White Sox rookie catcher Mercedes says he’s leaving baseball

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CHICAGO —  Yermin Mercedes, the surprising rookie who helped carry the Chicago White Sox with his booming bat early in the season and got sent to the minors following a prolonged slump, says he is stepping away from baseball.

Mercedes announced his decision on Instagram on Wednesday. He posted an image of the words “it’s over.”

“First of all, I want to thank God for giving me life to the fans that without them I’m nothing,” he wrote. “I walked away from baseball for a while. God bless you. It’s over.”

Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa said he had just heard about Mercedes’ decision to step away and planned to reach out to him. He said Mercedes has a “big league future.”

“You’re at Triple-A, you’ve tasted the big leagues, you can get emotional,” La Russa said. “But I don’t know more than that.”

The 28-year-old Mercedes sparked Chicago’s offense through the opening months of the season, batting .415 with five homers and 16 RBIs in 22 games in April. In May, Mercedes angered La Russa by homering on a 3-0 pitch in the ninth inning of a game the White Sox led 15-4.

“As you probably know, if you’re paying attention, several times he’s said how close we were,” La Russa said. “He knows I’m a supporter of his. So I’ll reach out to him and see what’s going on. It could be he’s just a little frustrated.”

The catcher eventually cooled off, hitting .150 (16 for 107) over his final 31 games with Chicago before being demoted to Triple-A Charlotte on July 2.

“He’s a talented guy,” La Russa said. “He earned the spot on the roster. Then, he earned all those at-bats. And he ran into what happens often to rookies. There’s so much video and tape and they start making adjustments. You have to learn how to adjust back. I know the stroke that he showed early – his head’s on the ball and he’s not getting too big – he can make those adjustments and he can hit in the big leagues.”

The White Sox said in a statement that they were aware of Mercedes’ Instagram post and that he was currently on the active roster for their Triple-A team in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“At this point in time, the White Sox have not received any official notification from Yermin concerning his future plans,” the statement said.

RHP Fairbanks, Rays agree to 3-year, $12 million contract

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Reliever Pete Fairbanks and the Tampa Bay Rays avoided arbitration when they agreed Friday to a three-year, $12 million contract that could be worth up to $24.6 million over four seasons.

The deal includes salaries of $3,666,666 this year and $3,666,667 in each of the next two seasons. The Rays have a $7 million option for 2026 with a $1 million buyout.

His 2024 and 2025 salaries could increase by $300,000 each based on games finished in the previous season: $150,000 each for 35 and 40.

Tampa Bay’s option price could increase by up to $6 million, including $4 million for appearances: $1 million each for 60 and 70 in 2025; $500,000 for 125 from 2023-25 and $1 million each for 135, 150 and 165 from 2023-25. The option price could increase by $2 million for games finished in 2025: $500,000 each for 25, 30, 35 and 40.

Fairbanks also has a $500,000 award bonus for winning the Hoffman/Rivera reliever of the year award and $200,000 for finishing second or third.

The 29-year-old right-hander is 11-10 with a 2.98 ERA and 15 saves in 111 appearances, with all but two of the outings coming out of the bullpen since being acquired by the Rays from the Texas Rangers in July 2019.

Fairbanks was 0-0 with a 1.13 ERA in 24 appearances last year after beginning the season on the 60-day injured list with a right lat strain.

Fairbanks made his 2022 debut on July 17 and tied for the team lead with eight saves despite being sidelined more than three months. In addition, he is 0-0 with a 3.60 ERA in 12 career postseason appearances, all with Tampa Bay.

He had asked for a raise from $714,400 to $1.9 million when proposed arbitration salaries were exchanged Jan. 13, and the Rays had offered for $1.5 million.

Fairbanks’ agreement was announced two days after left-hander Jeffrey Springs agreed to a $31 million, four-year contract with Tampa Bay that could be worth $65.75 million over five seasons.

Tampa Bay remains scheduled for hearings with right-handers Jason Adam and Ryan Thompson, left-hander Colin Poche, third baseman Yandy Diaz and outfielder Harold Ramirez.