Yoenis Cespedes establishes residency in Dominican Republic, already a free agent?

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UPDATE: That was fast. Dionisio Soldevila of the Associated Press was told by Cespedes’ representative, Edgar Mercedes, that not only has the Cuban outfielder established residency in the Dominican Republic, he has also officially been granted free agency by MLB. In fact, Cespedes stopped playing in the Dominican Winter League playoffs at the urging of MLB teams.

We haven’t heard any clarification from MLB on the matter, so it’s possible Mercedes may have jumped the gun, but it’s safe to say things are about to heat up.

6:26 PM: While the Prince Fielder sweepstakes has finally reached a resolution, the bidding for Yoenis Cespedes is just about to begin.

Cespedes’ representative, Edgar Mercedes, told Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com that the Cuban outfielder has finally established residency in the Dominican Republic. He is now waiting on approval from MLB to become a free agent.

Cespedes recently told Dionisio Soldevila of the Associated Press that the Cubs, Marlins, White Sox, Orioles, Tigers and Indians have shown the most interest in him. However, it’s possible the Tigers will be less willing to pony up after agreeing to a nine-year, $214 million contract with Fielder earlier today. Still, most expect the 26-year-old outfielder will end up with a contract richer than the $30.25 million deal Cuban left-hander Aroldis Chapman signed with the Reds two years ago.

Cespedes, 26, recently went 5-for-35 (.143) with one home run and a 10/0 K/BB ratio during a stint with Aguilas Cibaenas in the Dominican Winter League playoffs. While it’s unlikely the poor performance will have a significant impact on his asking price, it wouldn’t be surprising if he needs some seasoning in the minor leagues.

Astros push ALCS to Game 7 with 7-1 stunner against Yankees

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There’s just something about playing in your home ballpark. The Astros decimated the Yankees at Minute Maid Park on Friday, riding seven scoreless innings from Justin Verlander and a pair of big runs from Jose Altuve to win 7-1 and force a Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

Through the first four innings, however, the teams looked equally matched. Luis Severino no-hit the Astros through 3 2/3 innings, losing his bid on Carlos Correa‘s line drive single in the fourth. The Astros returned in the fifth to do some real damage, drawing two walks and plating the first run of the night with Brian McCann‘s ground-rule double off of the right field wall. Things didn’t get any easier for Severino. Jose Altuve lined a two-RBI base hit into left field, upping Houston’s advantage to three runs.

Verlander, meanwhile, muted the Yankees’ offense with seven innings of five-hit, eight-strikeout ball. While he didn’t come close to matching his complete game effort in Game 2, he was still plenty dominant against a struggling New York lineup. No player reached past first base until the sixth inning, when a pair of base hits from Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees their first runner in scoring position. That didn’t last long, though, as Gary Sanchez grounded out on a 3-0 slider to end the inning.

In the seventh, Houston’s ace got into another spot of trouble. He walked Greg Bird on six pitches to start the inning, then plunked Starlin Castro on the wrist. Aaron Hicks struck out, in part thanks to a questionable call by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds, but it was Todd Frazier who presented the biggest threat after returning an 0-1 fastball for a 403-foot fly out to left field. Luckily for Verlander, George Springer was there to bail him out with a leaping catch at the wall.

The Yankees kept things exciting in the eighth, too. Aaron Judge ripped his third postseason home run off of Brad Peacock, taking a 425-footer out to the train in left field to spoil the Astros’ shutout. That was the only real break the Yankees got, however, as Altuve, Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis returned in the bottom of the inning to tack on another four runs, including Altuve’s solo shot off of David Robertson:

Ken Giles handled the ninth, expending 23 pitches and giving up a base hit and a walk before retiring Frazier and Headley to end the game. Thanks to Houston’s winning efforts, the two teams will compete in their first seven-game Championship Series since 2004 — and this time, at least one of them is guaranteed to come away with a win.

Game 7 of the ALCS is set for Saturday at 8:00 PM ET. Houston right-hander Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62 ERA) is scheduled to face southpaw CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA).