Alex Rodriguez goes 1-for-4 with a single in his first game back with Yankees

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Let the spectacle begin.

Despite being handed a 211-game suspension from MLB for his alleged connections to Biogenesis, Alex Rodriguez is making his season debut tonight against the White Sox. In his first game in the majors since January hip surgery, he’s batting cleanup and playing third base. And you can count on HBT to bring you all the details.

8:39 PM: With the Yankees down 3-0, Rodriguez led off the top of the second inning against left-hander Jose Quintana for his first at-bat. Not surprisingly, he didn’t get a very warm welcome for the U.S. Cellular Field crowd, with boos raining down on him after his name was announced and during the at-bat.

After Rodriguez took the first two pitches for balls, he dumped a single into shallow left field which Casper Wells failed to catch on the dive. See, he’s already a massive improvement at third base. Rodriguez scampered to third base on a double by Vernon Wells — and looked perfectly healthy doing so — but he ended up being stranded there after Quintana sat down Curtis Granderson, Ichiro Suzuki, and Eduardo Nunez. That’s Yankee baseball in 2013 for you.

9:38 PM: Rodriguez took his second at-bat in the top of the fourth inning with one out. After swinging through a pitch for strike one and taking a ball which got away from the catcher, he flew out a few feet away from the warning track in center field. Rodriguez was visibly frustrated after he made contact, as he likely realized that he just missed a potential home run. As for the U.S. Cellular Field crowd, it was more reason to celebrate a 7-0 lead for the home team.

10:21 PM: Rodriguez had his third at-bat in the sixth inning with one out. After taking two balls and swinging through a pitch, he ripped one just short of the warning track in left field. He hit the ball hard and gave it a pretty good ride, but Casper Wells was right there to secure the out. Rodriguez is now 1-for-3 with a single and two fly outs on the evening.

11:04 PM: Rodriguez came up for his fourth at-bat with no outs and a runner on first in the top of the eighth inning. Facing reliever Matt Lindstrom, he ran the count full before striking out looking, which was followed by a loud ovation from the fans. It’s worth noting that the boos and chants were even louder in this at-bat than earlier ones, likely because the fans realized it would be his final at-bat of the night.

11:23 PM: The Yankees lost to the White Sox by the score of 8-1 while Rodriguez ended the night 1-for-4 with a single, two fly outs, and a strikeout. While his range at third base isn’t great at this point, he handled all of his chances in the field without any major issue and looked fine when he ran the bases. Rodriguez will have a really tough test on his hands tomorrow night when the Yankees go up against Chicago’s ace Chris Sale.

Six of seven players decline $17.9 million qualifying offers

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Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu was the only one of seven eligible players to accept his $17.9 million qualifying offer. Bryce Harper, A.J. Pollock, Craig Kimbrel, Patrick Corbin, Yasmani Grandal, and Dallas Keuchel each rejected his, officially making them free agents. Teams that had their QO’s rejected will recoup a draft pick once the player signs elsewhere.

That Harper rejected his QO comes as no surprise, as he is expected to strike perhaps the largest free agent contract in baseball history. Though the free agent market has been less lucrative lately than in previous years, the combination of Harper’s elite talent and his age — he’s only 26 years old — makes him a primary target for more than a handful of teams. Harper reportedly turned down a 10-year, $300 million contract extension offer from the Nationals, so that would seem to be a baseline.

It is also not surprising that Kimbrel, 30, turned down his QO from the Red Sox. Despite a so-so showing during a championship run, Kimbrel is still young and talented enough to land another lucrative contract on the free agent market.

Keuchel bet on himself in turning down the Astros’ QO. He’s been solid since winning the AL Cy Young Award in 2015, owning a 3.77 ERA across 83 starts over the last three seasons. However, he turns 31 years old at the beginning of 2019, and his already mediocre strikeout rate declined even further this past season, so there may be some skepticism about his ability to perform over the course of a multi-year deal. Keuchel will still get one eventually, but his market may be slower to develop.

Pollock, soon 31 as well, will be the outfielder most coveted once Harper is off the market. When he’s healthy, he’s a dynamic five-tool player. However, Pollock hasn’t played in more than 113 games in a season since 2015, so that may be a red flag. Pollock ended 2018 batting .257/.316/.484 with 21 home runs, 65 RBI, 61 runs scored, and 13 stolen bases in 460 plate appearances while playing above-average defense according to various defensive metrics.

Grandal, 30, could’ve gone either way with his QO, but ultimately chose to decline. He had a disappointing postseason, both offensively and defensively. Given how humans are prone to recency bias, it stood to reason that his October performance could have hurt his market. The catching position, however, is rather weak and Grandal stands out in a market that is otherwise focused on Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto. Grandal did swat 24 home runs with an .815 OPS in 140 games for the Dodgers this past season.

Corbin, 29, was the most obvious QO decline after Harper. The lefty is coming off of a career year, finishing with a 3.15 ERA and a 246/48 K/BB ratio in exactly 200 innings. Corbin is the best free agent pitcher on the market this offseason. The Yankees have been seriously linked with Corbin even before the season ended.

Ryu likely chose to accept his QO because of his age and injury history. It would have been a gamble to pursue a multi-year deal. He did, however, make 15 starts during the regular season to the tune of a 1.97 ERA with 89 strikeouts and 15 walks in 82 1/3 innings. Those are great numbers. And most clubs would have been smart enough to look beyond his 5.21 ERA in the postseason, which has more to do with a leaky bullpen than his own personal failings. Still, it’s hard to fault Ryu for playing it safe and taking the guaranteed $17.9 million for one year.