The Dodgers are “aggressively pursuing” Torii Hunter…or not

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UPDATE: Hold your horses, everyone. According to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, the Dodgers’ interest in Hunter has been overstated.

Hernandez hears that Hunter’s agent approached the Dodgers, who agreed to take a meeting with him. You know how agents used to try to get the Yankees involved in order to get other teams to boost their offers? Perhaps that is what we are seeing with the free-spending Dodgers now.

It doesn’t matter much anyway, as Hunter told Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times that he isn’t too keen on the idea of accepting a lesser role. He also denied Mark Saxon’s report that the Dodgers approached him with a two-year deal.

We continue to see conflicting reports on this, but Hernandez was also told by a source that Ethier is not on the trade block.

2:34 PM: Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles reports that the Dodgers have approached Hunter about a two-year contract. Contrary to Ken Rosenthal’s report earlier this afternoon, Saxon is hearing that the Dodgers have made it clear to other teams that they would consider trading Andre Ethier.

1:23 PM: Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the Dodgers will not trade Ethier and that Hunter would have to accept a lesser role if he signs with the team.

One would think that Hunter would rather look for a full-time role elsewhere, but since the Dodgers don’t appear to have a budget right now, they could compete and exceed other offers in terms of dollars. Kemp and Crawford are both coming off surgeries, so there’s a chance Hunter could play pretty regularly to begin 2013, but he would be some mighty expensive insurance.

8:55 AM: What do you do when you already have three outfielders under contract with long-term deals? You try to sign another outfielder, of course.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Dodgers are “aggressively pursuing” free agent outfielder Torii Hunter. This must be part of Ned Colletti’s strategy of signing all of the free agents in order to keep them away from potential rivals.

Nothing appears imminent, but Nightengale hears that the Dodgers have some organizational meetings on tap for next week in which they’ll try to formulate a plan to make room for both Hunter and a front-line starting pitcher. They have already spoken with the agents for Zack Greinke and Anibal Sanchez, who many consider the best two starters available in free agency.

The Dodgers have Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier locked into expensive long-term deals, so something will have to give if they want to sign Hunter. We heard a rumor last month that Ethier was on the trade block and this would seem to give some credence to that notion. Yes, it appears the Dodgers may already have a case of buyer’s remorse after signing the 30-year-old to a five-year, $85 million contract extension in June.

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.