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Philadelphia Phillies reach agreements with five players, not Aaron Nola



PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Phillies have avoided arbitration with five players, including second baseman Cesar Hernandez and third baseman Maikel Franco.

All-Star right-hander Aaron Nola didn’t reach an agreement with the team. The Phillies offered $4.5 million, and Nola is seeking $6.75 million. He finished third in National League Cy Young Award voting last year after going 17-6 with a 2.37 ERA. The 25-year-old earned $573,000 in 2018.

Hernandez gets $7.75 million under Friday’s deal, up from $5.1 million. Franco gets $5.2 million, an increase from $2.95 million.

Hernandez had career highs in homers (15) and RBIs (60) last year but his average dropped from .294 in 2016 and 2017 to a career-low .253.

Franco had a team-high .270 average with 22 homers and 68 RBIs last year.

Right-hander Vince Velasquez, outfielder Aaron Altherr, and left-handers Adam Morgan and Jose Alvarez also agreed to deals on Friday. Former closer Hector Neris and righty Jerad Eickhoff agreed to deals Thursday.

Velasquez gets $2,249,000. He was 9-12 with a 4.85 ERA in 30 starts last year. He had 161 strikeouts in 146 2/3 innings. The 26-year-old earned $559,000 in 2018.

Altherr gets $1.35 million. He batted .181 with eight homers and 38 RBIs last year after hitting 272 with 19 homers and 65 RBIs in 2017. Altherr, who turns 28 Monday, made $565,000 in 2018.

Morgan gets $1.1 million. He led the team with 67 appearances, going 0-2 with a 3.83 ERA and one save. The 28-year-old made $559,000 in 2018.

Alvarez gets $1.925 million. He was 6-4 with a 2.71 ERA in 76 relief appearances for the Angels last year. The 29-year-old made $1.05 million in 2018 and was acquired in a trade last month.

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Colorado Rockies, Nolan Arenado likely to reach post-deadline settlement



The Colorado Rockies and third baseman Nolan Arenado did not reach a settlement on a one-year deal for the 2019 season on Friday, but league sources told ESPN there is a strong sense that the two sides will reach an agreement before an arbitration hearing.

Arenado, a four-time All-Star selection who is seen as the gem of the 2019-20 free-agent class, requested $30 million. The Rockies, meanwhile, offered $24 million. Sources told ESPN that it’s likely that they will settle in the $27 million range.

Wherever he does settle, it’ll be a single-season arbitration record, breaking the mark of $23 million set by Josh Donaldson with the Toronto Blue Jays last year.

Arenado, a slick-fielding, slugging 27-year-old, is coming off a season in which he hit .297 an led the National League with 38 home runs and was second with 110 RBIs and a .935 OPS.

Meanwhile, his teammate with the Rockies, shortstop Trevor Story, was one of the many players to reach a post-deadline settlement. After originally appearing like he was headed to an arbitration hearing, Story, who made $555,000 last season, settled on a $5 million salary for 2019.

The 26-year-old Story hit .291 with 37 home runs, 108 RBIs and 27 stolen bases for the Rockies last season.

Philadelphia Phillies ace Aaron Nola, New York Yankees pitcher Luis Severino and Houston Astros teammates Gerrit Cole and Carlos Correa were among those who did not reach settlements on one-year deals for the 2019 season and are expected to head to arbitration hearings to determine their salaries, league sources told ESPN on Friday.

Nola (17-6, 2.37 ERA, 224 strikeouts) and Severino (19-8, 3.39 ERA, 220 strikeouts) are both first-time-eligible starting pitchers, a market that has been notoriously difficult for players.

While first-time-eligible closers regularly exceed $6 million salaries, the only starting pitcher to do so was Dallas Keuchel coming off his Cy Young season with the Houston Astros in 2015.

Also not reaching deals Friday are Trevor Bauer, T.J. McFarland, Kyle Barraclough, Ryan Tepera, Tommy Pham, Alex Wood, Michael Fulmer, Chris Devenski and Michael Taylor.

The non-settlements capped a wild morning in which more than 100 eligible players negotiated their contracts.

There were, however, some record settlements reached Friday.

• American League MVP Mookie Betts set a new standard for players with four or more years of service by settling with the Boston Red Sox for $20 million — a raise of $9.5 million over 2017, when he beat the Red Sox in an arbitration hearing.

• National League Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom more than doubled his salary with the New York Mets, jumping from $7.4 million to $17 million to set a record for the highest raise in arbitration, which had been set just hours earlier by Betts.

Khris Davis, who led the majors with 48 home runs and was second with 123 RBIs last season, settled with the Oakland Athletics for $16.5 million — a raise of $6 million.

Nearly 200 players are in the arbitration system, which covers every player who has spent three, four or five full seasons in the major leagues and a small percentage of those with the most service days in the class of two-year players. Once a player reaches six full seasons of service time, he can become a free agent the following winter.

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Leonys Martin of Cleveland Indians feels blessed to be alive after health scare



CLEVELAND — Leonys Martin feels blessed to be alive after recovering from a life-threatening bacterial infection last summer.

The Cleveland Indians outfielder spoke to the media Friday for the first time since the health scare. He thanked the doctors and staff at Cleveland Clinic, where he spent nearly two weeks after being rushed to the hospital following an Aug. 7 game.

“They saved my life,” he said.

The 30-year-old Martin said various thoughts have passed through his mind over the past several months.

“The most important thing is I’m able to see my family, my kids and play baseball again,” he said.

Martin said he might have blacked out and can’t recall details of what happened the night he became ill after returning home from a game at Progressive Field.

“I still have no idea,” he said. “The only thing I remember is feeling pain. I don’t know where. I don’t remember anything else.”

Martin isn’t sure how got to the hospital and said he didn’t fully understand what happened until he talked to the doctors after he got out of intensive care a couple of days later.

Doctors determined that a bacterial infection had entered his bloodstream and released toxins that damaged his internal organs and compromised their functions. Martin said doctors have been unable to pinpoint what caused the infection.

Martin’s family came to Cleveland and spent time with him. His teammates printed the Cuban-born player’s initials and number (“LM13”) on their hats the rest of the season.

“That was really emotional for me to watch the game and see the support from my teammates and the fans,” he said. “I’ll never forget that.”

Martin was given clearance to resume baseball activities in November. He has no restrictions on strength and conditioning as spring training begins next month.

“It’s been a long recovery,” he said. “The doctors, we’ve been through everything like baby steps, taking it slow. I’m in good shape right now. I feel 100 percent.”

Martin was acquired from Detroit for minor league infielder Willi Castro on July 31 to give the Indians help in their outfield, but he appeared in only six games, going 5 for 15.

Martin is the Indians’ most experienced outfielder with camp about to begin. All-Star Michael Brantley signed with Houston and it’s unclear what the opening day outfield will look like in Minnesota on March 28.

Martin realizes it will be an emotional experience when he gets back on the field and isn’t sure how he’ll react.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I will do my best to be under control. I’m going to enjoy every time I’m in a Cleveland Indians uniform.”

Game notes
The Indians claimed RHP A.J. Cole from the New York Yankees. The 27-year-old Cole began last season in the Washington rotation, was hit hard in his first start and sent to the Yankees in late April for cash. He finished 4-2 with a 6.14 ERA last year, including 3-1 with a 4.26 ERA in 28 relief appearances for New York.

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MLB — Does DJ LeMahieu take Yankees out of Manny Machado mix



Just like that, we have Brian Dozier to the Nationals, Jed Lowrie to the Mets and DJ LeMahieu to the Yankees, the free-agent second basemen suddenly dropping like fruit flies.

The second-base market was always going to be intriguing given the depth of free agents available at the position, and it was made even more interesting when the Mets traded for Robinson Cano and the A’s traded for Jurickson Profar. The Twins jumped on Jonathan Schoop on a one-year deal, the Padres scooped up Ian Kinsler and the Rockies signed Daniel Murphy to a two-year contract to play first base.

That left Dozier, Lowrie and LeMahieu as the remaining targets. Let’s look at their deals …

DJ LeMahieu to Yankees for two years, $24 million

2018 numbers: .276/.321/.428, 15 HR, 3.0 WAR

The big question: Does this take the Yankees out of the running for Manny Machado? We’ll get there in a moment.

First of all, LeMahieu is an interesting player. He was once one of the most extreme opposite-field hitters in the majors — while also hitting a lot of ground balls, basically your anti-launch angle hitter. He’s changed his game somewhat the past couple of years and hit a career-high 15 home runs in 2018 as he pulled the ball more often and hit more fly balls:

After hitting .348 to win the batting title in 2016, however, he hit .310 in 2017 and .276 in 2018. A .276 average in Colorado isn’t impressive. That .348 season looks like a stone-cold fluke anyway. Check out his park-adjusted wRC+ (weighted runs created) figures:

2015: 91
2016: 130
2017: 94
2018: 86

We have a below-average hitter with one big season. He’s still been a solid player, however, thanks to his defense (he won Gold Gloves in 2014, 2017 and 2018). I wonder how his game will translate to Yankee Stadium. He still hits the ball a lot to right field, which could result in some cheap home runs, but it could also lead to a lot fewer hits, since the outfield area is much smaller than at Coors, meaning there’s less room for his line drives to drop in. He also could continue hitting the ball in the air more and hit more home runs — he’s 6-foot-4, so there could be some hidden power to unlock.

Anyway, the Yankees now have LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar and Troy Tulowitzki in the infield, with Didi Gregorius returning from Tommy John surgery sometime in the summer. Everybody seems to be flipping out about what this means for Tulo. After all, just a week ago, Brian Cashman said the team was committed to Tulo at shortstop until Gregorius returns.

OK, but that means Tulowitzki has to both stay healthy and produce. He didn’t play at all in 2018 and wasn’t good in 2017, so it’s been three years since he’s done both. And if Tulo is healthy? Fine, there is a lot of Dodgers-like flexibility here. He’ll need days off even if he’s playing well, so Torres can play some shortstop along with second base. LeMahieu moves to third base or even plays some first base. Andujar, who by the metrics rated as one of the worst fielders in the game last year, still plays a little third or maybe moves to first and DHs (with Giancarlo Stanton playing more outfield).

Does this mean no room for Machado? It certainly seems to suggest going to New York is less likely, but I wouldn’t completely rule out that possibility. Money isn’t an issue — if the Steinbrenners don’t want it to be an issue — and the Yankees could roll out this lineup:

CF Aaron Hicks
RF Aaron Judge
3B Manny Machado
LF Giancarlo Stanton
SS Gleyber Torres
DH Miguel Andujar
C Gary Sanchez
1B Luke Voit/Greg Bird
2B DJ LeMahieu

That leaves Tulowitzki and Brett Gardner on the bench, and you would have to move things around when Gregorius returns, but too many parts is OK, especially when factoring in injuries. If this still feels too crowded, maybe Andujar becomes a first baseman or trade bait.

And if that lineup feels too right-handed? How about Bryce Harper coming to the Bronx instead of Machado?

Jed Lowrie to Mets for two years, $20 million

2018 numbers: .267/.353/.448, 23 HR, 4.8 WAR

The Mets sign a good player and the consensus reaction on Twitter was “The Mets have too many infielders!” If Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth returned from their graves in prime condition and signed with the Mets, I think Twitter would find a way to complain.

Yes, Lowrie is a former client of new Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen, but he’s also a very good player, coming off his best season at age 34, and $10 million per season will be a bargain even if he’s a 2.8-WAR player instead of 4.8. He’s a switch-hitter and provides defensive versatility. He’s primarily played second base in recent seasons, but played shortstop earlier in his career and can handle third as well. As with the Yankees, it’s all about positional flexibility.

As far as having too many infielders, here’s a reminder that the Mets gave infield starts last season to Jose Bautista, Luis Guillorme, Philip Evans, Jack Reinheimer, Ty Kelly and the ghosts of Jose Reyes and Adrian Gonzalez. There’s room for depth additions. As an example, here’s how the games could line up, keeping in mind that Lowrie also could play second or Cano could play first base:

Cano: 145 games started at 2B
Amed Rosario: 140 GS at SS
Lowrie: 110 GS at 3B, 20 GS at SS
Todd Frazier: 80 GS at 1B, 25 GS at 3B
Peter Alonso: 90 games at 1B/DH
Jeff McNeil: 27 GS at 3B, 17 GS at 2B, 2 GS at SS, 40 GS at OF

Given their ages, Cano and Lowrie would benefit from a few extra days off. McNeil hasn’t played much outfield (just 65 innings in the minors), but the Mets say they’ll try him out there. If he can handle a corner, he could platoon with Brandon Nimmo (.946 OPS against RHP, .742 against LHP), or Nimmo or Michael Conforto could slide over to center 10 to 15 times a season. Again, there’s lots of flexibility and that’s before factoring in injuries.

(Yes, I’m ignoring Dominic Smith. If you’re a member of the Dom Smith fan club, I apologize.)

Brian Dozier to Nationals for one year, $9 million

2018 numbers: .215/.305/.391, 21 HR, 1.0 WAR

From 2015 to 2017, Dozier ranked fourth among MLB second basemen in WAR, averaging 35 home runs per season with his pull-happy approach. He fell off last season with the Twins and Dodgers, hitting .215 with 21 home runs. We could attribute that to age — he was 31 — but late in the season he revealed he had played through knee soreness since April, after suffering a bone bruise. This feels like a terrific buy-low opportunity for the Nationals. At one year, they have nothing to lose and if Dozier has a big season he can re-enter the free-agent market as a more a desirable player.

His FanGraphs projection is still a pretty conservative .242/.328/.433 with 22 home runs. I think he’ll do better. Even without Harper, the Nats should have an imposing lineup:

SS Trea Turner
RF Adam Eaton
3B Anthony Rendon
LF Juan Soto
2B Dozier
1B Ryan Zimmerman / Matt Adams
C Yan Gomes / Kurt Suzuki
CF Victor Robles / Michael Taylor

And if Harper ends up back in D.C.? Eaton becomes trade bait for prospects or bullpen help.

What’s next?

The second-base market still includes Asdrubal Cabrera, who can still hit but probably profiles as more of a backup these days due to his lack of range, and Josh Harrison, who isn’t really a first-division starter anymore. The Giants are also looking to deal Joe Panik. The one contending team with a hole at second is the Brewers, who have Hernan Perez, Cory Spangenberg and Tyler Saladino as options. FanGraphs currently rates the Brewers 29th in projected WAR at second base.

Their top prospect is second baseman Keston Hiura, however, and he could be ready by midseason. They also could bring back Mike Moustakas and play Travis Shaw at second, but they probably don’t want to block Hiura, and the Yasmani Grandal signing already has pushed their payroll higher than ever.

The Dodgers don’t necessarily have a hole at second base — if they’re committed to Alex Verdugo in the outfield, Chris Taylor lines up at second. They also could still sign Harper or A.J. Pollock, and that also could place Taylor at second. If Taylor is needed in the outfield, they weren’t afraid to slide Max Muncy over to second. Still, they appear to have an open roster spot. I could see Cabrera landing in L.A.

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