Judge wins AL MVP in runaway; Goldschmidt takes NL prize

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NEW YORK — Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees won the American League MVP award, and St. Louis Cardinals slugger Paul Goldschmidt took the NL prize.

After hitting 62 home runs this season to break the AL record, Judge easily beat out Los Angeles Angels two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani in an MVP race some thought might be close.

“It’s tough to put in words,” Judge said in an interview on MLB Network, surrounded by his beaming wife, parents and agents. “It’s an incredible moment. A lot of hard work to get to this.”

The 6-foot-7 outfielder received 28 of 30 first-place votes and two seconds for 410 points from a Baseball Writers’ Association of America panel. Ohtani, last year’s winner, was picked first on two ballots and second on the other 28 for 280 points.

Yordan Alvarez of the World Series champion Houston Astros finished third.

Judge acknowledged feeling “extremely nervous” about the announcement.

“You never want to assume anything,” he said.

Goldschmidt won the NL award for the first time after a couple of close calls earlier in his career. The first baseman garnered 22 of 30 first-place votes and eight seconds for 380 points from a separate BBWAA panel.

“It’s a great honor. But it isn’t just about me,” Goldschmidt said on MLB Network. “I mean, there’s been so many people that have helped me.”

San Diego Padres third baseman Manny Machado finished second with 291 points after getting seven first-place votes and 13 seconds.

Goldschmidt’s teammate with the NL Central champion Cardinals, third baseman Nolan Arenado, came in third with 232 points. He was picked first on one ballot, second on two and third on 15.

Now a free agent, Judge broke the AL record of 61 homers set by Yankees slugger Roger Maris in 1961.

The tallest MVP in major league history, Judge also led the majors in runs (133), on-base percentage (.425), slugging percentage (.686), OPS (1.111), extra-base hits (90) and total bases (391) to help the Yankees win the AL East. He tied for the big league lead with 131 RBIs and was second in the AL with a .311 batting average.

Ohtani put together perhaps the greatest two-way season in baseball history for a third-place Angels team that finished 73-89.

The superstar from Japan went 15-9 with a 2.33 ERA and 219 strikeouts in 28 starts on the mound covering 166 innings. At the plate, he batted .273 with 34 homers, 95 RBIs and an .875 OPS.

Alvarez, the Houston slugger who launched a go-ahead homer in the clinching game of the World Series, hit .306 with 37 home runs, 97 RBIs and a 1.019 OPS.

Judge was the AL Rookie of the Year in 2017, when he finished a distant second in MVP balloting to Houston second baseman Jose Altuve.

The 35-year-old Goldschmidt batted .317 with 35 home runs, 115 RBIs and a league-leading .981 OPS this season. He had 41 doubles and scored 106 runs while compiling a .404 on-base percentage and topping the league in slugging percentage (.578).

“I think definitely as you age, you have to adapt, and that’s some of what I’ve tried to do. I’ve tried to get ahead of it,” Goldschmidt said. “You can’t just try to do the same thing you did the year before. But yeah, kind of the stigma that as you get older, you’re going to keep getting worse. I mean, nobody likes that. They don’t like being told you can’t do something, so it’s definitely motivation.”

The seven-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner was runner-up for NL MVP in 2013 and 2015, then finished third in 2017 – all with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He came in sixth last year with the Cardinals.

“I never felt like I was missing something,” Goldschmidt said. “I’ve had some great years.”

Machado batted .298 with 32 homers, 102 RBIs and an .898 OPS. He had 37 doubles and scored 100 runs to lead the Padres into the playoffs with a wild-card berth.

Arenado hit .293 with 30 homers and 103 RBIs, sparkling on defense at third base again to earn a 10th consecutive Gold Glove to begin his career. He had 42 doubles and an .891 OPS.

Powered by Goldschmidt, Arenado and a resurgent Albert Pujols, the Cardinals went 93-69 and won their second division title in the last four years. They were swept at home by the NL champion Philadelphia Phillies in the wild-card round.

Balloting was conducted before the postseason.

“Whether I won this or not, it was going to be a great year,” Goldschmidt said. “This was my best year and the most fun I had, playing with Nolan and Albert and so many guys we had. So, it was just incredible.”

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.