Seattle’s Rodríguez, Atlanta’s Harris voted top rookies

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK – Seattle’s Julio Rodriguez and Atlanta’s Michael Harris II had a lot in common – perhaps too much.

The 21-year-old center fielders were runaway winners in Rookie of the Year voting on Monday after seasons of power and speed that led to lucrative long-term contracts but ultimately concluded with early postseason eliminations.

They both made jumps from Double-A straight to the majors.

“I feel like the whole season was unrealistic,” Harris said. “I was just going day to day and I guess living the dream. But now that the season’s over, I guess I can actually look back and think about how crazy of a year it was and how fast it went.”

Rodriguez hit .284 with 28 homers, 75 RBIs and 25 stolen bases in helping the Mariners reach the postseason for the first time since 2001. He won the American League honor by receiving 29 of 30 first-place votes and one second for 148 points from a Baseball Writers’ Association of America panel.

“I went through some shaky times at the beginning of the year, but I was able to stick to myself, trust myself,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez made the Mariners’ opening-day roster and hit .205 in April, then rebounded to earn a spot in the All-Star Home Run Derby, where he hit 81 long balls and lost to Juan Soto in the final.

“All the doubts I had throughout the year,” Rodriguez said, “I know it’s going to serve me well along my career.”

Harris batted .297 with 19 homers, 64 RBIs and 20 steals after making his debut on May 28. He was voted the National League award, getting 22 firsts and eight seconds for 134 points from a different BBWAA panel.

“He definitely had a great season. We definitely had similar numbers, too,” Rodriguez said. “He’s an exciting player, young talent. And he’s not afraid. I love his game.”

Rodriguez and Harris both had their first big league multihomer games each other on Sept. 11, with Rodriguez hitting a tying drive in the ninth in a game Seattle won when Eugenio Suarez went deep off Kenley Jansen later in the inning.

“That was a series I won’t forget,” Harris said. “I look forward to playing against him many times in the future.”

Seattle advanced past Toronto in the new wild-card round, then was s wept by eventual champion Houston in the Division Series. Defending champion Atlanta lost a four-game Division Series to Philadelphia.

Baltimore catcher Adley Rutschman was second in the AL with 68 points, getting the other first-place vote, 18 seconds and nine thirds.

Cleveland left fielder Steven Kwan was third with 10 seconds and 14 thirds for 44 points. Kansas City infielder Bobby Witt Jr. had seven points, and Houston shortstop Jeremy Pena finished fifth with two points.

Voting was conducted before the postseason; Pena was voted MVP of the AL Championship Series and World Series.

Atlanta pitcher Spencer Strider was second with the other eight first-place votes on the NL side and 21 seconds for 103 points. Cardinals utilityman Brendan Donovan was third with 22 third-place votes and 22 points.

Rodriguez, the only rookie at this year’s All-Star Game, became the fifth Seattle player to win the honor after first baseman Alvin Davis in 1984, right-handed reliever Kazuhiro Sasaki in 2000, right fielder Ichiro Suzuki in 2001 (when he also was voted MVP) and center fielder Kyle Lewis in 2020.

Harris, who hadn’t played above High-A before this year, is the ninth Braves player to win the award, joining shortstop Alvin Dark in 1948 and outfielder Sam Jethroe in 1950 during the Boston Braves era and then catcher/infielder Earl Williams in 1971, third baseman Bob Horner in 1978, outfielder/first baseman David Justice in 1990, shortstop Rafael Furcal in 2000, reliever Craig Kimbrel in 2011 and outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. in 2018.

Teammates finished 1-2 in the NL voting for the fourth time and first since Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman was second to Kimbrel.

Rodriguez is excited about a planned offseason parade in his hometown in the Dominican Republic. He became the fourth Dominican-born player to win the AL honor after Alfredo Griffin shared with John Castino in 1979, and Angel Berroa won in 2003 and Neftali Feliz in 2010.

Rodriguez and the Mariners agreed in August to a $209.3 million, 12-year contract starting next season that would be worth $469.6 million over 17 years if he wins two MVP awards.

Harris and Braves reached a $72 million, eight-year deal starting in 2023 that could be worth $102 million over 10 seasons.

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.