Lance McCullers agrees to $85M deal with Astros for 2022-26

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. and the Houston Astros have agreed to a five-year, $85 million contract covering 2022-26, a deal awaiting announcement by the team.

McCullers agreed on Jan. 15 to a $6.5 million, one-year contract that avoided salary arbitration. He would have been eligible for free agency after this year’s World Series.

His new agreement calls for a $3.5 million signing bonus, payable within 30 days of the contract’s approval by the commissioner’s office, and salaries of $15.25 million in both 2022 and 2023, and $17 million annually from 2024-26.

“Houston is where I want to be,” he said at spring training on Feb. 28. “This is my home. This is where I see myself. So I would undoubtedly want to be here well into the future. I think the real question would be do the Astros see me here? Do the Astros see me as part of their future? Because if the Astros see me as part of their future, as a big part of their future, then I would love to stay here if it makes sense for everyone.”

The 27-year-old McCullers returned in 2020 after missing a season following Tommy John surgery. He was 3-3 with a 3.93 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 11 starts last season, earning $1,518,519 prorated from a $4.1 million salary.

He is expected to be one of the leaders of Houston’s rotation in 2021 with ace Justin Verlander out all year after having Tommy John surgery. The Astros also are without Framber Valdez. who broke his left ring finger in his first spring training appearance.

McCullers is 2-0 with a 2.57 ERA over seven innings in three spring training games.

Royals fire manager Mike Matheny after 65-97 end to season

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred were fired by the Kansas Cty Royals on Wednesday night, shortly after the struggling franchise finished the season 65-97 with a listless 9-2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians.

The Royals had exercised their option on Matheny’s contract for 2023 during spring training, when the club hoped it was turning the corner from also-ran to contender again. But plagued by poor pitching, struggles from young position players and failed experiments with veterans, the Royals were largely out of playoff contention by the middle of summer.

The disappointing product led owner John Sherman last month to fire longtime front office executive Dayton Moore, the architect of back-to-back American League champions and the 2015 World Series title team. Moore was replaced by one of his longtime understudies, J.J. Picollo, who made the decision to fire Matheny hours after the season ended.

Matheny became the fifth big league manager to be fired this year.

Philadelphia’s Joe Girardi was replaced on June 3 by Rob Thomson, who engineered a miraculous turnaround to get the Phillies into the playoffs as a wild-card team. The Angels replaced Joe Maddon with Phil Nevin four days later, Toronto’s Charlie Montoyo was succeeded by John Schneider on July 13 and the Rangers’ Chris Woodward by Tony Beasley on Aug. 15.

In addition, Miami’s Don Mattingly said late last month that he will not return next season.