Jonny Gomes

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Yoenis Cespedes: “I’m going to play the last year of my career with Oakland”

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Yoenis Cespedes told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle that he wants to finish his career with the Athletics, according to an exclusive interview released on Friday. The Mets’ 31-year-old outfielder praised Oakland manager Bob Melvin, telling Slusser, “I don’t think there’s a better manager than Melvin” and adding that while he didn’t know if a return to Oakland would be possible, his love for the city had not faded.

Melvin, for his part, said he wasn’t surprised that the slugger wants another go-round with his first major league club, even if only as a final hurrah. Cespedes hit well over two and a half seasons with the A’s, compiling a cumulative .262/.318/.470 batting line from 2012 to 2014 and enjoying two postseason runs with the club before he was traded for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes in 2014.

There’s been relatively little for Cespedes to complain about since his departure from Oakland, of course: he turned in a career-best performance in 2015, slashing .291/.328/.542 with 35 home runs and 6.7 fWAR in back-to-back gigs with the Tigers and Mets, and netted a whopping three-year, $75 million contract prior to the 2016 season. Still, there’s something special about the A’s, as the slugger relayed to teammate Jerry Blevins:

I told Blevins, ‘I don’t know how many years I’m going to play, but I’m going to play the last year of my career with Oakland.’ I don’t know if that’s possible or not, but that’s my goal.

Whether or not Cespedes gets his wish, it’s unlikely he’ll pursue any kind of deal with the A’s for the time being. He’s still owed $23.75 million in 2017 and 2018 and isn’t scheduled to hit free agency until 2019.

And That Happened: Friday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the rest of Friday’s scores and highlights:

Cubs 6, Pirates 1: The Cubs pulled within five games of first place on Friday, thanks in large part to a two-homer, four-RBI performance from Kris Bryant. Eddie Butler turned in another abbreviated performance after four innings — he’s pitched into the sixth inning just once this season — but kept the game scoreless for the bullpen, who limited the Pirates’ offense to one run and two hits.

Padres 4, Phillies 3: Austin Hedges appears to be past that bout of neck stiffness. He returned to the Padres’ lineup on Friday and dropped go-ahead sac fly into center field in the ninth inning. Things aren’t looking so good for Padres’ left-hander Christian Frederich, however, who was shut down from throwing and may miss the rest of 2017 after sustaining some discomfort in his left elbow.

Nationals 5, Braves 4 (10 innings): The Nationals are now 4-4 in extra-inning games this season, and took home their third extra-inning walk-off win on Friday night with a decisive RBI single from Daniel Murphy.

The single scored rookie journeyman Adrian Sanchez, who pinch-hit in the 10th inning and recorded his first major league hit on a line drive off of the Braves’ Ian Krol.

Brewers 9, Yankees 4: Aaron Judge has now homered in each of the Yankees’ three consecutive losses. His blast on Friday night set a new record, topping Joe DiMaggio’s 1936 rookie season record with his 30th homer of the year:

Josh Hader, the unlucky soul who surrendered the home run, went on to notch his first major league win after the Brewers stormed back to a five-run lead on Jesus Aguilar‘s go-ahead grand slam and Manny Pina‘s RBI hit in the seventh.

Astros 12, Blue Jays 2: The Astros steamrolled the Blue Jays with yet another double-digit finish — their third of the week — and improved to a ridiculous 16.5-game lead in the AL West this weekend. Their big break came in the second inning, when a six-run spread forced Toronto’s Aaron Sanchez from the game after just 1 2/3 innings in his first start since landing on the disabled list with blister issues. Charlie Morton, also back from the DL for the first time on Friday, held the Blue Jays to one run over six innings for his sixth win of the year.

Red Sox 8, Rays 3: Whatever adjustments Dustin Pedroia has been making at the plate finally paid off on Friday night. The Red Sox’ second baseman snapped his 41-game skid without a home run, taking Jake Odorizzi deep in the third inning to boost the Sox to a four-run lead.

Aside from a few nail-biters — including this 3-5-4-5 double play to extinguish runners on second and third — Boston won handily, evening the series and becoming the second American League team to reach 50 wins in 2017.

Indians 11, Tigers 2: The first Indians pitcher to record an immaculate inning was Justin Masterson, who laid down three consecutive three-pitch strikeouts on June 2, 2014 against the Red Sox’ Jonny Gomes, Grady Sizemore and Stephen Drew.

The second Indians pitcher to match the feat? Carlos Carrasco, whose one-run outing was highlighted by his first immaculate inning against the Tigers’ Nicholas Castellanos, Mikie Mahtook and Jose Iglesias in the fifth inning of Friday’s win.

Several innings earlier, in the second, Victor Martinez put his own mark in the history books with his 2,000th major league hit: an 0-1 single that bounced just shy of left fielder Michael Brantley. He’s the ninth active major league player to reach 2,000 career hits so far.

Rangers 10, Angels 0: Speaking of historic hits, Adrian Beltre swatted a three-run homer off of Ricky Nolasco during the Rangers’ shutout, padding their eight-run lead in the second inning and becoming the 21st major league player with over 5,000 career bases. (No doubt he was the first to enter the club while homering off of one knee, too.)

By the end of the night, Beltre had 5,003 bases under his belt, just 38 short of Mel Ott’s 5,041. He also inched closer to the 3,000-hit mark, though he’ll still need 23 more hits to earn a spot on that list.

Twins 9, Orioles 6: The Twins celebrated their acquisition of Bartolo Colon with a 9-6 win on Friday, taking the first of three games from the Orioles and improving to 1.5 games back of the division-leading Indians. Byron Buxton turned heads with an incredible sprint from first base, clocking in at just 9.47 seconds to race home and pad the Twins’ lead:

Meanwhile, rookie starter Felix Jorge was forced from the mound in the third inning, but a five-run fifth inning from the Twins’ offense and six shutdown innings from the bullpen salvaged the game in the end.

Mets 6, Cardinals 5: Jacob deGrom experienced a new career first this weekend, but it wasn’t a good one. The right-hander surrendered four home runs during his ninth win of the season, allowing back-to-back homers from Randal Grichuk and Paul DeJong in the third inning and another pair of consecutive homers by Dexter Fowler and Jedd Gyorko in the fourth. Despite deGrom’s command issues, the Mets’ offense rose to the occasion, powering the win with two blasts of their own and plating the winning run on T.J. Rivera’s RBI double in the seventh.

Rockies 12, White Sox 4: With just two games left to go until the All-Star Game, DJ LeMahieu, Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado are soaking up every last practice session they can get. Each of the Rockies’ All-Stars went deep during the club’s series opener, twice driving in starting pitcher German Marquez, who went 2-for-3 with a double and single in his sixth win of the year.

Diamondbacks 6, Reds 3: The D-backs muscled their way back from a three-game sweep at the hands of the Dodgers as they kicked off their last homestand before the All-Star break. Zack Greinke tossed seven scoreless frames with four hits, a walk and seven strikeouts — his first scoreless outing of the season — and contributed an RBI single in the win.

Joey Votto and Scott Schebler returned with a two-homer, three-run rally in the ninth inning, but couldn’t quite close the gap against Fernando Rodney.

Dodgers 4, Royals 1: Two winning streaks went head-to-head on Friday night, and one of them had to come to an end. The Royals’ four-win streak was felled by Kenta Maeda, who guided the Dodgers to their own four-win streak with five solid innings of one-run ball. The offense generated a modest four-run backing, including Chase Utley‘s eighth inning double and 1,000th career RBI. He’s the ninth active player with over 1,000 career RBI to date.

Mariners 7, Athletics 2: Not one to be left out of the party, Nelson Cruz hit one for the record books on Friday. The Mariners’ All-Star designated hitter engineered a three-run, 433-foot drive into the Safeco Field bullpen, putting the team up by four runs in the eighth inning.

The smash was Cruz’s 16th of the season and 300th of his 13-year career. Only nine other active players have 300+ home runs, including Adrian Beltre, Carlos Beltran, Jose Bautista, Miguel Cabrera, Adrian Gonzalez, Curtis Granderson and Albert Pujols.

Marlins 6, Giants 1: While Marlins Park is being prepped for next week’s All-Star festivities, the Marlins made themselves at home in AT&T Park. Dan Straily settled the Giants’ offense with 8 1/3 innings of one-run ball, while Giancarlo Stanton practiced his swing for Monday’s Home Run Derby, becoming the first visiting right-handed hitter to drive an opposite-field home run over the right field wall since 2014.

There are still a lot of free agents available

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As we noted earlier this morning, there are only eight days until pitchers and catchers start reporting. There are still a ton of free agents left on the market, however.

Most of them are journeymen, but there are still a couple of front line starting types left available, such as Matt Wieters and Mike Napoli. Chris Carter, the 2016 NL Home Run Champ is still looking for a job.

There are a ton of big names whose games have faded or whose careers are in their twilight, such as former Cy Young winners Tim Lincecum and Jake Peavy and former MVPs Ryan Howard and Justin Morneau. Chase Utley is banging around too. Some arms that, not long ago, were fixtures in big league rotations can still be had, including Colby Lewis, Jorge De La Rosa, Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon. Then there are guys like Coco Crisp, Angel Pagan, Michael Bourn and Franklin Gutierrez. Indeed, there’s an army of guys who once played some decent center field out there but who now are holding virtual “will shag flies for food” signs.

Jeff Francoeur and Kelly Johnson are on the list too, but you damn well know the Braves are going to sign them so I almost didn’t include them here. They’re anciently beholden to Atlanta, sort of like Chay-Ara is beholden to Prince Khufu. I’m just gonna start calling those two the Hawkmen.

Anyway, this is the entire list of free agents per MLB Trade Rumors’ Free Agent Tracker. Bargain hunting is well underway, so shop fast:

Henderson Alvarez
Pedro Alvarez
Erick Aybar
Aaron Barrett
Gordon Beckham
Joe Blanton
Michael Bourn
Billy Butler
Marlon Byrd
Chris Capuano
Chris Carter
Steve Clevenger
Hank Conger
Coco Crisp
Jorge De La Rosa
Daniel Descalso
Nate Eovaldi
Jeff Francoeur
Sam Fuld
Charlie Furbush
Craig Gentry
Cole Gillespie
Jonny Gomes
Franklin Gutierrez
Matt Harrison
David Hernandez
Aaron Hill
Luke Hochevar
Ryan Howard
Tommy Hunter
Edwin Jackson
Kevin Jepsen
Kelly Johnson
Chris Johnson
Tyler Ladendorf
Mat Latos
Colby Lewis
Tim Lincecum
Adam Lind
Javier Lopez
David Lough
Seth Maness
Justin Morneau
Peter Moylan
Mike Napoli
Dioner Navarro
Jonathan Niese
Angel Pagan
Jonathan Papelbon
Jarrod Parker
Jake Peavy
Brayan Pena
Yusmeiro Petit
A.J. Pierzynski
Ryan Raburn
Alexi Ramirez
Nolan Reimold
Jerry Sands
Alfredo Simon
Drew Stubbs
Chase Utley
Carlos Villanueva
Chien-Ming Wang
Jered Weaver
Matt Wieters
Tom Wilhelmson
Jerome Williams
C.J. Wilson
Travis Wood