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Spring Training Daily

ST Daily: Big Deal

by D.J. Short

Bryce Harper held the title of the largest contract in North American sports history for just about three weeks. Hey, it’s better than nothing. Mike Trout is now poised to sit atop the mountain as his reps put the finishing touches on an extension with the Angels which includes $360 million in new money. News of the mega-extension was first reported by Jeff Passan of ESPN.com.

Trout was already set to make $66.5 million over the next two years. That won’t change here, as the extension will begin in 2021. This means the new deal will expire in his age-39 season in 2030. He’ll make a grand total of $426.5 million over the next 12 years. The deal includes a full no-trade clause and no opt-outs.

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No matter how you slice it, it’s a record-breaking contract. In addition to topping Harper’s $330 million deal with the Phillies, Trout’s AAV (average annual value) on the extension ($36 million) is the highest ever, topping Zack Greinke’s $34.4 million with the Diamondbacks. It’s a big deal, to be sure, but it’s hard to argue that Trout isn’t worth it. In fact, the Angels could still be getting a bargain.  

Trout’s numbers are already Hall of Fame-worthy. He’s won two American League MVP Awards and has finished within the top-four in the balloting in all seven of his full seasons in the majors. While he was the runner-up to Mookie Betts last year, he still batted .312/.460/.628 with 30 homers over 140 games. His 199 OPS+ was the best of his career. Only Trout can somehow do that quietly.

Trout’s future has been the source of much conversation and speculation in recent months, ranging from him potentially joining Harper in Philadelphia to the possibility that he could be traded before reaching free agency. Now Angels fans can breathe a little easier knowing that they’ll continue to be able to watch the best player in the world for the foreseeable future. Good on the Angels for getting this done.

Astros Lock up Bregman, Pressly

Trout’s deal was the biggest of the day — or well, ever — but there were still some other notable extensions on Tuesday, as the Astros agreed to extensions with infielder Alex Bregman and reliever Ryan Pressly.

As first reported by Mark Berman of FOX 26, Bregman has agreed to a six-year, $100 million contract which will keep him with the Astros through 2024. The deal includes this season and buys out all three of his arbitration seasons as well as his first two years of free agency. It’s the second-richest deal ever for a pre-arbitration player. Appropriately enough, the record is still Trout’s six-year, $144 million contract with the Angels.

Bregman, who turns 25 later this month, is quickly emerging as one of the biggest stars in the game. After posting an .827 OPS (125 OPS+) during his first full season in 2017, he took a huge step forward last year by batting .286/.394/.532 with 31 homers, 103 RBI, 10 steals, and 105 runs scored over 157 games. He made his first All-Star team and finished fifth in the American League MVP balloting.

Bregman recently expressed disappointment that his contract was renewed by the Astros for a salary of $640,500 for the 2019 season, saying that he only wanted to be compensated fairly. That disappointment clearly didn’t get in the way of hammering out a long-term agreement with the club.

While it was quickly overshadowed by the Bregman deal, the Astros also signed Pressly to a two-year, $17.5 million extension. He was already signed for $2.9 million in 2019, so the new deal will pay him $8.75 million in 2020 and 2021. According to Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle, the deal also includes a $10 million vesting option for 2022.

Pressly, 30, was acquired from the Twins last July and reeled off a ridiculous 0.77 ERA and 32/3 K/BB ratio over 23 1/3 innings down the stretch. He allowed one run with seven strikeouts over five innings during the postseason. Pressly was effective with the Twins, but upping the usage of his curveball with the Astros took him to the next level. He should be part of a potent late-inning combo with Roberto Osuna this season.

Kershaw, Betances to Begin Year on IL

Two notable injured list decisions came down on Tuesday, one a foregone conclusion and the other the product of an uncharacteristic spring showing.

We’ll start with the most expected one, as Dodgers manager Dave Roberts made it official that Clayton Kershaw will miss the start of the regular season. Walker Buehler has already been ruled out for the Opening Day assignment against the Diamondbacks, so Rich Hill is the likely favorite at this point.

Slowed this spring by shoulder inflammation, Kershaw has thrown three bullpen sessions in recent days. Wednesday will be an important test for the southpaw, as he’s scheduled to face hitters for the first time since February 18. If all goes well, he’ll face hitters again on Saturday.

Kershaw might not be gone for long, but Ross Stripling will take his spot in the rotation for the time being. Given the injury histories of Kershaw, Hill, and Ryu, there’s a good chance that Stripling will play a prominent role all year. He makes for a solid pick in most mixed fantasy leagues.

We already knew the Yankees would be without Luis Severino, CC Sabathia, Aaron Hicks, and Didi Gregorius to begin the season, but now we can add Dellin Betances to the list, as he was diagnosed with a right shoulder impingement following an MRI.

Betances’ velocity has been noticeably down this spring, so the Yankees decided to get him checked out. The feeling is that he won’t require an extended absence, but he received a cortisone shot and won’t throw for the next 3-5 days.

With the Yankees’ enviable bullpen depth, the club can afford to get by during his absence. Don’t forget that Betances has a ton at stake here, as he’s due to become a free agent following the season.

Fulmer Likely Headed for Tommy John Surgery

Michael Fulmer entered spring training hoping to rebound from a down season which eventually resulted in knee surgery. Now he’s likely a year away from pitching in a competitive game.

The Tigers announced Tuesday that Fulmer has been recommended for Tommy John surgery following an examination by Dr. James Andrews. He’s slated to go for a third opinion on his ailing elbow before making a final decision. Assuming Fulmer goes ahead with surgery, he will be sidelined through the early part of the 2020 season.  

It’s brutal news for Fulmer, who disappointed with a 4.69 ERA in 24 starts last season while missing time with oblique and knee injuries. The 26-year-old underwent surgery in September to repair a torn meniscus in his knee. While he was ready to go for the start of spring training, he struggled through his early Grapefruit League starts while showing diminished velocity. The Tigers decided to shut him down last week in order to work on his mechanics, but there was no mention of any arm issue prior to Tuesday’s announcement. Obviously news of ligament damage puts the velocity dip into context.

Acquired as part of the Yoenis Cespedes deal with the Mets in 2015, Fulmer won the American League Rookie of the Year award the following season behind a 3.06 ERA and 132/42 K/BB ratio in 159 innings over 26 starts. He wasn’t quite as effective in 2017, but he was still well above average with a 3.83 ERA (117 ERA+) over 25 starts. There have been trade rumors involving Fulmer at times and he’d be a logical candidate to be moved with the Tigers shifting into a rebuild, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon at this point.

Quick Hits: According to Ken Rosenthal and Robert Murray of The Athletic, the Brewers are talking to free agent closer Craig Kimbrel. … Walker Buehler allowed one run over 2 2/3 innings Tuesday in his spring debut against the Indians. … Yu Darvish exited his Cactus League start on Tuesday due to a blister on his pitching hand, but he’s not expected to miss a regular season start. … Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Rays have signed infielder Brandon Lowe to a six-year, $24 million extension. … The Indians officially signed outfielder Carlos Gonzalez to a minor league contract. … Zack Greinke will start Opening Day for the Diamondbacks against the Dodgers. … Aaron Hicks (back) said Tuesday that he’s pain-free following his second cortisone shot, but there’s still no clear timetable for his return. …German Marquez was knocked around for eight runs over 4 1/3 innings during a Cactus League start against the Angels on Tuesday. …  Luis Castillo has been announced as the Reds’ Opening Day starter against the Pirates. … Tyler Glasnow gave up five runs and walked four batters over 3 2/3 innings against the Yankees on Tuesday. … Astros manager A.J. Hinch confirmed the obvious Tuesday, calling Brad Peacock the “leading candidate” to crack the team’s starting rotation. … Jorge Soler stayed hot Tuesday by going 2-for-4 with an RBI single and two runs scored against the Cubs. … Coming off back-to-back shaky Grapefruit League outings, Kevin Gausman threw four scoreless innings with seven strikeouts in a minor league game on Tuesday. … Trevor Cahill will start Opening Day for the Angels. … Pedro Strop (hamstring) threw off a mound on Tuesday and remains hopeful of being ready for Opening Day. … Greg Bird hit his third homer of the spring on Tuesday and is now batting .342/.479/.658 through 16 games. … Ryan O’Hearn went 2-for-3 with a three-run homer and five RBI in Tuesday’s win over the split-squad Cubs. … Brandon Morrow (elbow) is still weeks away, but he reported Tuesday that he felt good following his first bullpen session. … Anibal Sanchez yielded two runs over five innings Tuesday against the Braves. … Roman Quinn (oblique) and Tommy Hunter (forearm) are expected to begin the year on the injured list with the Phillies. … Matthew Boyd allowed three runs — two earned — and struck out seven over 4 2/3 innings against the Pirates on Tuesday. … Howie Kendrick (hamstring) was supposed to get some at-bats in a minor league game on Tuesday before it was called off due to rain. … Jeremy Jeffress (shoulder) will begin the 2019 season on the injured list. … Lance Lynn allowed two runs over five innings Tuesday against the Brewers while also notching nine strikeouts. … Danny Duffy (shoulder) is scheduled to throw his first live batting practice session of the spring next Monday. … Padres right-hander Jacob Nix has been diagnosed with a small tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow. … Matt Duffy (hamstring) felt good after running Tuesday. … Cardinals reliever Brett Cecil will begin the year on the injured list due to arm fatigue and a lack of feeling in two of his fingers. … Willie Calhoun went 2-for-4 with three RBI in Tuesday’s win over the Brewers, but he’s still ticketed for Triple-A to begin the season. … The Brewers signed right-hander Josh Fields to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training. … Ian Kennedy will begin the season in the Royals’ bullpen … The Indians released outfielder Matt Joyce.