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#pounditWednesday, December 1, 2021

Baseball

Byron Buxton agrees to huge contract extension with Twins

Byron Buxton

The Minnesota Twins have settled the long-term future of Byron Buxton, and he’ll be sticking with the organization for quite some time.

According to multiple reports, Buxton and the Twins have agreed on a long-term contract extension that will keep the center fielder in Minnesota. Buxton’s deal is worth $100 million over seven years and includes a full no-trade clause, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

Talent has never been the question with Buxton. Still just 27, the center fielder is known for his speed, flashy defense, and ability to hit for power. The big issue is health, as he has only played 100 games in a season just once. That made it very hard to figure out his value, and that made extension talks more difficult than usual.

Part of what makes Buxton so injury-prone is his all-out style of play. Perhaps the Twins will try to get him to tone that down now that he’s signed long-term, but it is one of the things that makes him so good.

Braves playoff hero Tyler Matzek hits Dodgers fan with brutal burn

Tyler Matzek celebrating

One Los Angeles Dodgers fan may need to seek medical attention for the burn that he got from Tyler Matzek this weekend.

The Atlanta Braves reliever Matzek posted a funny Thanksgiving-themed tweet this week about all the teams that the Braves ate up this year en route to winning the World Series.

When a Dodgers fan tweeted a dig about security not even knowing that Matzek played for the Braves, Matzek rolled up his sleeves and went in.

“True but you and all your Dodger friends do,” Matzek wrote in reply.

Dodgers fans were definitely cursing Matzek’s name in the NLCS against the Braves. Matzek was excellent all throughout the series but really donned his superhero cape during the Game 6 clincher. Tasked with protecting a two-run lead in the seventh inning with two runners in scoring position and no one out, Matzek struck out all three batters that he faced. He then came back out for the eighth inning and retired the side on seven pitches.

The fan was smart to reference the incident where Matzek got roughed up by security at the Braves’ parade. But Matzek was even smarter to reference his back-breaking performance that no Dodgers fan will forget for a long time.

Photo: Oct 20, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Tyler Matzek (68) reacts in the eighth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers during game four of the 2021 NLCS at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Did Marlins screw up Starling Marte’s free agency?

Starling Marte smiles

The Miami Marlins may have really fumbled the bag with Starling Marte.

Marlins writer Craig Mish of MLB Network reported on Saturday that Marte gave the Marlins multiple chances to sign him. Mish notes that Marte did so during the season, after the season, and even as recently as Friday. Mish also adds that Miami’s most recent offer to Marte would have been enough to get a deal done had they offered it to him before they traded him.

For clarification, the former All-Star Marte was with the Marlins during the 2020 and 2021 seasons. But they traded him to the Oakland Athletics in the middle of 2021. Marte became a free agent after the season, and the Marlins were in the hunt to bring him back, but it never materialized. Marte signed a four-year, $78 million contract with the New York Mets this week instead.

Marte hits for power, hits for average, steals bases (swiping a league-leading 47 of them last season), and can play solid defense as a two-time Gold Glove winner. That is the type of player that the Marlins, who went 67-95 in 2021, really would have benefited from bringing back. But (other than an outlier playoff run during the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign), this is exactly the kind of ineptiude we have come to expect from the Marlins.

Photo: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Mets targeting 3 big names in free agency

Max Scherzer in a Dodgers uniform

The New York Mets have already been one of the busiest teams in free agency, and if they have their way, their biggest addition is yet to come.

The Mets are eyeing the top starting pitchers on the market, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network. That includes reigning AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray, and it even includes Max Scherzer.

Scherzer is the headliner here, and would be a massive addition. There are clear questions about whether he’d be interested, however. At this stage in his career, he will be prioritizing winning, and the Mets did not make the playoffs last season. Plus, Scherzer’s preference for a West Coast team was a factor at the trade deadline, and the Mets certainly cannot offer that. There are certainly some other clubs that can that might be interested.

The Mets have already significantly bolstered their offense. Maybe that will help them attract top-tier pitching like Scherzer.

Photo: Aug 10, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Max Scherzer (31) walks towards the dugout against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Stroman throws some shade at Mets

Marcus Stroman

Marcus Stroman would love to return to the New York Mets in 2022, but the team’s new front office doesn’t appear overly interested.

Stroman, a free agent, started 33 games for the Mets this past season, compiling a record of 10-13 with a 3.02 ERA. He was easily their healthiest asset on the mound, but even he can read the writing on the wall.

Stroman told a fan who begged him not to leave the Mets that he had a source who told him the Mets prefer other pitchers.

Stroman later added that the “source” he referenced was himself.

The Mets acquired Stroman from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for several prospects at the 2019 trade deadline. He opted out of the shortened 2020 season due to COVID-19 before returning this past year.

With Stroman out there dangling on the open market, the Mets decided to take a different route on Friday. They signed outfielder Starling Marte to a four-year, $78 million deal and added veterans Eduardo Escobar and Mark Canha on two-year deals.

Photo: Erik Slgckgc/Flickr via CC-BY 2.0

Mets beef up offense with free agents Starling Marte, Mark Canha

Starling Marte smiles

The New York Mets may have gotten some bad press this week, but they more than made up for it on Friday.

The Mets loaded up with several free agent signings. The highlight was agreeing to a 4-year, $78 million deal with center fielder Starling Marte, pending a physical.

The Mets also landed Mark Canha on a 2-year, $26.5 million deal. They got Eduardo Escobar on a 2-year, $20 million deal.

Marte was the gem of their signings. A former All-Star in Pittsburgh, the 33-year-old center fielder batted .310/.383/.458 last season. He also stole a career-high 47 bases and was caught stealing just five times.

Marte is a center fielder with a career .289 average and .797 OPS, plus he can can steal you 40 bags a season. Teams may have been concerned about him aging which could explain why the Mets landed him on a 4-year deal, but he should help the team tremendously.

Canha, 32, has spent his career with the A’s. The first baseman/outfielder offers some power, but it comes at the cost of a low batting average. He batted .231 last season and is a career .244 hitter.

The Mets must not mind the low average/good power type of players, because they also added Escobar. The 32-year-old infielder slugged 28 home runs during an All-Star campaign last season. He batted .253 with a .786 OPS. He’s a career .256 batter with a .745 OPS.

Mets fans will enjoy being in the headlines due to these signings much more than being in the headlines because of the team owner Steve Cohen’s behavior.

Photo: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Griffin III has ridiculous pick for new Florida coach

Robert Griffin grinning

Robert Griffin III is taking to his ESPN analyst job by delivering the hottest of hot takes.

Griffin appeared on “The Paul Finebaum Show” Friday and offered his take on who should replace Dan Mullen as Florida’s head coach. Griffin thinks the Gators should take a look at none other than Tim Tebow to run the program.

“I think the Gators should hire Tim Tebow,” Griffin said. “I think they have to think outside the box for the next head coaching hire, and the word out there was that Dan Mullen wasn’t in love with recruiting, he wasn’t in love with the process of those things. But who’s really going to out-recruit Nick Saban, Kirby Smart, and Jimbo Fisher?

“So if you throw Tim Tebow in there, surround him with the structure, have about three or four previous head coaches on his staff to help him figure out the vision of his program, that’s going to bring excitement to the Florida Gators. It’s going to have players intrigued and excited about going into Gainesville and recreating that culture that they had oh so long ago.”

To be clear, there is no indication that this is even plausible, and for good reason. Griffin cites Deion Sanders’ success at Jackson State as evidence that his Tebow idea could work, but there’s a huge difference between that and handing the reins of one of the nation’s most recognizable programs over to someone as inexperienced as Tebow.

Unfortunately for Griffin, it sounds like the Gators have already zeroed in on a new head coach — and no, it is not Tebow.

Photo: Dec 22, 2019; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Robert Griffin III (3) looks up to the scoreboard during the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Javier Baez drawing significant interest from 3 teams

Javier Baez thumbs down

With only a handful of days remaining before the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement, MLB free agency is heating up. It certainly sounds like one big name could be poised to sign soon.

Shortstop Javier Baez, one of the better players at the position on the market, is being heavily linked to multiple teams on Friday. Multiple reports suggested that Baez was in talks with the Detroit Tigers, but nothing has been finalized.

MLB Network’s Jon Heyman added that the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets are also suitors for Baez. The Mets could even have the chance to beat any offer Baez receives, adds Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

Baez is known for his flashy play, and he is coming off a 31-homer season with the Cubs and Mets. If the Mets do bring him back, there could be some awkwardness given his relationship with the team’s fans. The Tigers’ interest in Baez is also bad news for another key free agent shortstop.

Video: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. absolutely obliterates a pitch playing softball

Vladimir Guerrero Jr

It may be the MLB offseason, but Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is still sending balls into orbit.

The Toronto Blue Jays slugger went viral Thursday for completely smoking a pitch while playing softball in his native Dominican Republic. Check out the video (via MLB insider Hector Gomez).

Our guess is that ball will land some time in 2025. Guerrero Jr.’s slow trot while rounding the bases also really helps make this video.

The 22-year-old hitting machine had an MLB-leading 48 home runs last season off regular baseballs thrown at full speed, so it’s not surprising that this is what Guerrero Jr. would do to a softball lobbed at him underhanded. That poor thing never stood a chance. Guerrero Jr. probably even topped this blast for the farthest softball ever hit.

Photo: Feb 17, 2020; Dunedin, Florida, USA; Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (27) looks on during spring training at Spectrum Field. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Juan Soto could agree to record-setting extension with Nationals?

Juan Soto in a Nats hat

Juan Soto could soon be swimming in a pool of money like Scrooge McDuck if all goes according to plan.

MLB insider Hector Gomez reported Wednesday that a possible extension for Soto from the Washington Nationals could double the total guaranteed amount that the Tampa Bay Rays just gave to shortstop Wander Franco. Gomez adds that Soto’s potential extension would span 12 or 13 years.

Franco got an 11-year extension with $182 million guaranteed and a player option that could take it up to 12 years and $223 million. Doubling Franco’s guaranteed money would produce a figure of $364 million. Mookie Betts of the Los Angeles Dodgers currently holds the record for the largest contract in MLB history at 12 years and $365 million. Soto would be in range to potentially break that record if Gomez’s information is accurate.

While those numbers are colossal, there is little doubt that Soto is worth it. He is still only 23 years old and possesses a combination of power and plate discipline that baseball has not seen in a long time. That said, Soto may be hesitant to sign an extension with the Nationals for one major reason. But we will see if the dollar signs in his eyes affect his perception here at all.

Photo: Jul 30, 2021; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Nationals left fielder Juan Soto (22) in the dugout before the game against the Chicago Cubs at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports