That didn't take long to get the MVP of this twisted MLB season.
Those who think Joe Kelly is a hero - Twitter's trending topics called the Dodgers reliever "The star of the show" Wednesday morning - for throwing at Astros hitters, then mocking Carlos Correa, now can purchase a T-shirt to remember the night it all happened.
After nearly hitting Alex Bregman on a 3-0 fastball, Kelly drew the Astros ire with the way he covered first base on a Michael Brantley ground ball, then by throwing inside on Correa before eventually striking him out and mocking him on the way to the dugout.
According to Astros manager Dusty Baker, what really incensed the Astros was him telling Correa, "Nice swing, bitch."
The shirt, which features a drawing of Kelly making his fake pouty face, has those words emblazoned across the bottom.
In a sign that someone from MLB must be reading our posts, the displaced Toronto Blue Jays will play the majority of their home games in Buffalo, New York, this year amid the coronavirus pandemic, the team announced Friday. We had talked about them playing at Sahlen Field and the Jays were able to make it happen.
The Blue Jays will play at Sahlen Field, home of the team's Triple-A affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons.
"We are extremely grateful to have a home in Buffalo this season, thanks to the openness, creativity, and partnership of the Buffalo Bisons, Major League Baseball, and Blue Jays staff, who have worked tirelessly to prepare us for games at Sahlen Field," Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro said in a statement. "This process has no doubt tested our team's resilience, but our players and staff refuse to make excuses -- we are determined to take the field on Opening Day today, and for the coming months, with the same intensity and competitiveness that our fans expect."
Toronto begins the season at Tampa Bay on Friday. The team said the first scheduled home series, against the Washington Nationals on Wednesday and Thursday, will take place on the road to accommodate infrastructure modifications at Sahlen Field to meet Major League Baseball playing standards and COVID-19 safety requirements.
The Blue Jays' first game in Buffalo will be either on July 31 against the Philadelphia Phillies or Aug. 11 against the Miami Marlins.
Shapiro said "substantial" new construction will be required to upgrade Sahlen Field. The locker room needs to be expanded so that social distancing can be practiced. The lights need to be upgraded as well. The team will be incurring the majority if not all of the costs, Shapiro said.
The team has also reached out to the NHL's Buffalo Sabres about using some of their facilities.
The displaced Blue Jays will play in Buffalo at Sahlen Field, home of their Triple-A affiliate. APSlugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. said he expects Buffalo's park to favor pitchers because it is a larger field than the Rogers Centre in Toronto.
The Blue Jays had been looking for a major league park after the Canadian government declined to allow them to play in Toronto and the state of Pennsylvania nixed a deal for them to play in Pittsburgh because of frequent travel throughout the United States.
"I like the fact that it's going to be our home field and we know where we're going," Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. "That's the main thing. When other teams come in, we're going to be playing more games there than the other teams, so that's what I like the most, that we have a home [ballpark], and that's Buffalo, and that'll be great. Our people are going to do a great job to make it look as close to a big league stadium as we can."
A source told ESPN's Marly Rivera that Maryland offered to allow the Blue Jays to start playing at Camden Yards in September, but the team decided it did not want to wait.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan acknowledged in an interview with The Associated Press that there had been talks about the state hosting the Blue Jays, but the team didn't want to wait to see if Maryland officials would say no with its season starting Friday.
"Baltimore never got to a situation to where we were denied," Shapiro said. "At some point, continuing to explore and look at an option like Baltimore was not going to be a risk we could take. That risk of being turned down certainly existed. And so we obviously had to make a decision knowing we had a very good alternative, albeit not a major league one, but one we felt could get close to a major league one."
In a letter, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) urged MLB commissioner Rob Manfred to pick Buffalo.
"Since it is Opening Day, there is little time for continued deliberation -- now is the time to act -- and Buffalo is ready to roll out the red carpet and welcome Major League Baseball to Sahlen Field and Western New York," he wrote. "I strongly urge MLB and the Blue Jays to choose Buffalo as your home for the 2020 season."
Schumer noted the partnership between the Bisons and Blue Jays has been strong since their affiliation began in 2013.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters before the announcement that he spoke to Manfred on Friday morning.
"If we can get Toronto playing here, I say great. We have the protocols in place. It will be done safely," Cuomo said. "I'd rather it happen here. It's good for Buffalo."
Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said this week that his team had more than five contingency plans for a home stadium and was in talks with other teams. Atkins had previously said if the Blue Jays couldn't find a major league park, Buffalo would be their most likely site for home games. But it lacks major league-caliber facilities.
The team had been considering playing home games at its training facility in Dunedin, Florida, but that is among the states that are virus hot spots.
At a separate news conference at the ballpark, baseball operations president Mike Buczkowski of Rich Entertainment Group, which owns the Bisons, said the team won't know when the first game will be played until it evaluates what modifications will be needed.
"We're further challenged in doing that by COVID and by the protocols and the safety measures that have to be in place for the players," Buczkowski said.
"Some of it will take days. Some of it is going to take probably longer than that. So that's why we really can't say exactly which day would be the first game that we would host here."
Star outfielder Mookie Betts and the Los Angeles Dodgers have agreed on a 12-year, $365 million extension that keeps the former American League MVP from reaching free agency this winter, sources told ESPN on Wednesday.
Combined with the one-year, $27 million contract he's currently playing out, Betts' total comes to 13 years and $392 million. The deal tops the previous extension record of $360 million signed by Mike Trout and includes a record $65 million signing bonus.
The Dodgers announced the extension but not the terms Wednesday afternoon.
"I just love being here,'' Betts said in a videoconference call from Dodger Stadium, where he will make his Dodgers debut Thursday against San Francisco. "I love everything about here. I'm here to win some rings and bring championships back to LA. That's all I'm focused on."
The Dodgers acquired the 27-year-old Betts from the Boston Red Sox in a blockbuster trade over the winter, giving up outfielder Alex Verdugo and shortstop prospect Jeter Downs with a guarantee of only one year -- and the hope that Betts would consider re-signing before hitting the open market.
Largest MLB Contracts in Total ValueMookie Betts and the Dodgers have finalized a new 13-year deal worth $392 million. It is the second-biggest deal by total value in MLB history. A look at the others:
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Betts was expected to receive a deal worth at least $300 million, but there was speculation that the game's unclear financial future would muddy Betts' windfall.
However, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said an extension was always top of mind.
"It was something we really wanted to do ... We were hopeful that he'd get here, fall in love with it, go out there and win a bunch of games," he said.
Friedman said he began discussing a long-term deal with Betts' representatives in March, before the pandemic upended the season. They picked up discussions again last week, and a deal was reached rapidly.
"Our desire to get something done didn't change at all,'' Friedman said. "It helps when both sides are coming at it from a standpoint of wanting to get a deal done.''
Betts is considered one of the best all-around players in baseball: an elite leadoff hitter with power, speed and four Gold Gloves in right field. He capped his championship-winning 2018 season with an MVP award and followed that last season by hitting .295/.391/.524.
According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Betts has posted four straight seasons with at least 100 runs, 40 doubles and 20 home runs, which ties him with Robinson Cano and Albert Pujols for the longest such streak in the expansion era, which began in 1961.
Betts is also an elite defender, having won the AL Gold Glove for right field each of the past four seasons, and he ranks second in baseball since 2016 with 93 defensive runs saved.
The Dodgers, with a strong young core and payroll flexibility, were the ideal destination for Betts. The team has no financial commitments beyond the 2022 season, though reigning National League MVP Cody Bellinger is due to hit free agency after 2023 and frontline starter Walker Buehler following the 2024 season.
With Betts, Bellinger, Buehler, shortstop Corey Seager, second baseman Gavin Lux, catcher Will Smith and pitcher Dustin May, the Dodgers are primed to maintain their position as one of the game's elite teams. They have won seven consecutive NL West titles and lost two World Series, to the Houston Astros in 2017 and Betts' Red Sox in 2018.
In Boston, Betts went from a fifth-round pick taken as a second baseman out of a Nashville, Tennessee, high school to a star who transitioned to outfield in his third season. By then, he had ingratiated himself with teammates and fans, who grew to love the 5-foot-9, 180-pound spark plug for his majestic home runs over the Green Monster and peerless patrolling of the tricky Fenway Park outfield.
His trade drew significant criticism in Boston, where fans bemoaned the Red Sox's unwillingness to meet Betts' demands for a long-term contract and lamented the loss of the team's best homegrown player since Carl Yastrzemski. Although Verdugo and Downs are expected to play large roles in the Red Sox's retooling, Betts is on a Hall of Fame track -- and now could spend the majority of his career in Los Angeles.
When asked Wednesday whether he would have agreed to a similar deal with Boston, Betts paused and smiled, calling it "a very valid question.''
"I think I just want to stick with, 'I'm here in L.A.,''' he said.
While the Dodgers are among the teams that have been hit the worst financially by the pandemic -- they annually draw the most fans in baseball -- that didn't keep them from locking up Betts. Upon the suggestion by WEEI that a long-term deal with the Dodgers was imminent, players around the game hoped that it was a sign that free agency might not be as bleak a landscape as has been assumed.
Perhaps that will prove true, though Betts is a rare talent who is in rare company. Before the agreement, only Trout ($426.5 million), Bryce Harper ($330 million), Giancarlo Stanton ($325 million), Gerrit Cole ($324 million) and Manny Machado ($300 million) had crossed the $300 million contract threshold.
"I'm excited for him,'' said Trout, who texted his congratulations to Betts. "We kind of went through the same situation. I was laughing because of the physical he probably had to take -- because mine lasted about 10 hours. Being so close to him now, it's pretty cool to have him out here. Southern California is great.''
Even though David Price is now a member of the Dodgers, his decision to opt out of the 2020 season could have a major impact on the Red Sox’ finances this year.
As part of the February trade that sent Price and Mookie Betts to Los Angeles, the Red Sox agreed to pay Price half of his salary -- a total of $48 million -- over the final three years of his contract, taking on a $16 million per year hit against the competitive balance tax threshold through 2022. With the season shortened to just 60 games, the Red Sox were due to pay Price about $5.925 million (half of the roughly $11.85 million he is owed on a prorated basis this year) but now will likely save that amount with Price deciding to sit out the year due to concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.
If a player is considered “high-risk” for complications stemming from COVID-19, he can opt out of the season and still receive his full prorated salary and service time. If a player who opts out is not considered “high-risk” -- and Price doesn’t appear to be -- he will forfeit his entire salary for that season. Price forfeiting his salary means that the two teams paying him (the Red Sox and Dodgers) get to keep the money he would have earned in 2020.
Calculating the effect of Price’s decision on the competitive balance tax threshold is a more complicated exercise, as the unprecedented nature of the shortened season has led to a number of issues related to details baseball’s collective bargaining agreement. Any changes to the CBT system require an agreement between MLB and the MLB Players Association, and it appears the sides have not yet worked out whether or not players who opt out of the season will still count against clubs’ thresholds this summer.
For the Red Sox, the decision on that fine point could be particularly impactful. After trading Betts and Price and making some other moves in spring training, Boston’s CBT number is projected to be about $198 million -- roughly $10 million under the $208 million threshold the team desperately tried to get under this winter. If it’s determined that CBT hit for Price (and any other players who opt out throughout the league) is forgiven, then the Red Sox would be under the $208 million penalty mark by more than $25 million, giving them plenty of room to potentially add salary during the season.
Considering the safety risks relating to player movement in the middle of a global pandemic, it’s unclear if there will be an active trade market this summer. But having $26 million of room to work with instead of $10 million would mean the Sox could operate without any worry about going over the CBT threshold if they are in contention and want to augment their roster before the Aug. 31 trade deadline.
Having Price’s CBT hit come off the books would make it more likely for the Red Sox to pursue an available player like San Diego’s Wil Myers or free agent outfielder Yasiel Puig. Boston considered taking on Myers’ salary ($61 million remaining through 2022) and acquiring talented young pitching from San Diego in February and was loosely linked to Puig earlier in the week. Being comfortably under the $208 million threshold would make it much more feasible for the Red Sox to pursue one of those players or someone who becomes available over the summer.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have agreed to a deal with the Boston Red Sox that would send star outfielder Mookie Betts and starter David Price to the Dodgers, sources familiar with the deal told ESPN.
The deal is pending medical reviews.
Outfielder Alex Verdugo will be the centerpiece of the package headed back to Boston, sources said. It wasn't immediately clear what additional players were involved nor how much money, if any, Boston was sending to Los Angeles to complete the deal.
With the bidding for Betts heating up between the Dodgers and National League West rival San Diego in recent days, Boston chose to deal with Los Angeles and improve the team that lost in the division series to the Washington Nationals, the eventual World Series champions.
The 27-year-old Betts is coming off a season in which he hit .295/.391/.524 and finished eighth in American League MVP voting. He won the 2018 MVP, hitting .346/.438/.640 during the Red Sox' championship-winning season.
Throughout the winter, Boston entertained offers for Betts, whose free-agent haul following the 2020 season could exceed $400 million. Betts will make $27 million this year, and as Boston tries to dip beneath the $208 million luxury-tax threshold, clearing its books of Betts and Price will go a long way toward reaching that goal. Price has three years and $96 million remaining on his contract.
Still, dealing Betts was far from a certainty for Boston, particularly after watching him develop from a fifth-round pick in 2001 and become one of the best players in baseball. In fewer than 5½ seasons with the Red Sox, Betts piled up 42.0 Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
The Dodgers coveted him, even knowing he could leave via free agency after one season. The Dodgers' depth allowed them to stomach the potential value given away and take comfort in the knowledge that they'll add Betts to a lineup that already includes reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner, Max Muncy and top prospect Gavin Lux.
For most of the winter, the Dodgers had been quiet, watching top free agents Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg sign elsewhere. Los Angeles' lone free-agent signings this winter have been one-year deals for reliever Blake Treinen ($10 million) and starters Alex Wood ($4 million) and Jimmy Nelson ($1 million). San Diego looked to keep the Dodgers from making a big acquisition, hoping Boston would take one of its offers, which were centered around top catching prospect Luis Campusano and major-league players. Boston preferred Los Angeles, as Bloom made his first big trade with Dodgers president Andrew Friedman, with whom he worked while running the Tampa Bay Rays.
Los Angeles, which hasn't won a championship since 1988, lost in back-to-back World Series against the Houston Astros and Red Sox. The 2017 Astros, who beat Los Angeles in seven games, cheated during that season by stealing signs and warning hitters what pitchers were coming by banging on trash cans, according to a report from Major League Baseball. The 2018 Red Sox also are under investigation for using technology to steal signs.
Both the Astros and Red Sox fired their managers in the wake of the controversy, and Boston still has not named a manager with pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training on Feb. 11.
Verdugo, 23, hit .294/.342/.475 with a 2.2 WAR in 377 plate appearances for the Dodgers last season. He took over in center field when A.J. Pollock was out.
He didn't play after Aug. 4 because of a back injury that he re-aggravated while on a rehab assignment in September.
He's excellent aginst left-handed pitching. He's under team control through the 2024 season. He'll make the MLB minimum of $563,500 in 2020. He's a member of the Mexican National team.