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Ahead of non-tender deadline, Houston Astros offer contract to shortstop Carlos Correa, others



HOUSTON — The Houston Astros offered contracts to arbitration-eligible shortstop Carlos Correa, infielder Aledmys Diaz and right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. on Wednesday.

The Astros, who made the playoffs despite a 29-31 record in the pandemic-shortened season, also reached a one-year deal with righty Austin Pruitt.

Correa, 26, hit .264 during the regular season, then batted .362 with six home runs and 17 RBIs in 13 playoff games. He was the overall No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft, the AL Rookie of Year in 2015 and an All-Star in 2017.

Diaz, 30, also excelled in the postseason, hitting .353 after batting .241 in the regular season.

McCullers, 27, went 3-3 with a 3.93 ERA after missing the 2019 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Acquired last January from Tampa Bay, Pruitt, 31, missed this season because of an injured right elbow. He had surgery in September and is expected to be able to pitch early next season.

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Toby Gardenhire to manage Minnesota Twins’ Triple-A affiliate



ST. PAUL, Minn. — Toby Gardenhire, the son of former major league manager Ron Gardenhire, will manage Minnesota’s new Triple-A affiliate, the St. Paul Saints.

The Saints and Twins made the announcement Tuesday. The 38-year-old Toby Gardenhire was supposed to manage Minnesota’s Triple-A team, the Rochester Red Wings, last season before the COVID-19 pandemic canceled minor league competition. He instead supervised the Twins’ alternate training site in St. Paul, where the team now has its primary affiliate.

Gardenhire has served two previous seasons as a minor league manager for the Twins, with Class A Cedar Rapids in 2018 and Class A Fort Myers in 2019. His father logged 16 years as a major league manager: 13 seasons with the Twins (2002-14) and three seasons with the Detroit Tigers (2018-20).

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New York Mets GM Jared Porter fired for sending explicit texts, images to reporter



The New York Mets fired general manager Jared Porter on Tuesday, according to owner Steve Cohen.

The firing came a day after ESPN reported that he sent explicit unsolicited texts and images to a female reporter in 2016 while working for the Chicago Cubs in their front office.

Cohen tweeted Tuesday that the Mets “have terminated Jared Porter this morning,” less than 12 hours after ESPN’s Mina Kimes and Jeff Passan reported that Porter sent graphic uninvited text messages and images to a female reporter in 2016 when he was working for the Cubs.

“In my initial press conference I spoke about the importance of integrity and I meant it,” Cohen tweeted. “There should be zero tolerance for this type of behavior.”

Porter, 41, was hired as Mets GM on Dec. 13 to work under team president Sandy Alderson and help lead new owner Cohen’s front office. During his introductory news conference, Porter, who signed a four-year contract with the Mets, spoke about “a cultural shift,” specifically, “Adding good people to the organization, improving the organizational culture.”

Porter joined the Mets from Arizona, where he had served as the Diamondbacks’ senior vice president and assistant GM since 2017. Prior to that, he spent 12 years with the Boston Red Sox, rising from intern to pro scouting director, before joining the Cubs organization in September 2015 as director of professional scouting.

It was while he was working for the Cubs that Porter began texting the woman, a foreign correspondent who had moved to the United States to cover Major League Baseball, after meeting her in an elevator at Yankee Stadium on June 26, 2016.

The text relationship started casually before Porter began complimenting her appearance, inviting her to meet him in various cities and asking why she was ignoring him. A copy of the text history obtained by ESPN show she had stopped responding to Porter after he sent a photo of pants featuring a bulge in the groin area.

At one point she ignored more than 60 messages from Porter before he sent a final lewd photo of an erect, naked penis. After receiving the vulgar image, she responded, “This is extremely inappropriate, very offensive, and getting out of line. Could you please stop sending offensive photos or msg.” He later apologized in a series of text messages.

Reached by ESPN on Monday evening, Porter acknowledged texting with the woman. He initially said he had not sent any pictures of himself. When told the exchanges show he had sent selfies and other pictures, he said that “the more explicit ones are not of me. Those are like, kinda like joke-stock images.”

In a statement Monday night, Alderson said the Mets would “review the facts regarding this serious issue,” noting, “The Mets take these matters seriously, expect professional and ethical behavior from all of our employees, and certainly do not condone the conduct described in [the ESPN] story.”

Alderson said the team was first made aware of the situation Monday night.

Information from ESPN’s Mina Kimes and Jeff Passan was used in this report.

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Our latest MLB offseason buzz — Second baseman market after LeMahieu, NL DH waiting game and more



After a very slow start, the free-agent market is finally starting to move with the Yankees inking deals with both DJ LeMahieu and Corey Kluber, and the Washington Nationals adding Jon Lester to their rotation. As the market heats up, ESPN MLB reporter Jesse Rogers weighs in with the latest offseason buzz he is hearing right now.

Veteran starting pitcher landing spots

First, it was two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber finding a home with the New York Yankees,

Then it was Jon Lester, who is headed to the Washington Nationals on a one-year deal.

Lester isn’t returning to the Chicago Cubs, despite his stated desire to win his 200th game in their uniform because the Cubs are in a money crunch of their own making and decided they couldn’t afford to bring back the left-hander.

Lester, like Kluber, wasn’t going to sign with a rebuilding squad and the Nationals emerged with a need for an innings-eater behind Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin. Lester will also have plenty of familiar faces in D.C. with manager Dave Martinez, pitching coach Jim Hickey and recent acquisition Kyle Schwarber all having come to Washington from Chicago.

Next up could be Adam Wainwright is still available to teams looking for starting pitching this winter, though there’s still a good chance he re-signs with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Reached on Monday, Wainwright says the door hasn’t shut on anyone, and he has had several offers come in “recently” while talking to a mix of different teams. Industry executives believe both Wainwright and Yadier Molina will still end up back in St. Louis for another season.

Second baseman dominoes

Industry observers believe the market for second baseman should start to move quickly now that DJ LeMahieu has re-signed with the Yankees. There’s a backlog of veteran options out there, so we asked one executive (not currently in the hunt for help at the position) to handicap where four of the top remaining options will sign.

Tommy La Stella – Returns to the Oakland A’s

Jonathan Villar – Returns to the Orioles after a one-year hiatus with the Marlins and Blue Jays.

Jurickson Profar – Signs with the Royals.

Kolten Wong – Angels. He essentially replaces La Stella, who got traded to Oakland at the trade deadline.

NL DH or no NL DH?

Stop if you’ve heard this one before: There’s still a belief we could see the designated hitter in the National League this season, but no one is sure when an agreement could be reached. It won’t really help front offices with roster construction if the decision comes in late March or even late February. As for players, they wanted to know yesterday.

There’s a handful of hitters, like former Rangers, Red Sox and Padres slugger Mitch Moreland who would benefit greatly if 15 National League teams were in the marketplace. Moreland has played some outfield in his 11 years in the big leagues but he’s a classic first baseman/DH type at this point in his career and there’s reason to still hit at a high level, having produced a .894 and .835 OPS the last two seasons – and he was off to a great start in Boston before being traded mid-pandemic in 2020.

The Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, Colorado Rockies and Pittsburgh Pirates are among his current suitors, but clarity would greatly help him and some other hitters including free agent Tommy La Stella beyond oft-mentioned available DH options Nelson Cruz and Marcell Ozuna.

Some around the game believe ownership is dragging their collective feet in order to reduce the market: The longer things play out, the more antsy players will get to sign.

Vaccination sites

Nearly half the stadiums in baseball could become mass vaccination sites, as the Bay Area teams are the latest to consider using their facilities. Oakland Coliseum and Oracle Park in San Francisco are likely to join Minute Maid Park in Houston, Dodgers Stadium, Marlins Park, Citi Field in New York, Yankees Stadium, PNC Park in Pittsburgh and Petco Park in San Diego as places people can go to get their coronavirus vaccine. Other parks are being considered including Guaranteed Rate Field and Wrigley Field in Chicago.

Petco Park began vaccinations in their tailgate lot last week. There’s hope of providing 5,000 vaccinations per day, seven days a week. It’s not lost on organizations that are making their stadiums available that the more who get vaccinated, the societal benefit should help lead to a benefit for baseball: Fuller stadiums, sooner.

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