominican professional baseball outfielder and slugger in a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays, fortifying a lineup in need of another big bat as they try to catch the Houston Astros, their division rival and the World Series champions.

Teoscar HernandezRight-handed reliever Erik Swanson and left-handed pitching prospect Adam Macko went to the Blue Jays, whose bullpen issues last season were most apparent in a 10-9 wild-card series loss to the Mariners that ended their season.

Hernandez hit a pair of home runs in that game and is a two-time Silver Slugger winner whose power in right field is unimpeachable. He hit .267/.316/.491 last season with 25 home runs and 77 RBIs in 131 games and should man right field alongside the American League Rookie of the Year, center fielder Julio Rodriguez.

“We began our offseason with the intent to add impact and length to our lineup,” said Jerry Dipoto, the Mariners’ president of baseball operations. “In adding Teoscar to an already solid foundation, we feel we’ve become a far more dangerous offensive club.”

Toronto’s willingness to deal Hernandez has more to do with his contract status than the quality of his play. He is due to hit free agency after the 2023 season and is expected to make around $14 million in arbitration. The Blue Jays, sources said, plan to acquire another outfielder this offseason.

In Swanson and Macko, they added one arm expected to help their bullpen this year and another with high-end-starter potential.

Swanson had a breakout 2022 season, putting up a 1.68 ERA with 70 strikeouts in 53⅔ innings. With a four-seam fastball that has near-perfect backspin and a split-fingered fastball that developed into a strikeout weapon this year, Swanson was a vital part of the Mariners’ bullpen — and will join closer Jordan Romano, Anthony Bass, Adam Cimber, Yimi Garcia, Zach Pop and Tim Mayza in a bullpen that could be a strength for Toronto.

“We got to the point where we felt like the acquisitions on the run-prevention side would help us,” Toronto general manager Ross Atkins said. “It does create some flexibility for us as well, in terms of resources.”

Atkins said the groundwork for the trade started during the general manager meetings last week in Las Vegas and there were “three or four teams” with a significant interest in Hernandez.

“This market for right-handed bats like Teo, he was one of the better hitters in it. We are fortunate to have some depth in that area,” Atkins said.

Macko, who turns 22 in December, struck out 60 over 38⅓ innings in High-A this year and features a mid-90s fastball and a pair of breaking balls that give him significant upside. Born in Slovakia, he graduated from high school in Vauxhall, a small town in the Canadian province of Alberta, in 2019. The Mariners selected him in the seventh round of the 2019 draft.

“If we can put him into a position where he can sustain and haul a full season of innings, he could become, easily, one of the better prospects in baseball. He’s got the arsenal to do that,” Atkins said.

The Mariners could reap an additional benefit provided Hernandez has a typical season: If they tender him a qualifying offer after 2023 and he signs elsewhere, Seattle would receive a draft choice around the 75th pick, with a slot value of around $850,000.

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.

Yuli Gurriel Agrees to One-Year Deal with Houston Astros

Yuli Gurriel is ready to slash and stay…

The 36-year-old Cuban professional baseball player nicknamed “La Piña“, the Houston Astros’ first baseman, has agreed to a one-year contract with an option for 2022 that guarantees $7 million, a cut of nearly 20% from his 2020 deal.

Yuli Gurriel

The agreement was announced hours before the defending American League champions started their first-round playoff matchup at the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday, an odd time to reach a contract for a future season.

Gurriel’s 2020 contract called for an $8.3 million salary and wound up being worth $3,074,074 prorated.

His new deal includes a $6.5 million salary for 2021 and an $8 million club option for 2021 with a $500,000 buyout. Gurriel can earn $2 million in performance bonuses each year based on plate appearances: $250,000 each for 300 and 350, $350,000 apiece for 400 and 450, and $400,000 each for 500 and 550.

He also would get $50,000 for becoming an All-Star, $50,000 for League Championship Series MVP, $100,000 for Word Series MVP, $200,000 for league MVP, $100,000 for second and $50,000 for third. There is a $50,000 bonus for Gold Glove and another $50,000 for Silver Slugger.

Gurriel would’ve been eligible for free agency under a provision in his 2020 contract, even though he does not have the six years of major league service usually required.

His new deal includes the same provision.

He hit .232 with six homers and 22 RBIs in 57 games during the pandemic-shortened season, down from a career-best .298 with 31 homers and 104 RBIs in 2019. He helped Houston reach the playoffs for the fourth straight year.

In five seasons in Houston that followed a stellar career in Cuba, Gurriel has hit .287 with 71 homers and 301 RBIs.

Yuli Gurriel Agrees to One-Year, $8.3 Million Contract with Houston Astros

Yuli Gurriel has agreed to an Astros-nomicaldeal…

The 35-year-old Cuban Major League Baseball first baseman has agreed to an $8.3 million, one-year contract with the Houston Astros, giving him a $300,000 raise from his scheduled salary for next season.

Yuli Gurriel

Gurriel hit .298 and set career bests with 31 homers and 104 RBIs in 2019 as the Astros won the American League pennant for the second time in three seasons. He hit .310 with one homer and five RBIs in the team’s seven-game World Series loss to the Washington Nationals.

Gurriel, who defected from Cuba, agreed in July 2016 to a $47.5 million, five-year contract with the Astros that included an $8 million salary for 2020. That deal allowed Gurriel to void the remainder of his contract when he became eligible for salary arbitration for the first time, and he reached that eligibility this offseason with 3 years, 43 days of MLB service.

His new contract allows him to become a free agent after the 2020 season, preserving a right contained in his original major league contract. It also includes the same award bonus provisions: $100,000 for MVP, $50,000 for second and $25,000 for third; $50,000 for World Series MVP, and $25,000 each for League Championship Series MVP, Silver SluggerGold Gloveand being selected an All-Star.

Wilson Ramos Agrees to Two-Year Deal with the New York Mets

Wilson Ramos is headed to the Big Apple…

The 31-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball catcher has agreed to a two-year contract with the New York Mets, according to ESPN.

Wilson Ramos

The deal is pending a physical. Once completed, it will be worth a total of $19 million, according to Fancred.

Ramos, who was acquired by the Philadelphia Phillies from the Tampa Bay Rays at July’s trade deadline, is solid defensively and is a proven commodity offensively with a career .273 batting average and 109 home runs.

The veteran catcher, who made $10.5 million in 2018, batted .306 between the Phillies and Rays last season with 15 home runs and 70 RBIs.

Ramos also has been lauded for his veteran presence in the clubhouse and his ability to handle pitching staffs.

The two-time All-Star spent six-plus seasons with the Washington Nationals (2010-16) after breaking into the majors with the Minnesota Twins in 2010. He won a Silver Slugger award in 2016 after belting 22 homers with 80 RBIs and a .307 batting average with the Nationals.

Houston Astros Star Jose Altuve Wins Silver Slugger Award for Fourth Straight Season

It’s a grand slam, of sorts, for Jose Altuve

The 27-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball player, a second baseman for the World Series champion Houston Astros, is among the winners of this year’s Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Award.

Jose Altuve

The award goes to one player per league, per position and is selected by a vote of MLB coaches and managers.

Eleven of the 18 winners are under 30, including Altuve, who won for the fourth straight season.

But Altuve isn’t the only Astros player to make the list…

The 28-year-old Puerto Rican and Panamanian American baseball star, who became Major League Baseball All-Star for the first time this year, also earned a Silver Slugger Award.

Springer, an outfielder for the Astros, was named the 2017 World Series Most Valuable Player (MVP), hitting a record-tying five home runs as the Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games.

All told, the eight first-time winners included outfielders Aaron Judge, Miami MarlinsMarcell Ozuna, Springer, Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer, Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez, New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez and pitcher Adam Wainwright. Like Altuve, San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey also won for the fourth time.

Outfielder Justin Upton and Seattle Mariners DH Nelson Cruz rounded out the American League winners. It was Upton’s third award and the second for Cruz.

The National League selections featured plenty of previous winners as first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado both won for the third time. Second baseman Daniel Murphy, shortstop Corey Seager and outfielders Charlie Blackmon and Miami Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton each won for the second time.

Selections are based on a combination of offensive stats, including batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage in addition to the managers’ and coaches’ views of a player’s overall offensive value.

Stanton Returns to the U.S. World Baseball Classic Roster

Giancarlo Stanton is back on Team USA

The 27-year-old part-Puerto Rican baseball star, a right fielder for the Miami Marlins, is among the returnees on the 28-man U.S. World Baseball Classic roster, which also includes Colorado Rockies‘ Nolan Arenado, Arizona Diamondbacks‘ Paul Goldschmidt, San Francisco Giants‘ Buster Posey and Pittsburgh Pirates‘ Andrew McCutchen.

Giancarlo Stanton

The roster, announced Wednesday by USA Baseball, includes 18 All-Stars, two MVPs and nine Gold Glove winners.

Stanton, a three-time Major League Baseball (MLB) All-Star, won the Silver Slugger Award and National League Hank Aaron Award in 2014.

Stanton was the Home Run Derby champion in 2016.

Avila Agrees to One-Year Deal with the Chicago White Sox

Alex Avila is ready to Sox it to ‘em…

The 28-year-old Cuban American professional baseball play, nicknamed “The Titanium Catcher” for the perception among baseball fans that he’s unusually likely to be hit by foul tips, has agreed to a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the Chicago White Sox.

Alex Avila

Avila was limited to 67 games with the Detroit Tigers this past season with a bone bruise in his left knee, batting .191 with four home runs and 13 RBIs.

He was an All-Star as recently as 2011, when he also won a Silver Slugger award. He also finished 12th in the American League MVP voting that season.

This past season, White Sox catchers combined to finish ninth in the AL in batting average (.230), 11th in OBP (.293) and 10th in slugging percentage (.376).

“Alex has a tremendous reputation as a leader in the clubhouse,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said.

“Obviously he knows the division quite well and provides a nice balance from an offensive standpoint given the left-handed bat and his ability to get on base and provide some power against right-handed pitching.”

The signing forms a reunion of sorts between Avila and White Sox closer David Robertson, who were teammates in 2006 at the University of Alabama. Avila was selected by the Tigers in the fifth round of the 2008 draft and made his major league debut in 2009.

In 683 games over seven seasons, all with the Tigers, Avila has batted .242 with a .345 on-base percentage and a .397 slugging percentage. In 2011, while helping the Tigers to the postseason, he batted .295 with 33 doubles, 19 home runs, 82 RBIs and a .506 slugging percentage.

Avila’s father, Al Avila, is the general manager of the Tigers, having replaced Dave Dombrowski in August.