Austin Barnes, Dodgers agree to 2-year, $4.3M deal to avoid arbitration hearing

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LOS ANGELES — Catcher Austin Barnes and the World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers avoided a salary arbitration hearing when they agreed to a two-year, $4.3 million contract.

The 31-year-old Barnes hit .244 with one homer and nine RBIs in 86 bats over 29 games during the pandemic-shortened season.

Barnes gets a $300,000 signing bonus payable on March 1 and salaries of $1.5 million this year and $2.5 million in 2022. His 2022 salary can escalate by up to $200,000 for games played this year: $100,000 each for 70 and 80.

He can earn $200,000 in performance bonuses in 2022: $100,000 apiece for 70 and 80 games.

Barnes was behind the plate for Clayton Kershaw‘s postseason starts and for Walker Bueher’s Game 3 World Series start, hitting .325 in the postseason with one homer and three RBIs. His solo homer off Tampa Bay’s John Curtiss in the sixth inning of Game 3 extended the Dodgers’ lead to 6-1.

Barnes earned $407,407 in prorated pay from a $1.1 million salary last year. He is eligible for free agency after the 2022 season.

Barnes had been scheduled for arbitration and was the last Dodgers player scheduled for a hearing. Buehler agreed to an $8 million, two-year deal last week.

Three players remain scheduled for hearings this week: Chicago Cubs outfielder Ian Happ, San Francisco second baseman Donovan Solano and Atlanta shortstop Dansby Swanson.

All cases are being argued over Zoom this year rather than in person because of the pandemic.

Blue Jays clinch playoff berth with Orioles’ loss to Red Sox

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TORONTO — The Blue Jays clinched a postseason berth Thursday without taking the field.

Toronto was assured of an AL wild card berth when the Boston Red Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-3.

If Toronto holds its current position as the first of the AL’s three wild cards, the Blue Jays would open a best-of-three wild-card series at Rogers Centre next week.

“These guys are excited to be in this position,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said after Wednesday’s 8-3 loss to the New York Yankees. “You’ve got three really good pitchers lined up against a good Boston team, playing at home. So I think it’s more excitement more than it’s nerves or anything. I think the guys are going to come out and be ready to roll on Friday night.”

Toronto became the fourth AL team to clinch a playoff berth, joining division champions Houston, the Yankees and Cleveland. The Astros and Yankees have first-round byes.

The Blue Jays last went to the playoffs in 2020, when they were knocked out with two straight losses to Tampa Bay.

Eight of the 12 berths in the expanded postseason have been clinched: The Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis earned division titles, and Atlanta and the New York Mets are assured no worse the wild cards while still competing to win the NL East. The Dodgers have a first-round bye.