Cubs draft son of ex-Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire

Palm Beach Post Staff Photo by Lannis Waters / USA TODAY NETWORK
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LOS ANGELES — The McGwire family is set to see the other side of things in one of baseball’s best rivalries.

Mason McGwire, son of 12-time All-Star slugger Mark, was selected in the eighth round of baseball’s amateur draft by the Chicago Cubs on Monday.

Mark spent five of his 16 major league seasons with the rival St. Louis Cardinals, including the memorable 1998 season when he and Cubs star Sammy Sosa raced to break Roger Maris’ single-season home run mark. McGwire ended up with 70 and Sosa with 66 before both of their reputations were tarnished amid steroid revelations.

Mason is a right-handed pitcher out of Capistrano Valley High School in California. The 18-year-old – born several years after Mark’s playing days ended – is committed to the University of Oklahoma, where his 19-year-old brother Max is an infielder. There’s no indication yet if Mason plans to turn pro, but teams seldom use picks in the top 10 rounds on players who they think are unsingable.

Mark was also drafted in the eighth round out of high school in 1981 by the Montreal Expos as a first baseman and right-handed pitcher. He opted to attend college at Southern California, where he led college baseball in home runs in 1984 before being chosen 10th overall by Oakland.

Mason is one of several sons of big leaguers taken in this year’s draft, including the top two picks – Jackson Holliday, son of Matt, went first overall to Baltimore while Druw Jones, son of Andruw, went second to Arizona. Justin Crawford, whose dad was All-Star Carl Crawford, was selected 17th overall by the Philadelphia Phillies.

Here are some other players of note selected during the draft’s second day, when rounds 3-10 were held:

– RHP Nolan McLean, Baltimore: The Orioles hadn’t picked a pitcher before the fifth round since Mike Elias became general manager after the 2018 season, but they bucked that trend by taking McLean to begin the third round. And even then, they picked a guy with a promising bat. McLean was a two-way player at Oklahoma State, hitting 13 home runs while reaching 98 mph on the mound. The O’s announced him only as a right-handed pitcher, so it seems his two-way days might be done.

– RHP Brock Porter, Texas: A day after making the most stunning pick of the first round by taking right-hander Kumar Rocker third overall, the Rangers made another splash in the fourth round with Porter, a high school pitcher from Michigan who ranked 11th overall on MLB.com’s pre-draft rankings. Rocker, who failed to sign with the Mets as a first-rounder last year because of red flags in his physical, is expected to sign a deal for less than the bonus slot accompanying the No. 3 pick. Those savings will likely be spent on Porter, who can throw 100 mph and earned Gatorade’s National Player of the Year with a 0.41 ERA.

– RHP Dylan DeLucia, Cleveland: DeLucia was named the College World Series Most Outstanding Player after pitching a four-hit shutout for Mississippi against Arkansas that sent the Rebels to the finals. Ole Miss went on to win its first championship, and now DeLucia is headed to a pro organization known for its ability to develop pitchers.

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.