Yariel Rodriguez Agrees to 4-Year, $32 Million Deal with Toronto Blue Jays

Yariel Rodriguez is headed to the Great White North

The Toronto Blue Jays have reached a four-year, $32 million deal with the 26-year-old Cuban professional baseball pitcher, per multiple outlets.

Yariel RodriguezThe deal is pending a physical and the resolution of immigration hurdles.

Rodriguez went 10-10 with a 3.03 ERA in 79 relief appearances with Chunichi of the Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan from 2020 to 2022. He last pitched for Cuba in the World Baseball Classic, electing not to return to Chunichi in 2023.

The Dragons released him in November, making him a free agent.

Rodriguez, who sports a fastball in the mid-90s, made two starts in the WBC, finishing with a 2.45 ERA while striking out 10 in 7 1/3 innings.

Yadier Molina to Serve as Special Assistant to St. Louis Cardinals’ President of Baseball Operations

Yadier Molina is trading in his uniform for a suit…

The 41-year-old Puerto Rican former professional baseball catcher will remain with the St. Louis Cardinals as a special assistant to John Mozeliak, their president of baseball operations.

Yadier MolinaThe announcement comes after the longtime catcher wrapped up his 19-year big league career in 2022.

Molina was a 10-time MLB All-Star and nine-time Gold Glove winner who played all 2,224 games of his career for St. Louis. That included 2,184 games behind the plate, the most by any catcher for one team in major league history.

“We are excited to welcome Yadi back to the St. Louis Cardinals,” Mozeliak said in a statement. “He will provide invaluable help at the major league level, as well as spend time with our minor league teams in his new role with the team.”

Molina trails only Stan Musial, who played 22 seasons for St. Louis, for the most with the club. Along the way, he helped the Cardinals reach four World Series and win championships in 2006 and 2011. His longevity coupled with the success of those Cardinals teams are a big reason why he retired as the team’s career postseason leader in hits (102) and games played (104).

Molina, a fourth-round pick of the Cardinals in the 2000 first-year player draft, served as the manager of Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic in 2023. He also managed Navegantes del Magallanes in Venezuela.

Nelson Cruz Reportedly Joins Los Angeles Dodgers as Advisor

Nelson Cruz is getting back in the game…

The 43-year-old Dominican former professional baseball designated hitter and right fielder has joined the Los Angeles Dodgers as an advisor.

Nelson CruzCruz, known for his power hitting, is expected to work mostly out of the team’s academy in his native Dominican Republic, according to ESPN.

Cruz announced his retirement from the majors in early November, then played five games with the Gigantes del Cibao of the Dominican Winter League as something of a farewell tour.

Cruz spent 19 years in the big leagues, most recently with the San Diego Padres through the first three months of the 2023 season. He made seven MLB All-Star teams and won four Silver Slugger Awards, amassing 464 home runs and 2,053 hits for eight teams. Cruz was also suspended 50 games in 2013 for his ties to the Biogenesis steroid scandal, but his reputation throughout the sport has allowed him to distance himself from the label better than most others tied to performance-enhancing drugs.

A winner of the Roberto Clemente Award for his philanthropic efforts in 2021, Cruz is especially revered by the Latin players and served as both the general manager and a player for their national team in the World Baseball Classic this year.

The Dodgers haven’t officially announced Cruz’s hiring and the specifics of his role are not yet known.

Dominican baseball reporter Tenchy Rodriguez first reported the development.

Juan González Honored with Texas Rangers Hall of Fame Jacket in Pregame Ceremony

Juan González has entered a special Hall

The 53-year-old Puerto Rican former baseball player, a two-time American League MVP received his Texas Rangers Hall of Fame jacket in a pregame ceremony on Friday night, eight years after his induction and 20 years after his last game for the team.

Juan González, One of baseball’s best sluggers in the 1990s, González is still the Rangers’ career leader with 372 home runs, 1,180 RBIs and 713 extra-base hits. He played for the Rangers from 1989 to 1999, during a stretch when they won their first three AL West titles, and the outfielder-designated hitter returned to the club from 2002 to 2003.

González threw a ceremonial first pitch in what was believed to be his first public appearance at a Rangers game since 2004, when he was playing for the Kansas City Royals.

During his first MVP season in 1996, when the Rangers won their first division title, González hit .314 with 47 home runs and 144 RBIs. He was the MVP again in 1998, when he batted .318 with 45 home runs and 157 RBIs in the club’s second playoff season.

Overall, Gonzalez hit .295 with 457 home runs and 1,273 RBIs in 1,689 career games that spanned from his debut at age 19 with the Rangers over the final month of the 1989 season to one game for Cleveland in 2005. He played for Detroit in 2000 after being traded in a nine-player deal then went to Cleveland in free agency in 2001, when he had 140 RBIs in 140 games before re-signing with Texas.

He is now a coach for the national team back home and was an assistant hitting coach for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic.

New York Mets Closer Edwin Diaz Hoping to Return This Season Following Knee Injury

Edwin Diaz is hoping to return to the diamond this season…

The 29-year-0ld Puerto Rican professional baseball pitcher and New York Mets closer hasn’t ruled out returning before the end of the season, saying his injured knee is healing well.

Edwin DiazDiaz, speaking to the media for the first time since tearing his right patellar tendon while celebrating at the World Baseball Classic, said Wednesday that his knee “is doing right” and that his recovery is going “in a good direction.”

While the typical recovery timeline for his injury is about eight months, Diaz offered a more optimistic prognosis.

“I might throw this season,” he said. “As of right now, my knee is doing right. [The doctors] are really happy, so we are in a good direction for that.”

Diaz also didn’t want to get too far ahead of himself. There are several tests he will need to pass before he’s cleared to pitch again, including running on the field, getting on the mound and throwing.

“But if everything goes well,” he said, “I think I can be back sooner than eight months.”

While Diaz’s injury in the WBC reignited the controversy over whether star players should risk injury by participating in the event, he expressed no regret over the decision to represent Puerto Rico.

“People can get hurt at home, at any place,” he said. “It happened to me in the WBC. I wasn’t pitching, I was celebrating with my teammates. If I had a chance to play again for my country, I would do it again.”

Diaz signed a five-year, $102 million contract this past offseason, the most valuable contract ever signed by a relief pitcher after posting the best season of his career with a 1.31 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 32 saves in 25 opportunities.

Nolan Arenado Helps Lead Team USA to World Baseball Classic Win Over Great Britain

Nolan Arenado is proving to be Team USA’s not-so-secret weapon…

After helping the U.S. win the tournament in 2017, the 31-year-old Puerto Rican and Cuban American professional baseball player had three hits and several highlight-reel defensive plays in Team USA’s opening-round World Baseball Classic win, a 6-2 victory over Great Britain on Saturday night. He set the tone after the U.S. got down 1-0.

Nolan Arenado“The intensity with which he works pregame is, honestly — I’m not sugarcoating it — like nothing I’ve ever seen,” Team USA manager Mark DeRosa said after the game. “He’s intense in ground balls. He’s intense in his cage work.”

Arenado’s pregame routine was actually thrown off because of the length of the previous contest Saturday between Colombia and Mexico. It’s one of the things he learned while playing in the tournament in 2017. You have to be able to adjust on the fly.

“We were taking ground balls in the outfield today,” Arenado said. “I haven’t taken ground balls in the outfield since I was in Little League. While I was doing it, I made sure to focus and do it the right way. It prepared me. I was ready to go.”

The same can be said of Arenado at the plate, after the team wasn’t able to take batting practice on the field. He adjusted his routine again, then a couple of hours later, he doubled home the tying run in the second inning before scoring the go-ahead run a few moments later.

He added another double and a single and also made several on-the-run throws across his body to first base.

“I’ve played with some great fielders,” said Adam Wainwright, Arenado’s Cardinals teammate and Saturday’s starter. “I don’t know if I’ve ever played with somebody behind me like that. I’ve played with the best defensive catcher of all time and I had Scott Rolen at third base. Not a shot at him, but Nolan Arenado is just a special, special player that I don’t know if you can compare him.”

Even with Arenado’s heroics, it was a tight game until Kyle Schwarber launched a ball into the right-field stands for a three-run home run in the fourth inning. It ignited a pro-U.S. crowd as Schwarber gave it a salute while rounding the bases.

“That’s going to be our little celebration for us this year,” Schwarber said. “Get back to a little salute to our men and women, too.”

DeRosa admitted his players needed to settle in a little with many playing in their first WBC game. They quickly found their footing, proving they’re the favorites to come out of the preliminary round games in Arizona.

The U.S. takes on Mexico on Sunday after it was upset by Colombia.

“Just a great first day,” DeRosa said. “I just think for a lot of us, and the coaches included, was a chance for us to — I don’t want to say knock the cobwebs off — but a chance for us to kind of experience it (the intensity) ourselves.”

Yoan Moncada to Represent Cuba at Upcoming World Baseball Classic

Yoan Moncada is going native

Cubans signed with Major League Baseball organizations or other foreign clubs, including the 27-year-old Cuban professional baseball third baseman for the Chicago White Sox, will for the first time join local stars on the national team that’ll play in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, according to officials.

Yoan MoncadaThe Cuban Baseball Federation long defended the idea of amateurism and punished those who left the island to seek their fortunes in professional baseball.

But that changed when a program on state television announced the roster of 30 players for Cuba’s national team that will play in the international tournament that begins March 8 in Taiwan.

In addition to Moncada and his teammate Luis Robert, plus three players from Triple-A rosters: infielder Andy Ibanez of Detroit Tigers affiliate Toledo Mud Hens, right-hander Miguel Romero of the Oakland Athletics’ Las Vegas Aviators and right-hander Ronald Bolanos of the Kansas City Royals‘ Omaha Storm Chasers.

Also on the team will be outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who played for the New York Mets but has not been in the majors since 2018.

Two Cubans who play in Japan were picked, outfielder Yurisbel Gracial of the Pacific League‘s Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks and catcher Ariel Martinez of the Central League‘s Chunichi Dragons.

To arrange participation of the MLB players, Cuba had to get special permission from the U.S., since Washington maintains sanctions on Cuba. Under the agreement, those players are barred from coming to Cuba to work with the team.

Baseball is the national sport in Cuba but economic difficulties, the philosophy of restricting the movement of athletes and the temptations of professional contracts abroad have decimated the game on the island.

Eloy Jimenez Hoping to Reclaim Outfield Role Over Designated Hitter Slot

Eloy Jimenez is hoping to head out(field)…

While the 26-yearold Dominican professional baseball player could spend a lot of time at designated hitter for the Chicago White Sox, he has other plans.

Eloy JimenezJimenez says he’s preparing to play more games in the outfield, especially in right, after Chicago signed left fielder Andrew Benintendi to a $75 million, five-year contract. The White Sox also have Luis Robert in center, to go along with Gavin Sheets and prized prospect Oscar Colás in the mix in right.

Jimenez was sidelined for a couple of months last season after he had surgery in April to repair a torn hamstring tendon behind his right knee. He returned in July and finished with a career-high 50 starts at DH — not exactly his favorite opening in the lineup.

Asked whether he would embrace the DH role this year, Jimenez responded: “I don’t know.”

“Last year, when I was DH’ing more than [playing] the outfield, it was because I got surgery. And I understand that,” he said. “But this year, I’ve been working really hard to play the outfield more than DH. So I don’t really think that I’m going to accept it, because if I’m working hard, I’m going to get better, and I want to play in the outfield.”

Jimenez has been a bit of an adventure in the outfield since he made his major league debut with Chicago in 2019. He missed the start of the 2021 season after he ruptured his left pectoral tendon trying to make a defensive play during an exhibition game.

But he remains a force at the plate, and there is no questioning his importance to the White Sox.

After Jimenez returned last year, he hit .305 with 15 homers, 47 RBIs and an .895 OPS in his last 73 games. He bashed 31 homers during his rookie year in 2019, and then batted .296 with 14 homers and 41 RBIs in 55 games during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

Chicago went 81-81 in 2022 and missed the playoffs after reaching the postseason in the previous two years.

“We just need to be healthy; that’s the key right now,” Jimenez said. “If we’re healthy, we can do whatever because we are good on paper. But if we don’t play together as a team because of the injuries, we’re not going to do it, you know? We’re not going to make it.”

Jimenez said he has had “good communication” with Pedro Grifol since he took over as White Sox manager in November. Asked about his offseason conditioning, Jimenez playfully brushed off the question.

“I’m going to give you a surprise. I’m not going to answer right now,” said Jimenez, who plans to play for his native Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.

“You’re going to see me in spring training.”

Left field was Jimenez’s only defensive position in his first four years in the majors, as he made 235 starts at the spot among 316 big league games. But Benintendi has spent most of his career in left, winning a Gold Glove in 2021 with the Kansas City Royals.

So Jimenez and Grifol have talked about him playing right, but the 24-year-old Colás is expected to get a long look at the position in spring training after he batted .314 with 23 homers last year in the minors.

Still, Jimenez has focused at least some of his work on learning how to play right.

“It feels way different because most of the contacts in left field you don’t know where it’s going to go,” he said. “Right field is a lot different because every ball the right-handed hitter hits most of the time has some backspin. It’s way better being there.”

In addition to the new position, Jimenez is preparing for his first season without Jose Abreu after the first baseman left Chicago for a $58.5 million, three-year contract with the Houston Astros in free agency.

Abreu has been a key figure in Jimenez’s career.

“It’s going to be a little bit weird but this is the business,” Jimenez said. “We need to move forward and play with what we have.”

United States will Permit Cuban MLB Players like Jose Abreu to Represent Home Country at World Baseball Classic

Jose Abreu could represent Cuba in next year’s World Baseball Classic.

The United States will permit Major League Baseball players from Cuba, like the 35-year-old professional baseball player, to represent their home country in the tournament next year.

Jose AbreuThe decision announced over the weekend in a news release by the Baseball Federation of Cuba (FCB) could be a big step in once again turning Cuba’s national team into heavy hitters on an international stage.

Major League Baseball confirmed Monday that the U.S. granted the license to FCB.

It clears the way for MLB stars such as Abreu, Yordan AlvarezRandy ArozarenaYoan Moncada and Luis Robert to play for Cuba in the WBC in March if they choose to accept a potential invitation.

It’s up to each country’s national governing body to pick the players on its WBC team. Final 30-man rosters are due on February 7 for the WBC, which begins March 8 with Cuba facing the Netherlands in Taiwan.

While the sport of choice for much of Latin America is soccer, baseball dominates in Cuba. The island has gained fame around the world for its baseball talent.

But in recent years, hundreds of those players have defected from Cuba to play professionally elsewhere. Most notably, many have become United States residents and stars with major league teams in the U.S.

The defections are largely due to a not-so-uncommon geopolitical spat between the two seaside neighbors, leaving Cuban players stuck in the middle.

Cuban athletes competing on the island can’t earn a paycheck under the communist government, which prohibited professional sports following the Cuban revolution 60 years ago.

Longtime sanctions by the U.S. make it largely impossible for Cubans to play professionally for an American team without defecting. Meanwhile, Cuba historically has not allowed Cuban players who defected on their national team rosters.

The defections have taken a toll on Cuba’s performance in international baseball competitions. For example, the Cuban baseball team failed to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Games after years of previously winning medals in the sport.

In November, Cuba changed its tune and invited several top players who defected to represent the country in the World Baseball Classic, a tournament that features some of the sport’s top players competing in Japan, Taiwan and the U.S.

Weeks later, Cuban officials accused the Biden administration of blocking those players from representing Cuba.

In a statement Saturday, FCB President Juan Reinaldo Perez Pardo called the permit a “positive step,” and said the Cuban federation should have more information about the team’s WBC roster once it has more details about the license granted by the U.S.

At the same time, Perez Pardo also criticized the U.S., tweeting Saturday that “it is arbitrary and discriminatory that a permit from the government of this country (the U.S.) is needed to attend” the WBC.

Ernesto Jerez Named a Finalist for Ford C. Frick Award for Excellence in Baseball Broadcasting

Ernesto Jerez has voiced his way to the top…

The 52-year-old Dominican sportscaster and commentator for ESPN Deportes has been named a finalist for the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in baseball broadcasting

Ernesto Jerez

Jerez has worked ESPN Deportes’ Sunday Night Baseball for more than 25 years along with the World Series, All-Star Game and World Baseball Classic.

He’ll face off against Hall of Fame pitchers Dizzy Dean and Don Drysdale, along with Fox‘s Joe Buck, ESPN‘s Dan Shulman and NBC‘s Al Michaels.

Dave Campbell and Buddy Blattner also are finalists, the Hall said Monday.

The winner will be announced on Dec.ember 9 and will be honored next July 24 ahead of the Hall of Fame inductions, along with 2020 Frick winner Ken Harrelson. The 2020 ceremonies were called off became of the coronavirus pandemic.

This year’s Frick Award is for national voices, part of a three-year rotation that includes broadcasting beginnings (autumn 2021) and major league markets (autumn 2022).

Broadcasters must have at least 10 continuous years of major league broadcast service with a team, network or combination.