Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. was benched for lack of hustle during Sunday afternoon’s series finale at home against the Dodgers. With Max Fried on second base and no outs in the bottom of the third inning, Acuña hit a deep fly ball to center field off of Tony Gonsolin. Acuña thought it was a home run, so he didn’t run hard out of the batter’s box. It was not, in fact, a home run; the ball stayed in the field of play and Acuña had to settle for a long single. Fried went to third base.
Acuña was later caught stealing and the Braves didn’t end up scoring in the inning. Before the top of the fifth inning, manager Brian Snitker took Acuña out of the game for his lack of effort. Adam Duvall entered the game in left field while Rafael Ortega moved from left to center. It proved to be fortuitous as Ortega would crank out a go-ahead grand slam in the bottom of the sixth.
Acuña, 21, was 1-for-2 on the afternoon before his early exit. He entered Sunday’s action with outstanding numbers batting .295/.375/.537 with 35 home runs, 85 RBI, 104 runs scored, and 29 stolen bases in 576 plate appearances. Snitker, however, is showing that he will put his foot down regardless of one’s stature.
Bob Klapisch of The New York Times reports that free agent starter Gerrit Cole has a seven-year, $245 million contract offer on the table from the Yankees. As Klapisch also notes, the deal would set a record for total value and average annual value for a pitcher, besting Zack Greinke‘s $34.4 million AAV and David Price‘s $217 million total.
While it is possible that Cole signs before the end of the Winter Meetings on Thursday, clients of Scott Boras have tended to sign later in the offseason, so this may be a protracted process with today’s report as a jumping-off point. Both the Yankees’ and Angels’ front offices have received clearance from ownership to break the bank to sign Cole.
Cole, 29, could not have timed having a career year any better. During the regular season, he led all of baseball with 326 strikeouts and led the American League with a 2.50 ERA while also posting a 20-5 record and walking only 48 batters across 212 1/3 innings. He performed brilliantly in the playoffs as well, holding the opposition to seven runs on 21 hits and 11 walks with 47 strikeouts over 36 2/3 innings of work as the Astros narrowly missed out on winning another championship.
Cole is entering his age-29 season, so a deal of at least seven years would take him well into his mid-30’s. Teams, especially lately, have been hesitant to commit to pitchers, but as the Nationals showed with Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin, sometimes it leads to a championship.
For what it’s worth, Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports says the Yankees haven’t made a formal offer to Cole yet, though the club plans to make one this week. During this time of year, both sides — front office personnel and player agents — leak details to the press to help establish leverage. What we can generally take from this is that the Yankees are hot for Cole and he’s going to get a record-setting contract from some team, even if it’s not the Yankees.