Avisail Garcia Agrees to Four-Year, $53 Million Contract with Miami Marlins

Avisail Garcia is headed to the South Florida…

The 30-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball right fielder has agreed to a four-year, $53 million contract with the Miami Marlins are in agreement on a four-year, $53 million contract, according to ESPN.

Avisail Garcia The Marlins will become Garcia’s fifth team.

He is coming off his best season, hitting 29 home runs with 86 RBIs — both career bests — for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2021.

Garcia opted for free agency earlier this month, and the Marlins have made it clear in recent weeks that landing outfield help was a top offseason priority.

Garcia has also played with the Detroit Tigers, Tampa Bay Rays and for the Chicago White Sox, a team he represented in the 2017 All-Star Game played at what was then called Marlins Park in Miami.

In parts of 10 seasons, Garcia has batted .270 with 127 home runs and 475 RBIs. He has played almost exclusively in right field, with limited time in center and left as well.

Wander Franco Finalizes 11-Year, $182 Million Deal with Tampa Bay Rays

It’s official… Wander Franco is staying with the Rays for more than a decade.

The 20-year-old Dominican professional baseball shortstop and the Tampa Bay Rays have finalized a $182 million, 11-year contract that includes a club option for the 2033 season.

Wander FrancoFranco’s deal, which could be worth up to $223 million if the club option is exercised and incentives are reached, was announced Saturday.

“This is a great day for Wander and for the Rays, and is evidence of the mutual trust between Wander and our organization,” Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg said in a statement. “We are committed to fielding competitive teams year in and year out, and we all expect that Wander’s presence and contributions will play a large part in maintaining our standard of excellence.”

Tampa Bay won the AL East in 2021, but was eliminated by Boston Red Sox in the ALDS.

The contract is the largest financial commitment to a player in the Rays’ 24-year history. It’s also the biggest deal in major league history for a player with less than a year of major league service time.

Franco is the fifth player with less than a year of big league experience to sign a long-term extension with the team. The others are third baseman Evan Longoria (2008), left-hander Matt Moore (2011), right-hander Chris Archer (2014) and second baseman Brandon Lowe (2019).

 

“The pace at which Wander has developed speaks to his potential,” Rays president of baseball operations Erik Neander said in a statement. “We have seen him do special things on the field, particularly for a player that is only 20 years old. He’s an exceptionally driven, budding superstar who can contribute to our success for a long time.”

Franco made his major league debut June 22 and hit a three-run homer. He batted .288 with 18 doubles, five triples, seven homers and 39 RBI in 70 games. He finished third in the American League Rookie of the Year voting.

Franco put together a 43-game on-base streak to tie Cincinnati’s Frank Robinson (1956) for the longest in major league history among players under 21. He went 7 for 19 (.368) with two homers and four RBI in four postseason games.

Franco would have been eligible for free agency after the 2027 season. He gets a $5 million signing bonus, with $2.5 million payments on Dec. 1 and June 1, 2022.

The yearly salary breakdown is: $1 million in 2022, $2 million in 2023 and 2024, $8 million in 2025, $15 million in 2026, $22 million in 2027 and $25 million in each of the last five seasons. The 2033 club option is $25 million, with a $2 million buyout.

Franco’s deal also includes salary escalators if he finishes in the top five in voting for AL MVP. If he is traded before April 2, 2029, Franco receives a $3 million assignment bonus. It drops to $2 million if he is dealt on or after that date.

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.

Nelson Cruz Receives Major League Baseball’s Roberto Clemente Award

Nelson Cruz is being celebrated for his charity…

The 41-year-old Dominican-American professional baseball designated hitter and right fielder for the Tampa Bay Rays has been awarded Major League Baseball‘s Roberto Clemente Award for his character, community involvement and philanthropy.

Nelson Cruz

Cruz, the 50th winner of the honor, received the award before World Series Game 2 on Wednesday night.

“Growing up as a Latin, you always heard about Roberto Clemente,” he said. “I never had a chance to see him play. I knew what a great player he was. Once I came to the States I found out, oh, he’s not only a good player, he’s a great human being.”

Cruz, a 17-year MLB veteran and seven-time MLB All-Star, provided financial support to 1,200 families in his hometown of Las Matas de Santa Cruz, Dominican Republic, during the COVID-19 pandemic, helping feed 700 families.

After a fire destroyed the home of a childhood friend, Cruz provided the town with a fire engine, 80 firefighter uniforms and an ambulance for transportation for people to the nearest hospital, which is about an hour away.

His Boomstick23 Foundation began construction of an education and technical center last year and he will stock the center with computers to assist athletes in their education.

Cruz also organizes dentists and optometrists to go the town’s clinic for checkups, medicine and eyewear, and 500 patients received dental services last year.

He helped arrange for MLB, the Major League Baseball Players Association and the union’s Players Trust to donate $400,000 to the Dominican Republic for medical equipment and food aid during the pandemic.

“We first started with the dental clinic, and the next year we started asking how we can do the mental [health] and the eye doctors,” he said. “We started doing everything all at the same time. We even went to schools and provided kids with all the books and stuff that they need.”

Cruz was nominated by the Minnesota Twins, who traded him to the Rays  in July. He joined Hall of Famers Rod Carew (1977), Dave Winfield (1994) and Kirby Puckett (1997) as Minnesota players to win the award.

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 Hits Career-High 25th Home Run to Help Houston Astros Clinch AL West Title

Carlos Correa has blasted his team to another title…

The 27-year-old Puerto Rican professional baseball shortstop hit his career-high 25th home run with a three-run shot, as the Houston Astros clinched the AL West title with a 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday night.

Carlos Correa

It’s the fourth division title in five seasons and 10th overall for the Astros. They’re in the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season, extending a franchise record.

“That sounds pretty special,” Correa said.

The Astros will open the AL Division Series on October 7 against the Chicago White Sox — home field for that best-of-five matchup is still to be determined. Houston went 5-2 against the White Sox this year.

Houston was a wild-card team last year in manager Dusty Baker‘s first season with the club. So where did this division-clinching victory rate on his list?

“Every time you win, it ranks higher than the last time. And you never get tired of winning,” he said.

Correa’s huge hit in the fourth inning allowed the Astros to put a recent stretch where they dropped five of six games behind them and let the celebration begin at Minute Maid Park.

“We are where we are because of him,” Astros star second baseman Jose Altuve said.

Astros mascot Orbit dashed onto the field waving a huge orange flag that touted the team’s division title as the players cheered and embraced after the final out.

“I’m proud of my team,” Altuve said. “They went out there every single day this season to make this happen.”

Tampa Bay, which has already clinched the top seed in the American League playoffs, put runners on first and second with no outs in the ninth but didn’t score.

Rays rookie Wander Franco went 0-for-4 to snap a 43-game on-base streak, which tied him with Frank Robinson in 1956 for the longest such string in MLB history among players 20 or younger.

 

Yuli Gurriel singled to start Houston’s fourth and Kyle Tucker walked. Correa followed with his towering shot that smashed off the wall in left field to put the Astros up 3-0 against Ryan Yarbrough (9-7).

The charismatic shortstop put a hand to his ear to encourage the crowd as the rounded third base on the home run trot.

Lance McCullers Jr. (13-5) didn’t allow a hit until Ji-Man Choi singled to start the sixth. There were two outs in the inning when Brandon Lowe homered on a ball to right field that sailed just inside the foul pole to cut the lead to 3-2.

Tampa Bay Rays Acquire Nelson Cruz in Four-Player Trade with Minnesota Twins

Nelson Cruz is heading south for the winter… 

The Tampa Bay Rays have acquired the 41-year-old  Dominican professional baseball designated hitter and right fielder, one of baseball’s most proven sluggers, in a four-player trade with the Minnesota Twins.

Nelson Cruz

Cruz was well aware of the likelihood he’d be dealt this month, with the disappointing Twins well out of contention. Nonetheless he told reporters the news still felt “shocking” and “heartbreaking” to him after becoming fond of the organization over his 2 1/2 seasons in Minnesota.

“It’s a tough one,” Cruz said. “I guess it’s a new chapter, and I will embrace it the way I embrace everything in my life to go help the Tampa Bay Rays to win a championship.”

Moments before opening a four-game series at Cleveland, the Rays, who entered the night just one game behind the first-place Boston Red Sox in the AL East, announced they got Cruz and minor leaguer Calvin Faucher from Minnesota in exchange for minor league right-handers Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman.

Cruz is a seven-time MLB All-Star with 436 career homers and 1,202 RBIs. He’ll bring some needed pop to Tampa Bay’s lineup and should help the Rays against left-handers. They’re hitting .226 versus lefties.

Usually frugal Tampa Bay assumes $5.1 million remaining in Cruz’s $13 million salary. The Rays began the season with a $68.3 million payroll, 26th among the 30 teams.

Cruz also has plenty of playoff experience with 17 homers and 37 RBIs in 46 postseason games. He’s batting .294 with 19 homers and 50 RBIs this season, and over 258 games with the Twins he finished with 76 homers and a .984 OPS.

“People joke about how he’s ageless, and it really does feel that way,” Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said.

With a week until the trade deadline and no shot at making the playoffs, the Twins figured they’d get something for Cruz to begin building toward the future. Minnesota entered Thursday at 41-55.

A 17-year veteran, Cruz signed a one-year, $13 million deal with Minnesota in February. He has also played with the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Ramgers. He hit at least 37 homers per season from 2014-19. He belted a career-high 44 homers for the Mariners in 2015.

“We thought we should be in the playoff race,” Cruz said. “Never thought we should be in this situation. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. You never want to leave the places where you are, where you feel comfortable. It is what it is. That’s part of the business.”

Both Ryan and Strotman were in Triple-A Durham‘s rotation.

Ryan, a 25-year-old who will also pitch for Team USA in the Tokyo Olympics, had a 3.63 ERA with 75 strikeouts in 57 innings for the Bulls and was ranked by MLB.com as the No. 10 prospect in Tampa Bay’s system. He was a seventh-round draft pick in 2018.

Strotman, 24, had a 3.39 ERA with 62 strikeouts in 58 1/3 innings with Durham. He was the 17th-ranked Rays prospect after being drafted in the fourth round in 2017.

Faucher, 25, had a 7.04 ERA with 42 strikeouts in 30 2/3 innings for Double-A Wichita. He was a 10th-round draft pick by the Twins in 2017.

Milwaukee Brewers Acquire Rowdy Tellez from Toronto Blue Jays

Rowdy Tellez is movin’ to the Badger State.

The 26-year-old half-Mexican American professional baseball player and first baseman has been acquired by the Milwaukee Brewers from the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday in exchange for right-handed pitchers Trevor Richards and Bowden Francis.

Rowdy Tellez 

Tellez, who bats left-handed, is hitting .209 with four home runs and eight RBIs in 50 games for the Blue Jays at the major league level this season.

Tellez is currently in Triple-A and is hitting .298 with four home runs and 11 RBIs in Trenton.

His best season came in 2019 when he set career highs with 21 home runs and 54 RBIs. For his career, he has a .241 batting average, 37 home runs and 99 RBIs in 219 games.

Tellez was expected to be in uniform for Wednesday’s series finale against the New York Mets.

“This is a player who has consistently put the bat on the ball and he’s consistently hit the ball hard — those are two pretty good attributes for major league hitters,” Brewers general manager David Stearns said. “He has a long track record of success in the minor leagues. He got off to a little bit of a slow start this year at the major league level. We think the underlying ingredients are pretty sound. We think he should be able to perform at the major league level. He’s going to get a shot.”

The first-place Brewers acquired the 28-year-old Richards, along with Willy Adames, in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays in May. He is 3-0 with a 3.20 ERA in 15 appearances with Milwaukee since the trade.

Francis, 25, is 7-3 with a 3.62 ERA in 11 starts at two levels in the Brewers’ minor league system this season.

The Brewers needed some help at first base with Daniel Vogelbach on the injured list due to a strained left hamstring. Vogelbach isn’t expected to return until August.

Keston Hiura, who opened the season as the Brewers’ starting first baseman, is batting .161 and already has been sent to the minors twice this season. Hiura showed signs of progress during the Brewers’ recent 11-game winning streak, but he has gone 0-for-7 with six strikeouts over his last two games.

Stearns said the search for a Vogelbach replacement was complicated by the calendar. Teams are preparing for the amateur draft, which starts Sunday, while trying to figure out if they are contenders ahead of the July 30 trade deadline.

“We explored a number of different options, a number of different players,” Stearns said. “We’re certainly pleased we were able to find a match.”

Richards will help out in the bullpen for the Blue Jays, who entered Tuesday four games out of the AL’s second wild-card spot.

“You can pitch him in some big spots,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “He got out of some jams for us. He did a really nice job.”

Tampa Bay Rays Rookie Wander Franco Makes “Electric” MLB Debut

It appears the sky’s the limit for Wander Franco

In his Major League Baseball debut, the 20-year-old Dominican professional baseball player started at third base, doubled, homered, drove in three runs and showed a flair for the dramatic with a curtain call in the Tampa Bay Rays‘ 9-5, 11-inning loss to the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday.

Wander Franco

Franco, who walked in his first MLB plate appearance in the first inning, tied the game at 5 in the fifth with a 362-foot homer that drove in Kevin Kiermaier and Yandy Diaz.

 

He showed confidence — and some swagger — on the base paths and electrified the crowd at Tropicana Field.

 

Called up from Triple-A earlier in the day, Franco raised his right arm as he neared the plate and lifted both arms while crossing the plate to a roaring crowd when he connected in the fifth off Eduardo Rodriguez and drew his first curtain call in the majors.

 

“In that at-bat I actually knew I was going to hit a home run because that was the pitch I was looking for,” Franco said through an interpreter. “I ended up getting the pitch that I was looking for and I was able to help the team out.”

Franco pointed toward his father, who was at the game, while crossing the plate. His father, meanwhile, reacted with pure joy when the home run was hit.

Franco got the ball back and plans to display it at his home in the Dominican Republic.

“I felt super good,” he said through an interpreter. ”God sent me a surprise with all this.”

Franco even drew a nice ovation when he went on the field to run pregame, and got a partial standing ovation when the Rays’ lineup was announced over the public address system.

“Pretty electric player,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Win or loss, we’re trying to win them all obviously, but it had to be a great day for Wander and his family. A talented player that’s going to be fun to watch in the coming months.”

Red Sox manager Alex Cora agreed.

“What a good player he is,” he said. “The way he controls the at-bat for how young he is. They have a special one.”

Franco hit .315 with seven homers and 35 RBIs in 39 games this season at Triple-A Durham.