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#pounditFriday, January 21, 2022

Baseball

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 extension 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

Former Rays top pick Brendan McKay undergoes surgery

Brendan McKay pitching

Former top draft pick Brendan McKay continues to deal with medical issues for the Tampa Bay Rays.

McKay was a two-way star in college at Louisville and became the No. 4 overall pick by the Rays in 2017. He dominated as a pitcher in the minors and struggled as a hitter.

In 2019, McKay made his MLB debut and went 2-4 with a 5.14 ERA. He also batted .200 with a home run in 10 at-bats.

But McKay only pitched 12.2 innings in the minors last season as he recovered from labrum surgery on his pitching shoulder. Now the southpaw is undergoing thoracic outlet syndrome decompression surgery. The Rays say McKay should be ready to pitch for spring training.

The Rays have made the postseason three straight years and reached the World Series in 2020. They’ve done all this despite having limited-to-no contributions from McKay, a player of whom they have had high expectations. If he’s able to recover and be at full strength next season, that would be a huge boost.

The 25-year-old has gone 12-2 with a 1.78 ERA during his minor league career across all levels.

Photo: Aug 19, 2019; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Brendan McKay (49) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Mets owner Steve Cohen rips Steven Matz’s agent

Mets owner Steve Cohen

New York Mets owner Steve Cohen on Wednesday sparked another controversy via his social media activity.

Cohen tweeted his frustration with an agent for “unprofessional behavior.”

The tweet was regarding the agent for pitcher Steven Matz.

Matz agreed to a 4-year, $44 million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday.

Cohen later explained his issues with Matz and the pitcher’s representatives in more detail. The Mets owner told reporter Joel Sherman that it was Matz’s side that reached out to them and said the Mets were the pitcher’s first choice.

Maybe the Cardinals ended up offering Matz more and that’s why he chose them. Regardless, Cohen feels like he got played by Matz’s agent.

Matz’s agent Rob Martin offered a statement to Ken Rosenthal regarding the situation:

Since buying the team, Cohen has been vocal when it comes to expressing issues. He ripped his team over the summer regarding their poor hitting results. He also went public about issues with a draft pick.

Matz, 30, went 14-7 with a 3.82 ERA for the Blue Jays last season. He pitched for the Mets from 2015-2020 and was a 2nd-round pick by the team in 2009.

Photo: Sep 11, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets majority owner Steve Cohen and his wife Alexandra Cohen at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Noah Syndergaard reveals 1 player he really wants to strike out

Noah Syndergaard

Noah Syndergaard will be pitching in the American League for the first time in his career, and he is really looking forward to getting a shot at one batter in particular.

The new Los Angeles Angels pitcher spoke this week with MLB Network and was asked which player he would most like to strike out.

“Carlos Correa,” replied Syndergaard. “Not just for the obvious reason but just what he said about Derek Jeter not deserving his Gold Gloves. I think that was a little ridiculous to say.”

The All-Star shortstop Correa sparked some controversy with his comments about the retired Hall of Famer Jeter, which seemed to come out of the blue. Jeter himself even offered a reaction to what Correa said.

Correa is also unpopular for the role that he played in the Houston Astros’ cheating scandal, which is likely what Syndergaard was referring to when he mentioned “the obvious reason.” Correa is a free agent, and Syndergaard will obviously get more shots at him if Correa stays in the Angels’ AL West division. But even if Correa ends up with another popular team that he has been linked to, Syndergaard should still get plenty of chances to face him next season regardless.

H/T The Score

Photo: Aug 4, 2019; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard (34) reacts against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning at PNC Park. The Mets won 13-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports