Yankees’ Aaron Boone concerned about impact of Canadian COVID-19 rules

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
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TAMPA, Fla. — New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone is concerned about the roster impact stemming from rules that Major League Baseball players who aren’t vaccinated against the coronavirus won’t be allowed to travel into Canada to face the Blue Jays in Toronto.

Canada’s government requires a person must have received a second vaccine dose – or one dose of Johnson & Johnson – at least 14 days prior to entry.

“It will be interesting, to say the least how that situations unfolds,” Boone said Sunday. “I think we still have a few guys at least that aren’t vaccinated, so we’ll be monitoring that situation closely and see how that plays out. But yeah, it’s an concern.”

The Yankees make their first trip to Toronto for a three-game series that begins May 2 against their AL East rivals.

“The parties have agreed that any player who, as a result of such a governmental regulation is unable or ineligible to play in a championship season game (or games) due to his vaccination status will be ineligible for placement on the COVID-19 IL, but rather may be placed on the restricted list … without pay or the accrual of credited major league service, during such period of unavailability,” according to a letter from players’ union deputy general counsel Matt Nussbaum to MLB senior vice president Patrick Houlihan, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press last week.

The letter says the agreement covering unvaccinated players and travel to Canada expires at the end of the 2022 season.

“It’s definitely a personal decision,” Boone said. “Now, if it’s something that becomes an issue, yeah I would have conversions with guys. But ultimately it’s something that I do look at as a personal choice. I understand it’s one of those things that’s kind of polarized us unfortunately as a nation, as a world.”

With the 99-day lockout ending Thursday with a new collective bargaining agreement, spring training will be about two weeks shorter than normal.

“There’s urgency that exists with the calendar that’s going to create some pressure to want to get ready and I think that can be a really good thing,” Boone said.

Boone was not allowed to talk to players during the lockout, calling that situation awful. After a deal was reached last Thursday, Boone wasted no time in making contact.

“I kind of sat in my basement that first night and probably talked to 20, 25 guys in that first couple hours just to touch base with them, first and foremost to hear their voice and say `Hi’ and see how they’re doing,” Boone said. “It was really odd not being able to communicate.”

The Yankees’ first full-squad workout is Monday. New York’s initial spring training game is set for Friday against Pittsburgh in Bradenton.

OPEN DOOR?

Outfielder Brett Gardner is a free agent after playing with the Yankees from 2008-21.

Although unlikely, Boone would not completely close the door on the 38-year old.

“There’s so many other things going on as well right now and trying to explore different options, deals, we’ll see how it all plays out,” Boone said. “But I wouldn’t rule anything out.”

ADDED TO CAMP

The Yankees invited lefty Manny Banuelos, right-handers Jimmy Cordero, Ryan Weber, Matt Bowman, Reggie McClain and Vinny Nittoli, catchers Rodolfo Duran, Rob Brantly, Max McDowell and David Freitas, infielder Jose Peraza, outfielders Ender Inciarte, Michael Beltre and Blake Perkins to major league spring training.

Banuelos, who turned 31 Sunday, signed with the Yankees as a minor league free agent last December. He was originally signed by the Yankees as a non-drafted free agent on March 30, 2008, and spent seven years in New York’s minor league system before being traded to Atlanta.

New York signed outfielder Tim Locastro on Sunday to a one-year major league contract.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.