Trade Sends Drury to Yanks, Souza to D-backs – The New York Yankees have added another starting infield candidate, acquiring Brandon Drury in a three-team trade that also saw the Tampa Bay Rays send outfielder Steven Souza Jr. to the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Rays received second baseman prospect Nick Solak from the Yankees, and pitcher Anthony Banda and two players to be named from the Diamondbacks. Arizona also received minor league pitcher Taylor Widener from the Yankees. Drury can play either second or third base for a team that was looking at potentially starting rookies at both spots this season. Drury hit .267 with 13 homers and 63 RBIs in 135 games with Arizona in 2017. Souza hit .239 with 30 homers and 78 RBIs in 148 games last year with Tampa Bay. He adds another bat for an Arizona club looking to replace the offense of J.D. Martinez, who has agreed to a deal with the Boston Red Sox.
Red Sox Reach Deal With J.D. Martinez – The Boston Red Sox have agreed to a deal with J.D. Martinez, ending their stalemate with the free-agent slugger, a source told ESPN. Martinez agreed to a five-year contract and can opt out of the deal after two seasons. According to FanRag Sports, the deal is worth $110 million, with $50 million to be paid over the first two seasons. The Red Sox, seeking to upgrade the middle of their lineup after finishing last in the American League in home runs in 2017, emerged as a potential suitor for Martinez earlier this offseason and reportedly offered him a five-year deal worth approximately $100 million last month. But negotiations between Martinez and the Red Sox stalled, leading to speculation that the seven-year veteran could potentially return to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
MLB Imposes Rule Limiting Mound Visits To 6 – Major League Baseball imposed stricter limits on mound visits by players in an effort to speed up games, but decided against 20-second pitch clocks for 2018.
After more than a year of negotiations, the Major League Baseball Players Association refused to agree to the changes but also signed an agreement that it will not oppose the rules. The amendments to the playing rules announced Monday include a general limit of six mound visits per nine-inning game without a pitching change, whether by a manager, coach or player. To assuage players’ concerns about sign stealing, MLB will install new telephone lines from dugouts to video replay rooms. MLB said the lines will be monitored, and a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press all conversations on the lines will be recorded. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because that detail was not announced.
Padres, 1B Eric Hosmer Agree to Deal – The San Diego Padres and free-agent first baseman Eric Hosmer have agreed to an eight-year, $144 million contract, according to multiple reports. The deal, which would be the largest in Padres franchise history, was first reported Saturday night by the San Diego-Union Tribune. The contract is heavily front-loaded and includes an opt-out clause after the fifth year, according to reports. Hosmer will make $21 million annually over the first five years of the deal, according to FanRag Sports. Hosmer, 28, joins a rebuilding Padres team that includes young sluggers Wil Myers and Hunter Renfroe. The Padres also have one of baseball’s top-rated farm systems; San Diego’s minor league system was ranked No. 3 overall last month by both ESPN’s Keith Law and Baseball America.
Mets, Vargas Agree To 2-Year Deal – The New York Mets and starting pitcher Jason Vargas have reached agreement on a two-year, $16 million deal, a source confirmed to ESPN on Friday.
The deal, which is pending a physical, includes a club option for 2020, an MLB source told ESPN. A soft-tossing lefty, Vargas matched Cleveland’s Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco and the Dodgers‘ Clayton Kershaw for most wins in the majors last season with 18 for the Kansas City Royals. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2015 and made only three starts in 2016, before becoming the first Royals pitcher to win 18 games since Kevin Appier in 1993. Vargas, 35, who was an American League All-Star selection, went 2-7 with an 8.13 ERA in 11 starts from July 5 to Sept. 5. But he won four of his last five starts to finish 18-11 with a 4.16 ERA and 134 strikeouts.
Ex-Pitcher Loaiza Pleads Not Guilty in Drug Case – Former All-Star pitcher Esteban Loaiza, who earned more than $43 million over 14 seasons, denied allegations Wednesday that he is a cocaine dealer. Loaiza, who became a celebrity in his native Mexico, made his first appearance in San Diego County Superior Court in Chula Vista, California, since his arrest last week. He did not speak in court but did look at his father and other family members before his defense attorney entered his not guilty plea. Prosecutors charged Loaiza, 46, with possession and transportation for sale of more than 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of cocaine, a cocaine base or heroin, and using a false compartment to smuggle drugs. The specification of more than 10 kilograms could draw a stiffer penalty as could the allegation that the drugs were being stored at a townhome he leased that was within 1,000 feet (305 meters) of an elementary school. The baseball star would face up to 20 years and eight months in prison if convicted. Bail was originally set at $200,000, but the judge Wednesday raised it to $250,000 after deputy district attorney Ryan Karkenny argued Loaiza poses a flight risk, saying he has lived on both sides of the border and has access to “significant funds.”
Former MLB Outfielder Tito Francona Dies – Tito Francona, former MLB All-Star, died on Wednesday morning, the Indians have announced. Francona was 84 years old. The prime of Francona’s career came with the Indians. He joined the club in 1959, hitting .363/.414/.566 and finishing fifth in MVP voting. In 1960, he led the AL with 36 doubles and in 1961 made his first and only All-Star team. In 15 years, six of which came with the Indians, Francona hit .272 with a 107 OPS+, 224 doubles, 125 homers and 46 steals. Francona also had stints with the Braves, Cardinals, Athletics, Orioles, Phillies, Tigers, Brewers and White Sox. His best year outside Cleveland came in 1956, when he finished second in AL Rookie of the Year voting to future Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio.