Lindor, Bryant, Bellinger, Seager get big-money deals

Getty Images
1 Comment

NEW YORK — Francisco Lindor, Kris Bryant, Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager were among 112 players who agreed to one-year contracts Friday, leaving just 13 to swap salary arbitration figures during a slow offseason in the aftermath of the financial carnage caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The deals came on the deadline day for eligible players and teams to exchange proposed 2021 salaries.

Lindor, the star shortstop acquired last week by the New York Mets from Cleveland, got the largest of the deals at $22.3 million. The Mets hope to sign him to a long-term contract that would prevent him from becoming a free agent at the end of the season. Lindor says he does not want to extend talks past when he starts spring training next month.

Lindor’s deal is the fourth-largest one-year contract for an arbitration-eligible player, trailing Mookie Betts ($27 million with Boston last year), Nolan Arenado ($26 million with Colorado in 2019) and Josh Donaldson ($23 million with Toronto in 2018).

Bryant agreed to $19.5 million with the Chicago Cubs. He, too, can become a free agent after the season, falling one day shy of eligibility at the end of the 2020 season. The third baseman lost a grievance last offseason that claimed the Cubs delayed his call-up as a rookie in 2015 to delay his free agency by a year.

Bellinger and Seager got big raises after helping the Los Angeles Dodgers win their first World Series title since 1988. Bellinger, an outfielder and first baseman, agreed to $16.1 million. Seager, MVP of the NL Championship Series and World Series, agreed to $13.75 million.

Other big money deals included Washington shortstop Trea Turner ($13 million), Chicago Cubs shortstop Javier Báez ($11.65 million) and New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge ($10,175,000). who is coming off his second straight injury-wrecked season.

Nationals outfielder Juan Soto, eligible for arbitration for the first time, agreed to $8 million.

Among players poised for hearings, the most prominent is Houston shortstop Carlos Correa. He asked for a raise from $8 million to $12.5 million, and the Astros offered $9.75 million.

Atlanta shortstop Dansby Swanson was the only other player asking more than $5 million: He requested $6.75 million and was offered $6 million. Braves pitcher Mike Soroka asked for $2.8 million and was offered $2.1 million.

Cubs outfielder Ian Happ asked for $4.1 million and was offered $3.25 million,

Two members of the champion Dodgers remain set for hearings. Ace pitcher Walker Buehler asked for $4.15 million and was offered $3.3 million, and catcher Austin Barnes asked for $2 million and was offered $1.5 million.

Among the AL champion Rays, first baseman Ji-Man Choi asked for $2.45 million and was offered $1.85 million, and reliever Ryan Yarbrough asked for $3.1 million and was offered $2.3 million.

Los Angeles Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani, who slumped to .190 at the plate and pitched a total of 1 2/3 innings last season while coming off Tommy John surgery, asked for $3.3 million and was offered $2.5 million.

Also exchanging were New York Mets third baseman-outfielder J.D. Davis ($2,475,000 vs. $2.1 million), Baltimore outfielder Anthony Santander (also $2,475,000 vs. $2.1 million), St. Louis right-hander Jack Flaherty ($3.9 million vs. $3 million) and San Francisco second baseman Donovan Solano ($3.9 million vs. $3.25 million).

For players who don’t settle, hearings before three-person remote panels will be scheduled for Feb. 1-19.

Waking up in a historically slow free agent market, the Yankees reached a deal with right-hander Corey Kluber worth $11 million for one year and agreed to a $90 million, six-year contract to keep AL batting champion DJ LeMahieu, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because each agreement is subject to a successful physical.

Kluber, the 2014 and 2017 AL Cy Young Award winner, won 56 games for Cleveland over the 2016-18 seasons, then missed the rest of the 2019 season after he was hit on the right forearm that May 1 by a comebacker off the bat of Miami’s Brian Anderson. Kluber finished 2-3 with a 5.80 ERA in seven starts.

Traded after the season to Texas, Kluber tore a muscle in his right shoulder in his Rangers debut on July 26, ending his season after one inning. The injury did not require surgery, and he held a workout for scouts on Wednesday.

Kluber, who turns 35 on April 10, is a three-time All-Star who is 98-58 with a 3.16 ERA in 10 seasons, the first nine with the Indians.

He joins a rotation headed by Gerrit Cole that also includes Deivi García, left-hander Jordan Montgomery and, at some point, Luis Severino when he returns from Tommy John surgery last Feb. 27. It is not clear whether the Yankees will re-sign Masahiro Tanaka, who became a free agent. In addition, Domingo Germán is expected back from a domestic violence suspension that caused him to miss last season.

LeMahieu, who turns 33 in July, became the first player to win undisputed batting titles in both leagues. He won his first AL batting crown last year at .364, the highest average for an AL champion since Minnesota’s Joe Mauer hit .365 in 2009, after winning the NL title with Colorado in 2016.

The Chicago White Sox completed a $54 million, three-year deal with former Oakland closer Liam Hendriks, a contract that includes a $1 million signing bonus and salaries of $11 million this season, $13 million in 2022 and $14 million in 2023. The White Sox hold an unusual $15 million option for 2024 with a $15 million buyout that would be paid in 10 equal installments from 2024-33.

Houston also finalized a $12.5 million, two-year deal with reliever Pedro Báez that includes a club option and could be worth $19.5 million for three seasons. Last season he was 0-0 with a 3.18 ERA and two saves in 18 appearances for the World Series champion Dodgers.

The Los Angeles Angels also announced a $1.5 million, one-year agreement with catcher Kurt Suzuki, who spent the past two seasons with Washington.

Yankees star Judge hits 61st home run, ties Maris’ AL record

aaron judge
Cole Burston/Getty Images
3 Comments

TORONTO — Aaron Judge tied Roger Maris’ American League record of 61 home runs in a season, hitting a tiebreaking, two-run drive for the New York Yankees in the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night.

The 30-year-old slugger drove a 94.5 mph belt-high sinker with a full-count from left-hander Tim Mayza over the left-field fence at Rogers Centre. The 117.4 mph drive took just 3.8 seconds to land 394 feet from the plate, and it put the Yankees ahead 5-3.

Judge watched the ball clank off the front of the stands, just below two fans who reached over a railing and tried for a catch. He pumped an arm just before reaching first and exchanged a slap with coach Travis Chapman.

The ball dropped into Toronto’s bullpen and was picked up by Blue Jays bullpen coach Matt Buschmann, who turned it over to the Yankees.

Judge’s mother and Roger Maris Jr. rose and hugged from front-row seats. He appeared to point toward them after rounding second base, then was congratulated by the entire Yankees team, who gave him hugs after he crossed the plate.

Judge moved past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league mark until Maris broke it in 1961. All three stars reached those huge numbers playing for the Yankees.

Barry Bonds holds the big league record of 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001.

Judge had gone seven games without a home run – his longest drought this season was nine in mid-August. This was the Yankees’ 155th game of the season, leaving them seven more in the regular season.

The home run came in the fourth plate appearance of the night for Judge, ending a streak of 34 plate appearances without a home run.

Judge is hitting .313 with 130 RBIs, also the top totals in the AL. He has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012.

Maris hit No. 61 for the Yankees on Oct. 1, 1961, against Boston Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stallard.

Maris’ mark has been exceeded six times, but all have been tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year, and Bonds topped him. Sammy Sosa had 66, 65 and 63 during a four-season span starting in 1998.

McGwire admitted using banned steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performing-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball started testing with penalties for PEDs in 2004, and some fans – perhaps many – until now have considered Maris the holder of the “clean” record.

Among the tallest batters in major league history, the 6-foot-7 Judge burst on the scene on Aug. 13, 2016, homering off the railing above Yankee Stadium’s center-field sports bar and into the netting above Monument Park. He followed Tyler Austin to the plate and they become the first teammates to homer in their first major league at-bats in the same game.

Judge hit 52 homers with 114 RBIs the following year and was a unanimous winner of the AL Rookie of the Year award. Injuries limited him during the following three seasons, and he rebounded to hit 39 homers with 98 RBIs in 2021.

As he approached his last season before free agent eligibility, Judge on opening day turned down the Yankees’ offer of an eight-year contract worth from $230.5 million to $234.5 million. The proposal included an average of $30.5 million annually from 2023-29, with his salary this year to be either the $17 million offered by the team in arbitration or the $21 million requested by the player.

An agreement was reached in June on a $19 million, one-year deal, and Judge heads into this offseason likely to get a contract from the Yankees or another team for $300 million or more, perhaps topping $400 million.

Judge hit six homers in April, 12 in May and 11 in June. He earned his fourth All-Star selection and entered the break with 33 homers. He had 13 homers in July and dropped to nine in August, when injuries left him less protected in the batting order and pitchers walked him 25 times.

He became just the fifth player to hold a share of the AL season record. Nap Lajoie hit 14 in the AL’s first season as a major league in 1901, and Philadelphia Athletics teammate Socks Seabold had 16 the next year, a mark that stood until Babe Ruth hit 29 in 1919. Ruth set the record four times in all, with 54 in 1920, 59 in 1921 and 60 in 1927, a mark that stood until Maris’ 61 in 1961.

Maris was at 35 in July 1961 during the first season each team’s schedule increased from 154 games to 162, and baseball Commissioner Ford Frick ruled if anyone topped Ruth in more than 154 games “there would have to be some distinctive mark in the record books to show that Babe Ruth’s record was set under a 154-game schedule.”

That “distinctive mark” became known as an “asterisk” and it remained until Sept. 4, 1991, when a committee on statistical accuracy chaired by Commissioner Fay Vincent voted unanimously to recognize Maris as the record holder.