Astros choose 37-year-old Nelson Figueroa over 20-year-old Jordan Lyles for fifth starter job

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Journeyman Nelson Figueroa will open the season as the Astros’ fifth starter after competing for the job with 20-year-old top prospect Jordan Lyles, who was sent to the minors today.

Lyles was impressive this spring and has a ton of long-term upside, but realistically the Astros are better off letting Figueroa keep the rotation spot warm for a while so he can get a little more seasoning in the minors and delay the start of his service time clock.

Lyles was fantastic at Double-A as a 19-year-old last season, posting a 3.12 ERA and 115/35 K/BB ratio in 127 innings, but struggled a bit following a late-season promotion to Triple-A and started a total of just six games there. There’s no need to rush a 20-year-old into the rotation for a non-contender and Figueroa is capable of holding his own with a 4.65 ERA in 60 career starts.

Brett Myers will start for the Astros on Opening Day, followed by Wandy Rodriguez, J.A. Happ, Bud Norris, and Figueroa.

Source: Aaron Judge, Yankees reach $360M, 9-year deal

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SAN DIEGO (AP) — Aaron Judge has agreed to return to the New York Yankees on a $360 million, nine-year contract, according to a person familiar with the deal.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on Wednesday because the deal had not been announced.

Judge will earn $40 million per season, the highest average annual payout for a position player. The contract trails only Mike Trout’s $426.5 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels and Mookie Betts’ $365 million pact with the Los Angeles Dodgers for biggest in baseball history.

Judge was offered a long-term deal by New York before last season that was worth $213.5 million over seven years from 2023-29. But he turned it down in the hours before opening day in April.

The 6-foot-7 Judge bet on himself — and won.

Judge set an American League record with 62 homers in 2022, powering the Yankees to the AL East title. He also tied for the major league lead with 131 RBIs and just missed a Triple Crown with a .311 batting average.

New York was swept by Houston in the AL Championship Series, but Judge became the first AL MVP for the Yankees since Alex Rodriguez in 2007.

Judge, 30, was selected by New York in the first round of the 2013 amateur draft and made his big league debut in 2016, homering in his first at-bat.

A year later, he was one of baseball’s breakout stars. He hit .284 with 52 homers and 114 RBIs in 2017, winning the AL Rookie of the Year award. The four-time All-Star has 220 homers and 497 RBIs in seven big league seasons.