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Sunday, February 17, 2019

Baseball

Astros GM confirms team agreed to trade for Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper

Houston Astros fans are now thinking about what could have been.

Astros President and General Manager Jeff Luhnow confirmed on Thursday that the team had an agreement to acquire Bryce Harper in a trade prior to last year’s deadline.

The Washington Nationals made Harper available for trades last year and even placed him on revocable trade waivers. A November report said the Nats and Astros agreed to a trade that would have sent Harper to Houston for three prospects, but Nats ownership rejected it. On top of Houston, the Dodgers were another team that tried to acquire Harper in a trade.

Harper would have made for quite a rental for Houston, who ended up losing to the Red Sox in the ALCS. Harper remains unsigned as a free agent.

Jacob deGrom not ruling out self-imposed innings limit without contract extension

Jacob deGrom

Jacob deGrom is still seeking a long-term contract extension from the New York Mets heading into the season, and he is not ruling out taking steps to protect his future if he does not get it.

In one of the least surprising announcements of the offseason, Mets manager Mickey Callaway announced on Thursday that deGrom will be the team’s Opening Day starter. The 30-year-old later spoke with reporters and was asked if he would consider self-imposing an innings cap in 2019 without a long-term agreement. He did not rule it out.

deGrom has thrown more than 200 innings in each of the past two seasons, and he posted an ERA of 2.62 over that span. He went 10-9 with an incredible 1.70 ERA and took home the NL Cy Young Award. Obviously, the Mets need him to be available as much as possible if they hope to contend.

We probably wouldn’t know until late in the season if deGrom and his agents have decided to impose an innings cap, but he already made it clear last year how unhappy he is with his contract situation. deGrom is set to earn $17 million in 2019 after he landed a record arbitration raise, but he feels he has earned the right to sign a long-term deal. It’s hard to argue against that given his recent dominance.

Indians brought up Trevor Bauer’s social media use in arbitration hearing

Trevor Bauer

Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Trevor Bauer won his arbitration case against the team this week for the second consecutive year, but the hearing apparently got a lot more personal this time around.

In an interview with Bob Nightengale of USA Today on Thursday, Bauer accused the Indians of “character assassination” in the hearing that ended up with him getting a $13 million contract for the 2019 season. Cleveland had proposed a salary of $11 million.

“They spent the last 10 minutes of the case trying a character-assassination,” Bauer said. “I learned that giving to charity is a bad thing. I learned that agreeing with someone on a podcast just for the sake of argument that I was worth $10.5 million, and should be the definitive answer why I’m not worth $13 [million].”

Bauer said the Indians basically argued that he is a “terrible human being,” criticizing him for his charitable campaign last spring just because of its name, which was the “69 Days of Giving.” While the right-hander didn’t mention it, ESPN’s Buster Olney said Bauer’s use of social media was also called into question by the people arguing in favor of the Indians.

Obviously, arbitration hearings are business matters. Bauer wants as much money as he’s entitled to, and the Indians want to save wherever they can. Still, it seems obvious that Cleveland’s tactics rubbed Bauer the wrong way.

“You never know how the character assassination plays, and considering that’s what ended it,” he said. “It kind of put a black mark on what I thought was a really argued case on both sides. There’s not room for that. Let’s just stick to the numbers. Let the numbers tell the story.

“You don’t need to bring character assassination into it, especially for charitable campaigns.”

Bauer has a reputation for expressing himself freely on social media, and the Indians must not like that. He’s arbitration eligible for one more year in 2020, so it will be interesting to see if the reputation between the two sides has been damaged.

Mike Trout continues with unique spin on jersey retirement

Mike Trout

Mike Trout is one of the greatest baseball players to ever come out of the state of New Jersey, and you might assume his high school has retired his number now that he has been terrorizing MLB pitchers for the past seven years. However, that is not the way the star outfielder wants it.

Rather than retiring his No. 1 jersey, Millville High School’s coaching staff has been awarding the jersey to one deserving senior each year. The tradition continued on Thursday night with Trout paying a visit to his old school.

Trout got the idea from East Carolina University, which is where he committed to playing prior to being drafted by the Los Angeles Angels and turning pro. East Carolina awards its No. 15 jersey to one senior each season in honor of a late coach. Millville coach Roy Hallenbeck explained a few years back what it takes to earn the No. 1 jersey with the Thunderbolts.

“It’s more than just who’s the best player,” Hallenbeck said in 2015. “It’s who do (the coaches) feel represents the message we’ve been sending. Who buys into this program and who should be rewarded for that their senior year? So far, it’s worked out really well.”

Trout has found some creative ways to inspire high schoolers over the years, and choosing not to have his No. 1 jersey retired is certainly one of them. Being able to wear the number worn by a guy who set a New Jersey state record with 18 home runs is quite the honor.

Brewers limiting ticket sales for Cubs games to Wisconsin residents

Milwaukee Brewers logo

The Milwaukee Brewers don’t want Miller Park filled with Chicago Cubs fans when their NL Central rivals come to town, and they’re taking steps to try to make that happen.

The Brewers announced a presale for tickets to Cubs games open only to Wisconsin residents on Wednesday, with the team’s Twitter account openly admitting that the purpose was to prevent Chicago fans from getting their hands on tickets.

Let’s just say that these comments from Cole Hamels may have played on Milwaukee’s mind when making this decision. They’ll be mocked for it, though, and criticized by the contingent of Brewer fans who do live in Illinois and are shut out from attending these games.

Pitcher Doug Fister retires from MLB

Pitcher Doug Fister’s MLB career has come to a close.

Fister is retiring, his agent told MLB.com’s Jon Morosi. The veteran is hanging up his cleats despite receiving Major League contract offers over the offseason.

According to Fister’s agent, the pitcher wants to spend more time with his family.

Fister, 35, made his MLB debut with Seattle in 2009. He was traded to the Tigers in 2011 and teamed with Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello to form a strong pitching rotation. He was brilliant during the postseason with Detroit, helping them reach the World Series in 2012.

Fister was eventually traded to the Nationals and had his best season ever in 2015, going 16-6 with a 2.41 ERA. He finished eighth in Cy Young voting that season. He bounced around after his two-year stretch with the Nats, playing for a different team from 2016-2018. Last season he went 1-7 with the Texas Rangers.

Aaron Boone admits seeing Red Sox win World Series was motivating

Aaron Boone

The New York Yankees were considered among the favorites to win the World Series for much of last season, but ended up having to watch their arch rivals win it instead.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone admitted that he watched the entire postseason, including the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series. He admitted that it was tough, but it lit a fire under him ahead of 2019.

The Yankees always have championship ambitions and will have them again this year. They don’t really need the motivation, as Boone said. But it’s almost impossible to watch a rival celebrate without feeling spurred on a little bit more.

One thing is certain: a lot of people are coming for Boston this year, and they’re going to have to be ready.