The Houston Astros have signed All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve to a five-year, $125million contract extension, keeping one of the franchise's iconic players inked through 2030.

Altuve had been entering the final year of his previous deal.

Houston announced the deal on social media on Tuesday, declaring Altuve to be “an Astro for life.”

Only three players have ever played more games in an Astros uniform, and Altuve has been a cornerstone of Houston’s seven straight trips to the American League Championship Series, helping them win the World Series in 2017 and 2022.

“He's a franchise-type player; one of the best in Houston history,” owner Jim Crane said last November at the annual owners’ meetings. “And we hope someday he's a Hall of Famer.”

Altuve also became a lightning rod for opposing fans and media during the team’s sign-stealing scandal in recent years.

Standing just 5-foot-6, Altuve beat the odds just to be signed out of Venezuela in 2007.

Altuve, 33, has been selected as an All-Star eight times and was the AL’s Most Valuable Player in 2017, when he won his third batting title in four years.

In 1,668 career games – all with the Astros – Altuve has a .307 batting average and .834 OPS with 209 home runs and 293 stolen bases.

Some of Altuve’s most memorable moments, however, have come during Houston’s recent play-off runs.

Altuve’s 27 career post-season home runs and 89 runs scored both rank second all-time.

Altuve will be 39 when his new extension runs out, at which point he will be the first second baseman to make over $300million in career salary, according to ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez.

 

The Baltimore Orioles made a major move to upgrade their rotation Thursday, reaching a deal with the Milwaukee Brewers to acquire former Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes for a package of prospects.

The 29-year-old Burnes is one of the best pitchers in baseball and was the 2021 NL Cy Young Award winner. The right-hander struck out 234 in 167 innings that season with a league-leading 2.34 ERA.

Burnes, who is a free agent after the 2024 season, went 10-8 with a 3.39 ERA and 200 strikeouts in 193 2/3 innings last season to help the Brewers win the NL Central title.

In 2022, he topped the NL with 243 strikeouts in 202 innings while going 12-8 with a 2.94 ERA.

Heading to Milwaukee in the deal are left-hander D.L. Hall, infielder Joey Ortiz and the 34th pick in the 2024 draft.

Hall went 3-0 with a 3.26 ERA in 18 relief appearances last season and made his only major league start in 2022. Hall, 25, has spent most of his minor league career as a starter and has struck out 42 over 33 innings with 11 walks in 29 career appearances in the majors.

Ortiz, 25, made his major league debut last season and batted .212 with no home runs and four RBIs in 15 games.

A highly regarded defender, Ortiz could start in the Brewers’ infield this season, and could take over at shortstop in 2025 if incumbent Willy Adames leaves via free agency. Ortiz spent time at shortstop, second and third base for the Orioles.

Baltimore is coming off an AL East title and a 101-win season but was looking to upgrade its rotation. The Orioles now will have a payroll of around $90 million with Burnes’ $15.6 million salary added.

He joins a rotation with Kyle Bradish and Grayson Rodriguez – who had the third-best ERAs, respectively, among AL pitchers in the second half.

John P. Angelos has agreed to sell the Baltimore Orioles to private equity billionaires David Rubinstein and Mike Arougheti in a deal valuing the club at $1.725 billion, according to multiple reports.

Rubinstein is reportedly set to be the control person of the new Orioles' ownership group. He is a Baltimore native and the co-founder and chairman of the private equity firm the Carlyle Group.

Major League Baseball’s other owners will receive the official details of the sale at the annual owners' meeting next week. There reportedly isn’t a timetable for the deal to be completed.

According to one report, the deal will be structured to give the new owners 40 percent of the team, with the sale of the remaining stake to come following the death of patriarch Peter Angelos. Angelos, who purchased the Orioles in 1993 as the leader of a group that paid $40 million, he reportedly been incapacitated for years by an illness.

The Orioles are coming of the franchise’s best regular season in over four decades after winning the American League East with 101 wins before falling to the eventual champion Texas Rangers in the AL Division Series. They still boast the No. 1 prospect in baseball in Jackson Holliday and arguably the strongest farm system.

That success came despite Baltimore having the second-smallest payroll in baseball, and the team only added veteran reliever Craig Kimbrel on a one-year contract in the offseason.

The Houston Astros have agreed to a five-year, $95 million contract with five-time All-Star closer Josh Hader that will be the largest in present-day value for a relief pitcher in MLB history, multiple outlets reported Friday.

Hader's new deal will technically surpass the six-year, $102 million contract the New York Mets gave closer Edwin Diaz in November 2022, as Diaz's pact includes deferred payments that lowers its present-day value to around $93.2 million.

The bold move also gives the Astros potentially one of the game's most dominant back ends of the bullpen by teaming Hader, a three-time winner of the Trevor Hoffman Award honouring the National League's best reliever, with two-time All-Star Ryan Pressly.

Hader is coming off an outstanding 2023 season with the San Diego Padres in which the left-hander recorded 33 saves and a 1.28 earned run average while striking out 85 batters in 56 1/3 innings.

The 29-year-old has averaged 15.01 strikeouts per nine innings over the course of his seven major league seasons, the highest rate in MLB history among pitchers with at least 350 career innings pitched. Diaz ranks second at 14.81 per nine innings.

Hader also returns to an organisation he was a part of from 2013-15 as a minor leaguer, though he didn't make his major league debut until after being traded by the Astros to the Milwaukee Brewers in July 2015.

The hard-throwing lefty had a dominant six-year run in Milwaukee, making four NL All-Star teams and winning the Hoffman Award in 2018, 2019 and 2021 while helping the Brewers to four consecutive post-season appearances from 2018-21.

Milwaukee traded Hader to the Padres during the 2022 deadline in a surprising move, and he struggled with his new team over the remainder of that season before bouncing back with a strong 2023 campaign.

Hader has recorded 165 career saves along with a 20-21 record and a 2.50 ERA in 349 major league appearances, all in relief.

The signing is the first major move of the offseason for the Astros as they attempt to keep pace with the in-state and American League West rival Texas Rangers.

Houston reached the World Series four times in a six-year span from 2017-22 but was ousted by Texas in seven games in this past season's AL Championship Series, with the Rangers going on to defeat the Arizona Diamondbacks and capture the franchise's first World Series title. 

 

 

The Boston Red Sox decided to move on from oft-injured Chris Sale on Saturday, trading the veteran left-hander to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for infielder Vaughn Grissom.

The Red Sox will also send cash to the Braves to cover a portion of the $27.5 million salary Sale is owed in 2024, the final guaranteed season of a $160 million, six-year contract.

Sale is a seven-time All-Star but has battled injuries since he was acquired from the Chicago White Sox in December 2016. He made nine trips to the disabled and injured lists with the Red Sox, mostly due to shoulder and elbow ailments.

Sale helped Boston to a World Series title in 2018 but has made only 56 starts in the last four years, going 17-18 with a 4.86 ERA. He was 6-5 with a 4.30 ERA in 20 starts and 102 2/3 innings last season.

He joins a Braves rotation that projects to include Spencer Strider, Charlie Morton and Max Fried.

The 22-year-old Grissom batted .287 with five home runs and 27 RBIs over 64 games during the past two seasons for Atlanta. He made 41 starts and second base and 19 at shortstop.

The Los Angeles Dodgers landed the prize of the free-agent market Thursday night, reportedly agreeing with Japanese pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto on a record 12-year, $325 million deal.

The deal comes after Yamamoto was posted and made available to MLB teams in November. The Dodgers paid a $50.6 million posting fee to sign Yamamoto, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

Yamamoto, 25, is considered a frontline starter and leaves Japan as the most decorated pitcher in Nippon Professional Baseball history.

He made his debut with Orix Buffaloes at age 18 and went on to record a 1.82 ERA in a seven-year career.

Yamamoto won the pitching Triple Crown last season, leading the league in wins, ERA and strikeouts. He went 49-16 with a 1.44 ERA and 580 strikeouts over the last three seasons, winning Japan’s equivalent of the Cy Young each year.

He is the first player since Ichiro Suzuki to win three straight MVPs in the NPB and only the second pitcher ever to win three, after Hisashi Yamada.

His contract is the largest for a pitcher in MLB history, topping the nine-year, $324 million deal Gerrit Cole signed with the Yankees in 2019.

Yamamoto’s record deal comes after the Dodgers signed Shohei Ohtani to a 10-year, $700 million deal, but unlike that contract, Yamamoto’s reportedly does not contain any deferrals. It does have a reported $50 million signing bonus.

The Texas Rangers will be without key pitcher Max Scherzer for possibly the first half of the 2024 season after the three-time Cy Young Award winner underwent back surgery this week, the team announced Friday. 

Scherzer issued a statement revealing he had surgery Thursday to repair a herniated disk in his back that has been bothering him all offseason. The injury also forced his removal from the Rangers' roster prior to the end of the 2023 World Series, which Texas won in five games over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

"After returning to my offseason home in Florida, my discomfort in my back continued to get worse,” Scherzer said. “During this time I received the diagnosis of a herniated disk.  After several conservative treatments and consulting with multiple specialists, I made the decision to have the recommended surgery.

"Getting this procedure done now will give me the best chance to pitch as much as possible for the Rangers in 2024. I look forward to putting in the rehab work and getting back on the mound next summer."

Rangers general manager Chris Young told reporters Friday that Scherzer will likely be sidelined into June or July. 

Scherzer was forced out of his Game 3 start of the World Series after three innings with what was initially described as back tightness. The 39-year-old also missed the final few weeks of the regular season with a muscle strain in his right shoulder before returning for the American League Championship Series between Texas and the Houston Astros.

The eight-time All-Star also missed time with injuries in 2022 while then with the New York Mets, as he was limited to 23 starts and 145 1/3 innings that year. Discounting the COVID-19 shortened 2020 campaign, both totals were his fewest in a season since his rookie year in 2008.

Texas acquired Scherzer from the Mets near the trade deadline on July 30, and he posted a 4-2 record with a 3.20 ERA in eight regular-season starts before the shoulder injury. The veteran right-hander was 0-1 with a 6.52 ERA in three post-season starts.

Scherzer compiled a 13-6 record with a 3.77 ERA and 174 strikeouts in 27 overall regular-season starts between the Mets and Rangers in 2023.

The Rangers will now begin defense of the franchise's first World Series title with two former Cy Young winners on the injured list. Jacob deGrom, Scherzer's former teammate in New York, is recovering from Tommy John surgery performed last summer and is aiming for a return in August.

“We had hoped to have a healthy Max Scherzer at the beginning of the season, obviously,” Young said when asked if the injury changes the Rangers' offseason plans. "That said, we also recognised that we were going to need pitching depth. I'm not sure it changes much in terms of building out that depth. It thins us out a little bit on the front half of the season.

"Pitching will remain a focus and we'll continue to look for any way to improve our club.”

 

 

On the same day they introduced Shohei Ohtani, the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired frontline starter Tyler Glasnow from the Tampa Bay Rays, according to multiple reports.

There is an agreement in place for the Dodgers to get Glasnow and outfielder Manuel Margot from Tampa Bay for right-hander Ryan Pepiot and outfield prospect Jonny Deluca.

The teams have not confirmed the deal because it is contingent on Glasnow signing a contract extension with the Dodgers, which could happen as early as Friday, according to sources.

Glasnow, 30, was among the top pitchers available in the trade market and gives the Dodgers ace potential. He went 10-7 with a 3.53 ERA and 162 strikeouts in 21 starts last season and posted a 3.20 ERA in six seasons with Tampa Bay.

Glasnow, though, has had trouble staying healthy and his 120 innings last season were a career high. In his five years as a full-time starting pitcher, the right-hander has undergone Tommy John surgery and spent separate time on the injured list due to a forearm strain, an elbow sprain and an oblique strain.

Margot is a highly regarded defender and joins a Dodgers' outfield that already includes James Outman, Chris Taylor and Jason Heyward.

Margot batted .264 with four home runs and 38 RBIs in 99 games last season and is a career .255 hitter in 788 games.

Pepiot is the key to the deal for the Rays after he entered the 2023 season ranked No. 70 on MLB’s top-100 prospect list. The 26-year-old was expected to be part of the Dodgers’ rotation after he was called up in August and had a 2.14 ERA in 42 innings with 38 strikeouts and five walks.

Pepiot enters the season with just one year of service time, giving Tampa Bay five years of control before he reaches free agency.

Deluca, 25, broke into the majors last season and hit .262 with two homers and six RBIs in 45 plate appearances. He can play anywhere in the outfield.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have confirmed the signing of Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani on a mammoth 10-year contract.

The reigning American League MVP’s agent Nez Balelo revealed the record-breaking 700million dollar (£558m) deal on Saturday before Ohtani posted on his Instagram account about his short move from the Los Angeles Angels.

“We congratulate him on his historic contract with our storied franchise,” said Mark Walter, chairman of the Dodgers and their owners Guggenheim Baseball, in a statement confirming the move on Monday.

“Shohei is a once-in-a-generation talent and one of the most exciting professional athletes in the world.”

He continued: “Our players, staff, management and ownership look forward to working together with Shohei to help the Dodgers continue to add, improve and strive for excellence on the field.

“Together with Shohei, we will work to help grown the number and breadth of people around the world who enjoy the excitement of Major League Baseball.”

Ohtani, 29, thanked Dodgers fans for welcoming him to the team.

“I can say, 100 %, that you, the Dodger organisation and I share the same goal – to bring World Series parades to the streets of Los Angeles.”

Reports in US media say Ohtani will receive around two million dollars (£1.6m) a year throughout his contract with the balance in instalments of 68m dollars a year (£54.1m) for the following 10 years to provide the club with greater flexibility in payroll restrictions.

Former MVPs Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman have similar deferred deals with the Dodgers.

Ohtani is unusual in that he plays as a pitcher and a hitter, becoming regarded as one of the best in the game on both sides of the ball since his Angels debut in 2018.

He won his second American League MVP award in 2023, despite an elbow injury which curtailed his season and will prevent him from pitching in 2024.

Pitcher Joe Kelly, who re-signed with the Dodgers on Monday, is switching to number 99 to allow Ohtani to retain his 17 jersey.

The previous record contract in MLB was the 426.5m (£340m) the Angels paid to outfielder Mike Trout as part of a 12-year deal in 2019.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ 10-year 450m (£359m) extension, agreed in September, was the previous highest in US sports.

Shohei Ohtani has confirmed he is to join the Los Angeles Dodgers on a  record-breaking contract after ending his six-year spell with the LA Angels.

The 29-year-old Japanese free agent, whose agent said he has agreed a 700million dollar (£558m) 10-year deal which would make him the highest earner in Major League Baseball (MLB) history, ended fevered speculation over his destination in a social media post on Saturday night.

The extent of the deal was revealed in a statement from his agent Nez Balelo, which described it as a “unique, historic contract for a unique, historic player”.

While the Dodgers have not made an official statement, their website carried headlines saying it was “Sho Time” and describing the deal as a “700m stunner”. MLB posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that “Hollywood just added another star”.

Ohtani is unusual in that he plays as a pitcher and a hitter, becoming regarded as one of the best in the game on both sides of the ball since his Angels debut in 2018.

He won his second American League MVP award in 2023, despite an elbow injury which curtailed his season and will prevent him from pitching in 2024.

Ohtani wrote on his official Instagram account: “To all the fans and everyone involved in the baseball world, I apologize for taking so long to come to a decision. I have decided to choose the Dodgers as my next team.

 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Shohei Ohtani | 大谷翔平 (@shoheiohtani)

“First of all, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to everyone involved with the Angels organization and the fans who have supported me over the past six years, as well as to everyone involved with each team that was part of this negotiation process.

 

“Especially to the Angels fans who supported me through all the ups and downs, your guys’ support and cheer meant the world to me. The six years I spent with the Angels will remain etched in my heart forever.

“And to all Dodgers fans, I pledge to always do what’s best for the team and always continue to give it my all to be the best version of myself.

“Until the last day of my playing career, I want to continue to strive forward not only for the Dodgers, but for the baseball world.”

The previous record contract in MLB was the 426.5m (£340m) the Angels paid to outfielder Mike Trout as part of a 12-year deal in 2019.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ 10-year 450m (£359m) extension, agreed in September, was the previous highest in US sports.

Shohei Ohtani has confirmed he is to join the Los Angeles Dodgers on what is reportedly a record-breaking contract after ending his six-year spell with the LA Angels.

The 29-year-old Japanese free agent, who is said to have agreed a 700million US dollars (£558m) 10-year deal which would make him the highest earner in major league baseball history, ended fevered speculation over his destination in a social media post on Saturday night.

Ohtani, the reigning American League Most Valuable Player, wrote on his official Instagram account: “To all the fans and everyone involved in the baseball world, I apologize for taking so long to come to a decision. I have decided to choose the Dodgers as my next team.

 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Shohei Ohtani | 大谷翔平 (@shoheiohtani)

“First of all, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to everyone involved with the Angels organization and the fans who have supported me over the past six years, as well as to everyone involved with each team that was part of this negotiation process.

 

“Especially to the Angels fans who supported me through all the ups and downs, your guys’ support and cheer meant the world to me. The six years I spent with the Angels will remain etched in my heart forever.

“And to all Dodgers fans, I pledge to always do what’s best for the team and always continue to give it my all to be the best version of myself.

“Until the last day of my playing career, I want to continue to strive forward not only for the Dodgers, but for the baseball world.”

Free agent Shohei Ohtani is signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the two-way star announced Saturday on Instagram.

His contract will be worth $700million over 10 seasons, multiple media outlets reported.

Ohtani’s post was simply a large image of the Dodgers’ logo with a caption posted in English.

“To all the fans and everyone involved in the baseball world, I apologize for taking so long to come to a decision,” the caption began. “I have decided to choose the Dodgers as my next team.”

The announcement came a day after erroneous reports that Ohtani flew to Toronto on Friday. The private jet that was incorrectly reported to have Ohtani onboard actually belonged to “Shark Tank” star Robert Herjavec.

After spending six seasons in Anaheim with the Los Angeles Angels, Ohtani will now call Dodger Stadium home after signing the most lucrative contract in North American sports history.

Patrick Mahomes, of the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs, previously held the record with a contract totalling $450million, but parts of that deal were not guaranteed.

The first blockbuster trade of the offseason arrived Wednesday night, with the New York Yankees acquiring slugger Juan Soto from the cost-cutting San Diego Padres.

The Yankees will get Soto, a three-time All-Star, and outfielder Trent Grisham from the Padres in exchange for pitchers Michael King, Drew Thorpe, Jhony Brito and Randy Vasquez and catcher Kyle Higashioka.

Soto, widely regarded as one of the game’s best hitters, is due to be a free agent after this upcoming season and was moved because San Diego needed to slash payroll and was seeking pitching depth.

The 25-year-old Soto is expected to slot in as the Yankees’ right fielder, with Aaron Judge likely shifting to center and newly acquired Alex Verdugo manning left field. Grisham will likely serve as a fourth outfielder and defensive replacement.

New York was in desperate need of offense after finishing 82-80 last season, the franchise’s worst record since 1992. The offense ranked 25th in the majors with 4.15 runs per game, 29th in batting average (.227) and 24th in OPS (.701).

Soto provides plenty from the plate with a .421 on-base percentage, the highest among active players. He is a four-time Silver Slugger Award winner and batted .275 with 35 home runs, 109 RBIs and .a 930 Ops in his only full season with the Padres in 2023.

San Diego acquired Soto from the Washington Nationals on Aug. 2, 2022, after he turned down a $440 million, 15-year offer.

 

New York Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo remains optimistic free agent Shohei Ohtani, widely regarded as the world’s best baseball player, could be part of his team set to play in London next summer.

Generational Japanese two-way talent Ohtani was two weeks ago named American League MVP for the second time in three years and draws frequent comparisons to Babe Ruth, still probably the most recognisable baseball name in Britain and beyond despite the former Boston Red Sox and New York Yankee slugger having been dead for 75 years.

Ohtani, reportedly within days of deciding on his next destination and poised to fetch an MLB-record free-agent fee, is historically peerless in his dual-role as a starting pitcher and batter, so much so that a new MLB rule introduced in 2022 – effectively designed to address his singular abilities – is commonly referred to as ‘the Ohtani rule’.

Nimmo, whose Mets are set to play the Philadelphia Phillies at the London Stadium next June, said: “(Ohtani) really is everything that everyone says he is. He’s unbelievable. He hits the ball harder than everyone, he throws the ball harder than everyone, he runs faster than everyone.

“He really is the special talent that everyone has hyped him up to be. He’s one of those special, once-in-a-generation players.

“I know that our front office and our owner and our president were very excited about the prospect of getting him. I know we’re going to be in on (him), I just don’t know where it is going to lead to.”

In baseball, unlike cricket, players are pitchers or combine a fielding position and batting, save for the “designated hitter” (DH), a batting-only position which typically replaces pitchers in the order. But under ‘the Ohtani rule’, he can still serve as a DH even after being pulled as a pitcher.

The DH has featured since 1973 in the American League and National League in 2022, but, even before its universal adoption, no pitchers came anywhere close to Ohtani’s prowess at the plate. He has won MLB’s best DH award for three consecutive seasons.

In 2023, he hit the fourth most home runs in MLB, all while striking out 167 batters and finishing with a 3.14 earned run average.

While the Mets have been linked to Ohtani, who is rumoured to be considering deals worth between USD 500m-600m (£396,205,000-£475,446,000), the latest reports suggest they may be out of the picture, with the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, Toronto Blue Jays, Atlanta Braves and former club the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim among those considered front-runners for his services.

Whoever ultimately signs Ohtani will likely have to wait a full season until he is fit enough to pitch following surgery to his elbow in September, though he should be available to hit come opening day 2024.

Next summer’s London Series marks the third time MLB has made the trip to Britain, in an ongoing attempt to grow the global reach of a game that has variously been accused of being too American to find a footing in the UK, too similar to cricket to take off, and conversely too confusing for the uninitiated to understand.

Nimmo, however, will happily evangelise for the game’s global potential, and agrees that fact that it is a Japanese talent quickly becoming MLB’s most recognisable face – even cracking highlight reels in the United Kingdom – is important as the sport tries to conquer new territory.

He added: “One of the areas where we’ve struggled in MLB is making the players world recognised, and now Shohei has that star quality that can bridge that gap. He’s an integral piece to us growing the game worldwide.

“We need to market him. We need to get him out there. I think a great opening and a great door is to be like, check out this guy.

“He’s not from the States, he’s larger than life, he’s doing something that hasn’t been done before, since one of the great baseball legends like Babe Ruth. Those guys are mythical.”

:: New York Mets will play Philadelphia Phillies in the MLB World Tour: London Series 2024 on June 8–9 at London Stadium

The Arizona Diamondbacks acquired third baseman Eugenio Suarez from the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday in an attempt to bolster a position that lacked power during the team’s run to the World Series last season.

Arizona finished tied for 28th in Major League Baseball in 2023 with only 10 total home runs by its third baseman. Suarez, meanwhile, hit 22 homers of his own for Seattle.

“It adds a little bit of stability at that spot,” Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen said. “He’s a guy we’ve liked for a long time.”

Suarez, 32, was a 2018 All-Star for the Cincinnati Reds, who traded him to the Mariners in March 2022.

He’s hit .248 with 246 home runs and 730 RBIs in 1,313 career games for Detroit, Cincinnati and Seattle.

The Mariners acquired reliever Carlos Vargas and catcher Seby Zavala from Arizona, which lost in five games to the Texas Rangers in the World Series after going 84-78 during the regular season.

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