Report: Cardinals are open to re-signing Juan Nicasio

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Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals have already begun talks with right-handed reliever Juan Nicasio about a multi-year extension, though no deal is expected to come to fruition until the offseason. The 31-year-old righty was traded to the Cardinals for Phillies’ reliever Eliezer Alvarez in September and stands to earn $3.65 million in 2017 before becoming a free agent this fall.

There’s interest on both sides, Goold adds, which seems obvious given the right-hander’s career-best numbers this year. He made nine appearances for the club over the last month of the season, recording four saves and maintaining a 1.64 ERA, 1.6 BB/9 and 9.0 SO/9 over 11 innings. In back-to-back-to-back stints with the Pirates, Phillies and Cardinals, Nicasio incurred a cumulative 1.4 fWAR — just a smidgen under his career-best 1.8 mark from 2013.

The only potential hitch in a long-term deal is the matter of Nicasio’s role with the team. He converted to a full-time bullpen role earlier in the year and is looking for consistent closing opportunities, whether those come in St. Louis or elsewhere in the league. That’s not something the Cardinals can guarantee, Goold points out, but they may give him more leeway in the bullpen than another major league suitor would be inclined to do.

Of course, it’s not all about the saves. The Cardinals are two seasons removed from their last playoff run and made a concerted effort to go for the division title again this year. It’s not inconceivable that they would be in a position to offer Nicasio a ticket to the playoffs in the near future. “I would definitely like to come back,” Nicasio told reporters on Saturday. “This is a winning franchise and a team that has had a lot of success, and I would like to come back for another year or however long they’d like to extend me and hopefully win a championship.”

Shohei Ohtani agrees to $30 million deal for 2023 with Angels

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Shohei Ohtani agreed to a $30 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels for the 2023 season in the two-way superstar’s final year of arbitration eligibility before free agency.

The Angels announced the deal, avoiding a potentially complicated arbitration case with the 2021 AL MVP.

Ohtani’s deal is fully guaranteed, with no other provisions. The contract is the largest ever given to an arbitration-eligible player, surpassing the $27 million given to Mookie Betts by the Boston Red Sox in January 2020, a month before he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Ohtani is having another incredible season at the plate and on the mound for the Angels, regularly accomplishing feats that haven’t occurred in the major leagues since Babe Ruth’s heyday. He is a strong contender for the AL MVP award again alongside the Yankees’ Aaron Judge, who has tied the AL home run record and is closing in on the batting Triple Crown.

Ohtani is batting .276 with 34 homers, 94 RBIs and a .888 OPS as the Halos’ designated hitter. He is 15-8 with a 2.35 ERA and 213 strikeouts as their ace on the mound, and opponents are batting only .207 against him.

The 28-year-old Ohtani still will be a free agent after the 2023 season, and his future could be tied to the immediate fortunes of the Angels, who will complete their seventh consecutive losing season next week. The Angels didn’t trade Ohtani at the deadline despite being out of the playoff race again, and Ohtani is wildly popular among the club’s fans.

Ohtani repeatedly has said winning will be an important factor in choosing his home beyond 2023, and Angels owner Arte Moreno is currently exploring a sale of the team.

Moreno’s leadership has been widely criticized during the Angels’ mostly miserable run of play since 2009, and a fresh start with deep-pocketed new owners could be the best chance to persuade Ohtani to stay with the franchise he joined in 2018 from Japan. Ohtani immediately won the AL Rookie of the Year award, and he rounded into unique form last season after recovering fully from Tommy John surgery.