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Marcell Ozuna gets one-year deal from Braves worth $18 million

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Outfielder Marcell Ozuna has signed a one-year, $18 million contract with the Atlanta Braves, the team announced Tuesday.

The St. Louis Cardinals traded for Ozuna in December 2017, and the 29-year-old outfielder offered protection — and punch — in the lineup behind Paul Goldschmidt as the Cardinals made it back to the playoffs for the first time since 2015.

Ozuna had 29 homers and 89 RBIs this past season after blasting 28 homers and driving in 88 runs the year before. In 2017 with the Miami Marlins, he hit .312 with 37 homers and 124 RBIs.

Ozuna has made two All-Star Games on the strength of his bat, but one criticism of play has been his outfield defense.

He is coming off a one-year, $12.25 million contract.

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Astros owner Jim Crane to talk strategy with team amid scandal

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Houston Astros owner Jim Crane is expected to meet with the full Astros roster Wednesday to discuss the team’s strategy for publicly addressing the sign-stealing scandal that has rocked the franchise all offseason, sources familiar with the plans told ESPN on Tuesday.

While only pitchers and catchers were expected to report to Astros camp Wednesday, position players have flown here as well to participate in the meeting, sources said. The team plans to open the clubhouse Thursday for its first media availability of the spring.

The level of contrition and tack the Astros will take in addressing the scandal is unclear. At the Houston Sports Awards on Jan. 22, Crane said the team would “apologize for what happened, ask forgiveness and move forward” during spring training.

Crane fired general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch on Jan. 13 after MLB commissioner Rob Manfred’s report implicated the team in stealing the signs via an illicit center-field camera and banging a trash can to signal hitters the type of pitch coming in 2017. The Astros won the World Series that season and have endured deep criticism from fellow players for their actions.

At the team’s FanFest in January, second baseman Jose Altuve and third baseman Alex Bregman did not offer apologies when asked about the scheme. Former Astros Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton and Marwin Gonzalez have apologized for the team’s actions. When asked about their World Series win, Joe Musgrove, a pitcher on the 2017 Astros, told reporters Tuesday: “I don’t want to say it’s tainted, but I think it is.”

The sign-stealing scandal has engulfed the sport since the original story by The Athletic in November accused the Astros of misdeeds that Manfred’s report later confirmed. MLB continues to investigate the Boston Red Sox, who were accused in a separate Athletic report of using technology to steal signs during their championship-winning 2018 season.

Boston fired manager Alex Cora after Manfred’s report implicated him in implementing the trash-can-banging scheme, and the New York Mets fired their manager, Carlos Beltran, who was an Astros player at the time and was accused of helping devise the system.

While no others have lost their jobs, a Wall Street Journal report last week accused multiple front-office officials of developing a separate system, nicknamed “Codebreaker,” that used an algorithm to decode opposing teams’ sign sequences.

No players were disciplined by MLB, as they were offered immunity for truthfully cooperating with the league’s investigation.

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Red Sox promote Ron Roenicke to interim manager

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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Boston Red Sox named bench coach Ron Roenicke interim manager Tuesday, a label chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said the organization chose to use out of respect for the ongoing MLB investigation into alleged illegal sign stealing by the Red Sox in 2018.

Although the results of the investigation are still unknown, the Red Sox felt confident enough that Roenicke would not be implicated.

“We have no reason to think there would be anything to cause an adverse result for Ron in this investigation, but of course the investigation is not complete,” Bloom said Tuesday, a day before the team’s first scheduled workout for pitchers and catchers. “It’s not fair for us to determine that. We can’t determine what comes out of the investigation, so we’re going to respect the ongoing investigation.”

Bloom was left to conduct an abbreviated job search after former Red Sox skipper Alex Cora departed in January following MLB’s investigation into sign stealing by the Houston Astros, Cora’s previous employer.

When asked if the team would remove Roenicke’s interim label following the release of the investigation results, Bloom declined to comment further.

“We’ll address permanency when [the investigation] is complete,” Bloom said.

Boston also did not name a replacement for Roenicke at bench coach, though Bloom says the opening will be addressed by the end of the spring.

Roenicke, who managed the Milwaukee Brewers from 2011 to 2015, takes over during a tumultuous period in Red Sox history. Besides Cora’s departure, the team is facing a public backlash over the trade of Mookie Betts and David Price and the investigation into its own sign-stealing allegations from the World Series-winning year. Boston fell short of sky-high expectations in the 2019 season, finishing the year with an 84-78 record and a third-place finish in the American League East.

“Last year, these guys are upset about what happened and I think that’s a good thing coming into the year,” Roenicke said. “Sometimes when you win all of the time, you kinda just think, ‘Well, we’ll just show up and win.’ These guys don’t feel that way. They know the kind of work it’s going to take, especially this spring to get ready for the season, and how difficult it is to win all of the time. They’ve got something to prove and hopefully we keep them healthy, which is huge, and we can get back in the playoffs again and then we’ll see.”

The 63-year-old Roenicke arrived in Boston with Cora before the 2018 season and helped bring Boston another World Series title. Given the tumultuous nature of the entire Boston offseason, Bloom said the continuity of having the team’s previous bench coach slide into the manager’s seat was an appealing part of Roenicke’s candidacy for the job.

“I said at the beginning of this process, I think it’s really important to evaluate people for who they are in total, the whole person, and everybody who does this type of job, you bring your whole self to the job so you really look at everything and how it all adds up, putting players in a position to succeed,” Bloom said. “There’s no question that Ron, having been a part of the success here, being as perceptive as he is and combining with the time he spent around this group, it equips him much better to be the guy around.”

Meanwhile, Boston is still waiting to hear the results of MLB’s investigation, which will coincide with the announcement of Cora’s punishment. The Associated Press reported Tuesday that no decision on the investigation will be made this week.

The interim hiring of Roenicke is the latest chapter in a guarded, low-key manager search with little information coming from the offices of Fenway Park. Boston interviewed Oakland Athletics quality control coach Mark Kotsay (who played in Boston in 2008 and 2009), Arizona Diamondbacks bench coach Luis Urueta and Red Sox third-base coach Carlos Febles.

Even before the official announcement, Red Sox players expressed excitement to see Roenicke promoted, looking for continuity in the face of the recent trouble.

“Ron is a great candidate, and he knows our team,” J.D. Martinez said in January.

“Very intellectual guy, great mind with a love for the game,” said outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. “He’s great.”

Added infielder Michael Chavis: “I love him. He’s a really good dude. Really knowledgeable about baseball. He’s been around the game a long time, so it’s cool to see his analysis. He’s got a nice combination of the old school from his experience, but he’s also good at understanding how the new game is developing and how it’s changing. Having those sides in one is very interesting.”

During his tenure leading the Brewers, Roenicke compiled a 342-331 record with his best season coming in 2011, when Milwaukee won the National League Central with a 96-66 record and made it to the NL Championship Series before losing to the St. Louis Cardinals. After his time with the Brewers, Roenicke served as the third-base coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels from 2015 through 2017. During his introductory news conference, Roenicke acknowledged the game has changed dramatically since his last managerial stint. Roenicke expects to work closely with Bloom and general manager Brian O’Halloran on a day-to-day basis.

“The analytics, without a doubt, are different. We started them a lot my first year when I went there and Chaim was with Joe Maddon,” Roenicke said. “Joe and I talk about a lot of things and basically it was analytics, really back all the way to 2000, when I was with Joe in Anaheim. It’s just easier to get to everything now. We always wanted all the information we can get, but now, if I ask someone for something, I get it. Before, it was like we wanted something, but how in the world can we possibly get this stuff? It was a huge advantage to have all of this information. It’s a big advantage to have a department that communicates well with that group of manager and coaches.”

Roenicke replaces an extremely popular manager in Cora, who was beloved by the players and fans alike, and hopes to communicate as effectively as the previous Red Sox skipper.

“These guys congregated to [Cora]. I would walk down there and you would see four or five players sitting next to him on the bench,” Roenicke said. “You walk in the dugout or the locker room and you see him sitting and you have this group around him. That told me something. It told me that, hey, even if I thought I was good at communication, I could be better. I’m going to try to do that. As open a format as you can have, and communicate as well as I can do it.”

With the trade of Betts, Boston now finds itself in need of a new leadoff hitter. Roenicke mentioned newly acquired outfielder Alex Verdugo and Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi as potential candidates to slide into the role. The new Red Sox skipper knows replacing the production of both Betts and Price will require others on the roster to step up.

“You don’t replace Mookie Betts,” Roenicke said. “He’s one of the best players in the game. David Price, who you know who has put together some different seasons and obviously two years ago, helping us win the World Series. You don’t replace him, but you move forward. All of a sudden, guys surprise you. You bring in guys and they step up and do well, and this team, they’re focused on what they can do and showing people wrong.”

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Astros owner Jim Crane to talk strategy with team amid scandal

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Houston Astros owner Jim Crane is expected to meet with the full Astros roster Wednesday to discuss the team’s strategy for publicly addressing the sign-stealing scandal that has rocked the franchise all offseason, sources familiar with the plans told ESPN.

While only pitchers and catchers were expected to report to Astros camp Wednesday, position players have flown here as well to participate in the meeting, sources said. The team plans to open the clubhouse Thursday for its first media availability of the spring.

The level of contrition and tact the Astros will take in addressing the scandal is unclear. At the Houston Sports Awards on Jan. 22, Crane said the team would “apologize for what happened, ask forgiveness and move forward” during spring training.

Crane fired general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch on Jan. 13 after commissioner Rob Manfred’s report implicated the team in stealing the signs via an illicit center-field camera and banging a trash can to signal hitters the type of pitch coming in 2017. The Astros won the World Series that season and have endured deep criticism from fellow players for their actions.

At the team’s FanFest in January, second baseman Jose Altuve and third baseman Alex Bregman did not offer apologies when asked about the scheme. Former Astros Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton and Marwin Gonzalez have apologized for the team’s actions. When asked about their World Series win, Joe Musgrove, a pitcher on the 2017 Astros, told reporters Tuesday: “I don’t want to say it’s tainted, but I think it is.”

The sign-stealing scandal has engulfed the sport since the original story by The Athletic in November accused the Astros of misdeeds Manfred’s report later confirmed. MLB continues to investigate the Boston Red Sox, who were accused in a separate Athletic report of using technology to steal signs during their championship-winning 2018 season.

Boston fired manager Alex Cora after Manfred’s report implicated him in implementing the trash-can-banging scheme, and the New York Mets fired their manager, Carlos Beltran, who was an Astros player at the time and was accused of helping devise the system.

While no others have lost their jobs, a Wall Street Journal report last week accused multiple front-office officials of developing a separate system, nicknamed “Codebreaker,” that used an algorithm to decode opposing teams’ sign sequences.

No players were disciplined by MLB, as they were offered immunity for truthfully cooperating with the league’s investigation.

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