Loss of Youkilis adds another bump to a rough road

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The Red Sox might not be doomed yet, but the team with the eighth-best record in baseball just became an even bigger long shot to play in the postseason after losing Kevin Youkilis to a season-ending thumb injury.
In the midst of a third straight wildly productive season, Youkilis was hitting .307/.411/.564 up until hurting his thumb Monday. He ranked fourth in the league with a 975 OPS, and it wasn’t as though Fenway was really dragging his numbers up: his road OPS stood at 967.
What the Red Sox desperately need now is for Mike Lowell, a player whom the team gladly would have given away had anyone wanted to take on a significant portion of his salary, to come through with the kind of big finish that may make him put off thoughts of retirement.
After spending six weeks on the DL, Lowell homered on the first pitch he saw Tuesday against the Indians. His .214/.305/.381 line in 84 at-bats for the season is practically irrelevant, considering that he hasn’t seen steady action at any point. Still, even if he bounces back to his 2009 level of performance — he hit .290/.337/.474 in 445 at-bats — it’ll be a big drop off from what Youk has provided.
Heading into Thursday night’s action, the Red Sox are seven games behind the Yankees and 6 1/2 games behind the Twins for a postseason spot. We’ll ignore the AL Central loser for now and assume that if the Red Sox can pass one of them, they’re in.
The Yankees (67-40) currently have 55 games left, while the Rays (67-41) and Red Sox (71-47) have 54. Let’s say one of the AL East leaders falls off and plays just .500 ball for the rest of the year: 27-28 for the Yankees, 27-27 for the Rays. That would put the second-place team at 94-68. To match that, the Red Sox would have to go 33-21, a .611 winning percentage, which is significantly better than their current .565 mark.
Realistically, both the Yankees and Rays figure to play at least .550 ball for the rest of the year. They’re currently at .626 and .620, respectively. At .550, the Yankees and Rays would finish 97-65. That’s probably where the Red Sox need to be to have a shot. To do that, they’d have to go 36-18, which is .667 ball.
It’s not beyond the realm of possibility. The Red Sox did go 36-18 over the course of 54 games from April 23-June 19 and from May 5-July 3 (obviously, a lot of that was the same stretch). But it is a long shot, and if neither the Yankees nor Rays hit a dry spell, there just won’t be any chance at all.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.