Vaccine rule costs Royals key players for trip to Toronto

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The Kansas City Royals will be without 10 players when they visit the Toronto Blue Jays, who are under new interim manager John Schneider, for a four-game series that starts Thursday night.

Schneider was promoted from bench coach to interim manager after manager Charlie Montoyo was fired. Montoyo had been on the job since 2019.

“I truly wanted this to work with Charlie and wasn’t able to make that happen,” Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said. “I’m extremely disappointed with where we are. I think we are better than how we’ve played.”

Atkins accepted his share of the responsibility for the performance in a season in which there were high expectations. The Blue Jays won 91 games last season and missed reaching the playoffs by one game.

“This is a collective setback, and ultimately that starts with me,” Atkins said. “I’m the one who needs to be most accountable for that.”

Schneider said, “I have all of the respect in the world for Charlie Montoyo as a baseball coach, manager and as a human being. This is bittersweet. It’s something that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time, and I’m excited to be able to do this with an organization I’ve known for over 20 years.”

The Blue Jays won their first game under Schneider, 8-2 on Wednesday night, completing a two-game sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies. Teoscar Hernandez hit a pair of two-run homers and Ross Stripling allowed two runs, both unearned, in seven innings.

The Royals, who will be short the 10 players who do not meet Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine rules, also are coming off a win. They defeated the visiting Detroit Tigers 5-2 on to take three of four in the series.

Blue Jays right-hander Kevin Gausman (6-6, 2.86 ERA) is scheduled to return to the mound on Thursday. It will be his first outing since July 2, when he sustained a bruised right ankle on a comebacker. He has faced Kansas City just once in his career, taking a loss in 2017 after yielding five runs on nine hits in 3 1/3 innings.

The Royals had not announced who would be on the mound Thursday for their makeshift roster.

Outfielders Andrew Benintendi, Michael A. Taylor and Kyle Isbel, first baseman Hunter Dozier, second baseman Whit Merrifield, catchers MJ Melendez and Cam Gallagher and pitchers Brad Keller, Brady Singer and Dylan Coleman will be placed on the restricted list, according to manager Mike Matheny.

While Merrifield and Taylor are injured and were not in the lineup on Wednesday, they had not been placed on the injured list.

The Royals will fill those vacancies with minor league players, some of whom are not on the 40-man roster.

“We’re really looking forward to providing an opportunity for some of our players that we want to continue to look at and that we think are a big part of our future anyway,” said Dayton Moore, the Royals’ president of baseball operations. “And so we’re looking at this as a really important opportunity for them and us.”

With both catchers not making the trip, the Royals could use Freddy Fermin, who has appeared in 40 games for Triple-A Omaha. He could be joined by Sebastian Rivero, the catcher at Double-A Northwest Arkansas, who is on the 40-man roster. Rivero went 0-for-7 in three games for Kansas City earlier this year.


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

Jacob deGrom
USA Today

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.