Matt Kemp won’t pick Bryce Harper for Home Run Derby

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MLB decided a year ago to spice things up a bit by letting a captain pick his roster for the Home Run Derby. It added to the fun the first time it was tried. Things might be starting to get interesting this time around, too.

Despite popular demand, Matt Kemp told USATODAY that 19-year-old Bryce Harper won’t be picked for the NL squad.

“It’s not because he’s a rookie. It’s just that there are other guys out there that are capable,” Kemp said. “I’m not saying he wouldn’t do a good job in the Home Run Derby. He’s going to have plenty of time to participate in many Home Run Derbies. Just not this year. Nothing against him. I love watching him play.”

Kemp expects to compete himself, even though he’ll still likely be on the disabled list with a strained hamstring. That leaves three openings for the likes of Ryan Braun, Giancarlo Stanton, Carlos Beltran and others. Harper doesn’t really merit a selection based on performance, as he has a modest seven homers in 198 at-bats. It’d be more a case of giving the fans what they want.

The Nationals, though, probably prefer it this way, given the number of past participants who claim to have messed up their swing by taking part in the Home Run Derby. Just 19, Harper might be more vulnerable to that than most.

Noah Syndergaard: ‘I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency’

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Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.

While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.

Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.

Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”

Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.

If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.