The Cubs announced on Thursday that reliever Pedro Strop‘s 2019 club option worth $6.25 million has been exercised. Strop will be eligible for free agency after next season.
Strop, 33, has been one of the biggest contributors out of the Cubs’ bullpen over the last five and a half seasons. In 331 1/3 career innings with the Cubs, the right-hander owns a 2.63 ERA with 376 strikeouts and 127 walks. Last season was one of his best, as he finished with a 2.26 ERA, 13 saves, and a 57/21 K/BB ratio in 59 2/3 innings.
Brandon Morrow will reprise his role as the Cubs’ closer, but Strop will be first in line for saves in the event Morrow lands on the DL again.
Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports that Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax will be honored with a statue at Dodger Stadium, expected to be unveiled in 2020. Dodger Stadium will be undergoing major renovations, expected to cost around $100 million, after the season. Koufax’s statue will go in a new entertainment plaza beyond center field. The current statue of Jackie Robinson will be moved into the same area.
Koufax, 83, had a relatively brief career, pitching parts of 12 seasons in the majors, but they were incredible. He was a seven-time All-Star who won the National League Cy Young Award three times (1963, ’65-66) and the NL Most Valuable Player Award once (’63). He contributed greatly to the ’63 and ’65 championship teams and authored four no-hitters, including a perfect game in ’65.
Koufax was also influential in other ways. As Shaikin notes, Koufax refused to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series to observe Yom Kippur. It was an act that would attract national attention and turn Koufax into an American Jewish icon.
Ahead of the 1966 season, Koufax and Don Drysdale banded together to negotiate against the Dodgers, who were trying to pit the pitchers against each other. They sat out spring training, deciding to use their newfound free time to sign on to the movie Warning Shot. Several weeks later, the Dodgers relented, agreeing to pay Koufax $125,000 and Drysdale $110,000, which was then a lot of money for a baseball player. It would be just a few years later that Curt Flood would challenge the reserve clause. Koufax, Drysdale, and Flood helped the MLB Players Association, founded in 1966, gain traction under the leadership of Marvin Miller.