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.

Miguel Castro Agrees to One-Year Contract with Arizona Diamondbacks

Miguel Castro is shining bright like a Diamond(back)

The Arizona Diamondbacks have signed the 27-year-old Dominican professional baseball hard-throwing reliever to a one-year contract.

Miguel CastroCastro, who turns 28 this month, has already spent eight years in the big leagues, most recently with the New York Yankees. He was 5-0 with a 4.03 ERA in 34 appearances last season.

The 6-foot-7 right-hander has averaged more than a strikeout per inning over the past three seasons. The bullpen was a weak spot for Arizona this year and general manager Mike Hazen said upgrading that area — particularly with power arms — was a priority.

The Diamondbacks finished 74-88 last season, a 22-win improvement over a dreadful 2021.

Arizona also claimed catcher Ali Sánchez off waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates. He’s appeared in seven major league games with the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals over the past two seasons.

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).

Carlos Beltran Among 14 Newcomers on MLB Hall of Fame Ballot

Carlos Beltran is in the running for a special place in Major League Baseball history…

The 45-year-old Puerto Rican former professional baseball player is among 14 newcomers on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America‘s MLB Hall of Fame ballot.

Carlos BeltranBeltran played as an outfielder from 1998 to 2017 for the Kansas City Royals, Houston Astros, New York Mets, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees and Texas Rangers.

Beltrán was the American League (AL) Rookie of the Year in 1999 while with the Royals. He was named to nine MLB All-Star Games and won three Gold Glove Awards and two Silver Slugger Awards.

Beltrán was the fifth player to reach both 400 home runs and 300 stolen bases and just the fourth switch hitter with 400 home runs. He has the highest success rate in stealing bases (88.3%) of any major league player with 300 or more career attempts. He also joined the 30–30 club in 2004. In 2013, Beltrán was named the recipient of the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award. He retired after the 2017 season, winning a World Series title with the Astros.

Other players appearing on the ballot for the first time include John Lackey, Jered Weaver, R.A. Dickey, Huston Street, Francisco Rodríguez, Bronson Arroyo and Matt Cain. They’re joined by Jacoby Ellsbury, Jayson Werth, Mike Napoli, J.J. Hardy, Jhonny Peralta and Andre Ethier, the Hall and the BBWAA announced.

Holdovers include Scott Rolen, Todd Helton and Billy Wagner. Rolen received 249 of 394 votes last year (63.2%), when David Ortiz was elected with 307 votes (77.9%), 11 more than the 75% needed. Helton was on 205 ballots (52%) and Wagner 201 (51%).

Voters denied several stars tainted by steroids and scandal.

Barry Bonds (260 votes, 66%), Roger Clemens (257, 65.2%) and Curt Schilling (231, 58.6%) were dropped after their 10th appearances on the ballot last year and are among eight players who will appear on the ballot of the Hall’s contemporary baseball era committee, which meets December 4 in San Diego ahead of baseball’s winter meetings.

Other holdovers on the BBWAA ballot include Andruw Jones (163 votes last year, 41.1%), Gary Sheffield (160, 40.6%), Alex Rodriguez (135, 34.3%), Jeff Kent (129, 32.7%), Manny Ramirez (114, 28.9%), Omar Vizquel (94, 23.9%), Andy Pettitte (42, 10.7%), Jimmy Rollins (37, 9.4%), Bobby Abreu (34, 8.6%), Mark Buehrle (23, 5.8%) and Torii Hunter (21, 5.3%).

Kent, who received his highest percentage last year, will appear on the BBWAA ballot for the 10th and final time.

BBWAA members with 10 or more consecutive years of membership are eligible to vote. Ballots must be postmarked by Dec. 31 and results will be announced Jan. 24.

Any players elected will be inducted into the Hall at Cooperstown on July 23 along with anyone elected by the contemporary baseball era committee.

A-Rod, a three-time MLB MVP and 14-time MLB All-Star who hit 696 home runs, was suspended for the 2014 season for violating MLB’s drug policy and collective bargaining agreement, and Ortiz’s name was alleged to have appeared on a list of players who tested positive during 2003 survey testing.

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.

Pedro Grifol Lands First MLB Manager Job with Chicago White Sox

Pedro Grifol is headed to The Windy City for his first Major League Baseball manager job…

The 52-year-old Cuban American former-professional-baseball-player-turned-coach has been named the new manager of the Chicago White Sox.

Pedro Grifol,Grifol has been brought in to help restore the swagger that disappeared during a disappointing season this year.

“It’s essential,” general manager Rick Hahn said.

The White Sox made it official on Thursday, announcing Grifol is taking over for Hall of Famer Tony La Russa. Grifol had agreed to take the job earlier in the week.

Hahn also said pitching coach Ethan Katz and bullpen coach Curt Hasler are being retained. The White Sox hired former Toronto Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo as bench coach.

Grifol brings experience in a variety of coaching and scouting roles at the major and minor league levels. He spent the past three seasons as the Kansas City Royals‘ bench coach. And now, he has his first managing job in the majors.

“This is an extremely talented ballclub,” Grifol said. “And it was a really difficult club to prepare for because if the energy was high, they can beat anybody in the game. And if the energy wasn’t, we were able to have some success against them. My job — and my staff’s job — is gonna be to make sure that that energy is high every night and we’re prepared to win a ballgame.”

The White Sox came into the season with soaring expectations coming off back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time in franchise history. Instead, they were one of baseball’s biggest disappointments.

They went from running away with the division to finishing second in the AL Central at 81-81 and missing the postseason. La Russa missed the final 34 games because of health problems and announced he would not return, ending a disappointing two-year run with the franchise that gave him his first job as a big league skipper.

It’s now up to Grifol to help restore the vibe the White Sox had following the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. That team led by AL MVP José Abreu and young stars like Tim Anderson gave Chicago its first playoff appearance since 2008.

The White Sox then fired manager Rick Renteria and made a surprising choice to replace him. Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf lured his longtime friend La Russa out of retirement even though he hadn’t filled out a lineup card since leading the St. Louis Cardinals to the 2011 World Series championship.

“We were extremely proud of what we were able to accomplish in the early parts of this rebuild and the position that we were in a few years back,” Hahn said. “Even though we decided that we had to make a change after 2020, I think it was pretty clear that the arrow was pointing up for us. And thus far, what we’ve been able to show for that is one division title and a first-round exit. That’s not who we envisioned ourselves being, and part of that disappointment I think permeated the way the clubhouse was viewed — and viewed itself.”

The White Sox were hit hard by injuries, with Anderson and sluggers Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert missing significant time because of injuries.

Catcher Yasmani Grandal and third baseman Yoán Moncada also had health issues, and they underperformed when they were on the field.

There were embarrassing breakdowns on the bases. The defense was a problem, and an unbalanced lineup that was heavy with right-handed hitters had issues. Even so, the White Sox believe they have the core to compete, that their window isn’t shut.

Hahn said an initial list of candidates for the managing job swelled from about 22 or 24 to 30. Grifol was the second of eight to get first-round interviews before the list was whittled down.

The finalists met in Arizona with Hahn, Reinsdorf and executive vice president Ken Williams.

Grifol, a former minor league catcher, spent the past 10 seasons in a variety of coaching roles with Kansas City under former managers Ned Yost and Mike Matheny. He was part of teams that captured back-to-back pennants and won the World Series in 2015. He also worked for the Seattle Mariners for 13 years as a coach, scout and manager.

Grifol said getting the call from the White Sox that the job was his was “extremely emotional.”

“I’ve been in this game for a long time,” he said. “All I’ve ever wanted to do was manage a baseball team. It didn’t matter if it was the minor leagues or the big leagues, I wanted to manage. This game has a tendency to kind of grab you and take you other places, and if you don’t check yourself, you’re gonna end up somewhere where your passion doesn’t sit. That’s where I was.”

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.

Giovanny Gallegos Agrees to $11 Million, Two-Year Contract with St. Louis Cardinals

It’s Lucky No. 11 for Giovanny Gallegos

The 31-year-old Mexican professional baseball pitcher and reliever has agreed to an $11 million, two-year contract with the St. Louis Cardinals, a deal that includes a club option for 2025 and escalators that could make it worth $20.5 million over three seasons.

Giovanny GallegosGallegos, a right-hander, is 3-5 with a 2.91 ERA and 14 saves in 20 chances this season. He has 72 strikeouts and 15 walks in 58⅔ innings.

“I feel so happy,” Gallegos said Monday before the Cardinals played the Pirates in Pittsburgh. “I don’t have the word for exactly how I’m feeling.”

He was obtained from the New York Yankees in July 2018 along with left-hander Chasen Shreve in the trade that sent first baseman Luke Voit to New York. Gallegos is 14-15 with a 3.02 ERA and 34 saves in six major league seasons.

“Since joining the Cardinals organization in 2018, Gio has been a consistent and significant contributor to our bullpen, and we look forward to him continuing to be an important piece moving forward,” Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said in a news release.

Gallegos gets a $500,000 signing bonus and salaries of $4.5 million next year and $5.5 million in 2024. St. Louis has a $6.5 million team option for 2025 with a $500,000 buyout.

His 2025 option price can increase by up to $3.5 million for games finished in 2024: $500,000 each for 20-25 and 26-30 and 31-35, and $1 million apiece for 36-40 and 41 or more.

He would get $250,000 for winning the Rivera/Hoffman reliever of the year award, $50,000 for All-Star selection and World Series MVP and $25,000 for League Championship Series MVP.

Gallegos has a $2.41 million salary this year.

He was eligible for salary arbitration and is potentially eligible for free agency after the 2024 season.

Albert Pujols Hits 702nd Career Home Run

Albert Pujols smacking his way closer to Babe Ruth numbers…

The 42-year-old Dominican-American professional baseball player and designated hitter for the St. Louis Cardinals hit his 702nd career home run in the third inning of Sunday’s 7-5 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates in St. Louis.

Albert Pujols

Pujols drove an 0-1 pitch from Roansy Contreras deep to center for a solo shot.

Pujols is fourth on the career home run list behind Babe Ruth (714), Hank Aaron (755) and Barry Bonds (762). The slugger has 23 homers in what he says will be his final season.

Pujols hit a two-run double in the first inning. He has 2,214 career RBIs, which ranks second all time behind Aaron’s 2,297; Ruth unofficially drove in 2,214 runs as well but many were not counted because the statistic was not recognized by baseball until 1920.

“He continues to just wow everybody,” St. Louis manager Oliver Marmol said. “That was no different.”

Pujols and catcher Yadier Molina, who also is retiring, were honored in a 46-minute ceremony before their final regular-season home game.

The pair was given gifts from the team, including a set of golf clubs, a silver plate and one-of-a-kind artist drawings of each player. The two have a combined 41 years in the majors. Former teammates Matt Holliday, Ray Lankford and Jason Isringhausen were present for the ceremony.

Pujols called it “pretty awesome” and “a great day.”

“I’m really blessed to be back here,” said Pujols, who has 468 homers with the Cardinals. “To finish my career where everything started, it means a lot.”

Sunday marked the last game Adam Wainwright, Pujols and Molina will appear together as Cardinals teammates. The trio had its first game together on September 11, 2005. According to the Elias Sports Bureau research, it’s the first trio in Major League Baseball history to have its first game and final game together be more than 6,000 days apart.

Molina, Pujols and Wainwright were all removed from the game together so they could walk off as a trio with two outs in the fifth. Wainwright (11-12), who allowed six runs on six hits over 4⅔ innings, has yet to decide if he will come back next season.

“Great emotional day for me,” Molina said. “Just to walk with Albert, Waino, it was a great moment for baseball.”

Marmol planned it: “We wanted all three of them to walk off together. Not a bad way to go out.”

Pujols began his career with St. Louis in 2001 and left for the Los Angeles Angels in 2012. He signed a free-agent contract with the Cardinals on March 28.

The Cardinals, who have clinched their fifth National League Central title in the past 10 years, closed the home portion of their regular season schedule with 26 wins in their last 34 games at Busch Stadium.